Chapter 73: To Cultivate, One Should… (7)

A sea of plants and medicinal herbs, each releasing a colored glow of light. Some were harsh to the eye, and others were mellow, but the garden appeared as a mottled sea of lights, obscuring the herbs from view.

Near the fringes ran a small stream, the current rapid and cold.

On one of the banks kneeled a young girl, dipping a black iron wok into the water multiple times, rinsing the cooking utensil until the surface gleamed.

Dipping the knives in the water and gently rubbing the sides of the blades with a thick leaf, An Fei moodily stared at her appearance. Without saying a single word, the girl finished washing the utensils and cleaned up, looking at the medicine garden with a sigh.

“…still hard to get used to…” she murmured, walking towards the doorway to corridor with the <Eternal Sanctum> clutched to her chest.

This moment marked the third meal she had consumed for the day. Three meals of nothing but spiritual vegetables, but she couldn’t complain as the taste satiated her gluttonous nature.

Eat till her tiny stomach couldn’t consume any more, then gaze wistfully towards the remaining food in the wok with a lingering hunger in her eyes.

Walking in the corridor and admiring the smooth surface of the sky-blue crystal walls, floor, and ceiling, the girl released a mighty yawn.

Her gaze drifting skyward as she patted her mouth, An Fei was slightly disappointed to not be able to see the moon hanging in the sky.

Only, the girl didn’t say any more as she steadily strode towards the boudoir contained within the first gateway, pushing open the door and walking into the softly decorated bedroom.

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Slipping underneath the bedsheets with practiced ease, An Fei looked at the top of the curtains, an unknown sentiment swirling in her chest.

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Was she missing the study of the Flowing Wind Residence? Or her previous apartment in the risers of Nan Jing?

Lost in thought, the girl’s eyes glazed over as she stared blankly into the air, her fingers involuntarily clenching the bed covers, before abruptly letting go.

Repeated sighs could be heard within the boudoir, diminishing with each successive breath.

Soon, the bedroom had returned to silence, a drowsed atmosphere gradually encompassing the room. Just as the girl was about to drift into sleep amongst a sea of comfort, a red gleam suddenly caught her eye.

On the bed stand nearby, stood a plain mirror. A thin wooden stand supporting the back of the mirror, the reflective metal surface plated in polished platinum.

However, the mirror’s edges were releasing a dull maroon glow, not too different when compared to her eyes.

When she had struggled into a sitting position and brought the mirror before her face, An Fei could not see a reflection staring back at her.

Even after stepping onto the floor and bathing herself in the soft, golden radiance, the mirror’s reflective surface remained a pitch black.

What was going on?

An Fei frowned, an unsettling thought threatening to take root in her mind. All thoughts of sleeping were fully washed away as the girl sat on the edge of the bed, relying on the golden luminance to carefully inspect the mirror on both sides.

“The inscriptions are still there…” she mumbled, not forgetting to wince at the gentle caress of her voice.

“This… ahem.”

Clearing her throat, the girl stared at the back of the mirror, carefully reciting the inked characters one at a time.

[The eyes of the mortal soul reveal Heaven’s courts. Wrap Illusion around Reality, Falsehood amongst Truth, and the Forefather’s lament descends onto the world.]

Flipping the mirror with an expectant gaze on her countenance, An Fei didn’t know what to think when she realized that the mirror remained silent.

There was no glow of scarlet light, no tinkle of bells as the mirror quaked; the platinum mirror remained dead in midst of midnight, undesiring to wake until the golden sun heralded the breath of dawn.

Nothing.

Helpless and clueless on how to respond, the girl quickly restated the words inscribed on the back of the mirror multiple times, only to be dismayed when the mirror failed to respond or react in any form.

What surprised An Fei was that she held little disappointment for the failure of the mirror to return her to the mortal world. Instead, a deep-rooted fear for her body resting in the Flowing Wind Residence doused cold water onto her shoulders.

What had happened to her after she had consumed the ginseng?

She didn’t… die, right?

“No! No, don’t think of such things,” the girl resolutely shook her head, slapping both cheeks with her hand to chase away the incoming depression.

“I shouldn’t be dead, since I’m still sitting here… perhaps my body is incapacitated…?”

Fingering her chin with her right hand as she gazed at the mirror clenched in her left, the girl didn’t know how to proceed.

Instinct reassured her of her safety, but the mind’s uncertainty was an undefeatable poison, grinding away at her sanity one thought at a time.

However, the girl no longer had the time to worry about whether she was alive or dead.

When in the Sanctum, there was little forgiveness. Even the Bearer of the Sanctum had to comply with its regulations, and could only see a process to the end, unable to request for a break.

“Are all of the mirrors like this, perhaps like the one in the medicine gardens and armory?” An Fei murmured, before her brows settled into a deep frown.

“No. When I got the wok and cooking knives from the armory in the first gateway, the mirror there was normal and didn’t possess that odd maroon glow on its edges. What’s going o-Mm!? Ah!”

Clatter!

The mirror slipped from the girl’s fingers and crashed onto the crystalline floor, the maroon glow fading into nothing upon contacting the golden radiance emitted by the sky-blue crystal.

Unfortunately, the girl had little attention to spare for the poor mirror, for she was undergoing an odd treatment herself.

“What’s goi-mmph! This….ah… what’s happening…” An Fei hissed in discomfort, both hands clutching her stomach.

“…ah…Ah… too weird…”

Deep within the depths of her stomach, a light tingling sensation could be felt, its shape appearing to be in a formless ball. The ball contracted and expanded, and each shift in volume caused a rush of numb mixture of pure, physical ecstasy, comfortable drowsiness, and warmth to ravage the girl’s body from within.

Collapsing into the warm blankets of silver fox fur, it took every ounce of An Fei’s willpower to remain conscious, though she wondered why she didn’t attempt to escape such discomforting torment.

Her fingers and toes quivered with each wave of overwhelming comfort, and ragged breathing soon followed.

Bump. Bump. Bump.

A soft pounding sound rang in her ears at a steady rhythm, forcing the girl to remain conscious and endure each round of torment striking her body.

The source of her discomfort seemed to have migrated to nestled deep within her chest, and it was only after a few minutes of hearing the repetitive, wet pulsing sound that An Fei realized that it was her heartbeat.

What utterly perplexed and terrified the young girl was the revelation that her heartbeat lacked a rebound pulse, with solitary beats pounding at a stable rhythm. Regardless of the lack of medical knowledge, An Fei could still deduce that the heartbeat roaring in her ears was most definitely not normal.

Bump. Bump. Bump!

The pounding sounds gradually began to increase in intensity, soon rising to a deafening roar. Her fingers curling onto the blankets, a muted scream escaped An Fei’s throat as a stream of heat, comfort, and numbness surged from her heart.

The stream diverged, merging into the bloodstream, and worming into the acupuncture points and meridians within her body.

The stream traveled at an excruciatingly slow pace, and especially as the stream of heat dug away at her meridians, the girl felt an uncomfortable yet blissful warmth spread along her body in an arc, with multiple branches extending at specific intervals.

The warmth remained restricted to the arc, branding a sensation of satiation and lethargy unlike any other.

“ah…”

Faint sighs escaped An Fei’s throat as the her mouth gasped for air, her consciousness threatening to melt into a foggy blur due to the intense sensation of comfort.

She desperately wanted to writhe and vent off the gentle itch within her, yet her body was completely devoid of strength.

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