“I asked him if he had anyone he liked, like how Daddy likes Mommy.” The devilish girl blinked mischievously. Winding her arms around Albert’s shoulders, she stuck out her tongue playfully.
“That was a smart question. How did he reply?” Albert was unperturbed by how Annie had phrased her question. He was unmarried; the so-called “love between Daddy and Mommy” was inapplicable in his case. He simply needed a child. That was the only reason.
He had no idea who Annie’s birth mother was. There was no need for Annie to know either.
“He said he didn’t like anyone.”
“What did you ask after that?” Albert was unsurprised by his daughter’s reply; he had already expected that to be the answer. And he was right.
“I asked what type of person he likes. Daddy, his answer is so stupid.” Annie wrinkled her nose. She deepened her voice and said in a tone that resembled Tang Feng’s, “‘Hmm, for appearance, it’s fine as long as I like how they look. As for character, I hope they would be a kind person. Someone with a sunny outlook on life. I also hope they have the same values as me.’”
Annie had relayed Tang Feng’s answer word for word. The gentle and mature tone she had taken while reciting was at odds with her young appearance, making it a quite comical display.
“A kind person with a sunny outlook on life…” Albert chuckled coldly. “Haha, what a foolish man. An idealist to the end. I can’t help but be worried for you. Like Esmeralda, will you fall in love with someone you shouldn’t?”
Most people would never believe that a four-and-a-half-year-old child could lie to an adult. The obvious reason was because most people carried a friendly outlook on life, choosing to believe in the positives instead of the negatives.
Similarly, the kind people residing at the seaside church in Ireland would never choose to be suspicious of the new monk from the east. He had carried the ashes of the old priest all the way home by himself. He was dusty and shaken from his long journey. Even after arriving, he had yet to speak a single word. Everyone simply assumed that the monk named Tang was especially avid to his holy cause.
Tang had arrived at the strange and remote land during a rainstorm in the night.
Thunder clashed and roared in the dark sky above. The man who appeared shrunken in his black robes clutched a dried branch in his hand as a crutch. His shoes sank into the soft mud underneath with every step he took. He felt as if the ground was trying to swallow his legs. Who was that clutching at his heels below the ground? Was it the devil from hell?
He didn’t know, but he was alarmed. He felt cold from the top of his head to the ends of his toes. And hunger ate at him constantly from the inside.
Bean-sized raindrops fell unrelentingly from the sky and splattered onto his hood and shoulders. His robes were completely drenched. Luckily, the fabric was black. If it had been a lighter color, it would have already been dyed a dirty grey by all the mud and filth that had collected on the fabric.
The rain had been falling for five days, and he had also been walking in the rain for five days. He couldn’t turn back now. The only thing he could do was walk, walk without ever stopping…
He rearranged the thin robes around him and tied the urn of ashes around his stomach using a piece of cloth. He could better protect the urn this way and prevent it from colliding against something and breaking apart.
After stepping on his journey to this foreign land, Tang had relied on written words to relay his intents: what he wanted, where he wanted to go, which road he should take.
Kind individuals he met on the road would give him food and water. They praised him for his staunch character as a monk who had given the entirety of his life to God. People assumed that he didn’t speak because he had devoted his everything to God. They were surprised to learn that such a dedicated monk came from the far east.
Heavens, he had walked for so long, only chasing after the guidance and footsteps of God.
Tang made no efforts to dissuade people’s assumptions about him. He was glad that he was unable to speak. He hadn’t lost the ability to speak; he simply wasn’t allowed to speak. The people of his original church had made him promise that he wouldn’t utter a single word for fifty years. Additionally, he had to write down the doctrines of God every day and commit the words to heart.
They forced him to leave the land he had grown up in to bring the old priest’s ashes to this foreign place.
Tang didn’t feel hurt or hopeless due to the harsh punishment, he was even happy. The new land he had come to was far away from his homeland. The disgusting and shameless crime he had committed there would never reach the ears of the people here. He didn’t ask for much anymore. He didn’t have the courage to attempt anything that would turn him away from God’s teachings. He only wanted to pass the fifty years he had left in peace and quiet in a small church somewhere.
Due to hunger and exhaustion, Tang fell onto the muddy path. Before losing consciousness, he looked one last time at the sky above him. It was dark and heavy like the black robes he wore. The sky seemed to inch ever closer to him, becoming an icy and impermeable black cloth that gradually enveloped him.
You are an embarrassment to God…
Monk, you have committed a dirty crime. Your punishment is to keep your voice to yourself for fifty years. You will bear the consequences of your crime!
Tang took a deep breath and abruptly opened his eyes. He sat up with a pale face. His black eyes glittered with the light of the stars, appearing on the verge of shattering at any moment. They were eyes of helplessness, pain, and repentance.
“You’re awake.” A weak ray of sunlight shot into the room from the wooden window. A blond-haired man was sitting next to the young monk. When Tang looked at him, the blond-haired man revealed a brilliant smile. Like the sun, the smile pierced Tang’s eyes and he instinctively recoiled from the pain. Compared to the blond man, he was the mud bubbling in the mire, dirty and dark.
“I don’t know if you can understand me, but you’d fainted by the sea. The priest had saved you. God have mercy, you are alive. A moment later, you would have died and been swallowed by the sea god.” The blond man smiled again. Despite his sincerity, Tang couldn’t figure out what he was saying exactly.
Tang decided to stay silent and listen instead. “We found a letter on you. Luckily, it’d been wrapped tightly or it’d have been soaked by the water. We know you’re a monk from the east. We thank you for bringing Priest Dolen’s ashes back. The head priest has already given his permission for you to stay. Tang, will you stay?”
Tang lowered his head, his eyes unfocused. He knew of the letter the other man was talking about. Heavens, the letter had been written by the people of his original church. It detailed the crime he had committed. During his journey through Europe, he had thrown the letter into the ocean. The letter the young monk had read belonged to his own hand.
He couldn’t calm the panic within his heart, rendering himself all the more weakened and pitiful on the outside.
“You seem frightened. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. We know you were close to Priest Dolen. Everyone sees you as a friend here.” The young monk leaned toward Tang. Their close proximity allowed Tang to clearly see the other’s features. The blond man was handsome and had a pair of blue eyes that shone like gems.
Among Europeans, the young monk should be quite handsome. At that, Tang was shocked that such a dirty thought had crossed his mind again. He couldn’t, he couldn’t make another mistake.
Tang quickly lowered his head and nodded, indicating that he had understood.
The blond man chuckled beside his ear, his warm breath brushing lightly against Tang’s cheeks. “My name is Chris. Although you can’t speak, I hope that one day I can hear you call my name.” Chris paused, and continued in a low voice, “Do all Easterners have eyes like yours? They are beautiful. They are the most beautiful eyes…I have ever seen, Tang.”
Chris. Tang mumbled the name to himself, over and over.
He felt a warmth spread within his chest and a strange feeling pervade his body. Perhaps everything would turn out to be all right. Quickly, Tang recovered his health and officially joined the seaside church. Everyone welcomed him, but aside from the initial curiosity of seeing a foreigner, most people left him alone.
To Tang, that was a good thing. He was glad that he couldn’t speak. That way, he could avoid accidentally saying ugly words to people.
There was an exception to this: the monk called Chris. He’d heard others say that Chris was extremely intelligent. A small church by the seaside wasn’t enough to satisfy him. Very soon, Chris would be going to a bigger town to further his studies.
When he’d first waken up, it took Tang a while to realize that he was completely naked under the bedsheets. He grabbed onto the sheets and glanced around the room in panic for his dirty and ripped black robes.
“Your robes are beyond repair. The head priest told me to prepare another set for you,” said Chris. He then smiled. “I’d taken off your clothes for you. I’d also wiped down your body.”
Tang did his best to ignore the teasing in Chris’ eyes as he spoke. These past few days, he could feel Chris’ eyes trailing behind him wherever he walked. But Chris never spoke with him, only gazing at him while standing far away.
What a strange person.
“Cut! Very good!” the director yelled. Tang Feng’s first scene with Gino had passed smoothly.
Wearing matching monk robes, Tang Feng and Gino looked at each other and smiled at the same time. It seemed that discussing the script two days ago had been a good idea.