"Secretary Tan, back... back when I came, this place... Sigh. I can't explain it." As Yang Ping looked at the brand new temple in front of him, he also knew that whatever he said was meaningless. Facts beat any form of excuse.
Wang Yougui said, "Uncle Tan, don't be too upset with Yang Ping. Knowing him, he was too lazy to scale the mountain. He probably instructed the other party to come down to receives the government documents. Let's ignore his lies. Then again, I remember that One Finger Temple was indeed quite dilapidated when I came here a year ago. And I don't remember seeing anyone moving bricks up the mountain this past year. How did this temple get renovated?"
Tan Juguo's eyebrows knitted together as he shook his head and said, "I have no idea. Let's go find out."
Wang Yougui and Yang Ping had no objections, so they followed him.
On the way, Wang Yougui asked, "Uncle Tan, One Finger is no longer with us so now there's probably only the little monk, Fangzheng, in One Finger Temple, right? I remember years ago, he attended elementary school in our village. Later on, it was you who sent him to middle and high school, right?"
A look of reminiscence flashed in Tan Juguo's eyes as he nodded and said, "That's right. Back then, the child was just so tiny. To think that he's now abbot. Heh heh. Time sure flies..."
As they spoke, the trio arrived in front of One Finger Temple's entrance. Looking up, they saw a golden plaque. The trio subconsciously became solemn and respectful. All of their impetuous thoughts vanished, leaving behind nothing but a sense of tranquility. They also felt a solemn atmosphere that made them subconsciously lower their voices.
In the north, especially in villages with vast lands and tiny populations, villagers would tend to shout from a young age for ease of communication. Therefore, their usual volume was generally higher than the average person's. As time passed, it became so habitual that it could not be changed.
But at that moment in time, the trio had unknowingly lowered their volume. By the time they realized it, they were astonished.
One Finger Temple's door was already open when they arrived. The trio entered freely and immediately noticed the bodhi tree. Seeing it alive and growing sprouts in late autumn, as if it were seeking death, the trio felt like they had seen a ghost.
"Uncle Tan, the last time I came here, this tree was almost withered. It was dead to its roots. How has it sprouted? This is..." Yang Ping muttered.
"Mind your words! This is a temple, not some gate to hell. If such a thing happens, it's because Buddha has manifested Himself. There's no monsters or ghosts, so what are you afraid of!?" Tan Juguo reprimanded.
Only then did Yang Ping snap out of his daze, saying wryly, "I just find it extremely weird."
"What's weird about it? The last time you were here was several years ago. Is it strange that things change?" Wang Yougui scoffed.
Yang Ping had a wry expression. Although Wang Yougui and Tan Juguo refused to believe him, he knew very well that he had been up here just a few days ago! What he had seen was just as he had said. Crumbling walls, broken tiles, and a withered old tree. In just a few days, there had been tremendous changes. He found it odd and also a little scary.
"Eh? What's that fragrance?" At that moment, Tan Juguo suddenly took a few deep breaths and said this.
"It's so fragrant! It smells like rice but also different! It's so much more fragrant than the rice of our lands... just a whiff of it makes my stomach rumble." Wang Yougui said as he rubbed his belly.
"It seems like it's coming from the backyard. Let's go take a look," said Yang Ping as he pointed to the backyard. As Yang Ping immersed himself in the fragrance, the frantic thoughts in his head disappeared.
"Let's go." Tan Juguo nodded as the trio immediately filed in.
As for the idea that they might be trespassing on private property, seeing as they didn't notify the owner, it was a non-issue to them. That was what kinsman did in the northern villages. No matter whose house it was, they would not steal or rob. They were free to openly walk in. But as a courtesy, they would usually call out twice to signal to the owner that they had come.
However, the trio simply walked into the backyard because the rice fragrance was so rich. It assaulted their olfactory senses and made their mouths water. They subconsciously licked their lips and moved their jaws as if they were able to eat the smell itself. If not for their stomachs' going wild from the fragrance, the trio probably would not even realize that they were hungry. They would even believe they had already eaten.
Fangzheng's kitchen was in a corner, so when the trio came in they could see Fangzheng through the kitchen window as he prepared his meal.
"Fangzheng! Fangzheng!" Yang Ping was the first to shout.
At that moment, Fangzheng had mixed some wild vegetables into soy sauce, in preparation to eat with his rice. When he suddenly heard someone calling him from the outside, he looked up and said in astonishment, "Treasurer Yang? Uncle Wang, Grandpa Tan? Why are you here?"
"What do you mean why are we here? Kid, you have caused such a stir up here on the mountain, how could we not come here to take a look?" Wang Yougui said with a chuckle.
Fangzheng walked out of the kitchen and tried to find two benches, but he was depressed to realize that his place did not have any seating.
Wang Yougui reprimanded in a joking manner, "It's fine, don't bother looking. I don't think your tiny temple has stuff for you to play host, so don't search for any benches. We are all family, so we don't need to be proper like those in the city. We can just sit where we are."
With that said, Wang Yougui sat right on the ground. Tan Juguo did so too. Yang Ping felt a little reluctant but he wiped a rock beside him and sat down.
When Fangzheng saw that, he sat down on the ground as well. He rubbed his bald head and feigned ignorance to ask, "What was the large stir?"
"Kid, not bad, huh? I haven't been up here in a year, but you have already renovated One Finger Temple. Not bad!" Wang Yougui said with a jovial laugh.
Fangzheng grinned and did not say a word and, instead, looked at Yang Ping.
Yang Ping said in a peeved manner, "Fangzheng, tell the village head and the secretary that I was here a few days ago. Also, wasn't I the one who personally handed you the government documents?"
Fangzheng wished to lie, but lies were a violation. He could only nod and say, "That's true."
With that said, Wang Yougui and Tan Juguo were completely dumbfounded. They were certain that Yang Ping had been lazy and did not scale the mountain, but he had indeed gone up. Then, could it be that the other things he said... were true? The two looked into each other's eyes and saw suspicion reflected.
Yang Ping said again, "Fangzheng, let me ask you. Was this temple of yours very dilapidated a few days ago?"
Fangzheng continued nodding and said, "Yes."
Yang Ping immediately looked up at Wang Yougui and Tan Juguo as if he was saying: Look! I wasn't lying, right?
Wang Yougui frowned and said, "Fangzheng, tell me properly, what exactly is going on? It was in a rundown state just a few days ago, but now it has been completely renovated? I haven't seen a single construction worker these past few days."
Tan Juguo added, "That's right. Kid, this whole thing seems a little fantastic."
Fangzheng pondered, knowing that he could not conceal the matter. However, he also couldn't reveal the existence of the System. If he did, countless trouble would befall him. As such, Fangzheng's expression suddenly turned serious. He stood up and held his hands together. His propriety was done fully as he bowed towards the West and said, "Amitabha..."