Suji’s dominant victory over Lorraine had decided the first set of semifinalists for the year-end competition, and people were already starting to go wild with theories on who would win. Shin’s meteoric ascent to the top had been eye-opening but was it enough to strike down the boy known as the Son of War? It was hard to tell. Shin’s close combat martial arts, Divine Needle Binding and water manipulation abilities were all a joy to behold, but Suji’s years of training wasn’t to be stifled either.
Being a Spirit Apostle, Suji possessed two extremely potent spiritual abilities. The first ability, the one he awakened alongside his Spirit, was the innate talent to summon out coils of lightning, to coat his body or anything else. Typically, he would use the innate ability to create an electric field that deterred any enemies from entering his vicinity, or he would coat his Purple Dragon Crescent Blade in thousands of lightning coils.
Suji’s second spiritual ability, Heavenly Punishment, imitates the infuriated God of Thunder and brings down a tremendous lightning bolt that uses about ten per cent of his total mana pool. Heavenly Punishment was perhaps the strongest pure offence spiritual ability among all of the freshmen’s attacks, second only to Kanari’s Lunar Beam.
However, Suji’s powers don’t stop there. Armed with the comprehensive knowledge of Lasgeor family martial arts, Suji was capable of besting many of the Empire’s best warriors, and his muscular yet compact build allowed him to hit like a tiger but move like a swan. Adding the fact that he had been in hundreds of real-life battles since he was born, Suji Lasgeor truly lived up to his moniker, the Son of War.
Thus, even though Shin had the higher cultivation level, there was no guarantee that Shin would walk out of the match unharmed. In fact, there was a very high chance that Shin would be injured, due to how incompatible their Spirits were. If Shin relied on his water abilities, such as coating his body in an armour of water, the lightning being sent his way would electrocute him in a heartbeat. If he threw his whirlpools or water spheres at Suji, they would be neutralised by the sinewy youth’s electric field.
While Shin was still revising his potential plans to fight against the juggernaut that was Suji, the matches in the eastern bracket had begun. Kanari Saniela versus Emmanuel Wensan and Shizen Dundlewoods versus Melanie Lyfrithe. It didn’t take a genius to figure out which match was the more popular one.
Kanari was at Rank 24, and her spiritual abilities were unquestionably the top in the cohort. Scratch that, she was the top in the entire academy. If Kanari were to compete against the year six valedictorian, who was already in the Rank 30 Spirit Adept realm, many believed that Kanari would stream roll over her opponent. Facing against Emmanuel Wensan? It was such a mismatch that it was almost laughable.
Up till this point, Kanari had barely competed since the majority of her opponents just conceded without starting the fight. However, Emmanuel, who was a noble that managed to enter the Star Class, wouldn’t back down for the honour of his family’s name. And well… The results were expected.
Kanari merged with the Kumiho to complete her spiritual body enhancement and knocked Emmanuel out in ten seconds, not even giving him a chance to cast his own spiritual abilities. At the end of the match, Kanari glanced at Emma, who was knocked out in the round of sixteen by Emmanuel and gave her a playful wink.
Kanari’s friendship with the twins had deepened over the year, and it had gotten to a point where the three of them would plan sleepovers just to hang out and gossip. Thus, when Emma was defeated by Emmanuel, there was no way that Kanari would take that lying down.
Speaking of long-time friends, Shin’s ‘favourite’ buddy, Shizen, was in the final match of the quarterfinals. Facing against a cultivator that had awakened the fire element, Shizen was under the most pressure that he had ever been in the tournament. Since he awakened a plant-type Spirit, Melanie Lyfrithe’s Inferno Chainblade was perhaps his greatest enemy.
The roots and vines that he created were slashed and burned, prohibiting him from using his most potent ability, mana sealing. After two minutes of blows leading to nowhere, Shizen finally lost his temper and decided to end the match immediately. Using his second spiritual ability, the very same one that took down five Spirit Core cultivators, Shizen’s Adivinar Tree glowed as thousands of razor sharp leaves fell from its crown.
Oscillating at blinding speeds, Shizen flooded the field with his aptly named ability, Leaves of the Dundlewoods, and ensured that Melanie’s life was a living hell. Even though her Inferno Chainblade was strong enough to cut down dozens of those spinning petals of death at a time, Shizen’s seemingly endless assault finally got to the girl, and she was forced to surrender after thirty seconds.
With Melanie’s surrender, the matches for the semifinals had been decided. Shin Iofiel versus Suji Lasgeor, and Kanari Saniela versus Shizen Dundlewoods. The contest of the second and fourth seed alongside the first and third seed. One couldn’t hope for a better semifinals draw entertainment wise.
While the world was buzzing, excited to watch the second and third-year matches, a particular tanned sinewy youth was seated in a pure white room, which was void of even the smallest speck of dust, watching the slumbering, plump face of his childhood friend.
Straight after his commanding performance against Lorraine, Suji didn’t care to greet the dozens of acquaintances that crowded at the exit but rushed directly to the infirmary that housed the injured Danroy. After consulting with the Chief Physician, Suji gained a vital understanding of his bosom friend’s current state.
Mana exhaustion and minor external injuries had caused Danroy to lose all consciousness and enter into a coma. Even though there was no threat to his life, it would take the youth a few days to awake from his slumber as his body healed itself. Considering the fact that Danroy almost allowed his body to get drained of all his mana, the obese youth was lucky. If not for Shin’s interference, and the immediate emergency care, there was a high chance that Danroy could have been crippled for his entire life.
Of course, Suji didn’t care about the details. What mattered to him the most, was the fact that Danroy was lying on this bed while Shin happily skipped around the contestant’s resting area, relatively unharmed.
Due to the nature of their Spirits, Suji was always the one that got injured while Danroy was always the one that tended to his needs. Back when they were kids, Suji had even broken his entire back once and had to be bedridden for a month. Danroy, being the good friend that he was, brought nutrition packages and accompanied Suji for hours each day, recounting stories from the outside, keeping the disabled boy entertained.
However, when the tables were turned, and Suji was the one who needed to care for Danroy, he found out that there was next to nothing that he could do. Bellowing hate, one that rivalled that from the pits of Doom Volcano, erupted from his gut as the figure of the boy who caused Danroy to be in such harm flickered through his mind. Even though the main reason why Danroy had entered such a vulnerable state was due to his own carelessness, Suji didn’t care for that. The only thing that the muscular teen wanted to do was to wring Shin’s head off his cursed body so that he could enact vengeance for his longtime friend.
‘Shin Iofiel… Just you wait…’ Suji gritted his teeth and took one final look at Danroy’s peaceful face. His fight with Lorraine wasn’t enough for him to blow off steam. Suji needed to release all of his bottled up anger, lest it consumed him. ‘I’ll make sure he pays for your condition, Dan!!!’
The quarterfinals quickly came to a close, with the seniors performing as they usually do. After years of spending time together, the seniors in Imperius Academy all had a general idea of what their opponents would bring to the table. Naturally, there were some notable entertaining matches, but those were few and far between. Mostly, due to the pressure of the semifinals looming over his head, Shin had focused on his bout with the Son of War and had spent a significant amount of his time training with Isadore.
For some reason, Isadore’s speed and strength far surpassed any of the martial artists Shin’s age, and training with the silver-haired youth gave Shin tremendous gains. Plotting out all of the possible combinations that Suji would use and how to counterattack each strike, Shin had completed his analysis down to the letter. Nonetheless, that didn’t mean that it would be an easy fight. In fact, based on how many natural counters Suji had to Shin’s Spirit, anyone with a cursory understanding of how Spirits worked would favour the Son of War any hour of the week.
“Shin, judging from the electric fields that Suji had generated during his match with Lorraine, I doubt your silver acupuncture needles would be able to penetrate his defence.” Isadore cautioned.
“I know… If I could use the needles that Elrin had gifted me, perhaps I would have a chance, but with these elementary-grade needles, nothing would come of it even if I threw it perfectly.” Shin took out the silver needles that Professor Quinn had gifted him and whirled them around his fingers. “Also, I can’t carelessly flood the arena with water. His lightning attribute counters most of my abilities, and judging from how unaffected he is when in contact with those deadly coils of lightning, he must have some sort of resistance to it.”
“Yeah, that’s a common trait in the Lasgeor family.” Isadore nodded. “Their tolerance towards lightning is second to none. So throwing balls of water towards Suji would probably only serve to irritate him.”
“Hah… I guess I can only rely on that technique…”
“Hoho, you have a plan?” Isadore laughed as he drank out from his flask.
“I do… It’s foolish and dangerous. But if I manage to execute it, I will win.” Shin stared at the ceiling as his body trembled. He wanted to win, but was he willing to pay the cost?
“Oh? Tell me about it…”
Imperius Academy. Lucha Amphitheatre. The Semifinals.
Two days had passed since the highly contested quarterfinals. The elation in the air had yet to die down, and it was time for another set of entertaining matches. Usually, the most anticipated matches of the semifinals were always the fourth and fifth-year bouts. After all, majority of those who fought in the higher years were all in the Rank 30 Spirit Adept stage, and many wished to spectate the best of the best compete.
However, this year was a little more special. Everyone in the audience, students and VIP guest alike, were all here to watch the rise of the freshmen. Yes, Kanari’s presence was a driving motivator. Any fights that include the infamous Witch in the South was a fight that hundreds of thousands would pay to see, but Kanari wasn’t the only draw.
Shin’s ascent to the precipice of the cohort was also one of the driving attractions. From his humble beginnings as a commoner that Principal Erudito had picked up, to claiming one of the most coveted positions in the academy, everyone wanted to see how far Shin could go. Would he continue on his unstoppable winning streak and go on to challenge the Goddess of the Empire? Or would he cave in under pressure and lose to the mighty Son of War? Everyone, young or old, wanted to see how his story panned out.
And well, they didn’t have to wait long.
Shin and Suji’s match was the opener for the semifinals, something that greatly excited the crowd. Historically, the main events were the matches that the fifth year competed in. Thus, the freshmen had to compete first. Of course, now the main event was the freshmen matches, that worked out in the spectators’ favour.
Walking into the arena, Shin took one look at the tanned, sinewy youth. Thinking back to the first time that he met Suji, Shin mentally sighed. At the start of the year, he firmly believed that it would take him time to catch up with the monsters in his cohort. Be it Danroy, Shizen, Suji or Kanari. All of them were names that he looked up to, and hoped to emulate. However, in that one year, he had grown, and his mindset had shifted.
Some of them he had bested, some of them he had befriended, and without knowing, instead of looking up to the monsters in the cohort, Shin had joined their ranks and became a monster. People were praising him, some were even treating him as a role model. Although it was a breath of fresh air, it forced Shin to come to a revelation. Chasing the best in the academy, Shin had lost sight on the real reason why he came here in the first place.
He wanted to become strong, but for what reason? Wasn’t it so that he could protect his family, and to bring Junius and the Black Mask syndicate to justice? So why was he spending so much time chasing those monsters in the academy, when his goals lay elsewhere?
‘After this competition… After I win… I will change my strategy! I must strengthen my influence over the world as well as my own personal power. That way, I won’t fear the Black Masks, I won’t fear the Lantis Republic, and I won’t cower to the might of the Himmel Empire!’
Moving forward until he was at the centre of the arena, Shin heightened all his senses and assumed his planned battle stance. Against someone like Suji, Shin couldn’t afford to slack off. Likewise, Suji had his Purple Dragon Crescent Blade raised high in the air. To him, this was a match of redemption and vengeance.
Both contestants had their own reason to win, and both contestants firmly believed that they would win. Their eyes burned in a red hot passion as the referee standing between them raised his hands with great fervour. Like him, the audience were biting their nails and held back their shaking thighs.
“If the two contestants are ready, LET THE MATCH BEGIN!!!”