The flame poured down like a rushing waterfall. In just a blink of an eye, from the once red flames, they turned pale-green, and then white and translucent. Numerous boulders and rocks scattered across the valley started to break, then crumbled into powder, before being melted down by the piping hot flame and turning into flowing lava, rushing around the Temple of Hidden Heart, which was now protected by a layer of golden energy barrier.
Although it was protected by the golden energy barrier formed from the Buddhist willpower, the temperature within the temple was rising rapidly. Before long, a few nearby buildings were caught in a roaring flame, and after a while, those flourishing bodhi trees had become shriveled. All of a sudden, as the water content in a few bodhi trees planted near the grand hall completely vaporized, they turned into torches that burned ragingly, further increasing the temperature.
"What a pity!"
Wu Qi stared at the little fire gourd hovering in the sky as he kept expressing his disappointment. Just like the acquired fire spirit pearl in his body, it was an acquired spirit item. From the look of its power, it should be a treasure formed near a volcano after absorbing the underground fire essence. But, it was a pity that before it could become mature completely, that Daoist Flaming Crow had harvested it and refined it into his own magical treasure.
If the fire gourd were picked after fully ripening, then meticulously refined by a weapon crafting grandmaster of Heaven Immortal realm, it would be at least an upper-grade immortal item. But, as it was messily refined by Daoist Flaming Crow, its spirit aura had completely vanished, together with all its magical effects. Although it could still pour out a very powerful flame, it was at most as strong as the prime true flame produced by a Nascent Soul cultivator. Besides that, the flame was a dead flame without a source. Once the fire gourd was withdrawn, the flame would disappear immediately. It could not be considered as a good treasure.
"What a wasteful man! I don't even have the interest to rob him!" said Wu Qi as he laughed bitterly.
Meanwhile, Hidden Heart and the rest of the monks were already drenched in sweat. They had no other choice but to keep chanting the Buddhist scripture, hoping to squeeze out even more Buddhist willpower from the statues to protect the temple. All of a sudden, a deep thunderclap was heard coming from within the fire gourd. In the next moment, a crimson flaming thunder poured out of it and smashed down towards the ground like a shooting star, slamming heavily onto the golden energy barrier above the temple.
A loud boom rang out. The temple shook violently, and the walls that encompassed the grand hall crumbled down. Fragments of bricks and tiles came crashing down in all directions. The broken fragments bashed and battered those monks kneeling behind Hidden Heart and Guarding Heart, and the chanting came to an abrupt stop. The Buddhist light emitting from the five statues dimmed down suddenly, reducing the energy barrier to only ten feet thick, and shrinking its coverage area by half.
Tragic howls of those hunting dogs and animals were heard coming from the courtyard. However, they only lasted for a very brief moment before died down completely. The raging flame had already killed them and burned them into ashes. Lao Ai twitched his lips and cursed under his breath, "Damn those bald donkeys! They have wasted food to raise those delicious animals, yet they refused to cook one for me! How ridiculous!"
Gazing at Lao Ai, Wu Qi grinned and scolded, "They have saved your life. Why do you still talk bad about them?"
Lao Ai shut his mouth sulkily. He had no interest in arguing with Wu Qi. In his opinion, it was shameful to argue with a junior. Furthermore, between him and Wu Qi, there were only old resentments, but no friendship, and he was even forced to swear a blood oath by him. It made him feel extremely uncomfortable. Therefore, he just twitched his mouth and sat down cross-legged under the table, focusing all his attention in circulating his energy and regulating his breath, hoping to quickly recover his overall strength with the medicinal strength from the immortal pills.
That Daoist Flaming Crow only had an overall strength of early-stage Nascent Soul realm, an ant who Lao Ai could kill even with just a spit. Also, that fire gourd seemed like a decent treasure, and Lao Ai was very interested in seizing it and making it as his own weapon. After all, his storage ring was destroyed by Jing Ke, forcing him to rob those poor itinerant cultivators along the way to gather enough money for his journey to Pangu Continent. He was extremely poor right now.
But, if he wished to seize the fire gourd, he must regain his cultivation base first. Even if he could not recover to his peak form in such a short period of time, as long as he could have an overall strength of early-stage Gold Core realm, Lao Ai was confident he could kill all these itinerant cultivators. In his eyes, those tricks employed by Reverend San Le and Daoist Flaming Crow did not post the slightest threat to him!
As the Buddhist light suffered a heavy blow, Guarding Heart gave a muffled snort and fell slantingly to the ground. With blood oozing out of his mouth, he told Hidden Heart weakly, "Master, you should go now, alone! Once you have formed your Relic Lotus Throne, you will be as strong as a Nascent Soul cultivator, and you can always come back to avenge us!"
Hidden Heart gnashed his teeth as he raised his head to look at the flame that was wreaking havoc in the sky. "Guarding Heart, leave here with your Uncle-Master and Junior Brothers. I'll be staying here. This is my evil tribulation. I'll perish if I fail to transcend it. But, if I manage to transcend it, I'll have the hope of attaining the rightful fruit of Golden Arhat! I've gone through thirty transmigrations, and this is my destiny!"
Wu Qi turned to look at Hidden Heart with surprise. So, this old monk was an eminent monk who had gone through thirty transmigrations? But, from the look of his current cultivation base, it seemed his cultivation base in the previous twenty-nine lives was not worthy of mention.
Then, Wu Qi saw Hidden Heart spring to his feet and jump up to the lotus throne of the Buddha statue that placed in the middle, stretching his hands to poke into the Buddha's eyes. A ringing of mechanical gears cranking echoed out as the Buddha statue suddenly moved off to a side, revealing an entrance to a pitch-black tunnel hiding underneath the lotus throne.
Lao Ai opened his eyes with surprise, lowered his voice, and murmured, "This... this is the trick used by the underworld! I've seen it before in those years!"
'Underworld? How familiar is this term!' Wu Qi bowed his head and squeezed it out from under the table, then raised it to look at the energy barrier. After realizing that it could block off any glances from the outside, so that Reverend San Le could not discover the unusual change that was occurring in the hall, he craned his neck to peer into the tunnel entrance. Wu Qi could not help but laugh as he said, "Hidden Heart, you've actually built an escaping tunnel in this Buddha temple?"
Hidden Heart laughed dryly, put his palms together, and said with a sigh, "I feel quite ashamed for this. Throughout my thirty transmigrations, I was a bandit and robber in my past six lives. Hehe, although I've returned to Buddha in this life, I can never forget the tricks that can save lives!"
He bowed to give the tunnel a look, then cried out in a low voice, "Guarding Heart, make haste and bring everyone away! The magic power of that evil Daoist Flaming Crow is ordinary, and his flame can only go as deep as one hundred feet underground. I've spent several hundreds of years working on this tunnel. It goes about one-mile deep, and is connected to the An Le Village, six hundred miles away from here! Now, quickly bring everyone and leave here! If I survive today, I'll go to find you all!"
Hidden Heart had a background of bandit and robber? All of a sudden, Wu Qi felt the connection between him and the old monk become much closer.
The little monk, Guarding Heart, was not willing to part with his own Master. He struggled to his feet and dropped to his knees, hugging the old monk's legs as he began to weep, refusing to leave. Wu Qi felt sad to see that, as he suddenly recalled something that happened a long time ago.
"Sigh, since you've saved my life, I'll have to repay your kindness!" Wu Qi sighed, then fished out a packet of drunken dragon incense from the black dragon spirit ring, about 500 grams. He handed the packet to Hidden Heart and said in a deep voice, "This is an excellent incense which I've concocted with many rare spirit herbs when traveling the world. Sprinkle them out of the temple. When they are lit by the flame, the aroma will fill the entire valley, and you will be able to capture those people up there!"
Guarding Heart was seized with great joy. Hastily, he snatched the packet and ran towards the entrance of the hall.
Meanwhile, with a thoughtful expression on his face, Hidden Heart was sizing up Wu Qi with his pair of old eyes. Wu Qi smiled, then cast a furtive look at Hidden Heart's waist belt - it was bulging up, because there was a secret pocket where Hidden Heart placed all his precious things.
Words were meaningless between experts, and usually, they could tell each other's identity with just one glance or one subtle gesture.
Hidden Heart laughed, then put his palms together and said, "No wonder fellow Daoist is being hunted by someone!"
Wu Qi laughed dryly, then purposely teased the old monk by saying, "We are alike. No wonder Grandmaster is 'hiding your heart' here!"
Upon seeing Wu Qi hand the drunken dragon incense over to Guarding Heart, Min Hua, who was lying in a remote corner of the hall, suddenly cried out at the top of his voice, "Patriarch, be careful! These bald donkeys and a few nasty Daoists are going to use an ecstasy incense! Watch out for that, Patriarch!"
Wu Qi and Hidden Heart turned to look at Min Hua at the same time. Both of them picked up an object which was closest to them and threw it over.
What Hidden Heart picked up was a wooden stick used to knock the wooden fish. The arm-sized wooden stick pierced whistling through the air and shoved right into Min Hua's mouth, burying all his words inside. Meanwhile, Wu Qi picked up a wooden fish the size of a human head and threw it out casually, slamming heavily onto Min Hua's abdomen. The poor guy was twitching convulsively with pain, but as the wooden stick was still in his mouth, he could not inhale or exhale any breath, and nearly choked himself to death.
As that was happening, Guarding Heart had already run outside the hall. The flame was now less than one hundred feet away from the hall's entrance. Throwing all caution to the wind, Guarding Heart grabbed the packet of drunken dragon incense and threw it several hundred feet away from the energy barrier.
In just a twinkle, the incense packet was completely burned off by the raging flame. An invisible, colorless smoke quickly spread out and engulfed the entire valley. The group of cultivators who were hovering above the grand hall, laughing and cursing wantonly, could only last less than one second amidst the wave of drunken dragon incense. Like a swarm of drunken wild ducks, they fell straight down to the ground one after another.
"Sādhu!" Hidden Heart cried as he pulled out a shimmering, three feet long monk blade from under his sleeve. He pressed his palm against a Buddha statue next to him, and the Buddhist light emitting from all five statues came to a complete stop. In the next moment, the group of over thirty cultivators fell into the grand hall. As they had lost their magical power now, all of them were badly injured from the heavy fall. A few of them even had their arms broken after slamming themselves onto the table and statues. Wu Qi could hear the cracking of their bones.
"You nasty Daoists!" Hidden Heart raised the monk blade up as he strode furiously towards Reverend San Le, who appeared to be in a coma, "I'm going to eliminate demons and devils today, killing all of you who are evil!"
With an indifferent attitude, Wu Qi watched how Hidden Heart was going to break the rule by killing people. To Wu Qi, Reverend San Le was not a good guy, so killing him was not of a big deal!
All of a sudden, a ring of Buddhist light burst out from under the table. Sitting on top of a pinkish lotus throne, Lao Ai flew out with a solemn expression.
The enormous Wheel of Delight radiated a splendid golden light as it hovered behind Lao Ai's back. There were no Heavenly Demons that could be found on the wheel like before, but only numerous Apsaras, coupled with a faintly discernible chanting of scriptures.
"Hold on, Hidden Heart! I have much use of those evil Daoists!"
Lao Ai cried with a deep voice, "Hidden Heart, I'm the incarnation of the Delight Bodhisattva from Blissful Realm of Buddha, who represents intelligence, courage, kindness, and benevolence. I had purposely disguised as a Daoist who was struck by misfortune, staying here to examine you over the past few months! There is a fate between you and me. Are you willing to take me as your Master?"
Wu Qi rolled his eyes and was rendered speechless.
However, Hidden Heart had already thrown himself to the ground, hands and legs wide spreading as he cried out with a trembling voice, "Delight Bodhisattva of intelligence, courage, kindness, and benevolence! I... I am willing to serve you!"
*Clang!* The monk blade fell down from his hand as the old monk sprung up and ran next to Wu Qi.