Chapter 3:

First Painting

Painted Tale

It's been almost three years since I started learning swordsmanship.

My birthday is coming up in less than a month. I'm turning ten years old.

Ten years. It's already been a decade since I reincarnated. All this time, I've been living a fulfilling life:

Studying history, geography, and the language under my brother.

Training my body and honing my sword skills.

Learning and mastering new spells.

And yet... Whenever I visualize a canvas in my head...

It still lacks bright colors.

Whatever, I'm sure I'll get over it with time.

I'm sitting in my room studying the written language. I'm facing Edward as he explains the meaning of the artoglyph in the book.

"...Do you understand?" He asks me.

I nod.

"Ok, I guess that's enough for today," Edward concludes, seemingly convinced that I've memorized the material.

"Still, to think that we are already at the last hundred artoglyphs..." He mumbles.

" ... "

Something is wrong. For the last five years, I've been subjected to harsh schooling under Edward's watchful eye. I don't think I've ever worked this hard in my previous life. That's when a question pops up in my mind: Why is he surprised by that?

"...Ehm, big bro, is it really that surprising?"

"Well, I guess not really. Especially since you've been studying for nearly 5 years... I'm just surprised that you've been diligently studying this whole time..."

That all but confirmed my suspicions.

"Big bro, at what age do kids start studying artoglyphs?"

"Mmh, it depends on the household, but kids can't really grasp the concept of artoglyphs really well before they fully master the alphabet-only texts. So they start studying how to read and write using the alphabet at around seven, and they get to artoglyphs at around ten..."

I'm speechless.

"You see, when you were five, you were a very inactive kid. That's why dad decided that you should start studying a bit earlier. He can be a bit of a musclehead, so he was convinced that you would get bored of being glued to the books all day and start going outside a bit more... I told him that won't work, but he didn't budge. He hated studying as a kid and firmly believed that you would as well."

Curse you, my laziness! I hope this is the last time...

Although, I'm surprised to hear that dad hated studying. I know that he is pretty well-educated. He has a good grasp of geography and politics and has no problems with math and artoglyphs.

"He had to learn a lot as an heir of the household. Literacy and basic knowledge of the economy are the bare minimum requirements to be the head of a noble house. After all, you need to take care of the administrative affairs of your territory."

Ugh, that sounds like a pain in the ass. Thank god, I'm not the heir.

"Ok, Will, I think father is waiting for you. Don't keep him waiting."

While I'm busy feeling blessed about not having to take over the household in the future, Edward hurries me to go to dad.


I'm standing in the middle of the training ground. In my hand, I'm holding a wooden sword. In front of me, about ten meters away, is my dad, Richard Arklight.

He has grown older, and his head has some gray hairs mixed in. His face is now slightly wrinkled, but his sharp facial features still give off a feeling of a seasoned soldier.

He is also holding a training sword in his hand, waiting for me to attack.

I'm incredibly focused. I close my eyes, attempting to invoke an image...

...A white canvas without a single speck of paint on it...

...A stroke of dark blue splashes over the pure white!

A ball of water sets off towards my father...

He dodges it with a slight tilt of his head.

But I already closed the distance!

I slash at him forcing him to block the strike. I keep attacking, trying to break through his defenses.

I strike again and again, desperately searching for an opening. My palms are sweating, my breathing is out of control.

I'm giving it my all. Dad, on the other hand, is completely calm as he casually repels my sword slashes. He is looking at me as if he is an appraiser, carefully analyzing my every movement.

Damn it, he's barely even trying!

Finally, as if he decided that he's seen enough, he begins his counterattack.

Sensing an opening, he swats my sword away, breaking my stance and leaving me wide open.


I desperately pull my sword back, attempting to recover my stance.

He swings his sword horizontally with full force...

I can see him focusing on my movements, trying to predict my next course of action.

Will I try to deflect it? Jump back? Crouch underneath?

He goes for the slash and his sword slams into mine with enough force to send me flying—

Got you!

His eyes are wide open in shock. After all...

I simply accepted the blow on my blade.

His sword is interlocked with mine.

I can sense my feet being lifted off the ground.

And in my left hand... I'm holding a dark-purple ball of magic!

As my body is sent flying, I shoot him with my spell.

He can't restore his stance in time.

The ball is closing in on his face and—

 He evades it.

With a slight motion, he moves his head away as my spell flies right by him.


My body smashes into the ground.

My senses are overflown with pain.

"Hmm, that wasn't too bad of an idea, but it was too risky. Duels are one thing but doing this on a battlefield is akin to suicide. Even if you take your enemy down, you will lose your life in exchange. Although, if you are fighting one on one, it could be a good trick up in your sleeve," my dad said, evaluating the pros and cons of my actions.

"Well, it was a good attempt in this case. Using the shadow element so that you can hide it in your own shadow was a good idea. The darkness element is so dark that it actually becomes more conspicuous. Good judgment."

He praised me, but it didn't feel like praise. Why the hell is he so calm?

I guess that's a seasoned veteran for you, huh?

With that, our training for today is over.


I'm sitting in my father's study, helping him out with the paperwork.

When I decided to get a set of painting tools, I began saving up money. I asked my dad if I can do some small errands for him for some cash. At first, he was hesitant since he didn't think that a seven-year-old kid would be of any help.

Luckily, because I have the experience of my previous life, I can do math pretty well. I could already read and write at the time, so I started helping him with paperwork and calculating our budget.

Well, I wasn't doing anything too hard. Mostly sorting out all of our incomes and spendings to keep track of our budget.

The majority of our income obviously comes from taxes. However, there are also other sources of income.

For example, there was our personal army. Well, I call it an army, but it was just a few dozens of soldiers.

Every hereditary knight is involved in maintaining the soldiers in his territory. In a given group of several villages and their surroundings, the biggest village will house the soldiers. It is also home to the hereditary knight of the area who is considered the direct superior of the soldiers.

The soldiers' main task is to uphold the public order. They also train the villagers if those are summoned as militia in case of war and collect the taxes.

So, back to the topic. There are way more soldiers in our territories compared to the others. That's because we are close to the border. One of their duties is to support the soldier stationed on the frontier in case of emergency. Of course, we're not the only ones who would be sending troops in that case... Damn, I'm trailing off topic once again.

Anyway, one of the other tasks that soldiers have involves dangerous requests for the villagers. It's usually peaceful around here, so most of the soldiers end up lazing around doing nothing. That's where requests come into play.

Villagers don't have any weapons and aren't able to fend for themselves. However, harvesting and foraging can be dangerous. Staying near the villages practically guarantees your safety. But going any further than that can lead to an encounter with monsters. Probably because of the difference in mana density, almost all of the high-quality ingredients are pretty far from human settlements.

That's where the soldiers come in. Most of the requests involve either escorting someone to dangerous areas or securing them by exterminating the monsters in them. Extermination tasks are usually requested when there's a need to harvest materials for a lengthier period.

I was calculating the income for yesterday while thinking about the role the soldiers play in this kingdom. The hereditary knight and the soldiers are basically the only governing organ here. Is this normal? I guess it's only natural since they have all the power.

The Renoa Kingdom is pretty small. I wasn't sure about its exact size, but it only had a single relatively big (by the standards of this world) city. It only has several towns within its territories. It was hard to get a sense of scale purely by looking at a map, but I don't think it's that big. That's why it makes sense that there isn't a proper governmental body.


I've finished going through the paperwork, and so dad and I went downstairs for dinner.

The dining room and the kitchen are located on the east side of the house on the first floor. Our bedrooms, as well as dad's cabinet, are all located on the second floor. By the way, the rest of the first floor is occupied by a living room and an unnecessarily pompous stairway.

Why is the most noble-like thing in our house a damn staircase?

"So, Ed, how long did you come back for?" My mother asks at a dining table.

"For about a month. I have to come back after that." My brother replies.

That's right, He no longer lives with the family. It's been like that for several years.

Right now, he serves as a knight in the capital. The kingdom's army doesn't have military officers, so knights command the soldiers.

As an heir to our household, my brother can go back to our territory pretty often. After all, knowing how to manage it is very important, so they let him come back to be involved in the managing process. Every time Ed comes back, he checks on my study progress and gives me homework to do while he's away.

I can see that my mom isn't happy about big bro's answer. A month is a decent amount of time, but my mom is a bit too doting on her kids and can't accept him being away for so long.

Despite that, she doesn't say anything. She knows that this is important for Ed and our household. Serving as a knight in the capital can bring opportunities to distinguish oneself. That, in turn, affects the perception of our house by the court.

My brother is really ambitious. And he has the talent to back it up. He never planned to live his entire life in the countryside, taking care of the paperwork and babysitting lazy soldiers.

Still, Ed knows that inheriting the household is his duty. That's why he's trying to realize his ambitions while dad can still serve as the head.

We finished eating, and our plates were taken away by our servants.

Well, we only have two of them. A maid called Selena and a butler named Ryan. They live in the closest house to our manor and do all of the chores around the house. Well, even though I called it a manor, it's not that big, so the two of them manage just fine. Sometimes, mom also helps them cook (or more like takes the lead), saying that her children need to know the taste of motherly love.



It's been a few weeks. Edward still hasn't gone back to the capital.

I'm lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. I close my eyes.

An image is flashing before me.

A pure white canvas.

A brush, ready to bring colors onto the canvas.

Black. Dark blue. Dark purple. Blue. Blue. Blue. Black. Blue. Blue.

Purple. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue.

I open my eyes.

I still can't do it.

No matter how hard I tried, I still couldn't paint that canvas in any bright colors. I tried imagining yellow, red, green, pink, orange... But it was all futile.

Something is bothering me. Something important that I've missed. Something that would crush me if I acknowledged it.

I have a feeling that this has already happened before. I have a feeling that I've made the same mistake before. I have a feeling... That there's no going back after I notice it...


Suddenly, I hear a knock on the door.

"Will, are you there?"

It's my brother's voice.

I get up, walk through the room, and open the door.

"Oh, so you are. Come with me. There's something I want to talk about."

The summer heat is grazing my skin as I stand in front of my brother.

After he came to my room, he took me to the training ground without saying a word.

" ... " I silently wait for him to start talking.

After a couple of minutes of silence, he begins his confession.

"... You know Will, I've always been jealous of you," he starts casually.

"You are talented at spellcasting. I mean, to think that you managed to learn three elements on your first day is incredible. It might not be one-of-a-kind sort of talent, but you're probably the most skilled spellcaster of your age in the entire kingdom."

I wanted to retort and tell him that it's because I'm only nine, but I realized that that was the point. Ed doesn't know that I've had nearly thirty years of life experience, nor does he know that I've reincarnated. And besides, I can sense that it's not the time for me to be joking around.

"Your sword skills are also pretty good. They're usually overshadowed by your magic, but I know that you're pretty talented," Edward continued, his tone turning more and more serious.

I couldn't see what he's getting at. After all, he is...

"You're way better than me when I was your age. You see, I'm pretty prideful. Seeing my little brother surpass me in almost every skill set I've dedicated myself to was disheartening. Especially considering that he doesn't even particularly care about them in the first place."

I can't reply to that. Edward is right. I didn't really care about becoming a fine knight or a skilled mage. Training with dad was fun. Trying to think up a way to defeat an opponent, leagues stronger than me, made for a good challenge and ignited my competitive spirit. I don't like studying the artoglyphs, but learning new things about a world so different from mine was interesting. It sparked my curiosity that I felt had long since died.

"But, Will... Most importantly, I hated myself."

He stops here. After a slight pause, he continues as his bitter voice reverberates through the surroundings.

"For being so inept. For feeling envious of my little brother's talents. For having ambitions that are most likely beyond my reach."

His words strike a chord with me. I can feel them permeating my consciousness. Self-hatred, disappointment... I can't help but see my past self in him.

But, he is not me. And he isn't my past self either.

" That's why I've decided to accept my lack of ability and move on. But before that... There is one last thing I have to do."

His tone suddenly feels lighter. As if he's letting go of a heavy burden. It doesn't feel like he's talking to me. It's almost as if he's just saying this to himself.

"Will... No, William, will you agree to a sparring session with me?"

I feel like I only have one choice. I don't say anything. Instead, I take a wooden sword in my hand. That is my answer.

We start moving at the same time, but he is faster. Before I can even imagine a canvas, he slashes at me, forcing me into defense.

He keeps repeatedly attacking, not giving me any chances. I don't have enough time to cast spells, and I can't keep up with his torrent of slashes.

After all, he is Edward Arklight, one of the most talented knights of the kingdom.

This reminds me of my fight against dad a few weeks ago.

I decide to wait for an opportunity, just like my dad in that sparring session. I'll search for an opening and, in the right moment, deflect his attack!

At that second...

I see a dangerous glint in his eyes. A shiver runs down my spine— he's leading me in!

Edward deliberately laid a trap. Now that I know that, I can see that he isn't fully committing to his blows and still has leeway. Damn it, he has only started, and I already can't keep up!

I keep dodging his strikes, deflecting those that I can't evade in time.

Suddenly, Edward goes for an overhead slash. I can sense from the motion that this time he puts all his force into it. 

Did he make a mistake? The sword is too slow. I know I can dodge it! I focus on the rising blade, trying my best to predict its trajectory and—

Suddenly, I see a blinding ray of light.

The sun behind his sword blinds my eyes.

I can't see the outlines of his sword, so dodging is impossible. 

My brain races, struggling to find a way to escape this situation. Soon, I reach a conclusion.

This is it. 

I've lost.

The moment that thought goes through my head, I feel immense dissatisfaction surging in my chest. 

Not yet. I can't lose yet.

I desperately jump away while desperately trying to block his invisible strike with my sword. At the same time, I start to visualize.

Dark purple.

I close my eyes for but a moment, and when I open them, I see Edward's blade closing in.

I see, so I failed to block it.

His blade is closing in as I'm suspended midair—


I block it with my left hand, which is covered in dark purple magic.

I can feel the impact of my hand clashing with his sword. I'm lifted off the ground, and I find myself flying through the air. I brace myself for the landing.

Finally, I feel my feet touching the ground.

As I deal with the recoil, Edward starts speaking.

"So the sun trick is not enough, huh? To think that you can cast spells that fast..."

"...What do you think you're doing, using that trick against a nine-year-old? Are you so keen on bullying kids?"

"Well, you're wrong about that. After all, I would never raise my hand on a nine-year-old and never will."

What is this guy saying? You're doing it right now! Regardless of that, there's a reason why I can't lose yet...

"Hey, Big bro, you're still holding back, right? Why're you not using magic?"

That's right. He hasn't used magic a single time. He's only been using his sword.

Edward Arklight is a famous knight. At only twenty years old, he's proven himself to be one of the strongest knights in the entire kingdom. Especially when it comes to close-distance duels.

Part of the reason for that is because of his swordsmanship. He has some of the best sword skills among all of the knights in service of the kingdom. But the main reason for his fame is his earth magic, the only element at his disposal.

He can't use any advanced-level spells like mages can. But, his casting speed for low-level earth spells and his control over them is second to none in the kingdom.

"I wanted to win this fight through pure swordsmanship but... Very well! William, from now on, I will go all out!"

That's what I was waiting for. There's no way... There's no way he can come to a resolution if we both don't go all out!

I immediately start casting.

Dark blue.

I start with a water fan, a spell that covers a wide area, so it's harder for him to dodge.

I swing my arm to launch it... 

And immediately lose my footing.

The ground beneath me shifts: a part of the ground lifts up just a bit.

That's enough for me to lose my balance. The water fan hits the ground. Edward is already closing in with another spell ready.

He launches a ball of hardened earth towards me and closes in for a slash.

I dodge the spell and block his sword with mine.

Our blades collide, but since my stance is still broken, I lose my balance.

He goes for another strike, not giving me any room to breathe.

This is not enough. I need to be faster.

I can feel all of my body creaking as it struggles to keep up with the fight.

Dark purple

I block his sword with the spell in my left hand, using the impulse from the strike to slash him with the sword in my right. He dodges and launches earth magic at me.

My body is still stuck in a half-turned state after my slash, so I'm unable to evade the spell.


I use the magic in my left hand to propel myself in the direction of my previous swing.

The boost forces me to roll away.

When I lift my head, I see another earth spell right in front of me— I dodge it by a hairbreadth and block the incoming horizontal sword slash.

Instead of trying to stand my ground, I use the force of his attack to jump to the side.


I launch another spell at him before I even land and prepare for an overhead slash.

Before the dark spell even reaches him, I rush forward and prepare more magic.

Dark blue.

He dodges the first spell and sees me sweeping in with an overhead slash— 

And finds himself blinded by the sun.

I can see his shocked face. I'm only one step away from him. Even before I make that step, I launch a water spell at the left side of his abdomen.

Somehow, he blocks that spell with his blade by sheer instinct— But it's already over!

I plant my foot firmly in the ground to deliver the finishing blow!


I lose my footing.

That's when I notice his left hand pointing at the ground exactly where my foot was just a second ago.

My slash misses, and I attempt to restore my stance—

But feel his training sword touching my neck.

For a few seconds, we stand in silence.

I lost.

Nevertheless, I feel satisfied.

"Have your feelings come to a resolution now?" I ask.

"Yeah, I think I can accept them now," Ed replies, his tone bright and cheerful, like usual.

"Have you realized that you've no reason to feel jealous of me?"

"No, I've realized that I need to work harder to keep up with the role of a big brother."

"You know, I'm not really planning to become the kingdom's strongest knight or anything. I don't think I can become as strong as you."

He doesn't reply. He merely smiles, convinced that my words won't come true.


We're standing in front of the main entrance to our house, discussing the sparring session we had.

" To think that you would use my sun trick against me in such manner... You even used dark magic as a smokescreen. It's so dark that it increases the blinding effect of the sun rays... Well, anyway. Are you ready?" He asks.

Ready for what? What does he even mean?

Despite clearly feeling my confusion, he doesn't elaborate.

He kindly smiles at me and opens the door and behind it—

"Happy birthday!"

There is my entire family congratulating me.

I stand still, puzzled and unable to muster a single word.

"I told you that I would never raise my hand on a nine-year-old!" Ed says, smirking like a child who just pulled off a successful prank. 

As if raising your hand on a ten-year-old is much better... I want to retort but end up keeping quiet.

Mom walks up to me and hugs me gently.

"To think that my little William is already ten... I can remember when you were just born. You were so small... Look at you now!"

Yes, Mom, I can also remember that time.

Despite playing the straight man in my head, I am actually pretty moved. So much so that I still can't say anything.

"Come on, Nora, give him some breathing room. Don't just stay at the entrance."

"... Yes, honey is right. William, let's go to the living room."

She looks at me affectionately, and I can feel her warmth seeping through my body.

"Heh, is little Will too embarrassed to say anything?" Edward teases me.

"...Thank you," I finally manage to squeeze out the words of gratitude.

After some time, we finally get to the living room.

"Hey, Will, we also have a present," my brother announces, his words filled with kindness.

He walked up to something covered in a cloth.

"Here we go!"

And underneath that cloth, I saw— 

An easel.

An easel with a set of painting tools.

Paints, brushes, canvases, a palette... everything I need to start painting.

I'm speechless.

I know that all of those are pretty expensive, especially paints. Even though we are a Noble family, this gift must have cost them quite a sum.

"Come on, William. Try it out! We know you've been interested in drawing paintings for years. You've been saving up to buy a set for yourself, right?" Dad says with a rare smile on his face.

I comply and take the brush in my hand. I start thinking about what color I should pick and...

That's when I realize.

Realize what's this feeling of discomfort I feel.

I've already got the painting tools I wanted, so that means...

I have no goal left.

That's what I've been escaping from all this time.

Even though I was reborn in this world, nothing changed.

I still don't know my reason for living. I seek nothing from this world, and I just keep meaninglessly carrying on with my life.

Sure, the change in the environment revived me.

Learning about this entirely new world was fascinating.

Sparring against people who are way stronger than I pushed my limits and made me feel alive.

My family surrounded me with warmth and gentleness.

But. It was also the same back then.

When I was a kid, everything was fresh and fun.

Raised by a loving family, surrounded by good friends, I felt like I was in a paradise. But all good things come to an end.

And it's gonna be the same in this world.

Its novelty will fade, only to be replaced by suffocating boredom.

My expectations for the future will disappear as I will realize that there's nothing I strive for.

My life will turn into torture. My own idleness will threaten to drive me insane.

That's when I will cease living but will keep on existing.

I don't have a goal. This realization hit me once again, just like back then...

By the time I realized, I've finished my painting.


Dark blue.

Dark purple.

A man stands on a road in the middle of the forest.

The forest is so dark that he is unable to see a way forward.

The road he stands on ends, leading nowhere.

It ends in the middle of the forest, leaving him alone in the darkness.

Is that my answer? How pathetic. In these ten years, I haven't changed in the slightest.

I can feel something dark and heavy, threatening to crush me at a moment's notice. I can feel myself sinking further and further into the swamp of my dark thoughts...

Suddenly, I feel something warm on my shoulders and on my hand.

"Will, what an amazing painting!" Edward says.

I know he's lying. Art is not very widespread in the kingdom. It would be one thing if it was something realistic, executed in a technically impressive way. But my painting is the farthest thing away from that.

So there's no way he's actually impressed.

"That's right! Your father is a bit of a musclehead, so he can't really put it into words, but this is really something." Dad praises my work.

"Yes, I think it's an impressive work," Mom plays along.

They are lying.

And yet... I can feel warmth spreading through my chest. They are lying but somehow...

Those lies are overflowing with sincerity.

This dark, murky feeling hasn't disappeared, but it no longer binds me.

That's right. I knew that it won't be so easy to overcome myself. But I'm still kicking and ready to try my hardest.

The routine hasn't suffocated me yet, and even if it will... I just need to keep going.

It might not happen today or tomorrow. It might take years or even decades. But, I promise: I will draw a painting in bright colors.

That's how my tenth birthday came to a close. I finally stopped escaping from the truth. I haven't solved anything. At this rate, I will be back to how I was before death. But, as long as my family supports me, I feel like I can keep going.

That's what I thought. Before the news came:

The Duchy of Donwell has declared war on the kingdom.

My father and brother are to be sent with the army.

They are going on a war.