Chapter 19:

Magic and Pain

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

“So, what’s that plan of yours all about?”
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“Would you mind if I waited to tell you until I have some time to think it through first? There’s just a few things I would like to mentally sort out myself first before I explain it, that’s all. Mind giving me a moment?”Bookmark here

I nodded, got myself untangled from the princess, and then stood up to stretch. I felt rather stiff after how long I had been lying still. Really showed why exercise was worth it, though I doubted there were many types of exercise that could be done while unconscious. Bookmark here

Alena looked up at me. Bookmark here

“By the way, Maria… Have you eaten anything? Actually, I know you haven’t, so why don’t we go downstairs and order something? By the looks of it this place serves food, and I know you have some money… Don’t ask me why I know that though.”
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“How do you know that?”
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“I didn’t have enough money on me to pay for the room so I stole some from you while you were unconscious. Sorry. You mind?”
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“To be honest, I’m more impressed you knew both that I have money on me and where I’m keeping it.”
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“I, um… Didn’t know. I just looked around and hoped to find some, and I eventually did.”Bookmark here

...Eventually?Bookmark here

Setting my doubts about Alena's choice of wording aside, her suggestion wasn't a bad one. I was actually hungry, almost more so than I could remember being since I came to this world… Actually, I had barely eaten anything since then. A lot of bad stuff happening consecutively was good at making you forget any craving for food you may otherwise have had. Bookmark here

Alena accompanied me down to the common room of the inn, a rather sorry affair that looked like it was about to fall apart at any moment. There was a single table each at the left and right sides of the room, each accompanied by two benches for customers to sit on. Bookmark here

A woman was already seated at one of them, some sort of food I never had seen before placed on the table in front of her. The woman idly poked at it, too busy with looking at a piece of paper she was holding up to pay the food much attention. Bookmark here

Some sort of… document? Poster? Whatever was, the woman only spared us a single glance as we entered before her eyes darted back to the single sheet of paper in her hands. Bookmark here

Me and the princess made ourselves seated at the other table, after the princess borrowed the small amount of money I had on me and went to order whatever was cheapest… Even if, as I wouldn't find out until much later, absolutely all the food served here felt just as cheap as the inn itself, regardless of cost.Bookmark here

Once Alena was back at my side, of course sitting as close to me as she possibly could instead of using the full space available, I figured this was a prime opportunity to learn more about something I really should have tried to find out about way earlier already.Bookmark here

"Alena, you know… I can’t even use my magic offensively if I don’t want to hurt anyone. There’s no way that is going to be sustainable in the long run. Surely there must be a way to use magic without needing to feel like you hate everyone around you?”Bookmark here

Alena moved aside a bit so she could believably stare at me in utter disbelief.Bookmark here

“What brought that on all of a sudden? But I… I don’t know if that is possible.”
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"Why not? Surely there must be a way to use magic without hurting people? Seems kind of useless otherwise… And besides, you can use magic anyway. I haven't seen you going on any destructive rampages or being unaware of what you're doing. Sure you're not missing something? Because… I can't just keep doing this the way we have."
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“I mean, I agree with what you’re saying, for the most part. You were unconscious way longer this time than you were the last one. We absolutely need to do something about the whole magic thing you have going on."Bookmark here

Great, we could at least agree on what we theoretically needed to get done.Bookmark here

“But you’d need energy to create something, right? So for the kind of magic you have… There’s some speculation that it takes the energy from whoever it’s used on. Or failing that, the user.“
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"So that means…"Bookmark here

My eyes went down towards the table as my head sank and my shoulders sagged. Bookmark here

"It means there's a good chance you actually can't use magic without hurting anyone. At least not the way you have been until now. But is it really that bad? It's not like you have to kill or anything. I'd never ask you to do that. But if someone is hurting you, is it really that bad to just… I don't know, defend yourself? Or what if you could ensure people would be caused less pain in the future by hurting someone now? There are situations where I think it'd be justified to get a bit violent."
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"I'm still not sure… Not sure I can accept that."Bookmark here

My resistance was already wearing thin after just two fights. I would undoubtedly get used to it at some point, the lies I had been telling myself turning into plain reality. Bookmark here

Once that happened, I'd be able to fight. I would be able to do what was asked of me, what people needed of me.Bookmark here

But did I really want that? Bookmark here

It wouldn't be entirely negative. If there was anyone I wanted to protect, the way I felt compelled to protect the princess at the moment, I would certainly have a much easier time accomplishing that. Bookmark here

Perhaps Alena also had a point. Perhaps not everyone deserved mercy, at least not to the point where it was fine to entirely leave them be just because I didn't want to personally be involved in whatever punishment would befall them… But on the other hand, who was I to make that decision?Bookmark here

I would inevitably succumb at some point. The way I have felt in my past life, the way I had lived it, no longer more than a distant memory.Bookmark here

Before I did, wasn't it my duty to at least see if there were any other options, to mount one last desperate attempt at resistance?Bookmark here

If my magic needed energy to function, and I needed to hurt no matter what, then… Was there at least some way to mitigate the consequences of it?Bookmark here

"Does this world have healing magic? If that existed, at least it wouldn't be as permanent…"
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"Sorry to disappoint, but it doesn't. If someone gets seriously hurt, or dies… It's just as permanent here as it would be in any other world."
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"What about the witch? This is her body, right? What did she do?"
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“I don't think this kind of thing was ever a problem for her. She didn’t have any qualms at all about burning down whole cities. Why would she care if a few dozen people died?”
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"Right, I guess I kind of forgot that part… What about you? How does your magic work? Can you just use it as much as you like without these kinds of worries?"
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"Kind of? And kind of not?"
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"So if you were to phrase your response in a way that's actually helpful, what you're trying to say is…"
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"Two things, basically."Bookmark here

Alena held up two fingers in what looked like a peace sign. Bookmark here

"First of all, it's not like it's not taking a toll on me. But I can, like… delay it somehow? Don't know how it works, just that I can keep going as long as I don't stop, but I'll be absolutely exhausted once I do. Aside from that, there's also the usual boring way: practice. I've just spent a lot of time using magic and somehow that makes it a slightly less intense experience."
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"You can get better at magic by just… Practicing?"Bookmark here

Though thinking about it, that old man we met also said something to that effect.Bookmark here

"Why… Why wouldn't you be able to? It's the most basic of basics. How are you supposed to get better at anything at all without practicing?"
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"How was I supposed to know that? My world didn't have any magic."
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"But it's not just magic that works that way! You'd do the same thing if you tried to learn anything else. Practice until you get good at it, and it suddenly won't take nearly as much effort."Bookmark here

While she was probably right, somehow I had a hard time picturing freaking magic, of all things, as just another type of skill among many others instead of something more… Special.Bookmark here

"So, you can improve your magic by just practicing a lot."
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"Or learn new types of magic. Like my illusions. I'll have you know they take a lot of work to get right… Not to mention how long it took me before I could even make one in the first place."
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"But do I really have to do that if the witch, who had this same body, already could do basically whatever she wanted?"
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"Well, looking at your accomplishments so far… My impression is that you have a lot of potential and that her efforts probably will help you learn faster, but… Yeah, you'll need to work hard at it the same as everyone else in this world if you want to get really good."Bookmark here

So the answer to all my doubts was just that I needed to… Practice? Bookmark here

...Would just doing that really be enough?Bookmark here

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