A human mind is a powerful thing; through sheer conviction a person may push their body way beyond what is biologically possible. This held true even in Raven’s old world – they had even had a name for it there – but here, where spiritualists were more in tune with the essence of the world, it was even more so. In fact, one could argue that it was precisely the conviction that the Divine Skill Imprints gave them that allowed spiritualists to push themselves even further and manipulate spirit essence as a power of their own.
But this aspect of the human mind is a double edged sword.
As the killing intent laced spirit essence of Raven’s Ode of Woe bombarded the mind of the man calling himself the Blood Hound, the would-be assassin hadn’t reacted in time to put up any kind of defense, and the second Raven’s attack touched his soul prism it was already too late.
By then he didn’t just believe he was going to die, he knew it.
Instantly his body responded and started to shut itself down on its own. It happened faster than Raven had expected and before she managed to pull back her attack, the man had fainted – or perhaps more accurately, shut down enough to the point where his consciousness left him.
Raven stared blankly at the dying man in front of her. She clicked her tongue disapprovingly.
‘I guess I haven’t really gotten the hang of it yet; my latest breakthrough has made me a bit unbalanced. . . .’ Although Raven trained relentlessly, it was still rather rare for her to find the opportunity to use her powerful mental attack to its fullest, and with every jump in her cultivation the effectiveness of her Divine Skills would increase as well, making it harder to control.
For three years, Raven had been cultivating regularly in that mysterious space provided by the academy founder’s benefactor and, although Raven hadn’t dared repeat her Day of Light experience in the Spirit Hall Tower, she had still improved by leaps and bounds.
Over these years, Raven didn’t make even a single new spirit connection, keeping her at 374 connections, but those connections had changed greatly; if they, in the beginning, could have been considered as frail threads, they had now swelled into robust ropes, all of which absorbed spirit essence from the world at an astounding pace. With this improved absorption pace, it had only taken a year for Raven to step into the Champion realm and not too long ago her cultivation had soared to the point of being considered a mid Champion.
As such, Raven was the first ever nine-year-old to enter the ranks of the top 1% of elite spiritualists on the Trinity continent who managed to raise their cultivation so far – much to Headmaster Swan’s immense delight. At first he had been a bit reluctant to agree to Raven’s request for personal revenge, but, as he learned how quickly she was improving, Headmaster Swan immediately changed his mind. For him, the most important thing was now to make sure Raven survived – if that meant putting the nation in a tricky situation for a few years, so be it.
Raven looked back at the two sleeping twins not far from her before she glanced at the other man whom she had knocked unconscious with the Ode of Woe earlier. Although he was weaker than the Blood Hound, Raven hadn’t hit him with the skill straight on either so he was still better off.
‘Four people, huh. . . . How annoying,’ she sighed, but despite her inner thoughts, Raven hoisted the two strangers over her shoulders with ease. As for the twins, a softly glowing membrane of spirit essence appeared underneath them, lifting them gently from the ground. She used no Divine Skills to pull this off and instead relied on the ability to manifest her own spirit essence outside of her body. It had started with a small ring in Elder Willow’s class nearly four years ago, but, since Raven’s Spacial Dash relied on this concept to work at all, Raven had trained the technique to completely new heights.
‘At least the Hound made it a little bit simpler to get back to the house undetected. . . .’ thought Raven as she silently moved through the night, hauling the unconscious boys and men with her.
Barely an hour later, an extremely flushed Javelin slammed open the front door to the mercenary house where Bill lived, in the outskirts of the city.
Javelin was about to call out for Raven when her calm but cold voice stopped him. “Why so flustered, Javelin? I’m sure Bill told you there was no need to rush.”
“Raven!” Javelin dashed the few meters separating himself from Raven. “Are you unharmed?”
Seeing the frantic look in his eyes, Raven couldn’t help but soften a bit. “I’m fine, Jav,” she said and stretched out a hand to pat his head – even though Raven had grown a lot, so had Javelin, and he was still nearly a head taller than her. “How could a mere low Champion harm me?”
Javelin at first seemed relieved but he quickly turned mad. “Stop that,” he grunted as he took an annoyed step back, moving out of Raven’s reach. “I’m not a kid anymore! Do you even hear what you’re saying? What ‘mere low Champion’? You yourself were ‘only’ a low Champion two weeks ago!”
Raven waved a hand dismissively. “Never mind that. I need you to help me with a couple of things, Javelin.”
Immediately the anger within Javelin subsided a bit. It had been a while since Raven asked him for a favor, often turning to that Limpkin assassin instead.
“What can I do?” he asked solemnly.
“I need your help with some healing,” was the reply he got and once more Javelin couldn’t stop himself from running forwards to Raven, fear gripping his heart.
“I thought you said you weren’t hurt! Where is it? Let me see.”
“Not me, silly!” Raven chuckled and used her arms to push Javelin away.
“Then who . . .” Javelin was confused.
“You didn’t listen to a word Bill had to say, did you?” she asked and Javelin looked down on the ground, absentmindedly scratching the back of his neck.
At that point Bill came in through the front door. “You’re right, ma’am, he did not,” he said, wheezing and out of breath, “the moment I told him there had been an assassination attempt and that you needed his help, this young one took off running.” Bill flicked his thumb towards Javelin.
“Well, it’s your fault for putting it like that!” Javelin snapped back, awash with embarrassment. “You made it sound like she was dying!”
“Don’t flatter yourself, kid! Do you really think I would have turned to you for help if the madam herself was injured?”
Javelin and Bill glared at each other, sparks flying.
“Enough.” Raven’s voice wasn’t loud but it carried an oppressive aura that caused both the teenager and the middle-aged man to shudder and stop their bickering at once. “Bill, tend to the Griffin twins, the Heavenly Slumber Grip might wear off soon but I don’t want them awake just yet.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Bill bowed and left the hallway without even a glance towards Javelin. Raven on the other hand beckoned for Javelin to follow her. They headed towards the house’s cellar.
“Heavenly Slumber Grip?” asked Javelin as they walked – he hadn’t heard of such a skill before.
“It’s a Divine Skill that puts people to sleep for up to two hours. It is quite useful, but easy to defend against if you’re expecting it.”
Javelin shook his head. “Seriously, Raven, how many Divine Skills do you actually know? If I didn’t know better I’d think you’ve read every skill in the Divine Library.”
“I have read every scroll in the library.”
Javelin stumbled over a doorstep, only barely catching himself on the frame. “But that’s got to be ten thousands scrolls!”
“There are 36 919 of them, to be exact.” Raven didn’t even bother to look back at Javelin as she started descending the stairs to the cellar, leaving him stunned on the stair landing.
‘I knew she had been looking through the scrolls at the library, but all of them?’ Javelin couldn’t help but be impressed. ‘Wait, if she read them all how many has she mastered?’
“Um, Raven . . .” he started but she seemed to know what he was about to ask, so she answered him before he finished speaking; “1109.”
“Holy sh-” Javelin couldn’t help but cry out in shock but his loud outburst was cut short as he found his mouth suddenly covered by Raven’s hand. Javelin’s eyes widened and his pulse quickened at the feel of her cool hand.
“Keep it down, Javelin,” hushed Raven, her face so close to his that Javelin would feel the warmth of her breath. “I told you that we didn’t want to wake the twins so be silent until we’re within the sound barrier.”
Javelin somehow managed to swallow and nod obediently, so Raven lowered her hand and backed away, continuing down the steps. For a few seconds Javelin couldn’t say anything, or even move – his heart was beating too violently – but when Raven had reached the bottom of the stairs and turned to give him a questioning look, Javelin forced himself to move forward.
Raven opened the bottom door to the cellar and allowed Javelin to walk in first. The moment he passed through the doorway, high pitched wails filled his ears.
“Let me go!” called a desperate voice. “I have done nothing wrong, so let me go!”
Javelin looked around the cellar room, only to find that it didn’t look even one bit like the food cellar it was supposed to be. It was more like a dungeon. There were plenty of chains adorning the walls and various odd looking tools were neatly arranged on a bench to the side. On the wall opposite to the entrance, two men were chained up tightly. One of the men was the source of the wailing – his eyes were filled with fear and Javelin couldn’t help but feel like the man was ready to pass out any second. The other man hung, slumped in his chains, already knocked out.
Javelin glanced back at the door behind him. “A dungeon?”
Raven nodded and was about to say something when the still conscious man wailed yet again. “Please young man, tell this crazy boy to let me go – I have done nothing wrong!”
With a flash, Raven was next to the man, her hand gripping his throat. “Don’t speak to him,” she warned, sternly before she leaned in closer and whispered something that Javelin couldn’t hear. Whatever it was she said, it had effect; immediately the man paled and clammed his mouth shut.
Javelin frowned slightly. He had known for a while now that Raven was a masterful assassin, who no doubt had killed plenty of people before, but somehow this dungeon made Javelin feel a bit uneasy. It was one thing to be a killer – few spiritualists would go their entire lives without killing someone – but it was a different thing being cruel about it.
“Raven?” Javelin’s voice revealed his discomfort more than he had intended but if she noticed it, Raven ignored it.
“I need your help healing this man,” she said instead and pointed towards the unconscious one. “My limited skills with healing are not good enough.”
“Your limited skills?” The statement let Javelin forget his uneasiness for a moment. “I thought you had learned over a thousand Divine Skills; surely you posses a better Healing Skill than I do.”
Raven shook her head. “They don’t seem compatible with me. Even after I manege to learn how to use them, their effects are always dismal – and they’re getting worse too. . . .” For a moment, Raven’s gaze turned distant and a little sad, as if she was thinking about something that pained her.
Javelin felt a lump forming in the back of his throat but before he could say anything, Raven’s eyes turned back to their normal expressionless state. “You’d better hurry,” she said and indicated the man in need of assistance.
“Right.” Javelin walked forward and placed his hands on his patient, letting his own spirit essence pour into the man. Instantly his Eyes widened in shock. Outwardly there hadn’t seemed to be anything wrong with the man, but inside it was more like nothing was right; every single organ showed signs of failing. Normally such a process would cause the body to react violently, desperately trying to reboot itself, but here there was nothing – the man was just slowly slipping away.
“I can’t heal something like this – you need a true healer!” exclaimed Javelin, giving Raven a helpless look. “How did this even happen to him?”
Raven shrugged. “He did it to himself . . . in a sense.”
“How could he possibly . . .”
“It’s hard to explain, but the important part is that he isn’t actually hurt anywhere, even his soul prism is intact – although it too was showing signs of breaking when I last checked. If you could just revitalize him a bit I bet he would snap out of it.”
“You caused this?” Javelin was silently amazed, but he sounded more accusing than impressed.
Raven’s face hardened. “He, the so-called Blood Hound, was going to kill Martin and Lark, was I supposed to just sit back and let it happen?”
Javelin was quick to deny it. “Of course not! That’s not what I meant, Raven. I just have never even heard of anything like this and only wondered how you did it. I am not so naive that I’d ask you to fight a low Champion without harming him – I would likely have killed him on the spot, if in your place.”
Raven seemed to soften a bit, even giving Javelin a half-weary smile.
“He has information I want.”
“Very well then,” said Javelin and turned his attention back to the dying man. “Let’s see what can be done.” A brilliant, yet oddly not blinding light spread out from his hands as he placed one of them on the man’s forehead and the other on his abdomen. Gushes of nurturing spirit essence flowed from Javelin into the man, causing the latter’s body to shake violently with every pulse.
Off to the side, the second still conscious man seemed to push through his fears for a moment as he stared intently at Javelin’s hands, or perhaps the man underneath them. It was hard to say if he was eager or apprehensive towards the latter regaining his consciousness.
At first there was no reaction whatsoever from Javelin’s healing – the man continued to die at a steady pace – but eventually the soul prism, which had been showing signs of breaking, seemed to stabilize itself. Like coming up for air after a long dive, the man suddenly stirred, breathing in a huge breath of air.
Javelin hardly had time to register a cool hand gripping the back of his neck before he found himself standing at the other end of the room, with Raven between him and the chained man, also know as the Blood Hound.
Javelin looked over Raven’s shoulder, and for the first time he actually took in the features of the captured assassin; the man’s hair was short and ill-kept but the dark brown locks still framed his paled face quiet nicely, his skin was pale and his eyes were a striking light green. A couple of gruesome scars across his cheek were the only things that actually prevented the man from being considered handsome. That and his terrified expression.
Javelin frowned; the man looked familiar somehow. Javelin wanted to move closer to take a better look but Raven held out an arm to stop him. “Even with the Limiters in his chains, the physical strength of a low Champion is not something you should underestimate,” she warned him. Javelin shook his head. “I know, but he looks so familiar. . . .”
Raven spun around and fixed her gaze on the man. Without Javelin being able to catch her movements, she suddenly appeared in front of the would-be assassin, tilting the latter’s head to face her. Raven’s eyes seemed to peer into the very soul of the man, causing even Javelin to shudder while the man himself let out a soft whimper – he might have been jerked out of the state where his fear convinced himself to death, but Raven clearly still scared him.
Javelin almost couldn’t help himself from chuckling at the sight of a full-grown man whimpering in front of the female nine-year-old that was his roommate, but Raven’s next sentence stopped Javelin’s laughter dead in his throat.
“How do you know Myrtus Willow, Mr. Hound?” she asked with narrowed eyes. “Or should I call you by your clan name as well, Mr. Willow Hound?”