Himmel Empire. Frie Mountain. The Clan Master Chambers.
As time flowed on like a neverending river stream, the dormant volcano that was Frie Mountain remained stagnant. There had been no change in its appearance, the concentration of fire elements or even a change in the number of trees that filled the area. Remaining verdant as ever, the sole hub where all the Frie Clan members congregated was filled with life. Since the fall of Aldrich’s Keep, over ninety per cent of all Frie Clan operatives had been called back onto the mountain, so that they could protect their home in the event of a beast horde attack.
Thankfully, over the past year and a half, there had been no signs of untamed Spirit Beasts that came from the Uncharted Wilderness. Nonetheless, the higher-ups decided that it would be better safe than sorry and further increased their defences, causing the already turtled up clan to go further into seclusion. That meant that without good reason, the members of the clan were prohibited from leaving the mountain.
“Clan Master, you need to see me?” In the quiet abode where no regular clan member could casually walk into, an elderly man leisurely stroked his beard while calling out the only other person in the room.
“Senior Edward… You’re here…” Turning her head over, the Clan Master greeted the First Elder that she had called over.
“What’s wrong? It’s unlike you to call me here at this late hour…” Looking at the crescent moon that hung high up in the pitch black sky, the First Elder wondered about the Clan Master’s intention.
“Take a look…” Throwing over some bamboo slips that had engravings on it, the woman that stood at the height of the clan gave out a helpless sigh. Using her right hand, she attempted to quell a throbbing headache that she was currently suffering from, but it was to no avail.
Although he was confused at first, the First Elder still managed to read out the written engravings on the bamboo slip. “T-This… I see… Ash has finally made his move huh… I was wondering why it took him this long…”
“Is that of importance right now?! At the rate that Senior Ash is going, the Elder committee will be able to usurp me within the year!!!” Peeved off that the First Elder was focusing on the wrong issue, the Clan Master cried out.
On the bamboo slip, was a covert message sent by one of the Clan Master’s, Enfen Frie’s, personal spy sent to monitor the movements of the Second Elder. Ever since the incident that nearly destroyed the clan four and a half years ago, the divide between the Second Elder’s division and the rest of the clan had only started to grow. Figuring out that the current Clan Master’s allegiance lay with his bitter rival, the Second Elder had tried his best to increase his influence on the mountain, hoping to dethrone the monarch and make that seat available for himself.
And it had been working out. Many higher-ups that once sided with the First Elder and the Clan Master had went turncoat to join the crusade that the Second Elder was starting. Many felt that the Frie Clan should reappear in the world as the top clan that it was and dominate the western region once more. Adding to the fact that there was a shift to a more militaristic power mindset, neutral members of the Frie Clan hoped that their leader was much more of a fighter than a diplomat.
Enfen Frie was undoubtedly the best leader that the Frie Clan could have when it came to rebuilding the clan from the devastating battle that crippled it. Her soft yet firm approach when tackling problems such as trade had served the clan well. Not to mention her talent was among the best in the Clan’s history and there was a good chance that she could become the first ever Spirit Venerate that the clan had. However, when it came to militaristic matters, her experience was in no way comparable to that of the Second Elder.
Should the Frie Clan reappear in the world, they need a powerful and well-known leader. Not only was the Second Elder’s battle-tactics infamous to those who knew of the Frie Clan’s past exploits, but he was also the champion of a thousand wars. If he were to lead the Frie Clan, there was no doubt in the higher-ups’ minds that he would bring the clan back to their peak.
“Well, the solution is simple, isn’t it? All you need to do is become a Spirit Venerate before he garners more power!”
“Ha, ha, ha… What a hilarious joke, Senior Edward! Why don’t you go and do it yourself?! Since it’s thaaaaat simple for you!” Rolling her eyes, the Clan Master denounced the First Elder’s teasing. At the higher levels, there was no question that it was exponentially more difficult to promote. Otherwise, why would so many people be unable to reach the Spirit Venerate realm, even in the long and illustrious history of the Frie Clan?
“I’m just joking around… But you’re right… This is a real problem…” Stroking his long and white beard, the First Elder visibly frowned. His worst fears were starting to be realised.
Almost fifteen years had passed since that war that utterly destroyed the Frie Clan and forced it to go into hiding. The scars of battle had gradually started to be forgotten, and the strength of the weakened clan had recovered somewhat. Although it was nowhere near its peak, the Frie Clan still could rise up like a phoenix from the ashes. Unfortunately, to do just that, the higher-ups were beginning to feel that a change in the top person had to be made, and to his horror, their pick could only end disastrously for the clan.
“They can’t just take over your seat, Enfen… They must either force you to retire or find a problem with your ruling. Since you’re young, the first method is out. For the second method, you had led the Frie Clan well since you were first inducted. There’s no way that they could just oust you!”
“I understand that, but if it’s the will of the majority, they will definitely find a way to force me to abdicate my position… My only fear is that the Senior Ash would threaten civil war if I do not surrender the Clan Master insignia…” As a pacifist, Enfen Frie hated the fact that needless bloodshed had to be spent. Therefore, she just might cave in if the Second Elder insisted on starting an inside war.
“No. I have known Ash way longer than you. He will never spill the blood of the Frie Clan to get what he wants. That’s against his moral code. Wait…” As he said those words, the First Elder suddenly gained a thought. If he won’t spill insider blood, that doesn’t mean that he won’t…
“Enfen, no Clan Master. We must evacuate the orphans.” The First Elder’s eyes dilated as his voice quivered. He didn’t dare to imagine it but perhaps…
“You think that he would kill the remaining orphans in cold blood?!” Seeing the point of view that the First Elder had taken, the Clan Master gasped in horror.
“Perhaps… You had received the acceptance letters for Ella and Emma right?”
“Naturally!!! I have it in my office!”
“Good, we must send all the orphans to the Capital, out of reach from Ash’s hands. That way, he won’t be able to use them as leverage!” Aiming to send the orphans to safety, far away from the mountain, the First Elder exclaimed.
“We don’t own any buildings in the Capital though… Where can we let them stay?” The Clan Master asked a valid question. The prices of houses in the central hub of the Empire was exorbitant, to say the least. There was no way the Frie Clan, which was in its recovery phase, could fork out that hefty sum in rent every year.
“We find a place for them to rent. Take money out from my vault if need be. For the next six years, we must assure their safety!!!” Determined to keep the orphans safe from the creeping hands of the Second Elder, the First Elder cried out.
“Senior Edward… You… Hah, you really care for them huh?” The Clan Master was moved by the First Elder’s dedication towards the children who didn’t bear the same blood as he did.
“No, it’s not that… Enfen, you probably saw it too. The day when the Awter Clan was decimated to their knees…”
“On that day, the members of our clan weren’t Spirit Users. They weren’t even humans. They were just savage beasts that hoped for one thing. Destruction. In their drunken stupor, they didn’t even stop to question whether what they did was moral or not. They probably weren’t even thinking about their humanity. All that they had become was mindless animals that feasted on the dead bodies of our enemies.”
“…” The Clan Master unconsciously held her breath as she heard the First Elder’s despondent speech. His aged freckles seemed to have reached the floor, and the head full of silvery white hair had made him look older than he really was. The years of fatigue and stress that had piled up became more evident as she watched the First Elder recollect the deeds of old.
“On that day, everything that could move had to be burnt or killed. That was our mantra, that was our sin. Consumed by the hatred we had, the brave and valiant warriors of our clan had turned into vicious executioners. Not even sparing the women and children. When I realised what we had done, I was abhorred. My brethren… All of a sudden, it seemed like I didn’t recognise a single one of them…” The more he thought back on that day, the more his hands quaked, unwilling to listen to his instructions to stop.
“The previous Clan Master, your father, also saw what I did. Thankfully, he had woken up from his hate much faster than I did and personally stopped any of our men from killing any more children. But it was too late. We had only managed to save a handful from the carnage. The majority of which, where just infants and toddlers… Just imagine, from the hundreds of children that were in the Awter clan, we only managed to save seven… And now, we had even lost the eldest of them…” Wearing a self-deprecating smile, the First Elder was unable to hold back the tears that glistened in his eyes.
“That’s why I will protect the orphans, even if Ash has to get over my dead body!!! The children bear no sin!!!” Reaffirming his will, the First Elder shouted out.
“Senior Edward… I understand. I’ll ask my contacts to find a spot in the Capital immediately.”
“Thank you… Enfen…”