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I carefully ran my fingers though the steadily growing shoots. Soil acidity, good. Sunlight, too much. Wind, needs more. I nodded in agreement.

“Lets get you moved over, little guy.” I muttered to the plant, and I imagined its little fronds waving in thanks.

Wait, don’t actually wave in thanks, you’re food. Just the impressions I get are enough.

I grabbed the pot and moved it to a better location, examining the collection. The vast majority were relatively normal looking. Green, vibrant, and full of life. My seasonings, the Lowly Spiritual Herbs, were looking particularly tasty.

They were growing even better after I added a bit of bone meal from the spirit beast bones Xiulan had brought along as wedding gifts. I may like hunting, but I don’t really enjoy the whole hunter aesthetic. Racks of antlers on the walls were never my thing, and neither were skulls the size of my torso, or the one Wrecker Ball shell that was even bigger than I was.

So they got turned into fertilizer. Some went here, and some went on my vegetable gardens, in controlled amounts.

I turned my attention to the new plants in the buckets. Spiritual Herbs were… weird. They were simultaneously more, and less hardy than other plants. Quite frankly, I had an amazing success rate so far, using my own half-baked kludge of a technique, and with that, I had gotten a feel of what they kind of needed. A certain pH. Denser, or looser soils. How much fertilizer. Even where to put them around my house. The Lowly Spiritual Herbs liked the Southern part the best.

It was really nice, honestly. Before I had to guess, but these hunches were really accurate.

Last year, Big D had presented a bunch of seeds to me. At first, I thought it was just some kind of imitation. He had seen me planting seeds, so he went out and got some for me. I had kept them, as it was too late in the season last year to plant them, but I had fully intended on making him his own little garden.

It wasn’t until Meiling told me that they had a very faint bit of Qi in them that I realised that he had gone specifically looking for things with Qi as a gift to me.

So instead of a little plot of land, with its own little hut (which admittedly, would have been a very fairy tale view.) they were in the steadily expanding collection of buckets and pots that grew the Spiritual herbs.

I would really need a dedicated space for these soon, other than “piled around the house.” but it was working so far, and nothing needed any exotic environment.

There was a completely sky-blue stalk of grass, and weird yellow tendrils that were growing underwater. Lesser Skygrass, and Yellow Waterroot. In addition to the two strange looking ones, there were some little stalks of spiritual grass, and a Five-Spine Leaf. These were all of some use in pill making and medicine, but they were more a curiosity. The only reason why I knew their names is because of my trip to the Archive with Meimei.

I turned my attention to the one pot that seemingly had nothing in it, the original reason why I had gone to the archive in the first place. With a shrug, I went over to it, and carefully started to excavate. I hadn’t looked at it since I reburied it nearly a year ago now, and I was wondering if it was still alive. There were no shoots above the surface, but when I had found it, there was no green in sight on it.

I pulled the root out of its earthy prison. It had gotten a bit bigger, and had gone from a very deep brown/red to something a bit lighter red, so it was growing.

Meimei sneezed. It was a cute sound, surprisingly high pitched, compared to Meimei’s slightly deeper voice.

And then she sneezed again.

And again.

“Geh! Jin, what the hells is that?!” She gasped as she walked in from outside, Xiulan trailing behind her from outside, her eyes wide and curious.

Meimei sneezed for a fourth time, and glared at the root. “Its like shoving peppercorns up my nose!”

….Right, it felt a little bit like fire to me, and I was shit at Qi sensing. Judging by their reaction, it might be something powerful. Strange that they could only feel it once it came out of the soil, but eh.

And we have a cultivator right here, so hey! We might be able to figure out what this is!

“Sorry, I’ll put it away in a second. Xiulan, do you know what this is?” I asked.

She approached, looked hard at the root for a moment, and shook her head.

“No, I do not, Master Jin. Would you enlighten me as to what it is?”

I shrugged. “I dunno either.” I said honestly. Her eyes widened further. “Then it must be a rare, and powerful root, Master Jin. Its Qi is quite potent.”

Meimei sneezed again, and snot started running out of her nose. She turned and fled.

Well, back into the soil you go.

We’ll find out when we find out.

Now, where did I put those posts that I was going to put in the pond?

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

Meiling sat down with a cup of tea and sighed. Pi Pa dutifully set down the paper and scrolls with Ri Zu’s help. Financial reports, and the household budget.

It was something that she didn’t particularly like doing, but she would mostly just be checking over Pi Pa’s work. Which was a blessing. She still shuddered about the time that she had looked over her father’s work. She did their house.. And her father did all the other finances related to the village.

It was no wonder he looked frazzled constantly during those weeks when he had to put the entire report together.

This was her second attempt. The first had ended when she opened up the scroll, and realised that she couldn’t read any of the numbers. Jin had been apologetic, and offered to rewrite the entire thing, or do it himself. She refused. Jin already did a lot of woman’s work without complaint, and she needed some job she could call her own. Her pride wouldn’t allow her to be a layabout. This was the job her mother did, and she would do it too! Instead, she took him up on his offer to learn.

They were surprisingly easy, the characters and formations. It took her an afternoon, and Jin had jokingly declared that she had “speed ran math”. The test was easy as well. She had thought he had gone easy on her, but he had been proud of her perfect score. And not patronizing, genuinely happy with her skill. It was still a bit of a strange sentiment from anyone but her indulgent father.

Hopefully our kids are as smart as you.”

That idle hope from Jin had filled her heart to burst, though her husband did himself a disservice. He was anything but stupid. Best to hope that their better qualities would shine through. Hopefully, they would be as smart as either of them. Though she did hope that Jin’s gentleness would win out over her own vindictive personality.

She idly rubbed her stomach. She wasn’t sure. Not yet. It was one missed flow, and she didn’t feel any different yet. But better safe than sorry.

No matter how much she wanted to drink with her friends.

She opened the scroll. Pi Pa’s writing was excellent. Elegant, with a little bit of flourish. Quite a bit different from Meiling’s own writing. Hers was the boxy, utilitarian style taught to the scribes. Like each character was impressed by a stamp. It eliminated confusion, the Imperial Scribes decreed. The straight line margins, and precision was good for organisation, and when one worked with potentially fatal plants, good organisation was key.

….she might try to make her writing a bit more beautiful in the future. She couldn’t be outdone by a pig. No matter how elegant that pig was.

“Excellent calligraphy, Pi Pa.” She praised, and the pig bowed her head at the praise.

She did her part first, as it was what she was familiar with. Pi Pa did good work. Everything was in order, and everything was recorded diligently.

So she was in quite a good mood as she opened Jin’s scroll. That mood lasted until she saw what it looked like.

She turned to Pi Pa, who wore a commiserating expression. The worst part was, she knew that Jin could write well. The carved “Beware of Chicken” was the work of an extremely skilled hand. Almost art, she would say. He could write the courtly characters like a noble!

She shook her head. Well, she would be doing most of it now! Everything would be organised!

...though the little drawing of what could be only her in the corner was extremely cute. Jin had gotten distracted thinking about her.

She sighed happily, as she looked at the drawing. The slightly cheeky grin on her face. The little hearts--

Pi Pa coughed from beside her. Meiling blushed, her brush freezing in the middle of drawing her own little hearts around a doodle of Jin’s face. Right. She was working.

Meiling redoubled her concentration. It wasn’t actually that bad, but it was extremely disorganised. Still, Pi Pa had done an excellent job deciphering things, as far as she could tell. One of the figures was off, but not everybody could be perfect.

The next scroll was even worse, though this one was filled with technical drawing of gears and pipes, in addition to the numbers.

Meiling frowned at them, remembering the sheafs of paper Jin had in a drawer. She hadn’t thought much of them, but if they had been as disorganised as this, then that was unacceptable. Jin was outside, working.

She would organisee his drawings first. Make sure they were all in a good place. It would be a shame if he lost any of them.

And so she started around the house. Some were on the table, some were in drawers, and some were even behind a dresser. A waste! Paper wasn’t too expensive, but it was an expense! She would be having words with him later!

She started sorting through the pages. Ones with gears over here, ones with farming implements, over here….

She flushed as she came to a more familiar drawing. The “Scholar Girl” with the scandalously short skirt. She had no idea what uniform scholars had in the city, but she was certain it wasn’t this. She still could barely believe that she had actually agreed to work on it. The top was fine, in fact it looked quite nice, but the bottom?

Well, it had been nice and swishy, and Jin’s shout of “praise the heavens” when she had worn it had been nice...She turned to the next one, one that had been under the dresser.

Her mouth opened in shock. Pi Pa stood, and looked at what she was looking at, and flushed as well.

It turned out that the Scholar Girl wasn’t as lewd as she thought it was. The nets on the legs, the material that exposed her chest and legs, the rabbit ears of all things--!

She took it back, her husband was an idiot. A lust filled devant!

She looked at the picture some more. It wasn’t much material--

She quickly put it to the side, and found another set of drawings, again all of her wearing different clothes. A strange, button up shirt, in red with black squares. Her hair in two braids that ran down her shoulders. "Lumberjack" was written next to it. A robe that looked fit for a princess, with floral designs all over it, and hairpins. A shimmery blue dress, and odd, heeled shoes.

They were beautiful clothes. She looked at the writing of “commision?” in the corner.

He was planning on buying her these? The robe was entirely too much!

She carefully folded up the page, and stuck it in her robe. She was a more than capable seamstress. She could surely make some of this. It made no sense to spend too much money on her, and they were going to Verdant Hill soon. She knew some people.

After a moment of pondering, she grabbed the strange rabbit costume, and put it in her robe too.

Then she got back to work with pink cheeks.

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

Bi De examined his crude drawing of the formation carefully. It was a memory of what he had seen, from that night high up in the air. It was an interesting puzzle. But he enjoyed it, and hated it in equal measure.

Despite his best efforts, he was growing restless. As he thought on the strange formation more, as he considered it… he wanted to know more about it. It was like that time with Chow Ji, his interest and desires running away from him.

He strived to master himself. He should be content with his station. All of his transgressions were forgiven, and he had a place of honour. He was a proud guardian, entrusted with Fa Ram by His Great Master.

But he still wanted to know. Quite the conundrum. He drew a few more diagrams. Something itched at the back of his skull, but he still could not comprehend what he was looking at. He had seen too little of it.

He would have to actually go and observe the formation, if he wanted to learn more.

His studies of the moon, and of the wind had stalled. These were not things to be worried about, he told himself.

And yet, and yet.

Bi De frowned, as Sister Ri Zu began grooming his feathers.

‘If it bothers you so, seek guidance.’ She recommended.

Bi De frowned more heavily. To bother the Great Master with something so… unimportant. Yet seek his Lord’s council he would.

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

I looked more closely at the picture that Big D had drawn. The strange formation, or circle thing that he had. It was obviously incomplete, with places with blank circles, or crossed out ones.

“So this is what you saw from the air, huh?” I asked him and Rizzo. Big D was sitting calmly, waiting for my judgement.

A formation during the solstice? Well, I suppose it would be kind of interesting for a cultivator, and while I had a vacation to Hong Yaowu, all the animals were working.

It was kind of unfair, now that I think about it. I got a good night's sleep while other people were on guard? I got to play around, while they did things for me? They were people too.

“Well, how about you check it out, if you’re interested in it? I’ll prep some rations for you, whenever you want to leave. It's always good to expand your horizons.”

The chicken gaped at me.

“Hey, it’ll be interesting. Tell me what you find, Okay?”

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A note from Casualfarmer

Getting back to this was actually a bit challenging after the whole sect thing. I dunno if i'm 100% happy with the chapter.


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Casualfarmer

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