Sitting at the edge of the water stream, An Fei allowed her feet to dangle in the cool current, relishing in the comforting feeling. However, she soon grunted before dropping a large wok into the stream between her extended legs.
Holding the wok by its edge and allowing the water current to gently rinse the black iron surface, the girl drifted into thought, her mind lulled by the rhythmic scouring of the water. Occasionally, she would gaze at the other side of the stream, or peer at the ends of the current.
There was not an opposing side of land. Similarly, the stream of water possessed neither a beginning nor destination.
The other side of the bank, and both ends of the stream were obscured by a dense mist. Regardless of how much effort she expended into investigating the cause, all she got in return was confusion compounded upon further confusion.
Brazenly reaching out with her arm into the fog provided her with nothing more than a slightly humid and chilly sensation. However, there were no signs of the water current possessing a final destination.
The stream of water appeared to be a solitary streak across space, and comprised an inexplicable mystery for the young girl.
An Fei sighed as she fished the black wok out of the water, allowing it to dry on the grass.
Picking up the <Eternal Sanctum> and placing a few edible herbs into the leather bag slung over her shoulder, the girl departed from the medicine garden.
Her target, as usual, was the Archives of Time. Each day, outside of spending the majority of the time learning how to cook, she would read within the timeless library.
Medicine, martial arts, cultivation, and other miscellaneous topics of interest constituted her daily routine.
Though she had yet to finish a single book amongst the various categories, An Fei had properly maintained a steady reading schedule, pouring as much information into her mind as she could.
Similarly, the unusual and discomforting sensation that she had experienced that day returned each night. Unable to sleep as the warmth and comfort rampaged throughout her body, the girl usually woke with large black bag circling her eyes.
In complete honesty, the intensity of the sensations had diminished compared to the first experience. Though the experiences were still harrowing and discomforting, An Fei could somehow drift off into an aimless sleep.
When she closed her eyes during such instances, the girl could envision the inner structure and composition of her body with acute clarity.
Since the first experience, the golden light surging in her bloodstream had significantly advanced whilst those embedded in her meridians did not significantly change, though she had little clue regarding what it signified.
“…this never stops frightening me…”
Staggering out of the elevating platform, An Fei entered the seventeenth Archive, of which she immediately headed towards the center of the platform with a grumble. Sighing loudly, the girl placed the leather bag and the <Eternal Sanctum> onto the side, her gaze flitting onto a stack of books piled against an armchair.
Excluding the <Heavenly Secrets> that had been obtained by An Fei on spiteful accident, the rest of the books were randomly selected from the collection, the girl having toured the bookshelves and picking whichever radiated the light with the most intensity. Hence, the books stacked on the ground were of different sizes and thickness.
“Today… <Shadow Dance> it is…”
Settling into the comfortable armchair and rolling her neck to loosen her muscles, the girl reached out with her right hand to pluck a thin book from the pile. Thumbing the blued leather cover and opening the book, An Fei began the day’s session of straining her vision and mind as she began to read.
“The essence of a shadow is to form a distorted reflection of an attributed object or entity, and to conceal oneself within a target’s field of interference. As an object moves within space,” the girl read, her eyes squinted into small beads, “the shadow follows but at a distorted angle within the natural degree, mimicking all traces of spiritual fluctuation and perception.“
“All objects and entities possess a certain perimeter of transformation spanning from their core. This perimeter, upon contact with other living existences or solitary objects, merges a portion of both parties’ fates, hence… creating an interference. The magnitude of the amount of conjoined fate or the specific target’s perimeter of transformation varies between each existence of creation.”
“Similarly, the perimeter of transformation determines the maximum extent of interference, assembly, and perception of information…an individual existence can only perceive those within their range of interference, and only of those differing in the trace of spiritual fluctuation or perception.”
An Fei frowned, her left index finger tapping the wooden surface of the armrest in confusion.
The unfamiliarity of the concept’s toll on her mind was only allayed by the notion that everything presented within the <Shadow Dance> technique was orderly and processed neatly.
Otherwise, if it were to be anything haphazard or loosely organized like the <Eternal Sanctum> or the black, leather-bound book, she would probably wish to give up.
“Thus, the principle is presented that if an individual existence’s unique trace of spiritual essence and perception is replicated without flaw, then the target individual will never possess the capability to perceive the disguised existence. However, those whose perimeter of transformation does not involve the disguised existence, will possess the capability to aptly perceive the disguised existence.”
Standing up, An Fei supported the book with her right hand as her eyes roamed the white paper. The girl’s mouth moved silently for several moments before she placed the book onto the ground, moving towards a location free of obstacles.
“A forward step with the right foot, exceeding no more than three chi. The weight of the body is centered upon the edge of the heel.”
Repeating the contents of the book to herself, the girl took a timid step forward with her right foot.
However, the delicate countenance tightened with an expression of concentration, for the awkward position of her right foot forced the toes and heel to support the majority of her unbalanced body weight, and creating an elevated and slightly discomforting midfoot.
Startled by the precarious balance imposed by the position, An Fei abruptly snapped both arms forth to stabilize herself, nearly falling over in the process of doing so.
“Turn to the left with the left heel as the impetus,” the girl murmured in a suppressed voice, beads of sweat dotting her brow.
“The degree of rotation must not exceed forty degrees, and the right foot is to then act as a stationary pivot to guide the rest of the body into a gentle, sweeping full moon – ah!?”
An Fei’s right leg remained rooted to the crystal floor, and the girl toppled onto the ground upon attempting the full moon turn.
As she gyrated her body, the girl painfully discovered that she had to constantly shift her center of mass around her entire body, otherwise she would suffer a miserable embrace with a not-so-collision friendly crystalline floor.
…although the problem was evident due to a painful experience, the solution would continue to elude her attention numerous times.
“Turn to the right with the right heel as the primary impetus. The degree of rotation must exceed seventy degrees, before initiating a reverse full moon sweep with the left foot, the right foot acting as the stabilizing – ah!”
“Extend both arms to the sides of the torso to the fullest length, with a clockwise half moon turn, followed by a reverse crescent. The right arm must face the sky with the palm, and the left facing the earth; the right hand is to be elevated – argh! – above the left. During the reverse crescent, the relative positions are similarly inverted…”
“A counterclockwise rotation with both feet together within close proximity, the arms close to the torso. The counterclockwise turn is to be extended for a maximum of two complete rotations, before inverted by a full moon sweep. The arms are the be extended to the sides during the full moon turn, but the speed of rotation must not – no, no, no! – be diminished…”
For the next several hours, repeated sounds of collisions occurred within the seventeenth platform of the Archives of Time, accompanied by suppressed cries of pain and suffering.
When a completely dizzy and sore An Fei spun to a stop onto the ground, the pair of scarlet irises reflected exhaustion and irritation that concealed a stubborn persistence.
The girl fought hard to regain her breath, her heart feebly protesting against the abuse. Similarly, numerous purple bruises engorged all over her body, each singing a dreadful song of a dull but irrepressible torment.
However, despite the physical injuries and agony that she had just subjected her body in attempting the <Shadow Dance> technique, the girl didn’t complain in frustration, only staring at the book with a dull throb of expectation.[Upon engraining the fundamental steps into the body and soul, the practitioner is capable of utilizing the first technique of the <Shadow Dance>, <Steps of Underlying Shadows>.]