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I had been procrastinating all day.

The cultivator had provided a distraction, as had the Xong brothers when they started making crude jokes about me undressing her.

I’ll be honest, they were in pretty bad taste. Seriously, she had just got the shit kicked out of her. She might be attractive under the black eye and split lips, but there was no point in gawping.

Partially why I wasn’t bothered when Meimei asked me to get her undressed. There's nothing sexy about blood, bruises, and wounds starting to leak pus. Quite honestly, I’m glad Meimei was there so I had something to focus on. I’m not particularly squeamish, but that was pretty hard to look at.

But now, as the sun started to set, I would need to do it. I could put it off until tomorrow, but I needed to do this, and no time like the present.

“Big D, could you get the rest of the... Disciples, and gather at the old house?” I asked him.

My-- well are any of them really mine anymore?

The rooster snapped to attention, and hastened to follow my orders.

This wasn’t a conversion I could say I was looking forward to.

But it was one that needed to happen.

I wondered how they would react?

////////

Bi De sat with the other disciples at the Great Master’s old coop. The Master had bid them gather here, away from his new coup, so that he could speak with them in private.

He was concerned about the Interloper, who had acted like Chow Ji, feigning weakness. But the Great Master was the Great Master. His insight was beyond Bi De’s comprehension. This person would surely be worthy of the benevolence the Great Master graced her with!

Once she woke up of course. She was tended to by the Great Sage of Healing, so her recovery was assured.

Perhaps she was to become his female? The Great Master would need many females, if only to make sure his offspring inherited his spark. He was growing worried about his females, and his own abilities. Those he had fathered displayed none of his own ability. He would think it restricted to the male half, but the young cock he had sired displayed nothing. Nothing but annoyance at Bi De’s mastery of the flock.

At least it had some intelligence: He knew it was folly to challenge him.

Still, it was not all a waste. Their qi would go to the Great Master, who would continue to grow and nurture them all.

He had guided them all greatly, and yet, the Great Master considered himself lax in their training.

Truly, his master’s depths were incomprehensible. And now they sat in front of their lord, awaiting his instruction. He observed them with an impenetrable gaze, his eyes roving over their forms. He sat down with them, lowering himself to their level.

The disciples gasped, as he bowed his head to them.

“Firstly, I wish to thank you, for all you have done. You have taken up tasks of your own accord. You have defended this Fa Ram from predators. You have taken up arms in it’s defence, against vile men.”

The Disciples were struck dumb, and they bowed their own heads, kowtowing before their Great Master.

All they had done was attempt to repay his benevolence. The Heavenly Herbs, the medicine, his protecting them until they could protect themselves, forgiving their mistakes… especially his mistakes… he need not thank them.

“No. I must thank you. To give thanks for deeds others have done for you is only right. If you don’t give acknowledgement to somebody, then you show that you do not value them.”

“And I have not been valuing you as I should have.”

He sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. He seemed to be deciding on what to say.

“What do you want out of life?” he asked them.

The disciples replied as one: To defend Great Fa Ram, and see it grow.

The Great Master smiled at them.

“That is a good goal. A noble goal, to defend your home, and see it prosper. I’m glad that you think that our Fa Ram is worth protecting. I want to see it grow too.” He paused, and considered another question.

“Why do you want to cultivate strength?”

To defend Fa Ram, was once more the reply.

“Oh? Most human cultivators say that it is to defy the will of heaven. To ascend past your limits, and become immortal, a ruler of the world. It is what I once desired, after all.”

The disciples listened raptly. They knew nothing of their Great Master before his life in Fa Ram. Bi De knew they were about to receive some profound wisdom.

“...let's talk about choices. Everything begins with a choice. Every person must choose what it is they want to do in their lives. What they desire, and what they wish to do to obtain those desires. These aren’t things I can dictate to you. They are for you to decide freely. Sometimes we may feel like we have no choice, that only one option is available to us. But it is always there. If you wish to walk away from this place, I will not stop you. If you wish to stay, you will always have a place here.”

Leave Great Fa Ram?! The thought was unthinkable to Bi De.

“While we are free to choose, remember, the choices you make will always have consequences. Saving somebody may backfire. It may not. Killing somebody may bring you great power, but it may also spell your doom. Our choices guide us. They forge us. We may make our choices, but in the end-- “

“Our choices make us.”

Bi De was silent, drinking in his master’s profound words.

“Let me tell you the story of Jin, and the choice that he made.”

“Let me tell you why this Fa Ram exists.”

///////

Bi De needed to meditate. They all did. They needed time to digest their Great Master’s story. Of the power of the cultivators. The ways to cultivate. That their Great Master was one of the least of them.

It was a night of revelations.

The race to the heavens. It sounded absurd, and right at the same time. To walk the path of the warrior, never flinching, and driving one’s enemies before them. Something in it appealed to him greatly. To venture forth, and claim the world.

But his Great Master had seemed so sad when talking about it. So… disappointed.

Bi De remembered Chow Ji. He remembered the feeling of lusting for power. Of how he considered slaying his own children, too young to have the spark. Of consuming the hens, and leaving nothing left. His mind conjured an image of total desolation, of rampant slaughter. Of taking from the earth, without giving.

He remembered the days spent with his Great Master. Tending to the fields, playing in the river, helping him keep watch at night. Of his Great Master helping, and nurturing them, even though they were not human. He cared not for their flesh or their cores. He wanted them to live. He wanted to guide them. He wanted them to have good lives.

He was once more humbled by his Great Master’s benevolence. He knew that he had jumped at power, when it was offered to him. He jumped at power, and faced the consequences. The consequences that lasted to this day.

His lord had said it was better to be kind, and get burned, than live your life as a monster. Living a life of cruelty and wrath, taking and taking without caring for others.

Indeed, if he had been cruel to Chow Ji, he never would have been hurt. His spurs would remain unmarred. He would be as he was, arrogant and prideful.

But if he had been cruel, he never would have earned the friendship of Sister Ri Zu. He never would have gained appreciation for Chun Ke and Pi Pa.

Compassion and kindness had hurt him.

But it had also been his salvation. It was the reason why he could stand tall, and proclaim himself a great Disciple.

He gazed upon the moon, that wonderful celestial object. There were some that wanted to tear it from the sky. There were some who could not see it’s glory.

Men who were so focused on achieving power in the future, that they could not see the present.

His Great Master was correct, he decided. To covet power was not the path forwards. To race for the heavens to claim them was folly.

Like his Great Master said. Why claim the heavens, when you could make your own?

He offered his supplication to the earth. The sleepy energy took what he offered without hesitation, and seemed to sigh in contentment.

Something broke inside him. Like the ice on the river being broken. His eyes saw more clearly. His breath was more perfect. His plumage, radiant.

He disregarded his breakthrough. He had a moon to observe, and it’s radiance was much more important.

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A note from Casualfarmer

This chapter brought to you by Andrew Ryan

 

Edit: this is a joke. Andrew Ryan is a character from Bioshock, and the origin of the quote "we all make our choices, but in the end, our choices.make us"


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