One day after the burial of Lily, the orphans were already busy buying up new items of clothing, essential materials and other miscellaneous artefacts that would be required during their long journey to the Capital of the Himmel Empire. Since they were chased out brutally by the Frie Clan, they had left without any of their belongings, not like there was much in the first place. With Shin not spending any of his earnings throughout the past five years, the young teenager was loaded with cash and could easily afford to pay for anything that the orphans required.
Thankfully, they were staying at Chilyoja Waypoint, a commerce hub that traders frequently visited. Hence, they were able to find most of their desired items or at least, something equivalent. Initially, Lady Seph wanted to provide the funds that were required so that Shin didn’t have to spend his hard-earned cash. However, Shin did not feel that it was right for him to accept Lady Seph’s generosity, especially after he had let her down by leaving her tutelage.
It took the orphans one afternoon to finish procuring all of the items that they needed. Some of their valuable belongings that were left on the mountain would be sent by the Frie Clan to their address in the Capital.
Eager to leave behind the bad memories, Lady Seph urged the orphans to quickly pack, so that they would be able to leave town and head towards the Capital after a few days. Using an Aether Car caravan to ferry all of them, it would take them at least a week to reach their destination. Therefore, they had to be mentally and physically prepared for the journey. Buying up all of the necessary rations, Lady Seph promptly announced her departure from Yakkyoku Clinic, much to the dismay of Mayor Nadeo and the other healers in the clinic.
However, it wasn’t just Lady Seph’s departure that made them sad. Over the one and a half years of working with the diligent youth, the other healers formed a bond with the Shin and were all sorrowful to hear of the disaster that had befallen on him. Although they were all miserable to see him go, deep down, they knew that Shin needed to go to a foreign land so that he could start anew.
They had seen how Ariel and Shin acted around each other. In fact, there were many times where they would tease the pair whenever they would go around the town on a date, merrily flirting all the way. Shin had always denied that they were an item, but everyone knew that it was a matter of time before they became an official couple. Therefore, when the heard the grim news of Ariel’s passing, they couldn’t help but become emotional.
Yet another day passed, and it had already been three days since Ariel, Lily and Linus had left the mortal realm. To others, the three days might have been mundane, with nothing of significance happening in their lives, but for Shin, these three days had been hell. Every night, he would cry himself to sleep and every so often, he would be rudely awakened by frightening memories that haunted his dreams. Unable to control his thoughts and emotions, Shin would leave the clinic to run laps around the town and would even go to the training room to punch the wooden dummies until his fists started bleeding.
Ever since he decided to leave the path of the healer, Shin had been intensifying his daily workout routine. Breaking his body down with exercises that he could never perform before, the young teenager tried his hardest to increase his core muscles and improve on his spiritual abilities. The lazy young boy that loved to sleep ten hours a day had transformed into a restless workaholic that barely slept a wink.
Other than spending time with his fellow orphans, either to buy materials or plan for the future, Shin would be desperately cultivating or training until his body broke. Since he gained precious knowledge about the human body during his time as a healer, Shin knew how not to overtrain himself and with the help of his second spiritual ability, ‘Healing Water,’ he was able to train just as hard the very next day.
Even though he did not like to think himself as one, Shin was a prodigy, through and through. His talents in absorbing knowledge and his impeccable intuition in battle shortlisted him on the First Elder’s radar early on in his life, when the elderly man was looking for a sparring partner for Ariel. However, due to his laid-back and non-confrontational attitude, Shin withheld himself from training too hard, as he had no desire to seek power. Now that he wished to grow stronger, Shin unleashed that latent talent that had been sleeping within him and pushed himself to the absolute limit. He had even created a cultivation regiment for the journey so that he would not waste a single second trying to surpass his limits.
For the remainder of the orphans, they were both shocked and worried for Shin as his unhealthy obsession intensified, even though he did not have ample time to mourn his lover’s death. Emma and Elyse, who were the closest two individuals to Shin at this point, urged him to take some time off to rest and let his mental state recover; but everything that they said just fell on deaf ear. And so, the day where all of the orphans were leaving the waypoint arrived.
“Shin, take care when you reach the Capital.” As the orphans gathered just outside the main gate of Chilyoja Waypoint, many of those who knew of Lady Seph and Shin’s departure all gathered to see them off. Healer Rahwil, who was slated to succeed Lady Seph during her absence, tapped Shin’s shoulders twice, hoping to encourage him.
“Healer Rahwil… Thank you for taking care of me all this while!” While they had interacted many times, this was the first time that Shin had given the middle-aged man his sincere gratitude. Although Shin had the theoretical knowledge, his practical application was subpar at best. Furthermore, the last time his Master had personally dealt with minor ailments such as the common cold or a light bruise was possibly a century ago. Therefore, with Healer Rahwil showing him the ropes every once in a while, Shin somehow managed to get by without disgracing Lady Seph’s name.
“No, it’s nothing! To teach someone like you was my honour! Although I’m slightly bothered that you won’t be following the healing path anymore, I hope that somewhere down the road, you would understand that there are many other ways to become strong, other than the path of a pure fighter.”
“I’m sorry… For now, my mind is set. I need to pursue this path, for me to reach my goals.” Lifting up his enclosed fist, Shin gently opened up his fingers to reveal the cheap amethyst necklace that he had obtained from Ariel. To chase Yggdrasil, to force Junius to wake up from his madness, Shin required more power. Something that he was sorely lacking.
“I see…” Shaking his head, the middle-aged man let out a deep sigh. He had seen many young men who ended up like Shin. Chasing power to achieve their goals. However, they had all came back tattered and broken. “I can’t stop you, but I can at least wish you the best. Remember, if anything ever happens, you can come back here. Yakkyoku Clinic will always be your home.”
“Thank you!” After sharing a firm handshake, Healer Rahwil made way for the bob-haired girl who always wore a maid costume to say her farewells to Shin. Behind them, the final items were being loaded, indicating that it was almost time for them to depart.
“Healer Shin! I won’t waste your time saying goodbye! I’ll see you at the Capital!” Kesyl saluted the young boy. Even though Shin had chosen to leave his healing career behind, it didn’t change the fact that he was the youngest healer in history. Thus, the respect that Kesyl had for Shin was still going strong.
“Your father really wants you to learn from Master huh?” Shin shrugged his shoulders while he shook his head. Kesyl’s father was a Duke of the Empire, and he wanted his daughter to learn the healing arts from the very best. Even though Lady Seph was adamant about not accepting another disciple, it did not stop the obstinate Duke from trying, and truth to be told, Kesyl was an excellent choice for a disciple of the healing arts.
Kesyl was a talented Spirit User, she was experienced in being an apprentice and most importantly of all, she was an excellent tea brewer, no passionate about her job. Unfortunately, the temperamental Divine Healer that was Lady Seph had no intentions on accepting a new disciple.
‘Perhaps Kesyl would be a good replacement for me after I leave for Imperius Academy…’ Shin wondered. ‘Whatever, that’s for Master to decide.’
Patting her adorable head, Shin smiled bitterly as his attention was quickly brought to the next two individuals in line. Riko and Marshall from the Mushinkei, who had been an integral part of the young boy’s life in Chilyoja Waypoint, were standing still, unsure if Shin was going to acknowledge their existence.
“Senior Marshall, Sister Riko…”
“Shin!” Riko let out an excited cry as she rushed forward to give the black-haired youth a tight embrace. Ever since Shin left the Mushinkei in protest, they had rarely communicated. However, that didn’t stop Riko from worrying about the young boy who she considered as a little brother.
“Sister Riko… I’m sorry… I didn’t manage to save Ariel…” Reciprocating her outburst of feelings, Shin gently tapped the slender back of the sultry woman. Shin never hated Riko, even though she was part of the Frie Clan. That was an undeniable fact.
“Don’t apologise for that!!! Shin, the one who is hurting the most, is you!!! Please, don’t say that…” Unable to hold back her tears, the young woman let out a mournful wail.
“Shin! I’m so sorry about everything! Please, you don’t have to forgive us, but you shouldn’t blame yourself! You did no wrong!”
“Yeah… Thank you…” Releasing his hold on the sobbing woman, Shin watched as the manager of the Mushinkei gave him a deep bow.
“Shin, there is someone that wants to give you something… Could you spare a moment of your time?” Marshall meekly asked. His voice contained a little tremble, indicating that the topic that he was bringing up was something hard for him to touch on. Once he said those words, a man, who looked no older than sixty, slowly approached the youth. His eyebags were so dark that his face resembled that of a panda’s and his untidy appearance suggested that he had very little time to groom himself.
“Mayor Nadeo?” Instantly recognising the man, Shin’s entire body turned stiff.
“Shin… May I borrow a few moments with you… In private?”
“S-Sure?” Shin shot Mayor Nadeo a dubious look as he followed him to a nearby corner where no ears could reach.
“Shin, as you may know by now, you are a member of the Awter Clan. Moreover, you’re not just any member, but the son of Errol Awter, the Clan Master!” Without beating about the bush, the middle-aged man went straight to the point and divulged Shin’s entire history without batting an eyelid.
“H-How?! How did you know that?!”
“Of course I did… You parading The Sovereign Koi so blatantly and being part of the Frie Clan’s orphan programme made it easy to deduce. Anyone who had knowledge about that war could make that assumption.” With his arms folded behind his back, Mayor Nadeo calmly explained how he knew about Shin’s heritage.
“Not to mention… Errol was a good friend of mine.”
“You knew my father?!”
“Yeah… It was a pity that he passed. He was kind, valiant and possibly one of the greatest friends a man could possibly hope to have. If not for that dastardly order being sent from the Empire, I might have sided with him during that war…” Gritting his teeth, Mayor Nadeo’s felt his blood boiling as he recollected the incidents leading up to the Awter Clan’s demise.
“I wanted to tell you the moment I found out that you were Errol’s son, but once I saw how happy you were, I thought, did I really want to ruin your life by telling you the truth? You were smiling whenever you interacted with that scarlet-haired girl that you always went on dates with and your life in the Mushinkei was stable. Once I opened that can of worms, I’m sure nothing in your life would remain the same. Thus, I kept quiet until now. I see now that it was a mistake…” Mayor Nadeo explained everything to Shin.
“W-Why… Why are you telling me this now?”
“Because I might never see you again… I have something to give you.” Reaching into his bag, the middle-aged man pulled out a piece of old parchment paper, that was framed to keep it from degrading any further.
“The Awter Clan, like the Frie Clan, possessed a piece of land in Chilyoja Waypoint. In fact, it was directly opposite of the Mushinkei.”
“That empty lot?!” Shin exclaimed. From the first time he laid eyes on the piece of vacant land, Shin felt an odd connection that he couldn’t put into words. “To think that it was owned by the Awter Clan…”
“Yeah… Errol gave the land back to me when he realised that the end was approaching. I didn’t have the heart to put the lot back into the market, so I just kept the land’s deed in my office, never to touch it ever again. However, now that you know everything, I think that I should return this to its rightful owner.” Handing over the piece of framed paper over to Shin, Mayor Nadeo smiled brightly, as if a huge burden had been lifted off his chest.
Shin’s hands began to tremble as he held tightly to the document. In a certain sense, this land deed was the only thing that his parents would ever hand down to him.
“Thank you, Mayor Nadeo…”
“Don’t mention it! Alright, I wouldn’t want to keep you any longer. Remember, if something happens to you in the Capital, Chilyoja Waypoint would always welcome you back!”
“Yeah…” Watching as the middle-aged man disappeared from his sight, Shin took one final look at the town in which he had grown up in.
The gates were polished clean, and the guards were keeping an eagle’s eye watch on the surroundings. Merchants were passing the checkpoints, and residents of the town were going about their daily business. Young children that had attended school were leaving for home, and Shin spotted many familiar faces. Abigail, the patient that he had treated just a few weeks prior, was roaming about with a handful of candy, utterly oblivious to the fact that Shin was leaving town. The daily milkman, the boisterous tavern barmaid, the stinky constable… After moving to the Capital, Shin didn’t know when he would see them again.
Behind him, the caravan was already calling out for the orphans and other passengers to board, giving Shin only one final minute to be lost in the moment. Chilyoja Waypoint had given him countless sorrowful memories, but it had also given him some of his best; and now, he was leaving it all behind. Turning his attention to the direction of Frie Mountain, Shin was reminded of the fact that he wasn’t able to give Ariel her proper send-off.
‘Don’t worry, Ariel!!! Once I become the next Spirit Immortal, I will chase Yggdrasil so that we can meet once more!!! I promise you!!!’ Resolutely deciding on his future path, Shin took one final glance at the place where he grew up in before turning his back to walk in the opposite direction. It was finally time for Shin to leave everything behind and begin a new life.