“We are from the Awter Clan?! The Clan that the Frie Clan annihilated?!” An angered shriek echoed through the silent clinic, almost awakening all of its inhabitants.
“Ryner, I know that this is a touchy subject, but could you please keep it down… I would rather not create a scene…” Shin placed his index finger against his rosy lips and suggested his fellow orphan to lower his volume.
“But… But!!!” Agitated from hearing the news, the teenager could not hold back his screams.
“Let me explain everything to you. From the reason why the Frie Clan attacked our parents to why we entered their ‘orphan programme,’ and…” Shifting his eyes downwards, Shin furrowed his brows and bit his lip as if he had swallowed a bitter pill. “And how Junius defected to the Black Masks…”
Sitting the orphans all around him, the young black-haired teenager took his time to slowly explain everything. Although their hearts were broken, it was essential that they plan their next moves, so that they could continue to survive. And to do that, they had to know the truth. Being the only person among them that even had the slightest clue about what had happened, Shin volunteered himself to be their information source, as much as it pained him to do so.
The death of Ariel was still fresh in his mind, and he had yet to finish mourning. Therefore, every so often, he would have to excuse himself from the room so that he could have some time to collect his thoughts. Nevertheless, Shin persevered onwards, telling his fellow family members everything that he knew.
Various emotions and expressions were seen on the faces of the orphans as Shin continued his tale. Hate for the Frie Clan. Sorrow for the Awter Clan. Hate for the Black Masks. Sorrow for the victims of the Frie Clan. So many emotions raced through the minds of the young children, forcing them to deeply consider everything that occurred.
The Frie Clan were deplorable for killing off their entire family, but they at least saved the orphans and tried to make amends. The First Elder, being the foremost powerhouse in the clan, had a great deal to play when it came to starting the massacre of the Awter Clan, but all these years, he had been showering the orphans with care and had even provided numerous resources for them to grow. Yet, the fact still remained that they had robbed the orphans of complete families.
The Black Masks, which contained remnants of the Awter Clan, seemed to have a valid argument when it came to trying to reunite their entire family and Junius concern for the orphans was apparent as he rushed the seniors of the organisation to save them. However, they still killed off Ariel and Lily, two of the most central figures in the orphans lives, causing them to retain a hate for the criminal syndicate that would typically be reserved for mortal enemies.
Ryner, who was a hot-headed lad, was deliberately trying his hardest to keep it together. Now that he was the eldest amongst the group, he felt the need to protect his siblings so that none of them could be lost ever again. Jacob, the youngest of the group, was holding the hand of Ryner, not willing to let go in the slightest. Evidently, he did not want to be separated from the person that meant the most to him, in these times of agony.
Lia, the calm and gentle girl, was on the verge of breaking into complete madness, as she heard the reason for Junius’ attack on the Second Elder’s abode. In his attempt to protect and rescue them, he had actually killed off the most important person in her life. Lily was more than a sister to Lia. Lia considered the now deceased beauty to be her bosom pal. Nothing was off limits when it came to confiding her thoughts with Lily. Her love life, her future plans, dreams and goals. Everything that Lia wanted to know about Lily, she would tell her, and anything Lily wanted to know about Lia, she would tell her. There was even a time where they planned to walk down the altar together, holding a double wedding. Yet, only Lia remained living on this earth.
The twins, Ella and Emma, all had sombre expressions as they listened in on Shin. The both of them loved Lily and Ariel, and they knew how much Shin loved the scarlet-haired girl that had just passed on. The amount of pain and grief that they were in constrained their hearts so tightly that the twins had trouble breathing. Hence, they can’t even imagine the amount of pain that Shin, someone who was regarded as Ariel’s lover, was under. To be entirely honest, they were only listening to the contents of Shin’s speech half of the time. The other half, they were observing Shin with moistened eyes, hoping to the Immortals above that their beloved friend would not break. Whenever Shin retreated outside to take a break, Emma would follow closely behind, making sure that he was okay. Even though Ella wasn’t as close to Shin as compared to her twin sister, she too kept a close watch on the door.
Hiding at one corner, Max used his two hands to cup his knees together as he curled himself into a ball. Traumatised by Lily’s act, the young boy could still see the darkness, as he was reminded of the warm flowing blood that spewed out from Lily’s unmoving body onto his spotless face. Due to that fact, he was unable to hear a single word from Shin during his brief and only stared blankly into space.
In the same condition as Max was, Fionn was sitting nearby, dazed as she recalled the dead body of Linus, the heir of the Second Elder’s throne. They had no prior interaction with one another, yet the red-haired boy rushed forward without thinking and sacrificed his life for someone that he had no ties to. Remembering that smiling face that was content with his deed, Fionn trembled in fear.
And finally, there was Elyse. Her eyes never left Shin’s body as she observed everything that her elder brother was doing. Feeling guilty for Ariel’s death, the young girl did not know how to face the black-haired youth that was so desperately trying to keep his mental faculties from malfunctioning. She wanted to atone, but she had no idea how. Ariel was the love of Shin’s life, but because of Elyse, the scarlet-haired girl no longer existed in the mortal realm.
Each one of the orphans had their own distinct reactions to Shin’s words. Some listened attentively, others did not. However, at the end of everything, a decision had to be made about their future. Thus, Shin continued on.
“So that’s everything… Why the Frie Clan killed off the Awter Clan and why Junius attacked the mountain…” With a despondent sigh, Shin ended his explanation. “Now, there’s nowhere for us to go. We have no family, the Black Masks would chase us until the ends of the earth and the Frie Clan might even attack us on sight. Fortunately, my Master has offered her assistance in protecting us in the Capital, where Ella, Emma and I were supposed to go a few months from now. I suggest that we all gather there, and let Master help us.”
“…” A pin-drop silence descended upon Shin’s room, as every single orphan wore a sour expression.
“Shin… That’s what you plan to do? Join the Himmel Empire that supplied arms to the Frie Clan to kill the Awter Clan?” Ryner replied, his tone as flat as could be.
“There’s no other option for us, Ryner… Unless we want to wander about aimlessly in the Empire, that is the only thing that we could do.”
“So what? We become pawns for yet another vicious organisation?! Shin, we just escaped from that treacherous clan! We should become free! Not serve as slaves under another master!!!”
“Ryner! If that’s what you’re worried about, I’m the only one who has to enter the Imperius Academy! Master promised to find suitable professions that you guys can enter in the Capital!”
“You going into the academy is already the worst part! Shin! We already lost too many family members… We can’t lose you!!!” Ryner stood up from his chair and placed both his hands on Shin’s shoulders. He knew that if he allowed Shin to continue down this road, it would only lead to more pain and suffering for Shin and the other orphans.
“WHAT AM I TO DO?! I have to become stronger, Ryner! I must become strong to protect all of you! I must become strong to become the Spirit Immortal! I must become strong to fend of Junius and the Black Masks if they come for us again! I must become strong to chase YGGDRASIL!!!” Shin hollered out for the first time since arriving at Yakkyoku Clinic. “And the only way I could do that is if I join Imperius Academy and learn their ways. Currently, I’m too weak…”
“Shin…” Watching as his younger brother placed all the burden on himself, Ryner felt bad for chiding him earlier on. No matter their actions, the orphans all shared the same goal. To protect their family. “Sorry… I was overly harsh… But you know, we can’t have you go into that dangerous place alone…”
“We’ll be there as well, Brother Ryner!!!” At that moment, Ella stepped up and tapped her chest. Behind her, Emma was flashing a broad smile. “That’s right! Shin won’t be alone!”
“No! You can’t! Just as Ryner said, entering the Imperius Academy does have some sort of risk! If they ever decide to use us in war, we might be forced to oblige! Even though Master said that she would put in a word with the Headmaster, nothing is definite! You two should live your lives as free folk! Once you become strong enough, you can roam the continent by yourselves!!!”
“Hargh?! And who are you to decide what we are to do, Shin?! We will enter Imperius Academy with you, and we will become stronger together!!!” Ella cut off Shin’s rant and walked forward raising a clenched fist as if she wanted to hit the foolish boy right on his head.
Bracing for the incoming impact, Shin closed his eyes and flinched backwards. However, instead of a painful hit, he felt a gentle touch on his abdomen as milky smooth arms wrapped around his neck. Opening his eyes in shock, Shin found himself in Ella’s embrace as he felt his shoulders starting to become wet.
“Shin… You don’t have to carry the weight of everything by yourself… Learn to rely on us more. We are… After all, family…” Ella’s tears fell from her eyes and doused the cloth of Shin’s shirt.
“Ella… You can’t go… I can’t afford to lose anyone else…”
“And do you think that we can afford to lose you? The pain that you’re feeling from losing Ariel do you want us to experience that?!”
“!!!” Stunned speechless by her words, the young teenager pulled his body back as he stared at the resolute faces of his fellow kin.
‘That’s right… I don’t want to lose them… And they don’t want to lose me…’ Shin never thought about it that way. After feeling the pain of losing the person he loved the most in this life, he swore that he would never want to experience the same loss ever again. Thus, even if it meant sacrificing his life, Shin would never let his family get into harm’s way. However, Shin failed to consider it from their perspective. How he felt now, how he would much rather be the one that died, and how he would give anything to see Ariel smile for one last time, wouldn’t that be how the orphans would feel should they lose him?
“I’m sorry… I didn’t think about it that way…”
“That’s right! So don’t say depressing things like that!” Lightly tapping on the smooth face of Shin, Ella released her embrace as gave a radiant smile.
“Brother Ryner… As much as I hate to say this… But we should go to the Capital first before we decide anything… We might need a place to start anew…” Lia gently pulled on the teenager’s sleeves, suggesting that they follow Shin’s plan.
“I agree… We can’t stay too close to the Frie Clan…” Emma chimed in with a miserable sigh. Just thinking about the numerous incidents that had happened throughout twenty-four hours, made her head hurt and her body cold. What the orphans truly needed, was to bid their bitter endings goodbye and to find a place of new beginnings.
“Hah… Fine… We’ll go to the Capital…” Finally relenting to his juniors pleas, Ryner deeply sighed and shrugged his shoulders.