Book 5: The Capital || Chapter 32: Learning A Different Path (1)

“Urggh, so tired…” Falling onto his warm and cosy bed, Shin relaxed his tensed up muscles as he sunk deeper and deeper into the soothing mattress that was under him. The beds in the Imperius Academy dormitories weren’t made for royals, but for the fatigued Shin, the cushion was possibly the best that he had ever experienced. 

“So many troubles for the first day of school…” Recalling the events that had transpired throughout the day, Shin felt like a hurricane had just wreaked havoc all over his body. After school had ended, he had received dozens of fight challenges by hot-blooded youths that wanted to earn a win over the second-ranked freshman in the school. Naturally, since he didn’t want to stir up any troubles, Shin found ways to evade the challenges and somehow managed to return to his dorm.

“It’s all that asshole’s fault!!!” Cursing the tanned scoundrel that had forced this predicament onto him, Shin kicked his cushioned bed like a swimmer doing the flutter kicks.

“No… It’s my fault… If I was stronger, I could just whack them down with one fist. Just like the Freak…” Coming to a strange revelation, Shin felt the blood being drained from his face as a tinge of despondence enveloped his entire being. After Shizen Dundlewoods took down Danroy, there had been no other challenges from the study body. If Shin could do just that, the challenges would undoubtedly stop, but the problem was, the young teen wasn’t confident of beating anyone in the cohort. Turning his torso around, the Shin grabbed the amethyst necklace that was lying on his chest and deeply gazed into it.

“If Ariel were here, she would have most likely slammed the rest of them flat the moment they challenged her… Hehe… Her confused face, when no one dared to take her on, was so adorable…” Shin giggled when he recalled the face of the young Amazonian girl that never backed down from a fight.

“Hah… Ariel… I miss you.” Glancing up heavenward, Shin felt a wave of comfort embrace his weary body. Due to the chaotic first day that he had, the young boy needed a relaxing rest to invigorate his mental state. However…

“Hey! Shin! Are you in?!” An annoying voice echoed through the door as loud thuds could be heard from the outside. 

“Tskkkk, that Isadore… Why is he being so annoying?!” Flinging his blanket away from his body, the bedraggled youth stormed towards the door, reluctantly leaving his snuggled state behind.

“What?!” 

“Oh, you are in…” Since the door snapped open rapidly, Isadore jolted backwards in shock. “Why didn’t you tell me you were Rank 18?! After how much information I gave you?!”

“Well, you didn’t ask…” Shin lied with an annoyed expression. The truth was, he wasn’t planning on telling anyone about his cultivation level, at least until year’s end. After all, he was gunning for first place, and by that time, it would be imperative for him to reveal that he was one of the academy’s top students. 

“Still! You should have told me! I’m your ‘buddy’, remember?” The silver-haired boy puffed his cheeks like an upset hamster and protested Shin’s lack of trust.

“I never agreed to that term.”

“Hmph! Say what you will, but I am unquestionably your ‘buddy’! Whatever, we can talk about that next time. The most pressing issue at hand is how are you going to manage the constant threats to your life.” Changing the topic, Isadore invited himself into the room of Shin’s and found a comfy place on the messy bed.

“You know about that?” Shin asked. The major issue that he had was the fact that there were legions of passionate teens that wanted to prove themselves. “Who told you?”

“Your cousins, of course!”

“Those blabbermouths…” Shin glared out of the window into the direction of the female’s dorm. “Whatever, you can help me with that?”

“Of course! If you tell me everything, I can help to disseminate information to the masses so that people won’t bother you anymore! Don’t underestimate the power of an information network! I guarantee you that I would end all letters of challenge by the end of the week!” With his chest pushed out, Isadore declared.

“I see… Fine, I’ll tell you… What do you want to know?”

“Well, just the basic stuff. Where you’re from, how did you come to study at Imperius Academy… Oh! The most important one is your meeting with Kanari! There’s a lot of speculation out there that you’re part of Kanari’s secret entourage!”

“What?! That’s utter bullshit!”

“That’s why you need to tell me everything so that I can help you!” Flashing one of the most annoyingly brilliant smiles that Shin had ever seen from a boy, Isadore offered his assistance.

“There’s really nothing to it. I was a commoner from the remote west, and Principal Erudito somehow managed to hear of my cultivation level. That’s why he invited me over to study at Imperius Academy. Of course, seeing that my two cousins were talented as well, he brought them over too. As for my meeting with Miss Kanari, she had mistaken me as someone that her mother had sent to monitor her. That’s really it.” Shin succinctly explained while keeping a poker face. Of course, there was no way that he would spill everything to someone that he had recently met, so he sprinkled some lies around the truth.

“Hmmm, Kanari really thought that you’re part of Spion?”

“Yeah… Hey, why are you so interested in Miss Kanari? Are you her secret admirer or something?” Shin speculated. Over the orientation week, he had interacted with Isadore multiple times. During those times, the silver-haired teen had brought up the name of the beauty dozens of times, making it seem like he was an obsessed stalker. However, instead of being amused, Isadore scowled with a disgruntled expression.

“Huh? There’s no way that’s possible! Kanari’s…” Realising that he was about to say something that he couldn’t take back, Isadore used both of his hands to cover his mouth as his eyes widened. “No… It’s nothing. Anyway, I can help you with the challenges, but you will owe me a favour! How’s that?”

“It’s not like I have a choice do I?” With his poor connections and lacklustre combat ability, it would take a long time for Shin to pull himself out of the pit that Mychael had dug for him. “No extreme stuff though…”

“Don’t worry! I’m not that kind of person! Okay, I’ll get right to it! By the time tomorrow ends, I’m sure that there won’t be any more challenges sent your way!” Finishing what he had to say, Isadore bolted out of Shin’s room and disappeared down the hallways to god knows where.

‘Come to think of it, how the hell did he know about Spion… I didn’t tell him that… This Isadore… He’s really a mystery…’ Shaking his head, Shin returned back to the comfort of his bed, where he could finally enter the Garden of Hypnos to rest his tired body.

~~~

As the lunar being in the sky descended and its solar brother took its place, the second day of the school term began. Shin, who had already woken up before the sun rose, was busy running laps around his dorm, careful not to get spotted by anyone who could recognise him. Imperius Academy boasted hundreds of facilities such as public gyms to training rooms and cultivation chambers. Most of the time, the students could use the facilities for free, making it a hotspot for the student body. Naturally, since Shin was trying to avoid the hot-blooded youths that were gunning for his spot, he had to avoid those areas as if they were infested with rats.

“Shin, you’re late!” Ella’s angered voice hollered out at the black-haired teen who was sauntering into the restaurant where they were supposed to meet.

“I had to take some detours… Even though the campus is so huge, I can still meet some hard-headed assholes who are out to claim my flesh…”

“Yeah, Ella, you shouldn’t reprimand him!” Emma came to Shin’s defence. “Just because you’re in a bad mood, doesn’t mean you should pick on Shin!” 

“Bad mood? What happened?” Sensing that something was wrong, Shin queried.

“Tch… Shin, I knew you would be famous in the academy… After all, you’re you…” Not staring Shin in the eye, Ella’s shoulders trembled while her entire being seemed to faze out of existence. “But! Why are we the famous ones?! Why are there so many crazy guys standing outside of my dorm, waiting for me to come out?! It doesn’t make any sense!!!”

“Huh?” Shin was baffled by Ella’s mournful cry.

“Haha, let me explain…” Coming to his assistance, Emma wore a bitter smile as she explained. “When we woke up this morning, we were greeted at our dormitory’s door by a line of young boys, claiming to be our loyal servants… No matter how much we pushed, they still wouldn’t leave us be… Only after one of the teachers intervened did we manage to escape from them…”

“What?”

“Apparently, the word about our performance yesterday had gotten out… Now we’re some sort of ice fairy twins…”

“Pfft!!!” Unable to hold back his laughter, Shin blew out all of the air in his mouth crudely. “I mean, I can sort of get Emma being a fairy, but how could someone like you, whose as rough as a sheet of granite, claim to become a fairy?!”

“Shut it! It’s not like I like that name either! And honestly, are you one to laugh, mister terminally ill?” Sharply coming up with her own retort, Ella shot down the youth’s laughter.

“What do you mean?”

“There’s a rumour going around that you were a talented Spirit User back in the day. However, one fateful morning, an unknown terminal ailment that crippled your physical powers changed your cultivation course forever. That’s why even though your cultivation is high, your physical combat ability is rather low.” Ella repeated the whispers that she had heard about Shin. “However, not deterred by the setback, you fought back hard. Pitying your state, Principal Erudito took you in and decided to nurture you from scratch. Really, this is the stuff that only a depressed novelist could write.”

“What?! Who the hell spun that… Wait…” Shin recalled the words of Isadore the night prior and instantly deduced who was behind all the baseless rumours. “That brat… I really shouldn’t have sought his help…”

“Well, isn’t that good? At least you don’t have to worry about people challenging you all the time now!” Always the optimistic person, Emma clapped his hands and consoled the distraught youth.

“That doesn’t make me feel any better!!!”

~~~

While Shin and the twins were enjoying their morning breakfast, an elegant young girl was sipping her fragrant tea from the pure white ceramic cup while enjoying a healthy assortment of decadent breakfast items. Her stunning pure black hair that flowed gorgeously like a rainbow entering a leprechaun’s gold pot made her seem otherworldly, and her ruby-like eyes supplemented her beauty. Beside her, a young woman, who was dressed in a full butler robe, was attending to her mistress’ every need, and currently, she was recounting a report sent by her subordinates.

“There’s a Spirit Emperor guarding his house?”

“No, young mistress. The assessment is that the expert in that house is at least a Spirit Emperor. For all we know, the expert might be a Spirit Venerate or a Spirit Saint.”

“Well, we can cross out Spirit Saint for now… There are only so many on the continent, and I know the locations of almost all of them. But the possibility of the expert being a reclusive Spirit Venerate that wanted to hermit themselves from the world is quite high…” Kanari frowned while she thought. “What are the other things that you have found out?”

“Shin Iofiel and the Iofiel household does not exist anywhere in the Capital. Judging from the rumours that were being spread in the academy, there are claims that he’s from the west and was just a mere commoner that was noticed by Principal Erudito. Of course, we need time to investigate further…” Bowing her head, the butler apologised for the lack of information.

“Do you honestly think that a commoner would have a Spirit Venerate guarding his home?” Kanari raised her doubts.

“Of course not.”

“Hah… The more we find out, the more baffling that boy becomes. Whatever, try to investigate further but don’t touch Shin’s registered home anymore! We don’t need to agitate an expert just for the sake of my curiosity.” Kanari ordered.

“Yes!” The butler bowed her head once more, however this time, she raised her eyes in confusion as she asked: “Pardon my rudeness, but why is mistress so adamant about knowing more about the boy?”

Kanari took one sip of her tea before letting out a bitter sigh. Using her lustrous ruby eyes, the young girl earnestly stared at her servant of fifteen years, causing the butler to unconsciously take one step backwards.

“You don’t understand… I need talented people that can assist me when I inherit the Duchy of Highgarden. Right now, all of the political entities around me have swooped up every available talent, leaving scraps behind. Of course, I have my own ways of getting more capable people, but none of them would be as talented as someone who could reach Rank 18 at the age of fifteen.” Turning her head around, Kanari observed the Soul Tree that towered over her. Recalling the day where Shin first experienced the power of the tree and the tear that he had shed, the young girl felt a tinge of despondency. “Why am I adamant about knowing more about the boy? Because if I don’t, others will. Trust me, to cultivate to Rank 18 at our age is no easy feat. I bet that his history would be rather remarkable.”

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