The world darkened as the gibbous moon hung high up in the celestial heavens. Even though it had been raining over these couple of days, the sky was void of clouds, bringing the enormous patch of heavenly stars into view. While the rest of the student population were tucked in and ready to go to bed, Shin and Isadore were staring at one another in an empty training yard, as if unaware of how late it was.
“How did you get permission to enter here? Madam Warulee is quite strict about the opening hours of this facility.” Shin enquired. Based on his personal experience, the administration of the academy rarely bent the rules for any student, regardless of their background.
“I have my methods… But that’s not the point…” Isadore shook his head as he walked to the centre of the training yard. His posture flinching slightly, the young boy seemed apprehensive to bring up the topic that he truly wanted to discuss.
“What’s the matter?”
“Shin… Do you consider me as your friend?”
“Huh?” Taken aback by the sudden question, Shin furrowed his brows. “What are you going on about? Are you high?”
“Just answer the question, Shin! Am I your friend?!”
“…” Shin folded his arms as he watched the silver-haired boy exploded with fervour. Even though he didn’t know what was going on in Isadore’s mind, Shin sensed that his reply must be sincere and without any falsehood. Otherwise, something terrible might occur.
Reflecting on the past year, Shin thought back to the numerous moments where he and Isadore interacted. From the first day of the orientation week to the times where Isadore shared the intelligence that his ‘vast information network’ had unearthed, Shin recollected all those moments. Even the simple times where they would bicker back and forth about the smallest of issues. Thinking back, if Isadore wasn’t there, Shin felt that his life would have been much more grey.
“Don’t ask that kind of idiotic question, Isadore. If we aren’t friends then what are we?” Shin retorted, pissed off that the silver-haired boy would even suggest otherwise.
“Shin… You’re right. Looks like Principal Erudito was correct about you…” Hearing the black-haired youth’s answer, Isadore smiled bitterly to himself. “Shin, since we’re friends, I have a present for you.”
Bringing out his right hand, the air began to distort as mana flowed out of the young boy’s pores. Being a Spirit Apostle, there was no way that Isadore could produce spiritual pressure, but for some reason, Shin felt his skin crawl and his spine tingle the moment the petite boy’s mana hit the air.
“Isadore, you…” Words failed to escape Shin’s mouth as he watched one of his best friends in the academy seemingly change into a different person. Although his outward appearance remained unchanged, the atmosphere around Isadore was screaming out in fear, as if it was trying to escape an indomitable warrior that mowed down his enemies with impunity.
In a brilliant silver flash, a divine spear, whose tip appeared to be capable of ripping open the firmament, manifested itself in Isadore’s hands. Right beneath the spear tip, a thick metallic chain, made out of a mystical material that could bind anything that it encased, tremored slightly. Although he had seen the Spirit once before, Shin never had a close look at how Isadore’s spear really looked like. Initially, he thought that it was a regular weapon-type Spirit with some peculiarities, but now that Shin had a closer look, he could tell that Isadore’s Spirit was anything but ordinary.
“Shin, as you may have guessed. I’m not a commoner that has no ties to High Society. However, neither am I a prevalent part of the aristocratic circle. In fact, there are very few people who know that I exist.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t divulge too much for now… However, you have to trust me on this.” Isadore shook his head as he recalled the hardships that he had to go through as a child. How alone he was in that dark and desolate place. Nonetheless, that time had long past. Now, he had friends and had forged lasting relationships that would last for a lifetime. “Although I’m not publicly known, I have learnt much about High Society during my years growing up. Including the Lasgeor martial arts.”
Disappearing from Shin’s sight, Isadore bolted forward with his spear over his shoulders. Instantly breaching the distance between them in less than a blink of an eye, Isadore slammed down his spear in a huge arc, stunning the unprepared Shin in the process.
‘Shit!’ Shin cursed as he executed the Lightning Swallow Steps, barely dodging Isadore’s strike in the process. Naturally, with its target missing, Isadore’s spear slammed into the concrete ground sending dust and granite flying in all directions as he created an impact crater.
“What the hell?! Are you trying to kill me?!” Shin furiously reprimanded Isadore.
“Of course not! I knew that you would dodge that strike with ease.”
“…” Rendered speechless by Isadore’s retort, Shin squinted his eyes in anger. Also, he was absolutely appalled at how skilled the silver-haired boy really was. ‘How the hell is he able to move that fast?! He’s way faster than Natasha!!’
“By the way, that strike is one of the Lasgeor family’s signature moves. The Tiger leaps across the Great Wall. Do well to remember it, I assume that Suji would use that move as an opening.”
“How do you know all of this? Don’t tell me you’re…”
“Before you speculate, no, I’m not part of the Lasgeor family, nor am I the descendant of any aristocratic families. My roots lie much deeper in the Empire’s history…” Cryptically dropping some hints about his heritage, Isadore changed his expression and kept his mouth shut, hinting that he wasn’t going to reveal anything more.
‘Deeper in the Empire’s history? Could Isadore be an Imperial?!’ Shin hypothesised. ‘No, that doesn’t make sense. All of the Princes and Princess are publically known! Furthermore, the Imperial Bloodline is easily identifiable through their emerald coloured eyes and smooth flowing hair akin to that of a Dragon’s Beard, both of which are things that Isadore lacks!!!’
“Are you a…”
“I’m sorry, Shin. I can’t tell you more than I already have. Eventually, I might be able to explain everything to you, but now’s not the time… What’s more pressing is that you learn all of Suji and Danroy’s martial arts, so that you will have some sort of idea on how to counter them!” Abruptly changing the subject, Isadore increased the amount of mana being supplied to his spear, forcing Shin to unconsciously step back. “Ready yourself, I’m going to double my speed.”
“You what?!” Shin widened his eyes in horror. Isadore was already way faster than the majority of the elites in the cohort. Yet, he was saying that he could increase it even further?
“Ready yourself. I’ll show you all of the martial arts that Suji had mastered.”
“Tch! Fine!” Summoning out The Sovereign Koi, Shin covered himself in cerulean coloured scales and assumed his standard battle stance. “Show me what you’ve got!!!”
“Hah… Hah… Hah… Hah…” Three hours had passed since Shin first stepped into the training yard to meet with Isadore and currently, the young black-haired teen was sprawled out on all fours, trying his hardest to catch his breath.
On the other side of the field, a totally pristine Isadore, who appeared to have next to no sweat glands, stood with a jubilant expression. His combat attire lacked any signs of creases while his gorgeous silver-hair remained intact, wholly unaffected by the rampant smashing that he had performed just moments prior.
“I have shown you all of the moves that Suji might use in your fight. So, what do you think?” Isadore questioned the youth who was fatigued beyond belief.
“How the hell are you able to stand after moving that frantically?! To think that you have been hiding the fact that you’re a martial arts master!!!” Instead of replying Isadore’s question, Shin hollered out in anger.
During the three hour period where Isadore ‘trained’ him, the boy was outclassed in both martial arts and speed. Even though Shin had condensed his Spirit Core and had made an active effort to increase his overall agility and speed, Shin couldn’t even land a single hit on Isadore’s body.
Seismic combination? Neutralised. Divine Needle Binding? Evaded. Soul-Piercing Fist? Parried. Each and every one of his martial arts wasn’t effective on the silver-haired youth, and eventually, Shin was unable to bear the strain no longer as he ran out of stamina. Isadore, on the other hand, was in the pink of health and even had the energy to lecture the boy about the strengths and weakness of the Lasgeor martial arts that he had shown.
“Well, you never did ask if I was one.”
“It’s not like you would tell me anyway!”
“Haha, you’re right. Anyways, now that I have taught you about the Lasgeor family martial arts, I’ll tell you how to beat Danroy as well.” Spinning his spear casually, Isadore walked forward to help Shin to his feet.
“Ah, there’s no need for that. I can handle Danroy on my own.”
“Hmmm?” Isadore raised his eyebrows at the boy’s words. “You do know that arrogance is the key to failure right?”
“Hahaha, I’m well aware of that. But I’m not arrogant, just confident.” Turning his back, Shin hurried to his backpack and brought out a thick manual which was creased and yellowed. Flipping through the book, Shin reached a particular page and handed it over to Isadore. “Here, have a look.”
“T-This is!” It only took one glance at the contents of the page for Isadore to drop his jaw in amazement.
In the manual, Shin had recorded a considerable amount of details about Danroy’s fighting style, the Bangeo Rhinoceros known strengths and weaknesses, and even little stuff like what habits does Danroy have when fighting. Additionally, there were multiple strategies and counters that Shin had devised using the knowledge that he had.
‘So much information… Some of which are things that I don’t even know about?!’ Isadore was floored. “How did you acquire this much information?”
“A combination of research and experience. Remember the bout I had with Danroy earlier on in the year where I got handled like a ragdoll?”
“After I figured out that I couldn’t beat him, I did some tests and probing, hoping to find issues with Danroy’s form, fighting habits, or anything that I could use when I inevitably have to face him again. I wasn’t just letting him beat me down for no reason you know?” Shin explained everything. “Don’t worry about my match with Danroy. There’s only one outcome for that match, and that is my victory.”
“…” Isadore kept silent as he read through all of the notes that Shin had taken down once more. ‘He gathered all of this information while he was being shoved about?! What an absolute monster! No wonder he became so powerful in just one year!’
Isadore had been training in martial arts for his entire life. From a young age, he was exposed to the cream of the crop and had only been training with those who were much stronger than him. However, none of them even came close to the potential that Shin had shown. His innate comprehension ability and instincts for battle were unheard off, at least for the young Isadore.
‘If he had been training in the combatant path like I was, what heights could he have reached?!’ The silver-haired boy couldn’t help but wonder.
“Shin, what are your plans for the upcoming week? How are you going to train to fight Danroy and Suji?”
“Hmmm, I was planning on doing the usual training, what about it?”
“Let me in on that. I’ll use the Lasgeor family martial arts to prepare you for your bout with Suji. As for Danroy, I’m sure that you can handle that yourself.”
“Isadore… Thank you.” Unsure of how he could repay the youth, Shin simply offered his gratitude.
“Haha, don’t mention it. If you really want to thank me, go out there and win!”
“I’ll do my best…”