Time passed at an even pace unbeknownst to the two siblings camped within the study of the Flowing Wind Residence, and soon the sun had begun its descent towards the horizon.
The streets of Jiang’an and the Imperial Court remained in a state of uproar, the atmosphere refusing to calm down regardless of the military attempting to send the citizens back to their homes.
…the military were probably the most significant contributors to the charged tension in Jiang’an with their constant comparisons of strength regarding the Three Great Sects and the Three Great Empires of the Shattered Star Continent…
But who would admit?
A young girl called from within the depths of the study, her hands placing a sheet of paper onto a stack of notes.
Her beautiful countenance was tinged with a faint shade of embarrassment, and the girl was covering her stomach with a hand whenever it wasn’t occupied.
“…what are we going to eat for dinner?”
The other occupant of the study, a cold youth, had finally broken his indifferent countenance, an awkward shade decorating his handsome face.
“This is quite the problem…” Wei Chang Feng directed a glance towards the young girl leaning back in the half-moon chair.
“What does Fourth Little Sister suggest to do? The kitchens are most probably cold due to the servants not present in the manor…”
Neither An Fei nor the Eldest Young Master were cultivators of the Nascent Soul Realm.
Thus, they had to rely on consuming physical sustenance to remain alive, and rest when exhausted. They weren’t like Wei Xuan, who could confidently survive without a single drop of water, a bite of food, or even a wink of sleep.
With the young girl’s complete lack of knowledge regarding the structure of the Wei manor outside of the Flowing Wind Residence and Wei Chang Feng’s rather precarious circumstances, the two were at a loss.
The older brother and younger sister stared at each other, helplessness and wry laughter concealed within their gaze.
“Elder Brother… do you know any techniques that could disguise your presence?” the young girl finally spoke, her voice shaky as a rapacious growl rumbled from her stomach, causing her to flush with shame.
“Maybe… a martial arts technique that can help Eldest Brother blend in with his surroundings… to escape the detection by others?”
The Eldest Young Master was about to nod his head in approval, before his eyes flickered with a sense of disappointment.
“I possess knowledge regarding a few techniques similar to Fourth Little Sister’s description,” the youth acquiesced.
“However, being able to apply them to myself is a different matter.”
An Fei shook her head in self-pity. Throwing caution to the wind, the girl placed down the brush in her hand, before heading towards the recesses of the study.
As Wei Chang Feng stared in befuddlement and a flabbergasted expression, An Fei climbed into the bed, slipping under the comfortable blankets with practiced ease.
The soft shuttering of metal clinking on metal graced the Eldest Young Master’s ears as the dense curtains closed shut.
“She… went to sleep?”
The youth muttered to himself in disbelief, his eyes displaying an unfathomable expression.
With a sigh, Wei Chang Feng moved his chair towards the maze of furniture, resting his head against a wooden beam as he leaned back.
When Wei Xuan finally sneaked back home to deposit a belated delivery of food, the minister found himself with an aghast expression, an Eldest Young Master sleeping against a wooden beam, and a Fourth Young Miss dead asleep for the second time of the day.
Wei Chang Feng may have been willing to abstain from eating to preserve his safety, but An Fei wasn’t keen on the idea of forsaking her stomach.
Stepping into the Sanctum the moment she slipped into bed in the Flowing Wind Residence, the girl had rushed to cook herself a meal in the medicine garden.
She had emerged only after a full incense stick’s of time, patting her stomach with a contented expression.
“Now… to do something with this…” the girl murmured, rubbing her chest with an odd, discomfited expression.
The little stream of warmth that had caused her to be inexorably perplexed had returned. More particularly, it had always been present since she awoke in the Sanctum earlier today.
It was that when An Fei had departed the realm of sky-blue crystal, the little stream of warmth had not followed.
“What is this warmth supposed to be?” the girl mused, shuttling through the various platforms of the Archive of Time until she reached the seventeenth platform.
Stepping onto the familiar environment, An Fei immediately raced to the drawing table at the center of the platform.
The papers remained at their original position, that was good.
Sitting down and lifting the brush, An Fei placed the brush’s tip onto a fresh sheet of paper, but could only place it back down after a moment of hesitation.
“No, it won’t do.”
Massaging her chest that felt rather disharmonious compared to the rest of her body, the girl reached for the large book bound in black fabric.
Finally, after several weeks of ignoring the book that had begun her journey into this perplexing and terrifying world, An Fei opened the <Eternal Sanctum> once more.
“What is this heat supposed to mean…?”
Flipping across the pages, the girl struggled to keep her vision from blurring as she read the book. Unfortunately, the characters continued to distort and grossly alter their sizes in her perception, causing An Fei to place the book down in helplessness.
Shaking her head, she was again forced to read through the pages at the slow and excruciating pace she had done so at the start.
“Spiritual essence… is a strain of divine essence filtered into a tangible construct,” the girl finally read after several hours of hard effort.
“Compared to the standard existence of divine essence, spiritual essence is the derivation of a rudimentary form without the fundamental constructs of its root.”
“Spiritual essence… can neither propagate nor forcibly create matter from nothing, nor can it reduce an existence into nothing. Spiritual essence is mainly utilized within minor auxiliary arrays… or mortal worlds, of which spiritual essence is then utilized in authorizing mortals to influence the environment to a certain degree…”
Blinking, An Fei finally placed aside the <Eternal Sanctum>, her countenance displaying a mixture of understanding and confusion.
“Spiritual essence is best perceived as a kernel of excessive heat centralized within the practitioner’s heart, or for a riskier approach, converged within the dantian,” the girl whispered to herself as her fingers traced a unique pattern on her chest.
“The perception of spiritual essence is computed by the mental visualization of the physique’s components… igniting an interchangeable connection between the soul and the spiritual essence. The exchange allows the practitioner to view the interior components of their constitution… and manipulate any excess spiritual essence, at a cost of physical exertion.”
The girl released a breath of disbelief and doubt, her brows furrowed into a deep frown.
Visualize her body, and the spiritual essence within her body would resonate and become visible within her perception?
How did that work?
“Don’t harbor unnecessary thoughts, don’t harbor unnecessary thoughts,” An Fei knocked on her head with her index finger.
“It’s not worth it, it’s not worth the hassle, you silly girl…”
Shaking her head and breathing deeply, the girl attempted to perceive her own body. Her mind whirled at an astonishing rate, extracting information from all archived memories it could extend its capabilities to.
At the broadest analysis, the body was comprised of… flesh, bones, capillaries, blood, and nervous tissue… She could ignore the atomic composition, for the girl wasn’t even certain at that degree of acuity.
The flesh with its various layers formed the outermost shell, with the bones comprising the supporting structures that allowed the body to move in a measured matter, and maintain a sufficient durability to impacts.
The capillaries and blood transported the necessary elements and nutrients to the various regions of the body, delaying cell death as much as possible…
The nervous tissue allowed the brain to enact coordinated movements over the body to a frightening degree of control…
One by one, the body in An Fei’s mind increased in detail and clarity. From a hazed visualization of the rough outline of a human body to the basic, organized structure of flesh, bones, and nervous tissue, the mental image slowly implemented greater detail by the girl’s command.
Nevertheless, the mental fatigue caused by such tasks incompatible with the consciousness increased by a terrifying amount with each addition…
The body gained blood vessels arching from one extremity to the next, converging into two central arteries connecting to either side of the heart. Entwining the muscles, bones, and vessels were tightly clustered strands of fibrous tissue…
An Fei grit her teeth, her fingers curling into tight fists as she attempted to complete the visualization. Ignoring the dull and painful throb of pain ringing from both her palms and her mind, the girl continued to diligently add to the mental image.
Extraneous details including capillary tissue forming the ears and nose…
Then the complex systems of the body’s meridians based on the numerous experiences she had in observing her body with the Sanctum’s nightly assistance… The girl traced out her Heart Meridian, the Governing and Conception Vessels, the Lung Meridian, the Stomach Meridian…
An Fei then began to implement the organs, starting from the lungs. Unfortunately, the fierce throb in her mind prevented the girl from adding many details to the inner organs of the body, causing the visualization to be filled with numerous, oblique hazes of mist.
…it was a relief that the Sanctum apparently only cared about the relative location, and not the degree of precision of appearance.
The instant the girl finished adding a fierce blob of color to the visualization in the location of the gallbladder, the entire mental image burst with a golden radiance.
The pain piercing her mind quickly ebbed into a dull haze of numbness and comfort, and An Fei slumped onto the back of her chair, her body ringing with immense fatigue.
However, the girl was filled with relief and joy.
The mental visualization that she had painstakingly constructed had dissipated to be replaced with the exquisitely detailed image she had witnessed each night in the Sanctum, displaying the composition of her physique to the smallest degree without the slightest mental effort.
At her heart, where she had felt that strand of warmth, was a tiny thread of golden light gently encircling the heart.
A strand of light pulsating with a tangible warmth.
A strand of spiritual essence, captured directly within An Fei’s perception.