It was the Third Day of his Great Master’s departure.
Bi De sat upon the Great Pillars of the Fa Ram in the light of the rising sun, his eyes closed. His contemplations were on that of the state of Great Fa Ram, and the harvest.
He examined closely the energies of the land, and found them undiminished. They were a difficult thing to set his senses on, diffuse and ever changing as they were, but he found it through familiarity and diligence, for the Land and his Great Master were nearly one in the same.
It was a vibrant, and healthy thing, though it seemed to be preparing for something. Like his Great Master, was the land too preparing for “winter”? Its preparations were subtle, and he could not comprehend it’s movements, but he observed it anyways, searching for patterns.
The land shifted, and recognised him. Upon feeling it’s intent upon him, he bowed his head, and parted with some of his qi, offering it up as a sacrifice. He could not feed it as his master did, but he hoped the small measure of his power would be well received.
The land received it and consumed it. The feeling of being watched faded.
“We give to the land, and the land gives back.” As always, his Great Master’s profound wisdom was peerless. He was in awe every time he contemplated it. Great Master offered sacrifices to the land often. All the waste of his toils was carefully catalogued, and that which could be returned to the Earth was given back.
He stared at where the bones of several interlopers had been interred, and found the grass there of a higher quality than that of its surroundings. It was rich in the power of the Earth. The Grass was fed upon by the insects. The insects were fed upon by his kin, and the interlopers. And in turn, the grass fed upon their bones.
It was a cycle. This whole world was full of them. The phases of the moon, the night and the day. Such things were essential. And though he had not witnessed it, he knew in his bones that once this “winter” was over, it too would be a cycle, coming back to the time of his birth, with colder air, and when the trees had but flowers and buds.
All things came and went.
This was the order of the world.
He felt a shift inside of his breast. He breathed deeply of the Land’s air, exulting in it. Pride swelled at comprehending his Master’s profound wisdom.
He rose from his position, and went about his duties. Through his observations of his Lord, he knew what needed to be done. The chicks, his sons and daughters, were to be fed from his Great Master’s largesse. It would hopefully make them strong, to consume the rice, and the interlopers upon the Heavenly Herbs. The floor was swept. The storage areas inspected. He knew not what the rice storage was inspected for, but he assumed interlopers would attempt to steal this too from his Great Master.
Finally, he went about the most distasteful part of his duties. But the Great Master had left him as Master in his absence, and he would endeavour to never disappoint his Lord.
Chun Ke and Pi Pa required to be directed. They were stupid beasts that tried his patience, not understanding their place in the hierarchy. His Great Master was affectionate to them, but he had no such niceties in him when they had the gall to dirty his plumage with mud. He had nearly slain them both on the spot, but such acts of rage were unbecoming.
His Great Master cared little about becoming dirty, so he would endeavour to feel the same.
Instead, he had merely toppled both of them with a flick of his wings. Now, they were more respectful, but still dared to test him.
He opened the gate for them, and they trundled out, their ugly, beady eyes upon him. He leapt onto Chun Ke’s back, and they wandered towards the forest, where they could root their noses through the dirt, consuming roots and tubers. They were returned to their pens after they ate their fill.
At this point in the day, he would normally attempt to once more give his essence to the crops: but there were few crops, save the Heavenly Herbs.
So instead, he sat upon the Great Pillars, and turned to contemplation.
It was then when he felt it.
He had been feeling flashes of interlopers. At first, he assumed them scared of his strength, but now he felt a horde.
He sounded the alarm, and his females ran back inside the coops. He, however, rushed to meet them.
Across the hills, over the rivers, and through the trees he went, his stride unhesitating, until he laid eyes upon them. They were many, nearly twenty in total. Most were small things, even smaller than himself, with hairless tails and beady eyes.
He felt his wrath beginning to stir. These interlopers dared, not just to intrude upon his Great Master’s land, but had the sheer wrenched courage to raise a structure?
He glared at the scaffold and the cauldron. He would chase them off, or else slay them for this insult!
He landed in the clearing, and announced his presence to them, his mighty cry sending the small ones skittering away in fright and terror. He stalked towards them, his stride unflinching. His blades of moonlight formed upon his spurs.
“Peace-peace, guardian protector.” He heard a squeaky voice call, and from near the cauldron’s scaffold, another appeared. It was a larger one of the interlopers, as big as he was, walking on two legs and hunched over, wringing it’s hands. “We plead-beseech you, stay your blades.”
It bowed and sniveled in supplication to him, and Bi De let his blades dissipate, gazing imperiously upon them. The interloper took this as a sign to continue.
“This Chow Ji, and his clan-family are but humble-pitiful refugees. We can feel the great-mighty power of this place, and have come to beg-grovel it’s master to grant us respite! We are starved and dying, mighty guardian protector, take pity upon us!”
At this, the black fur threw itself to the ground at his feet. The rest of them cowered before him, some nursing wounds.
Bi De felt his anger dissipate. They truly were pathetic. Perhaps these were merely lost guests, instead of true interlopers?
Bi De made a decision. Guests were to be given hospitality.
He drew upon as much of his regal bearing as possible, and gave these poor wretches face, lowering his head, and welcoming them.
The blackfurs cheered, and he led them to have some respite from the elements, and food for the starving.
“That's not even fully half of it?” Hong Xian asked incredulously.
“Yes, Elder Hong. 83 bags was the final total.” Yun Ren confirmed.
“Astounding. And his temperament?”
“Brother Jin is Brother Jin. He is as he was.” At this Yun Ren sounded mildly reproachful, “He builds a house as big as yours for your daughter, and is enamoured with her as she is him. He gave us his home without restraint, and fed us from his table until we were full.”
Yao Che snorted from beside him, the bull of a man had his arms crossed, and was frowning as well. “The boy’s virtue was clear, Brother Xian. He has spared not a single lustful glance at my flower Meihua, and even now promises to escort her safely with us to her intended. I shall hear no more of any doubts upon his character.”
Xian frowned. “It is shameful of me to doubt such a man, this is true, but a father worries. I seem to remember you threatening Tingfeng with an axe, Brother Che.” He shook his head, while Yao Che had the grace to look embarrassed. “Still, today is a good day. I see your quick excursion has made you and your brother some wealth, Yun Ren.”
At this, he smiled softly. “Brother Jin insisted we all take a portion of the harvest as thanks. We tried to refuse him, but he would have none of it. I’m honoured to call him Brother Jin, and have his friendship.”
Finally, Hong Xian nodded his head. “And this settles the matter. I’m sorry to have had to ask you to check, Yun Ren. Now, off with you, and no more of this business. He is Brother Jin. Let no door in this Hong Yaowu be closed to him.”
Hong Xian sighed, as Xong Yun Ren and Yao Che left his quarters. He walked to his window, and looked out onto the fields, where Jin Rou toiled, helping them with the last preparations to see Meihua off to Verdant Hill.
His daughter, so much the image of her mother, bought him some water with a smile, and they stopped to talk and laugh.
His Meiling looked so happy. He smiled too at his precious daughter's joy. A good, productive farm, and a good, productive man.
The last of his doubts drained away. “Ah, my love, I wish you could have seen them.” He murmured wistfully.