“M-M-Master! You broke through?! You’re now a Spirit Venerate?!” Shin stuttered uncontrollably as he pointed at the young blonde woman in front of him. Beside him, Emma was wearing a similar expression and truth to be told, no one could blame them for having such a knee-jerk reaction.
A Spirit Venerate stood at the peak of the cultivation world. Just one Spirit Venerate was capable of taking out over a hundred thousand men in a single strike. Other than Spirit Saints and Primordial Beasts, no threat could possibly take on a Spirit Venerate in battle, and a significant reason why is due to their rebirth during their promotion. Shedding their mortal body, they had taken one further step into the divine. Compared to a regular mortal, they were much closer in resemblance to the Immortals above. In fact, due to their connection with the spiritual energy that was all around them, a Spirit Venerate could easily force any Spirit Emperor to kneel before them with just a thought.
In the entire Terre Continent, the number of Spirit Venerates numbered less than two hundred, making them the elite of the elite. Since Spirit Saints rarely came out from the seclusion, Spirit Venerates were the true masters of the continent. In the Himmel Empire elder council, almost all of those who were granted a chair was at least in the Rank 80 Spirit Venerate Realm.
“Haha, there’s no need to be so stunned!”
“No! That’s great news! Congratulations, Master! You have broken through the bottleneck!” A jubilant smile crept up Shin’s face as his heavy mood was temporarily lifted. If he was completely honest, Shin was somewhat worried when he heard that Lady Seph had been stuck at the peak of the Spirit Emperor Realm for multiple years. Since his Master was somewhat advanced in her age, it was highly possible that if she did not break through within the next few years, her lifespan would burn out, leaving Shin with a pile of bones to bury. However, now that Lady Seph had promoted into the Spirit Venerate Realm, her lifespan would double, and she would be able to live until four hundred years of age.
‘At least I won’t have to worry about Master dying anytime soon…’ After losing Ariel, Shin now treasured his bonds with his loved ones much more. Should Lady Seph die shortly after Ariel did, the young Spirit Apostle wouldn’t know how he would find the will to live on.
“Master! Since you promoted, did you create a suitable spiritual ability for yourself?” Shin asked curiously. Being Lady Seph’s sole disciple, he was well aware of why she was stuck at the Spirit Emperor bottleneck for so long. Lady Seph was a traditionalist in the sense that she believed that all Spirit Users should create their own abilities based on their comprehension levels. Naturally, for lower cultivation levels, she wouldn’t be that harsh, judging from how she allowed Shin to use a hereditary opuscule to learn ‘Heal.’ Otherwise, Lady Seph would prefer that everyone create their own abilities to promote.
“Haha, that’s a secret for now.” Closing one eye and placing her right index finger on her rosy lips, the young beauty gave an attractive gesture without realising it, causing Emma’s heart to skip a beat. However, her allure had no effect on the young black-haired teen as in his eyes, Lady Seph would always be the old grandma that took care of him.
‘I can’t let Shin learn about the Golden String of Fate… If he knows that there’s an eternal protection placed on his spiritual body, it might dim his future cultivation path…’ Lady Seph gave a mental assessment.
Imagine if a young hot-headed Spirit Apostle who desired a fast track to power found out that he could never die as a Spirit Venerate could always save him whenever he was in trouble. Would he still be as cautious as to how he progresses his cultivation path? The answer was no. Given Shin’s personality, he would dive headfirst into danger, breaking his body down countless times just to become stronger. Not to mention, Lady Seph wanted to let Shin grow strong on his own. Only when his life was in absolute peril, would she use the Golden String of Fate to save the boy.
“Furthermore, that’s not important! I’m here to check on your physical condition. Do you feel any discomfort anywhere?” Lady Seph’s tone turned sombre as she resolutely stared at her precious disciple.
Although the Golden String of Fate was cast and there were no signs of Shin’s Spirit rejecting her blessing, Lady Seph couldn’t be a hundred percent certain until she examined Shin herself.
“No… There’s nothing wrong?” Shooting his Master a quizzical look, Shin shook his head in denial.
“That’s good… If you feel that there’s anything wrong, you come to me immediately! Understood?!”
“Y-Yeah?” Despite the fact that he didn’t know what his Master was talking about, Shin still replied affirmatively.
“Alright… We should head down. For the lass that passed, Lily… You wouldn’t mind if we buried her in the Chilyoja Waypoint graveyard right?” All of a sudden, Lady Seph brought up another topic.
“If that’s what the others are okay with…” Looking at Emma’s nodding head, Shin agreed to Lady Seph’s suggestion.
Lily’s funeral was something that was discussed among the orphans last night. Running away from Frie Mountain with the broken down corpse of their fallen family member, the orphans had no other place to turn to. They had spent their entire lives being raised by the Frie Clan, and they knew no other place that they could send their final goodbyes to Lily. Thus, they had decided to put off the burial of Lily until they could find a suitable location.
However, while Shin was asleep, the females of the orphan division had finished wiping clean the bloodied corpse of their comrade and wrapped her up in a pure white dress. Rubbing some rogue and foundation on her peaceful face, the young girls had tearfully prepared Lily for a proper send-off. Since they were going to leave for the Capital soon, there was no way that the orphans could bring along a corpse, so they only had one choice. They were to perform Lily funeral rites right here in Chilyoja Waypoint.
“Yeah… We can always return here to visit her grave… Maybe even Ariel’s…” Shin’s eyes shifted out of the window as he stared intently in the direction of Frie Mountain. Given the circumstances, it was highly possible that the orphans would not be able to come back anytime soon once they left for the Capital.
‘I didn’t even get to say my final farewell…’
While Shin was busy wallowing in grief, his Master’s harmonious face suddenly turned into a deep frown. Her ears were perked up and her gaze shifted from the young black-haired teenager to the bottom of the stairwell.
“Shin. Looks like you have a visitor.” Even back when she was a Spirit Emperor, Lady Seph’s sensory ability was way above average. Now that she had become attuned to the spiritual elements that were all around, the seasoned Healer could even sense a rat from five kilometres away if she genuinely focused. Detecting a familiar mana signature entering the town from the main gate, Lady Seph informed her disciple of the new arrival.
“Huh? Who is it?” Shin innocently questioned.
“Someone that you’re all too familiar with. Your Instructor is on the way here. Tidy yourself up, he should be here within a few minutes.” Lady Seph scoffed at the unkempt attire of her disciple as she suggested he take a quick shower. Even though she didn’t really care about how her disciple looked on a regular day, since he was going to meet up with a member of the Frie Clan, not to mention someone of considerable significance to his young life, Lady Seph wanted Shin to look prim and proper.
“The Instructor?! He’s here?!” Emma exclaimed while bringing her hands to cover up her mouth.
“…” Shin squinted his eyes as his mind ran wild with memories of the bulky middle-aged man.
The Instructor had always played an integral part in the orphan’s lives. From the moment that they could walk, he was there to train them. In fact, some might say that he was the ‘father’ of the orphans, given how much time he spent with them.
“Alright, I’ll wash up.” Quickly picking up his formal attire and a towel, Shin briskly made his way to the showers.
Yakkyoku Clinic, after it had been refurbished by Mayor Nadeo, had many new facilities that were uncommon for a regular healing clinic. For one, there was a gorgeous courtyard that had a wide array of plant life, ranging from verdant trees to beautiful flower gardens. Aiming to create a therapeutic environment, Mayor Nadeo had hired some of the best gardeners in the business to help construct this grandiose oasis for plants. Also, he had added in a Koi pond, hoping to please the young protege of Lady Seph.
At the centre of the ornamental garden, there was a pristine pearly white pavilion that housed a few lavish chairs and a table that was constructed by the remnants of a tree trunk. Even though the garden was part of a clinic, it seemed to resemble a place that the Emperor would entertain his foreign guests instead.
In the centre of the pavilion, Lady Seph had already taken her seat in the main chair as she sipped on the Oolong Tea that Kesyl, her lead attendant, had brewed for her. Among the numerous attendants sent by the country’s nobles, only Kesyl stood out to Lady Seph, due to her hardworking nature and dedication to the healing arts. Well, it also helped that her tea brewing technique was equal to Shin’s.
Standing beside the youthful beauty, all of the orphans were gathered in one semicircle, with their guard up as they received the unwelcomed guests. A burly jaded man, who had next to no hair on his head, walked forwards together with a white-robed maiden by his side. Wearing a translucent silk veil, the woman’s facial features were well hidden, suggesting that her face was not something that outsiders could easily gaze upon.
“Lady Seraphim. Pardon my unannounced visit.” Bowing solemnly to the blonde beauty who was wearing a stoic expression, the Shrine Maiden asked for Lady Seph’s forgiveness.
“Lien… Don’t waste our time. Just state your business.” Lady Seph sharply retorted with her fingers crossed together as her arms rested upon the wooden table. Even though the delegation sent by the Frie Clan was meant for the orphans, Lady Seph took the liberty of representing the group that consisted of teenagers and children.
“We just wanted to apologise to the orphans. Our clan is currently in turmoil, and there is no possible way for us to let them step foot back on the mountain. We’re also here to give as much assistance as we can to relieve the burdens that they might have to bear in the future.” The Shrine Maiden politely replied.
Behind her, the Instructor’s gaze never landed on the esteemed healer that had reverted back to her jaw-dropping beauty of the past. Instead, all he was focused on was the conditions of the children that he had almost single-handedly raised. Over the years, even though he was well aware of their origins, the Instructor had begun to treat the orphans as if they were his own children. He would stay awake till daybreak, cracking his head on the best possible training regiments that each orphan should take. Being a muscle head which was only useful when there was a fight, the bearded middle-aged man hated desk work. However, if it were for the sake of enriching the orphan’s lives, he would go all out in the planning, as much as he disdained the work.
Yet, even after all of the sacrifices that the Instructor had made for the orphans, all of them were looking at him as if he were the enemy and were fearful to even take one step towards him.
‘Hah… The scars of the conflict fifteen years ago sure run deep…’ The Instructor closed his eyes as he despondently let out a sigh. Being part of the generation that wiped out the Awter Clan, he was there when the carnage unfolded. Just thinking about the night where severed heads flew and the pristine lake became a basin of ever-flowing blood, the burly man felt a cold shiver run down his spine. The fact that a similar tragedy occurred yesterday night was direct proof that the Frie Clan had wiped clean their good karma from their deplorable actions.
Turning his head to a stone table that was located right outside of the pavilion, the Instructor observed the unmoving corpse of Lily. The blue-haired maiden had been dolled up and was decorated with numerous flowers, making her makeshift coffin seem like a gorgeous bed of flora.
“Lily… How do you intend to bury her?” Without thinking, the Instructor blurted out his thoughts without caring about the atmosphere, causing the orphans to jerk in shock.
Initially, Shin was sceptical if the Instructor truly cared for the now deceased girl. However, after carefully examining his facial gestures, Shin could see that the middle-aged man was wincing in pain. His brows were furrowed, and pupils were dilated. Biting the bottom of his chapped lips until it bled, the Instructor was desperately trying to hold back his tears.
Although he had a close connection with virtually every orphan, the Instructor had an obvious bias. Junius, who was the eldest and most diligent, was the target of the childless Spirit Lord’s undivided attention. Even though he was not of his own blood, the Instructor had always treated Junius with the same amount of love he would give his child. If not, why else would he personally impart his skills to the youth?
Lily, being Junius lover, was also given a little special treatment. Not to mention, the Instructor was truly impressed with her caring and devoted attitude towards the youths of the orphan division. Thus, seeing the unmoving body of Lily’s, made tears well up in his eyes as he became choked up.
“We intend to cremate her and bury her into the town’s cemetery. Since we’re leaving the waypoint in a few days, we can’t bring her body along…”
The eyes of the two Frie Clan members widened once they heard the news that Shin was about to move away with the orphans. However, after a brief moment of pause, they realised that it was possibly the best options for the orphans to take at this point. Recognising that this visit might be the final time he would ever see the children ever again, the Instructor felt a wave of sadness crash onto his soul.
“I see… May we join in on the ceremony. I too wish to say my final goodbyes to Lily.” Speaking out in a weak and distraught voice that the orphans had never heard before, the Instructor begged for the chance to remain for the funeral.
“Yeah… Yeah… You can…” Shin smiled and gave the defeated middle-aged man his approval. Hearing his words, the Instructor’s face lit up in joy as he was expecting to be rejected from the get-go.
“Thank you… Thank you…” Trying his best to hold back the crystalline beads that were trapped in his eyes, the Instructor wondered how did everything go so awry? If there was an alternate story, would there be a happy ending where they all lived peacefully on Frie Mountain? Unfortunately, happy dreams were all meant to be one thing.