Fangzheng originally thought of planting it in the monastery but his newfound information indicated that it was not a good idea. Fangzheng looked at his surroundings as he left One Finger Monastery. Finally, he brought the Frost Bamboo seed to an empty plot of land beside the Crystal Rice paddy.
“Alright, I’ll plant it here.” As he spoke, Fangzheng dug a hole and buried the seed before giving it a little water. The scene of bamboo bursting from the ground did not happen as expected. Fangzheng shook his head and went to the side of the paddy. The Crystal Rice seeds had sprouted. The entire paddy looked lush green.
With everything fine and dandy, Fangzheng called for Monkey, Lone Wolf and Squirrel. With a basket, they went into the woods to look for mushrooms. Although finding them was not a certainty, they had nothing better to do anyway. It was time to have some fun!
Days passed as the construction workers did well in mending the path. With more than half done, Fangzheng opened the monastery’s door and was taken aback. Standing by the door was a woman with white hair. She wore a qipao bleached white from repeated washing. Her silver hair was combed neatly and her chin was slightly raised. She did not appear like an old woman but a queen traveling incognito.
Her attire gave Fangzheng quite a fright. He looked up into the sky. The sun was out. There should not be any problems. She was unlikely a ghost… When he recounted the Ten Thousand Buddha Hall behind him as well as his identity, he felt that there was no reason for him to be afraid of her even if she was a ghost.
“Amitabha. Patron, please come on in.” Fangzheng did not ask anything. Instead, he turned to the side and made way, his hands pressed together.
“Venerable One, you are truly polite.” The old woman smiled and had a natural and amiable smile. She strode forward past the monastery’s high sill. She looked up and saw the bodhi tree with its luxuriant crown of leaves.
“A bodhi tree? Then this is the right place,” muttered the old woman.
Fangzheng heard her but deigned not to ask
Fangzheng’s cell phone rang. He realized that it was from an unfamiliar number.
Meanwhile someone appeared beneath Mt. One Finger. She was tall, dressed in black pants and wore sunglassesJing Yan.
Although they did not exchange telephone numbers, it was not difficult for Jing Yan to obtain Fangzheng’s number with her capabilities.
Fangzheng picked up the call but before he could say a word, he heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line. “Abbot Fangzheng, long time no see. Jing Yan here.”
“Amitabha. So it’s you, Patron Jing Yan. Is there something you need?” Fangzheng asked casually as he looked at the old woman standing beneath the bodhi tree with her hands pressed together while she prayed silently.
“Abbot Fangzheng, of course there’s something if I’m hitting you up. First, have you seen an old woman with a head of white hair dressed in a qipao?” asked Jing Yan anxiously.
Fangzheng was taken. Just as he wanted to reply, the old woman turned to face him and shook her head gently.
Fangzheng smiled wryly. “Amitabha. A monk does not lie. Sorry, Patron.”
The old woman turned around, clearly a little peeved.
Fangzheng said to Jing Yan, “She’s here. However, she does not seem happy to have you up here. Patron, who is she to you?”
“Would you believe me if I say she’s my grandmother?” Jing Yan countered with a question.
Fangzheng did not say a word as Jing Yan continued, “Abbot Fangzheng, I’m joking. She’s not my grandmother. Her name is Liu Fangfang. The name might not bring up any memories but she has another nickname, the Ghost of Songhua River.”
“Oh?” Fangzheng was stunned.The elderly lady had such a nickname?
“Don’t be alarmed. She’s human, not a ghost. But she’s not much different from a ghost. The staff from the Ministry of Civil Affairs even thought she has gone mad. She is without family. No one knows of her past either. They only know that she has appeared by the old dock by the Songhua River in Black Mountain City like a ghost daily for decades. Batches of workers at the old dock have changed as have most residents. Only she remained unchanged. Perhaps, there were people who knew of her past but they are no longer around.”
Fangzheng watched as the old woman walk towards the temple hall. Monkey came out and pressed his palms together before bowing at her. The old woman was taken aback as she revealed a look of hope.
Fangzheng asked with a whisper, “Patron Jing Yan, why are you telling This Penniless Monk? This Penniless Monk isn’t from the Ministry of Civil Affairs…”
“Venerable Fangzheng, what’s the rush? Can’t you listen to my entire story?” asked Jing Yan.
“Alright.” Fangzheng walked out of the monastery to prevent the old woman from hearing the conversation.
“Abbot Fangzheng, the old dock is about to be demolished.”
“What?!” Fangzheng nearly exclaimed. He knew very well how terrifying a person’s stubbornness could be. The old woman looked to be in good mental health but that was because she had a pillar of hope that supported her deep down. For her to stay by the dock for decades stubbornly without leaving, it must mean that something was allowing her to persist. If the dock was demolished, it was equivalent to ending her hope. It was equivalent to killing her!
“I know what you are worried about. Me and my friends at the Ministry of Civil Affairs are worried something bad will happen to her. But… We can’t do anything else. If not for her, the dock would have been demolished years ago. It has been dragged out till now. Even the one in charge of the demolition has changed twice. This time, all of Black Mountain City is undergoing redevelopment. The old city regions are to be demolished. The old dock is well known for being dirty and messy. Most importantly, its existence will prevent the demolition of a bunch of other houses. This would all lead to the entire demolition being held back… This time, the higher-ups are bent on demolishing it.”
Fangzheng asked solemnly, “So, you sent her to This Penniless Monk? What next? If the dock is gone when she returns, what will happen to her?”
“I’m out of choices. I know you are capable, so… please, think of a solution.”
Fangzheng was rendered speechless. This was like being forced to put a square peg into a round hole! It was fine if he was unaware of the matter but now that he knew of it, he had no choice but to do something.
“The problem is that you sent an elderly woman This Penniless Monk knows nothing of. How do you plan for This Penniless Monk to communicate with her?” Fangzheng was stunned, this entire matter smelt like an oncoming headache.
“Relax. It’s not like we know nothing,” said Jing Yan.
Fangzheng eyes glimmered with hope. “What do you know?”
“I know that her name is Liu Fangfang!”
Fangzheng rolled his eyes and wished to descend the mountain to smack the woman!
“Venerable Fangzheng, aren’t you able to foretell a person’s future? Aren’t you able to predict something by knowing someone’s name?” asked Jing Yan.
Fangzheng felt like cursing. He was a monk, not a fortune-teller! He could not be bothered to explain. “Patron, have you thought this through? If This Penniless Monk is unable to resolve her problem, what would happen when she returns?”