“Esteemed Guest, here is the Second Elder’s abode,” the maidservant responsible as An Fei’s chauffeur dipped into a low bow, her arm sweeping forward in a gesture of respect.
“The Esteemed Guest, please!”
The servant curtseyed to the young girl, quickly flitting from the scene as she abandoned a confused An Fei to stand behind with a befuddled expression.
Realizing that she was left on her own after five minutes of pure silence save for the faint rustling of silk, the young girl released a breath in bemusement.
“I thought she was the Second Elder… shouldn’t they give her more respect?”
The young girl mused with a soft voice, her fingers rubbing at the base of her chin.
Taking advantage of the time to survey her surroundings, An Fei ensured that her fingers never strayed too far from the weapon hidden at her bosom.
The corridor that sheathed the Second Elder’s abode… was quite elegant and extraordinary.
Draping curtains of silk that could ward off sunlight without allowing a single ray to seep through; a rug embroidered with peacocks, flamingos, and other exotic birds to guard the floor from any sanctimonious behavior.
The walls were interchanged for a more fragrant wood without any discrimination, causing the young girl’s nose to be assaulted by an assortment of fragrances.
Acacia, sandalwood, ashwood, then an unknown sample of wood that resembled oak but gleamed with a pale indigo radiance…
The young girl wrinkled her nose, the potent mixture of fragrances too much for her underexperienced and innocent senses.
Flaring her eyes as though to prevent herself from coughing or passing out from the unfamiliar and definitely unpleasant experience, An Fei reached out with both of her hands to push on the double doors, exposing the bedchamber of the mysterious Second Elder of the Shen Manor.
An Fei’s first assessment was that it was far too dark.
The only sources of illumination were the twin pearls that stood at either side of the curtained bed.
Other than that, the entire room was submerged with a blank darkness, creating a rather… creepy sensation to crawl up the young girl’s arms.
She was used to dim lighting – the Sanctum’s only source of illumination was the golden light that manifested when her body contacted the sky-blue crystal surface of the floor or walls.
When she didn’t touch the crystalline surfaces, the entire realm of crystal fell into an absolute darkness that deafened the ears and numbed the body.
However, the sensation experienced within the Sanctum when it was dark was still considerably warm and comfortable.
On the other hand, the darkness that emanated from the Second Elder of the Shen Family’s room was suppressing and discordant, as though it were forcefully restrained akin to a rabid beast.
“…still better than choking on that crazed mixture…”
The young girl scowled as she raced into the bedchamber, her disgusted senses compelling her body to close the doors shut.
Having blocked off the nauseating and far too intensely perfumed corridor, An Fei took a moment to clear her nasal passages with a brief rush of spiritual essence before approaching the curtained bed with wary steps.
“Is this the Esteemed Guest of our Shen Manor?”
A lilting voice that warmed the bones of the listeners rang from within the curtained bed, prompting An Fei to take a few steps backwards as her countenance donned a cautious expression.
The young girl shivered at the nightingale-like voice that pricked at her blood, her consciousness screaming with an intuitive danger.
An intuitive danger of the mind; one that forced the soul to act upon its primal desires, abandoning all reason as a consequence of lulling itself to the tragedy of seduction.
“This must be the Second Elder of the Shen Manor?”
The young girl fired back towards the mysterious female speaker, having successfully steeled her consciousness.
The Second Elder of the Shen Manor chuckled at the visible hostility behind An Fei’s tone, her laughter causing the latter’s brows to furrow with dislike.
“I see that the Esteemed Guest is rather… nervous,” the woman hidden behind the curtains spoke with an obscured smile.
“Why is this so? For me to become the voracious type… that’s not quite acceptable, no?”
The young girl’s lips twitched as she deigned not to reply.
She had obtained some crucial information from the maidservant, alright!?
This Second Elder was nearly eighty years old!
So what was with that voice that belonged to someone that was in their budding twenties!?!?
“I wasn’t of a pleasant impression from your Shen Family at the start,” the young girl coldly huffed, the snow lotus petal in her hair trembling as it primed itself for a quick manifestation.
Spiritual essence within her heart preloaded the necessary components to trigger the second lotus petal that An Fei had created, ready to erupt at the slightest command.
“Your Young Master’s methods of persuading others to visit the Shen Manor… are quite interesting.”
“Yes, isn’t Haoren quite the cute little one?” the Second Elder burst into heaving peals of laughter.
“My little brother still hasn’t changed his ways, ah.”
Hearing the young and mellow voice mention a pot-bellied, middle-aged man as ‘little brother’ made the young girl’s skin crawl with abhor and instinctive disgust.
Fighting to keep herself from summoning the handle-less sword and striking out, An Fei pinched herself on the waist as she steadied her voice.
“Why doesn’t the Second Elder get to the point?” the young girl scathed.
“Please, do enlighten this one why the Shen Family needs to expend so much effort to force the attendance of an unknown person such as I.”
There was a brief pause as the Second Elder supposedly fell into a moment of thought.
After the delay of several breaths, the voice of a young woman sprang from within the curtains of silk, prompting the suffocating darkness to tremble with a rabid excitement.
“I heard that the Esteemed Guest is in possession of a seven-tailed fox, and our Shen Family has indeed confirmed the information to possess an eighty percent chance of veracity.”
The Second Elder murmured, her hands clenching onto the warm blankets as a thread of anticipation rushed throughout her heart.
“Thus, we wished to invite your presence to –“
“-To steal the fox from my possession, and eliminate me as well to bury the information at the heart of the earth?”
An Fei raised an eyebrow as she forcefully interrupted the woman’s words.
As she spoke, the young girl’s fingers crept into the folds of the hanfu over her bosom, trailing over the cold steel handle of the deadly qama.
“It’s a pity, for your Shen Family isn’t the first one to utter such a request. Going after the fox’s blood, aren’t you?”
“How does the Esteemed Guest know of such information?” the Second Elder’s eyes flashed with a tinge of insanity and bloodlust, returning to their usual calm and serene gleam the next moment.
“If this lowly one of the Shen Family may ask, just who contacted the Esteemed Guest for the fox’s blood?”
The abrupt change in the Second Elder’s voice was instantaneous and short-lived – no more than a second at the most, but the young girl was able to detect the peculiarity.
Realizing the tinges of mania had crept into the woman’s voice, An Fei’s scarlet irises flashed with a glint of malice, the snow lotus petal in her hair trembling once more.
“Just a poor young little youth,” the young girl spoke, her voice gradually becoming grave as her vigilance soared to her limits.
“He demanded for the fox’s blood to advance his cultivation, for his cultivation technique was in desperate need of a holy elixir.”
“A poor young little youth… desperately needed for his cultivation technique…”
The Second Elder’s nails dug into the silken sheets, her brows creased in deep thought.
As the woman’s consciousness streaked through the dense accumulation of nearly eighty decades worth of compiled information, an obscure but glaring strand struck at her attention.
Nine Yellow Reincarnations!
The thought was insanely tempting but simultaneously dangerous; the Second Elder was keenly aware that if she wrongly cast the die at this moment, her life – and that of the entire Shen lineage – was to fall into ruin to never recover even after a hundred thousand years of blood and tears.
However, the benefits were worth it, even if the chance of success was slim!
The mania and bloodthirst within the Second Elder’s eyes deepened with each passing moment, and the die had been cast with an unyielding conviction.
“This lowly one of the Shen Family wishes to ask the Esteemed Guest a brief question,” the woman enunciated each word in a slow voice, her talents in the art of charm and seduction employed to their utmost.
“Has the Esteemed Guest ever heard of the legend of the single emperor of the path of cultivation – the Nine Yellow Reincarnations?”