Chapter 224: Meet the Parents
Phloria, Friya, and Quylla returned home in the early afternoon.
Much to their surprise, the academy had received instructions for the trio to bring Lith along with them.
After getting the news, Phloria was overjoyed.
He had yet to regain his senses and his condition was still critical.
He needed to regularly be forced to drink potions to sustain his life.
Solus had been constantly using Invigoration to stabilize his mana core and mend the countless internal wounds that overexerting his body had caused.
- "The worst should be over.
Lith now needs to rest." Solus would perform a full check up every hour.
"What worries me is his mind.
He has yet to learn about Protector's alleged death, but I can feel his heart withering away.
It's like he has never stopped grieving, even in his unconscious state."–
- "I take back most of the bad things I've thought about mom over the years.
Not only did she bring Lith home with us, but she also assigned the best guest room to him."–
Phloria lay him on his bed before wiping off the sweat from his face with a wet cloth.
She had learned how to feed him and keep him clean from the medical staff during the third day.
Phloria wouldn't let anyone else take care of him.
She didn't want Lith to be alone when he woke up.
For a regular person incapable of using magic, reaching the village of Lutia would prove to be a long and boring journey.
The village was in the middle of nowhere and the nearest branch of the Mage Association with a Warp Steps was hundreds of kilometers away.
Jirni Ernas wasn't regular and according to many, barely a person.
To accomplish her goal, she contacted Captain Locrias, the leader of the Queen's corps unit in charge of protecting Lith's family, and had him open a Warp Steps for her.
Jirni was officially on leave, but her reputation as royal constable preceded her.
Captain Locrias was aware of her amazing yet gruesome track record.
- "It's much better to be on the good side of such a person, rather than on her black list."–
Captain Locrias knew that he was likely to be forced to pay for the long range portable Gates out of his own pocket, but if it meant Jirni Ernas owed him a favor, it was worth the price.
Even with her plainest clothes, only someone deaf, dumb, and blind could mistake Jirni for a commoner.
She was aware of this so, before knocking at the door, she had already handpicked the most suitable words to introduce herself.
"Good evening, my Lady.
Are you lost" Raaz recognized the woman in front of him as a noble at first sight.
He hid his left hand behind his back, alerting Elina to pick a weapon and Tista to ready a spell.
"Good evening, good sir." Jirni brought out her best smile, creeping Raaz out.
Despite her small size, he had an eerie feeling just by looking her in the eyes.
"My name is Jirni Ernas.
I'm the mother of Phloria, Lith's girlfriend." In her experience, it was better to sandwich the bad news between good news, to lessen the impact.
Raaz looked at her like she was insane.
Lith had no girlfriend, he was certain of that.
The women of the family kept complaining that even if his thirteenth birthday was just around the corner, Lith had yet to date or even show interest in any girl.
On Mogar, the new world, teenagers' bodies would fully develop around their thirteenth year of age, but they wouldn't be considered adults until they turned sixteen.
The marrying age for both men and women ranged from sixteen to the twenty-five years of age.
After that, it was considered a late marriage and it would be much harder to find a spouse unless of course, the betrothal gift was juicy enough to make the age gap irrelevant.
Raaz was about to rudely send her off when Tista pushed him away, inviting Jirni to come in.
"Lady Ernas, it's such a pleasure to finally meet you.
Lith always talks fondly about you." Tista lied through her teeth, just like her brother had taught her over the years.
She had never heard Jirni's name before, but Lith had often talked with her about Phloria Ernas.
She knew they were dating for a while and didn't want Raaz to ruin things for him.
Jirni recognized the lie, but appreciated the talent and the effort behind it.
"Thanks, dear Tista.
It's better if you all sit down.
We have a serious matter to discuss." The whole family turned as pale as a ghost.
A mother visiting a young man's family talking about a serious matter could only mean one thing: pregnancy.
Raaz couldn't believe his ears, staring at Tista as though she had poisoned him.
"Wait, you knew about the two of them"
"Yes." Tista nodded, feeling the need to sit down.
Suddenly she had weak knees at the idea of having a nephew from her little brother.
"Why didn't you tell us about it" Elina was happy and scared at the same time.
Happy because her cherished son had finally found someone to love.
Scared because there was no way out of that situation but marriage.
Becoming a father would turn his life upside down , not to mention becoming part of the wife's family to preserve their honor and avoid the scandal.
"Because he told me not to! Lith said you would make a big deal out of this and he didn't want you to pester him about it." Tista was regretting keeping his secret for so long.
The truth was that Lith was worried about Tista.
She kept idolizing him and disdaining the company of other boys.
So, he had decided to help her grow out of her brother complex by telling her about his 'girlfriend' and exaggerating things a bit.
Now his plan was backfiring.
Her parents could read Tista like a book, her panic spread like wildfire during a summer day.
Elina tried to prepare some tea for their guest, but her hands trembled so much that she was unable to hold the small pot.
Jirni had purposely created the misunderstanding to have them all dancing in her palm.
"Don't worry, dear Elina.
Let me take care of it." Jirni made them sit while she prepared the hot beverage.
She spiked it with a powerful tranquilizer she always carried inside her dimensional ring.
- "Poor souls.
After I tell them the truth, they will regret that my visit wasn't about our grandchild."–
After they took several sips of tea, the tranquilizer kicked in soothing their nerves.
Only then did she explain Balkor's existence and what their son had gone through over the last few days.
It took them a few minutes and a lot of spiked tea to recover from the shock.
"Why didn't he tell us anything We thought he was taking the academy's third test." Elina broke into tears.
Even knowing that her son was alive and well couldn't stop her from fearing for his fate and feeling hurt by his lies.
Jirni took Elina's hand between hers, trying to console her.
"He did it to protect you.
There was nothing you could do for him, believe me.
I spent the last three days crying and worrying I'd never see my little girls again.
I had him moved to my house to make sure he receives the best treatments available.
"House Ernas has a private Warp Steps.
It allows the finest healers of the Kingdom to reach the estate within a few seconds.
I couldn't leave the man who saved my daughter's life in the hands of strangers.
Lith and Phloria have been dating for over a month and after all that has happened, we are basically family."
While Jirni's tone was full of sympathy and her voice almost broken with emotion, she was actually inwardly congratulating herself for her sob performance.
By reading the mood in the living room, she decided it was time to land the final blow.
"Lith has yet to regain his senses, but I'm sure that when he does, he'll need his family to recover from the terrible experience he went through.
I have already arranged our transportation.
You will be my honored guests for all the time you need."
"Thank you, thank you so much." Elina clenched Jirni's hand like it was a lifeline,
"Lith is so lucky to have a friend like you.
We'll never forget your generosity." She said while crying her eyes out.
- "One down, two more to go."– Jirni thought.
When Jirni arrived back home it was almost sundown.
Winter was coming and the days were getting shorter.
Even with the help of the tranquilizer, Lith's family had required some time before being able to move.
After informing Rena, she had insisted on accompanying them.
Jirni was pleasantly surprised to discover that Phloria was still at Lith's bedside, washing his chest and arms with a wet cloth to clean him from the sweat.
She knew that Phloria was capable of doing it with magic.
It meant that, even if Phloria herself had yet to realize it, her daughter's affection for him was rooted deeply enough to feel reassured by the physical contact.
Jirni smiled, another piece of the puzzle had fallen into place by itself.
- "I love it when a plan comes together."– Jirni inwardly rejoiced.
"Phloria my dear, you need to rest." She said.
- "Those bags under your eyes and your dedication will surely win over your mother in law."– She actually thought.
I was thinking about taking a nap as soon as I finish here." Phloria's smile was tired, yet she appreciated her mother's concern instead of her usual nagging.
Since her visit to the academy, her mother had become as thoughtful as Orion.
"I'll immediately have a warm bath prepared, and fresh sheets placed on your bed.
You deserve a good night's sleep." Phloria tensed up, just like Jirni had hoped.
"Thanks, but I think I will remain here." Phloria's voice lacked the earlier kindness and was now filled with the stubborn determination that Jirni had learned to love and hate over the years.
"It's not proper for a lady to sleep in the same room with a young man, even if he is unconscious."
Jirni faked her disapproval while keeping an ear on the approaching steps.
According to her estimations, to take advantage of those unexpected circumstances, she needed to buy a few more seconds and poke Phloria once or twice.
"You have gone through a lot, yet you never left his side for almost two days." Jirni seemed to be genuinely worried, even making her eyes watery at will.
"You need to take better care of yourself.
Let the medical staff replace you for a few hours, you need some rest.
Lith is still going to be here when you wake up."
"I don't give a damn if it's proper or not!" Phloria yelled loud enough that even Captain Locrias back in Lutia could almost hear her.
"I'm not going out of here until he wakes up or his family arrives! I don't want him to wake up in a strange place surrounded by strangers!
I know it's just a superstition, but if there's even one chance in a million that having someone close that cares for him may help him recover, I'm willing to stay here as long as it takes!"
Phloria had yet to give her mother a piece of her mind, but Elina's sudden arrival stopped her in her tracks.
"My little Flower, I only meant that you should at least ask for his family's approval first." Jirni said with an apologetic tone like it was all a misunderstanding.
When a second later Lith's father and sisters entered the room, Phloria realized her mother had played her like a fiddle.
She turned pale, emphasizing her bloodshot eyes and the dark bags below them.
Elina reached the bed, remaining horrified by her son's condition.
His body looked like a dried up corpse, his hair had turned grey, and wrinkles had appeared on his face and hands.
He seemed to have aged decades from the last time she had seen him.
His breathing was ragged, but regular.
After Tista triple checked him, reassuring the rest of the family that Lith's life wasn't in danger despite his appearance, Elina turned to Phloria and took her hands between hers, kissing them non stop.
"Thank you so much for being by my son's side all this time.
You have no idea how scared I was of him being alone in a moment like this.
He is really a lucky boy to have found such a wonderful and beautiful girlfriend."
Then, Elina embraced her, soon followed by the whole family in a long group hug.
Phloria had become beet red, not only was she embarassed to death by what she had said in front of Lith's family, but also because she couldn't help but compare herself with his sisters.
Aside from her height, they ran circles around her in every regard.
Looks, curves, and even their natural scent were leagues above hers.
Tista was the one that crushed her self esteem the most.
Having received Lith's treatments since she was very young, Tista had flawless skin, soft curves in all the right places, and was even almost as tall as Phloria.
Phloria was moved by their gratitude and kind words, but the insecure teenage girl inside her kept nagging at her, quoting Professor Manohar in calling her "a flat beanpole".