Raven stared at the description of the Divine Skill in her hands with wide eyes; it was an impressive movement type skill.
‘Well this is definitely not a skill that I can base on my old martial arts!’ Raven exclaimed to herself. ‘This is practically a teleportation skill!’
If mastered, the Divine Skill Spacial Dash could be used to separate some of the practitioner’s spirit essence into a separate incorporeal body of sorts, that could be sustained within a radius dependent on the practitioner’s level of cultivation. It was then possible to, at any given moment, shift one’s real body to that location, instantaneously.
There were however a few drawbacks to the skill, which might explain why it was graded as only a level six skill, despite the essence fluctuations being a bit stronger than those of the other level six skills Raven had inspected.
Besides being unusually hard to learn, the two major drawbacks were noise and essence consumption.
Keeping a incorporeal body of spirit essence separate from oneself would, not surprisingly, be extremely taxing on the soul and once the actual dash was made huge amounts of spirit essence would be used up. Raven guessed that with her current cultivation, she would only be able to use the skill perhaps 2-3 times in actual combat, and this was only thanks to her soul being unusually fast at absorbing spirit essence.
Then there was the noise. The immediate shift of pressure in the atmosphere, caused by the sudden disappearance and subsequent reappearance of a human body, would generate a bang so loud that it would burst the eardrums of any low level Spiritualists nearby. Not to mention the potentially deadly effects it would have on normal humans.
‘Hehe, if I get proficient enough in using the Void Tracker, I should be able to cancel out the noise,’ Raven was incapable of hiding the glee from her face, ‘although it will be hard to learn, I’m not in a hurry, and thanks to the extra skill given to Advanced Students I will still have plenty of slots open for other skills.’
Raven had made up her mind and held up her identification stone to the scroll to unlock the Divine Skill within. Instantly a low murmur filled the floor.
“Do you see that?” someone snickered quietly, “the slave kid picked the Spacial Dash.”
“Wasting his extra skill on a Divine Skill he will never learn, what a rookie mistake.”
“I thought a slave would have been taught his self-worth early on. . . .”
It came to no surprise to Raven that the students on the second floor were only ignoring her when they thought she was looking. Although their voices were low, they might as well have shouted – it would have made no difference to Raven.
Although she registered what they said, she chose to ignore it for now as she instead looked at the identification stone in her palm with some confusion; the text “Divine Skill Count 1/4” was once again displayed.
‘Shouldn’t it be 2/4?’ Raven frowned.
She thought back to the words Elder Stork had left her with: “you are to choose four Divine Skills and practice them to perfection. You are not permitted a fifth skill until one of the first four is mastered.”
‘Could it be that my trial run downstairs was enough for the stone to deem the Paralizing Ligtning Strike as mastered?’
As far as Raven was concerned, her earlier performance had been merely adequate, with many adjustments still required before she would be satisfied.
Then again, Raven was a bit of a perfectionist when it came her martial techniques; it wasn’t unreasonable to think that the Academy would put the bar lower or none of the students would learn more than five or six skills during their studies at Sky Academy.
Raven smiled at the possibility this presented. If her guess was correct, wouldn’t that mean that she would be able to get the imprint for practically every low level Divine Skill that connected to her old martial arts almost as fast as she could read their scrolls?
‘This has to be tested!’
Although it was possible that she would find fitting skills on the second floor, Raven opted against it with so many people present. Instead, she immediately completed the imprint with the level six Spacial Dash and headed back to the first floor, fittingly ignoring every person she left behind on the second floor.
Once back on the first floor, Raven strode to the very back of the library, almost forgetting to hide the lithe of her natural movements. Fortunately, the first floor was practically only used by first and second year students, whom seemed disinclined to skip out on lunch, so there were only two other students present. They were both low Novices and the numerous shelves separating them from Raven were more than enough to hide her activities from all their senses.
With inhuman speed Raven started to sift through the scrolls on the shelf in front of her. Every time she came across a skill whose physical movements were nearly identical to her old martial arts, she would stop, unlock the imprint, and then perform the skill; it was a success, the first skill increased the count on the identification stone to 2/4, but when the second skill was unlocked the count was still only 2/4.
Raven kept it up for over half an hour before her mind started feel strained; like a balloon filled with too much air. Drawing a deep breath, she looked back at the scrolls she had read and then leaned out into the next aisle of the library.
‘I’ve checked 42 level three Divine Skills, and taken the imprint of the 17 level scrolls whose skills fit me,’ she lifted her hands to rub her temples, ‘I haven’t even looked through a single shelf yet. . . .’
Even though Raven’s mind was spent, she was still very pleased with the situation; finally she had made some of her old techniques a bit more useful to her also in Spiritualist combat.
However, there were thousands of scrolls to go and hundreds of martial techniques she wanted to find a use for.
‘I wonder how long time it would take to . . . ,’ Raven’s eyes widened, ‘oh, shit! My next class!’
Not bothering to restore order to the section she had worked through, Raven dashed out from the library, leaving two small piles of glowing scrolls behind. In her rush, Raven failed to notice that while the larger pile of disregarded skills consisted mostly of warm hues, the small pile shone with the colder lights of green, yellow and pale blue.
The location for the forth level Spirit Control Class was not particularly far away, but it still took five minutes for Raven to arrive, bursting through the gateway onto yet another open courtyard at full speed. Although she was moving very quickly, for observers it seemed as if Raven was simply taking a casual jog; her step was light and no sweat gathered on her forehead.
The twenty or so people already present stared at her small figure with perplexed gazes. Whatever rumors, or perhaps instructions, someone had spread, they had apparently not taken hold in everyone here; quite a few students were not averting their eyes the moment they realized it was Raven.
To Raven’s surprise, most of those students were women, all wearing the gold rimmed robes of the Healing Arts Department.
‘So the Spirit Control Class is co-ed . . . ,’ noted Raven as she observed her observers, ‘and judging by their appearances, the girls are younger than the boys.’
Most males attending the fourth level class were simultaneously in their fourth year – as was the case with the Griffin twins – and therefore approaching their twelfth birthday. The girls on the other hand seemed to be ten or, at most, newly turned eleven. Granted, there were fewer of them, but still.
If not for the fact that the Griffin twins were absent for some unknown reason, Raven would have asked them about it. Instead, she let the girls stare and simply waited for the class to start, which Raven realised, surprised, might take a while; she could sense no Spirit Champions approaching the courtyard.
The children around Raven were clustered in small groups, and soon started to talk among themselves in hushed tones. If it wasn’t for Raven’s extraordinary hearing, she would most likely not have heard a word they said to each other. As it was . . .
“Is that the super genius that joined the Martial Department yesterday?” asked one of the girls.
“He looks so ordinary. . . .” commented another.
“Hmph, what’s so special about it – any high Novice who takes that trial would get the same result,” mumbled one of the boys but Raven could tell from his voice that he didn’t really believe what he was saying.
“I heard from Senior Wren that this so called genius is actually fake, ” said another boy and in a voice loud enough for anyone in the open area to hear, “he’s only a thief who stole his cultivation from his fellow slaves!”
Raven raised an eyebrow at that; ‘stealing cultivation? Is that even possible?’ Raven tilted her head to the side as she pondered, ‘You could perhaps find a way to absorb someones spirit essence but without a strong enough Spirit Core you wouldn’t be able to make it your own. . . .’
Meanwhile, talk about Raven and her past grew more rowdy around her.
“How horrible!” shrieked some of the girls, who clearly hadn’t heard the story before, while some of the others actually snorted disbelievingly.
“Isn’t Senior Wren just jealous?” suggested one of the older girls. “Clearly he feels threatened by this Junior.”
“What’s there to be threatened by? Senior Wren is already a peak high Adept and will likely break through to the Champion realm before he graduates. This little thief will never catch up, now that he can’t keep to his old treachery anymore!”
“The only thing impressive about Senior Wren’s cultivation is that he managed to get there without being an Advanced Student,” retorted one of the smaller boys in a voice so low Raven almost missed it. His cultivation was lowest among the boys as he was the only one still quite far from reaching the bottleneck before advancing to Spirit Adept.
“What was that?” the boy who had first raised his voice asked the small kid – he had seen the latter’s mouth moving but only heard fragments.
The small boy shivered slightly and backed up a few steps. “Nothing,” he said and looked down at his feet.
“No, you definitely said something,” the larger boy advanced towards the other one, “come on, Regulus, share your opinion with the rest of us.”
The girls frowned at the scene but said nothing. Perhaps the fact that their cultivation wasn’t any than higher Regulus’s held them back. Raven on the other hand had no such scruples.
‘Might as well see if I can get some more insight into this whole thief business. . . .’
Swiftly, Raven stepped forward and blocked the larger kid’s approach with a cold glare.
“Out of the way, slave thief,” ordered the kid with disdain, “or do you think that you, with your fake cultivation, can match up to me – a true high Novice?”
“I am no thief,” answered Raven in a voice devoid of emotion.
“No? Then how about ‘murderer’ instead?”
The other children gasped. Raven frowned slightly.
‘Where does this come from? Usually people don’t choose to make such accusations without any sort of proof. . . .’
“Don’t be ridiculous, Robin,” the slightly older girl from before finally spoke again, “he’s only six!”
The boy, Robin, didn’t look away from Raven as a smug sneer spread on his face.
“Then do you deny that you have watched dozens of children get slowly ripped to pieces, limb from limb, right in front of you without doing a thing?” More gasps. “I bet you even enjoyed it!”
Raven’s frown deepened. The scene Robin was describing was awfully close to one of the horrors Hog had described to the headmasters and Elder Kagu only yesterday. Was it a coincidence? Not likely. Had anyone of them told the story to someone else? Perhaps even less likely.
‘But who could have overheard it? Even I couldn’t hear anything through those doors without Brother and it’s practically impossible that someone hid themselves in there…’
When Raven remained silent, Robin laughed mockingly, “Ha! See, he doesn’t even deny it!”
‘It would seem like I have something more to investigate – Auk Wren’s, or perhaps Jack Tanuki’s, source. As for this kid . . .’
Raven’s eyes studied the soon to be twelve-year-old in front of her. Her frown slowly dissipated and was replaced by a cold and emotionless expression that sent shivers down Robin’s spine.
“Whatever I have witnessed, it is none of your business, but if you think that my experiences make me weak, then you are dead wrong.”
Raven’s blood red eyes locked on to the boy like a hawk, minuscule amounts of killing intent seeping out towards him. Instinctively, Robin took a few steps back. Annoyed at his reaction, Robin searched for a comeback, but the words were caught in his throat.
One of the boys, whom had stood next to Robin prior to the altercation, and who didn’t feel the weight of Raven’s glare chuckled; “already he makes threats! Are you here to steal our cultivation as well?”
“He is here to learn, just like the rest of you,” a clear voice rang out in the courtyard, instantly putting a lid over the brewing tension.
“Elder Willow!” the girls practically shrieked in unison, as they bowed their heads towards the gate.
‘He’s an elder?’ thought Raven as she turned to look at the man who had just entered.
She had recognized his presence, when she sensed him approaching, as the man Martin had referred to as Professor Love during the banquet. However, at that time, Raven hadn’t bothered to turn around and look at him. Consequently, she never saw the color of the man’s robes and had therefor assumed that the professor title was a simply part of his nickname. This assumption had been based on the deep red glow of his presence, which relieved this ‘Elder Willow’ as merely a high Spirit Adept, close to a breakthrough, but nonetheless just an Adept – there are students at Sky Academy with higher cultivation!
However, now that Raven actually looked at him, she was even more disbelieving of his status as an Elder. His figure was lean and elegant, with long auburn hair, tied in a high ponytail, and ivory pale skin. His eyes, shining with dazzling light green hues, seemed to see right through whomever he looked at. Raven had to agree with the girls and admit that Elder Willow was irrefutably gorgeous – in a top model kind of way – but most importantly, he looked young, very young. It wouldn’t surprise Raven if the man was below nineteen.
‘To be an Elder at such a young age, and yet with such a low cultivation . . . ,’ Raven glanced over his robes, and furrowed her brows; ‘he’s from the Healing Department?’
“Sorry for the delay,” with elegant confidence, Elder Willow strode to the center of the courtyard as he spoke. “I was on my way when I found two of your classmates loitering near the Spirit Hall Tower, so I had to make a detour.” He turned to face the gate. “Boys?”
There was a short pause before two fiery sets of hair appeared outside, soon to be followed by an enormous crate of boxes that they were pulling behind them with much effort.
Elder Willow smiled warmly at the sight and continued speaking over the huffs and puffs of the Twins; “they were however kind enough to help me with bringing over the equipment for today’s class. Collect one box each and take a seat somewhere; it doesn’t matter where, as long as you have at least an arms length to each other.”
“Yes, Elder!” the children shouted and did as they were told.
“Up to no good again?” whispered Raven to the twins as she picked up a box for herself and handed a second one to Regulus, who was to short to reach them on his own.
“No,” wheezed Martin between labored breaths, “and what do you mean again? We are practically saints, right Twin?”
“Indeed,” smiled Lark and used nodded his head to indicate an empty section of the courtyard. Together, the three walked over and sat down, but leaned in closer than the arms length distance so they could continue their conversation.
“We wanted to see the first year’s reaction to your record,” explained Lark.
“Well, Professor Love found us . . . ,” started Martin dejectedly.
“When we told him why we were there he started lecturing us about how reckless we had been . . .” interrupted Lark a little too quickly, “he dragged on for ever, but as a result we had yet to leave when the teacher found your record.” His eyes practically twinkled. “It was awesome; the other Elder’s jaw nearly touched the ground!”
“It would have been even more awesome if we hadn’t been forced to pull that godforsaken crate all the way here afterwards!” grumbled Martin causing Lark to laugh and nod, but surprisingly Raven noticed him giving Martin a slightly reproving look.
‘Interesting,’ she thought, ‘so they don’t agree on everything.’