“Sis!” I ran over to her and gave her a big, warm hug. “Welcome home!”
When Marina got off her carriage, I did not hesitate. I immediately embraced her with all my strength.
Hey, I was still six years old after all, so this kind of thing was totally okay.
And besides, I really, genuinely missed her so very much.
“I see you’ve gotten taller, Hugo!” She put her hands on my shoulders, beaming brightly.
Ah, how I missed her smile.
“Ehehe, of course I have, Sis! I ate and slept well and oh, I also had taken up training with Father on swordsmanship!” I couldn’t help but brag.
“Hee hee, no wonder you also look a little more manly than the last time we met. Look! You got a little bit of muscle here!” She grabbed my right bicep.
“Aw, stop it, Sis!” I smiled proudly. “You too have grown up, you know! You’re also taller and you also look more womanly as well!”
“Oh?” Her smile suddenly turned to a smirk. “And what do you exactly mean by that?”
“I mean, your boobs are big–“
I slammed my hands to my mouth, quickly stopping myself.
Oh crap, why in the world would you say that, you dumb idiot?
But it was true. Just from one year of schooling, she already looked far more mature than she was before. I couldn’t really quite put a finger on what caused the change. She was indeed taller. And her boobs really got bigger.
To a guy like me, I couldn’t not notice that.
But then, to my surprise, instead of being angry at my perverted comments, she began to uncontrollably giggle, covering her mouth with her hand in the process.
And that giggle quickly turned into a full blown laugh.
“O-oh Hugo, you really haven’t changed, have you?” She wiped off her tears. “Come here you!” She embraced me this time, burying my face in her bosom in the process.
I-I’m happy, Sis, but I’m also kinda suffocating as well!
Marina had gone home on her own to Father’s chagrin, who originally intended that he should go fetch her. However, she insisted, saying that there was no need for him to waste our family’s money just to do that. She could return home just fine by herself.
Since she was just an eleven year old girl, I couldn’t help but be impressed by her guts. The school was really far away from our home after all.
In fact, it was in a different country altogether.
The Magic Academy of Mira. It was located, where else, in Mira, or, to be more exact, the Magocracy of Mira. Instead of being ruled by a king like our kingdom, it was instead ruled by a council of wizards and witches.
Even so, they still ended up being quite similar to our nobility system, as the ruling class was just the same families of mages that (apparently) traced their lineage back straight to the legendary mage who accompanied the legendary Hero in his quest to defeat the Demon King far back in the past.
Yeah, her name was Mira. The country was christened after her.
It took around two weeks on a carriage ride from here to there. In modern terms, it might seem slow, but in a medieval world like this, where transportation was vastly more limited, it was already very fast.
We were lucky that we were on the borders of the Marchen Kingdom that were linked straight to the Magocracy. If we had been situated on the capital, or God forbid, on the border on the other side, it would take her much, much longer to go to the Academy. Two months wouldn’t be out of the question.
After crossing the border, she would still need to go to the capital city first, Merlin, where the Academy was located.
Merlin, by the way, was the name of Mira’s very first apprentice, or so the books told. Funny how he shared a name with a legendary wizard in my world.
The road there and back was smooth and well-kept, relatively secure from any bandits or monsters that might threaten a traveler. Another reason why Father was okay with her returning on her own.
He still did not like the idea of her sitting beside complete strangers for two weeks however, which was completely a reasonable assumption. However, in this world, you were already considered an adult at fifteen, so it was less outrageous than letting a 11-year old girl in my world going on a travelling trip on her own for two straight weeks.
“Sis, how was the trip?” I asked her with a smile once she released me from her hug.
“It was fine,” she answered nonchalantly. “Quite boring actually. Got nothing to do than read books and sleep on the carriage.”
“And how was the Academy? Did you make friends here?”
And immediately a shadow fell on her face.
Suddenly, the previous bright smile she just had moments ago turned uncharastically grim and sullen
“…A-a handful,” she answered, looking away from my eyes.
D-did something… happen?
I immediately sensed that something was wrong.
I didn’t want to press her about it right away however, so I decided to stay quiet, shelving my questions for the time being.
She just got back after all.
…I missed this.
I missed this all.
The grass tickling my ankles, the fresh scent of morning dew and sunshine, and the greenery that you could see all over.
I missed Mother’s smile and Father’s laughter.
And, most of all, I missed Hugo’s warm embrace.
…Oh Hugo. My sweet, little Hugo…
I am so sorry. For not being able to be honest with you…
When I first arrived at the Academy, I was full of optimism and hope. I thought naively, “Wow, I can’t wait to learn so much more magic!” I knew how expensive this school must be, but Father sent me here anyway, as he did not want me to squander my talent in magic.
So I intended to be the best student that I could. I would answer every question the teachers have me and I would demonstrate all the advanced level magic that I could use. No doubt that would impress them.
That… was a mistake.
I quickly was seen as a young genius. Ten years old, yet already capable of casting advanced level magic, something only seniors could do.
And that quickly attracted attention from the “rulers” of the school.
When I said “ruler”, I didn’t mean the headmaster.
I was referring to a special group of privileged students, who could do anything they wanted in school. Skip classes, leave the premises to go to town, and even to cause trouble, as long as it’s deemed “in a reasonable range”.
And that included bullying and harassing other students.
The school rule stated that to be part of said group, you would have to show a significant and extraordinary talent in magic.
I clearly belonged in that category, yet I wasn’t chosen.
I thought my talent was lacking at first, that there were other students with more talent in magic than I was.
However, I soon knew the true reason.
I was an outsider, a foreigner. I was not one of them.
And all the members of that special group; they were all descendants of famous magic families in the country.
And, once they learned that my talent surpassed the talent they possessed, they immediately turned hostile against me.
It all started one week after class started.
It was our first big practical magic class. We were asked to demonstrate all the magic we were capable of casting. It was a way for the teachers to determine our magic aptitude, what we were good at and what we were not, and at what level our magic was currently at.
Most mages only had a couple of magic schools they were good at, and knowing which one was crucial, so that the teachers wouldn’t waste their time teaching magic their students weren’t good at.
I, however, could cast every single one of them, from all the elemental spells, to healing spells (though I could only use Beginner-level ones), even miscellaneous non-elemental ones like illusion spells and transformation spells. I transformed into a dryad that day.
The only spell I could not use were summoning spells, as you needed to make a pact with the relating spirit first, something I hadn’t done.
I cast them all that day, earning the awe of everyone present, including the teachers.
Not only that, but I demonstrated my mastery over advanced-level spells. Magma Burst, Rainfall, Frost Hail, Sand Grave, and many others.
I was so happy, so proud that I was earning the applause of the crowd, that I did not realize that I had poked the hornet’s nest.
For by doing so, I was demonstrating just how much better I was in magic than some of those “special” students.
One of them was especially offended by my display.
Her name was Merinda Salamander, a senior five years older than me. She had long red hair that went down to her waist. She always wore a black witch robe, complete with the large wide hat. Her sharp green eyes seemingly always looked down on others, while none of her smiles was ever genuine, always mocking.
She was beautiful, but she possessed a wicked heart, which, I had to say, was quite the shame.
She belonged in the Salamander family, one of the handful magic families that held a seat in the Council. And it showed, both in her attitude and her aptitude for magic, as at a mere age of 15, she already reached the rank of Master, meaning she could cast a Master-level magic, a feat that made her equal to the teachers, even though she hadn’t even graduated yet.
Oh, she certainly could do a “fast track” graduation if she so chose, but she seemingly was content with doing the full six years of education for a normal mage.
That day, she immediately declared myself as her enemy, even though I could not cast any Master-level spell like her. She was still superior to me, yet for some odd reason, she seemed to be threatened by me. She didn’t even do a demonstration that day, as it was only for first year students only. She was simply watching from the sidelines, like the other non-first year students.
I simply could not understand her.
It didn’t take long until she came to me, along with a bunch of her underlings.
“Hey, you, new kid,” she said to me with a grin. “Come over here for a sec, will ya?”
I saw from the corner of my eyes the other students quickly darting away the moment they saw her and her groupie.
I immediately knew trouble was coming.
I could’ve run, but I knew it wouldn’t solve anything. They would just continue to hound me.
And besides, I had my pride to consider.
“Yes?” I returned with a neutral look, hiding my distaste of the situation.
“Do you know who I am?” she asked.
An annoying person, I almost replied.
“I do not,” I answered succinctly. “I just arrived here after all.”
Before I knew it, my look had turned defiant.
And she didn’t like that. Not in the slightest.
“…Come with me then.”
It was not a request.
It was an order.
They led me to a secluded section in the academy. There were many of those around, seeing how big the place was.
Then, the leader, Merinda, gave me a good shove to the wall, before holding me in place by placing my body between her two hands.
“So, you think you’re so smart, don’t you? So good with magic that you don’t even need to know who’s in charge around here?”
“You’re not in charge. The teachers are.”
“Oh really?” Her smirk widened. “Don’t you know about us, the special class?”
“…I do not.”
At this time, I indeed had not known of the matter. The teachers had not said anything about it.
“Then, it’s time for you to learn. Hold her, girls.”
Before I could do anything, they grabbed both my arms, pinning me to the wall completely.
“Y-you… what are you—”
I tried to struggle. But being a ten year old girl, I couldn’t do much against the two girls who were at least five year older than me.
M-my wand… I-if only I can grab my wand in my pocket…
“Shhh… this will be over soon, I promise. Just a little cut…”
And then, she began carving a wound into my face using the end of her wand.
I screamed. The pain was nothing like any pain I’ve ever experienced before. She was heating the tip of her wand with her magic, so in effect, a blazing hot rod was being placed onto my face.
When she finished, there was now a burn line on my right cheek, going from my lips all the way under my ear.
“Welcome to the Academy.” She said with a satisfied look. “I’m Merinda Salamander. You might want to ask around who I am before the next time we met.”
And then, she left. Just like that.
Perhaps, in her mind, she’d already shown who’s boss around here.
I did not go to the infirmary for said wound, by the way, even though I could perfectly do so. Injuries during training were said to be somewhat common after all, so there would always be healers ready to take care of students’ wounds.
No, my pride wouldn’t allow me to.
I wanted to show her that such a lowly, cowardly act did nothing to me.
Instead, I healed it myself.
Using my Intermediate-level healing magic, it took me a few days until the burn line completely disappeared.
In retrospect, if I had just shown weakness and swallowed my pride, perhaps her bullying would cease as her ego would be satisfied by me kowtowing to her.
…But, that’s not what I chose.
I could not choose that path.
Mother always said that we Greenwoods were always known for our hardheadedness. Father left his home at a young age just because of a disagreement with his old man. To this day, both still hadn’t reconciled, thanks to that hardheadedness of theirs.
Even Mother had some of that, which might have what attracted Father to her in the first place. She too left her home due to a disagreement with her mother.
Quite funny, if you thought about it. They really were a match made in heaven in that way.
And said hardheadedness was inherited to me, and so I had to obey it. It couldn’t be helped.
I had to keep our family tradition alive after all.
The bullying only continued after that.
She, realizing that I was not repentant in the slightest, continued to threaten and even humiliate me in public.
She, or one of her underlings, would do things like lift up my dress in public, exposing my panties to the world. Or splashing a water spell at me, making me soaking wet, making me late for the next class as I had to change back in my dorm room (while humiliating me as well since my dress would also turn translucent because of it). Or even outright stripping or destroying me out of my clothes while I was in front of the class doing a presentation.
Now that I thought about it, a lot of her bullying involved making me have wardrobe malfunctions in public. I suppose she thought it would be the ultimate humiliation for a girl like me.
No, what annoyed me the most was not that (even though it was indeed very humiliating).
It was how half, no, two-thirds of the academy seemed to fawn over her.
To them, she was basically their idol that could do no wrong. The girls admired how “elegant” she looked, while the boys, well, they were all entranced by her beauty and her larger-than-average boobs, that she gleefully showed off by her low neckline.
Perverts. All of them. Both her and those boys.
I’m so glad that my Hugo isn’t like that. He’s a gentleman, through and through.
A couple of times my dress was blown upwards in the wind as we played, and every single time he would avert his gaze.
Honestly, if he’s the one taking a look, I wouldn’t mind that much…
Once again, I started to think about my little brother with a smile and a blush.
Oh Hugo, I missed you already…
Without you around, it feels… lonely…
That was the conclusion that came to me.
I was lonely.
No one really got close to me, knowing that I was the target of Merinda. They didn’t want to earn her wrath as well.
There were even those who thought that I deserved all the harassment I was receiving for “daring to defy Lady Merinda”, whatever that meant.
In the end, throughout the entirety of my first year, I couldn’t make a single friend.
Of course, I didn’t divulge any of that in my letters back home. For all they knew, I had a perfectly happy and normal school life over here.
Why? I didn’t even know it myself.
I tried to justify it in my mind, saying things like “I don’t want to burden Father even more than he already is”, or “I don’t want to worry Hugo.”
However, I knew that it wasn’t the real reason. Not in the slightest.
Perhaps I simply refused to admit any of my own weaknesses, denying to show any of them to the world.
Oh Hugo, please forgive your sister for her faults…
“Sis! What kind of spells did you learn there? Tell me all about it!”
We were now sitting in the dining room, having roast chicken for our dinner, along with some bacon strips, eggs, and vegetable soup.
It was a more lavish meal than usual. I suppose it was to celebrate my return.
I sat across Hugo, who was still all smiling and happy ever since I returned.
I couldn’t help but smile in return.
“Let’s save the magic talk for later, you two,” Mother said with her own smile as she placed our plates. “Marina, how long are you going to stay? The entire summer?”
“Yes, Mother,” I took a sip of the vegetable soup.
Warm and delicious. The food I got served with at the cafeteria couldn’t even compare.
I mostly remained silent at the table, only answering questions shortly and promptly.
Even as I was surrounded by my family’s warmth, I couldn’t relax fully, like how I used to a year ago.
Because I knew I was lying to them.
I left the table first, excusing myself by saying how I was still tired from my trip.
Hugo gave me a concerned look, which only hurt me even more.
I went to my room immediately. After changing into my nightgown, I buried myself in my pillow, hoping that I would fall asleep immediately.
After two hours of stirring and shifting however, no luck.
I could not sleep after all.
My mind suddenly returned back to my little brother.
And then, a strange desire came into me.
I wanted to sleep with him.
W-we never did something like that before after all.
I-it’s only fair to do it at least once. Before we both get even older, making it even more awkward.
I-it’s something brothers and sisters do. I-it’s completely normal.
With red cheeks, I stood up.
And I began to walk towards his room, tiptoeing so that Father and Mother wouldn’t notice.
I now stood in front of his door.
I was about to knock, but I realized that he must already be asleep already at this hour.
And so I pushed it open on my own.
The room was pitch black as expected, and he was sleeping peacefully on the bed in the corner of the room.
I closed the door behind me. Even locking it. Just in case.
Still with crimson on my face, that was thankfully obscured by the dark, I walked over to his bed.
“H-Hugo… c-can I… c-can I sleep with you? J-just for tonight, I-I promise…”