The stream of water that An Fei had exerted an entire day and a half searching for, could be considered a small river.
The stretch of water spanned a distance of twenty meters, the water traveling throughout a major vein of the forest.
From where the young girl stood, she could faintly discern that the other end of the forest bisected by the stream was obscured by a faint mist.
The mist was cloudy white, and brimming with an unknown but dangerous aura. The instant An Fei directed her gaze upon the other side of the water’s bank, her senses screamed of immediate danger.
…perhaps… within the mist laid the Core Formation creatures that the empress had cautioned about?
“The other side seems to be a habitat for dangerous creatures…” the young girl mouthed, before leaping to her feet in horror.
“I’ve been walking into the core of the forest the entire time!?”
The young girl anxiously stomped her feet, the pair of scarlet irises widened in shock.
An Fei’s gaze jittered as she scanned her surroundings numerous times, her skin prickling with nervousness and danger.
She deeply wished to turn around and run in the opposite direction.
She was to exit the forest, not enter its depths!
An Fei raised her right hand to collide with her forehead, her countenance displaying an unsightly expression of worry and exasperation.
The young girl puffed her cheeks towards the clouded bank on the opposite side of the stream, silently venting her frustration onto the innocent spring breeze.
“Forget it, I’ll have to check the water first,” the young girl eventually sighed in resignation.
“Hopefully those creatures aren’t capable of crossing the water bank…”
An Fei cautiously strode towards the stream of water, balancing her weight near the bank’s edge. The young girl bent on her knees, reaching with her right hand to dip her finger into the water with trepidation.
Cool to the touch, with a swift current propelling the water down its channel to cleanse its impurities.
“Mm, this should… be good enough.”
An Fei assented, before cupping a mouthful of water and bringing it to her lips.
With a swift motion, the young girl drained the water pooled between her fingers, and her brows loosened as the cool water flowed down her throat and into her stomach.
The water obtained from the stream was slightly cold to the touch, almost as if it had been untouched by the drifting of spring.
The young girl could feel a chilly sensation rush down her nervous system, bringing forth an exhilarating experience to nibble at her fingertips.
Perhaps this could resemble the taste of mountain spring water, if it were only a few degrees colder?
An Fei shook her head in satisfaction, rising from her slightly precarious position and retreating over the bank to rest on solid ground.
The young girl allowed her gaze to roam around her surroundings, placing each detail under high scrutiny.
The knee-high grass, the botanic life that grew in between the weeds, the placement of trees within the vicinity and the arrangement of any nearby animals, An Fei did not dare underestimate any of the factors.
The young girl closed her eyes and stretched her arms to her sides, cautiously roaming around the earth besides the stream of water with small, cautious steps.
Her ears strained to their limits as they attempted to distinguish the individual components within the chaotic sea of sounds, and her nose attempted to detect any strange odors or fragrances.
One step forward with the left food, then two steps to the right before concluding with a cautionary step to the left.
An Fei repeated the pattern as she continued to roam the earth around the stream of water at an excruciatingly slow pace, whilst mapping out a nearly identical visualization of her surroundings.
Her consciousness drove itself deep into the sea of perception, decoding the received information with utmost scrutiny.
On the tree just three meters to her left, nestled on the third-highest branch, was an animal similar to a bird. Likewise, seven meters away from her and in the taller, waist-high grass, slithered a rather large python.
Rather large python…
An Fei’s eyes snapped open, the pair of scarlet irises brimming with vigilance and unease.
Nibbling on her lower lip, the young girl hesitated for a brief moment, before waving her right sleeve before her with a solid sweep towards the left.
A soft crackle of volatile spiritual essence encountering the suppressive atmosphere of the Shattered Star Continent vibrated within the forest, and a white lotus petal shot from An Fei’s chest, quickly morphing into a meter-long blade without a handle.
The inscriptions on the steel sword’s length rippled with a malicious intent as it hovered above the young girl’s right shoulder, its deadly edge retaining a desire to spill blood.
An Fei ushered it to remain silent with a wave of her palm, and continued to cautiously explore the area before her.
The young girl retracted her hands into the linen coat’s sleeves, carefully sweeping her protected arms around in the waist-high grass.
As she strode forward, the slithering sound continued to increase in volume, until the young girl stood half a meter away from its source.
Through the dense net of grass and weeds, An Fei could spot mottled scales gleaming in the morning sun.
The mesh of scales consisting of ruby, sapphire, cobalt, and amethyst colors blended into a viscous peach and grey covering, forming an appearance that the young girl was vividly familiar with.
Was it not the same set of scales as that massive python she had encountered a few days ago?
Only, when An Fei approached a little closer, she soon discovered that the python before her possessed none of the traits of the large creature she had witnessed previously.
Other than sharing the same appearance, the animal before her completely lacked the domineering stature, aura, and fearsome ability of the large python.
“Perhaps… it’s a youngling?” the young girl licked her lips, her eyes riveted on the shiny set of scales.
“If it’s a youngling, then…”
An Fei couldn’t help but permit a flicker of greed to shine through her eyes, her mind musing on the elegant color of the scales.
The mottled color of the scales, with its lustre that reflected light to reveal a sparkling effect as though a kaleidoscope, would form an unparalleled accessory.
Perhaps if it were embossed and embedded as the circling ring that protected a priceless gem, then –
The small python’s warning hiss instantly brought the young girl back into reality, and An Fei retracted her greedy hand.
With the presence of the massive python on her mind, the young girl quietly retreated from the small creature’s vicinity, before resuming her task of investigating her surroundings.
It would be her worst nightmare if she were to provoke that massive snake, for the mere mention of the two venomous fangs were sufficient to introduce a trace of panic into her gaze.
An Fei shook her head numerous times to dispel her greedy thoughts, allowing her gaze to regain its dull focus.
The young girl continued to explore the sea of grass and trees, unaware that her movements were tracked by two different creatures, each possessing their individual motive.
By nightfall, the young girl had returned to her original location in which she had spectated the appearance of the stream of water. An Fei squatted by the water’s edge, drawing onto the moist earth with a thin branch.
“There’s a cluster of tall, sturdy trees near the farther edge of the stream – and the distance is greater…” the young girl murmured, crossing out a circle hastily drawn onto the soft soil.
“I can’t see a problem with utilizing one of the trees to construct a treehouse, but… the presence of nearby animals is concerning.”
An Fei rubbed the base of her chin with the fingers of her right hand as she mused to herself in a quiet voice, the thin branch clamped between her index finger and thumb carelessly scribbling onto the numerous drawings that besotted the ground.
“Cutting down trees – I can do that with ease. Carrying them up to construct a stable shelter… I definitely don’t have the tools or supplementary materials for that.”
The young girl directed an anxious glance towards the darkened sky, her inquisitive gaze greeted by an indifferent stare by the countless stars decorating the nighttime darkness.
An Fei released a quick exhale of breath, before patting the soil below her feet with a concerned gaze.
Though it wasn’t clearly present in the early morning, her careful observation during the passing of the day revealed to her that the forest was about to receive rainfall, and not an inconsiderate amount at that.
The soil constantly revealed a hint of dampness and clumped together in fist-sized clusters, and the clouds in the sky appeared far denser and full compared to when she was still in the imperial carriage.
Furthermore, the atmosphere had gradually gained an increase in humidity.
Whether it would rain or not, her pressing need for shelter did not waver.
An Fei was clearly cognizant of the fact that should the Sanctum not permit her entrance each and every time, she was certain on the road towards death if she didn’t acquire a safe location to spend the night.
Only, where was it to be?
The incoming rain… she didn’t know when it would strike, or how dreadful its impact would be, but that regardless, she had limited time to spare.