Chapter 240: Reconciliation
The towering dark-brown bear fur, the tuft of white on the chest, along with two spots of white just above two intelligent eyes—it was unmistakable. This was Boo.
Boo must’ve been thinking the same thing I was, because the thousand-pound bear charged at me on all fours, letting out a happy grunt.
With unabated force, the gigantic mana beast tackled me, lifting me off my feet and tossing me to the ground. Looming over me, Boo revealed a toothy grin before slobbering me with his tongue that was actually larger than my face.
I struggled under the mana beast’s weight as he pinned me down to the ground and continued to show his affection. “Boo—Ack! Stop! Okay! Enough!”
“I think he’s had enough, Boo,” my bond said, her voice calming the excited beast enough for me to escape.
“I feel violated,” I groaned, wiping off the thick and slimy mask of saliva that had accumulated over my face. It wasn’t until halfway through that my brain clicked. If Boo was here…
I grabbed Boo’s large, furry head and turned him to face me.
“Boo! Is Ellie here? What about my mom?! How did you get here?” I asked, as if he could speak to me.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to. My questions were answered when I saw Virion rush past us in a blur.
“Tessia!” he called out, his voice brimming with emotion. My grip around Boo loosened at the mention of that name, and I immediately followed after Virion.
I didn’t have to go far before I was able to see four figures at the base of the stairs near the far wall of the building. It was my mom, sister, Tessia and… Elder Rinia.
My long and hurried strides slowed as my vision blurred. Tears struggled to break loose as I saw Tessia fall into Virion’s arms. The sight of Ellie running towards me was enough to break me and I found myself arm in arm with my baby sister, my face buried in her short brown hair.
My sister’s entire body shook as she bawled into my chest. Hitting me weakly with her tiny, trembling fists, she blubbered in between sobs about how scared she was and how I wasn’t there.
It felt like a cold hand was gripping down on my chest as I watched my sister in this state. I felt guilty for making my sister, who had grown up so bright and strong, cry this much.
“I’m so sorry, Ellie. I’m so sorry. I’m here now, everything is going to be okay,” I said, tightening my grip around her frail body and kissing her on the crown of her trembling head.
“W-We almost died and you weren’t there. Y-Y-You’re… never there! Not at the Castle, not at the Wall, not even when Dad died!” She wailed, her fists still pounding my body. “You’re my brother, you’re supposed to be there! You were supposed to comfort me when Dad died! I-I needed you… Mom needed you!”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Ellie,” I repeated, doing all I could to stay strong. “I’m so sorry…”
Ellie slowly calmed down as her head remained buried in my chest. Her trembling shoulders now only occasionally shook when she hiccupped. During this time, I didn’t look up. I kept my focus entirely on my sister until she pushed herself away. Staring at me with swollen red eyes, she jutted a finger behind her. “G-Go apologize to Mom now.”
I looked up to find our mother only a few steps away from us, her expression hollow and empty of any emotion. Her warm and tender smile that I found even in the hardest of times was nowhere to be found.
I walked up to her, unsure of what to do or where to begin.
My mother’s cold eyes cut me off as she took a step forward. “Arthur, your sister and I almost died. If it wasn’t for Elder Rinia saving us, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
My gaze turned to Elder Rinia, who was talking with Tessia and Virion, before landing back on my mother. “I-I…”
“But throughout that entire situation, when I thought that surely we would die—soon, if not now—do you know what I was thinking?”
I shook my head.
“I was thinking…” My mother paused a moment, her mask of stone wavering. Tears welled in her eyes while she bit her lower lip in an effort to keep it from trembling. She turned away from me, quickly wiping away her tears, trying to compose herself before turning back. “I was thinking the entire time how sad and guilt-ridden your father must’ve been to leave this world without even getting the chance to make up with his only son.”
Her words weighed down on me like a thousand tons, making my knees buckle and my entire body falter. Just as I lost strength in my legs, my mother wrapped her arms around me and supported me against her chest.
Her trembling hands gripped me as she whispered. “It doesn’t matter who you were before. I raised you when you were little, I nursed you when you were sick, and I watched as you grew into the man you are today. Your father and I talked for a long time, and we can say with certainty that the Arthur now is so different from who he was when he was born, and that’s when we realized that you are our son.”
The strength left my feet, crumpling me to my knees. I gripped my chest as my breathing came out in strained gasps. I couldn’t breathe, I could only gag out the neverending sobs as my mother kept her arms around me.
“I’m so sorry that it took us so long to realize that. I’m so sorry that you couldn’t come to your own father’s funeral because of me. I’m so sorry, Arthur.”
It took a while for us to gather ourselves and get settled up on the second floor of the building. During this time, I noticed that the atmosphere was a bit tense between Tess and Elder Rinia.
The rest of us newcomers had picked up on this as well, exchanging wary glances at each other while Tess ignored any efforts by Elder Rinia to start a conversation.
Once we got upstairs, Elder Rinia pulled aside Virion with a grave expression and disappeared into another room. After some time spent talking with my mother and sister, I properly greeted Tess and the two of us embraced silently for a brief moment.
Tess, however, seemed to have something else on her mind and I didn’t blame her. While I didn’t have the courage to ask directly, just based on the hollow expression that Tess had, I suspected something had happened to her parents. As for why she was so angry at Elder Rinia, I could only speculate.
Tess, not long after we sat down, excused herself, telling us she was a bit tired. Bairon was next, telling us he wanted to spend some time meditating to recover.
I told him that because of the lack of the ambient mana here, it would be almost impossible to go further than trying to recoup the mana he would naturally gain from his mana core, but I suspected that he left more to give me and my family some space. While my impression of Bairon had never been good—and I think he could say the same for me—the lance had come a long way from the prideful hotheaded noble he was before the war.
Finding myself with just my family, I couldn’t help but crack a smile. Before today, I would’ve sworn that being in a situation like this would’ve rendered me catatonic, but it was… peaceful.
“You’re so pretty, Sylvie,” Ellie commented, combing my bond’s long wheat hair with her fingers.
“I think you’re very attractive yourself, Eleanor,” Sylvie responded in kind, her eyes closing softly at my sister’s soft touch.
“Another thing I regret was not spending much time getting to know your bond,” my mother said to me, watching Ellie and my bond by the fire. “But I’ve always been glad that Sylvie is by your side.”
“I’m glad as well. I’m not sure where I would be if it hadn’t been for her,” I replied.
My mother’s expression was a mixture of emotions as she looked at me and nodded.
A sharp ‘pop’ crackled from the firewood, interrupting the brief moment of silence. Unable to hold in my question any longer, I asked my mother, “How did you, Ellie, and Boo get here?”
She looked at me and then at the exit that Tessia and Bairon had left through, and shook her head. “I’ll let Elder Rinia tell you. It’s better that way.”
“Okay,” I responded. The four of us talked for a while, catching up, making light jokes and laughing, until my sister and even my mother began nodding off to sleep.
“Sorry, we hadn’t been able to sleep well these past few days,” my mother said, rubbing her eyes.
“Don’t worry. Get some sleep—both of you,” I said, turning to my sister.
The two of them retreated to a bed of blankets that had been laid out in a corner of the room.
“Good night,” Sylvie and I said to the both of them.
They responded in kind before laying down. I caught my sister lifting her head every now and then, checking to see if the two of us were still here, until the soft rhythmic breathing eventually melded together with the cackling fire.
I smiled, my eyes unable to pry themselves away from the sight of my mother and sister sleeping peacefully. A lot of unexpected events had occurred in the last few days alone, but one of the moments I had dreaded the most was confronting my family after everything that had happened to them. I was so caught up in blaming myself for my father’s death that I avoided Ellie and my mother out of guilt.
When I saw the two of them today, my mind immediately expected anger and blame from the two of them. Instead, I learned that my mother had blamed herself all this time. She said that her inability to properly deal with the secret of my past life had caused me to miss my own father’s funeral and she apologized for that.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how…mature that was. Surely I was in the wrong as well. I was the one that avoided confrontation and I had been the one to keep it a secret from them for so long, yet she ignored my mistakes and pointed out her own shortcomings instead and asked me for forgiveness, which was something I wasn’t quite sure I deserved.
Even with the experience of two separate lives, I learned something today. I was once again humbled by the fact that while my past life had given me a lot of advantages, it was foolish of me to equate years lived to maturity.
‘It’s not like I didn’t tell you this a few times already. I guess you needed to arrive at that conclusion yourself,’ Sylvie sent to me, also conveying a mental eye-roll along with it. ‘Mark today on the calendar as the day Arthur Leywin realized he wasn’t the mature man he thought he was.’
Shut up, I sent back, smirking at my bond seated next to me. You’re just trying to use this fact to say that you’re more mature than I am.
‘I am more mature than you are, but a true mature person wouldn’t say it out loud,’ she replied, her lips curling into a smile as well.
You just said it out loud, I pointed out.
Sylvie looked at me with a raised brow. ‘Well technically…’
I playfully nudged my bond with a shoulder, feeling good for the first time in a long while. My sister and mother were alive and while we had a lot to work on if we wanted to be how we were in the past, the important thing was that they were safe.
Sylvie was the next to fall asleep, her head resting on my lap. The two horns jutting forward from her head dug into my legs but I sucked it up and let my bond get the sleep she deserved.
Staring at the fire in front of me, I became lost in thought. The thoughts that I had held off resurfaced. I had originally wanted to leave a bit after bringing Virion and Bairon here in order to look for Tess and my family. Seeing that they were here already, I immediately thought about the possibility of staying here for some time. There weren’t many supplies available here, but there was a stream of freshwater and I noticed a pile of large fish where Boo had made his nest on the lower floor of this building which I could guess came from the stream.
We might need to make a few trips to civilization eventually—maybe the Wall—but for now, I pondered at the thought of just… resting for a while.
I was tired, Virion was tired, and Bairon was tired whether he admitted it or not. During our trip here, we had all come to a silent agreement that we had lost this war. Coming to this realization didn’t warrant any mind-numbing revelation—maybe I was growing used to winning our battles but losing the war. Agrona utilized his limited resources to their utmost potential and didn’t hesitate to sacrifice his troops for a bigger plot. Dicathen had been only reacting, and Agrona knew that all too well. Like Virion said, maybe the best thing to do was buckle under and wait for a new chance to fight back.
My thoughts were interrupted by the soft footsteps approaching me. I turned around, greeting Elder Rinia with a nod.
The old diviner smiled back, wrinkles tugging at the edges of her eyes. Taking a seat next to me with a weary groan, she lifted her hands to warm them in front of the fire.
“You’ve grown older since the last time I saw you,” she mentioned, her eyes staring blankly at the dancing embers.
I chuckled quietly. “Well I am a growing teen.”
“No teen would be wearing the expression you have,” Elder Rinia scoffed. “But I guess that’s what comes with war and having so many responsibilities.”
My hands unconsciously stroked down my face as I wondered what sort of expression I wore, and what Rinia meant. Too tired to think deeply of it, I looked back, wondering why she had come back alone. “Where’s Virion?”
“He said he’ll check up on Tessia to see how she’s doing.”
There was a beat of silence as I gathered the courage to ask the question I knew she was dreading to answer by the look on her face. “Can you tell me everything that happened?”