A beeping sound. A constant beeping vibrates, resounding, echoing inside my head. My vision is hazy but I could tell I was in a white room. A small confined room, as if isolating me from the world. In the midst of my hazy and confused mind, amidst the beeping; a small weep sounds, a weep that grows ever so strongly. A woman’s cry that stabs in my heart and crushes my soul.
Mother’s unclear figure appears by my side, why is it that even with my bad vision I still can’t picture her face in my mind?
That figure weakly pressed both hands on her face and continued crying. The beeping and her wails all mesh up into a melody that gripped my very being.
When will it stop?
How much longer will I have to endure?
“Please don’t worry, everything will be fine!” Is what I wanted to shout.
But my words didn’t come out.
Something was sealing my mouth and my body was wrapped tightly. I couldn’t move a single part of my self. No matter how much I struggle I couldn’t make it budge. Mother’s weep becomes ever stronger, as it goes on, her body approaches. My hazy vision deranging her figure. Her hair disheveled and her eyes hollow, her body twisted in all directions. As she reached me, her face gets closer to mine and whispers.
“It’s all your fault”
All of her grief and suffering stabbed me. Shadows crawling all over my body.
“Why did you survive? Why do you make us suffer?”
Her words of hatred. Every reality grabbed at my neck and strangled me.
The beeping grew faster and faster as the whispers continued to assault me.
I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. I wanted to save her.
But I couldn’t.
The figure of my mother separates from my ears and smashes her fists in fury, in madness. And faces me with that disfigured expression of pure hatred.
“Didn’t you promise you would protect us?!”
After those words, a lightning runs through me. Mother’s figure melts. The room melts. My world… melts. That dark liquid begins to wrap my body and begins crushing it.
No, this is not what I wanted.
The liquid forms into a figure one last time and angrily bellows.
And drowns me, taking all of my world with it.
I open my eyes. My breathing’s rough. I feel my whole body shaking. I bring that trembling hand to my forehead and wipe. My body is drenched.
“So it really did happen”
It was a miracle my first night didn’t end up in nightmares. But my second one didn’t run the same luck.
I do a couple of deep breaths and jump a few times, stretching my body and confirming its state.
“Calm down, today is a great day! I will make sure to get stronger and go back”
Slapping my cheeks, I begin my morning routine.
“Oh, Youma! Good morning, your sensei is here!”
When I go down, I find my new magic teacher, Elinalise, already waiting for me in the lobby of the inn. Her face wide with a smile and both hands on her hips.
Hmmm, weird. I thought I woke up as usual this time. I move my head outside the window and check. Yep, the sun is barely out.
“Y-Youma! Why aren’t you wearing anything again?!”
“How unusual for you to come so early. I thought you were not a morning person”
“Ah… well, I kind of…”
Elinalise nervously moves her body and turns her head away. When I look closely, I could see small bags in her eyes.
“Elinalise, not sleeping is bad for your body. Today is going to be a tough one. Is your body going to be okay?”
“Y-Yeah, I will be fine! No problem”
I only give her a slight warning and move to the Inn Keeper who has the usual towel prepared. While giving my morning greetings, I wipe off my body. Can’t say much to her since I didn’t manage to sleep properly either. I feel my body is a bit sluggish today.
Images of that disfigured persona of my mother flash in my mind. It was so vivid, that sound as well. I could feel them all so clearly. I would be grateful if you just become a hazy dream like many others though. Why is it that only bad dreams are the clearest ones?
“Oh! Little girl, you came again today. Good morning. Good morning to you too Youma”
The inn keeper’s wife comes out from the kitchen and greets both of us. Her appearance as bright as always.
Elinalise hurriedly gets up from her sit and greets back doing a slight bow.
“Ah, good morning Auntie”
“Ara, auntie you say. How about it Elinalise, you haven’t eaten yet right? Want to try eating here today?”
“Eh? Isn’t that a bother?”
“A bother? No way. It’s actually troublesome if you don’t accept. I have already prepared a meal for you both after all”
Auntie also tells us that this is repayment for yesterday. Since I missed two meals yesterday, she gave us a bigger portion for both of us. And it was clearly on a higher quality than normal.
Elinalise ate the breakfast and sang praises at Auntie. And Auntie bashfully accepts them all.
Really, for only 70 coppers a day you get to enjoy such a great atmosphere.
“Youma did you have a bad dream or something? You don’t look that well”
“… It’s nothing. Days like this happen every now and then. Anyways, is this place fine?”
We are now in the Forest of Beginnings. In an open area with a river streaming in the middle and trees surrounding us, we stood side by side close to the river. The small sounds of animals could be heard around us, but they showed no signs of disrupting, only creating a soothing BGM in the area.
“Yeah this is a good place. I am surprised you know of it”
I have been practically living in this forest after all.
Right now we are in the middle of her training. Discussing this yesterday, we agreed to come just the two of us today. Combining the journey of comprehension along with teaching me.
This time I will be learning by observing.
“I am beginning… Try not to look too much okay?”
“Don’t worry I will be only be watching the necessary”
“That wording only makes me anxious…”
Feeling a bit nervous, Elinalise looks at me a few times and then inhales and exhales rhythmically. This process doesn’t seem to be related to magic, it looks like she is trying to calm down.
After repeating this process for a while, she does one last big stretch and…
“Fuuu~ okay” She folds her legs, resting her buttocks on her heels. A seiza.
When she does so, she enters a state of total calm. Concentrating in silence, as if blending with the environment. The wind blowing her hair gently, it felt like she was now immoveable. A totally different impression from her usual manner.
Seeing her in that state, I began concentrating as well. From what Lylian and Elinalise told me, people can see the fluctuations of magic if one concentrates enough. With sufficient training you are able to see the changes in one’s mana. This is vital if you want to use magic and it is also a must when fighting.
This is something I need to understand.
30 minutes passed and I was still unable to see anything. I could feel something was there, like a faint fluctuation, but nothing else. Nothing out of the ordinary was reflected when I watched Elinalise, aside from her out of the ordinary proportions. Her slim waist and accentuated buttock, combined with her light clothes and gently swaying hair, made her look picturesque in this scenario. I couldn’t see anything, but the feeling she was giving off right now was tender, peaceful, as if communicating with nature.
In the past, when I was training with my Shishou (Master), I had a similar experience.
Shishou would sit cross legged on a rock under a waterfall, meditating. I once tried to do the same thing and got blown away my first time, getting severely injured. The pressure a waterfall gives is no joke. I got scolded when I did that, he shouted at me saying “Brat! You are 10 years too early!”
So at those times I did the same as now, watching in admiration at Shishou’s figure. In given time, I was able to replicate what he did.
But no matter what I try here, it just doesn’t feel the same as what Shishou does. Not in what it tries to achieve, it is more like the foundation itself is different.
It’s like her mana is flowing out and trying to take in the nature into her body. Even though I can feel it, I just can’t manage to see it.
This time I try something. I tried to catch the mana in my own body and redirect it to my eyes. However, for some reason, I didn’t feel anything. Like trying to grab mist.
“… Youma, I am done… Could you please not look at me with those bloodshot eyes?”
“Eh? Ah, sorry”
It seems I tried concentrating my mana way too much. Instead of mana, blood rushed to my eyes.
I shake my head and cool it down, heading to the nearby river and splashing that clear cool water onto my face.
“Puah~ so refreshing”
It seems Elinalise did the same thing as she is now kneeling at my side, her face wet. Rubbing both of her hands on her face, she brings them up to her hair and lets the water spread.
After finishing up washing herself, she glances at me intermittently and asks:
“D-Did you get anything?”
I could only cross my arms and shake my head.
“Not anything substantial, but I think I am close to figuring it out”
“Sorry, this kind of things come out naturally. There is no clear trick to it so I can’t give much advice…”
Since I can’t learn magic without first understanding this step, it seems she feels a bit helpless. This process is normally something a person learns with the passing of time in this world. When they heard I couldn’t even do that, they showed a troubled expression. As it is something natural, there was no clear explanation they could give out aside from how it works for them.
It is an important step in order to feel the mana in your body.
“Don’t worry. I think I got something out of it, now I need to analyze this sensation for a while. You guys taught me what the most important first step is. If not for that, I would still be stumped on where to begin”
“I see. I’m glad” Elinalise makes a slight smile and stares at the crystal clear water.
She extends one hand and the water rises gently, forming a spherical shape. With her lips puckered and a hand as if supporting the ball of water, she slowly sips.
I still couldn’t see anything when she used that magic. Nothing visible.
But if it’s about mana, I know one time I was able to see it. It was in a room where the mana was incredibly thick that even the naked eye could perceive. The core room.
If mana is similar to that, then I have an idea of how it should look and feel.
No, there is an even closer sensation than that. Right, I have actually felt it twice. The first was when I ate the mana beast core and mana spread through my body and gathered in my eyes, the second was when a massive flow of mana entered my body and was absorbed into my left wrist.
In that case…
[Instinct of the Predator]
I activate what I feel to be the closest to the state I am trying to achieve. [Instinct of the Predator]. This skill enhances my eyes in order to see any living being in a 20m radius. This time I just concentrate on the sensation I get when activated. A slight amount of mana flowed into my eyes and the skill activates. This sensation was so fluid that it feels fake. Just how can it achieve so much smoothness when I can’t even get a hold of my own mana? It was a very automated process.
Is that just simply how skills work?
I turn my gaze to Elinalise again, to her sipping figure. When I do so, I see her body is wrapped by what seems to be a gray contour, like an aura. But this doesn’t seem to be mana, it is more like a marker of sorts. The water sphere floating on top of her hand shows no difference, I can’t see anything from it.
Meaning this skill works differently from what I want to achieve. However, I feel like this sensation is the correct one.
“Okay I am done. Let’s go, we don’t want to be late right?”
Elinalise says this as she gets up. She already finished drinking her water sphere.
That’s right, today we decided it would just be a small introduction and also to see what Elinalise does in her Journey.
Because today is an important day.
“Yeah let’s go. The Hero’s Parade will probably begin soon”
Not only for the Capital of Arnesti, but also for me.
The city was bustling with people. The streets were crowded and all of them were wearing faces of expectation. The place was really noisy, boisterous. Here and there I could see merchants raising their voices and calling out to people, advertising their products.
The streets were colorful with decorations. The stands in the area adding to that festive mood.
“*Sniff *Sniff, hey hey Youma, I smell fried Granite Deer”
Elinalise, who was ecstatically moving her head left and right beside me, tugs my clothes and tells me. Fried Granite Deer you say. You got the whole name in? Is there a difference between a Granite one and a deer of different type? No, more like, how the hell can you identify it so perfectly? The area is filled with the scent of so many things, I can barely distinguish what is what.
Is it because her nose is good, or just because she is used to that particular food.
Well, I decide to follow the merry Elinalise as she trots around the food stands. She was incredibly picky when choosing though, she seemed to be reluctant in buying. Her financial situation must be taken into account.
I decide to concentrate on the other stalls. There were many goods I wasn’t familiar with, so I wanted to know them.
“Oh how about it customer? Are you interested in this Heating stone?”
The owner of the stall I was looking at called me out. His stall was filled with very interesting looking stones. All of them had some sort of shape and various colors. It is true I was interested.
“So this is a heating stone…” I say in a low voice.
“Customer, you don’t know about heating stones?” But the merchant picked up what I said and looked surprised by it. His ears were extremely sharp even in this noisy place.
“Yeah, I have heard of them, but this is the first time seeing them up close”
“Hm, you must have come from pretty far away. I did hear that in the northern regions people normally don’t rely on magic stones for their daily lives”
The merchant says as if understanding my situation. I just agree with his words and let him explain.
The faint red one is the heating stone, its form is a bit flat and is normally used for cooking and warming things up. A useful tool for traveling. Among others there is: washing, drying, wiping stones. And there are also combat oriented ones: blast, freeze, gale and enhance stones. All these were activated by using a fixed amount of mana.
They were really convenient tools, but as they were convenient they were also expensive. 40 coppers each. Moreover, they have a limit use of 10 times before crumbling. Excepting the combat ones that are one-time use, though that didn’t make them cheaper.
I look at these colorful stones lined up. All of them differently shaped. Staring at them, I felt like I was looking at bad imitations of gym badges.
The stare of the merchant was piercing me as I browsed his goods. The pressure he constantly made of “buy buy buy” was pretty clear.
In the end, I did buy some. A few washing, drying, freeze and blast stones. Might as well stock on some just in case. I hate when I have to wait for my equipment to dry and water will not always be available.
I checked many other stalls after that. And I stop in a particular one.
One of the goods is a purple crystal necklace with a translucent string that reflected light. I couldn’t see the mana, but I am sure that this has high affinity with it. I try using the [Eye of Truth] necklace to appraise the string specifically.
[Magic String: A string with high ability to circulate mana. Made mainly from Rainbow Worms]
So I am able to pinpoint materials. Then if I concentrate on the whole item itself…
[Elbaite Necklace: Created by enchanting a stringed Elbaite crystal. Provides protection to Poisons. <+Poison Resistance>]
“Ooh~ Isn’t that an Elbaite Necklace? So beautiful~” Elinalise states her surprise while nibbling what seems to be shish kebab.
“Oh Little Lady, you can tell? You know your stuff. How about it, why don’t you have your boyfriend there buy it for you? Not only does it protect you from poisons, it also wards off sickness when worn”
“Eh, b-boyfriend? No well, w-we are not really…”
Seeing her interest for the good, the owner of the stall begins his sale speech. Hearing his cheesy statement about us dating, Elinalise provides the expected response. Her face blushing and nervously squirming.
Leaving aside the sketchy words about warding off sickness, it is true that it blocks poison to a certain extent. Mana Beasts that use poison are numerous in this world, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to buy one.
But when I ask the price…
A shock ran through my body when I heard that number.
When I glance at Elinalise for some sort of confirmation, she just nods at me helplessly. The price of necklaces with special effects are normally this high then?
Elinalise then gets close to me and talks in a low voice:
“Enchanted necklaces are normally hard to come by. Since one needs to use crystals and magic string in order to create on top of an enchanter, the price is normally pretty high. Most jewels have the ability to protect your body from abnormal conditions. And since equipment with those kind of effects are rare, adventurers have to rely on necklaces”
“Heh~, is there a limit to how many necklaces one can possess?”
“One can have 2 necklaces, but more than that and the weaker one will not be able to show any effects”
“How about necklaces with skills? If I have 2 necklaces on and try to use the skill of another one, will I be able to?” I say this while concentrating on the necklace hidden beneath my clothes.
“It is possible. But necklaces with skills cost an incredible amount and are really hard to obtain. That’s a way too luxurious thinking there”
This person here has that kind of necklace though, and he is right now stressing if to buy a 75 silver one.
I try checking the other goods the stall had while I think. It seems the only enchanted necklace was this one, all the other ones were normal accessories.
I let out a sigh in my mind. In the long run, this equipment will be necessary. Let’s buy it for now. I try to haggle and it ends up in 67 silver. Eli seems to be surprised that the merchant was willing to lower it that much. I didn’t expect that either.
“Thanks for the patronage! Since you bought this necklace I will put in a little service. Choose any accessory here”
The merchant says while rubbing his hand happily. He must have noticed this necklace was for me and was covering for Elinalise at my side. What a perceptive person.
I decide to indulge in his generosity and ask Elinalise to choose whichever one she wants.
“Eh? Is it fine?”
“Yeah, go ahead”
I urge her on. But it seems she was reluctant, looking at me and the lined up accessories. After a few seconds, she turns to me again: “Can you choose one for me?”
I was left without words. I am no sommelier in jewelry. Hell, this is my first time purchasing one in my life. I don’t know the taste of a girl.
“Are you sure? I don’t think you should rely too much on my judgment in this area”
She just nods without meeting my eyes.
In the end, I decided on a small handmade ring. It wasn’t the most expensive, but I felt like it really fit her.
Once she received it, she made a wide smile and held it between her hands preciously.
“Oh~, aren’t we hot in here?”
I suddenly hear a whisper in my left ear and a soft blow. My body quivered and I rapidly turn to my left.
“Hai hai, Lylian here~”
A voluptuous woman in tight school uniform waved her hands at me and does a salutation. I couldn’t feel her presence at all, even when she got so close.
“My Lady Elinalise is… she is…”
And Ethan is by her side, munching a napkin in despair. Like a fangirl seeing her favorite idol with someone else.
The two of them didn’t say it, but they were probably following us all the way since the time we returned to Arnesti.
We agreed on meeting up once the festival started so this wasn’t strange. The more the merrier after all.
“Let’s go let’s go! The parade is starting soon, let’s not waste a single second!”
Lylian grabs my and Elinalise’s hand and pulls us as she marches energetically to where the parade will take place. Ethan following us closely from behind. I could hear audible munching sounds right behind me.
When we arrived, the place was completely crowded. Not on the level of previous streets, these ones were cramped tightly and forming a line on both sides of the road. I could barely tell that at the other side of this tumult of people, armored guards were controlling the crowd.
The noisy crowd was sticking so close together and expectantly watching at the entrance of where the heroes will be entering from.
I really felt reluctant in moving to where the crowd is and just stand a few ways back.
“What’s up Youma? Not coming?”
Lylian, who was inside all that conglomeration, pushes the people aside and asks me. She pushed a group of people as if it was nothing and all of them were squished since they couldn’t do anything. One could see a clear display of inhuman strength right there in those thin looking arms of hers.
“No thanks. I will just be watching from here”
It wasn’t like getting a closer view was any better for me. If asked to be squished by people to get a closer look or stand in an area with moderate amount of people but a bit further away, I would totally choose the one with less people. It’s less of a pain after all.
Lylian puckers her lips in dissatisfaction and comes out from the crowd to join us. By the way, Ethan and Elinalise were also beside me, none of them followed her lead.
“Ah it’s here!” “The heroes are coming!”
The shouts of the citizens were growing louder. Fanfares announcing the beginning of this parade. Numerous shots of what looked like fireworks were flying here and there. Most likely created by magic.
In the midst of all that, a grand float made its entrance accompanied by a march of soldiers. All of them wearing blue armor and in firm formation, advancing orderly, fixing their pace with the float. And on that very float I see three figures. Three… unique figures waving at the populace.
One of them is a tall man with brown hair that reached his shoulders, wearing extravagant looking clothes, he plays with his violin fervently as he dances around the float, entertaining the people around.
The other one is a… male? I couldn’t tell properly as he was totally covered in black clothes. He had one hand on his hidden face while laughing maliciously for unknown reasons. His body was wrapped in chains, I fail to see the point of, and there were zippers in places I don’t know why. In this warm season to wear something so heavy looking and hot, I could only question his sanity. It looked like the kind of cosplays I see in my world.
The last one is a girl. With her long black hair which is rare in this world, she waves her hand stiffly. But it wasn’t because she was nervous, I could see she was glancing at her companions on top of the float and placing both of her hands on her face in embarrassment. She looked like the only normal one there, but seeing how eccentric her two companions are, she was the oddball of the group.
What a group of strange people. Are those the heroes? No way, right?
“Hero, please look over here!” “You heroes look dazzling!” “It’s really the heroes, the heroes are here!”
“Fuhahaha! Let me play a sonata for all you citizens! La~ ra la~”
… They really are.