Months passed and Lith completed his first round of the Kellar region.
Luckily, after Othre\'s incident, nothing relevant happened.
Some of the lost cities were sealed because of phenomenons that were of no use for Solus or Lith.
Others were interesting cases for their studies, but unlike Kaduria there was no one they could talk to in order to gain intel about what caused the disaster.
Almost every sealed ruin was populated by monsters who were incapable or unwilling to communicate.
Lith and Solus did their best to unveil their mysteries, but they had little time at each city.
The army kept them on a tight schedule because once winter started, small villages and cities without a Warp Gate would be isolated.
Lith could Warp only to locations he had previously visited, which made finishing his rounds of paramount importance so that he could share his contact rune with every mayor who could require his help once the cold season started.
When Lith\'s birthday arrived, he was way ahead of schedule, which gave him several free days.
Thanks to Invigoration he could work non stop for weeks, while Solus\'s new ability to Warp between mana geysers allowed them to save a lot of time whenever an emergency forced them to backtrack.
Lith was scared of his birthday because it put him between a rock and a hard place.
Things had been going well with Kamila, so after a while, it was only natural that she asked him when he would introduce her to his parents.
His family had also started badgering him once they realized that Lith didn\'t consider their relationship as a fling.
Hence his birthday had become a source of stress.
It was the perfect occasion for them to meet.
So perfect that not even Lith could find an excuse decent enough to prevent it from happening.
\'Dammit, I never introduced anyone to my family for a good reason.
In this stupid world, I\'m supposed to already be married.
My family and friends are like vultures circling closer with each passing year.\'
\'Everyone expects me to settle down before I turn twenty, but I can\'t unless I solve my problem or at least Solus\'s.
So far, distance and conflicting schedules have helped me to keep the two worlds apart, but now I\'m against a wall.
\'If I don\'t let them meet, both sides will think I\'m ashamed of them.
My parents because of their poor upbringing and Kamila because of the age gap.
Solus, you are a genius chess player with an incredible win rate.
How do I get out of this pinch\' He asked in desperation.
\'Genius is a big word since most of my victories are against you, and you suck at chess.\' She sneered.
Truth to be told, Solus had won a few tourneys using Lith as a proxy, but chess was too recent and had few real players.
She just considered herself like a big fish in a small pond.
\'There\'s no way out.
Unless you manage to cause a crisis that you would be called to solve, of course.\' Her words were the last nail in the coffin of Lith\'s hopes.
He had no choice but to set everything up.
The idea of meeting her boyfriend\'s family left Kamila overjoyed for at least five full minutes.
After that, panic ensued.
What do I wear What can I bring as a gift for them or for you What if my present isn\'t good enough and your family starts thinking I\'m a gold digger Lith enjoyed having company in his misery, at least until she almost cried.
Why are you sitting there with that stupid grin on your face and not saying anything Kamila said after noticing that no matter how many times she asked, Lith would only shrug in reply.
If you want to break up you just have to say it.
Setting me up for failure is just cruel!
What the heck are you talking about Lith inwardly cursed for having activated the communicator\'s hologram function.
He had done it out of habit.
When Lith traveled for weeks in the middle of nowhere or was surrounded by hostile people who disliked foreigners, Kamila\'s face was the only beautiful thing he could see all day.
I\'m not setting you up.
You insisted on meeting them, how can any of this be my fault
Yes, I\'ve insisted for over a month! She rebuked.
Why does it have to happen during your birthday A normal family lunch would be so much easier to handle.
Easier how Lith scoffed.
I bet a month\'s pay that even in that scenario you would have asked me the very same questions.
Even worse, you would worry about having no cooking skills to flaunt.
Oh gods! You are right.
If I don\'t bring any food your mother will think I\'m incapable of taking care of her son.
I\'m so screwed. Kamila said between tears, reminding Lith that when sense and sensibility clash, usually sense loses big time.
Between her upbringing and having a full time job since she was sixteen years old, Kamila\'s culinary repertoire was limited to her favorite dishes.
Her romantic partners would bring her to restaurants and the army canteen did the rest.
She wasn\'t a bad cook, she just never had a good reason to practice.
Seeing her anguish made Lith feel like an insensitive jerk.
He had never cared about someone enough to worry about what their family thought.
Phloria\'s family didn\'t count, because Orion would have disliked him even if he was Prince Charming, whereas everyone else loved him.
Look, Kami, it\'s not a big deal. He said with his sweetest voice, in a perfect example of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Dress like you would when meeting a friend, show them your lovely smile and you\'ll charm them just as you charmed me.
Besides, no one would ever think of you as a gold digger.
Not after putting up with my stinginess for so long.
The last phrase managed to cheer Kamila up, to the point of getting a laugh.
Whenever they went to a new place, the best part for her was always the menu.
The faces Lith made while checking the prices were hilarious.
After reassuring her, Lith informed his family too.
That day joy seemed to be pretty scarce throughout the whole Griffon Kingdom, since even Elina\'s enthusiasm lasted less than the length of a pop song.
What should I prepare What should we wear What kind of present can I possibly give you If it\'s not good enough, after seeing how we live, she\'ll think we are leeching off your hard work.
Yeah, and she may be tempted to do the same. Raaz brooded.
She could be a gold digger looking for a mark.
Hearing Solus telepathically laughing at his misery made Lith realize how rude his earlier grin had been.
The silver lining was that, after making his girlfriend cry, he knew how to spare his mother from the same fate.
Please, Mom, don\'t overthink things.
This is just a family lunch, not a contest about who loves who more. He tried to reassure her.
Oh, gods! He said the L word. Lith\'s enhanced hearing caught Rena\'s whisper.
Lith usually avoids it like the plague.
This is bad.