Nodding with satisfaction regarding the finished product that pooled at the base of the black iron wok, the young girl commanded the fire to diminish after simmering the solution for another sichen.
The cheery flame crackled in delight at the young girl’s command, the golden flames leaping to emboss their heat into the essence of the wok.
An Fei sat down onto the ground nearby the black wok, a book splayed open before her.
As the young girl continued to read, the fragrance of lemongrass intensified with each passing moment, until the medicine garden appeared to have grown a sea of the herb.
Amidst the raging currents of colored light and temperature rampaging throughout the medicine garden, the faint rustling of pages could be heard, and the muted cracks of fiery sparks splashing against the surface of a cast iron wok.
“This… never emphasized on the type of rouge to implement as the foundation…” the young girl murmured in a low voice, her right index finger tapping on her bottom lip.
“I replaced the so-called Twilight Nocturn with a combination of angelica and parsley… but will it truly create a cosmetic? Aren’t the two herbs supposed to be consumed? What even is the Twilight Nocturn, it looks like a shred of goldleaf…”
The book before An Fei was a simple introductory to the study of cosmetics and their applications.
By its name, the book was supposed to define the basic ingredients constituting the foundational cosmetics that could be found anywhere on the streets… but An Fei’s consciousness was already swamped by the time she flipped towards the twentieth page.
The book was indeed as big as her torso, but did the writing have to be so small as well!?
“This is too much…”
The young girl palmed her forehead in exhaustion, her eyes threatening to roll upwards and ferry her soul towards dreamland.
The stress of deciphering the blurred symbols as well as studying an area of interest so remote from her interests was enough to cause her mind to transform into a high-pressure cooker.
Making rouge – she had expected it to be a simple process of gathering the petals of a scarlet or pink flower, grinding into a powder, and formulating a removable cohesive substance to allow the powder to remain on the lips following application.
She did not expect it to be so complex!
“A bottle of mediocre rouge comprises of a collection of a variety of colorful flowers consisting of light yellow, blue, and green petals,” the young girl recited with clenched teeth.
“Then you form a baste utilizing natural fats from the extracts of beans to combine the mixture into a single paste – then a tonic of rosemary, geraniums, mint, and lavender is poured and left to dry to reveal a paste…”
An Fei threw her hands into the air, her eyes beginning to water at the thought of cosmetics.
Just as the young girl parted her lips to release an agonizing scream, the final crackle of the fire lit underneath the cast iron wok shrieked to attain her attention, the piercing cry resonating throughout the entire medicine garden.
In her excitement, the book that would have charmed countless young women was casually left on the fabric-covered ground, the pages devoid of the minimum honor of closing the book to protect its contents.
“I want to see, I want to see!”
The young girl chanted as she rushed to the black iron wok, peering into its contents with a sparkling countenance.
At the bottom of the wok, just as An Fei had expected, lay a pool of rich green liquid, translucent and gleaming with a faint indigo radiance.
The scent of lemongrass was muted and suppressed to the surface of the liquid, no longer as profuse as before. When An Fei took a brief sniff, the faint fragrance was enough for her to clench her fingers in satisfaction.
What came next was quite obvious, yet unthinkable for others.
The young girl wrapped her arms around the black iron wok, her countenance blooming into a contented smile at the warm temperature of the material.
Her heart beamed with praise towards the fire that belonged to the Sanctum, for it had regulated the temperature of the wok to the extent that a heartwarming surge of heat rushed through the entire body on contact, but did not burn the skin.
Praiseworthy, and perfect indeed.
An Fei hummed as she hauled the cast iron wok towards the boudoir, bypassing the alluring bedchamber and rushing straight into the bathroom.
There, ignoring the transparent, steaming water that filled the massive tub to the brim that tempted her soul for a quick bath, she poured the green liquid in without remorse.
The green tide seemed to have possessed an unquenchable thirst as it permeated every region of the inlaid bathtub, transforming the entire container of water into a lake of sparkling, translucent green liquid.
The repressed fragrance of lemongrass broke free from its restraints and rushed forth to envelop every centimeter of the room, tickling An Fei’s feverish nose with the highly inviting and excitatory scent.
The young girl took a deep breath, her fingers hooking at the collar of her gown with a hint of hesitation.
With the right foot extending forward, An Fei walked down the leading steps into the depths of the bathtub, her body shivering from the onslaught of the bone-piercing heat and trepidation towards what would happen next.
The young girl tapped her brow with her right index finger, muttering to herself in an unintelligible voice.
And without any further hesitation, the rest of her body submerged into the bath of green liquid, allowing herself to drift to the center of the bathtub where she could fully stand underwater.
An Fei forced herself to remain underwater for a few breaths, only daring to resurface when her lungs anxiously asked her brain whether she was suicidal.
She was not!
The young girl’s body was covered in a multitude of droplets of sweat and green solution as her upper half escaped the hot underwater massage.
Rubbing at her eyes, the pair of scarlet irises quickly cleared away their confused glint, to be replaced by shock.
Her skin… had transformed.
The milky-white color of her fair skin had been replaced with a pale mixture of yellow and hazel, a tone more accustomed to that of the indigenous tribes Wei Xuan had once mentioned.
When An Fei carefully observed her appearance from the rippling bathwater, the young girl concluded that her skin tone matched with the girls she had once seen in the southern regions of Guangxi; perhaps she appeared as one of Nanning’s young women?
The texture of her skin had transformed from the soft, creamy sensation of warm mutton jade to a slightly rougher sensation, though the softness and delicacy of feminine charm remained.
When An Fei pinched her arm, she couldn’t help but sigh at the differences between her current appearance and her previous, heaven-defying physique.
The young girl anxiously perched herself onto the edge of the bathtub to escape the visual distortion of the hot water, her fingers running over every nook and cranny of her body as though to confirm the completion of the disguise.
Her limbs, torso, the area behind the earlobes, and even… even… those –
An Fei slinked away from her divergent thoughts, climbing out of the large bathtub to dry herself and slip into a new gown of an unknown, but irresistibly comfortable silk.
An Fei had completely relaxed her agitated mood, allowing her tangled mind to calm itself and regain the cold rationality it had lost ever since her arrival to Jiang’an.
The young girl patted her bosom as though to increase her confidence, then changed into more defensive clothing and draped the linen coat around her body, leaving the Sanctum with the twin butterfly swords and the qama serving as her loyal sentinels.
The instant her right foot transgressed past the dividing barrier of the world to step onto the sea of grass of the wide plains, two completely baffled and startled cries drilled into her ears.
The young girl softly yelped as her hand shot to her ears, a fierce scowl slamming into the weak hearts of the little raven and the small fox.
“What, you haven’t seen a disguise before?”
An Fei raised a challenging eyebrow towards the valiant and prideful creature, finally causing him to submit since their encounter in the Wu Ji Forest.
The little raven nearly lost control and revealed a pair of violet irises, the sentient immortal gaping with disbelief.
As it was unable to even control its beak in its shock, much less its body, the young girl had to grab the little creature by its claws and shove it towards her left shoulder.
This… wasn’t the irresistibly beautiful little human lass he had seen daily for the past few months?
With this astonishingly descript and ordinary appearance… she was more akin to a pretty dancer in Bai Xing’s domain, perhaps any of the mortal domains within the Realm.
Dongfang Yu had seen multitudes of them on his visits to the arrogant immortal’s abode, to the extent that the countenance before him enriched a deep sense of bemusement in his heart.
Other than being a little pretty, the slightly tan but still pale skin tone and unrefined appearance… the young girl before him lacked any other supportive qualities.
The An Fei standing before him now compared to the An Fei he was accustomed to…
This disguise was undoubtably excellent!
“Xiao Hei, are you alright?”
The young girl’s curious voice brought the little raven back to its senses, and the little creature extracted its claws from the girl’s fingers, gingerly settling itself onto the leather strap with a bleeding heart.
The little raven couldn’t suppress its dumbfounded shock as it continued to gaze at An Fei’s countenance from aside, its pride completely flattened and shattered.
“What are you looking at, ah?” the young girl brought the small fox into her bosom, her index finger tapping the feathery creature on its head.
“Enough, that person seems to be preparing to head back to where he came from. It’s better to chase now than wander in this unusual plains, no?”