Rubbing her chin in deep thought, An Fei carefully scrutinized an object before her. To be precise, it was a plain mirror, one with a silvered surface and a leather casing.
Propped up at an angle on a table, the mirror was of such mundanity that a single glance could determine that it was of little value. However, what irked An Fei about this mirror the most was:
“What is a mirror doing in a medicine garden? The owner of this place couldn’t be that vain, right?”
Casting a sidelong glance around her surroundings, An Fei could only guess the mirror’s purpose.
Currently, she stood in a sea of medicinal herbs, each glistering with a multi-colored lustre, quite considerably causing chills to run down her spine. Ginsengs, angelicas, borages, and garlics were only a few of the hundreds she saw scattered over the entire field, most of them unrecognizable in appearance, smell, or texture.
Not to mention, the combination of powerful medicines and their distinct odors created a chaotic storm that assailed her senses, and An Fei was forced into a coughing fit with every deep breath.
Fanning her face with her hand, she lifted the collar of the robe to cover her nose and mouth, barely smothering out the smell.
Bending over to inspect the conspicuous mirror at a closer distance, she absentmindedly reached to her right to pluck off a stem of what appeared to be a cluster of wild celery. The green stalk exuded a fresh vitality, with thin streams of green light coiling around the body.
The aroma of freshly cut celery entered her nose, and without much thought, she had already brought it to her small mouth and bit.
The clear taste of celery swamped her senses, the slightly bitter and astringent taste causing her to release a sigh of admiration. Aided by her increased appetite, An Fei quickly consumed the stalk in her hand before plucking off two more from the cluster.
As she continued to admire at her reflection in the mirror, she would occasionally bite off a tiny portion to consume.
Picking up the mirror and turning it around, she found absolutely nothing unique about it; everything about it was the common and dull silver mirror anyone could have bought on an online listing site for a bargain price in her previous world.
And to top things off, this was not the only mirror she had discovered in the various rooms branching from the corridor.
Sitting down with her back against the short table’s leg, she carefully thought back to where she had seen the mirrors. The armory, the boudoir, and the coffers she had glanced by, these were all somewhat acceptable environments to place a mirror.
“But the room with nothing but a large copper bowl? And additionally, in each medicine garden?”
Such a thing didn’t exactly make sense. Then again, neither did the mysterious crystal making the walls, floor, and ceiling that revealed a warm glow upon contact.
Holding the mirror with both hands as she observed the peerless countenance staring back at her from the reflective surface, An Fei occasionally raised her left hand to fondle a portion of her hair, absentminded.
“This face…it’s truly me…? The difference is far too great…agh!”
A searing pain struck her stomach, causing her to drop the mirror.
Clutching her stomach, the waves of pain created dark spots to arise in her vision, soft but gradually increasing ringing noises striking her ears.
Her skin seemed to be gently brushed with a searing knife, small but unbearable pinpricks of pain drilling deeply into the marrow.
Painful screams pierced the once tranquil medicine garden, only abating after significant time had passed.
When the sensations had receded, An Fei blearily raised her head to glance around, finding herself curled in a fetal position around a table leg, a cluster of wild angelica flourishing directly before her face. Carefully inspecting her sore body, she discovered her skin to be caked in a dark, paste-like substance.
When she prodded her arm, the paste had yet to harden, the extremely foul odor causing the girl to blanch, her expression morphing into one wishing to vomit. She leaned over to dry-heave for several moments, panting deeply after her stomach finally surrendered and abated its uncomfortable squirming.
Suddenly, a scarlet glow from her left caught her attention, and she turned around to find the plain mirror as its source. Crawling closer, she discovered that instead of her face staring back at her, a partially distorted mirage of Wei Xuan standing under a gate was presented on the reflective surface.
As she squinted her eyes to observe closely, she discovered a blazing sensation directly underneath her collarbone, her hand jumping to her skin in an instant.
However, an intense burst of dizziness struck her, and she quickly fell into dreamland.
“Kneel! Without my further order, none of you are permitted to stand!”
Unrestrained fury distorting his expression, Wei Xuan bellowed at the terrified servants. Silver light exploded from his body to forcefully push them down into a kneeling position.
Without sparing a further gaze, he quickly departed for the Flowing Winds Residence, a silver stream trailing behind him.
Standing at the entrance of the courtyard, he could detect the faint trace of burnt wood. His pupils constricting as blue veins bulged in his arms, neck, and face, Wei Xuan released a mournful bellow as he rushed forward.
Crossing to the other side of the residence, he found himself standing before the remnants of a building, the private bathing house transformed into a pile of burnt, wooden scraps. Dumbfounded at the wreckage before him, he silently stood in a daze, his mouth agape.
A moment later, he stepped forward with trepidation, his hands outstretched to pull away at the pile.
As he dislodged the burnt wooden logs that had once formed the walls, Wei Xuan remained calm enough to handle the wreckage with enough care to prevent any further damage.
However, he suddenly paused, glaring fiercely at the piece of wood clutched in his hand.
“Spiritual fire…” he growled, nearly unable to control himself from snapping the wood into pieces.
The piece of wood had a palm imprint engraved on the middle, the engraving releasing an occasional blue spark.
Narrowing his eyes as he carefully memorized the lingering trace of spiritual essence, Wei Xuan threw the piece of wood to the side, before resuming his work of clearing the area. The servants that rushed to assist him, he simply blew away with a wave of his sleeve.
Piece by piece, the bathing tub of stone was gradually exposed to the air, causing the minister to freeze in place, his heart leaping to his throat.
There, floating facedown in the middle of the pool, was a young girl. Attempting to fish her out of the water, Wei Xuan quickly noticed that she had not a single article of clothing attached to her body.
As he reached out to pull the girl out, he swiftly stomped onto the ground to form a dense smokescreen of dust and wood shavings. Wrapping An Fei with his outer robe, Wei Xuan rushed into the study, cold sweat trickling down his brow when he raised a hand to her forehead.
Why was her body temperature so low? What exactly had happened while he was at the Imperial Court!?