There existed a fair-sized city built and paved with stones. Who knows how many years it has been since its foundation but the walls were in a state of disrepair. Arrows filled the gaps along with holes from successive attacks.
People came and went; the city witnessed one era after another. The pebbles were polished by the feet of pedestrians. Some streets were even shiny from this effect.
Its architectural style consisted of streams and bridges weaving through the old buildings. This was a peaceful area for its citizens. Everyone here practically knew each other due to the small number.
If you were to ask about the most famous thing in the city, the people here would inadvertently shout out: “The old tofu maker.”
If you were to ask about the happiest thing in the city, they would also shout: “Lining up to buy some tofu puddings.”
Perhaps one wouldn’t remember the name of this little place or its scenic spots, but they would definitely remember the tofu there. It would be an unforgettable experience, if you could buy it.
The citizens here couldn’t really say what the old man was like, not even the oldest among them. There was only one impression - his tofu pudding. His existence and tofu went hand in hand.
As for his last name, his background, and the type of man he was? This remained a mystery to everyone.
“The old tofu maker, I see.” Li Qiye also smiled lightly after entering the city.
“Creak.” One could hear the sounds of a shoulder pole carrying something coming from an alley. The people in the vicinity became excited right away.
“He’s here!” Someone shouted and was answered with erupting waves of laughter of children and young ladies. Footsteps resounded and a long line was formed right away on this street.
An old man shouldering two casks were coming. His face was covered with wrinkles, an indelible effect of time. He wore a hemp robe with a cloth over his shoulder in order to ease the pain from carrying the pole. Despite the two casks full of tofu pudding, his steps were still quite strong, giving off of old but vigorous.
He walked up to the line and dropped down the heavy casks. With a wooden ladle, he lifted the thin cloth covering the casks and said: “Opening shop now, come line up.”
All of his actions were smooth, unwasted, and precise. He scooped a ladle-full into the bowl of the girl standing in front. She happily placed a bronze coin into a pouch hanging on his waist and left with her bowl full of tofu.
“Grandpa, get me one also, I lined up for nothing yesterday.” So many people salivated at the sight of the white tofu, especially after smelling that permeating fragrance of the soybean.
Because of this, some stretched out their neck while staring at the two casks, afraid that it would run out before their turn.
Alas, the bottom of the casks was quickly seen since the old man finally finished selling his daily portions. He patted the pouch on his waist and heard the coins clanking and smiled: “All gone now, come early tomorrow.”
He began to pack up.
“Sigh, grandpa, just two casks a day? We don’t like it at all, you’re just toying with us. The neighborhood would like to ask you to make four each day.” A neighbor complained.
The old man ignored the complaint and tied the casks on the pole again before slowly carrying them away, slightly swinging back and forth.
Li Qiye also strolled leisurely after the old man.
The neighbors who failed could only make some querulous remarks before dispersing. The old man has been selling tofu here for several dozen years regardless of the weather. Moreover, the amount was always two casks. They could do nothing but to come even earlier the next day.
The old man’s place was only a street away from his selling place. It was a tiny courtyard surrounded by a wall.
This yard was quite old, even the steps to the entrance have caved down a bit. After returning, he placed the casks down and stretched before taking out a big bucket of soybean. He grabbed a handful and began selecting them under the sunlight.
The taste of the tofu pudding was very dependent on the soybeans. Thus, the old man only used the biggest beans. He threw away the dried and bad ones before peeling his selection.
He was very meticulous. A bean with the slightest sign of being damaged by insects would be taken out. This complete concentration seemed as if he had forgotten about the rest of the world - only the beans were on his mind.
Li Qiye came in and leaned back on a tree to watch without disturbing the old man.
Once the sun was falling to the west, the old man finally finished with his bucket. He stretched his waist and slightly narrowed his eyes: “Young man, you have some business?”
Li Qiye chuckled in response: “I’m only here to visit you, and also see this place.”
“What’s there to see, there’s only an old man like me here.” He shook his head and said.
Li Qiye sentimentally stated: “There is a path to everything as long as one has enough perseverance. When one is determined enough, whether it be selling tofu pudding, straw mats, or roasted chicken, these are all different dao. After reaching the end of the path, you aren’t seeing any obscured mysteries, only a persevering dao heart. Not many realize this.”
The old man was surprised before becoming serious. He cupped his fist and said: “Fellow Daoist, where are you from?”
“Only a passerby from a distant land.” Li Qiye smiled and blew a breath of air at the peeled strips of bean skin on the ground.
“Poof.” The strips danced in the air before forming a crow. It circled above the old man’s head before falling down. Next, only the same strips were left.
After seeing this, the old man slightly trembled before bowing deeply towards Li Qiye: “Oh, so it is you, Sacred Teacher. Excuse me for the lack of reception.”
“No need to be so polite.” Li Qiye smiled: “Though we aren’t on the same side, we still share the same origin. You are quite unique in the thirteen continents.”
“You’re too kind, Sacred Teacher. Please come in.” The old man smiled and invited Li Qiye inside.
Li Qiye glanced at the room and saw its simplicity; there was nothing but a table. Not a single speck of dust either.
“If I have to name a goal in coming here, then it would be to have a bowl of tofu pudding, your refined art in this generation.” Li Qiye wasn’t shy with his request.
“You came at the right time, Sacred Teacher, I do have a bowl.” The old man said with a smile.
Just a moment later, he placed a hot bowl of pudding in front of Li Qiye. The guy showed no reservation and began to dig in in a slow manner with his soon. He enjoyed this as if it was an immortal liquid.
It didn’t take long before he emptied the bowl. He wiped his mouth, satisfied, and said: “A common dish of the mortal world, when made by you, have become a delicacy. As long as the heart is there, even the ordinary will become magical.”