Himmel Empire. ???????????
In a dark crevice of a little-known location, there lay a simple cottage. Made out of straw and wood, should there be a storm or earthquake, there was no doubt that the small hut would collapse. However, due to some mystical factors, no natural disasters could ever reach this crevice, making it unnecessary for additional protections. No opulence came with the humble abode. On the exterior, perennial grass that could last for seasons at a time, filled the fields that surrounded the cottage, giving it a warm and comforting feel.
Inside, the humble abode was decorated with the simplest of objects. There was no show of extravagance like the beautified Mushinkei bedrooms or the VIP rooms in the Mayor’s Office designated for royal blood. The stillness of the cottage and the lack of fauna produced an eerie silence that would creep out even the bravest of souls.
“Urgghhh… Arghhh…” Two significant groans of displeasure broke the quiescence atmosphere.
In the spacious master bedroom, a black-haired teenager was lying flat on top of a luxurious bed, grimacing with his eyes tightly shut. Dirt that had accumulated on corners of his eyelids, indicating that the boy had been sleeping for a significant period of time. Moving his head about uncomfortably as it rubbed against the woollen pillow, the boy felt his consciousness come back to him as his limbs began to function.
“Urghhhh…” Shin woke up with a throbbing headache, one of the likes he had never experienced before.
Forcing his delirious self to sit up, Shin brought his right hand up towards his face and used his fingers to massage the temples of his forehead. Unable to think straight, the young teen quietly sat there in complete silence as he tried his best to regain his youthful vigour.
“What… Happened…” The fogginess in his mind started to clear after a minute of complete zen. Finally able to form thoughts, Shin tried to understand what had happened to him. “Right… I was facing off against the Black Masks… Wait, so I didn’t die?”
Recalling everything that happened before he passed out, Shin gasped in confusion. Firstly, he was lured by a Junius lookalike into a sewer where he was confronted by the pure obsidian sword Spirit. Secondly, he had attempted to escape but was met with harsh retaliation. Only after utilising a trick that he learnt from the constable officer, did Shin manage to create an opening. Finally, when he was about to make his getaway, the Black Masks surrounded him and used some sort of ability to rid him of his consciousness. At that moment, Shin was certain that he was about to pass away.
“Where am I?” Taking a hard look around him, Shin questioned out loud.
Other than the large bed that was underneath him, the room that he was in only had four wooden walls. There was no other furniture, and there wasn’t even a window in sight. The door that lay ahead of him remained firmly shut, hinting that Shin was locked in from the outside.
“What the hell is going on?!” Touching his body, Shin examined if there was anything wrong with him.
Shin’s old robes had been replaced with blue silk pyjamas while his chapped skin had been brushed clean and been rid of all impurities. Turning to his side, small stool lay at the left side of his bed and was supporting a basin full of steaming hot water, hinting that there had been someone nursing Shin during his comatose period.
“Tsskkk! I won’t get any answers while I’m lying here!” Clicking his tongue in annoyance, Shin decided that he should attempt to leave the room.
Pushing out the white blanket that covered his body, Shin pivoted his waist so that his legs would reach the side of the bed. Thinking that he had mostly recovered from the trauma, the young teen hopped out of bed in a hurry. However, the moment his legs touched the cold floor, Shin felt like his entire being had turned into jelly as he fell with a loud thud.
“Owwwww!!!” Questioning his earlier sanity, Shin used his two hands to push his torso up. Unfortunately, due to his weakened state, he could only lift himself for a few seconds before falling flat onto the floor once more.
“Young Master!!! What are you doing?!” Before Shin could find the strength to move his body, a feminine concerned voice sounded out from the other side of the door.
As the doorknob turned, a young woman, possibly in her late twenties, burst into the room carrying a cleaning cloth in her hand. Dressed in a deep purple robe that matched her light blue hair, the woman’s eyes glistened in worry as she saw how Shin was suffering on the floor. Dropping everything in her hands, the woman moved towards Shin and attempted to help him up.
“Who are you?!?!?!” However, there was no way that Shin would allow a foreign person to come near to him, especially in these peculiar circumstances. Screaming out in animosity, Shin snarled at the woman.
“Young Master! Please let me help you to the bed!”
“Stay where you are!” Halting the woman’s advance with a shriek, Shin brought his body up and rested his back against the nearby wall. Due to the stress that he had incurred, it took a while for his bodily functions to be restored to its optimal state, especially his four limbs. Feeling as if a thousand needles were pinning down upon his arms and legs, Shin scowled in frustration.
“Young Master, are you feeling better?” Since she couldn’t approach Shin, the woman fell to a kneeling position so that her eyes were level with the distressed youth.
“Who are you? Why are you calling me young master?” Only after he calmed himself down did Shin reply the unfamiliar woman.
More than a thousand questions flashed through the confused teenager’s mind, but in the end, he decided to ask the two pressing ones that were presented to him. Shin had to identify the person who was trying to tend to him and the reason why she was calling him in such an affectionate manner.
“My name is Shia… Shia Awter… As for why I’m calling you young master…” Unsure if she could voice out her thoughts, the young woman fidgeted in place.
“I’ll tell you about that…” A booming voice echoed through the empty room forcing Shin and Shia to jerk in surprise. Turning their attention to the opened entrance, the two discovered that four additional figures were entering the room. Leading the four was a bulky middle-aged man whose clothes were too tight for him. With a broad muscular chest, the two-metre tall giant stared intently at Shin, who was sprawled out in one corner.
Sensing that he was in danger, Shin increased his alertness and gathered his mana into his hand. Glowing in a cerulean lustre, The Sovereign Koi made its appearance once more. Behaving as if it had just woken up, the adorable little Koi moved its gaze around the now packed room.
“It really is the Sovereign Koi!!!” Once the cerulean Koi made its appearance, every single soul in the room widened their eyes. Any doubts that they once had for Shin’s true identity had been utterly wiped clean. Shia, the woman that had been tending to Shin, even started to tear up in relief. Unable to wait no longer, the five individuals knelt in unison, paying their respects to the confused youth.
“We greet the young Master!” Bowing his head, the muscular man who seemed to lead the rest, put on a solemn face as he declared out loud.
““““We greet the young Master!”””” Following his lead, the four individuals shouted out at the same time.
“W-What?” More confused than ever before, Shin unknowingly cringed as he attempted to back away. Unfortunately, since he was in a corner, there was nowhere that he could escape to.
“Senior, we shouldn’t keep him in the dark any longer.” At that moment, a familiar voice rung through the mind of the black-haired youth, causing him to fall deeper in shock.
One of the newcomers that arrived with the muscular man stood up from his kneeling position and took off his hood, revealing the rich viridian-coloured hair that Shin was all too familiar with. His clear and prominent facial features hadn’t changed at all in the one and a half years that he had been gone, allowing Shin to recognise the hooded man instantly.
“Junius! Is that really you?!” Shin exclaimed. The young teen had been searching endlessly for any clues of his missing elder brother, the elder brother that he had cared for so dearly. Never believing that Junius might have died, Shin kept holding on to the hope that one day, if he kept searching, he would meet Junius. Yet, after months of dead-end leads, Shin’s mind naturally gravitated to the worst possible outcome.
“Of course it’s me, you silly…” Wearing a broad smile, Junius slowly walked from his position and dropped right in front of the stunned youth. Pulling Shin’s head into his embrace, the viridian-haired teenager stroked the silky hair of his younger brother as he whispered:
“Sorry… You must have been worried sick…”
“You!” Shin wanted to retort and pull away, as he feared that he might be caught in the Black Masks’ trap once again. However, the more he heard Junius’ voice, felt Junius’ heartbeat and smelt his scent, the more Shin believed that the person in front of him was indeed the missing brother that he had been finding.
“You! Are you… Really Junius?!”
“Still don’t trust me? Hmmm, how about this? Your favourite food is braised mutton with caramelised onions. Your favourite hobby is to sleep. You had wet your bed until you were six years old. You also LOVED the cockroaches that roamed into your room. Oh, oh! When you were eight, you had a bad nightmare and came running into my room, asking for a midnight consultation. However, that was because you wanted to sleep in my bed as you were afraid to go to sleep. Also…”
“OKAY, OKAY I GET IT!!!” Taken aback that the teenager in front of him could list out everything that happened between Junius and him, Shin raised his hands in surrender. If this was really a trap, then Shin could only applaud the syndicate’s dedication to research on everything that had happened in his life.
“Junius…” Tightening his grip around Junius’ back, Shin felt a tear roll down his cheeks as an enormous weight had been relieved off his chest.
“Haha, this is so unlike you Shin…”
“Shut it! Who told you to disappear for almost two years and not tell me anything?! By the way, what’s going on here? If you were fine, why didn’t you return immediately? Who are these people with you? Why are they calling me young master?” Shin rapidly asked.
“One at a time, Shin…” Slowing down his anxious younger brother, Junius flashed a warm smile.
“Before I can even begin to answer your questions, there’s something I need to tell you… Something about the Frie Clan…” Junius consoled the troubled youth while his eyes turned red. Gritting his teeth, Junius gentle expression had turned into one of anger and resentment.
“What is it?”
“The Frie Clan lied to us, Shin… We’re not orphans at all… We had a family, we had a stable life. You, me, Lily, Ryner, Lia, Ella and Emma. The seven of us were all from one big clan. The Clan that the Frie Clan eradicated in that war fifteen years ago!!!” The more he spoke out, the more agitated Junius became.
“Shin… We’re not nameless orphans! We have a last name! The seven of us are from the Awter Clan!”