Upon first glance… the Shattered Star Continent appeared as though it were a large egg.
…a large egg with numerous, grotesque branches protruding from beneath the shell to greedily absorb the vitality from its surroundings.
The land as described in the map before An Fei housed an elliptical diagram that demarcated the inland territories of the continent, along with an indistinct marker for the ocean that surrounded the continent on all sides.
Throughout the coastline, the young girl could faintly spot thin ‘extensions’ of land that truly weaved and struck forth akin to a mass of writhing tentacles yanked from the depths of hell.
If nobody knew that the collection of diagrams that stood on the lectern was not a map, they would likely correlate it to a demonic ritual.
“Spectacular and gross… is that really the shape of the continent?”
The young girl scowled as she ruthlessly gave her assessment, forcing her gaze to restrain itself to the labels scattered on the marked territories of land.
Great Yan, Great Yong, and Bei Tang.
Three large titles spanned the majority of the map in bold and striking calligraphy and with scarlet ink; the three empires ruled as the sole sovereigns of the mortal world, their span of influence stretching over hundreds of thousands of kilometers.
Besides each empire’s title, the young girl spotted a trail of smaller characters in softer strokes detailing the names of a few materials and consumables.
Noting that iron, livestock, and silks were common amongst the three lists, An Fei simply assumed that it was a list of the most popular avenues of trade.
But besides that!
She came here to locate the general surroundings, not to spectate on the matters and stretches of an empire that was far too away from her reach!
“Bone Spirit Town… Bone Spirit Town… they… wouldn’t list a small town on a map that covers the entire continent, right.”
The young girl sighed with a listless expression on her disguised countenance as her fingers traced obscure lines on the map etched on a sturdy and large sheet of paper.
An Fei explored the map for a little longer without any expectations, only for her expression to turn skyward the next moment.
Near the center of the territory charted for Great Yong, there stood a small marker whose characters struck a powerful chord in the young girl’s heart.
Not only did it cause her mind to visibly tremble in excitement, the discovery caused her emotions to soar to rock bottom.
However, not simply Jiang’an, but Jiang’an (sky).
Having witnessed the scene that awed the experience of departing from the capital city of Great Yong with her own eyes, the young girl was clearly cognizant of the implications of the single character that stood besides the titular name of the city.
As her mind flitted towards the hazardous memory, An Fei’s eyes misted over with a slight sentiment.
Sky – Jiang’an stood in the air at a colossal height of six to seven thousand meters in the air at the minimum, and that was only a conservative estimate at the best.
If she were to accurately measure the towering distance, the young girl was certain that the city might as well stand from a height easily twice or even three times that of her shoddy guesses.
Besides the marker for Jiang’an, the creator of the map had used an even smaller stroke and lesser quality ink and raucous calligraphy to notate the surrounding counties and prefectures that lay on the ground.
Dong Zhuo Providence.
Li Bei Prefecture.
Fa Bing Providence.
The three subsidiary prefectures had formed a tripartite alliance underneath the floating city of Jiang’an, serving as the loyal snake heads that guarded over the mandates of the empire, and managed the mundane business of the domestic world.
Other than the national policies that were to be dispatched from the capital city every now and then, the provinces and prefectures underneath Great Yong were practically independent of other nomenclatures or superior entities.
…that was to be from the perspective of a governor; the influence of the jianghu and the presence of sects entailed in the path of cultivation could never be underestimated by anyone.
“The forest I came from has to be in one of the three marked lands…” An Fei whispered, her eyes brimming with a peculiar gleam.
She hoped that the transference array that they had experienced with the Empress merely threw them downwards without any horizontal displacement.
Otherwise, if she had landed in a different area than she had anticipated… then her journey was about to become a thousand folds rougher and painful.
“I… I’ll take this then,” the young girl murmured, racking her mind and forcing herself to distract her attention from the grave matters described on the massive sheet of paper.
“Consider this as payment for me taking all of this time just to come to a Shen Manor…”
The map was simply placed onto the lectern without any supportive materials binding it onto the wooden surface.
Hence, the young girl reached forwards with her fingers, gently prying the unusual square of paper without much difficulty.
As she extracted the map of the continent from its original placeholder, An Fei tilted her head to the right as a confused expression flitted across her countenance.
The young girl’s vigilance soared to the peak as her fingers trailed to her bosom, though it dimmed after a few moments of tranquility and silence.
“Maybe I was just imagining things…”
The young girl murmured, rubbing against the tip of her fingers with a purse of her lips.
An Fei took it on herself to carefully fold the map and toss it into the Sanctum’s throne hall, patting her hands as congratulations of accomplishment.
Since her fingers didn’t ache from tactile contact with the mysterious paper’s surface, the map wasn’t imbued with the mortal world’s spiritual qi or spiritual essence, and was thus safe for her to handle and place it within the Sanctum without worries.
As her fingers had taken the map from the lectern, An Fei had detected a faint brush against her skin as though it were a feather duster, but the sensation was so fleeting and light that the young girl didn’t mind it any longer.
However, there was just one complaint An Fei kept in her heart as she glanced around, having successfully stolen the map without any difficulty.
Dong Zhuo, Li Bei, Fa Bing – these provinces combined was even smaller than the fingernail of her pinky.
The map, if stretched to its maximum size, could easily wrap around her body three, perhaps four times.
Just how was she to get anywhere!?
“Esteemed Guest – so this was where you were!”
A servant dressed in a pink dress exclaimed with relief and fatigue as she raced towards An Fei’s position, her countenance nearly brimming with tears.
Once she stood besides the young girl, the maidservant panted for breath with a wan expression, her hands supporting her knees with dwindling strength.
“You were looking for me?”
An Fei raised her eyebrows as an expression of surprise raced across her countenance, and the young girl gently crossed her arms before her chest as though to exaggerate her innocence.
“I was told to simply remain here by the two guards at the entrance…”
The young girl murmured, her voice tinged with a slight disappointment and glumness as her eyes flitted back towards the patterned flowers decorating the winding pathways of the main courtyard that encircled the Shen Manor.
The little raven on her shoulder and the small fox – which had now reawakened – threatened to keep their mouths shut, their consciousness nearly bursting from their suppressed disbelief.
This human girl’s acting is far too potent…
The two creatures that had migrated from the Wu Ji Forest shook their heads in concern for the denizens of the world, and the servant directly before them was to become the first victim.
“So that’s how it was!?” the maidservant clapped her hands in frustration, her countenance alighting with an enlightened expression.
“To think that we had assumed that the Esteemed Guest had already entered the manor…”
An Fei pinched herself on the arm as she carelessly replied to the bowing servant, allowing herself to be led around on her ‘first’ tour of the Shen Manor.
As she admired the objects and the vast quantity of decorations that stared down upon her from above, the young girl suppressed a chuckle in her heart.
“This Bodhisattva Sculpture was obtained by the Young Master’s compatriot in the trading business, and the Young Master enhanced it to possess a warding effect against ghosts of Yin…”
The moment she had stripped the map, An Fei had departed from the Shen Manor, and dispelled the invisible diagram nestled in her heart.
And then, with a quick survey of her surroundings, the young girl had arrogantly stridden throughout the Shen Family’s courtyard, making her presence known in the most contemptuous and subtle method possible.
If an outsider carelessly roamed throughout the private gardens and pathways of a manor, how would anyone fail to notice?