Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Zhou Zishan said, “Village Chief, go back for your meal. We just need a mouthful. The rest of the trivial matters will be finished in the afternoon.”
Zhou Ziyuan said, “That’s right. Village Chief, we are doing quite well. The sky is high, and the land is broad. It’s comfortable eating here. Besides, we didn’t really do anything the entire morning.” Upon saying that, Zhou Ziyuan blushed a little. Such a large plot of land had been cleared with all that help. They were unsure if they should be paid for it. And if they did, how much… Now, they clearly weren’t thick-skinned enough to get a free meal.
The youngest Zhou Ziheng did not say a word. His eyes were darting around as well. His age made him someone who paid a lot of attention to food. Who would want to eat noodles if there was something better? However, Zhou Ziheng ultimately kept silent.
Fangzheng, Wang Yougui, Tan Juguo, and company understood this clearly. Fangzheng wished to say something, but was held back by Tan Juguo. After Tan Juguo said something to Fangzheng, Fangzheng was momentarily stunned before he smiled.
When the two kids saw Wang Yougui and Tan Juguo walk off, a look of disappointment flashed in their eyes. Instead, it was Zhou Ziheng who was accustomed to it. Although he was hopeful, he decided to let it go. This was not the first time either. They were just being polite, so they couldn’t treat it seriously. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if they really went when the invite was just done out of courtesy? He had encountered such situations a few times on their journey, so he knew better. Regardless if it was true or not, he pretended as though the invitation wasn’t genuine.
“Venerable One, why aren’t you returning to have your meal?” Zhou Ziheng came to Fangzheng’s side and asked out of curiosity.
Fangzheng smiled. “Amitabha. This Penniless Monk wishes to scrounge a free meal from you, Patron. Is that okay?”
Zhou Ziheng was taken aback. He pointed at the clear soup and noodles in his family’s pot and stuttered, “You… want to eat this?”
Fangzheng smiled. “This Penniless Monk is a monk. To be honest, This Penniless Monk didn’t even know when his next meal was a year ago. This Penniless Monk even ate wild vegetables to fill his stomach.”
Upon hearing that Fangzheng was also from a poor background, Zhou Ziheng immediately felt rapport with Fangzheng. He said with a smile, “In that case, join us. Let me tell you that these noodles were carried here all the way from the west. They are biangbiang noodles and are great at filling your stomach, and they will give you energy after you eat your fill.”
Zhou Ziheng began chatting with Fangzheng and after some time, Zhou Ziheng realized that the monk was really different from the monks he had previously encountered. Fangzheng did not put on any airs, nor did he act like an outsider. It was as though he was a neighborly brother and the more they talked, the more relaxed he became.
“Venerable One, you became a monk at such a young age. Are you not planning to get married?” Zhou Ziheng asked.
Fangzheng smiled. “This Penniless Monk can still renounce asceticism in the future. But that will depend on fate. It will happen when the opportunity arises. As for you, your two elder brothers are married. When do you plan on getting married?”
“Me…” Zhou Ziheng was stunned. Then he lay down on the fields with his head up. He looked at the azure-blue sky and the white clouds. “I’m still young. There’s no rush.”
Fangzheng knew that Zhou Ziheng was not speaking the truth. Which young man wouldn’t want to get married? Even though he was saying that there was no rush, it was likely that he couldn’t.
Indeed, Zhou Ziheng began airing his grievances. “Venerable One, you might not be aware, but because we are poor, it’s especially difficult to marry a wife. There’s the dowry, gifts, a need for a house… Sigh, I don’t even dare to think about it. I’ll think about it when I earn enough money in the future.”
Fangzheng empathized with him. It was also not easy getting married in the northeast. The entire nation was in a similar state. A girlfriend might be easy to find. The girl might not mind if you were poor or there was something bad about you, but when it came to marriage, that was no longer a matter that solely depended on the young couple. Instead, it was a matter of two families. Regardless if one was making unrealistic comparisons, taking into account face, or thinking of the good of one’s own children, the dowry was not something that could be ignored. Once it was requested, it couldn’t be below what others took, right? Therefore, families began a race and in the end, the heavy burden ended up landing on the shoulders of the parents and children. It was unknown just how crushing it was for many young couples.
This was also the reason why Fangzheng was in no rush to renounce asceticism. Even if he did it immediately, he would be unable to marry a woman even if he found one.
The two continued their chat. Zhou Ziheng was unlike his two elder brothers. Although life was hard, he was still optimistic. He always felt that his future would be better. He yearned for an opportunity to one day make a meteoric rise and return home in glory. Furthermore, Zhou Ziheng had many ideas. He wanted to work hard to buy a combined harvester before adding to his lineup a vehicle convoy. That way, he could go from south to north and back. After he made enough money, he could do business involving combined harvesters…
Zhou Ziheng’s world was not limited to brandishing sickles to reap wheat. However, no one treated what he said seriously, calling him mad. Fangzheng was the first person who acknowledged his ideas, making him rather happy.
Fangzheng kept smiling and said, “People without dreams will never have the right to mock those with dreams. And those with dreams will never have the right to mock those who work hard for their dreams. The former doesn’t even dare have dreams, so how can there be improvement? The latter has impractical dreams, so how can they be possible?”
Zhou Ziheng immediately laughed when he heard that. “Abbot, you sure are knowledgeable. I really like what you said.”
Fangzheng smiled in return. Zhou Zishan and Zhou Ziheng had left probably because they heard that Fangzheng was staying behind for a meal. It didn’t take long before they returned with wild vegetables. Zhou Zishan said, “Abbot Fangzheng, we’re sorry that we have nothing much to entertain you with. You can’t eat meat or drink…”
Fangzheng smiled. “This Penniless Monk usually only eats white rice and bamboo shoots. This is the first time This Penniless Monk will be eating biangbiang noodles. Furthermore, this is authentic northwestern cuisine. This isn’t something you can find even if you look for it. Why would This Penniless Monk need anything else?”
Although Fangzheng said so, Zhou Zishan was skeptical. Although they hadn’t interacted for long, he could sense that Fangzheng’s standing in One Finger Village was even higher than Wang Yougui’s. Could he be poor? However, Fangzheng’s words were comforting, reducing the awkwardness between them.
Just as they were about to pour the wild vegetables into the pot…
They suddenly saw a group of villagers coming over with bags of varying sizes. Some even carried plates with food on them.
“This is?” Zhou Zishan and company were taken aback.
Wang Yougui first came over. “The sky is high and the weather fine. We definitely need to have some drinks! Since you aren’t willing to go to the village, let’s come over here for a picnic! Haha. These are all local products of our village, so they aren’t anything special. Don’t blame us if our hospitality leaves you wanting.”
Zhou Zishan saw the villagers setting up a round table on the ground and covering it with a cloth. Then, piping hot chicken, duck, fish, pork, bamboo shoots, fragrant white rice, and huge mantous were placed on the table! Zhou Zishan’s eyes immediately reddened.
Zhou Zishan had traveled in the past and had come to the northeast as well. Although he knew that the northeasterners ate noodles as well, they mainly treated it as a secondary dish. And in villages, they would only steam mantous in winter. There were basically no mantous in autumn. Then the mantous before them… With this in mind, Zhou Zishan pulled Wang Yougui’s hand and despite being an adult man, his eyes reddened. He opened his mouth a few times, but was unable to say a word. Finally, he hugged Wang Yougui and murmured, “Thank you, thank you…”
Upon seeing this scene, the busy villagers all stopped. For some reason, all of them felt their hearts wince when they saw Zhou Zishan’s action. What kind of experiences would make a seven-feet-tall man tear up from seeing a very normal meal? What had they experienced?
Fangzheng pressed his palms together and sighed, “Amitabha. It’s good indeed!
“Thank you…” Shen Aijia and company were touched by the villagers’ actions. They had never been treated this way by so many people. It warmed their hearts.
After the dishes and alcohol were in place, everyone took their seats under the open sky. They ate, drank and chatted. This was a banquet unique to farming villages.
A distance away, Mengmeng had secretly pulled the boy and girl away. They ran somewhere nearby before she pulled out a big bowl from her bulging clothes. The bowl was filled with delicious chicken drumsticks, hearts, and wings. Then like a boss, she pushed the bowl to the two children and said, “Eat! It’s delicious!”
The girl, Zhou Huaying, and the boy, Zhou Huacheng, were children after all. No matter how early they matured as village children, it was a matter of course for children to enjoy eating. When they saw so much good food to eat, they clapped their hands in glee. After thanking Mengmeng, the three children began eating behind a tiny soil mound. Unbeknownst to them, how could anyone not notice that Mengmeng had stolen the chicken wings and drumsticks? However, everyone knew that the child wouldn’t be up to mischief, so no one stopped her… But in the eyes of the kids, they felt like spoils of war. The children ate delightfully.
Drinks continued, and everyone drank quite a lot. The Zhou brothers were flushed red, and as they turned tipsy, they began to open up. They spilled how tough and tiring it was on their journey. When Wang Yougui and company heard their recount, all of them had mixed emotions. Everyone could imagine how tough it must have been to sleep in the wilderness, pick wild vegetables, and bring the entire family on this work trip. Furthermore, they must have suffered from the rolling eyes of many.
When Zhou Zishan talked about something that worked him up, he stood up and pulled a wooden plank over. Zhou Ziyuan began producing a rhythm while Zhou Ziheng tapped at the bowls. The three began singing at the top of their hoarse voices.
“Flying in the sky—sand!”
“Filling the land—sand!”
“Where the sand lands—is home!”
No matter how nice or beautiful the outside world was, birds knew to return home to roost. Who wouldn’t miss home?
That day, Zhou Zishan and his brothers ended up drunk…
Fangzheng led his disciples as they secretly reaped the rest of the paddy.
Following that, Fangzheng revealed the sick old mother of the Zhous and that they were out earning money to raise funds to treat their mother and not to buy a combined harvester. When everyone heard that, all of them sighed.
Tan Juguo said as he smoked a cigarette, “They are real men!”
Everyone quickly nodded.
Fangzheng said, “This Penniless Monk has an idea. However, it will need all of you to agree.”
“Abbot Fangzheng, say whatever you wish to say. We have both manpower and money to give. I’ll support you!” Tan Juguo seemed to read Fangzheng’s mind as he smiled.
Fangzheng said, “My idea is to gift the combined harvester we won as payment to Patron Zhou and company.”