5 Growing pains

The following years weren't easy on Lith.

He was finally allowed to ask a lot of questions, filling most of the holes in his vocabulary and starting to finally learn about his family and the new world.

He learned that they were living in the village of Lutia, which was part of the county of Lustria which in turn was part of the Griffon Kingdom.

His parents knew about the neighboring countries by name only. They knew nothing about things were outside the village, nor did they care about it.

In their eyes, the king was some sort of mythical beast, whereas they put all of their faith and worries in Count Lark. Not only did he administer justice and taxes in the county, but he would also always take part in Lutia's spring festival as guest of honor.

His parents never mentioned to their children anything about magic, wars, or history. They only told them tales that even in this new world could be easily dismissed as bedtime stories.

All of their fables were filled with beautiful princesses, valiant heroes, and villainous tyrants.

Lith was truly dissatisfied by such little information. He wanted to know what was the planet's name and what stage of scientific development the human race had reached.

He wanted to learn about the history of magic, the lore, the legends, anything that could give him at least a clue about what to expect from his new life.

Unfortunately, it was clear they knew little more than gossip. To make matters worse, he couldn't pose questions he was not even supposed to think about.

At least his family tree was quite simple to understand. Elina and Raaz had married very early, even by village standards, when they were barely sixteen.

Being an only child, Raaz had inherited his father's farm where they were currently living. Elina had gotten pregnant shortly after the marriage, giving birth to the twins Rena and Orpal.

Then she got pregnant again every two years. That meant that Raaz and Elina were currently 25 years old, Rena and Orpal 8 years old, Trion 6 years old, Tista 4 years old, and finally Lith 2 years old.

In fact, most of that information was leeched from his siblings' questions. Lith was mostly limited to a "What's this? Why is that?" kind of question.

Spending more and more time with the rest of his family, he also discovered why despite his father owning such a nice farm with its own barn and henhouse, they had so many problems putting food on the table.

Tista was born with a congenital condition that prevented her from doing any physical exertion and also made her prone to illness.

Fast pacing was enough to leave her out of breath. She would cough from time to time, and when things were about to turn for the worse, the cough would become violent.

At that point, one of her parents would have to run to the village to let Nana visit and heal her. She could not really cure her, only alleviate the symptoms and return Tista to her natural state.

While a check-up wasn't expensive, the treatment was. Also, even if Raaz did go to pick her up and then brought Nana back home, it would still cost extra.

Doing a round trip meant her losing business, so she demanded compensation.

It was the constant need for the healer to put such a strain on their budget.

Lith felt very sorry for her. Despite not having spent much time with Tista, she was precious to both Elina and Rena, and that was more than enough to make her precious to him too.

He felt helpless, cursing his inability to ever practice light and darkness magic. Light magic required a patient. Until he gained a solid grasp of how it worked and what was this world's human anatomy, he would not dare to put anyone's health at risk.

Darkness magic was another story. Lith had only seen it once and no one in his family used it. The only time he had seen it in action, he had clearly felt the destructive power it held.

He was also biased against it since, on Earth, dark magic would always be associated with evil practices and undead so he had no desire to dabble with something potentially horrifying.

Lith could only live on, hoping to eventually get some training in magic while enduring the madness he was getting used to calling family life.

He had to be lively, but not too much. He had to be curious, but not too much. He had to run around, but never get out of the door.

His parents were never satisfied. If he tried to sit in a corner meditating, they would worry because he was too quiet or too lazy. If he tried to move around or help them, he would be scolded for getting in the way.

They refused to teach him chore magic (that was the name of the lesser spells they used in their daily life) and prohibited him from learning them.

Lith could not go outside without being accompanied by someone, he could not get near to the fireplace, nor could he ask too many questions.

Everything was basically prohibited until he "grew up".

More than once Lith wanted to scream: "I may be biologically young, but I am actually the oldest in here, dammit!" but all he could do was suck it up and obey.

His feud with Orpal never resolved, and he could clearly feel Trion's hostility on his brother's behalf. Clearly, Orpal was for Trion what Rena was for Lith, his role model.

Unlike Orpal, Trion would not completely ignore him even when their parents were absent. Yet Lith could clearly see that every time his brother helped him, it was just to be polite. There was no kindness between them.

Lith quickly started to ignore him in return.

'I have already spent half of my old life being worried about dysfunctional family members. Been there, done that. Thank you, but no thank you. If you want to be a jerk, be my guest. I don't give a damn about you.' These were his thoughts about the matter, so he let things fester.

Once he became three years old, he could not take it anymore. The boredom caused by the cold winter months when he was basically stuck at home 24/7, aggravated by the constant hunger was about to drive him insane.

It was a stormy afternoon and the family was gathered around the fireplace. Elina was teaching her daughters how to sew. Raaz was teaching Orpal how to carve wood while Trion and Lith were only allowed to watch. They were still too little to handle any sharp object, even sewing was off-limits.

Lith had already asked, baffling his father and flattering his mother. "You are too little and your hands are still too clumsy." She replied.

Elina was right, though. Lith's body felt even clumsier than his old one before he had started practicing martial arts. Just the thought of all the lost muscle memory was enough to make him cry.

So, he patiently waited until Raaz finished instructing Orpal, and then Lith mustered all of his courage. He asked his father to teach him how to read, write and count.

Raaz was flabbergasted. "You are too young! Usually, kids wait until they are six years old to go to school and learn. Don't you think it's boring?" That was the philosophy every man in his lineage had always upheld.

"Boring? What could possibly be more boring than sitting here doing nothing? Like yesterday and the day before. And probably tomorrow too! Please daddy, try me! I beg you, please, please, please!"

Raaz didn't know how to say no. Lith had never asked anything for him before.

'Even when Lith is still hungry, if he notices that there is no more food, he never asks for more.' He thought 'He's so unlike Orpal. I don't know if it's Lith that's too good or I'm just spoiling Orpal too much.'

He really wanted a way out, but Elina was already staring at him. Her hands never stopped sewing, nor her mouth explaining to the girls what they were doing wrong, but her eyes were clearly set on him.

'Dammit, what can I say? Learning does not even require dangerous tools… That's it! The tools! I'm such a moron sometimes.'

Raaz looked into Lith's puppy eyes, his heart squeezing as if in a vice, but he still replied: "I'm sorry son, we have nothing you could possibly write on. So, I can't teach you."

Lith had considered things thoroughly before asking, so he had already a solution at hand. He picked the biggest tray they had and filled it with the ashes collected in a bucket beside the fireplace.

"Now we do! We can write as much as we want!" Raaz was amazed by Lith's ingenuity and so was Elina. He was about to object again when he noticed that the stare had turned into a frown.

Her hands were moving too fast, and that meant trouble for him.

There was a storm outside so he could not run away from the one that was brewing inside. He had to admit defeat and yield.

"Where do you want to start?" Raaz could only hope that Lith would get bored fast and let him return to his leisure.

"Count!" Lith promptly replied. So Raaz sat on the floor beside him and started drawing lines in the ash. Lith was ecstatic.

The numbers they used had a different shape from the Arabic numerals, but aside from that they were identical in use. Even the calculation methods were the same.

So, he kept the new numbers in the upper row to learn their shape and then started doing the multiplication tables. He could actually do such simple math in his head, but he needed to engrave the new numbers in both his mind and body.

Once he finished, Lith started taking requests from his audience and when Orpal sarcastically asked "How much is 124 times 11?" he quickly replied with "1364" leaving them all speechless.

Elina could not help herself, standing up and lifting Lith up in a big hug.

"My little genius! I'm so proud of you!" In less than one hour he had mastered what it would take others a full year to do. Rena and Tista soon joined her in the embrace, congratulating their little brother, while the male side of the family was still flabbergasted.

In rural areas, people learned how to count only to not get ripped off when they sold or bought merchandise. They remembered only addition and subtraction, whereas they soon forgot about useless things like multiplication and division.

Reading and writing required more time, but it was equally simple. Lith already knew most of the words and how to spell them. He only needed to learn the alphabet and memorize it to be able to read and write.

Once again, his family was stunned and the only one not rejoicing with them was Orpal, left alone with his envy and scorn.

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