“I really want to curse someone. Why isn’t there any road sign despite me walking so far? Who can tell me which direction I should take at this cross-junction!?” Fangzheng stood at a cross-junction and looked depressed. Yes, our great master was lost!
A car suddenly stopped as a head stuck out and said with a laugh. “Master, where are you going?”
Fangzheng pressed his palms together and gave a Buddhist proclamation. “Amitabha, Patron, good day. This Penniless Monk wishes to go to Songwu County.” Fangzheng wanted to say Mt. One Finger but it was unlikely the driver knew where it was. It was more likely that the driver would know Songwu County. When Fangzheng looked up, he was dumbfounded!
The driver was dumbfounded as well as they cried out simultaneously, “It’s you?!”
The driver was no stranger to Fangzheng. It was none other than the beauty, Jing Yan who had her skirt bitten off back when she came to the mountain to report the calligraphy competition.
“Master, where are you going? Oh… Did you come from Baiyun Monastery?” Jing Yan looked at the path behind Fangzheng and asked with a smile.
Fangzheng said, “Female Patron, This Penniless Monk is no master. It’s best you address me Venerable Fangzheng. It’s true that This Penniless Monk came from Baiyun Monastery and is planning on returning to One Finger Monastery.”
Jing Yan smiled. “That’s quite a coincidence. I happen to be heading to Songwu County. However, I will have to go elsewhere along the way before I return. Venerable Fangzheng, if you aren’t in a rush, I can give you a lift?”
Fangzheng was delighted when he heard that. He was still vexed about his return. It was just too far if he had to walk back. He could bear with the exhaustion but it was a waste of time! There was no one at One Finger Monastery. Although there were the villagers and the animals watching over the house, he still felt uneasy about it. He was agreeable to getting a ride! Most importantly the car looked rather high-end. He never sat in one before.
Fangzheng pressed his palms together and bowed, “Then this Penniless Monk will be troubling you. This Penniless Monk isn’t in a rush.”
“Speak no further. Venerable One quickly get in.” Jing Yan generously opened her car’s door. As he sat on the soft chair and leaned back, he felt he was sinking into the seat. It was very comfortable!
“This car is even more comfortable than a taxi. It’s great.” Fangzheng thought with a sigh.
Jing Yan spoke up, her voice hesitant, “Venerable Fangzheng.”
Fangzheng looked at her with a raised brow, “Patron, is there something the matter? Why aren’t you driving?”
“Uh, please fasten your seatbelt,” said Jing Yan helplessly.
Fangzheng was stunned. Seatbelt? He had seen it in books and on television but he had never experienced it in reality. He looked to his side and indeed saw a black belt. When he tugged at it, Fangzheng felt a little silly. How did this thing work?
“Venerable Fangzheng, have you never been in a car before?” Jing Yan finally understood what was going on.
Fangzheng calmly gazed at her. “This Penniless Monk sat on an ox and horse-drawn carts, bicycles, tractors and even a taxi a few days ago. However, this is the first time This Penniless Monk is sitting in such a high-end car.”
Jing Yan was stunned. It was surprising that someone in this day and age had not been in a car before! Her car was not considered luxurious. Furthermore, taxis had seat belts as well and all seatbelts worked the same way… While looking at Fangzheng, Jing Yan understood that the monk sat in the back when he took the taxi. Having come to this realization, Jing Yan sighed, “Venerable One, you are truly different from your contemporaries.”
She did not elaborate the aspect in which he was different. Instead she bent down and tugged at Fangzheng’s seatbelt.
Fangzheng’s muscles subconsciously tightened. This was the first time he was being in such close proximity to a woman. He could smell her bodily fragrance and could not help but recite in his heart: “Amitabha. When can I renounce asceticism…”
After Jing Yan helped Fangzheng buckle the seatbelt, she stepped on the accelerator and drove off.
Fangzheng was no good at chatting with women and Jing Yan seemed to have something on her mind. The duo did not interact much. Only when Fangzheng saw a village after Jing Yan drove along a winding road, entering deep into the mountains did he ask out of burning curiosity, “Female Patron, what are you doing here?”
Jing Yan replied, “This is no longer Baiyun County but Guan County. This is the poorest county in the city. In terms of poverty, few areas in the entire province can compare to them. Up ahead is the poorest village, Dongliang Village of Guan County.”
“Oh? Female Patron, are you here to help them?” Fangzheng was no stranger to Dongliang Village. He read the news daily and the village frequently appeared on the headlines. The children in the village were pitiful, being all skin and bones. Having a full meal was bliss. Therefore, people often came to Dongliang Village to do charity. Celebrities would even visit Dongliang Village and do a little bit of sponsorship. Fangzheng long knew that Jing Yan grew up in an affluent family. If not she would not have instilled fear among the rest back then. It was natural that Jing Yan was here to do acts of charity.
Jing Yan shook her head decisively as she sneered, “Help the poor? No, I’m here to investigate! Some people are too shameless!”
“Uh… What do you mean?” Fangzheng was taken aback.
“Venerable One, you don’t understand Dongliang Village. You might not believe me even if I told you. I believe that you are a good monk, a good venerable monk. You will see when you enter the village later. Why don’t you share your views with me later? I do not want to influence you with my emotions. Nor do I want you to be prejudiced by any first impressions.” Ever since her trip to Mt. One Finger, Jing Yan became a lot more careful in whatever she did. She no longer jumped to conclusions so easily. She would do her homework and research before coming to a conclusion.
Fangzheng did not understand what Jing Yan was referring to. However it was easy for him to satisfy her request. He nodded. “Amitabha. This Penniless Monk will give it a try.”
For the rest of the trip, Jing Yan restrained the words which sprang to her lips but eventually, she did not say a word. Although Fangzheng was puzzled, he did not press her since she was not elaborating. The duo quietly reached Dongliang Village.
There was a large broken gate by the village entrance. It wrote: “Dongliang Village Welcomes You.” There were quotes from the greats. The village did not seem too terrible.
Fangzheng’s brows knitted even more as he approached the village.
Once the car drove into the village, a group of people crowded around the car. Those that were squatting by the village entrance talking stood up immediately. They looked sickly.
The villagers that crowded around them were of both sexes. There were children as well. No one spoke a word. They only looked at Jing Yan silently. Some were even looking at her warily.
A few adults ran over and pulled the children far away. They did not allow the children to approach the car.
Jing Yan stopped the car at the village entrance. She took out a pair of sunglasses and wore them before alighting the car.
Fangzheng looked at the cloudy sky outside and shook his head slightly. He was unsure why Jing Yan was wearing sunglasses. Although the snow reflected light that easily led to snow blindness, it was something one would encounter when out in the wild where it was blanketed in white. The village was not completely white, so the reflections were not that intense. There was no need to do so at all.
When the villagers saw that Jing Yan was a woman, their wariness decreased slightly.
Jing Yan said with a smile, “Hello everyone, I’m Jing Yan. There’s not much to say. I have some things prepared for you in the trunk. Everyone, come take a look and take it if there’s anything you need.”
With that said, Jing Yan opened her trunk.
Fangzheng frowned when he heard that. What was Jing Yan intending to do? Although the people were poor, there was no need to say things in such a way, right?