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110 Chapter One Hundred and Nine - Small Sufferings Can Lead To Decent Gains

    Before the third property could be restructured fully into a 'greenhouse' and garden nursery, it became a warehouse for everything that they'd collected from outside.  Shaun made metal racking and free standing shelves for everything, while Tyler meticulously created an inventory list using an unlocked phone.  The two men were kept busy for a few days organising all of the items, but there was something satisfying about seeing the spread of items some of which could help their small community enjoy the luxuries of the past until the end of winter if not longer.  The stacks of toilet paper were especially welcomed; dealing with the 'washable' rags was an unpleasant task on their rota that everyone hated the most.

    And speaking of unpleasant tasks, the sewers were no longer maintained for obvious reasons, just as waste water was no longer treated and that naturally had a knock on effect in the end.  Rather than give up their modern bathroom for centuries old techniques of chamber pots and manual disposal, they had (some distance from their homes) discovered and 'rerouted' the sewer linked to their home into one of the surrounding fields forming ditches to help 'drain away' the waste.  The fields were 'fertilised' and 'watered' in this manner leading to a growth of new vegetation, mutated and otherwise, which in turn had become a viable habitat for numerous insects and small living rodents.  The disadvantage lie in the fact that the ditches needed to be dredged a couple of times a year or they would back up as badly as some of the sewers.

    The intense smells meant that they had delayed doing this during the hot and sunny summer days when zombies were less abundant and now they had to struggle with the eye watering stenches, the swarms of flies and undead attacks while doing the necessary task.  Chang Min was still in closed Cultivation, most of the ability users were on the walls, which left the unpleasant job to those without abilities beneath the protection of Ren Zexian and Cole.  Ordinarily, this might have left some scars of resentment on the hearts of non-cultivators, however in their community, no matter the abilities, everyone had access to the same everyday resources and everyone pitched where they could.  Even now, whenever Cole was not protecting them with small earthen walls and rock spires, he was using his abilities to help shift the excess soils.  Thus this task was finished in a brisk manner over two days.

    When Ren Zexian arrived home to the cottage, the first thing Nathan did was to fill the bath full of water and toss his 'dirtied' robes outside their front door.  Ren Zexian shook his head with a small smile.  His robes were not actually unclean having several protective runes enchanted upon them, but his beloved was quite a sensitive fellow and couldn't wait for the air about them to dissolve.  He would have to retrieve them later, he thought to himself as he soaked in the warm waters.  They happened to be so refreshing he couldn't help close his eyes to cultivate while in them.  He didn't open them again until Nathan worriedly burst into the bathroom to check upon him.  Noticing the way those eyes moved rapidly over his body, he couldn't help but react.  He then taught Nathan that certain activities didn't necessarily require the formal setting of a bed.

    *****

    Dexter opened his eyes slowly before stretching out his body; sitting in this position for so long, he always marvelled that his muscles didn't ache and he hadn't lost feeling in his lower extremities.  His skin felt flush from the sunlight directly falling onto it, although a thick cloud was now drifting across its path casting a shadow widely across the ground.  He sighed and reached for the Crystal that should have been in his lap, only to notice that it had crumbled to dust.  A frown marred his previously serene features.  This was the second Crystal he'd been lucky enough to obtain to help his cultivation, having gained it during the last summer storm.  He didn't know when he'd be able to get another one.

    He laughed helplessly; the potent experience of cultivating with one of the crystal's from the mutant sapling in Nathan's cottage garden was too wonderful.  He'd felt out of sorts when the last one had crumbled away the previous year and ecstatic when he'd gained a second.  He hadn't wanted to drain the electric element it contained so swiftly, but he'd done so anyway and now the pain of losing its boost caused an internal ache.  Fortunately, such didn't last long.

    He climbed down from the sunroom roof using the convenient metal ladder and entered the rear door of the kitchen.  A small body threw itself at him and his heart softened to hear the sweet address; "Daddy!"

    "Hey, pumpkin, been good?" He kissed the silky golden locks on his daughter's forehead.

    "Lucy good!" She reassured him before shimmying out of his arms to collect her small watering can in order to finish today's 'chores'.  Dexter watched as she ran out of the house towards the cottage with a warm smile upon his face.

    "She's been waiting for you to finish so she could hug you first," Autumn told him as she placed some honey sweetened plums and cinnamon coated apples into the oven.

    Dexter grinned and reached around her waist, pressing himself against her back.  "Have you been waiting for me as well?"

    Her lips curled upward slightly, though she tartly responded; "As if I have time to wait?!"  The side he slept on their bed had already cooled when she had woken up this morning, something that frequently occurred these past few days.  The hours of daylight were noticeably shorter and he woke up as the sun began to rise in the east in order to gain a few hours of cultivation these days; otherwise there was no time for him to do so.  Autumn missed his presence in the mornings, but she couldn't fault him for it.  He needed to be strong for them and cultivating helped increase his strength.  Her own cultivation was lacklustre, weak, as much as she did try, but even she felt she had benefited from her personal efforts.

    "Ugh, too much PDA's in the morning!" Patrick swanned in and covered his eyes loosely with splayed fingers.

    "Jealous?" Dexter grinned as he repositioned himself to Autumn's side, though he didn't remove both arms from her appealing waist.

    "Absolutely," Patrick was honest, offering a pout before sitting at the table to grab the pot of tea sitting there.  "Still, it's better seeing you two all lovey dovey than risking the atmosphere surrounding Cole at the moment!"

    Autumn kissed Dexter on his cheek before removing herself from his hold; she still had more things to prepare for breakfast namely washing blackberries and boiling the sheep's milk.  That one pot of tea would not be enough to satisfy everyone either, so had to heat more water and prepare more leaves and fruit.  The man reluctantly let her go and took a seat opposite Patrick.

    "Ren Zexian did say it could be a month or more," Dexter pointed out as he also poured a cup of tea for himself.  This brew was rosehip, not really to his taste, but his wifey insisted that it was good for his health, containing vitamin c and all that.  Still, he couldn't help but grimace as he drank it.

    "We're all gonna die!" Patrick said, dramatically.  Dexter chuckled.  Truthfully, Cole wasn't that bad, just a little colder to speak to and a little more violent on the walls.  As that 'violence' wasn't aimed at anything but undead monsters, it wasn't too big of a problem.  Plus to further ensure Cole's energies were put to positive uses, Dexter had him deal with raising and fixing the walls where he could.

    Actually, Cole was grateful for this work as well, fixing his mind and thoughts upon something necessary.  But even after exhausting his strength, when he lay in bed at night alone, his mind wouldn't shut down in order to rest, but would be filled with thoughts of the man who was missing from his side.  Was Chang Min missing him as well?  He couldn't help but wonder as he gazed out of the window towards the north where the third property should be, even though he couldn't see it from this distance and with the trees and such lining the view.  Likely, Chang Min was too focused in the depths of his cultivation to actually miss him, he knew himself how time seemed to pass unnaturally fast while cultivating, but he still comforted himself this way.

    Who knew that in the end, a month hadn't passed before Chang Min left his closed Cultivation.  He'd failed in his attempt to make a breakthrough this time.
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