A deafening shriek echoed through the empty alleyway of a remote corner in the western ward. The shout was so loud that nearby bystanders that were far away had to plug their fingers into their ears to prevent themselves from going deaf. In a clean and charming building, a blonde elderly woman opened her eyes fully like saucers and stared at the black-haired boy, who was cheekily rubbing his nose in front of her.
“You’re at the peak of Rank 9? Didn’t you just advance a month ago?”
“Yeah… Yesterday when I returned, I immediately got to training. For some reason, I managed to reach the peak of Rank 9.”
Falling into her chair, Lady Seph looked at the young boy as if she was studying an enigma. Covering her mouth, the elderly woman furrowed her brows and gently closed her eyes, entering into a state of deep thought. The news that Shin had brought her was way too timely. While she was considering whether she should accept her old friend’s call to protect Aldrich’s Keep, her protege came and told her that he was about to break into the Spirit Apostle realm.
Lady Seph had already planned for Shin to learn ‘Heal’ for his second spiritual ability and wasn’t a war zone the perfect place to learn and practice such an ability?
‘Are the heavens playing a joke on me? Must I really return to the military?’
Mentally cursing the heavens above, Lady Seph gingerly opened her eyes to notice her disciple fidgeting. His mouth twitched ever so slightly as his dreary eyes betrayed a sense of nervousness. Shin did not know what to expect from his Master once he reached the peak of Rank 9 so he was unsure on whether he should report on the fact, especially in a time where Lady Seph had the matter on Aldrich’s Keep to worry about.
“Hah… It’s fine, you did well, Shin…”
Beckoning to Shin, Lady Seph signalled for the black-haired boy to come closer to her desk. Once he was within reach, the elderly lady flashed a warm and proud smile, stroking the silky hair of her disciple. Lady Seph rarely gave out compliments thus, when Shin heard her affectionate words, he felt like a thunderbolt had struck him. Being a thirteen-year-old boy, Shin had entered the stage where he wanted others to treat him like an adult rather than a child. However, feeling the heartfelt touch of his Master, he decided against pushing Lady Seph’s hand away.
‘Fine then… For this child…’
Steeling her resolve, Lady Seph decided to make the hard choice. Words cannot adequately describe how much she hated to return to the wretched place that was the military but for the sake of her disciple, she made up her mind. The duo did not spend much time together, but Lady Seph had begun to favour the boy even more so than her old-time friends that went through thick and thin with her.
Their personalities were like oil and water. One was an unreasonable old wretch while the other was a cunning little fox. There were many times where they clashed, and it ended up with Shin convulsing on the floor like a fish out of water. There were also times where the boy drove her absolutely hysterical due to his antics. But one day, when Shin was unable to make it to the clinic, the elderly woman felt a surge of loneliness well up in her heart.
Ever since the day that they met, Shin had added some colour to her mundane life. Lady Seph had no partners or children as she was virtually married to her books. In the past, when she was in the prime of her life, all she cared for was the pursuit of knowledge to become the best healer there ever was. Days of study turned into years, and before she knew it, she had transformed from this beautiful maiden that every male in the empire lusted for into a middle-aged senior that had lost her suitors.
However, that did not deter her. Lady Seph continued on her quest to become the best healer in the world; and to a certain extent, she had achieved that goal. In the modern day, who hasn’t heard of her mystical abilities at Yara Pass? Nothing mattered to Lady Seph. As long as she was the best healer in the world, she did not care much about her personal life. But one day, when she was hard at work researching in her extensive laboratory, she noticed something peculiar.
Other than herself, there was not a single soul in sight. Lady Seph’s devotion to her work had manifested an unsociable behaviour where she had shunned anyone who attempted to get close in her life. To protect her research, she had fired all sorts of assistants, who were all major fans of hers. In the end, she was all alone.
When ‘that’ incident happened, and she decided to leave the military and politics altogether, there was no one to wave her goodbye in the capital. There was no one she could confide in or share her troubles with. She was all alone. The only partner that she had was the adorable snowy-white gerbil that had accompanied her since her days in the military.
Leaving the capital and relocating to a remote corner in an obscure waypoint where her face was not publically recognisable, Lady Seph thought that she could start anew. Alas, reality wasn’t that kind. Her erratic and antagonistic character chased any patients away, leaving her isolated once more. Used to the lack of human touch, Lady Seph just carried on with her research and continued to live the life of a lone wolf.
Yet, one day, a particular trio barged into her empty clinic bearing the mark of the Frie Clan, the clan of one of her old acquaintances. It was by pure coincidence that she chose to live in Chilyoja Waypoint, which was a stone throw distance away from Frie Mountain. However, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that her random pick had led her to a fateful encounter.
Lady Seph’s first impressions of Shin were dismal. He had been forced onto her by the First Elder, whom she had owed a favour. But slowly, after a few days of interacting with the boy, she had started to get more intrigued by Shin. He was a slothful young boy and hated to use excessive force when doing tasks. However, his ability to learn was second to none. Even though he hated to do the assignments he was given, Shin would begrudgingly finish them on time and with little mistakes.
Over the years, due to his presence, the number of people who entered her clinic seeking aid had gradually increased. His hard work in renovating the building had also helped to improve the overall vibe of the place. The once cold and desolate clinic was now filled with warmth that she had never felt before. Although the boy drove her mad at times, he had also brought tremendous amounts of joy just by growing up under her tutelage.
Thus, for the sake of her disciple’s growth, no matter how much she hated the idea of stepping foot into a military base, Lady Seph knew that it was the right thing to do. She gave Shin a gaze of ardent love as the young boy purred in her pleasant touch.
Unaware that his advancement had caused a significant shift in his Master’s psyche, Shin’s face started to redden as he enjoyed the rare praise that Lady Seph had bestowed unto him.
“Alright then, care to tell me what you know about entering the Spirit Apostle realm?”
Taking her mind off the issue of Aldrich’s Keep, Lady Seph asked Shin on the extent of his knowledge.
“A-ah! Nothing much actually… All I know is that I have to learn a spiritual ability from Master…”
With an abashed face, Shin breathed in multiple times to regain his composure. He felt embarrassed by his earlier actions.
“You’re not wrong, but not totally right either. You’re not learning a spiritual ability from me, you yourself are learning a spiritual ability.”
“Huh? I don’t get it…”
At the odd explanation that his Master gave, Shin titled his head to the side and gave Lady Seph a look of confusion.
“Haha, I guessed you wouldn’t understand… To begin with, I have to explain to you what are spiritual abilities…”
Now that she had her emotions in check, Lady Seph signalled for Shin to take a seat while she reclined back in her chair. Stirring the cup of tea in front of her, the elderly woman took a sip before beginning her long explanation.
“Spiritual abilities are a strange phenomenon. Like Spirits, experts argue over the exact origins of how they came to be. Some claim that spiritual abilities are just the by-products of owning a Spirit. Others say that spiritual abilities are the gifts sent from the heavens, a law of nature one might say. However, one thing is certain, the spiritual ability you learn is something that will something unique, that only you can use.”
“Let me give you an example. That young lad you call the Instructor and your fellow roommate, Junius. Both of them have learnt the ability ‘Elemental Ring,’ am I right?”
Noticing that she had lost Shin in the explanation, Lady Seph opted to go for a visual aid.
“Since Junius has the Azure Water Blade, which is a water elemental spirit, he had visualised the ‘Elemental Ring’ ability like a savage flowing river that is as sharp as any sword. Your Instructor, on the other hand, uses the ‘Elemental Ring’ like a burning explosive, decimating anything in his path. Do you get the picture?”
Shin had seen how both the Instructor and Junius used the Elemental Ring. Thinking about it, he saw the point that Lady Seph was trying to make.
“Thus, although the two spiritual abilities are in concept the same, two different Spirit Users will manifest unique properties once they learn of it. This is something that you have to keep in mind. Whenever you’re learning a new spiritual ability, you should not strive to copy it exactly. Try to make it compatible to your own Spirit. Each Spirit User has their own unique experiences and how they perceive the world. There are instances where talented Spirit Users even create their own spiritual abilities as there were none out there that was suited for them!”
Lady Seph raised her voice into a cry as she emphasised the importance of not blindly copying spiritual abilities. In her many years in the military, she had seen many youngsters ruin their cultivation path just because they wanted to emulate the successes of their predecessors. However, instead of making a name for themselves, the most they amounted to was being a footnote in the annals of history. Not wanting her beloved disciple to follow their ill-fated path, Lady Seph gave Shin a sombre gaze.
Brightening up, Lady Seph produced a delighted smile.
“Now, onto the next topic. About the spiritual ability that I am about to impart onto you.”
Gulping down a mouthful of saliva, Shin’s eyes glistened as his ears perked up. After all, his Master’s next words were the one that he had come for.
“Let’s talk about ‘Heal’…”