“He’s going on.” Danroy commentated to his good friend Suji, who was in the midst of meditating. “Shin Iofiel is next.”
“…” Opening one of his eyes, the sinewy youth gazed diverted his attention to the arena beneath him. “Good, we can see how much he has grown since then.”
“I doubt it would be much. He just advanced by one rank since the mid-year practicals. I bet he had struck a bottleneck.”
“…” Not willing to chime in on his childhood friend’s silly delusions, Suji sat up straight and prepared himself to enjoy the match.
On the other side of the amphitheatre, two purple haired twins were joined by their trusted androgynous friend, Isadore as they watched Shin walk up to the arena. “Shin’s up next? So quickly?”
“I guess he’s unlucky. To be one of the first few to step up…” Isadore smacked his lips in frustration. “However, at least we get to watch an entertaining match at the very start!”
“I hope he does well…” Emma bit her lip as she watched on with uneasy eyes.
“Elrin, look! Shin’s going on!” Kanari tapped on her bosom friend’s shoulder once she saw that Shin was coming onto the stage.
“Hehe, he has been rather elusive for the past two months. Now we get to finally see how much he has grown.” The white-haired girl replied enthusiastically. As the tournaments drew closer and closer, Shin had been avoiding training directly with Kanari, Elrin or Shizen, lest they faced each other in the tournament.
With the time that he spent secluded, Shin had come up with multiple strategies to take down each one of the dangerous opponents of his cohort, and he wasn’t going to risk showing it early on. Furthermore, with so many people gunning for his rank, it was imperative that he hid some of his best techniques to prevent others from creating countermeasures.
“It’s still the early rounds so I doubt we would see too much… But I’m still excited to see what he has in store.”
“Hmmm? What is it?”
“No, it’s nothing. It’s probably my imagination anyway.”
“… You’re weird…” Raising her eyebrows at Elrin’s cryptic words, the black-haired beauty diverted her attention back to the stage where the match was about to begin.
The thunderous echoes of the crowd seemed to have quietened down in Shin’s consciousness as he comforted himself with the memory of his deceased lover. Every single time he was about to plunge into something he was uncomfortable with, the simple thought of ‘What would Ariel do?’ was sufficient enough to calm his nerves. Opening his eyes, Shin felt the jitters that plunged him into darkness just moments before, had disappeared as his grasp on the amethyst pendant ceded.
“Are the two of you ready?” Standing at centre stage, Shin watched as his opponent flailed his arms about. Unlike Shin, his opponent, Edgar, was just an average combat course student. Hovering above Rank 15, he was nowhere near the level of Shin. However, that didn’t stop the youth from trying to best the second seed in the tournament.
“I’m ready!” Edgar hollered out.
“Likewise…” Realising that he couldn’t draw this out any longer, Shin took one final deep breath before correcting his posture. Pushing one of his feet forward, Shin raised his arms into a combat stance before introducing himself before the duel begins.
“Shin Iofiel. Spirit, The Sovereign Koi. Cultivation level, Rank 21. Please advise me.”
“Edgar Pollen. Spirit, Gorga Claws. Cultivation level, Rank 15. Please advise me.”
Following his cue, Shin’s opponent gathered his mana and summoned out two gloves with fingertips so sharp that would put the Gargoyle’s to shame. Bearing out the claws that he possessed, Edgar waited patiently for the referee to signal the start of the match. However, on the other side of the stage, Shin had yet to summon out The Sovereign Koi, causing spectators to squint in confusion.
“Why are you not summoning out your Spirit?” Edgar enquired.
“I can’t show all my cards this early on. I’m sorry.”
“Y-You!” Even though Shin was being sincere when he apologised, all Edgar could think was how condescending the black-haired youth was being. “You will live to regret those words!!!”
Fueled by the anger to prove himself, Edgar’s mana output spiked, and air around him began to distort. Based on the fury in his eyes, the youth had taken Shin’s words personally, and he couldn’t wait to rip Shin apart, limb from limb, like a rabid beast.
“I didn’t mean it offensively though…” Shin muttered to himself, to avoid triggering Edgar even further. “Whatever, you’ll see in a bit.”
Now that both contestants had stated their intent to battle, the referee took one final glance at the two of them before starting the countdown.
“Three… Two… One… Let the match begin!”
“ARGHHHH!!!!” Pouncing forward with a delirious roar, Edgar bent his fingers into a shape of a claw and went straight for the unmoving Shin’s pale white neck. With the wind at his command, Edgar could close in the distance at a blinding speed, and within two seconds, he was already close to ending the fight with one hit.
“GO TO HELL!!!!”
“How about no?” Grinning in mischief, Shin resembled as if he were a prankster that had successfully baited his victim. Glowing in a cerulean light, Shin coated himself in a dense mana enhancement aura, and his right hand started to blur. After training for over a year, Shin had become a master at mana strengthening at it practically took him less than an instant to fully power up.
“BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!!” Four deafening sonic booms reverberated through the arena forcing those at the front rows to cover their ears in fear. Only after three seconds did the spectators dare to open their eyes to observe what had transpired.
To their absolute horror, Edgar, who seemed to be about to wring Shin’s head out from his neck, was lying unconscious on the floor with foam bubbling out his mouth. In the boy’s eye sockets, only a patch of white could be seen as he spasmed out of control. Fearing the worst, the referee stopped the match and immediately ran forward, hoping to save Edgar’s life before it falls into the abyss.
“What… Just happened?” One of the spectators cried out. Having closed her eyes, she had missed her chance to witness one of the fastest matches the academy has ever seen.
“The black-haired tyrant struck again! That’s what happened!” Her friend bellowed out in reply. Even though he had kept his eyes wide open throughout the match, he was unable to comprehend the level of skill that Shin had displayed, and could only give a vague, but honestly, redundant assessment.
“That brat… He changed my seismic steps to a seismic fist?!” While the common folk in the audience couldn’t tell what was happening, Mychael, who was the absolute close-combat expert in the school, could fully analyse Shin’s brutal hits, especially since it was an evolution of his very own martial arts. “Since when could he do that?!”
Overhearing Mychael’s honest commentary, Madam Warulee hung her mouth open in absolute shock. “You’re saying that you didn’t teach him that move and he developed it by himself?! Wait… That makes sense.”
“What do you mean?”
“Couldn’t you tell? Shin could take down his opponent that easily as he struck four of the Eight Greater Meridians!”
“Wait, that was what happened?!” Mychael thought back to the moment where Shin unleashed his four punches that were illusory to the amateur eye. Since it was that blindingly quick, not many people could follow his movements, but for someone of Mychael’s calibre, it was second nature to him. “You’re right! God damn it, he changed my techniques to be more effective than it was before?! That fucker… I don’t know how I feel about this…”
The tanned scoundrel hung his head down as he fell back into his chair. Remembering the first day he met Shin, where the black-haired boy didn’t have the slightest inkling of how martial arts worked, Mychael felt a sense of gloom envelop his entire being. “He has grown so quickly since that time…”
“That boy’s crazy! He stuck four of the greater meridians at the precise order so that he could temporarily paralyse his opponent! It’s a genius move that can only be applied to those who are slower and weaker than him.”
The Eight Greater Meridians were pressure points in the body that governed how spiritual energies flowed through a cultivator. Once struck with sufficient force in the correct order, a martial artist could send his opponent’s mana flow to spiral out of control, effectively paralysing the unfortunate foe.
“No, the seismic combination has a unique property… It doesn’t rely on how much force the martial artist possesses, but how much mana he produces per hit. Thus, even if the opponent is quick enough to dodge, the mana being released could travel through the air and hit his target with the same amount of force. So it can also be used against much faster targets.”
“What?! Are you serious?!” Being wholly unaware of how potent Mychael’s created abilities were, Madam Warulee started to reconsider how dangerous Shin’s newly found combat skills were.
“Yeah, that’s why of the seismic combination, I had only developed seismic step. Since the ability manifests itself as a surge of mana, it is much easier to direct it in one direction only, such as a stomp. Using it as a fist technique was useless in my opinion since I had much better punching techniques, but judging from how Shin used it, perhaps the seismic combination should add a fist component to it.”
“Hoho, so he developed it in a way that shocks the close combat prodigy huh?” Madam Warulee couldn’t pass on the opportunity to tease the tanned scoundrel. “Looks like the teacher has become the student!”
“Yeah, yeah. Blab all you want Waru. He’s still MY student.” Mychael rubbed in on the fact that Shin had denied Madam Warulee’s tempting offers to join the auxiliary course dozens of times.
“Y-You!!! Argh, whatever…” Rolling her eyes, the middle-aged woman abruptly attempted to change the subject. “Honestly this year really has some monsters… I’m thinking if we should revise the rules for the tournament for the following years so that these kinds of one-sided matches could be avoided.”
“You’re right… For someone of Shin’s calibre, taking on opponents like Edgar might be a little too easy…” Glancing at the faces of the terrified freshmen in the crowd, Mychael prayed for the fates of those weaker students who were about to face the geniuses of their years.
“Elrin, did you see that?!” Kanari hollered out at the top of her lungs in pure excitement. “Shin really has grown to become crazy strong.”
“Haha, you’re right… However, why are you celebrating? Him being strong would mean that you have a greater risk of losing your valedictorian seat right?” Elrin asked in confusion.
“Well, it also means that once he joins my Duchy, we would have gained a tremendous ally. So there’s no demerit even if he manages to somehow beats me.”
“What makes you so confident that he would join you? The last I checked, he turned down both of our offers.”
“Hehe, don’t worry! I’m sure he would make the right choice when the time comes~” Beaming in delight, Kanari joyfully flutter kicked her legs as her ruby-like eyes dilated. Witnessing the larger than life actions of her bosom friend, Elrin squinted her eyes as she fell deep into thought.
‘Kanari, you… I don’t know if you noticed this, but every time you mention Shin, your eyes would sparkle in a light I have never seen you display before…’ Elrin recalled the recent weeks where the black-haired beauty would stick to Shin like glue. ‘Hah, maybe I’m overthinking it… There’s no way, right?’
Letting out a dismal sigh, Elrin shook her head to rid herself of her wild conspiracy theories and returned to spectating the other matches that were currently ongoing.