This was absurd. As in the is-this-shit-really-happening kind of absurd. All his life, Li Yundong had been scorned, laughed at, bullied, mocked, ridiculed, and even spat at. But now, he was being worshipped by a bunch of Tibetan Buddhists. Weren't Buddhists supposed to be devoted to their faith?
Maybe the Buddha took a day off or something.
"Guys… Come on... What's with this Mahakala nonsense, eh?"
Truth be told, this wasn't the first time he'd been called by that name.
Changbagela had mentioned that name too back at the monastery that night when Li Yundong caught him and Meiduo spying on him. Then again, Li Yundong's mind was too occupied with Changbagela's intentions to ask what that name meant.
Li Yundong surveyed his surroundings.
Miss Liu Xia was staring at him in shock whereas the two foreigners were looking back and forth between the jeep and him. Poor dudes. They were probably so mind-fucked that they might need brain condoms.
Then, the pilgrims began to chant.
"Mahakala! Mahakala! Mahakala!"
Li Yundong shot Meiduo a desperate look, then dropped his voice into a low hiss. "Hey, can you all just stand up and, you know, talk like normal people?"
Meiduo shook her head, then prostrate herself before him. "No! We can't do that! Doing that would be a great disrespect to you, my Lord Mahakala."
As if making him feel awkward wasn't a form of disrespect.
"Come on, guys. Get up already!"
The pilgrims ignored him and kept chanting. He wasn't even sure most of them heard him over the loud chants.
Li Yundong rolled his eyes. "Fine! Mahakala orders all of you to stand up!"
The chanting stopped immediately. Clothes rustled as everyone rose to their feet like obedient soldiers.
Li Yundong resisted the urge to do a face palm.
"Alright, guys. Look… I think there's some kind of mistake here. I'm not Mahakala—"
"You're too humble, kind sir," Changbagela said with a smile.
Meiduo bowed reverently. "That's right, Brother Li. We've seen what you're capable of. Twice now, in fact."
"But I don't even know who this Mahakala is!"
A look of surprise flashed across Meiduo's face. A second later, she schooled her features and assumed a look of reverence again. "Mahakala is a protector deity that we Tibetan Buddhists worship..."
Gee, thanks. That explained a lot.
Li Yundong gave Meiduo a blank stare.
Meiduo smiled shyly. "And he's the Dharma Protector and the Lord of Justice."
Li Yundong forced out a smile. "Well, good for you guys. I truly hope you'll get to meet this awesome deity one day."
Meiduo looked at Li Yundong from under her lashes. "Perhaps we already did." Reverence shone in her eyes.
Li Yundong sighed. "Look, like I said, I'm not—"
"We think you're a reincarnation of Mahakala sent to protect our people," Meiduo said, cutting him off.
"Reincarnation…" Li Yundong said in a skeptical tone.
Meiduo blushed and waved her hands a few times. "Oh… I mean I know you don't have six arms, three faces, and all that, but—"
"What did you say?" Li Yundong whispered, his eyes narrowing into slits.
Chills travelled down his spine as every single muscle inside his body went taut. Meiduo had just described the physical appearance of his personal god, the one he saw inside his Spirit Space when he achieved Ishvara.
How the hell could she possibly know?
Meiduo frowned and shared a glance with Changbagela. "Um…"
"You said six arms and three faces!" Li Yundong said sharply, causing Meiduo to flinch. "What do you mean by that?"
Meiduo's eyes flicked towards Changbagela's face.
"At ease, kind sir. She meant no harm by that. In fact, what she said is common knowledge among us Tibetans," Changbagela said gently.
Li Yundong raised his brows. "Common knowledge?"
Changbagela nodded. "That's right, sir."
"That's Mahakala's physical form, Brother Li," Meiduo explained hurriedly. "Six arms and three faces."
Li Yundong stared at Meiduo for a few seconds before relaxing his stance. A moment later, he tensed up again. "Wait a minute…" His eyes snapped to Meiduo. "Just now you said I was sent here to protect your people…"
Silence pervaded as Li Yundong waited for Meiduo's explanation. When he got none seconds later, he raised both hands and sighed heavily. "Look, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you've really mistaken me for someone else. I am not your protector. And I'm definitely not here to stay. I must return to my city the moment I—"
Li Yundong held his tongue before he let slip about the true reason he was here.
He cleared his throat. "I mean I'll leave after I get what I came here for." He finished lamely and let his hands drop to his sides.
Granted, it was still a matter of some debate whether or not he was able to leave Tibet alive, but none of the pilgrims needed to know that.
Whispers spread over the crowd.
People were giving him strange looks now. Some of them even looked crestfallen, like they just had all their hopes crushed. Perhaps this was why Zi Yuan had warned him to mind his own goddamn business and to minimize social contact once he crossed Tibetan borders.
Li Yundong took a step back, then bent down to put on his shoes. A twinge of guilt coursed through him. He sighed and removed the shoes, then stood back up. He approached Meiduo and took her hands before pressing the shoes into her hands. Meiduo stared back at him in utter confusion.
"You should keep them." Li Yundong nodded at the shoes in her hands. "The other men need them more than I do." He pointed at one of the pilgrims with muddy shoes.
Then, Li Yundong turned towards Changbagela. "And about that book you gave me…" Li Yundong sighed. "I really think you should take it back. It belongs to the temple. I have no right to take it."
Changbagela opened his mouth to protest, but Li Yundong was already backing away.
Changbagela reached out to grab Li Yundong's arm. Something fell out from the sleeve of his robe. Li Yundong glanced down at the fallen object and realized that it was a string of prayer beads. Li Yundong picked up the prayer beads from the ground and studied it for a moment.
All the beads were brown in color except for six of them.
Each of the six beads had their own color—white, green, yellow, blue, red, and black—and they were all evenly spread out.
But why six beads?
Li Yundong looked up from the prayer bead. Changbagela was eyeing him curiously.
Li Yundong raised the beads. "Why do these six beads have different colors?"
Changbagela flashed a smile and waved his hand casually. "Well, they represent the colors of a special mantra."
Six beads… Six syllables?
Wait a minute…
"Which mantra?" Li Yundong asked anxiously.
"The om mani padme hum mantra." Changbagela gave Li Yundong a strange look. "Have you heard of it before?"
Li Yundong exhaled slowly and started pacing around.
His mind was reeling.
"That's one of the mantras mentioned in the Mahamudra Tantra…" he whispered to himself.
"I beg your pardon, sir?" Changbagela asked.
Li Yundong ignored the man and kept pacing.
"The Intelligent Fist…" he mumbled to himself. "Mahavairocana's hand sign…"
Suddenly, he stopped pacing. Wait a minute… He raised the prayer beads to his eye level and studied the six beads again.
Five of those six beads had colors that corresponded to Zhang Zhongjing's Five-Organ Pathological Model first presented in The Essential Prescriptions from the Golden Cabinet. Su Chan had told him about the Five-Organ Pathological Model the other night before he passed the Lianqi phase.
And according to the Five-Organ Pathological Model, each of the five Zangs in the human body was color-coded: white for the Lung; green for the Liver; yellow for the Spleen; red for the Heart; and black for the Kidney.
Was it just a coincidence that five of those six beads had colors that corresponded to the colors of the Five Zang's Qis?
Wait. What about the remaining bead? What about blue?
Li Yundong lowered the prayer beads and turned around abruptly to face Changbagela. "What does the color blue represent?"
Changbagela stared at him blankly. Not that Li Yundong could blame the old man. The guy was probably surprised by Li Yundong's sudden show of interest in the prayer beads. After all, the beads themselves looked innocuous enough.
"Well?" Li Yundong prompted when Changbagela didn't answer him. "Why is one of the beads blue?"
"Blue corresponds to the syllable pad in padme."
"Okay, but what does it mean? What does it represent?"
Just like that, a million light bulbs went off inside Li Yundong's head.
"Wisdom…" he whispered.
"Yes," Changbagela said with a nod. "Blue represents the elimination of moha from one's character or existence. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a concept known as the three poisons, or what we call the three defects of one's character: Moha; Raga; and Dvesha. Moha refers to delusion, confusion, and ignorance."
A smile tugged at Li Yundong's lips. "So it's a code…" He chuckled. "Now I see…"
Changbagela frowned. "Code? What code?"
Li Yundong laughed and handed the prayer beads back to Changbagela.
Blue represents wisdom, and wisdom comes from the mind or, in other words, the upper Dantian. When he was memorizing the contents of the Mahamudra Tantra, he had a hunch that those hand signs and mantras were all linked somehow.
His hunch was right.
The Convergence of Five Qis. That, was the key to unleashing the Intelligent Fist.
It all just fit together perfectly. Each of the six syllables was associated with a color. At the same time, five of those colors represented the colors of the Five Zangs' Qis. The remaining color, blue, represented the upper Dantian. When put together, the meaning was obvious: to unlock the power of the Intelligent Fist, the Qis of the Five Zangs had to be drawn out and then gathered at the upper Dantian, which, in essence, was just the Convergence of Five Qis.
Well. So far this was all just theory. He had to test it out.
Li Yundong began to walk away from the crowd.
"Brother Li!" Meiduo yelled. "Where are you going?"
He kept striding uphill without looking back.
Suddenly, he stopped walking and turned around. Then, his eyes swept over the crowd.
"Don't follow me," he said sternly. "I need you guys to give me a few hours alone."
With that, he turned around and continued his path uphill. Yeah. They really should stay away from him.
It was for their own good.
Because if he was right? Then things were about to get dangerous.