In the following days, Mt. One Finger quietened down once again, but Fangzheng was a little flabbergasted. In the past, everyone that came up the mountain would immediately act with a very clear goal in mind. Either they were there to pray for children or for peace blessings. If not, they were there for other matters or to dig for bamboo shoots. But over the past two days, anyone that came to the mountain would basically first go to One Finger Monastery to offer incense before they went to dig bamboo shoots.
Fangzheng was puzzled. When he saw Yang Ping come up, he immediately pulled him over and asked, “Patron, why is everyone first offering incense before digging bamboo shoots every time they come up the mountain?”
“Venerable Fangzheng, aren’t you aware?” Yang Ping was taken aback before he laughed.
“What should This Penniless Monk know?”
Yang Ping was even more amused. “It’s a result of Dog Song’s proselytizing. He said that Zhou Wu was disrespectful to Buddha when he came up the mountain, digging bamboo shoots at random which resulted in him being punished by Buddha, leaving his face covered in moles. This matter was seen by people from the neighboring villages as well, so they too know of the matter. Well, that’s people. It is normal for them to be a little apprehensive now, even if they have a clear conscience. So everyone that comes up the mountain now first pays respects to Buddha before digging up the bamboo shoots just to feel at ease.”
Fangzheng was instantly rendered speechless upon hearing that. He never expected that the redemption of Zhou Wu would result in an increase in One Finger Monastery’s incense offerings.
“Venerable Fangzheng, about that, was Zhou Wu’s situation because Buddha was angry?”
Fangzheng pressed his palms together, “Amitabha, Patron, what do you think?”
With that said, Fangzheng turned and walked away. Such matters could not be explained easily. The more he explained, the more troublesome it would become. It was better to act mysterious and let everyone guess. Anyway, fear and respect for the gods was not something bad. Cognition of fear made them dread. The truly terrifying ones were fearless and uninhibited.
Since he understood the reason for the monastery’s incense offerings, Fangzheng did not think about it any longer. He returned to the monastery to do whatever he needed to do. The Crystal Rice grew healthier and sturdier with the Buddhist scriptures’ nourishment. As for the Crystal Rice paddy, it naturally did not escape the eyes of others. Wang Yougui and Tan Juguo came over. They were people who had eaten Crystal Rice in the past and knew that its flavor was enough to make a person bite off their tongues.
Tan Juguo asked Fangzheng for the plant cultivation methods. Helplessly, Fangzheng could only show Tan Juguo how he planted Crystal Rice. When Tan Juguo watched Fangzheng recite scriptures all day for the Crystal Rice to grow, Tan Juguo immediately gave up the thought. He had attended Fangzheng’s scripture recitals before. They had a calmness that exuded from deep within the heart, one filled with Buddha’s grace. It was not an audio product or something a random person could recite.
Fangzheng resolved a big problem with Tan Juguo and Wang Yougui abandoning their ideas.
But soon, trouble came knocking once again.
That night, Fangzheng could not sleep. He decided to stroll on the mountain with Lone Wolf, Red Boy, Squirrel, and Monkey. He looked at the Milky Way in the sky and sighed, “The Earth is so big, but this Milky Way can’t even be visually taken in as a whole. Humans are truly minute in the massive cosmos.”
Monkey, Lone Wolf, and Squirrel nodded, feeling that Fangzheng’s wistfulness was right!
However, Red Boy grinned when he saw the stellar scenery. He said chuckling, “I spit at that massive cosmos of yours. If I were to regain my divine powers, I could go into the sky and burrow through the ground. I would have unlimited life and there would be a day when I finish exploring the Universe.” With that said, Red Boy’s eyes darted around as an idea came to him. He said with a smile, “Master, have you ever flown?”
Fangzheng shook his head, “Your master is only an ordinary person, so he naturally hasn’t flown before. However, flight is no longer difficult for humans. Airplanes have already solved the problem of flying.”
“I’m talking about flying with simply your body without any external aid.”
Fangzheng’s heart jolted. Everyone would have dreams of flying. Fangzheng was naturally no exception. Although airplanes could fly, how could such flight be comparable with physical flying? Besides, he had never taken an airplane before either!
Red Boy noticed that Fangzheng had been enticed. He immediately shouted, “Master, why don’t you return me my divine powers. I’ll take you flying, how about it?”
Fangzheng was truly tempted. Flying through the sky!
While Fangzheng considered the matter, he came to the cliff side. As he looked into the distance at the lofty mountain range that seemed to go from north to south in an undulating manner, he immediately felt an upheaval of emotions. He thought of flying over to take a look.
Red Boy said immediately, “Master, if I were to regain my divine powers, you could go to that mountain range anytime you wish. Master, it will be easy wherever you want to go or see! I won’t say anything else but for One Finger Monastery, if anyone dares provoke it, I will smack them to death- Ahem, smack them until they learn the true meaning of life!”
Fangzheng shot a glance at Red Boy and smiled, “My dear disciple, do you know why your divine powers have not been returned?”
“Are you afraid I’ll run once I have my divine powers back?”
Fangzheng shook his head, “The world is huge and no matter how powerful your divine powers are, you will have to obediently return if the scriptures are read. This Penniless Monk doesn’t give you your divine powers to let you experience the feelings of a mortal. You can experience all life has to offerpleasure, anger, sorrow, and joyand not forever be the king of your mountain where all you know is your own pleasurable life while ignoring the lives of others. All things in the world have life, with their own lives and their own enjoyment. By understanding this more, your life will also turn interesting. By clamoring to kill all day, don’t you find your life boring?”
Red Boy pretended like he had been taught, but he disagreed inwardly, “Bullshit life. With divine powers, I can do whatever I want to do. That’s what it means to be free! Completely unfettered! Would a god ponder over an ant’s enjoyment? Do you think they are so f**king free?”
Fangzheng also knew that it was impossible to convince Red Boy with just a few words. He was in no hurry either. Just as he was about to give Red Boy a lesson about life, he heard gongs below. The noise resounded through the sky and sounded urgent. It was accompanied by shouts followed by light from torchlights or fire torches. Following that, he heard beast roars.
Fangzheng listened carefully before he exclaimed, “Oh no! The wild boar herd has come down the mountain again!”
Behind Mt. One Finger was Mt. Tongtian. It was not like Mt. One Finger which stood on its own. Instead, it was a mountain that spanned far and wide. It belonged to the Changbai mountain range in which there were primordial forests. In the past, hunters would enter it to hunt but after the country repossessed the guns, not many people were willing to venture deep into the mountains. The ‘deep mountains’ that the average villager would mention concerned the outermost two mountain outcrops of Mt. Tongtian. No one knew how to go further inside. However, to most people, that was already considered deep.
As the country preserved it, Mt. Tongtian was basically never developed, nor did many people enter to disturb the ecological balance in it. Furthermore, tigers seemed to have vanished in recent years. Packs of wolves went in quite far, and there were only occasional sightings of black bears. As such, the periphery became heaven for a particular creaturethe wild boar!
When he was young, Fangzheng had joined the villagers in fending off the boars, and their methods were always changing. Early on, villagers had double-barreled hunting guns. Any wild boar that came down would basically become a feast for an experienced hunter. But such hunters were ultimately in the minority. These boars frolicked in mud all day, scraping their skin against pine trees. They were covered in pine resin and a layer of mud. With their fat and layers of mud caking them, they were like mobile armored infantry. It was as if they were wearing bulletproof vests, leaving most people helpless against them. They could only watch as their compounds got wrecked.