CHAPTER 6 Part 1: Each Other’s Hands
Just before the sunset, we went home. A vibrant orange-red hue dyed both the sky and the snow-white village. Winter flowers decorated each house, lawns, and gardens giving life in an otherwise monotone setting.
Griffin explained to the cleric who’s in charge of us, that Mary and Aishita will worry if we never came back from our scouting duties, me not even thinking if messengers were sent to inform our family. We walked home supporting each other, my arm barely able to wrap around Griffin’s waist, and his hands resting on my shoulders.
By the time we got home, I opened the door, then a loud noise came from inside.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY SURA-CH–"
After realizing that Griffin and I were badly injured, everyone inside the house rushed to both of us asking what had happened.
"What happened out there?"
"Are both of you, okay?"
“What kind of monster did this to you?”
Mary pushed through everyone that blocked her path with a scary expression visible on her face, red light coming from her eyes, she came to where my frightened father was and pulled him outside but before they were completely outside she went back a bit and spoke.
"You guys can celebrate without us, okay. And Sura, Happy Birthday sweetheart."
She greeted me with her usual gentle smile then came outside slamming the door shut.
After the scene that we just witnessed, everyone laughed at the face that Griffin had, the moment mother saw our bandages.
Minutes of pure laughter passed, we started celebrating, even though it's been several minutes since arriving, I’m still surprised that Ophelia and Yuna came and helped with everything to celebrate my birthday. I think Griffin only asked me to help him several times so that when my birthday came, I wouldn’t expect it. If he knew about the surprise, he did a great job keeping it.
There's a lot of food that the girls prepared, the smell of whole tender roasted boar dominated in the air coming from the counter of our kitchen, some kind of single-layered cake caught my attention, it had been decorated with 4 little figures representing my family, and red wine sparkled from the corner of my eye perfectly poured by someone on every cup on the table.
In this world, wine is a symbolism that wished an individual a long happy life that's why kids are allowed to drink during their 6th birthday, beer is different though, it can be drunk by age-appropriate people whenever they like.
There’s also added decorations such as a ‘happy birthday sura’ banner placed up high in the living room facing the door, some sort of stone carvings with me, Aishita, Mary, and Griffin engraved on them mounted on the wall near the entrance door, lastly, some colorful flowers that symbolize good health and prosperity placed neatly at the corner of the room.
Seeing such a sight for over 5 minutes now, I was moved by the preparations made by my family and friends, on Earth you can't have gatherings like this, it is forbidden because the virus spreads through direct contact with surfaces contaminated by an infected person’s respiratory droplets generated from coughing or sneezing.
It didn’t make me cry, but it surely made me emotional a bit, being moved by such a sight, what a pathetic 24-year-old man I was, oh well time to eat.
We ate everything and shared stories, Ophelia’s story was the highlight of the evening, she told a story about when she was still as little as Aishita. Ophelia was only around 10 years old, at that age she was only a D rank Mage at that time, she wasn’t gifted or talented in the magical arts, but she worked hard for the past 4 years since becoming D rank and a year later she became a C rank Wizard on all elements. The day she became a B rank Elementalist, she was so excited to become an adventurer, wanting to venture out in the world.
To become an adventurer, certain requirements must be met, such as a waiver, the adventurer must be at least 14 years old, have a team of 4 members, and need to be at least C rank.
While she couldn’t join the guild to be an adventurer, she trained every day to hone her skills in the magical arts. One day while she was training in the deep woods, she was ambushed by a pack of wolves, even though she was already B rank, she had little experience in combat, Ophelia manages to kill a few of the wolves, but their numbers overwhelmed her, with her mana pool nearly depleted, with fear, she stood frozen, thinking that this was how she would die. When the remaining wolves of the pack were about to pounce on her, a wolf was sent flying by a blast of energy and died, Ophelia glanced at the dead wolf, the corpse is still filled with the energy blast, burning through its skin, she then heard 2 male voices in the distance.
“That’s 4-1, Griffin, you’re falling behind”
“That was my prey! I found it first and you stole it”
“Yet you couldn’t even move fast enough to secure the kill”
There were two boys around her age, one was a demi-human. She described that he has medium-length gray-black hair, has ears like a husky, his eyes were captivating, his left eye is as blue as the seawater ripples under the bright sun, sparkling in her eyes, while his right eye has a brownish hue which she adores, falling for his eyes. His powder-white teeth were showing as he grinned towards his friend, he wore a torn sleeveless Gi that made him look manly, a headband with the symbol she doesn’t know, and his left-hand glowed with energy, assuming he was the one who created that blast.
The human named Griffin has medium-length bright black hair, a clean face compared to the demi-human, wearing a battle-worn leather tunic, a pair of leather pants with a utility belt, the belt consists of two scabbards, one for the short sword he held in his right hand, and one for a knife, a rope with a hook, and pockets along the belt, and he also wears knee-length leather boots. In his right hand, he wields a short sword, the blade is sharp and has a serrated part closed to the grip and his left hand wields a buckler.
The demi-human looked at Ophelia, he observed that she was injured and exhausted. The demi-human dashed forward and stopped right in front of Ophelia and circulate both his hands to produce bright-orange energy, some kind of Ki. His ki then widens forming a barrier, protecting both him and Ophelia, the pack pounced on them but met the barrier instead. The demi-human intercepted some wolves with his kicks and punches protecting Ophelia, while Griffin proceeds to attack the rest of the pack, he slashed and thrust with swift precision, killing all remaining wolves, Ophelia realized that both of these boys were used to fighting. Though the battle is finished, both boys still stood wary, studying our surroundings.
“Why are you guys still on guard? That was all of them”
“If that’s so, then it would be too easy. You see, every pack...”
A rustle in a bush got their attention and a single Lyquican came out and stood in front of them. Its body is bipedal-like, has developed muscles, water-coated claws, and had bloodlust eyes.
Aishita explained that Lyquicans are C-class monsters, the weakest of the bipedal wolves, these monsters usually lead packs of Forest Wolves and hunt unsuspecting Water Mages and adventurers to consume water-attribute mana to strengthen themselves, they are reckless monsters that prioritize killing over surviving. Recognizable for their greyish-blue fur and water armor. Though immune to water-specific magic, they are weak to Ice spells. They inhabit forests that Forest Wolves are commonly on and compete with other Lyquicans for the right to lead the pack.
“Has an Alpha...” Griffin continued
The demi-human lowered his barrier, deactivating it, walks forward, and stopped beside his friend Griffin, empowering his arms with Ki.
“Hey Griffin, since you have taken out the rest of the pack, the score is 6-6, right?”
“Yep, this time Luke, I’ll surpass you once and for all”
He let out a chuckle saying “Good luck with that buddy. Hey beautiful, sit back and enjoy the show!”
Ophelia watched as Luke empowered his fist, and Griffin tightens his grip on his sword, they both dashed forward towards alpha, Luke and Griffin struck it with ferocity, but it managed to protect itself using water magic and used its water-coated tail and claws to counterattack, Luke dodged the sweep, but Griffin got hit heavily and crashed into a tree taking heavy damage, Luke clasps his hands and forms his Ki inside it, he then slowly opens his hands and the Ki inside it form into a sphere, a basic Ki Blast, Luke launched the sphere towards the alpha’s face, when it made contact and exploded, knocking Luke back by its force.
“That should do the trick!” he said confidently
Though the blast was powerful, the alpha was still standing, critically damaged unable to fully protect itself with magic, it strengthened its power by instinct. It howled aggressively.
“I think you just made it angrier” Ophelia announced
“Yeah, I noticed” Luke replied as he stands up, he noticed that his Ki pool is nearly drained due to that concentrated Ki blast, he then turns to Ophelia
“You’re a mage, right? Can you cast an Ice attribute spell?”
“Y-yes, but my mana is almost depleted, I can only cast one more spell, and that’s it”
“Good, we’ll buy you time to cast it”
“W-Wait! I sensed your Ki is as low as mine, if you used too much, you’ll pass out”
Luke lights up his fists again but has weaker Ki due to him limiting his output
“No, I won’t” he grinned “Hey, Griffin I know you’re okay, hurry up and help!”
“yeah~ yeah~” Griffin replied groaning as he wiped the dust off himself
Ophelia felt her face burn as Luke faced the alpha with courage, he took a stance, and perform his signature move, Solar Touch, his hands, up to his forearm shined even brighter, Ophelia then started her incantations. Luke charges to the alpha as it also charges towards him, its water-coated claws extended, about to slash Luke. Suddenly, the alpha’s arm was cut by Griffin’s sword finally re-entering the battle, Luke then threw a single punch, punching a hole down the beast’s torso and burning its water-coated greyish-blue fur and skin, though both did significant damage, it only made it angrier and ferocious, the alpha endures the damage inflicted to it, the alpha prepared and strikes with its other arm to slash Luke with its claws, Griffin notices this and dashed to parry the claw with his sword, which broke his sword. Fortunately, he managed to dodge out of the way.
“The claws… it’s tougher than steel...”
“I loved that sword…” Griffin looked down on his broken sword, eyes starting to glisten.
The alpha prepared its claws again to strike both Griffin and Luke, fortunately for both boys, Ophelia finished her incantations, she cast her signature spell, Glacial Storm, cold air suddenly surrounds them, ice floating above her head then split into many Icicle Spears, she aimed at the alpha and propelled her spell at great speed, it pierced through its water protected skin and into its internal organs, the shards then shattered inside, severely damaging the beast, the last spear hit its skull, penetrating the forehead and shattered in the middle of the brain, ending its misery.
“Woah! the shards could pierce through it effortlessly and purposely shattered while they were inside its body, leaving pieces of sharp ice damaging his internal organs” Griffin declared, amazed by Ophelia’s spell, already forgetting his beloved weapon.
Ophelia fell to her knees, losing too much mana, both boys approached her and helped her lean against the tree.
“Thanks for saving me, if it weren’t for you guys, I would’ve been a goner”
“Don’t worry about it, we should be thanking you, you took down that Lyquican. Anyway, I’m Luke Cloud, and this is my best friend, Griffin Fareas”
“I’m Ophelia Crest”
“Nice meeting you Ophelia, would you consider joining our team?”
“Out of a sudden?”
“Well, we need a 4th member in our party anyways”
“We don’t even know her… well I guess she is a formidable ally”
“Well, I don’t mind, I also want to be an adventurer… but I do have a condition… can my little sister join too? She always wanted to see the world”
Ophelia then reached his hand, accepting his offer. Luke’s and Ophelia’s faces reddened as they touched each other’s hands.
“Hey Luke, if we include Ophelia, does that mean the score would be 45-6-6-1?”