Chapter 17: Family
I found it strange that I was more nervous now, meeting my family, than when I was a king, meeting the most powerful people in the world.
“Whew~ let’s do this Sylvie.”
“Kyu” She responds, her excitement oozing into my mind.
I hear faint pitter-patter sounds followed by a childish “Coming~!”
A maid opens the door with a little girl holding onto the maid’s uniform, hiding behind her.
The maid looks at me curiously, surprised that an 8 year old was knocking on the door of a noble’s estate.
“Ahem, nice to meet you. My name is Arthur Leywin. I was informed that my family is currently residing in this manor. Do you mind if I speak to them?” I give a slight bow, Sylvie rocking on my head.
Before the confused maid could even respond, I hear an all too familiar sound in the background.
“Eleanor Leywin! There you are! You have got to stop running to the front door every time someone…” My mother stops mid sentence and drops a small bowl of what looks like food for …my sister?
I look down to see the girl with dazzling brown eyes, looking at me with curiosity and innocence. Her light ashy-brown hair shimmered with a much prettier quality than Father’s but I knew where her she got the color from. Her hair was tied into two pigtails on the side of her head above her ears.
I struggle to peel my eyes away from my little sister and I turn to face my mother. Tear welling up; my vision goes blurry as my lips curl upwards, trembling.
“H-hi mom. Long time no see.” I give a small awkward wave, not knowing what to do if she didn’t recognize me.
Fortunately, my fear doesn’t come true and she raced towards me at a speed I swear was faster than Grandpa Virion’s, but that might just be because my vision was blurry.
“OH MY BABY! ARTHUR!!” She arrived in front of me and collapsed on her knees, her arms around my waist, gripping with all her strength, afraid that I might disappear again if she lets go.
“You are alive! The Voice… I knew it was you! *sniff* You’re back now! Arthur. My baby!” And that was all she could spew before she got broke down into a bawl.
I was worse. I managed to tremble, “I-I’m back Mom…” before I started sobbing as well.
That’s the funny thing about love. You can be an all powerful, immortal tyrant but when you’re in front of your loved ones, the ability to control emotions betrays you.
I just kept repeating that I was back and that I was home, that I’m not leaving, all the while crying. My mother was a flurry of emotions. She was happy that I was back and alive, she was mad that I couldn’t come back sooner, she was sad that I had to be away from them and how hard it must have been for me all at the same time.
At one point, Eleanor walked to us and started patting Mother’s back. “Mama. There, there. Don’t cry.” But after a bit of unsuccessfully comforting Mother, she starts crying too.
“MY SON!” I turn my head, face still wet with tears to see outside the sprinting figure of my father drenched in sweat. I guess the maid told him I was back.
He doesn’t stop as he reaches us and just slides on his knee, hugging all of us.
“Arthur! My son! Look how big you are. Oh my God! You’re back you’re back!” My father was cupping my head in his hands to get a better look at my face. He broke down while placing his large hand on the back of my head, bringing my forehead to touch his.
Our little family reunion continued on. My mother sobbing uncontrollably, embracing me, and my oblivious little sister crying with her, as my father and I just looked at each other with tears in our eyes, all of us glad that we’re here together.
Eventually, we all managed to settle down.
We were sitting on a couch, my mother right beside me with Eleanor on her lap. Father was sitting on a chair he pulled up, facing me, his elbows on his knee as he leaned forward. Mother is holding my hands and still tearing up every time she gets a look at my face.
“Are you okay now? Did you at least eat three meals a day? You slept while dressing warmly everyday right? Oh my baby. Look how big you are now.” Tears escaped her eyes as she squinted and smiled. Leave it to mother to worry about those things.
She was stroking my hair now and she placed a kiss on the crown of my head. “Thank God you’re back. I’m so happy,” she whispered.
Eleanor was looking curiously at both Sylvie and I while the baby dragon was sitting up next me attentively observing the three unfamiliar humans.
My father is looking at Sylvie with a curious look as well but he doesn’t mention her yet. Turning his gaze to me, his eyes softened and he keeps shaking his head, saying how big I am now. It must be a pretty fulfilling yet miserable feeling for a parent to see how big his son has gotten but not being there with him the whole time to witness it.
“Ellie, say hi to your big brother. He was away for a while but he’ll live together with us from now on. Come on, say ‘hello’.” My mother says to my sister.
“Brother?” She tilts her head, reminding me of a confused Sylvie.
She cups her hands over my mother’s ear and she whispers something.
“Haha yes, that big brother. The one I always tell stories about. He’s the one.”
My sister’s eyes start sparkling as she looks back at me. I wonder what stories Mother has told her.
“Hai Brother~!” She waves both of her little hands at me.
“Hello Eleanor. It’s nice to meet you… sister.” I laugh as I pat her head.
Father speaks up now. “Arthur, we were devastated after that incident, and we barely believed it when you communicated to us through our heads. Tell me, how’d you survive the fall?”
It took a while for me to explain everything from the beginning. I withheld some information that I thought might not be good to tell them just yet. I explained to them that I subconsciously wrapped myself in a protective layer of mana and I hit a bunch of branches on the cliff before landing in a stream. From there on, I told them about meeting Tess and how she was almost kidnapped. After saving her, she led me to her Kingdom and I stayed there.
“You said something about an illness that kept you from coming back sooner. What was all that about? Are you cured now?” My mother chimes in, a look of concern on her face.
Shaking my head, I explain, “You don’t need to worry about that anymore. I guess there was a sort of instability in my mana core that made it so I had episodes of body aches. It was really bad at first but luckily there was an elf elder that knew how to cure it. The process was slow but he assured me it wasn’t threatening if treated consistently.”
Relief replaces the prior look of worry and she just pats my head again.
“So what’s the story with this little pet of yours?” My dad just chuckles, finally bringing up Sylvie.
“Haha, while I was travelling, I stumbled into a mana beast’s den. It was only the mother and she was badly injured. A little bit after I was there, she died. While I was looking around, it seemed like she was guarding something so I picked it up thinking it was something valuable but I didn’t know it was an egg. She hatched only a couple of months ago so she’s still a baby. Say hi to Sylvie.”
I pick her up, holding her body so her limbs dangled like a kitten’s.
“Kyu~!” She purred, as if saying hi to everyone.
I didn’t exactly tell my family a lie when I said this but I’ll tell them everything when I’m older.
I then ask them to update me on what’s happened to them after we separated. The only thing I was able to tell from seeing them through the water divination the first time was that they lived here in Xyrus, but nothing more so I was exceptionally curious.
After Father explained what happened since then, my mother chimed in. “That’s right! The Helstea family went on a trip but they should be arriving back today. They’re going to be so surprised when they see you Art!”
I turn to face my mother. She hasn’t changed much since I last saw her. The only thing that I did notice was that she’s lost a bit of weight and was slightly paler in complexion. My heart ached as I figured it was caused from stress and depression after losing me. Father was actually buffer now, with a trimmed beard. I guess working as an instructor for the Helstea Auction House guards has gotten him in shape as well.
“Dad. What color is your mana core now?” I ask, while Sylvie made her place back on top of my head, tail swishing in content.
A confident grin emerges from his face as my father proudly replies, “Your old man broke through from the light red stage a couple years back and is a dark orange now.”
I raise my eyebrows in surprise. At the age of early thirties, my father was doing pretty well for himself. The average mage that doesn’t attend school stagnates at light red stage, maybe dark orange if they’re lucky. Of course it’s different for the elites who have a much purer mage lineage and have access to better resources, but for a standard mage, my father was strong.
He then asks me, leaning closer, “What stage are you at now?”
Scratching my cheek, I mumble, “…dark orange.”
My father stumbles forward off his chair. Even my mother gasps in surprise.
“Holy shit!” My father exclaims.
“Shet!” Eleanor echoes, laughing at my father falling.
“Honey! What did I say about cursing in front of Ellie?” My mother reprimands while blocking my sister’s ears.
“Haha Sorry. Sorry! Ellie don’t listen to what your father is saying.” He then turns back to me.
“My son is still the same genius he used to be. Come on. Have a quick spar with your old man.” My father grins menacingly while clasping my shoulders.
“Dear! He just got home! Let him rest.” Mother was holding unto my hand.
“It’s fine Mom haha.” I gently place my hand on top of hers and she lets go.
“Men! Always trying to fight! Isn’t that right Ellie?” My mother shakes his head.
“Papa and Brother are men!” Echoes Ellie.
Both father and me laugh this time. I’m glad to be back.
We all get up to move to the backyard when I hear the door open.
“Rey! I heard your son was alive? What the hell is going on?” I see a thin proper man with glasses and parted hair in a suit sweating, with what I assumed to be his wife and daughter running behind him.
“Vincent, everyone! I would like you to meet my son, Arthur! He’s back Vince~ Haha!”
My father wraps his arm around the man’s shoulder.
“Arthur, this is Vincent, my old friend and the person I work for. This is his house so introduce yourself before we start wrecking it.” He grins broadly.
Bowing to a ninety-degree angle, I introduce myself. “It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Arthur Leywin. I’m not sure what my family has told you about me, but I was in contact with them for a while back. I was also the one that told them to not tell anyone until I got back, so I apologize for the confusion. Thank you for taking care of my family all of this time.” This man was the one that housed my family in their toughest time. As far as I was concerned, I owed him and his family dearly.
“Y-yeah, It’s really no problem. I’m glad that you’re alive and back.” He just scratched his head, still confused. “Meet my wife Tabitha and my daughter Lilia.” He continues, pushing them forward so they were in front of him.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you ma’am, Lilia” I bow again at them. Sylvie introduces herself too with a “Kyu!”
Tabitha bows slightly with a warm smile, saying, “Great to have you in the house Arthur. Say hi Lilia! Arthur is your age so don’t be shy.”
The girl named Lilia speaks up now, pointing at the creature on my head. “W-what’s that! It’s so cute.”
“This is an infant mana beast that I’m contracted with. Her name is Sylvie. Sylvie, get down and say hi.”
Sylvie jumps down and mews at Lilia.
“Oh my gosh!” Lilia squeals.
“Rey, what did you mean by wrecking my house?” Vincent asks curiously while my father’s arm was still around his shoulders.
“We were just on our way to the backyard. Arthur and I are going to have a little spar. Want to come?” He chuckles.
Vincent sputters incredulously, “W-what? Are you serious? Your son can’t be older than eight. What are you going to spar with him for?”
“HAHA! Don’t let my son’s appearance fool you! He’s already a dark orange stage Augmenter!” My father harrumphs proudly.
Vincent just shakes his head. “Don’t be ridiculous Rey. Your 8-year-old son is already in the orange stage? Even the snobby genius brats that get admitted into Xyrus academy are barely at the dark red stage, and they’re usually 11-12!”
My father just laughs louder and leads us all to the backyard.
“Ready when you are Dad!” I smile, setting Sylvie off to the side, next to the audience, which were the Helstea family and my mother and sister.
“Be careful Art! Your old man got better since the last time!” He pounds his two fists together, smiling.
Vince was still shaking his head in disbelief.
“GO!” My father announces, getting in an offensive stance.
Let’s see how much my training with Grandpa Virion paid off.
I explode a burst of mana from my feet as I dash towards him.
“What in the…” I faintly hear from Vincent along with several gasps.
“HAHA!” My father wills mana into his body and narrows his eyes.
After attributing my mana into my bones and muscles, my body may look like a normal fit 8-year-old child’s but my strength and agility was several times greater.
My right kick is met with my father’s left arm as he guards his head.
Shaping his right hand into a chop, he swings it towards my body.
Using the force from the kick, I change direction and twist my body midair to dodge the chop and I land next to his feet.
I feint a punch to his side so he curls up in defense, but I pivot at an incredible speed thanks to my enhanced body and throw a spinning back elbow using the momentum.
At that moment, my father brings up his right leg and my elbow clashes with his knee.
I dashed back to get out of range.
“Good good! Your old man’s going to get serious now! Be careful.” He smiles.
The thing about mana in the earlier stages is that it’s very different depending on how Augmenters and Conjurers use it.
While both types of mages can be tested using a special device to see what element that they’re adept at, a Conjurer’s attribute is very noticeable depending on what type of elements they have an easier time casting.
For Augmenters, it is a lot less obvious because most of their attacks are focused on using mana to enhance their bodies. That’s only the basics though.
While it differs per person, after a certain threshold, the mana core becomes pure enough to actually pertain to the user’s attribute. For Conjurers, this means that they’re able to slowly get away from the training wheels of chanting, and start shortening their verses in the element that they’re adept at.
For Augmenters, it is a lot more noticeable because at this stage, their mana can now manifest into their element attribute.
For example, before breaking through, a fire attribute Augmenters attacks just had a more powerful burst that seemed like it exploded, while wind attribute made their attacks faster and sharper.
However, after the orange stage, an Augmenter’s element attribute actually influences their attacks physically. Earth Augmenters can learn to produce a gauntlet of earth and can even learn to create small seismic shocks by stomping their foot, while Wind Augmenters can be taught to release small blades of wind and create a vacuum effect in their punches, and so on. All of these are essentially techniques in controlling the type of mana that you channel.
Of course, Conjurers still had the major advantage of being able to influence a lot more of their surroundings. Their range was also a lot farther, but their weakness is still the vulnerability that they have in the process of chanting as well as their bodies that aren’t protected by mana.
Because of these differences, both types of mages that can break the threshold are much stronger than mages that can’t, and ultimately determines the talent and future accomplishments they can achieve.
While Conjurers can innately control elements because of how proficient they are at absorbing nature’s mana with their mana veins, Augmenters are different.
For every one attribute Augmenters there are, there are ten that aren’t. There are cases of attribute Augmenters that never break the threshold and become fully-fledged Elemental attribute Augmenters but usually they still have better talent than those who don’t have any attributes.
I learned early on that my father was a fire attribute mage, but after reaching a bottleneck for years while being busy as a father, he finally reached the orange stage and also his own threshold, dubbing him now as an official Elemental Augmenter, or Elemental for short.
His two fists start glowing and are ignited into a glowing red flame. His whole body is steaming a little as the fire attribute mana is flowing throughout his body.
I grin and turn serious as well.
“Try not to be too surprised Dad!”