“Damn it… DAMN ALL OF THEM!!!”
Running into his designated study space of Yakkyoku Clinic, Shin used his fist to repeatedly knock into the drywall, causing imprints of his knuckles to become more prominent with every impact. With every punch, the blood from his lips that was produced by Shin biting it too hard flew out and stained the pristine white wall giving the study room seem like a slaughterhouse instead.
“Why? Why? Why? Why?! Why?! WHHHHHYYYY?!?!?!” With one final punch, Shin gathered his mana into his fist and drilled through the wall like it were paper. Blisters and punctures caused his palms to shake uncontrollably as droplets of rich crimson fluids dripped down onto the floor. Pulling back his quivering hand, the black-haired boy fell on his bottom and pulled his knees inward. Resting his head on the bloodied wall, his entire being felt listless as droplets of bitter tears fell down his cheeks.
“Junius… I’m so sorry…” Whispering out in a soft voice, Shin apologised to his elder brother who was currently missing.
“Shin? Shin? Where are you?” While the young teen was wallowing out in despair, a youthful girl’s voice sounded out in the corridor of the Clinic. Worried that Shin would do something rash and injure himself, Ariel chased her childhood friend all the way from the western gate to Yakkyoku Clinic, where the young teen had holed himself in.
“Shin! What have you done?!?!” It didn’t take long for the scarlet-haired girl to find Shin and when she did, Ariel got the fright of her life. In front of her, the wall which should have been pure white had been stained red from the young teen’s blood. In the middle of the wall, a clear and substantial hole had been punched through, deforming the entire backdrop of the room, and finally, on the floor, there was a youth who lay despondently, as if awaiting the end of the world.
“Go away, Ariel… Leave me alone…”
“How can I leave you alone?! Look at what you have done to yourself!!! Quick, do you have any bandages? Or maybe you could heal yourself?! Shin? Hey, Shin! Are you listening to me?!”
“SHUT UP!!! Just leave me alone!” Swinging his fist that was dripping with blood around, the young teen shooed Ariel away. Right now, he wasn’t in the mood to talk or interact with another soul, especially someone from the Frie Clan. All his life he had grown up thankful that the Frie Clan had picked up the other orphans and him so that they didn’t rot in one corner and yet, now that the Clan had abandoned Junius, the gratitude that he felt was no longer there.
“Shin…” Ariel had lived with Shin nearly her entire life, and she had never seen the boy this emotional. Realising that there was nothing that she could say or do that would cheer her childhood friend up, Ariel quietly sat down opposite of the young teen.
“What are you doing? I told you to leave me alone.”
“I am. Just ignore me, I’ll be just sitting here.”
“What’s the point of that?”
“I can’t leave you alone right now. God knows what would happen if you run amok and further hurt yourself.”
“…” Unable to come up with a retort for her words, Shin simply gave the girl a short glance before burying his head in his knees. Right now, his mood was unstable, and he knew that clearly, and who could blame him? He had just found out the clan he trusted his life to wouldn’t even bother to save the person who meant the most to him.
Five minutes passed. Shin’s temper had started to cool down, and the blood on his hands began to dry. The pain that he didn’t feel due to the intense emotions that clouded his mind started to sting his consciousness. However, the moment he felt the pain, he remembered that Junius might be in extreme peril and the pain that he might be feeling would be much worse than some meagre injury causing the intense rage that died down earlier to resurface once more.
Fifteen minutes passed. Ariel still remained silent as her gaze stayed fixated on the young teen who was unmoving. Shin’s rage had yet to dissipate as he was caught in a vicious cycle. Every single time he thinks that he calmed down, just one thought of Junius would cause the hate that he had for the Frie Clan to resurface once more. Nonetheless, being a healer, he knew that he couldn’t leave the wound on his knuckles untreated for that long and thus, he uncorked the white ceramic gourd on his waist to summon out the ‘Healing Water’ that he created to treat himself, much to Ariel’s delight.
An hour passed. The two youths sat opposite one another in complete silence. Shin was still trying to figure out his emotions while Ariel quietly stood by. Lady Seph and Bingbing had arrived back in the Clinic thirty minutes ago and discovered the duo in Shin’s study room. Initially, Bingbing wanted to rush to Shin’s side to comfort the youth, but she was stopped by her Master’s wrinkled hands. Sensing Shin’s volatile mood and seeing the resolute eyes of Ariel, the experienced old woman knew that it was best to leave the two alone.
Hours passed and soon, the bright sunny day had turned into an overcast sky. Massive drops of rain drizzled down from the heavens and slammed onto the pristine clinic. The blistering heat had all but dissipated leaving a cold and humid environment for the citizens of Chilyoja Waypoint. Housemaids scurried to keep their hanging laundry while mothers pulled their children into the safety of their warm abodes. However, amidst the hustle and bustle, in the remote corner of the busy town, two young teens, who had remained unmoving for hours, sat completely quiet.
The distance between them was just a few metres, and yet, Ariel felt that the young teen, with trembling shoulders, seemed to be so much farther. Shin was physically close to her, so close in fact that all she had to do was walk a few steps and she would be able to grasp those smooth cheeks of his. However, during these few hours, Ariel realised that the distance between them was not as it seemed.
Ever since she was born, Ariel lived a sheltered life with her grandfather doting on her so much so that it bordered on pampering. Anything she wanted, she would be served on a silver platter. Additionally, when her latent talent was discovered, the entire clan started to revere her and gave her the best training resources one could hope to imagine.
Shin, on the other hand, didn’t have a family. He was an orphan that the previous Clan Master had picked up to boost the Clan’s weaknesses. Everything that the orphans had gotten, they had to fight for. The Instructor and Headmistress trained them hard since they were young and they never knew their own parents. Adding to that, the Second Elder’s division loathed the impure blood and sent their children to bully them at any possible moment. Comparing the two environments that the two had grew up in was like comparing heaven and earth.
Yet, through all those difficult days, the orphans were able to persevere. Showing to the clan that their talents were far from average, the orphans fought hard to prove that their place on the mountain was not misguided; and a significant reason why was due to the leadership of Junius.
Being the oldest orphan, Junius had always shouldered the burden that everyone placed on the orphans. Always caring for them, standing up for them when the going gets tough and even being the rational mind in an untenable situation. Junius had always been the solid rock that anchored the orphans and led them in their darkest of hours. All the orphans, even Ryner who was a hot-headed child growing up, looked up to Junius as their leader, their role model and finally, their elder brother.
Even though they were not technically related, the bond that the orphans shared went beyond blood relations, and that was highlighted with the relationship between Shin and Junius. Having spent the most time together, Junius had been with Shin every step of his life. When Shin was in the cradle, Junius embraced him. When Shin was first learning to walk, Junius was there to guide him. When Shin first started to train, Junius was his first partner. When Shin needed a roommate, Junius offered up his cabin for him. Finally, in that forest on that fateful day, Junius nearly gave his life to save Shin.
Junius had always been a shining beacon in the black-haired youth’s life. So much so that no matter how lazy Shin was, if an issue pertaining to Junius arose, the typically sleepy youth would rise to the occasion, just so to save his elder brother, but this time, Shin was utterly powerless to do anything.
Words cannot accurately describe how much Shin loved Junius and how much he hated the Frie Clan right now for abandoning him. Ariel, who could be said to be one of Shin’s closest associates, too couldn’t imagine the pain and suffering that her childhood friend was going through. Thus, all that she could do was writhe in the fact that the distance between them was much more significant than she first imagined.
“How… How could they do this?” A weakened dry voice echoed out from Shin’s corner, brightening the eyes of the scarlet-haired girl. It was the first time in hours that she had heard his voice. Due to the earlier sobbing and shouting, the young boy sounded hoarse and anaemic, prompting Ariel to leave her position to pour a cup of tea for the forlon teen. Putting the cup right next to Shin, Ariel sat in front of the young boy and gestured for him to drink up. Unfortunately, Shin had no intentions of receiving Ariel’s kind intentions.
“Ariel… They abandoned Junius…”
“Yeah, they did…” Ariel was no idiot. She had overheard the entire conversation that Shin had with Marshall and instantly decided that the Frie Clan was in the wrong. For the first time, she felt ashamed to bear the name of Frie. What was she going to say to the distraught orphans back on the mountain? What was she going to say to Lily who loved Junius so much? Over the course of the few hours alone with Shin, countless of thoughts entered her mind, and the best answer that she could come up with was to simply apologise in place of the clan.
“Why? Why would they do that?”
“I don’t know…”
“Is it because we’re orphans? Because we’re not from the main bloodline?”
“I’m sure that’s not it…”
“Then why? WHY?!?! WHHH-HHH-HHHII-HHII-HYYY?!?!?!” Hollering out like a crazed lunatic, the young teen started to cry uncontrollably. Snot fell down his flared up nostrils, and tears came gushing down like a broken down dam. At that moment, he felt terrified. Not just because he feared the worst for his elder brother, but because he felt the most alone that he had ever felt in years. If the Frie Clan could abandon Junius, who was without question the greatest asset from the orphan division, they could do the same with the other orphans.
Pulling the sobbing youth into her bosom, Ariel felt her clothing turn wet from all the crying that Shin did.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry, Shin…” Doing her best to comfort Shin to the best of her ability, the duo sat in each other’s embrace for a solid five minutes before the black-haired youth finally calmed down.
“No… Ariel, I’m sorry… I can no longer trust the Frie Clan…”
Now that he had figured out his resolve, Shin stood up from his position and stared wordlessly at the scarlet-haired girl. Although he knew that the decision of the clan had nothing to do with the young girl sitting in front of him, in his current state, he felt annoyed at anything or anyone related to the Frie Clan.
“Ariel, I will find Junius, whether the Frie Clan sends support or not. I’m sorry but… That’s just how it is.” Following the series of let-downs that the Frie Clan had brought onto Shin, he felt nothing but resentment for the clan that had raised him up all these years.
“Shin, you don’t have to do this alone! You know that I will support you. Don’t worry, once I return to the mountain, I will hound my grandpa to send reinforcements. In fact, I too want to join the search for brother Junius!”
“Do whatever you want Ariel, but for now, please leave me alone. I have some thinking to do.” Nonchalantly shooing the young girl out of his room, Shin held the door open for Ariel.
“Are you sure that you won’t do anything rash?” The whole reason why Ariel stayed with Shin for so long was because she feared that he would do something to hurt himself.
“I’m calm now. Please, let me be alone for a while.”
“Okay. I’ll send letters. Don’t worry, just wait for my good news!” Once Ariel left the room, it was highly probable that she would be sent back to Frie Mountain immediately. Thus, the only way that they would be able to communicate was through carrier letters.
Merely giving Ariel a detached stare, Shin slammed the door and found one corner in his humble room to sit.
‘Junius, I’ll definitely save you!’