Once the First Elder had ended his emotional rant, a terrifyingly chilling silence descended upon the back of the enlargened Spirit Beast. The First Elder was shaking like a leaf, trying his best to keep his emotions in check, while bowing down to Shin. Lady Seph, who only knew of the cursory facts surrounding the demise of the Awter Clan, gaped in terror as if paralysed after learning the entire truth.
And finally, Shin who had yet again received another information dump was merely sitting there, unmoving. However, unlike his stoic exterior, Shin’s mind was currently running at the speed of light, trying his hardest to process everything. His emotions were now in disarray and he felt that all logic had been thrown out of the window. The First Elder had admitted to murdering the entire Awter Clan, the clan in which he was supposed to be a part of, yet he felt sorrowful for the elderly man’s state of being. There was no question that the Frie Clan did an unforgivable thing, but after hearing every single part of the story, Shin didn’t have to heart to entirely blame the First Elder.
At that moment, memories of his childhood on Frie Mountain flashed by Shin’s mind. The times where the Instructor taught him patiently and faithfully. The times where the Headmistress asked for what foods were his favourites. The times where he played around with Ariel and other members of the main bloodline. Naturally, there were countless bad memories that he had. However, the good ones easily trumped the bad ones. In his silence, the young teenager deeply thought about the relationship that he had with the Frie Clan.
“When we brought you seven back from Awter Lake, the previous Clan Master, as well as a large majority of the elder council, agreed to raise the orphan division as if you were our own children. Of course, there was one major dissident to our cause… Ash, unable to stand the fact that we had brought in survivors of the Awter Clan into our mountain, started to plant nefarious seeds of untrust in many of the elders’ minds. He argued that one day, once the orphans found out about their true heritage, they would rise up and seek vengeance. Thus, over time, the consensus regarding the orphan division had diminished as resources had been withheld for your growth…” After a brief period of silence, the First Elder resumed his speech.
“Shin… I know that you might hate the Frie Clan, but please do not play into Ash’s hands. If the elder council thinks that the orphans might turn into a threat, I’m not sure what they would do… Now that we had raised you to become a Spirit Apostle, not to mention your relationship with Seraphim, I’m sure your future would be boundless, even without the Frie Clan’s assistance. So Shin… Once again, I can’t control how you feel about us now, but please… Please don’t follow in the footsteps of our sinful generation.” The First Elder’s voice cracked as he implored the young teenager to learn from his mistakes.
“…” Instead of replying to the elderly man’s mournful plea, Shin simply stared at the man he had once looked up to. The First Elder, in all of the orphans’ hearts, had always been like an immovable pillar of support. His power far exceeds anyone that they had met, and his dedicated care could be felt whenever they interacted.
Yet, the once giant figure of a man had turned so small right before Shin’s eyes. In his current state, Shin felt like the First Elder was akin to a house of cards. Just one gentle touch would send him crumbling down to his demise.
“I had said what I had to say… I’m sorry, but I have to rush back to the mountain…” Sensing that Shin wasn’t willing to talk to him no longer, the First Elder opted to retreat and return as fast as he could to Frie Mountain. After getting emotional over recounting the dark history that the Frie Clan had, the elderly man felt the need to protect the remaining people that he held so dearly.
Taking one last look at the muted Shin, the First Elder recalled the crying face of his granddaughter. The whole reason why he left the mountain in search for Shin was precisely because of Ariel’s tearful plea. His eyes quivered in pain as the lips on his face curled up, giving him an empty expression of self-reproach. To think that the heir of the Frie Clan would fall in love with the heir of the Awter Clan. If everything weren’t so torn between the two clans. If the world had been a much better place, would those two meet and fall in love in the same manner? Nevertheless, thinking about hypotheticals would lead him to nowhere.
“Shin… The sins of the parents should never be borne by their children. You are innocent, and so is Ariel. The ones at fault are us… The ones who fought in that disgusting war. The conflict that should have ended in the previous generation had been dragged down to yours… For that, I’m sorry…” After giving Shin his parting words, the First Elder jumped off the flying Bingbing’s back and turned into a bolt of red light, darting towards the direction of Frie Mountain.
After leaving Bingbing’s back, a calm stillness was shared between the two remaining individuals. Lady Seph, who had long released her grip on Shin’s shaking hands, fell into deep thought.
‘So that’s the entire history between the Frie and Awter Clan… And that’s why Edward and Enfen are so protective over Shin…’ Earlier on, before she accepted Shin into her tutelage, Lady Seph had barged into Frie Mountain, hoping to gather the background of the young child. Back then, she only gained a basic understanding over Shin’s past. Initially, she didn’t know what to feel about the Frie Clan killing off every member of the Awter Clan and even accepting some descendants under their wing. However, after the First Elder’s tearful confession, Lady Seph began to sympathise with the weakened clan.
Such was the nature of war. For soldiers to fight in such a deplorable scene, they had to forget their humanity, their senses and become a weapon solely for the sake of execution. That was the reason why many warriors would seek death after awakening to the heinous deeds that they had done.
For the Frie Clan, they took in one step too far. Lost in their hatred, they performed acts that were unfathomable when they were fully lucid. Instead of weapons sharpened for war, they had turned into butcher machetes that slaughtered innocents. Naturally, the after-effects that followed became too hard for many to bear.
“Master… Did you know about the Awter Clan?” Finally opening his mouth, Shin questioned his long-time master. Since his head was down, Lady Seph was unable to make out his expression, but from the tone of his voice, she could guess that it wasn’t a pleasant one.
“Yeah… Not to that extent though… But, Shin… It doesn’t change that fact that you’re my disciple. I will protect you even if the world turns on you.” Bringing Shin’s head to her bosom, the elderly woman attempted to console the distraught youth.
“Master… *Hic!* *Hic!* What should I do? WHAT SHOULD I DO?!?!?!”
The last few hours for Shin had been a roller coaster of emotions. He found out that he was the heir of the Awter Clan and his parents had been massacred, alongside the brethren of his clan, by the very same people that had raised him. It was simple to put all the blame on the Frie Clan and exact vengeance from there, but after hearing the First Elder’s account, the circumstances were much more complicated than he thought. In that war, no one won. Yes, the Frie Clan might have been victorious on paper, but the damage had already been done. The animosity between the two clans had been passed down from generation to generation, and even with the complete annihilation of the Awter Clan, the effects of the war still live on.
“Shin…” Stroking the silky black hair of her disciple, the only thing that Lady Seph could do was offer her shoulder for him to cry on, as Bingbing rushed endlessly towards Frie Moutain, possibly to stop yet another tragedy from repeating itself.
While Shin was busy stabilising his mental state, a new fight had begun, hundreds of kilometres away from him. The deafening sirens of Frie Mountain had been sounded causing the entire vicinity to burst into an outroar. Being a battle clan that had just gotten out of a long and devastating war, multiple emergency procedures had been put in play. Growing up Shin and Ariel had all experienced some form of emergency drills that forces them to escape into safe houses. However, this time, it was not a drill.
“Hurry up! Anyone below the Rank 20 Spirit Core realm, move to safety! The clan is under siege, I repeat! The clan is under siege!” Howls of distress echoed through the bustling mountain as children stayed close to their mothers.
“Sister Lily! Are the orphans all gathered up?!” Ariel, who should have been safely stored in the First Elder’s abode, had run straight to the orphan division, the moment disaster struck.
“Ariel! We’re all here! What’s going on?” Lily looked around as the adults of the Frie Clan scrambled to their battle positions.
“A beast horde. There’s a beast horde that is thirty thousand strong moving in rapidly on our mountain” Being part of the main bloodline, Ariel naturally had access to more information than Lily ever could.
“WHAT?! My goodness, what are we to do?!” Lily exclaimed in terror. Behind her, the remaining orphans also felt the horror that they were about to face.
“Not to worry! Our clan is strong! The Clan Master and all of the elders are moving out! Not to mention the new weaponry that we had bought has been thirsting for beast blood!” Ariel reassured the anxious Lily that everything was going to be alright.
“Right… What can we do to help?” Lily casually asked.
“Yeah, sister Lily! I want to help!” Elyse, who had already awakened her Spirit a few years prior, excitedly threw her hat into the ring, hoping to be dispatched on her first ever mission.
“No, there’s nothing that we can do. Didn’t you hear? Only Rank 20 Spirit Core cultivators are needed in the frontline. All that we can do is retreat to one of the safe houses and await our clan’s successful victory. Right! Why don’t you follow me to my designated safe house?” Ariel suggested.
Typically, during emergency drills, each division would have their designated safe house to retreat to. Although the defences were about the safe, having some familiar faces around could help ease the tension. At least that was what Ariel was thinking about.
“Is that really fine?”
“Of course! I just have to tell the Headmistress about it when we’re there! Urgh… Now that I think about it, I don’t really want to deal with her stern face.”
“Hahaha, you still can’t take the Headmistress, huh?” Lily giggled at Ariel’s aversion for the person that dealt with her day to day activities.
“Hmph! Only people like you can get along with her! You see, tiger mothers attract each other right?”
“HARGH?! What did you say?!”
“See! You’re only proving my point!”
Playing along with Ariel’s taunts, the beautiful young teenager chuckled as she brought the scarlet-haired girl into her arms and nudged on the crown of her head.
“Owwww!!! That’s enough, sister Lily! Come, let’s move before it’s too late!” After breaking free from Lily’s grasp, Ariel led the orphans on the road to the safehouse.
‘Tsssk, of all times for the beast horde to arrive… I don’t even know is Shin is safe or not! Grandpa! Shin! Please return soon!’ Crying out in her heart, the young girl prayed for the safety of the people she cared for the most in this world before moving straight towards the safehouse.