With trembling hands, Shin carefully held the golden stone tablet close to his chest. Everything that he had been training for the past three years had boiled down to this moment. Truth to be told, when he was forced into the path of the healer, the boy felt nothing of it. He was insanely talented, and from young, everything came to him with ease. Following the instructions of those above him, Shin had always accomplished the tasks that were bestowed unto him. If one were to compare him with an object, he would be a lone leaf following the flow of the river. Wherever the currents took him, Shin would go.
Be it training in hand-to-hand combat or learning educational materials from the headmistress, Shin had always gone with the flow. There wasn’t anything wrong with him, it was just his inherent personality. Shin didn’t like to put too much effort into thinking about how he lived his life. As long as he was happy and his loved ones were safe, he didn’t care much about his future.
However, for the first time ever, he was at a major crossroad. Should he follow down the path laid down by his Master, he would become a healer and trying to divert to a different route in future would prove immensely onerous. Although he had no attachments to the life of a fighter, he could not help but wonder if the path of a healer was the right choice for him.
Seeing the hesitation in the eyes of her disciple, Lady Seph concernedly asked Shin.
“It’s nothing… I’m just wondering if the path of the healer is the right one for me…”
Typically, the young boy would not share his buried feelings with others. However, today was special. Just yesterday, a flood of emotions had overwhelmed him, and it nearly cost his life. Furthermore, the blonde woman, who had guided him all these years, was no stranger to Shin. In the three years, he had interacted with Lady Seph, there were times where he wondered if he weren’t an orphan, would he communicate with his own biological grandmother like how he treated Lady Seph.
“Shin… Are you having second thoughts about this path?”
“No! Not at all! Everything that I have been doing over the past three years was so that I could become a healer. I just didn’t expect it to come this fast…”
Adamantly denying his Master’s claim, Shin violently shook his head left and right. However, in his eyes, Lady Seph could sense a tinge of anxiety and uncertainty. Over the years, Shin had slowly morphed from a prepubescent boy into a young teen that had shed all of his baby fat. Shin’s long silky black hair that covered his ears had given him a sense of mystique that made him look more mature than his age suggests. However, no matter how hard she looked, all Lady Seph saw was the young snot-nosed brat that barged into her clinic that fateful day.
“It’s alright, many people feel this way before they start an uncertain route. But let me tell you something, Shin…”
Bringing her thin hands upwards, Lady Seph found the crown of her disciple’s head. With a tender touch, the elderly woman lovingly stroked the young teen’s hair.
“Who said that you will only be a healer?”
Shin had been living the past three years, desperately reading medical journals, studying the human body, dissecting dead animals, all under the assumption that he was going to enter the path of the healer. He learnt how to clean wounds and which medicines are best for treating diseases. Everything under the sun was subject to his studies. Yet, now his Master was telling him he wouldn’t only be a healer.
“Don’t get me wrong, your main profession will still be a healer… However, there has always been this old expression. Never put all your eggs in one basket. I don’t want you to become just a boring old doctor that only knows how to mend broken bones. Why do you think I let Junius train you every morning in martial arts?”
“What do you mean?”
“Shin. Let me paint this scenario for you. When you are on the battlefield, which I’m pretty sure you will be in your lifetime, do you think the enemy would sit there and let you resurrect your fallen allies?”
“Exactly! So you must be able to fend off enemies for yourself! That’s why Junius taught you martial arts, that’s why I taught you how to make the paralysing drug in your second gourd!”
Looking down at his waist, Shin gently caressed the two gourds that had been gifted to him a few years back. Initially, he had no idea why Lady Seph was so particular when it came to those two gourds. However, after hearing his Master explain herself, he was starting to get the gist of the situation.
“As a healer, your head is the second most coveted prize, next to the commanders. That’s why even I have learnt some spiritual abilities that immobilise all my opponents. After all, you can’t heal if you aren’t alive…”
Realising the point that Lady Seph was trying to make, Shin felt enlightened.
“So there’s no need to worry, Shin. The path of the healer is righteous and fulfilling. Imagine one day, if your loved ones were severely injured, as you know, every second count. Instead of dragging their dying bodies to a nearby quack, wouldn’t you want to be the one who personally administers their healing?”
When Lady Seph said those words, Shin’s mind was instantaneously brought back to the day where Junius got injured in the forest at Frie Mountain. His body trembled as he recalled the despair he felt. Cupping his elbows together, Shin began to wonder, if he was a healer back then, could he had prevented Junius from going through the pain of losing his ability to walk.
For some reason, after the image of Junius being injured emerged, another particular figure came up. An amazonian-like girl, who boasted perfect proportions for someone of her age, appeared in Shin’s subconscious. Her gorgeous scarlet hair that flowed to her hourglass waist and ruddy freckles would turn any heads if she were walking down a street. Although she had way more defined muscles than an average girl, her spongy baby fat still covered her entire body, making her look harmless.
Shin didn’t know why the image of the girl that visited him every month popped up in his head at this moment. Shaking his head, Shin’s healthy complexion turned as red as a tomato as he pushed out the thought that he had.
“Shin, never underestimate the abilities of the healer. Not to mention, it is a highly desirable profession. People would bend over backwards to purchase your services.”
Finally, Lady Seph gently grasped Shin’s two hands, which were still holding on to the hereditary opuscule and said:
“Don’t worry child… It’s the right path for you. I know your character. You are a kind-hearted and noble soul that loves his closest kin. There’s no way you are suited for the path of a warrior. You would much rather protect the ones you love most.”
Shin felt his consciousness shudder as his eyes met his Master’s. Every word that she said had pierced into his fragile heart. He felt as if the woman was able to read the deepest parts of his mind that even he didn’t know existed.
Affirming his decision, Shin closed his eyes and circulated his mana. The Sovereign Koi, which had been dormant until now, materialised into the world while eagerly flapping all of its fins as if it was aware of what was about to happen. A bright cerulean light enveloped the boy like a casing as Shin directed his mana into the golden stone tablet that he was holding.
Unlike her usual repugnant self, Lady Seph wore a tender smile as her hands lit up with a golden light. Transferring a little bit of mana over to her disciple, she kick-started the initiation process of learning the ability.
“Good luck, Shin…”
Now, everything was all on the prodigious disciple. For learning a new spiritual ability, there was not really much she could do to help Shin. However, she had no doubt that the young teen would perfectly master ‘Heal.’ She was even eager to see what would Shin’s interpretation of the ability be. But for now, all she could do is kick back, relax and witness the birth of the youngest ever healer in history.
While Lady Seph was enjoying her tea in the material world, Shin felt a cold and bitter darkness encroaching on his body. Sharply opening his ‘eyes,’ the young teen observed his surroundings. To his surprise, the ever so familiar office had disappeared. The strong and sturdy wooden desk, the cushioned seats that aided in his daily recoveries and finally, his Master and her pet. They were all gone. Moving his ‘body’ around, Shin tried to get his bearings and figure out where he was. However, all he saw was darkness.
“Wait a second… This is awfully similar to the time I awakened my Spirit!”
Remembering the Day of Spirits, when he first entered his spiritual body, Shin finally realised where he was. An icy cold crawled up his skin as Shin felt the hairs on his ‘body’ all stand up. It was a similar experience he had when the Shrine Maiden removed her spiritual energy from him. However, unlike the last time, Shin had an abundance of mana stacked inside of him.
“Phew, that was close… Now, what must I do…”
As the cerulean light descended on his ‘body,’ Shin was protected from the cold; but now, he was unsure of how to proceed. When he sent his mana into the hereditary opuscule, Shin vaguely saw the intricate runes light up, and before he knew it, he was already sent into his spiritual body.
“How do people even enter their spiritual bodies in the first place? When I return, I must ask Master…”
Although he was curious about the mysteries surrounding the spiritual body, he had to put them on hold as he had to focus on the task at hand.
“Since I had to find my Spirit during my spiritual awakening ceremony, for learning a second spiritual ability must I do the same?”
Sensing his connection to The Sovereign Koi, Shin attempted to summon his Spirit. Surprisingly, the cute little cerulean Koi compiled and appeared right in front of the youth, stunning him in the process.
“Wait, if you’re here, what am I supposed to do?”
Wagging its tail like an excited puppy, The Sovereign Koi pointed its head to the right of the boy, as if telling him that what his sought was in that direction.
“Ah, what the hell…”
Seeing that that was nothing else he could do, Shin heeded his Spirit’s advice and promptly made his way right. His spiritual body was like an endless road led to nowhere. Everywhere he went, he was surrounded by eternal darkness that didn’t seem to change. In here, Shin would never tire, but he would also not know how far he had to travel. As he traversed an unfathomable amount of ground, the young boy was starting to doubt the authenticity of his Spirit’s instructions.
Just as he was about to give up, from a distance, a huge oceanic blue light could be seen.
Kicking off from the ground, Shin felt his ‘body’ propel forward at a speed that was unimaginable in the material realm. It did not take long but eventually…
“What the hell?!”
Shin was greeted by a familiar sight. A vast lake that had neither currents nor waves had appeared in his spiritual body. In fact, compared to the last time he was here, the lake had expanded to over ten times its initial size. Before he could mouth out a single word, a golden light shone at the centre of the lake, as if beckoning for visitors to come. The Sovereign Koi agitatedly spun around in circles and levitated towards the golden light.
As he was contemplating on the best way to cross the lake to get to follow the cute little Koi, Shin felt a pat on his back, pushing him from the shore and into the lake. Amazingly, instead of falling down and getting drenched, Shin was still standing upright as if he were on land. Turns out, in his spiritual body, he was able to walk on water!
“Hahaha! I’m a magician!”
Every time he stepped on the liquid surface, soft ripples spread out from the point of contact disrupting the calm, unperturbed waters of the lake. Before he got carried away, Shin brought his focus back unto the matter at hand. Chasing the cerulean Koi, the young teen slowly but surely edged closer to the radiant golden light in the middle of the lake.