3:11 – Mana and Qi – I
Xinxin was dreaming. In that dream, she saw a scene from the past, a memory she hadn’t experienced in a long time.
She was alone, lost in the dark. Tiny, she was overwhelmed by the countless shadows. Furthermore, her body was fading, slowly rotting away.
Isolated and fated to disappear without a trace. She was a nameless and worthless existence, something that no one would ever acknowledge.
She called out. She screamed. But no one came.
She didn’t know how much time had passed, but eventually she gave up on being saved. Trapped in the darkness by her lonesome, she resigned herself to a quiet death.
Yet, at the moment of her resignation, her world changed.
A hand reached out to her, who was trapped in the darkness. Grabbing it, her entire world completely changed forever.
Suddenly, her dream changed. Like before, it was a scene from the distant past. Unlike before, it was one that she didn’t recognize.
Xinxin’s mother was standing in front of her. At that time, she was still a toddler, barely able to walk.
It was the courtyard outside the Zhan Clan Manor. There, a group of men appeared in silver armor. But they were different. Their faces were pale, and their hair were golden. Compared to those of the Xia Dynasty, those men were complete foreigners.
Xinxin’s mother tried talking to the foreigners, but they shook their heads and drew steel swords from their sides.
Xinxin’s father appeared and ran out to attack them, but couldn’t do anything.
He was tossed to the side and then the men grabbed Xinxin’s mother and took her away.
Xinxin in the dream cried. Xinxin who was dreaming tried to run after them.
She was stronger now. She could stop them, take her mother back from those foreign invaders…!
And then the scene shifted again.
It was the bamboo forest where she first found Sifu. As if time had been unwound, she found herself walking through the forest path with the pill bottle in her sleeves.
A memory. The events played out the same way that Xinxin remembered. Her Sifu was missing when she checked on him and Xinxin was pinned against the bamboo trees.
It played out the same. At least, in the beginning. But rather than letting her go, Sifu tightened his grip.
Xinxin began choking, unable to breathe. She tried to claw at his arm, but the grasp tightened, slowly increasing in strength like a vice trying to crush the life out of her.
Even though it was a dream, it felt real . She felt the struggle to breathe. She felt the pain in her neck, as well as her chest where she failed to draw in air.
Xinxin’s Sifu stared at her for a moment with those cold eyes. And then, before she realized it, he had thrust his hand through her heart.
Blood dripped along her Sifu’s arm, staining it crimson. At the same time, Xinxin felt unimaginable pain and the chilling creep of death nipping at her extremities, slowly advancing towards her heart.
Sifu stared directly into Xinxin’s eyes and then grinned, a cruel expression filled with nothing but hunger. “Think of this as a down payment, girl.”
With that, shadows spiraled out from his body and then devoured her whole.
Xinxin gasped and opened her eyes. Looking around, she saw that she was still in the cave, with only darkness to greet her waking.
That reminded her of her strange dreams.
For a moment, she was lost in thought, but Xinxin quickly shook her head. Even if they were strange and ominous, she still had to get back home.
Somehow, she felt like she could meet her Sifu there.
Xinxin reached out with her spiritual sense to see what it was like outside before moving the cave’s cover aside. She was expecting just a limited view, as if peering around the corner.
That was not what she got.
Instead of a brief search radius, Xinxin’s spiritual sense filled the entire valley. Every profound beast, every medicinal herb, every location.
Like that, she caught a glimpse of the Vermilion Bird resting on a perch atop the mountain.
The Vermilion Bird met eyes with Xinxin. Yet, instead of its earlier condescension, there was clear fear.
Xinxin realized now why her Sifu called it a dumb bird. A simple display of force was enough to keep it at bay.
For a moment, Xinxin considered settling the feud by cutting her down, but decided against it.
Even if the Vermilion Bird threatened to kill Xinxin and could have caused a disaster if the profound beasts had managed to escape, she didn’t have the time to waste on some dumb and over-sized chicken.