Floating in mid air, Arata found he could float and move through the realm as he focused and flowed with the Dark Energy around him. He communicated this to Ryouma who followed suit. Arata and Ryouma got used to moving around in the Shadow Realm quickly and then moved forward. Although Arata didn't know where specifically to go, he knew that he would need to follow his instincts. That was an important aspect of the Dark Element. There was a primal, instinctual feel to its power and one needed to allow that power to flow freely for you to truly tap into its power. As they flew along Arata communicated this to Ryouma.
"The Shadow Realm will guide you if you let it. Learn to listen to your instincts and trust them fully, and then follow. It may lead us in to trouble, but if we can overcome it, we will reap the benefits. This is an important aspect of the Dark Element. If you're going to be a part of the Sato Clan, you will need to understand this."
Ryouma nodded his head in response. He took in all this information and instantly began applying it. There seemed to be a dark glow on him as he flew along. Arata smiled in surprise.
'He understood what I said so easily? He really is suited for it.'
They continued flying until Arata stopped. They were by a large mountain. They came down and landed at the bottom of it. The mountain was truly large. They could have easily passed over it though at the height they were at but Arata felt he needed to land here. He turned to Ryouma.
"OK, you're up. I have a feeling that this mountain is where we need to be. But that's all I got. So now you're going to lead us. Don't kill us, ya know?"
Ryouma glanced at Arata with a lost face. But it quickly changed to a serious one.
Ryouma took a few steps toward the mountain and then stopped. Something in him felt strange. This didn't feel right. He looked to his side and walked in that direction. Arata was again shocked. He knew where to go, he had a thorough understanding of being guided by the Shadow's and he purposefully landed slightly off position to see how Ryouma would react. But he instantly found the right way. He looked up into the dark sky.
Outside of the Shadow Realm back in the room, Azrail and the others were standing around the black orb. Within it they could see Arata looking up at them. Azrail smirked. The old man nodded in approval.
"The little one has potential."
Hyosuke clapped his hands excitedly.
"Oh this kid really has it in him. Do you think he'll succeed with a pure fusion, my Lord?"
Azrail stroked his chin.
"Hard to tell. But he has the most potential and talent for it then anyone I've seen before. Arata really stumbled onto a gem with Ryouma."
Oishi couldn't help but ask.
"What do you mean potential? What just happened?"
"The Shadow Realm is filled with Dark Energy. If you allow it's Energy to flow, it will speak to the most primal parts of you. Your instincts. If you are in tuned with your instincts and follow them, the Shadow's will guide you."
The old man continued.
"The Shadow's will bring you many tests, trials and tribulations. But if you can overcome them, you will be rewarded in kind. The only way to get through the Shadow Realm alive is to be lead by the Shadows."
Oishi and Akari understood and stared in awe at Ryouma. Azrail nodded his head in approval.
"He is listening to the Shadow's well. Let's see where they lead him."
Back in the Shadow Realm, completely unaware of the thoughts and comments everyone had of him, Ryouma came to a part of the mountain that looked strange. There was a large rock sticking out of the mountain. He felt the urge to remove it. He channelled his flames into his fist and punched the large rock. The rock exploded and pieces of it burst around him, propelled away by Ryouma's flames. As the dust settled, there was a cave leading into the mountain where the large rock once was.
Arata appeared beside Ryouma with an alert look on his face. Ryouma took the cue and got into a fighting stance as he stared into the hole. A low growl could be heard from within the cave. Arata's eyes narrowed.
"A Phantom Fox."
A large fox like creature slowly walked out of the cave eyeing Arata and Ryouma. It had black and grey fur that covered its body and three long tail's following it. It wasn't completely corporeal as it looked partially see through like it was a ghost. But its eyes and teeth were completely solid. It hungrily looked at the two boys and flashed its teeth to them as it growled again.
Ryouma put his hand in front of Arata.
"Please allow me to take this one on, Master."
Arata understood he wanted to prove himself so he nodded.
As the Phantom Fox charged forward, Ryouma moved in to intercept it. He channelled his flames into his feet and he went flying towards the fox like a rocket. The fox leaped at Ryouma with a bite. Ryouma manoeuvred himself through the air, gracefully dodging the Fox's bite. He passed by the Fox and sent a punch to the side of the Fox's body, sending it into the side of the mountain. The fox quickly recovered and charged once again at Ryouma. But as it neared Ryouma it jumped into the ground and disappeared. Ryouma hesitated for a second, which was enough time for the Fox to attack him from the side. Leaping up from the ground beside Ryouma, the Fox slashed at Ryouma.
Ryouma reacted quickly and was able to create flames on his arms to protect himself, yet he was pushed backwards and was now on the back foot as the Phantom Fox continued to throw attacks at him. Ryouma now continued to defend from the oncoming claw slashes and bites from the Phantom Fox.
Ryouma then noticed that things seemed to be moving slower. He quickly put together that it had something to do with what Arata did to his eyes. As he continued to block the Fox's assault, he channelled his energy into his eyes. Time seemed to move slower for Ryouma as he began to notice more details in his surroundings. And he began to see small gaps in the Fox's attacks.
Arata gasped in shock. He could feel the first level of the Sixth Sempiternal Art: Shadow Awareness emanating off of Ryouma. He had lent him some of his energy, but what was radiating off him now was his own power. Arata was stunned to think that Ryouma was attempting to comprehend this Sacred Art mid battle. Also that he was able to comprehend it at all continued the surprise that Arata was feeling. His eyes lit up excitedly as he anticipated the possibility of him learning it right here.
Azrail, Hyosuke and the old man stared shocked at the images of Ryouma in the black orb.
"My Lord, he was able to make it his own?"
"He sensed what Young Master Arata's energy was doing and emulated it."
Azrail's eyes lit up in the same way Arata's did.
"It's more than that. The battle triggered his innate energy and it dominated the energy Arata had given him, bringing it to submission and making it his own. Then he was somehow able to comprehend and control it all in a matter of moments."
Hyosuke looked amazed at Azrail's evaluation.
"But that would mean that he has innate potential on par with Young Master Arata's! This would be a powerful addition to the Sato Clan!"
The old man now saw this young boy in a new light and nodded his head.
"He has what it takes to serve the Young Master. Now it will come down to whether or not he can make it out or not."
Azrail grinned, clearly more at ease then when they had entered.
"No. I don't think that is a problem anymore. Arata brought someone truly incredible and they will have no problem getting out, I think Arata knows this. Arata brought him here for something else."
Hyosuke stared at Azrail's grinning face and wondered what he meant. The old man however understood him well. He knew Azrail's philosophy in regards to power. You needed to be pushed to your limits to surpass them, so he readily put his son in life threatening situations but he always knew that he would make it out. Looking at him now, he knew that he had faith that Arata and Ryouma would make it back. But he was still confused about what he meant by the comment of Arata bringing him here for 'something else'. What else was there?
Ryouma found the right opportunity for him to strike back as the Fox raised its claws to slash him; Ryouma crouched and rushed forward low to the ground. He appeared beneath the Fox's belly before the Fox knew what had happened. Ryouma then leaped up into the Fox's belly, charging up with a fist covered in flames. As he connected with the Fox, his fist exploded as flames burst out of it. The Fox flew high up into the air howling in pain. It came down and landed on the ground with a loud crash.
The Fox was heavily burnt and injured as it lay there. It couldn't move but continued to growl at Ryouma. Ryouma walked over to the creature and finished it swiftly, putting it out of its misery. He turned to Arata and realized that his eyesight was much better and he could see a lot more clearly than he did before the battle. He also noticed that his head wasn't hurting anymore.
Arata looked at him in awe and gave him a thumbs up.
"Not only did you defeat the Phantom Fox, but you actually were able to comprehend and learn our Clan's Sempiternal Art mid battle. And with no direction. You really are a freak, ya know?"
Ryouma looked at Arata shocked. He had learned the Clan's Sempiternal Art? He didn't know what that was but he knew that it was the reason his eyes were the way they were. He could guess that this was a secret technique of the Clan's that he had learned on accident. Arata laughed.
"Our Sato Clan has a collection of secret techniques used to cultivate the body and mind. What you have just started to learn is our Sato Clan's Sixth Sempiternal Art: Shadow Awareness. It allows the user to channel the Shadow Realm through their eyes. It manipulates the light and darkness in your view and increases the rate that you are able to process the images in front of you. It also allows you to see through any kind of visual illusion and defend and reflect against visual attacks. You have reached the first level of it's cultivation. Well done."
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