The match between the two juggernauts of the fourth-years ended with a colossal bang, spreading excitement all throughout the stadium. Young boys were cheering in vigour while girls were idolising the immense strength that Fred had displayed. However, among the hyped-up crowd, there were some unimpressed individuals.
“Urgh, to think that the match ended in that fashion…” Isadore exclaimed in disgust. “Charles clearly threw that match… He could put up way more of a fight than that!”
“Charles held back?” Shin raised his eyebrows in surprise. From what he could see, Fred had overpowered his opponent, especially in the latter half of the bout. The attack where he leapt into the air and dived down like a meteorite looked unavoidable from Shin’s perspective.
“Of course! He only used two of his abilities! If he had used his third one, who knows where the match would lead to!” Isadore acted as if he was a gambler who had just lost a major bet and pouted in frustration. “I bet the match was fixed so that Fred could win and impress Kanari!”
“Wouldn’t that be too much of a stretch? No matter how much he wants to woo Miss Kanari, why would he fix an exhibition match?”
“If only it were that simple…” Isadore folded his arms and tilted his head upwards to look at the black-haired beauty that was seated at the very top of the stadium. With her lips pursed, one could tell that she wasn’t impressed in the slightest about Fred’s performance. “Whatever, it’s just an exhibition match…”
The commotion caused by the two fourth-years began to die down as the arena was being cleaned up rapidly for the final two bouts between the fifth and final year seniors. While Fred and Charles left the ring, Shin probed Isadore about the upcoming contestants.
“For the fifth and sixth years, are there any one of them who broke through to the Spirit Adept realm?”
“No there isn’t… Honestly, it’s quite rare for a Spirit User to graduate from Imperius Academy as a Spirit Adept. There have been instances, but they usually occur once every decade. Since the only criteria for someone to graduate from the academy are to reach the Spirit Core realm and pass all of the required examinations, many of the seniors tend to focus on other disciplines once they reach the Spirit Core realm, temporarily slowing down their cultivation progress.” Isadore gave a succinct explanation.
“Of course, our cohort might be a little different. Kanari is already in the Spirit Core realm and in the next six years, it is almost a certainty that she would breakthrough into the Spirit Adept realm. The real question is, could she shed her mortality to become a Rank 40 Spirit Spectre once she graduates and writes her name in history as the first student at Imperius Academy to do so?”
“I mean, even for someone of Miss Kanari’s calibre, there’s no way that she could become a Spirit Spectre at the age of twenty-one…” Shin retorted Isadore’s claims. The reason why advancing to the Spirit Spectre realm was considered to be one of the greatest challenges a cultivator would face in their lifetimes, was due to the immense difficulty need to shed the mortal body and to merge their Spirits with their souls. A significant amount of comprehension ability and experience would be needed for the Spirit User to perform such a feat and typically most cultivators breakthrough in their thirties to forties. For Kanari to challenge it when she had considerably less time to learn seemed absurd to say the least.
“Hey, she broke through into the Spirit Core realm in five years. What makes you say she can’t reach the Spirit Spectre realm in six?” Since awakening her Spirit when she was ten, Kanari took five years to gain twenty-one ranks. If that point was considered, advancing the twenty more ranks in six years didn’t seem like a stretch.
“Well, it’s not like I don’t understand your thoughts. Having someone as talented as her towering over our cohort could be a blessing and a curse…” Isadore took one deep sigh and gazed deeply in the direction of Kanari. “Whatever, the match is about to begin. Let’s not talk about that.”
‘Looks like the connection between Kanari and Isadore is more complicated than I thought…’ Shin speculated. Initially, he held his suspicions that Isadore was an influential child of a noble that had made it into the circle of High Society. Unfortunately, after some cursory digging, Shin and the twins found no evidence that Isadore was an aristocrat. In fact, many nobles didn’t even know of the silver-haired boy’s existence until Shin brought him up.
‘I’ll have to investigate a little further…’ Putting his thoughts aside, Shin opted to concentrate on the matches ahead and come back to the issue at a later time.
Darkness soon descended on the bustling Lucha Amphitheatre as the dazzling sun above disappeared past the horizon and the chilling winds of the night took over. A blanket of milky sparkles danced in the heavens overhead and made the half-moon above seem obsolete compared to their majesty. Hours had passed since the exhibition matches had come to a close and Shin had long retreated to the safety of his dormitory room. Although the fight challenges had ceased, his striking black hair was known campus-wide, and many still came up to pester him. Especially since they found out that he was related to the Fairies of the Hail, countless thirsty young boys would come up to him, hoping that Shin could introduce them to the twins.
Thus, now that he finally had some peace and quiet, Shin was able to thoroughly reflect on his experiences today. From spectating the myriad of abilities that his seniors possessed, the young teen started to gain a better understanding of the path he had to take. Initially, he was just aiming to condense his Spirit Core and learn the Spiritual Body Enhancement technique in the process. However, after watching how his seniors fought, Shin had gained a different perspective.
From watching Angie use her Dance of the Valkyrie, Shin had conceptualised a technique that allowed him to change directions in the air. From watching the third-years fight, he had learnt about how spiritual pressure could be utilised in a fight. From watching Fred summon out his Iron Titan and how he implemented Spiritual Body Enhancement to a significant degree, Shin realised the best way to use a Body Enhancement. From watching Charles dance around the ring using the Lightning Swallow Steps, Shin was enlightened of the importance of training a martial skill.
Finally, for the final two fights that he had witnessed, Shin was once again humbled by how much talent there really was in the Empire. The fifth and sixth years were all in the Spirit Core realm, and their abilities were jaw-droppingly magnificent. If not for the mana barrier that the teachers had created, Lucha Amphitheatre would have been destroyed multiple times over. Especially the fight between the sixth years.
The battle between valedictorian and salutatorian of the sixth years was basically unwatchable as they appeared as blurs the majority of the match. In less than ten seconds, the entire arena was blown into smithereens, and the ground beneath them seem to have gone through a violent natural disaster. Even though Shin couldn’t learn anything from the match since it was at a much higher level than he was, he found a new drive to emulate the success of his seniors and immediately went back to cultivate.
His eyes closed and his body seated in a lotus position, Shin was carefully meditating while chanting out verses from the Celestial Water Mantra. Even though Shin trailed behind regarding his combat prowess, the young boy was confident of his cultivation rate. Since he first started cultivating, Shin had never had an issue when it came to cultivation and to him, it was as easy as drinking water.
The Sovereign Koi swam about jubilantly while Shin was supplying it endless amounts of mana. Deep inside his spiritual body, Shin’s own Celestial Lake had expanded to three times its original size and the mana that he could draw out from it had exponentially increased. However, it was still not done growing. With Shin absorbing the surrounding spiritual energies, the lake was about to expand yet again.
A cerulean light started emitting out from his body as the spiritual energies in the room got denser and denser. Condensation of water droplets could be seen forming on the windows of his room as it became more and more humid. Puddles of water could be seen rising from the floorboards as the water elements became the most predominant element in the chamber, sending the adorable little cerulean Koi in Shin’s hands to break into a celebratory dance.
‘I’m breaking through…’ Shin was well-aware of what was happening. He had been hovering at the peak of Rank 18 for quite some time now, and after witnessing the events that had occurred in the afternoon, he was finally ready to take the next step. However, his actions didn’t go unnoticed.
“Principal! Someone is breaking through!”
“I know, I’m not dull. I can feel the changes in the atmosphere… Which idiot is it? Haven’t they heard of the cultivation chambers?” Sitting in his desk, a bronzed-face man was cursing the moron who was breaking through in the middle of the night.
Even though a student promoting one rank wasn’t a big deal and most of those with weaker cultivations won’t be able to notice, for Spirit Lords, Kings and Emperors like the teachers in the faculty, they could sense the changes in the environment with ease, and often times, it would be a nuisance to them. Hence, the academy allowed students to use a cultivation chamber whenever they attempted to break through, as it wouldn’t affect the atmosphere as much.
“It’s coming from the freshmen boys’ dormitory, so he possibly hasn’t been shown the cultivation chambers. Nonetheless, are you going to visit him?”
“Huh? Who is breaking through?”
“We can’t confirm it, but it is most probably Shin Iofiel.”
“Him?!” Principal Erudito immediately stood up from his desk in shock. “Urggh, of course, it would be him… Hah, he’s really such a troublemaker… I’m going ahead, call Mychael to meet me outside of his dorm. Oh, and tell the rest of the faculty that I have it under control. I don’t want too much trouble.”
Opening up his window, Principal Erudito flew straight towards Shin’s dorm room, leaving his secretary behind to deal with the aftermath.
“Phew… That was close…” Shin raised his hands up as he carefully observed his body’s condition. Breaking through to a higher rank was almost routine for Shin by this point. Since awakening his Spirit five years ago, Shin had averaged advancing three to four ranks a year. Thus, he knew exactly how he should manage the dense spiritual energy that he had released over his breakthrough phase.
“Bring in all of the spiritual energy and convert it into mana…” The Sovereign Koi started to dance with joy as Shin’s body became an endless black hole that absorbed the surrounding mana ad infinitum. If the prior turbulence that happened were akin to a raging storm in the high seas, Shin’s current state would resemble that of a serene lake, untouched by even the slightest ripple.
“I’m finally Rank 19… Just one more rank before I can condense my Spirit Core!!!”
Crossing the hurdle from a Spirit Apostle to a Spirit Core practitioner was one that many Spirit Users dream of crossing one day. Yet, here Shin was tackling the task when he was merely fifteen years of age.
“*Bang!* *Bang!*.” As he was lost in his thoughts, two loud knocks on the door could be heard, immediately snapping Shin out from his trance. Turning his attention to the clock on his nightstand, Shin was appalled to find out that someone was at his doorstep at nine in the night!
“Who is it?”
“Shin, it’s me. Principal Erudito.”
“Principal!!!” Jumping out from his bed, Shin left behind the drenched sheets and bolted to the door.
“Good evening. How may I help you?” With a nervous smile, Shin welcomed his late night visitor as his door gingerly creaked open.
Principal Erudito was wearing a stoic expression which gave the young teen no idea about what he was truly thinking about. For a brief moment, the bronzed-face scholar turned his attention to the mess that was behind of Shin. Due to the spiritual energies being released by the youth during his cultivation, his room was in a shambles as if a storm had blown through the area. Puddles of dirtied water and furniture moved to be slightly disordered, if one did not know of the details, one might assume that Shin was a slob that didn’t care if he was living in a slump.
“Shin, you just broke through right? Are you Rank 19 now?”
“H-How did you know?!” Shin’s eyes quivered, and his legs moved backwards. He had literally just broken through a few minutes earlier and yet, the Principal already knew of that fact.
“Senior Erudito! I’m here.” Before the Principal could give Shin an answer, panting could be heard from the other side of the doorway as a tanned scoundrel darted towards Shin’s room.
“M-Mychael! You’re here too?”
“Tch…” However, instead of replying to his student, Mychael clicked his tongue and quietly watched the expression of his superior.
“Let’s talk inside… Here’s not the place to discuss this.” Observing that numerous boys were starting to leave their rooms to check what the commotion was about, Principal Erudito quietly walked into Shin’s room and urged Shin and Mychael to follow him in.
“Oh boy…” As a teacher of Imperius Academy for decades, Mychael could sort of guess what was going to happen next. Unfortunately, poor little Shin was kept in the dark, unsure if he had done something wrong or not.
‘Whatever, I’ll just find out…’ Closing the door to keep the curious eyes out, Shin retreated back into the room, ready to accept whatever fate lies in store for him…