Himmel Empire. ?????????
In the emptiness of cold and dark cavern in the middle of nowhere, there lay a large conglomerate of brick houses that was uncommon for a natural cave. Each and every home was well-lit, and the flickering of the lights indicated that they were all occupied. Just like any other small town or village, multiple well-established pathways helped its inhabitants move around the city. In fact, if not for the dark enshrined statue that stood over a hundred metres tall at the centre of the town, an outsider might think that it was a cave city built by the Himmel Empire.
“ARRRGGHHHHH!!! LILY!!!!” A pained moan broke the silence of the town, briefly moving the gazes of many of its citizens. However, instead of being worried, they seemed rather nonchalant about the disturbance. In fact, a small percentage of them were mildly annoyed, hinting that it was not the first time that they heard that cry.
“Senior Vellan, Junius is at it again!” A light-blue haired maiden rushed out from the kitchen and knocked on a nearby door. Shia, who was a non-combatant Spirit User, could only help nurse the wounded back to health. Therefore, she was tasked with taking care of the viridian-haired youth that had just returned from a taxing mission. Even though there were no visible injuries on his body, his mental state was far from sane.
Shia was no seer and had no abilities that could help heal the mental wounds of Junius’, however, she was skilled in mixing herbs to form a hallucinatory drug that could help ease the psychological burden that Junius was carrying. Unfortunately, the drug could only be used for a few times before the user gains immunity to it, and that was what Junius was facing.
After giving the order to attack the Second Elder’s abode, essentially killing Lily in the process, Junius fell into an abysmal pit of despair. To add insult to injury, when they returned to the safehouse, Shin was nowhere to be found, which meant that the unification of the Awter Clan had failed spectacularly. Not only did the Black Masks fail their mission to retrieve the orphans, they somehow managed to lose the most critical member of the Awter Clan due to their negligence.
“Leave him be, Shia… He has to have some time to grieve his loss.” An exhausted man opened the door and weakly replied to the woman. His entire face had turned pale as his wrinkles became more defined. Evidently, the past few days hadn’t been easy for him either. Being a Brahmin, Vellan’s responsibilities in the organisation far outstripped any regular Black Mask. A failure of this calibre had put him in the bad books of the Allfather, and it was highly unlikely that their enigmatic leader would provide him with any more assistance towards their quest for revenge.
“But he hasn’t eaten a proper meal in days! If this keeps up, I’m afraid that he would be too weak to do anything!!!” Shia exclaimed in fear.
“There’s nothing that we can do, Shia. He just lost Lily, the person he loved the most. Furthermore, he was the one who ordered the attack that ended her life. Not only is he grieving, but he’s also in immense guilt. The only thing we can do is monitor him so that he does not take his own life in a moment of impulse. Well, the best way is to give him a drug that would help him forget everything, but I doubt that exists.” Vellan sighed as he glanced in the direction of Junius’ room.
Fearing that the young man might claim his own life out of guilt, the remnants of the Awter Clan had sealed him in one room and took turns to keep him under surveillance. They had tried many ways to calm Junius down. Talking to him, giving him drugs to confuse his consciousness and even using spiritual abilities. However, nothing that they tried ever worked as the sight of Lily being impaled was deeply engraved in his mind.
“We can’t just leave him like this…” Shia, being the kind-hearted soul that she was, racked her brains for ideas. They had just lost their young master, there was no way that they were ready to lose yet another one of long-lost kin.
“I’ll try to talk to him.”
“Yeah, you do that… Perhaps he needs someone who is closer to his age to persuade him…” Among all of the Awter Clan members that survived the onslaught, the youngest was Shia. Although she was nine years older than Junius, Shia was still the optimal choice for helping the young man through these dark hours, as compared to the old fogeys that were Vellan and the others.
Gaining Vellan’s permission, Shia quietly pushed open the door that locked Junius into his solitary confinement. Seated upon his bed, Junius was holding the temples of his head as his entire body was trembling in fear. Cold sweat flowed like a river from his pores, drenching the clean white sheets that lay under him. His eyes had turned bloodshot, and the chattering of teeth could be heard from far away.
“Junius? Are you alright?” Promptly making her way to the flask of pure water situated at the nearby desk, Shia poured the young man a glass and offered it to him. After losing that much water through sweat, Shia feared that he might get dehydrated.
“Lily… Lily… I’m so sorry!!!” Trapped in his own consciousness, Junius failed to reply to Shia. In fact, he didn’t even realise that someone had entered his room.
“Junius… Junius!!!” Shouting out his name, Shia somehow managed to gain Junius’ attention.
“Junius! You can’t continue on like this! Sooner or later, your entire body will collapse!!!” Worried about the health of the young man, Shia handed over the glass of water in her hand. However, instead of accepting her graciousness, Junius simply stared into blank space.
“Sister Shia… I killed her… I killed Lily. I killed Lily… I KILLED LILY!!!”
“It wasn’t your fault!!! There was no way of knowing that Lily was at that place!!!”
“But I still killed her! I killed Lily! My actions killed Lily! I KILLED HER!!!” Hollering out at the top of his lungs, Junius repeated the same thing over and over.
Shia watched as Junius sunk deeper and deeper into depravity. His mind was broken down as he continued to blame himself for the death of his loved one. Unsure of what to do, the young woman dropped the glass of water in her hand and gently pulled the grieving Junius into her embrace. Her sweet fragrance filled the nose of the grieving young man, somewhat bringing his mind back into the mortal realm.
“It’s not your fault! Everything is because of the detestable Frie Clan and that old blonde relic that attached herself to the young master! If not for them, our families would have been complete! If not for them, Lily would not have died! If not for them, the Awter Clan would not have perished in the first place!!!” Trying to put the blame of Lily’s death onto the Frie Clan, Shia stroked the viridian hair of Junius, consoling him in the process.
“But… I killed her… I killed her…” Like a broken record player, Junius continued to mutter the same exact words.
“No, you haven’t… It was the Frie Clan that killed Lily! You are completely blameless, Junius…”
“Am I really?”
“Yes! So you shouldn’t blame yourself! To destroy the Frie Clan, to reclaim the young master, we need you Junius!” Seeing that she was somehow able to pull Junius back from the depths of his insanity, Shia continued on her persuasion.
“But… But… I still killed her… I killed Lily…”
“No, you haven’t…” Jumping onto the bed, Shia gently caressed the smooth face of Junius. Gazing deep into his eyes, she knew that she had to do something drastic to keep the pieces of his mind from shattering even further.
Moving in closer, Shia planted a gentle kiss onto the swollen lips of the young man. Junius’ eyes widened slightly as shock overtook the melancholy that he was feeling. Right now, he was mourning over the loss of his beloved woman, and he was as fragile as glass. If she didn’t do anything, Shia was sure that Junius would take his own life out of grief. Thus, she had to plant a seed of love into his fragile heart.
“Sister… Shia…” After her tongue softly swirled around his mouth, the young woman separated herself from the young man, leaving behind a silvery string of saliva between the two. Shia’s face had turned crimson red as an internal heat started to act up from her abdomen. Junius was in the same boat. Blood rushed to his crotch as he watched the seductive pose that the maiden adopted.
“Junius… It’s not your fault. It really isn’t…” Desperate to comfort the young man so that he could return to his feet, Shia launched yet another assault on the young man. This time, instead of being stunned, Junius accepted the kiss and allowed Shia to pin him down onto the bed. In his moment of weakness, Junius craved for human intimacy, and the woman before him was giving him just that.
The two lay on the bed as both their mouths got to work. Their tongues intertwined with each other as if they were two serpents coiling as a clear liquid dripped down on the pillows underneath them. Turning from a pessimistic victim to a natural-born predator, Junius tore the linen robes off Shia’s sultry body as he lusted for someone other than Lily for the first time.
‘Forgive me, Lily… I never met you, but this is necessary for the mental health of Junius.’ Shia sent out an apologetic thought to the young woman that had just passed. Even though she never met Lily, Shia felt guilty for attempting to take away her man. However, she knew that it was only one way to bring Junius back from the endless loop of depravity that he was stuck in.
Lost in the moment, Shia found herself void of clothes as Junius begun to disrobe. Allowing herself to become the medicine for Junius’ recovery, Shia quietly lay there as she waited for the inevitable to happen.
One week had passed since Shin, and the orphans left Chilyoja Waypoint in their journey towards the Capital. Typically, a long trip such as the one to the Capital would bore a person out as the horse-pulled carriages were extremely uncomfortable. However, using the Aether Cars, their trip had been rather pleasant as there was next to no disturbances. Other than the odd stop at the waypoints littered all about the empire, the journey was straightforward.
Every single day, Shin would be seated in a lotus position for ten hours as he worked hard on his cultivation, something he rarely did before. When night time came, and the caravan stopped to set up camp, Shin would be doing strenuous exercise sets to strengthen his physical body, instead of getting some shut-eye.
Concerned for his well-being, Lady Seph tried many times to persuade the youth to catch some sleep. However, the young teenager didn’t have that luxury. Every time he entered his dreamland, Shin would be haunted by the memory of Ariel’s bloodied corpse and would be brought back to that fateful day on the mountain. Therefore, to prevent himself from getting nightmares, Shin would work himself until he was physically and mentally drained.
Days went by, and Shin continued on torturing himself instead of enjoying the journey towards the Capital. Unable to change the mindset of her precious disciple, all Lady Seph could do was watch over his every move, ensuring that he would not accidentally harm himself in the process.
“Master, why are we moving off the main road?” A tired voice sounded out from within the Aether Car that Lady Seph was riding in.
Shin was busy meditating his Celestial Water Mantra when all of a sudden, he felt the road turn bumpy. Peering out of the window, he realised that the caravan had left its original route and was now treading on the gravelly path just outside of the Capital.
“We can’t go in via traditional routes, so we’re taking a detour.” Lady Seph lazily replied.
“Huh? Why can’t we enter the Capital the normal way?”
“Hah… It’s complicated. If I enter through the gates, I must hand over my identification papers. When that happens, the guards would figure out my identity in an instant and report straight to their higher-ups. One thing leads to another, and the next day, I will find my name plastered all over the morning papers.” Although Lady Seph had stayed out of the public name for many decades now, her name was still widely recognised, especially in the Capital where she had once worked.
“It’s troublesome enough that the Imperial Family already knows of my arrival. I don’t want any further trouble by letting the public find out.” Lady Seph let out a despondent sigh as she stared out the window.
“I see… So how are we going to enter the Capital?”
“Haha, through a secret passage of course! At the same time, I could introduce you to our escort.”
“And who would that be?”
“Take a guess!”
Now that Lady Seph had reverted back to her younger self, it seemed that her mischievous antics had been ramped up. Puzzled by her sudden question, Shin took some time to look through his memory on the possible candidates.
“Don’t tell me… The Emperor is coming to pick you up?!” Shin exclaimed in utter shock. With Lady Seph’s history of being the Imperial Physician and her ties with the Himmel Empire, having the Emperor come to pick her up wasn’t outside of the realms of possibility.
“No, you silly! I wouldn’t want to look at his morbid face either! The Principal of the Imperius Academy is coming! So if you want to get into a good class, you had better give him a good first impression!”
“The Principal?! I see…” Shin fell deep into thought after hearing Lady Seph words.
Initially, Shin was accepted into the Imperius Academy under the notion that he would be following the path of the healer, with Lady Seph being his true master. However, now that he wanted to strengthen himself, Shin wanted to learn under some of the best combat teachers in the academy.
‘The Principal huh… I wonder what kind of person he would be…’ Shin wondered as the caravan crept meandered further and further off the main road, entering the obscure path that very few people knew about…