111 Reading a Disturbing Journal

    The caves were dim. The only light came from the torches and bonfires that speckled sparsely throughout the hallway. The pattern of lighting did not appear to follow the slightest rhyme or reason. Some torches were merely charred pieces of wood with no spark of light. While there were some bonfires that were without kindling. The atmosphere was thick with smoke and heavy black clouds that irritated the eyes. This place was desolate, she wondered how the fires continued to burn without anyone tending to them.

    The floor was dry earth that could easily kick up into a dust cloud. It was strange how this place had not yet become uninhabitable to all creatures being so closed off from the outside. Perhaps it was because this place was carved into the mountain, and thus air would be able to permeate through the rocks and earthy soil, this also provided a natural place where animals would naturally thrive on their own.

    This was a place where humans and creatures would live side by side, and Xue'er was very much open to such an idea.

    There were many rooms carved into the stone wall of the mountain, each fortified with a stone door that was too heavy for a grown man to open. Such that this place was no different from a death maze, where if one were unfortunate enough to be trapped here they would end up wandering until they died of exhaustion.

    As she walked the winding path, she could not help but find it odd that this place that seemed well-taken care of from the doors that were free from dust to the torches that lined the walls that had yet to run out of fuel. All these pointed to this mountainous cavern being inhabited by living beings.

    Yet, why was this place so quiet and devoid of life?

    Pushing back a few strands of hair behind her ear, she looked to the side at a stone door that seemed more elaborate than the rest of the doors she had encountered. In addition, the hall seemed to be wider here than the rest of the hallway.

    Seems like this room belongs to someone important. She thought as she carefully gilded her hands over the stone piece. It was definitely a type of strong rock that could not even be penetrated by the strongest of weapons. Very much like the walls were made to endure a siege from a thousand man army. As though this place was not secretive enough.

    With a sigh, she first tried to lean on the stone door, in an attempt to see if it would budge. When that didn't work she circulated the inner energy within her body and the doors glided along the stone floor, making the scratching sound when stone grinds on stone. It was especially horrible on the ears that Xue'er vowed to find a better way to open this door.

    The room was rather large, with a stone floor replacing the dirt ones in the hall. It seemed to double as a library and a medicine room. With shelves of books lining the wall, a desk at the far corner that was surrounded with melted candles, as though there would be a person normally sitting there, scribbling away furiously on the papers, with candles lighting up the dark space. There were also tables filled with all types of herbs and strange concoctions.

    The room was rather put together, but there was much dust that accumulated from no one being able to enter due to the very physical barrier that was the stone door.

    Xue'er came upon the desk, where there was a single old book opened to a worn-out page. The pages were handwritten, with some of the ink having spotted over the yellowed paper. Yet it seemed to be held in high regard.

    Xue'er was about to ignore the book when she glanced over it over a second time. This time her eyes instinctively narrowed as she picked up the book and examined the familiar handwriting within the book. Flipping through the thin book, she finds that the entire book is indeed written by the same person, and on the cover, there is no specific name, rather it is only a surname.

    The author of this book is someone by the surname of Shen. Xue'er tilted her head after reading the word on the cover but she did not understand it. Strangely, there was a familiarity with it.

    Though it was said to be a book with detailed theories and experiments in which to make a medicine that cure-all ills, it was more like a journal that was of a man's journey to searching for it. Even if it seemed to be more fantasy and myth than rooted in truth. Within it, there were many detailed descriptions of this person's quest to search for such a thing. The first theory stated that there was a mystical herb called Ling Zi which grew in the most isolated of places, away from any touch of humans. The person surnamed Shen wrote of his bitter searches at the peaks of mountains and at the lowest of valleys. He searched for over twenty years, but could not find the mystical herb.

    'Perhaps there was never such a herb that ever existed in the mortal lands.' As Xue'er read the sentence, she could feel the hopelessness within the pages, as though Shen had given up on all hope that something like that could ever be found.

    But on the next page, Shen's words wrote 'If I cannot find one, then I will make it.' The handwriting was fierce, filled with the determination of the man who was in his prime. He detailed this first attempt that was on pigs and other creatures, with methods of soaking them in concoctions that were known to prolong life, but ultimately, the creatures died before Shen ever considered the medicine to be 'accomplished'. He wrote in such a manner as though the entire world had failed him. As though the reader should take pity on his failed endeavors.

    Yet he did not dishearten, as he wrote 'The lives of these animals were not as long as those of humans, yes, indeed this is the issue' this time, he forwent the usage of pigs, and instead went ahead and searched for live subjects. Doing the same as he did with the pigs, but this time, it was this combination of drinking and soaking. This did not end well either, as he stated the subjects turned mad, with their skin peeling off. Along with other descriptions that were too horrific to be described.

    Yet, when all hope seemed to be lost, the last line wrote 'Perhaps the young will have more resilience' this handwriting was filled with even more madness than the other entries. It was as though she could witness Shen's descent into madness over this period of many decades. A shiver ran through Xue'er's body before she threw the book away.

    "Thud" The thin old book kicked up a cloud of dust as it landed on the ground. Xue'er stood whereshe was and kept still as though the book was a feared monster that would murder her in her very spot if she were to let her guard down. Her gaze on the book was not one filled with fear, rather it was one of distrust, the distrust that stemmed from knowing this was an object many would take to be the truth, sacred scriptures that would be viewed as absolute and undeniable.

    But after landing, it did absolutely nothing. It was merely an inanimate object that would exist and cease to exist at the will of its owner.

    It took a while before Xue'er came to calm herself down, she begrudgingly picked up the book off from the floor and placed it into her bag before heading out. The contents of this book were just too tempting, it should not fall into the hands of those who had a deposition of unstoppable curiosity, those who were willing to commit any vile acts to attain such knowledge. This time, no matter how unwilling she was to hear the awful sound again, she still closed the door behind her.

    She stepped into the hallway, with the door closed well behind her. This was indeed the same hallway, yet why did it seem to get colder. She could still feel the chills. The chills emanate from behind elaborate doors, even with the thousand catties of stone that stood between her and the room.
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