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Bi De watched over the little ones with serene grace. The young cows bucked and gamboiled around the field, chasing and being chased in equal measure. It was a sight he was incredibly fond of. The young ones knew absolutely nothing of danger. To them, all of Fa Ram was safe and pristine, untouched by anything that could harm them.

This was truly the pride of a protector. One who knew his charges were safe, as the result of his direct actions. Indeed, after the births, many of Basi Bu Shi’s ilk slunk around the outskirts, as well as the largest of their kin.

All of them fled. Not a single creature had attempted to breach the boundary. They slunk, and sniffed, examining his protection for weak points. None dared to test the line. They knew that to cross over it was death, while he was on watch, and he allowed them his mercy. As long as interlopers did not truly intrude, he stayed his mighty spurs, and did not strike them down.

Though it was little true mercy. Sister Tigu needed to eat, after all, and though the masses of Chow Ji’s kin fled from the area, these few creatures remained. Though it was always quite a shock to see her dining upon a wolf that outmassed her ten times over.

Tigu ranged freely in this way, and together, all threats to Fa Ram were defeated before most even knew of them.

Though the cat had lately been slightly more... aggressive in her pursuit of interlopers, as a result of her stained honour. She had proclaimed to the heavens that she would find a bee for the Great Master: and still, she had not delivered one unto him. Without the distraction of the Blade of Grass, she had even sought to challenge him. It had been an enjoyable spar, but it ended the only way that it could end. He had tried to give her pointers properly, but such was her frustration that even this was not well received.

He tried his best to be a good First Disciple, and dispense wisdom. Yet he was still young and half-roasted. A mere shadow of the Great Master’s own profound wisdom, and there was only one that Tigu would truly listen to.

And the Great Master was not there, and so her frenzy had redoubled. In Truth, Bi De knew that the Great Master did not consider her honour stained. He surely saw straight through Tigu, and was attempting to turn this into some form of lesson. The sort of lesson Sister Pi Pa had divined, in making the girls work together.

He hoped that it may resolve some of the strife, but he was still convinced that it would end in a battle. Pi Pa was more optimistic, but would be sitting in on the lesson again, and make sure it did not get too out of hand.

He noticed that the calves had strayed, going to where they were not supposed to, and bothering those that they were not to bother.

His swift legs carried him to his destination, and he gently shooed the little ones (little, they were nearly fifty times his mass already) back away from those they were about to bother. Their little eyes were hungry for the balls of fuzz.Their wool was apparently very valuable, and not to be soiled, or chewed on unduly.

So he gently scolded them, his voice a much lower pitch and not nearly so loud. They fled joyously, returning to their games. He could not believe he used to find Pi Pa and Chun Ke annoying when they bucked and played so. The folly of his own youth and arrogance.

The sheep were placid creatures, bleating occasionally, but otherwise content to stand in their little triangle formation, and go where directed.

He hopped onto Fu Zi’s back, and gently picked a few sticks out of the sheep’s wool. It was wonderfully soft, but was prone to picking up an enormous amount of detritus.

Bi Di stood guard for a while longer, his attention never wavering, when Brother Chun Ke came to relieve him.

They bowed to each other, and they swapped positions, Chun Ke going to play with the little ones, and Bi De setting off along the Great Pillars. He absently flowed through a form on his way back to the coop, allowing his body to flow, and surrounding his body with his Qi. He was on the cusp of a new Lunar technique, he could feel it. But nothing good would come from forcing. The Lunar Blades of the Crescent Moon, and the Split Faces of the Half Moon were much different techniques. He wondered what the face of the Full Moon would reveal to him?

He continued upon his path, and ventured past the hives, to a spot where he was met with regularity. He nodded politely to his visitor.

The bee was constantly tended to by two of it’s brood, climbing over her, grooming, and another two standing guard. It was odd behaviour. Sister Ri Zu noted that it should be hiding in it’s nest at all times, with the birth of it’s first clutch, but it still came out to observe him, accompanied by an honour guard. He was certain it even attempted to dance for him once, the silly little thing, wiggling about.

Knowing what the little creature wished for, he retrieved a small sample of the Qi filled maple syrup that the Great Master had originally fed her from, and offered it. The offering was accepted, and the little queen bee danced for him, in her own, wiggling way. He had his own thoughts on the creature. Could it have a spark? If so, she was the smallest thing he had observed to contain thought. And she could not yet truly communicate.

He observed it politely, as one should when thanked. But his mind was not fully upon the bee. He was worried about the lesson. He knew Sister Pi Pa would tolerate no violence within the house, but he was still a bit worried about Sister Ri Zu.

He nodded to the bee, as her wriggling stopped, and he went on his way, going back towards the coop. The windows were all open, to let the spring breeze blow through, and refresh the stale air.

He hopped up into the window sill, and observed.

The air had some tension in it, as Ri Zu spoke. Her tones were clipped, and her diction exacting. She had slowly been reducing the amount of odd double-words her kin had used, and her voice was calm and steady.

There was none of her passion here. None of her wonderful enthusiasm. But similarly, there were no snide remarks from Tigu. She sat blankly, occasionally lapping up some of the tea before her.

‘This concludes the lesson.’ Ri Zu stated. There was silence for a moment, as they glared at each other.

Most were things this Young Mistress has learned through her own efforts.’ The cat grumbled. Glaring angrily at the slate, though her anger seemed to be mostly directed at herself.

‘Then you should have listened to Ri Zu the first time.’ the rat said stiffly.

The cat bristled dangerously, but accepted the rebuke.

Tigu hissed. ‘Yet I am still no closer to capturing one from your lesson.’ She seemed to glare at one of her own paws. ‘Capturing such a small thing is…’

Indeed, her body was the poorest out of all of them for capturing a bee directly. Her razor claws and teeth like daggers cut and shredded delicate carapace easily. It was doubly hard, when all of Tigu’s Qi was optimised for cutting. To blunt her teeth in the heat of the moment would be a challenging task.

They sat in silence, Sister Pi Pa observing them from her station.

‘...Why do you hate Ri Zu?’ the rat eventually asked, leaning back against her slate.

Tigu paused, and stared at Ri Zu in bewilderment. ‘Hate you? If I hated you, I would not have trained myself so harshly. Naturally, This Young Mistress has mastered this aspect of herself. I barely feel the urge to kill and eat you anymore, and it is easily disregarded.

It was a blunt statement. One that surprised Bi De as much as it seemed to surprise Ri Zu.

Ri Zu frowned at Tigu. ‘Then why do you constantly try to hurt Ri Zu?’

‘Trade pointers.’ The cat corrected idly. ‘Your dying is unacceptable. You are of Fa Ram. You are not allowed to become prey for lesser creatures, and sully our collective glory.’ Tigu stated, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. ‘Yet you do not train. Even the Mistress does at least some exercises, and she is protected at all times by the Master. You are not. If one of us is not here, you shall surely perish. This Young Mistress has tried to correct your uselessness every time, but is rebuked.

Ri Zu’s eyebrow twitched. ‘You expect Ri Zu to believe that this is concern for her?’

‘Of course not for you. This Young Mistress is concerned you taint the name of Fa Ram.’ Tigu lapped up more of her tea primly.

Ri Zu twitched some more, and then a serene smile spread across her face.

‘And what has led you to believe Ri Zu does not train?’ Sister Ri Zu asked.

Your head is buried in scrolls all day. I smell not any exertion on you, only the scent of herbs. You obviously train little.’

Ri Zu nodded her head, and raised one of her paws in a gesture that caused Bi De and Pi Pa to flinch.

It was a gesture Chow Ji had used. Something burned into their minds as wicked and arcane.

Oh? What shall little Ri Zu do with that?’ Tigu asked, condescending.

Activate the poison Ri Zu put in your tea.’ the rat returned pleasantly.

Tigu paused. Ah, Bi De realised, she didn’t pause, her muscles locked up.

The cat keeled over, her Qi flaring and sparking uncertainly.

Ri Zu is weak. Ri Zu is timid. Ri Zu defied Chow Ji.’ The little rat said pleasantly, approaching the cat.

She shoved a digit into the tip of Tigu’s nose.

Ri Zu can fight. Ri Zu will live. Worry not for her, Young Mistress.

She turned her back on Tigu, and waved her paw, green medicinal Qi surging. Tigu’s muscles abruptly relaxed, and she started gasping.

Was this what Chow Ji used?’ Tigu asked, her voice strained. She had been… skeptical of the wicked Rat’s prowess. She had not believed before this moment.

Oh no, what he used was much more debilitating. It was agony given form, and Brother Bi De fought through it anyway.’ Ri Zu supplied.

There was silence once more in the coop.

Tigu rose to her feet, her face impassive. He expected more stumbling, but instead, it was almost graceful. Ri Zu tensed, as did Bi De. He expected anger. He expected wrath.

Instead, Tigu simply turned, and left. Her face was a mask.

Bi De complemented the impressive showing of his Sister.

Ri Zu jumped and started flailing.

Ah, you saw Ri Zu do that?’ She looked embarrassed, and was tapping her forefingers together.

Indeed. Your courage and resourcefulness is always a sight to behold.’ He proclaimed. Ri Zu hunched in on herself, but smiled up at him.

Pi Pa sighed. ‘I had hoped for a less… well, a different outcome, but this may work as well.’ Pi Pa admitted. ‘Perhaps thinking that Tigu would gain some appreciation for Young Miss Ri Zu’s knowledge was too optimistic. I’ll go make sure the Young Miss does not do anything rash.’

With that, she stood up, and left.

Bi De hopped down from the window sill, and went to sit beside Sister Ri Zu. She clambered onto his back, as was her proper place, and she buried her face in his feathers.

Ri Zu does not like fighting.’ she whispered. ‘...but was Tigu right? If Ri Zu cannot poison her foe, she will surely die-perish.’

The Disciples of Fa Ram would protect their own. But Bi De would be pleased, if Sister Ri Zu wished to join him in the morning training.

There was silence, and then a nod.

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