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“It was an honour meeting you, Brother Jin,” Tingfeng said, clasping his hands before him. “I pray that you will do us the honour of attending our marriage after the harvest.”

I made the appropriate gestures too. “I won’t miss it, Brother Tingfeng.” I said, and really I meant it. Meihua and Tingfeng were good people. “But are you sure about these?”

By these, I meant the two young pigs I had been gifted. I was planning to build some more things first, but one does not refuse generosity lightly. Eh, at least I found the music shop while he was haggling with the person who sold him the cows. A pipa was kind of like a banjo, right?

“Brother Jin, for what you did for us, I would buy you a thousand more, and it still would not be enough repayment.”

I sighed internally. Well, Alright then. I hope Tingfeng doesn’t beggar himself by repaying everybody as extravagantly as he says he would. Even after I said he didn’t need to do anything for me. Fake boy was in prison, and shackled with about ten “spirit restrainers” some kind of qi suppression artifact that only worked if people were weak enough. Personally, I thought it was a bit overkill for such weak people, but eh, better safe than sorry.

We were in quite good spirits as we set out, back along the road to Meimei’s village. Xian jr was all over my back again, telling me to show him how I defeated the badguy, and I obligingly showed him several kung-fu moves I remembered from badly translated movies. He laughed at my “Hooah!”s, “Whatcha!”s and little flips.

////////

It was a beautiful night. The moon was bright and full, and Lightbugs danced in the air, for what would likely be one of the last times before fall truly set in. If she was a poet, she might have been inspired. As it was, she was just content with what she could see. They were camped at the foot of one of the hills, and Jin had climbed higher up it to get a better view..

“Meimei…” her father ventured, and she looked at him, absentmindedly stirring the stew she was cooking for their dinner.

“Yes, father?” She asked.

“I wanted to apologize to you, daughter. I did not take your words with the consideration they were due, and have shamed myself.” He bowed his head slightly to her in regret.

While a part of her was hurt that nobody had believed her, the other part spoke that what she had said had been similarly unbelievable. Jin certainly did not act like any other cultivator she had heard of. “I forgive you, father.“

“....It wasn’t a wolf that night, was it?” He asked after a moment.

“It was the Wicked Blade.”

Her father paled, and then let out a shaky laugh.

“Well, we are truly blessed by heaven, then.” He decided.

They sat in companionable silence, until the stew was done. Meiling scooped up two bowls full, and turned to her father.

“I’ll take this to Jin.” She said, “He isn’t too far.”

Her father nodded, but spoke up when she started to walk away.

“Meimei… should this be what you desire, go with my blessing.”

Her face tinted red. “We’ve only known each other for five days, father.” She objected, but her heart wasn’t in it.

The trek up the hill was relatively easy, even with the trees and rocks, and holding two bowls of stew. She filled her nose, and her ears, until she found him. He was sitting on a large rock, instrument in hand.

He had his tongue stuck out in concentration, as he tried to play a tune she had never heard before on a pipa. He was holding it too far over, to the side over his knee, rather than upright, and kept hitting bum notes, or messing up the chords.

“Jin, I bought you dinner.” She said quietly. He started, and then put his instrument to the side. And hopped off the rock.

“Thank, you, Meiling.” He said earnestly, reaching out to take the bowl from her, when he paused, and glanced back up at the rock.

“...want to come top with me?” he asked after a moment, seeming bashful. His face was a little red from embarrassment.

“I’d love to.” She replied, and he was once more his more sure self. He scooped her up, cradling her against his chest, and jumped. He alighted on the rock with far more gentleness than she expected.

The view from the top of the rock was spectacular. It was placed just so that it was in a gap in the trees, allowing one to see out across the rest of the hills, illuminated by the full moon.

They sat in companionable silence on the rock, eating their dinner, and taking in the view. She was rather gratified by the small sounds of enjoyment coming from as he ate.

“What song were you trying to play? I’ve never heard it before.” She finally asked, and his face flushed fully this time.

“Its a song I heard in my...childhood.” he explained. “Its sung in a language not of this continent.”

“Truly? I thought there was only one language men spoke.” Meiling sounded intrigued, but she supposed it made sense.

“Mmm. The man who taught me it was from somewhere very, very far away.”

There was a cool breeze through the trees, and Meiling leaned up against him. Jin’s arm settled around her waist, and pulled her slightly closer.

“Sing it for me?” she asked.

“I'm not a very good singer,” he demurred.

“Can’t be any worse than your pipa playing.” she teased.

Jin laughed. “Alright, alright. Its your ears on the line here, anyway.”

Almost heaven, West Virginia…

His voice wasn't beautiful, or particularly grand. It did nto stir the soul, or cause the land around him to weep. But it was nice enough.

Meiling closed her eyes and relaxed, her fingers entwining with the hand on her stomach.

She didn’t know when she went from leaning on him, to in his lap.

She also didn’t know who started kissing who, but she realised her father was onto something.

Kissing under the moonlight was very nice.

The knowing grins they got when they returned were embarrassing, though. And Meihua wanted all the details.

///////

I was finally alone again, on my way back to my farm. I would have been home last night, but Meimei insisted that she make me the dumplings she had promised me.

Let me tell you, angry cat Meimei was cute as hell. Meimei in an apron, smiling and serving me a home cooked meal did things for me. Mmm.

I think I’m going to marry that girl. Only known her for a few days? Well, this could end in glory or tears, but damn it, I’m gonna go for it.

But my farm is not yet ready for another person let alone kids. I’ve got work to do.

I felt a fire in my gut, and I lifted. The cart came off the ground, as I just started carrying it. The chickens squalled, Chunky and Peppa oinked in shock, but the miles disappeared under my feet.

///////

Bi De’s eyes snapped open. His Great Master’s presence was near.

He swept off the Great Pillars of the Fa Ram. He checked the coop, to find it spotless. He plucked the few interloping parasites from the Heavenly Herbs. He arranged the seeds he had collected that felt slightly of Qi upon the table for further perusal. He hoped his tribute would be well received, as repayment for his Great Master’s generosity.

He arranged the corpses of the Wicked ones on Great Pillars, so that his master may see his kills. A small, long member of Basi Bu Shi's ilk. Another was a beast that shared the same form as him, but far less noble, with a hooked beak, and grasping talons.

Now he stood, a sentinel at the entrance of the Fa Ram. His females were arranged behind him, clucking and wandering as was their wont.

His Great Master crested the horizon, moving at speed.

Bi De swept into a bow, kowtowing before his Lord, as was only proper.

His Great Master scratched his wattles in greeting, and took a deep breath of this Blessed Land’s air.

"Lets get to work." He said, and brought his disciple up to rest upon his broad shoulders.

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A note from Casualfarmer

A Pipa is an ancient chinese instrument, and does sound a little like a banjo.


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