When he was but a mere Outer Sect Disciple, Lu Ri had made a decision that benefited him greatly. He was deeply immersed in one of the Honoured Founder’s writings, specifically upon etiquette and composure, when he had witnessed one of his Senior Sisters spear another disciple with a mere glance. He froze and recoiled, and even far away from the impact, he felt it. The Intent. He had heard of it before, but never experienced it for himself. He, who wished to join the ranks of the Senior Disciples, and was so enamoured with the sublime Honoured Founder’s writings, had been overjoyed! One who was not an elder, who could conceivably aid his practise!
So he, as a gentleman did, requested a private audience, and explained himself to his superior. She must have been terrifyingly strong to have that effect, and he wished to experience it for himself, so he could comport himself properly in all situations, and not shame the Cloudy Sword Sect.
The woman, who had started off bored and cold, had gradually become amused at his actions.
The kind Senior Sister had agreed. The first time he experienced Intent, he nearly soiled himself. The pressure, the feelings of helplessness… it was all nearly too much.
As soon as it came, it lifted, and with a raised, delicate brow, the Senior Sister had asked if he still wished to learn. At his affirmative, she had giggled demurely, and sent him on his way.
The next day, he discovered that he was assigned as her personal attendant, and there was a nasty rumor going around that he had somehow shamed the popular Senior Sister.
Having a pack of female disciples trying to murder you with their eyes at every waking moment, combined with Senior Sister’s own random bouts of Intent had been hell.
But by the end of that month, he could compose himself and smile in the face of death. Senior Sister Yeo Na had even gifted him a scroll on etiquette, if only for the amusement he had granted her.
The difference between that lesson, and the Intent of an Elder was the difference between The Heavens and the Earth, but he was a Senior Disciple now, and a Senior Disciple was composed under all circumstances.
Even when an Elder had their full, and undivided attention upon them.
“Thus, I returned his money. It would not do to add insult to injury, and the amount was, relatively speaking, worthless to the Sect.” Lu Ri explained the final detail of his last meeting in full, and as demanded. “He seemed to leave with no regrets, thanked me, and went upon his way.”
The stormy visage of Elder Ge persisted, as sweat gathered on Lu Ri’s back. Finally, the Elder moved, drawing out a pipe. He took a few puffs, and sighed.
“Not ideal… but superior to what I feared. You have done well, Senior Disciple, and I commend you.” He finally declared, glaring off into the distance.
Lu Ri ignored the burning need to say the question he felt needed to be asked.
“Speak.” Elder Ge demanded, sensing Lu Ri’s disquiet.
“....if he was important, why were we not informed?” Lu Ri asked. Elder Ge studied him, taking his measure.
“A question that should be answered, should it not?” Elder Ge mused, and turned his attention to Lu Ri once more. “Because a certain man has certain views on how one should be trained. He thinks the boy a copy of himself, to be forged as he was.” The Elder explained to him. Lu Ri didn’t know who “he” was but stayed silent. The name had obviously been omitted by choice.
Elder Ge puffed his pipe a few more times, frowning. “He did not want his project noticed. A minor existence, while he was not around to directly supervise.”
Lu Ri nodded at the logic. Refuge in anonymity was a powerful tool… unless something like this happened.
“With the aid of the heavens we may still salvage this situation.” The Elder straightened, his eyes fierce.
“Senior Disciple Lu Ri. You have started upon this mission, and now, I will have you continue it. I command you to find Jin Rou, as your last dealing with him ended on good terms. Use whatever resources you deem necessary, but I would like for this mission to be… discrete.”
His command was issued, and the bare beginnings of the Raging Cloudy Sword Formation appeared, filling the room with it’s sublime intent.
“As you command, This Lu Ri obeys, Elder Ge.” Lu Ri bowed obediently. “Am I to retrieve him?”
The Elder considered the question. “If you can, but do not force the issue. We are to be... courteous in this matter.”
Lu Ri saluted his Elder. An existence that required the Cloudy Sword Sect to step lightly was worrying.
“I shall not return until I have found him, Elder Ge.” Lu Ri declared, and the Elder nodded his head at the resolve.
“Excellent. Prepare well, Lu Ri, and find Jin Rou.” The command was thick with Qi.
Lu Ri saluted once more, and turned to leave, his mind already racing with what he would need. He was likely out of the Azure Hills already. He most likely made a detour, and then continued on his way, but Lu Ri would leave no stone unturned.
He paused at the darkness that he was walking in, and looked up. It could not be evening yet--
There were clouds above the mountain. This area of the sect should be above them, yet there they were. Black, roiling storm clouds covered the entire sect. They were ominous in their silence, hanging like a sword above a man’s neck.
Lu Ri swallowed, his composure breaking briefly. The Raging Cloudy Sword Formation. More specifically, Elder Ge’s variation, The Black Clouds of the Silent Sky.
Lu Ri ducked his head.
This time, he carefully didn’t think that Jin Rou would be easy to find.
I sneezed as I finished putting up the last of the posts. I waited for a second, but a second sneeze failed to materialise. One thing I didn’t miss was hay fever. Previously, I'd be sneezing all the time, and be spewing snot everywhere, but right now my sinuses were blessedly clear.
There was still work to be done, of course, there always was. I was putting up the outer walls for Meimei’s medicine hut right now. But the days had started to get a little lazy. Sitting down on the veranda that overlooked the stream, playing my instrument while Meimei started up working on her clothes was just something absolutely blissful.
There was only one thing that could make it better. A rocking chair. Or one of those swings drilled into the ceiling.
I think I would go with both. One didn’t need to cuddle up all the time, no matter how much I wanted to.
But… we’d probably need to start up the lessons again. We had slacked during the wedding and the planting, and we had time now. It was still weird being a teacher.
I had even asked Meimei to do more formal lessons on medicine, just so that I would feel less awkward. Learning together, instead of me just standing at the front lecturing all the time.
I stood up and stretched, looking out over my farm. Meimei tended to the herb garden with Rizzo and Peppa. Xiulan sat near my seasonings, imbuing them with Qi. Gou Ren weeded the rice paddies with Chunky. Tigger was working on a project I had set her, some relief carvings for Meimei’s medicine house, and those were looking nearly photo realistic. The thistles were a nice touch.
Finally, Big D was drawing something, staring at whatever he had made with a critical eye. It looked a bit like some kind of alchemy circle, or some kind of formation. I idly wondered what it was. It could just be a drawing though, considering how incomplete it looked.
Xiulan got up from her chores, and stretched, going over to Meimei to see if she needed any help. My wife waved her off, and so instead, Xiulan went off to the side, starting to practise that dance of hers again, a small smile on her face.
Big D seemed to take this as a cue, and ascended to the fence posts after packing up his drawing, starting his hops and his kicks. Like he was on those cliche kung-fu movie poles, the ones that you did balance training on.
…..I wonder if I should set a few up, if only as a joke. Can’t have a kung-fu story without ‘em. And didn’t Xiulan have that tournament coming up?
Well, they were worth a thought. Even if only I found them funny. I could always take them down after.
A nice, warm breeze flowed around me. Green grass. The blossoms on the trees. The people who were around me.
Man, I never wanted to leave.