The sword slid soundlessly from its sheath to reveal the flat blade .
I couldn't help but swallow back a lump of air as I fell into a trance, staring at the weapon much too beautiful to be considered an ordinary weapon .
The narrow blade was straight and thin like a rapier's but had a double edge, making it fit for slashing as well as thrusting . As the keen edge of the blade curved smoothly into a sharp tip, I couldn't help but notice that there were no markings—that the blade had been sharpened . The weight and balance of the sword was a bit off in my opinion but it was still much better than the crude tools I had picked up before . However, even this flaw was overshadowed by the breathtaking quality and color of the blade .
The translucent teal hue of the blade seemed to almost generate a luster of its own, even inside the dim storage room . There was a stark contrast to the matte-black scabbard and handle, making the color of the blade all the more radiant . Despite the fact that the blade was so narrow and thin, a few tests on a nearby iron container confirmed its durability and strength .
I could say with confidence that, even in my old world, there wasn't a blade as well-forged as this . Was this sword truly meant for beast tamers or was its criteria even more particular? I thought as I looked down at Sylvie .
Titling her tiny head, Sylvie let out a happy chirp in response .
Studying the blade more closely, I spotted a small engraving inscribed on the blade near the grip .
Dawn's Ballad W . K . IV
As soon as those words left my lips, a searing pain abruptly shot out from where I was gripping the sword, making me drop the weapon .
There was a gash that had already been cauterized across my palm . I was hesitant to pick the sword back up again, but when I did, I could see the faint remains of my blood getting absorbed into the handle of the blade .
"Kuu!" Are you okay, Papa? Sylvie trotted next to me, pawing my leg, concerned .
I'm fine, Sylv . After scratching the underside of my bond's chin, I gave the sword another swing . This time, the point of balance of the sword aligned perfectly to match with my undeveloped body . Even the handle of the blade seemed to have grown smaller to fit in my hand, as if it was made for me .
There were some extraordinarily valuable staffs and wands that had the ability to bond with a single user, allowing better manipulation of mana between the weapon and master, but I'd never heard of a sword doing something like this .
Picking up the sword, I pondered over the man, whose initial was "W . K . IV . " Who was this person and how was he capable of forging such a sword?
I realized how much time had passed as my father's faint voice snapped me out of infatuated trance . Quickly sheathing my new sword, I made my way back to where my father was, Sylvie hitching a ride on top of my head . On the way back, I made sure to pick up the short sword I chose for back up .
"Well? Did you see anything you liked?" Vincent, who had been talking with my father, asked .
I nodded, holding up the short sword to him, "I found this sword and, after a few swings, I've grown to like it . Is it okay for me to take this one?"
Vincent took the weapon from my hand, drawing the sword from its scabbard . "Hmmm, not the best quality sword but it is solid and won't break easily . Rey, what do you think?"
My father accepted the sword, studying its blade, grip and guard before taking a several swings and thrusts . "The balance isn't the best but I think it'll be good as a first sword . What's that stick you're holding onto, though?"
Trying not to make a big deal out of it, I gave casual shrug . "I tripped over this really sturdy stick on my way back here . Do you mind if I take this back home to practice with, Uncle Vincent?"
"Ah that old thing! I remember one of my merchants telling me how some senile old man just handed it to him, mumbling something about finding a worthy master . We had a few of our inspectors check if there was anything special about it, but for all they were able to find out, it was just a sturdy, hard cane . It's been gathering dust here so if you think it'll do you some good, go ahead and take it," Vincent answered, lightly squeezing my shoulder . Success .
****Kingdom of Elenoir****
TESSIA ERALITH'S POV:
"Haaaaaaaaaaa… . " I let out an exaggerated sigh, looking out the window from my room . My hands were getting numb from leaning my head on it for so long, but I didn't want to move as I only grew more annoyed .
How dare he! Stupid Art!
Finally willing myself to get up, I let out my pent up frustration by kicking the wall .
Stupid Art! This is his fault too!
Cradling my aching foot, I wiped the tears that had welled up in my eyes, unsure of whether it was from the pain of my foot or my loneliness .
I had just gotten back from Grandma Rinia's home . It was hard, but I was finally able to guilt-trip her into letting me spy—I mean, make sure that Art was doing okay .
I should be happy that he's with his family and everything… but doesn't he miss me?
He looked too happy! And who's that girl? Wasn't Art acting a little too nice to her? That cunning girl even got Art to teach her how to manipulate mana!
He never taught me!
That Arthur… When I get my hands on him, I'm going to give him a piece of my…haa… who am I kidding, I just want to see him .
It'd been a few months since he had left but after getting so used to seeing him every day, those months had felt like years .
"Maybe I should've treated him more nicely while he was here," I muttered aloud .
I couldn't help but cringe remembering all of the times I had physically abused him, just as an excuse to touch him .
But that wasn't my fault! It's his fault for being such a thickheaded idiot!
Mama and Papa were quite proud that Feyrith, the noble brat who messed with Art, and his sister were able to place in the top five during the trial competition that they had with the humans, but I couldn't care less . It was just a show to boast our strength to the humans and dwarves anyway .
Grandpa had mentioned that the actual Continental Tournament—which was what the humans decided to call it—would happen every five years from now on . Did that mean I would have to wait five years to see Art? Five whole years?
"Uuu… . " This sucked . The only thing that kept my mind off of Art was training . My goal was to become stronger than Arthur . The next time we meet, I wanted to surprise him by how much I'd grown . Maybe then he'd see me in a different light . Stupid Arthur, I repeated . Even though he was younger than me, he still treated me like a kid .
Even though I'm the older one…
I held up the water-filled orb that Granny Rinia gave to me as a present . She was able to capture a scene and integrate it into the orb so that it would constantly show an image of Arthur's face .
"Dummy!" I cursed at the bubble, poking the sphere where the image of Arthur's cheek was .
Suddenly, the door flung open . "Young one, I have good—"
"Grandpa! What did I say about knocking?!" I squealed, quickly trying to hide the orb behind me . However, by the sly grin on his face, I knew that he had already noticed .
"I see you're using that orb well," he snickered as his usual, stern expression was replaced by that of a wily fox .
"Stupid Grandpa!" I reached for my pillow nearby and flung it at him before he could see how red my face had turned .
"Don't mind, don't mind! I would rather enjoy having Arthur as a grandson-in-law, anyhow! But isn't it a little too early for that now?" He roared out in laughter as he continued teasing me .
Whipping my head away from Grandpa, I did my best to hide my embarrassment, unable to let out anything other than a frustrated grumble in response to his ridicule .
"Don't pout now! I've got some good news for you, Little One . " I turned my head slightly just to indicate that I was listening .
Letting out another hearty laugh, he spoke . "Now, what if I said that you could have the chance to attend the same school that Arthur will be attending—"
My body spun so fast that I grew dizzy . "Then I would say that you're the best Grandpa ever!" I cut him off before he even finished speaking . "You're not lying to me, right?" I grabbed Grandpa's sleeve and tugged it hard .
I heard a chuckle from the doorway . "Did you tell her, Father?" Mama and Papa walked into the room, smiling .
I turned to them, "Mama! Papa! Is it true? I can go to school with Arthur?"
"Calm down, Tess," my mother gently chided as she patted my head .
"Your Grandfather has close ties with the current Director of Xyrus Academy . He got in contact with her recently and she was excitedly telling your Grandfather about how there will be a genius quadra-elemental augmenter attending her school in three years' time," my father added .
"Who else besides Arthur is a quadra-elemental augmenter? I instantly knew, but of course, I didn't say anything about me training him . That is a little secret I plan on surprising her with later on," he let out an evil grin .
"Why is he waiting three years before going to school? Isn't he more than fit to go now?" I tried to speak casually, but my excitement had me grinning to my ears .
"Well, she did mention something about him wanting to be an adventurer," Grandpa mused .
My mother gently squeezed my hands . "The important part is that this gives us enough time . We're still trying to negotiate terms to have a trial run for the integration of the younger generations of elves and dwarves to attend school together with the humans at Xyrus Academy . The King of Sapin agreed that the only way to start mending our relationship was by allowing the younger generation to form bonds with each other," she explained . "You'd better train hard, Little One . A lot is riding on this . I'm willing to bet that Arthur had chosen to become an adventurer before attending school so that he could get some real experience in fighting . After he's done, he'll be at the age a typical student would be in, so stay on your toes . He's going to be popular, so if you don't snatch him, some other lucky girl will . " Grandpa shot me an evil wink .
"Father, I think that's enough teasing now . Look, Tess is about to cry!" I could barely make out my father shaking his head through my watery eyes as I tried to stay strong .
****Kingdom of Sapin****
ARTHUR LEYWIN'S POV:
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARTHUR!" everyone cried out in unison .
The whole Helstea house was decorated lavishly with festive ornaments and woven threads as the Twin Horns and the Helstea family as well as my own gathered together to congratulate my ninth birthday .
"Thank you all for bearing with me!" I gave a deep bow as Sylvie mimicked me, nodding her small head .
The dinner turned out amazing as the chefs went all out tonight . My mother made sure to include some of my favorite dishes, some of which she made herself .
A panorama of noise filled the halls: laughter of the kids, the clinking of wine glasses and busy footsteps of maids and butlers . The table was pleasantly loud as Adam belched loud jokes and made fun of some of the members with their embarrassing moments while exploring the dungeon .
"Adam, you seem to forget the time when a horned mole snuck up under you while you were taking a piss in the dungeon . As I recall, you got so scared, you landed straight on your back, peeing on yourself like a fountain," Jasmine coolly said as she casually continued sipping her tea, not even bothering to look at the petrified Adam .
"Pfft!" The food in my mouth sprayed out as I tried to contain my laughter . My father blatantly roared with laughter, nearly falling back in his chair as he pointed his finger at the frozen Adam . Even Vincent had his face buried in his hands as he tried to keep from laughing .
"No! Y-You! I thought n-no one was awake when that happened?!" Adam's face turned ghostly pale and his shoulders slumped in utter defeat . Meanwhile, the women just shook their heads in embarrassment at the men's behaviors .
All in all, everyone was having a great time . Ellie chimed in eager to tell all of us about her adventures in learning how to read and write, trying to be a part of the grown-up conversations as well, while Lilia just giggled and agreed .
After dinner, everyone migrated to the living room where the fire had just been lit and area filled with a smoky fragrance .
"Happy Birthday again, Son . This present is from your mother and I, and of course, Ellie as well . " My father handed me a package wrapped in cloth while Mother was holding back Ellie, who's fidgeting fingers were eager to unwrap the present .
Opening it, I saw a fingerless glove meant only for my left hand . It was black and simple but embedded on the top of the glove were 3 white stones .
"Your father hunted the material for the glove and I imbued my healing spells unto those three white stones . Each of the stones carries a single-use spell . I'm sure it'll be useful to have some safety measures while you go out on missions . " My mother looked at me with sad smile . I could tell she still wasn't ready to send me off .
"Thanks Mom, Dad, Ellie, I love it . This'll be really useful for me . " I gave each of my family members a big hug . Putting on the glove, I could tell how sturdy the material was, not to mention that the three healing spells would be extremely useful in a tight situation .
"Ahem! Next is us!" Vincent pulled out a small box . He dramatically got down on one knee and opened the box, revealing two silver rings, one plain, and one with a small clear gem .
Uhh… . Where was he going with this?
"Honey! Stop teasing the boy!" Tabitha smacked Vincent's shoulder while he held in his laughter .
"Okay, okay! Arthur, this is more of a present for your family than you but I'm sure you'll appreciate it as well . "
"This ring," Vincent pulled out the plain ring, "Is what you will be wearing, while this ring," he handed the gemmed ring to my mother, "Is what your mother will be wearing . "
Tabitha continued on for him, "Alice, while Arthur is wearing the ring, you'll be able to tell whether he's okay or not . The plain ring is able to keep tabs on the mana circulation that naturally flows in a mage's body . If the natural mana flow stops, the ring you're holding, Alice, will glow red and emit a high-pitched sound . "
"We thought really hard on what Arthur may need during his time as an adventurer, but Lilia was actually the one that brought up the possibility of giving a present that'll help him and his family . Unfortunately, the rings can't do much more than that but I thought this would bring you some peace of mind Alice, Rey . " Vincent shrugged his shoulders .
My mother teared up while clutching onto the ring . "Oh Tabitha, Lilia, thank you!" She hugged the both of them in a tight embrace . "Thank you, Vincent . " She gave Vincent a deep bow while he shook his hands, saying how this was nothing much .
I couldn't help but smile, looking at my mother .
If this ring could free my family from constantly worrying about me, then this was the best gift I could ask for . But I couldn't help but become concerned at the psychological presence wearing the ring would have on my mother; she might end up checking it religiously .
"Well how are we going to beat that, guys?" Adam chimed in . My guardian angel Durden walked towards me, handing me a roll of parchment .
"You see, we also thought along the same lines as the Helstea family . We couldn't really think of what to give the little monster so we decided on this!" Adam waved his arm in a dramatic manner .
"Those two scrolls are sound transmission scrolls! I'm not going to elaborate on how expensive these were, because they were extremely expen—ouch!" Jasmine smacked Adam on the head .
"Cough! Anyways! With this, you now have a one-time source of communication . Just infuse mana into the scroll, Arthur, and you'll be able to send a message to the other scroll . After the holder of the other scroll receives it, Mama Leywin, she can then send the reply! After the reply is sent and the other person listens to it, the parchment will then turn to ashes! TADA! You're welcome!" Adam gave a dramatic bow .
The members of the Twin Horns were all taking turns talking smack about Adam's egotistical performance, but they gave my family a warm smile .
I could tell my mother and father's moods had turned a whole lot better after knowing that they wouldn't be sending their son off to who knows where without knowing how he was doing and what would become of him .
I gave each of the Twin Horns and the Helstea family a hug, thanking them for the presents . Lilia turned beet red while Tabitha just giggled at her .
Honestly, I already had what I needed, but the ring and scroll would be an invaluable source of comfort for my family, which I was worried about the most .
Soon after, my parents' ex-party members all left to go back to their inn . The Helstea family went back upstairs when Lilia started dozing off, tired from the long day, leaving me with just my parents . Ellie was asleep while cuddling the snoring Sylvie . I was already all packed up, prepared to leave tomorrow morning and meet up with Jasmine in front of the house . Tonight would be the last chance to have a real talk before I left .
"Tomorrow is the big day, Son . Are you excited?" My father clasped my shoulders . My father's eyes were lined red as I could see him holding back some tears .
My mother had given up on holding back her emotions and kneeled down to give me a big, bear hug, her face buried in my chest as she sniffled .
"I'll be fine Mom, Dad . I promise I'll try to be back home every chance I get . If anything happens, you'll be able to know . "
After talking about my life and the dangers of being an adventurer, my parents ushered me back into my room . I plopped into bed and stared at the ceiling, Sylvie asleep next to me . I had a family and now, I had people who loved me . I had people that cared about me for who I was, not for the position I had . It was a nice feeling that I would never want to give up . I'd fight for it and make sure to treasure this emotion that I was devoid of in my previous world . For that, I needed to better myself . More so than when I had been a king .