Chapter 2:

William Arklight (part 2)

Painted Tale

It's been a couple of years since then. I've already learned the alphabet and around four hundred artoglyphs. Today, my father called me to the training ground. He didn't tell me why, but I think I have a pretty good guess...

"Starting from today, you are going to be practicing swordsmanship," my father says the moment I appear on the training ground.

" ... " I stay silent.

I've been expecting this to happen sooner or later. Still, I'm once again surprised by the standards of this world. Studying since five years old and learning how to handle a sword since seven... Isn't this world a bit too harsh towards children?

" ...? So where is the sword?"

In these 2 years, I became way more fluent, so the words that come out of my mouth are much smoother than before.

"What are you talking about? Obviously, the first step is to train your body. You rarely come out of the house, so you are probably way less fit than the other kids your age, right? We are going to make up for that. Start with 20 laps around the training ground. Go! "

" ... "

For some reason, I have a feeling that hell awaits me...


I'm lying on the ground, totally winded.

Damn it, to think that PE would be my downfall...

He was right about me being totally out of shape, or rather, I was never fit in this life in the first place. Wait, is that why we started practicing so early? No, there's no way... Right?

"Ehm, Dad, at what age do kids normally start studying swordsmanship?"

"Mm? Well, only children belonging to a knight household study swordsmanship anyway. They usually begin at around ten, although they start training their bodies several years before that. At your age, training usually involves only light exercises... But you are too out of shape, so I decided to go a bit further than that."

Curse you, my laziness!

"Good job, William. You can rest now. In ten minutes, we will keep going."

"Ugh," I groan. Was that not enough? You do know that I'm seven, right?

His words are dry, and his demands are strict, befitting a military man. I just wish he wasn't this harsh on his seven-year-old kid...

"Don't worry. It won't be physical training."

" ...? " I tilted my head, trying to figure out if that should make me happy or scared. Alas, my father, Edward Arklight, is a man of few words, and no explanation followed.

After ten minutes, he led me to the training dummies, stationed further away in the training ground.

"Now, you are going to start learning magic."

Magic. That word sparks my curiosity. Even though I've lived in a fantasy world for seven years already, I haven't seen it up close even once. I can feel myself being excited for the first time in ages.

"Magic is an integral part of our daily lives," he began his explanation. " All humans subconsciously use it to help them enhance their physical abilities. When the soul senses that health is deteriorating, it starts using mana, kept within itself to return the body to its natural state."


What is that? I thought that its meaning was the same as 'soul' from my previous world. Did I get it wrong?

"Yes, soul. The core of our existence. It is what forms our being. According to The Church's beliefs, when we die, our souls go through cleansing. When the soul is purified, it returns into the material world and is sent into a new body. Didn't your brother teach that to you?"

He did indeed. Apparently, The Church of this world believes in reincarnation. Oh, by the way, The Church refers to a specific religion accepted all around the world. It doesn't even have a name, or rather, The Church is its name. But that's beside the point.

"How is that related to magic?" I ask, trying to get back on topic. I could feel my impatience welling up.

"The soul is what gathers and controls the magic in your body. After all, it is the only thing that connects our bodies and consciousness to incorporeal."

I wonder how did they prove that it is connected to our bodies in the first place? Also, how do they know if it's what helps us use magic? Is soul something that has been proven to exist in this world? Or is it just beliefs of The Church that were accepted as a proper explanation? Regardless of the truth, I didn't voice my doubts: I don't want to be named a heretic quite yet.

"There's another way to use mana, besides the subconscious body enhancement. That is to cast magic."

Yes, finally! I can finally see magic in the flesh!

" Here, let me show you an example," he says and turns towards the training dummies.

He clenches his hand into a fist, seemingly collecting energy within it.

Next, he draws his arm back as if preparing to throw a punch.

Finally, he swings his arm forward to release the magic.

A slightly greenish ball, reminiscent of condensed wind, shots out of his hand. It hits the dummy, and the mannequin starts swaying back and forth from the impact.

"That was wind magic just now. Well, it was a low-level spell, so it's nothing too impressive. Still, even that level of magic can be life deciding on the battlefield."

I can easily imagine that being hit by that on the battlefield equates to death.

"Dad, does that mean that you can cast magic way stronger than this?"

" ... "

For a few seconds, silence descends between us.

" Ahem, while I can cast spells more impressive than this, they are not more impressive by much. After all, even casting low-level spells is impossible for a lot of the knights."

So that means no. Well, I kind of feel bad for asking now. Or rather, I feel bad for sounding so excited and forcing my father to disappoint his seven-year-old son... Well, at least now, I have a better grasp on the strength of magic in this world. Still, as he said, any even knowing low-level spells is a difference between heaven and earth. Although, thinking about having to use it in battle in the future makes me feel gloom.

As a person born in the twenty-first century, the idea of fighting to the death is too ridiculous for me. I really don't want to become a knight...

"Ok, William, it's time for you to try it as well," dad, seemingly recovered, tells me that it's my turn now.

I stand about seven meters away from the dummies. I begin remembering the dad's spell.

I clench my arm into a fist, draw my arm back, and—

Successfully punch the air!

Damn, I'm a natural at this!

While I'm still stuck looking like an idiot, Dad begins reassuring me.

"Haha, don't worry about it," my dad says, laughing a little. " No one succeeds on their first try. And besides, I haven't even finished explaining yet."

I thought that silently wishing for the magic to come out was enough. Didn't he say that it is controlled by our souls? How am I even supposed to manipulate the workings of my own soul?

"Listen, since it's controlled by the soul, it's heavily tied with the power of your imagination."

Soul and imagination? I think that it is a bit of a logical leap but decide to stay mum.

"Everyone has a different image they use to channel their mana into spells. That image is usually connected to the person's interests and defined by the power of their imagination. Often they also use a set of words, incantations, to help channel that image. Well, getting used to them requires a lot of practice. You need to forge an association in your head between the spell and the words. Basically, that can't be done immediately, so we'll leave that aside for now."

While I'm curious about incantations, I decide to focus on the other part.

An image. Connected to my interests and defined by my imagination...

I can see it...

...A painting brush moving along the canvas...

...Traces, left by the paints...

...Deformed shapes, filling up the view...

...Colors. Dark colors. Forming into a painting...

... Black. Purple. Dark blue...

By the time I notice it, I'm ready.

My arm is drawn back, my fist — clenched tight.

I take a deep breath.

I can still see an image of a canvas in my head.

A forceful swing of a brush, splashing dark blue all over the canvas.

I launch my arm forward and—

A dark blue water orb shots from my arm towards the dummy!

It hits it with so much power that the dummy starts swaying back and forth.

It takes me a second to process what just happened.


I did it! I can cast magic! I can't remember the last time I felt so excited.

Meanwhile, Dad finally comes to his senses.

"... Good job! I can't believe you succeeded on your first day! Hmm, I guess that means you have talent in magic. Let's practice some more. I want to see the full extent of your abilities."

And so, we kept practicing for several hours straight.

We found out that I can use three elements: water, darkness, and shadow.

No one knows how many elements are there, and the border between them can be incredibly vague. While not all knights can use spells, among those who can, there is still a decent number of them who can use two elements. However, those who can use three are already pretty rare. Or so my dad said. He added that most mages can use three or more, but there aren't many of those.

"Well, today was a fruitful day. Hmm, my son might have enough talent to become a mage..." a smile of a proud parent appeared on his face. "That's not even the limit. After all, you're only seven. Spellcasting is heavily reliant on the power of your visualization. Most people practice it for years to become mages and get to three elements." Suddenly he stops as if realizing something important.

"Ahem, talent is good, of course, but you shouldn't get too cocky. After all, if you don't back it up with hard work, any kind of talent is as good as no talent. Got it?"

"Yes, Dad, I will remember that," I replied.

There is something incredibly heartwarming about a taciturn soldier trying his best to be a good dad... Of course, I kind of feel bad that his effort is wasted on me. I still can't quite see him as my dad. Well, I guess I better try my best to be a good son.


The training is over, and I'm back in my room.

Today, I learned magic.

For the first time in years, I've experienced genuine joy.

I had fun.

I felt satisfied.

I wasn't just existing... I was living.

And yet...

There's a slight feeling of uneasiness that I can't shake off.

As if I'm missing something.

As if something is wrong.

As if this was but a fleeting illusion.

That's when I realize something.

In the mental image inside my head, when I was imagining a canvas...

I still...

I still couldn't see bright colors.