“Lou, why don’t I stay here? You guys are the ones who need to meet her…”
Marshall suggested that he stayed outside while the group entered the decrepit building.
“Actually, I need to use the bathroom! Lou, you can take the two kids in. I’ll be right back!”
Ines, on the other hands, escaped far away before the Instructor could drag her in with him.
“Damn it, a bunch of spineless dimwits… Fine! I’ll go by myself! Junius, Shin. Follow me.”
The two orphans, who were still clueless at why their seniors were acting like a bunch of scaredy cats, nodded at the Instructor’s words, somewhat perplexed at their current situation. Why must they stop at this clinic before they ate? Why does everyone fear to enter this building? Why did the Instructor put on a bold look, but his legs were shaking like a leaf? All these questions emerged in their brains, but they dared not voice it.
Swallowing a mouthful of saliva, the Instructor wobbly legs started to firm up as he steeled his resolve. Straightening his back and putting on a valiant posture, he advanced straight towards the wooden doors of the storehouse.
The doors creaked open as the Instructor lightly pushed them open. To their surprise, the interior was nothing like the exterior of the storehouse. With the doors open, a breeze of clean air, with a tinge of sweet lavender incense, filled the noses of the newcomers. Peering into the clinic, Shin could see a hallway with two long, white ceramic benches on each side. Each bench was in pristine condition, reflecting any source of light that came into contact with it.
At the end of the hallway, there was a lone frosted glass door. Since the room was so well-lit, there was no way to see through that door and check if there was anyone in. Composing himself, the Instructor walked into the clinic gesturing for his students to do the same.
Taking a step into the building, Shin felt like he had entered another realm. A strange spiritual aura invigorated him, rousing his mana to emerge. Without thinking, Shin raised his hands to touch the pearly white walls. Feeling the cool yet comfortable surface, the black-haired boy closed his eyes. A primal instinct awoke from the inner depths of his soul as a cerulean light illuminated the snowy white room. Taking a seat on the bench nearest to him, Shin sat in a lotus position and started to meditate.
The next instant, a cute little cerulean Koi appeared in Shin’s hands, wagging its tail and flapping its fins in a bubbly frenzy. From the boy’s mouth, a series of ancient chants were spewed out, interrupting the peace and quiet of the sanctuary.
“He’s breaking through?!”
The Instructor was alarmed.
Shin had awakened The Sovereign Koi during the spiritual awakening ceremony and was taught the Celestial Water Mantra at the Athenaeum by his mother. And naturally, he had been practising how to cultivate ever since. When the Chief Librarian heard that Shin was leaving the clan, she had personally inscribed a copy of the Celestial Water Mantra kept in the Athenaeum.
Usually, doing so went against the policies laid down by the Frie Clan ancestors, but since Shin had only just begun to cultivate and was forced out of the clan, the Clan Master made an exception. Hence, even though he was far away from the mountain, he could still continue to cultivate.
Currently, Shin was a Rank 1 Spirit Practitioner. Due to recent circumstances, he had little instruction and time to cultivate. Furthermore, he had just awakened his Spirit. Hence, the Instructor was thoroughly surprised that he was showing signs of breaking into Rank 2.
When Junius was first cultivating, it took him over four months to enter Rank 2. And that was with rigorous training like summoning his Spirit to do sets of swordplay moves every single morning and physical exercise that would tire any grown adult.
But Shin only required a few weeks. Additionally, he did not have the hardcore training that Junius experienced.
‘I see how the higher-ups can see him as a threat. A Spirit User that triggered a natural phenomenon sure is frightening! Luckily the First Elder had to foresight to make him a healer…’
The Instructor mentally praised the one he served. It has only been a few weeks since the awakening ceremony, and yet Shin was breaking through. That kind of growth rate was unprecedented in the Frie Clan. If Shin was training as a fighter, in a few short decades, his strength might even trump the might of the Clan Master. By making him a healer, the upper echelons of the clan would only see him as an asset rather than a threat.
Meanwhile, Junius had his eyes bulging as he looked at his younger brother. He was the most familiar with Shin’s daily routine and knew how little he had actually cultivated. It was of no fault of his own though. From taking care of Junius’ daily needs to packing for their departure, there was simply too little time for Shin to cultivate. Hence, when Junius saw the familiar sight of a Spirit User breaking through, he didn’t know whether to feel happy for Shin or bitter at his own lack of talent.
The cerulean Koi swam around enthusiastically, oblivious to Junius and the Instructor’s feelings while waving its fins as if it were cheering Shin on. Employing the breathing technique taught in the Celestial Water Mantra, Shin continued to absorb the surrounding spiritual energy and convert it into his own mana.
The concept of entering a higher rank is simple. When the Spirit User’s Spirit had grown sufficiently, it would reach a threshold. From there, numerous factors could trigger a promotion. The most common of which is when the spiritual energy the Spirit User can absorb exceeds the amount of mana he produces. Of course, only the concept seems straightforward. Actually achieving that was rather difficult. Only by training the Spirit could such a situation occur.
The Sovereign Koi, which was baptised in the Lake of Celestials, was one of the most beloved Spirits in nature. Hence, its Spirit User would most certainly be favoured by the natural spiritual energy that the world produces.
A low murmur could be heard reverberating in the air as Shin stopped chanting. And after a few seconds…
“Ughhh… My head hurts…”
Shin’s eyelids drowsily opened as he raised his right hand to quell his throbbing headache.
There was no burst of light or an explosion of sound. Shin had just successfully cultivated into Rank 2 of the Spirit Practitioner realm. Other than a headache that Shin had, there were no other effects of breaking into a higher level.
“Shin, how do you feel?”
“Like someone hit my head with a frying pan…”
“Do you feel like you can generate more mana?”
“Hmmm? You’re right! What happened?!”
“Hahaha, congratulations! You’re now a Rank 2 Spirit Practitioner!”
The Instructor put on a bitter smile while congratulating the black-haired youth. His expression remained jovial, but his eyes betrayed a look of envy. When he had first begun cultivating, it took him half a year to break into Rank 2. And that was with a multitude of hardships. But this boy did it within a month and did so rather comfortably.
“Hey, Shin. What’s that on your lap?”
Junius noticed something queer sitting on the black-haired boy’s lap.
“Hmmm? What the?!”
Glancing downwards, Shin saw the source of Junius’ query. A snow white fur ball, the size of a watermelon, was situated snugly in between his thighs. The cerulean Koi in his hands was slightly peeved that a foreign object had entered its space and used its tail to whip the furball. However, that object remained tenaciously in place.
“Instructor… Does breaking through cause someone to lay an egg?”
Junius asked the muscular, middle-aged man. However, even he was bewildered. As a Spirit Lord, his senses were rather sharp, but he had not detected the furball before it was firmly situated on Shin’s lap.
Bringing his hands downwards, Shin attempted to move the strange object.
In that instant, the furball unravelled itself to reveal two large, perky black crystalline eyes. Coated in a thick, snowy white fur, the creature stared unwaveringly at Shin. Its lengthy tail twitched in annoyance at the cerulean Koi’s disturbance, and it used its pinkish claws to push the fish away.
“A gerbil? What’s this thing doing here?”
The Instructor voiced out the species of the creature lying comfortably on Shin’s lap.
“WHO’S USING MY CLINIC TO BREAK THROUGH AT THIS HOUR?!?!?!”
Before anyone could do anything about the creature, an adenoidal voice bellowed from the other side of the frosty, glass door at the end of the hallway.
Loud thuds shook the floorboards as a shadow appeared to come closer to the door.
“*Boom* *Boom* *Boom*.”
From the sounds of her footsteps, it was apparent that the owner of the clinic’s initial response to her visitors wasn’t pleasant.
The glass door swung open revealing a willowy, blonde elderly lady. Her white skin, which was surprisingly still plump, and her bright blue eyes hinted that if she were her prime, she would have been a real beauty. Her chiselled cheekbones rose up high, as the nostrils on her sharp nose flared. Strands of uncombed bed hair could be seen sticking out from her luscious blonde hair, suggesting that a few moments prior, she had been tucked in and enjoying her nap.
Draped in a regal white coat that hid her body, the elderly woman examined her unwelcome visitors. Although her eyes were still dreary, Shin could sense decades worth of experience as he peered into her pupils. Scanning the three individuals, her gaze stopped for a moment at the cute cerulean Koi, swimming freely in Shin’s palms. Squinting her eyes, she opened her mouth with a query:
“Who the hell are you?”