The door creaked open, but it wasn't him who pushed it.
It was opened from the inside.
Old Yuan, who opened the door, looked surprised.
"Why has Mr. Song come here?"
Mr. Song glanced around.
There was an image of the deity Laojun, a child in front of it, and a coffin placed on a stone platform.
There was also a middle-aged man who looked like he was in his thirties or forties, but upon closer inspection, he was actually in his fifties or sixties.
"I heard that Daoist Yuan was performing a ritual here to pray for the old lady's blessings. I hope I'm not disturbing."
"May blessings be upon you, Lord Fusheng!"
Old Yuan swept his Taoist whisk, almost hitting Ling Shu's face.
"Ignorance is not a crime for Master Song, but why did you not advise him when you knew I was wrong? You were always by Master Song's side, but you didn't care about my words. Now, you are being disrespectful in front of guests. I know you are lazy and don't take my words to heart. Now, you must immediately go up the mountain to chop firewood and carry ten buckets of water. You must chop two bundles of firewood before dark, or you cannot eat dinner! Also, tonight you must copy the Tao Te Ching twenty times. I will check tomorrow, and if it is sloppy, it does not count!"
Ling Shu: ...
Although he knew the other party was being sarcastic, he suspected that Old Yuan was taking revenge on him.
Acting, who doesn't know how to do it?
With a mournful cry, not only did Old Yuan get goosebumps, but even Mr. Song was startled.
Ling Shu fell to his knees with a thud.
"I don't mind copying scriptures for you, Master, and this disciple will silently pray for your blessings while I write. But carrying ten buckets of water? That's asking for my life! If my legs are crippled, how can I serve you, Master, as your loyal disciple?!"
He began to kowtow, the sound of his head hitting the stone floor echoing loudly.
This was too much!
Old Yuan quickly reacted, unwilling to be outdone.
"You lazy and slippery disciple! You already slack off on a regular basis, and now you're even more disobedient. I shouldn't have taken you in that day. I should have let you starve to death in the wilderness. But now you have food, shelter, and clothing here in this Guanyin Temple, and you've grown wings!"
He pointed at Ling Shu, taking two steps back, his index finger trembling and his face full of shock and anger.
To Ling Shu, this display seemed a bit exaggerated, nowhere near as natural as his own movements.
"Master, please don't be angry. I was wrong to argue with you earlier! Mr. Song just said he wanted to take me away, but I refused. Master, I have always been filial to you, as clear as the sun and moon, as evident as the Buddha. Even the old lady lying inside can attest to that! I'll go chop wood and fetch water now. Please calm down and don't chase me away!"
Ling Shu sobbed and looked up, his forehead swollen and red from the intense kowtowing just now.
Old Yuan sighed and gently stroked his head, realizing he had lost the argument.
"Get up now, and don't cause any more trouble in the future."
He turned to Mr. Song and said, "Mr. Song, I only have one disciple under my wing. He has a stubborn personality and is difficult to teach. But since I have no children of my own, I am counting on him to take care of me in my old age. You are a person of great influence, surrounded by talented individuals. Please allow this unruly disciple to stay by my side!"
Mr. Song remained silent.
He had only been testing the waters earlier and had no intention of taking on such a hot-headed disciple.
He feared that bringing him back would only cause trouble.
"A gentleman does not take advantage of others' kindness. Master Yuan, you have overthought this. I came here only to witness your prayer and broaden my horizons. Please continue with your work and do not mind me."
Old Yuan nodded solemnly, "Half of the blessings have been offered. With the arrival of Mr. Song, it must be fate. The Bodhisattva must have felt that Mrs. Jin was a kind and generous person in her lifetime, and thus deserved more blessings. I will recite more scriptures and pray for her more. Mr. Song is welcome to observe, but please do not speak."
With that, Old Yuan returned to his cushion in front of the coffin, picked up the chime from the ground, and began chanting while occasionally striking the chime.
Mr. Song stood behind Old Yuan, close enough to touch, but he couldn't make out what Old Yuan was saying.
However, he didn't come here to listen to Old Yuan's blessings.
The old man's intention was not just about the wine.
Mr. Song slowly walked around the side hall.
The fragrance of incense filled the air, and everything was peaceful and quiet.
The statue of Laojun looked old, with peeling paint and a desolate appearance.
The windows and doors were covered with both new and old paper, with the old ones almost cracking and on the verge of collapse.
Up above, spider webs hung from the eaves and Mr. Song even thought he saw a large centipede scurry across the wall.
He wasn't interested in these things, but he walked slowly, occasionally glancing at Old Yuan.
The latter had his eyes tightly closed and seemed unaware, muttering to himself.
Mr. Song quickly became bored.
He quietly left the side hall and searched around for the missing young Taoist.
Soon, the young Taoist appeared in his line of sight, with a chicken leg in his mouth.
Seeing Mr. Song staring at him, Ling Shu quickly pulled the chicken leg out of his mouth and grinned at him.
"Mr. Song, do you want to eat it? This is the last one, I stole it from the kitchen. How about we split it?"
As he spoke, he still seemed reluctant to part with it, his eyes almost glued to the chicken leg.
Mr. Song: "...No need, you can eat it yourself."
Earlier, he had thought this person was a bit clever, but now he realized that even his own driver was more reliable than this little Taoist.
Ling Shu was actually going to find Yue Dingtang.
Whether it was because Mr. Song didn't trust Deputy Mayor Jin or had suspicions about them, their repeated probing was a threat to them.
Yue Dingtang's original plan to pretend to be a woodshed worker was no longer feasible, and the other party would only become more suspicious when they saw his tall and imposing figure that didn't look like a servant.
So Ling Shu wanted to find a way to notify Yue Dingtang and tell him not to show up, to hide as much as possible and not to meet Mr. Song.
Who knew that after searching the woodshed and the toilet, he couldn't find any trace of Yue Dingtang.
Ling Shu was muttering to himself when he ran into Mr. Song, who was wandering around.
Luckily, he had a chicken leg to use as an excuse.
Feeling like he had gained nothing, Mr. Song finally settled down and strolled to the main hall to chat with Deputy Mayor Jin.
Although Deputy Mayor Jin may not be an expert in everything, he knew a little bit about everything. It wasn't difficult to keep Mr. Song around, and they chatted until the afternoon.
In a hurry, Ling Shu brought two bowls of porridge, two salted duck eggs, and two pickled vegetable cakes.
"The temple is simple, and these duck eggs were bought by the roadside yesterday. Please don't mind, gentlemen," Ling Shu said.
"When in Rome, do as the Romans do," Deputy Mayor Jin smiled and didn't mind.
Mr. Song knew as soon as he entered the temple that it wouldn't have anything good to eat. But now, with a rumbling stomach, he didn't care and started to eat with his chopsticks.
Finally, Old Yuan.
"Deputy Mayor Jin, the prayer ceremony for the old lady has been prepared. Disciple, go call those eight people up and prepare to carry the coffin down the mountain," said the speaker.
Deputy Mayor Jin put down his chopsticks and thanked him.
The two exchanged pleasantries and skipped over the details.
After a whole day, Mr. Song accomplished nothing and wasted time, which made him feel a bit down, and his face didn't look good either.
When Ling Shu called the eight people up and watched Deputy Mayor Jin and his group leave, everything seemed fine, and he finally breathed a sigh of relief.
"Let's eat, let's eat. I got hungry watching them eat salted duck eggs. Luckily, you prepared a jar in the cellar, or else I wouldn't want to give them any," said Ling Shu.
Old Yuan rolled his eyes at him and said, "Disciple, go serve me some food!"
"Go to hell, where's Old Yue? Why haven't we seen him all day?"
Old Yuan said, "He went into the secret passage."
Ling Shu replied, "He's smart, cautious, and doesn't leak any information."
Old Yuan sneered, "He's two-faced!"
Ling Shu couldn't be bothered with him and said, "I'm going to call Old Yue to come up for dinner."
As soon as he left, Mr. Song unexpectedly returned.
The temple gate was open, and he stepped in.
Old Yuan widened his eyes and couldn't stop him, so he hurriedly went up to him.
"Why did Mr. Song come back?"
Mr. Song said, "I suddenly remembered that I forgot my pocket watch. Maybe I left it somewhere and came back to look for it."
Old Yuan said, "Let me take you to find it."
Mr. Song waved his hand and said, "No need, I know my way around here."
Without waiting for Old Yuan's reaction, he went straight to the side hall.
Old Yuan was scared out of his wits.
"Mr. Song!" In a little while, if the other party were to come face to face with Ling Shu and his men walking out from behind Luohan, it would be quite a spectacle.
Mr. Song walked quickly, not giving Old Yuan a chance to intercept him, and barged into Luohan Hall.
Inside, there was no one.
Old Yuan was so scared that he was sweating profusely, and could only pray that Ling Shuling and his men had heard the commotion but decided not to come out.
Mr. Song searched carefully around the hall.
"My pocket watch isn't here, I'll go look somewhere else," he said before heading to the woodshed.
Ling Shu was squatting at the door, peeling a boiled egg, and looked surprised when he saw Mr. Song.
"Why are you back?" he asked.
Before Mr. Song could answer, Ling Shuling's face lit up.
"Could it be that you find me handsome and clever, and came back to ask my master for me?" he joked.
Mr. Song's mouth twitched.
"No, you're thinking too much. I came back to look for something."
Ling Shu leaned in eagerly and asked, "Let me help you. What are you looking for?"
His oily hands, which had just touched a duck egg, were about to rub against Mr. Song.
The latter quickly stepped back and exclaimed, "Don't come near me!"
Ling Shu looked down at his hands, then wiped the oil stains off his robe and flashed a smile at Mr. Song.
"Don't worry, I'm very clean!"
Mr. Song turned and walked away without looking back.
Old Yuan exclaimed, "You haven't found your watch yet!"
Mr. Song replied expressionlessly, "I just remembered it's on me. I forgot about it."
He walked away quickly and disappeared in no time.
Old Yuan followed him just to be safe, enduring the wind at the temple gate.
Back in the courtyard, Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang had already finished eating their cakes.
In front of Ling Shu were three salted duck eggs neatly arranged, all with the yolks removed and only the whites left.
Old Yuan's veins bulged as he exclaimed, "You ate my portion?!"
"I thought you liked the egg whites. And as for that guy surnamed Song, he can get lost for good," replied Ling Shu.
Old Yuan was furious and was about to snatch the half-eaten duck egg from Ling Shu's hand when Yue Dingtang moved his own portion over.
"Old Yuan, you can have mine," he said.
"Look at him, then look at yourself!" Old Yuan grumbled.
"He can go to hell. He scared me half to death with his sudden return. How did you guys know he would come back?"
Ling Shu gestured with his mouth towards Yue Dingtang.
"He's extremely suspicious and would definitely come back, but he's inexperienced and overestimates himself. His next move was easy to predict," explained Yue Dingtang.
Old Yuan was a bit worried, "Ah, there shouldn't be any problem tonight, right?"
Yue Dingtang asked, "Did Mr. Jin buy us tickets?"
Old Yuan replied, "He did, three tickets, and also for his two family members. To outsiders, they are just old family members of the Jin family, going to Beijing to bury their ancestors and guard their graves. The three of us will be sitting together in third class seats. But I'm afraid that the thief surnamed Song will not give up and will show up again. No matter how we disguise ourselves, it will be difficult to fool him."
Ling Shu shrugged, "If we can't dress up as Taoists, then let's dress up as a couple in disguise!"
As soon as he said that, the other two fell silent.
Ling Shu looked up and saw four pairs of eyes staring at him.
He became wary, "What are you all looking at me for?"