Tears streamed down the wheelchair-bound woman’s cheeks when she heard the boy secretly raise a topic on the phone. She tried her best to turn around and look out the window. However, her tears flowed incessantly. She bit her lips and gripped the handles of the wheelchair. She terribly wanted to cry, to let it all out! But she could not. She knew that she absolutely could not reveal her weak side to her child. She could not even show her weak side to society. Once she showed her weakness, she would be admitting defeat, equivalent to kneeling. She would never have the courage to stand up again.
Fangzheng felt his heart wince sourly when he heard the boy’s words. He had said something similar when he was still young. Back then, One Finger Monastery was too poor and because he was a monk, Fangzheng never had the chance to eat meat. There was one time when he fell sick. He lived in Tan Juguo’s house and was secretly fed a piece of meat by Tan Juguo. He could still recall the fragrance of that meat. Later on, he pulled a tantrum with Zen Master One Finger, requesting to have meat. He ended up being beaten up terribly. Shortly after, Fangzheng saw Zen Master One Finger sit in the backyard alone weeping. From that moment forth, Fangzheng never requested for meat again.
As for now, Fangzheng had the System watching him. Besides, he was poor! The string of reasons he gave Red Boy previously was only to shut him up. How was he to live his days if all of them were clamoring for meat every day? He couldn’t afford it even if he sold himself. As for the child’s situation, it was likely similar.
Fangzheng took a deep breath and whispered, “Child, do you know where meat comes from?”
“I don’t know,” said the child very seriously.
“Have you seen chickens, ducks, and pigs?”
“Yes, I have. They were very cute.”
“Meat is carved from their bodies. Do you think it hurts to have meat carved from a body?”
“That’s right. Can you bear to let them be in pain?”
“I I won’t eat meat again!”
Fangzheng felt his heart wince. “Has Mommy been giving you cabbage all the time?”
“That’s right. Mommy rushes to the market every morning. She brings me with her. Many uncles and aunties who sell vegetables would throw the vegetables on the ground, forming a pile for us to take. They are very nice people.”
Fangzheng fell silent once again. These people were not being kindhearted. Fangzheng had met such stall owners before. Before winter, the northeastern regions would have huge stockpiles of cabbage. Many hawkers would deliver a lorry of cabbages for buyers to choose. Typically, the buyers would peel off the unsightly, withered, or rotten leaves. Piling those together would create a huge pile. People did not want these vegetables, but the child and his mother probably picked those up to eat!
Fangzheng knew that their situation was extremely terrible, but if they lacked money, how did they afford to stay in a hospital?
At that moment, a woman’s voice sounded, “Baby, it’s late. It’s bedtime. Chat with Daddy again tomorrow. Let me speak to Daddy, alright?”
“Alright, here you go. I’m so happy today! I have a daddy. I’m not a child without a daddy. Haha!” The little guy was overjoyed as he handed the phone to the woman.
The woman did not speak to Fangzheng and instead hung up immediately. When Fangzheng heard the disconnected tone, he sighed. He felt extremely conflicted. He always felt that his days were terrible enough but from the looks of it, he could be grateful for having Crystal Rice to eat at the very least. He also had Unrooted Clean Aqua to drink. He lived in a monastery and wore the White Lunar Monk Robe. He did not suffer from the cold in winter or the heat in summer. He really did not suffer from all the ailments in the world.
However, there were people who lost themselves in the mortal world, suffering from endless pain without any way of being rescued.
Fangzheng was unsure why, but when he returned to the temple hall again, the first thing he read was not the Diamond Sutra or the Lotus Sutra but the Kitigarbha Bodhisattva Prvapraidhna Stra.
A peaceful night passed as the sun replaced the setting moon. It was the start of a brand new day.
Monkey swept the yard, while Fangzheng swept the temple hall. Red Boy made breakfast, while Squirrel gathered snacks. Liu Tao was in charge of picking up timber. Nothing seemed out of the usual, but if there was one thing different, it was the three incense sticks in the monastery. It was offered by the construction workers. Today was the day the mountain path was done being mended. The construction workers had left, but Liu Tao had run back to offer an incense stick. He left behind two hundred yuan and bowed at Fangzheng before leaving.
With the construction team gone, Mt. One Finger turned quiet once again. After having breakfast, Fangzheng went out the monastery and looked at the brand new staircase. He touched the handrails on the sides feeling pleased. He mumbled to himself, “To think of riches, mend the paths first. Now that there’s a path, where’s the riches?”
At that moment, his cell phone rang. Fangzheng looked at it and as expected, it was the child. Up to this moment, Fangzheng still did not know the child’s name. He could not do anything about it. He could not ask either. It would be easy to be caught if he did not even know his son’s name!
Before Fangzheng could say a word after picking up the call, he heard a woman’s exhausted voice speak in a deeply apologetic manner, “Sorry.”
Fangzheng was taken aback. “Amitabha. Female Patron, why do you say that?”
“So it’s a master. Sorry, my child has been giving you trouble recently. I would also like to thank you for bringing him joy last night.” The woman’s voice sounded extremely exhausted.
“Amitabha. Patron, you are being polite. The child is a good child. This Penniless Monk also wished for him to be happier.” Following that, he asked out of curiosity, “Female Patron, might I ask why you did so?”
“Sigh. The child is naughty. I had no choice either. His father was a narcotics officer. He sacrificed himself in a drug bust operation a few years ago. He was the child’s pride and the world to him. I’m afraid he wouldn’t be able to handle the truth. That’s why I haven’t told him all this time. He recently fell sick, but it’s not anything serious. He insisted on meeting his father and said he would refuse his medicine otherwise. I could only hoax him and say that his father could not return because he was busy at work, protecting the country.
But the child refused and wanted to hear his father’s voice.
I really had no choice either. I have many things to do and just made up a number so that he would take his medicine. I never expected him to secretly use my cell phone to make phone calls-” When the woman said that, she seemed to choke up. The woman needed to support the family for her husband and child. She had to hide the matter and use her weak shoulders to prop the family up. The suffering and fatigue she felt was mostly mental rather than physical.
“Master, I’m sorry. I really never expected things to develop to this stage.”
Fangzheng sighed and said, “Female Patron, it’s alright. This Penniless Monk happens to like such an obedient child. If there’s any need for help in the future, This Penniless Monk can act as his father if necessary.”
The woman was taken aback before she replied, “Thank you. He’s asleep. Well, if it’s possible, could you help in the evening? That’s when he needs to take his medicine.”
Fangzheng said with a smile, “Amitabha, of course. But Patron, are you planning to lie to him forever? The child will grow up one day. A lie is a lie after all, even if it is a white lie. There will be a moment when it is seen through.”