For the past several weeks, nothing noteworthy happened, yet I was kept busy enough to not have time to visit my family. Disciplinary committee duties took up all of my remaining time not designated to school and training.
The class I taught had a harder time than I expected when it came to “divergent training,” which was what I decided to call it. The whole aspect of focusing mana into a single point proved to be difficult for all of the augmenters in the class while reabsorbing a conjured spell was an even more arduous task for the conjurers.
So far, out of the augmenters, only a student named Benson managed to do anything remotely close to what I had in mind. As for the conjurers, only Kathyln succeeded in reabsorbing her spell and enhancing her body. Even then, she only succeeded in augmenting her hand. Feyrith was a close second as he was the only other student on the brink of success.
My Deviant Magic Theory class had been moving along quite slowly as our professor explicitly explained that she would cover new material after we finished our mid-semester tests. Since a semester was sixteen weeks long and we’d only gone through four weeks of school, it’d take another four weeks until she’d start going over what I wanted to know.
“Are you excited for the class dungeon excursion this weekend?” Tess leaned in closer as she asked.
The two of us, along with Sylvie, were inside the training room during lunch. I had just finished helping her with assimilation. By my estimation, Tess needed about one or two more weeks to fully assimilate, which worried me because, until then, her magic use would be very limited.
“Hmm? Eh, we’re only exploring the first three floors, right? I doubt we’ll find anything worth getting excited over.” I just shrugged.
This Saturday, we were to have a one-night trip to the outskirts of the Beast Glades with our Team-Fighting Mechanics class. Professor Glory received permission from Director Goodsky on the condition that we were not allowed to go past the third floor of the dungeon we planned on exploring.
The dungeon was a minor one and a popular site for new adventurers since the mana beasts in the upper levels were only E class, so Professor Glory thought it would be a great way to have the class get in some real life team-fighting mechanics practice.
“Pshhh… You’re no fun. I bet you’re actually really nervous that we’ll be in the Beast Glades. I heard about it a lot from Grandpa. He says that it’s filled with a lot of mysteries and wonders but also dangers. Grandpa said to never truly trust any source of information about the Beast Glades because it always changes.” Tess got lost in her thoughts, fantasizing about how exciting our short trip was going to be.
“We’re going to be fighting against real mana beasts! Can you believe it? I mean, I’ve fought against a couple in Elshire Forest while I was training with Grandpa but I heard mana beasts are different in the Beast Glades. You know, more vicious. We’re going to be sleeping in the dungeon too! That’s so exciting!” Her eyes began to sparkle as she imagined camping underground, surrounded by mana beasts.
Giving her a soft flick to her forehead, I woke up Tess from her dreamland. “Just remember, you’re probably not even at half your strength right now and the assimilation isn’t going to be completed in time for the class expedition. Don’t get full of yourself.”
“Oww… I know, I know! Sheesh, you don’t have to baby me so much.” She pouted while rubbing her forehead.
“Do you remember when we slept together in the same tent?” My face turned into an evil grin as Tess’ face turned red immediately.
“Kyu?” Sylvie tilted her head in curiosity since she hadn’t been born when this happened.
“What did you say again? Ahh!” Putting on a frightened face, I look at my blushing childhood friend.
“‘A-Arthur? W-Well! You see… beasts will more likely appear if they notice you because they will see that you are a child. Therefore, I propose that for our s-safety, that it would be better for you to c-come inside the tent,'” I said in a high-pitched voice, mocking Tess.
“Uuu! You asked for it!” She jumped on top of me and started poking me hard as I continued laughing.
“Owowowow! Hahaha~ okay! I’m sorry, I give, I give! Tess… hahaha… I’ll stop!” Tears formed in my eyes as I continued laughing and crying in pain.
“Kyuu!” ‘Me too, I want to play too!’ Sylvie hopped around us.
Eventually, she came to a stop as I laid panting on the ground, catching my breath, with Tess sitting on top of me. Looking at my childhood friend, I noticed that her face was still red. Realizing almost immediately what sort of position we were in, I couldn’t help but get hot as well, as Tess lowered her head closer to mine.
“Hoho~ I see you two are getting along well. Virion will surely be happy.” The voice caught the both of us by surprise and Tess immediately got off me while we distanced ourselves from each other in embarrassment.
Director Goodsky walked up to us with an amused look on her face. How she got in without either of us noticing was beyond me but I couldn’t hide the awkwardness in my face as she looked at me.
Saving us some face, Director Goodsky changed the topic. “Fufu~ how is the assimilation going?”
“It-It’s going well! Art helped me a lot these past couple of weeks and I feel a lot better! I haven’t been feeling any pain from the rejection lately and as long as I don’t use magic too much, I think I’ll be okay!” The flustered Tess scrambled her words as she flailed her arms to hide her embarrassment.
“She should be fully assimilated with her beast will in about a week or two,” I clarified after calming myself.
“Hmmm…” Director Goodsky nodded at me before kneeling down in front of the still red Tess. Gently placing her hand above Tess’ stomach, Director Goodsky closed her eyes to sense Tess’ mana core.
After a brief moment, she retracted her hand and nodded, satisfied. “Good, good. I’m glad that there were no troubles along the way. I knew I could trust you, Arthur,” she said to me before getting back up.
“Where have you been these past couple of weeks though, Director? You were always in contact from what I heard, but I noticed you haven’t been inside the academy for a while now. Did you just get back?” I said, tilting my head. My eyes couldn’t help focusing on the small cut she had on her other hand.
“Ah, yes. I’ve been away for some personal reasons. I am back now though, so come to my office if you need anything.” Director Goodsky quickly covered her hand and gave me a soft, grandmotherly smile. “I better get going now, though. I have a lot of work to catch up on. Be sure not to overexert yourself, little one. Be especially careful while you are inside the dungeons. One should never underestimate even the lowest level mana beasts.” Director Goodsky gently patted Tess’ hair before disappearing with a wisp.
“S-So what are your plans after this?” Tessia said, trying to break the awkward silence that the Director had left us.
“After classes, there’s an emergency meeting for the disciplinary committee since Curtis, Claire and I are going to be away from campus over the weekend. We’ll have to work on some of the details in case an emergency arises while we aren’t here. After that, I’ll probably go back home for the first time in a while and sleep there. I’ll get back to campus by tomorrow morning in time to head out for the excursion. What about you?” I said while leaning back.
“Well, Professor Glory said there won’t be any class today since she wanted us to rest before the excursion tomorrow so I’m free until the student council meeting. We have to go over a couple of things on the agenda since both Clive and I won’t be there either.” Tess responded a lot more calmly now. I had to admit she looked pretty cute, sitting on the ground and playing with Sylvie’s paws.
After spending a bit more time talking to Tess, I eventually had to leave to go to my remaining classes. Even though we didn’t have our Team-Fighting Mechanics class, my other two classes seemed to drag on forever as we already started reviewing for our mid-semester exams.
“That will be it for today, class. Remember to keep up with your studies instead of procrastinating and cramming for everything the night before. I know you all love doing that,” Professor Mayner said sarcastically as he handed out some review sheets on basic spell formations. After my last class was over, I trudged on towards the disciplinary committee room with Sylvie weighing down particularly heavily on my head tonight.
“I trust that you guys will be able to handle keeping the academy in check while the three of us are out. We’ve been through a couple of the emergency procedures these past two weeks so I’m confident that everything will be fine. As you all know, Kai is in command while I am out. Remember that Director Goodsky is back and on campus so if things go for the worse, don’t hesitate to have her help, although, unless it’s serious, I doubt there will be a need to. Dismissed!” Claire clapped her hands as the rest of us got up.
“Twer…I mean, Arthur. I want another practice match with you.” Theo placed a hand on my shoulder as I headed down the stairs.
“No! It’s my turn. You lost to him last time so I get to try now!” Doradrea squeezed between us and looked up at me with her masculine face.
“That didn’t count! It was a lucky break that he just had, that’s all.” Theo refuted, his face red from both anger and embarrassment.
“No can do, Theo, Doradrea. I’m going home to my family tonight. My driver is already waiting for me outside of the academy,” I shrugged, hopping down the stairs without giving them the time to convince me to stay.
“You have the protection ring that Father gave you, right? Use it immediately if you feel like you’re in trouble. Promise me that, okay?” I heard Curtis worriedly nag his younger sister. We’d be leaving early tomorrow morning so tonight was probably the last time he’d be able to see her until we got back Sunday night.
Kathyln just responded with a silent nod, her face expressionless as always. She caught me looking at the both of them and quickly turned her head away. Curtis left his sister and walked towards me.
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning then, Arthur. I heard Professor Glory was thinking of assigning teams. Let’s join the same team if we can,” he said, giving me a fist bump to the arm.
“Yeah, sounds good.” I offered a friendly nod. Before walking out I gave everyone a wave goodbye.
It was already pretty dark outside with the only source of light coming from the soft glow of the floating orbs. The campus grounds gave off a very mystical feeling at night, totally different from how the world was in my previous life.
Upon reaching the main gate to the academy, a familiar driver was waiting for me. “Good evening, Mr. Arthur. I take it that you have prepared everything?” he said while taking off his hat and giving me a slight bow.
“Yeah. The meeting ran a little late so let’s leave right away.” I got into the carriage after my driver opened the door for me.
I dozed off during the ride back home so it felt like the familiar Helstea Mansion came into view a lot faster than I’d expected.
“We have arrived, Mr. Leywin. Have a great night.” Opening the door, the polite driver tipped his hat once again as I stepped off the carriage. Walking up the stairs brought up nostalgic thoughts of when I’d come back from the kingdom of Elenoir and when I came back from the Dire Tombs. This was probably the first time I was coming back home in a while without giving my parents a reason to worry for my life.
Before even having the chance to knock, the giant front door swung open and an Ellie missile shot out at a speed that surprised me.
“BROTTTHERRR! Welcome hommeeeee!” Ellie wrapped her arms around my waist as I mustered up the strength to keep the both of us from toppling down the stairs.
“Kyu!” Sylvie hopped off my head and onto Ellie’s, licking her face.
“Haha~ that tickles, Sylvie!” My sister unwrapped herself from me as she held Sylvie and tickled her back.
“I was wondering what the noise was; you’re back a little late, Son!” My father leaned against the front door and gave me a grin.
“The meeting ran a little late. It’s been awhile, Dad.” I gave my father a hug as my sister followed behind me, still cuddling with my bond.
“Ah! You’re back, Art. You must be so tired.” My mother, who was upstairs, ran down and wrapped her arms around me.
“Hey, Mom. Yeah, I’m back.” I smiled, accepting the family love I cherished so much.
“How’s your body? Are you all better now?” My mother examined my body, lifting up my shirt and turning me around to make sure I didn’t have a wound left on me.
“Haha, I’m fine now. You’re worrying too much.” I gave her a comforting smile but I couldn’t help but remember the short conversation I had had with my father about why my mother wasn’t able to heal me back then. However, I quickly shook the thoughts from my head. I was sure there was a reason and the only thing I could do was wait for her to tell me.
“Brother, how long are you staying?” Ellie was practically hopping around me as we all headed towards the living room.
“I’m leaving early tomorrow morning.” I let out a sigh.
“Wha~at? Why?” My sister’s face visibly saddened, her shoulders slumping at my response.
“Yeah, why are you leaving so soon?” my father chimed in, taking a seat on the sofa.
“One of my classes has an excursion to the Beast Glades tomorrow for one night. We leave in the morning so I’ll have to head out pretty early at dawn.” I was already tired at the thought of waking up that early.
“The Beast Glades?!” My mother’s face turned pale with concern. I wasn’t surprised since I’d almost died the last time I was in the Beast Glades. Even my father had a worried look on his face.
“Don’t worry. We’re only going to be on the outskirts and our professor will be with us at all times. Besides, I still have the ring.” I pulled out the ring that the Helstea family had given us from my pocket. The ring used mana circulation to indicate to the other ring-holder whether I was still alive or not. I kept it off while I was at school since I didn’t really have a need for it but I brought it just in case.
“But still… is it mandatory for you to go?” My mother furrowed her brows, the concern refusing to leave her face.
“We’ll be fine. It’s one of the lowest-ranked dungeons and we’re not allowed to go below the third floor anyways.” I comforted my mother.
She still wasn’t entirely happy with the whole situation but she just kept silent, giving me a hesitant nod. The four of us spent a few more hours just catching up while Sylvie fell asleep on Ellie’s lap. Ellie was apparently doing well in her ladies’ school while my father and mother both still looked very healthy and in love. It’d only been a few weeks since I’d last seen them so there weren’t really any surprises. Upon my asking where the Helstea family was, Father said that Vincent and Tabitha were both out for a couple of days on a business trip to a different city.
Eventually, my parents ushered my sister and I into our rooms since it was pretty late. I almost fell asleep while taking a shower and after drying myself; I couldn’t help but let out a big sigh of relief as I sunk into bed.
It was good to be back home.
Before I could get too comfortable, a series of knocks sounded from my door.
I turned my head, too tired to get up, and I saw a small head peeking out from the other side of the door.
“C-Can I sleep with you tonight, Brother?” Ellie walked in with her arms clinging onto a stuffed animal.
“Sure,” I smiled, lifting the blanket next to me so she could get under.
“Hehe, yay!” Ellie jumped into the bed, making herself comfortable. The bed was more than big enough for the both of us but she scooted in close and faced me.
“Goodnight.” Patting my baby sister’s head, the both of us fell asleep to each other’s steady breaths.