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“When do you think she’ll wake up?”

“Dunno. Could be days, could be weeks. She's pretty messed up.”

Cai Xiulan awoke to the sound of voices. She was warm, and comfortable. Her body ached, but it did not hurt.

This was a very nice bed. She nearly fell back asleep, but she persevered!

“I’ll stay here, if she's still asleep for a few days. Or we could transport her back home?” A female voice said.

She kept her eyes closed, and took stock of her body. The demonic qi had been driven out, with nothing left of the taint. Her qi flowed through her body. Rather more than she had expected to have. It felt full of vitality, and verdant. Like the name of her sect, it was energetic, and wanted to grow. The wounds she had were scabbed over, and she was well on her way to healing..

She examined the poultices that had been applied further.

And found something shocking. They had qi in them. They had used spiritual herbs on her. She knew not what kind, but they were incredibly potent, more potent than she had ever felt before. These would command a prince’s ransom if they were sold to her sect elders. To be used on her, even if she was the Young Mistress of the Verdant Sword--

No, the only thing she could be was thankful.

She extended her senses, but she sensed no more qi. So then...It was a farmer who had found her. Mortals, who could have been rich in selling these herbs… had spent them on her without truly knowing who she was.

It was a humbling thought.

She opened her eyes--and remembered the spirit beast--the one that had made Sun Ken disappear. Her heart seized in her chest, before she calmed. It had not come to claim their lives yet, then it would do her no good to panic them.

She took a deep breath, and circulated her qi, to better recover herself. She would need her strength to be full, if the beast did come to vanish these people.

They would be defended until her last breath for the kindness they had shown her.

The qi in the spiritual herbs responded. The energy flowed into her body, swirling around her wounds.

Qi surged. Cuts closed. Bruises disappeared.

Her eyes snapped open.

She pulled down the rough shirt she was clad in, and stared down at her chest. All that was left was smooth, unblemished skin. She tugged at the shirt, but didn’t see her normal garb. Were the farmer’s wife not here, she would have been mortified that she had been undressed by a man. Though she had likely been seen anyways, with the medicine that had been applied to her.

Her modesty, though, was secondary to gratitude. Should he have seen her body, it was in the process of saving her life.

She sat up, and looked around, taking in the room. The bed was cordoned off with a wooden divider, giving her some amount of privacy.

“I’ll go check on her.” the female voice said again.

Soft footsteps padded around the divider.

She was small, the woman. In all respects really, bony and angular, with sharp violet eyes. Unfortunate freckles formed a bridge across her face, from cheek to cheek, and across her nose.

Still, she wasn’t ugly by any means. A bit severe looking. Or a bit like a cat.

She looked surprised that she was up.

“Ah!” she gasped, “Don’t move, your wounds are still--”

She paused, and looked closely at her.

“You’re… healed?” she asked, sounding curious.

More footsteps sounded across the floor, as the rest of the people in the house came to look at her.

Two of the men gaped at her, their faces flushing. One looked like a monkey, and the other a scheming fox. They both had the physiques of farmers, well muscled and slightly rough looking.

“Even prettier than Meihua.” she heard the fox-one mutter.Their eyes were awestruck… until the woman elbowed both of them, glaring. Xiulan appreciated her intervention. Men undressing her with their eyes was a common occurrence, and she couldn’t chastise the family of her saviours.

The third man was just calm. He was wearing one of the same shirts as she was, and evidently the master of the house.

He was large and well muscled, with a light dusting of freckles across his cheeks. He was rugged and solid looking. A rock, or a bull.

He didn’t stare. He just looked happy at her recovery.

“Hey, that was fast. You’ve only been out for a day.” He said conversationally.

Xiulan opened her mouth to respond, but the little woman beat her to it, turning around and glaring at the two men..

“Clear off, you two, she needs some space, and I need to check her injuries.” She demanded.

“I’ll go get your clothes. They’ve got some holes in them-- I didn’t have the silk to repair them.” The master of the house said, and he left.

The woman turned back to Xiulan as the men left.

“Come on, shirt off, I need to check on things. Make sure my medicine did its job properly..”

Xiulan was surprised.

“You were the one who made the medicine? That used the healing arts upon me?” She was utterly stunned. This woman was a peasant, wasn’t she? It was hard enough at times as the sect’s Young Mistress. As a peasant? Things must have been worse.

She was not an easy woman to impress, but she felt a surge of respect for the woman frowning at her stomach.

“Yes. My husba--betrothed was the one who provided the herbs, but it was I who drew out that demonic qi.” The woman explained, and then pressed an ear to her chest. “Now, breathe in for me.”

She did as she was told. Her mind was whirling at these revelations.

“Meimei, her clothes are here.” She heard the man say. And her dress was placed over the top of the divider.

“Well, everything looks fine. Not even a scar.” her saviour said. “Now get dressed, and we can get some food into you.”

And then the woman was gone.

She carefully removed the shirt, and grasped her dress. It was clean… and it was warm? Like it had been resting beside the fire. It smelled good. There was a nasty slash in the side, but it exposed little. Her swords, the Jade Grass Blades, were leaning beside the bed. They leapt at her command, and floated behind her.

She was ready to properly introduce herself.

She stepped out from behind the divider, ready to present herself, and hopefully make up for her atrocious first impression. She hadn’t even gotten her saviour’s names.

The Master of the house, and his wife-- no, the woman had said she was his betrothed. A bit odd, to be in the house of her intended before they were wed, but she would not dare cast any accusations about their conduct.

As far as she was concerned, their conduct was pure, and intentions honorable. Any who would dare suggest otherwise would be ended by her blades.

In any case, the members of the household turned to face her. The two boys started staring again, as she gracefully fell to her knees, and pressed her forehead to the floor. It was shameful, to kowtow before a mortal.

It was a thousand times more shameful to keep her head high, after they had done so much for her.

“This one is Cai Xiulan, Daughter of Cai Xi Kong, Young Mistress of the Verdant Blade sect. Cultivator of the third stage of the initiate’s realm.” She declared, and she heard the fox and the monkey take sharp breaths.

“Without your intervention, and your medicine, This Cai Xiulan surely would have perished. This Cai Xiulan swears to you, this debt will be repaid, or my life will be forfeit.”

“....Please, raise your head.” The large man said. “It was never my intention to extract promises, or reparations from you. You were in need of aid. You were aided. That is the extent of what our thoughts on the matter were.”

She kept her forehead against the floor, even as she heard the woman make noises of agreement.

“That is of no matter. To not repay you would shame both myself, and the entirety of the Verdant Blade sect. This debt will be repaid a hundredfold!”

The man sighed. “Very well. it's nice to meet you, Xiulan.” he said,“My name is Jin Rou.”

He gestured at the rest of his household, for them to introduce themselves. “Hong Meiling” was the woman, “Xong Yun Ren” was the fox boy, and “Xong Gou Ren” was the monkey.

“Now, lets get some food in you.”

/////////////

“Why did you come here, anyways?” Jin asked her, as he served her rice, “You were muttering about a dangerous beast? Was it a blaze bear, or something?”

She took a breath. “Please, do not be alarmed. I was on the trail of Sun Ken, the Whirling Demon Blade.” There was a look of interest, and recognition on their faces. “I was tasked with slaying him, and bringing an end to his rapacious ways. Our Verdant Blade sect had defeated him in battle, and had driven him off, the worthless coward. I was tracking him, to finish him once and for all, when the trail suddenly ended. There were few corpses left. only men who had managed to flee, savaged by some terrible beast.” She explained. They did not seem worried, which was strange.

“Fear not though, I shall track down this dangerous beast. I require proof of Sun Ken’s death, and I shall drive the beast away as well, so that it may leave you in peace.”

There were no gasps of shock, no overt display of recognition of the threat… simply acceptance. The monkey even seemed amused.

This… this was not right. There was something going on here.

Her eyes flicked around the room. It was large, denoting wealth. It was skillfully crafted, but in a style unfamiliar to her.

But the most interesting thing were the several large basins containing Spiritual Herbs. Shoots of spiritual herbs. Shoots that had more qi than the most high level Spiritual Grass she had ever laid eyes upon.

But the only reason that she could feel them was because of the herbs that had been pressed against her side. If they had not been added to her qi, she was sure that they would be invisible to her senses.

She focused her senses again, trying to see beyond her nose. There was nothing. What she was looking for was unimportant. The more she tried to see, the less she saw. He pushed, and achieved nothing. She paused, and stopped trying to force her vision.

This was her saviour’s home. It was rude of her to try to force anything. But... she was curious. She was having doubts that this man was a mere farmer now, with his lack of reaction to Sun Ken.

From herself to the Spiritual Herbs. From the spiritual Herbs to the world.

And Mount Tai was revealed to her. How she could be staring at a mountain and not realise it was shocking.

There was the energy of a profound-level cultivator outside. Four more initiates were with that energy, ranging from the third stage to the second, and in the house, there was another initiate of the first stage.

The monkey, the fox, and Meiling were nearing the power of initiates, connected lightly to a web that threaded through the house, and Jin, while the man himself...

It was like looking into a lake, and never being able to see the bottom. Like looking at a mountain, and not knowing how much of it was hidden by clouds.

This was no farmer. This was a hidden master.

As swiftly as it was revealed to her, the feelings faded. The Master Jin stared at her, his eyes considering.

She flushed under his intense gaze. He had surely noticed her intrusion, but had yet to chastise her. She hoped he would stay his mighty wrath.

“Well, it's good that you found us.” Meiling, no, Senior Sister Meiling said, smiling at her. “It could have been bad, otherwise.”

Though she was less powerful in cultivation, she likely utterly surpassed her in knowledge, as the disciple, and future wife of such a powerful expert. No wonder she could perform healing arts at her level of cultivation, her foundation must be something that took a long time to properly construct.

“Proof of Sun Ken’s death?” Master Jin asked, considering her further. He seemed to come to a decision.

“I actually found the clearing earlier than you, and found some blades there. I believe this is Sun Ken’s sword, if what you say is true.”

He went, and got a sword from outside the house.

The Crimson Demon’s Tooth.

“This is largely useless to me. I was planning on turning it into a plow, but if this is cause for people to celebrate, and for your own return to your sect… then you should take it, as proof of his demise.”

The Crimson Demon’s Tooth as a plow. The very thought was absurd. And the reward for Sun Ken’s death-- it was so worthless to him that he would rather turn the cursed blade into a gardening implement.

How truly frightening.

“As for the spirit beast…. I don’t think there will be any problems.” He said it with a light smile, like he cared nothing about what had slain Sun Ken.

He most likely didn’t.

First he had healed her. Now, he wished to have her take credit for Sun Ken’s death. It was dishonorable to take credit for the work of others.

But it was a sin to refuse such a gift, a boon from a powerful hidden expert. He had his own reasons, and if she was to be his instrument, she would obey without question.

She clasped her hands in front of her, and she bowed deeply in thanks. “If that is your will, Master Jin.”

////////

You know what, this was going pretty well. Xiulan was much more agreeable than most cultivators I'd met. Polite too.

I’d been rather shocked when she called herself a “Young Mistress”. She didn’t seem particularly arrogant or icy. Sure, she gave Yun and Gou a bit of a stink eye when they wouldn’t stop staring, but other than that, she seemed.... Normal?

Teach me to stereotype. Good guys and bad guys, but most guys were somewhere in between..

You’d also think that being around Meihua would make the Xong brothers a bit less inclined to stare. Yeah, I know boys, the cultivator girl is super hot. Even I thought she was pretty attractive. Shut up brain, yes, she's bouncy. You can stop with the monkey noises.

She seemed to be going along with my plan without protest, and with excessive thanks. I guess she was the kind of woman to seize opportunity with both hands. It was a bit strange to hear my name be called “Master Jin”. She had just essentially declared that she had a life debt to both Meiling and I. So I guess it was pretty natural that she would be respectful.

You never hear about the reasonable people. Its always the caricatures that get the screen time.

And it was absolutely hilarious to see her eyes bug out when she ate her first bit of rice. I remember the food at my sect was pretty meh, so my food must taste like heaven.

Fool. This is only the first form of my cuisine! Teriyaki burgers will flow! Poutine will flourish! I will master the Dao of Cooking, and all will fear my might!

..I think I just foodgasmed her, actually. She's making all of these little noises of pleasure.

The Xong Brothers are distracted by her… yeah, not gonna go there. I just turn to look at my fiancee, and blot out the salacious sounds coming from the cultivator.

Christ lady, I appreciate the vote of confidence, but… it's a bit much.

“Well, You should stay here for another night anyways, just to make sure you’re completely better, before you head back to your sect.” I decide.

Xiulan jumps at my sudden voice, her face flushing slightly. “Thank you for your hospitality, Master Jin. Your food and home are of a quality unparalleled!”

“After we eat, would you like to see the healing formation we used?” Meiling asked.

Honestly, the girl looked like she was about to cry when Meimei said that.

“Yes please, Senior Sister.” Meimei went crimson at the term of respect, and then her chest puffed up with pride.

You know what? Things are going pretty good.

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A note from Casualfarmer

 

More Meiling. Art By Tsurot. A big thanks to White Samurai for commisioning it.

 


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