Chapter 338 – The Third Layer of the Ox Demon
“I refuse!” With a neutral expression, Xiao An replied with her clear but childish voice.
The entire hall seemed to fall even more silent.
Within the niche, the plump, smooth cheeks of the statue of buddha were dyed golden by the altar lamps, smiling in an unfathomable fashion. Its long, slender eyes seemed to take in all the religious believers, yet they also seemed to see nothing at all.
Everyone wondered if they had heard incorrectly. There happened to be a person who had turned down an irresistible invitation.
The One Thought master’s mouth even hung agape. Even his thoughts came to a screeching halt.
Back then, after he had successfully established a foundation, he emerged from the Academy of the Hundred Schools and turned down the invitations of several temples, travelling thousands of kilometers to the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga to find a master. He knelt outside the Bodhi hall for three days and three nights, and only then did the Annihilum Light Chan Master accept him into the Bodhi hall. He underwent another three years of testing before finally getting offered a position beneath him as a formal disciple.
He had never regretted this decision. Otherwise, he never would have been able to make it to higher realms of cultivation with his fortune and aptitude.
“Xiao An, you-”
The Annihilum Light Chan Master lifted his hand and silenced what the One Thought master was about to say next. He looked at Xiao An.
Xiao An remained calm, completely unperturbed.
The Annihilum Light Chan Master let out a sigh. “The path of cultivation is vast, and the buddhist dharma is boundless. Why must you stubbornly insist on going your own way with a single will?”
Xiao An bowed. “Thank you for bestowing me with my dharma name, master.” If stubbornly going her own way with a single will was being reluctant to part with him, then she would much rather take this as her dharma name forever.
The Annihilum Light Chan Master smiled first. He took delight in her quick wit, but he subsequently sighed, lamenting over her stubbornness to cling onto what was holding her back. Afterwards, he neither affirmed or denied what she said, drifting away.
The remaining monks all looked at one another speechlessly. The One Thought master walked over with a mixed expression and bowed. “Junior sister One Will.”
Xiao An returned the gesture, “Senior brother One Thought.”
There was no ceremony, but to a chan sect that focused on reflecting on one’s heart and achieving self-actualisation and buddhahood as a result, these mere gestures held no importance in the first place.
The buddha plucked a flower, Mahākāśyapa smiled, and thus both the master and the disciple achieved likemindedness1.
In just a few words, their status to one another had already been determined.
The monks all stood up and bid farewell, declaring the end of the assembly of dharma.
The greatest prodigy of the academy in the past century also happened to be the first to determine her direction for the future, which was the holy land for buddhists across the fifteen thousand kilometers that was the Green province, the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga.
Xiao An saw off all the monks before requesting permission to be dismissed from her senior brother One Thought.
The One Thought master obviously knew where she wanted to go. He waved his hand helplessly. “Go!” Even their master no longer cared, agreeing to her dharma name of One Will through silence, so why would he still have power over her?
On Cloudwisp island, Li Qingshan fell silent for a moment after hearing how everything had unfolded. He rubbed Xiao An’s head and smiled. “In the future, if you want to go and cultivate in the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga, I’ll go become a monk with you. Though, all I can become is a monk who drinks, eats meat, and sleeps around.”
Xiao An shook her head. “No, I’ll stay with you. I don’t want you to become a monk who drinks, eats meat, and sleeps around.”
Li Qingshan said, “How about this? When the time comes, I’ll pay a visit to the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga with you and ask for some benefits from that Annhilum Light Chan Master, and then I will leave by myself and go at it alone. I’ll also go find a master to learn from. After that, I’ll build a dwelling, and you can establish a temple right beside me. How’s that? It’ll be the best of two worlds!”
Xiao An answered, “Alright.”
This was their future. There was nothing worth worrying over.
It was already very late. The two of them laid on their backs, staring at the ceiling as they listened to the rustling of falling snow outside. They both felt like they were at great peace.
“Oh right, what do you think about that big sister Han?” Li Qingshan turned around, now lying on his side.
“Big sister Han?” Xiao An turned her head in surprise. Her large eyes shone in the darkness.
“You know, Han Qiongzhi.”
“She’s worth a hundred regular people,” Xiao An said indifferently.
“I don’t mean eating her. Forget it. You’re just a child. Even if I tell you, you won’t understand.” Li Qingshan fell silent, lying on his back once more.
Xiao An crawled onto his body. She stared at him long and hard.
“Alright, I’ll tell you.” Li Qingshan raised his hand and gave in. He told her about what had happened earlier in the night.
“You like her?” Xiao An blinked.
“A little.” Li Qingshan shrugged. Han Qiongzhi was obviously not a bad woman. Although he had yet to develop any particularly deep feelings for her, it would naturally happen as long as they spent time together. His parents from his past life and present life were all like this. It was not like this was some third-rate love story, where they would much rather die than live without one another.
“You want to marry her?” After she awakened a lot of her memories and read all those novels for Li Qingshan, Xiao An was no longer unfamiliar with matters like this. However, she never imagined something like this would happen with him, which left her extremely shocked.
“Not exactly, but there’s the possibility!” Li Qingshan rubbed his nose in embarrassment. He felt like a father who wanted to remarry after a divorce, asking for his little daughter’s permission. All of his usual boldness and nonchalance had evaporated.
He did not believe he was the same type as Hua Chengzan. He probably would never be able to understand that path of infatuation without regret. Perhaps he did think of this when he was young in his past life, but in this life, it had all been worn away by over a dozen years of hardships. All that remained were the most simple and straightforward things.
Xiao An suddenly became unhappy. She climbed down from Li Qingshan and turned away from him.
“Sigh, what’s wrong?”
“As long as you’re happy.” Xiao An thought that Li Qingshan would turn out like the people in the books, spending night and day together with that woman. He probably would not have the time to accompany her anymore, which only brought her greater pain.
Li Qingshan turned her around, but he discovered that the rims of her eyes had already reddened with tears trickling down. It was as if he had committed some heinous crime against both the heavens and humanity. He became rather flustered.
“I never said I would definitely marry her. If you don’t like it, then forget about it.”
The future was not so simple after all.
Over a dozen days later, in a seclusion dwelling beneath Contention island.
A droplet of sweat rolled down his cheek, dripping from his chin and falling onto the damp ground.
Li Qingshan knelt on the ground naked. His long hair draped down, covering his face.
His muscles turned and twisted like dragons and snakes as if they bore the heavy burden of thousands of tonnes. Scarlet blood flowed under his skin, which gave off a colour similar to black iron. He spread his lips and revealed his long, sharp canines. Two lumps protruded from his forehead, as if a pair of horns were ready to burst out at any time.
Li Qingshan suddenly straightened himself out and let out a furious roar. He spread his arms as far out as possible, as if he was breaking free from invisible shackles.
Whoosh… His heavy breathing was filled with delight.
Whoosh… His movements kicked up a violent gust of wind that swept through the dwelling, ruffling Xiao An’s clothes and hair.
Li Qingshan stood up, and the colour of his skin gradually returned to normal. His writhing muscles subsided too, but he did seem a little “bulkier”, like a statue carved from marble.
Though this period of arduous cultivation, he almost finished off all the pills he had used spiritual stones to exchange for. Finally, he reached the third layer of the Ox Demon’s Fist of Great Strength.
Every single step forward would require even more tremendous resources. Back then, just eating meat, drinking alcohol, and training his body was enough to reach the first layer. Of course, his body would benefit more and more with each breakthrough.
In particular, his strength had almost increased by several times. Although it was suppressed by the spirit turtle’s daemon core, he could still feel the churning power surge through his body, almost bursting out of him.
He put on a set of clothes and said to Xiao An, “It’s about time for me to go check on the school of the Military again. I need to test what I’ve achieved from cultivating.”
“I’ll help you!” Xiao An took out the Guardian King’s pearl. It shone brightly and conjured an avatar. It was even more consolidated than before; it was as if a golden person, not a golden statue, was standing there
She had comprehended and summarised everything she had gained from the assembly of dharma recently. As she had spent her entire time by the One Thought master’s side, she had only ingested two or three black lotus seeds back then, so using this opportunity, she could take it out and cultivate properly. She ingested another seven or eight seeds, which allowed her cultivation to progress drastically.
A golden banner waved in the air as the guardian king’s avatar arrived before Li Qingshan in the blink of an eye. It lifted its huge vajra sword and swung down swiftly.
“That works too!” Li Qingshan caught the huge sword between his palms.
Apart from worrying that his daemon qi would leak out over this short period of time, there was no need for him to enter secluded cultivation at all. He had only done it to make her happy, basically making up for the hardships she had gone through from being trapped in the assembly of dharma recently.
He could tell that she was still rather unwilling to leave, so he decided to stay a little longer. He could use this time to practise the Ocean Wielding battle skill that he never got the opportunity to study.
Both of them cultivated, stopping to fight against one another every once in a while, leading to some giggles. Time passed slowly.
Originally, Li Qingshan planned on remaining here for another ten days, or half a month at most, but once he began practising this battle skill, he could not help but become absorbed by it. The ingenious skills of utilising qi and the body together stunned him. It left him entranced.
It was quite strange now that he mentioned it. His ability to understand various cultivation methods had always been quite mediocre, but he felt a little like a genius when it came to battle skills.
Xiao An had benefited quite a lot too. She ingested the black lotus seeds in the seed pod one by one, turning them into flames and merging them into her bones. She managed to refine another Skull Prayer Bead.
In the blink of an eye, another month passed by. The door to the dwelling opened slowly.
Li Qingshan emerged and stretched his body before looking down.
This time, the dwelling they had chosen was not on the lowest level. That one had been occupied by Hua Chengzan. So much time had already passed since he entered seclusion, so who knew how he was going with cultivation.
“Let’s go!” Li Qingshan scooped up Xiao An and took a step towards the empty space above him.
This time, a cloud did not condense below him. Instead, blue light appeared under his feet like a wave. As if he had stepped on a spring, he rushed into the air.
Ocean Wielding—The Wave Treading Form.
By moulding water and using its flexibility, he could achieve speeds several times faster than riding a cloud while being much more nimble. He felt like he could walk through the air.
Emerging from underground, he saw the brilliant blue sky and the dazzling sunlight. The snow had all melted away as the brightly-coloured spring scenery unfolded before him.
Li Qingshan took another step backwards, shooting off to Cloudwisp island in the distance with a swish.
During this period, the power of belief within his Divine Talisman of Great Creation had reached an unprecedented peak. Although he had not witnessed it in person, the propagation of the novel and the picture book was clearly quite impressive. And, as expected, that thin picture book of his had surpassed the novel. He could easily conjure the characters in there.
However, this still was not enough. He needed to become even stronger. Only then would he have a chance. It was time for him to head out and gather some publicity with the paintings in his possession so that he could turn fiction into reality.
PS: Failed to get up. I almost lost sleep last night. I think I’d better just stick with writing in the morning!
1. A reference to the Flower Sermon, which I believe is about the transmission of wisdom that transcends words. I definitely need to do some more research about the connotation behind this, but you can read a bit about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower_Sermon