The next few days caused An Fei to deeply appreciate the martial arts techniques of the Sanctum, as well as harbor an eternal dread towards them.
Under the continued guidance of the heavenly dragon that was the envoy of the Gate of Death, the young girl gradually came to ends with a few of her previously unanswered questions.
The first was that <Calligraphy> was too awesome… far too awesome for her to possibly handle.
It was a martial arts technique that could replicate the devastating implications of the <Heavenly Talisman> at a smaller extent, but the accompanying costs truly caused An Fei to break into sweat.
<Calligraphy>’s effects could trigger upon the first movement that drew the character, the drawing motion of the “pen”, or even the intention of drawing the character itself. It was a martial arts technique that employed divine essence to manifest the smallest of intentions into tangible representations of themselves.
All martial arts techniques, either belonging to the mortal world or the Realm, possessed a considerable cost that preceded their manifestation.
Either in the form of physical materials, spiritual essence provided by the cultivator, or divine essence from the Immortal – some compensation had to be afforded for willing creation into the world.
If the cultivator or Immortal could not afford such a cost, the martial arts technique would attribute an accompanying debt to their soul.
For mortals, their next several lives could be strife in weakness, misery, and utter humiliation. Immortals, on the other hand, might be forced to be unable to wield divine essence as they wished, or fall into slumber for a certain duration of time.
Such a phenomenon was rather commonplace among the countless number of martial arts technique available in the Sanctum, but a consumption on the scale of the <Heavenly Talisman> or <Calligraphy> was a rarity even within the Archives of Time.
Its consumption far exceeded the capabilities of An Fei’s soul, and forced everything else into the backlog until <Calligraphy> manifested its effects. The <Steps of Underlying Shadow>, the <Golden Lotus of Establishment>, and even the basic circulation of spiritual essence had to be held off until <Calligraphy> was completed.
She was utterly defenseless when the prerequisite conditions of <Calligraphy> were triggered.
And when a person was forced to be constantly aware of their abilities and their proper capabilities, <Calligraphy>’s conditions would be fulfilled once more.
“Is this really going to be like this?”
Especially during her practice, of which even the passive benefits of spiritual essence on her physique were suspended by <Calligraphy>’s behemoth consumption of spiritual essence. As a result, An Fei’s physique plummeted to the conditions that she had started out with the first moment her eyes opened on the Shattered Star Continent.
“It will always be like this, until you grasp its Construct! Now, up!”
Xilong sternly commanded. The heavenly dragon grasped hold of the taijijian, forcing the young girl to hold the blade level with her chest for several minutes.
An Fei heaved sigh after sigh as her arms trembled with a numbing pain and intense fatigue. She wavered on and on in her mind about how the heavenly dragon was far too much of a bully, but ultimately remained silent with streams of sweat trickling down her throat and back.
Everything in the Realm, mortals included, possessed an intrinsic Construct.
The Construct served to stabilize its manifestation and existence in the infinite void, and allowed for escape from the eventual decay over time.
Without a construct, though objects may still exist, the intrinsic properties and its original specified purpose would most definitely be erased or scrambled to an unrecognizable form. For Immortal Beings, such a fate was tantamount to death – for their identity would be lost.
Invoking an object or process through its Construct incurred a greatly diminished cost compared to without.
With the necessary conditions required for its manifestation as well as their accompanying processes already predefined by the Construct, all the Immortal needed to do was to provide the initial conditions, rather than accomplishing the entire feat by themselves.
But until that threshold, they could do nothing except providing all of the necessary definitions and concepts on their own, each time they utilized the martial arts technique…
Who could withstand such burnout – especially if they were nothing but a mere mortal?
An Fei certainly could not, and as such, was confined to a brutal training regime constructed by the heavenly dragon. Until she could grasp either the Constructs of <Calligraphy> or the <Steps of Underlying Shadow>, she was to continue holding the sword in a perpetual combative stance.
Either cleansing her thoughts to avoid triggering the initial conditions of <Calligraphy> whilst she attacked or forsake the blade altogether, An Fei now faced a difficult decision.
“You suggested for me to avoid swinging the blade altogether until I could gather my thoughts,” An Fei raised her eyebrows as she stared at the thin book clenched in her hand.
“So why are you having me look through <Hemorrhaging> as well?”
“Who said hemorrhaging could only be done with a sword?”
Xilong casually released a breath of hot air as it stared towards the young girl’s blank expression.
Shaking its head to the sides as it realized that An Fei had completely missed its meaning, the scarlet dragon raised an invisible claw to leaf through the sheets of the book.
The young girl’s mouth gaped as she witnessed an ordinary tome float in the air and flip through its pages, and couldn’t gather herself together until Xilong’s patient and gentle voice brushed against the back of her ear.
“Take a look. What do you see on this page?”
What did she see?
A lot of words, piled on top of one another as though mere dots of paint on an expansive mural. They filled the snow-white page from the upper-leftmost corner to the bottom right, not allowing for a single gap of white to be shown any more than necessary.
“…nothing but words?”
The young girl could only reply as such.
“Words? Take a closer look – what do those words mean?”
Xilong could only guide with patience calmness; it was evident that An Fei was already struggling when it came to understanding the words displayed on the page.
Hiding all sense of discomfort deep within its heart, the heavenly dragon slowly dragged An Fei’s consciousness towards the intricacy of <Hemorrhaging>.
“How many different types of words are on the page? Any similarity?”
“[Rend]… [Shatter]… [Guile]… I don’t see any patterns?”
It was to be expected as such, for no mortal was supposed to come into contact with the Divine Script, much less attempt to read it as though reading standard literacy characters.
Thus, Xilong could only try utilizing a forceful method.
“When you hemorrhage someone, what occurs?”
“They bleed. Unstoppable bleeding until their death.”
“What do these words write out… group them together – what character does the patterns form?”
An Fei’s brows instinctively furrowed at the unusual command and wanted to retort, but stopped upon hearing the scarlet dragon’s soft voice that demanded no response. The young girl stared deep into the page, her fingers tracing the characters that were smaller than the tips of her eyelashes.
“[Rend] on top of [Guile], [Guile] above [Shatter], and when they’re combined like building blocks on a page…”
The “building blocks” formed from the characters of [Rend], [Guile], and [Shatter] in the Divine Script seemed to represent the grains of a writing brush.
As the hairs of the brush scraped across the page and deposited the ink, the concepts of rending, deception, and destruction scattered and converged to form…
…the character of [Hemorrhage].
“Do you understand?”
Xilong tapped the young girl’s forehead with its claws. The heavenly dragon then seized the book and scanned through the pages at a rapid speed, so much that An Fei could hardly see the pages save for a blur of ink…
“All of these ‘murals’ you speak of are diagrams formed from a combination of letters. These letters are arranged in a pattern that is greatly compatible in writing the character for [Hemorrhage].”
“To bleed a man dry, to force the vitality of any existence to be spilled from their body a drop at a time… that is the Construct of <Hemorrhage>. And by writing the character through a combination of other, root words and symbols, the martial arts technique can penetrate any barrier with ease,” Xilong crudely flipped through a few random pages to present to An Fei.
“[Pierce], [Sunder], [Praise], [Wisdom] – every root word can be stained with the concept of drawing blood. Do you understand now?”
The young girl numbly nodded her head, a bitter sensation welling up in her throat. As expected, the heavenly dragon’s next set of words were hardly merciful.
“Since you understand, now you must practice! Practice until you can call upon its Construct with ease, practice until you can utilize <Hemorrhage> without even thinking about it!”