Chapter 17:



Within a day of walking on foot towards the capital, the group finally enters Sanc Gladius’s zone of influence. As they crossed into a small town, horse carriages were already there, waiting for Vera. She ordered extra carriages to carry Leo’s party as they all continued their route to the capital.

“So this is what the inside of a horse carriage looks like. Just as terrifying as I thought they would be.”- Leo said.

“Horse carts are terrifying? That’s a very strange thing to be scared about.”- Amber asked, all confused.

“Don’t worry about it, it’s a personal thing of the past...”- Leo said while staring blankly into the wall, showing signs of PTSD.

The horses were quite efficient as within half a day, they managed to reach the Capital. Because they traveled without stopping, the group arrived slightly past midnight, when everyone was asleep. Leo suddenly requested for the horses to stop as he wanted to talk to Vera.

“Actually, there is something I would like to ask of you. It’s been ages since I have seen my parents and they live near here. Would you mind if I stop by their place for the night?”- Leo requests.

“Hm… Personally, I would like to discuss the matter as soon as possible. But who would want to ruin a reunion between a child and their parents? Go ahead, I’ll leave Saura to go with you as an escort. Someone will drop by in the morning to pick you up.”- Vera replies after some thought.

“Thank you so much! I won’t waste the opportunity.”- Leo says.

“What about you guys?”- Leo turns towards his party members.

They all nod in agreement, accompanying Leo to his house. A familiar scenery for Leo came into view after a short walk. He has seen this countless times over the years he lived here. Leo was happy to finally see his home again after so much time. Within a few minutes of walking, the group arrived at the front of the house.

“Would you like to join us inside?”- Leo turns around and asks Saura.

“I prefer to be on the lookout.”- She answers.

“If that’s fine for you, then it’s fine for me too.”- Leo says, walking up to the door.

With his party waiting behind the door steps, Leo took a big breath and knocked on the door. After a brief silence, he knocks again, louder this time. Sounds of shuffling footsteps can be heard inside the house.

“You think it’s our neighbor?”- A female voice can be heard asking inside the house.

“I told them it wasn’t me that broke their gate… Well… I did but that isn’t the issue.”- A male voice can be heard replying.

Leo’s party laughs as he facepalms.

“It can’t be them, it has to be a traveling merchant or something.”- The male voice said.

“You idiot, what kind of merchant sells stuff at this time? It was to be cultists or something. Only they are out and about at this time of the night.”- The female voice scolds.

“Damn, you are a genius. Let’s just pretend no one is home.”- The male voice confidently says.

“Ahem. You know I can hear you guys talk right? Now open up.”- Leo says out loud.

“No, you’re wrong. There's no one home right now.”- The male voice replies.

“You aren’t fooling anyone! Mom! Dad! Open up!”- Leo knocks aggressively on the door.

“I don’t recall giving birth to a cultist.”- The female voice replies.

“OH MY GOSH! It’s me Leo!”- He yells in disappointment.

The door slowly opens, with his parents peering outside.

“You should have just said so from the beginning.”- His mom says.

“I just wanted to surprise you guys.”- Leo answers with a disappointed look.

Without a moment of hesitation, Leo went in for a hug, pulling in both of his parents. It’s been a rough and long journey for Leo. Seeing his family again after so long was relieving for him.

“What brought you here?”- His dad asks.

“Well, we happen to be back in the Capital for this one thing. So, I figured I’ll drop by for a quick visit. Here, I’ll introduce you!.”- Leo eagerly says.

He turns around, waving at his party members to come over from outside of his parent’s view. Natalie was the first to walk up next to his right.

“Wow! That’s a nice girlfriend you got there. I can’t believe my son has finally decided to settle down.”- His mom jokes.

“MOM! Sigh, this is Natalie.”- Leo looks over.

“Hmm, that name sounds familiar.”- His dad ponders as Natalie introduces herself.

Amber then walks up from behind Leo to his left.

“ANOTHER STUNNING BEAUTY! Leo, I didn’t know you were such a playboy, having two girlfriends.”- His mom continued her teasing.

“I’m not even going to bother. This is Amber, she is our most recent addition to the party.”- Leo turns over to Amber.

His dad gave a peculiar look as his memory isn’t working too well since they were just woken up from their sleep. He can’t help but also feel like Amber looks somewhat familiar.

Sophia then comes into view, standing behind Amber.

“This elf over here is Sophia, she is a newbie from the…”- Leo says before he was interrupted.

“OH LORD! You aren’t satisfied with just humans?!? You’re out here getting it on with elves too?”- His mom gets excited.

“Mom please. She isn't like what you imagine.”- Leo says.

Claudius was the last one to walk up, coming into view.

“You...You… Not only interspecies relationships with just elves but with VOID CREATURES TOO?!?!”- His mom is shocked, passing out.

“WHAT???!!! MOM ARE YOU OK???!!”- Leo panics.

“Don’t mind her. She just got too excited. She’ll wake up soon.”- His dad calmly says.

“AH, I GOT IT! You are Natalie Encia and Amber Zauberei from the Royal Magic Academy. I remember you guys now.”- His dad slaps his fist into his open palm.

Some time passes and the group is now inside the living room. Leo and Claudius helped his dad move the kitchen table into the living room for a group meal, a midnight snack. The group had gotten some rest on the horse carriage ride here, but none of them had eaten yet. Leo’s mom empties the cabinet contents in order to cook a meal for everyone. The smell of food fills the house, making everyone’s stomach growl, with Claudius making some weird noises. After a brief wait, the food was done. Leo’s mom brought out a big pot of meat stew along with small bowls for everyone. Without a moment of hesitation, everyone dug into their food, eating like wild animals.

“No need to rush guys. there’s plenty to go around.”- Leo’s mom said with a smile.

She also took out a portion, and brought it outside for Saura to thanked her for protecting Leo’s party. Saura was initially hesitant, but ended up taking the kind offer. As they all enjoyed the meal, Leo told stories of their adventures. Jokes were told all around, including Leo’s mom teasing him about his crush on Natalie back in the early academy days. His dad would also joke about how Leo always complains about Amber and her attitude to everyone’s amusement. Sophia would tell tales of her homeland, along with how dirty Leo and Natalie were in blackmailing her. Claudius was the only one without a story of his own, only complimenting how good Leo’s mom cooking was compared to him. The group soon finished their meal, all went to bed due to exhaustion. Amber was the only one still awake, insisting on helping Leo’s mom on cleaning the dishes.

“It’s fine! You should get some rest too. Not often do we get guests like this so just relax.”- Leo’s mom said.

“No, really. Let me help you out. It’s not often I get to do this, so at the very least let me.”- Amber said.

Leo’s mom gave in and walked with Amber into the kitchen, showing her where to wash the dishes. Giving Amber a stool, Leo’s mom grabbed one of her own and sat down.

“I’m surprised. I thought you would be experienced because you were so insistent on it, turns out you are completely new to this.”- Leo’s mom honestly points out.

“Yeah, I have been a sheltered kid my whole life. All the maids would do everything for me, the kitchen staff would clean all of our dishes.”- Amber admits.

“Ahaha. Well, you are here right now learning. I respect the effort you put in.”- Leo’s mom laughs, patting Amber on the head.

“Oh crap, you were so cute that I forgot to wash off the soap on my hand before patting your head.”- Leo’s mom panicked.

“No no, it’s fine really.”- Amber smiles, and the two proceed to have a good laugh.

As the two whittled down the amount of dishes to be washed, Amber became more comfortable talking about herself.

“Well, I’m sure you know about me and my issue. What I did back at the hero’s party was unforgivable.”- Amber opens up.

“I do, honey.”- Leo’s mom answers,

“It took me so long to finally realize it. My laziness and my pride has brought me to this point. I got too complacent. I wasn’t willing to change, and now it has come back to bite me.”- Amber says.

A brief moment of silence occurs between the two, the kitchen only filled with the sound of scrubbing and water.

“Sorry, that’s a strange thing to bring up. Let’s talk about...”- Amber says.

“We all make mistakes, some bigger than others.”- Leo’s mom interrupts.

“I’m angry, angry at those people who were with you. Sure, you made mistakes, but not everyone can be perfect. They need to tell you that it’s fine, that it’s okay to rely on others.”- She follows up.

“Is it really okay to do that?”- Amber asks, tearing up.

“Of course! It is ridiculous to force expectations onto others, prodigy this, genius that. Even the best of the best have their own struggles. You shouldn’t let others decide what you can be, you are YOU. Just do things the best you can at your own pace.”- Leo’s mom explains.

“You are the first person to tell me that.”- Amber said quietly.

“It’s fine to fail, but one thing I don’t want you to do is run away. Even if you know it’s futile, I want you to take it head on with all of your effort.”- Leo’s mom scolds.

Before Leo’s mom can continue, Amber went in for an unexpected hug, surprising her.

“Thank you, those words mean a lot to me.”- Amber said, tears now rolling down her eyes.

Leo’s mom smiles, hugging her back even harder, the two now have soap all over their clothes.

“I still need to yell at Leo, that loser didn’t even give you a word of encouragement or let you know that it’s fine. I don’t recall raising a child that pathetic.”- Leo’s mom gets angry.

“No, it’s really fine. He is doing the best he can to make me feel comfortable in the group. Actually, not just him, everyone is putting in effort to make me feel comfortable and I’m grateful for that. They were the ones to take me in regardless of who I am.”- Amber smiles.

“I need to face myself and change. I have been alone this whole time, but I’m sure I can with my friends here.”- Amber confidently declared.

Leo’s mom just smiles, giving some quiet time to Amber as they both finish washing the dishes. Walking into the living room, they see everyone sleeping on the floor, snoring very loudly. Amber has now reaffirmed her determination, confident in her ability to change for the better.