“Healer Shin! Healer Shin! It’s time for your shift!” A loud knock on the door echoed through the corridors of the fifth floor of the Yakkyoku Clinic, awakening the slumbering resident of the luxurious room.
“Yes, coming!” After four and a half years, Shin had shed his lazy persona as he started to become more and more studious after everything that happened to him. In the past, there was a nagging Instructor number two that lived with him, and Shin dreaded the mornings in which he was forced to wake up and run five kilometres. However, now that Junius had disappeared, Shin had to discipline himself so that he would not let his elder brother down.
“Ah, Healer Shin! You’re awake!” Opening his door, Shin was greeted by a young female apprentice about his age. Her adorable bob haircut and maid costume might fool the novice eye, but her true lineage was not one to be messed with. As the direct descendant of one of the Himmel Empire’s nobility, the young girl was a distant relative of the Emperor himself! In fact, although it was highly unlikely, the apprentice was in line to succeed the throne!
“Kesyl… You don’t have to be so formal you know…” Every time Shin sees the girl, he had to continually remind himself of her formidable background, just in case he does something untoward to her without thinking.
“I can’t do that! You’re the disciple of Her Holiness, Lady Seph! To top it off, you are the youngest healer in history!!! Also, also…”
“Okay, forgot I said that…” Shin had tried to change Kesyl habits multiple times, but it was always to no avail. Once again, he was amazed at how much influence his Master, which seemed to be a cranky old grandma, truly possessed in the Himmel Empire. Even a child of the highest of nobles had no choice but to grovel at her feet.
“So, how are your studies?” While he was walking over to his booth on the first floor, Shin opted to start some small talk with the hamster-like girl that followed him.
Kesyl was a legitimate child to one of the Emperor’s cousins. After awakening her Spirit, it became apparent that she was not suited for the path of a fighter due to her timid demeanour and love for life. Additionally, her awakened Spirit took the element of light, one of the most optimal elements for healing. Therefore, her parents decided that it would be desirable for her to pursue the art of healing.
Registering at the Healer’s Association, Kesyl quickly gained everyone’s attention for her immense talent in recognising herbs and cultivation in general. She soon became apprenticed to many of the top healers in the Empire. Naturally, her connections to the throne had something to play to that, but nonetheless, her abilities were unquestionable.
When the Duke found out that Lady Seph had resurfaced after so long, he immediately pulled his daughter from the tutelage of the healer that she was serving and requested that Lady Seph accept Kesyl. Needless to say, the poor little girl was subject to an array of tests, both in healing knowledge and how well she could serve as Lady Seph’s slav… apprentice. And she was not the only one. Dozens, if not hundreds of applicants came to the front doors of Yakkyoku Clinic, hoping to even catch a glimpse of the illustrious healer. In the end, only five of the applicants came through, with Kesyl passing everything with flying colours.
Initially, although she was shy and reserved, Kesyl still bore a little pride when it came to her knowledge of healing matters. After all, every single adversary of her age couldn’t even compare to her. However, everything changed when she first step foot into the four walls of this remote clinic that was so deep in the western border. She met a young boy, who was about her age, that had already become a healer, something that has never been done before. Not to mention, his healing capabilities were able to match some of the more experienced healers that worked in the very same clinic!
At that moment, her eyes were finally open. The concept of there was always a mountain higher, and a sea wider came to her mind as she realised that she was merely a large fish in a small pond. In the real world, outside of her immediate vicinity, there would always be someone who would be better than her. Determined to even become a fraction as good as Shin, Kesyl doubled her efforts in studying, aiming to become a healer before the age of twenty.
“It’s going very well! I’m sure that I will be able to become as great as you one day!” Kesyl eyes sparkled in delight as she answered Shin’s casual question.
“Errr… Ha, ha. I’m sure you will…” A droplet of nervous sweat dripped down Shin’s pearly white face as he unconsciously added some distance between him and the girl. Those eyes of reverence never failed to catch him off guard. He had always been treated like a regular boy back when he was in the Frie Clan and before Lady Seph announced her return. However, now that everything was out, many people looked up to him as a role model.
“Okay, I should get going before Her Holiness calls for me!” Putting on her widest smile, Kesyl gave Shin a gentle bow before promptly running down the corridor.
“Hah… I should really work harder so that I can live up to their expectations…” Shin sighed to himself as he stared at the petite girl who was running in the opposite directions. Kesyl wasn’t the only one who looked up to him. Many of the healers in the clinic and many patients that believe in his healing capabilities all respected him, almost to the point of worship.
“Arghhh! I’ll try not to think about it… Time to start my day!” Shin pumped himself up for the new day.
Himmel Empire. Frie Mountain. Orphan’s lodgings
“Sister Lily! Sister Lily!” A nasal voice called out to a young and gorgeous teenage girl, while she was busy tidying up her luscious blue hair. Reaching the end of her puberty, Lily had grown to her maximum height as the baby fat on her face had all but disappeared. At her age, she should have been on an increasing curve of attractiveness, but her haggard expression spoilt the beautiful image of Lily’s. Her darkening eyebags and hollowed in cheeks hinted the multiple nights in which she barely slept. If there were any onlookers, they would be able to sense a dark cloud thundering over her head.
“Max? Come in…” Unwilling to get out of her chair, Lily instructed the young boy to enter her room.
“Sister Lily? You have a visitor!” Max excitedly exclaimed. During these few years, Max had grown considerably and was no longer the snot-nosed brat that followed Lily around like a carry-on. Although he was not a suave individual, his charm lay in the fact that he had an innocent aura that seemed to be untouched by the filthy hand of time.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me, Sister Lily!” Before the tired maiden had a chance to get an answer, a scarlet-haired girl walked into the room. Standing at 1.6 metres tall, the fourteen-year-old Ariel was already starting to morph from a juvenile girl to a youthful woman. Her Amazonian body had only become more defined as her muscles became more defined. She wasn’t too muscular though. A healthy layer of fat hid the powerful arms and thighs of Ariel, making her have a tinge of feminine charm.
“Ariel? Why have you come here?” Confused that her friend would arrive in her room at such a weird time, Lily tilted her head in confusion.
“Lily! You can’t keep wallowing in grief all day in here! The others are worried sick about you!” When Lily first heard of Junius’ disappearance, she had almost fainted on the spot. Desperate to find her missing lover, the young woman had tried all the means at her disposal. Joining Shin’s search party, going door to door at neighbouring towns with a drawing of Junius. Everything that she could think of she tried. Unfortunately, even after such a long time, there was still no news of the person she loved most in the world.
The orphans, as well as other younger members of the Frie Clan that hung out with Ariel, all were extremely concerned for the well-being of their dear friend. There were often days where Lily would go two to three days without eating a single morsel of food. The grieving maiden was also plagued at night, with nightmares indicating that Junius had passed away. Instead of a cheerful young woman that she ought to be, Lily resembled more of a weeping widow.
“Just leave me be, Ariel… I need some time alone…”
“You said that the last time! Sister Lily, I know you’re sad that brother Junius is missing. But you need to believe in Shin and the others! You can’t just let yourself rot in your room!” Ariel cried out, concerned that Lily might just kill herself if her behaviour continues.
“Ariel, you just don’t understand!!! You never lost someone you cared for so much!!! Junius was my everything, and now he’s… Just gone…”
“Sister Lily, if you really cared for brother Junius, you won’t be doing all of these hurtful things to your body! When brother Junius comes back, do you really want him to see a damaged and tearful girlfriend?!”
“!!!” As if struck by lightning, Lily visibly shook her shoulders.
“Don’t you want brother Junius to come back and see his beautiful lover?”
“Ariel… You’re right… I should be in the best condition when Junius returns…” Agreeing with Ariel’s point of view, Lily nodded slightly. Being optimistic in times of despair was hard. However, it was best to always see the bright side to things in life.
“Hehe, I knew it! Sister Ariel always knows how to deal with sister Lily!” From the side, Max joyfully chuckled as he praised his own foresight in calling Ariel over.
“Hmph! You little chum, have you started your morning practices?”
“H-Huh? Ah, you see… I was concerned about your health so…” Stunned that Lily had suddenly called him out, Max darted his eyes about erratically as a wave of nervousness hit him.
“Hey! A sword can only be used if its sharp! You have to train daily otherwise…” Now that her vigour was somewhat recovered, Lily reverted back to her motherly bossy demeanour.
“Yeah, yeah… Wait, did I just shoot myself in the foot?” Thinking that it might have been better to leave Lily alone, Max thought out loud.
“Why, you little…” Chasing the mischievous young boy out of her room, Lily bolted at a speed that didn’t reflect her weakened physique.
“Haha, they’re such a lively bunch…” Giggling to herself, a wide grin crept up Ariel’s face. Holding up the amethyst pendant that hung loosely off her neck, the young girl started to think.
‘Lovers huh… Shin is going to leave for the Imperius Academy soon… Should I confess before that?’
Lovingly staring at the pendant that a certain black-haired boy gave her, Ariel’s mind couldn’t help but wonder. Over the years, the feelings that had been bottling up in her heart had reached a point where she was unable to control it no longer. A few months ago, when she heard the news that Shin was going to leave for the Capital, she realised that she could no longer lie to herself. Ariel, like Lily, was hopelessly in love.
Although Shin and the Frie Clan were at odds in recent years, his relationship with Ariel had only blossomed. On a monthly basis, Ariel would visit Shin, and they would go on dates, or as Shin calls it, mule work so that they could buy back items for the orphans to use. Nonetheless, it became increasingly evident that the both of them bore strong feelings towards one another and it was not as simple as a relationship between childhood friends. However, none of them had to courage to take that first step.
In Shin’s mind, finding Junius was the most paramount and adding to the fact that he had limited time to work with, starting a new relationship with Ariel would only serve as a distraction. Ariel, on the other hand, had begun to learn how to manage the Frie Clan, albeit in small steps. Therefore, there was just no time for them to confess.
However, with Shin leaving in six months, Ariel was afraid that there would come a time where the both of them would have no time to meet, and their feelings would fade away. She hated to think that, but it was still a real possibility.
“Alright! I’m going to do it! Sister Lily captured brother Junius’ heart, why can’t I do the same?” Steeling her resolve, Ariel firmly grasped the piece of cheap amethyst and looked forward to the next time she met Shin.