“Thank you for seeing us off.”
“Hahaha, it’s nothing! I should thank you for helping us treat so many patients during your stay!”
Shin conversed with the Chief Healer of the Keep, Escred, at the foot of the now destroyed east walls. Over the course of his stay, Shin had volunteered his services to the understaffed medical bay countless of times, especially after the Keep had fallen. Hundreds of patients came rolling through the bloodied white tent where the healers worked round the clock to treat as many patients as they could, but the fatalities were too tremendous. Fresh batches of injured bodies were delivered every hour, causing the healers to almost go insane from all the treatment that they had to do.
Therefore, whenever Shin was not tending to Lady Seph, he would rush down to offer his services, helping decrease the workload as much as his mana reserves would allow him.
“Then senior Escred, if there’s nothing else, I will be boarding now.” Shin bowed down to the handsome man while nudging the scarlet-haired girl that stood by his side. Ariel, who had been rude to Escred ever since the first time that they met, felt awkward when it came to dealing with the healer that had been so cordial during their stay.
“Thank you for your hospitality.” Nonetheless, as a direct descendant of one of the High Elders of the Frie Clan, Ariel had to display at least a little manners.
“Really, there’s no need to thank me! I’m just doing my job! Argh, if only you could stay with us for a little longer, Healer Shin…”
“Senior, there’s no need to be so formal with me. You can just call me Shin.” Furrowing his brows, Shin offered up a suggestion to the handsome hazel-haired man. Shin had been bothering Escred over the past few days and had learnt many things from the experienced healer. As the old adage goes, walking ten thousand kilometres of roads is better than reading ten thousand scrolls of books. There were many things that only experience could teach you and having Escred assisting the novice healer every step of the way proved to be extremely useful for his overall growth. Thus, whenever Escred addressed Shin with an honorific, it made their relationship seem much more distant than it really was.
“Is that so! Then I’ll do just that! Also, drop the senior tag when calling me!”
“No buts! Just call me Escred or Brother Escred!” The hazel-haired healer shared the same sentiments with Shin. Initially, he wanted to butter up the young teen as he was the esteemed Lady Seph’s direct disciple. However, after a few days of interacting with Shin, Escred was genuinely drawn to the young man’s character. Soon, it didn’t matter that Shin was the youngest healer in history or the disciple of one of the world’s top healers. All that mattered to Escred was that he found a sincere friend in the black-haired boy.
“Then, Brother Escred…”
“HAHAHA!!! That’s better. Now that you called me brother, there’s no way I should shy away from giving you a gift right?” Laughing out boisterously until his shoulders shook, Escred reached into his pocket and pulled out a metal talisman bearing the mark of the Healer’s Association. Turning it over, six mana inscribed letters that spelt Escred’s name revealed itself to the black-haired youth.
“Since there’s nothing much I can give you, I’ll just hand you this. This is my personal identification medal from the Healer’s Association. Although you might not need it since you’re with Lady Seph, in times of emergency, perhaps my name would be of use to you.”
“Brother Escred! I-I can’t accept this! It’s too valuable!” The talisman in Shin’s hands was something that could be used in both the Himmel Empire and the Healer’s Association. It basically gives the bearer of the medal the right to perform deeds in Escred’s name. In the hands of nefarious individuals, the medallion could be used to implicate the hazel-haired healer negatively. Thus, Shin was apprehensive about receiving the talisman.
“Hey, if you’re calling me brother, there’s no way I don’t trust you. Furthermore, once you formally enter the Healer’s Association, perhaps the medal would become useless to you. Anyway, having it on your body is great protection!”
“Why would I need protection?” Being thirteen years of age, Shin had minimal chances to meddle with the politics of the world. He naturally didn’t understand how vital influence was in the Himmel Empire. In fact, that was one of the reasons why Escred felt a need to protect this pure creature from the fangs of the venomous snakes that he might encounter in the future. Additionally…
“Shin, could I have a moment with you? In private?” Gingerly shifting his gaze between Shin and Ariel who stood next to him, Escred hoped to speak one-on-one with his new brother.
“Okay… Ariel, I’ll be right back.” Answering Escred with a little confusion in his voice, Shin signalled to the scarlet-haired girl that he would be leaving.
“Sure, just make it quick though, once Lady Seph boards the convoy, it would be time to depart.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t hold Shin for long…” Escred assured the young girl as he lightly pulled Shin away to a corner where no one could hear them, baffling Shin and Ariel in the process.
“Is something the matter?”
“Shin, how are you related to the Frie Clan?” Ever since the first day that Escred witnessed Shin summoning out The Sovereign Koi, it was a question that had plagued his mind for the longest time.
“Hmmm? I was an orphan, and the Frie Clan adopted me in. What about it?” Surprised that Escred had actually pulled him aside for such a strange question, Shin tilted his head in confusion as he answered the healer’s query.
“An orphan?! Adopted… I see… Now it makes some sort of sense…” Mumbling to himself in a feathery voice that was too soft for Shin to accurately pick up, Escred scratched his head while desperately trying to connect the dots.
“It may not be in my place to say this but Shin… Be wary of the Frie Clan. Build up an external power source that does not rely on that clan.”
“Why?” Bewildered by Escred’s advice, Shin widened his eyes. It was the first time that anyone had warned him about the Frie Clan. Although it had its flaws, many people on Frie Mountain genuinely cared for Shin regardless of his orphan lineage. The First Elder. The Instructor. The headmistress. The Shrine Maiden. All of them had cared for the young boy in one way or another. Yes, there were many dissidents among the Frie Clan that hated the orphans, but the love he felt from those aforementioned people were genuine.
“As I said, I can’t or rather, I’m afraid that I’m not the right person to say it… Well, since you’re Lady Seph’s direct disciple, it could be considered a plus. Just remember, never put all your eggs in one basket. You don’t have to stay in the Frie Clan, heck you don’t even have to stay in these remote lands! With your talent, the world is your oyster!”
“I’m serious, Shin… Hah, maybe you can’t see it now but trust me, you must be extremely cautious about the Frie Clan.” Seeing Shin’s nonchalant attitude made Escred realise that the black-haired youth was going to take his words with a grain of salt, and to be honest, he couldn’t really blame Shin. Who would you believe? A clan that had raised you since you were little or a random guy who you had spent a few days with?
“Shin! We’re about to depart!”
At that moment, a youthful female voice sounded out from the convoy and called out for Shin. Apparently, Lady Seph had concluded her business and was already comfortably seated in the lead car.
“Brother Escred, once again, thank you for your hospitality. I have to leave now.”
“Yeah! Have a safe trip!” Now that their time together had come to an end, all that Escred could do was to wish the young man the best.
“What did he tell you?” Once returning to the aether car, Ariel promptly asked the black-haired teen.
To her right, Shin was sitting on the luxurious chair while glancing outside of the window. Evidently, he was not in the mood for idle chatter. To her front, Lady Seph was similarly staring into space, caught in the midst of deep thought. The sole person who was not perturbed by their mood was the Shrine Maiden, who sat diagonally from Ariel. Yet, due to the two individuals’ silence, both Ariel and the Shrine Maiden withheld their words and simply went with the flow. Ariel, concerned at Shin’s queer state, held his hands once more and lay on his shoulder.
‘What does brother Escred mean? Be wary of the Frie Clan? Argh… Whatever, Junius’ safety is more important…’
After the fall of Aldrich’s Keep, the most pressing news to Shin was the whereabouts of his elder brother, Junius. For now, he should put all meddlesome thoughts aside and focus on the safety of one of his closest family members.
‘Please be safe, Junius…’