Ti Sang came to the village of Chen Yueng to establish himself in trade. His art was that of making bricks, wherefor he found a clay bank of unusual color and fineness. In Chen Yueng he found Lin Gong also.
This Lin Gong, a massive man with beetling brows, whose looks of menace were a stock-in-trade against rivals, held in his hand all the brick-making of Chen Yueng until the coming of Ti Sang, which he did not like. However, Ti Sang, being young and adept at his trade, could be neither frightened nor undersold; for a considerable space he lived and prospered with his young wife, attending frequently at the Assembly of the Wisdom, whose preceptors were then the Yellow Robes. For Ti Sang looked beyond the immediate into the ultimate taking of the Path, which he planned in earnest after family duties were discharged and the waning of material forces set in.
At last, however, Lin Gong fell in with a Red-Cap from Bhutan, who showed him how a poison might be put into brick clay that would bring sorrow to the vendor thereof. Thus it happened that after a time, numerous houses made with the bricks of Ti Sang effused a leprous nitre that wandered over the walls in random patterns like fungus, destroying all beauty; and when scraped away, ever returned. Thereupon the possessor of these places fell upon Ti Sang and reft from him all that he owned. Shortly thereafter, his wife, being without proper food and medicine, died; with her, her newborn child, the first.
In his madness, Ti Sang forgot Karma and the gentle teaching of the Yellow Robes, whose faces then became dim and far away to him, and their words soundless. He swore a blood oath and purchased in the market-place a sword long and sharp. Calling eftsoons at the place of business of Lin Gong, he learned that this man, hearing of the oath and the sword, and moreover tortured by conscience, because he had not intended such measure of disaster, had fled and left for him a bag of gold in appeasement. Ti Sang hurled the sack into the street, where the pieces went tinkling along the gutter, while the passers-by fell upon them. Hastily preparing, avoiding the places where the face of any Yellow Robe might be seen, he took up the trail.
This led across the Western wastes into the foothills of the Mother of the World’s Mountains; a trail Ti Sang had expected to take some day, but not thus. After many hardships and much hunger, Lin Gong found himself, as the snows came on, in a branching of valleys growing ever more stringent and steep, with Ti Sang on his jaded horse but a few miles behind. Lin Gong’s heart grew cold with terror to match the increasing freezing of his hide; for the winter wind had set in from the highest peaks, gelid and terrible. But the heart of Ti Sang blazed hot with lust of the nearby prey, even as he beat his arms upon the breast of his padded coat to preserve his own life.
Then, coming about a turn in the narrow path that clung to the side of a bottomless abyss, he beheld a strange sight. Lin Gong and his horse had fallen together over the brink, but the rope that had guided the horse and was bound about the wrist of Lin Gong had caught in a crevice. Thereby was Lin Gong suspended over the depth. He spun and swung in the wind, his eyes closed, the tortured arm swollen and blackened with frost and strain. For a time Ti Sang stood and sated his vengeance with his eyes, noting the marks of long suffering and hardship, the emaciated face and ribs, the black patches of flesh some time frozen and now peeling from the face of his enemy.
With his sword half drawn to sever the rope, he became still in his tracks, his blood cooling and slow horror entering his soul. This was his deed; no more than Lin Gong had sought the death of the wife of Ti Sang, had Ti Sang envisioned this tortured debris of a human as the result of his own vengeance. The visage of the chief Preceptor rose before his eyes, no longer kindly and loving, but stern and granite-like. All that he had heard of Karma poured back devastatingly into his soul; sobbing and frantic, he hauled on the rope with blistered hands until Lin Gong lay on the icy ledge. Cradling Lin Gong in his lap, he covered him with his own garments and chafed the frozen limbs.
After a time, Lin Gong, aroused by the hot tears falling on his face, looked with dawning terror into the face of his Nemesis. Looked, and looked again; seeing the horror and pity in Ti Sang’s eyes, smiled weakly, and fell asleep like a sick child taking comfort from its mother’s arms; he, who in life despised gentleness. The icy wind, howling down the pass, whirled a drift of snow over their forms. Soon both were beyond pain.
The Preceptor in Chen Yueng, at the moment of gazing in his cloister upon what would seem to most as a blank wall, smiled. The Path is multifold, though uphill to the very end. Some accomplish it by easy gradients, in well-chosen seasons. Some choose awful precipices, and self-purging by limitless agony. Those Who Know view the struggle with calm, being content wherever the road is seen to be relentlessly upward. At the end lie the pure lands under an eternal sun. Ti Sang and Lin Gong had a destiny together.
Last Update : January