In the lonely master bedroom of the wooden cabin, Shin sat solitary on the sizeable luxurious bed with a defeated expression. After affirming his will to escape from this prison that he was kept in, Shin tried his best to find exits that he could use. Unfortunately, the deep crevice seemed to have none. Telling Shia that he wanted a breath of fresh air, Shin circled about the lush cave, in search of escape routes. However, no matter how hard he searched all that he could find were thick cave rock walls.
‘How is it possible that there is no way out? How did Junius and the rest bring me in then?’ Shin brought his nails to his mouth and started to chew on them. The stress levels that he was under were beginning to spike, and Shin needed a way to relieve the anxiety that he had.
‘What should I do? I can’t just stay here!’ Shin contemplated on the best way to escape.
During his meal time, Shin questioned Shia on various issues surrounding the Black Mask syndicate, and he found out many terrifying details about them. Firstly, they had multiple high tiered Spirit Beasts that actively listened to their bidding. That’s why they were able to control a beast horde of over hundred thousand Spirit Beasts. Secondly, since they were a rather new crime syndicate, they were actively seeking powerful individuals to join. Using the Allfather’s reach, they would tempt enemies of the state to join their ranks. For instance, a notorious rogue criminal cultivator that was wanted for heinous crimes, would come and seek refuge under the Black Masks name.
And finally, Shin understood what a threat the Allfather really was. Not only could he supply his dark and intoxicating mana through the famous masks that he created, but he was also reigning over multiple Tier 9 Spirit Beasts. For some reason, the Spirit Beasts obeyed his every command and would do anything for him.
‘What I don’t understand is the Allfather’s motives! What are his motives for bringing Vellan and the other Awter Clan members under his wing? Why is he seeking powerful individuals when he is strong enough? Who the hell is he?’ Shin barked out in his mind.
“Young master! Young master!” Before he could gather his thoughts, Shia’s hurried voice echoed past the empty hallways as frantic footsteps could be heard on the other side of the door.
“Young master! We have to leave now! Our scouts have sensed some anomalies coming straight at us!” Crashing open the door, Shia moved to the side of Shin’s bed, ready to help him walk.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure, but it’s dangerous now that our location is exposed! Quick, young master! We have an emergency exit in the basement!” Yanking on Shin’s sleeve, Shia pleaded with the youth to run away with her.
“Wait! Shia… Those anomalies… Is my master coming to rescue me?”
“Rescue?! Young master, you…” Shia jumped in fright as she understood the undertone meaning behind Shin’s words.
“Y-Young m-master! *Hic!* *Hic!* Please don’t say that! Do you know how happy we were when we first found out that you were alive five years ago? From that day, we longed to reunite with you! Please, young master! Come with me! The Awter Clan can only rise from the ashes with you around! The Captain… Junius’ father died trying to retrieve you! Please… *Hic!* Come with me… Okay?” Shia knelt in front of Shin as tears streamed down from her face. Begging him like a desperate prayer, the young light blue haired woman choked on her tears, hoping that her young master would come to his senses.
Shin’s eyes wavered as the temptation to adhere to Shia’s pleas overwhelmed him. Over the past few hours that he was awake, he had bonded well with Shia. She told him everything that he wanted to know and Shin felt that she was perhaps the most genuine person he had ever met. Her enthusiasm when recalling the Clan Master and Mistress gave Shin a fuzzy feeling, as he imagined how his parents were really like. But above all, the black-haired youth could tell that Shia really wanted the Awter Clan to be together once more, and with Shin being an integral part of the clan, she would do anything that she could to retain her young master.
“No, young master! Please don’t say it! No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!!!” Screaming out like someone had murdered her entire family, Shia pulled on her hair as a pained shriek pierced through Shin’s eardrums.
“Young master… I’m sorry, I can’t let you leave us… We sacrificed too much to save you! Just take a short nap! When you wake up, everything will be settled!”
“Shia! What are you doi-!!!”
Chilling spiritual energy filled the master bedroom as Shia circulated her mana. Bringing her hands together, the young woman concentrated intensely as a fish-like form appeared within them.
“Young master, I’m sorry!” Apologising to the stunned black-haired youth, Shia prepared to fire her spiritual ability to immobilise Shin.
“*Yip!* *Yip!*.” However, before Shia could fully bring out her Spirit to knock Shin out cold, an adorable squeak snapped the two individuals back into reality.
“Bingbing?!” Shin exclaimed at the sudden arrival of the familiar snowy white gerbil.
“*Yip!* *Yip!*.” Baring out her fangs, Bingbing’s body begun to illuminate with a bright white aura as a wintry frost descended upon the warm room.
“Bingbing, wait!” Shin attempted to stop the Tier 8 Spirit Beast from attacking the poor woman, but it was too late. Bingbing sent a frosty surge of mana in Shia’s direction, instantly freezing her inside of an ice coffin. In her suspended state, Shia wore an expression that indicated her disbelief of what had happened.
“Bingbing! I told you to wait… Haaa, nevermind. If you’re here that means that…”
“Yeap, I’m here too.” At that moment, the solid wooden ceiling above Shin’s head instantly crashed open as an elderly woman gently floated down.
“Hmph! Stupid disciple! How could you let yourself get captured?!” Lady Seph chided her silly disciple that disappeared for almost an entire day.
“Master…” The moment he heard those words, Shin dropped his eyes slowly as he remembered how he got caught. Back then, he cursed his foolishness for falling into such an easy trap, but currently, Shin felt that he needed to get caught so that he could find out the truth about his heritage. Over the past few hours, the poor youth felt like he had been thrown into a hurricane of wild emotions.
When Shin found out that Junius was safe and sound, he was relieved. When he first heard that he was part of the Awter Clan, he was shaken. When he heard about how the Frie Clan massacred the Awter Clan, he was furious. When Shin was listening to stories about his parents, he was joyful. When he learnt that Vellan and the others were about to launch an attack on Frie Mountain, possibly endangering the lives of people he cared about, he was frightened. When Shin circled about the entire crevice, hoping to find a way of escaping, he was frantic.
In that short period of time, Shin was exposed to a flurry of emotions that were beyond his control, and now that Lady Seph had reappeared, he felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Running into the embrace of his master, Shin let out a primitive wail the likes of which he had never done before.
“S-Shin?! W-What h-h-happened?! Are you hurt anywhere? What the hell did they do to you?!?!?!” Lady Seph was just joking when she chastised Shin for getting kidnapped. Never did she expect that her mindless remark would trigger such a drastic reaction.
“I’m sorry… *hic!* Can I just stay like this for a while…” Tightening his grip on Lady Seph’s back, Shin continued bawling out like a newborn baby.
“Shin…” Sensing that her disciple was in a vulnerable state, Lady Seph gently stroked his pitch black hair and allowed him to empty his tear ducts. Only after a full minute, did Shin’s shaking body start to calm down as his mind felt comforted by his master’s familiar scent.
“Have you calmed down?”
“Yeah… Master, am I dreaming?”
“What do you mean silly? Of course, you’re not…”
“It’s not a dream… Everything that I’d heard is real… Why? Why must things end up this way?” Wiping his face on the white robes of his master, Shin soothed his own psyche before leaving Lady Seph’s embrace.
“Shin… What happened?”
“Master, I met Junius.”
“What?! You did?! Is that how you got captured? Junius lured you here?”
“No… Master, I was taken by the Black Masks. I was taken by the survivors of the Awter Clan…”
“WHAT?!” Unable to hide her surprise, Lady Seph screeched out.
“I see… How much do you know?”
“I see…” Lady Seph dropped her head as she heaved out a deep sigh. “Edward is here with me. He’s clearing out the vicinity. I know you have many questions to ask him…”
“The First Elder is with you?!” At that moment, Shin remembered that the reason why Vellan and the others were attacking Frie Mountain was because the two High Elders had left the premise.
“Lady Seph! We need to hurry back to the mountain! Junius and the other Black Masks are going to attack Frie Mountain so that they can exact vengeance!”
“What?! Oh my lord, the day just doesn’t want to end does it?! Alright, let’s get out of this depressing place first!” Lady Seph grabbed the left arm of Shin ready to fly out into the open.
“Wait! Bingbing, could you free that woman? She did no wrong!” However, before the elderly woman could bring Shin out, the young teenager asked the snowy white gerbil to free Shia.
“*Yip* *Yip*?” Although she was not entirely willing to free the person that she had just frozen, Bingbing obliged as the ice coffin that trapped the young woman began to melt at an exponential rate. Once her body was free, the unconscious Shia nearly fell to the floor, only to be saved by Shin’s quick reflexes. Moving her body onto the bed, Shin stared intently at the woman that he had spent the last few hours with.
“I’m sorry, Shia. I can’t do what you want…” Even though he knew that Shia couldn’t listen to him, Shin still apologised. Remembering her tearful face, begging him to stay with her, Shin felt his heart tighten in pain.
“Master, I’m ready…”
“Yeah… Hang on tight!” With Bingbing on her shoulder and Shin in her right hand, Lady Seph increased her mana supply as she flew skywards. The crevice that Shin was being kept in had multiple measures to hid its existence. However, the overall defences that it had were lacklustre. With Lady Seph’s abilities, she could easily drill an exit wherever she wished.
It didn’t take long for them to reach the surface where the cold moonlight hit Shin’s pale face. The eerie winds rustled the nearby trees, giving the forest that they were in, a sense of mystique that gave anyone the chills. Sounds of nocturnal life echoed through the creepy woods, forcing Shin to wonder where he had been taken.
“Seraphim! You’re out! Oh, and you have Shin with you too!” An aged voice boomed from the side of Lady Seph. A cold shiver ran down the black-haired youth’s spine as he heard that familiar voice. Initially, Shin had wished to meet him so that he could find out answers, but when it came to meeting him in person, the young teen didn’t know what to say.
“Elder…” Turning his head over his shoulder, Shin was greeted by the same old face that he had seen on a daily basis, once upon a time. His wrinkled skin had become more creased as his entire hair turned white. Possibly due to the extreme stress that he had been under, the First Elder seemed to have aged decades within the short period of time that Shin hadn’t seen him.
“Shin, it’s good to see you safe and sound!” The First Elder happily declared, only to be met with Shin’s solemn gaze. After staring at the elderly man for a few seconds, the youth averted his eyes as his body began to tremble.
“Edward… He knows… The people that kidnapped him. They were from the Awter Clan.”
“T-That!!! N-No wonder…”
“Furthermore, they are currently targeting Frie Mountain in your absence.”
“What did you just say?! Damn it!” When he heard that Frie Mountain, his homeland was being endangered, the First Elder hollered out in anger, almost instantly forgetting about the youth that was within the arms of Lady Seph.
“Edward, we can get there while riding on Bingbing… However, there’s something you must do… The thing you promised me before…” Lady Seph darted her eyes between the First Elder and her disciple, gesturing for her longtime friend to uphold his promise.
“That! I know…”