After Isadore’s masterful display of might, the first rounds of competitions concluded without much happening. For the established monsters of the cohort, such as Kanari and Suji, their opponents simply threw in the towel before the match even began. Danroy’s opponent was knocked unconscious in a similar manner that Shin had employed while the twins had to take down their perverted male opponents, who took joy in having the twins trample over them.
Of course, not everyone was let off easy. Just like Shin, Shizen was forced to fight an overly ambitious youth, that wished to prove herself to the world by defeating the Freak of the Dundlewoods. Unfortunately, Shizen had no intentions of losing in the early rounds. With one stroke of his hand, the reddish-brown haired boy knocked out his opponent and had even sent him flying tens of metres in the opposite direction.
One might argue that facing a drowsy Shizen was more dangerous than facing his best friend, the Spirit Core cultivator, Shin. After all, at least the black-haired tyrant could pull his punches. Shizen, on the other hand, would treat each opponent he faced the same way. Whether it was a Rank 11 weak cultivator or a Rank 31 Spirit Adept, the nature boy would use his Adivinar Tree Spirit to completely decimate his foe.
As the first round of the tournament came to a close, an hour-long break was given so that the remaining freshmen participating could recuperate for the next round. Taking advantage of the rest period, Shin met up with the rest of his clique for an early lunch.
“Shin, you were spectacular down there!” An excited cry echoed through the hallways, as a white-haired maiden leaned in on the boy as she praised him. “Why did you have to hide the fact that you had grown so much?!”
“Elrin, mind your distance, we’re in a public area.” Before the Zedcris heiress had the chance to listen to Shin’s answer, Kanari’s commanding claw held the temples of Elrin’s head and pulled her away from the black-haired boy’s body.
“Eyyy~ You’re no fun, Kanari.” Elrin puffed out her cheeks and sulked.
“Haha, it’s fine Kanari…”
“See! Even Shin says that it’s fine!”
“That’s not the point…” Putting her palm on her face, Kanari let out a helpless sigh. “Either way, you really surprised us there, Shin. To think that you advanced that much.”
“No, I’m still far from reaching your level.” Shin denied Kanari’s claims with a bitter smile. If he were frank, with his added training, the black-haired youth was confident of beating everyone else in his level. Yes, even Danroy, Suji and Shizen, who seemed unbeatable to Shin just a few months prior. However, whenever he attempted to formulate a strategy to beat Kanari, he would always draw a blank.
“Hehe, let’s not talk about that. There’s no guarantee that we would face each other later on after all.”
“Perhaps, but if we do somehow meet on the field, please go easy on me.”
“I’ll try~” Cheerfully teasing Shin, Kanari laughed.
“Shin Iofiel…” All of a sudden, a lethargic voice beckoned from a distance, forcing Shin and Kanari to abruptly end their conversation. Stepping forward with enormous strides, a tall, sinewy youth approached the group, his face as tranquil as can be.
“Suji Lasgeor?” Raising his brows at the sudden visit of one of Suji, Shin straightened his back unconsciously. “Do you need something from me?”
“…” Staying mum for a couple of seconds, Shin could tell that Suji had a topic that wasn’t easy to bring up. Especially with Kanari and Elrin standing so close by. However, after a short while, he finally mustered up his courage. “I need a favour from you… You know your friend, the silver-haired boy that’s always with you?”
“Yeah, what about him?”
“I need to meet him. Please pass on the message.”
“Huh?” Shin was stumped. Why would Suji ask Shin if he could arrange a meeting with Isadore? “I don’t understand why you need me to…”
“Wait!” Kanari jumped in between the two teenage boys to stop their conversation. “Choose your words wisely Suji… I’m not warning you as a fellow student of Imperius Academy but as the heiress of the Highgarden Duchy.”
“Kanari…” Gritting his teeth, the tanned, muscular man tried his best to hide his displeasure. Although he was desperate to meet Isadore, he couldn’t do it in a manner that offends Kanari or the Highgarden Duchy. His family held considerable influence in the Capital. However, it was nowhere close to the amount of power that the Duchess of Highgarden wields.
“Tch, fine…” Suji clicked his tongue in annoyance and proceeded to walk past the group with an upset expression. However, before he left, he did decide to leave a message for the black-haired youth that performed so exemplary well today.
“Shin Iofiel… I do hope that we could meet each other in the tournament.”
Taken aback by Suji’s sudden declaration, Shin struggled to find the words to respond. “Yeah… Me too.”
“That’s good.” Finishing his business, the muscular teen disappeared into the crowd, leaving behind a confused Shin.
“Kanari, what just happened?”
“It’s better that you don’t ask, Shin…” Clearly irritated by Suji’s sudden actions, Kanari stomped in the other direction, creating an aura that screamed out ‘Don’t bother me anymore.’
‘Isadore, what other secrets do you have on you?!’ Shin mentally protested. The androgynous silver-haired boy had many peculiarities about his existence. However, now that both Kanari and Suji, two scions of influential families had clashed because of him, Shin couldn’t help but wonder what dastardly important secret was Isadore hiding.
‘I’ll be sure to grill him about it later…’
The hour-long break came and went as quickly as a salmon swimming through a river. Shin only had the chance to procure a sausage bun before the first freshmen contestants were called up to the stage, forcing him to chug down his light meal. Inside the arena, the first matches had already begun with Ella being one of the main participants.
Living up to her name, the Blizzard Fairy Sharpshooter, Ella, sent a flurry of icicles to her opponent’s path, completely immobilising him from launching any counterattacks. Even though the twins were stronger together, on their own, they were still a potent force. After a solid two minutes of constant bombardment, Ella’s opponent could hold it no longer and collapsed out of mana exhaustion.
It wasn’t long after Ella’s match that Shin’s name was called yet again. However, instead of having faced a hot-blooded teen that wished to make a name for themselves, Shin’s opponent forfeited the match, fearing that he would share the same fate that Edgar Pollen did. Naturally, Shin was pleased with that result as well. The whole reason why he opted to defeat his first opponent in an overwhelming manner was precisely to scare off his future adversaries.
Many of the monsters of Shin’s year experienced the same result. Not willing to become punching bags, the opponents of Kanari, Shizen, Suji and Danroy, all threw in the towel before the match even begun. Especially after seeing Shin, Shizen and Danroy fight in the first round, no one dared to test themselves against the prodigies that ruled their cohort.
Of course, the majority of fights still proceeded as initially planned and Isadore, who had put on a masterful display of martial arts just earlier that day, had to go against yet another fiery youth. Fortunately, Isadore’s martial abilities were far superior to his opponent’s, and he made short work of the boy. However, one thing that stood out in Shin’s mind was how little Isadore had shown. For one, the silver-haired boy never used any spiritual abilities, only sticking to the hardcore physical martial arts. In fact, Shin didn’t even have a clue about the elemental affinity of Isadore’s Spirit!
Starting to feel that his buddy was more and more mysterious than he first thought, Shin, shook his head and stared at the two beauties at were seated to his side. Elrin and Kanari were both members of High Society, and they were privy to classified information that no commoners could ever hope to get their hands on. Evidently, both of them knew what Isadore’s true identity was, but they never divulged the information they had on their hands. Every time Shin would probe them about Isadore, they would promptly change the subject, ignoring the boy’s queries altogether.
“Hmmm? What is it?” Noticing that Shin was staring at her, Elrin beamed in delight.
“No, it’s nothing.”
“Hehe, you’re weird.” Laughing off Shin’s gaze, the white-haired maiden continued to observe the arena.
For Elrin, since she was in the auxiliary course, she didn’t have to participate in the tournament and could happily spectate the entire competition with comfort. After all, it would be unfair to pit the combat course students, who had been training in the path of a warrior for their entire life, against their weaker counterparts in a tournament style competition.
The second round ended much faster than the first round, and it wasn’t long until the third round started. The third round was the final stage before the last thirty-two were determined. From there, the brackets for each match would be revealed, and the contestants would gain knowledge on their potential opponents. At this stage, the seed system would be thrown out, and the competition would now rely on a random draw. Thus, there was a good chance that Shin could face one of the strongest opponents in the level early on in the tournament.
“Next match, Shin Iofiel versus Vidrine Annery!” As the third round formally began, the announcer called out Shin’s name, alongside another student from the Star Class.
Vidrine Annery was a lean and athletic girl, who possessed a mace blessed with the earth elements. Being a commoner, Vidrine took the hard way into Imperius Academy as she worked tirelessly to obtain a scholarship. With her mediocre Spirit, the aspect that made her stand out from the crowd was her overwhelming skill in martial arts and her work ethic that would even exhaust the life out of a horse.
“Vidrine is a hard match… Will you be okay, Shin?” Kanari queried.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to face someone this skilled in the third rounds… But nonetheless, I can’t be intimidated by every adversary that I face. Otherwise, how would I retain the salutatorian seat?”
“You’re right!” Kanari smirked in delight at Shin’s resolve. “Do be careful though. Vidrine might only be at Rank 17, but her attacks are brutal. Try not to get hit by her mace.”
“I’m not even planning on getting hit!” Jumping down to the corridor that led to the arena, Shin reassured his friends that he would be cautious. “Wait for my good news!”
“Black-haired tyrant is coming on.”
“He’s on so early again… I wonder what surprises he has in store for us.”
“Do you think that his opponent would give up just like his previous one?”
“No, Vidrine is not the type to not put up a fight! I’m sure she would struggle to the very end.”
While walking towards the stage, where the referee and a young girl were waiting for his arrival, Shin could overhear the murmurs from the crowd. Sighing despondently at how accurate their assessment of Vidrine was, the boy put on a bitter smile.
“Shin, I didn’t expect to meet you so early on in the arena.” Now that they were standing face to face, Vidrine had the chance to properly address the black-haired youth that she shared the same classroom with. “It’s a shame really… Facing such a tough opponent before the round of thirty-two.”
“Since I’m so tough, why don’t you concede then?” Shin lightly joked.
“Haha! I could say the same to you! Would you do me a favour and throw in the towel?”
“Hah… It really was a pointless endeavour, wasn’t it?” Shaking his head, Shin readied his stance and prepared to summon out his Spirit. Shin’s sudden action stunned the onlookers and even his opponent. In his first match against Edgar, the black-haired boy didn’t break a sweat, and he managed to utterly decimate his foe in one move.
“Hoho, are you taking our match that seriously? I’m honoured.”
“I’m just being real. There’s no way that I could take you down by fighting passively.” Shin held tremendous respect for Vidrine. From her backstory to her overall might, there was no way that Shin would look down on the commoner just because she was a few ranks lower than him.
“HAHAHA!!! You’re right! We really should all be real!” Bellowing out in laughter, Vidrine wiped the tears off her eyes. Raising her hands, a dense light congregated within her grasp as an ancient mace, filled to the brim with earthen elements, dominated the ring. “Let’s enjoy this match shall we?”
Even though Vidrine knew that she was probably going to lose this match, she still wished to fight to her heart’s content.
“Are the two of you ready?” Looking at the two participants, the referee lifted his hands up in the air and hollered out:
“Let the match begin!”