“Fourth Young Miss!”
A startled cry broke the calm in the study of the Flowing Wind Residence, jolting all inhabitants present. Dropping the objects grasped in their hands in their surprise, the two maidservants rushed towards An Fei.
The girl was staring in a mirror of cast bronze, utter shock and dismay present on her beautiful countenance. More particularly, the girl was staring at the sudden changes in her eyes.
Since she had last glimpsed at her appearance, the twin scarlet irises had cracked.
Originating from the pupil, thin, hair-like threads raced throughout the iris akin to the roots of a strong tree effused with vitality.
The cracks were filled with a black color, creating a rather startling sight that oddly did not come into conflict with her appearance.
Nevertheless, it was rather scary and intimidating to gaze into a pair of crack irises.
Even if she was staring at her own distorted reflection via a bronze mirror, An Fei wished to shirk away from the pair of disharmony.
“Fourth Young Miss…” Xiao Ying’s voice trailed off as she glanced at the young girl biting her lips in anxiety.
She was well aware of the shock the Fourth Young Miss was undergoing at the moment.
The maidservant, after all, was the first to experience the sight, and was accustomed with the momentary sensation of shock and discomfort.
“Fourth Young Miss, it’ll be alright,” Xiao Wen took the initiative to console the young girl.
“Master is working on discovering a solution to ease the Fourth Young Miss’ troubles. All the Fourth Young Miss needs to do is to relax and recuperate.”
An Fei nodded, before helplessly withdrawing from the mirror. Accepting the hand offered by Xiao Ying, the girl sat on the edge of the bed to stare at her slender fingers for a moment.
Flexing the muscles of her fingers, clenching them into a fist and moving them a digit at a time.
As expected, her abilities had drastically improved after that unusual experience within the Sanctum.
Her dexterity, speed, and stamina had improved by a significant margin, noticeable without having to conduct any testing.
What was rather interesting was that her strength didn’t seem to have improved at all, but the girl could hardly care about such a trivial issue. Toying with her fingers, An Fei swiftly descended into thought as she carefully observed the enhancement to her physique.
…was this the benefit of cultivation?
Then, was she a practitioner of the so-called Body Tempering Realm of mortal cultivation as the <Eternal Sanctum> had described, the first realm that exposed mortals to the path of cultivation?
Body Tempering… was it not divided into five additional stages, known as the Tempering of… Blood, Meridians, Marrow, Flesh, and the inner organs?
The nightly terror she had experienced every day whilst within the Sanctum of Eternal Peace… didn’t she envision the golden light ravaging her blood vessels, both minor and major arteries?
Furthermore, the golden light had encapsulated her Heart Meridian…
Did it symbolize that she had progressed from first stage of the Body Tempering Realm to the second? All within those few short days she had spent within the realm of sky-blue crystal?
Was that sort of pace… normal?
The girl descended into a series of complicated thoughts, ultimately scratching her head as she found herself mired in further complications the longer she pondered on the issue.
An inadvertent sigh of frustration attracted the attention of Xiao Ying, and the maidservant sat next to An Fei, worry displayed on her countenance.
“Fourth Young Miss, anything bothering you?” the maidservant asked in a concerned tone.
An Fei first shook her head, then nodded.
Under Xiao Ying’s slightly bemused and caring gaze, the young girl carefully minced her words, forming a haphazard and remarkably ambiguous explanation.
“This… Xiao Ying… I attempted to practice cultivating with the <Golden Lotus of Establishment> a few days ago…” the girl began, her eyes shifting left and right underneath the maidservant’s piercing gaze.
“This… a few nights ago, I felt warmth spread throughout my body, and when I closed my eyes, I could see… a golden light spread throughout my blood vessels and… a meridian? Xiao Ying, do you know what’s going on?”
“<Golden Lotus of Establishment>? Warmth throughout the body… and a golden light passing through the blood vessels?” the maidservant repeated in befuddlement, before her eyes opened in surprise.
“Fourth Young Miss, you succeeded in entering the Body Tempering Realm!? Furthermore, golden light encased the blood vessels!?”
Xiao Ying shook her head, unable to overcome the sudden shock to her mind by the young girl besides her.
Unable to restrain herself, the maidservant reached out to grasp An Fei’s right arm.
Placing her thumb and applying a gentle pressure to the major vein on the girl’s wrist, the maidservant closed her eyes in concentration.
Xiao Ying commanded her spiritual essence to immerse her thumb.
When her thumb released a pale orchid light, An Fei’s wrist emanated a similar radiance, though it was considerably fainter in intensity and of a golden color.
The two lights established a faint resonance with the other, causing the maidservant to open her eyes in astonishment and joy.
“Fourth Young Miss has indeed progressed in her cultivation, and the refinement is pure!” Xiao Ying cried out.
“This spiritual aura is no doubt belonging to a cultivator who had broken through into the second stage of the Body Tempering Realm!”
An Fei raised an eyebrow at the maidservant’s evaluation, narrowing her brows in thought as she glanced at her wrist.
Just as she feared, there was a thin, violet discoloration running down her vein that had come into contact with Xiao Ying’s thumb infused with spiritual essence.
Fortunately, the discoloration appeared mild, and was already fading before her eyes. Perhaps, her skin would return to normal after a few moments.
“Fourth Young Miss, this matter is truly one deserving of celebration,” Xiao Ying rambled on much to the young girl’s amusement.
“However, the Fourth Young Miss should focus on recuperating. Insisting on cultivating while the body is injured will only produce negative results that will haunt the Fourth Young Miss in the future.”
The young girl nodded in agreement, twiddling with her fingers as she waited for the maidservant’s chatter to ebb. Once tranquility had returned to the interior of the study, An Fei parted her lips to ask a question.
“Xiao Ying… how long did it take for you… to progress in your cultivation?” the young girl inquired with a tentative tone.
Contrary to her worries, the maidservant seemed more than happy to discuss her cultivation, even going to the extent of grasping An Fei’s hands.
“Fourth Young Miss, this servant completed the Body Tempering Realm in about… a year and a half?”
Xiao Ying tilted her head in thought.
“This maidservant started in cultivation much earlier than the Fourth Young Miss regarding physical age… this servant should have reached the second stage of the Body Tempering Realm in a couple months of diligent effort, and reaching the late stages of the Foundation Establishment Realm spanned over a few years…”
“Then… Xiao Ying, how did you cultivate?”
An Fei interjected the maidservant’s words, causing the latter to raise her head in confusion for a brief moment.
“This servant… meditated utilizing the <Spiritual Jade> cultivation technique,” the maidservant replied after pondering for a while.
“This servant cultivates through meditating on the statements of the <Spiritual Jade> technique… and pondering on it’s contents?”
“How did the Fourth Young Miss cultivate the <Golden Lotus of Establishment> technique? After all, Master did state that practicing the <Golden Lotus of Establishment> cultivation technique posed a greater difficulty in exchange for greater rewards…”
“Ah?” An Fei staggered from the sudden question. Her mind whirling, the young girl quickly composed a pathetic reply to deter the maidservant’s attention.
“I… I read the manual, pondered about the concepts and… slept on it.”
She couldn’t say that she found herself in a mysterious location, and not to mention, obtained this state by eating voraciously like an insatiable glutton for several days!
That was asking for death!
Unexpectedly, the young girl never expected the maidservant to nod her head without batting an eye or frown in displeasure.
“That sounds reasonable, many people cultivate with such a method,” Xiao Ying wholehearted agreed with the ‘wisdom’ of the Fourth Young Miss.
“Master once said that mindlessly persisting in cultivation produces far inferior results compared to reading over the manual, pondering on the intended concepts, and most importantly, getting a good night’s – AH!? Fourth Young Miss, you cultivated the <Golden Lotus of Establishment> in such a fashion, how is that even possible!?”
“The <Golden Lotus of Establishment> requires the practitioner to apply a medicinal paste of a hundred and thirty-seven varieties of rare, aged spiritual herbs above fifty years in age – not even Master has completed obtaining a set of the required materials!”
Hearing the maidservant’s outburst, the young girl instantly realized that she had made a catastrophic mistake. Perhaps, she should have picked a technique that didn’t possess such stringent requirements, for it would be easier to lie about…
So, how was she supposed to get herself out of this one?