Book 3: Aldrich’s Keep || Chapter 2: Three Years Later… (2)

Himmel Empire. Chilyoja Waypoint.

The overcast grey sky covered the bright crimson sun as a comfortable breeze cooled the blazing street of this mid-afternoon. In the three years that had passed, there had been little changes in the town that Shin and Junius called home. Merchants still went about their business as military supplies regularly entered the waypoint en route to Aldrich’s Keep. With a sharp decline in crime, residents of the town started to become more daring in their leisure activities with many leaving the safety of their homes in the complete darkness of night.

As the hour hand of the clocktower slowly reached four, many workers were gathering their final burst of energy, eagerly anticipating for the time that they knocked off from work. However, for a certain black-haired boy strolling down the gigantic boulevard that ran through the waypoint, his day was only beginning.

Stretching his tense muscles, Shin walked further down the busy street, with a bag full of precious herbs. The mix of herbal and peculiar scents burst forth from the unsuspecting bag, drawing the attention of anyone in a fifty-metre radius.

‘Stop looking!!! It’s not like I want to smell this way!!!’

Mentally shouting out, Shin turned his head downwards in an attempt to evade the piercing gazes that the bystanders were shooting at him. Many of the herbs in his basket had precious medicinal value and it just so happens that most of them emit a pungent odour. Especially the Crimson Marlberry, being a spiritual herb, the stench it gave out was unbearable for an average person who had no knowledge of its value.

‘Damn it! I’m so not going to help Master anymore!’

Every week, under the guise of sending Shin on a training mission, Lady Seph would order her disciple to gather herbs so that she could brew medicine. Oddly enough, after the arrival of the new attendant at Yakkyoku Clinic, the number of patients spiked. Perhaps, before when it was just Lady Seph, everyone was a little apprehensive about letting the loose fuse of a physician treat them. However, with a punching bag nearby for her, the patients need not fear the wrath of the demonic healer.

The majority of the time, Lady Seph could help heal physical injuries and purge poison out of the patient’s body using her Iofiel Angel. Still, for internal injuries or conditions that require nourishment and medicine, there was a need for medicinal herbs in the clinic. Hence, Shin was sent as a gatherer to a nearby forest.

Unable to bear the stares of hostility anymore, Shin quickened his steps and rushed back to Yakkyoku Clinic.

~~~

Many things didn’t change in Chilyoja Waypoint over the past three years. The Mushinkei remained the same, the Mayor’s office didn’t undergo any changes, and even the Constable’s Headquarters had little renovations. However, there was one building in the entirety of the town that had drastically changed.

Yakkyoku Clinic, which was more of a run-down shed than a workplace for a Spirit Emperor, had fixed all the problems it had with its exterior. Gone were the cracked walls and broken-off roof tiles. The faded paint had been washed away and replaced with a more modern colour. Weeds and unmown grass, which were prevalent before, had been completely removed from the front and back lawn, making the place of healing look more and more hospitable. Naturally, it was Shin who had done all the work in fixing the exterior of the store, since Lady Seph only cared about the hygiene of the interior.

Taking one good look at the building that he had toiled so hard to fix, Shin felt tears fill his eyes. Since Lady Seph did not allocate too much money to renovating Yakkyoku Clinic, the black-haired boy had taken over two years to completely refurbish the place. Like a proud mother seeing her child grow up, Shin always felt a sense of accomplishment whenever he returned to this building.

Walking straight to the main entrance, he recalled the hardships that he had faced when it came to fixing the place. The pavement had to be redone, so he bought a bucket full of cement only to realise that it was not enough to rebuild the floor. The wooden pillars had been eroded and mouldy from years without maintenance, so he had to call in external help from skilled carpenters in the waypoint. As Shin reminisced about the hardships that he had faced, he found himself already pushing open the main door, and back into the familiar corridor where he spent his youth.

“I’m back!”

Announcing his arrival, Shin scanned the empty clinic in befuddlement. Typically, on a weekday like today, although there would be fewer customers, for it to be completely empty was highly unusual. As Shin was trying to comprehend the situation, a snowy white furball leapt out from behind the counter and landed on the young boy’s shoulders. Unravelling itself, Bingbing stared at Shin with its hypnotising black eyes and started to gnaw on his hair.

Flashing a wry smile, Shin brought his left hand and stroked the soft fur of the mysterious gerbil. Up till this day, Shin had no clue on Bingbing’s species. Although she resembled a gerbil, Bingbing also had a magnificent ability of hiding herself from the sights of others and incredible physical strength. Furthermore, on some occasions, Shin had personally witnessed the adorable innocent creature emit tremendous amounts of mana.

Funnily enough, one of those occasions was when Bingbing met Ariel for the first time. Being a young girl then, Ariel had a love of cute things, just like the other females at the Mushinkei. Hence, when she saw Bingbing’s puffed cheeks, she could not help but attempt to pinch them. Unhappy by her gesture, the gerbil, who seemed to be unable to harm a fly, bared her fangs and released a surge of devastating mana, causing Ariel to fall to her bum.

It was the first time Shin witnessed Bingbing prowess. As it turned out, nothing around Lady Seph was ordinary. Even an adorable animal such as Bingbing had such a frightening presence. For some reason, the snowy white gerbil had liked Shin from the very beginning and detested any member of the Frie Clan who had come into her path.

“Bingbing, I’m back… Where’s Master?”

Turning his head to look at the creature on his shoulder, Shin asked Bingbing for Lady Seph’s whereabouts. It might seem odd to speak to an animal like how one would converse with a human, but it was a common occurrence in the clinic.

“*Squeak!* *Squeak!*.”

Happily nudging on the young man’s neck, Bingbing’s tail stood erect as she pointed in the direction of the treatment room. The only two people that she would let touch her were Lady Seph and Shin. In fact, in recent days, the gerbil would rather spend more time with the black-haired youth than her true master causing Lady Seph to lash out at Shin a few times.

“She’s in the treatment room? Is there a patient?”

Lady Seph would only be in the treatment room if there were a patient. Typically, she would loathe to leave her personal office as it gave her the solace of peace and quiet to do her readings.

Putting down the bag filled with herbs, Shin slowly edged closer to the room on the right. Knocking twice, he called out:

“Master? I’m back!”

“Shin?! Great timing! Come in!”

An adenoidal voice called out from inside the room. Opening the wooden door, Shin widened his eyes. Lady Seph had remained the same over the three years. With her bright blue eyes that sparkled with vitality and luscious blonde hair untouched by the whites that plagued people her age, one would question if she was truly an elderly woman. By her side, there was a lean and fit middle-aged man who bore a massive scar in the middle of his chest. Although he was well-bandaged, Shin could see a dense red liquid overflowing out from his body.

“Shin, help take out this gentleman’s bandages and clean his wound.”

Now that her disciple had arrived, she could leave the cumbersome work to him. Walking back into the medicine room, Lady Seph left Shin with the damaged man as she searched for some ointments to treat the man.

“Woah, that’s sudden…”

Taking off his jacket, Shin advanced to the injured man and carefully searched for the knot that tied the bandage together. It did not take him long to find the crudely tied connection and gently untied the bandage. Judging from the position of the knot and poor handling of the dressing, Shin could deduce that the man had either had an incompetent companion who had no idea on how to dress a wound or that he self-bandaged himself. Seeing that there was no other person in the room, Shin guessed it was the later.

“Did you bandage yourself?”

“Yeah… How did you know?”

“Just a guess… What happened? How did you get injured?”

“It’s a long story… By the way, who are you?”

When the middle-aged man entered Yakkyoku Clinic, he did not expect to meet a young boy and never did he think that instead of the famous Lady Seph, that very same boy would be the one treating his wound.

“I’m Lady Seph’s disciple.”

“Lady Seph accepted a disciple?!”

Astonished by the revelation, the middle-aged man turned his head over his shoulder and looked at Shin from head to toe, as if evaluating the young boy.

“Yeah, I formally became her student three years ago… Alright, I’m going to clean your wound now. You will feel a stinging pain, can you bear with it?”

As they were conversing, Shin had already cleanly removed the bloodied bandage, revealing a gruesome injury that stretched from the man’s collarbone to his stomach. The cut was deep enough that Shin could see the insides of the man as fresh blood began to flow out. Evidently, he was injured recently.

“Hahaha! As a brave warrior of Aldrich’s Keep, how could I be afraid of a little bit of pain?! Just bring it on!”

“Alright then, bite down on this piece of cloth. This is to prevent you from accidentally biting your tongue.”

Handing over a brown cloth, Shin summoned out The Sovereign Koi and circulated his mana. For a wound of this nature, he needed the purest form of water to sanitise the injury. Thankfully, his first spiritual ability allowed him to create water in its most pristine form. Flapping its fins in jubilation, the cerulean Koi, which had not grown a single inch over the past three years, spun around twice as it formed a transparent water ball.

Pumping more and more mana into the water ball, Shin grew the sphere into the size of a watermelon before slowly moving it to the injured man’s chest.

“*!!!!!*.”

The man attempted to shout out loud, but the cloth in his mouth only allowed a low murmur to sound out. Struggling to endure the pain, the middle-aged man wiggled about in his chair. Dark red blood started to fill the water ball that was stuck to the man’s chest like a leech as Shin continued to cautiously cleansed the impurities in the man’s body.

The process lasted for about a minute before Shin was satisfied with the results. Pulling out the ball of water, the black-haired youth displaced the dirtied blood in the yard by sending it out the window.

“Okay, I’m done… Master!”

Lady Seph herself could clean and heal a grievous wound all in a matter of seconds. However, to train her disciple, she had always left the cleaning of injuries to Shin. After all, if Shin wanted to learn the ways of a healer, he had to get accustomed to the human anatomy first.

“You’re done? That’s faster than I thought…”

Coming out from the medicine room with a handful of herbs and ointments, Lady Seph gave the injured man a cursory glance before nodding in satisfaction. The first time Shin attempted to clean a wound, he had nearly fainted due to the massive amount of fresh blood coming out from the patient’s body. Slowly, as he treated more and more injured people, his cleaning had become frighteningly efficient.

Sending a holy ray of healing light, Lady Seph employed the most elementary spiritual ability that all healers must have in their arsenal, ‘Heal.’ Visually speaking, it was more striking than Shin’s flashy display of fluid control. The gigantic cut gradually shrunk like a clam closing its mouth, and when the light left the man’s body, all that remained was a grey scar.

‘As usual, her abilities are mystical…’

No matter how many times he saw his master display her healing abilities, Shin could not get over how magical Lady Seph was. A gravely injured man could become a vibrant, able-bodied man within seconds.

“All patched up! Here take this pill… It will help with your blood nourishment. So Lymark, what brings you here?”

Now that the man had been fully healed, Lady Seph could finally get down to business. Apparently, the man that Shin had just treated was no random vagrant who happened to chance upon the clinic.

“I give my thanks to the Lady. If not for your good graces, I might not have-”

“Cut the crap, Lymark… The only reason that you’re here is that old fogey west from here needs my help. Spit it out, what happened?”

“…”

Not amused by the pointless flattery, Lady Seph urged the man to state his business. Laughing out bitterly, Lymark scratched his brown hair and sat upright. Taking a deep breath, he placed his two hands on his lap and in one fluid motion, gave the elderly woman a deep bow.

“Please help us save Aldrich’s Keep!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s