“Benefactor Xiao, how have you been?!”
When Yuan Zhen saw Xiao Chen, he smiled faintly, appearing relaxed. He radiated an indescribable Buddhist nature, one neither good nor evil, which felt extremely strange.
Xiao Chen heard the others addressing him as the Revered One earlier, an incredible title.
Rumor said that the progenitor of the Buddhist sect was an aloof existence from the moment of his birth. When he spoke, only he reigned supreme in the world. Hence, he was given the title of the Revered One.
This simple title showed Yuan Zhen’s ambition.
Xiao Chen asked softly, “Should I call you Yuan Zhen or the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva?”
Yuan Zhen pressed his palms together, smiling benevolently. “Benefactor Xiao, just call me Yuan Zhen. I still prefer that you call me Yuan Zhen. However, it is the same to you, no matter how you address me.”
Xiao Chen narrowed his eyes slightly, finding this Yuan Zhen somewhat unfathomable.
He looked up and saw the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s dharmic incarnation hidden in the depths of the many Auspicious Signs behind the large treasure hall. It looked benevolent, caring for the world.
Xiao Chen suddenly understood. So, that is the case.
The Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva had already merged with Yuan Zhen. However, the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva existed as his dharmic incarnation. So, the two had not truly merged yet.
Hence, Yuan Zhen still retained his consciousness.
Yuan Zhen was right. The one standing before Xiao Chen was still Yuan Zhen and not the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva.
Xiao Chen asked softly, “If you had a choice, would you still inherit the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s karma? According to his plan, after a Buddhist Epoch is started, your memories will no longer exist, right?”
Yuan Zhen’s expression flickered. Unexpectedly, Xiao Chen figured out his relationship with the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva.
When the Buddhist Epoch started, the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva would truly awaken. At that time, the one in control would change.
Yuan Zhen withdrew his smile. After some thought, he replied, “Many times, there is no choice.”
Xiao Chen did not refute the other party. In his opinion, there was always a choice. However, he also understood that others were pushed into making a certain choice.
“There seem to be several Hidden Spirit Temple esteemed monks in your Buddhist nation,” Xiao Chen commented casually, changing the topic.
Yuan Zhen smiled and said, “You have good eyes. Indeed, after the golden Kāśyapa Buddha statue broke, many of my Martial Uncles abandoned the darkness for the light, coming to start a new Buddhist sect with me.”
“However, even if you want to start a new Buddhist sect, there is no need to make a move on these common people,” Xiao Chen said as he pointed to the many kneeling believers below the steps
Yuan Zhen argued, “What’s wrong? Do you not see the smiles on their faces? In my Buddhist nation, they only need to worship sincerely, and they do not have to worry about food or clothing. How is that bad? Right now, the Yanwu Dynasty is like a living hell. The flames of war burn endlessly. I am just doing good deeds.”
“If you want to insist on twisting the facts, I will not argue with you.”
Yuan Zhen’s expression slowly turned serious. Then, he said, “Xiao Chen, what if I told you that the Kāśyapa Buddha used the same method to establish a Buddhist nation? Would you believe that? When the epoch changes, chaos arises. Naturally, one has to use extraordinary measures for extraordinary times. If I did not use such a measure, how could I establish a Buddhist nation in the world in such a short time?
“I know you want to say that these believers have no thoughts or consciousness, like zombies. However, this is how the world is. The strong can afford to be benevolent. After the Buddhist Epoch starts, the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva will return the power of faith, and things no longer have to be like this.”
Xiao Chen felt slightly startled. Then, he remembered the three black mountains behind Spirit Vulture Mountain. That place was a boundless demonic region, filled with sin. It looked like Yuan Zhen spoke the truth.
However, so what?
Given that, Xiao Chen did not feel any pity for the Hidden Spirit Temple’s destruction.
No matter how glorious a temple established on boundless sin was, there was no reason for it to exist.
“You had best wise up. You should already understand that your self-consoling words are just you lying to yourself.”
Xiao Chen felt uneasy in this place. After figuring out Yuan Zhen’s connection to the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, he did not want to remain here any longer, so he turned to leave.
“Did I say that you could go?”
Yuan Zhen snorted coldly and threw a palm strike at Xiao Chen. The ninety thousand arhats, eight thousand guardians, and three hundred bodhisattvas chanted scriptures at the same time. This made countless ancient scriptures appear around Yuan Zhen’s palm strike. The entire divine nation started spinning within his palm.
Xiao Chen’s expression did not change as he turned around and countered with a palm strike.
The instant the two palms met, the boundless and vast Buddhist nation shook violently.
The images of countless ancient arhats and bodhisattvas appeared amid many Auspicious Signs in the sky.
The Life Dao and the Death Dao constantly cycled around Xiao Chen, generating an endless supply of the power of cycles.
Xiao Chen shouldered the pressure of an entire Buddhist nation alone.
“Saber!” Xiao Chen shouted and shot out an ancient, eternal, and inextinguishable saber light that surpassed the epoch.
The saber light soared into the clouds, tearing the barrier of the Buddhist nation in the sky.
Yuan Zhen revealed a shocked expression as the saber light sent him flying.
Then, he stared wide-eyed at Xiao Chen, watching him soar into the air and leave the Buddhist nation through the crack before it closed.
Immediately after Xiao Chen left, many Buddhist sect Sovereign Emperors appeared around him, showing grave expressions.
“Revered One, why not bring out the Lord Buddha’s golden body to suppress him directly? Once Xiao Chen dies, we will have one less powerful enemy.”
Yuan Zhen replied indifferently, “I feel that he is not as simple as a 9-Vein Sovereign Emperor. The Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s golden body is not complete yet. We cannot risk it.”
The two had been testing each other out, trying to see the other’s strength.
Xiao Chen wanted to know Yuan Zhen’s exact connection with the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva. How could Yuan Zhen not have similar thoughts? However, there was just one exchange of palm strikes. Yuan Zhen could not see through Xiao Chen’s strength.
After leaving the Buddhist nation, Xiao Chen hovered in the sky, looking at the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s golden body.
Xiao Chen observed for a long time, pondering silently and not leaving.
He considered destroying this Buddhist nation in one go. However, he eventually decided that it was unnecessary.
The Buddhist nation could be established because the epoch was ending. Order crumbled, and law no longer existed.
The epoch was like a dynasty on the verge of collapse, where the emperor lost control of the feudal lords. Everyone fought each other for supremacy, bringing chaos.
This was not a problem that could be solved by killing one or two feudal lords.
The current situation was even more complicated and terrifying. The Divine Master, who governed the entire epoch, had already lost control of the various factions. The righteous were no longer righteous, and the demonic were even more demonic. The entire world shook, on the verge of collapse.
Xiao Chen withdrew his gaze and left.
He did not fly far when he sensed two figures quickly heading towards him.
It was the little monk Yan Chen and the Heavenly Book Scholar.
Feeling suspicious, Xiao Chen asked, “Why are you two here?”
“Let’s leave this place first. This place is the territory of the evil Buddha faction. Even Faux Gods do not dare to mess around here.”
The Heavenly Book Scholar eyed the Buddhist nation in the world with fear.
After a moment, Xiao Chen understood that Yan Chen and the Heavenly Book Scholar had sensed a battle taking place in the Buddhist nation.
When the two came to check it out, they discovered that it was Xiao Chen and rushed over.
After getting far away from Yuan Zhen’s Buddhist nation, the three landed. Xiao Chen felt quite happy at seeing the little monk Yan Chen.
“Big Brother, my master passed away,” Yan Chen said with some sorrow on his face.
Venerable Xu Yun?
This senior had made a good impression on Xiao Chen. Xiao Chen felt a deep respect for him.
How did he die?
The Heavenly Book Scholar explained, “Back when we were still in the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb during the succession race, Senior Xu Yun chased after the traitor Xu Ming, who was Yuan Zhen’s master. It turned out that Xu Ming plotted this long ago, luring Venerable Xu Yun to the back of the golden Kāśyapa Buddha statue and dying with him. Their deaths caused the destruction of the golden Kāśyapa Buddha statue and the current situation.”
So, that was how the golden Kāśyapa Buddha statue got destroyed. This Xu Ming was rather scheming and ruthless.
No wonder I did not see him in the Buddhist nation. He had died already.
“What about Abbot Xu Ye and Senior Pan Huang?” Xiao Chen asked.
Yan Chen answered, “The abbot and Senior Pan Huang are at Spirit Vulture Mountain, leading my martial uncles that remained and suppressing the sin at Spirit Vulture Mountain. Now, I am managing the Hidden Spirit Temple. Martial Uncle Abbot told me to assist the Yan Emperor and not bow down to the evil Buddha.”
Unexpectedly, Yan Chen ended up taking charge.
Given Yan Chen’s nature, he would not like having responsibility. However, no one else but him could lead in the face of the epoch changing.
Xiao Chen said softly, “Before I arrived, I saw smoke coming from all over the Yanwu Dynasty. The situation does not look optimistic.”
“We still have to try, right?”
The Heavenly Book Scholar smiled and said, “If even we give up, then there is no hope for this land.”
Yan Chen clenched his teeth in a determined expression and said, “Big Brother, there’s no need to worry. When the other three Buddhist sect great temples send reinforcements, the evil Buddha’s faction will no longer be able to remain arrogant.”
Aside from the Hidden Spirit Temple, three other great temples functioned as Buddhist sect holy lands. It looked like the situation was not that terrible.
Xiao Chen said, “Give my regards to the Ninth Prince. I still have something to do and cannot remain to help him.”
After saying his goodbyes, Xiao Chen headed for the Golden Crow Empire.
He crossed the Desolate Sea and reached the Azure Dragons’ old lands, then stopped at the small village where he once stayed.
The small village was no longer there. In its place was a bustling city. A towering tree stood outside the city, blocking the sky and the sun.
A youth formed hand seals under the tree, using Spiritual Energy to nourish it.
This youth was none other than Sang, who was born out of the Propping Mulberry Tree.
“Please wait first.”
Sang did not seem surprised when Xiao Chen descended. He took a casual glance before returning his focus to nourishing the Propping Mulberry Tree.
In the many years Xiao Chen had been away, the tree sapling from back then had grown into a towering tree, protecting the city behind it like a guardian deity.
Xiao Chen did not rush. He waited quietly at the side.
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