Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Fangzheng smiled. “Nothing much. It’s just this; Two-people Rotation is like the birds before winter. Do you wish to be the sparrows that abandon their homes, or do you wish to protect your homes like the tree sparrows which inject vitality into the dead of winter?”
“This… Venerable One, I’m an uneducated man. I can’t understand you. I also wish to protect my heritage, but I can’t,” said Fifth Zhao.
Fifth Zhao’s wife looked suspiciously at Fangzheng and shook her head. “Venerable One, not everyone is good at words, but to talk is much easier than to take action. We also wish to become better, but the market’s demands are as such. What can we do?”
Fangzheng smiled. “The pioneers of Two-people Rotation combined the strengths of many operas before achieving the splendor of Two-people Rotation in the past. Does that mean that Two-people Rotation can only take in the rubbish to live on in an ignoble existence? Two-people Rotation benefited from learning from crosstalk in the past. Meanwhile crosstalk reached rock bottom a few years ago. Many people spoke of the need to change, and there were people who even learned from Two-people Rotation and added some obscene acts. Although they made money, it made the industry suffer as a whole. They were eventually chased out and disavowed by their masters and fellow disciples. And yet in recent years, crosstalk has become popular once again. Do you know why?”
“I know. A few teachers led the forefront and promoted a new form of crosstalk,” said Fifth Zhao immediately.
Fangzheng nodded. “That’s right. The new form of crosstalk involved the abandonment of old gags. They began introducing gags and jokes that adhered more closely to the modern way of life. They even incorporated foreign inspirations. It has been quite a while since Two-people Rotation took in some good stuff from external sources, right?”
Fifth Zhao’s eyes grew brighter.
Fangzheng looked up into the sky and said, “The reason why Buddhism has been able to last so long and to even flourish has to do with how it takes in everything without any discrimination. There are no boundaries as it absorbs everything, drawing on the strengths and abandoning the weaknesses. This is the fundamental reason for its longevity. Two-people Rotation is absolutely not what you performed.”
With that said, Fangzheng got up and slowly left. He added one more thing, though. “This Penniless Monk is neither a Two-people Rotation performer, nor is he able to judge what direction Two-people Rotation should take. This Penniless Monk is only explaining what he knows. Patrons, you are still considered famous Two-people Rotation performers in the eyes of people and have your own area of influence. Both of you know Two-people Rotation and the audience better than This Penniless Monk. If you think what This Penniless Monk said is reasonable, heed it. If you think it unreasonable, just treat our conversation today as idle talk.”
Fangzheng was not being humble. Instead, he really did lack any detailed knowledge of Two-people Rotation. However, the same goals could be achieved through different means. Fangzheng believed that logic was immutable. Since times immemorial, evil had never beaten good. He had never heard of good failing to prevail against evil!
Fangzheng left, leaving Fifth Zhao and his wife in deep thought.
After a long while, Fifth Zhao’s wife said, “Fifth Zhao, I think we can attempt it.”
Fifth Zhao said, “Even if change cannot be attained in life, I’ll attain change in death. I do not want to engage in such accursed trades. At the worst, I’ll become a construction worker!”
“Pui! A construction worker? You’d be better off as a farmer. We still have a few plots of land back home,” said his wife.
Fifth Zhao laughed immediately. “I’m quite a skilled farmer.”
“Sure.” His wife rolled her eyes at him.
“Dear, if I really have to become a farmer, will you still be with me?”
“We are in Mom’s presence, don’t talk rubbish. But there’s one thing I’m certain of; if you stop cursing daily and performing those sordid acts, Mom will definitely be very grateful. Even if you become a farmer, Mom will be able to brag to Hades with her head up. ‘My son is a farmer and is able to provide for a large number of people!’”
“That’s right. Mom was such a person. If not, I would not have to kowtow to her and apologize every time I perform. She was an obstinate person. She was quite infuriated back when I played truant to learn Two-people Rotation. If I don’t produce results, I will really be too ashamed to meet her.”
“Alright, let’s not talk about such matters. What do you plan on performing next?” asked Fifth Zhao’s wife.
“Next act? Let’s do Romance of the Western Chamber! We will go home once our performance ends. I still need to think of new gags. In the future, we will draw from the experience of any performance that gets popular! If crosstalk can be performed in a clean and aboveboard manner while still amusing others and filling halls, and if skits can portray positive aspects and attract countless audience members, why can’t we do it when we, too, are trained in all of that?”
“I feel we should visit some elderly seniors. They never stop thinking of new things, but as they have retired, it’s not suitable for them to perform anymore. But we can get some ideas from them. Besides, if they were willing to take the lead, their influence would drive more people. It would be better than us going at this alone and twisting our limbs to push for it,” said Fifth Zhao’s wife.
Fifth Zhao’s eyes lit up as he smiled immediately.
Fangzheng did not watch the rest of the performance. He did not know if Fifth Zhao and his wife would be able to steel their hearts to go down a path that did not seem bright, one that was fraught with worry. Fangzheng always believed that although he had divine powers, he was ultimately not god. There were certain things for which he could count on his divine powers to bully others or to forcibly distort their thoughts and beliefs. But such acts would not be good, but evil! He only acted on what he wanted to act on. As for the outcome, it was left up to fate.
However Fangzheng was surprised to discover a year later that Two-people Rotation had begun being broadcast on television. The performers made appearances in the talent shows of various satellite channels. And the shows no longer involved any cursing or dirty gags. Instead they infused crosstalk, skits, stand-up comedy, etc. With the addition of skilled performances, it made Two-people Rotation popular once again. Fangzheng even saw Fifth Zhao, and he was already a popular person in the province!
Fangzheng felt a little smug when he saw all of that. He also gained a deeper appreciation for the divine powers of mortals. They were truly better than Buddhism’s divine powers at times. Unity allowed for change; there was nothing that could not be changed or done.
Of course, Fangzheng did not think too much of it at present. For now, he was…
“Master, what’s this crap!?” Red Boy complained. “I want to curse! Seriously, we demons are shameless enough. Why is Two-people Rotation more shameless than us demons?”
“It was so embarrassing.” Squirrel covered his face. If not for his fur, he would probably have turned into a red-skinned squirrel.
Monkey pressed his palms together. “Substance exactly is emptiness and emptiness exactly is substance.”
Instead it was Lone Wolf who looked carefree as he rambled about in pleasure with a flick of his tail.
“Jingfa, why aren’t you saying anything?” asked Fangzheng curiously.
“What’s there to say? They kept shouting behind us, so my ears were buzzing the entire time. I didn’t hear a thing.” Lone Wolf turned around and said matter-of-factly.
“Master, I’m not bragging, but if such an act had been performed at my mountain, the former me would have definitely burned the performers to death,” said Red Boy.
Fangzheng smiled bitterly. “All you see is darkness in things. Did you manage to see the light too?”
Red Boy thought for a moment and shook his head. “There was nothing good about it. It was all cr*p.”
Fangzheng sighed. “There are two ways for a person to live in this world. The first way is to survive, and the other way is to live. Survival is to survive by all means possible, even if the things one engages in are dishonorable. Living is to live with dreams when survival is no longer a worry. When living, one works hard to achieve one’s life goals, doing every tiny thing to help improve one’s own life so as to paint a beautiful picture. However, not everyone has the ability to choose life over survival. Some people are very hardworking, but due to particular reasons, their entire lives consist of nothing but working hard to survive. You can’t deny their hard work or seriousness. As long as they do not break the law, they are a group of people worthy of respect.
“The Two-people Rotation you saw appeared to be full of positive and negative emotions onstage, but do you know how sad it is for them offstage? All you see is the dirty jokes they deliver, but do you know that they had no intention to deliver them? What they need is not criticism, but a solution. Criticism is always easier than help; therefore, most people choose criticism.
“But as long as they do not break the law and go against their moral bottom line or wish to seek to do evil deep down, we should help them.”
When this was said, Fangzheng turned to look down the mountain. “My master once said that it’s difficult to understand the misery of all life without being a part of it. This Penniless Monk did not understand him in the past, but now This Penniless Monk is slowly understanding what Master meant. Life is great and worthy of respect. Without being a part of it to understand it, one should not criticize things too sharply. If one has the time to criticize, it’s better to help think of some other solution.”
“Master, according to what you said, this vile Two-people Rotation is still not bad?” commented Red Boy unhappily.
“Vileness is obviously no good, but its existence is also a type of culture. It’s an entertainment format of a region which brings joy to the region. If the vileness can be removed and exchanged for new content, that might be its silver lining. It might not be something bad if it can change, so why must you destroy it? It is the same with everything. Do not spurn it because of gross generalization,” said Fangzheng.
“The way you put it does seem to make sense.” Although Red Boy said so, he was only thinking about himself. Before he came to Earth, Bodhisattva had said to him, “You were born malevolent and are not suitable to become a Buddha. However, This Penniless Monk sees you as an excellent person.”
Back then, he did not understand Bodhisattva’s words, but now he seemed to understand them somewhat. He also understood what it meant to redeem a person. Redemption was not the eradication of evil, but the conversion of evil into good. One additional person doing good would give the world a bit more warmth. Just destruction alone could not wipe out evil. Only by spreading good throughout the world could evil be vanquished.
As the group chatted idly the entire time, it was already sunset by the time they reached the mountaintop.
On a whim, Fangzheng chose to personally cook. He washed the pot, poured water into it, added Crystal Rice, and finally he put in a few bamboo shoots too. A bowl of mushroom soup was boiled, and all that was left was to wait patiently.
“Ding! Congratulations. Merit calculations done. Including the merit from redeeming Fifth Zhao and his wife, you now have a total of 5001 merit points! Apart from having a chance at a draw, the amount of incense money you can draw out has been increased by 2%. In addition, the System will be awarding you with an additional item, a Dharma treasure that is of the same level as a Dharma treasure you already possess,” said the System.
“What do you mean?” Fangzheng’s heart palpitated as he pressed for an answer.