When Shin returned home, as expected, he received a long lecture from the incensed Lia, with the rest of the orphans sitting nearby watching the show. Only after promising her to never be late again did the blue-haired maiden finally relent and allowed him back into the dining room where he ate the reheated leftovers of dinner.
After his encounter with Mychael in the abandoned grotto not too far from the mansion, Shin had decided to change his training regimen according to what he had just learnt. Removing his excessive physical exercise, Shin allowed his body to rest while tirelessly trying to get the hang of his mana strengthening. Often times, he would find himself in a pool of water due to the cold sweat that he would discharge after rolling about in pain.
Following the Imperius Academy’s teacher instructions to the letter, Shin had attempted to strengthen his muscles and bones in the same manner that was taught to him. The first few days of practice was somewhat daunting. There were times where he would cry out in immense pain, causing the worried orphans to check in on him every hour, and there were times where Shin would scream out in frustration due to his lack of visible progress. Every single day, Shin would lock himself up in the cultivation chamber and attempt his mana strengthening for twelve hours straight. In fact, he would have one meal a day, due to how much time he wanted to devote to his self-practice.
For muscle mana strengthening, Shin would submerge himself in a tub of his own created water so that he could better visualise the physical state of his body. For bone mana strengthening, Shin would draw out an image of his own skeleton, using his imagination and medical knowledge, and attempt to individually strengthen them daily. In his drunken stupor, Shin would often forget that he would be training for ten to twenty hours in one sitting and required either Emma or Elyse to call him out for dinner.
Eventually, after two weeks, Shin had healed all the damaged areas in his physical body, and he could feel mana being infused in every fibre of his being. Jubilant about his progress, Shin took an early breakfast before heading towards the hidden grotto where Mychael was waiting for him.
“Hoho, fuck me… So you really showed up.” Mychael’s astonished cry echoed through the abandoned cave as he watched the young teen merrily skipping in.
“Of course! I still need you to teach me much more!”
“Hey, what about my price?”
“Here!” Throwing over a small leather pouch to the tanned man on the cultivation mat, Shin watched as the metallic clank could be heard the moment his gold ingot touched the floor.
Mychael took out the gold ingot and rotated it twice around, examining it for any flaws. “You really do have that much money… Well, I’m a man of my word, I’ll teach you for five sessions. How much you improve is entirely up to you.”
Standing up from his rested position, the tall man approached Shin and begun to observe him carefully. Using his roughened hands, Mychael harshly examined the young teen’s body, making Shin feel as if he was being touched by an oversized bear that had no qualms about intruding on one’s boundaries.
“Not bad. Your internal injuries have been healed, and there’s some mana flowing through your veins and bones. Not a bad improvement since the last time we’ve met.” For the first time since meeting the black-haired teen, Mychael praised his accomplishments. “Judging from how little damage there is left, you haven’t been doing any physical exercise right?”
“Yeah, I followed your instructions and stopped training for a while.” Shin replied.
“Good… Try to run from the end of the cave to the entrance as fast as you can now.”
“Are you fucking deaf? Run to the entrance of the cave and back now!”
While Mychael gave out an order with a placid expression, Shin was utterly confused about why he should do that. However, to not upset the tanned scrawny man any further, Shin begrudgingly abided. Lowering his knees, the young teen prepared to launch his body forward in one fluid motion.
“Here I go…” Pressing all of his physical powers to the limit, Shin two feet left the floor as he began to sprint at the fastest speed he could. However, to his amazement, the young teen found that his body was much lighter than before and he was sprinting at a pace that was unreachable for him before. The cold chilling wind brushed against his face forcing the gorgeous blackened hair of his to be entirely pulled back due to his momentum.
Shin wasn’t using any mana nor was he taking advantage of his Spirit to quicken his physical limit, yet he was able to become way faster than he was before. After travelling one round in the cave, Shin shot an incredulous look at Mychael, who was beaming from ear to ear.
“So? How did you feel?”
“H-How… How did I become so much faster?! I clearly didn’t do any exercise!!!” Shin was absolutely stunned. All these time, he was training under the assumption that strenuous physical exercise was the way to improve his body and yet, during the two weeks that he didn’t do any, he saw his most significant growth.
“Of course you would fucking improve! In training, there’s something called the recovery period. After a session of strenuous exercise, you should take some time to let your body repair itself so that it could come back stronger the next day. I’m guessing that you skipped this recovery period entirely and continuously pushed your body to the limit, not giving it any time to get accustomed to its new state.” Mychael theorised. “Furthermore, by using mana strengthening, you would be able to slowly build up your body until eventually, you would break the limits of what the normal human body is capable of.”
“Now, you have improved your speed by a few seconds. One month from now, it would be another few seconds. One year from now, it would be a few minutes. Until eventually…” The moment Mychael said those words, he disappeared from Shin’s line of sight and left a small crater at the place where he once was. Half a second later, Mychael reappeared inside of the cave, holding a pine cone that could only be found on the forest floor outside of the grotto. “You will reach speeds that you never thought was humanly possible even without using your mana.”
“Wow…” Amazed by the ruffian teacher’s powers, Shin unconsciously applauded the man.
“So now that you know how to proceed with your physical training, I should focus on teaching you about how properly use mana strengthening.” Soaking in the young teenager’s applause that stroked his ego, Mychael happily started his next explanation.
“Well to be entirely honest, I have explained everything that you need to know about mana strengthening so the only thing that I can help you with is to rectify any mistakes you have when practising it. Come, show me how you cultivated during these two weeks.”
Hearing the tanned teacher’s words, Shin immediately sat down on the cultivation mat and began asking every question that he had about mana strengthening. Despite his ruffian exterior, Mychael was rather proficient in explaining the concepts to Shin, who was a total newcomer when it came to the art of a fighter. When Shin would make a mistake, Mychael would promptly point out what he was doing wrong and worked hard to help him rectify his errors.
Since Shin had genius levels of comprehension, the young boy was able to immediately change his errors whenever it was pointed out, shocking Mychael in the process. In all, for both parties, it was a smooth exchange. Often times, when teaching a student, Mychael would pull his hair out whenever they failed to understand a concept that he was teaching. Therefore, having Shin, who was an exemplary student, was a breath of fresh air for the tanned teacher. Not to mention, he was getting paid at one gold ingot per lesson.
As morning turned into dawn, Mychael realised that he had spent over ten hours teaching one student, something he had never done before. ‘Fuck, where did this boy come from?! His foundations are so weird but yet, his comprehension ability is really something out of this world. With the other famous freshmen that are entering the academy this year, won’t there be mayhem every single day?!’
Mychael remembered the numerous acclaimed names that were about to enter the academy in the same year that Shin was. Many of them were children of powerful Spirit Users or influential people in the Empire, while others were up-and-coming talents from the military and family clans alike. Of course, if Mychael knew that Shin was actually the disciple of the notorious Lady Seph, he would most probably think that the black-haired youth sitting in front of him would be the greatest threat to the peace in the academy.
‘Well, whatever… It’s not like I’m assigned to this next batch of freshmen.’ Mychael pushed the responsibility to her fellow teachers as he continued to watch over Shin’s progress.
Time flowed by like an endless stream down the yellow river and soon, four months had passed since Shin, and the orphans arrived in the Capital. Lady Seph, who had been trying to keep a low key, rarely brought the orphans out into the heartland of the prosperous city leaving the orphans with plenty of time to train and bond with one another.
After the tragedy that claimed the lives of Ariel and Lily, the orphans had developed a certain sense of unity as they felt that they were all that they had left. Bonding over hunting trips and training endlessly to become stronger, the orphans had become closer than ever before.
Ryner was no longer the impulsive young child that would charge forward at every single incident. Now that he had reached eighteen years of age, the young man had calmed down significantly. Knowing that he was the eldest amongst the orphans, Ryner felt that he had to be the unyielding pillar of support so that his younger siblings could rely on him during times of crisis. Since he had lost his opportunity to enter into a good academy, Ryner went out in search of a full-time job, where he could hone his skills. Using his Acidic Salamander, the young man received many offers but eventually settled on joining a hunting crew.
Lia too had changed for the better. Coming out of her introverted shell, the young girl had blossomed into a young woman that seemed to be wiser than her years. Always there for the orphans, she was in charge of managing the household while her juniors were hard at work. Since she had been cooking a feast every day since arriving at the Capital, Shin felt that her culinary abilities matched that of professional chefs and believed that in the future, she could open her very own restaurant.
Not willing to be left behind by Shin, the twins, Ella and Emma, who were about to enter the same year as Shin, trained constantly by using their Ice Bows daily. In the beginning, when they first awakened their Spirits, the twins were barely able to nock their crystalline arrows to their bows. However, now that they were at the peak of the Rank 13 Spirit Apostle realm, they could fire hundreds of arrows without rest effortlessly.
The other juniors were hard at work as well. Elyse and Fionn, with their newly founded drive to enter into Imperius Academy, had cultivated tirelessly to reach the Spirit Apostle realm as quickly as they could. Max and Jacob on the other hand, had different ideas. Unwilling to enter a path where fights where common, the two younglings opted to enter a safer path. Max started work as a clerk in a nearby shop while Jacob showed interest in pursuing the academic track.
In just a few more weeks time, Shin and the twins would be entering the academy, but before that, Shin had a significant hurdle to cross. He had to pass Principal Erudito’s test to join the combatant course. Through Mychael’s guidance, Shin had been tirelessly training himself to match the rest of the competition, and it had been showing results. During the four months, Shin had mastered the basics of mana strengthening and had even broken through into the Rank 18 Spirit Apostle Realm.
Since Shin only had six sessions with Mychael, he had used the time sparingly. During the first month, Shin met with Mychael three times and being the knowledge sponge that he was, the young teen was able to learn almost everything that he needed to know. From then on, Shin scheduled his sessions with Mychael once every month, while taking the time to train on his own.
“You really improved quite a bit there, brat.” Watching as Shin meditated while gathering his spiritual energy, Mychael let out a defeated sigh. The duo was currently in the midst of their final session, three days before the deadline that Principal Erudito had set for Shin.
“You think?” Gingerly opening his eyes, Shin smiled bitterly as he replied to the rare praise that Mychael gave him.
“Yeah, but don’t get cocky though… Even though you are much better than you were when you first came here, compared to the monsters that are coming into the academy this year, you’re almost equivalent to dog shit.”
“I know… Damn it, your habit of lifting someone’s mood only to crash it the second after is really getting annoying…”
“Haha, I don’t give a fuck what you say brat!”
Over the six sessions, Mychael had been telling Shin tidbits about what to expect in the Imperius Academy campus once he enters. From which teachers to stay clear from to various departments in the faculty. The loose-mouthed teacher had even divulged details about the talented freshmen that were expected to enter alongside Shin, giving him a general idea of what to expect.
Shin had grown slightly since leaving Chilyoja Waypoint and had reached a height of 1.7 metres at the age of fifteen. Due to his revised training regimen, the young teenager had developed a well-sculpted body that contained very little fat under the milky white skin of his. To help with his training, Shin had kept his hair relatively short as his fringe never went under his brows, highlighting the deep azure eyes that could stare into one’s soul. Shedding off his baby fat entirely, the young teen was now morphing into a suave young man that would turn heads wherever he went. In fact, there were many instances where Mychael would simply torture the youth because he was annoyed at how handsome Shin looked when compared to himself.
“For mana strengthening, you have already mastered the basics, so there’s nothing more that I can teach you about that. BUT! There’s still one more thing that I have yet to teach you!” With an impish smile, Mychael wiggled his index finger about.
“What would that be?” Gulping down a mouthful of saliva, Shin waited for the tanned man to finish his explanation.
“How to fight of course! What fighter doesn’t know any martial art moves?! Come, let’s bring this outside lest we destroy the place!” Tapping the young boy’s shoulder, Mychael slowly led Shin out of the grotto so that he could begin his final lesson.