The Buddhist Domain.
Head clean-shaven, body clad in Buddhist Robes, Gu Li knelt piously atop a prayer mat. His hands clenched a scroll of sutras, the long table next to him completely covered in piles of Buddhist texts.
Inwardly, he recited each and every character on the scroll, reading at a steady, unhurried pace all the way until he reached the end. Then he closed his eyes and pondered the deeper meaning contained within the words.
After a long while, he wound up the scroll, then placed it on the table with the others.
He faintly muttered this phrase, the true essence of Buddhism. Before long, the voice of a Bodhisattva floated into the ancestral hall he’d been kneeling in.
“Gu Li,” said the Bodhisattva softly. Gu Li calmly turned around, then bowed slightly to him.
“This apprentice greets Bodhisattva Guanyin.”
“The Buddha ordered that, once you’d read all three thousand of these Buddhist texts, I was to come here and ask you this: do you wish to leave? Or would you like to stay in the Buddhist Domain and convert to Buddhism?” asked Guanyin calmly. This was the mission Buddha had entrusted to him before leaving.
He had originally planned to follow the Buddha and participate in the Struggle. However, the Buddha predicted that Gu Li would finish the allotted three thousand texts during that time period, so he’d left Guanyin behind to guide him.
He could leave?
Gu Li had been stuck in the Buddhist Realm for so long. As he heard this, waves coursed through his heart. He'd been longing to get out of here day after day and night after night, hadn't he?
Convert to Buddhism?
Why the hell would he want to stay here and waste the rest of his life hanging out with a bunch of baldies?
He was the Chosen Emperor of Heaven, the man who illuminated the Emperor Star. His future was certain to be extraordinary. Furthermore, he had to get out of here to go deal with a certain someone….
Whenever he thought of that person, waves of viciousness surged through his heart.
A gentle transmission rung in his ears and his hidden ferocity instantly vanished. He pressed his lips into a smile and tried to get his emotions back under control.
After he finally managed to restore his former friendly, placid demeanor, he turned to the Bodhisattva and said, “this apprentice is uncertain, and would like to humbly request the Bodhisattva’s guidance.”
“You are still enmeshed in the world of mortals and have yet to resolve your karmic ties. It would be truly difficult for you to convert to Buddhism. However, for you to have understood all these Buddhist texts in such a short time means that you have a rare talent for Buddhism. I cannot guide you; before the Buddha left, he said that this decision was entirely up to you. You have to choose for yourself.
With that, Guanyin turned and left the ancestral hall.
“The moment you walk out that door, you are no longer an apprentice of our Buddhist Domain. Please make your decision on your own.”
Gu Li bowed to him. Even after Guanyin had long since disappeared from his line of sight, he stood completely still.
An hour passed before Gu Li, who’d been watching the doorway this whole time, retracted his gaze.
But he still didn’t rush out hastily. Rather, he returned to the place where he’d read all those Buddhist scriptures and returned them all to their original locations.
After that, he found a broom and swept the entire hall.
Then he approached the doorway, knelt, and lowered his head to the ground.
Finally, he left decisively.
“This kid’s not bad.”
Within a certain courtyard of the Buddhist Realm, Aryasura, the Great Strength Bodhisattva, looked at the image reflected on the stone table and nodded. Apparently, he approved of everything Gu Li had just done.
“He has yet to sever his mortal karma, so it was inevitable that he’d leave. However, for him to do all this before departing proves that he did manage to glean some enlightenment from those texts. Amitabha.”
“Aryasura, you’re looking at this too superficially,” said Guanyin. He shook his head and poured himself a cup of tea.
“What do you mean?” asked the Great Strength Bodhisattva in confusion. He naturally chose not to refute Guanyin’s words.
They both worked directly below the Amitabha Buddha. The Great Strength Bodhisattva was truly the sort of Bodhisattva who was brainless yet astonishingly, a warrior general.
Whereas the God of Compassion, Guanyin Bodhisattva, was more of a civil servant and tended to see things more clearly.
“He handled things quite nicely when he left,” laughed Guanyin. “He recited those three thousand Buddhist sutras, but his evil tendencies have not diminished in the slightest. He sped through the texts at such a prodigious pace, but that was simply so he could get out of here faster. As for his behavior just now, that was nothing but a show he put on for us.”
The Great Strength Bodhisattva’s eye’s widened. He reached out and rubbed his bald head.
“He was putting on a show? How could he possibly have known that we were watching him?”
“That’s what’s so impressive about this kid,” laughed Guanyin. “He definitely knows that we’ve been monitoring him; that’s why he performed so admirably. He did it to trick us into passing false information on to the Buddha. However, if you look carefully, he swept very slowly. It looked peaceful, but it wasn’t methodical at all. Obviously, his heart wasn’t in it. In other words, from the moment he entered our gates, it’s certain that his heart hasn’t been swayed in the slightest.”
As he finished his sentence, the Great Strength Bodhisattva finally nodded in understanding.
“You still see things more clearly than I do,” he said. With that, he glanced at Gu Li, who had almost reached the edge of the Western Buddhist Domain, then turned to Guanyin and said, “so, what should we do now? The Buddha didn’t leave us any other instructions.”
“Since the Buddha left no instructions, there’s no need for us to worry about it,“ said Guanyin. He waved his right hand the scene reflected before them vanished. “The Buddha has never led us astray. I’m sure he’s thought things through. As his apprentices, there’s no need for us to concern ourselves with all this.”
“Alright then,” nodded the Great Strength Bodhisattva.
Then, brows raised, he asked, “what about those vicious beasts?”
“Mm, they left too.”
In the Western Buddhist Domain, so long as you focused, you could hear the sound of endless Buddhist chanting reverberating through the mountains.
If you looked around, you’d see there were no defensive structures of any kind.
The Buddhist Realm was founded on compassion. If you were an atrocious criminal, they’d help you see the error of your ways and repent. They’d even open their door for members of the supremely evil demon race.
Gu Li stood at the edge of the Western Buddhist Domain. So long as he willed it, he could take a single step forward and escape the Buddhists’ control.
“Could it really be this simple?”
Gu Li stayed put, not taking that final stop. On his way here, he’d carefully examined his surroundings while simultaneously maintaining his outwardly placid demeanor.
Given his temperament, it was fair to say that he’d taken every step with the utmost care.
He carefully thought through each and every step. No matter the situation, he was in the habit of approaching it pessimistically.
In his opinion, it was always better to assume the worst.
Since the moment he left the ancestral hall, he’d worried that this might just be another of the Buddha’s tests. To avoid letting anything slip, he tried to handle everything perfectly.
He’d done that the whole way here, but now he’d truly reached the outer border!
“Could it really be this simple?”
Gu Li couldn’t help but ask, then evaluate his surroundings cautiously. The way he saw it, there was definitely someone watching him.
But it was then that….
“Hah? Isn’t this our dear brother, Gu Li?”
Four figures appeared behind Gu Li. He turned to look at them.
"Brother Gu Li, I trust you've been well since we last saw each other?"
“Brother Gu Li," said another, it's tone....
Polite, yet sinister.