Mingwei awoke in the middle of the night with an intensely dry throat.
It was still early spring, and the night air was bitterly cold. Inside the house, a robust charcoal fire blazed, causing her to break out in a fine sweat.
She lifted her arm to rest it on her forehead and emitted a faint hum, immediately prompting someone to stir.
“Miss? Would you like to rise for the night, or perhaps have some water?”
Mingwei reluctantly raised her heavy eyelids and cast her gaze upon the girl beneath the dim light.
This girl, aged around fourteen or fifteen, was in the prime of her youth, but she bore the unfortunate burden of dark blemishes that marred half of her face, rendering her exceptionally unsightly.
Traditionally, maids from prestigious families were expected to possess impeccable appearances. It was peculiar to have such an unsightly girl serving so closely to a young lady.
However, there was a reason behind this.
Mingwei’s current identity, or the body she possessed, was that of the seventh daughter of the Ming family, a prominent clan in Dongning.
Having lost her father at a young age and with her mother living as a widow, she was their only daughter. Despite this, she was born with limited cognitive capacities.
Mrs. Mingsan, the mother of Miss Mingqi, had gone to great lengths to choose a girl with highly auspicious horoscopes to stay by her side, hence this unsightly girl’s extraordinary fortune.
Mingwei pointed at her throat.
Duofu, understanding the need, fetched warm water and helped her sit up. After serving her a drink, Duofu whispered, “It’s still early, Miss. Shall we go back to sleep?”
Mingwei, her gaze still fixed on the corner of the large bed, remained motionless, like consoling a child, she said, “Don’t be afraid. Duofu is here, and we’ll chase away any mountain spirits or ghosts together!”
Seeing Mingwei finally close her eyes and her breathing gradually steady, Duofu returned to her own resting place with a sense of relief and soon fell asleep.
Amidst the rhythmic sound of Duofu’s steady breaths, Mingwei, who had already drifted into slumber, abruptly opened her eyes once more, her gaze fixated on the same corner of the large bed.
In her line of sight, a shivering, ashen-white figure huddled.
As if sensing Mingwei’s scrutiny, the gray-white figure lifted its head, revealing a face identical to the body’s inhabitant, with vacant eyes tinged with fear.
She was the real Miss Mingqi—her soul.
Mingwei spoke softly, “Don’t be afraid. Once I’ve recovered, I will guide you to reincarnation.”
With that, she raised her hand and formed a simple mudra.
A small barrier materialized before Miss Mingqi, and the mystical force within it comforted her, gradually stilling her trembling and restoring her peace.
However, the little mana Mingwei had laboriously gathered dissipated in the process.
Fatigue overcame her, and she wearily shut her eyes, once again slipping into deep slumber.
Inhabiting another’s body was incredibly draining, and most of her days had been spent in a state of unconsciousness.
Upon awakening once more, daylight had already flooded the room.
Duofu sat beside the bed, expertly sewing with nimble fingers.
Observing Mingwei open her eyes, she set aside her needle and thread, revealing a warm smile. “Miss, you’re awake?”
Mingwei made a faint sound of agreement.
Those outside heard the commotion and entered the room, pulling back the curtains. “How did you sleep, Miss? Is your head still hurting?”
Seeing Mingwei shake her head, the head servant instructed the maids to attend to her washing.
Before long, Mingwei had been cleaned and freshened up, seated at the table for breakfast.
Duofu also fetched a set of utensils and sat beside her, helping her with her food and delicately wiping her mouth, tending to her every need.
Mingwei had only inhabited this body for a few days, and she had been cared for in this manner throughout.
Everyone around her spoke in hushed tones, treating her as if she were a precious and fragile porcelain doll.
Mingwei had traversed the world with her master since childhood and knew that being born with limited mental capacity was considered disgraceful no matter where one resided.
In the case of commoners, the fortunate ones might be raised like livestock, while the less fortunate would receive no care and no one would bat an eye if they met an unfortunate end. Wealthy families were even more cautious, either confining such individuals in secluded areas or sending them away, for fear of letting outsiders learn of their circumstances.
However, Miss Mingqi was an exception, meticulously tended to and presented as a beautiful and capable individual, concealing any signs of her diminished mental abilities.
All of this was thanks to Miss Mingqi’s mother, Mrs. Mingsan.
As thoughts of Mrs. Mingsan crossed her mind, Mingwei cast a couple of glances outside.
The young maid attending to her noticed immediately and smiled as she said, “Madam is occupied but will return shortly.”
Mingwei responded with an “oh” and continued with her meal.
She ate slowly, her movements somewhat uncoordinated due to her recent soul transfer.
She finished the entire meal without spilling a drop of porridge, rendering Duofu’s assistance entirely unnecessary.
After clearing the dishes, Mrs. Mingsan returned.
She was a stunning and refined beauty, already in her thirties. Despite being a widow, her attire was elegantly simple, with just a cloud and phoenix-patterned gold hairpin adorning her head. Yet, her grace and charm remained unforgettable.
Mingwei had traversed the world, but she couldn’t recall ever encountering a woman of such allure.
Upon seeing her daughter, Mrs. Mingsan’s lips curved into a smile. “Has Mingqi finished her meal? Did she like today’s dishes?”
Mrs. Mingsan’s smile grew even warmer.
She began conversing with her daughter, discussing everyday topics such as the arrival of spring, the warming weather, the gradual greening of the grasslands, and the return of migratory birds. Her speech was reminiscent of a child learning to speak.
Uncertain of how to respond, Mingwei simply remained silent.
Mrs. Mingsan affectionately patted her hair, her sigh barely audible.
At that moment, Nanny Tong another maid serving at the house escorted someone into the room.
“Madam, Madam Liu has arrived.”
Mingwei looked up.
The newcomer was a woman in her thirties or forties, exuding an air of competence. Her clothing was of high-quality fabric, but the stitching was ordinary. It was evident that she hailed from outside rather than serving within the household.
With a gracious smile on her lips, she stepped forward and greeted, “Greetings, Madam Ming.”
Mrs. Mingsan nodded in response, her smile remaining. She then summoned Duofu, saying, “Accompany the lady for a walk in the garden, but ensure she doesn’t go too close to the water.”
Duofu acknowledged the order and led Mingwei out of the room.
As they passed by Madam Liu, Mingwei caught a faint scent of smoke. Lowering her gaze, she noticed that the nails on Madam Liu’s left hand bore a slight yellowing.
These were traces of smoking.
In rural areas, female smokers were a rare sight, typically possessing a unique status.
Such as that of a noble or prestigious family or a shaman.
The Ming family, renowned for their poetry and propriety, had always maintained a respectful distance from such matters. Moreover, Mrs. Mingsan was a widow and conducted herself with even greater caution. So why had she invited a shaman into her home?
“Miss, come this way,” Duofu’s voice brought Mingwei’s attention back.
They stood at a crossroads, and Duofu guided her to the left.
Mingwei obediently turned the corner, but her gaze shifted to the right.
That path led to the lake.
Oh, right! A few days ago, at dusk, Miss Mingqi had seen something unusual by the lake. A ghost, perhaps?
[End of Chapter 001: Soul]