The man took of his clothes and changed into a pair of swimming trunks. He walked to the riverside barefoot and looked up into the sky. Finally, he took a deep breath and plunged into the river. He went straight for the riverbed and began searching inch by inch, overturning one stone after another. It was a mystery what he was searching for.
It did not take long before the man resurfaced. He took a deep breath and dove back in to continue his search. Only when the sun set did the man crawl out of the water. He had a nasty expression, and he looked somewhat frail. He sat beside his motorcycle and took out a mantou to chew on it. He calmly watched the sunset as the sky gradually turned dark,
Following that, the man took out a photograph from a pocket inside his clothes. It depicted a girl who was beaming happily. She looked about thirteen, and under her short hair were very beautiful large eyes. If anyone were to see the picture, they would definitely realize that the girl in the photo was identical to the girl in the pamphlet!
As the man looked at the girl, he smiled warmly, as though the hard mantou in his mouth had turned fragrant and delicious. He finished the mantou in a few bites and gulped down a huge mouthful of water from a water bottle. The man carefully put away the photograph and left the abandoned village on his motorcycle.
Half an hour later, the man came to a village filled with new houses. Everything in the village was new. The houses were neatly lined up, but the village lacked the quaintness of other villages. In its place was coldness.
The man pushed his motorcycle into his yard when he heard someone call out to him. “Yuan Hai, you went there again?”
Yuan Hai turned to look and saw a man carrying a hoe appear at his doorstep. The man sighed when he saw Yuan Hai’s frail appearance. “It’s been so many years. Why do you insist?”
Yuan Hai smiled at the man and did not say a word.
“You smile every time I say that about you. There’s really nothing I can do about you. My wife has cooked quite a sumptuous feast today. Want to have a drink together?”
Yuan Hai nodded. Clearly he had a good relationship with the man. The man led Yuan Hai to his house and before long a big plate of pheasant stewed with mushrooms, smashed cucumber salad, together with a plate of skin jelly appeared. The duo began eating along with some drinks. Basically, the man spoke while Yuan Hai listened.
When the man’s wife walked in, she rebuked him jokingly, “Drink less! You have so much to say, and only Yuan Hai will listen to you babble on. Reduce the useless talk and talk about something proper!”
The man cut back on being a chatterbox as he chuckled. “Yuan Hai, it’s this. You know as well that many people from our village have gone to the city for work. There’s a foreman that has quite a good relationship with me at the construction site. He’s now lacking in manpower. Since you are skilled in woodcraft, don’t waste it. Go work for him. A year’s work could amount to quite a sizable sum of money.”
Yuan Hai’s smile froze for the first time after he heard that. He put down the cup of alcohol and decisively shook his head.
“You Yuan Hai, I knew you would reject the offer, but you have to think things through carefully. What can you do if you continue staying in the village? Although you are a famous woodcrafter in the surrounding villages, no one needs your services on a daily basis. Now with more and more youths entering the city these days, there is fewer demand for your services. The money you earn will only decrease. You have to think about your future, right? You will grow old and fall sick You don’t have family either. Go to the city and do a good job. After earning the wages there for a few years, you can come back, and I’ll find you a better Hey! Hey! Yuan Hai, why are you leaving?”
The moment Yuan Hai’s feet touched the ground, he walked out without even turning back. He waved his hand, indicating that he had no intention to go or continue listening.
The man shook his head in exasperation when he saw this. He finished the cup of alcohol in his hand and said, “This fellow is just so ill-tempered and stubborn.”
“Seriously, you should be tactful with your words. But speaking of which, there are few men in this world that are good like Yuan Hai,” said the man’s wife.
The man rolled his eyes. “Who said that? Isn’t your husband the best man in the world?”
“Scram. How shameless!”
Yuan Hai ran home and closed the door. He sat in a corner of his stove bed and looked up at the wall opposite him. The wall was plastered with photos. On it were pictures of a child’s growth. Some of them were of a girl. Her attire in the pictures indicated that they were taken two decades ago. Some of the photographs were already blurry, and some of them were tattered. However they had been laminated by Yuan Hai. The frames used were very particular. They were engraved with an assortment of beautiful patterns. Some of them were engraved with Doraemon, Sailormoon, and even some celebrity cartoon pictures or pictures from two decades ago.
Yuan Hai sat there silently until nightfall. The moonlight seeped in through the windows, making the room seem as though it was covered in a layer of frost. It made the room turn colder, and it did not take long before Yuan Hai switched on a light. He then took out a piece of paper and placed it on a specially customized frame he had created himself. A pencil was the only tool he used to do his drawing.
The quiet room only had the sound of pencils scribbling across paper.
The lights stayed lit until late into the night.
As for Fangzheng who went out to seek Yuan Hai, he sadly realized that he failed to find him despite circling the area with Red Boy. Furthermore, he was lost! Thankfully Sunglow Monastery was not One Finger Monastery. It was famous enough, so just asking for directions allowed them to rush back to Sunglow Monastery before dinner.
When they returned to Sunglow Monastery, they saw a young girl waiting by the entrance. She was drawing on the ground seriously with her finger, looking peeved.
Fangzheng and Red Boy exchanged looks as Red Boy chuckled. “Master.”
Fangzheng rolled his eyes. “The way you laugh inspires me to recite the scriptures. Speak, what did you see?”
“Grievances, boundless grievances. Do you want me to help you subdue evil?” Red Boy chuckled.
Fangzheng rolled his eyes at Red Boy. “My dear disciple, you are usually treated well by me. This Shall be left to you.”
“Don’t! Master, you should shoulder the responsibility of the evil you created. This is what you said yourself! My attention is still pretty alright, isn’t it?” Red Boy ran off after finishing his sentence.
Fangzheng’s strike missed as he cursed softly, “Darn brat. Don’t you think of going online again! The Internet is horrendous. What the heck! What evil did I create?”
Red Boy ran off very quickly, and his footsteps were silent. Ouyang Fenghua did not discover him either.
Fangzheng also knew that the trio had come as a group, yet he had left without a word. It wasn’t right for him to dump a lady with a bunch of monks, but as he was eager to help Yuan Hai, he had dashed without much thought. Was he really to be blamed?
“This Penniless Monk can’t be blamed. It was because Forget it. So what if there’s an earful. It was ultimately not right to leave just like that.” Fangzheng smiled wryly as he bit the bullet and went forward.