In the midst of the hilly terrain where plants and wildlife thrived, two humanoid silhouettes were dashing about, as thunderous claps reverberated through the isolated area. Ever so often, tree branches would come dislodged, and small craters would form. Squirrels scurried away, while birds flew in the opposite direction from where all the commotion was coming from. Huffing and puffing, Shin was grasping for air while Mychael nonchalantly stared him down with a victorious expression.
“Again!” The tanned man hollered out like a military battalion officer ordering his men.
Shin squinted his eyes at the command and shook his head. Gathering himself once more, the young teen tried his best to calm his heartbeat and control his pulsating mana reserves. Unfortunately, the most that he could do was ease some of the tension that had been built up over this training session. Shin was by no means someone that lacked stamina. In fact, amongst all of the orphans, Shin would say that he had the highest endurance as he could comfortably run ten laps around the mansion without stopping. However, facing the adversary that was the indomitable Mychael, drained so much energy that Shin had no idea about how he could still remain standing.
It had been barely two hours since Mychael begun to teach Shin about martial skills and the young teen felt like he had been to hell and back. Using a combination of physical grit, mana strengthening and pure willpower, Shin was somewhat able to learn the martial skills that the combat instructor was trying to impart onto him, but the black-haired youth simply lacked the experience and stamina to keep up with the brutish monster that stood before him.
“Fuck, what are you waiting for?! Come at me again!” Mychael was miffed that Shin was clearly wasting time and screamed out one more time.
“Argggghhhh!!!” Yelling out as he charged forwards, Shin gathered his mana into his hand once more. A cerulean light coated the exterior of his fist as he edged closer and closer towards the tanned man. However, just as he felt like his blow was going to connect, the image before him disappeared and Mychael was no longer standing in front of Shin.
Reappearing behind the unsuspecting youth, Mychael sent a hard chop down Shin’s back, forcing the teen to fall face-first onto the muddy floor. A satisfied smile crept up the tanned skin man’s face, making him look like quite the pervert.
“Haha, I knew you couldn’t manage to land a blow on me with your mana enhanced body!”
“Why the hell are you gloating?! Aren’t you supposed to be a respected teacher?! Must feel nice to take a win off a student who is barely fifteen huh?!”
“Haha, say all you want, I still won!!!”
Before the two started to spar, Mychael suggested a friendly competition. If Shin managed to land a single hit on the tanned man, Mychael would offer Shin one additional lesson free of charge. Of course, the seasoned teacher knew that it was impossible for the black-haired youth to catch him and just made the bet so that he could see Shin being pushed to the limit. Furthermore, having seen Shin’s talent, Mychael was confident that one day, he would become a mighty Spirit User, and obtaining a win over the youth when he was still young was something that intrigued the bored instructor.
‘Urggh, why did I even bother giving money to this man-child!!!’ Shin scolded himself for his folly.
“Oops, look at the time! I gotta run!” Just as Shin was about to retort, Mychael stared into the bright sun that was up high in the sky, indicating that midday had just passed.
“Hey! You’re leaving now?! I booked you for the entire day!!!” Shin angrily responded.
Spending one full gold ingot per session, Shin expected that Mychael would spend an entire day coaching him on his weaknesses and elaborating how he could improve his physical condition so that he could enter the path of the fighter; And typically, Mychael would keep his end of the bargain. Yet, on the very last session, the teacher was planning to leave halfway through the lesson.
“Well, it’s not like I can teach you anything in your current state. Not to mention, you have learnt all of the basics of mana strengthening, something that I promised I would teach you. Anything more would take WAYYYYY more than five sessions…”
“B-But…” Shin was rendered speechless by the tanned man’s logic. In the end, he was just a scoundrel that viewed money as his first priority. Buckling his lips, Shin pouted in annoyance as he stared grimly at Mychael.
“Hey, don’t give me that face! Fine! On account of our lasting friendship, as a parting gift, I’ll give you this!” Taking out a blue cover manual from his robes, Mychael threw the book at the fatigued youth lying on the floor.
“What friendship? Hah… Whatever… What’s this?” Shin unconsciously asked while flipped open the first page of the book. On it, illegible penmanship that rivalled that of a five-year-old child was littered all over the page, and the atrocious handwriting carried on to the end of the manual.
“My personal martial arts manual! It’s the first volume and highlights the basics of the basics. It goes into great detail about all of the moves that I had just taught you!” Mychael smiled triumphantly. “How’s that for a parting gift?! Given your comprehension ability, you should be able to master it by yourself!”
‘What the fuck? No one in the world could possibly read this book, and you expect me to master it?!’ Shin cursed in his mind. Evidently, being in close proximity to a loose-mouthed individual like Mychael had taken its toll.
“Haha, alright! I have to go now!”
“Wait! Would you be teaching the freshmen when I enter the academy?” Shin hurriedly asked the tanned man, who was eager to leave the vicinity.
“What, you miss me already?”
‘No, you asshole! I need you to tell me how to read your stupid manual!’ Shin had the strong urge to voice out his thoughts, but he opted to let Mychael fantasise whatever he wanted.
“Unfortunately I won’t be responsible for your bloody ass! TOO BAD! Haha, of course, if you’re thinking of paying for my next trip to the Baishin Whorehouse, I’ll be sure to make time for you!” Rubbing his right index finger and thumb together, Mychael let out a perverted giggle.
“Fuck off!!!” Throwing a kick his direction, Shin watched as the tanned man disappeared from his line of sight.
‘Hah… I can’t believe I just gave five gold ingots to that scoundrel… How did he even become a teacher in the first place? Principal Erudito must be blind…’ Shaking his head in disapproval, Shin gave a cursory look at the contents of the manual that Mychael had left behind. Other than the odd vowel, Shin was truly unable to comprehend what the seasoned teacher had written. ‘Trying to read this would be as challenging as decoding a bloody cypher… Whatever…’
With heavy steps, Shin trudged back towards the mansion, all while trying to fight off the intense pain that was pulsating through his veins and muscles.
“Shin! You’re back early today!” Once the black-haired teen entered the premise of Lady Seph’s estate, a feminine voice called out to him, drawing his utmost attention.
“Hmmm, oh it’s just Ella…”
“What do you mean by that?!” The youthful girl spouted out in indignation.
Ella had her purple hair tied into a ponytail, showing off her sweet and tender nape for all to see. Her spotless, charming face was significantly smaller than the average girl, making her seem a little younger than she really was. Due to her incessant desire to exercise, Ella had very little fat under her skin, and there were even times where Emma would pout at how slim her sister was.
“No… You just caught me at a bad time… So, what’s up?” Not willing to upset the teenage girl, Shin quickly changed the subject.
“I asked why you are back so early! But honestly, that’s not important. I’m guessing you’re just nervous about that assessment that you have with Principal Erudito in five days time.”
In just a mere five days, Shin would be facing the biggest hurdle to his life as a combat oriented Spirit User. During the four-month period, the head of Imperius Academy had frequented the household of Lady Seph, hoping to form a lasting connection with the revered Spirit Venerate. Realising that Shin was still dead-set on challenging him once more, Principal Erudito promised to let the black-haired youth have another go during his next visit.
“Haha, yeah… Time really flies huh? I barely even trained and the time limit is about to arrive.” Shin bitterly smiled to himself.
“Hey! Don’t say that! You trained way more than anyone else in the house! If you claimed that you didn’t have enough practice, then what the hell were we doing?!” Ella exclaimed in anger. “You’ve done enough! I’m sure that you can pass that bronzed-face bastard’s test!”
“You think so?”
“I know so!” Ella encouraged the distressed youth.
Being the same age as Shin, Ella had basically spent her entire life in Shin’s company and had personally seen his evolution from a lazy bum that hated to wake up in the morning, to the youngest healer in history and now, a battle-maniac that wished to grow stronger for the sake of his family. Back then, Ella and Shin were constantly at odds due to their contrasting personalities, but after recent events, Ella had built up a new found respect for the black-haired teen. Not only has he just experienced an immense heartbreak through the loss of Ariel, but he had consolidated himself and used that pain to grow stronger.
“Haha, thanks for your consolation, but I’m well aware of my current standards. Although I have grown much stronger, compared to those monsters that are entering the academy this year, I’m still far from capable.”
“There you go again comparing yourself to the others. If you truly wish to compare, which one of them had reached Rank 18 and learnt ‘Heal’ before the age of fifteen?! You really have to fix that self-deprecating habit of yours. You’re far more talented than the other freshmen!”
“I hope Principal Erudito feels the same way as you do…” Thinking about the elderly scholar that was just about to assess him, Shin felt a headache forming up.
“How do you plan on impressing him during the assessment?”
“Based on how he reacted the last time, I’m assuming that he has the ability to form either an air barrier or something equivalent, as nothing I did seemed to pass his defences. Judging from how relaxed he was, I’m confident that there is nothing I could possibly do that would injure him.” Shin calmly accessed the Principal’s fighting methods. Given that Principal Erudito was at the Spirit Emperor Realm, Shin shouldn’t be aiming to land a hit on the bronzed face man. Instead, he should be focusing on how he could show his improvements.
“The best thing that I can do is charge at him with my physical powers, but I’m afraid that it won’t be enough…”
“Arrrghhh!!! If only we could attack him all at once to smash his smug face inwards! Since we have a home ground advantage, I’m sure that we can take him down a peg or two!” Ella exclaimed.
“Haha, yeah… We do have home gro-… Wait…” After hearing Ella’s impulsive words, Shin somehow gained an epiphany. “No! You’re right, Ella! We do have an advantage!”
“Huh? That’s what I said…” Unaware of why the young teen was so agitated, Ella tilted her head in confusion.
“Haha, no time to talk! I have to go prepare for that match now!” Giving the stunned ponytail girl a quick embrace, Shin rushed into the mansion and began his final preparations for the battle ahead.