Kanari’s connections weren’t something that could be trifled with. After Shin had shown his intent to meet with the Prince of Sand once more, a messenger had been dispatched in less than fifteen minutes that the reply came in about half an hour. Lukman was elated that Shin had sought him out and immediately accepted the invitation. Shin didn’t even have to wait till lunchtime before the tanned, handsome man came walking into the Himmel Empire’s hotel, much to the surprise of the hundreds of reporters outside.
“Shin Iofiel… I didn’t expect that you would seek me out this quickly.” A wide smile arced upwards on Lukman’s face. Gone was the tough and nonchalant attitude that he had when he first entered the Citadel. Right now, Lukman looked like a proud brother who was willing to listen to his younger sibling’s woes.
Shin’s friends had long retreated to give the duo some privacy, but their suspicious actions had unwillingly drawn a crowd. Many of the Himmel Empire’s representatives all stood at the side, out of view from Shin and Lukman, to observe the interactions between the two.
“Thank you for accepting my invitation on such short notice.” Shin immediately welcomed his guest by pouring a cup of tea under the shade of the garden’s pavilion. After hearing that the Prince of Sand was about to arrive, the young boy showcased his tea brewing skills to it’s fullest effect as he brought out the best Oolong Tea that was normally reserved for the tastebuds of his master. “I just wanted to confirm something with you.”
“Speak.” Lukman was from the Tuareg Sect that hailed from the Sahara Desert. They weren’t known for beating around the bush.
“How did you learn how to manipulate sand in that manner?” In respect of Lukman’s heritage, Shin was forthcoming with his questions. “I had awakened my innate spiritual ability almost six years ago, and I didn’t even have half the creativity that you had displayed. I could only make those inefficient water spheres that were so easily destroyed by your sand. I don’t understand… How is there such a huge disparity between you and me, even though we had technically awakened the same spiritual ability?”
“…” Lukman looked at Shin as if he were a strange animal. In truth, the Sandman had wondered the exact same thing. After yesterday’s display, Shin’s comprehension abilities weren’t to be questioned. If he could copy Lukman’s abilities after seeing them just once, there wasn’t any reason that Shin wouldn’t have learnt how to create and manipulate water on his own. In fact, he should be far superior to Lukman!
“Tell me, Shin. Have you conducted any research on your own? On how to utilise your ability?”
“I did read some books about it…”
“That’s not what I meant!” Lukman exclaimed, his smile vanishing in the process. “Have you personally went to places where water was the most prevalent? Lakes, rivers, seas and oceans?”
“A few times…” Shin recollected the occasions where he visited large bodies of water. There was the time where he visited an artificial lake near Imperius Academy for his training and the time where he visited Mort Bay. These two were the only opportunities he had to experience what it was like to be part of water.
“I see… Therein lays the problem.” Enlightened, Lukman nodded.
“Shin, I had lived in the Sahara Desert my entire life. There was a lack of water. A constant heat that melts your face, and a plethora of sandstorms and desert Spirit Beasts that roamed the land.”
“Yeah?” Shin was confused as to why Lukman was bringing up where he was raised.
“Yes, it was a hard life, but I would never switch the place that I was brought up in. Why? Because it was how I developed all of my techniques.” Snapping his fingers, Lukman created a gourd full of sand and swivelled it within the palm of his hands. Some moments, it was a simple ball. Hard, firm and never caving to the slightest bit of pressure. Other moments, it was a thread. Light, pliable and all so flexible. It could easily wrap around a toothpick and retain its immense strength to lift up an elephant.
“I didn’t develop my techniques all by my own you know?” Lukman laughed. “I personally saw how sand formed. How it moved in the wind. How it changed when affected by temperature. How it creates natural disasters that could destroy hundred-year-old buildings. How it created sand dunes and other structures. When I combated sand-type Spirit Beasts, I learnt how they interacted with the desert. What are the limits that sand could reach? All of these factors were key in me becoming the Prince of Sand that sits before you today.”
“I see… So because I was landlocked my entire life, I wasn’t able to fully comprehend how water works?”
“Precisely.” Lukman laughed. “After living in the desert for so long, I became accustomed feeling and manipulating sand. However, when I ventured out of the Sahara, I realised that I was extremely weak without the presence of my element. Fortunately for me, due to my upbringing, I had obtained a keen sensitivity for sand particles that surround me. So…”
Pointing his finger to a nearby stone, Lukman sent a surge of mana towards the poor rock, instantly turning it into a pile of sand.
“I started to comprehend how to alter the world to suit my needs.”
“Wow…” The black-haired boy gaped in awe. While he could create his own water, Shin couldn’t convert his surroundings into pure water like how Lukman did. He was still far off from developing that kind of sensitivity.
“Technically, you could do the same.” Lukman continued to advise the boy. “However, I won’t teach you the method. Otherwise, the Deputy Prime Minister would rip my head off.”
“Haha, so you’re going to leave me hanging?”
“That’s exactly what I was ordered to do!” Lukman chuckled. He enjoyed his time with Shin, though it was somewhat brief. If they were both from the Kori Federation, Lukman would have most definitely spewed out everything that he knew in the hopes of training Shin to match him someday.
“I can tell you this though.” The Prince of Sand leaned forward, keeping a finger on top of his lips while lowering his voice. “What you’re lacking isn’t tutelage, but imagination.”
“That’s right! Our innate ability is special. There aren’t many that have obtained that spiritual ability, thus there aren’t many mentors out there that can teach us using traditional methods. The only thing that we can do is to observe what surrounds us and emulate from their examples. In your case, you should look into submerging yourself in the ocean or watching water-type Spirit Beasts fight. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn by watching two Spirit Beasts flaunt their abilities. They are much closer to nature than we are, after all.” Lukman’s elder brother instincts kicked in and he began to illuminate the way forward for his poor junior.
“You may have copied my techniques, but do note that those aren’t uniquely yours. It may seem efficient to you now, however, sand isn’t water. In the long run, you would have to develop a system that fits your created water and only then, will you truly become the master of your innate spiritual ability.”
‘No wonder…’ Shin’s face brightened up as if he was a thirsty vagrant that had finally seen the light. He had experienced what Lukman was describing a few times before.
When he first arrived at Mort Bay, Shin felt a constant calling to jump into the ocean and was even tempted to stay there indefinitely to train. Furthermore, when he copied Lukman’s ‘Mist’ ability, Shin felt that it was subpar and unsuitable for his own spiritual ability.
‘I’m far too inexperienced for this… Just like Lukman said, I need to experience water all on my own!’ Making the mental note to move even closer to the ocean for his cultivation, Shin clenched his fists.
“Mmmm… This tea is delicious!” Lukman chugged down the cup of Oolong tea before him and released a satisfied gasp.
“If you want to, I can mail you a kilogram of tea leaves when I get back to the Empire.” Shin beamed. There were two things about himself that he was the proudest of. His comprehension ability and tea-brewing technique. Even Lady Seph had admitted that no one else she knew could come close to Shin’s expertise when it came to preparing tea. “That’s the least I could do to compensate you.”
“Haha! I’ll take you up on that offer then!” The Prince of Sand accepted Shin’s refill and gulped down another mouthful. “Honestly, you should come to visit the Tuareg Sect sometime soon. I’m sure my people would be delighted to face a talent like you!”
‘Is fighting all that he can ever think off?’ Raising his eyebrow, Shin chuckled at how straightforward Lukman was. The Prince of Sand was a battle-junkie through and through. And it seemed that the Tuareg Sect where he came from had the same ideals.
“Didn’t you say that I should remain in places where water is the most abundant? Why are you asking me to go into the middle of a desert then?”
“Hmmm… Fair point. However, once you’re accustomed to living among the oceans, you should really experience life in a place where water is the most scarce.” Lukman stood up, ready to return back to his hotel room. Before he leaves though, the brown-skinned man wanted to leave Shin with a final word of advice.
“Look at me. I create and manipulate the sand-element, but there are only a few places where sand is abundant. When I first left the Sahara Desert, I had to dig deep to find places where sand existed, and that in turn had allowed me to learn my most powerful technique.”
A slight tremor shook the ground around Shin and Lukman as the grassy lawn slowly degenerated into a hole of sand. It was very subtle so no one in the hotel could feel it. Controlling a bit of the sand that was beneath him, Lukman created a luxurious throne, one fit for the royals of the Himmel Empire’s Imperial Family to sit on. Unlike most of Lukman’s created structures, the throne didn’t crumble even when the weight of a fully grown adult male was forced onto it, even though there wasn’t any mana supplied to it.
“I can now break down earth to create sand.”
“Don’t wow me.” Lukman snickered. “Your water-element is omnipresent in this world. The earth, the trees, the air, the mountains… Everything in this world has to live with water. Even humans consist of mostly water. If you can break through the spiritual barriers and mana that flows through each cultivators’ veins, you could even manipulate their blood and bend them to your will. Frankly, I’m quite jealous of how many options you have.”
The Prince of Sand pouted his lips and flicked Shin’s forehead with his finger. There was a reason why Lukman was so desperate to fight Shin in the exhibition battles. He wanted to see how creative Shin could be and potentially learn a thing or two from the Waterboy. Unfortunately, the contrary had occurred, and Shin had almost sucked Lukman dry of all his techniques.
“Alright. If there’s nothing else, I should leave.” Turning around, Lukman could see countless eyes gazing in their direction. Once they realised that the Prince of Sand was observing them, they awkwardly averted their ogling and hid behind the pillars of the building.
“I hope that the next time we meet, you would be much stronger than you are now. Then, we can have a proper duel to determine who’s better! Prince of Water.”
Leaving just as quickly as he arrived, Lukman disappeared out of the reception area and proceeded to return back to his country’s procession. Ultimately, the Prince of Sand was an outsider intruding on the Himmel Empire’s property. There was no way that he could stay with Shin for too long.
“How was it?” With Lukman gone, Kanari and friends could finally approach Shin once more.
“It went well.” Shin just smiled. Lukman didn’t have to explain that much to him. In fact, Shin was sure that the Kori Federation’s Luminary would definitely get into trouble for visiting him on a whim. Nonetheless, the handsome tanned man still went against his Deputy Prime Minister’s orders just to help a fellow cultivator for his woes. For that, Shin was grateful.
“I finally know how I should proceed… I now know the way forward. Thank you, Kanari.”
“I see…” Kanari dropped her face. No one could see her expression. What she was feeling at that moment? What she was planning on doing in the future? No one knew. However, after a few seconds, the pretty young girl raised her head with a brilliant smile, one so dazzling that it would make the moon seem like a dim firefly.
“Hehe, I’m glad!”