That night, An Fei felt as if her nerves had been strained to beyond their tolerable limits.
Taking the chance to regain much of her previously reliable vigilance and habits, the young girl had elected not to rely solely on the safety within the Sanctum and instead had chosen to rest in the forest.
She had wandered around the stream’s vicinity, until she stood before a large redwood tree.
The tree was three meters thick, and its height soared to an immeasurable distance above the ground. When she had gazed upwards to estimate its height, the young girl wasn’t even sure whether she could even spot its lower branches.
The tree’s main stem was nice to rest against, without any gnarled roots or wrinkles spanning across its surface that dug into her back when she reclined against it.
Thus, An Fei had carefully hugged the leather bag to her chest, commanding the handle-less steel sword to guard her neck whilst she slept.
When the actual process of sleeping in the wild forest came to rest before her… the young girl could only state that she had lived a night of misery.
The fiercer animals within the forest seemed to only have come awake at the subtle entrance of nightfall.
Not long after An Fei had fallen asleep, the poor girl was jostled awake by a fierce creature’s yowl of pain that echoed throughout the entire region of land.
The deafening roar ringing in her ears, An Fei had expended several minutes in sweeping her gaze around with a tinge of panicked vigor, only to result in the failure of detecting any nearby enemies.
The sword hovering over her head had not reacted, and thus the young girl returned to sleep, her heart laden with a bad premonition.
Over, over, and over again, An Fei had been startled awake by the cries and roars of the fierce creatures within the Wu Ji Forest.
The clashing of emboldened battles of territories, the domestic disputes within a group of animals, and even the arbitrary screams and howls to the cold, glimmering moon, all of them had forced the young girl to jolt to a stand, her eyes blearily attempting to comprehend the situation.
…she couldn’t even attempt to ignore the calls, for they possessed an intensity and volume that reverberated throughout the entire vicinity of the forest.
Forget squeezing her eyes and hoping it would end, the abrupt disruption in the swaying of the grass was sufficient to rouse her awake.
When the initial rays of dawn filtered through and forced the young girl to open her eyes and shift away from the dazzling, submerged glare, the first action she took was to heave a deep sigh of relief.
Her nerves had remained at high tension for numerous hours, and their sudden relief caused An Fei to spend the next few minutes wobbling around in a motion similar to that of a dead drunkard.
“…never again. Never again.”
The young girl groaned, hurrying to the stream to douse her face with the slightly cold water.
Shaking herself fully awake, An Fei took one last hateful glare towards the other side of the bank, before retreating into the sea of trees and grass.
A young girl yawned as she walked underneath the dense overgrowth, her eyes narrowed as she carefully examined her surroundings. The net of branches that towered directly above her blocked the majority of the sunlight, creating a dim atmosphere that was exceedingly comforting and mesmerizing.
A single glance was enough to convince her to take a nap, but the young girl forced herself to move on.
“I need logs of wood to form the foundation of the walls, floor, and ceiling,” An Fei muttered to herself.
“The swords can handle the cutting, which just leaves the problem of carrying the materials aboveground and into the air. Unless… I want to construct an underground shelter?”
The young girl gradually came to a stop, her small pink tongue eagerly licking at the ends of her fingers, searching for the scant crumbles of mooncake.
An Fei pursed her lips, staring at the row of trees that she was immersed in, then towards the ground underneath her feet.
All thoughts about reorienting her direction had disappeared from her mind, and the only thought was to construct a suitable shelter to secure an alternative measure in preserving her life.
She only needed to return to the stream of water, turn a hundred and eighty degrees, and continue heading in a straight path until she exited the forest.
The idea was tempting, but An Fei was rational enough to determine that attempting to do so was tantamount to aimless suicide.
…she didn’t even know where she stood within the forest at the current moment; An Fei surmised that the land on the other side of the bank was indeed the central region of the forest, but once again, it could be one stretch of land of many within the central region of the forest.
Without knowing the specifics in their entirety, attempting to brashly explore…
If she accidently ran across a massive creature that snapped her up in a moment’s time, was she to laugh it off whilst sauntering off into hell?
“A shelter amongst the trees can offer protection against any ground creatures that roam throughout the forest during nighttime,” the young girl uttered in a soft voice.
“However… aerial creatures and other atmospheric elements serve as its weakness. On the other hand, constructing a shelter on the ground is much easier to accomplish, but it could become flooded by rain or ground creatures…”
Since this was a forest – a mystical forest that ignored the basic restrictions of nature, but a forest nonetheless – there should be less fierce creatures capable of flight… no?
“Where would I find a rope or some sort of durable –“
A soft prowling cut across the young girl’s words, and An Fei froze in shock at the sudden noise.
As the young girl stiffly turned around, she discovered a pack of grey wolves eagerly staring at her exposed flesh, their eyes glinting with a scarlet shade of bloodthirst.
The handle-less blade released a silent roar of challenge as it swooped down from above the young girl’s head to guard her figure, the deadly edge pointed towards the center of the pack.
The rippling inscriptions along its length increased in frequency, gradually releasing a soft scarlet radiance that reeked of malice and bloodthirst.
With the sword’s movement, An Fei’s consciousness snapped out of its daze and returned to clarity, the scarlet irises reflecting a dull glint of alertness and coldness.
The young girl’s hands drifted towards the sash bound around her waist, her palms resting on the cool metallic handles of the twin butterfly swords.
Seven wolves and one young girl with a handle-less sword glared at each other, their limbs itching with fearless anticipation and bloodthirst.
The wolves acted first, erupting into frenzied motion with a split instant of delayed hesitation.
Three wolves fanned towards An Fei’s flanks on either side, and one charged directly towards her in with its claws and canines extended, seeking to sink into the delicate, tantalizing flesh before its gaze.
The sword hovering before An Fei’s chest oriented its blade towards a diagonal facing the ground, awaiting the wolf’s charge.
The moment the wolf in the center entered into the sword’s radius, the handle-less sword slashed in a circular arc with its pommel as the pivot, forming a deadly diagonal disk that sank deeply into the wolf’s furred skin.
At the same time, An Fei slid the two swords out of their sheathes, holding them in a reverse grip before her chest.
As the six wolves approached, the young girl bent her right knee before sweeping into two half-moon turns, the blades pronating to their proper grasp mid-sweep to sink deeply into the wolves’ flesh.
The injured wolves released ear-splitting howls of agony, scarlet blood dripping onto the ground below their feet.
The sun-deprived grass and herbs eagerly accepted the fallen vitality, their roots pulsing with a vibrant aura as they eagerly sought for more nourishment.
The seven wolves and one young girl returned to their original stalemate, the only difference being that four of the wolves sported severe injuries, and the young girl was effectively surrounded by six grey wolves.
An Fei narrowed her eyes as she shifted her grip on the twin butterfly swords, her senses carefully analyzing her surroundings with an impartial view.
The young girl aptly noticed that each wolf that had been struck by the twin swords, they revealed a deep slice through their body that cut even through bone.
The handle-less sword quivered whilst hovering in the air, an invisible net of bloodthirst and incomparable malice sweeping over the wolves.
The inscriptions finally exploded with a scarlet light, and the characters gained sufficient clarity that the young girl could discern its meaning.
Death, murder, blood, copper sun, blazing –
The wolves snarled, their canines dripping with saliva as they glared at the young girl. Without hesitation, seven grey wolves leapt towards An Fei, their lethal claws and teeth exposed and dripping with tangible bloodthirst.