Fangzheng pressed his palms together. “This Penniless Monk will probably disappoint you. This Penniless Monk is lacking in knowledge and might only be able to provide a listening ear.”
Li Xueying’s heart sank when she heard the first half of Fangzheng’s sentence. She knew her problem well and was not seeking an answer from anyone. Yet she felt uncomfortable keeping it in her heart. She wanted to confide in someone reliable. Fangzheng made her feel comfortable. Although this was the first time she met him, she still felt a natural intimacy towards him. He felt reliable, a person who you could feel at ease with. Most importantly, the monk did not know her.
After hearing the second half of Fangzheng’s sentence, Li Xueying heaved a sigh of relief and smiled, “Then, just provide a listening ear.”
Just as Li Xueying was about to start speaking, she suddenly heard loud voices coming from outside. People were shouting ‘Li Xueying! Li Xueying!’
Li Xueying was flustered…
“Patron, it seems that they are looking for you.”
Li Xueying sighed, “Whatever. It appears that this will be the end of our conversation today. Well, if it’s possible, can you not tell anyone what I told you today?” Li Xueying asked.
Fangzheng nodded. “This Penniless Monk can keep it a secret for you.”
“Thanks a lot. I enjoy the peace and quietness here. I also like how you do not put on a facade. You make me understand a principle,” said Li Xueying with a giant smile.
Fangzheng asked out of curiosity, “What principle?”
“Sometimes, people overthink things. They might obtain something but also lose something else. Do things in a simple manner, a return to simplicity is true relief. Unfortunately, acting on this realization is difficult. I’m unable to do so. Sigh…”
With that said, Li Xueying turned around and walked away. There was a relaxed smile on her face but when she walked out the monastery, the smile faded. She hung a professional smile on her face as she silently wore her sunglasses.
Fangzheng stood rooted to the ground behind her.
“Do things in an easier manner, a return to simplicity is true relief. Return to simplicity, do things in an easier manner? Mountain is mountain, water is water?” Fangzheng suddenly snapped out of his daze as he roared with laughter. “Eureka! Zen farming! This Penniless Monk had been overthinking things! Farming is farming. Let go off all the baggage and just do the farming! Sigh. Zen. It’s common to speak of it like a mantra. Despite knowing that emptiness is the natural way of understanding nature, returning to one’s inherent nature, it is easy to forget about it when putting theory to practice.”
Fangzheng shook his head and laughed. After he closed the monastery’s door, he happily went to bed. He could begin farming from tomorrow!
That night, Fangzheng had a dream. He saw crops ready for harvest as they swayed under the sun… It was gorgeous.
The next day, Fangzheng woke up before dawn. Next, he woke up the sleeping monkey. Fangzheng swept the temple hall while Monkey swept the fallen leaves. Lone Wolf was in charge of throwing the rubbish and Squirrel was thrown onto the rooftop by Fangzheng to clear any spiderwebs. Instantly, there was lamenting from all three species in the monastery…
Fangzheng’s promise of food if a good job was done made all of them do their chores obediently.
After Fangzheng finished sweeping the temple hall, he cooked a pot of Crystal Rice. He took out some of the already plucked Wormwood sprouts and blanched it, removing any undesirable tastes. He scooped it back out and flicked away the water. Then, he took a bowl of sauce and placed the Wormwood sprouts into the bowl. Mixed with the sauce, he picked up a mouthful with chopsticks. His mouth was filled with fragrance the instant he put it in his mouth!
This was the unique fresh flavors of the Wormwood sprouts he had. With the slightly salty taste of sauce, Fangzheng felt like he was eating the taste of spring! Finally, he had a mouthful of Crystal Rice. Fangzheng narrowed his eyes in bliss.
Squirrel sat on the table and looked at Fangzheng with widened eyes.
Monkey began thinking. Could the food possibly be that delicious?
Lone Wolf darted a glance over before he continued eating his Crystal Rice. In his eyes, Crystal Rice was sufficient. Everything else was superfluous! Finishing his share first and getting more was of paramount importance!
“What are you looking at This Penniless Monk for? Eat. Once you are done, we will be going to plant the Crystal Rice. Once this is planted and harvested, hehe. All of you will be eating to your fill every meal!” Fangzheng chuckled.
The animals turned restless the instant they heard that work was to be done. However, hearing of the benefits the work would have, it enlivened them.
Squirrel still hopped over and grabbed two Wormwood sprouts. He mimicked Fangzheng and dipped a little sauce before chewing on it. Following that, his eyes lit up. As he chewed on the Wormwood sprouts, he ate the Crystal Rice. He had a blast.
Fangzheng burst in laughter when he saw this. He took out a little bit of rice and a few stalks of Wormwood sprouts before dipping it into the sauce. Then, he took a vegetable leaf and wrapped a vegetable bun for Squirrel. Squirrel looked suspiciously at Fangzheng.
“You need to eat this in one mouthful to truly taste the combination of flavors. Try it.”
Squirrel closed his eyes and stuffed it straight into his mouth. His cheeks bulged as he began chewing on it while jumping excitedly on the spot.
Monkey did the same. He took a mouthful of Wormwood sprouts and Crystal Rice. Indeed, the flavor was brought out. It tasted excellent.
Instantly, the human, monkey, and squirrel made a clean sweep of the food. Lone Wolf realized that something was amiss and by the time he came over, the final Wormwood sprout stalk was already stuffed inside Squirrel’s mouth. Lone Wolf became furious when he saw this. He whimpered as though he was saying, “You bunch of bastards. How can you not live by the code of brotherhood… You didn’t even leave me some.”
After breakfast, Fangzheng left the monastery with the hoe and farming tools Zen Master One Finger used back in his day.
It was the end of March, and the weather was turning harm. At this moment, the northeastern regions did not start planting, especially on a mountaintop. The temperature was much colder than at the foot of the mountain, so it was impossible to do any planting. Crystal Rice was different. It was not picky over weather. Therefore, earlier planting meant an early harvest. Fangzheng was bent on escaping his poverty by having food to eat.
One Finger Monastery did not have a field originally but the village later carved out a field for it. It was early winter when Zen Master One Finger passed away. Therefore, no one tended the field. As for Fangzheng, he did not wish to descend the mountain. Since he could farm on the mountain, why would he need to do it at the foot of the mountain?
Hence, Fangzheng chose a flat plot of land with fertile soil and few rocks behind the monastery as his sustenance base.
The first problem was to rid the area of weeds. There were lots of weeds on the mountain. Although it was only the beginning of spring, with new weeds just sprouting, there were still many withered weeds from last year. This was not a huge problem for Fangzheng. After cultivating the Great Strength Vajra Palm, he had more than enough physical strength!
He swung the hoe and dug out an entire trail. It took him quite some time in the morning to dig up a small plot of land that was about a hundred square meters in area. After he dug up and threw away the useless rocks, he fenced the area. All he needed to do was water and scatter the seeds. The planting of Crystal Rice was just that simple. It was the subsequent tasks that were troublesome.
Fangzheng brought Lone Wolf with Monkey, down the mountain to draw the water with large basins. First, they poured it into the Buddha Vat to convert it into Unrooted Clean Aqua before irrigating the plantation.
Irrigating a rice field of a hundred square meters was not a trivial task. They only managed to irrigate about half the plantation after an entire morning and afternoon. Fangzheng smiled wryly, “I’m beginning to regret planting it on the mountain. This is going to be a lot of work…”