The trip back to Chilyoja Waypoint was an uneventful one. Other than the hurried nature of the convoy and the extra vigilance that was being applied to the surroundings, the journey was smooth and without much disturbances. Throughout their travels, both Lady Seph and Shin remained in a sour mood thus causing Ariel and the Shrine Maiden to bond a little to not disturb the master-disciple pair.
“We’re here.” All of a sudden, the aether car that had been travelling non-stop halted causing the passengers to slightly jerk off their seats. Lymark, who had been in the driver’s seat this entire time, turned his head back to inform Lady Seph that they had arrived.
The sudden revelation caused both the elderly blonde woman and black-haired teen to snap out of their stupor. Glancing out the window, Shin saw the all too familiar western gate of the Waypoint that he had been living in for the past three years.
“That’s fast. Alright, thank you Lymark. Send my regards to Alwig when you return.” Now that Lymark’s purpose had been completed, Lady Seph gently opened the door and dismissed the middle-aged man.
“Will do. Thank you for… Argh, she already left.” Before Lymark could say his goodbyes, Lady Seph promptly exited the luxurious aether car with Bingbing on her shoulders.
“Haha, since she’s not going to accept my thanks, Shin, would you accept it on your master’s behalf?”
“Hmmm? Ah… Senior Lymark, I’m sure Master is just in a bad mood…” Realising that he was being addressed to, Shin stuttered in his earlier words before composing himself to give the driver a respectful bow.
“No, it’s fine. I’m used to it. Speaking of bad moods, what’s wrong with you. You had been awfully quiet since we left.” At Lymark’s words, Ariel’s ears twitched in curiosity. Shin had been acting weird the moment he entered the car, and although he was still somewhat responsive as compared to the zoned-out Lady Seph, being a long-time friend of Shin’s, Ariel could tell that something was terribly wrong.
“Ah, that… It’s really nothing… My time in Aldrich’s Keep has just been that hectic that’s all… Additionally, Junius is missing…” Shin’s eyes drearily faded as he dropped his brows. Bringing his head downwards to stare at the floorboards of the aether car, he let out a despondent sigh.
“Oh, I see… Shin, there’s no need to worry. Even though Aldrich’s Keep had fallen, as Lady Seph had said, the war isn’t over. We will wipe out all the beasts that marched through those walls and make those assholes who caused the horde pay in blood!” Lymark patted his chest and proudly declared. Like many in the Keep, he had great pride when it came to the legendary fort. Even though its fabled grandeur has been broken, as a member of its troops, Lymark like many others wish to reclaim their lost dignity by annihilating any of the beasts that had overrun the Keep.
“I’m sure you will, Senior Lymark. Alright then, I’ll be departing as well. I hope to see you soon.”
“Hahaha! That’s more I like it! Yeah, I’m sure we will see each other very soon!”
Bidding farewell to the middle-aged man, Shin stepped out of the aether car with Ariel and the Shrine Maiden following quickly afterwards. The young teen’s nostrils expanded as he breathed in a mouthful of fresh air, free of the stench of blood and ashes. Since the news that a sixty thousand strong beast horde had broken through the western border, every single town and village fortified their defences lest they faced a beast invasion of their own. However, even after a few days, nothing major had happened, and there wasn’t even a single beast in sight. It was as if the beast horde had vanished into thin air.
“Sister Riko! Senior Marshall! Senior Lewis!” Once outside, Shin spotted three familiar faces that stood at the gates to welcome the returnees. Dashing forwards in a hurry, the black-haired teen’s eyes brightened up as he said:
“Is there any news of Junius yet?!” Without even greeting his three seniors, Shin directly skipped to the question that he so desperately wanted to be answered. Junius’ disappearance had been plaguing him the entire trip, and Shin wished to at least hear a little good news.
“Shin… Sadly no…” The one that answered the hurried youth wasn’t the sultry young woman who manned the front desk of the Mushinkei every day nor was it the tall warden that was in charge of liaisons with Frie Mountain, but the plump Chief Constable that wore a bitter frown.
“I see… No, I have to join the search! Senior Lewis, Senior Marshall… I must join the search!” Now that he had returned, Shin decided to devote all of his power to find the missing family member that he had.
“I don’t mind it, but we are severely understaffed. Due to the increased safety precautions, all the constables are working overtime constantly. We had only dispatched a few people to go on the search so there won’t be much protection for you.”
“It’s alright! Alongside the Frie Clan search party, I’m sure we can find Junius in no time!”
“About that…” At that point, Lewis carefully shifted his gaze between Marshall and Shin.
“What about it?” The black-haired youth tilted his head while staring at the obese man.
“It’s fine, Lewis… He’ll find out eventually. Let me be the one to tell him.” Marshall raised his hand to stop the Chief Constable from spouting out any more words.
“What’s going on? Senior Marshall?”
“Shin…” Taking a deep breath in, the middle-aged man adjusted his butler uniform by tapping off the dust off his shoulders and preparing himself for the outburst that he was expecting.
“Shin, the Frie Clan is not sending a search party.”
“Huh?” Feeling his mind go blank, Shin quietly stood there, rooted to the ground, with an empty expression. He did not know how to process the new information that he got. During the journey, all his thoughts could focus on was how could he add value to the search party by analysing the possible places that Junius could go. Thus, now that he discovered that the Frie Clan was planning no such expedition to find Junius, Shin’s mind wholly blacked out.
“What do you mean? Is the First Elder going to search with some higher-ups by flying or something, that’s why a search party is not needed? Or is it you already know where Junius is, so there’s no need for that? Or is it…”
“Shin! Listen, please…” Marshall raised his voice slightly to stop the young man from going off with his own thoughts.
“We don’t have the manpower, especially in these times of crisis where every single operative is being called back to the mountain to combat the threat of the beast horde, there’s simply…”
“No! So what because of some beast horde you’re not going to find Junius?!”
“That’s not what I mean… when everything dies down…”
“WHAT BULLSHIT!!! WHAT DO YOU MEAN EVERYTHING DIES DOWN?!?! BY THEN IT WOULD BE TOO LATE!!! WE HAVE TO SEND A SEARCH PARTY RIGHT NOW!!!” Forgetting that he was addressing a senior, Shin burst out into a fit of rage and yelled out at the thin, tall man. At that moment, all eyes that were surrounding them instantly landed on Shin, including Lady Seph who was talking to Mayor Nadeo. It was as if the world had slowed down for all of those present. The majority of them all knew Shin, and some even grew up with him. However, in all of their years interacting with Shin, they had never seen him so outraged that he thoroughly lashed out at another individual.
“Calm yourself, Shin…”
“HOW CAN I CALM MYSELF?! YOU’RE TELLING ME THAT YOU ASSHOLES ARE ABANDONING JUNIUS!!!” His teeth chattering and his knuckles turned white from rage, Shin’s entire body convulsed as he further bellowed out.
Junius had always behaved himself and was the exemplary example of a future asset to the Frie Clan. He was talented, he was brave and last but not least, he got things done. Just ask the Constable Headquarters in Chilyoja Waypoint. Thus, it made to sense to Shin that the Frie Clan would refuse to send help to search for the viridian-haired youth.
“Shin, please understand. We can’t afford to send anyone. Furthermore, Junius went away of his own volition to god knows where and we don’t know how long it would take to search for him. Finally, there is no indication that he is unable to come back by himself.”
“HIM NOT BACK RIGHT NOW IS THE BEST INDICATION!!! *Cough* *Cough*. There’s no way Junius would abandon his duties!!!” Essentially yelling out at the top of his lungs, Shin felt his throat go a little hoarse as he coughed out violently.
“I’m sorry, Shin. Our hands are tied…” Although he received the full brunt of Shin’s anger, Marshall still apologised as he knew that the Frie Clan was in the wrong this time. Having seen Shin and Junius spend their lives in exile, Marshall had started to see the duo in a fond light. He too knew that if Junius didn’t return, it meant that something untoward had happened. In fact, to a certain extent, he shared Shin’s sentiments and wished that he could rush out into the unknown just to find the missing youth. Therefore, when the order came from Frie Mountain, he couldn’t believe his eyes at first. They were, essentially, abandoning Junius.
“Junius… Why…” Suddenly turning meek, Shin’s eyes lost their earlier glamour, as if all hope was lost.
“T-That! Those are orders from the Clan…”
“Does the First Elder know about this?”
“I don’t know…”
Ariel and the other members of the expedition overheard the entire conversation and just stood there quietly. Emma had already lost control of her tear ducts and was sobbing uncontrollably while Ella comforted her while biting her bright red lips. The Shrine Maiden raised her eyebrows as she was perplexed by her bosom friend’s decision. From what she understood, many people in the First Elder’s division greatly cared for Junius, and they had even risked war with the Second Elder to get revenge when the youth was injured by the men sent by the Second Elder. Yet, why did the Clan Master order that no search party be deployed?
“Why? Is it because we’re orphans?” Shin shook violently as his ears turned beet red with anger. Now that he was in a state of complete ire, he turned all of his resentment to the Frie Clan. All of a sudden, multiple memories flashed by his head of how badly the orphans were treated. Bullied by the main bloodline. Not receiving the best materials. Forcing Shin and Junius into exile no matter how much they hated it. So many unpleasant memories surfaced, and even though it didn’t lead to animosity back then, thinking about it now, Shin felt his entire being filling with rage.
“No, it’s not that… It’s just we don’t have…”
“Excuses! Excuses! EXCUSES! EXCUSES!!! YOU GUYS JUST CAN’T STAND THE SIGHT OF US RIGHT?!?!?! THAT’S WHY YOU’RE ABANDONING JUNIUS!!!”
“Shin… Please, we’re not…”
“SHUT UP!!! I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT!!!”
Pushing Marshall out of the way, Shin stormed straight into the town and headed for Yakkyoku Clinic. In his current state, the black-haired teen needed a place to cool down, and since the only two places he frequented were the Clinic and the Mushinkei, he chose to go to the remote location that no Frie Clan member was situated at. Although Shin’s anger had filled his entire mind, he still retained a little of his rationality. If he was anywhere near a Frie Clan member of a Frie Clan property, Shin was afraid that he would lash out violently.
“Ariel, follow him. Don’t let him injure himself…” The Shrine Maiden gently instructed the only person that Shin would show his vulnerable state to. Right now, Shin was like an active volcano which was on the verge of erupting, and when he does flare up, it was highly possible that he could hurt himself.
“Nnnnn!” Ariel didn’t even need more guidance. She herself was worried about the well-being of her childhood friend. After giving one deep bow to her seniors, Ariel urgently ran in the direction that Shin had disappeared into.
“Hmph! Just pray that he doesn’t do something brash, otherwise, instead of a beast horde, I’ll personally go up your mountain and drag everyone down from that pedestal that they are sitting on.” Lady Seph walked past the Frie Clan, snorting derisively in the process. Evidently, she was unsatisfied with the decision that the clan had made. As Shin’s master, Lady Seph naturally knew of the relationship between Junius and her precious disciple. Furthermore, she had a good impression about that youth that would risk anything to protect his younger brother’s life.
The Shrine Maiden, Ines, Marshall and Riko all lowered their heads in shame as the esteemed woman walked by with Mayor Nadeo in tow. To be completely honest, they too were in the same boat as Shin. Confused and enraged about why the Clan had undertaken this action, especially when the value of Junius had only increased over the years.
“I’ll relay that message to the Clan Master…” All the Shrine Maiden could do was to cup her hands and watch as Lady Seph disappeared into the highly fortified town.