‘He wants to challenge me?!’ Shin’s mind went blank. Thousands of eyes had traced Lukman’s finger, and they managed to find the unsuspecting youth that was hidden in plain sight.
“That’s Shin Awter? The boy behind all of the Summit’s recent mayhem?!”
“He actually dares to show up here?”
Whispers of shock and confusion echoed among the hyped-up audience. They were all here for the Summit and were all up-to-date with current events. While five of the six entities present had already signed agreements to join in the Alliance against the Black Masks, only the Lantis Republic refused to participate in any further negotiations until their terms where met.
And their terms were exceedingly simple. Hand over Shin Awter, or there would be no deal. Thus, Shin had instantly become an overnight sensation. Journalists and intelligence agencies from each entity alike would dig up anything that they could about the young boy. His features, his habits, his martial arts, his spiritual abilities, his favourite foods… Nothing was left to the imagination.
“Brat… What the hell are you getting at?!” A booming voice reverberated through the stadium, bringing all commotion to a halt. Longyu Tian, who had been quiet this entire time, had unleashed her wrath in the protection of her prized jewel.
“Saint of Time, I didn’t mean to offend.” Lukman bowed down at a ninety-degree angle as nervous beads of sweat flowed down from his forehead. He may be brazen, but there was no way that he wouldn’t fear one of the mightiest beings of the world. Lukman’s talent didn’t matter at all. If Longyu Tian wanted to obliterate the youth, all she needed to do was snap her fingers in disgust. Hence, the tanned young man had to choose his words wisely.
“As many of us know, the Lantis Republic is trying to claim Shin Awter as their own. However, what we don’t know, is how talented said boy is. Doesn’t the world deserve to know about Shin’s true powers?”
“Brat, are you trying to question our decision?”
A simple threat. Yet, those few words were sufficient to force the entire audience to enter into a mental breakdown. Prince Koshaku, Lady Seph, Deputy Prime Minister Venus, President Ingram, Guild Leader Xerxes, Zhangyu Yaoguai, and Divine Healer Raphael were all perspiring heavily as if a bucket of cold water had been thrown onto their bodies. No one could escape the wrath of a Spirit Saint, and they had already written Lukman off as a dead man.
“Now, now. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions.” Fortunately for the Tuareg Sect member, the Kori Federation’s Spirit Saint had his back. Saint Geom calmed Longyu Tian and offered his two cents on the matter. “What Lukman’s saying is correct. We haven’t been able to witness the full grandeur of Shin’s battle powers. Don’t you think that it’ll be good for the Lantis Republic to see what they’re getting first?”
“Saint Geom… What are you saying?”
“Don’t you think that it’s unfair for the Lantis Republic to not know what they’re fighting for.” The aged swordsman gestured to the younger generation from the Republic. Some were confused, others weren’t all that sure about what they were fighting for. All they knew that it was imperative for them to follow their superiors orders, even if they didn’t understand the full gravity of the situation.
“You can’t let them feel uncertain about their beliefs… Furthermore, wouldn’t it be interesting to watch the boy use all of his abilities?” Saint Geom whispered sweet nothings into Longyu Tian’s ear. Up till this point, she had only heard of Shin speak of his abilities. The Saint of Time had never actually witnessed him fight firsthand.
“Esteemed Saint of Time, I’m not saying that we have a spar according to the rules of the exhibition matches.” To give one final push, Lukman raised his voice with a proposal. “I will only use one spiritual ability, while Shin Awter would get to use everything at his disposal. Furthermore, I would ban myself from using martial arts too! I won’t even use spiritual pressure to weaken him!”
Lukman came prepared. He already knew that a Spirit Spectre challenging a Spirit Core cultivator was ludicrous. Thus, the Tuareg Sect’s Luminary had placed all sorts of restrictions on himself.
“If I break any of those restrictions, you can punish me with everything that you have!” Once more bowing to the Spirit Saints, Lukman begged for a fight with Shin, stunning everyone in the audience.
“Why is he so adamant about challenging Shin?” Saint Althea, Lady Seph’s master and Shin’s grandmaster, murmured to herself. “Is there something that we’re missing?”
“…” Saint Firebird didn’t say anything. He was supposed to protect the members from the Himmel Empire, but even he was moved by Lukman’s desire to challenge the youth. Additionally, Saint Firebird also wanted to see Shin in action. The world was thrown into turmoil because of him, it only made sense that Shin showed the world what he had.
“You…” Longyu Tian wanted to rebut. However, she knew that Saint Geom had a point. When she first brought it up that she wanted to make a deal where the Himmel Empire would surrender Shin in exchange for the armies of the Lantis Republic, there was harsh pushback from Zhangyu Yaoguai and the ministers from her nation. In fact, the Grand Council back home was also split in their decision.
While they understood that cultivators with the Mark of the Celestial Dragon were essential for the prophecy, they didn’t think that it was an even trade. Some even thought that it was a sinister plot concocted by Longyu Tian to strengthen the Longyu Clan while weakening the other seven clans. Even the Luminaries of the Lantis Republic had harboured the same thoughts.
‘Looks like Shin really has to show them what he’s got…’ As much as she didn’t want her long-lost family member to suffer, Longyu Tian didn’t really have much of a choice. Perhaps after the bout, the Himmel Empire would finally decide to relinquish their hold over the youth.
“Fine…” Acquiescing, Longyu Tian fell onto her chair and heaved out a deep sigh.
All while Shin watched in horror.
‘Those assholes… They didn’t even ask me how I felt!!!’ Shin wanted to scream out loud at the top of his lungs. They arbitrarily decided his fate without even asking a single word from him! Now, he had to fight against a Spirit Spectre!!!
‘God damn it! God damn it!!!’ Shin cursed his own fate as two Spirit Emperors descended upon his comfy seat. It was crystal clear what they intended to do.
“Please follow us.”
“Good luck!” Shizen hid his face while flashing a thumbs up at Shin. Running away from one Spirit Emperor was impossible, let alone two. Even if Shizen wanted to assist his friend ins escaping, they wouldn’t even be able to move a single step away from the Spirit Emperors.
Shin reluctantly got up from his seat and was ‘escorted’ to the centre of the fabled arena. The Summit stage was a place of honour and a location where all youths in the world hoped to stand on. Performing in front of six Spirit Saints and all of the dignitaries of the entire world? That was a dream for any cultivator, be it young or old. However, Shin didn’t care for such a vision.
‘Why is that bloody Lukman challenging me?! What did I do to offend him?!’ Shin tried to dig through his memory drive, hoping to get a hint of why the tanned man would want to bring him to the stage, instead of Qilong Hu or the Crimson Ghost. However, the more he thought about it, the more questions arose.
‘Whatever… I’ll find out in just a bit…’ Giving in to his fate, Shin allowed the Spirit Emperors to drag him all the way to the centre stage, where thousands of eyes were waiting for his masterful performance…
“We finally get to witness Shin Awter fight firsthand.” Jingyu Taiyi’s face flushed red, and his pulse increased rapidly. As much as he was a troublemaker, it never occurred in his mind to drag down Shin to the arena. “I wonder what sights he would show us.”
“He’s a bearer of the Mark of the Celestial Dragon, just like you and Junior Sister Bingying.” Qilong Hu replied. “There’s no way that he’ll be weak.”
“I’ve heard that he’s a healer and a fighter at the same time.” Xunyu Feifei added on with her own findings. “Not to mention, he can create and manipulate water in any way that he likes. Isn’t that like the rarest ability in our nation?”
It came as no surprise that the Lantis Republic would praise the spiritual ability to create and control water. Their entire mythos relies on water as a resource and those who are experts in it were greatly treasured in the country. Even if the cultivator weren’t part of the Eight Clans of Water, they would still receive VIP treatment that would be reserved for distinguished individuals.
“However, he hasn’t been training in our ways. Is he really that special?” Longyu Linji scoffed. Whenever Shin’s name would be brought up, Linji would like an unpleasant hurricane had formed in the pits of his stomach. He was the Luminary from the Longyu Clan, and yet, everyone was raving over this new talent that wasn’t even part of the Lantis Republic.
“Doesn’t that make him even more special?” Meijing Bingying furrowed her brows in thought. “Just imagine. He never had any formal education in the Celestial Water Mantra, has been living inland his entire life where the water elements are weaker and had never been baptised by the Celestial River. Yet, he had reached Rank 24 at the age of sixteen? That’s sooner than anyone of us!”
“You’re right…” Qilong Hu’s face turned grim. “If he was brought into the Lantis Republic, what heights could he possibly attain?”
It wasn’t that Shin hadn’t been exposed to the best resources. Lady Seph had ensured that the development of her disciple had gone as smoothly as possible. Nonetheless, the Lantis Republic could offer far more to the young boy of water than any entity could. That’s why Lady Seph was so adamant that Shin made friends with the Luminaries of the Lantis Republic during the Summit. Of course, the blonde healer never expected that Longyu Tian’s desire to obtain Shin would be that strong.
“Hehe, let’s just watch him then.” Jingyu Taiyi was enjoying every minute of the recent exhibition matches. “He’s going to be our junior anyway, so let’s examine him!”
Not everyone was enjoying the current situation like Jingyu Taiyi was though. Shin felt as if a tremendous weight had been placed upon his shoulders as he did his best to ignore the countless of gazes in his direction. Right in front of him, a tanned young man, who was by in any sense of the word, devastatingly handsome, greeted the black-haired boy with a charming smile.
“Shin Awter… We finally meet.”
“I’m sorry?” Shin didn’t understand why Lukman was so desperate to challenge him to a fight. He could understand if it was someone from the Lantis Republic, but the Tuareg Sect had no relation to Shin whatsoever.
“Haha, you must be confused. Why I called you out…” Lukman chuckled. “Let me show you.”
Lukman stomped his foot on the ground, sending a rumbling shockwave throughout the arena.
The rumblings got louder and louder. Shin almost fell over as the earthquake got stronger and stronger.
BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!!
The concrete ground around Lukman caved in rapidly bringing out fine granular particles which were light and reddish yellow in colour. The particles congregated together to create rapidly spinning tendrils that oscillated around Lukman before bowing in reverence as if the tanned man was an Imperial of their castle.
No, he was royalty. The sole royal of his element.
Just as with every Luminary, Lukman had a moniker that was attached to his name. One that was befitting of his abilities and worthy of describing him. Shin swallowed a gulp of air before he unconsciously repeated that name. The name that all Luminaries feared.
“Lukman Ramal… The Prince of Sand.”
“Shin Awter. Your control over water, over my control over sand! Let’s see who wins!”