Book 3: Aldrich’s Keep || Chapter 37: Teardrops In The Rain (1)

Thanks to Lady Seph’s rain of light, the warriors of the Keep rose up from the brink of destruction and continued their defence against the onslaught of beasts. Commander Alwig regained a large chunk of his mana and swung his flaming claymore while the Spirit Archers fired off elemental arrows with their replenished mana supply. The defence line had stood firm.

“Hohoho looks like it’s time for these old bones to finally get to work!”

Gently spinning his silver scythe around his body, General Anmac eyes burnt with a youthful vigour as he assumed a leaping position with his weapon ready to reap any life that stood before it.

“Trying to retain your position as the most respected person in the Keep? I think it’s too late. I’m sure right now your precious troops have forgotten that their general exists!”

Lady Seph playfully quipped while addressing the elderly man’s desire to get into the battle.

“HAHAHA! I don’t really care about that though… If I don’t get into battle, the fatalities will pile up, and the amount of administrative work I would have to do would be tremendous. If that’s the case, why don’t I just clear as many beasts as I can right now?”

“Hmph! Yeah, yeah… Try not to get yourself killed though, I would hate to use Divine Rain, and the troops lose their morale to fight.”

“As if I could lose my life with you around!”

“…”

Ignoring Lady Seph’s warning, the veteran general turned into a line of silver ash as he rushed dead first into the heap of vicious beasts. Arching his sharpened scythe, General Anmac slashed out horizontally leaving a path of silver light, that remained square in the air. The light that the scythe produced seemed small and simple, however upon further inspection, one could feel the endless sharpness and terror that it contained deep inside its splendour. Giving off a shine like the celestial moonlight of a clear night’s sky, the crack expanded at the speed of light, and soon, it seemed like the entire world had been severed.

All the Spirit Beasts in the path of the light were unable to escape leaving them with only one option, to be sliced. Some of the lucky ones were able to survive with their legs being cut off. However, most of the Spirit Beasts were sliced at their abdomens and heads, ending their charge instantaneously.

“THE GENERAL IS MOVING!!!”

Cheers of joy became prevalent in the army once the wizened bronzed man took his first shot at the horde. Commander Alwig even gave out a merry laugh as it was the first time in ages he had seen his superior using his spiritual abilities, and it was as flashy as always. After the Spirit Emperor’s attack, the wave of beasts had been halved, easing the pressure on the vanguard. Looking up at the sky, General Anmac and Lady Seph’s eyes met, and the elderly man smiled from ear to ear, putting on display his full set of browned teeth.

“Show-off…”

As if utterly oblivious to her earlier ostentatious show of might, Lady Seph pouted her lips and turned her head towards the walls of the crumbling Keep.

“I hope Shin is alright…”

Taking her mind off the battlefield for one minute, the seasoned healer wandered what her disciple was up to.

~~~

“Ariel, there’s no need to stay too close, we’re quite safe here!”

“*Yip!* *Yip!*.”

A black-haired young teen was trying his best to push the red-haired girl, who was latched onto him like a newborn kitten to its mother, away from his body while the snowy white gerbil on his shoulder cheered him on. After reporting to the medical bay, the Frie Clan members spread around on all fronts to ensure the safety of the children, at the same time, monitoring the battlefield situation from the safety of the Keep. Feeling the volatile changes in spiritual energy, the Shrine Maiden and other Spirit Lords dry gulped in trepidation. It seemed like the battle that was going on was not one that they could easily make a contribution in. Unaware of their seniors fear Shin and Ariel were playing out their own love comedy routine.

“There’s no such thing as safe in a battlefield! Don’t worry, it’s not like I’m hurting you or anything…”

“How is twisting my arm not hurting me?! Goddamnit Ariel, let go for once!”

Initially, Ariel had been locking her left arm around Shin’s right, and although it was embarrassing to endure the stares from the twins and the other healers in the medical bay, the black-haired youth was still able to bear it, with a reddened face of course. However, once a loud explosion was heard outside the walls, the young girl’s grip tightened, and over the course of the battle, every time something unexpected happens, the pain on Shin’s right arm only intensified. Soon, it got to the point where his elbow joint was facing the other direction, and his muscles tightened up due to the amount of pressure Ariel was supplying.

“Ariel, you’re going to break his arm if you continue. I know as lovers, you’re concerned about him but don’t you want a husband with a right arm?”

The one who came to Shin’s rescue wasn’t one of the twins or any member of the First Elder’s division, but the red-haired Leon who Shin had healed earlier today.

“L-L-Lover?! Who the hell is his lover?! And why would I marry him?!”

Exasperated at the teenager’s claim, Ariel cried out.

“Hmmm? There’s this rumour going about in the mountain that the First Elder was planning on marrying you with Shin, and to be honest, the fact that you would always visit him monthly at Chilyoja Waypoint only added truth to that claim.”

“That’s because I’m a courier! We’re not engaged or anything!”

Truth to be told, neither Shin nor Ariel had ever considered progressing their relationship from childhood friends, simply because they were too young to think of those matters. Shin was busy dealing with day to day matters of Yakkyoku Clinic while Ariel had to shoulder the expectations of the entire clan by training her hardest every day. Although they met each other on a monthly basis, all they did was exchange letters and gifts and touring around the town commercial district when they had the time.

Shin shot the scarlet-haired girl a queer look. At the same time, Ariel released her tight hold on Shin’s arm to prevent any further misunderstandings. Thanks to Leon’s teasing words, a sort of still awkward air enveloped the area. Ariel was by no means an ugly girl, and neither was she considered the most beautiful. In fact, if Shin was to be truthful, the teenaged girl with her ruddy freckles and scarlet hair was not even as gorgeous as other women he met in the Waypoint. However, whenever someone brought up the topic of marriage partners, the first image that came into his mind was always the Amazonian body of Ariel’s.

‘What am I thinking!’

Shaking his head to rid himself of this train of thought, Shin opened up his mouth:

“We’re not in that kind of relationship, Leon…”

“Hmmm? Well, that would come as a relief to many young boys on the mountain!”

“Huh? Why would that be?”

Taken aback by Leon’s sudden words, Shin asked.

“You didn’t know? Ariel right here is slated to be one of the most powerful members of the Frie Clan in the future! All large number of families would love to see their position in the mountain rise up once their boys walk down the aisle with one of the future leaders of the Frie Clan. Thus, she had been chased left and right ever since the Spirit Awakening Ceremony!”

“Really…”

For some reason, when Shin imagined Ariel in a bridal dress walking down the aisle with another strange man, the black-haired youth felt an unpleasant feeling rise up his chest.

“Yeah! There’s even this saying circulating around the clan, if you can beat Ariel, you gain the right to date her. Of course, to this day no one had actually done so.”

“Hmph! There’s no way my husband can be weaker than me!”

As if affirming that rumour, Ariel snorted while she cut in the conversation.

“And since you have already beaten Ariel, everyone assumed that only you had the right to date her!”

“Huh? Since when did I beat her?” “Huh? Since when did he beat me?!”

Both Shin and Ariel exclaimed at the same time.

“The First Elder told the Clan Master once that among every member of the younger generation, only Shin had defeated Ariel in a one-on-one spar. Am I wrong?”

“Oh, that… Hmph! He had only won against me before we awakened our Spirits, and that was three years ago! Oh! That reminds me! Shin, you still have not upheld your promise to fight me!”

A long time ago, back before the two underwent their Spirit Awakening Ceremony, Ariel knocked on Shin’s door in the middle of the night in her nightgown to propose a final spar to determine who reigned supreme. However, due to the string of events that followed, the two never got the opportunity to fulfil that promise. From Junius getting attacked to Shin moving to the Waypoint, there was utterly no time for them to fight it out once more.

“Ah… That…”

Glaring hatefully at Leon who had brought the matter up, Shin sighed internally. Evidently, he had remembered that promise as he had lived in fear of it all these years. With Ariel’s Lava Warhammer, Shin’s adorable cerulean Koi stood no chance of defeating her. Adding to the fact that he had predominantly entered the healing path, the young Amazonian girl would smash him to smithereens within seconds. Thus, he had always tried his best to ensure that Ariel would forget that promise. He would avoid going near training rooms with her and spend more time shopping in populated areas when she was around, all in hopes that her memory would fail her. However, all it took was a few sentences from Leon to overturn his three years of hard work.

“Oops, did I step on a landmine?”

Realising what had happened, Leon shrugged his shoulders and gradually retreated from the scene of carnage that he created.

“Damn it, Leon!”

“Alright then! Once all this is done, Shin! You’re fighting me right here!”

“Come on, Ariel! This is a war zone! Do you really think we can spar here?!”

“I don’t care! We’ve put this off for three years!”

Starting to bicker once more, the other children of the Frie Clan felt their tense hearts alleviate as they saw the warm interaction between the two. In this unfamiliar land, where death and destruction were just metres away from them, it was nice to see a heartwarming sight of a puppy love blossoming.

“MAKE WAY! MAKE WAY!”

Nonetheless, their argument was cut short by the shouting of medics rushing into the camp with wheelbarrows of injured patients. Lady Seph’s divine rain was overwhelmingly strong, and the majority of injuries could be instantly healed once the golden drops of heaven touched them. However, her ability was not omnipotent. Some injuries were just too severe for even the divine rain to heal and since Lady Seph couldn’t take her eyes off the battlefield, those wounded had to be returned to the medical bay.

One by one, around ten patients out of the ten thousand out in the field crossed the damaged walls and made their way into the white tents. Typically, at this stage of the battle, the wounded would have easily passed the triple digits, and the healers would be scrambling about, trying their best to treat as many patients as they could. However, thanks to Lady Seph’s appearance, their jobs were made much more manageable.

“Shin, aren’t you gonna help them?”

Ariel adorably tilted her head as she asked the black-haired youth. In her eyes, after witnessing his miraculous abilities, she believed that Shin was one of the best healers out there. Granted the number of times she had seen a healer in action could be counted on one hand.

“No, right now their workload is manageable I think… Perhaps later when there are more patients…”

Taking one look around the medical bay, Shin could tell that the healers were not understaffed in this situation. Additionally, the patients that were being wheelbarrowed in were in the worst conditions of their lives, and the newbie healer lacked the confidence to appropriately treat them to full recovery.

“Alright then…”

Sticking onto Shin like glue once again, Ariel found a comfortable position and waited for their whole ordeal to pass.

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