Book 8: The Mercenary’s Promise || Chapter 14: Girl’s Talk (2)

“Ella… Emma… If you don’t mind me probing. Could you tell me stories about Ariel and Shin? Just a little would do.”

The gorgeous girl was perhaps the most chased after maiden in the Empire. If Kanari wanted a date, all she needed to do was pick out one of the ten thousand suitors that she had, and they would escort her in a heartbeat. Yet, this divine goddess that had legions of men gravelling at her feet was currently at a loss on how she could attract the boy she loved.

“Ermmm… I…” Almost spitting out her late-night tea, Ella’s face turned vermillion while her eyes shifted between Kanari and her twin sister Emma. They all knew of Kanari’s feelings, and for the most part, they knew that it was time for Shin to move on from Ariel. The girl had been dead for almost half a decade now, and Shin still had the same lingering feelings that he had since the day that Ariel passed. However, Ella wasn’t sure if telling Kanari about Shin and Ariel was that good of an idea.

On the other hand, Emma just kept her happy smile. Placing her hands on the window pane as they looked down on Shin meditating, the gentle girl leaned her head against the side of the window and twirled her fingers around the curtains.

“Where to begin… Can you imagine a time where Shin wasn’t this hardworking? He would sleep for hours on end, sometimes we even needed to drag him out of bed due to his tardiness. He would complain about all forms of training. When there are practices, he would just stay in a corner and rot. Just a textbook definition of a slob.”

“That’s… hard to believe.”

The Shin that Kanari and Elrin knew would spend hours upon hours honing his martial arts for cultivation techniques. If the lecturers or instructors didn’t teach him in class, he would hound them afterwards for a clear answer. Most of the times, Shin would be late for some of their meetings, but it wasn’t because he overslept. There were days that he would be so lost in his cultivation or combat training that Shin would just forget about the time and continue on practising until he was satisfied.

That Shin, the Shin that never gives in during training, was actually a slob? That was a pill that Kanari and Elrin were unwilling to swallow.

“That’s right. Hehe, Sister Ariel was the same though.” Emma chuckled. Looking back, the two really were a pair of mandarin ducks. They both loved to oversleep. They both hated excessive training. There were even days where the two of them would sneak out on a tryst to steal kitchen food for themselves. Back on Frie Mountain, the two were near inseparable once together. Yes, there was the odd arguments. Well, they would continuously bicker on what they wanted to do. But for the most part, if there were Ariel, Shin wouldn’t be treading far behind.

“The two of them were combat partners since young. Since Sister Ariel had enormous strength for someone her age, there was no one her age more suited to become her training partner. Even back then, Shin’s comprehension talent was quite obvious to anybody. Whenever he was taught an evasion technique, he would learn it within a day.” A tender smile crept up Emma’s face when she thought back on the many happy moments they had on Frie Mountain.

Yes, the ending they had with the Frie Clan was anything but cordial. In fact, if any of the orphans dared to step back into the clan, perhaps their heads would roll, courtesy of the Second Elder. Nonetheless, they couldn’t deny that some of their happiest days were right there on that wretched mountain. The orphans loved the Instructor, and he loved them. There were days were the First Elder would fly down from his abode to listen in on the woes of the children, all while Ariel played around with the rest of the orphans. Though they weren’t given the same treatment as those from the main bloodline, their resources far outstripped that of regular common folk or even a mercenary or a low-end merchant. It wasn’t a perfect life, but it was far from torturous.

“In the beginning, Sister Ariel and Shin didn’t know about their feelings, but we all knew that they were going to end up together.” The smile on Emma’s face slowly dissipated as she thought on the girl that passed. “We had even placed bets on how long it would take for them to officially start dating. Whoever wins gets all the meal tickets for the canteen.”

Now that Emma had started to open up, Ella decided to join in as well. “To us, Sister Ariel was a ray of light. You see, back on the mountain, there were many youngsters from the main bloodline that looked down upon us. They would spit in our direction, tell us to move away and even, at times, challenge us to a duel so that they could beat us up. Although it was so easy for Sister Ariel to replicate their behaviour, she didn’t. In fact, there were many times where Sister Ariel would stand up for us and beat the crap out of anyone who dared to offend any of us, even if it meant getting in trouble for it.”

“…”

Kanari and Elrin didn’t know Ariel. All they knew were some information reports saying that she was the First Elder’s sole granddaughter and that she awakened a Spirit that triggered a natural phenomenon. At her peak, Ariel was able to match Shin’s cultivation speed, something that no one else in Imperius Academy, other than Kanari, could do. However, words on paper were dead. Nothing could beat the verbal accounts that the twins had on Ariel.

“Ariel seems to be a noble figure.” It was because of these stories that Kanari couldn’t bring herself to dislike the deceased girl that had claimed a hold on Shin’s fragile heart. From the valiant stories of how she stood up to the main bloodline for the orphans to how she jumped in front of Elyse to save her life. Almost all of the tales that Kanari had heard about Ariel were all stories that could be written in any hero’s fables.

“Hehe~. Far from it.” Emma giggled. “Sister Ariel was selfish at times. She never let anyone touch her food. Whenever there’s a joint training session in the morning, Sister Ariel would sleep with her eyes open, ignoring the instructions of the teacher. She loathed reading and writing. If things could be settled with her fists, Sister Ariel would be the first one to jump into battle. Hot-headed and brash, Sister Ariel she… Hic… Excuse me.”

That merry smile, that joyful banter soon turned into despair as Emma couldn’t bring herself to badmouth the girl anymore. Shuffling her feet to a corner, the young maiden took out a handkerchief and rubbed the corners of her eyes, bringing a bit of balance back to her agitated self. Shin wasn’t the only one affected by Ariel’s death. The twins, Lia, Ryner, Elyse, Fionn, Max and Jacob. They were all good friends of the scarlet-haired Amazonian. In a certain sense, they were all indebted to the girl’s kindness. Her death may not have affected them as profoundly as it did to Shin, but they would still grieve nonetheless.

“You don’t have to continue if you don’t want to…” The last thing that Kanari wanted was for her friends to be mentally unstable. If discussing Ariel would force them to remember the dark side of their past, Kanari would rather not go down further this rabbit hole.

“No, I want to.” Taking some time to gather her emotions, Emma sat back down on her bed and turned to Ella. “I have discussed this matter with Ella, and we both agree that it should be time for Shin to move on. Sister Ariel’s not coming back. No matter how much we believe in miracles, there hasn’t been a single instance where resurrection succeeds. We have to face this pain and grow from it. Shin has to do the same.”

“That’s right…” Ella tied up her ponytail and changed into a matching nightgown to Kanari’s. “Shin still believes that there’s a chance for him to meet Ariel if he attains immortality and chases Yggdrasil. A pipe dream, but it’s still a miracle that he wants to believe in.”

“Emma… Ella…”

“Honestly, for us, Kanari… You’re probably the best person that Shin could end up with. In the beginning, we were sceptical about your dealings with us. Why would the world’s top beauty, who had everything that the world could possibly offer, befriend us? Was there an ulterior motive for your friendship? Were you even trustworthy?” Ella laid down all of their misgivings about the black-haired maiden when she first approached them.

“Well, I sort of did. I wanted Shin to join my faction and…”

“Don’t lie to yourself, Kanari.” Elrin, who had been silent for a while, finally raised her voice. Her snowy white hair glistened as beads of shower water fell from the top. Taking her place at the window, Elrin alternated her gaze between Kanari and Shin downstairs, speaking out the truth that she had observed since day one. “From the start, there was this faint attraction that you had for Shin. I was there, and I saw your face back in freshman year. You didn’t want Shin for his talent, you wanted Shin for his person.”

“I…”

“There’s no shame in admitting your interests in Shin. I’m sure countless female students in the academy were much more forefront with their feelings than you.”

That was true. After Shin’s spectacular battle at the Summit, he had dethroned Kanari as the person who got the most love letters from anybody. Some of the confessions he received were so raunchy that it could have been turned into an erotica novel. Unfortunately for the young maidens, and a small minority of young men, Shizen included, Shin, didn’t care about those letters and just carried on living his life.

As of today, Shin was driven by two primary goals, and it hadn’t changed since the tragedy of the Frie Clan. Shin wanted to gain power, not for his self-betterment, but to nab Junius and the rest of the Black Masks that had caused so much harm, and to attain immortality, something that hadn’t been done since Spirit Immortal Dream. Yes, both of them were tall tasks, but Shin was up for the challenge. Thus, even though he had enough power to blow away thirteen Spirit Adepts with ease, Shin wasn’t satisfied just yet. He would train tirelessly into the night if it meant that he could raise his cultivation by one percent.

“I’m just worried… If Shin continues at this pace, he’ll lose all meaning in his life, and he won’t find happiness.” Emma stated her point. “Of all the girls around him, Kanari, I think you’re the most suited to stand next to Shin.”

There was a high chance that both Shin and Kanari would break through into Rank 80, extending their lifespans for to at least four hundred years. Shin was still twenty, with a long road ahead of him. The last thing that Emma and Ella wanted for the boy was him to be unhappy for the remaining three hundred and eighty years of his life. If Shin could find happiness with Kanari, the twins would be content.

“Thank you…” Holding in her jubilant cry, the Kanari dropped her head to hide her face. To have the endorsement of the twins, who were important family members of Shin’s, meant the world to the young maiden. “However, how do I attract him? Should I become more like Ariel?”

“No, definitely not!” Ella cried out. “No matter what you do, you can’t become a substitute for Ariel! That’s the worst plan you can possibly think off!”

“I-I see… So what should I do? Nothing I’ve tried thus far has worked.”

It wasn’t the first time Kanari had sought advice for her love troubles. Back in the Empire, her mother had given her a full manual on tips and tricks to make a guy fall in love. She had even beaten down her pride and begged Elrin for some tricks, seeing that she had the most ‘experience’ with guys. However, none of the methods that she employed had worked, and Shin still saw her as a good friend on par with Isadore or Shizen.

“Hehe, do you really think that your efforts were useless?” Emma grinned in the same way that Elrin would. The resemblance was so uncanny that Kanari even felt a cold shiver run down her spine. “I don’t think that you’d noticed, but Shin treats you differently than he treats Elrin or us.”

“You think?”

“Ah, you didn’t notice.” The other twin chuckled as well. “Shin trusts you more than anyone of us. Whenever he needs assistance, you’re the first one he calls. He always places you near him during a battle and protects you the most if you’re injured. If he needs advice, you’re the first one he talks to.”

“Now that you mentioned it…” Kanari fell into thought. Just as the twins had said, Shin really did trust Kanari, way more than the others in the group.

“I think that everything that you’re doing will pay off soon enough. Shin may not see you as a love interest now, but he definitely treats you better than a regular friend. Heck, he treats you better than he treats us! Ariel’s death was tragic, so he’ll need time to recover from that shock. However, if you keep staying by his side, and maybe be a little more aggressive in your actions, Shin would be forced to answer to your feelings!”

“M-More aggressive?! H-How do I do that?”

Kanari was an expert in many things. Cultivation? Top of her class. Martial arts? Beaten everyone who dared to trump her. Studying? Second only to the freak that was Shin. Diplomacy? Perhaps among the best of her generation. However, when it came to love affairs, Kanari was a painful virgin in every sense of the word.

“Ah, I can teach you that!” Elrin jumped in with a lascivious snicker. “First, when Shin finishes his sparring session with Isadore, you offer to wipe his face with the towel. Take that opportunity to brush his hair and gently touch his face. Make sure that he can feel your supple touch and warm breath on his skin. Next, if you’re feeling daring, you could ‘accidentally’ slip the towel under his shirt, and use it as an excuse to rub his chest.”

“R-R-Rub his chest?!”

“That’s right! Do you want to progress? This is progress!”

“Elrin… Where do you get those ideas?” Ella probed.

“‘The Happiness of the Imperial Maid and her Prince’. An excellent read for first-timers of the erotic universe. If you really want to learn more, I can loan you my copy!” Elrin flushed in excitement as she reached in for the book in her luggage. During their long journey, the group needed some light entertainment to pass the time. For Shin, that was training. For Elrin, that was ‘researching’ the literature that was popular in the Kori Federation.

“Don’t you think that we’re a little too young to read fictions like those?”

“Nonsense! We’re already twenty! At our age, some girls are already married with two children! It’s weird that you girls aren’t interested in this masterpiece anyway!” That was the weakness of being sheltered children. Kanari and the twins weren’t exposed to the popular culture that was prevalent among maidens their age.

“Come let me show you the genius of erotica novels! You will unquestionably obtain Shin’s heart if you follow these few steps laid down in the book.”

“Or get yourself arrested.” Ella scoffed. She knew how fanatical Elrin would become when exposed to erotica fiction. It was as if she turned into another person that only lived and breathed such indecent content.

“Hmmm? What did you say, oh Blizzard Fairy Sharpshooter?”

“Nothing…” Ella rolled her eyes and immediately exited the room. She had been caught up in Elrin’s antics before, and Ella knew what would happen if she stuck around. “I’ll go call Shin up, the rest of you… Enjoy.”

And with that, Kanari and Emma sat down with the erotica master as they unravelled the art of seduction. Whether it would be useful on Shin or not, only time would tell.

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