Book 3: Aldrich’s Keep || Chapter 16: The Elite Squad Assembles (2)

Strolling down the bustling streets of the commercial district, Shin and the other orphans continued to chat about their daily lives. After living apart for such an extended period of time, they have all accumulated a number of stories to share with each other. Shin mostly complained about Lady Seph and how demonic Junius had become when it came to morning training. The other orphans, such as Elyse and Emma, shared everything that had happened on Frie Mountain during his absence. Be it funny stories or sad, sombre ones, the young children babbled away, forgetting about the time.

Eventually, the sky had begun to dim as grey clouds gathered. The city bell rung six times indicating the start of the evening. Droplets of water drizzled down from the overcast sky as the booming sound of thunder reverberated in the waypoint.

“Guys, I think we should return to the Mushinkei. It’s starting to rain.”

Lily suggested to the group. Being the most senior member of the orphans present, her words held the most weight. Unanimously nodding to her idea, Shin and the others stopped browsing the stores and turned back. However, it did not take long after something halted their steps.

“Junius!”

Ryner caught the sight of a viridian haired teenager donned in a pure black constable gear. With golden lions sewn neatly upon his chest, the youth seemed to resemble a valiant champion. His handsome features attracted the gazes of all the young maidens surrounding him and his charming smile brightened even the sternest faces. Currently, the youth was busy making his rounds at the town with one of his partners.

Noticing the group of teenagers, Junius eyes lit up in excitement. Bidding farewell to the young man standing next to him, the teen hastily brisk-walked towards Shin and the others.

“Guys! You’re all here!”

Seeing his juniors for the first time in a year, made Junius heart leap with joy. He lamented the fact that he was on duty during the first day of their visit but Junius endured it. In fact, when he first reported to the Constable Headquarters earlier on, he lacked the motivation to efficiently executed his patrol duties.

“Junius! How are you? What time would you be knocking off?”

The orphans bombarded the youth with an array of questions. Unable to cope with the variety of voices, Junius raised his hands in resignation, begging his fellow juniors to slow down their speech. Before he could answer their questions though, a fuzzy silhouette bolted past the centre of the orphans and struck the suave teen right in his chest.

“Lily…”

“Idiot… Why weren’t you there to meet us?”

“Sorry, I had work to do…”

In the three years since Junius and Shin left the mountain, Junius and Lily’s relationship had taken one step further and gone to a level beyond that of ordinary friends. As a handsome young successful Spirit Apostle, the number of girls who wanted to chase Junius wasn’t few. The first time Lily visited the waypoint, she saw many young maidens making eyes at the boy that she mentally thought of as her own. Unable to shake the uneasiness she felt, Lily became more aggressive in her advances towards the young teen, fearing that a random bimbo would take him away.

Lily had sent a plethora of love letters that would make even the most accomplished romance authors blush and frequently called her best friend, Ariel, to make sure that no random broad tried to seduce Junius. Thankfully, her pursuit had paid off as Junius made their relationship official after a few months.

Although the pair could only meet once every year, Lily seemed to like the separation as it made their story look like something out of a fairy tale. Of course, she hated that her sweetheart was so attractive that random lustful succubuses sought him out but Lily wholly trusted the viridian-haired youth. Furthermore, Lily herself was proud of her features that enthralled the popular constable.

Now that she was sixteen, she had reached the prime of her puberty years. The pimples that were associated with early pubescence had all but diminished making her complexion as clear as a marble. Letting her hair grow out, the silky threads of pale blue goodness flowed down to her petite bottom, making her look much more motherly than before. Her growing bosom sparked the wild fantasies of men and could cause even celibate monks to act zen while taking a peek every now and then.

“Fine, I forgive you. When will you be finishing your work?”

“Soon… Give me another hour or so?”

“That long?”

“Yeah…”

It was not like Junius wanted to continue working. He would much rather spend time with Lily and the other orphans as their time together was limited. Sighing despondently, Junius stroked the fringe of his lover as he flashed a tender smile. He had dearly missed that face of hers over the past year and could not stop looking at it. However, that simple act of his caused Lily’s milky white face to blush furiously as she avoided his eyes.

‘That gaze of his is unfair…’

Burying her face deep in his chest, Lily thought of the many girls that had fallen for the boy she loved because of his smile.

“Hahaha, Junius it looks like you’re loved dearly huh! Why don’t you just leave with the little missus there? I’ll make some excuse to headquarters!”

“Senior! You would do that?!”

The constable that Junius had been patrolling with nearly barfed with all the sweetness that he was witnessing. Teasingly, he gestured to Junius that it was fine to leave his post.

“It’s fine, it’s fine… You’re only needed for another hour anyway. Leaving a little early won’t hurt.”

“Thank you, senior!”

Giving his superior a deep bow, Junius grasped the waist of the pale-blue haired girl in his embrace and walked towards the orphans. Lily had always maintained the strict motherly appearance in front of her juniors, but when Junius was involved, she reverted back to a teenage girl, who was swooning over her crush.

“Let us return!”

With his girlfriend nestled to his side and his loved ones all surrounding him, Junius was over the moon. It was the sight that he had always envisioned, albeit in a watered-down state. The reason why he worked so hard in the first place was to ensure that the orphans could live with their heads held high, happily surrounded by each other’s warm faces. Leading the group, Junius headed straight for the Mushinkei.

~~~

On the way home, the orphans had filled Junius in on everything that had occurred earlier that day. The viridian-haired youth was not surprised that Shin had advanced and was heading to Aldrich’s Keep, but when he heard of the plan to send some youths of the Frie Clan to the fort, Junius had almost immediately volunteered himself to go. However, as he thought about it, there was no way the Lewis or the other senior constables would let him leave.

While Junius was brooding on a plan to get him on the ticket to the Keep, the orphans had reached the Mushinkei. Promptly retreating to the insides of the building, the group had just managed to evade the imminent downpour by a hair’s breadth as sheets of rain came splashing down from the heavens.

“Phew, looks like we’re lucky!”

Ariel exclaimed. Firmly holding on to her new necklace, she protected it from the small drizzles that they experienced while walking back.

“Oh finally, you guys are home…”

At that moment, a lethargic voice sounded out at the entrance of the building. Ines, who was resting at the counter, called out the orphans.

“Senior Ines, what happened? Why do you look so drained?”

Junius worriedly asked the haggard middle-aged lady. It was rare to see this senior of theirs in such a state.

“Arghhh!!! Bad news, I guess… The Elder had gotten permission to send Ariel and a few other youths to Aldrich’s Keep.”

“What?! Isn’t that good news?!”

Ariel’s eyes nearly popped out in excitement. She was the one who wanted to follow Shin the most and hearing that her wish had been granted made her ecstatic.

“Yeah, but there’s more. The Second Elder would be sending a cell alongside Ariel and Shin…”

“Ah… I see…”

Hearing those words, the mood in the room instantly dropped. Since the orphans were ostracised by the Second Elder’s division, anyone from that side of Frie Mountain would go against them with extreme animosity.

“Senior Ines, if the Second Elder was to send a cell, how many would we be sending?”

“Same like them. Four youths. With Shin and Ariel taking two slots, while the twins make up the other two.”

“Huh?” “We’re going to Aldrich’s Keep?”

The twins twitched once their names were brought up. Usually, for missions in the Frie Clan, the upper management would recommend the youths to form a cell, typically a group of four members with skill sets that balanced each other out. With Ariel as the vanguard and Shin as the healer, they needed some medium and long-range Spirit Users to cover their weaknesses. Therefore, the First Elder suggested that the twins, who both wielded the Ice Bow Spirits and cultivated in the Crystal Toxotai Mantra, join their cell.

Perfectly complementing each other’s strengths, their team would surely be able to grow much more rapidly during the upcoming purge. After all, that was their ‘goal’ for sending a training expedition.

“Yeah, so Ella and Emma. Both of you need to get ready. You’re not returning to the mountain for a while. The Elder has arranged some of your personal belongings to be delivered here tomorrow. As much as I hated it, I had just returned from meeting with Lady Seph…”

“With Master?!”

Shin gasped in amazement. No wonder Ines seemed to have aged significantly since they last saw her. She must have suffered the wrath of the temperamental elderly woman.

“I explained to her the entirety of the First Elder’s plan… Goddamnit, now I know why they call her the healing demon… She’s an absolute monstrosity! And what’s with that bloody gerbil?! How could it be so strong?!”

“Bingbing?”

Shin tilted his head in confusion when he saw that Ines was directing his anger towards the harmless furry animal that frequently rested on his head.

“Arghhh!!! Whatever. Anyway, prepare yourselves. According to Lady Seph, she plans to leave the town three days from now… The Second Elder’s team will also be arriving in the next few days.”

Leaving the orphans with few additional precautionary words, Ines retreated back up to her room so that she could recover from the stress that she had incurred.

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