Ning used his defensive technique.

His core jumped into action as it started pouring out an insane amount of Essence that gathered all around his body, straining him to stay there.

The leaving essence also put a burden on his core, but Ning was strong enough to handle both of those burdens without faltering to it. After all, he knew they would only fatigue him temporarily as he had tried out the technique multiple times before.

Kepli was stunned at the absolute amount of Essence that was gathered in Ning's body. It was more than what his core held right now. Was this really someone in the same realm as him?

Then, his surprise multiplied when he sensed an Essence he had never sensed before. What was this Essence?

It didn't feel dangerous like Fire, nor solid like Earth. It wasn't calm like water or free like the Wind. It wasn't Light, and it most certainly wasn't Shadow.

And it wasn't any of the naturally occurring Essences that could be found.

It was an Essence that he could feel had no attribute to it. And yet, it wasn't Pure Essence which was truly without attribute.

Pure Essence usually had substance, but this… this Essence felt like it was without any substance. Almost as if it was there, and at the same time, it was not.

In all sense, it was an Essence that was completely empty.

When all the essence turned to this element, it released from Ning's body in a bubble around him that grew as it went outward.

The Essence was invisible and thus it produced no color. At best, one could see a shock wave-like fluctuation move through the air as it moved across the carriage.

It was an empty Essence that turned the other Essences empty themselves. When the bubble grew and crossed Kepli, he felt the lingering Essence around his body suddenly disappear as if it never existed.

"Wha—" he was surprised.

In the corner of the carriage, furthest away from Ning, a layer of Shadow Essence was removed as Clara's surprised face became visible for the first time.

"You…" she was too speechless to even speak.

"There you are," Ning said with a satisfied smile while breathing quite heavily. Using this technique put a lot of burden on him.

"You…" Clara still continued. "You really learned a technique to use Void Essence."

"Yes, I did," Ning said as he tried to catch his breath again.

"Void Essence?" Kepli looked with a confused look. "What's that? I've never heard of such an Essence before."

"It's…" Clara was about to explain when she sensed something. "Who's there?" she called out in a loud voice.

Ning quickly turned his attention away to see what she was referring to and sensed someone outside with a strong light Essence core.

He had sensed that person before, hadn't he?

The person started running away.

Ning was about to act when Clara disappeared again and arrived outside with Ning sensing anything about her movement. She was crazy fast to the eyes and she appeared next to the person that was running away instantly.

The person, a female, tried to attack back with the Essence Soul. However, she was too weak for Clara. With two punches to the face and guts and a single strike on the neck, she made the person fall unconscious.

Ning and Kepli quickly walked outside and saw the woman.

"Who's she? She was spying on us," Clara said as the two of them arrived next to her and looked at them carefully.

"Hmm? Wait that uniform," Ning recognized. "That's from our rival academy. What is she doing here?"

"Your rival academy?" Clara turned to look at him.

Ning nodded. "Yes," he said. "She should be a teacher from the Essence Heart Academy."

"So she wasn't after us, but you? What is she doing here following a student like you?" Clara asked.

"Hmm, they must've been scared because of my performance in the competition and wanted to mess with me so I didn't do well tomorrow?" Ning said. "Someone has already poisoned our food to keep us from winning, so I wouldn't be surprised if something like this happened."

Just as Ning said that he remembered what the headmaster had hypothesized. Their biggest enemy, the Essence Heart school was most likely behind the poisoning.

Given that this woman was here, Ning frowned slightly at the implication.

"Maybe she is the one who poisoned our school's students 2 days ago," Ning said with a look that was almost certain.

"I see," Clara said. "As long as she's not after us."

She swung her arm and a black, gooey substance flung out from her arm, linking up to the woman's two arms as they pulled together to restrain her.

"I'll ask her questions once she wakes up," Clara said. "For now, I need to speak with you."

Ning nodded and walked back with Clara to the carriage while Kepli was left to deal with the unconscious woman.

Ning got into the carriage with Clara, the entire time wondering why he couldn't sense her even while he had in front of her. Something was quite… confusing about all of this.

Was she somehow still using her Shadow Essence to hide from him? Ning couldn't figure out what else would the reason be.

Clara sat opposite Ning and stared at him for a second. "So… as Kepli mentioned, I'm here to learn about your progress," she asked.

Ning nodded for a moment and a thought came to his head.

"When you say progress, I'm assuming it's not regarding me, is it?" he asked.

Clara shrugged. "It could be anything," she said, trying to be vague. "For instance, how's your memory issue going? Have you remembered anything yet?"

"Memory issue? Ah, amnesia," Ning said, only now somewhat remembering that this was the role he had chosen for the Paradise Hunters, just as he had chosen the role of a young son of a small noble from the Frolane empire for the others in the academy.

"Nope, no memory," he said.

"Hmm, well that's too bad," Clara said. "Then let's talk about the actually important stuff."