To cultivate until she completed the so-called stage of Divine Ascension, An Fei was to absorb spiritual essence from within the Sanctum.
In the girl’s respectable perspective, it was rather similar to the process Wei Xuan had described.
In fact, An Fei fully expected that without the caveat of the spiritual essence and artefacts within the mortal world was toxic for her, cultivating in the Sanctum would be no different than in the study of the Flowing Wind Residence.
…she would only know much later on, just how much of a cheat the realm of sky-blue crystal had provided. Although, until then, the girl never learned otherwise.
And what was An Fei doing right now?
“Two eggplants, a small cluster of string beans, a few cloves of garlic, one piece of ginger,” the girl muttered to herself, repeating the list in her head several times until she felt confident to explore.
“Some crystallized salt, one green pepper, and… one Violet Spring Herb…?”
An Fei found herself in one of the medicine gardens, unable to control the pangs of hunger. She had clawed at the first gateway and stumbled around until she had chanced on a door that sported a collection of plants and medicines.
A leather bag slung around her waist, An Fei entered the sea of medicinal herbs and plants, her hands grabbing at various plants and herbs as she made her way forth.
Whenever a plant that matched the description as per the list appeared, the girl would gently pluck the fruit without damaging the flowering stem, or uproot the plant before sowing additional seeds onto the displaced ground.
Truth told, An Fei was not feeling so comfortable as she searched throughout the medicine garden.
Each plant exuded a bright, vibrant colored light that was impossibly difficult not to notice, and surrounded on all sides by an overwhelming sea of plants, the girl was having a hard time recovering from the disorientation.
“Violet Spring Herb… Violet Spring Herb…”
When the girl parted two clusters of green onion emitting a brilliant scarlet light, a small, sponge-like plant was revealed before her eyes.
Startled by the unusual appearance, An Fei took several moments to realize that the plant before her was the final ingredient the list required, prompting the girl to carefully but excitedly extract it and attend to the displaced soil, before quickly rushing out of the medicine garden towards the soft grass fringe on its edge.
There, placed on the lush, trimmed grass, was a fully prepared black iron wok and bowl, a cheery fire sparkling away underneath, and a wooden table with several knives resting on top.
The <Eternal Sanctum> was placed near the table on the ground, the book opened to reveal the list of plants the girl was searching for.
“Remove the fresh seeds from the Violet Spring Herb and preserve a few for drying,” the girl peered at the book, placing the leather bag onto the grass.
“Extract the juice of the Violet Spring Herb and heat, then shallow-fry the beans.”
Staring at the pristine pages for a brief moment as she sorted her thoughts, the An Fei opened the leather bag to reveal the Violet Spring Herb, of which she clenched in her hand.
Though she attempted her best not to look at it, especially the top of the herb, the girl couldn’t exactly ignore the dense black light emanating from its bulb.
The Violet Spring Herb adopted the appearance as a violet sponge-like, rectangular plant with numerous holes dotting the top of the plant. Unsure how to extract the seeds, the girl frowned for a moment before grabbing the herb by a corner and slapping it against the table’s surface.
Immediately after, An Fei released a groan of discomfort, a queer expression on her beautiful countenance.
The Violet Spring Herb resembled a warm, wet sponge when touched, what could only be called a rather disgusting sensation.
Repeatedly slapping it against the wooden surface of the table, the girl could see numerous dots scattering all over table from the impact.
Realizing that the tiny black dots were the seeds of the Violet Spring Herb, An Fei quickly dropped the disgusting herb onto the table, before scooping up as many of the seeds as she could.
Though an equally many amount of the seeds fell into the grass and were impossible to find, she had salvaged several dozen seeds, a considerable amount considering that the Violet Spring Herb was smaller than her palm.
Only, she now had to juice the disgusting sponge-like herb and pour it into the wok. Pursing her lips together, the girl pinched the Violet Spring Herb, and pressed it against the heated wok’s black iron surface.
The Violet Spring Herb immediately began releasing a sizzling sound upon contacting the heated surface, and An Fei could spot a dark liquid stream down in rivulets to pool at the bottom of the wok.
Furthermore, the smell of the herb when burnt resembled nothing of what the girl had expected, instead releasing the fragrant smell of grapeseed oil.
Once the pool of dark liquid had reached a considerable volume, An Fei immediately discarded the Violet Spring Herb, before rushing to the leather bag. Hearing the faint pops of the liquid reaching a high temperature, the girl quickly tossed in the washed and sliced clusters of string beans.
Soon after, two sliced eggplants followed, scattering the beginnings of a delicious, mouthwatering aroma into the air.
“Pepper…diced with the seeds removed for additional planting,” the girl murmured.
“Add in tandem with the garlic and ginger, with a small pinch of the seeds of the Violet Spring Herb.”
Swallowing her saliva, An Fei cut the tip off of the pepper, chewing and wincing at the spiciness as she continued to dice the green pepper with the knife. Scooping out the seeds and depositing the slices of pepper with a sliver of garlic and ginger, the girl carried over an iron stirring stick, ensuring that the beans and eggplant were not overly roasted on one side.
Finally… the seeds of the Violet Spring Herb. Tossing in a small pinch into the wok releasing a mouthwatering aroma, the girl hoped that an accident didn’t occur.
To her utter surprise, once the seeds had roasted in the wok for a few moments, the scent of soy sauce drifted into her nose, nearly causing the girl to burn her fingers on the wok’s surface to examine for herself.
With the addition of soy sauce into the final product, An Fei felt as if her efforts in painstakingly searching for ingredients in a highly disorganized medicine garden were finally worth it.
After all, the maidservants had strictly limited her access to soy sauce in the Flowing Wind Residence due to her previously weak health.
Though colorful and vibrant in appearances, most of the food she had consumed in the study lacked soy sauce when needed, creating a rather bland taste.
Holding the bowl by the edge, the girl scooped a plentiful serving into the bowl, the pair of scarlet irises lighting in expectation.
Deliberately ignoring the uneven slices of string bean, eggplant, pepper, or any of the ingredients that had encountered the knife, An Fei blew on the food several times before using picking a cluster of food and placing it in her mouth.
Ignoring the fact that her appearance was monstrously barbaric as she picked up the shallow-fried vegetables with her fingers before eating them, the girl patted her cheeks with a satisfied smile as she dreamily gazed at the cleared dish and wok.
If she were to count her previous life’s experiences, then the last time she had ever consumed food as delicious and tantalizing as the recipe provided in the fabric-bound book was already more than three years ago.
As she collected the cooking utensils and trudged towards the nearby stream of water to wash them, An Fei revisited her memories, most particularly those of warm and good food.
As for why she was even cooking in the medicine garden, and continuously peering at the <Eternal Sanctum>?
An Fei could only state that she was dutifully experimenting with the idea of absorbing spiritual essence within the realm of sky-blue crystal, and to satiate her hunger.
The <Eternal Sanctum> had described various methods in absorbing spiritual essence in great detail, including meditation, training in martial arts and exposing the pores in the body and numerous others, of which consumption of medicines and foods created from ingredients grown within the Sanctum was one example.
As for why the girl had picked consuming food created from the Sanctum’s ingredients?
The reason was rather simple and obvious, yet the girl refused to admit.