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It had been four days since the Great Master had left.

Bi De once more rose from his nightly vigil, for he had numerous charges this day. The Blackfurs had slept in shifts over the night, with some awake and tending to the Spirit Furnace, and some asleep. Some were also digging shallow tunnels around the scaffolding, and their little heads poked out and sniffed the air, before retreating back into hiding.

Bi De once more swept off The Great Pillars, and once more provided for his guests a meal of rice. This was supplemented by some of the normal herbs from the Great Master’s garden, those that looked dying and withered.

The little blackfurs sung their praises of him, and he nodded his head imperiously.

Thus, he embarked upon his daily chores. The coops mucked, the floor swept, the garden weeded. The little blackfurs followed him, observing his mighty form as he completed the tasks his Great Master had left to him.

It was during the outing of the dreadful beasts, Chun Ke and Pi Pa, that he heard a commotion.

The blackfurs were sounding an alarm, pointing at the skies, and squeaking with terror. They ran every which way, in near blind panic. Even Chow Ji had hunkered down, observing the skies, but the crippled one stayed near his furnace.

Bi De directed his eyes upwards, and saw the source of their terror. Rage overtook him. One of the wicked feathers soared in the air, its gaze locked upon his charges.

At least Basi Bu Shi had a form that was as wicked as his heart. The wicked feathers, however, dared to take his noble and righteous form. Their beaks were not straight and true, but hooked and cruel. Their talons were similarly bloodthirsty. Bi De’s noble form separated his own weapons: His claws could be used for manipulation, to tenderly care, while his spurs were for violence.

The wicked feathers, on the other hand, could only grasp to destroy.

It swooped into a dive, targeting one of the smaller blackfurs, who had wandered outside the Great Pillars.

This would not stand.

Bi De leapt into action, his powerful legs propelling him to meet with this foul creature. Aided by the draw of the world, the wicked feather’s dive was fast.

Bi De easily exceeded this movement. He noticed the small improvement in his speed, as his qi circled around him, and the blades of holy moonlight formed upon his spurs.

The interception was swift, and brutal. The wicked feather, for all of it’s speed and cruelty, was no Basi Bu Shi. With a single stroke it was slain, it’s corpse falling at the feet of the little blackfur.

With the sun at his back, he gazed down upon the little creature. It gazed back, awe in its eyes, struck dumb by his power.

It kowtowed before him.

“Many-many thanks, Great-Mighty Lord.” It whispered, its voice the highest pitch he had heard from the blackfurs, but the most comprehensible after Chow Ji. “This one will serve its mighty-great Lord until it die-perishes.”

He knew not what service such a small creature could provide, but he would not spit upon its pride by refusing.

The little one got up and followed behind him, as he walked back to the Great Pillars, and a tide of blackfurs came out to meet him, Chow Ji at it’s head.

“Great-Magnificent Bi De, you are truly a Great-Powerful and Generous Lord.” Chow Ji declared. “Please, allow this Chow Ji to add to your power, to craft more-more wondrous pills for you! Let the little ones work-toil for you, so that your strength may grow-grow!”

Bi De, ever kind to his guests, saw no reason to disapprove.

And so another Pill was crafted from the Heavenly Herbs.

/////////

It had been five days since the Great Master had left.

Bi De concentrated within himself, feeling the flow of his newfound power. His qi swelled, and he knew he would be able to take on one hundred, no, one thousand of Basi Bu Shi’s ilk in single combat. His breath was better. His eyes were sharper. His spurs, even more deadly.

These “pills'' were most efficacious. Surely, his Great Master would see their worth. He was pleased that he had followed his Great Master’s example, and given these guests hospitality. Give, and Receive, as is the nature of the world. Once his Great Master returned, he too could partake of the fruits of the guest’s labours.

For the blackfurs were terrible at fighting. Their tiny, squeaky voices chattered in terror when the shadows of the wicked feathers darkened the land, or when they shouted the alarm of a long slither-er or small, black-furred one of Basi Bu Shi’s kin. They hid under their scaffold, or in the tunnels they had carved underneath it, and begged for him to save them.

Naturally, he did. He struck down the threats to those under his care with steely eyes and no remorse. All who threatened the sanctity of Fa Ram were defeated. The little ones rejoiced in his victories, and consumed the bodies of the fallen. Under his protection, they redoubled their efforts.

And indeed, the blackfurs and Chow Ji were an industrious folk. They constantly worked with that spirit furnace of theirs, the little ones holding their paws against it and filling it with their qi, while Chow Ji directed it. When they were not doing that, they scurried about on his orders, doing some of the more menial farm tasks.

Teams of blackfurs weeded the gardens, swept the floors, and ran around the perimeter, checking the Great Pillars. They mucked the coops, and even braved the pen that held Chun Ke and Pi Pa, who took exception to their presence, once more voicing with their annoying squealing. They even dared to attempt to stomp and bite some of the guests, and he had to send them onto their rumps with the power of his wings. They glared mutinously at him for this, but they accepted his decree.

Some teams went to the forests, picking up mushrooms and seeds. Some were tasked with ranging further, and found more small herbs with qi in them, to add to the pile, or for his or Chow Ji’s approval.

They worked themselves hard for his sake, so he could dedicate more time to becoming stronger. They took a minute amount, less than he, or his Great Master would take, and they ate heartily.

This left Bi De more time to look upon the world. More time to grow his qi, and more time to hone his kicks, and sharpen his spurs.

One of the blackfurs, the little one that had pledged her loyalty, squeaked to get his attention, holding out to him one of Chow Ji’s newest concoctions.

He accepted it with regal grace, and turned his attention to circulating his qi, to refine the pill and add it’s power to his own.

/////////

That night, after he had finished refining the pill, he was approached.

“Great-Magnificent Bi De, this Chow Ji humbly beg-implores you!” the blackfur asked, bowing low, “Chow Ji needs-requires some more of the Heavenly Herbs, as to so to perfect-refine his recipe! Greater-Better pills will follow!”

Bi De, being a generous host, approved of his aims. The stock of Heavenly Herbs was high, and when his Great Master returned, there would be no doubt that it would be effectively limitless.

It would be best to use them in this way.

“You are smart-wise to see the value of Chow-Ji’s work, Great-Magnificent Bi De! I shall strive to make us ever more powerful!”

Bi De nodded magnanimously, and returned to his meditation. Tomorrow was the most perfect form of the crescent moon, and he would need to be ready to once more contemplate it.

He commanded the blackfurs to set up a night watch, so that he could fully invest himself, and they obeyed, promising him their utmost efforts.

////////

It had been six days since the Great Master had left.

Now, Bi De stood with Chow Ji over the Spirit furnace, adding his own might to the process. Many spirit herbs had been collected. Many odd nuts and mushrooms and eggs procured.

But Chow Ji seemed nervous of his next request. “Great Magnificent Bi De, This Chow Ji would request something that may be insulting to the Lord of this land.” He bowed his head, and wrung his Great-master like hands. “For this recipe to reach its full strength-power, we will need blood.”

He cringed at this, but Bi De gestured for him to continue.

“This would not slay-kill any of the females, but their blood is thick-rich with qi we can use, to stabilize this component, and bring us greater power-might. With your leave-permission, we shall drain-harvest some blood.”

Bi De thought on it. This could be like what the Great Master did. His qi went back to him. Bi De was however, loath to take what was his master’s.

But.. he felt close to some kind of strength increase. Surely the Great Master would not begrudge him?

Some blood was harvested from the hens. The pill was crafted, with many of the smaller blackfurs falling unconscious, even with Bi De lending his power to the ritual.

But he could feel the potency of the pill. This one would allow the greatest strength increase yet!

Chow Ji bowed to him, and presented the potent feeling red pill.

Bi De took it with grace, and returned to the Great Pillars to contemplate and refine.

///////

Chow Ji smiled, as the rooster consumed the pill. It was time to weave his spell. His qi, along with the pill, entered the bird’s body. It circulated within him, and… pushed. Gently, almost unnoticeably.

[Impure Earthly Desires]

It was a subtle thing, for it had to be. Bi De was terrifyingly strong for these lands. But with this, it didn’t matter how strong he was. A constant push was all he needed.

The Rooster would have strength, as promised. But his strength would be Chow Ji’s. This “Fa Ram” would be his. Just a little more.

He turned to his servants. “Eat -Dispose of the corpses." He commanded, and the little ones hastened to obey, setting upon their fallen kin. Soon, the numbers would be replaced.

But he did not notice the horror of the smallest of them, as she turned down her head, and acted like she was obeying.

In her mind, her own thoughts whirled.

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