"Hehe, Fangzheng, take a good look at me. Do you think I can still have children?" A middle-aged woman that was nearly fifty came over.
Fangzheng hid his sour feelings as he thought to himself, "Auntie, you are nearly fifty but you want to have children? Wouldn't that be tiring? Also, it's not me that determines if you can give birth. I don't have a say..."
However, what Fangzheng said was, "Auntie, whether or not you can bear children depends on Guan Yin Bodhisattva. If you truly desire it, give a sincere request and it will bear fruit. However, you are a little aged. If you have a child at this time, perhaps it might be..."
"That's right, old woman. How old are you? Why are you putting your foot into this matter?" The woman's husband reprimanded.
"Get lost! How old am I? Do you resent my old age? Do you have a mistress somewhere?" The woman was enraged as she dragged the man away. Fangzheng pictured the man ending up with one of the top ten tortures of ancient China.
More than twenty villagers came. Most of them were there to take a look and not to pray for children.
One young couple was pushed forward unwillingly.
"Brother Fangzheng, hello." The couple looked up and exclaimed.
Fangzheng was stunned. He never expected the couple to be the playmates who followed him around during childhood! They were both children from the village. The man's name was Ma Yuan and the woman's name was Liu Xiang. He never expected that two of his juniors would advance in life while he, a senior... As he saw the lovey-dovey look in their eyes, Fangzheng immediately felt like a downtrodden bachelor. He could only silently recite Amitabha to calm himself.
"The two of you got married?" Fangzheng asked.
Ma Yuan said, "Brother Fangzheng, we have been married for a year but we haven't managed to conceive this whole time. We happened to hear Auntie Du Mei talk about her result here, so... hehe..."
"Then do it quickly." Fangzheng truly did not want to see these two again. He became depressed just by looking at the couple... It was unbearable!
Just as Ma Yuan was about to proceed forward, he was held back by Liu Xiang. "Ma Yuan, let's not do it today. Auntie Du Mei has already offered her incense. Let's wait. I heard that only the first incense offering is efficacious. If we can't get the first incense of the year, we need to get at least the first incense of the day, right?"
"Is that so? Then, let's do it another day," said Ma Yuan.
Fangzheng was rendered speechless when heard that. He said, "Who did you hear this nonsense from? In Buddhism, there's no such thing as the first incense, nor is there any rule that only the first incense is efficacious. In the eyes of Buddha, all life is equal. As long as you are sincere, no matter when you offer the incense, it will always be your first incense. It has nothing to do with being earlier than others."
"Really?" Ma Yuan was a lazy person. His legs almost went limp from exhaustion after climbing Mt. One Finger today. He definitely did not want to scale it again, so it was best if he could settle the matter today.
Liu Xiang asked doubtfully, "Brother Fangzheng, is what you say true?"
"Amitabha, a monk doesn't lie. If you don't believe me, go ahead and ask other temples. The first incense is just an erroneous rumor that has been propagated by the people. It's nothing but a joke." Fangzheng said righteously.
What a joke! He had known these two since childhood, how could he not understand their personalities? They were a little lazy and prone to brief bouts of enthusiasm. If they did not offer their incense today, it would likely be something they threw to the back of their minds. They might not get around to it until next month or even only during the new year! Then, what would he do about his mission?
Ma Yuan and Liu Xiang were convinced when they saw Fangzheng's seriousness. They immediately went into the temple to offer their incense and pray to Buddha.
When Fangzheng saw that, he was secretly relieved and muttered to himself, "If they burn two incense sticks, it will add up to ten! Hehe..."
Other than Ma Yuan and Liu Xiang, the others were just there to accompany them or to join in the celebration.
The cacophony of sounds from the group turned One Finger Temple into a mess.
Fangzheng was accustomed to a tranquil life, so with so many people suddenly surging in, questioning him and pulling him around, he was quite overwhelmed. Especially trying were the middle-aged women. They were asking him when he would get married!
That was something he wished for, but was it possible for him?
In the end, Fangzheng needed to run away...
When he passed by the temple hall, he saw Du Mei and Yang Hua burning two incense sticks. Ma Yuan and Liu Xiang had planned on burning two ordinary sticks but the so-called experienced Yang Hua and Du Mei had stopped them.
"You have to be sincere! What point is there in anything but sincerity? How can it be sincere if you don't spend any money while offering incense? Look at us. We have offered two high incense sticks, each costing two hundred!" said Du Mei.
Liu Xiang looked at Ma Yuan. With so many people from the village watching, they could not disgrace themselves! Therefore, Ma Yuan gritted his teeth and took out four hundred bucks. He took two high incense sticks and together with Liu Xiang, went to offer the incense.
When Fangzheng saw this, his eyes suffused a gleeful look. "Four high incense sticks. Eight hundred bucks in hand! Wahaha... if only there were so much incense money every day. I'd be able to eat Crystal Rice for every meal!"
When Liu Xiang placed the final incense stick into the cauldron, Fangzheng smiled...
"Ding! Second mission completed. Completion status, 100%. Perfect! Congratulations on obtaining a Buddha Vat!"
When Fangzheng heard the first line, he felt delighted. But his euphoria immediately vanished when he heard the prize! After a month of hard work, all he obtained was a water vat. Anyone would be depressed by such a "prize." Especially when he was at the end of his rope...
However, speaking of water, Fangzheng was worried about it. The well in the temple was no longer producing water. If that continued, he would truly be in trouble. The only spring on Mt. One Finger was located at the mountainside. Just thinking of going down the mountain to fetch water... was excruciating.
"Host, the water vat has been placed in the kitchen."
"Got it. Leave it there. Sigh..." Just hearing about the water vat left Fangzheng's back uncomfortable.
When he came out, he saw the villagers looking around. A lot of them were gathered around the bodhi tree, discussing it. Most of them were talking about how the tree could not survive the year's winter. It was almost November and the winter snow was about to come.
When he heard this, Fangzheng was left feeling rather helpless. Although the bodhi tree was rather silly, he could not help but be concerned about it freezing to death. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do.
The temple wasn't large so, after having some fun gathering and looking around, they left.
After Liu Xiang and Ma Yuan gave their offerings they were still concerned, and so came to ask Fangzheng, "Brother Fangzheng, is one incense stick each enough?"
Fangzheng nodded and said, "Amitabha, a single stick is sufficient."
"But don't other temples have things like drawing lots? Why don't you have that here? Also, where are the charms? Those that can bless and watch over a person's safety." Liu Xiang began asking incessantly.
Fangzheng said with a faint smile, "Efficacy depends on sincerity, everything else is evanescent."
However, he was feeling extremely depressed. He did want to offer those things! But the System did not give him the tools! He couldn't do it himself either... so he could only bitterly abandon the thought.
Seeing the couple leave unwillingly, Fangzheng sighed once again. He tidied up the courtyard and cleaned the temple hall once again. Only then did he go to the back kitchen to look at his water vat.
The moment he entered the kitchen door, his expression turned bitter. What awaited him was a gargantuan water vat as tall as a human!