“Senior Marshall, if Lady Seph is truly a Spirit Emperor, why does she run a clinic in such a rural location?”
Junius could not help but ask. From the story that they have heard, the elderly lady that they had met was one of the most elite individuals in the Empire. A person of her stature should be displaying her talents in the capital, where the cream of the crop gathers, not in a mere waypoint.
“That I do not know. Some claim that she got sick of the politics in the capital while others said that she just didn’t have the drive anymore. But that is irrelevant. What is important is that she is here and is willing to be Shin’s mentor.”
Shin nodded his head as his azure pupils wavered. Rather than the backstory of Lady Seph, he was contemplating on a whole other matter.
“Senior Marshall, I’m going to be training to be a healer?”
Only after visiting Yakkyoku Clinic did Shin discover this fact. Ever since he was brought back into the Frie Clan as an orphan, he had been training his physical abilities. Although he dreaded become a fighter, he felt like it was his only option. Even the First Elder had pitted him against the mighty Ariel to bolster up his natural talent. Now that a different path had been opened up to him, he was unsure of what to feel.
“Yes. The First Elder really didn’t tell you anything huh…”
Marshall scratched his stubbly chin as he glanced over at Shin, who was feeling slightly conflicted.
“Shin, it might not be in my place to do this, but for all the years I’ve known the elder, he was not one to do things without reason. There must be a compelling reason for him to let you learn the art of healing, especially from someone like Lady Seph.”
“If I may interject…”
From the side of Marshall, a chestnut-coloured hair woman, with crystal-clear brown eyes, placed down the large piece of succulent pork ribs in her hands. Taking a fresh towel from the side table, she began to clear her mouth of the red stains, left behind by the savoury sweet and sour sauce.
“Shin, as you know, your situation in the clan is rather precarious.”
Ines started off with a bleak statement.
“Ines! Shin’s still a child!”
The Instructor spat out a chunk of chewed meat, marinated with his own saliva as he heard the brunette’s words.
“Eventually, he will have to know about this. Would you rather he be kept in the dark his whole life?!”
Ines’ outrage silenced the room.
“If you have nothing to say, just eat your ribs, Lou… Shin, as you know, the official statement given by the clan about what happened to your group during the harvest festival was that the Black Masks had issued an indiscriminate attack.”
Now that the Instructor was silenced, Ines focused all of her attention to the black-haired boy. Steadfast and headstrong, that was Ines’ personality. If someone had to be the bad guy to break the news to Shin, she would gladly play devil’s advocate. Without beating around the bush, Ines went straight to the main point.
“But I’m sure you have heard some rumours doubting the real truth…”
“Although we don’t have any evidence, everyone from the First Elder’s division was almost completely certain that the Second Elder had ordered for your assassination. In fact, on that day itself, the First Elder led all of his high-ranking subordinates to raid the Second Elder’s abode.”
The news that Ines revealed was something entirely unknown to the orphans.
“That day was as hectic as can be. If not for the Clan Master’s interference, there might not be a Frie Mountain today…”
Hearing her words, Shin instantly became speechless. He had no idea that the clan had undergone such turbulence because of him. Clutching his fists, he brought his hands towards his chest and rested it at the spot where his heart was. Feeling his heartbeat slowly becoming more frantic, the black-haired boy attempted to calm himself.
“In the end, the Clan Master revoked the two High Elder’s privileges for ten years and barred them from entering each other’s territories. That lacklustre conclusion was due to the Clan Master fearing that the Second Elder would launch a full-on revolt, effectively ending the Frie Clan.”
“Then… Senior Ines… Why does the Second Elder want to kill me?”
Shin has been fostered in the Frie Clan ever since he could remember. The First Elder, the Instructor, the Headmistress, Ariel and all the other Frie Clan Members that he had been in direct contact with were all kind to him. Often times, they would make him go crazy, but all in all, he felt like they were his real family.
Thus, seeing the contrasting attitudes of the Second Elder and those from his division made Shin feel that his situation was rather bizarre.
“This… Ermmm… Hah… The Second Elder’s philosophy is drastically different from the First Elder’s.”
“What does that mean?”
“Hmmm, the Second Elder is an extremely conservative person. He believes in keeping the bloodline of the clan pure and that we do not require external help. He once claimed that if the clan should go down, it should go down without foreign blood on the mountain. Thus, he was infuriated when the previous Clan Master started the orphan programme.”
“However, no matter how indignant he was, he could not go up against the former Clan Master and kept his feelings bottled up. But deep down, he had always seen you orphans as a threat that was unnecessary to the clan. He had always been trying to find excuses to expel you guys out from the clan, but Junius and the other senior orphan’s exemplary performances showed that the previous Clan Master’s ideas were correct.”
“But then, you awakened your Spirit Shin…”
After giving a lengthy explanation of the Second Elder’s motivations, Ines took a mouthful of fragrant jasmine tea to quench her thirst.
“W-what about my Spirit?”
Shin’s voice quivered as he asked.
“You awakened the infamous Eminence of the Lake, The Sovereign Koi! Furthermore, you triggered a natural phenomenon! Once you reach a high enough cultivation level, you could easily become the strongest person in the entire Frie Clan! That is something that the Second Elder does not want to see!”
“In fact, it is not a worry that is exclusive to the Second Elder. Many of the upper echelons of the clan feel this way. After all, you are not of the same blood. There is no guarantee that you would remain loyal to the clan.”
“Nonsense! There is no way Shin could ever rebel against the Frie Clan!”
Junius hollered out, dropping all sorts of formalities.
“Of course I know that. Calm yourself Junius…”
“My apologies, senior Ines… I got too worked up.”
“It’s alright… Now, where was I? Right, since many of the other Frie Clan members were starting to see you as a threat, the First Elder decided to train you in a profession that would not only increase your value but decrease your threat levels… And that is a healer.”
As she said that, Ines stood up from her seat took a deep breath in. With her eyes, she signalled for the Instructor to do the same. Realising what was coming next, the Instructor stood up in a similar fashion. The next instant, the two of them bent down in unison.
“For the protection of the clan, the First Elder was forced to make this choice. We do not pray for your forgiveness but hope that you would at least understand…”
Genuinely apologetic, the brunette woman and the muscular bald man gave a deep bow. As Spirit Users, they had the freedom to choose whichever path they wished to be in. Be it an indomitable fighter or a humble scholar, there was an infinite number of routes that they could take.
However, for the sake of the Frie Clan, the First Elder had no choice but to make Shin walk the road of a healer. Feeling that they had robbed his prospective illustrious future away, the two Spirit Lords could not help but apologise in place of the one they served.
“S-senior Ines! Instructor! There’s no need to apologise! I…”
Shin, on the other hand, was utterly gobsmacked and clueless on what to feel. He was never one to consider his future. Thus he had no idea why the two seniors of his were apologising.
“Shin, everyone in the First Elder’s division, believes that you will become a valuable asset to the clan. Hence, we will spare no expense to ensure your safety. One reason for sending you to the waypoint is to learn from Lady Seph, while the other is to protect you against the Second Elder!”
The Instructor lifted his head and stared straight into Shin’s eyes. The black-haired boy initially averted his gaze, but slowly, he began to compose himself. Instead of complaining about his situation, he decided to accept his senior’s goodwill.
“I understand. I will not let the First Elder down!”