Zhen Shi barely took a single step outside of the room when he surprisingly ran into the old Butler.
\"Oh? Young man, I thought that you weren't feeling well?\" he said with a relaxed smile.
Zhen Shi was caught off guard for a moment before he quickly replied, \"Huh? No, No, I'm feeling much better after resting for a bit. I was just about to go stretch my legs a bit.\"
The Old Butler nodded and glanced at the bow in Zhen Shi's hand, \"Hmm... Good Bow! But where'd you get it from? You didn't have it on you when you 'dropped in'...\"
Zhen Shi promptly ignored the question and asked back, \"Old Man, I just realized that you haven't told me your name yet.\"
\"Ah! Yes, pardon me. This old butler's name is Alec, Alec Strauss,\" he replied while bowing lightly. Zhen Shi nodded, \"Old man Alec, do you have someplace where I can shoot some arrows?\"
Butler Alec smiled lightly, \"Of course! This is the mansion of a Count after all. Follow me, young man,\" and began to walk away.
Just as Zhen Shi began to follow him, Butler Alec spoke, \"Young man, how'd you like to face off against this poor butler in a bout of archery? Of course, we won't be using any qi, and let's put up the targets at a distance of let's say 10 km? Of course, we can reduce the distance if you wish, and even give this old man a handicap--\"
Zhen Shi stopped him with a raised hand, \"No problem. Just don't go complaining about your old age when you undoubtedly lose,\" and said laughingly.
The Old Butler laughed as well, as they continued onwards.
Isolde was in her balcony looking down at the familiar but desolate training courtyard with three lonesome archery targets.
She was just about to walk to her room when suddenly, she heard a pair of familiar voices. She was surprised to see two familiar figures; Grandpa Alec and Zhen Shi!
As she watched, Grandpa Alec and Zhen Shi positioned themselves exactly 10 km away from the targets. These were fairly strong wooden targets with strength at the foundation establishment stage for the lowest grade of soldiers.
Grandpa Alec turned to Zhen Shi and spoke with a laugh, \"Let's begin. And kid, it's fine to cry when you lose!\" Zhen Shi grinned back and retorted, \"Right back at you, old man!\"
Watching on, Isolde was rather surprised. Considering Zhen Shi's knowledge she had come to believe that he was a well-learned and powerful scholar. As such, she found it hard to believe that he was an archer...
On the other hand, she also knew that Butler Alec was an extremely skilled archer who had even served in his majesty's army back in the day. As such seeing him interested in a young person was a rather rare sight. Thus, she was also slightly unhappy at Zhen Shi's insulting and dismissive attitude towards Grandpa Alec...
Ignorant of her thoughts, Butler Alec grabbed a bow and arrow from the side. The arrow was loaded in, pulled back and immediately let loose! The arrow swam through the air like a fish in the sea and stealthily struck the center of the target!
Zhen Shi's eyes widened as he continued to observe the arrow. He had actually been unable to sense that arrow, and since it made use of no aether his was useless as well! This meant that he wouldn't have been able to dodge it if it had been hidden!
It was obvious that the old man was not simple!
Nevertheless, Zhen Shi calmly loaded an arrow into his own bow and pulled back the string. But to his surprise, he only succeeded in pulling it back halfway...
Immediately realizing that his bow was unlike ordinary weapons, Zhen Shi stealthily activated on his arms alone, causing azure scales to form upon his skin. And fortunately, they were hidden by his shirt sleeves.
Calmly ignoring the sliver of killing intent that arose, Zhen Shi pulled back the bowstring completely this time.
However, to spectators, the halfway pause was visually similar to the blunder of a novice archer. As such, both Isolde and Butler Alec began to doubt his skill...
Zhen Shi calmly let the arrow loose with old memories swerving within his mind. But just as the arrow left the bow, a minute sliver of chaotic energy was stealthily added onto the arrow. The arrow shot forwards many times faster than Alec's and struck the bare edge of the target causing it to explode in a rain of wooden splinters!
Zhen Shi was confused. He had simply pulled back the bowstring and shot the arrow... There was no reason for it to be so powerful without any qi!
Butler Alec shook his head disapprovingly. He was thinking that Zhen Shi had added qi into his arrow in order to hide his poor archery skills. And since the targets were made for the foundation establishment stage, it was not difficult for a core formation stage cultivator to destroy them.
Zhen Shi as a skilled archer easily understood what the old Butler was thinking, but... 'I really didn't use any qi! Will you believe me if I say that I've been framed?'
Isolde too had arrived at a similar conclusion to the old butler and continued to watch with a disappointed face, 'Was he really just bragging? Is he really the same as the annoying nobles who always brag but never act?'
Ignorant of the secret spectator, Zhen Shi laughed the matter off, \"Sorry old man. I guess I'm a bit rusty and have some problems controlling my power.\"
Alec nodded silently, but a seed of doubt still existed.
Nevertheless, Zhen Shi calmly drew another arrow. With his memories of archery, he attempted to imitate Alec's arrow and also carefully reduced the strength imparted onto the arrow. He even focused on the formless wind aether and analyzed the nature of the wind. With the training of [Draconic Wind Steps] and through he was able to accomplish this easily.
Having made the necessary changes, the arrow was let loose once more!
This time the arrow flew cleanly and stealthily through the air. But due to the stealthy addition of that silver of chaotic energy, the arrow dashed through the air and the target exploded in another shower of wooden splinters!
Nevertheless, Butler Alec was not disappointed this time around. He could see that Zhen Shi's arrow had almost completely mimicked the stealthiness of his own, on his first try! As such he was beginning to believe that maybe, Zhen Shi was indeed a talented archer having some trouble controlling his power.
On the other hand, Isolde, who knew little of archery, only saw Zhen Shi repeating the same mistake and completely lost faith in him. She even began to doubt his tales of Gods and Legends. After all, if he could brag about his skills so shamelessly to Alec, it was completely possible that he had done so before. As such, she began to walk away in disappointment but stopped for a single hopeful moment, as Zhen Shi pulled back another arrow.
Zhen Shi who was unaware of Isolde's thoughts was contemplating the matter of his bow. The last time he had used the bow, he had sensed a vague energy being transmitted to the arrow from the bow. It had to be the reason that caused an unnecessary increase in the power of his arrows...
As such, he vaguely exerted his will upon the bow and tried to lessen that energy. However, just as he did so, the chaotic energy instantly followed back the stream of his will and jumped into his dantian!
Zhen Shi was so surprised by this sudden event that he accidentally dropped the bow.
Seeing Zhen Shi 'drop' the bow in 'defeat', Isolde was completely disgusted and started to walk away in disgust... but she was feeling a deep sense of loss...
Butlerly Alec, on the other hand, smiled with an impressed face. He could easily see that Zhen Shi was in the process of gaining a sudden epiphany.
Zhen Shi was oblivious to their thoughts as he observed the gradual formation of a vague shadow of a bow within his dantian. At the same time, Zhen Shi could feel his memories of archery passing by in his mind. This time, he could easily see several mistakes and errors in his actions...
Finally, the vague shadow of a bow finished forming and Zhen Shi calmly opened his eyes, shinning mysteriously...
He bent down and picked up his bow, brushing off any residual specks of dust. He calmly loaded a bow and pulled back the bowstring. Since two of the three training targets had already been destroyed, Zhen Shi could only target the remaining one, which still had Butler Alec's arrow struck at its center.
With perfect strength and control, Zhen Shi eyed the center of the target nearly 10 km away. He took a deep breath and calmly let it out.
The bowstring strung a loud note and the arrow was set loose. The chaotic energy was added with perfect control and the arrow breezed through the air even faster than before! But almost as if the arrow was an extension of the wind itself, the arrow stealthily swam through the air. This time around, the arrow almost seemed to gently follow the guidance of the wind rather than oppose it...
And that sound resounded for a total of nine times... echoing throughout the desolate training ground.
Isolde, who had begun to walk away in disappointment, couldn't help but freeze as she heard the sound. Hearing this loud, repeating sound her heart shook in trepidation. She hurriedly walked back and stared down through her balcony. And what she saw caused her to gasp in surprise!
Zhen Shi's first arrow had partially cut Butler Alec's first arrow in half as it too had struck the dead center. And every arrow after that had partially cut through each arrow before it. One arrow vertical and then the next horizontal, leaving a strange but beautiful pattern of splintered arrows.
The resounding sound of the bowstring echoed throughout the training grounds, and each felt like an arrow striking her heart.
As Isolde realized that she had wrongly given up on an honest man, old memories washed through Isolde's mind. A fearless boy that dashed forwards to save her, but was never seen again... A father who gave her everything, but melded with the shadows as she looked from the light... And a child dying within her arms...
Tears started to flow down her eyes as her heart was filled with one feeling... guilt.
She whispered in a cracking voice, almost to herself, \"I-I'm sorry!!\" and jumped down the balcony. Safely touching the ground she dashed into a pair of surprised yet warm arms... and felt that sense of loss disappear, just by a bit.
Zhen Shi who had been reveling in his success and achievement, turned back in surprise to see a familiar figure drop down from above and dash forwards into his arms.
As this figure hugged him tightly and sobbed lightly, Zhen Shi looked down to see that it was Isolde!
He was rather confused... After all, just a moment before he was practicing archery and now he was being hugged by a damsel in distress. Zhen Shi didn't know whether to laugh or cry!