“ORYAHHHHH!!!” Cheers of hysteria reverberated throughout the entire arena as Shin completed his redemption story with a bang. After losing to Danroy, badly if one might add, Shin never lost faith and trained diligently day by day, all in the hopes of righting the wrong that had been inflicted onto him. And on this day, he had accomplished his task.
In just one year, Shin had changed from the weak country bumpkin, who nobody had known off, to the protagonist that had bested his enemy. Even in annals of Imperius Academy’s history, it was hard to find a student like Shin. Celebrating the fact that they were witnessing the birth of a legend, the audience continued to roar out in passion.
“Hah… Hah…” Shin panted heavily like a dog while the referee ordered the opening of the floodgates to drain the indoor pool that was created. Releasing his Spiritual Body Enhancement, Shin returned to his human skin and gently walked towards the paralysed Danroy.
Due to Shin’s Divine Needle Binding, the outpour of mana from Danroy’s body had ceased, and his condition was stabilising. Nevertheless, the physical and mental exhaustion that Danroy had suppressed was now gushing out, blurring his vision and consciousness. He did, however, still had the minute capability of identifying Shin’s figure as he approached his motionless body.
“Tsmmm… Hmmm…” Shin took deep breaths to regulate his pulsating heartbeat and administered ‘Heal’ upon his broken leg. Having used the ability thousands, if not tens of thousands of times by now, Shin was capable of self-healing his internal injuries, without summoning out the Sovereign Koi or using his ‘Healing Water.’ At the same time, he carefully pulled out the silver acupuncture needles piercing through Danroy’s meridians returning the youth’s motor functions back to him.
“HIIII, HAAA…” Danroy sharply inhaled as his brain worked overtime to provide the oxygen that he sorely needed. Taking one look around him, the fallen youth saw Shin and the referee doing their best to tend to his body. Taking another glance, Danroy saw the hundreds of eyes staring right at him, and even though he might be delirious, he swore that they all looked at him with disdain.
‘I failed… Even at my very peak, my very best, I’m not enough…’ A teardrop fell from the corner of Danroy’s eye while waves of fatigue and sadness crashed upon his fading consciousness. He had done his best, yet he was still in the shadow of someone else. Turning his head, Danroy looked at the opponent that defeated him and observed his facial features.
In his mind, Danroy had fought Shin hundreds of times, however, only at this moment did it occur to him… He had never honestly looked the youth right in the eyes. When the academic year started, Shin was just a nobody that could be ignored. When Danroy fought Shin, he was a useless opponent that he could squash at any time. When Shin showed the world that he could become strong, Danroy didn’t dare to look the boy eye to eye. Thus, at this very moment, it was the first time that Danroy had ever ‘seen’ Shin.
Shin’s eyes were a clear as the skies of spring, and his face was so symmetrical that it was almost mystifying. His entire head was drenched in water, which made his pure black hair shimmer in the morning sun. All of the features that he had, given the youth a charisma that was rarely seen in boys his age. However, the most damning thing, the part of Shin that intrigued Danroy the most, was his mysterious gaze.
At times, it would be compassionate. At times, it would display wisdom that rivalled that of ancient sages. At times, it would show a passionate drive that would put the most motivated fighters to shame. Taking one good look at Shin, Danroy felt a sense of dread. Some people were worth emulating and pushing towards, but then, there were some who had reached a level that was so high, it was unattainable for mere mortals.
Imagine. Danroy had trained his entire life, thinking that he was one of the best in his country, heck the best in his generation, but after encountering Shin, the youth had given up all hope of ever catching up to that monster. It made the Frithron family heir wonder… What was all his effort for? Becoming the strongest? That was just an absurdity with people like Shin around.
“Shin…” Weakly opening his mouth, Danroy’s voice escaped his chapped throat.
“Just rest for a while. The mana depleted from your body would take a while to recover and…” Before Shin could continue, he felt a firm force grasping onto his left wrist. Before he was whisked away to the infirmary, Danroy had to get his overflowing emotions out of his chest.
“Tell me, Shin… Am I weak?”
“Huh?” Shin jerked back and incredulously stared at Danroy. He had no idea what prompted that line of thought and immediately taken offence with the ludicrous concept.
“Danroy, if you are weak, then what was I doing for the past year, trying to chase a weakling?”
“You… chase… me?” For the first time since meeting Shin, Danroy was in utter disbelief. He had thought that he would be chasing Shin’s strength for the rest of his life, but as it turned out, Shin had been chasing him!
“Of course! Ever since that defeat that you bestowed onto me, I have been training to become stronger, with you as my target! Thus, I forbid you from thinking that you’re weak! Hmph, if that happens, what would that make me?”
“…” Danroy dropped his jaw as he stared right into the azure eyes, which seemed to house a celestial lake within its iris. There were no falsehoods in Shin’s words. He was genuinely enraged that Danroy would even harbour such a ridiculous notion.
“You chase me… Haha… I chase you… Hahahaha!!! Fuck me, this is just utter nonsense!” Covering his eyes, Danroy started to bellow out in laughter. At the same time, his mind was thoroughly reflecting on his actions.
What was he doing, trying to get out of someone else’s shadow? What did his father, Suji, Kanari, Elrin, Shizen or Shin have to do with his legacy? The answer that Shin had given him changed his mindset, the direction of his entire life altogether. All these games, these rankings, they were all bullshit. What truly matters in the heart, is that Danroy lives for himself. Not escaping someone else’s shadow, but to make his own shadows, his own mark in the history of the Himmel Empire.
“HAHAHAHAHA!!! Thank you, Shin! Thank you!!!” With the burden off his chest, Danroy felt his consciousness slip from his fingers, as he finally collapsed on the stretcher the medics had brought. While Danroy was being wheeled off, Shin watched on with a perplexed expression.
‘Is it some kind of tradition to thank the person that beats you in a tournament? Natasha did it, and now Danroy… The Himmel Empire is full of weird customs huh?’ A peculiar misunderstanding was being formed in Shin’s mind while the world boisterously cheered all around him.
Shin’s matches had been nothing short of entertaining. Be it the one-sided beatdown that he inflicted onto Edgar during the first rounds or the evenly matched bouts with Natasha and Danroy, Shin had quickly gained the audience’s love. Many of them were even betting that he could beat Suji and Kanari to become the overall winner of the tournament. Of course, not all the spectators shared the same view.
Watching from the contestants resting area, Suji was doing his best to withhold his emotions, gritting his teeth while following the movements of his paralysed childhood friend. Suji loathed the fact that he was powerless to help Danroy, who he assumed was in critical condition, and his blood boiled when he saw Shin basking in the winner’s glory.
‘Now… This is personal… Shin Iofiel, I will end your rise!!!’
Suji had already despised Shin for taking the limelight away from him, but now with the case of Danroy? Suji was in a full-blown anger fit. If Shin didn’t walk away maimed in his future bout, then he wouldn’t have given Danroy justice.
“Wow, that was one heck of a FIRST match won’t all of you agree? However, the excitement isn’t over yet! We still have three more matches in the freshmen quarterfinals to contest!” Just at that moment, the female announcer sweetly merrily chirped through the broadcast system. “Next match, Suji Lasgeor versus Lorraine Grimley! Would the two contestants please get ready?”
It was hard to believe, but Shin’s match with Danroy was just the opening bout for the quarterfinals. With such an entertaining opening act, it would be tough for the next few matches to match the intensity that Shin and Danroy had brought. Nevertheless, Suji was going to try.
Since Shin had concluded his match, he was free for the day, and he could freely choose to return to the contestants resting area or spectate from the audience stands. Judging by how the spectators had reacted to him beating Danroy, Shin decided to go with the former.
“Shin!” As he entered into the cosy chamber, the triumphant teen was greeted by a tender smile from the Empire’s most transcendent beauty. “Good work out there! To beat Danroy when he awakened a full-incarnate summon is quite a feat.”
“Thank you, Kanari… It was a hard fight.” Shin sighed as he checked his right leg for any lasting scars that might impede his future battles. Fortunately, Shin had acted quick, and his self-healing ability repaired the bones early. Otherwise, he might have been forced to enter the semifinals with a handicap.
“It was entertaining though!” Kanari beamed. “Also, I have a bone to pick with you! To think that you were hiding so many abilities from me! We have known each other for almost a year now, don’t you think I’m trustworthy enough?!”
“Haha, stop with the act, Kanari. I couldn’t show you all my techniques because we’re competitors.” Shin laughed off Kanari’s pouty face. At that moment, he noticed Shizen, who was usually fighting off drowsiness, crouching at one corner. His pursed lip and ashen face insinuated that he had taken a tremendous mental blow.
“What’s the matter with Shizen?” Shin asked Kanari.
“Ah, don’t mind him… When you created the indoor pool, Shizen wanted to run out into the field and drink up all of the water with his Adivinar Tree. So he was held back by the teachers, and when the referee ordered the draining of the arena, he actually started to cry in indignation.” Kanari giggled as she recounted the earlier scenario to the stunned black-haired youth. “Cheer him up would you? Only your ‘juice’ can do the trick!”
“Y-Y-You!” Shin jumped back and pointed at Kanari with fear. Whenever anyone in their clique used the word juice, Shin would cringe as if a billion ants were crawling underneath his skin and his friends were well aware of that fact.
“Don’t give me that face! You’re the one that he wants.”
“Tch, fine…” Shin dropped his shoulders and dragged his feet over to Shizen. Tapping on his shoulder, Shin locked eyes with the misty-eyed fifteen-year-old who was acting like he was five.
“Give me your flask… I’ll refill it.”
“Shin!” As if he were a lost lamb that found its shepherd, Shizen jumped into Shin’s embrace and lovingly snuggled on his chest, much to the dismay of the youth, and the amusement of the other competitors in the resting area.
‘Hah… What did I do to deserve this?’ Shin questioned his life decisions as he created an orb of water to fill the empty flask up to the brim, at the same time, the drums signifying the start of a battle boomed out, prompting Shin to glance out the window.
“Suji is fighting Lorraine… I wonder how long can Lorraine hold up against Suji?” Kanari pondered out loud.
Almost everyone who knew anything about the match knew that it was a one-sided battle. Suji, who was already known as the Son of War, had little competitors in his generation. On the other hand, even though Lorraine was part of the Star Class, her combat ability barely allowed her to enter into the quarterfinals. The two opponents were on different spectrums altogether.
“She should be able to hold on for a while. I’m sure she would give in when defeat seems imminent.” Shin theorised.
As the referee brought down his hand to signify the start of the match, Suji brought out his Purple Dragon Crescent Blade as well as thousands of lightning coils, turning the arena into an electric field almost instantaneously. Without holding back anything, Suji shot to the skies and congregated his mana into the Guandao in his hands.
“*Bzzttt!* *Bzzttt!*.” Suji’s blade gleamed with tremendous force, and the mana being released made even some Spirit Core cultivators sweat in apprehension.
Once his attack was prepared, Suji descended like a devilish thunderbolt and aimed right square at Lorraine’s body. However, the young woman wasn’t a pushover that Suji could end with one hit. Using all of her leg strength, Lorraine leapt over a dozen metres back, hoping to escape the impact crater of Suji’s attack. Fortunately, she had done just that. Suji’s ‘Heavenly Punishment,’ smashed through the numerous enchantments of the arena, causing the stadium to tremble as if a magnitude five earthquake had struck the premise.
Angered that Lorraine had evaded his blow, Suji amped up his mana supply and the coils of lightning enveloping him only intensified further. Lost in his rage, Suji went on a frenzy, forcing Lorraine to scurry about like a timid mouse. His speed increasing and blows exacerbated, Suji continued on his deadly assault, until eventually…
“I got you now, you bitch…” Grasping Lorraine by her throat, Suji raised the girl and attempted to choke her to death. The lightning coils enveloping him continued to rage on, rendering any of Lorraine’s struggles useless. Since she couldn’t bring out the words, Lorraine couldn’t surrender by herself, and after a few seconds, the referee was forced to end the match, lest Suji truly killed the girl in the ring.
The moment the match ended, Suji dropped Lorraine as if she were a butchered animal hanging from its hook and returned his Purple Dragon Crescent Blade into his spiritual body. Looking up into the stands, Suji met eyes with Shin, who was in the comfort of the contestant’s resting area. His mouth and nose weren’t moving, but his dilated pupils, which burned in an intense rage, did all the talking for him.
“Shin… That’s your opponent for the semifinals… Be very careful.” Kanari gracefully sauntered over and cautioned the youth.