However Fangzheng didn’t feel hurried about it. As long as everyone worked hard together, he believed that the environment would only improve with time.
Another day passed for Fangzheng uneventfully.
The next day at dawn, Fangzheng looked at the time and it was just five. When he thought of the agreement he had made the day before, he got out of bed and cleaned up the temple hall. Before having breakfast, he first opened the monastery’s doors.
Indeed, the father and daughter duo was already standing outside the door, waiting.
Fangzheng pressed his palms together, “Patron, you are early.”
“I” Just as the girl was about to speak, the man patted her on the head. She did not continue.
“Venerable One, sorry for disturbing you.”
Fangzheng smiled faintly and made way. The man entered with the girl in tow. Again they offered incense and silently prayed for something. Although One Finger Monastery was gradually receiving more and more incense offerings, this was the first time he was encountering such an odd father-daughter duo. Fangzheng could not figure out why they had to come to offer incense so early. From how they looked fatigued by the journey, with the man looking especially exhausted with reddened eyes, it was apparent that he had not slept in a very long while. He was barely holding on on willpower alone.
However, Fangzheng still did not do anything. He watched them leave after they knelt and paid their respects.
Fangzheng looked at their backs while he scoured his memories, but he was unable to recall ever meeting them. This meant that they were not locals, or at least, that they were not from the surrounding villages. If not, Fangzheng should have at least some impression of them.
As the Dragon Boat Festival passed, the number of visitors that came to One Finger Monastery dropped once again. Even the rural tourism spots in One Finger Village turned emptier. The villagers who had nothing to do gathered together to chat about household affairs, their income, and compete with whoever had more loyal customers. Or they would share their culinary insights etc.
The entire world seemed to be peaceful apart from how as the sun was becoming hotter, with them getting more and more sunshine, the heat started to get to them. Lone Wolf ran to the Crystal Rice paddy frequently these past two days. As he soaked in the water, he would hang his tongue out to cool himself.
Squirrel got himself a basin and filled it with water. He then lay in it, eating pine nuts and bamboo shoots. The little guy enjoyed his entire day, as though he never had any worries.
In contrast, Monkey was rather quiet. He would wake up together with Fangzheng. He was composed no matter what happened and when the time came, he would sweep the yard. It was as though it had become a habit of his daily life. When Fangzheng recited the scriptures, he would sit by the side listening. As he listened, he would ruminate over it daily.
In the words of Red Boy, “Senior Brother Jingzhen, if you shave off all your fur, you can really be a monk.”
Red Boy was still the same. At night, he would deliver rain, and in the day, he would sleep after eating, and eat after sleeping. He was quickly becoming a pig.
Fangzheng’s days were very idle too. He read Buddhist scriptures, fetched water, and recited scriptures to the Crystal Rice. Time passed by quickly.
On the third day, Fangzheng woke up even earlier, at four in the morning. He swept the temple hall and ate breakfast. When he opened the doors to the monastery at half past five, he was surprised to see the father and daughter already standing there despite it being so early! They stood by the door as though they had been waiting for some time.
Fangzheng said, “Patrons, why do you come so early every day?”
The man lowered his head and looked at his daughter without saying a word. Clearly, he was not the type of father who spoke at length.
The girl had seen Fangzheng twice and no longer showed fear towards him as a stranger. However, she still did not dare speak much.
Noticing that the man was silent, Fangzheng nodded slightly and made way.
The man led his daughter into the monastery as they offered incense once again
But this time, Fangzheng walked into the temple hall. He sat behind the wooden fish and lightly struck it while reciting scriptures. As the sounds of the scriptures and striking of the wooden fish filled the temple, the entire temple fell in an ethereal state. It was as though the entire world had turned silent. But the scriptures were a little odd. It did not make the man forget his worries, but instead intensified them, making them clearer! All his frustrations seemed to be painstakingly extracted bit by bit and placed in front of him. There was no way to escape them!
This stemmed from the recent insights Fangzheng had gained during his scripture chanting, in part also from the Diamond Sutra which the System had awarded him. The essence of the scripture was about being true to oneself. By chanting the scriptures, he could understand himself, which was also the Hinayana school of thought. In contrast, the Mahayana school of thought was to help others understand themselves.
Many people had frustrations which were not true frustrations. Most of their frustrations concealed their true thoughts. They did not know what they wanted and suffered amid their aimlessness. For example, when many students graduated and were faced with a crossroad, they had no idea what they wanted their future to be like. Many would be lost and followed the masses, seeking a stable job before deciding further. However, they did not realize that it was when you are feeling highly spirited after finally leaving the school campus that you had infinite ambition. It was at that moment that your success rate was high if you chose a target and worked hard at it. Yet once people joined society’s rat race, they would cloud themselves with various matters. It would then be difficult to find their original intent and give up everything to fight for it.
Fangzheng did not know what struggles the father-daughter duo had. He was somewhat curious why they woke up so early to pray to Buddha, and it had happened for three consecutive days already. Therefore, he recited the scriptures in a bid to figure out the situation, hoping to see if he could help them.
As the man began to release his true emotions, Fangzheng took a deep breath. A Golden Millet Dream!
The next moment, Fangzheng appeared in a mud house in a village. The house was a little old and dilapidated, but it was still capable of shielding its occupants from the elements. A woman was sitting in the yard, daydreaming. She clenched a piece of paper in her hand as tears rolled down her face.
At that moment, the door opened. The man walked out and with a deep and raspy voice, he said, “I’m going to work. Don’t worry. There will be a solution.”
“What solution can there be? The medical bills are so high. We have borrowed all the money we can. We are still short of more than two hundred thousand! Sob” The woman hugged her head and cried the moment she finished her sentence.
The man patted her on the back, “Don’t worry. There will be a solution.”
With that said, the man left.
“What other solution could you have! The child is already like that. We have borrowed whatever we could. Are we going to rely on that pittance of earnings you have?” exclaimed the woman.
The man used his raspy voice to answer, “There will be a solution. Trust me.”
With that said, the man stood up even straighter as he strode off.
The scene changed. In a dark mine, the man was hard at work digging. He was covered in sweat to the point of looking like he had been scooped out of water.
Someone shouted at that moment, “Brother Cao, it’s time. Go on up and take a rest.”
“Ah!? Oh I can still continue. You guys go on up,” said Cao Can.
“Alright. Be safe. Don’t come out too late. We will be having our meal in a while,” shouted the other person before there was silence.
The man continued digging in the silent mine. It was a tiny private coal mine. The mine owner gave a salary of only a thousand yuan, and bonuses were given according to how much work was done. The bonuses were generous. If one worked an entire month, the lowest pay one would get would be over three thousand, or even over four thousand. Cao Can had done the calculations. If he used the time it took to eat and rest to mine instead, he could earn an additional ten plus a day. It would mean a few hundred a month, with the possibility of accumulating more than a thousand! Therefore, after doing the math, he decided not to leave to have his meals anymore.