As the convoy started to make its final preparations, the elites that were going to escort the youths all gathered in one place. Among the five figures, Ines, who was one of the two Spirit Lords sent by the First Elder, carefully scanned the other four individuals. Donned in a pure white robe with a translucent veil obscuring her facial feature, the Shrine Maiden looked as solemn as can be. Being the leader of the expedition, every single member of the Frie Clan had to report to her, no matter what their affiliation was, and if Ines was completely honest, she was glad that the famed Shrine Maiden was in charge of the expedition. After all, there was no way she could reign in the two elites sent by the Second Elder.
Songath and Slystan are two brothers that had sworn fealty to the veteran Elder. During the great war thirteen years ago, the siblings had proven their capabilities countless of times on the battlefield and had served the Second Elder ardently. With bright blonde hair and rugged good looks, Songath and Slystan were like knights that had flown out from the books of a fairy tale. Although their reputation was not as illustrious as the Instructor’s, they were still two of the more prominent figures in the clan.
“As expected, the Second Elder sent those two…”
Ines whispered in a low voice to the lean man to her right. The pale green robe that he wore highlighted his rather charming features and made him seem meeker than he really was.
“Well, he is sending his own grandson on the expedition. In the event where Aldrich’s Keep really falls, those two are the best choice for protecting Linus.”
Marric nonchalantly explained. Each one of the High Elders has a handful of Spirit Lords under their command, and every single one of them possesses tremendous powers that could level mountains. However, even amongst all of the vicious Spirit Lords under the First Elder’s command, the seemingly demure middle-aged man was still the most destructive. Reaching Rank 59 many years ago, Marric was considered a half-step Spirit King and could breakthrough any moment now.
Regarding seniority, Marric was about the same age as Ines, Songath and Slystan yet, he held the most authority. Due to his past heroic exploits and imposing character, every single member of the Frie Clan respected Marric. Even people from the Second Elder’s division could only bow their heads in awe in front of this reserved-looking man.
“Enough chit-chat. Let’s discuss our plan.”
The Shrine Maiden eyebrows twitched in irritation after hearing the mumblings from Ines and Marric.
“The Clan Master has sent a message to the General Anmac at Aldrich’s Keep, notifying him of our arrival. Under the guise of sending the younger generation on a training expedition for the purge, we will be stationed at the Keep indefinitely, helping the soldiers out as much as we can. However, do note that the priority is still the safety of the children. Under no circumstance are we to leave them unsupervised. If even one of them were to suffer a grievous injury, don’t blame me from executing the appropriate punishments…”
Ines gulped a mouthful of saliva as she heard the warnings given by the Shrine Maiden. If it were anyone else, she might have chalked it off as a bad joke. But the white-robed woman standing in front of her was different. Her notorious reputation of punishing wrongdoers in the clan was legendary. Even Spirit Lords feared to experience the hells that she could put one through.
Standing up straight, the four Spirit Lords shouted out while saluting the Shrine Maiden.
“Good. We will follow the instructions of Lymark, the human resource officer from the Keep. For now, just standby next to your aether cars. Once he gives the signal, then we will depart.”
Adjourning the meeting, the Shrine Maiden briskly walked towards the pure black aether car situated at the very front of the convoy. Her steps became more hurried as she realised that she was going to meet the person that she idolised for so long. Taking a deep breath, the Shrine Maiden composed herself and carefully knocked on the car door. In the back seat, there was a blonde elderly woman, who was reclined comfortably in her position as she read a thick paperback book.
“Lady Seph, it’s me.”
“Hmmm? Who are you?”
“My name is Lien. We’ve met before when you came to the mountain to teach Enfen.”
“Oh right! You’re that bosom friend of hers!”
Initially, Lady Seph was annoyed that someone had disturbed her rest time. However, after recalling the familiar face, she beamed in happiness.
“So, how’s Enfen, that lass?”
Many years ago, when Lady Seph was still in politics, she had spent a short period of time resting on Frie Mountain due to diplomatic relations. Back then, she was still at the height of her popularity, and many distinguished figures sought her out to accept their children as apprentices, and the previous Frie Clan Master was not exempt from that temptation. Therefore, Enfen Frie, who was still a Spirit Apostle, became one of Lady Seph’s first ever apprentices.
Although Enfen was not training to be a healer, the previous Clan Master hoped that his precious daughter would learn various skill sets such as herbology or alchemy, something that Lady Frie was said to be an expert in. Furthermore, Enfen was entering her rebellious phase back then, and he thought to have Lady Seph, who was a well-known dictatorial figure, teach the rebelling youth would help curb her hostilities and tame her to become a better person.
And well, he was right. Under Lady Seph, Enfen had learnt many valuable lessons. In fact, if not for the temperamental old woman, Enfen’s character might not have evolved into one that was fit to run an entire family clan.
“She’s fine. Becoming the Clan Master is stressful, but she’s managing.”
“That’s good. But would it kill her to pay a visit once in a while? Perhaps my position in her eyes is waning somewhat…”
Slightly upset that Enfen had not dropped by at Yakkyoku Clinic, Lady Seph pouted her lips as she planned on how to punish the ungrateful protege of hers.
“E-enfen is busy with matters of the clan, so she’s unable to leave the mountain. However, I’m sure you’re on her mind every day!”
“Fine then, I’ll forgive her this time…”
Wiping off the sweat off her forehead, the Shrine Maiden heaved a sigh of relief. If she had come up with the wrong answer, Lady Seph might have flown all the way to Frie Mountain just so that she could mete out some punishments.
“Lady Seph, we are all geared up and ready to go!”
At that moment, Lymark butted in and notified them of their imminent departure.
“Okay… Lien, may I call you that?”
“Of course, by all means!”
“Then Lien, why don’t you travel in my car? There’s plenty of room.”
The aether car that Lady Seph was travelling in had four large cushioned seats in the back with one driver’s seat up front. Going by the initial plan, Lady Seph was to sit alone with Lymark driving the car while the Shrine Maiden stayed in the vehicle provided for her.
“Can I really?!”
A sharp shriek sounded out, drawing eyes from all corners of the convoy. The Shrine Maiden seemed to have reverted back to a young girl and squealed in delight. Realising her folly, she brought her hands to her mouth and lightly coughed twice. From the first time that the Shrine Maiden heard of Lady Seph’s exploits, she had been idolising the famed healer. Now that she had the opportunity to have a lengthy discussion with her idol, there was no way the Shrine Maiden was going to pass on it.
“Haha, yeah. Before that, could you call my disciple over too? Ah, bring that lass that is always with him as well. We can all travel together!”
Instructing the Shrine Maiden to bring Shin and Ariel into her car, Lady Seph continued on with her reading. Apparently, she did not want to sit in this large aether car alone.
Shredding the last bit of authority that she had, the Shrine Maiden promptly headed to the main gate, where Shin was saying his farewells to the other orphans.
“Looks like it’s time for us to go…”
Shin, Ariel, Ella and Emma all stood together on one side with the remaining orphans facing the other. While all the other members of the expedition were all comfortably seated in their respective cars, only the orphans stood outside, in the blistering hot sun.
“You guys, take care!”
Lily gently stroked Ella’s face as she addressed them. Lia, Fionn and Elyse were similarly waving at the four youths that were about to depart.
“Bye bye, have a safe trip!”
“Come back soon!”
Tapping Shin’s shoulder, Junius gave a broad smile as he said:
“And remember what I have warned you about. I do not want to collect my brother in two pieces.”
Rolling his eyes at the constant nagging of Junius, Shin turned around and followed the Shrine Maiden to his Master’s car. Although it was sad to be leaving, he had experienced it once before. Thus, he was more mentally stable this time. While Shin and Ariel disappeared into the black aether car, the twins followed Ines into another red-coloured one.
Waving goodbye for the final time, the orphans remaining in the waypoint, watched as the convoy slowly made its way out of the town and into the vast road ahead.