When she had jumped, An Fei didn’t have much regret.
Rather than a wish to cast everything away and face the end, she had leaped in order to answer a simple question that had suddenly sprouted in her heart.
That simple wish had overridden every other thought in her mind, the plain desire of satisfying that urge the only impetus of her consciousness, a pure and unhindered desire.
What was the limit of this mysterious realm of sky-blue crystal?
Thus, she had jumped off of the ledge of the platform, her feet naturally slipping off of the beveled edge without any resistance. Her vision warped to reveal pure darkness, a faint light receding behind her back as she fell forth.
The air slapped against her body as she tumbled downwards, yet the girl didn’t feel much pain. It was more of a slight throb of heat that surged through her limbs and torso, nothing compared to what she had experienced until now.
As she fell down, An Fei could faintly see the rungs of the ladder travel past the fringes of her vision at a terrifying speed, the lack of illumination gradually trimming her ability to see until a minimal patch of light remained.
However, the girl could only ruminate that the rungs of the ladder that she had arduously spent numerous hours climbing, could be passed in such short amounts of time as she fell…
Though her vision had been reduced to an extent particularly close to the state of being blind, An Fei could perceive various snapshots of her life flash past.
In the mere moments that spanned during the duration of her fall, the girl saw her life gazing back towards her, moment by moment.
A young toddler no older than three years old cried in an anxious voice. She was the only one within the room with the plain white wallpaper, not a single soul present to feign an answer to her pleas.
The child was surrounded by an inclined row of books circling around her in an expansive spiral. The only free space allotted to her being less than a meter in radius, the toddler couldn’t even roam around the room, only able to stare blankly into the distance.
Though her face displayed an uncontrollable anxiety, not a single tear escaped from her lucid orbs.
A pleading whisper was released from the girl’s lips, faint in sound yet earsplitting massive in the despair and loneliness the single call emitted. However, as no answer greeted her nor was there any response other than her own voice ringing in her ears, the child’s mouth began to tremble.
Hastily slamming her mouth shut in a panic, the toddler covered her lips with her two pudgy and small hands, not daring to allow a single sound to escape.
Directing a deep stare of unease and fear towards the spiral of books surrounding her, the child crawled for the first one, her hands reaching for the exit of the windowless, doorless room of a monochrome white.
“You are not my daughter! In no circumstance, will this good-for-nothing wench enter this family! I won’t allow it!”
A woman in her late twenties hollered in a shrill voice as she pointed towards a young girl of twelve years old, her face contorted in a vile mixture of abhorrence, disgust, and hatred.
A young child of ten years in a yellow summer dress clutched at the woman’s right leg, her adorable countenance directing a glance of intense curiosity towards the older child standing just a few meters away.
“Madam Chen, the genetic examinations suggest a genetic similarity exceeding eighty-seven percent,” a young doctor haplessly persuaded her.
“We’ve already scanned the results and conducted multiple rounds of testing; only Madam Chen has the highest percentage of similar genetics with the young girl.”
“Lies!” the beautiful woman scolded in a harsh tone.
“You’re just baited by that puny wench, am I right? Such a young age and she already knows how to seduce men to abide with her wishes, how-“
“Madam Chen!” the doctor fiercely shouted, his hand clenched into tight fists from fury.
“This is a hospital, a HOSPITAL, do you understand!? One must not make such salacious statements in places as these, otherwise who knows what kind of karma may befall you!”
“So?” Chen Shuyan snorted in disdain.
“A mere Dazzling Sun Hospital, that’s what! You dare bring up this tone again, and I’ll ruin your life with a single sentence, do you hear!?”
“This-this…” the youthful doctor sweated, before pleading in a helpless tone.
“Madam Chen, though you can slander me anyway you wish, examinations are conducted by cutting-edge technology! The results garnered won’t change at all regardless of your accusations, ah!”
“None of it matters if the results are never revealed, no? Even if the government forces me to take this sl*t into my custody, that wench shall never receive anything from my hand, and this Chen won’t care if she dies the day after!”
As the woman huffed and stormed out of the hospital, the young doctor could only reveal a miserable smile towards the girl, his eyes full of pity. He couldn’t help but feel even more pity upon detecting that the within the girl’s eyes, was an unfathomable apathy.
A slightly worn pickaxe slammed into the rocky earth, biting deep into the fused blend of frozen stone and ice. Fierce subzero gales howled in anger and fury as they tore at the pickaxe, attempting to forcefully dislodge and dispatch it towards the unending ravine directly underneath.
A slender hand hidden under a black glove, once pristine and beautiful but now scarred and marred, tightly grasped the handle of the tool, holding it fast against the treacherous acts of nature. Moments later, a similar dull sound could be heard as a second piton wedged itself into the wall of ice directly next to the first.
“Need to hurry…”
A low grunt could be heard as the owner of the pickaxes dislodged one of the pitons before driving them back into the wall, just a few centimeters above its previous location.
Centimeter by centimeter, the two pitons arduously climbed up the dangerous wall of ice, undaunted by the gaping ravine patiently and eagerly waiting to devour both them and their owner whole.
The expected splattering of flesh and blood as an object hurtled towards the ground at a massive speed did not occur. Nor did An Fei experience a sudden rush of tranquility that was reputed as a swift death.
Rather, just mere moments before she collided onto the ground of the initial layer of the library, a buoyant force arose from below to support her body.
Not only did it stop her fall, the mysterious force negated the accumulated force propelling her towards the ground, effectively preventing her tender flesh from being eviscerated to a pulp.
Of course, it wasn’t with pure mercy; she had been cruelly dropped a meter above the ground, her body painfully embracing the crystal floor.
As the sky-blue crystal responded to her touch and illuminated the area with the warm golden glow, An Fei nursed her bruises whilst ruminating that whilst bruises were painful, it was a far more acceptable fate than being a pool of flesh and blood.
“So… can I considered to have ‘died’ now?” the girl murmured to herself in a daze.
The fact that she remained alive after an impulsive act as what she had just attempted to carry out, seemed almost surreal to her. However, she fiercely shook her head to clear the hazy fog swamping her mind.
“Grandfather wished me to live…” An Fei whispered to herself with a heavy and wistful sigh.
“Live… I’ll decide to live then… who knows what the end will be?”
Slowly gathering herself to her feet, the girl leisurely stretched her limbs, enjoying the brief moments of pleasure as her muscles moaned in relaxation. Looking at the rungs of the ladder with a bitter gaze, An Fei slowly made her way towards the boudoir within the first Gateway.
Staggering towards the nearest mirror upon entering the comfortable bedroom, she reached with her right hand to gently stroke the plain reflective surface, admiring her appearance as well as the surrounding environment.
“I guess I want to return now…the eyes of the mortal soul reveal the gateway to Heaven’s courts,” she murmured as she read the inscription on the back of the mirror.
“[Wrap illusion around reality, falsehood amongst truth, and the Forefather’s lament descends onto the world.]”
Just as she had finished reading the words inscribed on the leather binding surface of the platinum-embossed mirror, An Fei’s vision distorted again for the final time.
This time, the process was much quicker, happening within a few seconds; from what she could see, the boudoir rapidly disintegrated to reveal the study of the Flowing Wind Residence, not a single brush or scroll moved since she had entered the mysterious realm of crystal previously.
Oh, and of course, she found herself staring directly into a handsome countenance distorted by malevolence, righteous anger, and determined viciousness.