“So how do we improve our ranks?”
Shin asked the all-important question. Currently, Shin and the twins were like a blank piece of paper. They had no idea on how to proceed in their cultivation. After all, they had only been training to awaken their Spirits not anything afterwards.
“Well, now that you have awakened your Spirits, you will have to learn how to cultivate internal spiritual energy. As you all know, there is spiritual energy all around us. With practice, we are able to harness it for use to a certain extent, but ultimately, it is not something we can call our own. Hence, we use the spiritual energy around us to grow our Spirits so that it can produce its own spiritual power. This internal spiritual energy is called mana.”
Junius began his lecture to educate the ignorant trio.
“Think of the human body as a vessel for mana. The more mana you add to the body, the stronger it becomes. Of course, it has to be done gradually through cultivating the Spirit and body. Finding the right cultivation technique is essential too. No two spiritual users are the same. Even if they have the same starting point, like you two, Ella and Emma, in the end, they will have drastically different cultivations.”
“Cultivation techniques? What are those?”
Emma quizzically asked Junius.
“I was just getting to that. Cultivation techniques are ways to harness spiritual energy your Spirit to cultivate. For instance, I am cultivating the Moonlight Sword Mantra. It’s a cultivation technique specialised for water elemental sword Spirits such as my Azure Water Blade. The Moonlight Sword Mantra helps in aiding my Spirit’s growth and allows me to increase my rank.”
“As for choosing your cultivation technique, it is something for the Instructor to do. I have no experience and will be unable to help you in this regard. Unfortunately, you did not awaken a sword spirit like mine. If not, we could train happily together!”
Junius loved to help out his juniors. When Ryner and Lily underwent their Spirit Awakening Ceremonies and did not awaken a sword spirit, Junius felt dejected as he could not mentor them. He was hoping Shin would awaken a sword spirit so that he could impart his knowledge to his favourite little brother but that would not come to pass.
Shin and the twins, on the other hand, were thanking the gods that they did not awaken a sword spirit. After all, who would want to keep up with Junius’ training regime?
“Are there some cultivation techniques that are better than the others?”
Ella asked her seniors.
“Well, cultivation techniques aren’t classified into ranks, but which one is most suited to the Spirit User. Let’s say if I tried training in Junius’ Moonlight Sword Mantra, no matter how much I cultivate, I would not be able to progress. After all, I don’t have a sword spirit.”
Lily replied her cute junior.
“Thankfully, the Frie Clan possesses numerous cultivation manuals. Even those that are not related to the fire element. They are stored in the Clan’s Athenaeum in the main hall. Once the Instructor inspects your Spirit, he will assist in helping you choose a cultivation manual.”
“I see! So sister Lily, we still have to wait for the Instructor before we can begin training?”
“Of course silly. And hey, the Instructor is rather late. He should have arrived by now…”
Lily looked towards the door and questioned the punctuality of the Instructor.
“I have a question, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to ask…”
“Just ask away.”
Lily smiled warmly at the younger sister she cared for so dearly.
“Ermmm, why do we all have water elemental spirits?”
Lily’s smile instantly vanished once she heard Emma’s question.
“The Frie Clan are a sect that uses fire elemental spirits. Even Frie Mountain is most suited for fire spirits. But we awakened water elemental spirits, which is strange. Did the Frie Clan choose us as orphans because of our elemental affinity?”
Emma was not the only one curious about this fact. Every other orphan were clueless about why they had awakened water elemental spirits, which were counter to the Clan’s elemental leaning. However, they did not have the guts to confront their superiors on that issue.
“Well, Emma I…”
“I’ll answer that question!”
A booming voice reverberated across the training room. Heavy footsteps could be heard closing in on the orphans as the silhouette far away became more distinct. A towering man with a bald head and unkempt facial hair stepped into the room and glanced at the children in the room. He was the cause of many of the orphans nightmares, the Instructor Lou Frie.
“Hoho, I see that Ella and Emma have awakened mutated elemental spirits. Not bad!”
Moving his eyes around, he could clearly see the Ice Bows in the twins hands. Slowly, his gaze landed on Shin’s hands.
‘It’s really The Sovereign Koi!’
Trying to keep his composure, the Instructor averted his eyes from Shin. On the outside, he seemed indifferent, but his thoughts were in disarray.
Lily, seeing that the Instructor had gone quiet, called for him.
“Ahhh… Ahem… Sorry about that, I was just lost in my thoughts.”
“It’s alright. Instructor, earlier you said you knew something about the circumstances of our Spirits?”
“Ah yes! Lily and Junius, you were not informed right. Come, let me tell you!”
Regaining his demeanour, the Instructor started his explanation.
“As you all know, the clan fought in a devastating war ten years ago. Even though we managed to win, it came at a great cost. Many of our clansmen died, and our foundations were crippled. The only option we had at that point was to retreat into Frie Mountain and seclude ourselves to prevent opportunistic strikes from elsewhere.”
“One of the key reasons we lost was due to our lack of diversity. The opponents we fought were smart. They avoided head-on confrontations and attacked our weaknesses. In one of the many battles, they forced us into the ocean to fight. As you know, fire elemental spirits are not the best at sea combat. Less than half of our clansmen made it through that battle, even less returned home.”
As the Instructor recalled that conflict, his voice slowly turned more and more anguished.
“The previous Clan Master realised that solely relying on the Frie Clan members were not enough for us to win the war and decided to lift the age-old ban on employing outside help. However, that was a mistake. The mercenaries we hired were turncoats and nearly destroyed the clan from the inside. Thankfully, we managed to persevere.”
“In the end, we came out of the war victorious. But there were far too many losses. Even the once valiant Clan Master could not stop his injuries from claiming his life. In his last days, the previous Clan Master studied and reviewed the war from multiple angles and knew that the only way for the Clan to not repeat its mistakes, was to train other Spirit Users. Hence, he began the orphan programme.”
Looking at the astonished children in front of him, the Instructor explained the origins of the orphan programme.
“First, he decided to find orphans that had a strong affinity for water elemental spirits to patch the weakness of the clan. He scoured the continent and was able to find eleven young orphans, whose parents had either died or abandoned them and brought them back.”
“Next, he made the council swear an oath not to hurt any of the orphans as many were sceptical of the plan. People such as the Second Elder, who believed that the Frie Clan should be supported only by blood-related members, were strongly resistant to the previous Clan Master’s project. However, he begged and only truly convinced them by saying that it was his dying wish.”
“Lastly, on his deathbed, he handed the responsibility of the programme to the person he trusted the most in the clan, the First Elder. After all that, he passed silently in his sleep.”
“We should have told you earlier, but the pain of losing one of our great leaders was too great, and we did not want to give you too much pressure. You guys, the orphans, were brought in to supplement our weaknesses. That is why all of you have awakened water elemental spirits…”
The Instructor ended his story by staring emptily into space. Shin had never seen the muscular man cry, but currently, he saw that the Instructor’s eyes started to mist.