“Fine! You pass!” Those three words that Principal uttered resonated through the ears of Shin.
In front of the pavilion where Lady Seph and Vice-Principal Hirda was resting, all of the orphans broke into cheers and flung the umbrellas into the air, ignoring the torrential downpour that was falling from the heavens. Ella and Emma embraced each other in tears while Ryner and Lia couldn’t hide their excited smiles. Throughout the four months, they had seen how hard Shin had worked for that one fight with the bronzed-face bastard. Hours upon hours of endless grinding and training sessions that pushed his body to the absolute limit were the norm for Shin during that four-month period. Fortunately, at the end of it all, his hard work had paid off.
“Shin, I can call you that right?” Now that he had been sorely beaten, the aged scholar started to view the black-haired teen in a different light. Initially, Principal Erudito simply saw Shin as the disciple of Lady Seph. However, after that short assessment, the seasoned educator felt that he was looking at a future star of the human race.
“Of course, senior! By all means!” Holding back his euphoria, Shin flashed the brightest smile that Principal Erudito had ever seen.
“That final combination… That fighting style… Were you taught by someone who goes by the name of Mychael?”
“Yeah! I met him while he was using a nearby cave for self-cultivation. I paid him five gold ingots so that he could teach me how to use Mana Strengthening!”
“He took five gold ingots from you?! Oh, that asshole is really in for it now…” The bronzed-face man turned his head sharply in the direction of the academy as he secretly cursed the troublemaker that had placed him in such an embarrassing situation.
‘Hehe, since you taught this monster for nearly four months, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind teaching him for six more years right…’ Hatching a devious plan to get back at the tanned instructor that was in charge of the fourth-years, Principal Erudito grinned sinisterly.
“When I get back, I’ll discipline him for you. Anyway, a promise’s a promise… Here, let me hand over your combat course uniform.” Clapping his hands twice, the bronzed-face scholar called for his Vice-Principal to bring the prize that Shin had earned.
The pristine white uniform was void of any creases and had absolutely no blemishes. Since it was encased within a thin transparent sheet, it was sheltered from the downpour, allowing Shin to see all of its elaborate details. The emblem of Imperius Academy was proudly displayed on both shoulders of the shirt with the symbol representing the combat course sewn beautifully on its right breast pocket. With trembling arms, Shin carefully received the attire with both hands and brought it to his chest. All the hard work that he had put in was just for this moment right here.
‘With this, I’m just one step closer… Ariel…’ Clenching his fists while his teeth remained tightly gritted, Shin thought of the one person that mattered the most to him. Glancing down at the amethyst necklace that he took from Ariel, Shin made a firm declaration. ‘I’ll fulfil the promise I made with you, up in heaven…’
Principal Erudito watched Shin’s interaction with the uniform with sombre eyes. He had seen the very same expression from many of his students back in the day. Only people with a clear drive could possess such a powerful glint in their eyes.
‘If I didn’t allow him to pursue the combatant path, I’m sure that he would have dropped out and chased his dream somewhere else… Having such a desire at that young of an age is both a blessing and a curse… I just hope that he doesn’t get consumed by his will in the future.’ Sighing internally, the Principal shook his head. ‘Perhaps I’m just overthinking it… Either way, I will be able to monitor him in the academy should anything go awry.’
“Shin… I’m not one to pour cold water on a happy occasion, but this is something that I must remind you.” After sending out two dry coughs, the Principal proceeded to speak to the emotional Shin, instantly calming the black-haired teen down. Using his bright azure eyes, Shin shot of deep gaze at the wizened scholar.
“Yes, senior. Please speak.”
“Even though you had passed my test, your standards are still much lower than that of the average freshmen of Imperius Academy. You might perhaps be stronger than an average student in another school, but our institution only accepts the cream of the crop. Not to mention, this year, we have some absolute monsters entering our cohort. Each one of them has talents that outstrip that of any normal Spirit User.”
“I understand…” Shin nodded in agreement. Being taught by Mychael for the past few months, Shin had learnt some intricate details about the new freshmen coming in this year. Some of them had even earned a moniker for themselves even before they entered the academy. In fact, even in a one-on-one battle with either Ella or Emma, Shin would have no hopes of defeating the pair; and it was something that couldn’t be helped. They had been training desperately since their Spirit Awakening Ceremony in the path of a combatant, while Shin had only recently begun.
“I know my combat abilities are far behind them, but I will do my best to catch up! No, I will catch up and become the strongest Spirit User in the Academy!” Shin declared to Principal Erudito. Shin was not interested in fame or fortune. He only wished to become stronger to further his own interests, and to do that, he must become the strongest Spirit User there was.
“Haha! Good! I’m starting to see why Lady Seph accepted you as her sole disciple!” Bellowing out in laughter, the bronzed-face man tapped on Shin’s shoulder with a wide smile. “Alright, I’ll leave you to your celebrations! I’ll see you in a few weeks!”
Turning his back away from the mansion, the veteran educator slowly walked away as his Vice-Principal did her best to catch up. However, before she disappeared, Hirda shot an incredulous look at Shin and said:
“You really are an enigma, young one…”
“No, it’s nothing… I’ll see you at the entrance ceremony!” Disappearing into the pouring rain, the two educators left the premise of Lady Seph’s mansion, leaving Shin with the overjoyed orphans, that had all rushed forward to embrace the youth kneeling on the floor.
Finally, the first step for Shin’s arduous journey had been completed.
Himmel Empire. The Capital. Imperius Academy
The Capital was perhaps the most bustling area in the entire Empire, as that was where all commerce and government lay. Tens of thousands of the Empire’s most influential citizens all congregated into this patch of land where all denizens of the realm dreamt of being. Every single day, there would be a memorable event, whether it was the Emperor’s birthday or a victory parade for the military. However, on this one day of the year, the entire city stopped its busy schedule for a few hours to send their children to the east side of the Capital for school.
Many aeons ago, the Imperial Family realised that an educated and powerful population would lead to the longevity of their nation. Thus, through an Imperial Decree, hundreds of academies were built on the barren east side, to allow all of the citizens to send their children to school. Naturally, due to the competitive nature of humans, some institutions started to prove that they were way ahead of their competition, forming alliances with huge organisations to attract the best talents to their doors.
Imperius Academy allied themselves with the Imperial Family, and in fact, many members of the Imperial Family had even attended the academy themselves, further cementing their dominance as the Capital’s greatest institution. However, it was not just their relation to the Empire’s transcendent family that made them the best, fostering some of the most glorious Spirit Users that the world had ever seen, Imperius Academy had made a name for itself on the global stage, and a significant reason for their success was their top-rated teaching curriculum.
Imperius Academy offers two major courses that equip all graduates from its halls with theoretical and practical knowledge. Each class was assigned one of the best teachers that the Empire had to offer and all students were given ample resources to further their foundations. Naturally, with all these perks to offer, the price for attending the academy was rather steep as compared to the other academies. Each year, a student had to pay two gold ingots, amounting to a total of twelve gold ingots for their freshman year to their graduation. Hence, the school had also earned the sobriquet, ‘The Playground for the Rich.’
With all the money that was being invested into the institution, Imperius Academy’s Campus boasted marvellous infrastructure that would make the average family clan’s facilities look like absolute garbage. Towering white buildings that were void of even the slightest impurities stood at every corner, and exquisite statues, built by some of the world’s top craftsmen could be found littered all over the academy grounds. With over five thousand acres of land, the campus could afford such opulence to decorate the rather barren location.
“Shin, this place is really massive huh?” A youthful feminine voice echoed through the cold and daunting halls of the academy, snatching the attention of her compatriot, who was also gaping in awe.
“This place is way too big! It’s even bigger than Frie Mountain!” Shin replied Emma with an estimated comparison.
“To think that we’re going to spend six years in this place… Up till this day, it’s still all too surreal for me…” Ella took one turn around to scan her surroundings.
Since Lady Seph wanted to stay out of the public eye, Principal Erudito sent Hirda to pick up the three orphans, much to the brunette woman’s displeasure as she thought that she was being treated like a mule. However, since it was a direct order given by her superior, the poor old woman could only begrudgingly comply.
“Haha, it’s quite a beautiful place, isn’t it? Imperius Academy was founded over ten thousand years ago, and there had been many enhancements to the infrastructure, but only the items in Adelcuth Hall remains untouched. It is one of my favourite places in the academy as well.” Hirda gave a brief introduction about the location that they were at. “Adelcuth Hall acts as the communal area for all students. Only when there is a big gathering such as the freshmen ceremony would this beautiful hall be used.”
“The ceremony starts in an hour, so you would see some students strolling in. You should take that opportunity to make some friends, and form some bonds. After all, you would be accompanied by them for the next six years.”
“Errmmm, senior Hirda!” Before the Vice-Principal could leave the premise to attend to her own matters, Emma held her back.
“Would we be placed in the same class as each other?” Emma asked one of the most pressing questions that the orphans had.
“Hmmm, that depends. The combatant course contains many modules, and no two individuals would take the exact same classes. Based on their Spirit, how far their cultivation has gone, and their interests, the modules are assigned accordingly. Naturally, since Ella and Emma have so many similarities, the two of you would probably experience a lot of overlap in your classes. Shin, on the other hand, might be a little lonelier. However, there will also be modules that all of you share.”
“Oh! That’s great news!” Emma leapt for joy and embraced her two fellow orphans.
“Haha, you three are really close. Alright, I have some administrative things to do for now, so I have to leave. If you meet any problems, you can come to find me in the Principal’s Office. Later on, during your orientation tour, you will find out where that is.”
“Thank you, senior!”
“Don’t mention it.” Leaving behind those words, Hirda gave a wry smile as she walked away.
Now that they were all alone, Shin and the twins could thoroughly examine Adelcuth Hall. Tall stone pillars that seemed to stretch towards the heavens stood erect at every corner, holding up the fifty-metre tall ceiling that housed a detailed mural painting of the famed individuals that once attended the academy. Turning their attention to the entrance of the hall, the orphans could see young yet matured fifteen-year-olds, all strolling into the auditorium, many of them bearing an air of opulence that was uncommon for teenagers their age.
“It’s times like this that make you feel like we’re in a different world altogether right?” Ella unconsciously muttered out.
“Hah… We should join the group first. Let’s not think about all those matters…” The twins nodded their heads to Shin’s remark and followed him down the corridor to where their future awaits.