Wei Xuan’s wary cry roused everyone within the study; a youth’s eyes blazed open, an uncanny ferociousness hidden behind the indifferent demeanor, and a young girl quickly stifled her lotus petal into nonexistence.
As she quietly snuggled against an unused pillowcase, An Fei couldn’t help but ruminate to herself, palpitations rushing through her heart.
She had made one feeble little lotus petal that wasn’t even two centimeters in length; just how was Wei Xuan capable of detecting such a miniscule phenomenon?
…surely, he wouldn’t trace it back to her… right?
“Who’s there!” the minister’s voice boomed once again, and the soft sliding of metal against leather rasped within the study.
“This minister shall request the Esteemed Cultivator to reveal himself!”
Silence reigned within the study as Wei Xuan’s words left his lips.
The Eldest Young Master slid his body into a defensive stance, his reserves of spiritual essence fully primed to respond at the slightest movement.
Within the bedcurtains, the girl attempted to suppress her shivering to the minimum, hoping that her painfully thudding heart was not audible to their ears.
To that, An Fei needed no worry – her heartbeat only sounded to be of a loud volume to her ears; to others, it was exceptionally feeble and weak, comparable to that of a newborn infant.
“This minister shall request the Esteemed Cultivator to reveal his presence! Otherwise, please do not blame this minister!”
Wei Xuan declared once more in a stern voice, a soft steel sword secured in his grasp.
Upon receiving silence as the only response after five minutes had passed, the minister stepped forward, a terrifying pulse of spiritual essence expanding from his body.
A few breaths later, Wei Xuan stepped back, his expression unfathomable, but significantly colder than before.
Motioning for the Eldest Young Master to release his guard, the minister sank into the half-moon chair, his brows knitted in thought.
Just who was that person to have eluded his detection? Though the impulse of spiritual essence was feeble at best, to be able to escape from his observation was a feat in that of itself…
As Wei Chang Feng and Wei Xuan racked their brains attempting to determine the mysterious person, the young girl dragged herself deep into the blankets, utilizing her hands to muffle her voice as much as possible.
The dull intone of bells rung by a mosquito’s whisper escaped her throat, and An Fei successfully fled in a panic.
And just like that, two weeks successfully passed since the rather embarrassing incident. Since waking up in the decorated woodshed, eight months had passed in a leisurely manner.
Wei Chang Feng still remained holed up in the study of the Flowing Wind Residence, and by observing Wei Xuan’s expression, matters of the Imperial Court did not seem to be faring so favorably.
Each night she went to ‘sleep’, An Fei would hear snippets of information regarding the possible actions of the Taiyi Sect – something she wanted to stray away from.
Thus, she would extend the time she spent in the Sanctum to include her sleeping schedule.
Unceasingly failing to complete even one cycle of movements within the <Steps of the Underlying Shadow>, tinkering with her imitation of the <Golden Lotus of Establishment>, attempting to decipher the <Eternal Sanctum> without gouging her eyes or impaling her temple with a nail to end her mind’s misery – the young girl experienced what it felt like to undergo a ‘cram’ study session after taking a break for years.
She had fled the Flowing Wind Residence to avoid any issues that arose on the occasion that Wei Xuan discovered that the person who alerted his perception was indeed her, but instead of finding solace, she found herself standing above a plain of steel-spiked thistles.
The only caveat was the exceptionally delicious food she could consume to her heart’s content.
“Eldest Brother, how are matters outside of the manor? Have the matters with the Taiyi Sect calmed down?”
“I don’t know.”
…it seemed that her only conversation partner in daylight was an identical social outcast.
Birds of a feather flock together, as the ancestors had said.
An Fei shook her head, picking up the inkbrush and toying with it in her hand. Rolling the ivory handle with her fingers and observing the fine grains in boredom, the young girl pursed her lips in thought.
“If only I had the actual manual to reference… then this would be so much easier…”
The brush was set onto the drawing table, and An Fei rose from the half-moon chair to roam the bookshelves. Her fingers trailed over the spines of several books, her lips reciting the titles under her breath.
“History of Great Yong architecture… the establishment of the Three Lotus Sect… the fundamental principles of apt governance…”
Puffing her cheeks out in exasperation and not necessarily paying attention to where her feet was treading, the young girl accidentally tripped over a cylindrical rod casually tossed onto the floor.
Narrowly catching her body from a fierce embrace with the unwelcoming wooden floor, An Fei awkwardly turned her gaze to find a rather thin and unassuming book clenched in her left hand.
The title was only one word, and the cover was the most plain she had ever seen.
“Spring…” the girl murmured to herself.
Out of curiosity, An Fei opened the book to a random page… then instantly slammed it shut with an audible snap. Her countenance dripping with a scarlet flush, the young girl slotted the hateful tome into an obscure bookshelf, marching towards the half-moon chair and sitting with a huff.
Spring, what a great title, ah!
Father, not only do you have two beautiful wives, you still need more satisfaction!? That’s being a little too greedy for one’s good, ah!
The minister was of course, completely unaware that his fourth daughter had discovered one of the greatest secrets from his youth, and had even taken a peek at its contents.
Currently, Wei Xuan stared at a beautiful woman dressed in a purple robe, her countenance displaying an expression of interest.
“Why are you hesitating for so long?” Feng Yu Xin revealed a dazzling smile, teasing the minister’s blackened expression.
“I even stamped your token for you, all you have to do is verify it on your part, and the agreement shall come into effect.”
Between them lay a silver medallion. Half of the coin had transformed into a deep scarlet color, and a phoenix could be seen dancing amongst nirvanic flames.
The other half sought approval from Wei Xuan.
“…are you not pushing forward a little too far?” the minister narrowed his eyes towards the smiling empress.
“Not having completed negotiations, and having already solidified your argued stance without even allowing amends. Do you think that’s worthy conduct of an empress?”
“Why would the identity of an empress matter regarding the Faceless Token?” the empress revealed a dauntless smile, sweeping her arms around the pavilion.
“Besides, when did I ever agree of negotiation when discussing the terms? I won’t skimp out on protecting your daughter, but I won’t stoop so far as to become a bodyguard. That’s too demeaning of an empress’ reputation!.”
“Haven’t you thrown it away already? What reputation of an empress even remains for you to squander?”
Feng Yu Xin waved away Wei Xuan’s sarcastic remark, her elegant fingers deftly bringing a cup of steaming tea to her lips.
Immersing herself in the sweet and fragrant taste, the woman took a deep look at the minister, dimples stretching across her countenance.
“So what will it be? Are you going to solidify this agreement, or withdraw the token? Either is fine with me, but do be aware that the Taiyi Sect will not wait indefinitely. They will set out soon, perhaps even the next day.”
“Truly a ruthless and vicious woman,” Wei Xuan grit his teeth as he presented his index finger to rest above the silver medallion.
“I do not know whether it was the hundreds of years spent accompanying His Imperial Majesty, or your scheming attitude was inborn, but it is indeed frightening.”
From the tip of his finger, a silver light shone onto the medallion, and the coin vibrated. Gradually, the outline of a river was etched onto the unblemished surface, oddly complementing the phoenix of flames.
“Oh please, do call it vivacity, don’t give it some shoddy label of ‘scheming’,” Feng Yu Xin waved her hand, blatantly ignoring the bloodthirsty expression on Wei Xuan’s countenance.
The silver medallion suddenly snapped into two equal portions, a rift permanently separating the phoenix and the silver river.
Nodding in satisfaction, the empress stowed away the silver half into her robes, motioning for the minister to take the phoenix.
Wei Xuan frowned and pondered in silence for a long moment, before finally reaching out to grasp the phoenix half of the medallion.
Stowing it away in a safe location, the minister stood from his seat, clasping his hands in a jianghu’s salute.
“Minister Wei does not follow the official’s greeting?” Feng Yu Xin smiled, her frivolous and relaxed demeanor no longer present, instead displaying the domineering might of the Imperial Family.
“This minister indeed does not, and shall bear farewell,” Wei Xuan replied in an even tone, his eyes gleaming with an unfathomable light.
“This minister hopes that Your Imperial Highness does not forget the oath.”
“Of course not,” the empress’ smile deepened.
“Do not worry, bengong knows how to keep one’s promises.”