Book 2: Chilyoja Waypoint || Chapter 6: Goodbyes (3)

Ariel and Shin had a long history together. Usually, the Frie Clan would separate the boys from the girls when it came to sparring sessions. Boys tend to be more physical and direct while girls gravitated to a more agile and flexible fight style. Hence, when Ariel displayed her astonishing ability as a pure physical fighter, it left the First Elder dumbfounded on how to proceed with her training.

If he left her to train with other girls of the clan, Ariel would just pulverise her training partner. It came to a point where parents of Frie Clan trainees would plead that their children do not spar with the monster that was Ariel. Thankfully, there was the existence of a specific orphan that was of similar age to Ariel. At first, both the twins and Shin served as Ariel’s training partner, however, after a few sessions, it became evident who was best suited to spar with the red-haired girl.

Early on in his life, Shin had proved his aptitude for battle. Every strike that Ariel threw at him, he could easily evade. With perfect vision and cat-like reflexes, he was the only adversary that Ariel could not overcome. Impressed by his talent, the First Elder taught him basic footwork and how to sufficiently protect himself. Armed with that knowledge, Shin flourished and became one of the best child fighters in the clan. For a period of time, even Ariel was unable to do anything to him.

Enraged that Shin was improving at a rate so much faster than she was, Ariel placed all of her efforts into training to catch up with her training partner. Punching down trees till the skin on her fists tore and sprinting up and down the mountain till her legs went sore, Ariel did everything in her power to beat Shin.

Ultimately, her hard work would not bear fruit as Shin’s battle sense was proving too much for the girl. In light skirmishes, Ariel held the absolute advantage as Shin was too lazy to fight with all his might. However, when there was something on the line, the boy transforms into a perfect fighting machine.

Currently, Ariel’s skill level was just a little behind the black-haired youth. Hence, she had hoped that with her awakened Spirit, she would be able to bridge that gap. But before the two even got a chance to settle their fight once and for all, Shin was being driven out of the clan.

Puckering her lips in dissatisfaction, Ariel slowly headed towards Shin with light steps.

“Hey…”

“Yeah?”

Baffled by the way Ariel was behaving, Shin tilted his head in befuddlement. The Ariel he remembered was always steadfast and firm with her words. Seeing her being meek and indecisive was a fresh experience for him.

“Ariel, you’re here to see me off too?”

“Hmph! Don’t be full of yourself! I’m just here to see your crying face when you leave!”

“Well, sorry to disappoint you but that’s not going to happen!”

“You never know, I bet when you’re about to leave, you’ll cry like a little baby!”

“No way! I’m sure you will cry before I do!”

“HAH?! Are you crazy? I cry, for you? You must be quite crazy if you think that way!”

“You’re not going to shed a tear for your training partner leaving? Such a heartless friend!”

“Hmph! You cause nothing but trouble for me… Nothing but trouble…”

Ariel charged forward with a raised fist with the intent of punching the rude Shin. However, midway through, she darted her eyes downwards to the floor as her hands lightly tapped Shin’s chest. Feeling that tears were about to well up, Ariel averted her eyes from the youth. She did not want to prove Shin right.

From young, the two had trained together, played together and even studied together. After members of the Frie Clan discovered Ariel’s immense talent, they tried to deter their children from hanging out with her, for fear that Ariel might accidentally injure them. Thus, before the First Elder introduced Shin to her life, she would often find herself alone with no peers to play with.

Children avoided her like the plague and adults would gossip behind her back. Hence, when the black-haired youth first walked into her courtyard many moons ago, she felt that the boy would shun her off like everyone else would. But Shin did not discriminate. Treating her as an equal and a friend, the boy became her friend.

Additionally, to her surprise, the boy was an even greater talent than herself. Although people called her the monster of the Frie Clan, Ariel always believed that the title should have been given to Shin. After all, no matter how hard she trained, she was still one step behind the boy she regarded as her rival.

“See, you cried…”

“Shut it! I’m… not crying!”

Choking on her words, Ariel denied Shin’s claim.

“Ariel…”

“Shut up! There’s just some dust in my eye, that’s all!”

Using her palms to wipe off the tears that were being gathered in her eyes, Ariel tried to compose herself. As much as she hated to admit, Shin was the closest friend she ever had. After she felt segregated out from the clan, Ariel had walled herself off from having any relations with people her own age. She believed that all that she needed was her grandfather and all would be well. But as time went by, she felt more and more chained in grief and solitude. No one would go near Ariel bar some adults that were close to her. And due to that, she started to hide her feelings making her harder to talk to. With an expressionless face and detached aura, fewer children went up to her and eventually, no one even bothered with her.

Shin’s arrival changed all of that. After she became friends with Shin, he introduced her to the rest of the orphans. There she met young girls around her age that weren’t afraid of her, and they began to socialise. Being with girls like Lily and the twins made Ariel come out of her shell and become more vibrant in her approach to relationships. Thus, she had even formed friendships with children that had avoided her before.

And all of that began with the black-haired youth standing in front of her.

“Ariel?”

“Shin… I’ll miss you.”

Hearing Ariel’s words, Shin became paralysed with shock. This was the first time Ariel had shown any affection to him. Typically, she would lash out with harsh words or unstoppable punches, but right now, at this moment, Ariel had actually blurted out such tender words.

“Wha…”

“Hmph! Don’t you go dying over there! We still have a fight to settle!”

Before they awakened their Spirits, Ariel went all the way to Shin’s room to issue a challenge. Once they had their Spirits, the two would spar once more to determine who was the better fighter. However, numerous problems and tribulations had delayed their promised fight.

‘Ah, that’s right there’s still that!’

Just recalling the promise, Shin heaved a sigh of relief that he was leaving the clan. It was the first time he was actually glad that he was being transferred. No matter how he saw it, the cute little cerulean Koi of his was no match for the juggernaut that was Ariel’s Lava Warhammer.

“The next time we meet, we will settle it!”

Ariel’s face bloomed a brilliant smile while Shin despaired, praying that the day where they fought would never arrive.

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