Shin was busy defending himself from the barrage of attacks from his assailant. His first spiritual ability was to summon and manipulate water, and at his current level, all he could do was to sprinkle water onto flowers. Hence, he had to rely on his physical abilities to evade the deadly knives that his opponent wielded.
The knives cut through the air and barely missed Shin every single swing. Even after twenty odd strokes, Shin still managed to emerge untouched. The assailant became red with frustration as he knew that the time they had was limited. Reinforcements for the orphans were about to arrive any moment now, so if he had to kill the target, it must be now.
Unfortunately for him, Shin’s forte was evading strikes. Trained by Ariel for nearly his entire life, he had become a master of dodging. Bending his body as if there were no bones, Shin fluidly eluded the assassin’s onslaught. He backpedalled after each successive dodge to slowly move further away from the black-clothed man.
It was unusual for a Spirit Practitioner, who had just awakened his Spirit, to fend off a Spirit Apostle but that is precisely what Shin is doing.
‘Okay! I can do this! Ariel should be about done with her opponent…’
Fully trusting his training partner, Shin felt comfortable about his current predicament. Initially, he thought that a Spirit Apostle would be much harder to evade, but thankfully, the martial arts prowess of the person in front of him was not that great. If he were to compare the assailant’s ability with someone, it would be the Second Elder’s grandson, Linus. Although he was extremely fast and agile, Shin is able to manage the threat.
‘Maybe I should try using my first spiritual ability…’
The cerulean Koi was still swimming comfortably around Shin’s left hand. After some experimentation, Shin realised that his Spirit did not require him to focus all his attention on it. Once summoned, the Koi was able to do whatever it wanted without Shin instructing it. As long as he supplied mana to it, the fish would remain in the material world.
‘Ah, there’s no harm in trying!’
Currently, Shin and the assailant were in a deadlock. Every single strike that the assassin threw at Shin, he would easily evade. Stab, dodge. Slash, dodge. The cycle will repeat itself until their stamina runs out or one of them messes up. Being a Spirit Practitioner, there was a higher chance of Shin losing strength ahead of the Spirit Apostle. Then, the assassin would be able to land a clean hit on Shin’s vital points thus incapacitating him. Shin would like to avoid that future. Hence, he decided to use his spiritual ability.
Sending mana to his Spirit, Shin conjured up an image in his mind. Lifting his left hand to his chest, Shin controlled the cerulean Koi. The fish started to swim excitedly in circles as a small water ball formed right beside it.
The sudden change of events stunned the assassin as he momentarily halted his attacks to prepare himself for the possible retaliation of his target. The water ball floated like a bubble and became more and more aqueous. From a size of a pea, the summoned water ball proliferated as if it was a balloon being filled with air.
‘Focus my mana into one point, and aim!’
Shin had been studying the Celestial Water Mantra ever since he visited the Athenaeum. However, even till now, he was unable to complete the book. But after reading the first half of the book, Shin gained a cursory understanding of how to manipulate his mana. Painstakingly, he managed to learn how to utilise his first spiritual ability and just yesterday, Shin learnt how to summon a water ball.
‘Alright, just a bit more mana until it bursts!’
As Shin predicted, after two seconds, when it reached the size of a watermelon, the ball of liquid that Shin had made exploded as water gushed out in all directions, dousing everything in a five-meter radius.
Shin and the assailant remained silent after the black-haired youth used his spiritual ability. The cerulean Koi floating on Shin’s hand started flapping its little fins haughtily, as if proud that it had managed to pull off its first ability. Shin, on the other hand, was downright dejected.
‘Ah! So embarrassing! Why did my first ability have to be this?!’
Despite the fact that he was in a battle that might determine his life, he had to go and do something silly.
Snorting in disgust, the attacker resumed his assault on Shin. As if angered that he was cautious for such a mundane ability, he started attacking without any care of defence.
‘Damn it! Where is Ariel?!!’
Desperately trying to escape death, Shin mentally shouted out his training partner’s name. She was taking way longer than he expected. As if his prayer was heard, a figure started approaching in from a distance.
‘Ariel?! Is she finally here?’
Relieved that he was able to take a break from the constant assault, Shin relaxed his anxious heart. Unfortunately, his composure was broken when he realised who had arrived.
‘What?! Another one of them?! Don’t tell me Ariel was defeated?’
When Ariel left to deal with her enemy, Shin had the utmost confidence that she would be able to beat him. Shin was present on the day when the little girl severely injured a Spirit Apostle in a practice match. Although the Spirit Apostle she fought did not use his Spirit, it was still a reasonably serious sparring session. Thus, it shocked everyone when Ariel managed to not only defeat her opponent but also disable him.
‘It can’t be… If Ariel lost to him, how could I win? Am I going to die today?’
Despondent and horrified, Shin theorised that he was going to live his final breath. The assassins were sent to kill him after all, now that there was no one blocking their way, they could finally complete their mission.
‘No! I’m still too young to die!’
Even though Shin’s current situation seemed grim, he wasn’t merely going to give up his life. The black-haired boy’s mind started spinning. At the seconds leading to his possible demise, Shin’s mind began to overwork itself thinking of possible paths out of his predicament. It was as if time had slowed down for Shin. His eyes darted everywhere. The assassins that were void of injuries, the earthy floor filled with grass and forest wildlife, the verdant trees that pillared all around him. Nothing was off limits as Shin visualised a way to escape his assailants. A way to live.
Glancing to his left, Shin caught eye of a peculiar object that lay unsuspectingly on the forest floor just a few meters from where he was standing. Elated to see that item, he started to formulate a plan.
‘Okay! It can work! I just need them to come closer…’
Finding a path to survive, Shin dashed to his left in short steps and gathered his mana once more. His first ability was rather useless in combat, but it had one advantage, the amount of mana needed to use that ability was rather small. The twins had a formidable first ability in the Ice Arrow, but the drawback is that they could only shoot three arrows before they ran out of mana. However, Shin was able to use his first ability more than a dozen times with the amount of mana he currently had.
Reaching his target, Shin summoned a water ball once more. The cerulean Koi once again spun around in circles, as if delighted that Shin was using its ability once more. The ball grew bigger and bigger until it eventually was big enough to fit a small dog.
The black-clothed assassin wielding two short knives ran straight at Shin. Having experienced the ability once before, he simply thought that Shin was gasping for straws and used the ability as he had nothing else to lose. He felt the wind blow past his face as he reached maximum speed. Aiming his weapons at his target’s throat to end his life once and for all.
‘Come on… A little bit closer…’
But he had played into Shin’s plans. Now that the assailant had thrown caution into the wind, he would be unable to retreat once the ball of water exploded. Of course, Shin’s plot was perilous, but it was the best way to immobilise his opponent.
‘Just a few more steps…’
Shin’s timing had to be impeccable. A few milliseconds earlier, the assassin would be out of range of his ability. A few milliseconds later, Shin loses his head.
Beads of sweat trickled down Shin’s face as he focused entirely on the opponent in front of him. His hands had started shivering in anticipation, but Shin was unable to notice it. He had to fixate all his attention at the knife-wielding assailant about to claim his life.
Once the assassin was a meter away from him, Shin used the water ball to pick up a red polka dot mushroom lying at his feet. The fungi started to float inside the aqueous ball, and an orange dust-like substance began to escape from it.
In that instant, the assailant finally understood Shin’s plans. He had recognised the mushroom and knew what damage its spores could do to a human’s body. Unfortunately, his earlier inertia made it impossible to stop in time. However, he had to try. He planted his feet into the forest floor and turned his body in another direction. The assassin was planning to attempt an escape away from the water ball.
But Shin was not kind enough to let his enemy slip away. The moment that black-garbed attacker sought to run, Shin willed the ball of water carrying the deadly mushroom spores to detonate. Liquids that had been drenched orange indiscriminately rushed out in all directions, soaking everything that it touched.
The assassin was no exception. The fluid landed all over the black-garbed man as if trying to marinate the assailant. Water seeped through the assassin’s clothes to come into contact with his skin. Not to mention, his eyes, which was uncovered, took the full brunt of the spore-infected liquid.
Crying out in agony, the assassin brought his hands up to cover his face. Currently, he felt as if ten thousand needles were pricking at his very being. His eyes and nose took the most amount of the spores, and thus, that area caused the most pain. Unable to bear the torment, the man fell to the forest floor and started to convulse.
Shin was speechless at the sudden turn of events. He even felt sympathy for the assassin that was about to kill him moments earlier. Thankfully, Shin was able to manipulate the water he created. Hence, he displaced any drops of liquid that might have reached him. Otherwise, he would have suffered the same fate, rolling helplessly on the floor.
All of a sudden, spiritual energy started gathering from the man who was jerking uncontrollably on the ground. As if it were a defence measure, the assassin’s Spirit began to form to help the defeated assailant weather through the gruesome experience he was having.
The other assassin, who was standing dumbfounded until now, regained his senses once he saw that crimson light was gathering where his partner was. During this mission, the Spirit Apostles had to ensure that they did not summon their Spirits. Once they did and the survivors of the assassination attempt recognised it when they returned to the Frie Clan, the Second Elder would be heavily implicated.
Leaping forward, the remaining assailant raised his steel sword high and attempted to finish off Shin before he could see the Spirit that his partner was about to summon. Once Shin dies, they will have completed the mission and can immediately retreat.
But it was not meant to be. Before the assassin could even reach Shin, the large object fell from the sky. Blocking his path to the black-haired boy.
The ground trembled once the bludgeon-like weapon hammered down on it. Instantly, the air started to dry, and the forest floor started to boil. The assassin, who was on his way to kill Shin, felt that his skin was about to melt from being near to the weapon that barred his path. Red liquid began to form from under the hammer where it contacted the ground, and it slowly spread outwards. Soon, a puddle of molten lava, not commonly seen in a forest, appeared in the area.
The assassin gulped as he backed away from the lava puddle and glanced at the perpetrator behind its formation.
“Hmph! Try running away again! Your head will be next!”
Lifting the Lava Warhammer Spirit up, a red-haired freckled girl, who seemed too petite to be carrying such a mammoth weapon, gave a thumbs-down gesture that pointed to the lava puddle. Usually, Shin would dread the days where he had to see her, but now, her appearance made him cheer joyfully.