“…the dwarven blacksmith had finally figured out how to make Bloodsteel. He would marry a new woman each year and on the night of their anniversary he would plunge the Orichalcum sword he painstakingly made the past year, into her heart. You see, the Bloodsteel could only be made by tempering it in the heartblood of a dear one. That is why, you should never make cursed weapons. Powerful they might be, but every power has a price…”
– Tales From The Mines, Orgax Bloomfax, 1456 B.C
I woke up with soft sunlight on my face. I slept in late, but luckily, no cold water today. Maybe she wasn’t so annoying after all? I dressed myself in a loose shirt and ill fitting pants that I had been given by grandma. I wonder whose those were. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen Arin’s parents.
I came down from the 2nd story loft. The room was tiny, but very cosy. I loved the fact that it had a circular large window through which I could see the forests beyond the hills and the single moon at night. Yep, 1 moon at night, 2 at day. I did think the ones in day were planets, but they were too close and yet not crashing, so had to be satellites. Then there was the beautiful Ring across the sky. At night, the edges of the Ring would glow with reflected sunlight, making a wide swath of light extending upto the sky at both horizons.
I walked down the stairs extending from the upper floor to the first. Arin heard me and poked her head through the open doorway, and asked, “are…alright”?
I smiled at her, remembering the scene last night and replied, “Yeah It doesn’t hur….” WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? How did I understand what she said?
She looked at my thunderstruck face. She came close and asked, “..trouble?” I shook my head and patted her head with half a mind.
“Don’t pat…not… kid” protested Arin, drawing away.
Oh yeah, I forgot. That head pat gesture is pretty much demeaning outside Japan.
First, I needed to calm myself and figure things out. For that, I needed food. I gestured towards her.
“Alright, wash …hands…not sick”. She was totally treating me like a kid.
I went to wash outside, and heard a fragmented song in grandma’s voice. So I can understand other’s voices too.
While eating, I tried to deduce what was different today from yesterday. I realized with a start, I wished for this. Last night, when I wanted from the core of my heart to understand Arin, the gift had probably activated.
These gifts are real sketchy. I want a talking shield with explanations!(1)
The comprehension wasn’t total yet, I was still understanding the language in fragments, much like learning a new language back on earth. Listening more and more would probably increase the comprehension.
“Arin! Obaa-san!”, a loud hail was heard outside in a gruff voice. It was the Knight Ossan. Probably came to check on me. Grandma came round the garden, and opened the door for him. “..Morning, Gustaf”
So his name was Gustaf. I waved at him. He came in and asked grandma how I was. Grandma just pointed at me and said “Ask the kid yourself”
I lifted up my shirt and tapped myself on the ribs, “No problem” I declared.
They stood with their mouth open.
I knew why. I spoke up in their language. I did consider hiding that I roughly understood them, but it would be counterproductive. I needed information. I needed books, knowledge and hiding my ability would hinder all of that.
“You…know language?” Asked Gustaf.
“No. Heard everyone…know little” I offered as best as I could. Even if I could speak better, I wouldn’t. It would be suspicious to have learnt a language so fast. It is quite suspicious even now.
“Oho. Quite a fast learner, aren’t you?” Gustaf beamed, “So, lad, where did you come from?”
“Don’t know. Forgot everything. Remember nothing”, I lied through my teeth, my face revealing nothing. Oh yeah, I picked the easy amnesia route. Now I just need to make them believe it.
“Nothing except name”. I pointed at myself, “Rigel”.
“Rigel, I don’t believe you lost your memories. But, everyone has things they want to hide. I won’t probe unless you give me a reason to. Understood?” Gustaf saw through my lie at once and replied sternly. I could hear the veiled threat in his steel like voice.
“Okay. That would help a lot. I promise I won’t harm anyone” I came clean. There was no point in fighting a lost battle.
“I am only giving you a chance as a thanks for taking care of the Grilnder problem” Gustaf said.
“Grilnder?” I asked, honestly confused. What was more confusing was that the language perception suddenly seemed to skyrocket. All hail plot armour!
By now, even Arin had gathered in the room. She and Grandma heard my confession about my memories. She didn’t seem alarmed though. They took me in knowing full well the risk, so it isn’t surprising for them.
“Oh yes, I forgot that you don’t actually know the language”, replied Gustaf. “The monster you killed before passing out. It lured men away from the neighboring villages and ate them. We made a group from our Guard corps to kill it and found you grievously injured beside the dead body of the Grilnder” he said in one breath.
“One question” I said, “Why did you believe I don’t know the language but didn’t when I said I forgot everything?”
“Because, kid, I verified it by trying to startle you many times when we were together.” He replied coolly. “Not reacting when I asked you to take your pants off in a deserted place was what finally convinced me” he added.
I stared at him agape. No one said a word. After a few moments, Arin broke down in hysterical laughter. I underestimated these people. Even if they were kind, they were not reckless.
Gustaf continued, “Besides, you were on watch the entire time, kid. Our Village Head is kind, so she would took you in so as not to trouble anyone, but we can’t very well have her harmed, do we?”
“Oh okay” I managed to reply back, “So Karro was on guard duty?”
“Yes, he practically begged me to be a part of the assignment when he heard you were living with Arin”
“Uncle Gustav!” Arin protested with an indignant face and then looked at me and said “I don’t li…”
“ Gustaf, I want to learn Swordsmanship and Magic” I cut in, not even paying any heed to what she was going to say.
“ I see. Yes, I almost forgot what I came here for. I heard that you were loitering around the practice sessions and finally even got into a brawl with Karro. If are going to pick up a weapon, might as well train. We need every hand we can get, and you too need back to give to the village”
“Yes. I would love that. But what about magic though?” I asked.
“Eh. I dunno about that, you need aptitude for it and not many have that. You will have to test yourself and see.”
“When do we start?” I asked eagerly.
“Eager, aren’t you?” Gustaf said, “Is your injury even okay? The healing magic healed the cracked ribs but there should still be pain”
“Nah, I am okay” I beamed. My mind was screaming, Magic Swordsman! Magic Swordsman! Magic Swordsman!
“That’s a bit on the quick side” he looked troubled, “but not anything abnormal, isn’t it”? He asked the last part looking at grandma.
“No, it’s okay. Brats just heal fast” grandma replied smiling.
“Yeah, idiots heal fast” Arin said scathingly.
“Come on now, kid. Lets beat you u…in shape” Gustaf said with a suspicious glint in his eyes, walking towards the exit.
“If anything happens to me, you all know Gustaf is responsible” I told those two half-jokingly. With my luck, they are gonna get Kenichi on me(2)
“Don’t kill him”, said grandma.
“stay away from Karro. He doesn’t like you”, Arin offered as a way of advice.
“Whose fault you think that is?” I retorted while leaving the house.
We went to the Knight Training grounds through the village plaza. The plaza was bustling with people and life. It had that energy and vividness you see in South-East Asian markets. Hawkers and peddles were displaying their wares loudly while barkers tried to pull people into their shops. People wore colourful dresses and bargained the prices savagely. Lots of snacks and other finger foods were being sold in stalls. The market was crowded enough that we had to squeeze our way in, breaking into strange poses to pass people, as if we were dancing. Fruits and vegetable were piled up in the stalls, fish and meat were a bit less. The fishes looked strange. And yep, as I thought, there were meat from lizard like animals and a really plump bird that looked like a cross between a cotton candy and a chicken.
“The bi-monthly market in Shrafingshire gets lot of people” Gustaf said noticing my curiosity.
“So the name of this village is Shrafingshire?” I asked.
I had decided not to ask about things like the moons, the sun etc. It would be very troublesome to explain why I don’t know of these things being a resident of this planet. The difference in culture excuse can cover a lot of things, but not all.
We finally reached the Training Grounds. Gustaf turned to me and declared, “From now on this is your temple. Forge your body and mind. We welcome you to the village guard training grounds, uphold it’s honour and spirit” he looked proud “Also, don’t die”. Fuck.
He gave me a wood sword and showed me how to swing in downwards. “300 swings by afternoon”, he ordered.
Yep. Totally like Kenichi.
I came back at evening with sores and bruises all over my body that day. I did some weight training back at earth so I am not entirely new to training but…this was grueling. My arms hung from my sides like lead weights. I had pain in muscles I didn’t knew I had. The entire body felt like one throbbing mass of aching pain. But I was happy. For god knows what reason, I didn’t hate this. I slept like a log that night.
Next day, I was barely able to move my body. But since I was let off training, I decided to accompany Arin in her herb-gathering.
“…You know I was so surprised you could talk, I mean you picked it up so fast..” Arin kept talking the whole time we were out picking flowers and weed meant for medicine. Things had hardly changed now that I could properly communicate. She still talked all the time while I kept listening. It was so tiring.
At noon, we were sitting on the hill under the shade of a tree, eating lunch. Azure sky spread horizon to horizon while vast clouds traversed leisurel, occasionally drifting under the ring. I leaned back against a tree trunk while sucking on the nectar of a flower while Arin gathered up the remnants of our meal. It would have been awesome if this girl would just stop talking.
Today, she was wearing a yellow robe with red pattern on it. Her long black hair was let loose on her back. She looked like some pretty dainty flower atop a hill. A flower that talked all the time.
“Then you know, I had this white pinnetten mouse that..mmfm” I clamped her mouth with my left palm while I pushed her against the tree with my other hand. Her eyes went wide and she started flailing her hands and feet trying to push me away. I held fast and pushed her even strongly against the rough bark.
“Sssh..” I put my finger on my lips while my other hand still held her mouth fast. “Why don’t you stop talking for a while and relax? Let the nature talk, let the wind sing. Calm down and take in all this” I swept my hands to show the mountains, the forest and the green grass we beyond us.
Hearing that, she stopped struggling and looked at me with downcast eyes. She then looked up, her body shaking slightly and breath coming in sharp gasps, a questioning light in her eyes. Ofcourse, a girl would look at you strange if you said all that, I chided myself.
“Anyway, that’s what I like to do anyways. Just keep quiet for a while and let me sleep” I removed my hands from her mouth and slid back to lean against the tree, closing my eyes. Silence of two people enveloped the shade. Wind rustled, making the grass sing its song with it. Arin was silent for the first time.
Did I go too far maybe? I felt myself nod off while I wondered.
“… Serlia once told me that there are blue coranths over the hills, I have never seen them myself but…” I could hear Arin talking when my slumber grew thin after a while. I cracked my eyes open just a tiny bit and saw that evening had come to the world. The Sky had got a painter’s palette of violet, gold and orange. The single moon shone near the horizon as the last vestiges of light remained in the sky. I seemed to have slid from my position against the trunk and my head had dropped onto Arin’s lap. She cradled my head while she talked incessantly.
“… then Rivalzol went for a bear-hunt and came back 3 days…” I closed my eyes once again and went to sleep. I could spent my entire day in silence while Arin talks not even demanding that I pay attention or reply. My body relaxed and let go of the tension that had made me tense as a spring with all the training.
Maybe not having to talk once in a while is good.
I didn’t let her know I was awake and turned my head around her lap, facing her this time while still keeping my eyes closed.
But I suspected she already knew, that I was awake.
3 weeks have passed since then. I have become a master of the swords, defeating the sword saints.
Not. I have just broken into intermediate stage. The people over at the guard training are surprised at my quick pace of learning though. I try not to stand out too much, but I often go overboard when I spar.
Turns out that you don’t turn a swordsman just by holding one(3). The people who I thought were Knight Trainees were acrually village youths being trained by Gustaf to act as guards. There were a lot of monsters and thieves around these parts so every cluster of villages have a guards training facility to help raise guards to defend it.
Shrafingshire is in the far western part of the Holy Ebraven Kingdom. Surrounded by the Ishkal Mountains on the three sides, the Morrilet dukedom, of which Shrafingshire is a part of, is considered very remote.
The planet is called Sangraal in human tongue. 5 human empires comprise about 40% of the world. Divided into 9 continents, Sangraal has quite a number of sentient races, unlike Earth. Humans, Beastmen, Elves, Dwarves, Dragons, Demons are the most widely spread sentient species. Each race has it’s own language, customs, systems of magic and religion. To be exact, even within each species there are lot of differences due to customs and ideologies.
A real fantasy world is much like earth. Homogeneousness in the behavior of each race is the mark of a lazy author.
The history of Sangraal is pretty violent. Wars, aggression and internal strife are common occurrences. However, the world is generally polarized into 3 mutually warring sections. The Demons, The Dragons and the rest of the races. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world don’t fight among themselves at the drop of a hat.
Not very different from our world after all, eh?
The books provided precious little about the gods except the usual myths and praises. But one noteworthy thing is the War of the Gods, that took place about 15000 years ago. Yeah, this world’s history is pretty long compared to earth. Apparently, the incident corresponds with what Astria said. Gods went to war with each other for total domination, dragged the mortals of the world with it and almost ended up destroying the world. The mortal races banded together and went to war with their own gods.
This had greatly shocked the gods. They had pushed the mortals beyond the breaking point, not anticipating the backlash. Afraid that this would spell the end of creation, the Gods had called a Covenant and stopped the war. As decided by the covenant, the Gods left the earth and ascended to the Immortal Plane, a place that doesn’t exist in time or space, stopping all direct interference with the mortals and the world in general.
Then they fucking used otherworlders to fight their wars in secret.
However, the gods looked awfully afraid for beings with ultimate powers to have called a covenant when the mortals revolted. Something didn’t add up.
I had once asked grandma why did the villagers and humans followed the gods if they had once fought against them.
Grandma-Wasslia’s eyes had widened and she had taken a sharp breath inwards. “15000 years change a lot of things, Rigel. People forget the past and find ways to blame their ancestors for the misfortunes”, her voice sounded bitter. “People have reconciled with the gods, calling the generations that fought against the gods delusional. They are termed the Fallen Kin, the Betrayers and the like for their treason towards the gods. People hold the betrayal responsible for the appearance of the monsters and the black spires after the war.” Grandma added.
“The races would rather forget the betrayal, or the gravest sin as they call it. The fallen kin are blamed for the Ascension, the departure of the gods leaving Sangraal. Rigel, do not question the gods in public”, grandma Wasslia had said with a heavy, quavering voice, “People are not kind to those who do”.
She had some unpleasant experiences.
Now that I had some time after my swordsmanship has stabilized somewhat, I decided to broach the topic of magic. When I asked Gustaf about it, he asked me to talk to Grandma Wassilia because except Karro, no one in the guard training knew about it. She was also teaching me to read and write Aruvahn, the language of the majority in the Ebraven Kingdom.
When I asked her, Grandma gave me a book about introductory magic and its theories. She warned me though, “Not all people have aptitude for magic. The only way to know is try casting and see if you can do it. Lots of people start early in their childhood but only become able to cast after many years”.
She had added after a pause, “Don’t be sad if you don’t succeed. Everyone has things they can and cannot do”.
With trepidation, I had opened the book.
Zain and Astria were nowhere to be seen. It had been a month without a god opening a hole in my body. Maybe my life isn’t Rigel-chan’s daily life yet (4)
(1) Reference to Naofumi’s Shield from Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari.
(2) Reference to the brutal training regimen of Kenichi from History Strongest Disciple Kenichi
(3) Reference to the amazing number of shounen heroes who seem to miraculously be able to wield a sword after getting it for the first time. Come on, you know the shows.
(4) Reference to the Ero-guro manga Mai-chan’s Daily Life/ Mai-chan no iru nichijou. Basically Rigel is alluding to how the gods would induce lethal injuries then heal him, kind of like the Mai-chan manga where she would self heal after the lethal injuries by her ‘customers’. Warning- Do NOT read Mai-chan. It is a very underground sort of manga. Counted as one of the craziest and wtf mangas among the top wtf stuff from Japan.
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