Book 9: The Celestial River || Chapter 17: The Reaffirmed Will (4)
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The Instructor talked to the orphans for over ten minutes, sharing ordeals and experiences that had occurred to them over the six years that they have been separated. Mostly, they were talking about the happenings after the tragedy struck. They only had a few minutes to catch up before they had to move over to the graveyard. Not to mention, once they were out of Frie Mountain, the orphans and Instructor could slowly take their time to talk about all of the events that occurred in their lives.

Just as promised, the Clan Master returned to the holding room after ten minutes, bringing along a dozen high-levelled guards that she could trust. They were all at least in the Spirit Lord realm, and they all looked over at the orphans with warm and encouraging eyes. Shin had even recognised some of them as part of the pro-orphan camp back in the day. At the very least, with those guards around, no random dissidents could break through into the memorial site to break Shin’s peace with Ariel.

It took them less than five minutes to traverse the short distance further into the mountain. The blazing hot sun had been blocked effortlessly by a pale blue sky, filled with grey clouds. The group felt a little chill brush past their supple skin, cooling them down significantly. Shin led the pack, with Kanari and Lady Seph standing on his sides. Behind him, the orphans were being surrounded by the Instructor, Ines, Riko and Marshall. All of them held their chins down, not willing to make too much noise in the sacred place that they were visiting.

Thousands of tombstones were orderly placed in the gated region, each one engraved with one name and one story. Shin glanced around cautiously and saw hundreds of men surrounding the area with their own respective weapons, ready to strike down any that dared to step foot in the cemetery without permission.

‘Looks like the situation in the Frie Clan is still quite perilous…’ Shin thought. Five years wasn’t enough for a full reformation of an age-old clan. Many still seethed with rage at the mention of the Awter Clan, and some were stupid enough to act on that fury. Enfen may have unified a considerable portion of the Frie Clan, but there were still some rebels that protested her rule.

Though it wasn’t a problem for Shin to solve. He was here for one reason and one reason only.

[Here lies Ariel Frie. Year 796 - Year 810. Daughter of Arthur and Brenda Frie. A hero who had perished during the Battle for Frie Mountain. Long will she be missed.]

It wasn’t long until the procession was brought to a simple tombstone. It was a white marble tablet protruding out of the ground, engraved with some of the most gorgeous golden calligraphy that Shin had ever seen. A few cushions were laid out in front of the marbled grave so that the visitors would have a place to kneel and pray to give their respects. As Shin wished, there weren’t any incense or burning furnace to offer to the dead. The only thing that the Clan Master prepared were a few flowers, each one freshly plucked from the best herb garden on the mountain.

“...”

Astonishingly, the first one to leave the group was Fionn. Right next to Ariel’s grave was Linus’, the grandson of the Second Elder who had thrown his life away to save the poor girl’s life. She kneeled down immediately and placed one of the prepared flowers on the top of the erected tombstone, cupping her hands together and closing her eyes. Fionn wasn’t supposed to survive that day. The attacks that flew down were inescapable. It was only due to the young man’s selfless actions that she could walk on the face of the earth.

Elyse was in the same boat. Ariel didn’t have to save Elyse. She could have just stayed at the sidelines, and no one would have blamed her. However, the brave maiden threw her life away just to save someone who she shared no blood with. There was many a time when Elyse reflected on that day, blaming herself for the death of the Ariel. If it weren’t for her, Shin wouldn’t have been thrown into such spiralling despair, tormenting himself for the loss of the love of his life. Still, nothing could be changed. Elyse was the second to kneel. All that she could do now was pray that the maiden had found peace in the well of souls.

“We’ll leave you be...” Enfen, the Shrine Maiden and the Chief Librarian retreated twenty metres back, allowing the orphans to spend as much private time as they wanted with the tombs.

Shin stood still. Kanari wanted to spur him on, but the youth simply shook his head, gesturing for the rest to pay their respects first. He wanted to stare at the beautiful memorial silently, while only the chirps of birds echoed in the background. Shin had thought of thousands of things to say when he visited Ariel’s tomb. He wanted to share with her all his experiences in the Capital. How he learned under the foul-mouthed Mychael, trained desperately until his hands were blistered and his legs were broken. The fight with Danroy and how he picked himself up by learning needle arts, meridians and his Spiritual Body Enhancement to beat both Danroy and the Son of War. The friendships he gained in Imperius Academy. Shizen, the nature boy, and Isadore, the best friend he had after the orphans…

Shin also could recount the stories outside of Imperious Academy with great fervour. How he went to the Land of Dreams to chase Junius, only to witness the worst massacre in human history. Or how he attended the Summit at Deus Capital, where he met SIX Spirit Saints, the most powerful entities in the human world. How he fought Lukman to unlock all of his potential and gained the support of the Longyu Clan, especially the Saint of Time.

There were even more recent stories that he could tell Ariel. He had assimilated with the Shard of the Azure Dragon, travelled all the way to the Estrella Region and fought a Payirci, the weirdest object in all of human history. Shin had even destroyed the Paradise Heart, stunning Junius and the World Serpent altogether. He also had… met Latina, the daughter of the first person he had ever killed. And finally, Shin had also started a new relationship with Kanari, even though his heart was still filled with Ariel.

If Ariel were to know of this, what would she have said? Would she blame him and call him a cheater? Shin didn’t know. These past five years had been filled with events that would fill four long books quickly, but it didn’t matter to Shin. All he wanted to do was spend some time with his deceased love.

Shin dropped to his knees, his eyes never leaving the gorgeous name Ariel Frie. “Ariel, I’m finally back here, where I first started my journey.” He lovingly caressed the engraved words on the tombstone. At the moment, only Shin had that right, and no one disputed that. The orphans, Kanari and Lady Seph all backed away, giving the youth some privacy. “How have you been? Are you still patiently waiting on the other side?”

There was no answer.

“You know… I’m already a Spirit Spectre! Rank 40! Imagine that! It might take a while, but I’m slowly getting there. Perhaps I really can become the twenty-second Spirit Saint?” The man chuckled to himself.

“...” The tomb was as silent as a moonless night.

“So, how’s heaven? Have you met your parents like you wanted to? If you did, tell them I said hi! Haha, I doubt they would even know me.” Shin shook his head. All of a sudden, the man flinched as if he remembered something important. Reaching into his robe, Shin pulled out the familiar amethyst pendant that he had carried around since that fateful day that Ariel perished. “Remember this? I still have it! We bought it at a random store for quite a cheap price, so it’s quite amazing that it has survived this long. And you know me, I’m not the type to handle jewellery with care.”

Still no answer.

However, this time, Shin’s eyes were starting to mist. The strong facade that he had built up for this very moment had crumbled down like a landslide. He was unable to bear the silence anymore. Ariel was always a talkative Amazonian girl. Sometimes, she could continue yapping for hours, and there were even times when Shin begged for her to shut the hell up. Now, no matter how much he asked for a response, Shin would never get one.

“I… I’m… strong now, Ariel!!!” Snot dripped down the boy’s face while his eyes reddened up like an apple. “I w-will… I will never let anyone I love die again! Ariel, I will continue to chase Yggdrasil with you, as I promised! I will meet you once again in the Immortal Realm! I will bring back everyone I’ve ever lost! I’ll save everyone that I’ve ever killed! I’ll create a utopia for those that have suffered! Until then… Please wait for me!!!”

“...”

It was hard… Talking to a grave that could never answer you back.

“Shin...” The black-haired maiden who had accompanied Shin through his darkest times in place of Ariel moved forward. She firmly grabbed onto the shaking palms of her loved one, raising the brows of every member in the Frie Clan. Evidently, they weren’t notified of the pair’s relationship as of yet. ‘He’s so cold...’ The man’s hands were as chilly as ice. Whether it was from the weather or something else, Kanari didn’t know.

As if to answer her call, the overcast sky crackled in thunder and lightning, as the first teardrop drained down from the heavens. Shin’s mouth twitched, and he interlocked Kanari’s fingers with his own, hinting that he was fine.

Pitter patter… Pitter patter… Pitter patter…

The heavens were reacting to Shin’s overflowing emotions. At least that was what it seemed to those witnessing his interaction with the grave. They could feel the young man’s sadness permeating through their bones. Even Enfen Frie, the Spirit Emperor that dominated the Frie Clan, couldn’t help but sigh despondently.

“Ariel… I’m going to become the next Spirit Immortal no matter what!” The drizzle slowly turned into a torrential downpour, where thousands of silver bullets fell from the skies. The Frie Clan members immediately handed out compact umbrellas to shelter their visitors, with Lady Seph attempting to cover Shin up entirely. However, the youth was still kneeling on the floor, taking in the rain with his entire body.

“Shin, we should leave...” The blonde healer whispered. Time was almost up anyway. Even if the rain didn’t start, Enfen would have still chased them out.

“Just give me a few more seconds...” Shin replied, his face still firmly attached to the gravestone before him. “I want to say my final goodbyes...”

“Okay...” There wasn’t much that Lady Seph could do but respect his wishes. Bingbing attempted to create an Ice Shield around the young man, only to be stopped by his gentle touch. Shin didn’t want to deface the tomb of the one he loved.

Shin moved in and gently kissed the head of the tomb, caressing it as if it were his own lover. His eyes soft and gentle, the young man declared with all his heart. “Ariel, till we meet again.” Shin then placed a hint of his mana signature into the tombstone, making it glow slightly with a cerulean light and seem like the soulless grave had responded to him. However, when he lifted his hands, the white marble returned to its original stable state.

Sighing, Shin left the one place he wanted to remain in the Himmel Empire. Now, everything was done. It was time for the next page of his book to be written.

❖❖❖

Sorry for the abrupt post! I don’t often do this, but this is a mini author’s thoughts in the middle of the book, so I hope it’s not too jarring! Firstly, I have to apologise for postponing the Lantis Republic arc for this long. The title of the book is called the Celestial River, and we’re almost twenty chapters, and Shin has yet to step foot in the Lantis Republic!

Believe it or not, I wanted them to enter the Lantis Republic ten chapters in, but there were so many loose ends from the earlier arcs to resolve. I have even skipped a few to cut down the chapter count. That’s why the chapters begin with many time skips. Not to worry, though! The next chapter onwards, Shin would finally be sailing for the Lantis Republic, and I’ll try to kickstart the new arc there.

Once again, sorry for the jarring post!

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