“Isadore! You’re in the adjacent room?!” Shin exclaimed as he addresses the silver-haired boy who bore a giddy smile that stood next to him.
After the opening ceremony, Shin and the twins were separated as the boys and girls were divided and led by seniors of their gender. The seniors were all helpful as they introduced the freshmen to the various facilities that they were about to frequent. The classrooms, the cafeteria, the training hall, the resource hall. Everything that the campus had to offer, the senior would introduce to Shin and the other freshmen. All in all, the tour lasted for a good six hours, due to the sheer size of the campus. There were also many rules and regulations that the seniors had to impart onto the freshmen. Some were more common, such as students of the opposite gender were not allowed to stay in each other’s dorms. Others were somewhat weird, such as the rule that no one was allowed to cross into some areas after dark.
During the tour, Isadore stuck to Shin like glue and bombarded him with questions, much to the black-haired youth’s annoyance. However, now that they had entered the dormitory, Shin finally understood why Isadore was so friendly from the first instant that they met.
“You didn’t know? The way the seating arrangements that are planned in Adelcuth Hall are organised in a way that those sitting next to you would be your ‘buddy’ of some sorts. That’s why we had been assigned to the same seating row, orientation group and are even in adjacent rooms.” Isadore gave Shin an incredulous look as if questioning how could someone be so ignorant about the culture of Imperius Academy. “Anyway, we would probably be together for the next six years as well! So please treat me well, partner!”
‘Ahhh… So that’s why he hasn’t left my side since the beginning… To think that the Academy would do things this way…’ Shin rubbed his clear chin in thought.
“How could I treat you well when you’re not willing to tell me anything about yourself?” Shin mockingly answered the silver-haired boy.
“Hiii! Haha, that’s such a nice joke, Shin! Alright, we really should check our rooms!” Evading the question once more, Isadore disappeared from Shin’s sight and quickly made his way into the room next door.
“That guy is bizarre… Whatever, it’s not like I want him knowing all my secrets as well.” Shin shrugged his shoulders and turned the steel door knob that stood before him.
Even before the freshmen were brought to their rooms, their luggage had been delivered to the dorms, and all that they needed to do was unpack their belongings and settle down. The regular dorm rooms that Imperius Academy provides are all rather uniform. A simple woollen bed with a warm, cosy blanket and a fluffy pillow were provided for the student’s sleeping needs. For studying, there’s a classic wooden desk and a nightstand with four drawers. Finally, a minimalist closet was also provided for the students to place their uniforms and casual wear.
Even though Imperius Academy was the first choice many children of aristocrats and influential government officials, they were all treated the same when they first enter the illustrious institution. The faculty didn’t believe in giving any one child preferential treatment based on their background. Instead, everything was based on merit. If the student were able to get first place in their year, they would be given a choice to upgrade their rooms to one that was more befitting of their status.
While Shin peered around in the empty room, he was once again reminded that everything had begun from ground zero for him. In the past, he just would follow his superior’s orders, whether it was the Instructor or the First Elder. Even when he went to Chilyoja Waypoint, he followed Lady Seph’s instructions and became the youngest healer the world has ever seen; but now, everything has changed for him. Shin was now capable of making his own decisions and was doing precisely that. However, with no guidance came a lack of direction. To forge his own path, he had to be well-learned and had to make sure that there would be no errors in his cultivation.
“Everything starts from here. In six years, I will become the strongest Spirit User there is! When that happens, I will return to the Frie Mountain with my head held high. And then, I’ll see you again…” Clenching the amethyst necklace, Shin asserted his vow once more. They say time was the greatest healer of wounds and yet, every time he thought of the scarlet-haired girl that had so tragically perished, Shin felt the pain amplify itself all over again. In fact, the main contributor that kept the young boy pushing through his tireless training was Ariel.
“*Knock!* *Knock!*.” At this moment, two loud thuds could be heard from Shin’s bedroom door.
“Shin? Do you want to get some dinner?” Isadore’s voice echoed in from the hallway. As the first day of orientation week came to a close, the seniors had left the freshmen to do whatever they wanted. Whether it was training or settling into their new environment, the freshmen had the luxury of doing anything they wished to.
“Yeah, I’ll be out in a minute,” Shin replied the youth. Either way, Shin had promised the twins that he would be meeting them for dinner in the cafeteria the moment they separated. Finishing placing his last garments in the closet, Shin slowly made his way to his door.
Imperius Academy. The Main Cafeteria.
Imperius Academy contained multiple communal areas that students could enjoy a fantastic meal. In fact, each student dormitory included a small mess hall so that students didn’t have to leave the comfort of their homes. However, that became an issue when students of the opposite gender want to meet for a meal. Thus, to circumvent this issue, Shin and the twins all planned to meet up in the Main Cafeteria where they were all allowed to enter.
The Main Cafeteria, as its names suggest, is the biggest congregation of food stalls that contained the most extensive variety of cuisines in the entire campus. There were noodle stalls, roasted meat stalls, a bakery, and a plethora of other stores that sold some of the rarest cuisines in the Empire. Naturally, to cater to such a vast diversity of food items, the Main Cafeteria was one of the most enormous buildings on campus. If Shin were to make a comparison, he would say that the Main Cafeteria was as big as the Mayor’s Office back at Chilyoja Waypoint.
“Shin! Shin! We’re over here!” While Shin was getting overwhelmed by the sheer size of the building, an adorable feminine voice called out to him.
“Emma! Wow, it took me quite some time to find you guys.” Shin addressed the purple-haired girl that had come forward to receive him. Behind her, Ella was happily waving her hands while sitting on a four-person table. “Isadore, you’re here as well?”
“Haha, am I unwelcomed?”
“No! Not at all! In fact, the more, the merrier!” Emma flashed a brilliant smile as she held Shin by his hands and brought him to the table.
“Wow, I didn’t think the first person amongst us to get a friend would be Shin!” When the trio reached the table, Ella cracked a sly joke. “Isadore, even though Shin might be a real knucklehead, I hope that you would get along with him in the future.”
“No worries! I’ll definitely take care of him in the future!”
“You guys… Am I some sort of child?” Shin sneered at the conversation that Ella and Isadore had. “Whatever, so how was it on your side? Did you run into any troubles?”
The main reason why Shin wanted to meet up with the twins for dinner was to ensure that they had settled down without any disturbances. After all, they were all undocumented orphans that had no relation to anyone in the Capital. Not to mention, they were surrounded by aristocrats and children of wealthy individuals that all bore humongous egos. Shin had even heard stories that discrimination between the classes was rampant in the Capital and had warned the twins multiple times to never state their origins.
“None whatsoever. In fact, everyone that we had met was so nice! They introduced us to many places and told us many things!”
That’s why when Shin heard Ella’s reply, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. In truth, he didn’t want the twins to join Imperius Academy and had even tried convincing them to pursue a career path that didn’t involve any danger. Unfortunately, no matter how hard he tried, Shin was unable to persuade them and had no choice by to respect their decision.
“I ordered some minced meat noodles from that stall. Ermmm, Isadore, I didn’t order your share…” Emma shot the silver-haired boy a remorseful look as if she had caused him a huge injustice.
“No, no! I really should buy my own food! Alright, I’ll be right back!” Promptly moving to the array of food stores in front of the table, Isadore proceeded to order his dinner.
“Now that the hindrance is out of the way, how was the experience really?” Shin softly whispered to the twins. From the start of the freshmen ceremony till now, the silver-haired boy had never been more than five metres away from Shin, making him theorise that he had some ulterior motives for sticking to Shin like glue.
“Haha, to call him a hindrance is a stretch, Shin! But yeah, nothing really happened!” Emma promptly replied. “I was even given a pretty hairpin from one of our seniors! See!”
Emma handed over a butterfly-shaped hair fastener that contained some quartz as decorations. Even though to a peasant, a hairpin of this magnitude was at least a week’s worth of salary, to a wealthy daughter, it was like taking a hair off a bison’s fur.
“That’s nice of her. But still, remember to be cautious. We can’t let anyone find out about our relationship with Lady Seph. Once that happens, I’m pretty sure chaos would ensue. Not only in the campus but outside in the Capital as well.”
“We know! Don’t worry!”
“HEY!!! STOP RIGHT THERE!!!”
While the trio was happily conversing, a thunderous voice boomed through the cafeteria, causing the bustling food hall to freeze into silence. Turning their attention to the direction of the voice, Shin saw a fat and pudgy young teen, pointing his index finger at yet another male teen.
“You! I heard that you defeated five Spirit Core cultivators last year! Freak of the Dundlewoods!!!”
‘Freak of the Dundlewoods?! He’s here?’ Shin immediately turned his attention to the young teenager that the fat freshman was pointing to.
Wearing a stoic expression that was unable to be read, the reddish-brown haired male was merely staring into blank space. Even though he was fifteen this year, he was no more than 150 centimetres tall and seemed to be much younger than his actual age. The light tan that covered his entire body indicated that he had spent hours if not days in the sun prior to coming to the academy. When Shin first laid eyes on the young teen, he thought that there was no way that such a harmless-looking creature could take down five Spirit Core individuals by himself.
“Why do people like to call me a freak? I don’t get it…” Lazily retorting the fat student that was shouting at him, the young brown-skinned boy waved his hands, hoping that his aggressor would leave him alone.
“Haha, are you looking down on me?! Fine! Let me teach you a lesson about knowing your place!” Stamping his two feet on the ground, the massive youth summoned out a phantom of a rhinoceros, as his muscles that were covered in fat swelled up significantly.
“He’s summoning out his Spirit here?! Is that even allowed?!” Shin exclaimed unconsciously.
“Of course it is.” An unlikely answer came from Shin’s right side, as Isadore, who had disappeared previously, made his way back to the table.
“Woah! You scared me!”
“Haha, sorry about that. Anyway, in Imperius Academy, fighting is allowed. No… Rather, it’s encouraged that students spar among themselves. As long as there is minimal property damage and both parties don’t take it too far, anyone can fight anyone at any given time.”
Shin was amazed by this factual tidbit that Isadore had just given him. “What is this? Some lawless zone?”
“You could say so… That’s the true nature of Imperius Academy.” Letting out a huge sigh, Isadore continued on explaining with a helpless expression. “That guy there is Danroy Frithron. He’s the son of a famous colonel in the army. Naturally, since he’s trained to be the strongest, he believes that he can dominate his competition in the academy. In the past, he had even taken down a Spirit Core fighter by himself. Thus, the fact that the Freak of the Dundlewoods took down five felt extremely insulting to his legacy. He’s most probably challenging the freak because he wants some vindication of his might.”
‘Wow… He really knows a lot…’ Shin was amazed by Isadore’s extensive knowledge bank once more. ‘I wonder where he comes from… Whatever, I should just leave some stones unturned… Let’s just see how the Freak of the Dundlewoods fight.’
“Hah… Why are you so stubborn? Can’t you leave me alone?” Clearly not excited in the slightest for a fight, the brownish-red haired boy shook his head in disapproval.
“Come on! Fight me like a man!” Not wishing to waste a single moment, Danroy crouched down into a kneeling position before charging forward like a rabid animal. A grey light created a form of a lunging rhinoceros head and encompassed the obese teenager, allowing him to move at a speed that even Shin couldn’t trace accurately with his eyes.
“Why did I even agree to enter this school… I was so happy in the forest…” A defeated sigh escaped the lips of the young teen as he merely raised his right hand. Almost instantly, a gorgeous, divine tree phantom enveloped the youth as the humidity in the room shot up rapidly. Closing his fist, the Freak of the Dundlewoods summoned out hundreds of vines that intertwined with Danroy’s body, instantly forcing him to release his Spirit.
“T-This! My mana is being sealed?!”
“Hah… As I said, you should have left me alone…” Flicking his finger in the air, the petite young boy sent a thick vine and viciously struck at the back of Danroy’s neck, instantly knocking him out.
“He… Knocked out Danroy in less than five seconds?!” Isadore exclaimed in shock. Danroy Frithron was by no means a weak individual. Even though he talked a big game, he usually has the power to back that talk up. Yet, when facing a teen that seemed to be much weaker than himself, the famous rhinoceros wonder kid was done in within seconds.
“I really shouldn’t have come here…” Once his work was done, the Freak of the Dundlewoods released his Spirit and walked away from all the curious eyes that were on him.
“Shin… Where the hell have we stepped into?” Ella watched the fight with widened eyes. The Witch in the South and the Freak of the Dundlewoods. Both of them were the same age as Shin and the twins, but yet, they were far superior.
“…” Shin’s gaze traced the brownish-red haired boy as he left the canteen to get away from the situation.
‘Compared to the other freshmen, Shin you’re still too weak…’ Principal Erudito’s words repeated themselves once more in Shin’s head, and it had become increasingly apparent that the black-haired youth was still too weak to be facing any of the other freshmen. In fact, Shin was unsure if he could take on Danroy’s charge head-on, let alone the Freak of the Dundlewoods.
“Let’s just finish our meal…” With no words to spare, Shin suggested that the group finish the minced meat noodles that had started to gone cold.
During that dinner, no one uttered a single word.
“Isadore! You’re in the adjacent room?!” Shin exclaimed as he addresses the silver-haired boy who bore a giddy smile that stood next to him.