As abrupt as its entrance was, the plant creature that radiated a powerful, imposing aura belonging to that of a fierce creature within the Core Formation Realm, completed its exit in an unassuming manner.
The steel blade that plunged into its depths released but a small sound, the only inclination of its sudden death revealed by the massive burst of blood scattered over the ground.
The central vines around the main bulwark of its large body soon followed in their demise, combusting from within as the source of spiritual essence was severed without due preparation.
The peculiar abilities of cultivators were indeed worthy of their acclaim, but constituted a grave risk that was equally as exploitable as their strength.
As the changes within the environment swallowed up An Fei without permitting her to react, the young girl couldn’t help but inadvertently think of a single phrase.
The demise of mortal cultivators can only either be explosive, or silent as though they had never existed from the beginning.
Due to the majority, if not all mortal cultivation techniques emphasizing the utility of the mortal dantian as the central storage of any transmuted spiritual essence, the complex system created by the cluster of organs and meridians was attributed with a severe delicate nature.
The interior of the tubular meridians that conveyed spiritual essence from one corner of the body to another interconnected with the dantian’s channels, forming a completely closed system within the human body to circulate spiritual essence and in effect, conduct ‘miracles.’
The meridians outside of the body could be reinforced via the use of medicinal supplements, abnormal cultivation techniques emphasizing physiological enhancement, or a temporary restructuring with spiritual essence.
On the other hand, the dantian of a mortal, be it human, could never be tempered to such resilience nor structural integrity.
Prior to a practitioner attaining the initial phases of cultivation, the dantian was no more than the mainstream channel of the body’s vitality. Once crossing over the threshold of Body Tempering and into the realm of Foundation Establishment… the dantian was to be better referred to as an ignited explosive.
A series of wrapped flesh, delicate and sublime in its fragility and texture, compressed an incomprehensible amount of spiritual essence into a small environment.
With each advancement in cultivation, the pressure within a practitioner’s dantian increased by a substantial exponent, causing them to quite literally walk on tethered ropes while only using their heels.
The delicate balloon that contained an energy of a creature at the Core Formation Realm, albeit at an earlier stage… what could happen if the delicate membrane was to be punctured?
The sea of vines finally received the aftershocks of volatile spiritual essence coursing through meridians scarred by intense and prolonged combat, their molecules disintegrating by the sheer energy.
The surface of the vines split apart along their length, the thorns ground into grey dust that scattered over the floor.
…and of course, what followed was a tsunami of blood.
Scarlet blood, vibrant with the creature’s immense vitality and spiritual essence, splattered over the entire battlefield with intense velocity as the vines offered their final sacrificial curse towards the cruel sky.
Trees were uprooted from the ground from the sheer impact of the rapid expansion of the blood, and weaker grasses and herbs crushed into shreds without a hint of mercy.
The young girl who stood directly near the epicenter of the shockwave was flung out with great speed until her back hit the trunk of a far away tree, only to slide downwards towards the ground.
An Fei could only regain her senses from the concussive shockwave until she had laid on the ground for several long moments, her mind frozen in a dull haze.
The young girl stared at the sky with blanked eyes, the scarlet irises fluctuating between confusion and surprise.
…when she finally retained enough mental capability to escape the binding shackles of the sudden relief of an intense pressure on her heart, she found herself in a red world.
Red trees, red ground, red grass, but the sky was still relatively blue, if what she could see beyond the leaves stained with scarlet was true.
Furthermore, a dense metallic and corrosive odor struck the forest’s undergrowth with a heavy impact, thoroughly rousing the young girl’s mind until she hastily stood in shock.
Her body felt warm and sticky, and a fluid-like sensation continued to tickle at the base of her neck.
As An Fei swiped a finger across her cheek and brought it before her gaze to inspect the anomaly, she could only see red color, red ink, and red blood.
“…dis…disgusting… th-this…” the young girl mumbled, her senses abruptly failing to transmit their message to her consciousness.
The scarlet fluid covered her entire body from head to toe, not a single centimeter spared from the crimson carnage of the vines sacrifice.
The linen coat had not been spared from an unsightly fate this time, having been doused with the creature’s blood until each thread seeped with crimson blood.
“Ah…ah…” An Fei staggered, her mind screaming for escape.
The gruesome sensation of warm blood plastered on her body, underneath her clothes, and seeping into her ear combined with the monochromic environment of crimson blood was sufficient to thoroughly demolish the young girl’s morale and crush it underfoot.
The little crow from above watched as the young girl continued to struggle on the ground, staggering from one location to another as incoherent mumbles escaped her throat.
“Ah… ah… th-th…-this…”
With a silent toll of bells, An Fei fled from the Wu Ji Forest, her mind failing to realign itself from its disorientation until a few days had passed.
“Xiao Hei… do you think that there are more of those kinds of creatures… in the forest?”
A young girl asked her conversation partner that was perched on her shoulder with an exhausted expression on her flawless countenance.
Her limbs continued to propel her body through the undergrowth of the forest, but her heart remained idle and fatigued.
“Hundreds of tentacles on its body, with that… that disgusting head that seemed to be some kind of flower bulb… those thorns too…” An Fei uncontrollably shivered as the recent memories plagued her mind, nearly toppling over into a rosebush besides her right foot.
“That didn’t seem… real… Almost as if I was back… back… in a fairytale…”
The little raven perched on her left shoulder released a muted cry in response, the pair of crimson eyes carefully scrutinizing the young girl serving as its self-proclaimed mount.
The small creature uneasily shifted its position, relaying a series of short calls into the murky forest to scare off any wandering animals…
An Fei released a heavy sigh, the fingers of her right hand twitching as she suddenly thought of the blue silk satchel containing mooncake that she had obtained from the empress.
The young girl paused to glance at the sky, her eyes narrowing in thought for a suspended period of time.
“Why did I… suddenly think of yuebing…?”
The young girl shook her head from side to side, her lips pursing and clenching as she hemmed and hawed in the same spot. The little raven by her side tilted its head in confusion as the massive head before its gaze swung as though a broken doll, until a large object rammed into its legs.
“Sorry… Xiao Hei, could you move for a brief second?”
The crimson eyes of the raven bulged as they issued a piercing glare towards the young girl.
Ultimately, the little raven hopped backwards to allow An Fei to retrieve the leather bag and unsling it from her shoulder, her hand reaching in to grasp the blue sachet.
The young girl carefully extracted a gleaming pastry from the depths of the small pouch, her eyes closing in bliss as she savored the delicacy that had remained fresh for so long.
After a heartfelt smack of her lips in satisfaction, the young girl replaced the leather bag, her body writhing in a brief stretch before calming itself.
“I… should probably try to satisfy my wants for now… it’s not like I would run out of yuebing at this rate…”
The young girl raced towards her right, her feet weaving through the sea of grass and herbs until she stood at the bank of a stream.
With a deep exhale, An Fei allowed herself to a refreshing drink of cold water obtained from the perplexing stream of the forest, the cold stream rushing down her throat to invigorate her senses with a slightly numb but gratifying throb.
“That hits the spot!”
The young girl slumped onto the grass, her hands patting at the linen coat that had resurrected from a crimson hell.
An Fei directed a brief glance towards the young raven who had remained stably perched on her shoulder despite her rash movements, before glancing at the open sky.
“Xiao Hei, should we try to walk a little more…”
Right before An Fei’s murky and slightly confused eyes, a tender raindrop plunged from the sky and into the stream of water. The spring breeze increased in the intensity of its song, gently nibbling at the young girl’s skin, but with a slightly malicious intent.