Chapter 9: Trouble brews...

Kagayaki is awakened by knocking on his quarters' door. He slides a book off his face, and drags himself to see who it is. Just a lowly messenger. He takes the letter and drops into his bed. He opens the letter, and reads it:

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kagayaki i have recieved word that you are i honourable warrior if so we could do with some one like you in xiang so ja your talent would blend in greatly and would be put to good use in our forces

'pang shui'

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Kagayaki, already serving Hui Zhong, and noticing that the letter was full of errors, tossed it aside. Besides, he has already recieved a letter inviting him to Xhang So Ja. He heads outside and hears a great commotion. He decides not to get too close, but still close enough to hear.

Kagayaki sees a man known as Zhang Lu, preaching to a crowd about the proper way to live their lives, as well as a drunken warrior named Chunyu Qiong yelling on a platform.

Zhang Lu: Guards!

Zhang Lu bellows, pointing a finger at Chunyu Qiong.

Zhang Lu: Get rid of him!

On their order, the guards approach Qiong, stepping closer and closer to them. They do not hit him, but they do their best to look as intimidating as possible. Their actual aim is to move forward, forcing Qiong to move back and off the platform.

While this is going on, Zhang Lu turns to the crowd.

Zhang Lu: You see, my children, this man is a perfect example of how excess ruins the spirit. My indulging in the drink he thinks he finds happiness, peace of mind. But the truth is, when he wakes up tomorrow with aches and pains, he will have gained nothing save a sick stomach. He will also have lost the taels he spent on that jug of his as well!

He shakes his head in disdain.

Zhang Lu: Do not misunderstand me! I seek not to prohibit alcohol. But I look around and see saddened hearts and lost souls. How easy it is to find solace in the bottom of a bottle! Unfortunately, true peace can only be found by looking inside yourself and driving out the evil that has supplanted itself within you.

He looks down at the skinny middle-aged man, still on his knees, now bleeding from several open lashes on his shoulders, back and chest.

Zhang Lu: Please, sir, continue! You have come to me and confessed your sins, and I told you that only seventy lashes would satisfy the spirits of Heaven who have grown displeased with your sinning.

Man:Y-Y-Yes, sir.

The skinny man says, holding back a sob. He resumes his whipping of himself, much to the delight of the on-lookers, attracted both by the spirituality Zhang Lu speaks of and the sadistic pleasure of seeing a man beat himself to a bloody mess.

Many people where in this crowd, including the merchant He Bi, who could stand it any longer and decided to speak up.

He Bi:I'm sorry, lord, but what be your name. What authority do you have here to have someone beat himself with a whip. I think that your preachings are misleading and you wish to gain something from the onlookers. What is it that you seek. I cannot stand to continue to watch.

He Bi shakes his head and adds...

He Bi:What if the man lashes himself seventy times? Does he not suffer the pain from the whips, a pain greater than any headache one can get from alcohol. You preach that the other man spent all his money on alcohol just to wake up with a sick stomach is indicative of his evil. Does this poor man whip himself just to wake up with horrible cuts, which would lead to infection and the cost of medicine? No, to purge ones evils, one must face it, not do false actions that mean nothing! You cannot find salvation from a bottle nor can you find salvation through self-inflicted pain. You must be brave and face the evil and destroy it through overwhelming willpower!

He Bi gets quite worked up before stopping for a moment to gather his thoughts.

Finally, he turns to the man beating himself and says...

He Bi: Stop this insanity, you need not hurt yourself to be saved.

He Bi hopes that the man no longer trusts the false preacher.

Within this crowd is Ishida Sun, the man Kagayaki is tutoring. He turned his attention towards the platform, noticing the four men there. He then spoke to the two guards standing next to him.

Ishida Sun: I am disappointed in the lack of control you have shown today, but considering the circumstances I will excuse your behaviour. Now, I recommend you resume your patrol before greater problems arise.

The pair nodded, and returned to their patrol as recommended.

After pausing for a moment to reflect upon the current situation, Ishida Sun stepped down from the saddle of his horse, and walked through the crowd towards the platform. Once he reached the front of the crowd, the young general noticed Zhang Lu ordering guards to try to clear Chunyu Qiong from the platform. Concerned, he stepped up to the platform to speak with his fellow officers.

Ishida Sun: Gentlemen, please, explain to me what is happening. Why are you allowing the people here to see such horrible displays of torture & rage? What is this occasion all about? Do you dare tarnish the name of Lord Hui through such diabolical actions?

Confronted both by Ishida Sun and He Bi, Zhang Lu grimaces and thrusts his arms outward at his accusers.

Zhang Lu: Be silent, you fools! You are generals and civil clerks, meant to tend to the wordly affairs of domestic government and military training. Are there not documents that need signing? Are there not walls that need mending? Are there not soldiers to draft, husbands and sons to recruit into your armies? You do your own service for Lord Hui, and I also do my own. Lord Hui has granted me permission to preach within the walls of his cities, to save the souls of his citizens and lead them to enlightenment. I cannot do this if you act out during my sermons! If you continue to cause a scene, I will inform Lord Hui of your interence with my duties, and see that you are properly reprimanded!

Turning back to the audience, Zhang Lu lets out a short chuckle.

Zhang Lu: These men are confused when faced with the truth, as so many of us are. They do not realize that redemption comes at a heavy price. Yes, it is true that this man who beats himself will carry scars with him for the rest of his life. But those scars are to remind him not of the pain he suffers today, but of the pain he has inflicted on those he has hurt by not living his path correctly. You see, there is no punishment great enough to be delivered upon the head of one who has wronged his or her ancestors, disgraced his or her elders. You must do the honorable thing and offer up your own blood and agony -- by your own hand -- in order to seek forgiveness from heaven. The generals of Lord Hui's army apparently have no qualms about killing enemy soldiers on the field of battle, but when an average civilian purifies himself before the gods and his family's spirits, he offers objections!

The crowd seems more convinced than ever about Zhang Lu's arguments, although many of them are now disgusted with the blood and pus spewing from the skinny man, still beating himself, ignoring the words of Ishida Sun and He Bi by this point.

Hearing the hostile words towards He Bi, Tzung quickly moved forwards from the vantage point he had taken. Taking He Bi's side, Tzung began to speak, but then considered the best of it.

Many other voices were coming from the crowd, and as it were, more questions were being asked than answers given.

He looked at each new speaker, trying to decide what measures he would have to take if any violence erupted. For the time being, however, he decided to wait for He Bi's response to the surrounding proceedings.

With more time on his hands, Chen Chao had been spending more time wandering Pu Yang and Ping Yuan lately. He decided that he would try to occupy his time by tracking down the reputed Zhang Lu. When Chen Chao found the current group, he stood back at a distance from the crowd and watched. He winced when the sickly man started beating himself at Zhang Lu's urging, but did nothing to prevent it. Even when several men, all of some higher stature, Chen Chao only stood by and watched the events unfold, but when things were on the verge of chaos, Chen Chao decides to make a move and heads towards the crowd.

Chen Chao: Disgruntled friends, colleagues, and strangers, I ask you to stop this fight with lord Zhang Lu. I don't fault you for your lack of approval of his methods, but I do when it comes to your voicing such opinions here during one of lord Zhang Lu's gatherings. Zhang Lu teaches what he thinks is right, and these people follow him because they believe what he teaches. These people intelligent, not fools who need protecting, or there would already be a stop to these gatherings. Or if you must disagree, use an arguement that is backed by logic rather than sentiment. If you still don't agree with what I say, I will ask you to stop on the grounds of keeping the peace. If you don't like what lord Zhang does, then go somewhere else. I don't want any trouble in this beautiful city.

Chen Chao then turns to Zhang Lu and continues.

Chen Chao:Now, I don't mean to sound like hypocrite, but I did want to point out a flaw I saw in your teaching. I see that this man has problems that could very well be punishment for his sins from the heavens, but I don't agree with how you single him out. Its easy to point out the wrongdoings of others, and easier to stand back and watch as they are punished, but how many do you have stand up and confess their sins and accept their punishment without reason other than the satisfaction of being purified? Well, I have no suggestions, but I have no problems with standing up on my own.

Chen Chao stripped off his shirt, tossing it to the ground and stepped forward. He then motioned to the man who had been lashing himself as he continued talking to Zhang Lu.

Chen Chao:This man is ravaged, and I feel that he has done more than enough to redeem himself. If you feel that he must continue, allow me to take his remaining lashes myself, in addition to what is needed to cleanse me.

Chen Chao stared at Zhang Lu without fear, hoping he can save this man any more beating, while also giving the group of followers the courage to step up and be cleansed.

Taking the beating for him? I must admit that is noble, but it is still a foolish act. It seems like this Zhang Lu will be a nuisance as well...

Kagayaki is leaning against a wall, watching the crowd nearby and everyone voicing their own opinion. Clenching his sheathed sword, he stares at Zhang Lu in disgust.

Hmm, I can only hope a fight breaks out, so that I may eliminate this threat in the chaos, for punishments like this should not be dealt, even if it has a just cause.

Kagayaki's eyes widen as hears something shuffle up behind him. He springs off the wall and looks behind him, surprised.

Suddenly, almost without warning, a procession descended upon the area. Almost literally, as from a distant hill came the beating of drums.

The lord of Qingzhou had arrived in Pu Yang and had mobilized a section of his army, as a thousand troops, all from the Pu Yang army, arrived at the scene. Hui Zhong was at the forefront, and Hui Jian and Hui Ling were flanking him. Both of Hui Zhong's children were armed, and Hui Zhong himself looked truly different, as opposed to his normal flowing robes of dark blue, he was wearing light armor himself, and carried a plain sword, his family's sword still in it's own sheath.

And Hui Zhong looked unhappy. He pointed his sword at the entire procession, from Zhang Lu, to Ishida Sun, to He Bi, to everyone else present, and then spoke in a tone of finality.

Hui Zhong: "I do not care what caused a report of a fight about to break out between my own officers, and other foreigners. Nor do I care who started it. Whatever it is, it is over. Everyone cease and desist this petty bickering, or you will be placed under arrest. No exceptions. Such dissention is untolerable."

Hui Zhong waited, and then spoke more calmly.

Hui Zhong: "Now then ... Master Gongqi? Perhaps you can explain just what is going on here, for I suspect someone has taken exception to your teachings. General Kagayaki, perhaps you can explain why you look like you are about to murder Master Gongqi, whom I might add is your comrade, not your enemy? And you two, He Bi and Tzung ... perhaps you can explain why you are here to begin with?"

Indeed, a poet's lines were true, when he spoke:

While watching the madman's crazed rants,

His lord's arrival is a kick in the pants.

Kagayaki is in peril! How will he escape this?

Chapter 10: Zhang Lu

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