As Riko mentioned in her report to the Clan Master, Shin had been busy at work during the past few days where he returned to Chilyoja Waypoint. Day by day, he pestered the Chief Constable, Lewis, to send a search party or at least give some clues about where Junius might have gone. However, he always received the same answer.
“We will be sending a search party soon just wait for my good news!”
No matter how much Lewis wanted to save Junius, he was accountable for the safety of every single human soul in his jurisdiction. Thus, Lewis had to make sure that his actions weren’t clouded by his desire to save his protege and only send men when there was an absolute surplus of them working. It took him five full days to gather the necessary personnel to conduct the search and even then there were only twenty people. Since the information that Junius had given them was rather vague, all they knew was to search the south to trace the young teen’s footsteps, and there was no way twenty men was enough for such a search.
Nonetheless, Shin was not willing to call it quits without even trying once. Following the search party down south, the young man explored every possible nook and cranny that might contain potential clues of Junius’ whereabouts. Shin had even role-played as the youth just to get a sense of what Junius might have done. However, even after searching for more than a week, there wasn’t even the slightest clue of where Junius could be.
“Damn it, Junius! Where the hell did you go?!”
By this time, Shin and the search party had combed every planned area for the search at least three times. Unfortunately, they came up with nothing. Soon, once Lewis and Mayor Nadeo realised that continuing down this path would only be a waste of resources in a delicate time, they temporarily suspended the search party, at least until the military arrives with reinforcements to take down the Spirit Beasts that plagued their vicinity.
Therefore, although he was unwilling, Shin was forced to halt his search for Junius and could only return to Chilyoja Waypoint with a sorrowful frown. Speaking of which, since he was still pissed off by the Frie Clan, the young teen had refused to return to the Mushinkei and stayed exclusively at Yakkyoku Clinic, much to the delight of a certain snowy gerbil. Turning his study room into a somewhat habitable bedroom, Shin slept over at the clinic as Bingbing used him as a warm cushion. Thankfully, Lady Seph had no qualms about letting her disciple stay over at her abode which boasted the best showers and cleanliness in the entire waypoint.
“Hah… Bingbing, you’re here huh… Where’s Master?” An exhausted voice sounded out in the corridors of the clinic, causing the snowy white gerbil’s ears to twitch in excitement.
Even though Shin had informally moved into the clinic, over the past few days, he was barely around. Other than sleeping or showering, the young teen had spent the majority of his time searching for clues about his missing elder brother. However, it seemed that his search could only come to an abrupt end today. Without support from the Constable Headquarters or the Frie Clan, there was no way a mere Spirit Apostle could find Junius.
“*Yip!* *Yip!*.” Leaping onto the fatigued black-haired teen’s shoulders, the snowy white gerbil wagged her tail while squeaking in an animal tongue.
“She went out?! That’s rare… Well, since she’s not here, I’ll just be resting in my room.” Rubbing his tense shoulders, Shin raised his arms to stretch while releasing the tension that had been built up over the past few days. For the first time in his young life, the black-haired teen was severely sleep-deprived. Typically, whenever he felt tired, Shin would find any possible excuse to take a nap or turn in early so that he could catch up on his lost sleep. However, due to the tremendous emotional stress of losing a close friend and the physical toll of traversing multiple hills and jungles, Shin had barely slept a wink.
“*Yip!*.” Nodding her head in confirmation, Bingbing left Shin alone and hopped into her bed on the counter.
In the meantime, Shin quickly entered his ‘new’ bedroom while trying his best to keep his heavy eyelids from closing. The small accommodation was relatively simple. Thick towers of books and notes piled up around the small wooden table centred at the side leaving little space for anyone to walk. The scent of musky sweat and terrible dust remained in the small room as Shin barely had time to clean. Piles upon piles of used clothing lay scattered across the wooden floor, and some had even made their way to the temporary mattress that Lady Seph had bought for her live-in disciple.
“Urghhh… So tired…” Falling face first onto the bedraggled mattress, Shin embraced his baggy pillow as he felt a wave of fatigue hit him to his very core. Due to his extensive search for Junius, he had lost many precious hours of sleep. Gingerly closing his eyes, the young teen let himself sink deeper into the Garden of Hypnos as totalness darkness descended upon his consciousness.
“*Yip!* *Yip!* *Yip!* *Yip!*.”
“*Yip!* *Yip!* *Yip!*.”
“… Hmmm? Bingbing?” As Shin was enjoying his long-awaited deep sleep, a sharp and adorable voice chirped loudly from the side of his bed. Lifting open his heavy eyelids, the young teen let out a lethargic yawn as he sat up on the mattress. Moving his body, Shin felt heaviness in many parts of his body, indicating that he had been out cold for an extended period of time. Stretching out the sore muscles, the young teen turned his head in a clockwise rotation to ease the tense shoulders that he had.
“*Yip!* *Yip!* *Yip!* *Yip!* *Yip!* *Yip!*.” Happy that Shin had finally answered her calls, Bingbing hopped ecstatically as she tried to communicate something to the half-awake youth.
“Huh? Sorry, could you slow down? I didn’t understand it.” Combining the fact that he was drained of energy and he wasn’t a linguistic expert on the beast tongue, Shin rubbed his eyes as he requested the gerbil next to him to repeat what she was trying to say.
“*Yip!~* *Yiiiip!* *Yip!*.”
“Someone’s here? Who?”
“Me.” As Shin was busy trying to figure out what Bingbing was trying to convey, a toneless voice called out from behind of him.
“Eeeek!!!” Letting out an astonished squeal, Shin jumped out of his bed in surprise and turned his head to greet the intruder of his space.
“Hohoho, what’s there to be scared of, little one? Can’t take a small surprise?”
Sitting by his bed, a gorgeous woman, possibly in her late twenties greeted the startled youth. As Shin’s drowsy eyes started to brighten up, he could fully pick out all of her facial features. Donned in full white priest garb, the young woman’s ornate robes highlighted her ample figure as she folded her long legs together. Long, glossy black hair that flowed down from her golden biretta covered her entire face, making it look smaller than it actually was. With a fully hydrated complexion free of any wrinkles or blemish, the woman seemed to be in the prime of her life. If she were to walk down the streets alone, Shin was confident that hordes of thirsty men would pile over each other to get a chance to woo her.
“Ermmm, miss? What are you doing in my room?” Although he was enthralled by her appearance for a little bit, Shin quickly got to the main issue at hand. There was currently an unidentified woman, possibly a malicious intruder, trespassing his room. However, instead of feeling threatened, the young teen oddly enough felt a strange sense of kinship with the woman.
“Hahaha! Miss! It’s been ages since someone called me that! Now that’s a good boy! I see that Seraphim has chosen the right disciple!” Hearing Shin addressing her in a flattering manner, even though he didn’t mean in, put a beaming smile on the young woman’s face.
“You know of Master?”
“Of course I do! Otherwise, how would I be able to enter this secure place this easily?!” With a smile that blatantly showed her full set of white teeth, the woman rubbed the young teen’s head. Usually, when an unfamiliar person shows up in the clinic and performs such a queer gesture on Shin, Bingbing would be the first to jump in and rescue the boy. However, this time the little gerbil quietly watched as the woman copped a feel. In its eyes, one could even see a tinge of fear and reverence.
“Ermmm, so are you here for the upcoming meeting?” As Lady Seph’s sole disciple and fellow roommate, it was natural for Shin to know about the upcoming event that his Master was so busy preparing for. In fact, he felt a little guilty that he couldn’t offer his usual assistance as his mind was too preoccupied with finding Junius.
“Well, sort of… I’m also here to meet my precious disciple who had abandoned me for so many years.”
“Your disciple is also in town? What a coincidence…” Shin shot the young woman a weird look as he raised his eyebrows. Judging from her exterior appearance, Shin assumed that the woman was in her late twenties, so it was strange for her to have a disciple that young. However, since she was one of Lady Seph acquaintances, Shin simply turned a blind eye.
“If you’re going to meet Master, I’m afraid she’s not in yet. You might have to wait for a while longer.” Shin gave the woman a respectful bow while glancing out of the window.
The earlier blistering heat of the day had been replaced with the chilling cold of the night. Pitch darkness enveloped the waypoint blocking, and a minute amount of lights remained lit. Thinking that it was about time for his Master to return, Shin turned the doorknob of his door to guide the woman into Lady Seph’s office. However, before he even got out of his room, the wooden door flung open and hit the unsuspecting youth right in the nose, pushing him downwards in the process.
“Shin! Are you home?!” From the other side of the door, an adenoidal voice worriedly shouted out.
“Master… You hit my nose…” Instantly recognising the owner of the voice, Shin started to heal the partially broken nose of his with Healing Water and tried his best to focus his vision.
The blonde elderly woman, who was the cause of Shin’s current pain, seemed to have forgotten the existence of her disciple as her jaw dropped in shock. Stunned speechless, the prestigious healer’s eyebrows began to twitch uncontrollably as she stared down the intruder of her property.
“Althea… When did you arrive?”
“Hey, hey, hey! Is that the attitude you take when addressing someone who travelled thousands upon thousands of kilometres just to see your face one more time?!”
“Hah… Why did the Healer’s Association allow you to come out from your hibernation?”
“Do you honestly think those snotty-nosed brats can order me around?”
“Tskkk… I shouldn’t have called using that bloody communication crystal Raphael gave me… To think that it would connect to you…”
“Hey! He did a good thing. Otherwise, god knows when I would be able to see my precious disciple again!” Waving her arms about like a spoilt child, the senior donned in priestly robes protested Lady Seph’s words.
“M-Mas… Master?!” Shin exclaimed out in agitation. If his ears weren’t deceiving him, that meant that…
“Yeah… Shin… This here is Althea Curador… The sole Spirit Saint that the Healer’s Association has and… My Master…” Dry-heaving as if she was about to vomit out a bucket full of blood, Lady Seph introduced the young and busty woman.
“Pleased to meet you, Grand-Disciple of mine!”