Flying down the mountain on Bingbing’s back, Lady Seph and the orphans took a long walk from the exit of the Academy. The Himmel Empire Capital was over 20,000 square kilometres, and Imperius Academy was at the edge of its borders. Thus, for them to even reach a hub where citizens reside in, they had to travel for at least a few hours. Thankfully, with the Bingbing express, they could drastically cut down their travel time, but nonetheless, it was still a long distance to cover.
During their travels, the orphans spotted multiple of the city’s residents, and they were taken back by what they saw. Every single person in the Capital, all possessed a significant mana signature, and they were all dressed rather well. Back on the waypoint, it was common to find impoverished vagabonds or poorly dressed plebeians, but even in the remote reaches of the Capital, they had yet to find someone who didn’t look distinguished.
Such was the nature of the most commercially wealthy area in the Himmel Empire. A place where only elites gathered, living in the Capital was synonymous with having a good life. Every so often, Shin would see a wealthy congregation strolling down the streets as they bellowed out laughing at the conversation that they were having.
‘If the outskirts of the Capital already look so wealthy, how would the central hub look like?’ Shin wondered. Based on his experience in Chilyoja Waypoint, the best of the best was always stored at the central hub of a town. The best restaurants, the best services, the best places to do business, the best entertainment areas, they would almost always be in the city centre.
“Master, where are we going?” Shin unconsciously gulped down a mouthful of saliva. If they were on the path to the central hub, the young teen wanted to have some time to mentally prepare himself.
“Well, we’re going straight to the mansion of course!”
“And where is it?”
“The far east side of the Capital. Just like Chilyoja Waypoint, the Capital is divided into five distinct areas. The centre houses all of the commercial hubs, government agencies, the Imperial Courts, and even the infamous Forbidden Palace that houses the Imperial Family. For the north, that’s where all of the Imperial Military congregates. Due to the threat of the Kori Federation, most of the military’s strongest troops are permanently stationed in the north. After all, the Capital is quite close to the borders of the Kori Federation.” Lady Seph patiently explained the geography of the land that they were in.
“The west mainly consists of residential areas and houses where the family clans of the Empire can purchase. The Frie and Awter Clan both used to have a small home there, but during that war, they were forced to sell them.” The moment the blonde beauty brought up the two clans, the orphan’s faces visibly dropped. However, since she was engrossed in her explanations, Lady Seph failed to notice the change.
“For the south, that’s where most of the experiments and research are going on. Back when I was the Imperial Physician, if there were nothing of importance to do in the Palace, I would spend most of my time over there. The Healer’s Association branch in the Himmel Empire is located there as well!” With a sly glance, Lady Seph watched the facial expressions of her disciple change when the Healer’s Association was mentioned.
Even though Shin had stated his intention multiple times to leave the path of the healer, Lady Seph never gave up on bringing him back. Shin’s talent in the healing arts could only be found once in a few generations, and there was a high possibility of him becoming the next Hippocrates. However, with Ariel’s death, he had just suffered a significant setback that had caused a tectonic shift in his mindset. Thus, for now, she could only take it one step at a time.
“Finally, the eastern part of the Empire, the place where we’re at right now. Allocated for the use of institutes of learning only, it contains some of the world’s best academies. Imperius Academy being one of them. Of course, due to that fact, many unclaimed lands were left alone so that students can hone their spiritual abilities unhindered, so there are lots of places where we can find inaccessible abodes that remain undisturbed.”
Lady Seph’s primary goal for coming back to the Capital was for the sake of her beloved disciple. She had no intentions about returning back to politics or mingling with the members of high society, especially now that she’s a Spirit Venerate. Up till this day, she can’t forgive the Imperial Courts so she would do anything in her power to avoid them as if they were the plague. Fortunately, during her time as the Imperial Physician, she had formed numerous contacts, and the majority of them owed her a few favours. Thus, even without contacting the Imperial Family, Lady Seph was able to live the rest of her days in the Capital as carefree as she wanted.
“Oh, we’re here!” Just as the blonde woman finished talking, Shin and the others could see a humongous villa in the distance.
With a preliminary glance, Shin could tell that the mansion was at least twenty times the size of Yakkyoku Clinic. Made out of solid brick and stone, the walls of the estate stood at over three metres tall and at the top of the walls, numerous metallic spikes barred any intruder from ever thinking about jumping over. The main door was facing the south, and the gates were heavily reinforced with a mysterious energy. Although the structure seemed simple, Shin could tell that the designer of the place was no random hillbilly.
“This villa here used to be the property of a wealthy merchant when his daughter attended Imperius Academy. However, now that she had graduated, he sold it to one of my contacts. Lucky for us, huh?” Lady Seph was proud of the deal that she had snatched. “It has twenty rooms, three courtyards, four gardens, a fully-functional library, a cultivation chamber, a training room, and many more features!!!”
“L-Lady Seph! Can we really stay here?!” Ryner cried with a stutter. The orphans that had stayed on Frie Mountain all their lives had never been exposed to such a luxurious life before.
“Of course! You can stay here for the rest of your lives if you want! Ah, I won’t be doing any of your cleaning, cooking or laundry though.” Winking mischievously, Lady Seph rubbed her index finger on her thumb.
“No, no, no!!! How could we ever ask you to do that?!?! It’s just… Kind of overwhelming…” Ryner’s face turned red as he became flustered over the Spirit Venerate’s teasing.
“No, I get it. From having experienced that much pain to receiving this much must be hard for you to digest it all at once. Just take your time, there’s no need to rush.”
The orphans felt themselves welling up with tears as they heard the blonde woman’s words. In their darkest hours, where they felt alone, and as if they were up against the world, only Lady Seph supported them. Even though they were not related at all, the Spirit Venerate took them out of Frie Mountain, a place that welcomed them no longer. She had even arranged the funeral of Lily and was adamant about coming with them to the Capital; and even after all that she had done, she was still going to support them by purchasing such a lavish mansion where they could all stay in.
“Thank you, Lady Seph…”
“Alright, let’s not just stand here! Go in and pick your rooms!” Clapping her hands, Lady Seph led the way down to the glorious mansion that stood before them.
Himmel Empire. Frie Mountain. The Holy Cemetery.
While the Capital of the Himmel Empire was experiencing sun and shine, the western region was the total opposite. Dark, overcast clouds loomed up high in the skies as the blistering heat of midday was replaced with a morbid humidity as the crackles of thunder could be heard. Ever so often, a flash of divine light would tear through the atmosphere, making the land cry with agony.
Frie Mountain, being one of the highest peaks in the land, was famously known for housing the clan of elites that wielded fire elemental Spirits to the highest degree. Many of those clansmen had gone on to become successful warriors in the military. Yet, on this day, the tall and dominating structure seemed so small, as compared to the relentless downpour that bellowed down from the heavens.
Typically, members of the Frie Clan would never gather in one place, fearing that an all-out attack would ruin them all. However, just for one day, the Council of Elders had decided to throw caution to the wind and allowed every single soul on Frie Mountain to convene in the Holy Cemetery, so that they could mourn those lost in the vicious battle against the Black Masks.
Compared to the war waged fifteen years ago, there were much fewer casualties, but on the whole, that one night had caused the Frie Clan to lose much more than they did during the war. The Second Elder had been driven into madness after losing his only beacon of light and had holed himself up in his chambers. Barely eating or sleeping, the Second Elder had become a broken doll, that could only repeat his grandson’s name over and over. Losing one of their High Elders basically permanently incapacitated the Frie Clan, that had been slowly recovering over the years.
However, the true loss that the Frie Clan sustained were the deaths of two of their brightest upcoming stars. Ariel and Linus. Linus was a talented Spirit User that had awakened the Niji Swift. With the right training and resources, he would undoubtedly become a Spirit Emperor in the future. And then there was Ariel. The young girl with mysterious herculean strength and a Spirit that triggered a natural phenomenon. Ariel was the Frie Clan’s hope for a better future. With her talent, there was a slight chance that she would become either a Spirit Venerate or a Spirit Saint. Once she did, there would be no questions about the Frie Clan’s hegemony in the west.
Yet, both of them perished, and to rub salt in the wound, they died because they exchanged their lives for that of outsiders that the Frie Clan had picked up.
As their remains were being lowered into their specialised graves, dozens of dark faces could be seen gathered around the Holy Cemetery. The First Elder, being one of the mourning families, wore a full white robe. The elderly man’s eyes were vacant, and he seemed to have aged hundreds of years as all that remained of his body, were the wrinkled skin and brittle bones.
“[AaaaAAAaaaaAAAAaaaAAA]” Standing on top of an altar that seemed unaffected by the pouring rain, the Shrine Maiden, alongside many of her subordinates, were singing a melodious tune, akin to that of a church aria, as they watched over the burial.
Standing a reasonable distance away, the Clan Master watched over everything that was happening with a forlorn expression. Other than Ariel and Linus, many other Frie Clan members had been killed off during that attack, making it the deadliest loss that they had sustained since the war with the Awter Clan.
‘Senior Edward…’ As the Clan Master observed the face of the First Elder that looked like he had given up on living in the world, she could feel her heart getting constrained as if a solid hand had a firm grasp on it. ‘Was it a mistake to bring in the survivors of the Awter Clan?’
It was a question that Enfen Frie had on her mind ever since that day. If the orphan division never existed, would Ariel still be alive?
‘No… It’s useless to think about those meaningless issues. What’s more important is the future of the Frie Clan!’
If the Frie Clan weren’t already on a downward trajectory, after the night where the Black Masks attacked, they definitely were now. Both their High Elders were unable to fight for the foreseeable future due to the enormous emotional toll that they were just inflicted, and much of their infrastructure was damaged by the enigmatic laser. The only thing that they had functioning was the Aether Mine which was a steady source of revenue for the time being.
“The new will replace the old, huh? Looks like it’s finally time for the two elders to retire fully…” The Clan Master muttered to herself.
Over the past few days, due to the incapacitation of the two High Elders, Enfen Frie had been consolidating her power by forcefully taking over the two segregated divisions. Many loyal members of the two elders, such as Bates and the Instructor, had sworn their service to the Clan Master as they felt that there was a need for change in the clan. The two elderly beings had been running the clan for the longest time, and all that it had led to was death and destruction. Thus, they felt that there was a need to serve a new master that could influence the now decrepit clan into a better tomorrow.
“Just rest for now… We should have relieved you from your duties ages ago…” Enfen Frie tiredly said. Her eyes were alternating between the mourning First Elder and the lonesome abode that the Second Elder was holed up in. “We will take care of it from here on out…”