Someone beside interrupted Luo Shaoheng’s deep thoughts, he lifted his head and saw Wang Xiaoquan with a questioning look and only realized that he was distracted. He quickly organized his thoughts and continued to correspond with Wang Xiaoquan about the resort’s work report in the last season.
They spent the whole afternoon dealing with the matters. Luo Shaoheng planned the further affairs well and charged Wang Xiaoquan to look after the resort.
Wang Xiaoquan heard and roughly knew that he planned to travel, he then asked, “Brother Heng, are you going to travel?”
“Yeah, about half a month.” Luo Shaoheng said. He had already planned the route and schedule.
“Safe journey, enjoy your trip.” Wang Xiaoquan had gotten used to Luo Shaoheng travelling frequently, so he did not ask more about it.
“Okay, I appreciate your hard work.” Luo Shaoheng patted his shoulders and smiled, “I’ll go back to pack up my things, call me if there’s any problem.”
“Okay.” Wang Xiaoquan sent him out of the office and only went back to continue organizing the materials.
Luo Shaoheng left the next morning, this time, his destination was an ancient town in the West Eaves. It is a very famous tourist destination in Coast City. However, his aim of the trip was not to visit places, it was to redeem a vow.
Although he was going to redeem a vow, it was actually not really what it meant, because his wish was not fulfilled.
Standing at the mountain’s foot of the Ancient Rock Temple after ten years, Luo Shaoheng’s heart was unexpectedly calm, it was not as unbearable as he had imagined. However, since he could already talk to Shen Mucheng’s tombstone with a smile, how would he be afraid of the temple that did not fulfil his wish.
The rock temple that was located on the hillside was faintly discernible, rays of sunlight shone through the tree gaps in the forest and refracted onto the top of the rock temple, it looked unexpectedly illusory if glanced from the top to bottom.
Luo Shaoheng kept his gaze and slowly raised his foot to step on the first stair. It was like stepping onto his heart. One step by another, the tranquility of his heart slowly became unrest.
As he stepped onto the last one, his footsteps stopped. He looked at the huge door of the rock temple and went into a second of trance. He only walked into the temple after standing there for a while.
The decorations in the rock temple looked just like the first time he came, the enormous buddha statue placed in the centre was still the same. There were a few samaneras who greeted the visitors standing all around the temple, they guided the visitors to burn incense and pray, draw divination sticks and get their answers.
Looking at the visitors, Luo Shaoheng was as if he saw his past self.
After getting together with Shen Mucheng, he always had thoughts about the time they first met. Shen Mucheng being unconscious and all bloody, he always felt restless especially when Shen Mucheng had no reconciliation of what happened before. He did not even know about his enemies, and if something like this would happen again.
He thought about it and decided to ask someone to buy a pair of prayer beads. He then took the trouble of traveling to this rock temple and asked the master to consecrate the beads, hoping that it could bless Shen Mucheng to be safe. Other than that, he had also made a wish, he even followed the three kneelings and nine kowtows mentioned in books, just to pray for his most treasured person sincerely.
What he did not expect was, even if he did so much, he could not protect his safety.
The prayer beads were still there, but they were forever separated.
“Shi zhu, greetings.” A samanera realized that he stood there without moving, so he went forward and asked, “Do you want to burn the joss stick?”
[T/N: Shi zhu is the donor of the temple.]
“Ah, yes.” Luo Shaoheng smiled gently towards him, he then followed him to pay for the incense and oil. After he inserted three joss sticks in the middle of the incense burner, he took a few steps back and knelt onto the cushion.
Luo Shaoheng’s praying posture was up to standard, when he came to pray for Shen Mucheng at first, he had checked a lot of information and consulted a professional buddhist family, just to exchange his sincerity with a peace of mind.
After praying, Luo Shaoheng asked the samanera beside, “Is Master Chen here?”
“The host is chanting in the room behind.” The samanera answered.
“Please help me to pass this to Master Liaochen, tell him that Luo Shaoheng has something to ask and he wants to meet him.” Luo Shaoheng took off the buddha beads from his hand and handed it to the samanera. When Master Liaochen consecrated the buddha beads, he helped to add a bodhi into the beads, it was the token that would be used if he decided to come meet the master again.
The samanera asked him to wait for a while and entered the inner garden.
When Luo Shaoheng was waiting, quite a lot of new visitors came to the temple, all of them came to pray and pay respect. There were masters that would specially tell fortune, most of the visitors that came to pray would ask for it. It would not be just praying for success, some came to pray for a peace of mind.
Luo Shaoheng remembered that he was like that as well, he just drew the divination sticks, but he did not ask for fortune-telling. This was because things like fortune-telling made his heart that was restless even more fearful. Although he wanted to know the answer, he was afraid that it was not the future that he wanted.
Fortunately, Master Liaochen agreed to consecrate the buddha beads and added the bothi into their buddha beads, calming his restlessness.
He still remembered when he helped Shen Mucheng to put on this buddha beads, Shen Mucheng was shocked, he was blank for a while and came to his senses, he then asked, “You said you went out for sketching, but you actually went out for this?”
His fingers inserted into the gap between Shen Mucheng’s fingers, causing the buddha beads on their wrist to touch each other, he then smiled as he said, “My biggest wish is that you’re safe.”
The visitor shook the divination sticks so vigorously that half of them fell onto the floor, interrupting Luo Shaoheng’s memory. His sight paused on the divination sticks that were scattered.
The samanera who left came back just in time, he returned the buddha beads to him and invited him to the back garden to chat with Master Liaochen.
Luo Shaoheng wore the buddha beads and took a last glance at the divination sticks that were placed back into the box. He then turned and followed the samanera to the back garden.
The buddha beads could not keep you safe, that divination draw might be the true answer at that time.
When he reached the back garden, he followed the samanera to Master Liaochen’s room. Master Liaochen was sitting in the room, he initiated him to sit when he saw him.
Luo Shaoheng put his palms together and bowed. Then, he sat on the cushion that was placed beside Master Liaochen.
Both of them had not met each other since the last time Luo Shaoheng came to ask for the consecration ten years ago. Luo Shaoheng had become mature while Master Liaocheng was still the same. The white eyebrows and beard were still the same, but he did not look older than before, it was as if these ten years did not leave a mark on him.
After thanking the samanera who served them tea, Luo Shaoheng took a light sip, the bitterness drifted through his mouth and flowed into his stomach. It was like a gush of unmeltable sadness.
“Is it bitter?” Master Liaochen asked.
“Yes.” Luo Shaoheng answered honestly.
“What about the sweet aftertaste?” Master Liaochen asked again.
Luo Shaoheng took another sip, he tasted it detailedly and said, “No.”
Master Liaochen heard his words, he then picked up the tea in front and drank a gulp. He said slowly, “The name of this tea is ‘Tip Barley’.”
Luo Shaoheng froze, he lowered his head and looked at the tea in his hand. There were a few small barleys sinking at the bottom of the faint brown tea, they were sharper and thinner than normal barley.
Tip Barley Tea.
It was like a mutation from the bitter barley tea, and was specially planted to serve the customers of Ancient Rock Temple.
This was also the tea he drank when he first came to look for Master Liaochen. Master Liaochen also asked him the questions at that time.
His answer was, bitterness then sweet aftertaste, it had a faint aroma of licorice.
The same location, the same people, the same tea, but the taste he felt was different.
When he thought of this, he was still holding the tea, he lost his spirit slightly.
“It wasn’t the taste of the tea that has changed, it’s your heart.” Master Liaochen said as he noticed his emotions.
“Master.” Luo Shaoheng realized that his voice was a bit dry when he voiced out. He sipped the tea again, wanting to disperse the emotions that were flowing out, but it was useless, “… You’ve guessed it all, right?”
“I still remember the promise that you left that time.” Master Liaochen looked at him and said slowly.
Luo Shaoheng’s chest felt a sudden ache when he heard his words, the cup almost fell off his hand.
— Thank you Master! I’ll bring him here to visit you next time, please take care of your body!
As he wanted Master Liaochen to help consecrate the buddha beads that year, he told the reason that he came to him. After getting what he wanted, he was so happy that he nearly jumped, he held the buddha beads in his hand and thanked Master Liaochen a few times. He also promised to bring Shen Mucheng here the next time.
Now, only half of the promise was kept. Only a few months had passed from the time that he got the beads until Shen Mucheng’s accident. The ‘next time’ he said, took about ten years long.
Liaochen was wise, how could he not know.
“Ah.” Luo Shaoheng answered him lightly. He lowered his head and drank the tea to hide the bitterness that was surging in his eyes.
It took about half a minute for him to take that sip, he only raised his head and said sorry to Master Liaochen after he suppressed the bitterness and hopelessness that had emerged in his heart.
“It’s okay.” Master Liaochen did not say anything more. Both of them sat together quietly until the samanera came in to add water into the teapot.
This time, Luo Shaoheng left after he stayed in the temple for a week. Before he left, he thanked Master Liaochen like what he did that year and said, “I’ll come here to find you next time, please take care.”
“Shi zhu, take care.” Master Liaochen put his palms together.
Luo Shaoheng bowed back and went down the mountain.
He did not know when would be the next time, but no matter when, he would always be alone.