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It was the third day since he had met Brother Chow Ji.

Bi De paused in his thoughts, and recentered himself. Why did he think that? Brother Chow Ji was indeed important, but to think of him before the Great Master? He was a disloyal disciple for doing such a thing. He would need to perform some sort of penance for this.

After he was finished in this stage of his cultivation, of course.

It was the seventh day since the Great Master had left.

Brother Chow Ji’s pills had increased his power greatly. He could see the Great Pillars of this stage of his cultivation. Soon, he would break past them, and truly ascend. He would be the mightiest cock in the realm.

He needed more power. He needed to cultivate more.

The Blackfurs would take care of the menial labour. He had to cycle his qi.

He had to cycle his qi.

All day he sat upon the Great Pillars. He did not move to eat. He took his sustenance from the air. When the blackfur came to give him his pill, he disregarded it.

Brother Chow Ji had his best interests at heart, and he had to keep cultivating. He had to get stronger.

/////////

She had no name. She was small and weak, but she knew. She knew the great one was in danger. Wicked Chow Ji had deceived the mighty and righteous bird with his pills and foul magicks.

He was twisting and corrupting him, but she had no idea how to help. The great one, so consumed with his cultivation, had completely disregarded her when she tried to speak with him. To warn him. He would hear nothing of her pitiful squeaks, and she knew she could not oppose Chow Ji directly.

She kept her act, like she was as the others of her kin, but she knew the old one was smart. He would see through her, and then...he would take her. She would be the mother of the next generation. Ones that knew were rare. While the rest of her kin could follow orders, they had no true spark to call their own. They simply acted out the knowing ones actions. They were like the ones that held the same form as the Great Bi De, filled with energy that could be used, but dumb.

And Chow Ji had been waiting for a female to use ever since his mate died in the great purge that had destroyed their colony.

And so the little one fretted. She could not oppose Chow Ji physically, or with powers. That was doomed to failure. So instead she watched him, and took note of his spells. How their energy moved, and how she could neutralize it.

Hopefully.

Now, she sat in the pen near the giants, behind a bucket and hidden from view. Her kin were loath to come near this place, for the giants bellowed rage and hatred, and attempted to stomp flat any interloper.

Here, she practised with her miniscule qi, and in her minds eye she wove and unwove the magicks of Chow Ji.

She was so consumed with her own thoughts that she didn’t notice the giants until they had snuck up on her.

A great gust of wind from their nostrils assaulted her, and the two giants beheld her tiny form. Their eyes were narrowed with wrath and hate.

She froze, and felt despair. They would surely slay her, as they had tried to slay all others.

The giant’s noses approached her, and she closed her eyes and waited for the end.

/////////

It was the fourth day since he had met Brother Chow Ji.

His cultivation was so, so close. He needed just that little bit more. Something that was even more potent, to push him beyond.

He cast his senses around Fa Ram, trying to find anything he could use for that final push.

He noticed the energy of the land, and followed the twisting power into the ground.

We give to the land, and the land gives back.

Bi De, as was proper, took a portion of his energy, and offered it to the land. He did so unthinkingly, while something else derided such a thing as useless.

The land reached out for his energy--

And recoiled. The land fled from his qi.

He was stunned.

And then, he was enraged. How dare the land reject his gift?! He took care of it! He nurtured it! It should be thankful that he even considered it worth his thoughts!

We give to the land, and the land gives back.

He paused.

Something was wrong here. But what? What had changed. What was happening?

“Brother Bi De.” Chow Ji’s voice cut through his confusion. Brother Chow Ji would know what to do, for he was wise. “We are ready to make the most great-powerful pill yet. Come-come, you must see-witness this.”

Bi De obeyed, journeying with Brother Chow Ji to the spirit furnace. It was upon it’s scaffold, and all of the small blackfurs were gathered around it.

As well as the hens and the chicks. Their legs were tied, and they were cooing worriedly.

Bi De hesitated. What was the meaning of this?

“This is the way-method of the world, Brother Bi De” Chow Ji said, his grin spread across his entire face. “The strong take-steal what they need. Whatever they need. These are good-fine reagents. Their lives exist for us to use-take as we please. In eat-consuming these, you will truly be strong.”

Yes, they were full of power weren’t they. He absently remembered something eating a hen, and it being good. Just like the Heavenly Herbs. His eyes turned to the pots of growth, how many should he use, in addition to these worthless lives--

The pots were nearly empty. A few sprigs of Heavenly Herbs were all that were left, surrounded by blackfur droppings.

The land recoiled from his qi.

The Heavenly Herbs were ransacked. There was a bag of rice overturned. The grass around the spirit furnace was wilting.

We give to the land, and the land gives back.

This… this was wrong. He felt horror in his gut, as something brushed up against his qi.

It was like the scales were torn from his eyes. Wrath burned like a star in his breast.

How dare this disgusting little creature--!

His head snapped around wicked Chow Ji, whose eyes narrowed. His heavenly blades sprung from his legs, and to his dismay, the once pure moonlight was riddled with streaks of red energy, and cracks of black.

He turned to strike this interloper, for that was only what Chow Ji could be--!

“How Much-Disappointing.”

[Internal Impurity Tremor]

The tiny black flecks in Bi De’s body, so small that he had ignored them spasmed. Like talons, they drove into his muscles, innards, and qi, biting deep.

Bi De screamed. The agony was all consuming. Blood poured out of his mouth as the demonic technique took hold.

Bi De fell to his knees, nearly kowtowing before Chow Ji.

“It is good-good that you did not purge-release my impurities, this might have been difficult-dangerous otherwise. How did you break-escape my technique?” Chow Ji asked, looking bored, and placing his Great Master-like paw upon him. “It is no matter, soon-soon it shall be complete--”

There were two triumphant squeals. Chun Ke and Pi Pa’s home broke open, and the howling beasts thundered out. Their trotters tore up the earth as they made their charge, aiming directly for their hated foe.

“Very-very well. Chow Ji shall play-toy with you.”

Chow Ji’s ire was clear. He stood from defeated Bi De. There was a sickening snap as his once hunched back straightened, and he threw off his cloak. Bi De was disgusted by what he saw.

His form dared to take after the Great Master. Some of his fur was receding off his chest, filled with muscle. His skin was pallid, and was filled with twisting veins. He had hands, not paws. His legs looked wrong, like they were in the middle of transitioning, and Chow Ji’s balance was unsteady, kept only upright by his worm-like tail.

It was a perversion of the way of the world. Only through corruption, could such a thing be done.

“Restrain-Restrict Bi De. I shall be done-finished shortly.” Chow Ji commanded, and the blackfurs hastened to obey.

Chow Ji moved, and intercepted Chun Ke. The great porcine beast tried to trample him, snarling with wroth, but even unbalanced and old, Chow Ji’s strikes were too powerful. He struck Chun Ke, in the leg, and he bowled over, rolling to a stop, and swiftly getting back up, snarling and snorting.

The blackfurs approached with ropes of grass. They needn’t have bothered, so weak was he. His insides were on fire, both from agony and shame.

How could he be deceived so easily? How could he have let such damage come to the Great Master’s home?

And now, he would either die, or be enslaved.

Chow Ji struck, dancing around stomping trotters and snapping tusks. Pi Pa was slammed onto her side, and Chun Ke received three massive slashes across his face. He began squealing in agony.

At least he took solace in the fact that the Great Master would be there soon, and this horror would soon be over. The blackfurs would be struck low by his might and majesty.

He hoped his energy would be returned to the Great Master.If he was worthy of such an honour. More likely his corpse be discarded and burned, for not even the land could find worth with such a worthless creature.

Two little paws landed on his back. Some of the agony disappeared.

Please, great one, you must get up.”

The little blackfur stared at him with hope and concern. It was the one he had saved.

We give to the land, and the land gives back.

No. This was not for his Great Master to see. Not for the Great Master to solve. He caused this problem, with his naivete, and so he would fix it. When his Lord returned, he would find his home once more pristine.

The Blades of cracked moonlight formed.

[Wheel of the Crescent Moon]

The surging blackfurs, intent on restraining him, perished. The blades were larger than he was used to. The little one looked at him in askance, and he allowed her to climb onto his back. He felt the tiny amounts of qi she had circle around the impurities in his body.

He swayed, but he stood. He was weak, but he persevered.

Disciple Chun Ke was laid out on the ground, bleeding heavily. With one last strike, Pi Pa fell too, onto her side and panting.

“Ah, you shall be tasty-tasty. A Fine-Good pill.” Chow Ji said. His breath was heavy, but he still looked able to fight. “Ah, the years have taken their toll. Soon-soon, though, I shall once more breakthrough.”

He turned to Bi De, amused. “Good, good, mighty-strong indeed you are, to stand after that. Now, be good-obedient and sit, this Chow Ji shall be with you soon.”

He pointed his fingers at Bi De..

[Internal Impurity Tremor]

The shards of black wrenched, but otherwise didn’t move.

Bi De took a step forwards. Chow Ji’s eyes widened. “Impossible!” he spat.

Bi De struck. His legs wobbled, but his Heavenly Lunar Blades searched for his foe. His internal injuries grated, but he could persevere.

They clashed. Chow Ji was skilled, his arms flashing to block his strikes where the Lunar blades did not cover.

Bi De wove around Chow Ji’s own strikes, the little one having buried beneath his vest as to not be thrown off, and protecting him from the internal tremors of the interloper’s foul qi.

Within three exchanges, Chow Ji was panicking. His eyes were wide and wild.

“You worthless creature-thing! You dare use this power against me?! I, who have given you this strength? I have freed you! Freed you from serving your “Great Master”, the qi-less wretch. The squatter on a land too good for him! You could have been mighty! You could have been lord of this place!”

Bi De nearly laughed at the fool. He had eyes, but he could not see Mount Tai. How could he not feel the Great Master’s might? It was all around them.

Instead, he let his spurs speak. Slashes appeared on Chow Ji’s limbs as he struck with grace beyond the old villain. He danced around the clumsy and desperate return strikes, until he had an opening.

[The Rising of the Crescent Moon]

His blades burned as he rose in the say, as surely as the moon. His spurs caught under Chow Ji’s rib-cage, and tore him open, until his heart was exposed, pumping feebly into the air.

Bi De landed, and shook the gore from his legs, gazing imperiously at the defeated interloper.

Chow Ji hacked and gagged, and Bi De allowed it. His suffering was good and just.

“I--I Curse-Curse you!” Chow Ji gagged. His qi gathered, as he managed to stand, his entrails hanging out.

Bi Di held his ground watching, and ready to dodge.

““I curse this land! May it be covered-consumed in a tide of vermin!”

[Curse of Vermin]

Bi De’s eyes widened, as Chow Ji drove his hatred and qi into the ground around him, poisonous tendrils driving deep, before Bi De’s talons took his head.

Bi De collapsed to his knees. The little one squeaked in alarm, as she felt something brush against her qi, but her proximity to the qi of the moon let her shake off the feeling.

The rest of the blackfurs howled. Their eyes rolled, and their mouths frothed. They started biting and clawing at the land around them, half- mad from whatever happened. Some of them fled. Some of them died outright. And some launched themselves at Bi De, intent on consuming him.

Bi De struggled to stand. He could not fall to such weak creatures! He could not be defeated so easily, even weak as he was!

The great trotter of Sister PI Pa landed on one of them, and her great bulk crushed two more.

She glared at him, and snorted in chastisement.

Bi De Bowed his head, humbled, and staggered to his feet. There was much work to be done.

/////////

A half-blind old woman stared at the carving of a rooster. It had a massive crack that had spread over it’s back, one that had been growing every day. Today, if the growth followed, the rooster would have split in half.

Instead, the wood hung on cracked, but unbroken.

The old woman harrumphed, and put it back on the shelf.

///////

It was late in the day, when Bi De felt the land breathe a sigh of relief. The grass stood taller, the air seemed sweeter, and the taint in the ground seemed to shudder.

The Great Master was approaching.

They had dismantled the scaffolding, buried the corpses, and cleaned as much of the droppings as they could.

Brother Chun Ke had even woken back up, though was in great pain from the strikes of Chow Ji. His eyes seemed duller, and Bi De was concerned.

Now, Bi De looked upon the spirit furnace. The wretched thing that offered it’s tainted power. His master would surely not want it.

His blades of moonlight, his tainted blades, his price for his foolishness, bit into the furnace, and destroyed it.

Bi De limped to the entrance to Fa Ram, and awaited his Great Master’s arrival and judgement.

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