Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Fangzheng’s heart palpitated when he heard that. Following that, he felt extremely ashamed as he said in a composed manner, “It was the work of This Penniless Monk.”
“Ah.” Jiang Zhou turned agape. All the words he wanted to say were replaced with speechlessness. Finally, he let out a long sigh. “I’ve been studying carving since I was young. I’ve practiced hard for fifty years and traveled the world in search of inspiration and materials to enhance my craft. All this while, I have been describing myself as a diligent genius. I have never doubted this point, but now, it seems, there’s no limit to the universe. I have been too shameless.”
With that said, Jiang Zhou held onto Fan Qing and Guan Xiangfeng as he tried his best to stand up.
Everyone was baffled. What was he up to?
Jiang Zhou gave Fangzheng a bow as he said, “Venerable One, please teach me the way of carving!”
“What?” Guan Xiangfeng, Qiu Xiaoye, and Fan Qing were dumbfounded. So was Fangzheng. What was happening?
Before Fangzheng could even reply, he heard a series of footsteps coming from outside. When he turned around, he saw Dog Song, Lame Ma, and a huge group of people enter. They happened to see Jiang Zhou bow and request to be put under Fangzheng’s wings. Dog Song was extremely quick to react as he kicked Lame Ma. Lame Ma stumbled forward and realized what was happening. He used the momentum to bow, but as the force that brought him forward was too potent, he ended up kneeling. His head struck the ground with a bang. Even Fangzheng felt his head hurt from hearing it!
However, Lame Ma was a strong man. He did not shout out in pain, for he knew that Guan Xiangfeng’s skill far exceeded his. And as Guan Xiangfeng’s master, Jiang Zhou would definitely be much better! Even so, Jiang Zhou still wanted to be Fangzheng’s disciple. That meant that Fangzheng definitely possessed even better carving techniques. Dog Song had not lied to him! He figured all of that out in that split instant.
Therefore, Lame Ma did not hesitate to exclaim, “Abbot, please teach me the art of carving!”
Fangzheng was completely dumbfounded. What the heck? He received a bow in front of him, and when he turned around, he immediately received a kowtow! What was happening today? Why was each action crazier than the other?
Fangzheng looked at Fan Qing and company for help. He wished for them to help Jiang Zhou up. He could not accept the bow! It was very tiring to teach disciples!
However, what left Fangzheng even more miserable was that after Guan Xiangfeng, Qiu Xiaoye, and Fan Qing exchanged looks, and they all bowed and said in unison, “Abbot, please teach us the art of carving!”
Fangzheng rolled his eyes. Why were they adding to the bustle? Fangzheng turned his head and looked towards Dog Song and company.
Dog Song bowed with five other villagers as they yelled at the top of their lungs, “Venerable One, please teach us the craft of carving!”
Fangzheng was left completely speechless.
“Master, are they here to snatch business from us? Why don’t I stew them all?” Red Boy brandished the machete and said domineeringly.
Fangzheng rolled his eyes at him and said to everyone, “Amitabha. Everyone, please stand up. This Penniless Monk wishes to ask the few of you. Why do you want to learn the craft from This Penniless Monk?”
Lame Ma said, “I have been living a dull and boring life my entire life. Only with the appearance of Frost Bamboo did I find a direction in life. I started wishing to carve bamboo to earn money so as to improve my life. Later on when Guan Xiangfeng appeared, he opened a brand new door for me. He made me see the sparks that appear when the art of carving meets Frost Bamboo. Heavens, it’s just too perfect! That’s what art is!” Upon hearing Lame Ma say that, Guan Xiangfeng’s face turned as red as a monkey’s bottom. To speak of art in front of Jiang Zhou and Fangzheng? Seriously… How embarrassing!
Lame Ma continued. “Now, I already don’t have to worry about my meals just by relying on my inadequate skills. Nor do I need to do farming work. I do not like gambling or squatting at the village entrance to brag. Then, what’s there left for me to do? With nothing to do the entire day, how am I to spend my time? What difference is there between me and a dead person like that? And Guan Xiangfeng made me completely interested in carving. Although I do not know how much longer I can live, I’m willing to work to my death for this art! Furthermore, the past few days of me teaching the villagers carving have been the happiest days of my life. I realized that a good-for-nothing like me can also be of some use. I can also use my skills to win respect, so I wish to learn. I wish to learn and teach more people to improve the lives of even more people. That’s all.”
“What about you?” Fangzheng asked Jiang Zhou.
“I only wish to improve beyond my limits. In the past, I failed to find a breakthrough, but now I’ve found a path towards it. Venerable One, please teach me.”
Fangzheng smiled as he shook his head. “Patron Jiang, it was fate that caused us to meet. This Penniless Monk is happy regarding your willingness to take me as your master. This is an acknowledgment of This Penniless Monk’s skills.”
Lame Ma’s heart sank when he heard that. Did that imply that Fangzheng was taking Jiang Zhou in as a disciple? On second thought, Jiang Zhou was a carving expert. He would naturally be a much faster learner than a dabbler like him. He could not match Jiang Zhou in any aspect. With this in mind, he lowered his head in disappointment as a form of capitulation.
Jiang Zhou’s heart trembled. Did that mean he had a chance?
Fan Qing, Qiu Xiaoye, and Guan Xiangfeng turned excited as well. If Jiang Zhou were to master Fangzheng’s skills, that would be awesome. As his students, they would naturally benefit greatly! They would benefit from Jiang Zhou’s improvement! The techniques they learned would be all the more impressive. With this in mind, they revealed looks of excitement.
Fangzheng continued. “But you do not meet the standards of This Penniless Monk. Therefore, This Penniless Monk will not take you in. However, in consideration of our fated encounter, This Penniless Monk will give you three Frost Bamboo sticks.”
“Ah?” Everyone was confounded. Fangzheng had rejected Jiang Zhou whose qualifications were that good? Was there a screw loose in this monk’s head?
Fangzheng ignored them as he turned to say to Lame Ma. “Patron Ma, This Penniless Monk will not take you in as a disciple either.”
“Oh.” Lame Ma had already mentally prepared himself, so he did not feel too sad.
However Fangzheng continued. “But This Penniless Monk can teach you how to carve.”
“Ah?” Everyone widened their eyes suddenly before staring bitterly at the bastard monk who kept pausing mid-sentence.
Fangzheng smiled. “This Penniless Monk is a monk. If you were to become my disciple, you would become a monk. Unfortunately, This Penniless Monk’s monastery is too small, and there aren’t many meditation rooms, so you cannot be taken in. As for carving arts, this is a skill for all of humanity. This Penniless Monk does not plan on hiding it. Teaching you should be fine.”
“Venerable One, that’s not fair! If it’s a skill for all of humanity, why aren’t you teaching my master?” Guan Xiangfeng shouted unhappily.
Fangzheng did not say a word as Jiang Zhou felt as if he was struck by lightning. He suddenly jolted to his senses as he berated his disciple. “Xiangfeng, shut up! Apologize to the Venerable One!”
Guan Xiangfeng said with an aggrieved look, “Master, it’s obvious that the monk is biased.”
“Shut up! Apologize!” said Jiang Zhou fiercely.
Helplessly, Guan Xiangfeng said to Fangzheng, “I’m sorry, Venerable One.”
Fangzheng smiled and shook his head, indicating that he did not mind his transgression. Then, he looked at Jiang Zhou with a gratified look and said, “You understood?”
Jiang Zhou sighed and said, “Yes, I was foolish. Thank you for enlightening me, Master. I’ve learned something.” With that said, Jiang Zhou bowed towards Fangzheng.
This bow left Guan Xiangfeng, Fan Qing, Qiu Xiaoye, and even Lame Ma and company baffled. They had no idea what the two were up to.
Noticing that Fangzheng had no intention to explain, Jiang Zhou sighed and said, “Years ago when I sought knowledge, I began learning carving from my master at age eight. I learned from him until the age of thirty. In the beginning, I only learned the basics. Only at age twenty was I thought some special techniques. But when he passed away, he had a few special techniques he did not teach me. By the time he opened up and wanted to teach me, he could no longer speak much. As such, those techniques also followed him into the grave. My master’s wife told me that the person Master was most afraid of his entire life was not his rivals but me! He had been guarding against me his entire life! Of course, he was also very good to me. Back then, I was poor. He provided for my board and lodging, and even my wedding was paid by him. He treated me like a son, but he still was wary of me his entire life. His wife even said that the adage he said the most often was: ‘An accomplished disciple starves the master!’”
With that said, Jiang Zhou’s face showed his feeling of being overwhelmed by the vicissitudes of time. There was sorrow and bitterness, but also resignation and wistfulness in his eyes.
Jiang Zhou continued. “Perhaps I was influenced by my master. I have always placed too much importance on my techniques. Even as a teacher, I still insisted on keeping the core things to myself. I have students and disciples. Students learn the basics, while disciples learn the superficial stuff. Perhaps this can be called retribution. Perhaps it was our narrowed way of thinking. Heaven metes out its harshest punishment on teachers like us. We have no true descendants! I’ve thought about it before. That when I got old and no longer able to continue, I would write a book and share the core things I knew with the masses. But I could never bring myself to write it in the end.”
Dog Song could not help but interject. “Do you wish to repeat your master’s mistakes? Bringing your skills into the grave and causing an entire trade to lose its best knowledge? I finally understand why despite us having thousands of years of history of being a leading power in so many areas, we ended up deteriorating and had to resort to copying and secretly studying others. We really can’t learn anything without stealing!”
Jiang Zhou blushed red when he heard that as he said ashamed, “You are right. If I do the same, I will be a sinner!”
“Amitabha. The sea of bitterness has no bounds, it’s best to turn back to the shore before it’s too late. Congratulations, Patron,” said Fangzheng as he pressed his palms together.
Jiang Zhou returned the bow. “Thank you for enlightening me. I’ve decided to write down all I know when I get back. I will publish the book and spread it out.” With that said, Jiang Zhou said to Guan Xiangfeng, Fan Qing, and Qiu Xiaoye, “None of you need to fight for the spot of my personal disciple. In the future, as long as you are my student, I will teach you as long as you are willing and have the correct mindset! I will not discriminate!”
With that said, Guan Xiangfeng, Fan Qing, and Qiu Xiaoye were overjoyed as they shouted with joy incessantly. Then, they suddenly realized that they were in a monastery. Unable to scream or shout, they held their tongues and stood there smiling foolishly to themselves.
“Master, are you really not teaching them?” Red Boy, Master, Squirrel, and Lone Wolf stood beside Fangzheng as they watched Jiang Zhou and company leave.
Fangzheng shook his head and said, “If they really wish to learn, who’s stopping them?”
After saying that, Fangzheng stretched his back and said, “Let’s go back. It’s time for dinner. From tomorrow onwards, I’ll be teaching people. Are you interested in learning too?”
“Yes!” Squirrel shouted in excitement.
Apart from him, the rest showed little interest. Red Boy looked up and said, “With that size of yours, what can you carve?”