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A note from Casualfarmer

Hou Ten awoke in darkness. The smell of earth filled his nostrils, and the air had just a touch of dampness to it. The cavern was warm. Some might say uncomfortably so, this far below the earth.

 

To Hou Ten, it was perfect. His hand reached out, tapping at a crystal on his helmet, and it lit up, bathing his cavern in a warm glow. The cavern was relatively small. Big enough for him to stand up straight, but a human would have to be bent nearly double. Master Jin would probably not be able to fit in here at all—a problem whose remedy would likely be his next project, widening this place to properly host guests. He crawled out of his sheets and made his bed, soft linens that had been gifted to him by his hosts. There was a kettle off to the side, and with his Qi, he could heat the water to prepare tea.

 

That was one of the perks of being a Spirit Beast. No need for fire crystals or wood, of which he had neither at the moment. His hands curled around his kettle as he heated the water, then poured it into a bowl with mashed rice, berries, and a bit of jerky. It quickly turned into a thick porridge, one that he had eaten often back home—save for the fact that the ingredients were better here and it was invigorating to his Qi.

 

He chewed on some of the berries as he smiled around at his domain. It almost felt like home. There was just one thing missing, and that was his clan.

 

It had taken a while, after the excitement of adventure, for the feeling to set in, but he yearned to be home again in the Crystal Hill.

 

There was absolutely nothing wrong with Master Jin nor any other of those from Fa Ram. They had all been more than kind to him. He could say he liked Fa Ram without reservation. He enjoyed serving tea to others or strolling around the property with Tigu. He had taken pleasure in watching the practice bouts between the cultivators and aiding with the transfer of the harvest had been fun.

 

Master Jin even knew the right way to groom! He had missed the feeling of another picking through his fur. He had attempted it first with Gou Ren. A handsome and rugged lad, who would have been the talk of the women back in Crystal Hill, but the boy had been entirely too awkward and kept glaring at his fox-like brother when the man’s recording crystal chimed.

 

Hou Ten could say the entirety of his experience at the Fa Ram was interesting and engaging.

 

But… but, at the end of the day, he still felt alone. A lifetime of echoes from Master Gen and his own instincts made it so that being outside a loud place with nearly a hundred of his kin and clan felt… wrong. Hou Ten missed the soothing feeling of Master Gen’s presence. The spiritual fulfillment of being near his ancestors and venerating the Great Master. He missed the foolish antics of the children as they hooted and swung through the trees.

 

Most of all, he missed the earth. He missed mining. Every day that passed without a pick in his hand, searching for crystals, felt like ants crawling within his fur. Even before he was truly awake the echoes of Master Gen’s passion had infected him, sending him delving deeper and deeper in search of more crystals to share with his kin.

 

There was no mine here, no place truly underground except the cold storage. And the cold storage, while interesting, wasn’t the right kind of tunnel.

 

So he had begged Master Jin for leave to dig a tunnel, just something to occupy himself with. Master Jin had promptly taken him to the back of the property and given him an entire hill to do with as Hou Ten pleased, even helping him dig out the entrance.

 

“What kind of man doesn’t like digging a big hole?” Master Jin had declared with a shovel in his hand.

 

Hou Ten agreed wholeheartedly. Truly, Master Jin had the wrong body. He could have been one of the clan with that attitude.

 

Even if he clearly didn’t like being too far below ground. He was simply too big… Being small came with disadvantages, but for the life of a miner it was a boon.

 

Hou Ten finished his breakfast and set away his bowl. He would wash it later when he came up to the surface again, but for now, he had his main job to do.

 

He ascended a bit in his tunnels, heading upwards along the main tunnel towards the surface, ending up just below the frostline. The tunnels were larger here, and colder, but they were built so that the humans could enter easily. He turned off to the side along the main passage, into a room.

 

Sitting on a pedestal in the center of the unadorned room was a crystal.

 

The crystal. His reason for being here, and the reason for his awakening. An ancient device that contained memories from thousands of years ago—from a person that lived at the same time as Hou Ten’s own ancestors.

 

The inner light from the crystal was roiling slowly with differing colours. This was not the original crystal; the old one had cracked and was too unstable to use. So, they had transferred it to this crystal. Though the transfer had been successful, the sheer amount of information the old crystal had contained was beyond all estimates and it needed time to settle into the new device.

 

He performed his checks quickly. Things seemed to be proceeding apace. The formation surrounding the crystal, made for them by Master Gen and Clan-Friend Jing of Pale Moon Lake City, was doing its work. Soon, the crystal would be ready to use.

 

His checks done, he bowed to the crystal thrice and shouldered his pick, smiling to himself. He had found what looked to be a promising direction last night. He had felt a slight touch of something. He didn’t know what it was, but he was itching to find out!

 

He went out of the side room, back into the main passage—

 

Hello?’ A voice called out, and Hou Ten jumped, He hadn’t heard anybody come down! He turned around and found Miss Yin, the silver rabbit, staring up at him. She was a pretty thing, almost ethereal, with her colouration and beautiful eyes.

 

Can I help you, Lass?’ Hou Ten asked her, taking off his helmet in respect, his gruff voice rumbling like a mountain.

 

‘Yeah, Shifu wants to know if you could find him more dirt like this.’ She pulled a satchel off her back and showed the sample within.

 

Clay, the sort used for pottery. Hou Ten took a sample, smelling and tasting some of it. He closed his eyes and thought on the matter, rifling through his memories.

 

Finally, he found a match. High in mineral content and wet.

 

The seams of this are all up a bit higher, and they’re all frozen now. It’ll take a bit to dig it out, but I can get it done.’ It was something to do, at least. ‘Is that everything?’

 

Yin was staring at him curiously. “You… know exactly where that is from tasting it?

 

Hou Ten nodded. ‘Smell. Taste. Touch. Dirt is not just dirt. It has character and personality all of its own.’

 

Yin looked intrigued.

 

Can…can you teach me?’ She ventured after a moment. ‘Shifu says that I have to find something I really like. So I’ve been trying everything, but nothing really… clicks besides fighting. I haven't tried mining yet.

 

Hou Ten paused at the statement, and at the frankness of their delivery. Hou Ten had been blessed to know his place and passion in his life… and yet he did understand her, a bit.

 

Being fully awake was scary, in some ways, without the warmth of Master Gen’s spirit. A gentle warmth that had always been with him, Master Gen sacrificing a portion of his strength for all of them. He watched over them, and all of his clan knew that Master Gen had everything in hand.

 

Here, though, without that guiding warmth, there was doubt. There was uncertainty in his actions now, not knowing how those who were not kin would react.

He second guessed himself. He hesitated. For the first time in his life he knew discontent and uncertainty—and he didn’t like it.

 

Sometimes, Hou Ten could admit, it would have been easier to just be an ordinary monkey.

But that was not his life any longer.

 

So Hou Ten, after giving the little rabbit’s words due consideration, nodded affirmatively.

 

First, yeh need a helmet,’ he decreed. ‘Master Jin wants everybody to wear one.’

 

Yin smiled brightly as she followed after him. He led them both down, back into his room and started rifling around for his spare. This one didn’t have a fragment of light crystal, but it was serviceable enough.

 

Though, as he put it on her head, it looked a bit awkward. Her ears stuck out the sides, nearly dragging on the floor.

 

You ready to learn, lass?’ Hou Ten asked.

 

‘Hell Yeah!’ she replied. ‘What do I have to do, Master Hou?

 

She was certainly enthusiastic… but there was something about her. She was serious. She had a kind of drive in her eyes. An utter willingness to be instructed. A complete open mind to learn.

 

Hou Ten considered his new ‘student’.

 

Let us begin.’

 

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

 

And thus they dug. They went into the promising passage Hou Ten had dug out and prepared.

 

See here,’ the monkey said, tapping at the wall and pressing his ear against it. Yin pressed her head against the wall as well, closing her eyes.

 

There's something here?’ she questioned. Hou Ten nodded, pleased his initial explanation had been taken up so quickly.

 

‘Aye. You can hear the difference.’ Yin nodded thoughtfully at Hou Ten’s words.

 

‘I don’t think that's rock, though. There was something… different about it.’

 

Hou Ten clapped his hands together and pointed at her.

 

Aye! It's not rock, nor crystal. It's bone.’

 

Bone? Should we dig it up?’ Yin asked, curious.

 

If you want to. There aren't many bones in the Crystal Hills, so something this big may be a Blaze Bear or some other monster that died long ago and is now buried.’

 

Yin flexed her powerful paws, and eagerly started at the wall. The dirt flew quickly, but purposefully, as Yin was ever vigilant as to not make the tunnel collapse on them.

 

Chuckling, he started after her; a few precise swings into the wall, and then a yank. Yin startled as Hou Ten ripped the section of the wall out beside.

 

The rabbit paused her frenetic digging.

 

It’s how and where you dig, lass. Not really the power with which you move. It comes with time, mark me well.

 

Yin nodded with utmost seriousness, stepping back to watch him.

 

Here, here, and here,’ Hou Ten said after a moment. ‘See this dip in the crack here? That’s the way.

 

Yin studied the places intently, and then, with three strikes of her own in the spotsHou Ten had pointed out toher, pulled the entire section down, pushing it out into the tunnel.

 

Hou Ten nodded, and performed a few more strikes of his own, getting the last bit of dirt out of the way. Dirt that had surrounded a femur that was as thick around as he was tall.

 

They both stared for a moment at the discovery.

 

Thats fuckkin huge,’ the pretty little rabbit said flatly.

 

Aye. That’s fukkin huge indeed.

 

He walked up to the thing, and tapped at it curiously. Then he paused, and tapped at it again. A slight vibration. A slight chime, now that he was directly touching the bone.

 

Hou Ten grinned.

 

‘I think we may have hit the motherload, lass.

 

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

 

It didn’t take long to tunnel around the massive leg bone. It was still hot work, but being Spirit Beasts had some advantages. They pushed around the obstruction until the dig site started getting brighter from a light not coming from the digging pair.

 

With one final swing, the darkness gave way completely, as what Hou Ten had sensed was exposed. A seam of glowing crystal.

 

Light Crystals. The same kind that was in Hou Ten’s helmet.

 

Hou Ten hooted, a whooping call, as he dropped his pick and beat the ground with his hands. Yin followed suit, thumping the ground with her hind leg excitedly. The rabbit’s fur was brown from digging, and she was absolutely filthy, but she didn’t seem to care.

 

Let's get this to the surface.’ Hou Ten licked his lips as he considered the strike points and how to remove the crystal from the wall—and then turned to Yin. ‘I’ve got an idea. You up for it?

 

Yin nodded.

 

Now, hit it exactly where I say…

 

Normally, it would be hours of careful mining to get such a bounty out. But with a few well placed kicks under Hou Ten’s direction, the rabbit took the entire thing.

 

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

 

The journey back up to the surface was uneventful… as uneventful as dragging a mass of light crystals up could be, anyway.

 

Together, they carted their bounty to the surface. From the warmth of the deep, to the cold, snowy realm above.

 

Hey! Hey! Look what we found!’ Yin shouted eagerly, bounding towards the house. Several heads poked out, curious and interested.

 

Soon enough, they were all gathered around the table, staring at the new bounty.

 

Hou Ten was clapped on his back by Master Jin and praised until his blue face darkened to purple.

 

They weren’t kin. They weren’t clan. But.. well, if he had to stay longer… it wasn’t too bad.

 

Digging was always better with a friend… and sharing the spoils was his calling.



---

 

Editors:

Brandon “Philosophysics” Zhang-Leong, Massgamer, Oshi, Pastafarian

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A note from Casualfarmer

The Monkey finally gets his POV.

 


If you want to see two advanced chapters, I do have a Patreon

 

Editors:

Brandon “Philosophysics” Zhang-Leong, Massgamer, Oshi, Pastafarian


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