On the topmost level of the newly refurbished Yakkyoku Clinic, there was a specific room that almost nobody went to. There weren’t any guards nor were there any defensive mechanisms that barred entry into the room, it was just that no one even dared to approach. Better known by the staff of Yakkyoku Clinic as the forbidden zone, even the manager dared not tread near the chambers. Therefore, there was a pin-drop silence that came enveloped the entire corridor leading to that room.
“Master, you called?” Knocking on the heavy door twice, Shin called out to the only person who had unlimited access to the room.
Lady Seph’s peculiar behaviour was well-known, not only by the residents of the town but by the entire Empire. Never caving in for aristocrats or anyone in power, the elderly woman did as she pleased and cared nought for the consequences of her actions. Thus, even though multiple talented individuals were working at the clinic, very few of them got a chance to meet the esteemed healer face to face. Only Shin, her very own direct disciple, could meet Lady Seph whenever he pleased.
“Yeah, come in.” Turning the bronze doorknob, Shin was greeted with the familiar pungent smell of medicinal herbs. Inside the office that Lady Seph frequently stayed overnight in, there were towers of books and piles of flora. Compared to a regular healer’s office, the chambers seemed to resemble more of a researcher’s lab. Amongst the mess, there was an elderly blonde woman, who appeared to be untouched by father time himself, reclining on her rocking chair while reading a thick book.
“Master. What do you need?”
“Hmmm? Can’t I call in my precious disciple just because I missed him? Why must you always assume that I need you to do something for me?”
“Huh? No, I mean… Recently, every time you ask for me is because you want me to do something for you…” Confused by Lady Seph’s lack of purpose, Shin raised his eyebrows.
Now that Shin had begun a career as a healer, Lady Seph had restricted herself to always treating him as a handyman that does her bidding for her. Furthermore, with her freshly delivered slav… attendants, Shin’s role as her tea-brewer had taken a back seat.
“Haha, it sure seems that way… Don’t you miss the time where it was just you and me in that cramped house? Now everything has changed so drastically. The run-down lavatory that the both of us shared had turned into a storing shed that houses some of the Empires’ best medicines. The study room of yours that could barely fit a person is now a humongous waiting room for patients.” Reminiscing about the good times that they had as a Master-Disciple pair, Lady Seph let out a despondent sigh.
“Master, is something wrong?” Sensing the strange mood that Lady Seph was in, Shin concernedly asked.
“Hah… Brew some tea will you?” Pointing to the empty tea set that lay in one corner, Lady Seph closed her eyes and relaxed her entire body.
“Uh, okay?” Walking over in slow and peaceful steps, Shin opened up the cabinet where the premium tea leaves were stored. Even though he had not brewed tea in a long time, Shin’s body precisely remembered the steps that had been drilled into him during the brutal time where he was first apprenticed to Lady Seph. The fragrant aroma of Oolong tea filled the chambers, causing a joyful smile to creep up the elderly woman’s face. After five minutes, when the drink was perfect for serving, Shin carried a tray with two ceramic teacups and placed them onto the desk of his Master.
“Perfect… Hey, how is it that your tea is so much better than those brewed by those mongrels? I applied the same training that I did to you, and yet, they can’t even reach half of this standard!!!” Exclaiming out in indignation, Lady Seph criticised her newly hired attendant’s tea brewing capabilities.
“Hahaha…” Nervously laughing, Shin felt a cold shiver run down his spine as he recalled the gruelling hours he spent trying to cater to his Master’s taste buds. Silently praying for the safety of his juniors, Shin drained the cup of Oolong tea with one gulp. Initially, the teenager couldn’t stand the bitter taste of the tea when he first tried it. However, over time, it grew on him, and like his Master, it had turned into his favourite beverage.
“Haish… That’s why I’m going to miss this…” Shaking her head, Lady Seph produced a sealed yellow envelope that was stamped with some of the most extravagant ink that Shin had ever seen. A pulsating green aura was being emitted out, causing Shin to squint his eyes in suspicion.
“What is that?!”
“Worry not… It’s just a mana encased letter. It bears no ill will, especially since you’re the recipient.”
“Me?” Pointing to himself, Shin opened his eyes wide in confusion. There were only a handful of people who would write to him, and they were mostly Ariel or the orphans. None of them had ever sent an envelope this queer before.
“Yeah, take a look.” Throwing the letter over, Lady Seph turned her back to Shin and stared out of the window.
Tilting his head, Shin frowned at his Master’s weird behaviour. Summoning out a bit of his mana, Shin gently tapped the insignia that sealed the message. Melting as if it were butter, the lavish mark dissipated, allowing the teenager to read the contents of the letter.
“Congratulations, your application to the Imperius Academy has been successful… Please report to the academy grounds on the following date…” Reading out loud the first sentences of the letter, Shin felt his blood run cold. The day of reckoning had arrived.
Lady Seph had informed him of her decision to enter the famed institution right after the second attack of the Black Masks. Her logic was that Shin would be better off being protected by the state in a more secure location such as the Capital. Furthermore, she wanted Shin to experience life outside of the healing path so that he had more life experiences. At least, that was what was explained to Shin.
At first, Shin was reluctant to leave Chilyoja Waypoint while he was in the midst of searching for Junius. Additionally, he would be leaving behind a heap of some of his most treasured people in the world back on Frie Mountain. The worries that Shin had did not go unnoticed by Lady Seph. Hoping to resolve some of his grievances, the elderly blonde woman stormed into Frie Mountain, bringing Shin along, hoping that some sort of compromise could be met.
Naturally, the higher-ups weren’t thrilled that Lady Seph was sending someone from their orphan division far away, to a place where their hands couldn’t reach him. Especially the Second Elder. All he wished for was Shin to die tragically in his hands, but since there was a behemoth that was Lady Seph continually guarding him, the Second Elder could only bitterly swallow his hatred.
The negotiations lasted for ten whole days. In that time, Shin had returned to stay in the orphan’s lodging, bonding with his entire family that lived there. Elyse, who had been particularly attached to Shin since she was young, was thrilled that the youth had returned home, albeit for a short while. Emma even teared up when she finally got a chance to live with Shin once more. As they all did their best to catch up on lost time, the emotional hole left behind by Junius’ disappearance grew ever more prominent, reaffirming Shin’s decision to continue finding the missing youth.
Adamant in his belief, Shin convinced the First Elder and some of the higher-ups to spend some resources to search for Junius during his absence. In a turn of events that no one expected, the Clan Master had even agreed to send two of the orphans, Emma and Ella to the Imperius Academy so that Shin wouldn’t be alone during his extended stay. In the four and a half years since awakening their Spirits, the two of them had promoted into the Spirit Apostle realm and were even at Rank 13! Their talent was equal to Linus, who was the Second Elder’s very own grandson!
Naturally, after hearing that Shin would be accompanied by the twins, Ariel too wished to enrol in the prestigious academy. Unfortunately, she was turned down in the very same breath that she used to ask for it. Widely regarded by many to be the successor of the Frie Clan, there was no way Ariel could join the military.
Speaking of Ariel, as expected of someone who triggered a natural phenomenon when awakening her Spirit, she had reached Rank 16 in a mere four and a half years, stunning every single member of the Frie Clan. If Ariel continued growing at the same exponential rate, she could very well become a Rank 20 Spirit Core before her sixteenth birthday, something that was unprecedented in the Frie Clan’s history. Unfortunately, she was not the youngest member to reach Rank 16 amongst those from her generation.
Shin, who had spent his days healing patients with his ability and finding Junius, had somehow managed to be the one with the highest cultivation level. Reaching the Rank 16 cultivation level two months before Ariel, Shin was currently at the peak of his level, ready to break through at any moment. When the dean of the Imperius Academy first heard of Shin, he couldn’t believe his ears. To think that a monster had chosen to enrol in their school! Also, he was already a healer and was apprenticed to the notorious Lady Seph!
As anticipated, he accepted the youth in a heartbeat. After all, their base requirement was that the student is a Spirit Apostle by the age of fifteen, which would eliminate over ninety per cent of all applicants. The dean had even offered a scholarship to get into the good graces of Lady Seph. Unfortunately, the famed healer hated to be indebted to the Empire, in whatever shape or form. Therefore, she paid for Shin’s six years of tuition in full.
After leaving Frie Mountain with some of his worries resolved, Lady Seph told Shin that he only had two years left to search for Junius before he would be sent to the academy, giving Shin a sense of urgency to continue to search for his precious family member.
“Master! It has only been a year and a half! Why is the letter here so early?!” Assuming that he had to leave immediately, Shin hollered out. There were still many things that he wished to accomplish in his limited time here at Chilyoja Waypoint.
“Read the date, you silly… You have to report to the Capital six months from now! They just sent you the letter early so that you can prepare.” With a wry smile, Lady Seph corrected Shin’s misunderstanding.
“Oh, I see… Master, once I’m gone, will you send me updates about Junius’ search?” No matter where he was, there was no way that Shin would forget about Junius.
“Of course… Shin, do you remember our promise?”
“I wouldn’t dare forget it…”
“Good… Alright then, come! Refill my cup!” Emptying the remaining Oolong tea in the teacup, Lady Seph asked for more of the liquid gold.
“Hah…” Sighing at Lady Seph’s sudden childish change, Shin flashed a smile. In the end, the master and disciple pair enjoyed each other’s company as their reminisced on the good old days.