Book 4: Fairy Tales || Chapter 45: The Unfulfilled Promise

Up high in the thin atmosphere of Frie Mountain, dozens of flying beasts rained down elements upon the clan under siege. Pincered on all fronts, the valiant fighters of the Frie Clan used all that they had to push back the ten thousand strong Spirit Beast horde at their doorsteps. Protecting all that they held dear, the warriors fought on and on, until their hands turned red as blood flowed out from their veins and onto their weapons.

Slash. Hack. Slice. Stab. Burn. Rinse and repeat. The Frie Clan, which had been turtled in for nearly fifteen years, had once again returned to their roots as a battle clan. The flames of war burnT savagely through their eyes as they reverted back to their ghastly selves. However, this time, instead of killing thousands of innocent souls, they were slaying vicious beasts that hungered for their scrumptious meat.

Among those that were being protected by the warriors of the Frie Clan, Ariel and the orphans were seeking refuge in the Second Elder’s safe house, as per Linus’ request. Naturally, when the youngsters of the Second Elder’s division first saw the orphans barging into their place for protection, many of them scowled in irritation, and some of them had even heckled for the orphans to leave. Unfortunately, Linus didn’t appreciate any of those comments made, reprimanding those who dared to speak their minds. To him, protecting the orphans was a much higher priority than respecting the opinions of those who discriminated against them.

With the Second Elder’s grandson and Ariel, the most famous junior in the Frie Clan, on the orphans side, there was nothing much that the dissidents could do but frown in frustration.

“Sorry for that, sister Lily… If there’s anyone who tries to cause trouble with you, feel free to let me know!” Linus reassured the leader of the orphans, tapping his chest twice.

“Y-Yeah… Thank you…” However, before Lily could express her full gratitude, a massive tremor shook the teenagers off their feet as a shockwave caused the entire safehouse to tremble.

Falling to the floor, the teenagers braced themselves for the possible impact, but the sturdiness of the safehouse proved to be too good. At that moment, there was no distinction between the orphans and the members from the main bloodline, as everyone huddled together. Only after the shaking had stopped, did they begin to separate.

“What happened?” Ariel curiously asked, her eyes sparkled akin to that of an inquisitive cat. Moving forward from her crouched position, the young girl opened up the stone door, only to reveal a humongous mushroom cloud that resembled a dying rose.

“The Clan Master’s Final Petal!!!” Leon exclaimed in horror.

“Brother Leon, you know what is that?”

“Yeah, the Clan Master’s most powerful ability… It is said that anyone unlucky enough to be targeted by that ability, they would be instantly vaporised and anything within a kilometre radius would be utterly burnt to a crisp! To think the Clan Master would use it now…” Leon patiently explained to those present. Evidently, he knew much more about the Clan Master’s abilities than the average person.

“The battle is really getting out of hand… Look! There are even flying beasts circling around the mountain!” Ariel watched the skies, careful to pick out the menace that had been terrorising the Frie Clan.

“We should return… There’s no point in us being out here… We’re too weak to influence anything.” Linus sorrowfully sighed. As the Second Elder’s grandson, many expectations were being mounted upon him. The pressure to succeed in his grandfather’s steps, the pressure to be better than Ariel, and finally, the pressure to mend the broken relationship that his grandfather had with the orphans. If he were stronger, if he were as strong as Lady Seph or any other Spirit Emperor, perhaps he would be able to inflict change upon the now torn clan.

“Linus is right… Ariel, let’s return.” Lily shook her head as she pulled on the sleeves of her dear friend.

“Yeah… Wait! Lily, watch out!!!” Noticing that something had gone awry, Ariel summoned out her Lava Warhammer in a split second and pushed the blue-haired girl away from her body.

~~~

“Damn it!!! Damn it!!! DAMN IT!!!!! I CAN’T FIND LILY AND THE OTHERS!!!!” Junius screamed out in his head. After circling the mountain a few times, he was unable to even find a single clue about the whereabouts of his precious family. During the one and a half years that he was missing, Junius had been desperately training, so that one day, he would be able to reunite the bloodline of the Awter Clan. However, to do so, he needed to snatch Shin from the mighty Spirit Emperor that was Lady Seph, and he had to somehow rescue the orphans from the heavily guarded Frie Mountain.

The first part of the puzzle was completed when he sneaked into Chilyoja Waypoint and lured Shin into the sewers, where the Black Masks knocked him out. The subsequent part though was the more onerous task. There was no way for him to bring out the orphans, especially when they were under such tight surveillance in the clan. With no means to bring the orphans out, all he could do was bide his time and wait for the perfect opportunity.

And the perfect opportunity came.

Of all people, the Allfather ordered the rescue of the orphans from Frie Mountain and had even supplied the resources that the survivors of the Awter Clan needed to retrieve said orphans. When Junius first heard the news, he was beyond elated. The day that he had dreamed about for so long was finally becoming a reality. Once all the survivors of the Awter Clan were recovered, they could all bond together and grew stronger in the organisation that gave them a second lease in life. Yet, in his current state, he was unable to even find a single trace of where his loved ones might be at.

And the clock was ticking.

If Junius did not find the remaining orphans within the next few minutes, the order to retreat would come, forcing him to leave the mountain empty-handed. After this event, there was not a doubt in Junius’ mind that a such a godsent chance would repeat itself. Should they fail this mission, the Frie Clan would double their defences, and might even call in forces from the Himmel Empire to protect them. Not to mention, after Vellan had revealed his identity as a remnant of the Clan that they had once eradicated, the Frie Clan might do unspeakable things to the orphans that lived on the mountain. To prevent that from happening, Junius desperately sought to rescue them. Unfortunately, no matter how hard he searched, the viridian-haired teenager couldn’t find even a single trace of where they could be.

“Junius… It’s time… We have received the order to retreat…” One of the Black Masks finally worded out the news that Junius had no interest in hearing. “The First Elder has returned and the Second Elder will be reaching within moments. Our mission to rescue the orphans has to be forfeited.”

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!!!! Just give me a few more minutes to find them. Just a few more minutes!”

“Junius! Give up! We can’t be selfish! We aren’t just free Awter Clansmen anymore… We… We are in the Black Masks… The Allfather’s orders are absolute.” Although he too was reluctant to leave without saving the orphans, the Black Mask that Junius was with knew that disobeying orders in the organisation was tantamount to insubordination, which carried severe punishments.

“Please… We can’t just leave them here… We can’t just…” Fearing the worst for the remaining orphans living on the mountain, Junius’ eyes overflowed with tears. Once the battle was over, there was no way that the Frie Clan, which had already been discriminating the orphans, would simply leave them be. After all, the people that caused them to lose this many lives on this day were the same people that shared their blood. Just imagining what horrors the Frie Clan might put his beloved Lily through, sent shivers up Junius’ spine.

In his wallowing grief, the young teenager looked down from his flying mount one last time. Overwhelmed with anxious emotions, he realised that he had been over the Second Elder’s abode this entire time. Junius eyes turned red as he gritted his teeth. Remembering the injustices that the Second Elder had inflicted upon the orphans and himself, the disquietude that Junius possessed soon transformed in raging hate. Many grievances that the orphans had suffered from could be traced back to the senile old man that held one of the highest position in the clan.

Of every member from the main bloodline, only juniors from the Second Elder’s division were sent to bully the orphans. Furthermore, during the Harvest Festival Mission, the person behind the attempt on Shin’s life and the cause of Junius’ severe injuries back then, was the Second Elder. Finally, to keep the peace in the clan, Shin and Junius were exiled to Chilyoja Waypoint, where they barely got to meet with the ones they cared for the most. Nearly every bad memory that Junius had could be traced back to the Second Elder and his deplorable followers that terrorised his childhood.

“Before we leave… Can we just do one last thing?” A darkness that Junius had hidden away for his entire life began to emerge, as he hatched a sinister plot. His eyes turned muddied as the tears dried up and all that remained was a seething hatred, one of the likes he had never felt before. ‘If the world won’t do any justice, I will enact it myself.’

“What is it?”

“You know how the Frie Clan murdered our kin in cold blood? Not even sparing the those that are unable to fight?”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s do the same…” As if turning into a different person, Junius coldly stared at the numerous safe houses that lay under him.

~~~

“Huh? This mana signature is…” On top of the enlarged Bingbing, Lady Seph felt a peculiar mana source heading straight in her direction. From a distance, a bright red light was speeding right towards Frie Mountain, not willing to stop for anything. “Hoho, that’s why the Black Masks decided to attack huh?”

“Master?” Noticing the same exact red light, Shin tilted his head in confusion.

“Have a good look as he comes closer…”

“Hmmm?” Taking heed of his Master’s advice, Shin waited for the bright red light to come closer to the flying Bingbing.

When it finally noticed Shin and Lady Seph, the light steered from its original course and stopped right beside the Tier 8 Spirit Beast. From within the light, an elderly man, who seemed to be one step in his grave, emerged out and gave Shin an empty stare. Once the black-haired youth noticed who he was facing, his jaw dropped in shock. Throughout the time where he was trapped in the Black Masks’ lair, he had heard many stories about the relationship between the Frie Clan and Awter Clan. Furthermore, the First Elder also had explained the story from his perspective. However, no matter which side he heard it from, they all painted the Second Elder as this bitter individual who only wished to utterly annihilate the Awter Clan.

The Second Elder absolutely loathed the orphans. Especially Shin, the person who carried the bloodline of Errol Awter, the man who murdered his only son. Watching as the black-haired youth slowly hid from his line of sight, the Second Elder scoffed as he spat out a mouthful of saliva to the side. As much as he wanted to kill Shin, with Lady Seph and Bingbing in his way, there was no chance that he could even lay a single finger on the poor youth.

“Ash, do you really think this is the time to intimidate my disciple? Your clan is under heavy fire!” Lady Seph squinted her eyes in disgust as she watched the actions of the battle-hardened High Elder. Being a Spirit Emperor that specialise in healing, she was far from being a decent match for the Second Elder, who was the champion of a thousand battles. Nevertheless, if he were to start a fight just so that he could kill off Shin, there was no way that Lady Seph would sit there and do nothing.

“…” Clearly not amused by Lady Seph’s poisonous words, the Second Elder resisted a tantalising temptation to strike. He wasn’t a fan of how Lady Seph backed the First Elder and Clan Master so dealing with her and Shin would be killing two birds with one stone. However, deep down, he knew that Lady Seph’s words held some merit.

“…” Shin, on the other hand, hadn’t moved a single inch since the Second Elder’s arrival.

A mixture of fear and guilt weighed upon his young heart, as he recollected the bitter memories that he had of the Second Elder. The Second Elder was nothing short of a terror during his childhood and had been the perpetrator for many of his saddest days. Yet, after learning the truth, Shin could somewhat understand where the Second Elder was coming from. Of course, Shin still hated the bloody old man to his absolute core and the fact that the Second Elder was still trying to kill him made Shin want to stab the retard in the stomach a million times over. However, even if it was just a little bit, Shin could understand why the Second Elder would try to kill the son of his worst nemesis.

“Tskkk!” Realising that he was just wasting precious time, the Second Elder decided to continue on straight to the mountain, which was just a stone’s throw away. At this distance, even Shin, with his low cultivation level, could see the damaged houses littered all over the place he once called home.

However, before the Second Elder could continue his descent, multiple crimson lights rained down upon the helpless abode, terrorising the lives of those who stayed in it. For some reason, the Second Elder simply levitated mid-air, his eyes trembling as his body failed to listen to his orders. Tracing the direction of the Second Elder’s gaze, Shin found out what had caused such a drastic change in the elderly man’s demeanour.

Linus, Leon, Ariel and the rest of the orphans, were busy protecting themselves from the skyborne flying mounts and the Black Masks that were raining down hell upon them. Ella and Emma, the twin Ice Bows users, were shooting out elemental arrows at a frantic rate, hoping to shoot down the beams of elemental energy that was bombarding the buildings. Ariel and Lily were responsible for protecting the weaker Spirit Practitioners such as Elyse and Max; and finally, Linus himself was putting his body in grave danger by protecting the orphans that he pulled into his safe house.

‘Why are Elyse and the rest with Linus?! Why is Ariel not in her own safe house?!’ Numerous questions flowed through Shin’s mind at the time. In his current state, he didn’t care about the Awter or Frie Clan. All he cared about was the safety of his loved ones.

Coming back to his senses, Shin attempted to urge Bingbing to rush forward. However, before he could do just that, a particular hooded figure caught his eye. In his hand, there was an obsidian water blade that gleamed with the darkest of shadows. Beside him, many Black Masks were preparing to launch a final attack that would decimate everyone who stood below them, regardless of their affiliation. Although his face was concealed, Shin could clearly tell the identity of the hooded figure.

“JUNIUS!!!! NOOOOO!!!!”

~~~

“Ariel! You saved me!” Watching as a concentrated spiritual attack brushed past her body, Lily thanked the scarlet-haired girl for her quick reactions.

“Sister Ariel! What’s going on?!” Linus came out with a concerned cry.

“Looks like they’re coming for us… The Spirit Beasts in the air are preparing to blow away this entire estate!” Ariel exclaimed in horror.

Above the entire Second Elder’s abode, there were dozens of flying mounts that were concentrating their mana to deal one final blow to the clan. In fact, the Black Masks that were on some of them were doing the same.

“What are we going to do?!” Max shivered in fear as his face went as pale as a sheet. Among the orphans, only Max, Fionn, Elyse and Jacob were still at the Spirit Practitioner realm. For the weaker Spirit Practitioners that were emotionally immature, when faced with the possibility of imminent death, all that they could do was watch as power was drained from their entire bodies.

“Seek cover! Us Spirit Apostles will try to deflect as many attacks as we can!” Ariel hollered out, as she gave a suggestion on the best course of action. Readying her Lava Warhammer, all the remaining Spirit Apostles followed her lead and brought out their indomitable Spirits to fight off the deadly threat.

“Ariel… If things go wrong… Save yourself! I can’t let the orphans drag you down!” Lily was well aware of her bosom friend’s loyalty towards the orphan division. If push comes to shove, Ariel might abandon her safety, just so that she could save a single orphan, and that didn’t sit well with the blue-haired maiden. “You’re the pride of the Frie Clan! I can’t have you losing your life here.”

“Sister Lily… One more word of filth out from your mouth, and I’ll sew it shut myself!”

“Ariel!!! I’m serious! You can’t risk your life for us! You are…”

“Stop underestimating me, Lily!” For the first time ever, Ariel dropped the honorific when addressing Lily, stunning the teenaged girl in the process.

“I am Ariel Frie! The future Clan Master of the Frie Clan! If I abandon my friends just so that I could save myself, I wouldn’t be that much of a Clan Master would I?” Wearing the most radiant smile that Lily had ever seen, Ariel answered back.

“Ariel… Hah, looks like you’re a hopeless cause huh?” Raising her Spirit up, Lily grinned bitterly as she prepared for the inevitable attack of the Black Masks.

“The same goes for you…”

As the youngsters retreated into safety, all of the Spirit Apostles gathered their mana as they watched the hailstorm of spiritual abilities come hurling down onto the concrete floor. Ella and Emma shot their elemental arrow, piercing through many fireballs that came crashing down while Ariel and Lily used everything that they had to protect the weaker members. Linus and Leon, who were both proficient in using speed, dashed from person to person, helping them evade as many bullets as they could. For a time period, it seemed that they would be able to hold on until help arrived.

Alas, destiny wasn’t that kind.

Just as they were about to celebrate their accomplishment, the Black Masks above had run out of patience and had prepared a final barrage of attacks. Meteorites, Ice Spears, Earthen Boulders and many other devastating abilities were aimed straight at the buildings of the Second Elder’s abode. They didn’t care who or what lived in those houses. All they wanted to do, was wreak havoc and kill as many people as they could.

With a wave of a hand, one Black Mask ordered all of his subordinates to release their abilities, sending a flurry of attacks to fall straight to where Ariel and the others were residing in.

“Damn it!!!!” Ariel used her Lava Warhammer and started to shoot out Lava projectiles that melted some of the abilities mid-air. Unfortunately, many of them slipped past the defences laid down by the Spirit Apostles and were falling straight towards them.

“BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!!” As the abilities collided with the buildings, many of them were instantly destroyed.

Being Spirit Apostles, Ariel and the others had little difficulty navigating through the descending attacks as all they needed to do was expend a little bit of mana to avoid the area of effect. The Spirit Practitioners, such as Elyse and Max, on the other hand, had no means to protect themselves.

“ELYSE NO!!!” Ariel shrieked out in horror as she watched dozens of Ice Spears, sharper than any knives that she had ever encountered falling right towards, Elyse, Max and Fionn.

In that brief moment, time seemed to slow down as she saw the edged spears move closer and closer towards the unmoving children. If there was more time, Ariel might have chosen to let Linus bring the three to safety with his Niji Swift. If the spears were a small boulder, perhaps Ariel could try blasting it away with a swing from her Lava Warhammer. However, at that very moment, the scarlet-haired girl opted to take the only route that came to her mind.

At the same time that she sprung off the ground, Lily and Linus both noticed the perilous situation that their juniors were in and similarly came to the same conclusion that Ariel had.

They had to save them.

“*SLLLINNG!!!* *SLLLINNG!!!* *SLLLINNG!!!*.” The sound of the Ice Spears piercing through flesh rung through the desolate Second Elder’s abode, stunning all those who were present. A chilling silence descended upon the safe houses, as crimson blood flowed down from three unmoving bodies, filling the entire area in a river of blood.

“No…” Watching from afar, Shin held his breath as everything unfolded before his very eyes.

Up in the air, the hooded figure that instigated the attack in the first place was in a similar state. Only after Junius watched as the final attack launched, did he realise the calamitous mistake that he had made. All along, the orphans were hiding in the place he least expected…

“ARIEL!!!!!!” “LILY!!!!!!!”

~~~

“Shit!!!” Not willing to delay any further, Lady Seph grabbed Shin by the waist and turned into a ray of holy light, speeding towards the mountain where Ariel lay unmoving. The Second Elder, who had witnessed the same scene as Shin, blinked forward at the same rate.

“Junius! We have to go now!” Noticing the arrival of the Second High Elder of the Frie Clan, the Black Mask that was next to Junius hurried him, unaware of the egregious mistake that they had just done.

“Lily… No… What have I done…” Out of sorts, Junius watched his two hands like a deranged lunatic.

“Tskkk, he’s out of it… Sorry, Junius! You’ll thank me later!” Landing a solid blow on the back of his neck, the Black Mask knocked Junius out and laid him out flat on the flying mount that he was on.

On the ground, the three Spirit Practitioners that were targeted by the Ice Spears, all came out unharmed as they felt a warm red liquid drip down their faces. Max, who Lily had treated as a little brother, had been saved by the blue-haired girl that threw her body in harm’s way. The Ice Spears had pierced through her four limbs and many parts of her abdomen. Her heart had been yanked out from her chest, instantly forcing her bodily functions to shut down. Without even saying a word of goodbye, Lily had left the mortal world.

Unlike Max, the person who had saved Fionn wasn’t anyone that she was close to, but the person that all the orphans deemed as public enemy number one. The Second Elder’s grandson, Linus.

With an Ice Spear lodged straight through his skull, Linus had instantly perished. For someone of his standing, he absolutely had no need to risk his life to protect someone he barely even knew. Not to mention, the person he saved was part of the ‘enemy’s division.’

“Linus… Hey… You’re joking right…” Falling straight to his knees, the Second Elder watched the lifeless eyes of his only remaining kin in this world. The Second Elder had lost his son’s life during the war with the Awter Clan, and he had tried to give his grandson everything that he could. Even the reason why he left the clan in the first place, was to find a suitable partnership with a neighbouring clan so that he could usurp the throne and had it over to Linus in the future.

“Ha… Haha… Hahaha… HAHAHAHA!!!” A maniacal laugh bellowed out from his mouth with tears flowing uncontrollably out. If he weren’t so selfish. If he didn’t leave the clan to form an external alliance. Wouldn’t he be here to protect the only person that mattered in his life? Due to his delirious ravings, the Second Elder had caused the death of his precious grandson. Unable to bear with the agonising pain of loss yet again, all that he could do was stifle a laugh, as he surrendered his mind to the demons that sought for it.

And finally, there was Ariel. Using her body to shield Elyse from any harm, the scarlet-haired girl was impaled in both her lungs. Not only that, her entire abdomen was filled with Ice Spears that was smeared in her blood. However, compared to the other two, at least the damaged girl was still breathing.

“ARIEL!!! Master! Please save her!!!” Shin screamed out.

Without even needing her disciple’s plea, Lady Seph had summoned out the Iofiel Angel and had begun the healing process. A holy light was being transferred from the elderly woman’s body into the weakened girl. Instantly removing the Ice Spears, the early signs of recovery from Ariel seemed to be promising as her pinkish complexion during the course of the treatment. Her wounds had been closed and the power being sent from the Iofiel Angel increased rapidly. However, after a few moments, Lady Seph suddenly stopped treating the poor girl, much to the dismay of her distraught disciple.

“Master?! What are you doing?! Ariel needs immediate treatment!!!”

“Shin…” Watching the black-haired youth with trembling eyes, Lady Seph felt a wave of emotion hit her soul. She had personally seen how much Shin cared for the scarlet-haired girl that was lying in front of her and to think that she had to be the one to…

“Listen carefully, Shin… Ariel… This lass… She’s not going to pull through…”

“What do you mean? Huh… But… Ariel’s fine! Her skin is fine! Master, please continue to treat her!”

“Shin! Ariel… Her entire intestines had been pierced open. Her stomach had been utterly decimated in that attack… Not to mention the two punctured holes in her lungs… The most I could do is… Prolong her life for a few more moments…”

“Huh? What do you mean?! Aren’t you the best healer on the continent?! Why can’t you save her? WHY CAN’T YOU SAVE ARIEL?!” Screaming at the top of his lungs, Shin questioned his Master’s powers.

“IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO TREAT HER, I WILL!!!” Summoning out The Sovereign Koi, Shin created his Healing Water to attempt to heal the young girl that laid still in front of him. As his Healing Water reached the motionless body of Ariel, the young healer was able to fully comprehend the severity of Ariel’s injuries.

Multiple organs that should have been there had been torn apart. Internally, the only things that were spared from the onslaught were her deteriorating heart and her wrinkled brain. However, even with those two vital organs intact, the damage done to her body was too much for any healer to treat, and Shin clearly knew that. Nonetheless, he wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

“HEAL!!! HEAL!!! HEAAAALLLL!!!” Sending forth waves upon waves of mana, Shin attempted to save the poor little girl that was quickly slipping into the netherworld. However, no matter how hard he tried, Ariel’s blown apart internal organs weren’t going to come back.

“Shin… I-Is th-at you?” While the black-haired healer was doing his best to treat the fallen girl, Ariel gingerly opened her eyes. “I feel… weird…”

“Ariel! Don’t speak! Just hold on! I’ll fix you up! I promise! I will save you…”

“Shin? I see… I’m not going to make it huh…” Watching the frightened face of her beloved childhood friend, Ariel deduced many things. Feeling her soul dissipating bit by bit, Ariel could tell what had happened.

“No! Don’t say that! I’m the youngest healer in history remember?! I will save you no matter what!!!” Shin resolutely exclaimed with tears falling out of his eyes.

“…” Lady Seph watched on silently and bit her lips when she heard her disciple say those words. She knew that everything that Shin was doing was nothing more than a useless endeavour and anything that he said to Ariel was nothing short of empty assurances. Nevertheless, even she hoped that a miracle could occur and desperately prayed to the Immortals above.

“Is… Elyse alright?” Coughing out a mouthful of blood, Ariel sought to look for the young girl that she had saved, at the expense of her own.

“Sister Ariel!!! Please, don’t die!!!” Running forward and dropping next to the bloodied scarlet-haired girl, Elyse begged and begged for Ariel to survive. Beside her, the remaining orphans all gathered and watched as Shin fearfully tended to the damaged girl’s injuries.

“Haha, you’re fine… Good… I didn’t *cough* *cough* give my life for nothing…”

“NO! Ariel stop saying that! I’ll save you no matter what! Please, stop draining your energy! I’ll save you… I’ll save you… So please…”

“Shin… Before I go… I have to say something to you…”

“No! Please… I’m not ready for this… I’M NOT READY FOR THIS!!!” Shin’s entire body convulsed in agony, as his heart shattered into a million pieces. Being the one that was desperately trying to heal Ariel, he was the one who was the clearest of her condition. At any moment, the young girl that he loved so dearly, would breathe her last.

“Shin… I love you… I loved you ever… since you first came to… my house to train… Shin… I love you…”

“Ariel, please don’t do this… Please…”

“Haha… It’s funny, isn’t it? The promise that we made… when we were ten… I never got to fight you…” As her last bit of consciousness was about to slip away, Ariel recalled the promise that she had made to Shin over four years ago. She had planned to fight Shin once they had both awakened their Spirits, but unfortunate circumstances had kept them from fulfilling that promise.

“Ariel… No… Please don’t do this… I’m not ready for this… I’m not ready…”

“Shin… I’m sorry… Looks like I won’t be able to fulfil my promise to you… Ah… Where did you go? It’s gone dark now…” Although her eyes were wide open, Ariel was unable to make out the location of her loved one.

“I’m here! I’m here! I will always be here! So just hang on! I’m going to save you!” Holding on to the palms of her hands, Shin sent all of his mana to the Healing Water that was treating Ariel, hoping for a miracle to come to pass.

“Shin… It’s cold…”

“Ariel! Just hang on! Just hang on! I will… I WILL SAVE YOU!!!”

“Yeah… You always will…”

And then… Complete silence.

All that remained were the sounds of embers flickering and falling debris. In Shin’s arms, Ariel had wholly stopped moving as her final breath left her body. All around him, the cries and wails of the orphans sounded out, as many fell to their knees. Lady Seph, who seemed to be immune to tears, was unable to hold back anymore and turned her head away, covering her eyes in the process. And then… There was Shin.

“Hey… Stop joking around… Please… Ariel?” Shaking the pale body of the one he loved the most, Shin’s mind had blocked out everything. No sounds and no scents could enter his consciousness as all he focused on was the unmoving body of the scarlet-haired girl that lay in his arms.

She didn’t have the most beautiful features in the world, and neither was she the most feminine girl that he had ever met. However, she was the one who had stolen his heart. Yet, Ariel was gone, never to return.

“Ariel…P-Ple-aaa-ssee!!! Don’t joke around anymore! Please! Ariel, wake up!!!”

The memory of her adorable snort when she thought of something mischievous came to Shin’s distraught mind. The memory of them walking through the streets and her asking for a cheap amethyst necklace, the memory of the time where they first embraced each other on the top of the Mushinkei rooftop… So many pleasant memories flooded the broken mind of Shin’s.

“Ariel, no… Please… I’m not ready for this…”

Then the fantasies that he had where he married Ariel in the future came into his mind. If everything had gone according to his plan, he would have been together with the scarlet-haired girl for eternity, and they would have given birth to the cutest of babies. Alas, it was a reality that would not come to pass.

“Ariel… ARIELLLLL!!!!!!!!”

~~~ End of Book 4 ~~~

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