The vegetarian food Tao Ping cooked tasted quite good as well.
She tried her best to retain the original taste of the ingredients. She also tried her best to create different flavors while controlling the level of oil she used. Her meticulous cooking and ingenious fire control made even the most common of dishes like Chinese cabbages and potatoes tantalizing.
Ling Ran tasted a few dishes of stir-fried vegetables, vegetable stew and steamed vegetables, constantly fighting down his growing appetite. It was not long before he drank the spinach soup, mushroom soup, and bamboo shoot soup before lying on the couch as if he had no bones. He touched the young novice monk's head before turning the television on to a random channel to watch it.
Dong Sheng sat crossed-legged on the sofa with his body held upright in a respectful manner. He suddenly smacked himself on the head and said, "I forgot to bring incense sticks here."
"Yes. You can burn them to soothe your spirit and mind. I gathered all the materials on the mountain myself. I even added angelica roots," Dong Sheng said earnestly. "But I just started learning how to make them, and they might not be very effective"
"It's the thought that counts." Tao Ping happily sat down on the young novice monk's other side and caressed his head.
Dong Sheng said, "My master says that since you gave me a place to stay, I must accept it with a pious heart and cannot see it as a given, lay Buddhist."
Twelve Fountains Temple was located on Twelve Fountains Mountain at the outer suburbs of Yun Hua City. The journey between Twelve Fountains Temple and Lower Groove Clinic took three hours by bus, and it was very laborious for Dong Sheng to head forth and back. This was why Tao Ping had allowed Dong Sheng stay for a night before going back the following day with the medicine.
Ling Jiezhou had no objections either. On the one hand, it was because Dong Sheng really was cute, and was also facing some real difficulties. The house also had guest rooms to spare.
On the other hand, it was because the small clinic operated a lot more flexibly, compared to that of hospitals. Throughout the couple dozens of years the Ling family had run Lower Groove Clinic, they had allowed their customers to pay on credit, and also allowed customers to submit valuables as deposit. In the earlier years, some residents had even carried furniture over to pay for their medical bills. The Ling family had no choice but to take them.
As WeChat had started offering a payment system during the past few years, Lower Groove Clinic also applied for a QR code of their own, and aptly timed too. Similarly, they had also been supporting credit card transactions, which required transaction fees on their part, for quite some time.
Ling Jiezhou was even prepared to accept it if banks started implementing credit card services that allowed on the spot approval for installment paymentjust like in Korean dramasone day.
Tao Ping's thought process was a lot shallower. She only rubbed Dong Sheng's head happily and said, "Then, I'll also accept your gift with a pious heart."
"I made matches too. You can use them to light the incense sticks up." Dong Sheng was full of smiles, since his work was recognized. This made him look even more obedient, like an Alaskan malamute.
Tao Ping went by herself to fetch the accessories used to burn the incense sticks.
It was a very Chinese style enjoyment to let a trail of incense smoke hover in the room. It was also a very befitting behavior of a scholar. Tao Ping would also light an incense stick and enjoy it with all her heart when she was drinking tea, toying with her pearls, toying with her chinaware, reading or pruning her potted plants.
The incense burner she used the most on ordinary days was a decorative piece, made of ebony. It was carved into the shape of a small cello, and where the strings were supposed to be had been hollowed out, allowing the incense stickswhich were placed horizontally insideto burn at the right intensity when lit.
Tao Ping lit a match. After the flame stabilized, she slowly drew the lower end of the flame near to the upper end of the incense stick. She lit the incense stick with the inner flame. This way, the incense stick would burn slowly instead of burning all at once and causing wastage.
"It's a lot better than the ones I buy myself." Tao Ping wrinkled her nose delightedly.
Ling Ran and Ling Jiezhou looked at each other. Clearly, they did not share her passion.
But this was a common occurrence in their lives that was not worth worrying about.
The young novice monk put his palms together and said, "Master said that I'm very gifted when it comes to making incense sticks, too. If you like it, I can bring more next time, lay Buddhist."
"Yeah, you can make different flavored ones."
Tao Ping rubbed the young novice monk's head and said, "But you don't have to bring too many. I only light one every few days."
"Alright." The young novice monk yawned slightly as he spoke.
"It's your bedtime already, isn't it? Do go and get the room ready yourself." This was when Tao Ping did not act like a host.
The young novice monk thanked her smoothly, as if he was used to this sort of situations. He went to the guest room upstairs by himself, took out the sheets, put on the sheets over the bed, and the pillowcase
He was already rather familiar with the Ling family's guest room.
The following day.
The moment he woke up, Ling Ran heard someone sweeping the courtyard. He craned his neck to take a look. As expected, he saw Dong Sheng in a small Buddhist robe, sweeping the courtyard diligently. There was also a basin of water beside Dong Sheng, which was used to block the dust from getting to him.
Dong Sheng waved the broom, which was the same size as him at a moderate speed.
He woke up early every time he stayed with the Ling family to clean the place. He performed tasks such as scrubbing the railings and door frames, just like when he stayed at Twelve Fountains Temple.
Ling Ran went downstairs after washing his face and rinsing his mouth. He went to the breakfast shop in the alley to buy deep-fried dough sticks and soybean milk, after rubbing Dong Sheng's head, of course. When Ling Ran returned and called Dong Sheng over to eat, Dong Sheng came over as obediently as a normal child.
Compared to the vegetarian food Tao Ping made, Dong Sheng preferred the greasy deep-fried dough sticks and the tofu pudding which was laden with flavoring.
"Take it slow. If it's not enough, you can have some of Uncle Ling's tofu pudding."
Tao Ping smiled.
Ling Jiezhou froze mid-way while he was enjoying the food.
"Why don't you let him have yours?"
"You can drink mine if you want more."
Ling Jiezhou instantly flashed a satisfied smile.
Dong Sheng did not understand what had just happened at all. He pondered for a while and said, "Master said that I will receive a salary after I study in the Institute of Buddhist Studies. Then, I will treat all of you to tofu pudding.
"Alright, alright, alright," Tao Ping said happily. She then nudged Ling Ran and said, "You have already graduated from university. Why aren't you treating us all to tofu pudding?"
Ling Ran slowly set down the ladle and said to his mother, "I was the one who went to buy the bowl of tofu pudding you are eating right now."
"Ah" Tao Ping's face froze for a moment. She then started shouting, "I didn't take a picture of the first gift my son bought me since getting a job!"