“Alright! Alright! That’s enough serious talk! Today we are here to give Shin and Junius a welcome feast! What’s with the sombre atmosphere?!”
Marshall broke the silence with a clap and took a plate of Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs, freshly served from the kitchen, and placed it in front of the two orphans. The delicious aroma of the ribs, coated with the sauce which looked like a red candy, woke the duo up as they tried to prevent themselves from salivating.
“Haha, yeah. You two should just enjoy yourselves for now. From tomorrow onwards, there will be many tasks for you to do!”
Ines pulled out her chair and rested her supple bottom on the cushioned chair. Evidently, she was still famished, even after eating five plates of ribs.
“Before that… Junius!”
The Instructor remained standing as he called out his beloved pupil. Junius, who was about to bite into a stack of pork ribs, replied back with his teeth on full display.
“After receiving Lady Seph’s healing, do you feel any discomfort?”
At Yakkyoku Clinic, Lady Seraphim sent a surge of healing light and managed to fix the injured youth, who was expected to remain on his wheelchair for a further two weeks.
“None at all, sir! Lady Seph’s healing ability sure is remarkable. Not only can I freely walk, I feel stronger than ever!”
“That’s great… I’m sorry to push this onto you immediately after you recovered but after lunch, could you follow me to the Mayor’s office?”
“Hmmm? Why’s that?”
Junius tilted his head quizzically.
“As you know, Shin will be trained at Yakkyoku Clinic by Lady Seph. You, on the other hand, will be training to be a constable. And since that is technically a government post, you will need to get tested at the mayor’s office. You know, background checks and some interviews. Initially, they would test your physical abilities at the constable headquarters, but by pulling some strings, I managed to get the mayor himself to test you.”
Although Junius had not met the mayor before, he knew that the position that the mayor held was the highest in the waypoint. Affluent clans would have to butter up the man, and even then, they might not have the means to claim a meeting with him. And yet, Junius, a mere Spirit Apostle, was going to be tested by the mayor personally.
“There’s no need to be surprised. I have something important to discuss with the mayor, and you will just be tagging along. If you have made a full recovery, I would like you to do your tests today. Is that alright?”
“T-that’s! Of course, I wouldn’t mind! Thank you, Instructor! I will do my best to not let you down!”
Standing up straight, Junius saluted his mentor.
“Hahaha! Now that’s the Junius I know! For now, just relax and eat your food! Knowing you, I’m sure you will pass the tests with flying colours!”
“Then, while you are at the mayor’s office, I will bring Shin home.”
Ines smiled jubilantly as she got to spend some quality time with the black-haired boy. It has been a long time since she enjoyed herself. Usually, she would be cooped up in the mountain, doing the same mundane tasks over and over again. Thus, being together with the orphans was a refreshing experience for her. Especially with Shin, whose adorable reactions made her squeal with delight.
“Yeah, I’ll be counting on you.”
Unaware of the danger that he had put Shin in, the Instructor nodded his head in affirmation.
After lunch, the group split ways with the Instructor leading Junius to the mayor’s office while Marshall and Ines brought Shin back to the Mushinkei. Needless to say, on the way back, Shin was teased endlessly by Ines, and his cheeks had turned red due to all of the pinchings the brunette lady dealt on him. The worst thing for Shin was, no matter how much he disliked Ines, he was too afraid to voice his concerns. Hence, the only thing that he could do was sulk.
Unfortunately for him, the reddened cheeks were only made more adorable with his pouting, making him look like a charming squirrel. Unable to hold back, Ines left her hands on Shin’s face throughout the journey, causing Shin to be stuck in an infinite loop that he was unable to escape from.
Meanwhile, the Instructor led Junius through the bustling streets of the waypoint and straight to the mayor’s office. They had nearly got separated due to the endless streams of people going about their business, but thankfully they managed to reach the office without much trouble.
The mayor’s office was naturally the tallest building in the waypoint. Since each government agency was representative of the sovereign emperor, there were no structures that could be taller than it within the town. Built in the heart of the waypoint, the towering edifice stood at over fifty metres tall. Its foundation was made with a pile of bricks over ten metres high and angled in a way that no intruders could ever hope at ascending. Instead of an office, the structure seemed more like an impregnable castle.
And currently, two figures were attempting to enter the massive structure.
“So Junius, are you adapting well to your new life?”
As the guards at the main gate were checking their identifications, the Instructor started to make some small talk.
“Instructor, I’m very satisfied with my current circumstances.”
“You know, when it’s just you and me, you don’t have to put on that brave farce…”
In all honesty, after the incident in the forest and finding out the real truth about it, Junius felt a violent rage surging up from his abdomen. He thought that if he had the opportunity, he would tear the Second Elder limb from limb and feed his dead corpse to any wild beasts that tread the land. Targeting him was one thing, but to actually want to kill Shin, who wouldn’t even harm a butterfly, infuriated the youth.
Additionally, because of what the Second Elder did, the two orphans were forced out of the clan, away from their loved ones. All of those factors added up made Junius want to holler out in resentment, but as he did not want to show an uncool side to his little brother, he hid his feelings. However, the Instructor has known Junius ever since he was just a snotty-nosed boy, who frequently wet his pants. Hence, he was able to tell that the current Junius was a little off.
“I know that you must be rather pissed at my ineptness… Being unable to stand up for you when you were being evicted out of the clan.”
“Of course not! Why would I ever blame you, Instructor?! If not for you, I would not be standing as I am!”
Towards the Second Elder, all Junius felt was a belly full of hate. But for the other Frie Clan members, especially those in the First Elder’s division, the youth was genuinely grateful. And for the brawny, bald man standing in front of him, Junius felt indebted to him. He had guided the orphans to the best of his ability and was always the first to stand up against any maltreatment that the orphans suffered.
Thus, no matter how much he wanted the Second Elder dead, he could never hate the Frie Clan as a whole.
“Is that so… I’m glad you feel that way. But it is true that if I were stronger, you might not have been injured… Listen, Junius, I have taught you many things over the years, but my next few words will probably be the most significant to you…”
The Instructor stopped and gazed far away, in the direction that Frie Mountain was. Junius unconsciously gulped down a mouthful of saliva as he anticipated the man’s next words.
“In life, you can only rely on yourself. Although it is also important to have good teammates, ultimately the life that you lead can only be determined by one person, and that is yourself. And to not feel the helplessness that I did, you need strength. Overwhelming strength. Why is it that the Second Elder can act so brazen in the clan? Isn’t it because he is powerful? Isn’t it because the Clan Master fears that the clan would be destroyed because of him even though she knows that he is in the wrong?”
Listening attentively, Junius could only put on a solemn expression as the muscular man displayed an outpour of emotion.
“That bastard tried to kill an innocent little boy in broad daylight, and he believes he is justified in doing so… And letting him go scot-free… Listen Junius, I know you are someone who treasures his loved ones so let me tell you. The only way you can protect them is by becoming strong. Stronger than anyone else! Do you understand me?”
“Good! And the first step in that journey shouldn’t be in the Frie Clan, it should be right here!”
“What do you mean?”
“No matter how strong or how successful you become, you will always be a thorn in the Second Elder’s flesh. The more powerful you become, the more that old man will see you as a threat. However, if you are protected by an entity that is stronger than the Frie Clan, the Second Elder would be unable to touch you!”
“Instructor, you don’t mean that I become a permanent member of the mayor’s office?”
“Of course not, your loyalties must remain with the Frie Clan. What you must do is to prove your worth to the constables in the waypoint. The Himmel Empire rewards its citizens based on their merits, especially for government agencies. If you perform well, they might send you to the capital where you can display your strengths and become an indispensable member of the empire. Only then, can you raise your head high and return to the clan, pressuring the Second Elder.”
The Instructor laid down his future hopes onto the youth, who was still shocked at the revelation.
“But of course, that is a long shot… Nonetheless, I believe that you can do it! After all, you are my best student!”
A wide grin appeared on the Instructor’s face as he said that.
“You’re right! I’m Lou Frie’s student! There’s no way that I am inferior! I will do my best to live up to your expectations!”
“Hahaha! That’s my boy!”
Laughing out loud, the Instructor pat Junius’ back as he encouraged the youth.
“Lou Frie, the mayor has summoned for you.”
At this moment, a gentle voice came from inside the castle. An attendant, wearing the standard uniform of the mayor’s office, notified the Instructor of the mayor’s summons.
“Remember, Junius. You must impress the mayor… Only then will you be able to fast-track your career.”