A little girl pounded away at some reeds on a field of steadily drying grass. The sky was full of golden stars interlaced with bands of light.
The little girl looked exhausted. She paused in her work, yawning and stretching. She had cracks of gold running through her body, as if she had been shattered and somehow glued back together.
The little girl returned to the reeds, checking them over, and nodded, satisfied at the slightly coarse fibers.
Her task complete, she turned to the small divot dug in the ground… and threw the soft plant fibers in.
She stepped back, and put her hands on her hips, surveying her bed.
It… didn’t look particularly comfortable. It would be a lot better if she remembered how to weave blankets, but that… well… She tapped at her forehead. It wasn’t all there.
There was a disapproving snort from behind her, causing her to jump and turn around to see an enormous boar made out of runed stone and living wood.
“Not comfy, Big Little Sister. Sleep Bad,” the boar said, his voice like the mountains moving.
The little girl grimaced. “It's… not the greatest, but I can sleep here. Look!” she said and dove into the pile of fibers. Rattling around in the stack, she squirmed until her head was poking out. She grinned back up at the boar.
He still didn’t look particularly amused.
“Why not ask friends for help?” the boar asked her, curious.
Tianlan paused at the question. Friends helping her make her bed… She winced, as a spike of pain pounded into her head. Broken fragments of memories from the Dueling Peaks flashed in front of her eyes.
It wasn’t that she was avoiding them, or anything. It just felt so awkward, seeing the faces of dead people superimposed on the living. Dead people she barely even remembered at that.
And she was busy. Preparing for winter took a lot out of her!
“This is something I have to do myself,” she said instead. Chun Ke looked unconvinced.
Chun Ke stared at her for a moment and then chuffed. A giant nose leaned down and pressed against her forehead.
“If need help, Big Little Sister ask?” he asked.
“....okay.” she whispered, as her hands rose up, going around Chun Ke’s neck. “I’ll ask. But... I want to see how far I can get first, okay?” she requested.
“Okay,” the boar agreed.
What was it like, to witness a miracle? Hong Xian had seen a few in his time. Once, when his not-yet-wife Liling had arrived just in time with the evidence that had saved his and Bao’s necks. Once, when Meiling had been born. And once when his son’s birth followed.
The feeling of awe, wonder, glory and relief that a miracle had taken place was something to be cherished.
And he had just witnessed another yesterday.
“Okay, bend it for me… Keep going, keep going…. Any pain?” Hong Xian watched as his daughter fussed over Liu Bowu. Her amethyst eyes were focused, and a slight green tint circulated around her hands. She was surrounded by Ri Zu and Pi Pa, the two animals assisting her, and Jin, who was standing back and watching the proceedings beside Liu Xianghua quietly.
His eyes sought out the leg that just yesterday had been gnarled and broken, that had been cut into and scraped at, sitting completely unblemished.
If he had not seen it with his own eyes, he would not have believed it. He had seen a cultivator healing before, a broken arm fixing itself in a week with their medicine, but this was beyond even that rapid rate. Moments had passed, and the bone had fused so completely it was as if it was never broken.
Xian thought back to the surgery. It had been humbling to have his daughter, with all the powers of a cultivator, call upon him to ask for his aid. He had been only too happy to oblige her.
And yet, he had been rendered nearly superfluous.
Meiling had been breathtaking to watch. The way her hands had moved, the skill with which she had sliced open the young man’s leg— it was all so exacting that Xian couldn’t replicate it even if he practiced for years. He had barely been able to see her move in some cases, her tweezers plucking out shards of bone that were so small they had been completely invisible to him . Her lack of hesitation and her calm commands were amazing.
He felt like a boy at his father’s knee again, even after everything he had done and seen throughout his life. He still remembered the brutal amputations—or the worst one, carving out a portion of a man’s skull to reduce swelling of the brain. The man had lived, but he was never quite the same afterwards.
And now, as his daughter made sure her patient was well and that there were no further issues with his leg… Hong Xian could only watch. She had surpassed him utterly, even if she still would deny it and still proclaim Xian her better in all things.
It was sweet of her, but he supposed that some things took time to realize.
It was a strange miracle… but in the end, it was a welcome one. At first, his pride had been stung on realizing that his skills amounted to little in the face of a cultivator, but the sting soon faded as his daughter still asked for his opinion, her questions so earnest.
The sting to his pride soon turned to pride in her accomplishments… and pride that his daughter was carrying on the family tradition.
He had always been proud of her. She had picked up medicine astoundingly fast. She had been driven and passionate about their family’s crafts—Like he was at her age. Always wanting to learn and apply herself.
Sometimes, Xian thought it may have been better were his daughter born a man. He would have been happy to proclaim her his heir, even now... But it could not be. The world of mortals was not the world of cultivators. They were peasants, not nobles. Very few, even if they did like Meiling, would have followed her. That, and the second reason.
The words of the ancestors were clear. Hong Xian, Son of Hong Xian, must succeed as the head of Hong Yaowu. He had sworn an oath upon taking the position from his father, and some things were not broken lightly.
It was, in his opinion, an injustice dealt to his daughter. The years of learning and of aiding him, only to be told by some that her learning had been useless. In truth, he was rather glad she had dosed their drinks with laxatives. For such foolish men would have foolish children—and his Meiling deserved better than that.
Xian sighed and absently picked up the flask of liquid. Seven Fragrance Jewel Herb Liquid, grown by a powerful cultivator and then refined through the lightning of a dragon and the medicinal Qi of another powerful cultivator.
In any other case, it would sound like the creation of a charlatan. If a traveler dared to say that this was the method to obtain the sparkling concoction within, they would have been chased out of town for trying to swindle the population.
Instead, he had seen it made. Meiling had given him a recipe for a less potent version; He had used it and he knew the results firsthand.
His daughter had willingly shared it with him, to better aid the village. In conjunction with the Spiritual Herbs that even now were growing in his garden, Hong Yaowu would be able to produce miracles of its own. Able to save a man’s life from nearly any injury, so long as it was administered before they died.
All this, from a single visitor.
He gently placed down the priceless concoction as his eyes found Jin. His Son-In-Law was watching Meilling’s treatment of Bowu from nearby. He made no move to intervene. In fact, he looked impressed and proud. He saw Meiling’s talent, nurtured it, and loved it.
Like the thistle that was the same colour as her eyes, Xian’s Meiling had grown quickly in the right soil. She was the Master of her household, she commanded a multitude of servants and she was practically the wife of a chief in her own right. All this on top of her medicine. The drive that his daughter had was pushing her further and further along in her studies. Jin did not just indulge his daughter, as if medicine was a passing fancy. He supported her wholeheartedly.
But, as Xian was coming to learn more and more about Jin, that was just how the man did things. He would rather aid another than take the credit for himself. Jin saw their passions and, as if seized by them himself, he strove to create with them.
They truly were a good match, his daughter and Jin.
Xian shook his head as he realized his attention had wandered. His daughter had completed her tests. Luckily, Pi Pa had been writing everything down. He was just about used to the talking animals now.
There was the clink of a cup as Jin got some tea and poured Xian a cup.
“Jin. Sit with me, son. I wish to hear about your plans for the winter,” Xian said as he patted the spot beside him.
Jin smiled at the invitation as they both sat. Jin took a sip of his own tea, swallowing before starting.
“Well, the first thing is first—The General that Commands the Winter must muster his forces…” Jin began with a silly grin.
Of course, the first thing Jin thought of was a giant snow golem. He should have probably expected it.
“I’ve got the perfect carrot, you know? It's as long as my arm, and I had to duel Wa Shi for it when I dug it up!” Xian snorted with laughter as he imagined the dragon being slammed into the ground over a carrot. It was an amusing image. He let Jin’s voice wash over them as he thought.
Well, the harvest had been good this year, and there was never really much to do during winter… perhaps they would challenge the General’s might?
Perhaps use an internal frame… or was that cheating? No, Jin used Qi, so it was fair!
It was fair, if only to see the look on Jin’s face when Hong Yaowu beat the size of a cultivator’s snow golem.