Frie Mountain. Orphan’s abode. Shin and Junius’ lodging.
The usual cocktail-blue sky had turned tar-black as dense, black clouds enveloped the atmosphere. A light tap on the window had slowly turned into a torrential deluge that barred the path of any who tried to barge through it. Sheets of rain fell and dictated that no outdoor activities were possible a majority of the clan retreated indoors. Crackles of lightning flashed through the sky as the downpour showed no signs of slowing down. On this misty day, two young boys were busy finding items to pack while arguing incessantly.
“SHIN!!! Hold that vase with both hands! If you break it, I’ll end you!”
Junius, who was seated in a wheelchair bandaged up, yelled at the black-haired youth who was clumsily trying to move an oversized vase with just his right arm.
“Shut up! Who brings a vase when moving to a new place anyway?!”
“That’s my lucky vase! If I don’t see it around, I will feel uncomfortable!”
“Just leave it here! Bringing this vase for the ride might actually break it.”
“Arghhh!!! I can’t trust you… Let me pack my stuff.”
“Oh no no no! You just sit there like a disabled person should! Fine! I’ll carry this bloody vase with both hands! Happy now?!”
“See? Was it that hard?”
Three days after the assassination attempt on Shin, Junius awoke from his coma and was set on the path of rehabilitation. When the youth regained consciousness, Lily and Shin cried out in relief. Even the Instructor, who was ordinarily never fazed, shed a little tear at the recovery of his beloved pupil. Although Junius had fought out of the claws of death, he needed more time to have a complete recovery. As Shin lived with Junius, the black-haired youth had been assigned to be on Junius duty.
Everything that his elder brother needed, Shin had to provide. When Junius required to use the toilet, Shin had to be there to pull his pants down. When Junius wanted to eat, Shin had to cook. Essentially, Shin had become Junius’ personal servant. The first few days went great. Junius had begun showing drastic improvements in his recovery. He had even started to use the bathroom himself. However, two weeks in, the First Elder dropped a bombshell onto the orphans.
“Shin, Junius! Both of you, pack what you need. In a few days, you will be sent out of Frie Mountain and stationed somewhere else!”
The old man draped in red robes kicked down their door and broke the news to them. As expected, the two boys were bewildered and bombarded the First Elder with a sequence of questions. Questions such as: ‘Why are we being moved?’ and ‘Where are we going?’ were the common theme, but the old man quietly shut down their queries and ordered them to pack.
“Three days later, I will tell you everything. For now, just pack your essentials. You might be stationed there for a long time so keep that in mind as you pack.”
With those words, Shin and Junius were sent to pack. Scraping dust off old items, the duo combed their familiar house to find things for their journey. Clothes, books and toothbrushes. Nothing had to be left behind. Since Junius was unable to move freely without opening a wound, Shin was the only boy in the lodging that hustled around frantically to store items into their luggage.
“Hey, why do you think we are being stationed away?”
Pushing a load of clothes into a brown suitcase, Shin questioned the wheelchair-bound youth. Even though Shin had his theories, he still wanted a second opinion.
“You should know why… That assassination attempt, although unsuccessful, was a direct threat to your life. The First Elder knows that and wants to protect you.”
Seeing that his little brother had turned sombre and moody, Junius tried to assure that the move away from the clan was for his best interests.
“Then, do you really think that the assassins were sent by the Black Masks? To kill random Frie Clan members? And we were just collateral damage?”
Shin sent a barrage of questions Junius’ way. When Junius had regained consciousness, the Instructor told them the official statement the upper echelons of the Frie Clan gave regarding the assassination attempt on the orphans. They claimed that the Black Masks had sent assailants to kill juniors of the Frie Clan and the orphans were unlucky to meet them. And once the assassins were caught by Bates, they had confessed to everything. However, in a fit of rage, the Second Elder’s division slew, all the captured assassins thus cutting off any way of tracing the Black Masks.
Of course, everyone who knew the circumstances of the assassination attempt knew that the official statement was just a cover story to prevent complete mutiny from the Second Elder’s division. But there were whispers. Whispers that alleged that the Second Elder had personally ordered Spirit Apostles from his division to kill the boy who had awakened The Sovereign Koi.
And those whispers had naturally reached the ears of the distraught orphans. Fear and confusion arose from the very black-haired youth that was central to the story. And currently, he was sharing his dismay with his elder brother.
“That is the official statement… But everyone knows that the Second Elder might have pulled some strings…”
Raising his head up to meet Shin’s gaze, Junius strongly replied his younger brother he doted on so much.
“Then… Why? Why does the Second Elder hate us so much? Why does he want to kill me?!”
The black-haired youth shivered as the numerous hairs on his body started to rise up. A sudden chill raced up his spine as he muttered those words. Shin could not comprehend why the Second Elder wished for his death. Furthermore, the threat was so severe that the First Elder had to relocate them to a faraway place that was out of reach from the Second Elder.
Looking at his distressed younger brother, who seemed like he was about to cry out of despair, Junius wordlessly forced his battered body out of his wheelchair. Stumbling as he got out, the bandaged youth plodded towards Shin and brought him to his embrace.
“I don’t know why the Second Elder is aiming for us… But I promise you this, Shin. If he wants you dead, he has to step over my dead body first!”
Declaring his stance, Junius gave Shin an oath. A pledge to never falter and to protect the brother he held so dearly.
Nestling in his elder brother’s embrace, the ten-year-old boy wiped his misty eyes on the grey-coloured robes that Junius wore. His earlier anxiety faded away quickly as he felt like an indomitable mountain had appeared to shelter him from any trials and tribulations that might enter his path. When Shin was younger, he had often hugged Junius to calm down during that days he felt afraid and alone. Thus, being brought into these familiar arms gave Shin a sense of security.
However, after a few minutes, Shin realised the awkwardness of the situation and quickly pushed Junius back into his wheelchair. With his face as red as an apple, the boy bit his tongue as he struggled to make out his sentences.
“This… A… Anyway! I have to get back to packing!”
“Oh come on! We were having a great moment! After you’ve turned six, you have started to turn to me less and less!”
Before, when Shin was younger, he had invariably followed Junius around, like how Max and Lily were currently. However, at some point in time, Shin had grown out of hugs and cuddles, leaving Junius exasperated that his little brother didn’t want his companionship anymore.
“J… Just shut up!”
Stammering on his words, Shin walked out of the room and continued to find items to pack.