The person the statue depicted had a dignified expression with a smile on his face. Each hand showed a different hand seal, one for the lotus flower hand seal and the other for a mudra hand seal. These were both famous Buddhist hand seals.
[TL Note: The lotus flower hand seal, just picture the gesture without the flower: https://2.share.photo.xuite.net/rw1017wu/123147b/12646160/632940907_m.jpg]
[TL Note: Most images of the Manjushri Bodhisattva have him holding a flaming sword in one hand, which is the sword of awareness that cuts through all delusion, and the stem of a lotus bearing a scroll (or just the scroll directly) in the other. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t go into sufficient detail to identify the mudra hand seal, but one of the few depictions of the Manjushri Bodhisattva that doesn’t include the sword uses the Varada mudra, which looks like an extended tongue: http://www.wheeloftheyear.com/images/2004/manjusri.JPG]
One hand seal represented expounding on Buddhist teachings, filling the mouth with words like water in the river and making flowers blossom everywhere.
One hand seal looked like it was holding a flower, smiling at the mundaneness of life and seeing through the bustling world to look at its void nature.
Nothing seemed wrong about this “Manjushri Bodhisattva” except for its face. When Xiao Chen saw it, he only smiled coldly. This face was not that of the Manjushri Bodhisattva but Zhuang Zhenghe’s.
Xiao Chen had a good memory. This loose cultivator that hounded him in the Heavenly Ruin Wasteland and reduced him to a sorry state left a deep impression on him.
What a good scheme, using the foundation that the Minor Leiyin Temple had laid to directly absorb the power of faith!
Xiao Chen pushed off the ground and flew to the roof beam. Then, he looked down while slowly opening the Heavenly Eye. He saw that after the many believers kowtowed in worship, their bodies gave off a formless green energy.
Then, like moths to a flame, this energy all gathered around the gold statue.
The smile on the statue became increasingly sinister in Xiao Chen’s eyes, like the smile of a monster that ate human brains and marrows.
After entering deep thought, Xiao Chen stretched out his hand, and a suction appeared. Strands of green energy flew into his grasp; they were all the power of faith.
When he sucked them into his mouth, he immediately felt refreshed, and his entire body relaxed as if his bones had turned soft.
Several voices appeared in Xiao Chen’s head at the same time. Some of these voices asked for peace, some for health. These were all the prayers of the believers.
Xiao Chen closed his eyes and digested this power of faith. Then, he thought to himself, This power of faith cannot be converted directly into cultivation. It requires a Secret Technique first.
Just as Xiao Chen was about to close his Heavenly Eye, he suddenly noticed something strange—a black sea of bitterness behind the gold statue.
Every time the gold statue absorbed a drop of the power of faith, a black drop of bitterness fell into the black sea.
Xiao Chen was stunned for a moment. Then, he suddenly understood. Rage appeared on his face. What was happening was that the gold statue filtered out the information of the prayer from the power of faith, eliminating it and leaving only the purest power of faith.
Faith was bidirectional. One had faith and worshiped, offering incense and prayers; the other party had to listen to the prayers. Even if the other party did not satisfy every prayer, they had to answer the urgent ones at least.
However, this group of people treated the prayers of these ordinary people like trash, tossing the prayers out, keeping only the power of faith for themselves.
This was like banditry, snatching only for oneself and brainwashing others. However, they behaved like they were very righteous beings.
When Xiao Chen looked at those pious believers still streaming in behind, he felt somewhat grieved and mocked.
Then, he closed the Heavenly Eye, and the strange scene disappeared, replaced with the original scene. Incense wafted around, and the large hall that was packed with people looked solemn and dignified.
Now, Xiao Chen was sure that the person behind the matters of Black Flame Island was Zhuang Zhenghe. Otherwise, the temples would not have a statue of him.
Now, he needed to solve another problem: why was the Bloody Monk targeting Heavenly Star Island?
Xiao Chen sorted out his own emotions, then flew out silently, heading towards Black Flame City. Enlightened Sense Temple, the largest temple in the entire Black Flame Island, was there. The incense flourished even more there, and it had over than a hundred times more worshippers present.
Soon, the sight of the majestic city walls entered Xiao Chen’s eyes. The city was heavily guarded by bald cultivators wearing monk robes. He also sensed two grandmaster-level Martial Sages on the city walls.
Hiding his cultivation with the Foundation Returning Art, Xiao Chen successfully entered the city. After asking around, he found the location of the Enlightened Sense Temple.
The Enlightened Sense Temple looked majestic and beautiful, rather flabbergasting. After climbing more than a thousand steps, Xiao Chen entered the temple. This time, the gold statue in the center of the hall was not the Manjushri Bodhisattva but the Amitabha Buddha.
The sides had statues of eight bodhisattvas. Thirty-two wisdom kings and one hundred and eight arhats were placed in various locations of the temple for people to worship, their expressions exaggeratedly ferocious.
Of course, these were not true Buddhist statues; they were just fakes with the faces changed.
Xiao Chen did not need to open the Heavenly Eye to imagine how thick the power of faith was here.
With just his physical eyes, he could already see an indistinct halo around the Amitabha Buddha statue in the center of the hall, which made it look even more dignified and inspired others to worship it.
When Xiao Chen saw this scene, his heart sank. The Bloody Monk, Zhuang Zhenghe, was not the head of this mysterious Buddhist sect.
The actual leader should be the person depicted by the Amitabha Buddha in the center of the hall. Zhuang Zhenghe was just one of the eight bodhisattvas.
“Benefactor, since you are already in Enlightened Sense Temple, why are you just standing outside and not entering?”
[TL Note: Benefactor is how Buddhist monks address ordinary people.]
A stately old monk with a benevolent appearance walked over from the large hall, heading towards Xiao Chen.
Xiao Chen sized up this person and was instantly startled. This old monk’s strength was impressive.
This old monk was already a Small Perfection quasi-Emperor with thousands of halo rings on him. There was also a golden sea of bitterness behind him. As he stood in the hall, he gave Xiao Chen a feeling of unfathomableness.
Since coming here, Xiao Chen had realized that this faction was not simple. He did not want to alarm his enemies, so he said calmly, “There’s no real reason for that. I heard from my friend that Buddhists sprang up on Black Flame Island, and I’m here to join in the liveliness. I was just shocked by the Buddha statue in the hall and have not recovered my wits yet.”
The old monk smiled and said, “I don’t think so. This old monk feels that Benefactor is giving off a strong aura of death. Sin has laden you down, and you do not dare to visit the Buddha directly. As long as you take another step forward, you will be able to turn back and return to shore, washing away your sins.”
Xiao Chen raised his eyebrows and said meaningfully, “I’m afraid that if I take this step, I will not be able to turn back anymore.”
Some mysterious principles were at work in this large hall. Xiao Chen was not so lacking in awareness that he would just enter.
The old monk pointed to the hall, at the many ordinary people kneeling before the Buddha statue. He asked, “Benefactor, why do you say this? Do you not see the peaceful expressions of all these believers?”
Xiao Chen replied indifferently, “What does that have to do with me? I am drenched in blood and never thought of washing it off.”
The old monk’s smile did not fade away. He said, “It looks like benefactor’s heart is filled with many burdens. How about you come in and talk to this old monk about them? Perhaps I can help you out with your predicament.”
Xiao Chen’s expression did not change as he calmly replied, “How about another day? I’m rather tired already.”
After that, Xiao Chen took his leave. The old monk did not try to get him to remain; he ended with a “may the Lord Buddha preserve us” greeting and sent him off.
[TL Note: “May the Lord Buddha preserve us” or “merciful Buddha” is a greeting that Buddhist monks frequently use.]
Only when Xiao Chen was far away did the old man’s smile vanish. Then, he summoned a young novice monk and said, “Send someone to keep an eye on him. Then, inform the Manjushri Bodhisattva that the Azure Dragon King Xiao Chen is here.”
After leaving the hall, Xiao Chen broke into a rush. He knew that his identity was exposed, discerned by that old man.
The matters of this Black Flame Island were more complicated than Xiao Chen had thought. He had been rather impulsive in entering this island so recklessly.
After exiting the city gates, Xiao Chen flew into the air and quickly tried to leave the island. He kept feeling that something was eerie about this Black Flame Island, which gave him a sense of unease.
Just as he was about to leave the island, a large halo suddenly appeared in front of him and covered the entire sky. A boundless Buddhist exhortation echoed through the place, expounding scripture.
The clouds churned, and a gigantic Buddha image blocked Xiao Chen’s way. It was the Golden Dharmic Body of the Manjushri Bodhisattva.
As this Golden Dharmic Body blocked the front like a mountain, Xiao Chen seemed as small as an ant.
“Benefactor Xiao, we meet again,” the gigantic Golden Dharmic Body spoke, its voice loud and rumbling. Every syllable shook the heart to its very core.
Xiao Chen smiled and said, “Zhuang Zhenghe, to think that after not seeing you for two or three years, you stopped being the Bloody Monk and became a bodhisattva. This is really a great difference, a very startling one.”
Zhuang Zhenghe laughed and said, “No matter what, it is still incomparable to Benefactor Xiao. At such a young age, you have spread the Azure Dragon King’s name throughout the entire Kunlun Realm. Now, your fame has even reached the entire oceanic world.”
Xiao Chen did not wish to continue with any nonsense. He said directly, “The grudges between you and me are relatively small. Tell me honestly, why did you send people to my Heavenly Star Island?”
The Golden Dharmic Body replied in a stern voice, “Naturally, it is to spread the teachings of my Buddhist sect, to save the masses from this purgatory of food and lust and return them to Buddha.”
Xiao Chen said coldly, “It looks like this grudge really cannot be resolved.”
The Golden Dharmic Body said, “That’s not necessarily true. As long as you have a heart for Buddha, this bodhisattva can personally purify you. You can become my Buddha’s protector.”
Xiao Chen did not wish to fight with this person above Black Flame Island. He did not say anything more, and his figure flashed as he prepared to run the blockade.
Zhuang Zhenghe smiled coldly, his Golden Dharmic Body producing a sinister smile. “Without my having to go look for you, you delivered yourself to me. Now that you are thinking of leaving, it’s too late!”
The mountain-like Golden Dharmic Body threw a palm strike. All the statues of the Manjushri Bodhisattva scattered around the entire Black Flame Island sent out strands of the pure power of faith towards the Golden Dharmic Body in the air.
The halos behind the Golden Dharmic Body became vivider. Its might immediately rose to that of a Consummation quasi-Emperor.
As the enormous palm moved out, Xiao Chen could not dodge or hide. This palm strike struck him, knocking him back with a ‘bang’ and causing him to crash into a mountain.
While in the rubble of the mountain, Xiao Chen condensed the Azure Dragon Battle Armor and flew out. As he looked at the Golden Dharmic Body in the air, he entered deep thought.
The Heavenly Laws behind this palm strike were incredibly vast. When he compared them to those of the Consummation quasi-Emperor he met before, they were similar in terms of density and vastness.
However, in regard to purity, they were far from comparable to those of the Eastern Sea Divine Dragon Palace’s expert by Leng Shaofan’s side.
If that Eastern Sea Divine Dragon Palace expert had hit Xiao Chen with a palm strike, Xiao Chen would have lost most of his combat prowess, unable to avoid a second attack.
The Golden Dharmic Body was merely a hollow shell. It possessed sufficient quantity, but its quality was far from adequate.
In hindsight, this made sense. Using the power of faith to cultivate was a corrupt practice. Otherwise, such a rate of improvement would simply be heaven-defying.
Right now, Zhuang Zhenghe displayed a ridiculously strong cultivation. However, his true combat prowess might not be higher than Xiao Chen’s.
After Xiao Chen stretched himself, his body crackled. The patterns on the Azure Dragon Battle Armor gave off a dazzling light. Then, he said indifferently, “Zhuang Zhenghe, do you think you can block me like that? That thought is too naive.”
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