Chapter 75: To Cultivate, One Should… (9)

“Minister Wei, it’s truly an honor to see you once again.”

A young man dressed in a mottled blue-gold robe dropped into a low bow, his countenance revealing a handsome smile. Wei Xuan thinly smiled, reaching out to quickly assist the young man into a standing position.

“No need for such respect, Imperial Physician Feng,” the minister concealed his discomfort, glancing at the young Imperial Physician with a beaming smile.

“Then… the minister called this one over…” Feng Tian Mu mused, his pondering expression nearly causing Wei Xuan to explode with disdain and irritation.

“Yes, yes, this one is in need of the Imperial Physician’s assistance, ah!” the minister capitulated.

“This… My Fourth Daughter’s ailment has worsened significantly during this winter…”

As if this isn’t the first time that I’ve told you this!?

The minister cursed in his heart, the index finger and thumb of his right hand grinding against each other in anger.

The sudden decline in An Fei’s health had drove Wei Xuan into a panic that he even forgot about Gao Yun Zhi’s warnings regarding the smiling Feng Tian Mu before him, causing him to contact the Imperial Physician with haste.

The Imperial Physician had agreed upon a moment’s notice with enthusiasm with a gesture of righteousness, but what was he here doing now?

Acting as if he had not a single idea on what he was called over for?

“Ah! The Fourth Young Miss’s health has deteriorated!?”

Feng Tian Mu exclaimed, his countenance unaffected by the invisible ripples of annoyance radiating from the minister. The Imperial Physician suddenly accelerated his pace, before turning around to face the awkward minister.

“That’s not good at all, this one should see the patient immediately! Lord Minister Wei, quickly lead the way, ah!”

Detecting the concealed, tumultuous shift in emotion within the young man upon hearing An Fei’s name, Wei Xuan’s eye couldn’t help but twitch. However, he released a drawn-out sigh, before leading the Imperial Physician yet again into the Flowing Wind Residence.

“Sister Ying,” Xiao Wen pouted as she glanced at the young girl sleeping on the bed. “Will the Fourth Young Miss be alright?”

“I don’t know.”

Xiao Ying’s curt reply rang from besides her, and Xiao Wen turned to find that the maidservant’s countenance was exceptionally haggard. Worry slashed through Xiao Wen’s heart as she glanced at Xiao Ying’s desolate complexion, and she couldn’t help but draw the latter into a warm hug.

“Sister Ying, everything will be fine!” The maidservant consoled for the umpteenth time.

“Master has already contacted Physician Gao to return with great haste, and he’s personally told you that you’re not responsible for a single thing.”

“But…”

Xiao Ying hesitated, before remaining numb and silent despite Xiao Wen’s persistent inquiry.

Back then, she was the person who personally delivered the slice of blood ginseng into the Fourth Young Miss’ mouth, and was the closest observer of the catastrophe that occurred moments later.

It had been two weeks since the incident.

Her fingers clenched and twisted the hem of the her uniform, and Xiao Ying grit her teeth as she recalled the horrifying experience. A while later, the maidservant unclenched her hands, and with trembling fingers, she carefully adjusted the young girl’s position to allow her to sleep better underneath Xiao Wen’s concerned and worried gaze.

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When Xiao Ying had fed the Fourth Young Miss the slice of ginseng, nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, causing both her and Wei Xuan to wonder why the girl had such a petrified gaze towards the blood ginseng. However, not more than a the time of a cup of tea had passed, and their hearts were seized by a brutal chill.

First came the erratic convulsions, and the blood.

Thick rivulets of blood raced down the young girl’s mouth, nose, eyes, and ears, and her countenance had paled into a snowy sheen, devoid of blood. Furthermore, the blood alternated between several shades of scarlet, and a faint putrid odor diffused amongst the harsh metallic scent.

Regardless of what the minister or maidservant had attempted, the bleeding refused to cease, splattering against the wooden floor and soaking the bedsheets. The study of the Flowing Wind Residence was awash with scarlet, with such intensity that caused one to wonder how a thin and small physique like An Fei could possibly contain so much blood.

Then followed a mysterious and horrifying phenomenon that caused the maidservant to burst into chills when thinking about the event.

An incense stick’s time after the young girl had started bleeding, the blood abruptly ceased to flow in a similar manner to which it had begun, perplexing the minister and maidservant.

They had reached out to check An Fei’s body with palpitating hearts and worry freezing their blood, but the girl’s eyes suddenly opened just as soon as Wei Xuan’s right hand grasped her left arm.

The pair of scarlet irises lacked the dullness usually present, and a brilliant gleam was neatly captured within the boundless chasm of scarlet. When Xiao Ying drew near to question to catatonic Fourth Young Miss, she alone had witnessed the phenomenon.

The scarlet irises had cracked. The hair-like lines expanded from the young girl’s pupil, branching and spreading out like the roots of an aged tree.

Within the cracks, the maidservant discovered a black radiance seeping through that dyed the irises.

Before she could report the anomaly to Wei Xuan behind her, Xiao Ying’s consciousness had been drawn into that hell.

She saw a hell of fire and sulfur.

An enormous lake of fire that had expanded to the edge of eternity.

She stood at the middle of the chaotic lake, and could spot every detail of the swirling fire below. Plumes of black ash and sulfur burst into the air at the fringes of the lake, converging to form enormous dragons of ash that danced in the air.

With each dragon that emerged from the lake, the sea of fire changed color. From a deep scarlet to black, blue, gold, and then a blazing white, the swirling flames snapped at the floating Xiao Ying, yet the maidservant could not respond.

The scorching heat lapped at the soles of her feet, threatening to incinerate her body into a column of ash and smoke. Clouds of black ash and sulfur in the form of vaporous dragons attempted to force themselves into her lungs and suffocate her to death.

Wherever she looked, the hell she was submerged in was desperately seeking her extinction.

The dragons roared, and the sea of fire surged forth, heading to eradicate without mercy. Xiao Ying attempted to struggle, but her body refused to move, and her cultivation at the late stages of the Foundation Establishment Realm was forcefully suppressed into nothing.

The sea of fire pulverized her body into mere particles, and the black dragons greedily absorbed her soul, their appearance becoming more vibrant and alive. Just as the maidservant’s soul dissipated into a plume of ash and sulfur, she saw a spectacle within the gaping maw of fire.

A bridge surrounded by darkness at the core of the flames.

The thin silhouette of the bridge peered at her from the center of the maw of multicolored fire. Faint specks of light walked across its length, heading towards an unknown destination.

Thin, imperceptible strands of light coiled around Xiao Ying’s soul, forcefully dragging it through the sea of flames and onto the bridge to accompany-

“Sister Wen! Sister Ying!”

A childish shout snapped Xiao Ying out of her thoughts, and the absentminded gleam dispersed to reveal two lucid, hazel orbs. Turning around, the maidservant and Xiao Wen turned to face the study doors that had been forced open, revealing a short young boy.

“Little Ke, don’t you know it’s against the manor rules to enter a different residence without the Master’s permission?” Xiao Wen admonished gently.

“Hurry, go back to the Peony courtyard before anyone finds out!”

“Master… Master, he…” the young boy clutched his thighs as he panted for breath, sweat dotting his brow even within the chilly midwinter weather. Before Xiao Wen could step forward to drag the servant into the warmth of the study, the boy abruptly stood, his voice piercing and shrill.

“Master’s coming to the study with Imperial Physician Feng!” he yelled, before rushing off towards the servants’ courtyards.

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Imperial Physician Feng… That Feng Tian Mu?

Dumbfounded for several moments, the maidservants stared at the scenery of the Flowing Wind Residence, their thoughts drawing a blank. However, Xiao Ying was the first to recover, her eyes displaying a cold gleam.

“Quick!” she hissed at Xiao Wen as the maidservant rushed forward, slamming the doors of the study shut and activating the locking mechanism.

“Hide the Fourth Young Miss’ appearance! Don’t forget Physician Gao’s words regarding this Imperial Physician!”

Xiao Wen nodded in understanding, and the two maidservants rushed around the interior of the study, their small hands grabbing at various items.

Changing An Fei into a set of thicker, more defensive clothing, they covered the young girl’s face with a veil, taking great care not to expose any skin that wasn’t necessary.

Just as they had finished closing the curtains and exposing a single, arm that protruded from the within the bedcurtains to rest against a prepared pillowcase, three sharp raps rang out within the study…

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