The young girl glared at the white fox; the nine-tailed fox glared at An Fei with a mixture of hate and dumbstruck astonishment.
Two equally speechless and surprised beings stood across each other in the central region of the forest, separated only by a heavily cracked steel sword missing its handle.
The uneasy silence struck deafening chords in the ears of the innocent and frail creatures hidden within the grass, their pitiful hearts trembling and attempting to leap from their throats to dash across the grass a stream of scarlet.
An Fei clutched her heart with her right hand as she murmured with an apprehensive expression on her countenance.
Her eyes remained riveted to the damaged sword hovering in the air, her left hand unconsciously trailing to the butterfly sword sheathed on her waist.
The handle-less sword with its unceasing song of war and malevolent reaping of lives; it now lay before her, damaged to an extend one would forlornly shake their head and mourn it farewell.
That was the sword that had reaped the lives of many fierce and deadly creatures at her bidding and protected her life numerous times prior to her attaining the functionality of the <Steps of Underlying Shadows>… but cracks assaulted its core…
Just what was she to do?
The little raven screamed in worry, its senses prickling with an intense danger.
The little creature bravely leapt from its perch to soar into the nearby branches, its feathery and disheveled head poking from the shelter of leaves at it gazed at the young girl’s hesitant visage with a tinge of angst and encouragement.
An Fei whispered to herself, the fingers of her right hand curling against her bosom as she fretted in her mind.
Her consciousness glancing through the sea of perception at the reserves of spiritual essence within her heart, the young girl raised right hand, the palm facing the cracked and ruined steel sword that continued to restrain the disaster known as a nine-tailed fox.
She decided to take a risky gamble; a gamble she had devised from her observations of the steel blade as she traversed through the Wu Ji Forest.
“The steel blade only requires spiritual essence to manifest its physical existence.”
“Regardless of its motions or the time it remains in the world, it doesn’t consume any spiritual essence within my body following its manifestation.”
“Upon receiving sufficient damage to its foundation or structural core, the equivalent quantity of spiritual essence is consumed from my body…”
The young girl rapidly murmured to herself, her consciousness rapidly sifting through her memories of her interactions with the handle-less blade and her notes of the <Golden Lotus of Establishment>.
From the initial reaping of the white rabbit, the massive python, to the numerous creatures she had fought against while trekking through the undergrowth of the Wu Ji Forest, the flashes of memory submerged the young girl’s consciousness until her surroundings of the nine-tailed fox had vanished from her attention.
The steel blade could morph from its form to that of a white lotus petal at her command; the converse was equally true. The conversion did not require any spiritual essence, and was effective instantaneously.
The inscriptions decorating the length of the blade could provide a supplementary effect to its emission of bloodlust and murderous intent.
An Fei was not sure on its exact effect when utilized, the she was aware that the intensity of the scarlet radiance was solely under the consciousness of the handle-less sword.
If it removed an equivalent quantity of spiritual essence upon receiving damage that pierced into the foundations and compromised its structural integrity, then…
“Then… I… I only need to…” An Fei whispered, the dull scarlet of her irises flashing with a submerged, but recognizable intent suffused with determination and resolve.
“I only need to reconstruct the sword once again, utilizing spiritual essence. Similar to filling in the mold with a suitable liquid to constitute a level surface.”
At the young girl’s command, the ball of spiritual essence encapsulating her heart unraveled a thin thread.
The thread of spiritual essence wove through her bloodstream and meridians to converge at the palm of her right hand, before erupting into the physical world with a pale blue light.
The crimson eyes of the nine-tailed fox constricted at the sight and familiar sensation by the spiritual essence emanating from the human girl’s body before its sight, a crippling shred of danger rushing through its heart.
The white creature gathered its will to fight, the nine tails waving through the air and converging towards An Fei’s chest with a direct intention of murder.
The handle-less blade roared as it swept into the midst of the nine tails’ path, the inscriptions on its blade howling with a scarlet malevolence that threatened to flood the undergrowth of the forest.
The scarlet radiance was as though it were tangible, thoroughly reducing the speed at which the tails traveled through the air to a crawl.
At the same time, the pale blue threads of light emerging from An Fei’s right palm traveled through the air unhindered to land on the steel core of the handle-less sword.
As the young girl twitched her eyes at the unexpectedly heavy drain on her spiritual essence, the steel blade reformed itself before her eyes.
The deep cracks that had ravaged its foundation to the extent that scrapping and salvage was the only option, vanished without a sound.
The surface of the sword fluctuated under the gentle pulse of the pale blue light, stretching to cover the gaping ravines to produce a cohesive whole.
The handle-less sword howled with anger as the cracks on its foundation vanished as though they were never present, and surged towards the white nine-tailed fox with newfound vigor and bloodthirst.
The scarlet radiance exuding from the inscriptions converged to manifest into a linear edge, descending from the sky at a diagonal angle towards the nine tails that were still frozen in their unstoppable momentum.
Before An Fei’s amazed and exasperated gaze, the steel blade swung downwards, relinquishing its shocked wrath in a single blow.
The nine-tailed fox’s heart clenched with a deep fear, and it diverted all of its stored spiritual essence towards its hindlegs to propel its body from the slash.
The nine tails struggled to achieve their objective, but the fox pulled its body backwards to narrowly escape the steel sword proclaiming the passage of death.
The handle-less sword embedded itself into the soft earth in silence, the softened soil crying after receiving another painful torment.
Taking advantage of the momentary pause of the blade, the white fox slipped from An Fei’s range of vision, rapidly assimilating into the backdrop of the sea of trees.
The young girl released a heavy sigh of relief, the steel sword returning to her side with its bloodthirst and malevolent atmosphere thoroughly suppressed. An Fei slumped against the back of a wholesome and resentful tree, her mind abuzz with both the fatigue and excitement of the farce of a battle.
The <Steps of Underlying Shadows> prevented her from receiving any harm, but the steel sword of the white lotus petal proved ineffective against a creature of the forest.
Had it not been for her risky action in transferring spiritual essence towards the sword, An Fei was not certain whether the steel blade would have survived the next impact.
“At the end… it consumes far more spiritual essence to repair any incurred damage that to manifest it…” the young girl complained, her scarlet irises glaring at the little raven that now dared to return to her side.
“Just repairing it took four-tenths of my maximum reserves… aigh!”
An Fei slapped the little creature’s feathery head to vent her anger, her body weakly collapsing into a sitting position.
As she ruminated about her missed chance of the silky, smooth, white fur that proclaimed heaven to the touch, the young girl retreated into the Sanctum…
If, if just perhaps, the nine-tailed fox were to be a common creature within this region of the forest, then she…
“Aigh, such a stupid mortal lass. She couldn’t even stop obsessing over a trash of a fox’s fur!”
Dongfang Yu grumbled to himself, his fingers rushing through his black hair in frustration. The immortal youth angrily slapped the floor of sky blue crystal, his violet irises narrowing with an obvious dislike.
“This is the mortal lass that Esteemed Senior An is attempting to pawn off? Isn’t her mentality practically the same as an infant, drooling over the slightest interesting or shiny object!?”
Dongfang Yu flared in anger, before deflating with an expansive sigh.
Leaning against the wall of the endless corridor, the immortal youth released sigh after sigh to vent his sorrowful emotions, his gaze containing a tinge of wistful sentiment as his consciousness returned to the boring experience of a lonesome sentinel guarding an existence that wasn’t even there…
If, if only he were to realize at the current moment the truth of his circumstance within the corridor and that his supposed target of his careful, nightly watch was merely on the opposite end of the seemingly infinite corridor…
…Esteemed Dongfang Yu’s expression would then become the most highly valued artifact in the entire Realm.