An Fei quietly murmured, the pair of scarlet irises half-lidded in confusion.
Though she turned around to face the Youngest Miss of the Sword Marquis’ manor, the girl refused to retract her hand from the thick book with the silver and leather cover.
“Why do you ask why?” the Youngest Miss of the Sword Marquis raised an eyebrow in slight contempt, her voice cold and flat without the slightest inflection.
“The elder that opened the Pagoda of Sun and Moon dictated that nobody possesses the right to forcefully obtain a cultivation technique selected by another. Since I laid claims upon the set of cultivation and martial arts techniques <Heart of Snow> prior to you, it belongs to me. Why adopt such a fussy tone?”
“…because not a single soul heard your claim?”
An Fei helplessly stated, her forehead beginning to crease as an ominous premonition filled her mind.
Her fingers tightening their grip on the spine of the book, the girl gently tugged, pulling the book a centimeter out of the bookshelf.
A loud outburst erupted from the girl in the pure white dress, startling a great number of people nearby.
The scholars, young and old, adorned with the embroidered three-lotus pattern gathered to inspect the scene with great interest instead of tending to their tasks, their gazes flickering between the two beautiful and veiled women.
“Didn’t I tell you to stop? Daring to continue to act insolently upon another person’s property, do you truly have so much courage?”
The young girl in the white dress scoffed with a glacial tone, a volatile rage swirling within her exposed eyes as she pointed towards An Fei’s fingers. An Fei paused for to look at the book for a brief moment, before her soft voice wormed into everyone’s ears.
“…But you don’t own this book; the technique belongs to the Pagoda of Sun and Moon,” the girl quietly spoke, the fingers of her right hand drumming on the closed pages of the book.
“Furthermore, all we receive after claiming a technique is an authentic, transcribed copy, hence this book… doesn’t belong to you? Since the ownership of a technique is determined only at the final stages, how could it ever belong to you when you haven’t even raised the notion of registering the cultivation technique?”
One of the spectating scholars gently clapped his hands, his voice offering praise.
As the others quickly joined in of their approval, the Youngest Miss of the Sword Marquis twisted the hem of her dress in agitation, grinding her teeth.
However, the fury soon calmed and ebbed to reveal a tranquil ocean, and the girl reached out to tap the surface of a nearby table.
“I won’t refute that,” she hissed in a provocative manner, the venom concealed within the pair of glaring eyes. Stroking the ashwood table with her fingers, the girl stared deeply at An Fei with narrowed eyes.
“However, will you be capable of taking the book from the Pagoda of Sun and Moon whilst retaining your life? Since you haven’t touched the slightest layers of cultivation, can you truly survive with such a heavy treasure?”
“Why not seek a different technique?”
An Fei’s eyebrows creased into a deep frown, returning a similar gaze.
“There are hundreds of thousands of cultivation techniques as well as martial arts techniques, must you fight over a single book with me, an inconsequent passerby?”
Although it was impossible for the onlookers to determine what expression the girl in the linen coat was displaying, the scholars still felt considerably stifled in their chests.
The soft, irresistible voice tugged at the heart, perfectly embedding the girl’s discontent directly into the minds of the scholars.
However, none of them could have imagined the girl in the white dress to suddenly withdraw a steel dagger from a well concealed pocket alongside the exterior of her sash.
A cold, silver flash of light arced around the girl’s figure before stabbing deeply into the ashwood table, the pommel of the dagger supported by a dainty, fair-skinned hand.
“Because I have the strength!” the young maiden scowled behind the partial veil.
“Since this is your first step into the long-winding path of cultivation, then let me teach you a lesson.”
“The path of cultivation is akin to a fierce jungle in the wilderness. If you don’t possess the necessary requirements upon birth, then you are forever destined to be suppressed by others!”
…was a fourteen-year-old dainty little girl supposed to be this violent?
An Fei couldn’t help but wonder as she stared at the steel blade of the dagger piercing the table. The sheer speed and lack of hesitation behind the girl’s slash, though it lacked a target, the simple display of her intention of killing was sufficient to engender a tinge of wariness within her gaze.
There wasn’t a true malicious intent within the gaze of the Youngest Miss of the Sword Marquis, but simply childlike arrogance and pride.
Arrogance and pride were not necessarily lethal to those nearby, but could mutate into a terrifying and unstoppable existence if allowed to flourish without restraint. Within the heart of the girl in the white dress, An Fei could perceive exactly just that.
“This…” a middle-aged scholar adorned with the three-lotus symbol tentatively spoke up from the side, directing a conciliatory gaze towards the Youngest Miss of the Sword Marquis.
“Young Miss, ah, can you be a little understanding and relinquish the manual? The little lass is right, for if you think about it, outsiders who are permitted to browse the repository’s initial collection can only assert ownership of a cultivation or martial arts technique when they receive the authentic copy.”
Observing that the young girl in the white dress did not utter a single word, the scholar boldly took a step forward, tucking his book under his arm.
“If the Three Lotus Sect didn’t have such a rule, there would simply be chaos everywhere,” the scholar gently consoled, extending his right hand to pry the dagger from the ashwood table.
“Young Miss, you see here, the path of cultivation also places great emphasis on the heart.”
“Accumulating vengeful acts will stain even the purest of hearts, and there are countless examples of such circumstance. The lass over there should have lived amongst far more suffering than you have, so why don’t you be a little generous and relinquish the <Heart of Snow>? In exchange, how about us scholars assist you in finding a more suitable set of cultivation and martial arts techniques in recompense, ah?”
The Sword Marquis’ youngest daughter bit her lip as her fury threatened to spill over at the scholar’s words, the dainty hands curling into tight fists.
While the girl in the white dress was sorely attempting to maintain her clean appearance, An Fei couldn’t suppress the urge to look down to assess herself.
…from what the middle-aged scholar was saying to pacify the young girl, how come An Fei now appeared as though a beggar’s daughter?
A thick padded coat of white linen fabric that functioned similar to a robe, covering her entire body and even extending below her knees. Underneath was a layer of outdoor clothing of a plain hazel color, though she wasn’t exactly certain on the fabric used.
However, though her appearance was rather ordinary and visually unappealing compared to the Youngest Miss of the Sword Marquis and her stunning figure and white dress, it shouldn’t be to the extent of being labeled as a child raised in suffering?
Though An Fei indeed had to concede that compared to the marquis’ daughter’s figure and stature, she herself did appear quite malnourished with her noticeable shorter height and exceedingly thin frame…
And her voice.
With no doubt, her voice and its texture as though running through a sea of gossamer strands of silk posed quite a drastic issue for the girl. If even the scholars obsessed with reading books about mysticism and the arcane could direct bewitched looks towards her after hearing her voice, then An Fei didn’t want to imagine what would occur if she were to speak in public.
…would she be mauled and kidnapped by a group of nasty people?
“Oh? Who’s acting contemptuously before my Xun’er?”
Before the marquis’ daughter could say a single word, a sharp voice tore through the ranks of the spectating scholars as each of them released an involuntary but notably visible shudder. Some of the weak-willed individuals even began to fidget in anxiety, their eyes darting around as if seeking a path of escape.
Akin to being pushed apart by a mysterious, unstoppable force, the young and old scholars near the fringe of the crowd quickly gave way to the newcomer, soon revealing a mature woman standing a few meters before An Fei.