A few kilometres off the reinforced steel walls of the Capital there lay a barren wasteland made out of grey concrete. With the sun hanging high up in the sky, the blistering heat formed intangible radiation waves, distorting the imagery for anyone who peered through the wasteland. There were no roads that led to this area, nor were there any forms of human life, making one wonder if this place was indeed part of the bustling Capital that the Himmel Empire was proud of.
At the very corner of the desolate land, there was a small hill, that seemed to be out of place for such a landscape. It was no higher than a hundred metres tall, with next to no plant life thriving off its sides. If someone were to walk close to it, they would be able to pick out the numerous oddities that it held, but since no one ever treads past this area, the hill remained undiscovered for many years.
“Hirda, do you think that she would show up?” An anxious masculine voice echoed out from the foot of the hill.
“I don’t know… Lady Seph is notorious for having a weird temper after all.” Replying to the man, a gentle and soothing voice sounded out.
Two formally dressed individuals, both looking like they were past their sixties, were sitting on a stone bench while peering into the distance. The man was wearing a full white scholarly robe with beautiful embroidery that hinted his academic background. His face was coloured bronze and many people who saw him for the first time would mistake him for a statue, causing him to perform more dramatic gestures to show that he was full of life. In addition to his thick and greasy chestnut hair, one would imagine that he was the gaudiest person to ever come across.
Beside him, the woman who was of similar age was wearing full-black spectacles, and her brunette hair was tied up into a bun. Even though she was advanced in age, her posture was perfect, and there were no signs of worn bones as she did every footstep she took was done with finesse.
“Hah… Are we wasting our time coming out here?” The scrawny man thought out loud as he deeply exhaled.
“Either way, if she does appear, it would be worth the trip. Getting into the good books of a Divine Healer is something that the Imperius Academy could benefit from. Just imagine having her agree to one guest lecture… The entire study body would fight tooth and nail just to procure a ticket.” Adjusting her glasses, the woman named Hirda wickedly smiled as her capitalistic nature started to surface.
“You’re right… But honestly, try to fix that greedy face of yours. I’m afraid that it would scare her off instantly.”
“Like you’re one to talk Erudito! Once Lady Seph sees your stupid face, I’m sure she would scowl in disappointment! How could such a disgusting person run the Empire’s greatest academy?”
“Hey! Unlike you, Lady Seph had met me a few times back in the day! So she already knows about my stupid face!”
“How is that something to be proud of?!” Hirda couldn’t believe her ears as she heard her long-time friend praise himself over the slightest thing.
As the two friends continued to bicker, a soft buzzing sound, reminiscent to that of a running motor, could be heard coming closer from a distance. Both Erudito and Hirda were high-level Spirit Users, with senses that were way above that of an average human. Thus, the moment they heard the unfamiliar sound, they could immediately triangulate where it was coming from.
“See! An Aether Car caravan! I told you there was nothing to be worried about.” Erudito proudly exclaimed while rubbing his nose.
“What the hell are you talking about? You were the one that was worried to death about whether she was coming!”
“No, I wasn’t…”
“Urghhh!!! What a pain…” Grasping her head, the woman stood up and adjusted her robes in preparation to receive their guest. Although the two of them were reputable individuals in their own right, they were nothing compared to the status of a Divine Healer.
Like Hirda beside him, Erudito’s hands were placed to the side with his back straightened. Meeting Lady Seph a few times before, he had a general idea about how she viewed others, and the first impression that he gives must be lasting. Watching as the convoy crept closer and closer, the man in his late adulthood unconsciously swallowed a mouthful of saliva.
The screeching sounds of tyres cutting on the concrete floor rung within the duos ears as the leading Aether Car came to a full stop twenty metres ahead of them. At the same time, the remaining cars stopped in the same manner, leaving behind a plethora of dust clouds in its wake. The muddied doors of the Aether Cars smoothly came ajar as all of the passengers slowly alighted. From his peripheral, Erudito could see a few young teenagers, ranging from ages twelve to seventeen taking out their luggage as they stared at the two people that stood in front of them.
‘Some of them must be attending the academy…’ Erudito theorised. As much as he wanted to go talk to them, the Principal had to focus on the task at hand, which was greeting the esteemed healer that called for his presence.
Unfortunately, even after scouring the entire convoy multiple times, Erudito had yet to spot the infamous wrinkled face. Befuddled, he raised his eyebrows as he directed an inquisitive gaze at his partner, hoping to gain some answers. However, Hirda shrugged her shoulders, indicating that she was confused as well.
‘Perhaps she’s still inside one of the Aether Cars…’ Thinking that Lady Seph had yet to step out, Erudito scanned the remaining cars, hoping to catch even a hint of the elderly woman’s visage.
“There you are! Thanks for coming out to receive us, Erudito!” Just as the Principal was about to give up, an adenoidal voice called out to him, bringing his attention to the jaw-dropping blonde beauty that was waving her hands at him.
Earlier on, when he was scanning the area, he noticed the young woman and he assumed that she was a mere custodian for the children. Even though she was perhaps one of the most gorgeous females that the Principal had ever seen, in his mind, greeting the temperamental Lady Seph was much more critical. Thus, Erudito didn’t pay much attention to her as he focused on finding the Divine Healer.
“Do I know you miss?” Stunned that such a young woman would talk down to him in such a familiar manner, Erudito did his best to repress in displeasure as he responded to her in an affable smile.
“You little brat… If you can’t even recognise me after I changed my appearance, how could you run the Imperius Academy?” Sharply retorting to his words, the young beauty folded her arms in akimbo as a desolate frown crept up her lips.
Hirda, who finally inferred who the blonde woman was from her words, gaped in awe as she took one step backwards. On the other hand, Erudito, who was still kept in the dark, felt a rising rage after being demeaned in public like that. However, to ensure that he does not get on the wrong side of Lady Seph, he had to show that he was patient towards her subordinates.
“I’m sorry, I don’t believe that we had met before?”
“Hah… How the hell are you so dense? Perhaps this would jog your memory.” Since the Principal was too thick to comprehend what had happened, Lady Seph decided to take some drastic measures.
With a flash of golden light, the torrential mana that the Spirit Venerate had been holding back had been unleashed as an insurmountable pressure weighed in on the chestnut-haired man, forcing him to fall straight to his knees. Being a Rank 73 Spirit Emperor, Erudito was no pushover in the cultivation world. Even though he was not a pure combatant, he could very well hold his own against some of the continents best fighters. Yet, in front of this young woman, who seemed to be many years younger than himself, he was unable to move a single muscle.
‘I got dominated so easily?!’ Erudito screamed out mentally as his throat got restrained by the pressure. ‘Spirit Venerate! This woman must be a Spirit Venerate at the very least!!!’
Starting to piece together the puzzle that was the blonde beauty’s identity, Erudito cursed his previous self for behaving so ignorantly. And to put the final nail in the coffin, a phantom of a gorgeous white-robed maiden that boasted a pair of holy golden wings, appeared over the head of the woman and stared the poor soul down. Waving her smooth and delicate arms, the angel sent a ray of divine light straight at the kneeling man, sending a shockwave that reverberated past his entire body. At first, Erudito felt an electrifying pain, however after a short while, the pain transformed into a comfortable feeling as he felt the many of the tight knots in his body instantly be released, making him feel ten years younger. After two seconds of being exposed to the holy ray, the Principal felt his body getting cleansed as toxins rushed out his pores as if they were terrified of the light that the Iofiel Angel was emitting.
“T-Thank you, senior!” Gasping for air, Erudito promptly gave his gratitude. Knowing Lady Seph’s temper, the chestnut-coloured haired man knew that he got off rather easy.
“Haha, don’t mention it!”
“Senior… No, Venerate Seraphim! You have finally crossed the threshold to become a Spirit Venerate?!” Now that he had regained his bearings, Erudito hollered out in complete shock. The first time he met Lady Seph, she was still in the nascent stages of the Spirit Emperor realm. Being arguably one of the hardest bottlenecks in cultivation to pass, less than one per cent of all Spirit Users manager to enter the Spirit Venerate realm and manage to double their lifespans. In fact, for a long time, Lady Seph was sure that she might never cross that barrier in her lifetime and had even made preparations for Shin should she pass on. Thankfully, it didn’t have to come to that.
“Do you not have eyes? Why are you asking me the obvious? So… Do you have a problem with that?”
“No, that’s great news!!! Congratulations!!!” Cupping his hands together, Erudito gave the young woman a deep bow.
“Alright, alright! Don’t get all dramatic! Oh, and one thing. I would like the fact that I broke through to remain a secret, at least for the time being. I don’t want that dastardly brat on the throne trying to woo me back into the Palace once more…”
“Of course!” Agreeing with Lady Seph’s statement, ignoring the part where she verbally undermined the sovereign of the nation, the Principal of the Imperious Academy nodded his head repeatedly.
“Okay, I believe that some introductions are necessary. This woman here is Hirda Isenhildi. She is my fellow Vice-Principal, and a notable fan of yours, Venerate Seraphim.” Introducing the brunette woman that stood next to him, Erudito flashed a brilliant smile.
“Greetings, Venerate Seraphim. Congratulations on your breakthrough.” Following the typical high society mannerism, Hirda arched her torso forward with elegant form.
“Nice to meet you too… Ah, I should introduce those on my end as well. But to be honest, you guys only need to know three of them. Shin, Ella, Emma! Come forward.” Like a mother calling her children out of their rooms, Lady Seph gestured for the younglings.
“All of these children have already been accepted into your academy. The twins, Ella and Emma.” Lady Seph pointed her dainty index finger to the two identical twins who both boasted rich purple hair. To help people better differentiate them, Ella would stick to a short ponytail while Emma would let her hair flow down to her shoulders. Suddenly put in the spot, the twins that had no formal mannerism training simply gave a rough bow, without opening their mouths.
“They both use variant elemental Spirits. Ice Bows to be precise. Furthermore, they’re both in the Spirit Apostle realm.”
“Hoho, that’s good news! I’m sure they’ll fit just perfectly within our curriculum.” Erudito rubbed his chin while observing the two young girls. Imperius Academy accepted first years at fifteen years of age. By then, they must have at least reached the Spirit Apostle realm. Otherwise, they wouldn’t even be considered for the position.
While the Principal was trying his hardest to further deduce the class curriculum that the twins were best suited for, a young black-haired teen was brought forward by Lady Seph. Visually, Erudito could tell that the relationship between the Divine Healer and the young boy was far from simple. Just from their body language and how close Lady Seph would stand to the black-haired youth, both Erudito and Hirda could deduce some facts about the boy.
“And this here is Shin! He is a Rank 17 Spirit Apostle!” Lady Seph cheerily cried out.
“Rank 17?! H-How old is he?!” Unable to hide her surprise, Hirda shouted out.
There was still about four months to the start of the school year for freshmen, and yet, there was someone whose cultivation level matched that of third and fourth years.
“Just under fifteen.” Lady Seph succinctly said.
“So he must be your distinguished disciple, Shin!” Compared to Hirda, Erudito was much more composed. When Lady Seph first informed him to pick her up, the Principal naturally investigated everything there was to know about the prodigious disciple that was making waves around the Healer’s Association. At the age of thirteen, he had successfully become the first ever Spirit Apostle to learn ‘Heal’ and not only that, he was the sole disciple of the infamous Lady Seph, who was notorious for not wanting to accept anyone under her tutelage.
“Yeah, he is… And he always will be…” Affectionately staring at the black-haired teen, Lady Seph’s words were cryptic to the outside ear, but to Shin, he clearly knew what his Master meant. Even though Shin had given up on the path of the healer, Lady Seph never gave up on him. In fact, she would do anything in her power to bring him back, but right now, she knew that Shin needed time to think and explore other options.
“However, he wishes to join a more combat-oriented curriculum. Is it possible to arrange that?”
“What? Why would he do that?” The Principal of the acclaimed academy furrowed his brows as he carefully observed Shin. Based on his cursory analysis, the seasoned educator could tell that Shin was not a combat type. Not to mention, he knew both of Shin’s spiritual abilities, and they were both best suited for auxiliary purposes.
“It’s a long story… Anyway, are you going to keep us standing out here in the heat?!” Abruptly changing the topic, Lady Seph pushed for a better environment to converse in.
“Oh! Naturally! Please, follow me!” Slapping his forehead, the Principal turned his back and revealed a long and dark tunnel seemed to stretch for over a thousand kilometres. Carrying their luggage with them, Lady Seph and the orphans followed the two straight into the pit, charging forward towards their future in the Capital.