Book 3: Aldrich’s Keep || Chapter 33: Something’s Not Right! (3)

After the trashing that Shin and the others gave to the beast horde, the entire forest floor of where they stood had turned into a decimated field of ash and lava. Naturally, due to all the contrasting elements that had been utilised in that fight, the spiritual energies in the area were in disarray.

“Is anyone injured?”

Being the person in charge of the Frie Clan members when they are in Aldrich’s Keep, the Shrine Maiden glanced around at Shin and the others, mainly focusing her eyes on the younger generation. Although the beast horde was cleanly cleared out, there was no getting by light wounds that might have been inflicted on them.

“We’re mostly fine!”

Ariel, who had a mental understanding that she was the leader of her cell, tapped down the bodies of Shin and the twins before reporting back. For the twins, since they had been assisting from the backlines, they mostly felt fatigued from using ice arrows so many times. In fact, other than their shirts getting a little drenched with sweat, there were no visible oddities with their bodies.

On the other hand, Shin and Ariel were acting as the vanguard of the group. Logically speaking, they were subjected to the most dangerous attacks and therefore, had the highest chance of getting gravely injured. Thankfully, due to Ariel’s viciousness and Shin’s keen eye, they had avoided that for the most part. For instance, if not for Shin using his abilities to separate Ariel and the Earthen Bear earlier on, she might have become the black-haired boy’s next patient.

Taking this opportunity to cup a feel, the scarlet-haired girl approached her childhood friend with a flushed face and searched every nook and cranny of his body for injuries. Shin, although unwilling at first, for some reason allowed her to do just that after she gave the excuse that it was inevitable. With reddened faces, the pair interacted awkwardly much to the annoyance of the surrounding onlookers. Ines hatefully spatted out while worrying that she might become an old spinster while Ella clucked her tongue, unsure of what Ariel saw in the lazy youth that she grew up with. Emma and the Shrine Maiden, just gave a warm smile as they saw how the duo’s relationship was progressing ever so smoothly.

“*Ahem!*. Ariel, if he’s alright, you can take your hands off now.”

Putting her fist on her mouth, the Shrine Maiden gave out a dry cough while hinting to Ariel that it was not the time or the place to continue with their flirting. Particularly when there was a certain brunette woman who was honestly worried about her future married life.

“R-Right! T-There, Shin’s fine! Everyone, Shin’s fine!”

Realising that she had gone overboard, the usually hot-blooded girl moved her hands off of Shin’s slender chest while shouting out an excuse. Like an embarrassed hamster, the young girl puffed her cheeks out while pouting her lips, hoping that people would buy her justification. However, no one who heard the girl really believed that she was searching for wounds.

“I think brother Leon is injured!”

Not knowing how to read the mood, Linus shouted out to the Shrine Maiden, breaking away all attention from the blushing young girl who was stiffly moving her body. Hearing that there was an injury, Shin immediately turned his head and directed his eyes to the Second Elder’s group. When fighting off the beast horde, as the oldest and the one with the highest cultivation level, Leon had been assisting Linus and the other Rank 9 Spirit Practitioners in his cell. During a clash with a Tier 1 Spirit Beast that Linus was fighting, Leon accidentally strained his muscles causing the beast to land a clean hit on his leg and abdomen. Fortunately, his body was sturdy enough to withstand the attacks, but a bruise was inevitable.

Moving away from the fiery little girl who had been ‘inspecting’ him earlier on, Shin briskly walked to the young adult who was sitting on the floor with a head full of sweat.

“What happened?”

“It’s nothing… A wound like this would go away after a few hours of rest. Don’t worry about it.”

A bitter smile crept up the bright-red haired teen’s face. Rubbing the bruise on his left leg, he tried to brush off the pain as something that would heal by itself. Of course, the injury that he sustained was nothing severe, but if left untreated, it would still cause a great deal of pain and perhaps leave a long-time physiological scar.

“Shin, please help him… He got injured because of me…”

Linus, on the other hand, didn’t buy the excuse. He clearly saw the Spirit Beast connect its paws against Leon’s body and it wasn’t a soft hit either. Although Linus was a rather stoic lad and no one could really tell what he was feeling at any given moment, as Shin peered into his trembling eyes, the black-haired youth could sense genuine fear and concern. Linus knew of Leon’s past bullying of the orphans and was truly afraid that Shin would take that into account and deny to heal the injured youth.

‘Hah… I guess I’m too soft…’

To be entirely honest, Shin had some really unpleasant memories pertaining to Leon’s actions in the past. If someone told him back then that in the future, he would volunteer to heal the boy that had been terrorising the orphan’s abode, Shin would have said to him that he was crazy. However, the relationship between Linus and Leon somewhat reminded him of his unhealthy yet amusing relationship with Junius. Although they were not related by blood, the two had formed a bond that was truly thicker than mere familial relations.

“Don’t worry Linus, I will treat him to the best of my ability. Leon, please show me your wounds so that I can tend to them, please.”

Without waiting for approval, Shin uncorked the pure white ceramic gourd labelled ‘three’ and pulled out a handful of healing water. For small injuries such as the one Leon had sustained, treating them was as simple as breathing air for Shin. It would cost a little of his mana, but with the replenishment pills that Escred had given him yesterday, the newbie healer could recover the lost spiritual energy in a jiffy.

“Alright then…”

Songath and Slystan, the two Spirit Lord brothers, sent by the Second Elder, wanted to stop the interaction between Linus and Shin but once the Shrine Maiden’s menacing eyes reached them, they were forced to look the other way. No matter how much they felt that Leon needed treatment, they didn’t want to owe any favours to members of the First Elder’s division, especially Shin, the bastard that they hated the most. Nonetheless, in Aldrich’s Keep, the Shrine Maiden’s words were law. Thus, they could only grit their teeth and report the incident word for word to their master.

Lifting up his shirt and rolling up his pants, Leon exposed the two wounds caused by the Spirit Beast that attacked Linus. As expected, since it was a blunt hit, there were no cuts or open wounds. However, a blackened bruise that was the size of a large pear was present at both his damaged areas. Heaving a sigh of relief, Shin relaxed after finding out that he did not need to spend too much mana on an injury of this scale and expertly moved his healing water onto Leon’s abdomen to treat the first wound.

The effects of heal practically took place in an instant and as if by magic, the swelling in his muscular stomach started to dissipate. Turning back into the healthy pinkish skin that he once had, Leon’s bruise had all but disappeared, leaving a slight red tinge behind.

“I-It heals that fast?!”

Leon had heard of Shin’s mystical abilities before but had no way of knowing if it were fact or bloated up rumours. Yet, now that he was receiving the treatment firsthand, he could barely believe his eyes. The pain that had been plaguing him for so long had vanished instantly and visually speaking, it was more shocking. The bruise had disappeared as if it wasn’t there in the first place.

“Please bear with me for another minute. Let me tend to the injury on your leg.”

Oblivious to his patient’s feelings, Shin concentrated on the task at hand and directed his healing water to the hairy left leg of Leon’s. Although to the untrained eye, the two bruises were precisely alike, Shin could instantly tell that the swelling on Leon’s abdomen was more severe. Therefore, only after ensuring that the bruise was fully recovered did he begin on the injury on Leon’s leg.

‘If only the two High Elders could see this… Why must there be continued bloodshed?’

The Shrine Maiden smirked joyfully as she saw how careful Shin was being when treating someone from the opposite faction. The two divisions of the clan had been butting heads since the orphan programme had been introduced by the previous Clan Master. Looking at the two, Shin had a more significant reason to hate Leon, and yet, he had put down his grudge to treat the teen that had treated him and his friends so poorly over the years. Judging from the expressions of the Linus and Leon, there was no trace of animosity that the older generation had for the orphans either. If the younger generation could get along this well, why couldn’t those elderly morons do the same?

Nonetheless, it was all her wishful thinking. Finishing the final touches on Leon’s injuries, Shin wiped off the beads of perspiration that formed on his forehead and tapped the red-haired teen’s legs.

“All fixed up.”

“Thanks…”

Rising up from his crouching position, Shin offered a hand so that Leon could stand.

“Shin… Thank you…”

Linus, grateful that the black-haired youth had heeded his plea, gave the boy a quick bow, much to the displeasure of Songath and Slystan. They didn’t like the idea that the grandson of their leader had extended such a gesture to their enemy.

“No problem. If you’re injured, you can rely on me!”

“Thank you…”

“Hey if you guys are done hunting, get ready in ten seconds! We need to hurry back to the Keep!”

At that moment, a familiar adenoidal voice echoed through the serene woods, breaking the sombre atmosphere that Shin and Linus were sharing.

“Master?”

Instantly recognising the voice that he had been listening to for the past three years, Shin turned his head to find the direction in which Lady Seph had disappeared to. It had been a short while since she and Commander Alwig had left them and it was about time for them to return. From the depths of the dense forest, two brooding figures appeared from a distance. One of them was the blonde knight donned in a full silver plate armour that had been leading them since the early hours of daybreak. The other one was a breathtaking beauty, one of the likes none of them had ever seen. Ines, Marric, Songath, Slystan and even the Shrine Maiden didn’t know what to think of it. Commander Alwig had disappeared into the forest in pursuit of an elderly woman and had returned with a young beauty instead.

Shin, on the other hand, felt all his senses grow cold as he recognised the features of the young woman. Her clothes, her eyes, her hair. Everything about that woman could only indicate one thing. However, the black-haired youth didn’t want to believe it.

“M-m-m-master?!”

“Of course it’s me you dumbass!”

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