“Why must we all be dressed up to come here?! What’s wrong with the attire that I brought along?!” Adjusting his tight black formal robes, the Instructor showed how uncomfortable he was by nearly tearing the silk collar that was constricting his neck.
“Huh?! Do you honestly think those filthy robes are suitable for a visit to the Mayor’s Office? Even if you don’t care about your appearance, I don’t want to be seen with you in a torn up, dirt filled, old costume!” Riko exasperatedly exclaimed as they walked down the hallways of the luxurious building.
“Now, now. Stop fighting amongst yourselves. We’re meeting with Shin and Lady Seph very soon.” Like a parent separating two siblings from a fight, Marshall cut in the conversation.
“Right!!! Brother Lou, remember to convince Shin to come back to the Mushinkei! No matter how angry he is, Shin is still a valued member of our clan. He can’t be living off the Mayor for the rest of his life.”
“Convince him to return to the Mushinkei huh… I can try but honestly, once he hears the news that I bring…” Ending his sentence with an ominous prediction, the Instructor sighed deeply.
As they were conversing, the maids of the Mayor’s Office had led them to a lavish mahogany door that towered all the way to the ceilings of the building. Requiring the strength of two people to push open, the guest room’s door seemed to be overly extravagant, even for a person of Lady Seph’s stature.
“As usual, they overdid it with the design…”
“What can they do? Every single government office such as this one must include a few luxurious chambers just in case someone of importance stays over. I mean, if the Emperor personally visits, there is no way that he would stay in a pigsty right?” Marshall promptly replied to the Instructor’s casual observation.
“Master Shin, Madame Seraphim. Your guests have arrived.” Announcing the arrival of the Frie Clan members, a young woman dressed in black and white maid garbs knocked on the humongous door.
“*Thump!* *Thump!* *Thump!*.” Once the maid said out those words, loud footsteps could be heard approaching from the other side of the door. A split second later, the doors slammed wide open, revealing the identity of the owner of the room. Lush jet black hair that made any fair maiden jealous and clear azure eyes that resembled the beautiful summer sky, a thirteen-year-old youth stood before the three individuals.
“Shin…” The Instructor’s eyes glistened in happiness as he recognised the familiar face of his student. Although he had visited Chilyoja Waypoint often during the three years that Shin and Junius were living in exile, the muscular man still got sentimental every time he sees one of his most treasured student’s growth.
“Instructor! Do you have any news of Junius?!” Not interested in exchanging any pleasantries, Shin skipped straight to the main topic.
“Junius… I do have some news. Let us talk inside…” Darting his eyes about the corridor filled with outside ears, the hulk of a man suggested that they moved the talk into the room. After all, it was not convenient for people not from the Frie Clan to hear about clan matters.
“Ah, yes. Please come in!” Shin, on the other hand, could care less about the time and place. He merely wanted to know about the whereabouts of Junius and whether he was safe.
“Lady Seph, nice to see you again.” Once inside, the first thing that the Instructor noticed was an elderly blonde woman that was leisurely sitting on a cushioned seat. Flipping through a thick book, she seemed to be oblivious of the new entrants as she was thoroughly engrossed in her studies.
“Instructor! Quick! Tell me where is Junius! Where did he go?!”
“Hah… Shin… Before I begin, you need to calm yourself…”
“Huh? Why?!” Not liking where the conversation was heading, Shin deeply frowned.
“We have not found Junius. But we do have some clues on where he might have gone.”
“If you know something just say it! Any clues will be helpful for us to finding Junius!” Pissed off at how the Instructor was beating about the bush, the frantic teen urged him to spill the beans.
“Shin… We found out where he was last seen.”
“Where?! If you know where he went at least, we could start to search there!”
“No, I’ve been there personally and combed the area for two weeks straight. Other than a few indications of a fight, there were no other clues about where Junius currently is. No bodies. No personal belongings. There was next to nothing that indicated that Junius had been even in that place.” Shaking his head, the Instructor clearly explained why he was in such a fatigued state. Anyone would be tired after a fortnight of long searching.
“A fight?! Are you saying that…”
“Yes, there are two possibilities. First, Junius was at that location and somehow managed to get into a fight with someone, causing him to be severely wounded in the process. Thus, the reason why he had not returned is that he was seeking medical treatment somewhere far away. However, that is highly unlikely as I didn’t find any traces of blood.”
“What about the next possibility?”
“The next possibility is also just my hypothesis… The next possibility is that he might have been kidnapped by an organisation with a nefarious cause.”
“KIDNAPPED?!?!?!” Hollering out, Shin slammed his palms onto the silken sheets that he was sitting on as he stood up abruptly.
“As I said, it’s just my theory. Either way, I can confirm that Junius is definitely alive.”
“He’s alive? Okay, that’s a start…” Muttering to himself, Shin felt a surge of relief filled his body. For the past few days, the worst thing that kept him up at night was the fact that Junius might have passed on into the afterlife without Shin even having the chance to say goodbye. However, now that he knows that the viridian-haired teenager was most likely alive and kicking, Shin felt a silver lining pop out in these dark hours.
“Wait, you said that you visited the place that he was last seen. Where was he last seen? Perhaps if we form a search party to go there, we might find more clues!” Desperate to find any means possible to save Junius, Shin asked the Instructor.
“T-That…” At the young boy’s innocent comment, the beefy middle-aged man started to find it hard to form words.
“Well? Instructor, I know you of all people want to know more about Junius disappearance! That’s why you went to find him even when the Clan abandoned him. Come on!!! Please just tell me!” Sensing the hesitation in the Instructor’s voice, Shin started to beg.
“Hah… Fine… He was heading towards… No, he went to Awter Lake…”
The moment the Instructor said those words, it was as if the Ice Age had descended upon the vast chambers. The faces of the Frie Clan members that had come with him all froze up as they gave the beefy man a strange stare. Even Lady Seph, who could hardly care about the Frie Clan matters, slammed her book shut and gaped as if the Instructor dropped a bomb upon her lap.
“Awter Lake? Where’s that? And why did Junius go there?” The only one who was unaffected by the revelation was the very person that asked the question. Stoking his smooth chin, the young boy tried to make sense of why his elder brother would go to such an odd location.
“We don’t know… Shin, there’s no need to send a search party. I personally searched every nook and cranny of the lake, and it was all to no avail.”
“So what? Are you telling me to give up on finding Junius?!”
“Exactly! Shin, there’s nothing that you can do! Even if the First Elder used his Spirit, I’m sure there was no way that he could find Junius. Leave the rest to the adults!”
“LEAVE THE REST TO THE ADULTS?! Haven’t you already given up on finding Junius?! Of all people, I thought you would understand my feelings the most, Instructor… It seems that I was wrong.”
“Instructor!!! Junius might have been kidnapped, and you’re telling me to stay still?! You know there’s no way that I can do that! Tskkk… I should have known… Excuse me, I need some air.” Disappointed at the news that the Instructor had brought, Shin decided that it was in his best interest to leave the toxic room for the time being. Rushing out of the luxurious chambers, the young man ran straight to the grassy courtyard so that he could ease his tense mind.
“God damn it…” Cursing out softly, the Instructor clenched his fists indignantly. It was not like he didn’t want to save Junius, it was just he honestly didn’t know what happened to his precious disciple.
“Hey, boy… You said that Junius went to Awter Lake… Are you speaking the truth?” Now that Shin was out of the room, Lady Seph finally found the opportunity to speak.
“Why did he go there in the first place? Don’t tell me he found out about the past?”
“That is our fear. The fear of both the First Elder and everyone else in the division. In fact, there is the third possibility that I had hidden from Shin… The possibility that Junius had made contact with the survivors of the Awter Clan and betrayed the Frie Clan…” As he said out those words, a tinge of fear could be heard in the bulky man’s shivering voice. It was a prospect that he didn’t dare to entertain.
“That’s why we can’t publicise this matter. If the Second Elder finds out, he will have a legitimate reason to throw out the orphan division.” Adamant to stick to the previous Clan Master’s wishes, the First Elder refused to give his counterpart any free ammunition that could drive the orphans out of Frie Mountain.
“You know… You can’t hide the matter of the Awter Clan forever… And if you guys are not going to tell him, I will.”
“Lady Seph?!” Stunned by the elderly blonde woman’s casual remarks, the three members of the Frie Clan sat upright in terror. It was a dark history that the Frie Clan was trying so desperately to erase.
“I must consider the best interest of my sole disciple over the Frie Clan after all. Either way, I’ll be sending Shin to the Capital within two years so that he can attend the Imperial Military Academy. Tell Edward that these two years will be his deadline. If he doesn’t tell him during that time-frame, the minute he leaves Chilyoja Waypoint for school, I’ll tell Shin everything.”
“Two years huh…” Falling deep into thought, the Instructor sighed mentally. If possible, he would wish to keep Shin in the dark forever, but even he knew that that would be a stretch. Shin deserved to know the truth.
“I’ll relay that to the Elder…”
Himmel Empire. ?????
Darkness fell upon the bustling Empire as the citizens found refuge in their warm abodes. As if the fall of Aldrich’s Keep had become just an afterthought, the towns of the Empire continued on their daily routines as if nothing had happened. After all, the impregnable fort had lost its title over a month ago, and there had been minimal accounts of beast attacks since.
In a gloomy crevice of a well-hidden location, there lay a simple wooden cottage that seemed to be out of place. A well-maintained chimney with black soot flowing out indicated that there was human life residing within its four walls. Chopped logs and ashes of fireplaces were prevalent in the yard surrounding the humble cabin. Other than the fact that it was hard to reach, the house seemed to be rather hospitable to whoever was living there.
From a distance, two hooded figures jumped down the numerous bends that led down the crevice and to the fully-sheltered hut. There were times where they had to stop and use their mana to disenchant some of the protective charms that were put into place. Otherwise, it was a smooth journey for the two individuals.
Reaching the cottage within minutes, the visitors removed their hoods to reveal a man and woman pair. The man had short spiky blue hair that highlighted his broad forehead. With a sharp nose that resembled an eagle’s beak, the man seemed to be rather perceptive to his surroundings.
The woman, on the other hand, had long flowing sky blue hair and a tall build. Her glistening eyes that sparkled in the moonlight gave her a mysterious allure that would attract any man, and her hourglass figure was only made more prominent as she sashayed down towards the cottage.
Opening the unlocked door, the two individuals made their way into the master bedroom with heavy steps. Typically, they would be happy everytime they visited the cottage. Yet, on their faces, only doom and gloom remained. Inside the master bedroom, there was a young viridian-haired teen that was sleeping peacefully on top of the woollen sheets, unperturbed by the happenings of the outside world.
“…” Encroaching ever closer to the youth, the duo gently raised their hands.
“*SLLLTTTTT!!!*.” However, before they could even touch the sleeping teen, an azure light illuminated the darkroom as a hiltless blade pointed straight at the intruders.
Junius, who had been trapped in the cottage that his abductors had kept him in, raised his Azure Water Blade’s mana consumption as he threatened to slice the duo’s head off their shoulders.
“Let me out…” Tired from the constant pain and suffering that he had been put through over these past few weeks, the young teen tried his best to find a way back to the regular world where his fellow orphans and loved ones were waiting.
“Junius… You know we can’t do that… Now that you know everything, can’t you understand our burdens?” The mysterious blue haired woman exclaimed.
“I can’t stay here forever… I need to go back to Shin and Lily… They must be worried sick about my situation.”
“No! It’s way too dangerous right now… Especially after…” Screaming out, the woman stopped Junius’ idea dead on its tracks.
“Especially after what?”
“I… I… *Hiccc!*.” Unable to stop her tears from falling, the woman covered her charming face as she turned away from the youth. Running to a corner, the woman directly faced the wall to prevent Junius from seeing her crying face.
“What? What happened?!” Stunned by the sudden change in events, Junius concernedly asked.
“Junius… You can’t go back to the Waypoint… It’s too dangerous. The Captain… He led a team to take the young master. He… The Captain, your father… Perished… I’m so sorry…”