In the long peaceful corridor of Yakkyoku Clinic, one young scarlet-haired girl stood silently as she stared at the stable door that stood before her. After being chased out by Shin, Ariel didn’t leave immediately. She was still worried that the young teen might be impulsive and therefore, she waited to hear any unwarranted sounds for a full three minutes before she was disturbed.
“You really care for him huh?” An adenoidal voice broke the silence of the corridor, snapping Ariel out from her focus.
“Lady Seph! No, I’m just worried that he might be rash.”
“Haha, don’t worry child. When he’s in my domain, there’s no way he can do anything that would hurt himself!”
“I see…” Dropping her eyebrows, Ariel dejectedly sighed. Noticing her sadness, Lady Seph smiled and rubbed her silky scarlet hair.
“Child, Shin’s just in a bad place now. Don’t take it to heart.”
“No, I understand… If I were him, I might have felt the same way…” Growing up with Shin, Ariel clearly understood how important Junius was to the black-haired teen. Role model, elder brother or dependable senior. Everything that Shin needed in an older brother figure, Junius had it. Therefore, knowing that the Frie Clan had deserted the distressed youth just because it inconvenienced them greatly pissed Shin off.
“It’s good that you can see it that way. Alright, leave Shin to me for now. I’m sure Edward is eagerly waiting for your return to the mountain.” While Ariel was comforting Shin, the entire Frie Clan convoy was resting at the Mushinkei, waiting for the young girl’s arrival.
“Lady Seph… Thank you… Please look out for Shin, especially in these turbulent periods. Should he rush out to rescue Junius without help, he might get attacked by a stray Spirit Beast.” Placing her hands on Lady Seph’s sleeves, Ariel begged
“Hahaha, there’s no need to worry child! I know what to do. Geez, you two are not even married yet, and you’re already such a worrywart.”
“M-Married?! L-L-Lady Seph! We’re not in that kind of relationship!” Turning redder than a boiled octopus, Ariel accidentally bit her tongue as she accepted the elderly woman’s teasing words. It was a rare sight to see the valiant Amazonian girl this flustered as she was generally as cool as a cucumber. Exceedingly amused by what she was witnessing, Lady Seph let out a playful chuckle.
“Well, that will change in due time!”
“I-I-I-I have to leave now! G-Goodbye!” Turning away from the aged woman who had reverted back to a mischievous child, Ariel hurriedly escaped from Yakkyoku Clinic and returned to the Mushinkei where Ines and the rest were waiting.
“Ah, youth…” Grinning from ear to ear, Lady Seph watched as the abashed young girl ran from her after some light teasing. Both Shin and Ariel have reached early adolescence and have started to gain some basic attractions to members of the opposite gender. They may not be aware of it, but the majority of those who knew of their relationship reckoned that one day, either Shin or Ariel would make the first move. Once that happens, it would only be smooth sailing from then on.
“Hmmm, but the little lass might be right about Shin being rash… Bingbing, these few days, monitor his actions would you?”
“*Yip!* *Yip!*.” Squeaking out at the top of her lungs, the snowy white gerbil nodded her fluffy head as she ran into the room that Shin was in.
‘Hah… What is Edward thinking, not sending help to Junius… Well, it’s their clan matter, so it’s not convenient for me to interfere…’Squinting her eyes, Lady Seph stared in the direction that Frie Mountain was in as if trying to communicate with her old friend.
‘Whatever… The next I meet him, I’ll make sure to give him a loud earful. For now, let me prepare the place for the meeting…’
As much as she wanted to hound the old bastard, Yakkyoku Clinic was going to play host to representatives for two huge organisations. Since it was inconvenient for the Emperor Tenno to leave the Capital, he sent one of the best generals under his direct command to meet with the esteemed healer. However, what gave Lady Seph severe headaches was the representative that the Healer’s Association was sending over.
‘Urghhh… Just thinking about her pains my poor head…’ Rubbing the temples of her wrinkled forehead, Lady Seph took a deep breath in, trying to calm the pain in the head. Since Lady Seph had cut communications with the Healer’s Association for so long, it was only natural that on the day she sent a transmission over, one of the biggest figures in the Association was the one to pick up her call. As for the representative that they were sending over, let’s just say Lady Seph would much rather stick her hand into the most putrid to cow dungs than to spend one minute conversing with her.
“Tsskkk, how troublesome…” Clicking her tongue in annoyance, Lady Seph gave Shin’s study room a quick glance before returning to her office.
Himmel Empire. Frie Mountain. First Elder’s Abode.
Two days had passed since Lady Seph, and Shin returned to Chilyoja Waypoint. Once Ariel had returned to the Mushinkei, the convoy rushed back to Frie Mountain so that they could adhere to the Clan Master’s orders that all operatives were to return with immediate effect. The heavily guarded mountain had added even more defensive mechanisms, and with high numbers of sentry guards patrolling every corner, currently, even a fly would find it difficult to breach the mountain’s defences.
On the day Ariel returned home, she stormed into her grandfather’s room just so that she could request a search party be sent to assist Shin. With the Ella and Emma supporting her, the fiery young girl was fearless as she presented her demands. Ariel had even added in that she would be going down the mountain as well. Nevertheless, the ball was never in her court. The instant the First Elder saw his granddaughter barge into his room late that night, he could already guess what her purpose was.
Adamantly sticking to the clan’s decision to not send out a search party for Junius, the First Elder turned his back towards his beloved granddaughter, much to the surprise of everyone present. The First Elder had historically been a loving figure to not only Ariel but the orphans as well. Whevener the orphans were facing any injustices, they knew that they could always rely on the First Elder to rectify their problems. Yet, this time, he just didn’t care.
In the end, Ella and Emma were sent back to the orphan’s lodgings where they were mostly placed under house arrest once again. Not able to leave the premises, the only thing that the orphans could do was to train hard every single day in their training facility. Ariel, on the other hand, was given a much harsher ‘punishment.’ Knowing his granddaughter’s temperament, the First Elder feared that Ariel would break out of her room and rush down the mountain as well. Therefore, only the scarlet-haired girl was locked inside of the First Elder’s personal abode where she only had access to the courtyard and her room, with guards and maids monitoring her actions round the clock. However, it was not just Ariel who had felt the strangulation of the Frie Clan’s new policy.
Down the other side of the residential area, Linus and Leon were facing similar conditions as the one placed on the orphan division. Other than their own lodgings, they were forbidden from straying far. In fact, the majority of the younger generation were feeling the strain. Essentially, Frie Mountain had turned into a vast glorified prison where not only could nothing enter, but also, nothing could escape.
Under the dazzling carpet of the starry night sky, an aged man sat quietly on his comfortable wooden rocking chair as he sipped on his favourite tea. Typically, on a full lunar moon night, the entire mountain would be bustling with excitement as children stayed up late to play and stargaze while adults celebrated with a full moon’s feast. However, on this particular cold night, there was only dead silence. Not even the songs of the joyful cicadas could be heard.
“A penny for your thoughts?” While the old man was blankly staring into space, a clear and sonorous voice broke his silent stupor.
“Clan Master… Do you have that much time on your hands that you would come to scare this old-timer?”
“Senior Edward, surely you jest. You have fought over a thousand battles and braved countless of enemies. What could I possibly do to scare you?”
“Haha, your glib tongue is as good as ever!” Although he was facing the highest authority in the clan, the First Elder still remained seated, as if not caring about his own personal decorum anymore. Naturally, Enfen Frie didn’t particularly care that the elderly man sitting in front of her cared little about mannerisms. Pulling over an intricately designed wooden stool, the Clan Master poured herself a cup of tea before making herself comfortable next to the First Elder’s rocking chair.
“Don’t you think that your treatment of Ariel is a little too harsh? She only has access to three places now! Her room, her bathroom and your courtyard. It will only be a matter of time before she goes insane.”
“There’s no helping it. If I let her be, she would most definitely run down the mountain by her own means. Her desire to help Shin is quite strong after all.” Finishing his cup of tea, the First Elder wore a bitter smile as he talked about the granddaughter he loved so much.
“Hahaha, what can you do? She’s at that age after all! Speaking of Shin, are you not going to explain the truth to him?” The Clan Master concernedly questioned the elderly man.
“Yeah… At least for now. I have sent Lou to the last known location to find him. The problem is…”
“Why did Junius go to THAT location right?” Finishing the First Elder’s sentence, the Clan Master let out a sorrowful sigh. Her bright eyes seemed to go muddied as she recollected the pain and suffering that war had brought upon both sides.
“More importantly, how did Junius know about Awter Lake? Was it pure coincidence? Or did someone lead him there? Either way, once Lou returns we would be able to gain some clues.”
“Too bad it’ll lead to Shin misunderstanding our intentions. From the verbal reports that Lien and Ariel submitted, it seems like he’s quite pissed at us at the moment for abandoning Junius.”
“There’s nothing to it. If we publicise that we’re going to send a search party to find him, we must also tell everyone the last known location that he went. If Ash and the others find out that he travelled to Awter Lake, they would assume that Junius betrayed the Frie Clan and therefore, have a legitimate reason to chase out the other orphans, or at least cause some other form of trouble…” The elderly man stroked his unkempt beard as he recounted the entire situation.
When Junius was first reported missing, everyone in the First Elder’s division went into a state of panic thinking that the Second Elder had got to him. However, once the First Elder found out that Junius actually went to Awter Lake before disappearing, he did everything in his power to cover up that fact and made the illusion that he had virtually abandoned the lost youth. Nevertheless, it was just a ruse to trick the Second Elder while sending some of his top subordinates to personally conduct the search.
“Hah… Riko from the Mushinkei had sent in a report stating that Shin hasn’t returned to his room ever since returning from Aldrich’s Keep. All this time he had been staying at Yakkyoku Clinic while badgering the Constable Headquarters to send a search party out to find Junius. It seems that he really loves that elder brother of his. Even though they are not blood-related, in more ways than none, they are perhaps the closest siblings I’ve ever seen.” Taking out a piece of yellow parchment paper, the Clan Master presented it to the First Elder, who was still rocking on his chair.
“Yeah… Junius was the brightest star in Shin’s life. So even though he is concealed by a dark cloud, Shin would do anything in his power to reclaim Junius back from the abyss.” Staring skyward, the First Elder’s eyes shone as they reflected the milky dots that graced the heavens.
“So before it comes to that… Before Shin becomes desperate… We must find Junius and deliver him back safe and sound.”
“Yeah, let us do just that…” Sharing the elderly man’s sentiments, a jubilant smile crept up the Clan Master’s face as she similarly admired the beautiful night sky.