Staring at the birch beams supporting the roof of the study, An Fei blinked for a moment, her thoughts unable to keep up.
Feeling two patches of dampness on her face, the girl reached with her fingers to discover two trails of tears racing down her cheeks.
…why was she crying?
The girl frowned as her brows furrowed, attempting to sieve through her memory in confusion.
When she reflected over the contents of her dreams, her chest suddenly released pangs of nostalgia and painful sentiment upon attempting to recall the two figures.
The elderly person seemed rather familiar to An Fei, as if she had met him before. As for the young girl, she felt more than a mere familiarity; the mere thought of the child caused her heart to seize on itself and rapidly pulse in an unknown emotion.
However, she couldn’t remember their appearances.
The elder possessed a tranquil aura while the child was adventurous and curious, yet that was the farthest the girl could recall about her dream regarding the two figures.
It was just that one phrase remained in her mind, untouched by the fading of memories.
“To open their pores and absorb the breath of nature…” the girl whispered to herself. “The breath of nature known as spiritual qi… to flood the blood, meridians, marrow, flesh, and organs of the body…”
Was that how a practitioner cultivated in the Body Tempering Realm? Was it a feasible path for her who couldn’t absorb a grain of spiritual qi without experiencing hell?
“This is still a little too complicated…” the girl groaned to herself, dragging her body into a sitting position.
The instant she did, black spots arose in her vision and a sense of vertigo and numbness overtook her body, causing An Fei to crash back down onto the bed. Her brows creasing into the a deep frown, the girl awkwardly lay in bed, unsure of what was happening.
“…what’s going on?”
“Fei’er… you’re awake?”
Just then, a raspy voice interrupted her thoughts as a pair of powerful arms dragged the girl into a tight embrace.
“Fei’er, you’re truly awake?”
The man continued to press An Fei’s body against his chest, the hoarse voice repeating her name in an incoherent manner. As she struggled to extricate her body from the male’s embrace, two droplets of water grazed her neck.
Startled, the girl abruptly raised her head to discover Wei Xuan’s joyous countenance.
The handsome countenance had dimmed severely, and could only be called haggard.
Wei Xuan had, in his preoccupation, forgotten to shave his beard, and his eyes clearly revealed his distraught emotions as he gazed at the confused expression of the girl.
“Fei’er,” the minister suddenly uttered after noticing that the girl had ceased her struggling and simply stared at him. Kneeling onto the ground that his gaze was level with hers, Wen Xuan clasped An Fei’s cheeks with both hands.
“Fei’er, Father is sorry,” he spoke with a wan smile.
“Father is sorry that you had to suffer such pain. Father won’t do that again anymore, alright?”
An Fei nodded, her head swimming with numerous questions. Though she didn’t notice observe anything wrong with Wei Xuan’s behavior, the girl noticed that something had changed.
Something about Wei Xuan’s demeanor had imperceptibly altered itself, causing the girl to wonder what exactly had happened.
“Father…” the girl’s murmur through lidded eyes caused a tremble to race through Wei Xuan’s heart.
“Are you doing alright?”
“Ah?” Wei Xuan froze, before looking down at his rather unpresentable appearance. Fingering his chin with a cheeky smile, the minister patted the girl’s head, speaking with a boisterous tone.
“Your Father’s perfectly fine, little lass! This Father has been through much worse during the days of battle when he was a youngster; a few days of not shaving is nothing!”
Hearing the minister boast about his obviously not healthy condition, An Fei quickly demurred and said no more, intending to rest in bed for a little longer.
However, Wei Xuan pulled her into a seated position against the edge of the bed, his large palm supporting her frail back.
“Here, don’t sleep in this stuffy study if you can avoid it,” the minister coaxed with a soft tone.
“Let Father take you to enjoy the scenery next to the pond in the courtyard.”
Perhaps it was due to the lingering effects of severe anemia or the subtle yet drastic changes in Wei Xuan’s personality catching An Fei off guard, but the girl found herself unable to comprehend the situation by the slightest.
Without giving the girl a chance to mull over his words, the minister quickly bundled An Fei into a thick coat. As she was placed onto the wheelchair and wheeled outside of the study, the girl found herself unable to reply due to a mix of Wei Xuan’s sudden actions and her own uncertainty.
“Here, this should do,” Wei Xuan clapped his hands as he finished arranging the various dishes of food onto the table. Turning around, he dismissed all of the attending servants with a wave of his hand, leaving the minister and a young girl alone in a pavilion.
“Fei’er, let’s have lunch here!”
The girl gave a noncommittal reply, her attention focused on her surroundings. She had once glanced at this pavilion before when Wei Xuan first took her out into the Flowing Wind Residence, but it was her first time exploring the interior.
The pavilion was in the shape of a large octagon, with a diameter of five meters. At each edge was a wooden barrier that elevated the pavilion over the miniature lake, and extended to form the walls of the structure.
When she looked towards the sky, the girl could see the inner workings of a slanted roof with a flattened cone. The woodcraft and quality of materials was excellent, and gave off an impression of elegance and meditation.
Scented wood was not used, and each edge was neatly beveled to allow for a comfortable and secure grip whilst avoiding injury. The simplicity but clever design allowed for a sagacious aura to permeate the pavilion.
“Fei’er, do you like this place?”
Wei Xuan chuckled upon noticing her wandering gaze. Reaching over to grasp the handles of the wheelchair, the minister gently pushed the girl before the table, the dishes well within arm’s reach.
An Fei nodded. Compared to being cooped up in the study all day long, she preferred lounging around in the pavilion due to the great aesthetics of the courtyard, especially the lake directly underneath.
However, it was just a little too cold, no?! This is the middle of winter, when the temperatures were at the lowest!
The girl shivered, huddling deeper into the coat wrapped around her body. The slight tingling within her nose indicated of a powerful sneeze, causing An Fei to panic as she swiftly swung her head to the right.
A moderately quiet sneeze resounded within the pavilion, greatly startling Wei Xuan who had sat across from the girl. As though he had just realized the unsuitable weather, the minister’s countenance displayed an awkward smile as he swiftly stood, striding towards the edge of the pavilion.
With a sweep of his sleeve, a stream of spiritual essence roared from Wei Xuan’s dantian to wrap around the pavilion’s interior. As the silver light passed through the wooden structure, various letters of multi-colored light emerged to hover in the air to surround the pavilion.
An Fei gasped, her pupils constricting at the scene before her.
The moment the symbols appeared, the girl could feel the air warming by the second until it was at a rosy, comfortable temperature.
“F-father, h-how did you…”
The letters were of different colors, and were rather faint, nearly invisible. As the light passed through, the symbols shimmered and fluctuated as though they were being stroked by an imperceptible hand.
“Oh?” Wei Xuan paused, before chuckling heartily.
“Fei’er, this is just an intermediate spiritual array with little function. It isn’t anything much to be surprised about.”
The girl continued to gape in astonishment as her gaze remained transfixed upon the floating symbols. When focusing her gaze, An Fei could faintly perceive the actual characters forming the symbols that surrounded the interior of the pavilion.
The numerous symbols floating in the air before her were simply three words, just that the orientation of the characters was changed for each. Some were written upside down, or reversed.
Others only displayed a portion of the original word, whereas an exclusive few displayed a combination of two or even all three.
Neutralize could be insinuated to negate an undesired state to revert a change. Then the additional clauses of reversing and moderation…
That an act of mere wordplay could engender such a profound and mystical result was far too astounding for An Fei-
“There, there,” Wei Xuan chuckled as he happily crammed more braised vegetables into the girl’s mouth.
“Don’t just sit there with your mouth open; eat! Though the array can ward off cold or hot temperatures, it won’t keep the food from cooling, ah.”