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33 Oyster shell coins

    Xue'er moved through the treetops once more, with her newly acquired oyster shells in her bag. She was quite excited with what she could do with them: make jewelry, weapons, works of art. Thinking about it, Xue'er went lower than the trees, to see if she could find any flowers with enough pigment, so she could make ink with it.

    Amazingly, she found some nice plants to make red, yellow and blue pigments with. After she placed everything into her bag, she memorized the topography of the forested lands that she had explored today and returned back to the cottage.

    At the top of the tallest tree near the cottage, she looked down for the first time. The surrounding of the cottage was more like a courtyard and when one looked closely, they could slightly see the figure of a giant winged bird with its wings spread out, as if it was flying around etched into the ground.

    Xue'er could not decide if it was a design was part of the architectural design and existed physically, or if it was an array that protected it from intruders and was there spiritually.

    Either way, the bird looked quite beautiful and lifelike, ignoring the fact that it took up much of the ground space and was many times larger than a house. One simply would not be able to notice it if they had been on the ground level.

    Upon entering, Xue'er was speechless, upon seeing Gan Tian Chi dressed completely in black clothing. In front of him, was a giant wooden trunk in front of him.

    It looked like he was planning something that could not be seen in the public...

    The expression on his face was that of a man who went digging and had just struck gold.

    [Just what was he planning?]

    "Ah, Xue'er, you're home. Tell me, does this still fit?" Gan Tian Chi was startled that he did not hear her come home, but put on a smile as soon as he saw her.

    "..."

    [How long has it been since you wore it that you don't think it will fit you anymore?]

    "It seems fine." Seeing that the clothes were not too loose, nor too tight, she answered him truthfully.

    Gan Tian Chi smiled, it seemed that he was pleased with that answer.

    "All right, you can go now." He said, patting her shoulder.

    Xue'er nodded and returned to her room. Putting down her bag on the table and unpacking the many oyster shells and flowers, she began to think of what she could do with them.

    She picked up a dagger and began to carve the shells, her movements were smooth and graceful, but quite powerful as she handled the dagger to the shells without breaking them.

    From time to time, Xue'er's eyes would move to look at the flowers, before she continued on the carving.  A white powder from the shells began to fall onto the table.

    It took some time before there was a pile of glossy white round spheres on the table. Each and every one of them was like a perfectly formed coin, with a different flower etched on each one.

    Xue'er slowly picked up each coin and inspected each carefully, it seems that she is pleased with her work.

    Her fingers ran over the flower etchings that were filled with detail, but they were all colorless.

    Her mind now turned toward the plants that she picked this morning. She had picked them, because of their vibrant pigments, which made them the best choice when it came to adding colors to something, if she added some glaze to the pigments, they would be able to stay for a long time without fading.

    Thinking of such things, her eyes brightened up and she ground up the plant material in a mortar, she made sure to wash it thoroughly with each use, as to prevent the colors from getting muddy from getting mixed with each other. If someone wanted vibrant colors, this step was the most important.

    When she had all the materials ready and laid out on the table before her, she took out a brush that she made herself out of a bamboo tube and animal hair. The brush was thin, so it was just the right brush for painting on the small oyster shell coins.

    The brush was loaded with pigment as it danced across the small coins, its pigments seeped into the carved crevices of the shell, leaving behind a long-lasting pigment.

    She was an excellent painter, after all, there was a time in the forbidden ground when she had painted each and every herb that she could find.

    She also believed that she was a decent painter, maybe one day she could try painting other things to see how turns out, or to see how she measures up to those so-called professional painters whose paintings that she had seen of mountains and majestically colorful birds.

    After Xue'er had finished the painting, she had counted the coins. There were precisely fifty coins that were engraved with flowery plants and painted. Each one was unique, there were none that were even the same color as each other, as she had done a great job mixing the paints so that each painting was completed with a variation of colors.

    The shells were laid to dry off by an open window, allowing the fall wind to enter the room and complete the last step to the making of oyster shell coins. After this night, the color on it would be considered permanent.

    She, on the other hand, went to bed, as she had been influenced by Gan Tian Chi's way of doing things. Although she could theoretically not sleep a wink for the rest of her life and still be fine, she wouldn't really know what to do with the extra time on her hands.

    Besides, when sleeping she would be able to re-enter the dream form of the underground maze. Although it felt as if she was lost in a dream, it was also the only time she could the coldness of ice that she never felt in the outside world.

    It was a feeling that she would not have been able to meet if she had never entered the underground maze that day a year ago.
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