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The needles clacked together, along with red yarn.

I hadn’t seen anybody for a month. Now, that was pretty normal, I didn’t see anybody for six months when I first got here, and it didn’t bother me one bit.

Now that I got the taste again for human interaction, though, it was a little hard. But I persevered! The outer walls went up, as did the roof. Things go fast when you can drive in a nail with a single stroke. Getting the roof on was a little awkward solo, but I eventually got what I needed where I needed, so it was all good.

It was going to be a change. The “living room” alone was the size of 6 of my shacks. It was also going to be the only insulated room this year, I didn’t have enough rice straw to get every room I was planning. As for the size, I hoped to have kids, and places for guests. So things needed to be a bit bigger.

I grunted, and undid the row I was working on. Tension was too tight.

The sugar maple leaf I had gotten from the tree was carefully pressed and preserved, and I had added a second sign, beside my “Beware of Chicken” one, a simple carved maple leaf.

I may be gone from there, but that place made me who I was.

...I’d like to think that my parents would be proud of me. They definitely would have liked Meiling.

It was a little melancholy, thinking about these things, but all it did was drive me harder to make something that would be worthy of those memories.

Life was hard, and full of work, but good. All I had to do was make this better.

And just don’t be an asshole, like Meimei said.

I kept the company of my animals. Chunky had healed well, constantly tended by both myself and Rizzo, but the scars across his face were still raw and angry looking. While my little porkers had started pink and hairless, they were getting in a set of rust-red fur. Combined with his tusks, and black “mane” he looked quite fierce.

Looks were deceiving though. He was like a fat Golden Retriever, always bouncy and happy to follow you around. He also loved belly rubs. Peppa was more reserved, but when Big D was back in his coop, and Tigger was off doing what she did, she would gleefully roll over and get her own scritches.

As for Big D… well, he was getting better. I caught him practising his kicks earlier, but he was still pretty mopey. Man, I never thought I would have to deal with an angsting chicken.

The other chickens, though, weren’t smart. They were the same as they had been, just chickens. Which was a relief.

A winter without chicken soup was a bad winter.

I continued my knitting. I wasn’t very good, mind you, and I was slow, but I could knit. Just don’t ask me for any designs.

It was a hat. A nice red toque. Toques need to be red, you see. Like red barns, they’re just something that is.

Tigger strolled up and hopped into my lap, making herself comfortable without a care for what I was doing. Chucking, I set down my knitting, and let myself rest for a while. Petting the little stripy thing.

I sighed in contentment, and leaned back against my wall.

///////////

And so life went on. I never did manage to get anybody around for a proper autumn colours viewing, I had too much work to do. The preparations were never ending, and If I wasn't a cultivator, there was no possible way I could have done it alone.

A cold cellar was dug, and lined with my knock-off concrete to keep some of the damp out.

I also invented a technique! A truly frightening fire-based attack that I used to surpass the will of the heavens!

And by that, I mean I used it to defeat rain, and dry things out. Works really good to season wood, and keep things from moulding. Behold, gaps in my knowledge and skills surpassed by my mystic wisdom! Truly, I am beyond all other men!

I also spent a lot of time clearing leaves from places I didn’t want them, and with the beginnings of the fall rainstorms, the rivers had to be cleared of fallen branches so they didn’t dam up. I kept a careful watch on the river, and kept an eye on the banks, to see if my house would flood if it rose, but I think it would be fine, barring some truly catastrophic circumstances.

I also wasn’t entirely alone, either. The Clerks had sent a merchant to pick up some more rice, which I had sold 5 more bags of white rice. I may be being paranoid by keeping so much at home, but it was my first winter, so better safe than sorry.

My second visitor was Yun Ren, who just dropped by to see if I was okay.

It was rather touching that people were concerned about my wellbeing, and he came with some medicine from Meimei, as a “just in case.”

It was a shame that she couldn’t come around, but she was busy too.

Still, I appreciated everything they did for me, and after marvelling at my house for a while, Yun Ren had to go too.

I got back to work. If my reckoning was right, the first snows would hit us soon.

////////

It was a particularly cold day today. Bi De could see his breath as he sat upon the Great Pillars, and Sister Ri Zu was curled up in his feathers to ward off the chill.

Bi De’s blades of moonlight carefully formed. They were still not as pure as when he first had them, but it was a vast improvement over the ugly cracks that ran through them before. Soon, they would be holy again, and not tainted filth.

It was strange, he thought, that a time of closure that this “autumn” was, was a time of renewal in other senses.

For the land seemed to be dying. The leaves fell from the trees, creatures burrowed deep and slept, and the air turned increasingly bitter.

But he could still feel the land, and it’s comforting presence. It was just tired. It would sleep, and then awake refreshed, he was sure of it.

As for renewal, new sprigs of Heavenly Herb poked out through the ground inside the Great Master’s new coop, protected from the cold and rain.

His Master’s female was a sage of power, though not one he could fathom, for she had little in the way of qi. She had gifted medicine to the Great Master, and with it’s potent power, Brother Chun Ke was beginning to exhibit once more flashes of thought. His eyes were brighter on most days, and his terrifying bulk more solid.

Sister Pi Pa was beside herself with joy. Though she was still frightfully cross with him. He bore her barbs with stoicism, and they became less and less frequent with each day that Brother Chun Ke improved.

Yes, a renewal in a time of ending, that was what this was.

Bi De turned his attention once more towards the spirit of the land. He bowed his head, and presented his qi to it.

The land gazed upon him, and mulled over his tribute.

Bi De waited patiently, holding himself still, and ready for rejection.

Slowly, haltingly, the land accepted his qi, pulling it into itself, and falling into a deep slumber.

Bi De’s eyes opened.

From the sky, great flakes of white began to fall, the heavens coming down towards the earth.

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