Chen Jin forcefully pulled Su Hong away. She smiled helplessly and said to Fangzheng, "Alright then. I'll come again next year! When the time comes, remember to leave me a bowl!"
Fangzheng held his palms together and said, "Patron, rest assured."
With Chen Jin dragging Su Hong away, Fangzheng was left baffled. Who did he offend now? Why did he get the feeling that Chen Jin had a grudge against him from the way he looked at him? However, Fangzheng could not be bothered with such matters. He went back directly to prepare dinner.
As for Chen Jin and Su Hong, Fangzheng had little interaction with them since he was young. He only knew that Chen Jin had many ideas and would be out and running all day. Su Hong would often follow him, and it was only recently that they grounded themselves in the village.
Therefore, Fangzheng's conscience was not pricked that the duo did not drink any Laba Congee. Furthermore, it was useless even if he felt a guilty conscience. He really had no more congee left!
After returning to the village, Chen Jin discovered that no matter where he went, he would hear everyone talk about the Laba Congee. All the adults and children were excited. However, he was feeling extremely terrible! With envy and jealousy fusing into one, it transformed into hate!
"Darn you, Fangzheng. This is just too much! You snatched the people away from me and even shamed me!" Chen Jin was boiling with rage. After returning home, he did not step out the door, abiding by the saying 'out of sight, out of mind.'
Into the night, the sky turned dark. Once again, there was another snowstorm.
This snowstorm lasted for a week. The amount of snow that accumulated reached a meter high. It was one of those rare once-in-a-couple-decades snowstorms.
Fangzheng did not need to sweep during those days, but he felt all the more miserable!
The northeastern winter was very clean. It did not have dust or falling leaves, much less bird shit. The only thing he needed to clear was the snow! Endless snow that could not be swept away!
As the snow fell from the sky, the wind would bring more snow in. With the temple having walls, they would block the path of the snow, and the snow would easily pile up. If he did not clear the snow in time, it would only become harder with time.
In order to resolve the issue with the piling snow, Fangzheng tried every means he had. He used brooms, metal spades, and Lone Wolf to shovel the snow with a wooden plane. In short, they had to clear the snow once every one or two hours. Even the little squirrel did not have an easy time. He had to occasionally help clear the accumulated snow on the rooftop. For example, when Lone Wolf walked by, he would let a huge layer of snow slide down to smash on a particular wolf.
Due to the heavy snow, no one came up the mountain to offer incense.
A few days passed.
Fangzheng stood on the mountaintop and looked at the mountain ranges in the distance, feeling the howling winds. He held one arm behind his back as he had a look that seemed to bemoan the state of the universe while feeling compassion for all mankind. Deep feelings exuded from him as he ruminated over the mysteries of the universe-
Fangzheng's expression from before was completely gone as he quickly took a look at himself using his cell phone. After taking a look, he said with a laugh, "This is not bad. I look pretty cool!"
That's right. This fellow wasn't trying to figure out the cosmos, He was just taking a selfie...
Fangzheng shared the picture he took of himself on his social network. Ever since Fang Yunjing wanted his photographs, he began having the habit of taking a few cool-looking pictures whenever he was free.
Just as Fangzheng was preparing to return to the temple, there was the sound of firecrackers coming from down the mountain. Following that, there were incessant explosions from double-bang firecrackers!
Fangzheng looked down the mountain, and he could see One Finger Village from his current spot. Other than there being a strong wind, it hadn't snowed that day. He was able to vaguely make out what was happening.
He noticed the sounds of firecrackers exploding down the mountain. People were beginning to walk around as smoke billowed. It gave the cold and lonely mountain some warmth and liveliness. However, when he looked back at the cold and lonely temple, the stark contrast made Fangzheng shake his head helplessly. He sighed and did not say anything else. He took out his cell phone, unlocked it and- The unlock screen had changed!
It was red in color with fortune dolls holding firecrackers while beaming like blooming flowers. Above them was a string of large text.
"The day before New Year's Eve is here. How far away is the new year?"
Fangzheng was surprised. "It's already the day before New Year's Eve? No wonder everyone is so diligent and releasing firecrackers. It's the new year..."
It was a tradition for the northeastern farming villages to release double-bang firecrackers before their meals on the day before New Year's Eve. It was used to add to the festive occasion and a way to simultaneously deliver the kitchen god to heaven and prepare for the coming year. Different places had different explanations. But in short, from Fangzheng's point of view, making the place lively and having a celebration were sufficient reasons!
On the way back, Fangzheng's mood wasn't the best. He kept thinking about scenes from last year when he celebrated the new year. Back then, Zen Master One Finger was still alive. Although there was only one additional person, it wasn't considered desolate since the temple wasn't large anyway. Now, he was the only one remaining. He immediately felt the temperature around him drop. The wind also felt stronger and the environment became colder.
When he returned to the temple's entrance, he saw Lone Wolf burrowing everywhere. He popped out of a snow pile by the entrance! The squirrel was also rolling around on a snow pile, having the time of his life.
Upon seeing these two playful animals, Fangzheng's lonely heart finally melted. He heaved a long sigh of relief and thought to himself, "I don't consider myself that lonely. At least there are two others accompanying me over the new year this time. If I make a head count, there's actually one more this year. Heh heh."
Fangzheng consoled himself and charged forward with a snowball before it was thrown at Lone Wolf's head, striking it with a loud splat. On the way, he pushed Squirrel deep into the snow pile.
Following that, Lone Wolf stormed over noisily and pushed Fangzheng to the ground. The squirrel rode on Fangzheng's head and began stuffing snow into Fangzheng's collar. It was so cold that it made Fangzheng yelp. It was quite a noisy scene.
Amid laughter, the repressed feelings Fangzheng had in his heart dissipated completely.
The day before New Year's Eve had varying significance in China. At least, the number of things needed to be done wasn't small.
Couplets needed to be written. The word, 'prosperity' had to be pasted on the walls. From that day to the fifteenth day of the lunar month were the days filled with the festive mood of the new year! There was a festive exuberance both at the top and at the foot of the mountain.
Fangzheng once again received a huge present from the System!
"Ding! Host, the new year is coming. The System shall be giving you some new year decorations. Do you want to accept them?"
"Hey, there are gifts for me for the new year too? That's good. Heh heh. Do Buddha and the lot celebrate the day before New Year's Eve?" Fangzheng asked curiously as he immediately accepted the delivery.
"It might be just the new year, but even Buddhists have to observe local customs and progress with the times," the System answered matter-of-factly.
Fangzheng chuckled and realized that he increasingly could not understand the System. A yellow beam of light flashed in front of him as a few items appeared. There were brushes and ink, as well as big red paper meant for writing couplets! Other than that, there was nothing else.
"System, can you be any more miserly?" Fangzheng asked in a speechless manner.
"Brush and ink are a loan. Remember to return them after using them," the System answered plainly.
Fangzheng really wanted to curse at that instant! This was way too miserly! Was there another system in the world more miserly than this system? Thankfully, he still had the brush and one ink block that Wu Changxi had given him. Unfortunately, he did not have any red paper of his own. Therefore, he was destined to use it sparingly.
Although it was a loan, it was still a gift regardless of how it was described. Having something was always better than having nothing. Receiving gifts during the new year period still made Fangzheng a little happy after all.
He was enlivened after receiving the gifts and began looking forward to the new year. Therefore, he began thinking about how he should end the year.
First, he had to write couplets. Fangzheng searched on the Internet all day before finding a rather good couplet. Then, he began waving the brush, using the Dragon Buddha Epithet to write it down!