Finn ran around wildly, pursued by Lily who was demanding a ride. He enjoyed teasing her by slowing down just enough for her to get close, only to leap out of range at the last second.
Having all four legs really helps with my agility... Finn was loving the increased mobility. Being an old man for so long, he had forgotten what it felt like to be young. It was like reliving his glory days... as a lizard.
Lily started getting tired, and she stamped her feet in frustration, her lower lip quivering at her failure to catch the "mean" monster.
Oh no, she is about to cry... Finn felt he had taken it too far. Just before the tears could flow, he jumped in front of her and licked her face, crouching down so she could hop on.
"Gotcha!" Liky declared proudly as she pounced on Finn's back, her "almost tears" a charade
It was a trick!
This little brat! Finn's jaw hung open. He could not believe she was already starting to scheme at her age.
"Go!" She yelled from his back, gripping his scales in preparation. Finn obliged, taking off. It had become Lily's new favorite pastime, riding Finn. Now that he could move so fast, it was like riding a miniature horse.
Her cackling echoed across the fields that had been plowed and planted by George. As Finn ran by at high speed, he couldn't help but smile at his daughter's laughter.
Finn was obviously being careful, not making any sudden turns or shaking too much to avoid knocking her off. When she had enough, Finn trotted up to the house, depositing her by her mother, who was washing clothes in the stream.
Laughing at her daughter's windswept hair, she lifted Lily from off Finn's back, patting his head gently. "Thank you Finn. Now what do you say sweetie?"
"Thank you monster!" Lily patted Finn's head as well. The mother sighed. "Lillith, he is not a monster. You need to stop calling him that..."
Sensing an opportunity, Finn gave her a surprise slobbery lick on her face and ran off at high speed.
"Ewww! See he is a monster!" Lily's disgruntled voiced cried out as Finn ran away. He could hear her mother's laughter fade as he ran off down the path.
After the whole fiasco where he reappeared with a brand new limb, it was decided that he couldn't go back to the town. He would be too obvious, as everyone knew he was supposed to be crippled.
To suddenly show up with a new limb, even the most clueless person would get suspicious.
Bryn had confessed to his family that although he didn't know what species Finn was, he was a light affinity magic beast.
Surprisingly, they all took it well, but Finn realized it was because Mary and Lily didn't fully understand what that meant.
George, however, was fully aware of the ramifications. He told them both explicitly that they couldn't reveal this secret to anyone. He even gave explicit instructions to Bryn that he was not to bring Finn into town.
For lack of a better word, Finn was grounded.
He felt guilty that he was unable to help his boy walk to the city when he now had four limbs, but that didn't discourage the boy.
When Bryn had asked him if he could possibly regrow his own leg, Finn had explained as best he could that he didn't know how, but if he ever learned then that would be the first thing he'd do.
Although Bryn was clearly disappointed at the time, Finn could see the hope in his eyes. Indeed, if he could grant the boy a new leg so that he could fulfill his dream of being an adventurer, then all the suffering would have been worth it.
New objective, learn how to heal others... Finn added it to his agenda. Although, he didn't have a suitable target to test on. It wasn't like he was going to willingly risk hurting any family members...
At the moment, Finn was laying on the tall grass, sunbathing in comfort while he watched the path leading to the main road that led to the town. Bryn had left two days ago, and he was wondering when the boy would return.
As he sat there, collecting the free energy from the sky, Finn found that his core was able to absorb more energy than a few days ago. In other words...
My core is growing! Is this how magical beasts grow and evolve? Finn made an educated guess. From internally probing, Luis felt that his core could grow about three more sizes, which meant it could potentially hold three times as much energy before it reached a certain limit.
How he knew this, Finn didn't quite understand. The feeling was akin to knowing how full you were when eating and how much more you could eat before you became stuffed. You couldn't put it into exact numbers, but you could definitely estimate with accuracy.
However, the difficult part was actually growing the core. Finn realized that it only grew when fully saturated with energy, meaning he had to constantly absorb energy from the sun to stuff his core.
Even then, the process was slow, because Finn would feel pain in his chest if he stuffed too much energy into it. There was a limit to its capacity, and therefore there was a limit to how fast he could grow it.
It would be many months before his core reached what he felt would be its maximum size, at least for this rank, if he understood evolution correctly.
Time passed, and the breeze of the prairie blew clouds across the sky as the day flowed on. When the sun was starting its decent, Finn assumed it would be another day before the boy returned.
Standing up, he was about to return home when he saw a speck in the distance on the trail. Sniffing the air, Finn confirmed it was Bryn, and was about to run up and greet him. However, he stopped immediately. Another scent had entered his nostrils.
There is someone else... Remebering the warning from George, Finn instead hid in the tall grass to watch Bryn's approach, like how a lioness stalks her prey.
When Finn got low to the ground, the tall grass was able to fully conceal his form. Perfect for hiding! He waited patiently for them to pass his position.
Bryn came down the path, walking alongside a thin man wearing business attire. Wait a minute... Walking! Bryn was walking without crutches!
How is this possible... Finn was flabbergasted. Peering through the blades of grass, he managed to get a cursory look at Bryn's leg.
A prosthetic! That must be what's allowing him to walk without crutches. From what he could see, it was made of wood reinforced with metal. Finn wondered where he got it.
It clearly wasn't perfect though.
He is still limping slightly. Indeed, even the best prosthetics couldn't fully compensate for the real thing. On Bryn's back, there was a large backpack that looked to be bursting at the seams.
What's he carrying? The boy leaves with nothing for two days and comes back accompanied by a strange man, wearing a prosthetic, and carrying a full backpack.
What on earth did he do in town? Finn was rather curious, and he would ask Bryn as soon as he was able.
"...Dont worry my boy. I just have some business to discuss with your father." As they got close enough, Finn could make out a snippet of their conversation before they continued on. Bryn clearly looked nervous.
Time to move! Finn slithered his way back to the house, being extra careful to remain out of sight. He remained at the house border, where the tall grass met with plowed land, watching from a distance as Bryn let the man into the house.
A short while later, the boy came out sans backpack and looked around wildly, twisting in every direction as if searching for...
He is looking for me! Finn realized this right away, raising himself so that he appeared over the tall grass he was hiding in. Bryn spotted him right away, and came sprinting over.
In less than a couple of seconds, the boy was almost upon him. Wow, he sure can book it... Finn was impressed with how fast the boy could run on his new prosthetic. Just as this thought crossed his mind, Bryn faceplanted into the dirt, having lost his balance from being unaccustomed to a fake leg.
...I guess he still had a ways to go before he is used to it. Finn ran into the open, and helped the boy up by nudging his head under his arm.
"Thanks buddy. Now MOVE! Back into the grass. Can't let that guy see you. Thank god you remembered to hide!" Bryn started talking rapidly.
Ahh, so that's why he was so nervous... Finn's initial fears about the man being a threat were set at ease. Although Finn couldn't sense that he was dangerous, that didn't mean he wasn't. Turns out, Bryn's only worry was his discovery.
Before Finn could even scratch out a question, Bryn excitedly grabbed his head. "Oh Finn! So much has happened that I don't even know where to start..." It only took him a second to figure out where to start.
"So I went back into town to pick up the stuff I commissioned from Grum, and it turns out he also made me a prosthetic leg. When I asked about payment, he said it was free as long as I gave him priority to any materials we find, but I know that's just his excuse. He acts tough, but he has a heart of gold." Bryn nodded repeatedly with a smile.
Wow, that blacksmith made Bryn a prosthetic free of charge. What a good, honest dwarf. Finn vowed to repay him in some way later. A true act of kindness such as that should never go unrewarded. Finn had met few people who would show such generosity.
"It fit so perfectly, that I didn't even have to use my crutches anymore! Bless that dwarf. I really owe him one."
Finn internally smiled. This boy truly was a good egg. He licked Bryn across the face.
"Quit it Finn!" Bryn laughed as he continued.
"After thanking him, I grabbed the gear he made for me and left for the guild. Trust me Finn you're gonna love what he made me!"
Finn felt his anticipation increasing unwittingly. Bryn's youthful enthusiasm was impossible not to get infected with.
"I met the guild master... I guess I should call him teacher now! He had me test my affinity. Guess what Finn! I have a wind affinity, same as his!" Bryn's grin threatened to split his face.
"Even better, he directly helped take the first step and break through to rank one!"
He is positively vibrating with glee... Finn was truly happy for the boy. A couple of months ago he was on the brink of despair. Now, he is even better than before.
"Finn... watch this!" Finn had his attention drawn to Bryn's hand. The boy had a look of pure concentration, as if he was trying to do something...
Holy cow! Finn nearly jumped when he saw a light blue glow form on the surface of Bryn's skin around his hand. The blue glow traveled up his arm as beads of sweat formed on his face.
Then, with precision, Bryn swung his arm with insane speed, right through a couple of stalks of grass. They were instantly cut in two, the blades gently falling onto the ground.
Finn was amazed. Even though it was merely a few blades of grass, a human arm should not be able to accomplish such a feat, unless boosted by something.
So this is magic huh? If this is what a wind affinity can do, I wonder about those with other elements. What can they do? At this point, Finn had just as much a longing to go adventuring as Bryn. This world held many more interesting secrets that he felt a new desire to uncover.
"Teacher says that I can also use it to move like the wind. I'm guessing he means to run fast. It's very exhausting though. Im still only rank one."
"To continue to grow, I need to absorb wind energy. He told me he would teach me the basics soon after I stabilized. For now, I am to continue to getting used to this new power..." Bryn flexed his arm and hand, contemplating new ways to apply wind energy.
"That's not all Finn. A letter came in from the Association of Magic Knights..." Bryn's face morphed into a scowl.
Oh, I'm guessing this isn't good news... Finn could tell from the look on the boy's face.
"Those bastards! All they did was issue an apology! As if that changes what happened! In the letter, they explained that the man who attacked us was a former disgraced rank two magic knight who was kicked out for abusing commoners, just like with me."
"Even after explaining what it cost me, they didn't offer any compensation. It's their fault for letting such a bastard go!" Bryn was fuming, which Finn found understandable. To try and wash off any responsibility by simply apologizing was a low tactic.
Finally sensing a lull as Bryn calmed down, Finn scratched out a question.
'Who is that man?'
"Ah, he said he had some business with my father. When I asked, he said that it was not my place to know. Said it was between adults..."
Just then, the front door to the house swung open. From their place hidden in the grass, the duo could see the whole thing.
The thin man wearing business attire walked out, pursued frantically by both George and Mary who were seemingly pleading something.
He kept shaking he head in negative while he kept retreating. Finally he held his hand out, ending the discussion with an ultimatum.
He then left in a huff, walking back down the path to the main road. The sunset highlighted his figure as he walked away.
Once the coast was clear, Finn picked up Bryn and sprinted to the house. Although it was no longer as necessary to carry Bryn, old habits die hard.
Entering the house, they found a scene that filled their guts with apprehension. The mother was crying and the father hunched over, his gripping his skull as he sat at the table.
Bryn could only ask one thing.
The father, without lifting his head, spoke softly. "The debt that we owe has been called in full. We can't afford to pay it. If we do not come up with the money soon, we will lose... everything."
Finn and Bryn shared a glance.