Fangzheng nodded. “In that case, Amitabha. Patron, thank you for answering my questions. Take care.”
With that said, Fangzheng turned to return to the temple hall.
Cao Can was taken aback. What did the monk mean? Did he know what he was planning to do? Upon coming to this realization, Cao Can knitted his brows tightly. He was certain he had never mentioned his idea to anyone. After pondering for a moment, he left with Cao Xueke.
On the way, Cao Xueke asked naively, “Daddy, when the female mandarin duck dies, the male mandarin duck dies as well. They are so pitiful. If I were the female mandarin duck, I would wish for him to live on happily.”
Cao Can’s body flinched as he asked with a whisper, “What if the male mandarin duck’s death can save the female mandarin duck?”
“I wouldn’t want that. If the female dies, the male would be very sad. He will die as well. Without the male, the female will equally be sad and will die,” Cao Xueke replied as she hugged the rabbit in her arms tightly.
Cao Can did not say a word as he continued leading Cao Xueke down the mountain. They drove back home on the motorcycle, but his thoughts often wandered on the road.
And at that moment, Fangzheng’s mind was wandering as well. He had seen something he did not wish to see after activating his Heavenly Eye today.
“Sigh. Amitabha.” Fangzheng held his palms together and made a Buddhist proclamation.
Cao Can did not enter the house when they arrived home. He let Cao Xueke get off and immediately drove to work. However, he did not notice that Cao Xueke did not return home. Instead, she ran out secretly with a basket in hand.
That day, Cao Can continued working diligently while working overtime. However, he kept having the rumors flash across his mind. Meanwhile every time he thought of his idea, he would recall the question Fangzheng asked him and Cao Xueke’s answer. All of this left him with mixed emotions. He was a little lost.
By the time Cao Can returned home, he found Li Xiang in tears.
Cao Can’s heart jolted as he ran over and asked, “What happened?”
With that said, Cao Can prepared to run into the house.
“Don’t go in. She just fell asleep.” Li Xiang stopped him.
Only then did Cao Can heave a sigh of relief. He sat down and asked, “Don’t cry. Everything will be alright.”
“It’s not that. Look at this.” Li Xiang pointed at the tiny basket of mushrooms. There were all kinds of mushrooms there, including colorful ones. Clearly, those were poisonous.
Cao Can asked with a frown, “You picked those? Some of them are poisonous. Ordinary mushrooms can’t be sold for much either. Besides, they aren’t well-received.”
“No, they were picked by Xueke.”
Cao Can was taken aback as he fell silent for quite a while before saying, “This child”
“She appeared very weak when she returned. I let her sleep on the brick bed.”
Deep into the night, Cao Can sat on the brick bed and hugged Cao Xueke. “Xueke, why did you pick mushrooms today?”
“Daddy, you eat pancakes every day. I wanted to make something nice for you. You used to like eating mushrooms. But later on, you had to work all day and had no time to pick mushrooms anymore.” Cao Xueke smiled very sweetly, leaving Cao Can’s heart feeling very sweet too. However, deep in his heart, there was a searing pain. Yet he continued smiling.
By the side, Li Xiang turned her head away, clearly to hold back her tears.
“Daddy, Mommy, I’ve grown up. I walked so far up the mountain today and picked up many mushrooms. When I grow even older, I’ll attend school. I heard from uncles and aunties that there will be many jobs available to me after I attend school. I will be able to buy many beautiful clothes and lots of delicious food. When the time comes, I will buy you lots of things!” Cao Xueke waved her tiny arms as her eyes took on a crescent shape from her smiling. In her arms was a rabbit without a ear, but her head was lowered.
Cao Can finally made up his mind after seeing how sensible his daughter was. No matter what
The next day, when the sky lit up slightly, Fangzheng stretched his lazy back before cleaning the temple hall and eating breakfast.
Monkey had long run over to open the temple’s door, but it was empty outside. While eating, Monkey asked out of curiosity, “Master, why didn’t the two patrons from yesterday come?”
Fangzheng said lightly, “They are here if they come, they aren’t here if they don’t. Why must they come?”
Monkey was stunned as he scratched his head. “They often come early in the morning.”
Red Boy was a lot smarter. With a clever roll of his eyes, he asked, “Master, did something happen? Should we go down the mountain?”
“To save him! He’s in trouble and as Buddhist disciples, shouldn’t we save people?” Red Boy spoke righteously, but only he knew what was truly on his mind.
Lone Wolf pouted and said, “Junior Brother, all you want is go down the mountain to play, right? Look at you. You are already this tired making it rain every day. You don’t even come out in the day. Even if you could go out, do you have the strength? Master, what do you think about me?”
Red Boy turned anxious. He had indeed been malingering, but that was because he had the ability to feign illness! No matter how nice the mountaintop was, it was only a tiny area. It was boring after some time. It was not easy for him to have a chance to leave, so he naturally needed to work hard to grasp the opportunity. He looked at Fangzheng with watery eyes, waiting for Fangzheng to give his permission.
“It was mentioned before that everyone’s turn would come according to a certain order. The first one who was taken out was Jingxin. Due to special circumstances, Jingxin was taken out the second time as well. But this is already the third time.”
Lone Wolf, Squirrel, Monkey, and Red Boy stretched out their necks, widening their eyes as they looked longingly at Fangzheng.
Fangzheng placed his chopsticks down, “It’s decided. It’s Monkey’s turn.”
“Aiyah! Aiyah! Aiyah! I feel faint. It won’t be able to rain tonight.” Red Boy immediately hugged his head and feigned sickness the moment he heard that.
Monkey was given a fright. Although Red Boy was somewhat of a cheat, the replenishing of the water table through rain still relied on him. What would happen if he stopped working? Monkey was just about to say something when he heard Fangzheng chuckle. “Jingxin, if you are having a headache, go take a rest. I suddenly feel inspired to recite the scriptures today and plan to go at it seriously and recite them for three hours.”
The moment Red Boy heard that, he immediately sat up straight and coughed dryly. “Master, for the villagers at the foot of the mountain and for the righteousness of this world, for for” The child suddenly found his vocabulary lacking, as he directly gave a conclusion, “In short, I can still do it. I can continue!”
“Will it still rain?”
“Of course! Definitely!”
“Oh, you sure did well using the northeastern accent. Alright, continue eating.” After Fangzheng said that, everyone continued eating breakfast. After breakfast, Fangzheng brought Monkey down the mountain.
The moment he reached the foot of the mountain, Fangzheng led Monkey straight out of the village. Fangzheng had a vague idea where Cao Can lived as he had seen many of the road signs and scenery in Cao Can’s memories. There was also the mine which was the only one in Songwu County. Thus, it was not hard to infer where Cao Can’s home was from all these clues.
Fangzheng left the village with Monkey in tow. They immediately began running as they had no means of transportation. All they could do was run.
Monkey followed Fangzheng with a bitter look. If he knew he had to run, he would not have left the mountain. How long would this running take? As it was still early, there was no one on the road, nor was there any car to get a lift from. The man and monkey ran in misery.