“Junius?!” Shin stood rooted to the ground with his jaw wide opened.
During the past one and a half years, Shin had tried every trick in the book to find the missing youth. He had brought together a search party, he sent out missing person posters, and he had even begged for the town to send aid. Unfortunately, even with all his attempts, there was still no sign of the viridian-haired youth. Yet, currently, there Junius was, standing right in front of Shin.
“J-Junius! Is that really you?!” Shin couldn’t believe his eyes. The distance between the two was too far for Shin to fully tell if it was the missing youth, but it wasn’t that far that he could recognise some of Junius’ features. The tall build, high cheekbones and sharp nose were all attributes that Shin would never forget.
However, as if he was unaware of Shin’s existence, the hooded figure turned his back towards the stunned youth and briskly walked into an empty street.
“Wait! Hey!” Finding the strength to move his legs, Shin chased after the figure that he thought resembled his elder brother. He had been pursuing Junius for a good amount of time, there was no way Shin was going to let a clue slip that easily.
With that, Shin began a wild hunt for the hooded figure. For some odd reason, the man seemed to be moving at a speed that faster than Shin could keep up with. Every time he turned a corner, Shin would be at least fifteen steps behind him. Yet, the man wasn’t moving so fast that Shin couldn’t keep track of him. The chase carried on for a full minute, before the man turned into a deserted alleyway, disappearing into a manhole leading into the sewers.
“Why would Junius lead me here?” After chasing the man for a short period of time, Shin was even more convinced that the person he met was the missing youth that he sought to find.
Only someone with the experience of working as a constable would be able to manoeuvre the streets so well. So that brought up another question in Shin’s mind. If it was really Junius, why was he so elusive? Why couldn’t he just walk up to Shin and reunite? Staring deep down the opened manhole, the black-haired teen deliberated on whether he should follow the mysterious man.
‘Could it be a trap?’ Shin mentally thought out. Based on everything that had happened with the Black Masks, his rational mind naturally moved towards the logical conclusion. There was no way going done alone into the sewers was a good idea, especially since he was chasing after someone who he had no clue about.
‘Screw it! I’ll just wing it!’ Unfortunately for Shin, his desire to meet Junius once more trumped his rational mind.
Gathering his mana, a cerulean light glimmered from the depths of his body as The Sovereign Koi appeared in the palms of his hands. With a thought, the adorable little Koi spun around in a circle and created five water spheres that orbited around the young teen. Even though he wanted to meet Junius as soon as possible, Shin still had to take precautions when entering into a foreign area. Gently descending down the metallic ladder of the manhole, the young teen made sure to be extremely cautious.
The route down to the sewers was dark. Other than the cerulean light coming from The Sovereign Koi in his hands, Shin was surrounded by complete darkness. The putrid stench of sewage waste permeated the air, forcing the young teen to use his sleeves as a mask that covers his nose.
Stepping on the disgustingly green wastewater that was prevalent all over the sewers, Shin carefully proceeded onwards. Using The Sovereign Koi as a light source, the young teen tried to find signs of the hooded figure that he suspected was Junius. Regrettably, as if by magic, the mysterious person vanished. Thinking that he was just unable to find him due to the low light, Shin continued on his search, careful not to stray too far from the manhole lest he required to make an escape.
The five spheres of water started to orbit at a faster rate than before, protecting Shin from any potential harm. Anxious beads of perspiration dripped down the clear forehead of the young teen as he hoped to finally find out if Junius had indeed returned. Even The Sovereign Koi, who was typically aloof during tense situations, was flapping its fins frantically, displaying how jittery it felt.
“*Crrraaaannnngggg!!!*” A loud metallic vibration reverberated through the air, forcing Shin’s already nervous heart to skip a beat. The sound was reminiscent of a crowbar being dragged through the cold concrete floor.
“What was that?!” Turning his head about, Shin tried to find the source of the noise. It didn’t take him long to discover that the manhole cover that he had left open had been firmly shut, leaving no space for escape.
All of a sudden, the pitch black of the sewers came to life as flaming torches brightened up the depressing place. Stunned by the sudden change, Shin quickly went on the defensive. Using two of the water orbs, he created a water wall that encircled him, preventing preliminary attacks from reaching his body. Jumping straight into an open space, Shin invited his attackers to show themselves. He planned to lure his opponents out into the open and find openings in which he could exploit. Currently, he was in an unfamiliar location, with next to no vision of where his assailants could come from. Should he misplay his next move, it could very possibly be his last.
Expanding his senses to the maximum, the young teen darted his eyes about frantically, trying desperately to find out the possible routes of escape. However, before he could even begin to think about it, a hooded figure moved out from the shadows. In his hands, a pure obsidian hiltless blade, filled with an aura of absolute darkness that could suck one’s soul in, was pointed straight at Shin.
“Isn’t that?!?!” There was no way in hell that Shin wouldn’t recognise that Spirit. It was the very same Spirit that nearly claimed his life twice before.
‘How stupid of me to fall into a trap by the Black Masks!!!’ Mentally reprimanding himself for his folly, Shin transformed his three other water globes into eight spider legs. Now that he was facing a deadly foe, he couldn’t simply wait around for them to fire the first shot. He had to make his escape as soon as he could.
Increasing the mana supply to his feet, Shin pounced forward at an alarming speed, using his water spider legs to keep the momentum. Unfortunately, the hooded figure seemed to have read his movements and charged straight ahead to stop the running youth. The speed that the hooded man had far surpassed that of Shin’s and he had caught up in the blink of an eye. Using his obsidian blade Spirit, the assailant sliced through Shin’s defences causing a majority of his created water to blend in with the dirty sewage.
‘What’s going on?!?!?!’ Shin screamed out in his mind as his jaw widened in terror.
The best part of using a water shield wasn’t its thickness or how durable it was, it was the fact that no matter how much you destroyed a water shield, it would always keep growing back. Yet, after taking a direct strike from the obsidian blade, Shin lost control of his mana and his water shield instantly collapsed. Lifting off from the ground, Shin created yet another layer of protection as he tried to increase the distance between him and the assailant.
‘Think, Shin! Think! All you need to do is get to the surface and shout for help! By then, I’m sure you will be safe!’ Encouraging himself to find an escape path, Shin’s mind raced as he calculated all of the possible outcomes with the limited information that he had.
Regrettably, there was no way the hooded man would let Shin recuperate peacefully. Holding up his obsidian blade, the man dashed forward at a speed that Shin could not keep track of. Instinctively, Shin used the eight water legs behind him to deflect the oncoming blow. He couldn’t see the strike, but his defences were good enough to let him see another day.
‘Damn it! What’s with his speed?!?!?!’ Terrified by the hooded man’s display of speed, Shin gulped down a mouthful of saliva. If he didn’t have his eight spider legs, there was not a doubt in Shin’s mind that he would have been injured by that attack.
‘Screw it! I have to use that technique!!!’ Out of ideas, Shin decided to utilise the last move that he wanted to use.
Turning all of his defences and offences into five water globes once again, Shin placed his two palms together and began to concentrate. Bit by bit, the water spheres quickly combined together forming a single water orb that encased Shin within it. Increasing the mana flow, the currents flowing in the globe turned rapid, pushing all residue nearby far away. If Healer Rahwil were here, his jaw would most likely drop to the floor. Shin was attempting to replicate the same attack that the constable officer used on the Tempest Storm Wolf.
Naturally, since he only had five days of practice, the water barrier was nowhere near as powerful as the Constable Officer’s fire barrier, and every so often, a deformity would form upon the smooth surface of the sphere.
“…” Unaware of what Shin was doing, the hooded figure raised his sword up once more and bolted straight at the black-haired teen, hoping to stop him in time. Unfortunately, it was too late…
“SCREW OFF!!! EXPAND!!!” Hollering out at the top of his lungs, Shin supplied even more mana to the protection orb. The rapid currents of the water sphere quickly ran out of control as everything spewed outwards, stunning the hooded man who was just centimetres away. Pushed back by the force generated, the assailant flew through the air and landed in a place that was out of Shin’s sight.
“I need to go!” Realising that it was his golden opportunity, Shin ran in the direction of the manhole that he first came down by. He had to escape immediately when the opponent is dazed.
However, before Shin could even take the first step, five black-robed silhouettes suddenly appeared all around him, virtually locking him into place. On each one of their faces, there was a pure black mask that Shin could never, ever forget.
‘Damn it…’ Stunned until he was out of words, Shin felt his legs give way, causing him to fall clumsily onto the floor.
Before he could even muster out an ounce of strength to launch his all-or-nothing assault, a heavy drowsiness enveloped Shin’s consciousness as he felt himself falling deeper and deeper into an abyss.
‘Is this death?’ Shin couldn’t help but wonder if this was his final moment. The faces of many of his loved ones flashed by within that very split second. The Instructor, Sister Riko, Emma, Elyse, Junius, Lady Seph… Many of those faces that he held dear to his heart appeared, causing a tear to form in his left eye. Finally, his vision was clouded in a brilliant, rich scarlet colour as he thought about the only girl who had breached his heart.
‘Ariel… I’m sorry…’ Unable to hold it in any longer, Shin blacked out, as everything turned into nothingness.
Himmel Empire. Frie Mountain. Second Elder’s Chambers.
“Elder, it is done.” A thick masculine voice sounded out, addressing the only other person in the room. The Second Elder brought up his cup of tea and drank it in one fine gulp as he received the news.
“Good… Bates, I will have to leave the mountain for a short period of time. I have to be personally there after all… During my absence, look after the division would you?” Moving over to the one-armed warrior that was on his knees, the Second Elder gently tapped Bates’ shoulder.
“Alright then… You’re dismissed. Oh, and do ask Linus to drop by when his free…” Before Bates had a chance to leave the room, the Second Elder recalled the face of the sole grandson that he had.
“Yes, Elder!” Giving the aged man a firm nod, Bates scurried out of the chambers, leaving the one he served, totally alone in the spacious but empty room. Although his aides had advised him many times to decorate the place up to make it more hospitable, the Second Elder quite liked the simplicity of everything here. Furthermore, he was not a big spender in the first place. All of the money he made either went to funding his division or buying cultivation materials for the one he cared for the most.
“Hah… Linus, oh Linus… Why can’t you see?! Everything that I do is for the sake of the Frie Clan. For the sake of the division. For the sake of you…” Letting out a deep sigh that he would never dare to in front of his subordinates, the Second Elder fell flat on his bed and stared at the empty ceiling.
His grandson, Linus seemed to be avoiding him as of late, and the elderly man clearly knew why. Ever since he was sent on the expedition to monitor Shin’s improvements, the two had started creating some sort of bond that the Second Elder utterly loathed. There had been many times where the Second Elder confronted Linus to stop communicating with Shin, but his words fell on deaf’s ears.
“My son… I have avenged you, and yet, why do I not feel appeased…” Staring heavenward, the Second Elder wondered.
“It must be because of those devil spawns that still plague our proud home! That’s why my heart can never settle! Not to worry, soon, I will fix everything!” Renewing his vows, a burning rage of passion burnt through his eyes as the Second Elder clenched his bony fists.
“My son… One day, your son will inherit the clan. By then, the legacy that I had built for him will stand for thousands of years to come! This is my vow to you!!!”