“Shin! I heard that Kanari sought you out! Are you alright?!” Emma called out in worry after watching Shin despondently walk towards their table. After retreating from the auditorium that housed the Soul Tree, Shin returned to a secluded restaurant where the twins were waiting.
After the incident where the fat aristocrat, Danroy, got mauled by Shizen Dundlewoods, the trio decided that it was best to keep out of the public eye. Thus, the twins began searching for remote locations where they could meet up and not get disturbed by the constant commotion that was always happening in the school. Thankfully, they managed to find a little-known restaurant that was positioned in an obscure part of the campus.
“It’s nothing. She just mistook me for someone else.” Shin bitterly smiled as he stroked on Emma’s silky purple hair, indicating that everything was fine.
“That’s odd… How could she have mistaken you for someone else? We never even visited the Capital once!” Ella thought out loud.
“There’s nothing to it. Since I was a talented Spirit User, she assumed that I was sent by her mother to monitor her. Of course, I properly explained to her that I wasn’t.”
“I see… Nonetheless, your solitary meeting with Kanari has caused endless amounts of turmoil around the school. There are even rumours that the two of you were going to duke it out to see who reigned supreme.” Ella filled the young boy in about the news that had been circulating around the academy.
“Urghhh… I think I’m going to get a headache!” Since he was still in the elementary stages of the fighter path, Shin was hesitant to become a celebrity in the academy. After all, he didn’t want hot-blooded fighters such as Danroy to come up and challenge him when he was still rather weak.
“Hahhh… I’m really not looking forward to the later classes in the day…” Shin sighed in agony as he recalled his class schedule. In the morning, he had classes that were leaning towards the theoretical side of the curriculum. However, once afternoon classes began, he would be faced with the challenge of taking on practical subjects such as close-ranged combat and wartime combat.
“Shin…” Emma lovingly rubbed her hands on his head to console the youth. “You can do it!”
“That really doesn’t help…” Just as he was considering about playing hooky, the school bell rang, indicating that the hour-long lunch break was finally over.
“Time to face my fate I guess…”
Imperius Academy. Training Courtyard One.
Being a school that had extremely close ties to the Imperial Courts and the military that defended the Himmel Empire lands, Imperius Academy has multiple facilities that would prepare their students for the real-life training grounds that a military personnel might face. A concrete platform that was about hundred metres in length and breath stood before the students in training, filled to the brim with training dummies, steel army-issued weapons, and a plethora of other devices that could only be found in the barracks of the Imperial Military.
As part of the combatant course, all students must take a module on close-ranged combat, even those who specialised in long-ranged fights, such as Ella and Emma. After all, if an opponent somehow manages to breach the vanguard, those at the back must act as the final line of defence.
Finally, finding a group that he could be part of, Shin huddled up as close as he could to the twins. Throughout the morning, he had been isolated in one corner with his fellow classmates afraid to come close. Thus, having a clique that he could be open with was a breath of fresh air. Of course, not everything was going smooth sailing for the despondent youth.
“Good afternoon, you maggots! I would say that it’s nice to meet you, but unfortunately, I don’t really like your faces!” Mychael, who was the foremost specialist when it comes to close-quarters combat, was the head coach of the class, much to the students’ dismay.
“For those in the Star Class, you know who I am. But for those from the other classes, let me introduce myself once more!” The tanned man tapped his chest in pride as he addressed the fifty-odd students. “My name is Mychael, and I’ll be your combat instructor for this class! My philosophy for teaching is straightforward. I’ll grill you as hard as I grilled my battalion back in my day! If you think you can’t handle it, don’t bother crying to your parents. All you need to do is drop out of my class!”
Before Mychael began his class, he made sure that every student present was aware of his teaching methods. The sole reason why he could be so crude and violent was primarily due to his reputation as one of the best instructors the academy has to offer. Out of ten students that came to his class, nine of them would record remarkable accomplishments later on in their combat life. Thus, even if the students were to complain about the abuse they received to their parents, it would fall on deaf ears.
“For the first lesson, I will be assessing where all of you are in your combat skills. For that, I’ll be using the standard training golem that the army uses.” Pointing his thumb backwards, Mychael directed the students’ attention to the inanimate block golem that sat in the middle of the courtyard.
“I don’t like to waste time, so if anyone wants to volunteer, please step forward now.”
Being ambitious teenagers, many of the students eagerly stepped forward to be assessed first. After all, leaving a good first impression was vital to their cause. Among the teenagers that stood forward, there was a pudgy young teen, whose posture exuded that of extreme confidence. Standing next to him, a tall and muscular teen also left the same impression.
“Danroy and Suji… They’re the experts at close-ranged combat!” One of the aristocratic students remarked.
Danroy Frithron and Suji Lasgeor were celebrities even before they entered Imperius Academy. Being part of notable military families the two young boys were slated to become some of the armies best officials. With the resources that were given to them by their affluent families, the two of them had cultivated their Spirits and combat powers into an astonishing degree. In fact, regular Spirit Core cultivators would even have trouble taking them on in a one-on-one battle.
“As expected the two of you came up… Whatever, I’ll assess the two of you first.” Mychael rolled his eyes with a tinge of nonchalance as he observed the two young teens. As descendants of heroic and well-known families, Danroy and Suji had a certain pride ingrained into their veins. They would only allow themselves to set the standard for the rest of the group and not the other way round.
“Suji! I’ll go first! I have to regain some of my dignity!” Danroy declared with a raging roar. After he got floored by the Freak of the Dundlewoods, there had been rumours circulating around that the famed Rhinoceros wonder kid was all bark and no bite, further rubbing salt in Danroy’s wound. Fortunately, Shizen was in another combat class. Otherwise, there was no guessing what the obese boy would do next.
“Go knock yourself out…” Suji replied with a bored expression on his face.
“Hehe… Let me blow off some steam!” With one high leap, Danroy flew through the air and landed five metres in front of the sleeping block golem. The moment it sensed that an enemy was near, its empty eye sockets lit up with a crimson light as the training golem finally awoken from its slumber.
“Try not to get yourself injured~” Mychael blew the dust off his fingernails as he cautioned the pudgy youth. Well, it was not like Danroy would take that into account.
“HAAAAHHH!!!” Screaming out in a frenzy, Danroy’s muscles began to swell, as his veins began to show all over his body. A grey phantom of a rhinoceros head enveloped the Danroy as the golem got up from its seated position and menacingly stared at its opponent. The air seemingly distorted around the pudgy teen, making Danroy look somewhat illusory.
Anticipating the attack from Danroy, the stone golem readied itself into a defensive posture. It had one of its knees bent to the ground, and it curled itself up into a shape of a ball. Not willing to lose to a mere contraption, Danroy congregated all of his mana into the phantom that surrounded him as the rhinoceros head became more and more realistic.
“Screw off!!!” With one fluid movement, Danroy charged forward like a raging bull and the five-metre distance that separated him from the golem was closed in within half a second.
“What the hell?!” Shin blurted out under his breath. Compared to the time when he faced Shizen, Danroy was much quicker. “So he was holding back before…”
Unable to adequately defend itself, the training golem flew backwards like a broken doll and collapsed on the floor with all of its limbs sprawled out in the shape of a star. Fortunately, it lacked any pain reactors if not, it would have most definitely been rolling around in agony.
“I didn’t manage to pierce it? Looks like this golem is stronger than the normal ones used in the military…” Instead of feeling vindicated for his actions, Danroy was stunned by the quality of the rock golem. Typically, his Rhinoceros Blitz would utterly decimate a regular training golem that lacked any true defensive mechanisms. However, it seemed that the academy had invested heavily in altering the golems so that it would act as a useful punching bag.
“Let me try again!” Since his rhinoceros phantom head was unable to take down the golem, Danroy opted for a more brutal approach. Enhancing his body multiple times using mana strengthening, Danroy charged forward as his entire being glowed in a greyish light.
What transpired next could only be described as a schoolyard bully manhandling an innocent child. The stone golem was unable to fight back due to its slow movements, and oddly enough, for a teen of his weight, Danroy was as agile as a butterfly, allowing him to evade any egregious attacks that could potentially harm his body. Punches and kicks landed square on the golem’s body while it couldn’t use any of its counter moves on Danroy.
“He’s really skilled…” Shin was amazed by the pudgy youth’s performance. None of his movements was wasted as Danroy danced around the golem, like a figure skater gliding through the ice. To the layman’s eye, Danroy seemed to be unable to damage the golem, but to the skilled students in the courtyard, they could tell that if any of the obese youth’s attacks landed on them, they would be spending at least a week in the infirmary.
“Even with that much weight, he could move like that…” Ella was also dumbfounded by the scene that played out before her.
“Alright, that’s enough! You shouldn’t try to break the golem. The Principal made sure to upgrade its defences so that it could take much more punishment.” Clapping his hands twice, Mychael stepped in between Danroy and the training golem and ended the fight.
“But I can still continue!”
“You’re here to get assessed by me, not to fight it to the death! Shut up and return to the class.”
“Tsssk…” Unable to refute Mychael’s claim, Danroy clicked his tongue and unwillingly left the platform that he was on.
“Suji, come up! It’s your turn!” Mychael briefly checked the condition of the golem before calling out the next person.
Suji, who had been meditating to regulate his blood pressure before the fight, gingerly opened his eyes and stared at the stone golem that Danroy had just manhandled. Realising that it posed no threat to himself, the muscular teen let out a bitter sigh and slowly stepped forward, causing the onlookers to shiver with excitement.
“The Son of War is taking the stage!”
“Hehe, we can finally see the rumoured Purple Dragon Crescent Blade in the flesh!”
‘Purple Dragon Crescent Blade? That’s the name of his Spirit?’ Overhearing one of his classmate’s words, Shin wandered about the properties of Suji’s Spirit. Since it was a blade, did it have elemental properties? What kind of abilities did it possess? Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait long to get his answer.
Crackles of thunder could be heard on the campus grounds, even though the sky was entirely clear and bright. As Suji gathered his mana onto his hands, coils of lightning shrouded the muscular teen, like they were purple serpents that feasted on the flesh of their unsuspecting prey. Just as Shin was about to scream out in horror, Suji raised his hands to the heavens and muttered the ominous words:
“Come to me.”
A bolt of thunder descended from the firmament above and struck the youth who acted as a lightning rod. However, instead of getting instantly fried, Suji emerged completely unscathed, as even his robes were unblemished by the electrical discharge. Though, there was one significant change…
In his hands, a purple sabre that was connected to an elongated metal pole had appeared, with a single carving of a dragon flowing from the end of polearm to the blade itself. Ever so often, a slight electrical discharge would spark out from the weapon and enter the concrete floor underneath it. Almost two metres long, the Guandao seemed to weigh over fifty kilograms, making one wonder how could Suji handle it with ease.
“Teacher, I’ll break it.” A man of few words, Suji succinctly stated his intentions and asked for permission to run wild with his Purple Dragon Crescent Blade in hand.
“Go ahead. I’m not paying for it anyway.” Mychael replied with a very Mychael-like answer.
Adopting an offensive stance, with his two hands on the Guandao and with its blade pointed at the golem, Suji allowed mana to seep from his body into the weapon that defined him. The carving of the majestic purple dragon lit up as countless lightning bolts were discharged from the shaft of the polearm. Once his preparations were ready, Suji leapt into the air like an Immortal ascending into the heavens.
“Fall.” Descending upon the Earth at a speed that no one could follow, Suji simply did one slash upon the golem’s body, instantly short-circuiting its cognitive functions. However, he wasn’t done there. The Purple Dragon Crescent Blade continued its momentum and broke through the concrete platform, breaking anything within a thirty-metre radius. The remnant lightning flowed through the ground and ravaged the outer sections of the platform, forcing the students to promptly retreat, lest the debris being released accidentally hit them.
“This is like…”
“A meteor crash!” Ella finished Emma’s sentence as the orphans were caught in disarray.
As the dust settled, Shin managed to get a closer view of the young monster and the state of the golem. Rendered immobile by the impact, the training golem had bits of electricity sparkling out from its body. Suji, on the other hand, was completely spotless, and the most terrifying thing was, his placid expression indicated that the savagery that he had just displayed was second nature to him.
“So that’s the might of the Son of War…” Shin unconsciously muttered out.
Even though Suji Lasgeor might be two ranks lower than Shin, his combat ability far outstrips the black-haired teen and any notion that Shin could take him on was utterly ludicrous. As he watched a livid Mychael scolded the nonchalant youth for causing him to have to clean up his mess, Shin was reminded of how much further he had to train for the number one spot in the academy.