“He’s… In the Spirit Core realm?!” One of the surprised students shouted out.
“No way… He was just advanced to Rank 19 a few months ago! There’s no way that he could condense his Spirit Core that quickly!”
“But there was no denying that pressure! And his ability… That was clearly a Spiritual Body Enhancement!!!”
Echoes of shock and agitation reverberated through the training yard once Shin comfortably took down the training golem. All of the students present knew how tough the training golem was and it how much effort it took to completely immobilise the automation. In fact, the majority of them knew that Shin had failed to even topple the golem even once during his first training session. Yet, the black-haired youth had completely surpassed their expectations and defeated his foe in one blow.
“Suji… He actually did it…” Danroy’s voice quivered as he watched on bitterly, addressing his childhood friend in the process. “That son of a bitch promoted that quickly…”
“…” With his arms still folded in akimbo, Suji bit his lip, supposedly in annoyance, that someone else other than Kanari had reached the Spirit Core realm before him.
Before Suji came to Imperius Academy, the two most talented cultivators at his age were Kanari and himself. Although Kanari was still far ahead of the muscular scion of the Lasgeor family, people were still calling him a genius that was unlucky to have been born in the same generation as Kanari. Yet, a few months before his enrolment, the name the Freak of the Dundlewoods came into the public ears and people were buzzing over him, somewhat dwarfing Suji’s name. And now, there was another monstrous prodigy that even surpassed Shizen, further pushing Suji’s name down the ranks.
“Hmph! So what if he condensed his Spirit Core?! There’s no way that he could catch up to our combat abilities.” Danroy scoffed at the black-haired youth. He had challenged Shin to a duel before and knew how measly his combat abilities were in comparison to his own. Thus, even though Shin had condensed his Spirit Core, the obese youth didn’t see any threats for the time being.
“Hold up… I believe that Mychael would ask to face him. That way we can further analyse his skillsets.” Unlike Danroy, Suji was keeping a clear mind. Even if Shin was clearly inferior to them, they still needed to understand how much he had grown.
“Hmmm, your Soul-Piercing Fist has certainly improved, but it’s still too telegraphed. If you fought someone of equal speed, you’re essentially fucked.” While the surroundings were going wild over Shin’s display of might, Mychael was the only one who was critically analysing Shin’s flaws. “Well, it has been a while since we trained. Come at me! I will personally see how much you have grown!”
Mychael rolled up his sleeves, revealing his arm which was filled with gorilla-like hair. As much as he denies it, the tanned scoundrel had grown rather attached to his prodigious student, and he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to monitor his growth. Given that they hadn’t been having any private sessions for the following few weeks since Shin condensed his Spirit Core, Mychael was itching to find out how much Shin had improved.
“…” Shin observed his surroundings and the oblivious man in front of him. Now that he had the entire crowd’s attention firmly affixed on him, Shin had to be extremely careful about revealing all of his tricks. Right now, over the past few months, Shin had been experimenting and developing new fighting styles that could neutralise many of the enemies that he would have to face. Hence, he must be wary about revealing his cards.
“Come at me.” Mychael bent his upper body forward and raised his palm to give a confrontational gesture.
“Hah, I have no choice, do I?” Shin opened his mouth to let out a significant sigh before congregating his mana once more. Almost instantaneously, fishy scales grew out from his body and covered him in a luminous shine that made him seem like a merman of myth.
There was no need for additional talk. Having done this routine multiple times in the past, Shin kicked forward and accelerated at a blinding speed that only a few in the training yard could follow. Knowing that his attacks were going to be blocked anyway, Shin opted to be more conservative in his actions and merely threw a light knee at Mychael’s beautiful face. Typically, the tanned teacher would play along and allow Shin to send weak attacks his way. However, for today, Mychael was taking none of that.
“ARGH!!!” Before Shin could even come two metres closer, Mychael sped forward with a vengeance and countered the boy’s attack with a palm strike to his abdomen. Shin rolled in the opposite direction like a cartwheel as he felt his entire body aching in agony. If not for The Sovereign Koi scales and his mana strengthening, Shin would most definitely have taken a one-way ticket to the infirmary.
“Don’t come at me with those fucking weak attacks! Show me how much you have improved you asshole!” The veins on Mychael’s forehead began to show as he hollered out.
“Tsskkk, you’re really pissing me off now…” Shin rubbed his back as he got up from the heavy blow that he had just received. “Fine! Don’t blame me if I knock out any of your corroded teeth!”
To the ordinary bystander, straight after Shin said those words, his entire being disappeared from view, leaving a puff of smoke in the air. The next second, a thunderous clap was heard as Mychael raised his right hand in a boxing position, and to everyone’s surprise, a black-haired merman had the heel of his left leg firmly attached to Mychael’s defence.
“No! He just moved insanely fast! What the hell? How could a Spirit Core cultivator reach those kinds of speeds?” One of the spectators who had a superior vision corrected his friend’s misunderstanding.
Shin’s Spiritual Body Enhancement focused on improving his overall speed and agility. In fact, his pace had matched or even surpassed the second-year salutatorian, Angie Allen, who specialised in speed and agility. If Shin was within the compounds of a water body, his speed could easily double, however, unfortunately for the youth, he had to make do with fighting on land for now.
Kicking himself out from Mychael’s reach, Shin started to perform the standard seismic combination that the tanned scoundrel was renowned for. However, unlike its normal state, Shin had drastically sped up the martial art, so that there would be no room for counterattacks. Enhancing his body using mana strengthening, Mychael took those hits head on, just to measure how hard Shin’s hits were.
Dozens of punches and kicks were being unleashed in a short period of time, utterly captivating the audience, the majority of whom were unable to keep up with Shin’s monstrous speeds. Naturally, those who were the most talented had the vision to perceive what was going on, but it was a tough task, even for them.
Not willing to show everything that he had conceived, Shin stuck to the basics that he had already demonstrated earlier on in the year. He had perfected the martial arts movements that Mychael had imparted onto him and was already integrating it so that it best suits his speed-oriented body type. However, since he was still in his nascent stage of assimilating the techniques, there were many glaring flaws that Mychael could exploit.
Ever so often, the tanned scoundrel would land a clean hit to show where Shin had left himself wide open, giving the boy a chance to rectify his mistakes. When Shin got hit, he would stop for a while to think about what he had done wrong, and once he had figured that out, he would stand up and use another angle to attack Mychael.
Soon, the both of them would forget that they were in the middle of an assessment and they reverted back to the days where Mychael would beat the shit out of Shin to help improve his combat abilities. What ensued was an entertaining match of a young teenage boy challenging a master of martial arts, and even though Shin was getting schooled, witnessing how he got up, dusted himself and continued on his assault, was a treat for the eyes of the spectators.
“He’s… Really fast.” Suji muttered under his breath. Shin had completely surpassed his expectations. Initially, the muscular youth thought that if Shin promoted to the Spirit Core realm, he would take a whole different path and focused on improving his skills with Spirit Armaments. However, Shin defied all logic and went for the Spiritual Body Enhancement path, something unique to cultivators that awakened beast-type Spirits.
“Hmph! So what if he’s fast? His hits look kind of weak for someone in the Spirit Core realm.” Danroy shook his meaty round head in disapproval, his voice showing a little tinge of envy. As a fighter that awakened a beast-type Spirit, Danroy was also aiming to obtain a Spiritual Body Enhancement ability when he condensed his Spirit Core. Thus, seeing as how Shin was one step ahead of him, Danroy couldn’t help but feel irritated.
“All I need to do is on my defences, and he won’t be able to touch a single hair on my body.”
“You’re right… No matter how fast he is, he can’t pierce through your defence with attacks like that…” Suji rubbed his chin as he analysed what lay before him. Although Shin’s attacks weren’t weak per se, they weren’t anything worth noting as well. “In my case, all I need to do is wreathe myself in coils of lightning and fire thunderbolts at him…”
“Exactly! So what if he’s in the Spirit Core realm?! We took down multiple Spirit Core realm cultivators before! Hmph, we could easily snatch the salutatorian seat from him.”
“Let’s not get too cocky… He has shown that he’s capable of great growth over the first half of the year. He came in at Rank 18, and now he had already condensed his Spirit Core. Who knows, maybe in a couple of months, he would surpass every single one of our expectations and become someone capable of taking us down.”
“You’re overthinking it again, Suji…” Although Danroy dismissed Suji’s ominous warning, deep in the recesses of his mind, a seed of doubt had been planted about Shin’s future prospects. Danroy had defeated Shin once before, rather comfortably as well. If Shin somehow grew at a rate that would enable him to surpass Danroy, wouldn’t that mean that the obese youth had failed to improve?
“Nonetheless, we should be more cautious with him… We still have half a year before the final tournaments…”
“… I understand.”
While the two aristocrat childhood friends were busy discussing Shin’s future prospects, the person in question was currently on his final bout. Spending a tremendous amount of mana maintaining his Spiritual Body Enhancement, Shin’s movements had begun to turn sluggish, and he couldn’t sustain his explosive speed. That was Shin’s biggest weakness for the moment. Since he had just promoted into the Spirit Core realm, he wasn’t capable of feeding his mana thirsty ability for an extended period of time. In less than ten minutes, his mana reserves would start to run dry, and Shin would be forced into his weakened state.
“Out of stamina already?!” Mychael hollered out with his corroded teeth in full view.
“There’s no way that condition is fine… Urgh, whatever, I’ll just give you your marks. Just leave.” Mychael waved his hands as he lost interest in pushing Shin to the limit. No, he had already fulfilled his objective of testing how much Shin had progressed since they last met. Thus, there was no point in continuing this farce any longer.
“How kind of you.” Shin bit the tip of his tongue to freshen up his mind and spat out the residue blood. Turning his attention to the crowd with opened mouths, the black-haired boy felt his cranium throb. He had done well to hide the majority of his combat ability, but still, everyone knew that he had condensed his Spirit Core and was proficient in close-quarter combat.
Flashbacks of the first time he came into the limelight surfaced from the recesses of his mind, and he mentally prepared himself to receive those letter of challenges once more. However, this time, he won’t be running away from them anymore. This time… He would face them head-on.
‘Bring it on, you fuckers!’