We ended up finding Father first, as he was swinging his sword around in the courtyard as usual.
He was the perfect picture of a warrior. He had so many rippling muscles and abs on his body that I would be surprised if he still had any fat on it.
He was an ex-adventurer, just like my mother. In fact, they were in the same party before they retired.
I knew this straight from Mother herself. She loved telling tales of their adventures to me and Marina, especially as bedtime stories.
I could just imagine it. Him, a warrior, and my mother, who was apparently a cleric, getting along as they braved dangers together. Until eventually, they fell for each other.
No doubt he’s the one to initiate. I heard you two having fun upstairs, you know. You’re lucky I have an adult mind or else I might actually get traumatized from it!
They would have their fun almost every single night. And most of the time, I would hear him teasing her, saying stuff like “What, that’s it? I can still keep going, you know~” and she would reply with stuff like “Ahnnnn, dearie, you really are such a perv, you know~” before letting out more lurid and lewd moans.
I now wondered why I wasn’t born earlier. Maybe Mother had some birth control medicine made by some alchemists? I doubted condoms already existed in this world.
At first, I was absolutely annoyed by them. Jealousy welled up inside of me; me who had been a virgin his whole life; me who had never even dated a girl before.
Damn riajuu, get another room, would you? Or do it outside, I don’t care! I can hear all your moaning and growing from down here!
I swear I will not be this annoying when I have my own wife! Whenever that would be!
Grumpily, I could only try to block the sounds as I went to sleep.
Sis is lucky. Her room is further away so she shouldn’t be hearing this.
But eventually, I had to admit it.
That this… was far better than the dead bedroom my old parents had.
I could practically feel the love between them, every time I saw them together. Father would always steal glances towards Mother, with Mother doing the same afterwards. The soft looks they had when they looked at each other, and the laugh and smiles they often shared–
It was truly heartwarming.
And, as their son, that warmth was shared to me as well.
Those two really are a match in heaven…
…Dammit, I’m so jealous of them! I want a lovey-dovey husband and wife relationship like them too! Alan, you lucky bastard!
Alan was, of course, Father’s name. Alan Greenwood, to be exact.
Mother’s name, on the other hand, was Renee. Renee Greenwood. Just like in the previous world, wives tend to take the surname of their husbands when they got married.
And that made my sister Marina Greenwood and myself Hugo Greenwood.
Not bad. Greenwood was a respectable surname to have. Could be cooler though, like Pendragon. Now that’s a cool surname.
I asked Mother once what Father’s job was, now that he had retired.
“Well, your father is a knight, my dear. He protects this region from any bad guys that threaten it.”
“Like bandits and monsters?”
“Yes, exactly! You’re a smart one, aren’t you, Hugo?”
She smiled and patted my head.
This region was known as as the Sheffield Region. Located in the outskirts of the Marchen Kingdom, it was practically the booniest you could ever imagine a place to be (that still had civilization, at the very least). It only had farming as a viable career option if you wanted to stay. Else, you had to go to the capital.
Being a village guard wasn’t really considered a career. The lord in charge of the region didn’t bother forming official militias consisting of the locals. He only paid salaries to his knights, which Alan was one.
I would accuse him of being a miser, like your typical noble lords in fantasy stories, but I really didn’t know his finances. The geography book that told me all this also said that this region was quite rich though, as it provided for the rest of the kingdom, so who knew?
“Dad, can I and Marina go play in the village?” I took the initiative.
“Hmm?” He immediately paused his exercise as he noticed our presence. “The village? Now that’s rare. You two are always cooped up here, training your magic like the prodigies you are.”
“Hugo says he’s bored of my lessons,” Marina chimed in with a huff.
“Really? Then why don’t you have some swordplay lessons from your Dad instead?” He gave a hopeful grin.
I always knew that Father wanted me to be a swordsman like him. When he first discovered that I had a talent for magic, just like my sister, he shouted, “Gods, it’s not fair! Why must he be a mage as well?!” to Mother.
She just giggled in return. She seemed to be pleased that both of her children were magically inclined, just like her.
He had dreamed of having a son or a daughter (Many powerful warriors he met were of the female persuasion so he wasn’t picky) to be his successor. Unfortunately for him, both me and my sister were just not interested.
Well, in the case of Marina, she was simply not good at it. She tried for a while before deciding to give up entirely, focusing on magic instead, which she simply found much more fun to train and play with.
As for me, well, I had never even tried.
“Sorry, Dad, I’m not interested in becoming a musclehead like you.”
Ouch, I could see that my words struck him pretty hard.
“B-but girls like men with muscles!” He quickly retorted. “That’s how I won over your mother!”
Now that I thought about it, Mother never talked about how she had fallen for him in her adventuring tales.
Well, I imagined it would be really awkward to tell that to your son and daughter. I could totally understand why she wouldn’t. Hell, I probably wouldn’t either when I had my own children, unless they really, really asked for it.
Well, he was indeed good looking. And the ladies certainly loved some muscles and abs in their men.
Too much muscles for my taste though. I preferred a lean and slender build myself, but still with the firmness that girls liked.
“Hugo, it’s not nice to tease Father like that, you know.” Marina suddenly nudged me with her elbow.
Well, she’s a sharp one. She already knew how clever I could be at times, even though I was just a five year old kid.
“Alright, alright, you two can go.” Father finally surrendered. “Just be careful alright. Follow the road. And be back before the sun sets.”
“Don’t worry, Father. I’ll take care of Hugo. You can trust me on that,” Marina quickly replied, grabbing my right hand with her left.
He looked at her for a moment, then back to me, and then back to her again.
“Uh, I was going to ask Hugo to take care of you instead actually.” He scratched the back of his head.
“What? I’m his big sister! I’m the one that should protect him!” Marina flared.
Wow, Sis, you actually managed to make him flinch.
Now I wondered if Mother could do ten times that when she got angry.
“I know… I know… but boys… they like protecting girls, you know… Hugo here must be happy to be the one protecting his sister for once. Right, Hugo?” He patted me on the shoulder while giving me a nervous smile.
Dad, please don’t drag me into this.
But he was right. For once, I hoped I could be the cool brother that my sister could look up to.
Could I admit that with a straight face though?
“F-Father is right. I… I would really like to protect you, Sis…”
I mumbled all that while averting my gaze, a blush creeping into my face.
Pathetic, wasn’t it?
Marina, however, reacted in a way that I did not expect.
She blushed and averted her gaze as well.
“W-well, I certainly don’t mind… j-just for a day, alright?” She relented.
Just for a day, huh?
Then let’s show her the coolest little brother that I could be!
With a confident smile, I firmly took her hand.
First step, I needed to stop being so shy.
The village was not far from our house. Just fifteen minutes of walk actually. We only needed to traverse downhill on the dirt road between the farms to get to the village proper.
On the way, we were always greeted kindly by the farmers whom we passed by. It seemed my father was beloved and well-liked by them, making us beloved and well-liked as well.
Ah, nepotism. Still existing even in a fantasy world.
Naturally, I tried to greet them back one by one. But I was quickly overwhelmed by the amount of people doing it, so much so that my right hand was starting to hurt from all the waving I was doing.
I could tell that Marina was feeling the same however. But ever the honor student, and probably because she wanted to be a good role model to her little brother, she couldn’t stop.
Poor Sis. I knew exactly how you felt.
Perhaps we were more similar than I originally thought.
Once at the village entrance, a plus-sized boy suddenly ran towards our direction with a big grin on his face.
He wasn’t fat by any means. He was just that—big. He was taller, and wider, than Marina, and he was like a giant to me.
Just from the way Marina said it, and the sudden frown on her face, I could tell that she did not like this person in the slightest.
“Hey, what’s with the frown? You’re cuter if you’re smiling, you know!”
D-did he… did he just try to hit on my sister?
“Brandon, I’m not in the mood to deal with you right now,” she replied, her tone still filled with hostility.. “As you can see, I bring my little brother today. And we’re going to play together. Just the two of us.”
“Aw, come on, can’t I join too? Pretty please?”
And from his tone, I knew he wasn’t really taking any of this seriously.
Just from these few seconds in his presence, I already hated him as much as my big sister.
“Hugo, let’s just ignore him, shall we?”
Marina grabbed my hand and pretty much dragged me away from this Brandon guy.
Only for him to just take my sister’s other hand, stopping her in her tracks.
“That’s cold. Real cold. As the daughter of our guardian knight, shouldn’t you be more… you know, accommodating to the common folk? Like me!”
…Yep, he was just like them.
Those jocks that had tormented me in junior high. They too would flirt with girls nonchalantly.
And if they didn’t get the attention they wanted from them, they would often turn to force, like what he was doing right now.
“…You’re hurting me. Please release my hand at once.”
“Then agree to play with me first! Just leave this little chump on his own!” He looked towards me. “The village’s safe! He won’t come to any harm!”
“Release my hand, Brandon.”
“You know, your wrist is really soft. Guess it’s true what they say with noblefolks like you.”
And then, I saw him tightening his grip on Marina’s wrist, earning a pained whimper from her.
Without a chant, I conjured a ball of wind and fired it right towards his abdomen.
He was sent flying a few meters away from the force of the impact, releasing her grip on my sister’s arm.
He landed right on the muddied section of the dirt road face first. It was raining quite heavily last night after all.
Her stern voice immediately brought me back to reality.
I had attacked him. I had just attacked a defenseless kid with my magic.
I immediately expected a lecture from her, about how I shouldn’t be doing that and how she could solve the matter without violence.
Instead, what I got was a word of gratitude.
I did not expect what just happened.
Hugo, on his own, just attacked Brandon with his wind spell.
The expression on his face… it was that of pure anger.
I couldn’t help but be slightly terrified by it.
I was going to lecture him on how we shouldn’t have done that as it would certainly cause more trouble in the future, but I stopped myself.
He… was doing this to protect me.
That anger he showed, it was genuine. All of it from Brandon grabbing my wrist.
If I lectured him now, I would be doing his bravery a terrible disservice.
“You really love your sister that much, Hugo? I can take a mere wrist grab just fine, you know.” I couldn’t help but tease him.
“W-well, I promised to protect you after all.”
Aaw, he’s blushing! How cute!
I couldn’t resist! I had to hug him!
“Here.” I wrapped my arms around his head, gently burying his face on my chest. “Your reward.”
I could sense him struggling to free himself! He’s really one shy boy, wasn’t he?
“You know, you were really cool back there.” I said as I released him, though I still had my hands on his shoulders. “If I hadn’t been your big sis, I might have actually fallen in love with you on the spot.”
I noticed him smiling when I called him cool, only to turn crimson once more when I teased him again.
“Hee hee, you really need to stop blushing so much, you know.” I rubbed his head. “Girls like strong and confident boys, not shy ones.”
“R-really, Sis?” He replied.
And now he suddenly looked like a sad forlorn puppy.
“W-well, some shyness is perfectly fine as well! Girls can like shy boys! They trigger their maternal instincts, you know!” I quickly corrected myself.
He sighed. “I knew I could never be cool…”
You really are obsessed with being cool, huh?
I wonder where you got that from. Father?
“Oh, don’t be silly, Hugo. You are a perfectly cool little boy! Cool and shy aren’t necessarily opposites, you know!”
And just like that, his smile returned once again.
We spent the rest of the day frolicking around the village, buying food from the local grocery, watching the blacksmith do his work, and playing with the other kids that lived in the village.
To my relief, that big guy didn’t bother us again. Maybe he was licking his wounds. No doubt he felt absolutely humiliated by his defeat, especially since it was done by me, a mere five year old.
How old was he anyways? Around Marina’s age? Maybe a little bit older? Maybe around 12 or so.
Well, whatever. I didn’t want to see his ugly mug ever again, especially near my sister.
Before we knew it, the sun was already going down.
It was time to go home.
As we walked back however, Marina suddenly stopped me in my tracks.
“I have something to talk about.”
Her face was all serious, but there was a melancholic smile adorning it as well.
Oh no, I think… I think I might know what she’s going to talk about.
She took me off the road, to one of the grassy plains. Then, she sat down, motioning me to sit down as well beside her.
In front of us was the setting sun, beautiful in all its crimson glory.
“You took me here today because I’m going to leave soon, weren’t you?” she said with a smirk.
Bingo. She read me like a book.
“Y-yeah…” I admitted, averting my face away from her, finding it reddening yet again.
“I see… Then, are you satisfied?”
“Eh?” I turned my head to face her.
“Are you already satisfied, with what we did today?” She asked me again, all with a gentle smile on her face.
I paused. I looked away from her once again, choosing to stare at my boots instead.
“I-I do… I think…” I answered. “Y-you got to see my cool side after all!” I blurted out, giving her a fake smile.
If I were to be honest, I wasn’t.
I wasn’t satisfied at all.
I still wanted to be with her for longer.
I knew it’s pathetic, for an old man in a child’s body to be feeling that way.
But, after being so close to her for these four years, feeling her warmth every single day, that was what I felt.
Of course, I couldn’t tell her that. It would only pain her more.
I knew her. This separation must hurt for her as well.
It would be uncool for me to do so.
I wanted to be a strong little brother that she could leave behind without worry.
Unlike my old, weak self.
However, before I knew it…
I was already in her embrace yet again.
“You’re lying, aren’t you, Hugo?” She whispered as she rubbed my back. “You can’t hide anything from your big sister, you know.”
I exploded into an awful, terribly uncool sobbing mess.
The very next week, it was time for Marina to leave.
Father would be going with her while me and Mother stayed in our house.
I spoke my goodbyes to her without a single tear.
It seemed I had given all my tears away that dusk, under the setting sun.
We promised to exchange letters, of course. But it could not really replace the closeness we always had.
I just had to bear it. I just had to bear it until next year, where she would come home on her holidays.
And when she did, she would find me more grown-up than she could possibly imagine.