Li Haopeng wanted to speak but realized he was unable to.
“Silly child, the money has already been spent. What else can I do to you? Why aren’t you saying anything?” Liu Daifen turned a little anxious.
Li Haopeng said, “It’s fine. In the future, I’ll sweep the streets with you!” When he blurted out those words, Li Haopeng yelled inwardly, “I’m not going! It sucks waking up so early. I don’t want to wake up early! I don’t want to sweep the streets! It’s so cold outside. I’m not going! You bastard, you devil!”
When Liu Daifen heard that, she was stunned rooted to the spot. Then she looked at Li Haopeng and nodded with a grin. As though she had a lump stuck in her throat, she mumbled with wet eyes. “The food is in the pot. It’s still warm.”
Li Haopeng walked into the kitchen and opened the pot. There was a plate of fried green vegetables and a bowl of rice. Upon seeing this and recalling the pickled vegetables in Liu Daifen’s bowl, Li Haopeng was deeply shocked. There were vegetables in the pot but…
“Mom, why aren’t you eating the vegetables?” Li Haopeng turned and asked. Then, he saw Liu Daifen rubbing something as her shoulders trembled.
She turned back and smiled. “I can’t eat something too oily in the morning. It’s easier to swallow something salty. Quickly eat. Don’t you worry about me.”
With that said, Liu Daifen sat on a stool and ate by the door. Li Haopeng felt even more upset when he saw this. He wanted to cry but he had no control over his body, so no tears flowed. However, thinking of how he needed to sweep the streets in a while and how it was possible for him to meet his classmates or acquaintances, how was he to go to school with his head up in the future?
Li Haopeng felt his scalp tingle. He constantly yelled, “Darn monk, I know it’s you. Can’t you spare me? Isn’t it only a five digit figure? Can’t I repay it in the future?!”
Regardless of how he screamed, Fangzheng did not respond. Li Haopeng found something even more unacceptable. His body was eating but he did not touch any of the vegetables! All he ate was the white rice with a bit of pickled vegetables. He could fully experience its taste and his tastebuds were extremely sensitive!
“Darn monk, what are you doing? Is this something meant for humans to eat? It’s disgusting. I want to eat vegetables! Although the green vegetables aren’t delicious, they are at least better than pickled vegetables and rice.” Li Haopeng continued roaring.
Fangzheng remained unresponsive. He continued controlling Li Haopeng to finish all the food.
After finishing the meal, Fangzheng finally spoke for the first time. “Didn’t you say it’s not meant for humans to eat? But your mother eats it every day. You said that the green vegetables aren’t delicious? But your mother saved them for you. You ingrate. From this day forth, you will only be eating pickled vegetables and rice. If you shout again, there won’t even be rice. All you get to eat will then be pickled vegetables!”
Li Haopeng wanted to scream when he heard the first half of Fangzheng’s sentence but he immediately shut up when he heard the latter half. He could survive eating plain rice but eating pickled vegetables would kill him!
Liu Daifen ate quickly and finished it in a few mouthfuls. After she cleared up the cutlery, she noticed that her son had not touched the vegetables. She frowned, crossing her arms. “Why aren’t you eating the vegetables?”
“If you aren’t eating, I’m not eating. Eating some pickled vegetables is good for me.”
“You silly child. You’re still growing!” rebuked Liu Daifen.
But how could Li Haopeng eat while under Fangzheng’s control? He only declined the vegetables. Liu Daifen had no choice but to give up. She changed topics by saying, “I’m heading to work. Go back to sleep. Rest well so that you can pay attention in class.”
Li Haopeng cried inwardly, “Darn monk. My mom has spoken. She wants me to sleep. You bastard, let me sleep! I’m not sweeping the streets!”
Li Haopeng’s body in contrast with its mind, shouted, “I’m coming with you!”
“What for? It’s chilly near the end of winter. Stay home.”
However, Li Haopeng insisted under Fangzheng’s control. He followed her the entire way. Exasperated and realizing that she was about to be late, she had no choice but to abide to Li Haopeng’s wishes. She thought to herself, “This kid will probably return once he feels the cold.”
Once out of the house, the chilly spring winds blew into his collar, causing Li Haopeng to shudder. Li Haopeng yelled inwardly. “It’s so cold. Why do I need to go out on such a cold day? I want to go home! You bastard, release my body. I want to go home!”
“The moment before the sun rises is the coldest period of the day. But your mother has to put up with such a cold to earn money sweeping the streets so as to raise you and provide for you. This Penniless Monk told you that you would be sweeping the streets with your mother every day from this day forth. You can feel disgruntled all you want but every shout you make adds another day! Shout twice and you get two days! If you keep shouting and make This Penniless Monk unhappy, This Penniless Monk does not mind letting you jump into the Songhua River. You can cool yourself by taking a cold bath.” Fangzheng’s voice rang in his head.
Li Haopeng gulped when he heard that. Jumping into the Songhua River on such a cold day? That wasn’t calming oneself down but refrigerating someone! He stopped shouting but said, “I will tell my mom.”
Fangzheng could not help but smile when he heard that. He was a child after all. They would seek their parents’ help whenever they encountered any problems.
Li Haopeng felt the cold winds outside. His nose seemed to freeze off but he also saw his mother trembling from the cold winds. Instead of tending to herself, she turned around to help him tighten his scarf. At that instant, Li Haopeng felt something touch his heart. It seemed to wince in response.
They did not speak on the way. Li Haopeng followed his mother to collect a road sweeping cart and brooms. Liu Daifen began sweeping the streets while Li Haopeng watched by the side. After watching for a while, Li Haopeng took out a spare broom and swept with his mother. The broom was made of bamboo and it had been chilled during the cold night. It felt extremely cold to the touch. His fingers lost their feeling after sweeping for a while. As dawn broke, the entire street started to brighten. Li Haopeng’s eyes never left his mother.
Li Haopeng never stopped lamenting about the cold, tiredness, or discomfort. He wished to return home… but unfortunately, Fangzheng ignored him.
That day passed by and into the night.
“Continue tomorrow.” Fangzheng’s voice suddenly rang in Li Haopeng’s mind.
Li Haopeng bellowed angrily, “No, I’m not sweeping the streets again! That isn’t a job a person should do!”
But Fangzheng did not reply.
Li Haopeng wished to seek redress with Liu Daifen but realized that he could not move his body at all. In his despair, he could only sleep.
The next day, Li Haopeng cried out in the morning, refusing to go! He did not want to go!
But his body still went.
It drizzled that day in spring. The weather became and seeped deep into the bone. Even when Li Haopeng attended school, he would still tremble after one class. However, it continued drizzling outside. He thought of his mother and how she was still working outside.