Chapter 2: Esther of Kris
The two of them walked through the door, where a young man and a young woman, both somewhat older than Andrew, greeted them.
“Welcome back, Corrine!” the man said. “And good evening to you, sir.”
“Good evening,” Andrew replied.
“Big bro, this is Andrew,” Corrine said, giving introductions. “He wants to join our family. Andrew, this is Blair. He is the current manager of the Hospitality House. And this big sis is Zoe; she looks out for all of us siblings here.”
Andrew gave a bow to Blair and Zoe. “My name is Andrew, and I am a human – fae halfling from Alia,” he said.
“No need to be so formal with us,” Zoe said. “If I may ask, under what circumstances have you lost your previous family?”
“I had been disowned from my family for failing to test into the Alia Capital University,” Andrew explained.
“Hmm… I see,” Blair said. “Then, by any chance did they give you any paperwork saying you were no longer their child?” he asked.
“Actually, yes they did,” Andrew said. “Let me get it…”
Andrew reached back towards his mana wings, and then pulled out a bunch of papers and started sifting through them.
“Whoa! You keep stuff in there?” Corrine said, amazed.
“Yeah… it is pretty advanced faerie magic, so not a lot of people can do it, but I managed to get it to work.”
“It sure is not something I can quite do,” Zoe said, her own large avian shaped wings indicating her humish faerie race. “You should teach me sometime how to do it.”
“Okay,” Andrew said. “Oh, here it is… the separation paperwork.” He handed some papers to Blair.
“Good; that saves us the trouble of having to go to Alia to get it,” Blair said. “I will take this to Father, and he will take care of the rest. It will be a while, so please make yourself comfortable.”
“You must have been tired coming all the way from Alia, so how about you take a seat in our dining area and have dinner, then take a nice, warm bath?” Zoe suggested.
Andrew nodded and sat down at a booth table.
“Is it okay if we join you?” Corrine and Zoe asked.
“Um… can I join, too?” another voice said.
The three of them looked over and saw a young woman, about seventeen years old, at the table. She had mana wings slightly larger than Corrine’s but much smaller than Andrew’s, and her ears were only slightly pointed, so Andrew figured she was a mixblood human (half human, quarter fae, quarter elf). “My name is Esther… I was just wandering around here, and found this place… I was getting hungry, so I stopped inside to eat. But it looks like most of the tables are full…”
“Yeah, it usually is not like this, but there is a festival nearby and we also had a lot of people traveling in a large group, so things ended up this way,” Zoe said. “So we have been having travelers sit together even if they do not know each other. But yes, do sit here with us!”
“Where are you from?” Corrine asked.
“Kris,” Esther said. Kris was a country that was just north of Tegeon, the large country in the southwest corner of Greater Jolysi. It was well known for being a rather unusual society with interesting cultural norms as well as an odd ruling structure where the citizens put in votes to decide who would rule the land.
“Cool!” Corrine said. “People from Kris are always very interesting. My name is Corrine, by the way, and this is Zoe; we two work here. And Andrew here is from Alia.”
“Uh… nice to meet you,” Andrew said. He felt somewhat nervous because Esther gave off an aura of being incredibly womanly. Objectively, he would definitely say that she was very beautiful; however, Andrew was more intimidated by than attracted to such women.
“Let’s order our food, and then Andrew, I want you to tell us how to do that thing where you store stuff in your mana wings,” Zoe said.
After ordering food, Andrew started talking about the theory behind space manipulation using the mana wings to Zoe. Both Corrine and Esther also listened in with great interest.
“Actually, I was wondering,” Esther said. “The fae in Kris do not usually show their wings, so I never figured this out, but… can you fly with your wings?” she asked.
Zoe gave a small laugh. “We can… but it is not how you think we would do it,” she said.
Andrew nodded. “It is not like we flap the wings to generate lift like a bird does,” he explained. “Faerie wings are manifestations of mana, the energy source of magic in this land. A faerie can control the mana in his wings to do various things… including flying. Though flying, or rather, moving upwards, takes a lot of mana, much more so than hovering at the same vertical position or slowly gliding downwards, so we cannot ‘fly’ for long. That is why you do not see a bunch of faeries flying all over the place.”
“I see,” Esther said. “I know my wings are small since I only have a quarter of fae blood, but I wonder if I could fly, too…”
“Faerie magic is actually not dependent on your race,” Andrew said. “Even beings with no faerie blood can use magic if they learned it. It does come more naturally for those with faerie blood, and we also have mana readily available thanks to our wings. But mana is present in the atmosphere a lot, and if there is mana available around you, you can use magic if you have the training.”
“So you are saying if I train, even I can use faerie magic?” Corrine said.
“Yes,” Andrew said. “It can be hard, but I think most beings can at least learn a couple of simple spells.”
For a while, Andrew talked with the others about different basic faerie spells. Eventually, the food came, and everyone started eating.
“Mmm, this food is amazing!” Esther said.
Andrew nodded. “It tastes just like how it is made in Alia,” he said, as he had ordered a dish that was native to his homeland.
“Ganymede is a great cook,” Corrine said. “She is the other one of my two sisters here. I also have two older brothers; Horace is the chaplain for the House, and Winstrom is the event planner. I have a lot of other siblings, but they have gone to work at branch houses.”
“Wait, so is Zoe your sister too?” Esther asked Corrine.
“Yes, I am,” Zoe said. “Though technically, we are not related by blood, but Father, the owner of the Hospitality House, adopted both of us. And I believe Andrew here is also looking to be adopted into our family.”
“Oh?” Esther looked at Andrew curiously. “What happened to your family?”
“I was disowned for not being accepted into the Alia Capital University.”
“Wait, what?” Esther almost sounded angry with her reaction. “Is not Alia Capital University, like, the absolute hardest university to get into in all of Greater Jolysi? And your parents kicked you out for not getting in? Sheesh, your parents are horrible people.”
“I do not think they are horrible,” Andrew said meekly, intimidated by Esther’s sharp reaction. “All of my friends’ families are like that; their parents expect them to be the best. Is that not what parents are supposed to do?”
“No!” Esther exclaimed. “Parents are supposed to love their children no matter what! Even if they are stupid or they do not do what they want them to do…”
“Calm down, Esther,” Zoe said. “Andrew comes from a different culture. You may think that how parents are in Alian culture is bad, but that does not change the fact that Andrew grew up thinking that way, and he is not going to change his mind on it just because you say it is bad.”
Esther took a breath. “Well… okay,” she said.
Andrew now started to think if maybe his parents’ attitude was not the best; he had read of these other parenting styles and thought they were inferior to the Alian style because none of those other countries with those parenting styles were as academically strong as Alia was. But maybe that was just his prejudice based on the culture he grew up in?
“Are parents really supposed to love you even if you do not meet their expectations?” he asked Corrine.
“Hmm… you know what?” Corrine replied. “See how you like Father, and then you can decide for yourself whether you like his ways or your previous parents’ ways better.”
“That works, I guess,” Andrew said.
Zoe then turned to Esther. “So you said you were from Kris, and that you were wandering around here… are you going anywhere in particular?” she asked her.
“Oh… oh, no,” Esther replied. “I really am wandering around. In fact, I guess I am like Andrew, in that I do not have a family anymore either.”
“Really?” Andrew said. “Did your parents kick you out, too?”
“No, nothing like that,” Esther said. “No, I was the one that ran away from them.”
“You ran away from them?” Corrine said.
“Yeah. There was this guy I was really in love with, but my parents did not approve of him, so we decided to run away and live together on our own,” Esther said. “Of course, then he went off and found another girl…”
“Oh.” Zoe and Corrine said nothing other than that. Andrew was just completely silent.
“So I guess I too have no family and no job,” Esther said.
“Could you go back to your parents?” Zoe asked.
“What? Of course not! How embarrassing would it be to go back there and admit to them that I was wrong and they were right?” Esther said rather animatedly. She then calmed down a bit and continued. “Besides, before I left, they told me that I was an adult and that I had to make my own decisions from now on, and that I needed to live with the consequences of my decisions. I know they care about me, but they are right; this is something I need to live with myself.”
“I see,” Zoe said. “Well, just so you know, the Hospitality House is willing to adopt you in, just like we are doing with Andrew. You would work here and have a place to live and eat and will even get a salary. How does that sound to you?”
Esther sighed. “I suppose that is better than where I am now,” she said. “I will take you up on that offer.”
“Okay,” Zoe said. “Do you have any paperwork disconnecting you from your original family?”
“Uh… no, I do not,” Esther replied.
“I see,” Zoe said. “In that case, it may be a few days before you can actually start working, since we would have to put in the paperwork to adopt you as your second family; after all, your first family is still legally your family. Father will probably have to go and talk with them himself. But do not worry; you will be able to stay here in the meantime.”
“Oh, okay,” Esther said.
“Do you at least have identification?” Zoe asked.
“Yes, definitely.” Esther handed Zoe a card of identification.
“A ‘driver’s license’? Do they have automotive carriages in Kris now? Interesting,” Zoe said. “Anyway, I will go and talk to Father about it. For now, how about you and Andrew go and take a bath?”
Andrew and Esther stared at Zoe blankly.
“Not together, I mean!” Zoe clarified quickly. “Corrine, can you take them to the family bath?”
Corrine nodded, got up, and led Andrew and Esther to where the baths were. “These baths are reserved for our family, but since you two will be joining the family soon, you can use them,” she said. “The male bath is on the left, and the female bath is on the right.”
Andrew walked into the bath, which was empty. After as long of a day as this day had been, the feeling of soaking in a nice, warm bath was just amazing. As he let the warmth of the bath water overwhelm his senses, he sat back in the bath and relaxed, not thinking of anything but just enjoying the feeling of all his fatigue going away.
“Andrew, are you there?”
Andrew was pulled out of his reverie by a voice coming from the wall behind him, which sounded like it came from Esther.
“Uh, yeah,” he replied, not sure why Esther would be talking to him while in the bath from behind a wall. “What do you want?”
“Oh, not much, really,” Esther said. “I just wanted to say that…” She seemed to hesitate for a moment. “I am sorry for saying things that might have sounded like I was insulting your parents,” she said. “I really should have understood that it was your culture and all.”
“Oh, do not worry about that,” Andrew said. “That might be my culture, but I have no great love for my parents.”
“Is that so?” Esther replied. “You neither hate nor love your parents, then?”
“I guess not,” Andrew said. “I mean, I do not even know what it really means to love your parents… I mean, it is definitely different from, say, a husband’s love for his wife, but beyond that…”
“I get what you mean,” Esther said. “I think, to me, it means that you respect them for what they have done to raise you, and that you care about what happens to them.”
“I see,” Andrew said. “But then, I guess you did not really love your parents, either, if you ran away from them.”
Esther was silent for a while before speaking. “My father raised me all by himself for most of my life. Part of the reason I ran away from home was because I figured he should be able to live more freely and do what he wants, rather than have to worry about me all the time. So I do still love my father. I hate my mother, though; she had an affair with another man and left our family. I guess it is ironic that my own lover would do the same.”
Before Andrew could think of a response, the doors to the men’s bath flew open, and Blair and two other, younger guys came in.
“Bath time!” the youngest of the guys, about a year older than Corrine, said excitedly. He looked over at Andrew. “You must be the new guy! Andrew, right? My name is Winstrom. Nice to meet you!”
“My name is Horace,” the other new guy said. He looked about a year older than Andrew. “How do you like our baths?”
“They are nice and warm,” Andrew replied. “Although the walls are kind of thin; I can hear people clearly from the girls’ side.”
“It was intentionally designed that way so that we all can chat with each other while staying in our separate baths,” came a voice from the female side. “My name is Ganymede, by the way; I will have to properly introduce myself to you later when I can actually see you.”
“Oh, and Andrew,” Blair said, “Father completed all the paperwork to officially adopt you, so welcome to the family! Father will meet with you tomorrow morning after breakfast to talk about work.”
“Cool,” Andrew said.
Over on the other side, Zoe and Corrine had also arrived to take baths. Zoe said to Esther, “It looks like it will be about five days before we can officially adopt you,” she said. “But Father said that as long as you really want to stay here, he will make sure you are properly adopted. In the meantime, you are allowed to stay with us.”
“Okay,” Esther said, nodding in understanding.
After that, the baths became noisy as the six siblings chattered about all sorts of things while in the bath. Andrew and Esther remained silent, until they started to feel that they had been in the hot water for too long.
“Are you leaving now?” Blair asked Andrew.
“Yeah,” Andrew said.
“Okay,” Blair said. “If you will just wait outside for a bit, we will take you to your room.”