The sky above Asterios’s head was slowly turning orange. The time he spent unconscious during the nap and after summoning Miria was something around four hours in total. If not for the completely shattered and bloodied clothes, it wouldn’t be any different than coming back from the academy after lessons ended for the day.
Due to the unusual state he was in, the guards stopped Asterios at the Rosewind’s gate. They inquired about the reason behind it and he told them that he stumbled on an enraged bear in the forest, which almost killed him, but the party which was hunting the beast arrived in time to barely save his life. Fortunately, they had a healer with them. He described the spot where its body was last seen and the knights let him in since the cuts on his clothes pretty much matched the information.
Miria was curious why he had lied and Ast explained that there would be a lot of investigation and examination if he straight up told the guards that a summon looking like a normal girl suddenly appeared to help. Things like that weren’t exactly common. And he would like to avoid inconveniencing her right on the first day they met. So, a fake but believable story was a better move in their situation.
She nodded to his words and quickly forgot the guards because all her focus switched to admiring the cosy buildings of Rosewind.
~There are so many Humans here!~
He could feel her excitement and curiosity through the link.
~That’s because in this realm they are amongst the majority. There are also Elves, Dwarves and Demons as for the other major races. Someone like you though either doesn’t exist or they are in hiding.~
He beelined straight to his home. A lot of people were sending Asterios curious and a bit suspicious stares. That’s a natural reaction when seeing somebody with huge, bloodied cuts on the chest walking like nothing was wrong. He was confused too, by the fact that he somehow got healed back to a perfect state. He assumed that the burst of energy from earlier must have been behind it.
Arriving at his home, Asterios opened the front door only a little at first, to see if his mother was in the kitchen. She was not there. He took a deep breath and entered as quietly as he could. He wanted to sneak into his room and change quickly before she could notice his state.
Reaching the top of the stairs, he noticed his mother at the end of the corridor near the door to her bedroom. She was looking through the window which was facing the way he just came from.
「For once in my life the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.」
He thanked lady luck in his mind for this chance, but as soon as he set his foot on the wooden floor, a loud, prolonged creak arose from the planks.
His mother quickly turned around.
“Ast! I was just checking if—”
She noticed his bloodied clothes and her eyes widened in shock. The small vase she was using to water some flowers flew out of her hand and shattered on the floor. She ran up to Asterios with a frightened expression and started examining the places where his uniform had been torn.
“By the gods… What happened? You are not hurt? Why is there so much blood and cuts in the clothes while you seem fine?” She barraged him with questions almost on the verge of tears.
Asterios pulled his mother into a hug and gently stroked her head. “I’m okay, mom. Calm down first. I’ll explain everything, just let me take a quick shower and change my clothes, okay?”
She hugged him tightly, still shaking a little. She always got emotional when Asterios was hurt, but he never looked this bad. She was scared to let him out of her embrace as if the non-existent wounds would suddenly appear if she did so.
Asterios guided his mother to her bedroom and left to quickly change after she finally stopped squeezing him hard.
~She seems like a very kind and fragile person,~ Miria commented in his mind.
He grabbed a new set of clothes and went to wash the blood off his body. After taking off the jacket and pants, he stopped for a moment before bringing down his shorts. He could feel Miria getting increasingly embarrassed, yet she kept looking attentively through his eyes.
~You know, not that I mind you watching, but this could be a decent moment to check on your friends, don’t you think?~
He felt her panic as if she was caught red-handed doing something seriously bad and she disappeared back to her own world. He shook his head with a smile and proceeded to get rid of all the bloodstains.
Grabbing a fresh t-shirt and pants, Asterios came back to his mother’s room and slowly explained about getting expelled from the academy and how he stumbled on the rogue bear in the woods, of course mentioning Mii’s sacrifice.
His mother grew close to her pretty quickly in the past and couldn’t help but start shedding tears after hearing the news. Asterios rubbed her arms reassuredly. It wasn’t much easier for him. He tried to not let his mind dive into grief again. He told her about the little shrine they created and promised to take her there sometime.
After she asked who were those ‘they’, he told her about the girl who saved his life and killed the enraged bear and how she helped with the memorial.
“I see… sniff… I hope I can someday thank her for saving you...”
Asterios thought about this for a moment and came to the conclusion that there’s no point in hiding Miria away. She became his contracted… person? Didn’t matter what, she was now his partner and his summon so he would naturally have to call her around others a lot.
He sent a mental message to her and soon, a dark crimson smoke formed into a narrow shape, looking like an arched door, in front of the bed they were sitting on. Miria stepped out of it.
She glanced at him and then at the surprised woman. “Hello, I’m Miria and I’m the person mentioned earlier.” She bowed courteously.
His mother hastily stood up and pulled Miria into a hug. She got a bit startled by the sudden movement but didn’t back away.
She patted the woman’s back a little awkwardly until that let her go.
“I’m Kindra. Thank you again. I don’t even know how I could repay you.”
“It’s fine! There’s no need for that. I’m already happy to just stay by Master’s side,” Miria assured her with a kind smile.
Only now did Ast’s mother notice the pair of ears on top of Miria’s head and a happily swishing tail behind her back. She quickly connected the little details and hints and launched herself at her son.
“I knew you would finally summon a strong companion! I always believed in you! I’m so happy for you!”
He let her hug him and chuckled. “Mom, please.”
As much as his mother was emotional when it came to things like these, she also was able to switch her moods pretty much at a moment’s notice, jumping from completely disheartened to a euphoric one in a flash. He always found that weirdly adorable and fitting.
They spent some time together in the dining room where Kindra rained down questions on Miria like crazy. After the latter one got more used to Ast’s mother's presence, she started inquiring about both her new master and his world. As soon as the topic of the conversation moved to quite embarrassing moments from his childhood, Asterios quickly left the table and returned to his room. He would rather not be present during such a discussion.
He began thinking about the future. The main goal remained the same, following the path to become a strong summoner. A lot of weird things happened recently and it wasn’t exactly anywhere close to most of his knowledge about summoning or magic, but that did not make him feel disheartened or discontented.
Asterios was actually glad that something changed. He felt different now. Perhaps he discovered an unknown branch on the tree of summoning arts. The price he had to pay was very high, but he knew he couldn’t change the outcome no matter what he did. He decided to keep doing his best on this renewed path with Miria by his side. And the first step would be verifying if what he previously learned had any effect on their bond. It would be a little disappointing if he would have to start completely from scratch, but not bad enough for him to even think about throwing away the life of a summoner.
Miria came to his room after an hour and agreed to conduct some tests. She wouldn’t say no to something so interesting and she was obviously curious about anything that was connected to summoning since it was something completely new to her. Ast explained some basics before she returned home.
They headed for the forest soon after morning came. Miria appeared by his side the moment they set foot amongst the trees. Ast wanted to see how much strain did her presence put on his spiritual circuits since yesterday he barely experienced any. After visiting Mii’s statue, they moved somewhere else to not damage the beautiful glade accidentally.
“So, what are we going to check?” Miria was brimming with curiosity.
“Well, first, you could tell me if you feel any different than before you answered my call and formed a contract.”
She jumped from place to place a bit, stretched her whole body while glancing over it and closed her eyes to focus on more spiritual aspects.
“I don’t think I feel that much different. Maybe my body feels a bit lighter but it’s not that noticeable. There’s that connection Master mentioned yesterday and I can clearly sense your presence and also your mana.”
“Good. So far, it seems fine. Can you tell me more about yourself? I mean your strong and weak points, fighting style, perhaps abilities?”
“As you know, I can freely switch forms into a panther and back. In this one, I like to use two shortswords as my weapons. I mostly focus on agility and supply my strength with mana using Physical Strengthening. I also can control it to some extent, like yesterday with my blades. Ummm… is this enough?”
“Yes, that’s plenty, thank you.”
Asterios nodded and went through the techniques he learned in the past which could fit Miria. He wasn’t able to properly utilize them before due to his low affinity, but maybe it would be different now. He picked one he found suitable.
“Okay. Go to that tree over there and on my signal run to me as fast as you can. You can use your strengthening arts.”
Miria trotted to the designated spot and turned around. After Asterios waved his hand, she broke into a run, arriving at his side in just a few seconds. He was already amazed by her speed. She could rival a lot of beasts which focused on that aspect.
Asterios applauded the not-even-slightly affected by the sprint girl. She puffed her chest proudly.
“You are amazing. Now, return back there and do it again. This time, I’ll use one of my techniques to boost your agility a bit. Something like 10% or so.”
Miria quickly ran back, excited to experience Ast’s magic. He pulled one of his black leather fingerless gloves out of his pocket and put it on his right hand. It had a magic circle etched into the material. One of his own designs.
Taking a deep breath, he focused his mind and quickly drew a six-lined sigil in the air in front of him, slightly surprised that it glowed in dark crimson colour, but then he remembered that his previous green mana somehow changed into it after the incident. Finishing the symbol, he placed his palm against it and sent a wave of mana into it.
Miria could feel her body becoming hotter and lighter as she glanced in awe at her own hands. She took position and awaited the signal with a joyful smile. Asterios locked his gaze with hers and waved his hand.
He squinted his eyes to watch Miria attentively, but the moment he waved, her figure blurred and she instantly disappeared, leaving a puff of dust and kicked up grass in her spot.
As he began furrowing his brows in confusion, a loud thud and a shout of pain arrived at his ears from behind. He turned around and saw Miria lying on her back in front of a tree, about three meters behind him. There was a visible crack in its bark and Miria was furiously rubbing her forehead while rolling from side to side. It was obvious what created it.
He walked closer and kneeled by the girl’s side. She looked up at him with a teary face.
“You said it’s 10%! This was more like a bajillion percent! Ouch… my head…”
Asterios placed his hand on her forehead and began sharing his energy with her. Miria’s pain quickly subsided and she sat up.
“Sorry. I have no idea what the hell happened there, hahaha.” He started ruffling through her hair while apologizing, but couldn’t hold back his chuckle when thinking about this situation.
Miria showed him a pouting expression but quickly started enjoying his pleasant touch and switched to a gleeful smile.
“Did you feel anything weird?” he asked.
“Before I jumped forward, I felt Master’s energy flowing into me. Then I tried to kick off the ground as hard as I can and the very next second I felt like I was flying and saw a tree in front of me. I was not able to react in time to avoid it. It all happened so fast. Was that your ability?”
“Well… Technically, yes. But it never did something like this. The last time I used it with Mii, it drained almost half of my mana and she barely got any faster. This is quite the change.”
“Amazing! Can we try it again?”
Asterios agreed and they began testing his old-new technique. After a few tries, Miria was able to make an instant dash from spot to spot without crashing into a random tree. It helped when she wasn’t trying to run as fast as she could under the influence of the sigil.
They spent around an hour experimenting with it until Miria needed to rest for a moment. Using the spell consumed only around 20% of his mana, which was very surprising. It was much more tiring for Miria. Controlling her body under movements so fast proved to be quite difficult. Nevertheless, they both felt like this could be amazing if they learned how to properly utilize it.
Miria was really happy to just spend time like this, but she was also curious what Asterios would do now. She knew he got kicked out of his academy and he always loved researching magical beasts and summoning, but that was pretty much all.
“Master, what are you planning on doing now?” She decided to ask.
He understood that she wasn’t asking about the next set of tests. He moved his gaze to the sky and pondered for a moment.
“I mostly worked on the materials provided by the academy. I don’t want my mother to have to pay for them since they aren’t exactly cheap and I know that she’ll soon try to talk me into letting her do that for the sake of my dream. I guess it’s time to register as an adventurer. With your help, I should be able to earn some decent coin. What do you say?”
Miria’s tail started swishing energetically. “Of course I’m in! I’ll follow you anywhere!” she exclaimed with an excited smile.
“Well then. I’ll be in your hands, partner.”
Asterios extended his hands towards her and she grabbed it with both of hers. They were really smooth and pleasant in touch.
“Likewise! I’ll do my best as Master’s familiar!”