Fifteen minutes had passed since the match between Shin and Danroy had begun. Well, to call it a match would be a stretch. The only thing that had happened was Shin being thrown into the air multiple times by the raging bull that was Danroy. The young teen’s entire body had bruises all over, and over a hundred beads of blood were dripping down his head. Even though Shin had a cheat ability that could regenerate his wounds, but ultimately, it was unsustainable in the long term, and the boy’s body had already started to break down from within. However, that did not deter Shin from getting up each time.
“You’re really resilient, you know that? How the hell are you able to get up after each pounding?!” Danroy exclaimed out in horror. He had fought many of the best fighters in the military, and some of them had even condensed their Spirit Cores. Yet, he had never seen anyone who could take on his deadly attacks head-on so many times.
“Hah… Hah…” At this point, Shin’s head wasn’t even thinking clearly. If he had a sober mind, the youth would undoubtedly have given up by now. Was it due to his broken consciousness? Or was it because of his stubbornness? Perhaps it was a combination of the two? Whichever was the case, Shin was only acting on instinct at this point, and his consciousness was pushing him to keep standing up.
“Shin…” Ella and Emma clenched their fists in agony. As much as they wanted to rush forward to support Shin, as long as the black-haired youth had not given up, they didn’t have the right to do such a deed.
Danroy kept his hands in his pocket as he watched Shin stumbled about in place. In his current state, even a gentle summer breeze would sweep the boy off his feet. Yet, each time he fell, no matter how hard the impact was, Shin would get up once more.
With a perplexed expression, the obese youth observed the faces of the spectators. Suji was wearing a deep frown, his youthful face started to show signs of wrinkles as he watched how his childhood friend was tossing Shin in the air as if he were a stir-fried dish. The twins and Isadore were all breathing heavily with their nostrils flared up, while Shizen was biting his nails in nervousness. Finally, Kanari and Elrin in the corner were just flashing a ghastly smile, one of the likes that would make any man’s skin crawl. Even though their expressions seemed amicable, Danroy felt as if a thousand daggers were piercing through his skin.
Turning his attention back to Shin, and carefully observing his sorry state, Danroy finally realised why he was getting those queer looks. From their perspective, they were witnessing a schoolyard bully picking on a poor little boy that had no means to resist the bully’s beatings. Thus, even though Danroy had obviously won, he had lost the moral high ground when he continued to repeatedly beat Shin down.
“This is getting boring… Let’s just end this here…” Switching to damage control mode, Danroy released his Spirit and the phantom of the Rhinoceros head immediately dissipated into nothingness.
“There’s no point in continuing this… Let’s just call it a draw and let’s end this.” Even though Danroy had come out as the clear victor, he was amazed by Shin’s perseverance and decided to take pity on the youth.
“Shin!!!” The moment Danroy declared that the duel ended, Shin fell to his knees and vomited out a mouthful of blood. No matter how good his healing abilities were, there was no way that he would come out unharmed after Danroy wrangled him like a ragdoll. Emma and Ella ran forward instantly with teary eyes, praying to the Immortals above that the youth had not sustained any lasting injuries.
“What a waste of time…” Even after beating Shin to a pulp, Danroy didn’t feel like he had accomplished anything and walked towards the exit, where Suji was waiting for him.
“Suji, let’s go. He’s just a nobody that doesn’t deserve that second position, as we suspected. There’s no need to feel threatened by him.”
“Do you honestly think so?”
“Huh?” Confused by Suji’s succinct reply, Danroy halted his footsteps. “What do you mean by that?”
“No… It’s nothing. Let’s go.” Unwilling to spell everything out for his dense childhood friend, Suji took one final look at Shin, who was unconscious on the floor, before turning to leave the training yard, with Danroy following close behind.
“…” While Shin’s entourage was doing their best to figure out if their friend was about to die, one particular eagle-eyed white-haired girl was rubbing her chin in amazement. As the daughter of one of the most influential men on the planet, Elrin had been exposed to nearly every extraordinary spiritual ability there was. Although she had recognised how Shin was able to keep standing up from the life-threatening attacks that Danroy launched, she didn’t dare to confirm her hypothesis.
“That… Was Heal right?”
“Kanari, you know that you can’t fool me! That was clearly Heal! Shin, that guy, he’s a healer?!” Unlike her previous playful demeanour, Elrin was now frantic. “Fifteen years of age, Rank 19, The Sovereign Koi… And now a healer?! Who the hell is this guy? Kanari, you know his identity right?!”
“Don’t no comment me! Whatever, with my father’s connections, I can investigate everything within a few days anyway.”
“… I saw him first.” Kanari raised a protest with a feeble voice. In fact, she didn’t even dare to look Elrin in the eye.
“That’s not how competition works, Kanari…” Elrin rolled her eyes in annoyance. Now that she knows how valuable Shin was, Elrin finally understood why Kanari placed so much importance on the black-haired youth.
“Who the hell is this guy? Shin Iofiel, how come he wasn’t famous before? How could I have never heard his name before? Wait a second… Shin Iofiel… Iofiel… Iofiel Angel… Don’t tell me!!!” Coming to a shocking revelation, cold sweat began to pour out from her gorgeous forehead, and her teeth began to chatter. Like a broken robot, Elrin pivoted her head to look at her bosom friend. “Is it?”
“… Unfortunately, it is… He’s HER disciple.” Kanari knew that she had lost. Elrin was the last person on earth that Kanari wanted to reveal the secret to, but unfortunately, she was unable to keep it under wraps.
“!!!” Falling out of the bench, Elrin’s jaw dropped as her eyes quivered in excitement and reverence. “Hahaha, and you didn’t want to tell me?! What kind of friend are you?!”
“If I told you, you would do everything that you could to poach him over… Can’t you just concede him to me? You already have heaps of talented individuals over at the Zedcris Headquarters. I still have not recruited a single talent!”
“That’s because you’re too picky, Kanari. It’s not my fault! Well, if he wasn’t Lady Seph’s disciple, I might have ceded him to you, but now…” Elrin jumped to her feet and rubbed her hands in excitement. “Well, before we can bring him over to either one of our sides, we should really treat his injuries. *Clap!* *Clap!*.”
After Elrin brought her hands together twice, three dark silhouettes dropped from the ceiling and surrounded the white-haired girl.
“Bring out the Snow Owls, we have to rush him to the Zedrcis building nearby. Oh, and tell those in the store to bring out Healer Escfortin. We need him as soon as possible.” Elrin barked out orders to her subordinates before turning to Kanari. “I’m going to take him to the Zedcris building so that he can tend to his wounds. I’m sure that’s okay with you?”
“I’m going with you!”
“…” Taken aback by Kanari’s sudden fervour, Elrin took one step back and shot her bosom friend a queer look. Although she knew that Kanari only had the intention to bring Shin into her forces, it was the first time that the aloof beauty had ever shown that much concern for a person of the opposite gender.
“Wow, you really are dedicated to bringing him in… But unfortunately, he’s going to join my forces.”
“Don’t be sure of that too soon…”
“Hmmm?” After getting knocked out cold by Danroy, Shin felt himself getting pulled into a cold and dark world where nothing but blackness existed. While he was in a deep comatose state, a familiar voice called out to him, soothing his entire soul in the process.
“Shin… Shin… Are you awake?”
“This voice… Ariel?! Ariel are you there?!” In the bleak world where nothing existed, Shin was greeted by the voice of his deceased loved one.
Opening his ‘eyes,’ an Amazonian scarlet-haired girl, who was no more than fifteen years of age, was standing right in front of Shin. In a gorgeous red robe with beautiful embroidery of flaming trees, Ariel let out a gentle smile as she slowly approached Shin. The freckles on her face were still as adorable as ever, and her dazzling smile forced Shin’s heart to tighten like it never did before. Even though she wasn’t the prettiest girl in the world, to Shin, Ariel had always been the most beautiful creature that had ever lived.
“Ariel! Ariel! I’ve missed you! Ariel! Ariel!” Pulling the scarlet-haired girl into his embrace, Shin let out a bucket full of tears fall from his eyes. “Why… Why were you so foolish?! Why did you go?!”
“I’m here now…”
“Ariel! I’ll never let you go! I’ll never let you go ever again!”
“I know…” Staying in the warmth of each other’s embrace, Shin treasured every second of the reunion. “But I have to go.”
“What?!” Opening his teary ‘eyes’ once more, Shin started to see the image of Ariel blur as her beautiful smile turned in to a frightful grimace. All of a sudden, an ice spear, the size of a lamppost, pierced through the tender flesh of the poor girl, bringing back the nightmares that Shin had been having for the past half a year. “ARIEL!!!! NO!!!!”
The darkened world collapsed almost instantly as Shin jerked dreadfully awake. The clean robes that he had changed to had been drenched with gallons of his own sweat, and his entire body was trembling in fear.
“Shin? Shin? Are you okay?” From his side, a concerned feminine voice, other than that of Ariel’s called out to him, bringing his consciousness back to reality.
Gently pivoting his head, Shin was greeted by an ethereal beauty, who had her ruby-coloured eyes opened up wide as if they were saucers and her brows rose in concern. Kanari’s acne-free face edged closer to Shin as she tried to ascertain the condition of the distraught boy, who seemed to be out of sorts, even though he was thrust awake.
“I’m… I’m fine… I just… Had a bad dream, that’s all…” Finally coming to his senses, Shin rubbed the temples of his forehead and attempted to calm himself down. Ever since Ariel’s death, Shin had been accumulating stress, and due to his never-ending training regimen, he never had the time to properly sleep. Furthermore, he knew that if he fell asleep, the nightmares of that night would return to haunt him. Thus, Shin would frequently try to avoid entering into a state of deep sleep.
So when Danroy finally knocked him out of his senses, all of the stress that he had kept bottled up overflowed like a broken dam and the nightmare of that fateful night returned to the forefront of Shin’s consciousness.
“I’m fine now… What happened?”
“The match between Danroy and you ended in a draw. However, you fainted immediately afterwards, so Elrin used her connections to bring you to a healing facility outside of the academy. That’s where you are right now.”
“I see… I ‘drew’ with Danroy huh?” Even though he wasn’t lucid for half the fight, Shin could tell that Danroy took pity on him and self-declared the match a draw. “What a shame…”
“Ermmm, I’m sorry, but now that you’re awake, could you release my hand now?”
“What?!” Looking down at his arm, Shin realised that he had been holding the hand of Kanari’s this entire time. When he was dreaming about Ariel, the desperate youth must have had sought out the warmth of human contact and grabbed the nearest thing to it. “Ah! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!”
“No, it’s fine… I know that you weren’t aware…” A compassionate smile crept up Kanari’s lips as she rubbed on her freed hand. During Shin’s nightmare, he had gripped on Kanari’s hand the entire time, causing her milky white complexion to turn purple.
‘To cause him this much distress… This Ariel must have meant the world to him…’ Kanari thought to herself. During Shin’s deep sleep, he had blurted out Ariel’s name multiple times, and each time he said her name, it was filled with tenderness and love, proving how much the youth truly missed her. “Anyway, since you’re awake, let me call the rest back. They’re out there exploring the building.”
“No problem. Just rest for now.” Gracefully walking out of the ward that Shin was kept in, Kanari went to look for his friends.
“What a blunder… Thankfully, there were no witnesses, if not, I’m sure all of the boys would try to murder me…” Kanari was the divine goddess and the idol of the majority of the male population in the academy. If word got out that Shin had held her hand, the number of vengeful boys that would come knocking on his door would far surpass the number of challenges that he was getting now.
“Hah… It’s been over half a year, and yet, I still can’t forget that night…” Shin shook his head and deeply stared at the clean ceiling above him and allowed his mind to wander. “Ariel, I miss you…”