“Wh-hat… Just happened?” After two minutes of being collapsed on the floor, Edgar, the young teen that Shin had knocked out with four blindingly fast punches, regained his consciousness and rubbed his head to quell the overwhelming pain that was piercing through his entire body.
“There you have it, senior. I told you that he would be fine after a while.” From the side, Shin’s gentle voice echoed through Edgar’s eardrums. “Give him a few more minutes, and the four blocked meridians would recover, and he would be as good as new.”
“You’re right… Sorry for doubting you before.”
“No, it’s fine. I know that you were just doing your job.”
After knocking out his opponent, the referee almost disqualified Shin for using excessive force in a friendly bout. Although the academy promoted fights, it had to be within reason. If Shin had intentionally murdered or landed a long-lasting injury on his opponent, the referee would have been forced to disqualify him from participating in the following competitions, and Shin might have been suspended from the institution. Thankfully, Shin was well aware of what he was doing and hadn’t lost control for a single second, only using enough force to temporarily paralyse Edgar.
“Am I free to go?” Now that Edgar was examined, and it was determined that Shin didn’t break any rules, the black-haired boy asked if he may be excused.
“O-Of course! I wish you luck in your battles ahead.”
“Thank you…” Jumping down from the arena, Shin cautiously raised his head only to find out that the entire audience in the Lucha Amphitheatre had their eyes fixed onto his lean body. Even the adjacent matches had been stopped just so that they could spectate what had happened.
‘Hah… I knew this would happen…’ Shin sighed mentally as he tried his best to ignore the gazes. As someone who only sought to self-improve himself, he didn’t want to have the overwhelming fame that some of his compatriots had. All he wanted to do was to do well in the tournament so that his place as the salutatorian would be secured.
Bending down his neck so that his face was obscured, Shin quickly returned backstage, where he would be hidden from the hundreds of stares.
“That asshole… He actually…” From the audience stands, a pudgy young boy was biting his nails in anxiousness. Beads of fat sweats dripped down his rounded face, and a mouthful of saliva flowed down his throat, moving his Adam’s apple in the process.
“I told you that he would be dangerous…” Suji bit the bottom of his lip as he chided his childhood friend. “Since you were the one who challenged him earlier on in the year, I’m sure he would be looking for a rematch, Dan.”
“I know…” Danroy thought back on the beating that he had rendered onto Shin, back when he thought that the black-haired youth was a pushover. “Hmph! So what if he became faster?! He still can’t penetrate my defences! What’s the worst that he could do?!”
Even though the obese youth was putting on a dauntless front, it was all a facade. His kneecaps had begun to tremble slightly, and a churning fear started to swell up in his stomach.
‘To think that brat could make it this far in less than a year…’ Danroy was terrified. He, alongside Suji, was among the top talents of the current generation. Yet, here came this irrelevant black-haired country bumpkin who trumped all of their progression speeds to become one of the most potent powerhouses in the freshmen year. ‘If he was given the full six years, what would he become?!’
“Nonetheless, so what if you really get him in battle? To be the best, you have to beat the best.” Suji ‘reassured’ Danroy, but his kind words fell on deaf ear.
‘Hmph! Easy for you to say… You’re not the one that pissed off a monster!’ Danroy screamed out in his mind. “Haha, yeah…”
“Don’t worry too much about it, Dan. We should just focus on our matches first.”
Unaware of the myriad of emotions that he had put Danroy through, Shin was still in the middle of hiding himself from the public. Every so often, a stare of reverence would be shot his way as he walked down his lonely path, making Shin wish that he could dig a hole that he could hide in.
“Shin! Over here!” Just as he was about to make a run for it, an excited shout caught the attention of the black-haired boy. Pivoting his body, Shin could see a silver-haired young boy running in his direction.
“Isadore? Are you going up next?” Shin enquired.
“Yeap! They called my name straight after you exited the main stage. By the way, you did spectacularly! I didn’t expect that you were that strong!”
“No, I still have a long way to go. It’s still the beginning of the tournament.”
“Haha! Don’t be so humble! Based on my trusted sources, I’ve heard that there are many members from the VIP stands that want to recruit you after this tournament is over!” Isadore beamed in delight as he revealed the information that he had just gathered.
“… Isadore. I have meant to ask you, but how are you getting all this information?” Shin finally worded out his concerns. From the first time that he met the androgynous youth, a seed of doubt had been planted in Shin’s mind about the true identity of Isadore. To garner so many secrets about the members of High Society, one had to at least have a foot in the door of the aristocratic life. Yet, no matter how much he asked around, no one had ever heard of Isadore’s name or family. Only Kanari acted a little suspicious as she avoided the topic, but otherwise, all leads regarding Isadore led to a dead end.
“Hmmm, I’ll tell you in the future. Now’s not the time.”
“What do you mean now’s not the… Ah, he left.” Before he could double down on Isadore’s answer, the silver-haired boy had already made his way to the centre stage, where his match was about to begin.
“Wait, now that I think of it, I have never seen Isadore fight with his Spirit before?” Shin pushed back his head as he thought back to the numerous occasions where he interacted with his close friend. Out of his entire clique, Isadore’s Spirit was the only one that Shin didn’t know. Although he knew it was a spear, Shin had never witnessed the silver-haired youth use it before.
“I guess now’s finally the time where I can see him in action.” Instead of returning to his audience seat, Shin opted to stay right backstage, where he got a perfect view of Isadore’s arena.
“Are the two of you ready?” Isadore’s referee raised his hands and gestured for the two students to prepare themselves. His opponent, a combat course student, summoned out a vicious, bloody sabre, that seemed to be capable of cleaving through boulders with ease.
Isadore, on the other hand, just closed his eyes as a cool breeze brushed past the arena. From the depths of his soul, a garish resplendent light dazzled the audience as an elongated metal pole appeared on the palms of his right hand. The pole was rather thin for a weapon, and it contained a devastatingly sharp metallic blade at the very tip. However, unlike the typical spear, Isadore’s Spirit also possessed a thick metal chain, which seemed potent enough to seal the heavens, binding the upper half of his weapon. Every so often, the chains of the spear would vibrate as if it was holding back a monster from escaping its grasp, hinting that there was something more to Isadore’s Spirit than being a standard weapon meant for poking his enemies.
“THAT!!!” Standing up from her window seat, Lady Seph’s hollered out as her voice rapidly turned nasal. Her lower jaw had dropped so far down that her full set of teeth were on prime display, sending those that sat around her to wiggle out in fear.
Rapidly throwing her head backwards, the blonde beauty sought out Principal Erudito, who was seated right next to the Duchess of Highgarden. The bronze-faced scholar raised his eyebrows and jerked back as he watched the regal goddess fly in his direction, all while the black-haired beauty beside him tried her best to stifle the giggling that was surging out.
“Someone from this generation awakened THAT Spirit?!” Lady Seph grabbed the collars of Principal Erudito shirt and started wringing away. Many of the onlookers, who had guessed Lady Seph’s identity, were shocked that the ethereal beauty had begun to chide the bronze-faced man in such a violent manner.
“Venerate Seraphim… Please… Let… Go…” Principal Eruditio pleaded with Lady Seph, but it was to no avail. Evidently, the appearance of Isadore’s Spirit had turned on the woman’s switch, and she was in the middle of a hysterical fit.
“Venerate Seraphim, do calm yourself.” At this moment, the Duchess of Highgarden came to Principal Erudito’s rescue by sending forth a minor wave of mental alteration, soothing the frantic Lady Seph’s nerves immediately. “We are in public, there shouldn’t be a need for this display.”
“… Duchess… You knew of this?”
“Of course! However, not everyone in High Society knows of that child’s existence, or what his birth means for the Empire, thus I urge you to calm down.” Kanari’s mother slightly lifted her head in a rapid motion to show how many confused eyes were currently staring at the three of them.
“Tch! Eru, I will need you to explain it to me later!” Releasing the struggling scholar from her grip, Lady Seph stomped her way back to her seat to continue on spectating the rest of the match.
“Haha, looks like her explosive personality hasn’t changed one bit huh?” Once Lady Seph was out of sight, the Duchess of Highgarden joked lightly as she helped Principal Erudito, who had collapsed on the floor, up to his chair. “Even though she had reverted back to her youthful looks, she’s still the same Lady Seph that we all know and love.”
“Yeah, it was a blunder to forget to tell her about Isadore…”
“Well, she would find out about him anyway. From what I’ve heard, someone has made Isadore into Shin’s buddy.” Severely doubting the sincerity of Principal Erudito words, Kanari’s mother flashed a playful smile.
“Haha, you knew about that?” Behaving like a child who got caught for pulling off something naughty, the scholar rubbed his nose in embarrassment.
“Of course, who do you think I am?”
“Well, I thought that it would be great if Isadore could befriend Shin, the boy would have second thoughts if the choice came for him to betray our nation. Of course, I told Isadore about Shin’s talents, so that he would act accordingly. Surprisingly, Isadore is rather mature for someone of his age.”
“He has been trained by the Imperial ancestor after all. There’s no way that he would be as childish as a typical fifteen-year-old.”
“You think? He still carries around that ludicrous dream of obtaining the best information network the world has ever seen though?”
“Ah, right… I’m sure he would grow out of that phase soon.”
“Haha, I hope so…”
While the VIP stands were thrown into a commotion from Lady Seph’s actions, Isadore’s match had just begun, and his opponent had rushed forward with the intent to conclude the match with one hit. The speed of the boy increased bit by bit as the red-coloured sabre moved in an arc towards the unguarded Isadore.
“Honestly, hasn’t anyone learnt from Shin’s earlier match?” Isadore sighed as he swung his spear horizontally and parried the oncoming blade. With his right side wide open, Isadore’s opponent felt a bone-shattering pain hit his shoulder blade as the silver-haired youth launched a hard-hitting kick.
“ARGGHHH!!!” Enduring the pain that pulsated through his body, the sabre-wielding teen turned one full circle while grasping his blade, forcing Isadore to hop back a few steps.
Thinking that it was his opportunity to strike once, more, the teen switched the sabre to his left hand since his right shoulder had been dislocated. This time, he was more cautious in his approach, moving conservatively to prevent showing a big opening that Isadore could exploit. Nonetheless, with one hand out of play, Isadore could effectively toy around with his opponent using his superior martial arts.
Parrying every strike that came his way, Isadore would feint a spear thrust but would change his attack to a pole swing halfway through, just to mess with his foe. All the while, it seemed like Isadore had the capability of ending the match right away, but for some reason, the youth wanted to hold back his punches.
“Hoho, Isadore’s martial arts is far better than I thought,” Shin muttered to himself. Even though he had known the youth for a year, Shin had never once seen Isadore train. “But I can’t tell how good he really is…”
Now that Shin had trained under Mychael for an extended period, he had developed an eye for analysing martial arts, even if it was a system that he was wholly unfamiliar with. Therefore, he could tell that Isadore was holding back a considerable chunk of his true might. Thus far, the only thing that Isadore had revealed was that he had a good foundation of footwork and counterattacks.
“Well, you can’t hide everything forever, Isadore…”
On Isadore’s end, his opponent’s movements had become extremely sluggish, and the silver-haired spear master had the opening to dislocate yet another shoulder. However, just as he was about to exploit the weakness that he had saw, the red-coloured sabre in his opponent’s hands burst into a ball of flames and halted Isadore’s advance.
“Tch! It’s useless!” Instead of defending with his own spiritual ability, Isadore evaded by hopping back at three times his earlier speed, stunning everyone who was spectating him.
“He’s actually that fast?” Shin was taken aback.
“You’re not getting away! *Fire Blade!*.” The sabre-wielding youth realised that he had a chance to take down Isadore and coated his cleaver with a burning flame. Charging forward blindly once more, the youth jumped high in the air and with his sabre in hand, he attempted to burn Isadore into a crisp.
However, unfortunately for the youth, Isadore sped forward to the other end of the ring in less than a second, shocking the spectators once more.
“He got even faster?!” This time even Shin couldn’t hold back his exclamation. Even though Shin was as swift as can be, Isadore wasn’t too shabby either.
“I can’t let this play out any longer…”
With his spear in hand, Isadore dashed forward to his opponent who was still in the process of recovering. Sensing that danger was fast approaching, the youth swung his sabre in last-minute desperation, hoping to deter Isadore from landing the final blow. Unfortunately, his blade was too slow for the trained eyes of his opponent.
Swinging his spear shaft, Isadore knocked the flaming sabre out of his foe’s hands and viciously performed a roundhouse kick at the teen’s left side, dislocating his shoulder in the process and effectively ending the match. With both hands out of commission, the referee was forced to stop the match.
“Isadore…” Watching as his silver-haired friend, who lacked all of the physical attributes of a warrior, mow down on an unwitting opponent, Shin couldn’t help but evaluate his opinion on Isadore. “Looks like there’s one more person that I have to look out for in this tournament…”