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She was in the middle of a field. The sun was high in the sky, and the world was warm and pleasant.There was a little girl, who seemed achingly familiar, and yet was a total stranger. A tiny, emaciated, broken slip of a thing, her body marred by gold cracks. She was missing an eye, had a split lip, and her smile was full of holes, teeth that looked like they had been knocked out. She should have been sobbing in agony. But instead, she smiled.

Meiling felt her heart rend in two at the sight. She had seen devastation before, in the aftermath of one of Sun Ken’s rampages. She had seen the lost and broken in Pale Moon Lake City.

Yet nothing compared to this little cracked vessel. She wanted to run to her, to scoop her up, and poison the wretched people who had done this to the little one.

And yet, for all the ruination done to her body, the child still seemed to be in good spirits. Enough to hop and skip and hum.

She turned to Meiling. With that heartbreaking smile, she asked if they could go catch frogs.

Meiling couldn’t bring herself to deny the little one. They walked, hand in hand, to the stream. Meiling hiked up her skirts, and hopped in, taking the little one into the water with her.

Meiling liked catching frogs. The way their little cheeks puffed up as they croaked. They were cute, if a bit slimy.

The frogs here were easy to catch. They were big and fat wallowing in the mud. It was fun. It was so fun, getting covered in mud, and watching that brilliant smile, so full of joy, even through her missing teeth.

They must have played for hours, but the sun never moved. They ran around the grassy hills. They played catch with a big seed. Meiling wove flowers into a crown, and put it onto the little one’s head.

She stood on her tiptoes, and kissed Meiling on the forehead. She ruffled her hair. It felt a bit like soft grass.

What is your name? Meiling asked her, even though she had a feeling she already knew it.

“[XXXXXXX]” The little one replied. It was a cute name. It suited her well.

They played for a while longer, teasing the tail of a giant black turtle, who never even glanced in their direcion.

Finally, the sun started to set. The little one looked even more exhausted than before, but she was content.

She grinned her grin. The golden veins that went through her body reflected the setting sun. Meiling scooped her up in a hug, and swore that she would do everything in her power to help fix the child.

Meiling woke up crying. Her body was positioned as if she was cradled around her little brother, yet nothing was there. Jin’s arm was around her, and there was dampness on his cheeks.

She scrubbed at her eyes, confused, and wondered why she felt so sad, yet so happy at the same time.

============

The best part about everybody you know being super humans, is the fact that you can turn mundane, back-breaking labour into games.

Seeds flew through the air, and embedded themselves into the soil, perfectly equidistant from each other, and with terrifying speed. Tigger and Xiulan’s faces were masks of concentration as they tossed them from the line, trying to see who could get them in faster.

The rest of the seeds were tossed far more slowly, and with more care, but they were still thrown. Both Meimei and Gou Ren were laughing at the sheer absurdity of the exercise, but it was honestly good for control. Probably.

Who am I kidding, I just invented martial arts wheat farming. Now I just needed my next disciples to be a panda and a dude with a pigtail.

People who were good at this whole “transported to the past” thing would have already made a seed drill, and would be praising the wonders of science.

I had no damn idea how to make one, and I hadn’t been to a blacksmith who might be able to fix my lack of knowledge after I explained what I wanted.You don't think of the things you don’t need. Did I need a seed drill?

Judging by how fast Xiulan and Tigger were tearing into the field in their new “shounen rival” style of friendship, the answer was no.

..I probably should just ask Brother Che about it though. Make life a bit easier for other people.

It was damn hilarious watching the normally rather prim Xiulan start arguing with a cat. Gone from hating each other to thick as thieves in a single night. A strange friendship, but it was good that Tigger had made a friend.

I wasn’t taking part, because it was “unfair”. It probably was, but I kind of wanted to kick somebody’s ass at something. Instead, I got the actual work portion. Fixing any of the wheat seed that had missed the target, making sure they were covered, and giving them a nice drink from my magical Qi bucket.

If I was lucky, I could get in a double wheat harvest. If I wasn’t… well I would be fine with just one.

There was a soft moo, and the sound of cowbells. The two heavily pregnant cows, Lonlon and Malon, were getting taken for a walk by Chunky and Peppa, who were cheerfully watching over them. Babe the ox meandered with them. In their wake Big D and his hens followed, clucking away and snapping at the flies that dared to bother the big animals.

Man. This was really starting to feel like a farm.I just needed my big red barn… and everything would be perfect. The cows and ox lived in a temporary shelter for now, but after the fields were done, they were my next project.

I watched the events fondly. The animals wandering. My wife and my friend trying to one-up each other by chucking wheat seed.

The cultivator and the cat glaring at each other like they were mortal enemies.

The melancholy, wistful feeling from the morning had long since faded, and the day was slowly getting better.

I was a bit concerned to find Washy still gone in the morning. Hee had spent a day away once, after he had broken a jar and nearly ruined the stuff that was in it, fearing my wrath. But this time, nothing was broken, nothing was nibbled, and he was still gone.

But... I had a really strong feeling that he was alright. And probably being a little shit to someone else for a change. He was going to be super unhappy though, a new set of carps had claimed his lair, and were eating his table scraps.

They were, to use the vernacular, courting death.

I snorted.

Well, I did say they could come and go as they pleased. I just hoped Washy was having a good time.

=====================

Xiulan stared at herself. Or rather, the statue of herself, carved out of wood, as she put back on her robe.

TThe first half of the morning had been spent...enjoyably. She did not know training could be...fun, but she had enjoyed herself. She had enjoyed bruising Tigu’s pride more. Turning from a haughty princess to a sulking child.

She would much rather be working on the technique she had been given, but this was an interesting enough distraction, to observe a spirit beast attempting to ascend.

“You’re really quite good at this.” she complemented. Tigu turned to stare at her, and huffed.

Of course I am skilled at this. I am unsurpassed in everything I do.’ The cat declared. ‘The Master has seen my skill, and approves. I shall allow you to gaze upon the ones made of ice, later. He preserved them, especially for me.

She seemed particularly proud of that, preening and sticking her nose in the air.

‘You also did the pillars for the wedding, did you not?” the cat nodded.

Tigu nodded again, settling in front of Xiulan. ‘You are at your best when praising me, little Blade of Grass, continue.’ The cat demanded.

“The composition was utterly amateur, but I suppose the technical skill was competent.” Xiulan mused. Her honourable father had many fine carvings that surpassed what this little beast could do. “You have a long way to go.”

The cat stumbled and glared as Xiulan looked completely innocent.

Tigu grumbled under her breath, and turned to look at the statue.

No tail for balance.’ she stated, wandering around the statue. ‘No proper teeth to bite, or claws to rend. Eyes useless in the night. No good ears to hear, and a nose that is pathetic. Why would one even consider abandoning their form? This one is superior in every way to this….thing.’

The cat turned up her nose at Xiulan’s body.

“Are you claiming your form is superior to your Master’s?” Xiulan asked, incredulous.

Tigu shrugged. ‘He has but one flaw. I shall overlook it.

Xiulan huffed out a laugh at the sheer arrogance. Some would find it enraging, that a mere cat claimed itself superior to them. Xiulan took it as it was. The empty boasts of a child.

I suppose the hands are useful enough.’ The cat conceded. ‘But the rest of this needs to change. Fear not, Xiulan, I shall improve your form.

Tigu’s claws flashed, and Xiulan winced as two large objects hit the floor.

Useless. Gets in the way.’ The cat declared. Well, the cat was right, they did sometimes get in the way. She appreciated that she was a cultivator. Some mortal women complained about their backs, but she never felt any strain.

Too tall. Needs better eyes.’ The cat went to work, cutting and shaving down her sculpture of Xiulan, into a sculpture she was more pleased with. The cuts were quick, with minimal thinking. The cat already seemed to know what she wanted.

Hmm. much better.’ The cat decided.

It looked a lot more like Senior Sister than it did Xiulan with sharp, predatory eyes, and a lithe athletic body.

The thighs, and muscle in the arms were hers though.

‘I shall meditate upon this.’ The cat declared. ‘Now come, witness the Master in all his glory.’

Xiulan sighed, and followed the cat. She wondered if the little beast would actually be able to take a human form.

Ah well, she had a favour from it, and she would be collecting that favour, whether the cat could transform or not.

Cold air billowed out from the pit in the ground, sharp and frosty. Xiulan opened the door, and was met with… a sight.

Jin, nude. Jin, defeating an enemy, also nude. Jin, doing a flip, again, nude.

She stared blankly at the ice sculpture’s waist, and what was there, her face flushing.

‘Is he not magnificent?’ Tigu asked, rubbing up against the sculpture's leg.

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A note from Casualfarmer

Another teaser from the Light Novel Images. Tsuu made the Dress really pretty.

 

 


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