“What… What is that?” Shin’s question didn’t go unheard. Principal Erudito, who was just about to reprimand Shin for using his spiritual abilities in the vault, halted his steps and carefully examined the object.
Even though he was the highest authority in the academy, the institution had been constructed long before he was born and there were many items in the vault that he barely knew about. Of course, if it were the most valuable items, Principal Erudito would instantly be able to recognise them, but evidently, the charred thorn that Shin was interested in wasn’t in that category.
“Hmmm, I’ve seen it multiple times in the vault, but no one actually found anything interesting about it… From the description, it says that it was taken from a claw of an ancient beast. Nothing else is written on it though?”
“A claw? You mean this was a fingernail of a beast? What tier was it? Tier 8 or 9? Or perhaps it was a Primordial Beast?” Shin rapidly asked.
“Unsure…” Unfortunately, Principal Erudito didn’t know the answer. Over the years, the vault had accumulated hundreds of thousands of precious materials and eventually, it was hard to keep track of every single item in it. “However, even if it was from a high levelled beast, its age must have eroded any benefits that one could get from it, you should find something else.”
‘Time has eroded it? Then why does my heart beat so fast when I get near it?’ Shin didn’t believe the Principal’s words.
There was no spiritual or elemental energy coming out from the charred thorn, but Shin felt an overwhelming mental connection with the nail that was almost half a metre long. Biting down his lower lip, the black-haired youth considered turning away to get one of the other precious resources that guaranteed an improvement. However, his gut feeling was screaming at him to claim the charred thorn as his own.
“I’ll take it.”
“You’ll take what?” Not willing to believe his ears, Principal Erudito raised his eyebrows and stared incredulously at the youth. Only a few each year got to enter the Imperius Academy vaults, and yet, Shin was squandering his chance by claiming a useless item that had been sitting in the vault for decades?
“I’ll take the thorn.”
“… Fine, I’ll get it out for you.” As much as he wished to dissuade Shin, the moment Principal Erudito glanced into the passionate eyes of the youth that wouldn’t take no for an answer, the bronze-faced man knew that Shin wouldn’t change his mind.
“Here, I hope you would find some good use for it.” Unlocking the glass case, Principal Erudito held the charred thorn with both of his hands and passed it over to Shin.
“Thank you!” Shin received his reward with open arms. Although there the charred thorn lacked any mana or elemental energy, the black-haired youth somehow felt a primal connection to the thorn.
On the other side of the vault, Kanari had long chosen her three rewards. A rare mind-elemental gem that boosts the cultivator’s connection to the mind elements around her. A tail feather of a Tier 7 Firebird that had been made into a consumable pill, and finally, the beak of a Tier 7 Hippogryph, which could significantly boost a cultivators control over wind elements. Compared to the dull thorn that Shin had picked, Kanari seemed to have the better windfall.
“What’s so special about that thorn?” Confused as to why the black-haired youth chose the charred thorn instead of any of the thousand items inside the vault, Kanari questioned Shin.
“I don’t know!”
“You don’t know? Then why did you choose it?”
“It’s hard to explain… I have to bring it back to examine it thoroughly first.”
“I see…” Although she wasn’t wholly convinced, Kanari had complete faith that Shin knew what was best for himself. After all, during the year, the boy had proved time and time again that he wasn’t one to ignorantly do something.
The moment Principal Erudito sealed the vault doors, he led the pair towards Tsucai mountain, so that he could show them to their personal cultivation chambers and hand over the keys. While on the mountain, they saw Elrin ordering a heap of black-robed men to carry valuable mana-rich items into the chambers, must to the dismay of Vice-Principal Hirda. Watching as Elrin continued to fluster the Spirit Emperor, Shin and Kanari let out a playful giggle and begun to decorate their chambers as well.
“Mnnnn…” A low humming sound bounced from wall to wall as a deep blue, cerulean light enveloped the stone cultivation chambers.
For Shin, it didn’t take him too long to fix up his own cultivation chambers. Since he had access to the same exact room many months ago, Shin was extremely familiar with the chamber’s layout. Fortunately, after he finished using the chamber, there had been no other occupants, and the only thing he needed to clean up was the residue dust.
Immediately after cleaning, Shin sat down on the stone bed and lifted up the charred thorn he received from Principal Erudito. Enveloping it in a dense water sphere, Shin sent a significant amount of mana towards the charred thorn, hoping to unravel the mysteries within. Every so often, The Sovereign Koi would do a twirl in the air and would send another surge of spiritual energy at the charred thorn.
“Nothing is happening?”
After five minutes of constant mana supply, the charred thorn remained intact, and there were no signs of any change. Shin felt like he was scrubbing a diamond that had been purified thousands of times over, and there was nothing else he could do.
“That can’t be… So what was the feeling that I experienced?” Shin was confused. Of all the precious items in the vault, he chose the unsuspecting blackened thorn that no one thought was valuable. However, based on The Sovereign Koi’s reaction as well the mysterious connection he felt, Shin, knew that the charred thorn was definitely something that benefited him.
“Maybe I’m doing it wrong?”
Shin changed his approach. Instead of using his created water to ‘clean’ the thorn, he partially cast his spiritual body enhancement and allowed his right hand to be filled with deep cerulean scale. Grabbing onto the thorn, Shin attempted to scrub the blackened parts of the nail, in hopes of revealing the treasure within. Unfortunately, the charred coating was too durable.
Unfazed by the hurdle, Shin continued experimenting on the charred thorn. He tried to drill through the coating using his created water, he tried casting heal on the thorn, he had even attempted scrubbing The Sovereign Koi on it, forcing it to wiggle about in protest. However, no matter what he tried, the charred thorn remained unchanged.
“Hmmm… Maybe my cultivation level is still too weak to break through the coating… I’ll bring it to Master later in the week to investigate.” Since Shin wasn’t able to crack the code, the youth decided not to overthink about it. “Still, I’m constantly amazed by the dense water elements in this chamber.”
The Himmel Empire wasn’t the dominant force when it came to water-elemental Spirits. Yet, they managed to create an optimal cultivation chamber for Shin slowly train in. If Shin trained in the cultivation chamber, he would reap twice the rewards with half the effort. Closing his eyes, Shin felt the water elements seep deep into his pores, and he began to chant the Celestial Water Mantra.
From the start of his cultivation journey, the Celestial Water Mantra had been his trusted ally, and he used it religiously. Even though it was cryptic and hard to understand, Shin had used it time and time again to increase his understandings of water and the power of his Spirit. Memorising the manual from cover to cover, Shin could recite any part of the mantra at the snap of a finger, and he chose a chapter that best suited his current cultivation needs.
Unbeknownst to Shin, the moment he started to chant, the dense water elements in his cultivation chamber begun to tremble violently and the lights emitted out from The Sovereign Koi was twice as bright as usual.
The stagnant charred thorn that remained on the table, finally showed signs of change as it shook slightly. Suddenly, the thorn flew forward as if it was an electromagnet being switched on and hit Shin straight in the face, forcing him to abruptly open his eyes.
“What the?!” Pulling the charred thorn off his body, Shin rubbed his nose and took some time to regain his bearings. Sensing that something was off, he held the half a metre long thorn up high and carefully examined it once more.
“You didn’t move just now, what changed?” Shin reflected on his past actions. Initially, no matter what means he tried, Shin just wasn’t capable of triggering a response from the charred thorn. “Was it the Celestial Water Mantra?”
Allowing The Sovereign Koi to hover over the charred thorn, Shin injected his mana into the nail of the ancient beast and chanted his trusted mantra once more. As if in response to his mana, the charred thorn began to throb in excitement. All of a sudden, Shin felt as if a live, beating heart had been placed onto his palms.
“It’s working!” Thrilled that he finally got a response, Shin continued pumping mana into the charred thorn, all while reciting the Celestial Water Mantra. Bit by bit, the thorn pulsated harder and harder, until eventually…
A small crack broke through the thick charred thorn releasing a torrent of dense spiritual energy that blinded Shin almost instantly. The black-haired youth immediately retracted his mana and sought to escape from the terrorising light that seemed capable of vanquishing him in a millisecond. However, as fast as he may be, there was no way that Shin could outrun the speed of light. Failing to escape the dense spiritual light, Shin braced himself for impact. Like a mother’s touch, the compact light embraced the young boy, and then…
The world went black…
“This is…” Opening his eyes, Shin tried his best to identify where he was. Unfortunately, the only thing that existed around him was a patch of eternal darkness.
“This is like the spiritual awakening ceremony all over again!” Shin got goosebumps as he flashbacked to the first time he interacted with his Spirit Body. Similar to this instant, Shin was thrown into a world of darkness, and he was forced to find the elusive Sovereign Koi, who was playing hard to get at the time.
“Maybe I have to do the same to get out of this place?”
There were a thousand questions that plagued Shin’s mind. What was the true identity of the charred thorn? Why was he sent to yet another spiritual realm? However, the most pressing question he had was how to get out. Fortunately, unlike the spirit awakening ceremony, he wasn’t alone in this world.
The Sovereign Koi swam around Shin, jubilantly pointing at the youth’s left side, prompting him to follow it. With nowhere to go, the youth opted to follow the wishes of his Spirit. Since he wasn’t wandering about aimlessly, it didn’t take long to find his objective.
“It really was here…” Shin muttered out in amazement.
Inside of the dark, barren universe that Shin was sent to, he found a brightly shining puddle, which was a metre in diameter. With each step that he took, the puddle rippled out in joy as if it had been waiting for this moment its entire life. However, the moment Shin right before it, the puddle immediately calmed, revealing the scene that lay within it.
“This is… A memory?” Shin hypothesised.
The movie that was being played in the first-person perspective of a flying creature as it rapidly zipped through the heavens. Crossing mountain ranges within a blink of an eye, Shin estimated that the creature had the capability of traversing continents as it wished, making it a true sovereign of the skies.
It didn’t take long for the flying creature to reach its destination. The five-kilometre high volcano violently erupted, sending thick billowing ash clouds into the firmament above. From the ashes, a fiery god descended.
Covered in molten lava, the humanoid Spirit Beast towered over any mountain that stood before it and each step it took sent tornadoes flying all over the continent. Opening its smelting red mouth, the Ifrit-like being spat out a river of flames, forcing the flying creature to ascend high up into the skies.
Raising up its claw, the creature defied the god by congregating its mana to create a solid beam of light that pierced through the head of the flaming giant. Unfortunately, the God of Fire was capable of regenerating its body instantly. Attacking the flying creature with the heat of a billion suns, the volcanic giant created an ocean of flames, capable of incinerating the entire Capital within seconds.
In response, the flying creature roared heavenwards and summoned a torrential downpour in hopes of quelling the flames below it. Once more, it raised its claw, allowing the sharp nails on it to glow in a radiant brilliance. Beams of spectre light rapidly shot down at the flaming God, each one capable of inflicting a thousand kilometres of damage.
However, it was all for nought as the Ifrit reached out and grabbed the claw in the flying creatures hand. Almost instantly, the nail that was responsible for damaging the Fire God had been charred, and it fell off the creature’s body, ending the memory altogether.
“T-That… Was the memory of the charred thorn?!”
Before Shin had a chance to react, the puddle forcibly sucked the youth in and brought him back to the material realm. Panting out while his robes were soaked to the bone with sweat, Shin attempted to quell his mental state. What level were the two Spirit Beasts in that memory? Tier 9? Primordial Beasts? Or perhaps even higher? Shin didn’t know.
However, what he did know is the fact that any one of them was capable of decimating the entire Himmel Empire if it wished to.
“This charred thorn actually contains the memory of an ancient mighty beast’s attack!” Shin felt his heart beating wildly as he contemplated on the uses of the charred thorn.
“What I lacked during the year-end competition was a powerful ability that could finish my enemies… Natasha has her Starfall attack, Suji has the Heavenly Punishment, and Kanari has Lunar Beam… If I could even release a fraction of the power shown in the memory, I will be able to reign supreme over anyone!!!” Figuring out the route that he had to take, Shin held on to the charred thorn as if it were his baby.
“I will become stronger!!!”