Moving into a new place was a lot of work. It always surprised me to realize how many things I owned when I’d still been living with the sect. Nostalgia both new and old overcame me, at the various items I’d found. A lot of the things my old self had owned before I’d awakened were mixed in with things I’d gotten in the few months that I’d been there. It took a couple of days to sort everything out, and only now was I finally happy with where things belonged.
I stood by my desk, sorting my notes one by one, before placing them on the new shelf that I’d built. The move had caused me to go on a rampant sorting and cleaning frenzy as I began to order the chaotic mess I’d been living in. It was difficult to believe how I’d put up with it for so long.
After placing the last one of my books onto my shelf, I walked back, taking a look at my new room. It was larger, with a desk by the window, and a shelf next to the walls. I’d moved the spirit herbs to the garden outside for obvious reasons. They’d still need to be planted and I would need to re-establish my spirit anchor to the new garden but that was work for later.
Taking one last look, I walked out to check in on the other rooms.
Right next to my room was Labby’s, half the size with a smaller bed for her. I felt a little surprised to not find her sleeping in, given how early it was still. Walking in, I quickly sensed the little bag full of spirit herbs hiding under her bed. I shook my head, but decided to let her have her treats.
Moving on from the room, I walked across the corridor into the section that excited me the most. My lab. Walking into the door, I saw a giant mess of wooden beams and counters made of carved stones lying around. The lab was still under work, with a large space dedicated for my shelves filled with spirit herbs. A heat retaining almost kiln like structure was partially set up around my cauldron for retaining heat, and the counter had some of my test projects for a new bunsen burner prototype that I was working on, alongside a bunch of porcelain bowls.
I walked in, looking around as I mentally mapped everything that I would set up in here. It would be an ongoing process for a while yet, but the time factor only made me excited for when it would finally be completed.
Moving on from my lab, I began to make my way out of my home. The spirit herb garden greeted me, still patchy and rough in places but starting to take shape. I could see tiny buds of spirit herbs starting to grow from the soil.
I made my way around the garden, all the way behind the home. It didn’t take long before I could sense Sheldon and Twilight nearby. A small pond lay behind my home, and I watched Sheldon splashing inside. Twilight sat on his back, riding the turtle like a boat as her chiming laughter echoed like ringing bells through the wind.
“Oh, Lu Jie. I didn’t notice you coming,” Cao Chen said, the boy standing near the shore, watching my spirits play around.
“I’ve learned to be more quiet,” I said to the boy. “Thanks for doing all this by the way. Sheldon has been quite happy.”
“Don’t even mention it. I enjoyed it just as much as your spirit did,” the boy replied, and I nodded in gratitude. He’d helped Sheldon out in the process of digging a giant hole to create this small pond for him.
I heard Twilight chime, as she noticed me standing nearby. I waved towards her and she jumped up, waving back at me. Sheldon swam to the shore and Twilight jumped off his back, demanding to be held. I picked the little plant spirit, before placing her on my head, as per her demands.
“Done playing?” I asked Twilight.
“Done!” she replied, raising her hands in the air in excitement. Twilight had been getting better and better with speaking through words, though she still had a lot she needed to pick up on.
“By the way, have you seen Labby? And Zhang?” I asked Cao Chen.
“La Bi was playing with some children, if I remember right. Brother Zhang is in his training area as usual.”
I nodded in thanks to Cao Chen, picking Sheldon up in my arms as well, before I began to make my way in search for the two.
To my surprise, Labby was the first one I found. She was sleeping on the grass with a girl and a boy next to her. Siblings, if I remembered right. Both children of a miner I’d saved from the Qi vein.
I smiled watching Labby breathing easily as she slept, flowers and grass adorning her little head. There had been no one for her to play with besides me, Twilight and Sheldon in the sect, and seeing her playing with kids that were close to her age, at least in maturity, made me feel a strange warmth in my chest. As if at last, I was finally able to provide her what I should’ve been able to from the start.
“Labby,” I whispered, moving closer. “Hey, my little lightning girl. Get up.”
Labby stirred awake at my voice, opening her blurry eyes to look at me. “Master,” she muttered, rubbing her eyes as she got up.
“Yup. We need to do a check-up, come on,” I said, patting Labby on her head. I could already sense her dantian’s crack starting to mend. I’d had Granny Lang check her after we’d arrived, and she’d given an all clear, with full recovery taking just a week or two.
Labby slowly pulled up from the grass, sleep still lingering in her eyes. The two children next to her also rustled awake from their slumber, rising. The boy woke up first, his eyes widening when he saw my face.
“I need to go with Master,” Labby told the boy, grabbing onto my sleeve.
“Oh, okay… see you La Bi!” The boy shouted, waving cheerfully. Labby waved back happily, before walking up to my side.
“Friends?” I asked.
“Mhm,” Labby replied, yawning. I pet her little head, plucking stands of grass off of it. “It’s still a bit strange that you’re a human girl now. Feeling more used to it?”
Labby gave me a lazy nod. “Feels nice. And like Master, Labby can use her hands! With her weird strange fingers. Still not very used to them. But good,” Labby said, wiggling her fingers as she showed off her hands to me.
I smiled before an idea came to me. “Hold on, let me show you something cool we can do with our hands,” I said, before folding my thumb and presenting it in front of her.
“You see, if I focus just right, I can make this finger come off,” I said, as I pretended to pull off my thumb, before moving my hand away. To her, the thumb looked like it had been separated from my hand.
“Master!” Labby shouted in shock, but I continued.
“And now, I can just throw it back in and it reattaches,” I said, putting the thumb back in place, as I wiggled my fingers around to show her I was fine.
Labby’s mouth dropped, before she looked down at her own tiny hands. She tugged at her finger, moving it around, before looking up at me. “Labby’s fingers can’t do that?”
I laughed, patting her head. “Maybe one day I’ll show you how it’s done,” I told Labby, before we continued to walk further.
I walked around with Labby in tow for a few minutes, before I heard loud shouts and striking noises coming from nearby. Letting my senses guide me, I soon found Zhang with a wooden spear, as he swung it on a dummy target wrapped around a tree.
“Hey!” I called out, waving my hand. “It’s time.”
The boy nodded at me, wiping the sweat dripping down his forehead. I gave Zhang a moment, as he changed out of his clothes, sorting his gear, before he followed me out into the clearing.
“Training your spear huh?” I asked, before holding back a snort as I realized how that sounded. But the boy didn’t seem to pick up on it.
“Yes. Can’t let myself get rusty. Even if I’m not physically what I used to be, I still want to keep my skills sharp. It’s why I’ve been practicing my spear daily out here by myself,” Zhang replied.
It was nothing short of a miracle that stopped me from laughing at Zhang’s words. The laughter almost suffocated me as I pushed it down into my chest.
“Sounds like a good use of your time,” I said after a few long moments. Zhang nodded, and I decided to remain quiet as we walked back together.
As we reached back to my place, I noticed Silverlight and Nyan playing in the garden. Little Silverlight exclaimed as she ran around being chased and pawed playfully at Nyan. Twilight chimed at the sight, ready to join in, but I held her in place.
“Settle down guys!” I shouted to the two. The little bugger stopped in her tracks, before rushing towards me with a jumble of chirps, and chimes. I suspected the reason for her excitement had more to do with Twilight than me, but I pretended otherwise anyway.
I let Zhang pick Silverlight up, and before I could even say anything to Nyan, he was already gone off somewhere. Shrugging, I took Labby and Zhang further inside.
Two little seats were put inside the chamber I took Labby and Zhang to. I beckoned the two to sit forward, before I took a seat opposite of them, letting Sheldon down next to me.
“It’d been a while since I had looked at either of your cores. For Labby, I just need to see how the healing is working,” I said, glancing at Labby, who returned a nod to me. Though her attention still seemed to be on figuring out how to detach her thumb. “Zhang, now that Silverlight is here, I’ll be trying to see if we can fix your core or not.”
The boy gave me a serious nod, and I returned one. “I’ll begin with Labby,” I said, before turning towards her.
I pressed my hand against Labby’s abdomen, a brief memory of the old man’s soothing voice as he’d done the same returning to me.
“Cycle the Qi through your core. Let it flow inside you,” I said, focusing my senses on Labby. Sheldon chirped, his voice somewhere far in the distance, as my spirit began to drift, flowing into Labby’s.
My awareness split, my mind sunken into her core as I let my senses take over. Reaching in my soul, I reached out for the tree growing inside, and let its roots spread. The spirit anchor moved within her core, as I felt my vitality being shared with hers. The cracks within her dantian had healed for the most part, as I pulsed my Qi into her core, cycling it, and filling in any gaps that remained. She would heal soon.
I opened my eyes, and saw Labby sitting across me, her eyes pressed shut.
“How do you feel Labby?”
“Squeak!” Labby hiccuped, before catching herself. “Umm, good! Labby feels better now.”
I laughed, feeling relieved at her response.
Done with that, I turned towards Zhang. I could hear the boy’s heart, beating like a drum. Thud. Thud. Thud.
I extended my hands towards Zhang, letting him grasp them. “You need to form a bond with Silverlight,” I told Zhang. He nodded.
“Alright. Twilight, can you tell Silverlight to sit next to Sheldon. I’ll need to take her with me for this,” I said, and Twilight chimed. Jumping off Zhang’s shoulders, she ran up to Sheldon, and Silverlight followed her.
I settled in my place, and closed my eyes.
I reached out to Silverlight with my spirit, beckoning her closer. The little plant’s spirit brushed against mine, as I felt a jumble of thoughts and concepts reach me.
“Chii!” Twilight chimed, encouragingly as Silverlight grasped onto my spirit.
“Chirp!” Sheldon’s voice came, as I felt the tug at my spirit. Carrying the little spirit with him, he took us both away from our bodies, and into the darkness inside Zhang’s core.