‘This brat, who does he think he is?!’ Star Face cursed out mentally. Shin’s haughty attitude made the veteran mercenary frown in disdain. If not for the other cultivators that were still flying in the air, Star Face would have pounced on the black-haired boy and taught him a lesson about respecting one’s elders.
Of course, Shin didn’t care what the muscular man thought. His mind was currently filled with fantasies about snatching Junius back to the west where he would atone for his crimes by kneeling at the graves of Ariel, Lily and Linus. For the past two years, Shin had been training hard just so that he could gain the power to chase Junius down and defeat the Black Mask syndicate. There was no way that Shin was going to let go of such a golden opportunity to achieve his goals.
However, even after showing off his abilities, the mercenary remained silent at Shin’s threat. Turning crimson in rage, Shin increased his mana output and used the fullest extent of his spiritual pressure as he hollered out one final time.
“Mister! Where. Is. Junius!!!”
“…” All of a sudden, Star Face had a flash of understanding. ‘I see… The brat has a blood feud against Junius, that’s why he’s so adamant.’
In his long years as a hired gun, Star Face had seen many that were like Shin. Locked up in the cycle of revenge, the vengeful would turn into a different person once their target was involved. He had even taken jobs where he had to apprehend a victim of revenge just so that his customer could torture them to oblivion. Usually, Star Face wouldn’t care about the safety of his employer. So long as he was paid the right amount of gold, the mercenary would do anything in his power to please his customer. Nonetheless, the issue regarding the Black Masks was a different issue.
Based on how Junius and his superiors treated the rats in the beginning, Star Face could tell that this criminal syndicate was one that he couldn’t cross. Even if he didn’t care for his own life, he had his own brother-in-arms back in the Kori Federation, not to mention the family that he had to care for. If he gave up information about Junius that led to his capture, there was no way that the Black Masks would simply let it slide.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about! I have never met a single Junius in my life!”
“Fine! Since you’re not going to talk, let’s see how you will fare in a rotten cell!” Angered that Star Face had continued to lie, Shin leapt forward and changed his water spheres into a dozen water hands.
At Rank 24, it seemed to be suicide going straight at two Rank 30 Spirit Adepts. However, that was only true if Shin was a normal Spirit Core cultivator. Banging on an arsenal of tricks and an array of martial arts, the youth could transcend his level and challenge those that would typically crush him in one fist.
‘He’s underestimating me, this asshole.’ Star Face was insulted that a mere Spirit Core cultivator dared to think that he could best him in battle. ‘Fine then, if it’s a fight you want, then it’s a fight you’ll get!!!’
Bellowing out in a primal roar, Star Face felt invigorated by the mana surge in his body. Instantly reinforcing himself with mana strengthening, the battle-hardened mercenary raised his right hand and summoned out a stellar war axe that was easily the size of a ten-year-old child. There were no unique ornaments on the grey weapon and at times, it looked a little rusted. However, the fierce glint that was prevalent in its entire blade made any seasoned warrior cower in fear.
‘A weapon-type Spirit User?’ Shin may have been engulfed by rage, but his motor functions were still perfectly functional. No, one might argue that his thought processes had been heightened due to the increased adrenaline in his system. Theorising on the possible martial art movements and spiritual abilities that Star Face might have, Shin came up with a cursory battle plan.
Halting his steps, Shin turned the dozen water hands that were following him into thousands of water droplets. Rotating his wrist, he created a spin to all of the tiny beads of water in the air and sent them whizzing at the bulky warrior. At the same time, he took out two needles from the expert-grade needle set that Elrin had gifted to him.
Without the restriction of only using elementary-grade spirit tools in battle, Shin could finally test his true mastery over the Divine Needle Binding technique. Holding the two silver needles between his fingers, Shin caressed the blunt end of the needles as he felt the intricate dragon carving that the Zedcris Congolomerate’s artisans had designed. When Shin first saw the expert-grade acupuncture needles, he was taken aback at how well-designed the spirit tools were.
Each time he pumped a little bit of mana into the artefacts, the eyes of the silver dragon would light up in jubilation, as it was woken up from a long hibernation and was ready to drink the blood of its enemies. Aptly named the Yellow-Eyed Dragon Needles, these were the most valuable weapons in Shin’s arsenal and had the best piercing ability of any attack that Shin could muster.
‘Let’s hit the Dumai and Renmai points…’ Shin carefully observed where two of Star Face’s meridian points were and sent the Yellow-Eyed Dragon Needles flying, under cover of the thousands of water droplets.
If his attack were successful, half of the circulation in Star Face’s body would be sent into haywire, allowing Shin to safely capture him for questioning. Unfortunately…
Instead of piercing through the thick hide of Star Face as it should have, one of the needles bounced off the man’s thick hide while the other barely made it one-centimetre deep. Nonetheless, all of Shin’s Yellow-Eyed Dragon Needles were coated with a nerve agent that he had developed alongside Lady Seph, and just that one prick was able to send a slight amount of the nerve agent into the veins of the warrior.
“ARRRGHHH!!!” Star Face wallowed in agony. Even though he had received a small amount, the potency of the nerve agent that Shin had developed was capable of paralysing an elephant if it was given the full dosage. Immediately pulling out the needle that was connected to his Renmai point, Star Face continued to grunt out.
“Tsk, Star Face!” Not willing to die in this decrepit land, Cyphia immediately moved to protect the only hope she had left. Summoning out a purple plant, the woman released a potent fragrance that instantly empowered the struggling man as he felt himself gaining a tremendous amount of vigour.
“To think that I would experience the effects of your invigoration outside of the bedroom…” With his mind now cleared, the seasoned mercenary turned to his partner and gave a warm smile. “Thank you, Cyphia.”
“Thank me later! Let’s focus on getting out of this pickle!” Cyphia had no patience for Star Face’s jokes. Gritting her teeth, the woman created two fragrances from her purple plant in hopes of giving Star Face the slightest bit of support.
As someone who had been living in the brothels all her life, she had used all of her talents in raising her skills as a woman of the night, and that includes learning spiritual abilities that would aid in her customer’s delight. Each fragrance that her purple plant produced had a specific function in boosting anyone in her vicinity. Unfortunately, only two were suitable for this situation.
“I have boosted your vigour and heightened your senses! Make sure you use this opportunity!” Cyphia relayed what her two fragrances done with a hurried voice. At the same time, she released her own spiritual pressure upon Shin and the silver-haired boy that was barring their escape route with his guard.
“Thanks!” Star Face grinned and took inhaled in all of the air that he possibly could. Just as Cyphia had explained, the mercenary felt his entire body being transformed. He could ‘see’ the world much clearer, and his body felt entirely reborn. Star Face was confident that even if he were hit by that nerve agent that Shin had created, he would unquestionably be able to endure the dizziness and continue fighting without much hindrance.
“HARGH!!!” Now that he had been empowered, Star Face took the fight to Shin. Closing in the distance in a blink of an eye, the warrior swung his war axe with a vengeance, slicing the air and crushing the ground.
Utilising the Lightning Swallow Steps, Shin evaded most of the onslaught that the warrior was putting on him. Although Star Face didn’t have any mentors growing up, he had spent his entire life on the battlefield. His martial arts may not have been the most polished, but it was practical. Never overextending or underutilising his power, the mercenary broke the earth as he thirsted for Shin’s blood. If not for Shin’s superior speed and expert use of his created water, the youth would have taken a dozen trips to hell by now.
‘I can’t retaliate!’ Shin was shaken. Each time he thought he saw an opening, Star Face would use his superior senses to evade the attack and launch a counterattack within a millisecond. Not to mention, even if Shin was able to hit Star Face, his defence and boosted endurance would enable him to keep going until he reached the tender flesh of Shin’s body.
Honestly, what did Shin expect? He was facing a Spirit Adept, a warrior that was a full realm ahead of him. Shin may have been a genius, but Star Face had years of experience on top of his superior cultivation level.
“HARGHHHH!!!” After Shin had dodged twenty swings from Star Face, the mercenary finally snapped and released a torrent of mana into his war axe.
All of a sudden, Shin felt like the weapon in the Spirit Adept’s arm had become a weapon of the Titans, used to smite gods from their lofty thrones. ‘Danger!’ That was all Shin could think of. Instantly creating a water sphere on his ankles, Shin used the Dance of the Valkyrie to propel himself into the air, and it was fortunate that he did.
As the war axe hit the ground, a deafening blast broke down the soft earth beneath Star Face as the ground caved in. The rumbling of the surface sent shockwaves around the forest, alarming animals that were kilometres away. When the smoke and dust settled, a devastating crater could be seen, forcing Shin to swallow a mouthful of nervous saliva. If he had been a second later, his body would have been in the middle of that menacing pit that Star Face had created.
Star Face had no proper tutelage, and almost all of his spiritual abilities were learnt via hereditary opuscules that he could purchase on the market. Unfortunately for him, the best abilities were almost always never sold, and even if they were, they were auctioned for an exorbitant price that he could never hope to match. Hence, the majority of Star Face’s spiritual abilities were all standard and widely regarded as weak.
However, the veteran mercenary didn’t believe in weakness. If used efficiently, even a raindrop could break a rock. The spiritual ability that he had just used was one that merely increased the weight of his weapon. A simple ability that no genius from any significant power would cast a second glance at. Yet, Star Face trained that ability to its maximum potential, and now he was able to create craters with that simple ability that everyone disdained.
“Hoho, that man is not that bad.” Reginald smiled and stroked his grey beard as he spectated the match.
“Uncle Reg! Why haven’t you assisted Shin yet?!” Seeing her bodyguard behaving that carefree when her friend was in danger greatly annoyed the young Elrin. “With your ability, we could easily catch that man!”
“Of course we could, but why should I do that?” Reginald stroked the hair of the young girl that he had watched grow up. “Can’t you see that Warulee and the guard that Isadore has aren’t doing anything as well?”
“… Why is that?”
The aged butler smiled and continued to enlighten Elrin. “Master Shin has been too brash. I believe he feels that he’s invincible since three Spirit Emperors are accompanying him and so he could do whatever he wants. I mean, which Spirit Core cultivator in his right mind would have challenged two Spirit Adepts at the same time?”
If he were frank, Reginald felt that Shin had overstepped his boundaries and was extremely displeased with him. The three Spirit Emperors were here to protect them, not serve Shin in capturing criminals. Hence, they didn’t bother to help Shin in the fight at all. Perhaps Madam Warulee would save Shin if his life was threatened, but neither Reginald nor the Spirit Emperor that was behind Isadore had any plans to interfere with Shin’s business. Since he alone had picked that fight, he alone should end it.
Of course, Reginald was under a huge misunderstanding. He made the assumption that Shin was taking advantage of the Spirit Emperors to advance his cause and he was of a sound mind when he challenged Star Face to a fight, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In his rage… In his desire to catch Junius… Shin didn’t care about any of that. The only thing that he wanted to do was catch Star Face and make him spill the beans about everything. To put it simply… Shin was currently in an unstable mental state.
‘Shit, shit, shit, SHIT!!! How am I going to defeat this asshole?!’ The black-haired youth remained flying in the air as he contemplated on the best move to make. None of his attacks was working, and Star Face had gained the upper hand in all of their exchanges. Even his expert-grade Yellow-Eyed Dragon Needles that were coated with a nerve agent posed no threat to the massive man.
‘If I had that ability that the thorn had, maybe I could have won…’ Shin despaired as he remembered the potent one-shot strike that he had witnessed in the memory of the charred thorn. ‘Whatever, let’s just try something else! I can’t let him get away!!!’
On the other side of the battlefield, Star Face was grinning in delight. For some reason, the strong-looking individuals that were surrounding them didn’t show any signs of interfering with the match. If he played his cards right, there was a high likelihood that he could escape at the end of this exchange.
‘Not matter what, I can’t let him bring me back to the Himmel Empire! Even death would be more desired than spending the rest of my life rotting in a jail cell!’
With neither sides willing to budge, the final showdown between Shin and Star Face had reached its climax.