Shesmu's eyes shot open. His blade burned with blazing green flames. Looking around, his whole body was covered in a green aura. From the tip of his toes to his purple hair strings.
"Seems like everyone has awakened."
Aldrien's announcement prompted Shesmu to look around. Ryan was sitting cross-legged, his whole body engulfed by shadows. Leo, on the other hand, was in a battle stance. Both of his sword and shield glowed with a green hue. He slashed and hacked at the air before blocking invisible attacks with his shield.
"Oh, you're finally up."
Leo's focus shifted towards Shesmu. He sheathed his sword and unequipped his shield before coming closer.
"Your grace, your ki is leaking. The way to control it-"
Before Aldrien could finish his sentence, the green flames turned into a wisp.
"Oh, what incredible control. As expected of your grace, your talent eclipses everyone in this land."
Shesmu wryly smiled at Aldrien's flattery before responding curtly, "You're exaggerating instructor Aldrien. The land is far and wide, who knows what kind of monster is hiding at every corner."
Aldrien didn't push his flattery even further—at the relief of Shesmu. The latter looked at Leo before saying, "Seems like you got the hang of using Ki. Those are some interesting plays you showed there."
Leo scratched his head in embarrassment. "Well, now I can at least be a tank worthy of the name. I can fortify my shield with my Ki, you see?"
As he said those words, Leo equipped his shield back and infused Ki within it.
"With this, I can tank any hit, no matter the boss."
Shesmu laughed in response. "Well, it's great that you're confident in yourself. Just make sure that you don't swallow back your words later."
Leo blushed. "Well, maybe not any boss. But I should still be able to do my job as a tank well."
"That's great." Shesmu patted Leo's shoulder. He then unsheathed his own sword and said, "Well, I should also check what I can do with this new power."
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Leo stepped out of the way to leave Shesmu some room to play around. The latter took a few steps with his eyes closed and both hands on the hilt. He opened his eyes and lunged.
Green aura engulfed Shesmu's sword. Slash after slash, Shesmu created a dance of death. The hue of the sword left an aftereffect every time the weapon slashed.
After the myriads of slashes, Shesmu lunged and thrust his sword. The green aura gathered in the tip of his sword before firing like a laser.
The green beam hit the wooden walls of the dojo, creating a loud explosion as a result. The smoke took some time to disperse, and after it did, Shesmu could see the effect of his attack. The wood was charred in some places but there was no crack or break.
"Okay, now that's just anti-climatic," Leo commented. He covered his mouth with his hands as he just realized how rude his comment sounded. "Sorry Shes, didn't mean to be rude."
Shesmu just shook his head in response and said, "No worries."
"It's normal for the attack not to leave any mark on walls," Aldrien said. "Those are made of Elderwood. The fact that your grace's attack left such a mark already speaks miles of your grace's talent and prowess."
"Ohh, is it some kind of super wood or something?" Leo asked.
"Yes milord, you could say that. Elderwood is as strong as steel but as flexible as water, or so the legends go."
Once Aldrien finished his explanation, Shesmu's focus went to Ryan. He had been suspiciously silent this whole time.
The shadowy aura that was cloaking Ryan had already been tamed. His eyes were looking at the ground, but they were not focusing on anything in particular. However, what struck Shesmu the most, was the sweat dripping from his forehead. It somehow reminded him of Ryan's earlier migraines.
Did he have another episode? Shesmu thought.
"Hey, Ryan, is something the matter?" Shesmu asked.
Ryan was startled by Shesmu's question. The latter's voice snapped him back to reality.
"Ah, nothing really."
Of course, Shesmu's curiosity wasn't satisfied. He knew not to pry in people's secrets, but his suspicions made him push for more.
"Oh, really. How was your meeting with your shadow self?"
"Oh, so that's what they're called," Leo cut in. "Mine was a giant titan that could transform into a small child. Honestly, he was pretty funny."
Ryan stayed silent. Shesmu waited for him, which prompted Leo's curiosity.
"Ehh, is something wrong Ryan? You're awfully silent today, that's not like you."
"Ehh, it's just that he said something weird. Agh," Ryan let out a little painful moan at the end and clenched his head with his hands.
His cry prompted both Leo and Shesmu to check on him.
"Hey, is something wrong Ryan? Are the headaches flaring up again?"
Ryan could barely force out a slight smile towards Leo before closing his eyes in pain again.
"Dammit," Ryan cursed. "he said "Welcome back"."
"Who said that?" Leo asked in worry.
However, Ryan didn't respond to him. He looked up and made eye contact with Shesmu. Even though the pain was clear in them, there was another emotion—hope. Hope that Shesmu would give him the answer he so longed for.
Shesmu broke the contact first. He couldn't tell Ryan what was happening to him yet. At least, not in front of Leo. Plus, even he wasn't sure about what was happening to him. He had his theories, but they were only that—theories.
Seeing Shesmu's reaction, Ryan couldn't help but smile wryly. He took a couple of deep breaths before standing up in one jump.
"Okay! Let's do this!" He exclaimed. His usual vigor returned to his face.
"Ehh, are you sure that you don't want to take some rest, Ryan?" Leo asked, worry clear in his eyes.
"If Milord wants, I can bring a priest to help you with any discomfort," Aldrien finally said, after staying silent for the whole time.
"Nah, don't worry about it. I'm as good as new, see?" Ryan flexed his non-existing muscles, making Leo burst out laughing.
"Dammit Ryan, you really never take your health seriously ever, do you?"
"Hahaha, now let me show you the skills I got!"
Ryan closed his eyes and let himself be engulfed in his own shadows. The moment he opened them, he disappeared.
Turning around, Shesmu found Ryan appearing from within his own shadow.
"Ohhhh, that's sick dude!" Leo exclaimed.
"Yeah, plus I can do this type of stuff."
Ryan threw his dagger in the sky and teleported towards it. Shadows cloaked his weapon as he slashed at thin air. A black crescent-shaped energy attack descended towards the floor causing a crash.
From the smoke, Ryan emerged before unequipping his dagger.
"What do you think?"
Ryan tilted his head and taunted Shesmu with his eyes. Understanding the underlying meaning behind his words, Shesmu couldn't help but smile.
"We still need to clear the Tower of Might before you have your showdown. That was the agreement, no?"
"Oh, goddamnit, you guys are still going on about that," Leo couldn't help but sigh. Shesmu and Ryan already fought twice before, and Ryan lost both times. This was starting to turn into a comedy show.
Ryan ignored Leo's remark and responded, "Okay then, let's clear this thing fast so that I get my rematch."
Aldrien, who stayed silent for the whole time, finally spoke, "Milords, it seems that you have grasped the extent of your power. I think it's high time for milords to make their way to the Tower of Might."
Shesmu put his sword back in his sheath. "Well, you heard the man. Let's get going."
Both Ryan and Leo nodded. The trio then made their way out of the dojo, and towards the ivory tower.