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For the rest of the summer, as usual, I practiced magic with Marina. It turned out that she had mastered her second Master-level spell, which was another Earth spell that created a deep and large pit that I couldn’t even see the bottom of. If I had to estimate, the hole, which wasn’t perfectly square or round, was around 50 meters or so in diameter. She called the spell Crumbling Earth, which I thought was quite the fitting name for what I did, even if a little bit plain.
She proudly showed it off to me of course, with her being her, and when I saw it, my jaw almost dropped to the floor and I fell down on my knees, both from the awe and from the earthquake that she produced in the process as the earth itself crumbled away, making way for the giant hole.
The gap between us is just growing even further, huh?
I still was nowhere near able to cast a Master-level spell like her. The only progress I had was learning to cast hybrid elemental spells, though even that, I had yet to master all of them.
I had yet to know my preferred element as well. Marina’s obviously Earth, judging by how she learned two Master-level spells in that element first, but I still didn’t feel any inclination towards a certain element. Most mages in the world had one or two elements that they were really good at, and at higher-level magic, no one could really master all the elements, or so they said.
I then tried to comfort myself, saying it was only natural for her to be leaps and bounds above me, since she already got a five year headstart after all. But I couldn’t help fearing how my magic capability would eventually plateau and hit a brick wall that it could never pass through. It’s like how you might always be the No.1 student from elementary to high school, only to realize that you’re nothing once you entered college.
It didn’t help matters either when Father put a halt to our training.
By deciding that we should have a camping trip with him.
It was at dinner when he gave the offer. Apparently, he got the word that a strong monster had been spotted on the nearby mountains, and that he had been ordered to slay it before it could get anywhere close to the village. An adventurer had alerted him to its presence. The poor young man had lost his entire party to it apparently, with him being the only survivor.
“These things happen, you know,” Father commented with a sigh, crossing his arms. “Being an adventurer is a dangerous job. You might think you’re going to have an easy quest, but then something happens that is completely out of your expectation. And then you’re in a danger that you’re not prepared for.”
He then took a huge gulp of his water before continuing.
“Judging by the description that man gave, it’s most likely a Chrome-Plated Mountain Lion. It’s an A-rank monster, so it would be pretty strong. Wouldn’t be odd that a party of unprepared novices would be slaughtered by it. But nothing that your S-rank father can’t handle of course,” he boastfully bragged, thumping his chest in the process.
“An A-rank? You’re seriously going to take them to face a monster that level? Have you lost your mind?” Mother spoke up.
“Relax! I’ll be there to guard them, don’t worry!” he replied nonchalantly. “I want to test their strength, you know. To see how they would fare with a real life monster. Not to mention that this is the perfect opportunity to teach them how to camp in the wild away from civilization. You need to know that kind of stuff to become a good adventurer, you know.”
Father’s right. I haven’t learned any of that stuff yet, have I?
“Marina, you only take quests that are near the city, right? You never actually go to the boonies or anything.”
“Of course not, Father,” she replied matter-of-factly, taking a sip of her tea. “I can only do quests on the weekends after all. So I can’t go far at all.”
“Perfect! And Hugo here certainly has never been out in the wilderness either!” He patted my shoulder.
Somehow, the way he said it made me feel a little insulted. Maybe it’s because I was practically a sedentary man in my previous life.
Mother took a deep sigh. “Fine. But if I will come along too. Just in case if they got wounded or anything.”
Father was about to speak up, but she immediately shot him down with her patented glare.
Well, it’s settled then. It’s going to be a whole family trip.
“Father, Mother, are you going somewhere with Big Bro and Big Sis?” Erika, who was also there but was completely ignored by the conversation, asked. Her blue eyes, inherited straight from Mother, were glimmering brightly with curiosity. “Can I go too?”
“I’m sorry, my dear, but it’s too dangerous for you. Maybe when you’re older, alright?” Father answered her with a smile, patting her head.
“Be nice with Mary, alright, my sweet?” Mother smiled at her. “We won’t be long. Before you know it, we’ll be right back.”
“S-so, E-Erika’s going to be left alone?”
Uh oh! Judging by her large eyes which are quickly watering, I think I know perfectly what’s going to happen soon.
“N-no! You have Mary, right? You like her, don’t you?”
Yep! Here it comes!
“U-uwaaahhhh! I don’t wanna be with Mary! I wanna be with you! And Father! And Big Bro! And Big Sis! I wanna, I wanna, I wanna!”
As she yelled and cried, she started kicking her legs to the table, all the while slamming her hands all over.
I sighed. At what age would she stop being a crybaby?
Guess it’s my turn to calm her down.
I stood up and walked over to her. Gently, I lifted her small and light body, before wrapping my arms around it.
“Come on now! You’re a big girl, aren’t you? Big girls don’t cry! And big girls can certainly take care of herself when her parents are gone.” I whispered to her behind her ear with a smile.
She immediately calmed down. The only saving grace of her temper tantrums was the fact that it would stop once I lifted her up and hugged her like this.
“A-alright. If you want Erika to be a big girl, then Erika will be one!”
This girl… ooh, she’s just too cute!
And with that, it was decided. We were going to leave on a family trip. To slay a monster. Not that odd if you consider us as an ex-adventurer family.
We departed the next morning, with Father and Mother carrying their sword and staff respectively. I always saw Father training with his sword every day so I was already familiar with it, but Mother’s staff was something I only saw now. It was a staff with a wooden base that ended with a large blue orb at the tip. The blue orb had this sparkling, swirly effect inside it, which I found oddly hypnotizing.
I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed however that Mother didn’t wear a cleric outfit. You know, the usual white robe getup. She just wore her usual dress she wore every day. Surely she couldn’t travel around in the past wearing a boring dress like that!
Our destination was the Karha Mountains. The name “Karha” was originally given to the mountains, before being adopted by the village since it was the closest settlement to it. It was your typical mountains, all things considered. Not too tall like Everest, and not too perilous either. In fact, for an A-rank monster to be living there was considered an anomaly, at least according to Father. Normal mountain lions certainly existed, and dire ones as well, their stronger version, but a chrome-plated one? That’s a new thing entirely.
“Sometimes a monster would evolve into its stronger form. I’m not really sure how but it’s a thing that happens in the wild. So my guess is that one of the dire mountain lions evolved into one,” Father explained.
Is it similar to how summons can evolve as well, I wonder…
We reached the base of the mountains in just a single day of walking through the nearby forest. It was the very same forest that Sherry used to, well, spend her frustrations in, but she never got too deep, knowing that she would risk being attacked by monsters that were actually strong enough to fight her and win.
We climbed for a while before the sun decided to set.
“Alright, you two.” Father looked at me and Marina. “What do you do when the sun is setting yet you’re still out here in monster territory?”
I immediately opened my mouth to answer but she beat me to the punch.
“Find a safe location to set up camp. In a mountain like this, a cave might be good. Although you have to make sure that said cave is completely uninhabited. And don’t use a deep cave that you can’t explore all the way to the end in a reasonable amount of time, as a place like that is most likely connected to an underground monster nest that could attack you while you sleep.”
Oh wow, so this is why she’s a star student in the Academy, if she answers every question her teacher gives her like this.
And suddenly I’m reminded of a certain magic bookworm from that book series…
“Ha! A perfectly reasonable answer! Just as I expected from you, Marina!” He put his hand on her shoulder. “However, you forgot one fact. That your mother can cast a monster-warding spell.”
“A monster-warding spell?” I asked. I never heard of such a thing.
“It’s a Holy spell,” Mother chimed in, eavesdropping on our conversation. “Naturally, the effect depends on the strength of the cleric herself. For example, my version of the spell can ward off up to B-rank monsters or so.”
“Well, that’s really convenient,” I commented.
“It is, right?” She giggled. “That’s why most parties would have at least one cleric with them.”
One cleric, huh? Now that I think about it, if me, Sherry, and Marina make a party together, we still need a cleric if we want a full party.
…Oh well, I’ll think about it later.
Afterwards, we got to a clearing where we decided to spend the night in. Mother did her spell, and I immediately felt a change in the atmosphere after she did. It was a peculiar yet pleasant change, and I felt I could relax better with it.
After taking out our supplies, which Marina conveniently stored using her dimensional storage spell, Father then taught us how to set up our tents. Father and Mother would share one tent, while we each would have our own.
Oh goddamnit, I’m never good at this kind of thing, I grumbled to myself as my tent fell over due to something that was beyond my comprehension, making me have to start all over again.
To my surprise however, Marina was also having the same problem. I even caught the frustrated expression on her face, which was a rare sight to be sure.
Hehe, even she couldn’t excel at everything, I suppose.
“That’s not how you tie the ropes, Hugo. Here, it’s supposed to go this way,” Father explained. “And Marina, you’re not tying your ropes hard enough. Your tent is going to collapse in the middle of the night.”
Heh, Father sure seems all happy teaching us like this.
Once our tents were all set up, it was time for us to go gather some firewood. Once again, Father took the lead while Mother stayed back at our makeshift camp. Since it was already late, we weren’t going to hunt for fresh meat. Instead, we were just going to use the dried meat we had brought with us.
“Listen well, you two. Normally, you would only use dry wood for your fire, usually the dead branches that already fell off on its own. Damp wood wouldn’t work thanks to the moisture stored inside.”
“But you can still use damp wood if you have a good enough mage with you, right? You can heat up the wood using fire magic, turning it dry yourself,” Marina interrupted.
“Correct! That’s exactly what I was going to say!” Father laughed a little. “Myrilla used to do that for us, you know.”
It didn’t take long for us to return with a huge bundle of firewood. Father then gave me the pleasure to light it, which I did readily, making sure that my Fireball was just the right size.
After having our humble dinner, Father then asked what we should do before we went to rest.
“Decide on a watch order, Father,” I quickly answered, not wanting to lose to Marina. “There should always be at least one person who stays awake at all times.”
“Good! You understand! It’s naive to think that just because you have a monster warding spell, you can just all sleep without worries. If a strong monster that is unaffected by it wanders into your camp, and you’re unprepared, well, that’s the end for your adventure right there,” he spoke with a grim expression.
We then decided on the order, with me going first, then Marina, then Mother, then lastly Father.
Once I was all alone, with everyone else retreating inside their tents, I let out a sigh.
Now that I think about it, have I ever gone camping like this?
Hmm, I think I had once. When I was still at elementary school. A school camping trip, not a family one like this. Can’t remember the details though.
Soon enough, I started to feel sleepy, which made me decide to stand up and walked around, just so I wouldn’t be nodding off.
Come on, Hugo. Gotta stay alert. You want to be an adventurer after all.
My sleepiness didn’t stay long however, thanks to a series of noises that my parents were suddenly making.
Yep, they were going at it, alright. Hey, your kid is right here, you know. And what’s all that talk about always being vigilant in the wilderness?
I got closer out of sheer curiosity. And hearing the dialogue going on there, Father was clearly the one who was pushing for it, though it didn’t take long for Mother to drop her hesitating act and moan her heart out as Father started touching her.
I was so tempted to cast a wind spell to blast their tent off, but I stopped myself. I am not a naughty kid after all. I’m a good boy who wants his parents to be happy.
Eventually, it was Marina’s turn to stand watch. So I entered her tent, intending to wake her up.
Only to find out that she was silently pleasuring herself. Her left hand was caressing her panty-clad crotch, as she muffled her moans with her right. She was closing her eyes so she didn’t notice me peeking into her tent.
…Ah, right, she’s at that age after all.
I retreated away, pretending that I hadn’t seen what I just saw.
It took me about a good fifteen minutes to process what I just saw.
To think that she would be doing that kind of stuff… you’re surprising me more and more, Sis…
A Father and Mother who were always doing it loudly, and now a big sister who secretly liked to pleasure herself (I don’t buy that this is just a one-time thing). Is this family just filled with a bunch of perverts? Including me, of course? Don’t tell me that Erika is going to be a pervert too when she grows up?
“Hugo? Is it my turn already?”
Suddenly, Marina exited the tent, looking as if nothing unusual had happened.
“Y-yes, Sis!” I replied. Why am I the one feeling all awkward here?
“Alright. Go sleep now, Hugo. Tomorrow’s going to be another tiring day after all.” She smiled, putting a hand on my shoulder for a short moment before walking up to the bonfire.
…She did change her panties after she finished, right?
Our journey continued for six more days. The mountain range was indeed pretty large, so it wasn’t easy finding the monster that we wanted to take out. To my pleasant surprise however, my stamina had no problem whatsoever keeping up with the hours of hiking that we had to do. Even the thinning air didn’t really bother as much as I felt it should be. It was all thanks to the physical training Father had subjected me to over the years, I imagined.
The only one that was bothered by it was Marina, who never really had the training I had. Still, she kept up the pace pretty well, even though she was easily the most tired-looking out of all of us. I think she was actually using magic to make the air around her less thin, so that she could breathe more easily.
Mother, as delicate as she might look, wasn’t bothered in the slightest. I imagined her experience being an adventurer had toughened up her body over the years.
On the way, we met and fought off other monsters over and over again, like the other, weaker mountain lions, as well as dire wolves, hell condors, and even zombie treants—treants that were born out of dead trees.
It was nothing that we couldn’t handle. In fact, Father and Mother barely did anything, trusting me and Marina to handle all of them.
Marina fired off a rock the size of her head as a projectile at the Hell Condor. It was an Intermediate-level spell that she could cast swiftly to counter the Hell Condor’s speedy aerial movement.
The oversized bird managed to dodge the attack partially, with the rock hitting only the tip of its wings. But it was enough for me to do my follow up.
My Advanced-level spell stroke true, paralyzing the bird in mid-air, making it fall to the ground.
Or so it seemed, before it sharply modified its trajectory, transforming its falling movement into a diving one instead, going straight after Marina.
She was fine though, to my utmost relief, as she quickly finished it off by slicing it into two using her Intermediate-level Water spell. Water Blade. A spell that generated a high-pressure jet of water that was strong enough to cut things into two like a blade.
“That was careless of you, Hugo,” Father remarked, patting my shoulder. “Never think of the enemy of being defeated before it actually fell down unmoving on the ground. And even then, there are some monsters out there who would gladly play dead before ambushing the adventurer once he let his guard down.”
“And Hell Condor happens to have quite the good thunder resistance, which is why your Advanced lightning spell didn’t manage to kill it while Marina’s Intermediate-level Water spell could,” Mother lectured as well.
So that’s why it goes like that…
“S-sorry Marina, I should have used a different elemental spell instead.” I immediately apologized. After all, my blunder made her to be in danger unnecessarily.
“Ha, if you think I was in any danger from that, think again,” she replied with a boastful smirk. “Really, you should stop underestimating your big sister so much.”
…Sis, you just don’t want me to feel guilty, don’t you?
And then, on the seventh day, we finally found it.
Our prey, the Chrome-Plated Mountain Lion.
“So, you two want to take a bite at it first?” Father asked with a confident smile.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.