While Shin and Emma were chatting, the Shrine Maiden was focusing all of her attention on the little girl kneeling in front of her.
‘Just two more.’
Sweat beads were beginning to form on the Shrine Maiden forehead. Even though she had a significant amount of spiritual energy. Safely awakening over forty children’s Spirits was taxing, even for her. The process of awakening a Spirit was in theory, straightforward. All one had to do was inject a little of spiritual power into the child’s body to awaken the slumbering Spirit. However, since ancient times, this method had fluctuating mortality rates.
Often times, the officiant of the ceremony would insert too much spiritual power that the kid would explode, or too little spiritual power was added such that the Spirit sleeping inside would not awaken causing gradual wear and tear on the child’s body.
Only the Spirit users with the best control over their powers had a higher chance of safely awakening a slumbering Spirit. In the Frie Clan, the Shrine Maiden had awakened an auxiliary Spirit that emphasises on control. Since then, she had been groomed by the previous Shrine Maiden to become the next officiant of the Spirit Awakening Ceremony held every year on the Day of Spirits.
Since then, she had done a great job in ensuring that all who underwent her Spirit Awakening Ceremony came out unfazed. After all, until this day there are incidents where the officiants accidentally killed a child during the ceremony.
Motivating herself, the Shrine Maiden started briefing Ella the same way she did everyone else.
“Ella, look inside yourself and…”
Repeating the same process she did forty-two times today, the Shrine Maiden guided Ella in the Spirit Awakening process.
After two minutes, a bright white light, similar to Emma’s, began to shine from Ella’s body. Seeing that the slumbering Spirit has been safely awakened, the Shrine Maiden relaxed and instructed Ella on the next step.
“Ella. Can you see it? That is your Spirit! Reach out for it and grasp it!”
As if hypnotised by her words, Ella’s hands followed the Shrine Maiden’s instructions. The bright white light began to condense, and a torrent of spiritual energy enveloped Ella.
With a shriek, Ella took a firm hold of her Spirit and pulled it out from the light. With that, Ella’s Spirit became visible to everyone in the room.
“It’s the same Spirit as the previous girl!”
“Two of the same Spirits back to back?!”
“That’s a first.”
“It must be because they are twins!”
The Spirit that Ella had awakened was the exact same one that Emma had awakened a few moments ago. An Ice Bow with a crystalline string. Similar to Emma’s Spirit, there was a cold aura being emitted from the bow with made all who tread near feel a drastic decrease in temperature.
‘Two mutated Spirits back to back!’
By now, the Shrine Maiden was too lazy to get surprised at all the Spirits being awakened today. It was definite that this year’s batch was indeed the cream of the crop.
‘And there is still one left!’
Although her back was drenched with sweat and her spiritual energy reserves low, she was still fired up for the last child.
“Ella, you may return now. Take your time to get used to your Spirit. There is no rush.”
The Shrine Maiden smiled and guided Ella away from the altar.
“Would Shin from the orphans division step forward!”
It was finally Shin’s turn. Being the last person to awaken his Spirit, many of the surrounding children were just hoping that he could get it over with quickly so that the ceremony could end and they could leave the Shrine. They were all desperate to start training with their new Spirits.
“Look. It’s your favourite child’s turn.”
“He is not my favourite child, Clan Master. Ariel is.”
“Really, where did the praise from earlier on, go to?”
“Well, he does give me a tonne of headaches.”
The Clan Master and the First Elder were making small talk.
“But I am worried about Lien’s condition. Even she had not awakened so many children’s Spirits at once.”
The Clan Master showed a tinge of worry for her lifelong friend.
“This is the last awakening so the Shrine Maiden should be able to hold on. After all, she is much more durable than the rest of us.”
“I sure hope so.”
The First Elder reassured the Clan Master.
“Look, it’s time.”
“Yeah. Let’s hope it will be a grand finale.”
Shin knelt obediently in front of the altar as the Shrine Maiden finished her preparations.
“Now, close your eyes child. You will feel my hand touch your forehead, so there is no need to be alarmed.”
When Shin was observing the other members of the Frie Clan undergo their Spirit Awakening, he memorised every single thing that was expected of him. He even felt that the ceremony would be a piece of cake. However, now that he was actually physically in front of the Shrine Maiden, he could not help but feel a significant amount of nervous energy being built up.
“Rest assured child. Nothing will happen to you. I swear on it.”
The Shrine Maiden did her routine of calming Shin before the ceremony commences. No matter how strong Shin seemed to be, he was still, after all, a ten-year-old child.
Once Shin had both his eyes shut, he felt a cold touch on his forehead.
‘This must be the Shrine Maiden’s hand… It’s cold.’
All of a sudden, a surge of spiritual energy could be felt enveloping Shin. He never felt so much spiritual energy before. Shivering, Shin started feeling cold. Soon, he felt his consciousness being transported somewhere else. When he opened his ‘eyes,’ all that he could see was darkness.
“Listen, child, I will assist you in awakening your slumbering Spirit. Look inside of yourself. Do you see a light? An energy source?”
The Shrine Maiden questioned Shin in a soft voice that only he could hear.
After hearing the Shrine Maiden’s words, he realised where he was. Shin’s consciousness had been transported into his Spiritual body.
Shin thought. He was transported to a different place just by having the Shrine Maiden touch his forehead. Shin was in awe at the woman’s abilities.
‘No time to get distracted. I have to find my Spirit!’
After calming himself, he remembered the Shrine Maiden’s instructions and began searching for the light.
“Child. Do you see anything?”
The Shrine Maiden’s voice echoed in Shin’s head.
“No there’s nothing! Just pitch blackness!”
Shin opened his ‘mouth’ to tell the Shrine Maiden.
“There’s no need to worry child. For some people, it takes time to find their Spirits. Rest assured. I will be here always. Do not panic and take your time to look around.”
Reassuring the clueless Shin, the Shrine Maiden instructed the boy to continue his search.