It didn’t take long for a young girl to realize the perplexities and gravity of her current circumstance.
It only took five days, and a couple dangerous run-ins with a few fierce creatures with the handle-less steel sword suffering seven near-breakage experiences and one complete shattering.
The sword had performed miraculous “resurrections” multiple times per battle, performing a visually stunning and soul shocking experience for both the young girl and the afflicted spiritual beast.
Thankfully, An Fei remained unharmed since she stepped into this region of the forest, but her self-esteem had taken a considerable blow.
“Xiao Hei… are we in the forest? Why does it seem that I’ve wandered into the direct epicenter of a storming battlefield…”
The young girl complained to the little raven perched on her shoulder, her lips puckered into an adorable little pout.
An Fei slumped against the back of a redwood tree, completely ignoring the unwilling screeches and pleas as the tree was forced to support the weight of the Wu Ji Forest’s ‘calamitous’ star.
A calamitous star she was, for in the five days that An Fei had muddle-headedly walked through the forest, she had left a trail of a dozen or so defeated fierce creatures of the respective stages of the Core Formation Realm, and clashed with many, many more.
The originally peaceful denizens had now become accustomed to the rampant howls of bloodthirst and murder emanating from the psychotic and illegitimate steel blade, and the young girl attempting to pet the fur of all furred creatures she encountered, and obtain the scales of any reptilian creatures.
Once the clash of steel on hardened material or the fluctuation of spiritual essence surged through the undergrowth, the frail creatures and plants would cower down and cover their rapidly beating souls with agitation and dreadful hope.
The trampling of grass underfoot and the savage growls of creatures venting their unassuaged emotions and fears was what they were used to, not a steel sword rampant on destruction!
Thus, they prayed.
Prayed that the agonizer of death and the malevolent existence would be shattered one day, to allow the residents of the forest to return to their original, daily lives of violence and peace.
That the vast reaper of lives would retreat from the tranquil sanctuary of the fierce beasts, and never appear again.
…and shattered it was by a massive scorpion’s stinger, only to reappear in full health a cup of tea’s time later. That was when the trembling creatures shrouded amongst the grass realized that it was better to quell their prayers and pay no heed to the vicinity of the demon star trailing behind the human girl.
At the least, they were no longer sought after as sport.
The young girl was far too occupied on the constant threat of the unusually energetic and vigor-packed creatures throwing themselves at her frail body, to even notice the throng of rabbits, squirrels, and other small creatures squeaking around within the sea of grass.
Otherwise, she was conversing with the little raven perched on her shoulder, if not climbing tall trees to harvest any ripened nuts.
The little raven’s call shocked An Fei out of her doze, and she turned her head to direct a questioning glance towards the freeloader perched on the leather bag’s strap.
The little creature hopped up and down several times, its golden beak parting to release a series of soft cries.
Black lines instantly engraved themselves onto the little feathery creature’s forehead, and it instantly ceased its willful action, glaring back at the young girl with its pair of crimson eyes.
Upon aligning its range of vision to the twin scarlet irises, the little raven somewhat deflated with a withered sigh.
An Fei raised an eyebrow at the sentient actions of the little raven, shrugging her shoulders and resuming her long march after receiving no reply for several moments.
The young girl waded through the sea of grass, deeply content that it was the thin strands brushing against her legs, and not a massive pool of water toxic for her soul.
The distant roar of thunder brought An Fei’s walk to an end, causing her to glance up with a confused expression. The young girl frowned as she squinted her eyes, a dissatisfied huff of air escaping her lips upon discovering nothing unusual.
“Clouds… aren’t in the sky, so where – “
The remnants of the azure sky filtered through the dense shroud of leaves and branches clearly informed An Fei that a thunderstorm was theoretically impossible, yet the rumbling and clashing of thunder resonated throughout the Wu Ji Forest.
To make matters worse, the dense throng of rain splattering into a large pool of accumulated water gently trickled at the base of her ears, causing the young girl to stamp her feet in frustration.
The area in which she stood was completely dry and devoid of thunder… so where were the sounds originating from?
“The… other regions of the forest?” the young girl finally murmured, her gaze flickering to glance over the path she had taken since entering this mysterious region of the Wu Ji Forest.
“It’s raining over there… but why not here? What’s so special about this region?”
An Fei rubbed her chin in thought, her long hair gently tousled by the breeze.
The little raven perched on her shoulder fretting in silence for a few moments, before electing a decisive course of action.
The experimental cry pierced through the static noise generated by the diffused sound of raindrops striking the ground, only to be masked by a peal of thunder rumbling overhead.
The young girl continued ruminating to herself as she walked forwards, whispering in her usual soft voice.
“The creatures in this region of the forest possess greater strength compared to the others… then again, the panther and python I saw at the start were probably no different… so where am I?”
“The regions unaffected by the monsoon regardless of how much rain pours or lightning strikes…” the young girl softly uttered, her pupils dilating in surprise the next moment.
“The central region of the forest!? I’ve been heading towards the direct center of the forest!?”
The peal of thunder that rang out as the same time An Fei made her revelation caused her to nearly stumble and fall onto the ground.
However, though she was spared from the grisly mess of the soft earth clinging to the linen coat, the shock the young girl received was no different that had she had collided into the ground.
To be heading towards the central regions of the Wu Ji Forest… that was the exact definition of the opposite of her objective!
“No wonder the nine-tailed fox was stronger compared to the other creatures I’ve encountered until now…”
The young girl whispered with a pale countenance, her lips devoid of their usual pinkish charm.
With trembling limbs, An Fei lifted her right foot as though to whirl around and rush back towards the path she had come, but lowered it after a moment of silence.
“If I were to return the way I have come, that would mean that I would have to cross that swamp-like environment…” she reasoned with a quivering voice.
“If I were to continue moving forward, the creatures I will encounter will be increasingly terrifying… and there would probably be another swamp waiting for me later…”
Whilst she had remained in the imperial carriage, the empress had described the forest environment as though a large circular perimeter.
If she was truly within the central regions of the forest, forging ahead to the final destination or backpedaling to where she had begun were practically the same task in difficulty or achievement.
Forging ahead, she would encounter stronger fierce creatures, perhaps even those that would threaten her life.
An Fei could only estimate the cultivation of the fierce beasts that she had encountered to a rough approximate based on her own abilities, and could not aptly determine her safety.
If she were to backpedal, the guarantee was that she would encounter fierce creatures at an increasingly infrequent rate, and could breeze through with little difficulty.
The only problem An Fei could determine was that the swamp was intensely toxic for her, and she wasn’t even aware whether her initial point within the Wu Ji Forest was aligned with the exit.
Two equally difficult choices, and the young girl was to pick between one whilst listening to the chaotic cacophony of thunder and rain pounding on her eardrums.
Ah! Ignorance was truly, truly a blissful experience!