‘A Spirit Saint?!’
Of all the information that he had just been handed, the fact that the black-haired woman standing in front of Shin was a Spirit Saint was perhaps that most shocking. In the current Terre Continent, the number of Spirit Saints were so scarce that one could count them with the fingers on four hands. Legend has it that a Spirit Saint was able to move mountains with just a thought and their powers could flatten any enemies that stood before them. In fact, the reason why the major superpowers could retain their position was precisely due to the existence of such entities protecting their land. It was hard to even catch a glimpse of a Spirit Saint, let alone meet them in person. Yet, at this exact moment, Shin was staring straight at one such figure.
“Master’s master?! But you look so young!” Shin shouted out in complete shock. After trekking around the waypoint in search for Junius, he had next to no energy left but yet, when it was revealed that young black-haired woman in front of him was actually Lady Seph’s Master, the fatigued teen could feel all his lost energy being regained in an instant.
“Hah… As expected you’re fooled by that as well… Don’t worry, Shin. Although she looks like that, in truth she’s an old dinosaur that had lived for more than three centuries. She just has some perverted tendencies to revert back to her younger self at will.” Answering her ignorant disciple’s questions, Lady Seph insulted her Master and explained everything in a single breath.
“Hey, is that the kind of tone you use to talk to your Master? Who wouldn’t want to look young and beautiful all your life?! You’re the strange one that likes to remain in your older self! If you train rejuvenation strong enough, I’m sure you can do the same.”
“Shut it! I have better research to do! Besides, you only use that ability so that you can seduce unsuspecting young men right?!”
“HUH?! You have become rather insolent after leaving my tutelage after so many years! I think I should roughen you up just like the olden days huh?!” Baring her fangs while raising her milky white fists, Althea threatened to beat Lady Seph up, causing the typically fearless elderly woman to take one step back. If one looked closely, they would be able to observe the cold sweat beads that formed on her wrinkled forehead.
“Now, now… There’s no need to come to that… Put down the fist oh beloved Master of mine…”
“Hmph! That’s better!” Raising her chin up to celebrate her victory, the beautiful black-haired woman proudly smiled.
‘Ahhh… So that’s where Master learnt her violent ways from…’ Shin quietly thought in his mind. The image of Althea raising her fist was so reminiscent of Lady Seph that it bordered on deja vu for Shin. Of course, being experienced in getting hit or struck by his Master, there was no way that Shin would voice out his opinion, lest he gets bombarded by not one, but two vicious women who had no notion of what disciple care was.
“Back to business! Child, what’s your name?” Losing interest in the dejected Lady Seph, Althea questioned the young boy who was in a daze.
“My name is Shin! Errr, Grandmaster?”
“Hahaha, sure! You can call me that! So Shin, how is my precious disciple treating you? Is she a good teacher?”
“Ah, yeah… She may be harsh at times, but I know it’s all because Master wants me to grow as fast as possible…” Hesitant about revealing all the days where he cursed Lady Seph to death due to her vicious training, Shin simply replied with the most appropriate answer that he could think of.
“I see! I see! You’re such a good kid! Not only that, you’re already a Spirit Apostle at such a young age! Hahaha, if you keep it up, you’ll probably learn ‘Heal’ before you reach twenty! Keep it up, young lad!” Vigorously rubbing the black-haired youth’s head, Althea praised Shin vehemently while giving him words of encouragement in the process.
“But, I already learnt ‘Heal’…”
“Hahaha, that’s right! You will be… able… to learn… Wait, what do you mean you already learnt ‘Heal’?! Aren’t you just a Spirit Apostle?!” Althea’s jubilant expression had slowly turned into one of complete shock.
“I learnt ‘Heal’ to promote into the Spirit Apostle realm…”
“Wait, wait, WAIT!!! H-H-How old are you Shin?”
“Thirteen?! Judging from your mana pool, it must have been some time since you promoted… Seraphim! What’s this about?!” Realising that it was faster to ask Shin’s Master on all the details, Althea turned her head to find the elderly blonde woman with a cheeky smirk on her face.
“It is what it is… I taught him ‘Heal’ when I thought he was ready, and he learnt it. Nothing special about that.” Trying her hardest to retain her deadpan expression to mess with the Spirit Saint, Lady Seph acted like it was no big deal.
“You bloody… Urgh… Seraphim, I order you to tell me the exact age, to the day, that Shin promoted to the Spirit Apostle realm! Withhold any information and I will hold you in my iron armpits for a full hour!” Nonchalantly placing out a threat that could only frighten Lady Seph, Althea glared at her disciple as she waited for the information.
“Fine… Fine… When Shin first learnt ‘Heal,’ he was twelve years, eleven months and twenty-four days old. Currently, he had stayed in Rank 10 for over a month, and I assume it would take him a few more to reach Rank 11.”
“At what age did he enter your tutelage?”
“I think a month or so after he awakened his Spirit. So around ten?”
“Hold up… You’re telling me, you taught him all of the basics to learn ‘Heal’ in less than three years?!” At this point, Althea couldn’t be bothered to get shocked anymore. Nonetheless, she still wanted to know the entire truth.
“Yeah… I know it sounds hard to believe, but that’s the truth.”
“…” Now it was Althea’s turn to drop her jaw. In all her three hundred years roaming this earth, she had never heard of a talent that could learn ‘Heal’ in a mere three years.
“Of all people, to think that you are the one who would hide something like this from me. You nurtured the youngest healer in history, and you didn’t even bother to report it to the Healer’s Association?!” Exasperated that Lady Seph would hide Shin from her, Althea turned her head towards the young teen and intensely stared at him.
Taken aback by the sudden attention, Shin matched the beautiful woman’s gaze with his own. Gulping down a mouthful of saliva, the young teen felt like his soul was being enthralled by the mesmerising pitch black eyes of Althea. Even though she was old enough to be considered his ancestor, Shin could not help but feel fascinated by her elegant allure.
“Can I take him?” Licking her lips as if she found a scrumptious meal, the Spirit Saint gave Shin a greedy look that was not suited for viewing a minor. A cold shiver ran up the teen’s spine causing goosebumps to form all over his body. Carefully taking one step backwards, Shin instinctively opened a distance between him and the smiling beauty. At this moment, he felt like an ordinary house rat facing an indomitable python that was hell-bent on eating its prey.
“Hah?! What makes you think that you can snatch Shin from me?! He’s my disciple!” One of the reasons why Lady Seph felt so apprehensive when she heard that her Master was attending the meeting was because she feared that Althea might steal Shin from right under her nose.
“Haha, I’m just joking! There’s no need to be so uptight!”
“With you, I’ll never know… Perhaps you might really force me to give Shin up because you want him as a disciple.”
“As I said, I’m just pulling your leg. Unless you really want me to take him away…”
“Screw off!” Pulling Shin into her embrace like a mother protecting her child, Lady Seph vehemently denied Althea’s offer. While Lady Seph was up in arms about protecting her disciple, the person in question was simply stunned that the seemingly infallible Master of his displayed a different side to herself that he had never seen before.
“Wow, you have really changed since I last saw you, Seph… Fine, I’ll stop joking. Either way, we have important business to tend to… Is the representative from the Himmel Empire here?” Seeing that continue down this path of conversation would bear no fruit, Althea changed the topic while secretly observing a certain unsuspecting youth.
“Yeah, he’s waiting outside…” Raising her eyebrows, Lady Seph gave her Master an odd look. It was unlike Althea to give up on obtaining something once it catches her eye. Being a Spirit Saint, if she wanted something, she could just take it, and no one would be able to defy her. In fact, although Lady Seph had every intention to fight Althea to her last breath if she wanted to snatch the disciple she worked so hard to nurture. Thus, even though the Spirit Saint seemed to have lost interest, the elderly blonde woman refused to let go of Shin.
Opening the door to the corridor, Lady Seph revealed a tall and lanky man draped in full body armour. Thick shoulder guards and thigh guards made of Spirit Beast hide, reinforced with steel protected all of his vital parts, giving him a certain indomitable aura. Standing at over two metres tall, his muscular frame served to frighten anyone who came near and posed as a significant asset when it came to intimidating opponents. Brown leather gloves and massively armoured boots that had either been dirtied or torn indicated that the man was no desk-seater. The faint stench of death and blood was being emitted out from the man’s body, forcing Shin to inadvertently cover his nasal cavities. If it were before, the smell would have been invisible to Shin and he would remain oblivious. However, after the terrible battle at Aldrich’s Keep, the young healer was much more attuned to the putrid smell.
“Pleased to meet you, Your Holiness. My name is Elbert.” Putting forth his hand, General Elbert humbly addressed the Spirit Saint that had led the Healer’s Association for countless years. Evidently, he had been briefed about the situation beforehand. Otherwise, if it were in any other setting, no matter how experienced he was, there was no way that General Elbert could have remained calm after suddenly meeting one of the individuals that stood at the apex of the cultivation world.
“Hohoho… The Healer’s Association sent me, a Spirit Saint, to attend this meeting and yet all the Himmel Empire could cough up is a mere Spirit Emperor…” Folding her arms in akimbo, Althea glared at the muscular man that towered over her, unfazed by his large stature.
“My apologies, Your Holiness. If we would have known that your noble self would be attending, I’m sure our ancestor would be happy to visit.” Instead of retorting the beauty, General Elbert immediately lowered his body so close to the ground that he nearly grovelled.
‘Wow, she randomly decided to come by herself, and now she’s complaining about the lack of representation from the other side.’ Lady Seph thought out to herself.
Typically, it would be rare for a Spirit Saint to meddle with the current affairs of the world. Since they were desperately seeking to become the next Spirit Immortal, they rarely showed their faces in the cultivation world, always secluding themselves so that they could advance to the next step. Historically, the only times a Spirit Saint moved was during great wars or when the human race was being threatened. Give and take some rare instances where the Spirit Saint turned mad and decided to take down anything that they see, the majority of the time, they remained hidden in their own world.
Therefore, the Himmel Empire couldn’t be blamed for sending a mere Spirit Emperor to the meeting. Never in their wildest dreams would they have expected the famed matriarch of the Healer’s Association to make an appearance.
“Whatever… I don’t want to see that leathery face anyway… Come on, let’s start the meeting and be done with it.” Walking straight into Lady Seph’s office, the Spirit Saint ignored the small fry that she could have squashed like a housefly. In her mind, anything that the Himmel Empire’s representative said would be inconsequential. The only thing that mattered to her was Lady Seph and the prodigious little disciple that she had picked up.
“Master… Is she really my Grandmaster?” Now that Shin had some breathing room, he cautiously asked Lady Seph for confirmation. No matter how hard he tried, Shin couldn’t picture the gorgeous woman, who didn’t seem to exceed thirty years of age, to be the mentor of the elderly woman he called Master.
“Looks can be deceiving, Shin… Especially in the world of Healers. And yes, although I hate to admit it, Althea was my Master when I was growing up. Even though she looks like that, she is a bona fide dinosaur that lived for over three hundred years. She ate way more salt than you ate rice, child!” Sending her disciple a timely warning, Lady Seph gave an undignified frown.
“But… How can someone live so long?! Isn’t that unnatural?”
“Hmmm? I didn’t explain lifespans of a Spirit User to you? That’s strange. Alright, listen up. What is the maximum lifespan of a human? Assuming that he or she is not a Spirit User.”
“Probably about a hundred years?” Digging deep into his medical knowledge, Shin tried to recall the full details about human life.
“That’s right. Typically, a human without spiritual energy at most can walk the earth for about a hundred years. Anything more than that and their fire would burn out at any moment. However, for Spirit Users, our lifespan is drastically different. We will shed our mortality at two stages on our cultivation paths.”
“*Gulp*.” Swallowing down a mouthful of saliva, Shin opened up his ears to receive the vital information.
“Firstly, during the promotion to Rank 40 Spirit Spectre realm. The reason why it is called Spirit Spectre realm is because the flesh is being rebuilt into an astral entity in which your Spirit merges with your soul. From there, the cultivator reforms their own bodies using whatever materials they have in hand. They also can absorb spiritual energy much faster, making them infinitely stronger from their previous realm. Once they advance, they can experience weightlessness and essentially become one with their surroundings. That’s why the majority of Spirit Users in the Spirit Spectre stage or above gain the ability to fly automatically. Since in that realm, they’re technically no longer a regular human, their lifespan would double to two hundred years.”
“But Master! If a Spirit Spectre cultivator had already shed his or her mortality, doesn’t it mean that they no longer can die?! Why would there even be a lifespan?” Presenting his uninformed opinion, Shin questioned Lady Seph.
“Good thinking, Shin. However, your thinking is flawed. The reason why people die is because their bodies degrade over time. Same goes for their astral forms and new bodies. Well, let’s put it this way. Promoting to the Spirit Spectre stage is the same as giving the cultivator a second life. Thus, many people try to reach the Spirit Spectre stage as young as possible, so that they could retain their youthful looks for over a hundred years.” Lying on the side of the wooden walls, Lady Seph continued her explanation.
“What’s next… Oh right, the second stage that a Spirit User can prolong their lifespans. Well, this one is much more complex, and it won’t apply to you for a while so I’ll skip the specifics. The second time that a cultivator can prolong their lifespan is at the Rank 80 Spirit Venerate realm. Once a Spirit Emperor successfully makes the leap into the Spirit Venerate realm, once again, their lifespans would double. This time, they can live to over four hundred years of age, and that’s on average! God knows how long a Spirit Saint could actually live until. The oldest Spirit Saint ever recorded in history lived to a ripe old age of seven hundred and twenty-three before he passed.” As Lady Seph started to talk about this topic, her eyes began to brighten up in a hot fervour. Evidently, she had some passion when it came to prolonging lifespans.
“Ah… *Ahem!*. Sorry, I lost myself there… Of course, that Spirit Saint would much rather have entered the unknown to become a Spirit Immortal, but no one really knows what lies behind that horizon.”
“Well, that’s all you need to know about the lifespans of Spirit Users. Do you have any more questions?”
“Just one… Master, how old are you?” Blinking innocently, Shin asked an innocuous question.
Little did he know that the question that he thought was harmless had actually caused a stir in the elderly woman’s mind. Her sparkling pupils dilated as if they were stars that lost their starlight and her throat began to dry. Clenching her fists in indignation, the elderly woman felt a wave of emotions run through her body as she looked at her beloved disciple with fear and anxiousness. However, as if by magic, Lady Seph stabilised her emotions in an instant and turned her jittery feelings into one of mild annoyance.
“Hey, never ask a woman for her age! Have I not taught you any tact?!” Slamming her fist square on the crown of Shin’s head, Lady Seph punished the kid for issuing such as careless remark.
“OWWWW!!!” Falling to the floor, Shin rubbed the sore spot while looking up at his Master with tears in his eyes.
“Hmph! Serves you right! Anyway, once you’re done, go brew us some tea and join us later on.”
“Huh? Can I really listen in on such a high-level meeting?” The meeting that Lady Seph was convening had two representatives of high-profile powers. One of them was a Spirit Emperor that served for multiple years as a general for the Himmel Empire. The other was a Spirit Saint that could easily topple a nation if she felt like it. Compared to them, Shin was basically an insignificant insect that could be crushed at any given moment.
“Of course you can! You’re my disciple! If I say it’s alright, it means it’s fine. Quick! The Oolong tea isn’t going to brew itself!”
Although he was slightly apprehensive, Shin still moved his feet towards the pantry that stored all of the premium tea leaves that Lady Seph had bought. Watching the dejected back of her disciple as he walked away, Lady Seph furrowed her brows in displeasure and let out a sorrowful sigh.
‘Hah… It seems like I should prepare Shin for the future… What a pain…’
Shaking her head, Lady Seph pushed the thoughts into the recesses of her mind as she entered her office where the two heavyweights lay waiting. It was time to begin the meeting that would shape the future of the world.