In the stillness of the room, a low murmur buzzed, breaking its complete silence. Sitting in a lotus position on his bed, Shin rested his two hands on his lap as The Sovereign Koi joyfully spun round in circles. A dim cerulean aura started to emit out from the young boy causing the temperature of the enclosed room to drop drastically. Shin’s chest inflated and deflated every time he took in a deep breath as he entered a serene state.
Absorbing the abundant spiritual energy from his surroundings, Shin felt his body lose its weight as a tranquil feeling overwhelmed his body. Before he began to cultivate, intense emotions of fear, sorrow and pity were circulating in his head. Shin was afraid that he might have to leave the place he called home once more. Anguished that if Aldrich’s Keep fell, thousands if not millions would either die or have their lives torn apart. And finally, pitiful about the situation Lymark was under.
Unbeknownst to Shin, the wealth of emotions caused his mana to run amok in the initial stages of his cultivation session. Due to him consuming the replenishment pill that Lady Seph had personally formed, his spiritual body was extremely perceptive to even the most minute changes in his psyche. The Sovereign Koi in his hands fixated its large black eyes on its master as if worried that if he continued down this path, something disastrous might happen.
All of a sudden, Shin felt a blazing heat emerging out from his abdomen. His silken pyjamas started to become drenched with cold sweat as he felt his body spiral out of control. Shin’s arms trembled, and he perceived himself falling down an endless pit of darkness and gloom. All the while, the young boy had been chanting the fifth chapter of the Celestial Water Mantra vehemently in his mind.
The Celestial Water Mantra was explicitly tailored for Spirit Users who had contracted either one of the Eight Scions of Water. Being descendants of the Celestial Water Dragon, each one of the scions harboured the innate ability to transcend any other Spirit to stand at the apex of the cultivation world. However, there was one major drawback when it came to the Celestial Water Mantra. It was too profound.
Up to this day, there had not been any Spirit Immortals that possessed the Eight Scions of Water due to how difficult it was to cultivate the Celestial Water Mantra to perfection. Every single sentence in the manual can be interpreted in a million different ways, and there were often times where a Spirit User re-reads the entire book and found a different path for their cultivations. Even Rank 90 Spirit Saints were not an exception to this phenomenon.
The current chapter Shin recited was one that he had read many times before. Even he did not know why he chose this chapter in his cultivation session today.
As if being placed into an incinerator, Shin’s body was sweating profusely, dousing his bedsheets with salty perspiration. The cerulean aura that enveloped the young cultivator grew to twice its previous size as it erratically shifted through the air. Just as Shin felt as if he could no longer hold on, something in his mind clicked.
“Water, the progenitor of life. Fear it. Love it. Detest it. Everything returns to it.”
The words in the manual resonated in his mind. What were emotions? Why did he feel for the poor man who travelled all the way from Aldrich’s Keep, risking his life in the process, to deliver the message to his Master? Why did he feel despondent when he speculated that he was leaving the waypoint? Why was he hateful when his Master did not immediately accept the man’s request to save thousands of lives?
All these questions and more surfaced in the depths of his sub-consciousness. However, no matter how hard he thought, he could not decipher the reason why emotions existed. And then, he repeated the last line.
“Everything returns to it…”
At that moment, the mana in his body stabilised, and the cerulean aura dimmed down, returning to the boy’s body. Reaching an epiphany, Shin felt his spiritual body calm down, like an ocean after a violent storm.
“That’s right. Everything returns to dust. Why should I be so bothered by my emotions?”
The exact moment he thought of those words, a warm and powerful energy, unlike the turbulent one from before, surged up in his body, strengthening every cell that he possessed. Like a hungry vacuum, Shin absorbed the surrounding spiritual energy aggressively. Feeling every pore in his body open, the young boy took a deep breath in as his mana became increasingly enriched. Seeing that its master was out of danger, The Sovereign Koi flapped its fins jubilantly and proceeded to merge back into Shin.
The process of Shin refining his mana took an extended period of time. About an hour to be precise. Every time he felt the surge of energy welling up from his abdomen, Shin relaxed his muscles, attempting to yield himself into the comfortable feeling. Now that he had reached a revelation, Shin allowed his worries to melt away. Soon, the effects of the pill that Lady Seph had given Shin diminished as he felt his cultivation rate slow down.
Usually, after every cultivation session, Shin would feel lethargic and would immediately want to take a nap. However, this time, he was brimming with energy. Peering into his spiritual body, he saw that the amount of mana stored inside was like a boiling pot. The energy inside of him was gunning to be released but the lid capping it was preventing it from happening.
While he was puzzled by the strange occurrence, Shin felt his consciousness return to him. From the insides of his room, he heard a variety of voices calling out his name. Opening his tightly shut eyes, Shin drowsily tried to make out the figures standing in front of him.
“Shin! You’re finally awake!”
“Shin! Are you alright?”
Junius and Riko, who were disturbed by the abnormal change in spiritual energy, hurriedly rushed into Shin’s room to determine the state of the youth. Breaking into the enclosed area, they found the young boy drenched to the bone as if he was playing in the rain, seated in a lotus position atop his bed. The spiritual energies in the room were highly unstable as the aura being emitted from Shin made them lose their bearings.
Just as they were about to assist the boy escape from his predicament, an immense phantom, shrouded in an ethereal fog, appeared behind Shin. A primal terror crept up the two Spirit Users spine as they stood rooted to the floor, unable to approach the youth. The next instant, the phantom enveloped the boy as all of the spiritual energy in the surroundings disappeared into Shin’s body, balancing out his condition.
With the boy mended, the phantom dissipated as quickly as it appeared, leaving behind a stabilised Shin, who was still madly affixed in his cultivation session.
“Yeah… Why are you all in my room?”
Oblivious of the commotion that he had caused, Shin, who was still in a delirious state, questioned the two on why they entered his room during his cultivation session.
“Why? What were YOU doing?! Do you know how worried we were?!”
Riko cried out. Although they knew that Shin’s condition had been remedied once the phantom did its work, the duo was still frightened that something might have gone awry with the youth.
“I just cultivated… By the way, Junius. I feel like something is not right with my spiritual body.”
Other than his Master, Shin always consulted his elder brother when it came to matters regarding cultivation. After all, Junius was much more diligent as compared to Shin.
“What?! Is there something wrong?!”
Worried that Shin had destroyed his cultivation path, Junius shouted out.
“No, it’s not that… My spiritual body seems to have reached some sort of bottleneck. It is filled with mana and looks like it might burst anytime…”
As he said those words, the duo’s eyes widened as if they were about to be gouged out from their sockets. Shin didn’t know what that meant, but they evidently did.
“J-Junius… How old was Shin again?”
Riko’s voice quivered slightly as she asked the tall teenager standing next to her.
“He will be celebrating his thirteenth birthday in a month’s time…”
“So he’s still twelve… Haha, oh, my god…”
With a bitter smile, Riko questioned everything she knew about cultivation. Approaching a nearby cushioned seat, the sultry woman sunk into the chair while rubbing the temples of her head.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
Unsure of why Riko was behaving eccentrically, Shin titled his head in confusion and asked the elder brother of his, who had always been so reliable. But as he looked at the youth, all he saw was a dispirited viridian-haired teen, who wore the exact same expression as Riko.
“Shin, you’re probably at the peak of Rank 9 now. At any time, you can break through into the Spirit Apostle realm.”
It was no wonder that the duo were dismayed. A Spirit Apostle at twelve years and eleven months old. To put into context how great that achievement was, the current record in the Frie Clan for a Spirit Practitioner to reach the Spirit Apostle realm was twelve years and eight months. However, that was with the support of Frie mountain, where the elemental spirits thrived and the innumerable amounts of precious materials provided by the elders of the clan.
Unlike the record holder, Shin did not have all those benefits, making his achievement all the more impressive. Junius himself reached the Spirit Apostle realm at fourteen years and three months, making him one of the more outstanding talents in the Frie Clan. However, compared to Shin, he was more than a year slower. Trying his best to prevent his jealousy from spilling out, Junius further explained the situation to his prodigious younger brother.
“Now that you’re at the peak of Rank 9, you can learn a new spiritual ability. Once you’ve learnt it, you will officially step into the Spirit Apostle realm. That you must consult Lady Seph for… Congrats, Shin…”
Half happy for his younger brother and half annoyed that his talent was so overwhelming, Junius eyes glazed as half-heartedly celebrated Shin’s accomplishment.
“I’m at the peak of Rank 9? But I just reached Rank 9 one month ago!!!”
“Oh god damn it, just shut up!”
Although Junius knew that the black-haired boy wasn’t gloating, he couldn’t help but feel slightly miffed when he saw that ignorant and pure expression of shock on Shin’s face. After a while, Junius realised that instead of feeling envious, he should be proud that Shin had reached this milestone at such a tender age.
“Hah… Go and rest. You must be fatigued from the earlier cultivation session…”
Wearing a bitter smile, Junius dragged Riko, who was still trapped in a daze, out of the room to allow Shin to get some rest.