Realizing he was under water, Javelin felt panic overwhelm him but he quickly pushed it down; he had been raised on the sea after all, and knew the dangers of losing one’s calm underwater. Holding his breath, Javelin tried to get his bearings so he could figure out which way was up, but, to his dismay, every way he looked just revealed the same soft glow.
With no direction to go by, Javelin really started to panic. He picked a direction on random and swam, hoping that the change in location would change something. It didn’t. In fact, it almost seemed like no matter how hard he pressed forward, his actual position didn’t change.
In Javelin’s vision, black spots gathered, threatening to swallow him entirely; he was running out of air.
“What are you doing?” Raven’s very amused voice rang out in Javelin’s mind, causing him to freeze up instantly. Taking the time to sense her position, he found that she was only a few meters away from him, yet she clearly wasn’t concerned about his safety.
Thinking up to here, Javelin finally ran out of air and complete darkness was descending fast. Involuntarily, his body forced him to draw a breath and while Javelin had expected the scorching sensation of water filling his lungs, it never came. Instead, air gushed in, quickly bringing relief to his air-deprived brain.
‘What the . . ?’ Only now did Javelin sense the oddness of the water he was in. It was brimming with spirit essence and while it felt like water to his skin, it slowly swirled around him in a set pattern, completely unaffected by his presence. Nor did it hinder his breathing at all.
Still amazed by his surroundings, Javelin nearly missed the pale hand that suddenly stretched through the water, grabbing his wrist and pulling. In the next moment, Javelin found himself yanked out of the water, falling a meter or so before slamming into a hard floor.
“Well?” Raven asked again, looming over him.
“I . . . thought I was drowning,” Javelin replied, feeling a bit embarrassed.
“Jav, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t one of the Sea Empire’s most widely used Divine Skills one that allows breathing under water?”
Javelin’s already pinkish face flushed red. How could he have forgotten!?
“Um . . . where are we?” he asked, choosing to change the subject. At first it had only been an escape route, but as soon as he started looking around Javelin felt that the question was actually warranted. He and Raven were in a small and dark cave – seemingly without exits – and in the middle of the room hovered the large sphere of “water” that Raven must have pulled him out of earlier.
“We’re in Sea Academy’s sealed cultivation chamber,” she said, “Much like the reverse waterfall in Sky Academy.” Raven was still smirking, but kind enough to not keep teasing him.
“We are?” Javelin looked pleasantly surprised, but it quickly turned into a frown. “I thought Headmaster Hammer said that place would be unreachable for another couple of months. . . .”
Raven didn’t say anything, only smiling meekly, but Javelin noticed her posture shifting ever so slightly.
“Show me your arm,” he demanded as he got up on his feet.
“Huh?” Raven didn’t move this time, but Javelin had already seen through her. He stretched out and grabber her wrist, pulling back the sleeve of her navy-blue Sea Academy uniform. The fair and pearly-white arm he would normally see was covered in dried blood and several deep gashes, some going as deep as the bone. Javelin winced at the mere sight of it, yet Raven seemed unaffected.
“Getting here was a bit . . . tricky,” she explained with a shrug. “I tried healing some of it myself, but I still haven’t gotten the hang of Healing Divine Skills – I kept the infections at bay, at least.”
Even before she had finished speaking, Javelin had already activated his strongest healing skill and was channeling his spirit essence into Raven like mad. Only with his spirit essence running through her body, did Javelin realize the full extent of her injuries.
She must have had a spare uniform in her spacial ring because, judging by her injuries, Javelin couldn’t understand how she could even be standing. Apart from the cuts in her arm, she had similar injuries to her opposite leg, four fractured ribs, a punctured lung and a very nasty concussion.
“Tricky!? You’re a freaking mid Champion, but you still got these many injuries getting here? What did you have to do, fight a dragon?”
Raven tilted her head to the side, smiling oddly. “Well. . . .”
“I don’t want to know,” Javelin cut her off. “Seriously Raven, didn’t you get cut up enough protecting me in our past life?”
Raven’s body stiffened slightly. “How much do you remember?”
“More than before,” Javelin replied without looking away from the visibly healing wounds on Raven’s arm. “Judging by the amount of doors I managed to open, perhaps 30-40%.”
“It’s some sort of coping mechanism, I guess; a way for me to deal with my new memories. Seeing the blood on your shoes, from you protecting me while I slept, triggered an old memory of Eric’s and it released a bunch of other things too. I’ve been reliving quite a lot of memories since I passed out.”
“Like what?” Raven pressed and Javelin could feel her growing nervous.
He paused his healing to look up at her face.
“Why do you always get so anxious when I remember something more about my past life? From what I can tell, you did a stand-up job at protecting Eric from everything from midnight assassinations to terrorist attacks. I realize that there was a bit of an ambiguous relationship going on between the two of you, but it’s not like you to fret over something like that. At least not like this and to this degree.”
Raven said nothing. She just silently met Javelin’s gaze, her expression steeling over.
“Does it have something to do with you being more than a bodyguard?” Javelin pushed when no reply came, causing Raven’s eyes to widen slightly. “I may act foolishly from time to time, but I’m no idiot and while Eric wasn’t a people’s person, he was brilliant. A normal bodyguard wouldn’t be as good at killing people as you were . . . are.”
Still, Raven remained silent.
“Look, I don’t care what you were before you came to work for Eric, nor do I care how you learned to fight and kill like you do. Heck, in this world it is even a huge benefit for you. The only thing that matters to me is that you protected me – cared for me. . . . Just like you still do, right?”
Raven snorted, a hint of self-mockery in her eyes.
“If you say so,” she said, clearly unconvinced. Javelin was about to push the matter further when Raven took a step backwards, moving beyond his reach. “Let’s save it for later; we need to get going.”
“Why? What is so important that we can’t talk about this now? You promised that you would answer direct question about events in Eric’s memorizes!”
“Well, we can stay here and talk if you want to, but I thought the graduation tournament was important to you and . . .”
“What has that got to do with anything!?”
“. . . it starts tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow!?” Javelin’s yaw dropped. There had been over a month left before he passed out – had he really spent that much time submerged in those memories? His face then suddenly distorted. “A month. . . . Raven, your injuries. . . .”
“Yes?” she replied, looking as if Javelin had just brought up something trivial like the weather.
Javelin felt a pang of guilt-ridden sadness at her attitude; the amount of pain she would have been in these past weeks was not little. “Nothing. . . .” he said, shaking his head.
‘I must become stronger,’ Javelin mused with quite determination for perhaps the thousandth time, but one thought led to another. “What about my training!?” he almost shouted. “How am I possibly going to win like this?”
Raven gave him a quizzical look and then chuckled. “Have you been so absorbed with healing me that you haven’t even looked within yourself?”
At first Javelin frowned, confused, but as he turned his attention to his own spirit core and soul prism, his eyes widened in shock. His half of the two soul prisms within him had shifted in color, from a red-ish orange to a bright yellow, and a total of 104 spirit connections fanned out from it like sun rays. As for his spirit core, the previously large and vibrantly red vortex had shrunk considerably, but was now a golden orange.
“I broke through. . . .” he muttered, not really believing it. “I broke through!”
With a large smile on his face, he jumped forward and grabbed Raven around her waist, hoisting her into the air. She suppressed a moan from the pain, but Javelin quickly realized his mistake and put her down.
“Sorry, I just . . .” Javelin’s smile widened, his eyes already dazzling eyes glistening with joy. “I’m catching up.”
Raven gave him a quick glance before she started laughing. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Javelin. You are a few years ahead of your fellow sixth grade advanced students, but the difference between a new Spirit Champion and a mid leveled one is huge. Even the best would need five to ten years to make that kind of progress.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Javelin muttered, his bubble busted, but Raven ignored his dejection. She walked over to the cave wall, raising her hand to touch it.
“Are you ready?” she asked, her hand pausing a few centimeters from the rough surface.
“For what?” Javelin continued his muttering, missing the sudden mischief in Raven’s mood.
“For this,” she said and then lightly placed her hand on the damp wall.
Instantly and seemingly out of nowhere, copious amounts of water flushed into the cave, forcefully sweeping up both Javelin and Raven into a nautical whirlwind. Taken be surprise, it took a while before Javelin managed to form a protective barrier around himself, but even with it in place, the sheer pressure of all that gushing water was hard to handle.
Through the violently swirling water, Javelin caught glimpses of Raven, who somehow maintained a cross-legged meditative position, even as the water was throwing her around the cave like wet towel in a washing machine. Despite his own rather pitiable appearance, Javelin couldn’t help but smile at the sight.
However, the pressure from the water kept rising as more and more flowed into the cave, its speed constantly increasing. Just as Javelin was wondering how much more could be added before he’d fail to resist it, the water flow shifted, rushing upwards.
Unable to do anything against it, Javelin braced himself for the impact against the roof, but it never came. Instead he found himself flying through a hidden tunnel, whose long and narrow passageway that criss-crossed its way upwards. The previously violent water now guided him safely through the tunnel, somehow prohibiting him from slamming into the walls.
This was a very good thing since Javelin noticed that the tunnel’s walls were covered by a rare race of spirit beast shellfish called Dragon Claw Sea Tulips; very pretty to look at, but, as the name suggests, razor-sharp to the touch. They were also exceedingly hard – to the point where their shells were harvested for forging weapons – and Javelin knew that he would likely not survive this water ride if he had been dragged along the wall.
The high-speed journey continued for another five minutes or so before Javelin suddenly found himself being propelled high into the air. With a splash, Javelin landed in a basin of water and, looking around, he realized that he was back in the Water Dome at Sea Academy. Barely a heartbeat later, Raven elegantly landed on her feet next to him.
Javelin’s eyes darted from her to the gushing fountain of water behind her and a scary notion dawned on him.
“Don’t tell me you had to enter through the same tunnel as way we got out through. . .” he probed Raven, hoping he was wrong. Her smile told him his hopes were in vain. “And the water – it was flowing like it is now?”
Raven’s smile remained as she tapped lightly against her previously wounded arm, her eyes saying: where do you think I got those?
‘No wonder she got hurt. . . .’ Javelin thought, suddenly feeling very glum.