The handle-less steel sword was by no means elegant in appearance, nor did it even look wholesome in the slightest. However, the young girl felt at peace as she carefully observed the shimmering scarlet inscriptions on the long blade.
The sword hadn’t changed much, but the sense of security ebbing from its edge gently relaxed the tension in the young girl’s heart.
The feeling of peace and indifference when she could stroll around in a quiet and tranquil environment – An Fei realized that she desired it much more than she had ever imagined.
She felt as though she had returned to the days of the Wu Ji Forest, when the handle-less sword had allowed her to walk free and unfettered without the slightest of danger to her health.
Without warning, An Fei suddenly gazed upon the hilt of the taijijian, her eyes boring holes into the inscription of the scarlet dragon. Her voice slightly nasally and scratchy from her influx of emotion, the young girl softly berated the heavenly dragon.
“Why did you make me wait so long?”
Xilong stood in silence at the unexpected question thrown by the young girl, and didn’t respond for a while.
When it had composed its thoughts to best prevent An Fei from agitating herself, the heavenly dragon’s will ebbed from the handle-less sword.
“Your acupuncture points needed to be sealed to minimize the impact of the <Jolt> on your soul. Otherwise, you would have quickly fallen into a permanent state of illness – and much painfully so.”
“Ilness? <Jolt> – what exactly is this <Jolt> again?” An Fei replied with a bitter tone.
“Why aren’t there any books on it in the Archives of Time? Unless you’re not going to tell me anything about it, just like the others?”
“Compendium has sealed away most of the books for your safety. Should you know about the specifics of <Jolt> and the state of the Realm at this time, your state of mind will crumble.”
The heavenly dragon’s reply had smoothened out into a dull yet warm monotone, but held an edge of urgency that squelched the remainder of the young girl’s questions. Sensing that An Fei had decided to shut up, Xilong released a short cough and spoke in a commanding voice.
“Alright, alright – don’t worry so much about things that you wouldn’t even encounter until much later. Focus more on learning how to fly!”
Stowing away her silent protests and heeding the dragon’s words, An Fei’s lips drew into a small pout as she threw a glance towards the handle-less sword. The young girl waited, waited, and waited some more, but the heavenly dragon didn’t speak any more after having said his single statement.
…she knew exactly what it was waiting for.
After all, this routine was something that happened multiple times a day for an entire month and a half – who wouldn’t have engraved such a routine into their bones?
“What do you mean by that – how am I to fly?”
“By the way of the sword!”
The heavenly dragon stared at the young girl with its invisible eyes, with great expectation clearly displayed on its long, bearded whiskers.
Watching An Fei’s expressions gradually morph from those of confusion to a mixture of understanding and disbelief, Xilong nodded its head in delight.
Unexpectedly, the young girl’s ultimate response threw him off – rather nicely so.
“…you want me to surf on a sword?”
“What do you mean by ‘surf on a sword’?” the heavenly dragon repeated with a bewildered tone.
“What does it mean to ‘surf’?”
An Fei and Xilong simultaneously exchanged a blink of a pair of scarlet irises. And in the next moment, both the young girl and the scarlet dragon leapt into action.
An Fei grabbed hold of the taijijian by its sheath and jabbed the butt of the sheath into the soft ground, slowly engraving the characters “chong lang” into the cold but softened soil. Xilong manipulated the atmosphere with a flick of its claws, forcing the hue and saturation of the skies directly before An Fei to drastically change.
The young girl then slapped down the handle-less sword onto the ground, then planted both feet on either end of the sword in a parallel orientation. The heavenly dragon finished manifesting its desired image, in which a young girl sat cross-legged on the middle of a sword’s blade.
“Er… what is that supposed to be?”
An Fei and Xilong expelled the question from their hearts, the former staring at the flickering inscription of a scarlet dragon on the taijijian’s handle, and the latter staring at a young girl from above.
Their replies ricocheted across the cold morning skies, spit out in a heartbeat.
“No, no,” the heavenly dragon wagged its claw in disagreement.
“That ‘surfing’ you speak of simply cannot be considered correct. Standing in parallel orientation with the direction of movement – just how are you supposed to retain balance at high speed?”
“But that picture can’t be right either?” the young girl retorted with a steady momentum.
“If you’re sitting cross-legged on a sword while its moving through the air at great speed, the air resistance will be far too great – it’ll knock you off almost immediately! That breaks the law of physics much more than surfing through the air! At least surfing has some displayed some practicality when travelling down mountains at great speed, ah!”
“…Young Fei, just when has the laws of physics enjoyed any authority over the actions and definitions of cultivators?”
The heavenly dragon immediately silenced An Fei’s argument with a quick slash towards the throat. Waving a claw and grasping the spluttering young girl by her shoulders with a coil of wind, Xilong placed her to stand on the middle of the handle-less sword.
“Expand the sword’s dimensions. At least threefold for maximum comfort.”
An Fei immediately displayed an unhappy expression upon discovering that she had lost control over the discussion, and helplessly complied.
The young girl gently whispered as she tapped the surface of the handle-less sword with her right foot. The handle-less sword gently quivered through the soles of her shoes in response, and An Fei felt a rather considerable proportion of spiritual essence ebb from the tightly compressed sphere at her chest.
The quivering of the steel sword increased in intensity within a short span of a few breaths, and gradually began to enlarge.
With each vibration, the handle-less sword expanded a few centimeters and soon, the faithful and bloodthirsty sword had transformed into a monstrosity blessed by the heavens.
With a towering length of six meters, a width of two meters, and a thickness of thirty centimeters, the handle-less sword resembled less of a sword, but more of an enormous wedge of steel. Receiving guidance from the heavenly dragon, An Fei calmed her mind with a few deep breaths, and opened her eyes when her heartbeat slowed by a large margin.
…the moment the words left her lips and she recalled the bloodthirsty and vicious nature of the handle-less sword of steel, An Fei regretted it immensely –
The handle-less sword erupted into a massive roar, the scarlet inscriptions on the surface of the blade coming to life with the intensity of their radiance multiplying fourfold in an instant. Directly below where An Fei sat, a faint inscription of a scarlet dragon came to life, its claws holding the character of death –
“Wait – w – w – wait – wait – wait – WAIT A MINUTE!”
The young girl’s howl echoed through the skies as the bloodthirsty sword happily took towards the heavens, its malevolent roar terrorizing the already violated hues of the atmosphere.
A mixture of a heavenly dragon’s chuckles, a young girl’s helpless pleas, and a certain sword’s energized roar vibrated through the skies, and caused a little raven to fall from its perch in heartfelt shock.
The instant the handle-less sword began moving, the world cracked before An Fei.
At the center of her vision, a complex web of silvery and black cracks shredded the skies, and stretched all around her body. They were obscure in appearance, and fully isolated her from the boundless skies around her.
Whenever she stretched an arm out, the cocoon of worldly cracks expanded to accommodate her movements – just like a set of intangible clothing.
After a few moments of confusion, An Fei quickly realized the source of the unusual phenomenon to be that of the <Steps of Underlying Shadow>, initiated through iterating its Construct and not the technique itself.
Since she had attuned herself with the void that was the ultimate resting ground of all creation as well as the threshold that separated creation from destruction, An Fei had been isolated from the Shattered Star Continent, as well as the cold, boundless skies.
Air resistance couldn’t affect an object with zero surface area, neither could cold temperatures affect an object that didn’t consist of anything that could be influenced by infusion of energy.
She didn’t feel the cold and depressurized air, nor did she have to compensate for the changes in her environment. When she looked around, the young girl’s jaw dropped in astonishment.
The skies free of pollution were so beautiful –
“Huh?” the young girl snapped back to her senses.
The scarlet dragon shouted into her ears to fully capture the young girl’s attention, and with a flick of its claw, cleanly swept An Fei from the handle-less sword.
“Did you think that you could laze around for the rest of the day? Not after you finish your daily training – now get to it!”