A young girl’s thin arm trembled fiercely as it latched onto the rung directly above her head, slightly propelling her body forward. Her limbs threatening to give at any moment, the girl hoisted herself up another step further, before slinging her body around the rung itself before panting heavily for breath.
Copious amounts of sweat rolled down her pores, staining the green dress and making it cling to her body, revealing all of the budding curves and contours of her frame.
However, the girl paid no mind to the fatal appearance engendered by the combination of an exhausted appearance and her natural beauty, and focused only on calming her body and allowing herself a brief reprieve.
She was a little irked, however, that the book tucked under the folds of her dress was still dry regardless of the drops of sweat and moisture leaving her body.
It had already been several hours, and she was nearing the seventeenth platform of the library.
Gritting her teeth and halting her rest, An Fei immediately resumed climbing the ladder despite her body’s protests.
She had, for some inexplicable and most probably insane reason, decided to not tour the lower platforms and instead directly began to ascend for the seventeenth layer.
Perhaps something there called out to her, or she was just addled in the mind from refusing to accept her new environment.
Rest for the bare minimum required for her body to reduce the strain to below tolerable limits, and resume exertion until reprieve was necessary.
Such was the method An Fei was utilizing to the maximum effect as she climbed the rungs of the ladder, never allowing her body to slip into deep relaxation.
She had developed this technique on her own as she had evaded the world’s slew of government forces, private militia, and of course, that man’s subordinates. Theoretically, it would indefinitely temper the body’s limits until the absolute maximum threshold for stress and energy consumption was reached, of which then she had a great chance of lapsing into a deep slumber.
However, the benefits were far more rewarding in a few sessions of this technique than a few years of complete dedication in tempering the body – given that she exerted this technique in moderation and with consideration of her physique.
…what she was doing as of now could hardly be called ‘moderation’, as this rough and unforgiving method of climbing the rungs most definitely was abusing her current, fragile body and meagre physical strength.
If she dared continue to use such a method over an extensive period of time, An Fei guaranteed with complete sincerity that her body would crumble from the stress.
Of course, that wasn’t an outcome she wished to see. Not at all.
Pulling herself one final rung higher, the girl found the base of a platform directly to her right, an archaic number of ‘seventeen’ marked on the side.
Fiercely blinking her eyes and hauling her fatigued body onto the platform, An Fei struggled to her feat with difficulty, her bleary vision just barely providing enough clarity for her to discern her surroundings.
A long row of bookshelves greeted her eyes, spanning across the entire perimeter of the platform. Each book seemed to emit a soft glow of light, bathing the platform in a dim radiance.
When An Fei swayed her head towards the right, she discovered that in the center of the platform, there seemed to be a bed, large drawing table, and several drawers and storage boxes.
Having finished reaching her destination, the girl lurched forward for a few steps before falling forward onto the ground.
Unable to muster any more strength to stand with her cheek pressed against the warm, comfortable crystalline ground, she relaxed her mind’s grip on her body, falling into sweet darkness…
“Lord Minister, why did you request me to come greet you at the gate?”
Sheng Miaolan asked in a curious voice. Gracefully turning around Wei Xuan, she took off his coat and folded it before handing it to one of the servants waiting nearby.
Whilst taking care of activating the locking mechanism for the main gate of the Wei manor, the First Madam did not forget to issue sneak peaks towards the mysterious figure standing next to Wei Xuan.
The person was dressed in a light grey robe covering their entire body, the cowl completely obscuring the details of their face.
However, Sheng Miaolan could easily determine by the general contours of the cloaked figure that it was a disguised woman, hence aggravating her confusion.
The Lord Minister had always been loyal to both her and Luo Shuyan, so why was he suddenly bringing in a woman?
As if detecting the First Madam’s concealed worries, Wei Xuan had an uncomfortable expression displayed on his countenance.
Taking a deep breath and steeling his expression, the handsome minister gave a light bow to the cloaked figure, sweeping his hand towards the main residence’s entrance.
“Please,” he said with a light expression.
“May we converse in more private quarters?”
The mysterious figure bobbed her head, taking the lead to proceed to the central courtyard’s entrance, indicating for Wei Xuan to follow. Just as he passed the First Madam, the minister mouthed several words to Sheng Miaolan, only deepening her confusion and worry.
“Stay prudent…that person is of royal blood?” she mouthed back, her mature and charming eyes radiating bemusement. Waving for the servants to disperse, the First Madam grabbed the hem of her dress and hurried after the two.
The main residence was comparatively the most serene and plain of the three residences within the Wei manor.
A winding path through a miniature forest greeted their eyes after bypassing the entrance, of which various fruits hung off of the branches, including loquat, longans, pears, and passion fruit.
It was interesting how the fruits were constantly blooming even in mid-autumn weather, and how the trees from various different areas of the land could thrive in the same location.
The cloaked figure nodded her head upon detecting that compared to the chilly autumn temperature outside, the central residence’s atmosphere was slightly warmer, perhaps due to the effect of a supplementary array.
“An array to ward off the cold and to promote plant growth…” the mysterious person remarked in a dry tone.
“Minister Wei, you seem to have quite the extensive resources to construct such a large and fully functional array for such a purpose!”
“Nothing, nothing at all,” the minister immediately dipped into a bow.
“It is my honor to display such parlor tricks before Your Grace.”
Clamping down on her lips, Sheng Miaolan resisted the urge to speak anything, electing to remain silent and standing behind Wei Xuan. She soon came to rejoice in her decision mere moments later.
By the time they had arrived at their residence, the First Madam was about to die in embarrassment.
The residence of the First Madam was just a plain siheyuan of average size, considerably unbefitting of someone of her reputation and rank.
Shrouded by trees on all sides, the residence was constructed from materials of a plain appearance; clay tiles for the roof, faintly polished marble walls and floor, and a miniature courtyard constructed from limestone.
Compared to the Flowing Wind Residence or the Plum Blossoms Residence, the First Madam’s Slumbering Dawn Residence appeared lackluster due to the lack of exquisite materials or woodcraft.
However, as they tread along the path leading to the steps of the residence, the minister and mysterious being had talked about subjects that disgraced Sheng Miaolan’s ears.
Her first few days since marriage, her bedroom habits, her silly expressions and words when drunken with sleep or caught unawares; all sorts of secrets regarding the First Madam were shared between the two, accompanied by bouts of hearty chuckles and laughter.
The person in question, was naturally wishing to jump into a deep pit and never leave.
Ushering Wei Xuan and the cloaked figure into one of the guest rooms, Sheng Miaolan sat next to the minister, unable to completely conceal her befuddled expression.
The First Madam attempted to allay the situation as her gaze flickered between the various decorations and ornaments placed within the room, unable to remain in a single location for long; alas, her attempts were futile as the other occupants were well aware of Sheng Miaolan’s discomfort.
The mysterious person especially observed the First Madam’s behavior, their eyes revealing an interested and amused glint.
A pale orchid dress, hair combed neatly into a bun with a trail coiling around her shoulder, a plump bosom, and an oval countenance with red lips plump and appetizing to the eyes.
The hazel irises seemed to be able to perceive everything, yet their owner was frantically casting them everywhere in order to escape her mental turmoil.
…it seemed that Little Sheng hadn’t changed a single bit.
The cloaked person revealed a wide smile behind their cowl, before speaking in a warm and genial voice.
“Lan’er, why is it that after nearly twenty years of marriage, you have yet to change a single bit?”
The First Madam froze, her countenance radiating shock as her gaze slowly dragged itself to rest upon the mysterious person’s hidden countenance.