Fangzheng wiped the thought from his mind and pressed his palms together. He gave a Buddhist proclamation, “Patron, This Penniless Monk really does not have any impression. Also, it’s really getting dark. It will really be dangerous if you do not descend the mountain.”
“Uh…” The woman was rendered completely speechless. She was certain that the monk did not know her.
She gave a wry smile and the thought of teasing Fangzheng was gone. She wiped the smile from her face and out of habit, extended her right hand. “Alright then, let me formally introduce myself. I’m Li Xueying. Venerable One, how might I address you?”
“This Penniless Monk’s Dharma name is Fangzheng.” Fangzheng did not shake hands with Li Xueying. All he did was reply with a faint smile.
Li Xueying was stunned. This was the first time she was being rejected a handshake with a member of the opposite sex. The feeling was rather strange…
Fangzheng asked again, “Patron, do you have a reason for coming here at this time?”
Li Xueying squinted her eyes. She found the monk especially interesting. She felt like a kitten that had discovered a brand new world. She smiled, “Of course. I’m here to… eh… offer incense! I need to request something from Buddha!”
After Li Xueying said that, she walked towards the hall. The first thing she saw was the plaque by the door. It wrote: Ordinary incense is free. A stick of high incense costs two hundred. Li Xueying’s brows knitted together. She had been to many monasteries before. Typically, ordinary incense were donated. Anyone could use them but they would definitely donate some incense money. Even ten cents would do. As it was placed there by others, not making a donation was equivalent to consecrating Buddha for others. But once incense money was offered, even if it was ten cents, it would become yours.
In addition, there were other types of incense. It would not only be limited to one type of high-priced incense. The high incense came in many variations due to the different requests of Buddha, different packaging, and sizes. Expensive ones could exceed a thousand while cheap ones were ten to twenty yuan. But the monastery only had two types. It was either free or two hundred. Did the temple lack an incense supplier or was it a deliberate marketing strategy that forced people to choose from two options?
Li Xueying was a little upset. “Venerable Fangzheng, what is the difference between your high and ordinary incense?” She had asked many people the same question. Many people answered that the high incense showed greater sincerity. She would only laugh at the answer for it did not satisfy her curiosity. She wanted to know what the untainted-looking young monk’s answer was.
Fangzheng smiled. “There is no difference. If there is any, one costs money and the other doesn’t.”
“Uh…” Li Xueying was dumbfounded. Was this monk really this silly or was he just acting silly? With such an answer, which idiot would offer high incense? It was no wonder the monastery was so small. It was probably due to the silly abbot.
Li Xueying smiled. “Then why are there two incense offered?”
Fangzheng answered matter-of-factly, “Incense is used to consecrate Buddha while money is used to provide for This Penniless Monk and the maintenance of the monastery. Regarding which one you prefer, you are free to choose.”
“Uh… you sure are pragmatic.” Li Xueying suddenly felt that if she did not offer a high incense, she would be letting down such a frank monk.
Therefore, Li Xueying picked up a stick of incense before taking another one.
At that moment, a white hand came pressing down on the high incense, preventing her from taking it.
Li Xueying was stunned. One of the reasons was that she had been stopped from taking the incense stick but more importantly, the monk’s skin appeared to be better than hers! It was as though she had found an entire new world! The title of Jadehands Li Xueying was not undeserved. Her hand, be it its shape, the proportion of her fingers and skin was considered perfect! The amount of money she invested in caring for her hands ranged in the millions! Her hands were recognized as the most perfect hands in the world. Furthermore, there were western insurance companies that insured her hands for a hundred million yuan!
Her hands were her pride and joy. It was no way inferior to her looks. However, her sneaking out and random wandering caused her to meet a monk whose hands were nicer than hers! Li Xueying suddenly felt like vomiting blood! Was this monk here just to set her back?
Li Xueying did not say that out loud. Instead, she looked at Fangzheng with hidden bitterness, “Venerable Fangzheng, why aren’t you letting me take the incense?”
“One stick is sufficient. More wouldn’t have an increased effect.” It was not because he did not wish to earn money but the money had to be earned legitimately. He would not do so by tricking or scamming others.
“You are truly…” Li Xueying shook her head. She expected better from someone but there was a glint deep in her eyes that showed her liking for him. It was not romantic love but a liking that was akin to cherishing and protecting wildlife.
Then, Li Xueying held an incense stick and looked up. She was surprised once again. There was no Buddha statue but only a golden plaque! Although it shimmered under the lighting, it was still a picture. It was in no way comparable to that of a Buddha statue, right? At least, that was what Li Xueying believed.
Looking at Fangzheng and the monastery again, thinking of the dumb monk’s way of earning money, Li Xueying came to a conclusion, “It’s probably because the monastery is poor…”
Li Xueying looked up at the Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed Guan Yin and suddenly realized that she did not know what wish to make.
Fangzheng was puzzled as well. He had met many devotees. They would typically enter, offer incense, make a wish and consecrate Buddha before leaving. But this was the first time he was seeing someone staring at the Buddha plaque in a daze. He could not help but ask, “Patron, is there something amiss?”
“I’m considering which wish to make. Master, do you have any recommendations?”
Fangzheng nearly rolled his eyes right there and then. You are here to consecrate Buddha and make a wish. Yet, you want This Penniless Monk to recommend you one? Do you think this is a market? Does This Penniless Monk look like a salesman? This was the first time Fangzheng was meeting such an oddity. He shook his head helplessly. “It’s not right for This Penniless Monk to recommend anything to you. However the child-giving Guan Yin Bodhisattva is good at fertility. Patron, if you wish for children, you could ask this of her. As for the Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed Guan Yin, her blessing is wide in range but mostly pertains to peace.”
Li Xueying nodded. “Understood. I shall ask for peace then.”
Li Xueying made her wish and knelt down to kowtow…
Fangzheng specially opened his Heavenly Eye and was surprised to see that there was no disaster awaiting Li Xueying. However, the heavens did not seem to favor her either. It was only considered normal…
After making her wish, Li Xueying stood up. “Venerable Fangzheng, do you do fortune-telling?”
Fangzheng shook his head. “This Penniless Monk doesn’t know how.”
“That’s a pity.” As she spoke, Li Xueying noticed the Skanda at the door. She knew it did not provide lodging and found it a pity. Although it was lively down the mountain, she preferred silence. Although the monastery was remote, it had good vibes. It was quiet and peaceful. In here, she felt like all her worries were driven away. She enjoyed such a feeling… She subconsciously said, “Living here is also considered a form of bliss.”
When Fangzheng heard that, he felt bitter. Bliss? If the need to worry about your next meal is considered bliss, Fangzheng believed he was indeed rather blissful.
“Patron, is there anything else?” Fangzheng walked out the hall with Li Xueying and stood under the bodhi tree.
“There is something weighing on my mind. Venerable One, I wonder if you could help me.”