She had boldly declared to herself to not reenter the Sanctum until she had pondered about a few thoughts that had been plaguing her recently.
Here she was, staring down the crystal throne room the next day, and perhaps not even a full twenty-four hours had passed since she had left.
An Fei clutched her head, fierce pulses of searing heat pounding at her body from within. Her body’s strength had been completely drained, cold sweat soaking the hem of her green dress.
The pain from falling within the Sanctum had yet to disperse, whilst her body in the Flowing Wind Residence was currently incapacitated and likewise suffering from great torment.
Though when she thought of the feeling of her organs set aflame and gnawed at by a mysterious force, the girl was more keen on falling in the Sanctum of Eternity.
Muted groans escaped her teeth as An Fei rolled from side to side on the throne, her countenance devoid of color from the pain. However, her physical torment was far overshadowed by the fear radiating from the pair of scarlet irises.
Fear of dying.
The blood-red ginseng had dissolved into liquid the instant it entered her stomach, and the painful torture had begun there.
A vicious cold sensation ripped through her veins, paralyzing her body from within. She could not move, blink, nor breathe as air was expelled from her lungs.
Following was a sensation so painful that the mere thought brought an acute ache to her chest.
Rubbing her chest, the girl could precisely recall just how she had felt her heart torn to shreds, violently reconnected, before utterly decimated the next instant.
The blood vessels and meridians soon followed in the rude treatment, soon forcing the girl into a horrifying hell.
All from a single slice of blood-red ginseng that Wei Xuan had involuntarily pressured her to consume.
That small portion of blood ginseng that most probably contained an infinitesimal amount of mortal spiritual qi, an amount that most humans would not even notice upon consumption.
Her teeth involuntarily shivered as recollections of the horrifying pain and the menacing and sardonic shadow of death whispered sweet enticement in her ears stormed her mind.
The pain she was experiencing from falling down seventeen layers of the Archive of Time quickly faded into a barely noticeable hum, and the girl curled her body into a tight ball.
She had assumed that because of her soul transferring to another world, death wasn’t a rather tough fear to overcome.
The fear of death back then, had not only saved her from multiple gruesome occasions, it had allowed her to run from an entire world’s hunt for over two years.
Only now, did An Fei realize that not only had her fear of death fail to diminish, it had instead worsened.
The worst part was that she couldn’t even remember what happened after five minutes had passed since she ate the sliver of ginseng.
The memories that were clear were those of pain and suffering. After that, her vision had completely darkened, and mere snapshots of the following events remained in her mind.
An endless bridge of red bricks, and a clear, tranquil river running underneath.
A sea of lights rushing past her on either side, forming a current of colored streams of ghostly, faded light.
An elderly woman’s face, though the facial features were densely blurred and unrecognizable.
Did she die from consuming the ginseng? Or was she still alive unlike the description within the <Eternal Sanctum>?
An Fei didn’t know.
All she could remember was a blurred scene of fleeing into the palace of sky-blue crystal and passing out on the floor of the throne room. When she finally woke, the girl found herself seated in the ruler’s chair.
“…regardless of the result, it wasn’t a spiteful joke,” the girl mumbled to herself, her forehead resting on her knees.
“Can’t be a joke, can’t be a joke…”
If she truly perished, how she was still present in the Sanctum of Eternity was an unsolvable mystery. However, the torment she had suffered was sufficient to cause An Fei to not dare take the slightest risk with the information presented within the <Eternal Sanctum>.
Once she felt that she could regain her breath without breaking into another fit of uncontrolled shivering, the girl finally raised her head before glancing at her sides.
As per usual, the leather-bound book was present on the right armrest.
However, the fabric-bound book, the <Eternal Sanctum>, was neatly resting on the left armrest, surprising the girl.
Picking up the <Eternal Sanctum> with trembling fingers, An Fei slowly turned the pages towards the marker she had left the previous attempt of reading the book.
Without further ado, the girl began to read with increasing vivacity, the shred of doubt having been reduced to a minimum regardless of the outlandish concepts she encountered.
As long as reading and accepting the information could distract her from having to recall the gruesome torture once again, the girl was more than willing to partake in forcefully ingesting the <Eternal Sanctum>’s knowledge.
Lessons were only learned upon firsthand experience.
“The <Eternal Sanctum>’s cultivation is commenced by directly communing with the Realm’s natural order, directly absorbing divine essence and Divine Script as per the template of the Divine Spiritual Vein. However, the prerequisite of practicing the <Eternal Sanctum>’s cultivation is achieving permanent entry into the Realm.”
Within the crystal throne room, a young girl’s voice echoed as she read from a large book bound by black fabric. The voice’s was listless and hollow, yet its owner continued to read and vocalize the information on the pristine pages, determined to commit the book’s content to memory.
“If the practitioner has yet to fulfil the major prerequisite of cultivating the <Eternal Sanctum>’s primary technique or is a Shattered Soul, divine ascension must be completed prior to accessing the <Eternal Sanctum>’s full authority. Until the specified conditions are fulfilled, the practitioner cultivates akin to that of a mortal.”
A Shattered Soul?
An Fei mulled over the words, her thoughts spinning into a flat blank after a while. Shaking her head, the girl decided to follow her fundamental technique in comprehending the <Eternal Sanctum>, though her brain demanded otherwise.
Mindless persistence and blind memorization.
“Of general practice, the most common established practice of mortal cultivation is completed by forcefully ingesting the atmospheric essence, assimilating it into their mortal body. A rather crude yet effective method of enhancing a practitioner’s strength, but contains severe drawbacks and consequences.”
Her brow creasing into a frown, An Fei’s memory regarding the following few pages of information was rather vague, causing a discomforting feeling to rush throughout her body. The words on the page seemed to shimmer and sway before her eyes, and were remarkably more difficult to read than usual.
Body Tempering. The first stage of mortal cultivation in gathering the atmosphere’s natural essence and refining within the fleshly body.
Five pillars of Body Tempering include the blood, marrow, flesh, meridians, and organs, each to be refined at a separate pace.
Foundation Establishment. The blood vessels and meridians of the practitioner were inlaid with the branding of the atmosphere’s essence to resonate with the breath of nature.
Fifteen pillars of Foundation Establishment tempered the meridians and blood to resonate with the slightest presence of spiritual qi, enhancing physical strength and agility by a significant margin.
Spirit Building. The soul was tempered and trained to command the assimilated spiritual essence and mold it by its will.
Nine pillars enabled the practitioner to weave spiritual essence throughout their body and the external environment with ease, allowing the usage of true martial arts techniques.
Core Formation. A housing unit of spiritual qi was created to house the soul, creating a protective layer that secured a practitioner’s life if inflicted to physical injury.
Ten pillars protected the life of a cultivator for several years regardless of the severity of the physical injury, of which complete recuperation was possible.
Nascent Soul. The soul within the formed Core rapidly ingested and assimilated with vast amounts of spiritual essence present in the atmosphere, triggering a fusion and a pseudo-rebirth.
Twelve pillars allowed the soul to gain the attributes of a newborn, resetting the lifespan of practitioners.
Mortal Tribulation. Ninety-nine rounds of divine tribulation severed the soul from the fleshly roots bestowed on mortal practitioners, enabling flight and increased resonance with the environment’s essence.
Mortal Life. Thirteen tribulations endured and succeeded bestowed near limitless longevity to the practitioner, albeit at a consequence.
Mortal Death, with thirteen additional tribulations granted the practitioner minor authority regarding the passage of death.
Seven Falls. The confrontation of dominance between the practitioner and the environment, contesting for authority over the atmosphere’s essence.
Divine Dao. The practitioner, upon possessing control over the majority of the mortal world’s authority over the atmosphere’s essence, established their cultivation technique as the natural laws of the world, implementing a new methodology of cultivation.
Divine Ascension. Accumulation of enough cultivators conforming to the practitioner’s methodology of cultivation permitted the practitioner to bypass the restrictions of the Divine Spiritual Vein, becoming a temporary resident of the Realm.
The amount of stages described within the <Eternal Sanctum> far surpassed all other sources of information An Fei had ever received, be it from Elder Luo of the Three Lotus Sect, or Wei Xuan himself.
Though what remained in her memory was still inconsistent and vague, the girl believed that over time, she could obtain the full knowledge from the book bound with black fabric.
Although, she just couldn’t accept one statement from the <Eternal Sanctum> without harboring doubts of her own.[Until the practitioner is an existent attuned with the Realm, the absorption of spiritual essence within the Sanctum of Time and Eternal Peace is sufficient for the relative stages of mortal cultivation].