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Unlike the rest of the people at the wedding, I didn’t have anybody besides Big D to take care of my house. I had known a dog back in the before that knew how to feed the other animals, and Big D was about as intelligent, and probably hopped up on qi. But he definitely wasn’t foolproof or a permanent solution.

While everybody else was going to be hanging out in Verdant Hill for the rest of the week generally getting drunk and having a good time, I had to go back home.

So first thing in the morning, I went to the exchange.

There were government mandated rice prices, but as befitting a xianxia world, there were different prices for different grades, and this stuff was taken extremely seriously. With a bunch of stern-faced Imperial Clerks and soldiers who would examine the rice, and make sure you weren’t trying any funny business.

Most farmers had “Green” grade rice, and that made up the vast bulk of the rice sold. So good, solid rice that everybody liked. “Grey” was considered largely trash, and for only the poorest sections of society, while “Blue” was the good stuff that would go to nobles and other rich people.

I fully expected my rice to be “Blue” rice. Hey, it was damn good rice. I did have some pride, and my rice was obviously superior in quality and size to the other rice that was here.

I mean sure, I cheated a bit with qi, but hard work went into it!

So I wanted the hour or so until the next clerk could see me, and I let the guards and clerk examine my bags. A bit of rice was taken from one randomly selected, and the Clerk took several grains into his hands.

“This is spectacular rice, farmer,” The Clerk said appreciatively, “Your hardship and toils have been rewarded this year. This is the best Blue Grade Rice this humble clerk has laid eyes upon!”

I smiled at him. “It took a while to clear, but the land is good.”

The clerk nodded his head. “How many bags do you have for sale this year?” He asked.

After the stuff I gave to Meimei, Yun Ren, Gou Ren, and for Meihua’s wedding--

“20 bags of white rice,” I said, “I’ve got a bit more at home, this was all the cart could take.”

“The Clerks and Scribes of the Imperial Court here shall purchase all of the currently available rice you have to sell.” The clerk declared. “Should you bring more of it, I would ask that you think of the Imperial Clerks here first. We would welcome the fruits of your labour.”

Huh. That was easy.

We bowed to each other, and I got a receipt. The other clerks, when they looked at my rice, seemed just as agreeable as the first guy.

Now I just had to take these hawk feathers over to this guy, and we’re set!

/////////

My feet thudded as I set out a light jog back home. I had gotten quite a good price for my rice and hawk feathers, so I had bought some good, solid jars for pickling, and a bunch of salt for preserving fish. I wasn’t the biggest fan of funazushi, and it would take a couple of years for it to become “real” funazushi, but it was good to start soon, right?

Everybody had been understanding about my needing to leave early, though Meimei had been a little bit pouty about it.

So I asked her to help me with something around the back, and kissed the hell out of her when we were alone. The way her red face perfectly highlighted her freckles is always great, and bashful Meimei is good too. The way she looked up at me and bit her lip--

Meimei was cute. Cute!

So I went on my way. They should be fine on the return trip, and they had made that trip hundreds of times before without running into any spirit beasts, so all seemed good.

Tigger was curled up in the cart, and managing to sleep. It was quite a smooth ride, if I do say so myself. I absentmindedly pushed a bit of qi into the road as I ran. Hopefully, that would help with potholes, but it was mostly a dirt road. Maybe I could make it better in the future, pave it or something? I certainly had the stamina and strength. Or I could pay people to do it, improve the local economy a bit?

More thoughts for the future.

When I first got here, I kind of had plans to go full hermit, and do most of the things myself, but then I went and made friends, and got a fiancee. Turns out most people I’ve met so far are pretty normal. Save for the cultivators of course, and the distance between my property and everybody else was pretty big.

If I had known the future, I might have set up shop in Hong Yaowu instead of what I did, but now, I wasn’t about to trade my property for anyone.

This was mine. And I was gonna make it the best goddamn farm in the seven realms!

My feet kept thudding, traversing the empty road.

I eventually decided to stop for the night. Even at my pace, it was still more than a day’s trip back home at my current pace. Sure, I could have pushed it, and ran like I did with the rice, but eh.

Besides, this was my favourite spot, and favourite rock. I briefly entertained the idea of taking the rock with me. Meimei’s “what the hell, Jin” face was hilarious, and bringing “our rock” back to my house would provoke another round of baffled amusement.

I decided to leave it for now. I didn’t have any room in my wagon anyways.

I went to sleep thinking about our house. It was going to have medicine storage-- I should ask her about it later, so I can build it properly…

/////

You know that sinking feeling you get in your gut? It had started while I was eating lunch in the village. An odd kind of tremor.

At first, I hadn’t thought much from it, as I finished my meal, but as I neared my house, the feeling became stronger.

I started to get worried as I neared the gates. Had I been gone too long? Big D was a scrapper, but had a spirit beast ransacked my house? Had some disaster befallen it?

Big D and Peppa were waiting for me at the gates.

They both looked like the animal equivalent of having gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. Big D had blood all over his feathers. His once vibrant plumage was dull and stringy looking, and he seemed dead on his feet. It was all he could do to get into his customary bow, but I saw him twitch in pain as he did.

Peppa was better off, but only barely. She had massive bruises all over her body, and dried blood on her nose. She too dipped her head.

A feeling of horror overtook me. My qi unconsciously bubbled, and both of my animals cringed.

/////////

When Bi De felt the Great Master’s overpowering qi, he thought his rage had finally been roused, and his life was forfeit for being such a poor disciple. The little one squeaked in horror and awe, upon his back as she was. She nearly fell off of his body, such was her shock.

Even he felt fear. The Great Master never roused his unknowable power to violence. It was always a calm, nurturing stream that dispersed into the air and ground.

This was nothing so kind. The land responded to his wrath, bubbling and churning like a storm.

He steeled himself for the Great Master’s judgement.

But instead of His Great Master smiting him for failure and dishonour, both himself and sister Pi Pa were scooped into his strong arms, and checked over for their injuries. His Lord paused when he saw the cowering form of the little one, his eyes narrowing, but she too was spared his wrath.

They were taken swiftly to the house of their Lord, and his Lord made even more noises of distress and concern when he saw the damage done to Brother Chun Ke.

The Lord Disregarded the pots of Heavenly Herbs, not paying them any attention as he tended to their wounds, with some sort of herbs.

Bi De was once more humbled by his Great Master. He cared more for his Disciples than the treasures of his house

Even with his gross failure, he was still afforded a place within this blessed land. His eyes closed, and he finally allowed himself to succumb to exhaustion.

///////

I was not happy.

Let me rephrase that, I was ripshit pissed.

Big D and Peppa were bad enough, but poor Chunky nearly lost an eye to whatever tore up his face. The poor boy oinked pitifully when he saw me, and snuggled into my lap as I tended to him. I used up nearly all the medicine I had. At least I had the foresight to buy it earlier, just in case something went wrong with my chickens, but pigs were a lot bigger than birds, and needed more of the herbal poultices.

I glared at the new addition to the house, and not Tigger. She was staring greedily at the little rat that had been riding on Big D.

“What happened here.” I asked, not really expecting an answer.

The little rat bowed, and pointed outside.

Well shit.

I got a little tour, from the little thing, accompanied by a bunch of squeaks and words that I could almost understand. Peppa trotted along beside us, adding her own squeals and oinks where appropriate.

A mass grave, a broken pill furnace, some pills, and an absolutely hideous ROUS, Rodent of Unusual Size.

I glared at the master Splinter-looking motherfucker of a mutated rat.

The image of a fight nearly formed in my mind’s eye. The feeling of foulness, desperation, and deceit. At least everybody came out all right, and that was the important part.

I was in a foul mood the rest of the day as I stalked around the property, cataloging everything.There was damage, but it wasn't too bad. Five bags of rice had been contaminated, chewed into and soiled. Which compared to the amount left, was a light loss.

The most damaged were the Lowly Spiritual Herbs. Most of them were gone, with only one pot left. I had some seeds, and they could be grown in winter with enough care, but I was still upset. Those provided most of the flavour for my dishes.

The weird root I was keeping was fine though. You felt nothing till it came out of the ground, then you felt the qi. I honestly didn’t know what to do with it, so I just put it back into the pot.

I smashed the pills, mixing each of them with a bunch of water to dilute them. They looked a pit off, so they were probably toxic, and I didn’t want them contaminating my farm.

After that, I ripped apart the spirit furnace. The metal could be used for something, but I didn’t care about the rest of it. Gross thing, all caked with black tar on the inside.

While I worked, I thought. The rat had confirmed a somewhat uncomfortable truth. I knew Big D was smart, but that he was apparently nearly or as smart as a human? Same with Peppa and the rat?

I grimaced. I had no intention of eating Big D, but if spirit animals weren’t rare, that meant Peppa and Chunky, who I was planning on eating eventually, were off the table too. I had no intention of eating anything sapient. That was just… ugh.

Wait, I had eaten a chicken while Meimei and the boys were over. Had she been--?

I felt a bit sick to my stomach.

Alright, cognitive tests for everybody.

After I burned Master Splinter, because what the hell, this guy was nasty.

I looked to the little rat, waiting by my feet, her head bowed.

Helpful. Friend. Something told me.

I smiled at the little girl, and with a finger, scritched her head. The little one preened, and pushed up into my finger.

“Alright, you can stay.” I told it, “You need a name too, for helping out. How about…?”

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Casualfarmer

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