Book 8: The Mercenary’s Promise || Chapter 13: Girl’s Talk (1)

Many people ask the seven young heroes. How do you spend your days? Are you constantly fighting against the forces of the Black Masks? Do any of you take rests on such an arduous adventure? Is it hard to be consistently moving so far away from home? While some of the worries that their compatriots had were warranted, for the most part, Shin, Kanari and the others were just chilling around. Whether it was merrily chatting on the road or it was staying in a warm and remote inn, days like this were far more common than the death-defying times where they had to fight hundreds of Spirit Beasts or challenge Rank 40 Vaishyas to a battle to the end.

Most of the time, Shin would spar with either Isadore in spear arts or Kanari in hand-to-hand combat. Elrin would often shop alone to understand the foreign markets and investigate on plausible strategies for the Zedcris Conglomerate to break into the Kori Federation. The twins would treat the downtime during their missions as a way to enjoy their lives with Shin and their fellow friends. And this all happens all when Shizen would hibernate like a bear, regardless if there were an apocalypse happening outside.

While waiting for the raven to be sent, Shin would constantly temper himself in various ways. In the mornings, he would spar with either Isadore or Natalie in weapon arts. For close-combat, he was among the top two in Imperius Academy, and any further training would merely be putting water into an overflowing cup. When afternoon came, Shin would spend some time with his friends, be it accompanying Elrin shopping or just chatting with Kanari, Isadore and the twins. Their time together was limited, so Shin wanted to make the best use of it. Finally, when the evening came, Shin would practice the cultivation arts that Meijing Bingying had imparted onto him during her stay in the Himmel Empire. At the moment, Shin was stuck trying to improve on his control of ice, which was about a hundred times harder for him since he wasn’t technically an ice-elemental user.

Therefore, even though it was a rather ordinary day for most, Shin had his schedule packed to the minute. Even if the rest of his group slacked off, Shin sure as hell didn’t dare to.

“Shin’s still cultivating?” Ella dried her unbound hair with a thick towel while a sweet honey nectar scent filled the room that she had entered. Dressed in nothing but her underwear, the girl quickly put on a bathrobe before walking over to Kanari, Elrin and Emma who were staring out of the window and keeping watch on the black-haired young man seated in the centre of the field outside the inn. “It’s almost eleven! He should be done hours ago!”

Ella was the last one in the showers. Walking into the room that they all shared, Ella felt like she had entered into a garden of roses. Now that they were already twenty-years-old, the young girls had morphed into gorgeous young women who were on the brink of their prime. While their bosoms had ballooned up in size, they weren’t considered that large either. On average, all four of the girls wore C-cup bras, with Emma leading the pack by breaking into the D-realm. On the contrary, her twin sister proved that genetics wasn’t the only key in determining how big one could get by stagnating in the B-realm, which was an excellent inside joke shared only among the four maidens.

Elrin and Emma wore matching half-length chest cloths and small hot pants while Kanari had put on her spaghetti strap pink silken garments, each one unsuitable for the public’s eyes. Especially for Kanari. She was a jaw-dropping beauty back when she was just a teenager, and now that she had blossomed into a breathtakingly gorgeous woman, it should be a crime for her to be revealing that much skin. Her proportions were perfect and her tender, lychee-like complexion made any woman cry out in envy. There was minimal excess fat on Kanari’s arms and thighs, which made one wonder if she felt cold wearing this little on a windy night like this one.

“That’s right… He’s training far longer than he should have.” Kanari lowered her voice while biting on her late night fruit. “Should we call him up?”

“No, let’s not disturb his cultivation,” replied Elrin. “Let’s take this time to have our own girl’s talk! It’s rare that all four of us are awake and in the same spot at once!”

“And whose fault is that?” Kanari scoffed. In theory, the four young maidens should have hours under their belt with one another since they had been travelling for months now. However, due to an array of factors, mainly Elrin leaving the group for shopping and Kanari’s close proximity to Shin for training or otherwise, the four rarely had a chance to sit down and relaxedly talk about life.

“Hehe~ What’s important is that we’re all here now!” Elrin chuckled. “So, first things first! Emma! Who do you like? The floor is yours!”

“Me?” Emma jerked at the sudden question. For a moment there, she really was startled and desperately searched her brain for an answer. Her finger on the bottom of her chin, the young maiden grimaced for a bit before shaking her head. “No one comes to mind actually…”

“No one?! Not even a crush?” The mischievous prankster continued to push on. Elrin herself had been attracted to various men and probably ten times more guys had asked her out. It wasn’t strange for a twenty-year-old girl like Emma, who was among the top ‘idols’ in the school, to have a small crush.

“I… Don’t know.” Emma really had no one in mind. It wasn’t as if she had been banned from dating or there weren’t boys around her. Heck, back in the academy, she received at least one love letter per week. There were even some nobles that wanted to set up a marriage interview with her for their sons. Fortunately, Lady Seph killed all of those ideas in the crib. “I just never thought of anyone that way I guess? I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Hmmm…” While suspicious at first, Elrin eventually believed the young maiden’s words. Why? “Well, that’s to be expected. With such a superhuman-like elder brother, I doubt any man could even compare.” The white-haired girl glanced down at the nucleus of their team, who was oblivious that the four girls were talking about him in their night garments.

“Maybe?” Emma thought back on her life and could understand where Elrin was coming from. Though they weren’t blood-related, Shin treated all of his fellow orphans with tender care and put all of their needs above his own. When Ryner’s hunting group needed additional resources to expand, Shin invested a considerable portion of his savings in helping his eldest brother, not caring about his own material needs. When Elyse and Fionn first came into the academy, he spent a full month guiding them about the school and providing connections for them to improve their cultivations. In fact, Shin was the primary reason why Fionn got a personal instructor to mentor her.

It was the same for Max and Jacob as well. Not wanting to enter the path of the fighter, Max and Jacob respectively went for their own fields. Max wanted to become a merchant while Jacob wished to become a scholar that researched anything under the sun. Shin begged Elrin to accept Max into her company while he paid for Jacob’s tuition in the Ernst Institution, the top school for budding scientists and researchers.

Shin’s deeds for the orphans were nothing short of extraordinary. With such a perfect elder brother next to her, it was hard for Emma to look at the rest of the male students in Imperius Academy as immature boys. At the very least, the guys that wanted to date her should be half as excellent as Shin, but in Emma’s eyes, none of them met the mark.

“Tsk, so boring.” Seeing as there was nothing to tease Emma for, Elrin turned to her next target. “What about you, Ella? How are things going between you and Shizen?”

“HARGH?! Why would things be going well with that lazy slob?!” Just as Elrin had anticipated, Ella had a huge reaction, greatly amusing the rest within the room.

“But you spend so much time lecturing him! Also, aren’t you the one who keeps waking him up in bed? So romantic…” The jester behaved as if she was jealous and puckered her lips.

“He’s a bloody sloth! I can’t let him be or else he’ll rot somewhere!” Ella protested. Among the orphans, she was the one that was closest in personality to the deceased Lily. If she saw incompetence or laziness, the girl would be sure to call it out. In a sense, Ella was like a nagging mother, just that she didn’t have any kids yet. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for the young maiden, the group had a twenty-year-old child that would ‘occasionally’ wet his bed.

“Yeah, yeah. Keep telling yourself that.” Elrin chuckled. As they say, the more a husband and wife bicker, the better their relationship. Among the entire group, Ella and Shizen had the most arguments, and it was like they were two planets orbiting around one another. Neither could function without the other around.

“H-Hey! What does that mean?! Emma! You understand right?”

“Hehe, may the two of you grow grey hair together! I’m rooting for you, sis!”

“Emmmmaaa!!!”

The laughter of the four girls grew louder with each passing moment. It was nice to have a change of pace every once in a while. Kanari was a future Duchess of the Empire while Elrin was to succeed her father in running his business. These two were as distant to the common folk as the sun was to earth. Nonetheless, they were still young maidens. Having silly conversations and talking about the people that they liked were simple luxuries that weren’t afforded to them when they were younger. It was only after meeting Ella and Emma did the two highborns get to experience such joy.

“What about you Elrin? You tease us every time, but we never get to hear about the men you’ve dated!” By far, the girl with the most dating experience was that particular imp that took pleasure in torturing her friends.

“Urgh… Don’t talk about them. All the men that I’ve gone out with, I ended our relationships within one or two dates.” Thinking back to the numerous times her father had introduced her to a promising young man the young girl grimaced. “They’re either after my money or my father’s influence. There are so many gold diggers in this world that it’s disgusting.”

Being the richest single lady in the Empire, the number of prospective suitors that Elrin had was in no way inferior to Kanari. Some nobles would even pay Elrin’s father good business deals just to get a date with the young maiden. Never one to turn down a good deal, Elrin would accept the invitations to be a pretty little lady for one night and the chance to hopefully meet the prince of her dreams. However, all of her dates thus far had all been utter disappointments. They weren’t even good at hiding their money-hungry faces.

“Haha… You have it tough.” Emma brushed the soft snow-like hair of Elrin’s with a maternal smile. If Ella was the nagging mother, then Emma was the loving grandmother. Always a kind shoulder to lie upon, many saw Emma as the saint of the group. Even on their journeys, children would tend to rely on the warm touch of the young maiden more than any others in the group.

“Ah… This is nice.” Elrin chuckled and turned to the last remaining person in the room that she hadn’t asked. “So… What about you Kanari? Has there been any progress?”

The question that Elrin asked Kanari was vastly different to that Ella and Emma. They didn’t need to know if Kanari had any crushes or if she had her eye on someone. Why? Because they already knew the answer.

“What do you think?” The ethereal beauty released a gasp of despondence as her eyes shifted down to the young man seated alone in the complete darkness of night. They had known one another for almost five years, and Kanari had long realised that her affections for Shin weren’t that of regular friends. There were days where Kanari looked at how tenderly Shin treated the amethyst locket around his neck, and her heart would ache as if a wizardly grasp had taken hold of her chest.

Whenever he smiled, Kanari could see a garden of flowers bloom behind of his stupidly handsome face. Whenever he grieved, Kanari wished for nothing but to be right there with him. Whenever he stared into nothingness, Kanari wanted to grab his hand and lean her head on his steady shoulders.

It was painful. Loving someone that was right there with her and yet, so distant…

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