Book 3: Aldrich’s Keep || Chapter 11: A Pleasant Surprise (2)

“Shin, after this go back and pack. We will be leaving the waypoint within the week.”

“Master, you accepted the senior Lymark’s request?”

“What other choice do I have?”

Shin had overheard the entire conversation between his master and the warrior from Aldrich’s Keep. Although he was happy that Lady Seph was going to participate in the deadly purge that might cause the deaths of thousands, the black-haired youth was unsure of what made the adamant elderly woman change her mind. Due to her pride, there was no way Lady Seph would say she was going back into the military for the sake of her disciple.

“Shin, your ‘Heal’ is phenomenal. Sometimes I really want to open up your head and examine its contents…”

“*Yip!* *Yip!*.”

As if agreeing with her Master, Bingbing chirped while perched on top of the blonde woman’s shoulders.

“Is that so…”

Shin’s face flushed as he heard the rare compliments. Lady Seph did not show much affection over the years, and her sudden change in attitude was too much to bear for the young teen. Rubbing his nose, Shin tried to hide his face, which was as red as a tomato, from his Master.

“But don’t get complacent! This is just the first step in the healer’s journey. From now on, there will be many hurdles and difficulties that will present themselves. I hope that you will be able to overcome the challenges and become the greatest healer there ever was.”

Stroking Shin’s silky black hair, Lady Seph shared her dreams for her disciple.

“Challenges?”

“Yeah, for instance, the upcoming battle at Aldrich’s Keep. It will be one of the toughest challenges you will face. Not to mention the fame that will come your way.”

“I’ll be famous?”

Shuddering his shoulders, Shin stared at the elderly woman with widened eyes. He had always hated to be in the limelight. Back at Frie Mountain, before he was forced into exile, Shin never tried to stand out even though he had the capabilities to do so. All he wanted to do was to live his life in peace and quiet so that he could sleep comfortably at night. Never in his wildest imagination would he think that he could be famous.

“Of course! Even right now, if I publicly say that I have accepted a disciple for three years, pilgrims from all over the world would come and kneel at your feet!”

“WHAT?!”

Stunned beyond belief, Shin fell down onto a nearby couch as he felt strength being drained out of his body. He had no idea that he would become revered after entering Lady Seph’s tutelage. For the first time in three years, Shin regretted becoming the famed healer’s disciple. Seeing her disciple’s reaction, Lady Seph couldn’t take it anymore and begun to laugh out hysterically.

“Hahaha! Why are you so afraid? I’m just joking!”

Other than Junius and Ariel, perhaps the one who knew Shin the most was Lady Seph. She knew how reserved and introverted the young teen was. Not willing to stand out from the pack, one could claim that Shin would rather be a lone wolf. Diligently completing all the tasks assigned to him albeit with a little unwillingness.

“Haaaahh… Master! Don’t tell scary jokes like that!!!”

Heaving a sigh of relief, Shin tapped his chest to quell his beating heart.

“Well, the part of you becoming famous still rings true. I have not publicly added you into my tutelage with the Healer’s Association, but once we go to Aldrich’s Keep, there will be no way I can keep it under wraps. To rub salt in the wound, you are probably the youngest person in history to learn ‘Heal,’ so…”

“HUH?!”

At this point in time, Shin’s heart had already suffered from more stress than he could handle. Taking a big gulp of the remaining tea left in his cup, Shin despondently stared at the ceiling hoping that it was all a bad nightmare.

“So, just mentally prepare yourself for that life! For now, you can return back to the Mushinkei. I’ll discuss the details with you tomorrow.”

Gently tapping her disciple’s head, Lady Seph told the boy to return home so that she could sort out the logistics of their departure. There were many things that she needed to do now. Making a closure sign, discuss with Lymark the duration of their absence, so on and so forth.

“Fine…”

Accepting his fate, Shin slowly trudged out of Yakkyoku Clinic, dispiritedly making his way to the Mushinkei.

~~~

“Hah… Am I really going to be well-known?”

Lying down on his bed, Shin pondered about what Lady Seph had told him just a few moments prior. When he entered the Mushinkei, there was almost no one around. Riko had to attend to some customers that had arrived to view their inventory, Junius was busy at work with constable affairs, and all the other Frie Clan members had their own jobs to do. After all, it was still the middle of the day. Thus, Shin had no one to confide in or even share the news that he had promoted into the Spirit Apostle realm.

To a certain extent, he could sense how famous his Master was but never did he expect that her fame would rub off onto him. Over the three years, he had seen his Master easily enter functions in high society whenever she wanted to obtain something. For instance, a year ago, when a high-profile auction was being conducted in Chilyoja Waypoint, only the most affluent and influential were invited.

Initially, Shin thought that the auction had nothing to do with him and the matter just slipped his mind. However, Lady Seph caught wind of a precious herb, that she needed for her experiments, was being sold in the auction. Forcing her way into the tightly guarded facility, Lady Seph demanded a VIP room and an inspection of the herb, something that was unheard of in the auction history.

Naturally, Shin was dragged into the fray as Lady Seph needed a serva-, no an attendant around to carry the bulky items. It was then that Shin really discovered how revered his Master really was. Although she was most definitely causing a disturbance, the owner of the auction house did everything in his power to butter the elderly woman up. Like a eunuch answering to the emperor, if Lady Seph wanted to do something, the owner would comply.

That attitude was shared with not only the owner of the auction house but with all the other members of high society that Shin had met that day. As people well-versed with current affairs, they all knew of Lady Seph’s historical exploits. They knew that the elderly woman who was overbearing, to say the least, could only be a friend, never a foe. In fact, there were some fans of Lady Seph as well, hoping to get a signature of the illustrious healer.

Shin did not want to have that kind of fame. If he had a choice, he would much rather be a laid back Spirit User that could sleep in all day long, not caring about other people’s expectations. Fearing that one day, he was going to end up like his Master, Shin felt a cold shiver run down his spine.

“Something bothering you?”

An energetic and mellifluous voice sounded out in the emptiness of Shin’s room causing the teen to snap out of his thoughts.

“Yeah, I might become famous…”

“You? Famous? Not even in a million years!”

“I know right, wait…”

Shin had mindlessly answered the girl’s words, but now, he realised that something was incredibly wrong. He should have been the only person in the room. How was there another voice present?

Sharply turning in the direction of the voice, Shin was greeted by a tall and slender young teenage girl, who looked no older than thirteen. Her gorgeous scarlet hair that flowed down to her hourglass waist like a gushing blood river was tied into a ponytail, making her look much more innocent that she really was. Her eyes that glistened like the stars at night, seemed to have a hypnotic effect on those who dared to enter a staring contest with her. With her hand firmly gripping a nearby pillar, Shin could clearly see the many calluses and blisters that could only be caused by excessive usage of a weapon.

Unlike the regular girl, she did not decorate her nails nor did she bother to put on any makeup to make herself look more attractive. Although her chubby round face made her seem harmless, Shin clearly understood the terror this girl could bring if she really desired to.

“A-ariel… What are you doing here?”

Every now and then, Ariel would make a trip down from Frie Mountain to Chilyoja Waypoint to check on Shin. Under the excuse that she had to deliver items from the orphans of course. In all the three years Shin had spent at the waypoint, he had only met the other orphans just twice. Since they were in exile, every year, the First Elder would bring the orphans down to Chilyoja Waypoint so that they could reunite with Shin and Junius.

“Hmmm. Today is the day where you meet with Sister Lily and the rest! Don’t you remember?!”

“Oh right!”

Today was precisely the day where the orphans would reunite. However, due to the numerous thing that had happened over the past twenty-four hours, Shin had utterly forgotten that fact.

“Hmph! How could you forget such an important day?! With such a forgetful attitude, it is no wonder that you advance so slowly! Look! I’m already a Spirit Apostle!”

Although distance kept them apart, Ariel’s surging desire to surpass Shin’s progression only seemed to have grown with the distance. Every waking hour of hers had been spent in cultivation or practising her battle techniques. Naturally, the Frie Clan was glad to have such a studious and talented prodigy in their midst. Hence, they had provided her with the best materials and teachers. And it paid off.

Just two weeks ago, Ariel had reached the peak of Rank 9 and was ready to promote into the Spirit Apostle realm. The upper management of the clan was ecstatic. Even though she was unable to beat the all-time record set by an ancestor of the clan, the elders still were happy that a Spirit Practitioner had managed to promote into a Spirit Apostle within three years.

“You’re also a Spirit Apostle now?!”

“Yeap! I’m also a… Wait, what do you mean ALSO?”

“I… Just promoted today…”

“HUH?!”

Ariel’s work regiment was in no way inferior to Shin’s. However, she did hold the advantage as she trained on Frie Mountain, one of the densest fire elemental spots in the Empire.

“Wait, you’re also a Spirit Apostle? And you just promoted today?”

“Yeah…”

“Just promoted today… Hmph! I promoted two weeks ago! I’m still faster than you!”

“Yeah, yeah…”

After being with Ariel for nearly his entire life, Shin knew that the current best course of action was to leave her alone to fantasise about her win. Otherwise, she would give him hell for the next few days that she was staying at the waypoint.

“Where are the rest?”

Curious about the whereabouts of his fellow orphans, Shin asked the fiery young girl.

“It’s lunchtime now, so probably in the cafeteria?”

“What do you mean probably?”

“Come on, do you expect me to know everything?”

“God damn it, you’re useless…”

“Huh?! You’re the one whose useless!!!”

“…”

Gritting their teeth, the two stared viciously at each other for a period of time. However, after a while, their facial muscles relaxed as a self-mocking smile appeared on both of their faces.

“Haha, some things don’t change do they?”

“Yeah…”

Ariel gave a wry laugh while Shin lightly snorted. Even after all this time, the first thing they do after meeting for the first time in forever was to bicker.

“Let’s go to the cafeteria, either way, I’m hungry.”

Realising that he had not taken his lunch, Shin suggested to Ariel that they go to the cafeteria for food. At the same time, they could meet up with the other orphans.

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