Lukman was ecstatic. He had come to the Summit in search of the perfect challenge for himself. A son of nobody, the young man, had to work his way up the Tuareg Sect, taking on setback after setback. He was belittled for his background, disdained for his talent, and spat on by his seniors. However, Lukman never gave in to the threats. He stormed his way up the hierarchy, conquering all that stood before his path.
Bullies? They were bullied back. Betrayers? They were cut out from his life in a brutal fashion. His competition? All gone through his own headstrong efforts. Lukman had clawed his way to the top of the food chain and had reigned supreme since getting there. There were none in the Tuareg Sect that could challenge his dominance and few in the Kori Federation could even stand a chance against him.
However, things were lonely at the top. Lukman wanted to develop new techniques, but all of the Spirit Spectres or Spirit Lords had their own responsibilities in the workforce. Many had children, sometimes even grandchildren. They didn’t want to fight against a junior that could embarrass them in front of their descendants. Hence, Lukman had been avoided like the plague by his fellow compatriots, leaving him to hunt Spirit Beasts in the hopes of increasing his strength.
So why was Lukman so dominant? Why was he capable of clearing the Trial of Sand, Trial of Desert, and Trial of Mirage all before he hit twenty-five? Why was Lukman considered to be the Tuareg Sect’s first Spirit Saint hopeful?
It was because of his innate ability and the Spirit that triggered a natural phenomenon. The ability to create and manipulate sand.
Lukman was a monster, and he knew how creative his innate spiritual ability was. Hence, when he found out that Shin Awter, the boy that had grasped the attention of every soul in the Summit, possessed the same type of ability, Lukman leapt for joy. Finding with someone with a similar spiritual ability was rare in its own right, and those that could create and manipulate their individual elements were even rarer.
“Shin Awter! Show me what you’ve got!”
True to his word, Lukman was only going to use his first spiritual ability to spar with Shin. Pillars of sand flew out from the ground and oscillated around the tanned young man, making the arena seem like a scene straight out from a sandstorm.
‘He creates and manipulates sand?!’ Shin raised his eyebrow all while hiding the shock in his heart. All this time, Shin had been living under the assumption that he was the only person that could create and manipulate his element. If he had known that Lukman existing, perhaps Shin would have ran to the Kori Federation in search of advice.
‘Whatever, at least I can learn from him now!’
Finally pumped up to do battle, Shin summoned out the Sovereign Koi, forcing the audience to release an audible gasp.
“He really does have the Sovereign Koi… However, what’s so special about it?” The eagle-eyed members of the crowd all tried to find any discrepancies that Shin’s Sovereign Koi had.
The Longyu Clan had hundreds of cultivators that had awakened the Sovereign Koi. While not every bloodline member was able to awaken the famed Spirit, a good majority of them had done so in spectacular fashion, triggering natural phenomenons each time. It may be beneficial for the Lantis Republic to obtain Shin from the Himmel Empire, but everyone was confused about the lengths that Longyu Tian was willing to go for this child that she barely knew.
Shin brought out the Yellow-Eyed Dragon Needles and held them within the gaps of his fingers. At the same time, he cast his own Spiritual Body Enhancement and created eight water spheres that orbited around him. Against a Spirit Spectre, albeit in a handicapped state, Shin couldn’t afford to pull any punches.
SPLLATTT!!! SPLLATTT!!! SPLLATTT!!!
To feel out Lukman’s power, Shin split three water spheres into thousands of water droplets and created a horizontal rain. Without even batting an eye, Lukman built a wall of sand between him and Shin, blocking the futile attempt with ease.
BOOM!!! BOOM!!! BOOM!!!
Shin coated his ankles with water and executed the Dance of the Valkyrie to gain the upper hand. Seeing a Spirit Core cultivator fly in the air came as a shock to Lukman and the rest of the audience, but they quickly calmed down after analysing the boy’s movements for a bit.
“He’s using his control over water to fly… That’s incredible.” Meijing Bingying smiled bitterly. Everyone knew that once a cultivator crosses the first barrier of humanity, they would become capable of soaring unhindered in the skies. Yet, Shin didn’t bother to wait for his time to come. He used his control over water to self-create his ability to fly, long before the Spirit Spectre stage.
‘Good! That’s what I wanted from you, Shin Awter!’ Lukman laughed mentally. He had never thought of using his control over sand to move in the skies like Shin could. It was precisely because of this creativity that Lukman wanted to challenge Shin to a match.
‘Let’s see how you handle this!’
Turning the entire arena into a sandy desert, Lukman created dozens of human arms that sped upwards to grab the pesky flying youth and bury him into the ground.
Somersaulting and spinning around to evade the constant threats, Shin was forced to retreat higher and higher into the air. Lukman had limited himself to only using one ability, and thus, he couldn’t personally chase Shin who was almost fifty metres up. What he could do, however, was to send those enormous sand hands to hunt Shin down. But soon… That wasn’t enough.
‘He’s too quick… Hah, I’ll have to add something else to the equation.’
Lukman raised both his arms upwards, and twelve pillars of sand rushed to the heavens above, far surpassing the speed that Shin could outrun. The twelve pillars migrated the acres of sand up into the sky until an aerial desert was formed right above Shin’s head.
‘Holy shit!!!’ Shin cried out.
As fast as he was, there was no way that Shin could avoid over a hundred tonnes of sand crashing down onto his body. The two water orbs on his feet exploded in fright and propelled Shin all the way down to the sandy ground. In preparation for the impact, Shin congregated all of his water orbs into a spiralling barrier of water. That was his only hope of surviving that avalanche of endless sand.
‘And it all… Falls… Down!!!’ Lukman snapped his finger, bringing the entire levitating desert crashing down upon the arena.
Shin’s barrier managed to hold for a good three seconds before the succumbing to the weight of the pressure, and hundreds of tonnes of sand brought Shin flat on his stomach. If not for his Spiritual Body Enhancement, Shin would have long perished to the immense pressure on his bones. Speaking of which…
‘God damn it… I think I fractured something.’ Shin knew his body more than anyone else. Casting heal to mend some of his broken bones, the boy clawed his way to the surface with a provoked face. ‘I know that you’re a Spirit Spectre, but must you really have thrown an entire fucking desert on my face?! Come on!!! There’s a limit to bullying isn’t there?!’
Shin wasn’t fighting to win. How could he? Lukman was a Spirit Spectre, not to mention a Luminary that topped the Kori Federation’s entire generation! It would take an Immortal’s miracle for Shin to somehow pull out a win. However, he couldn’t put on a bad showing either. The only thing that he could do was to do his best and lose honourably.
‘And how can I lose honourably if you throw fucking deserts at me?!’
Unaware of the hate that he’s getting, Lukman chuckled, elated that Shin had survived that humongous strike. The battle was just starting. It would be boring if Shin fell at such a rudimentary attack.
‘However, I can’t have you jumping up in the air again…’
Wiggling his fingers, Lukman brought up billions of sand particles to create a foggy mist that hovered twenty metres above the arena. Picking up a nearby rock, Lukman threw the solid object straight into the fog, in Shin’s presence.
The moment the rock made itself known to the mist, thousands of sands particles turned into razor-sharp blades that sliced the pebble into a pile of gravel, hinting the sinister fate that would await Shin should he dare to fly up into the skies again.
‘That asshole…’ Shin was being played by Lukman. The Spirit Spectre had shown that he was capable of ending Shin whenever he felt like it. ‘Still… His control over sand is impressive. To think that he can create a desert and a mist like that with just his innate ability.’
“Shin Awter. Let’s not waste any time on trickery. You fight me, I fight you. Let’s keep it plain and simple.”
“You…” Shin was tempted to growl at Lukman. Usually, when Shin fought, he would analyse his opponents and outsmart them using a combination of trickery and superior control of the battlefield. However, Lukman didn’t fight that way.
The tanned Tuareg Sect Luminary loved to face battle head-on. Lukman would overpower his opponent with his combination of attacks, and never liked to run away. Nowhere was this disparity more evident than with how the two prodigies used their innate abilities.
Shin uses his creation and manipulation of water to outmanoeuvre his opponents, through a combination of wits and deceit. He loved to sit back in safety, waiting for the perfect opportunity to land the fatal blow.
On the other hand, Lukman used his creativity to dominate everything around him. Be it creating dozens of unbreakable tendrils or forming a desert on top of everything, Lukman would face his foes head-on, never relenting and backing away.
‘Tskkk… I’m forced to play his game.’ Shin had no other choice but to play into Lukman’s hands. Since he couldn’t fight his typical way, Shin decided to improvise.
‘Let’s try hitting his meridians!’ Shin leapt forward with the Yellow-Eyed Dragon Needles, hoping to find an opening to exploit.
‘Lightning Swallow Steps!’ Shin evaded the countless of sand tendrils with the footwork technique that Mychael had imparted onto him. Though a rogue tendril would slip through his defences every now and then, Shin would brush off the injury through his own healing water, and continue his onslaught forward.
“His healing ability is at the very least in the intermediate level…” Raphael from the Healer’s Association almost dropped his jaw. He had first heard of his fellow Divine Healer’s disciple, back when Saint Althea returned from Chilyoja Waypoint.
Thirteen-years-old and already a healer? That sounded too good to be true. It was only after Shin came to the Healer’s Association to get his license, did Raphael finally acknowledge his inferiority in choosing disciples. Furthermore, in the three years since Shin claimed his license, he had further increased his capabilities, promoting from an elementary healer to an intermediate one. It has to be said, on average, it took a healer decades to improve just one rank. Yet, Shin broke all expectations and made it to the intermediate level all within the span of a few years.
“If he had continued on the Healing Path, would he have reached my level within twenty years?” Raphael couldn’t help but wonder. A genius like Shin only comes once every blue moon. If not for the tragedy that had struck him, perhaps the Healer’s Association would have been looking at their next Divine Healer.
“He should have stuck to the healing path…” Mercenary Guild Leader Xerxes overheard Raphael’s monologue and added his two cents to the matter. “He’s far too inferior in combat skills than he is healing. I mean look! He hasn’t even landed a single hit on Lukman, and he had to heal himself five times already! Such a waste of talent!”
‘Heal’ was supposed to be a rare and taxing spiritual ability, one that couldn’t be cast multiple times in a short period. Yet, Shin had done so five times in short succession. It may have eluded the eyes of the regular onlooker, but the Spirit Emperors and above could clearly see the boy’s overwhelming talent in the healing arts. Even Saint Longyu Tian felt a little despondent in her heart.
“Guild Leader Xerxes, you shouldn’t question another’s path. After all, you’re not the one walking it.” Prince Koshaku spoke out in defence of his country’s talent.
“Hmph! What good is it to walk his own path when it’s clearly a dead end?”
“How do you know that it’s a dead end?” Lady Seph, who had been quietly observing her disciple’s actions, finally broke out from her silence. Turning to the dozens of Spirit Venerates seated at her area, the blonde beauty puffed out her chest in pride as she spoke gloriously about her sole disciple. “Shin’s path is his to walk alone, and he will obtain his dreams! I know that he’ll accomplish it!”