Chapter 2:

New Life, New Chances

ZAUBER: the thread that binds us

It was confusing, growing up in a new body—living a new life—when the memories of his past life persisted. Kenji, now called Paltar, felt that everything was happening both too fast and too slow for his liking.

This was his second chance. And in this life, he would follow his passion instead of succumbing to the pressures of life. Whenever he could, he thought about his designs, drawing inspiration from the life around him. To escape his duties on the farm, he would usually sneak into the barn, where he played with the animals or drew in the mud.

This time, he would become a tailor, not a mindless drone for some corporation that wanted to squeeze every last drop of energy out of him. With a sigh, he dropped into the hay, the familiar smell of it mixing with the animals around him. A goat bleated somewhere.

It was nice. It was peaceful. He was only ten.

"Paltar, where are you? The chickens need to be fed," his mother called across the farm.

Of course, this life wasn't easy. With a groan, he got up and walked out of the barn. Until he was old enough to leave here for an apprenticeship, he would have to help out on the farm. In front of the house stood his mother, and the bucket that was so big in his own hands seemed so small in hers. She was warm, and tall, and her smile was as bright as the sun.

"There you are."

And she could spot him a mile away. He hurried over, but his mind was elsewhere. Maybe he could borrow his brother's woodworking knife and try tocarve a crochet hook? If he started practicing now, he might have the skills to crochet lace later, if he could remember the movements from that one workshop. His hands certainly didn't remember them.

"Come now, stop daydreaming. The chickens are waiting."

With that, she set the bucket down in front of him and turned.

"When you're done, join me inside. I need your help with your father's clothes. His socks are full of holes again."

She huffed, but Paltar's eyes lit up.

"Of course, Mama," he said, grabbing the bucket.

At the coop, the sound of chattering chickens greeted him. While this wasn't his favorite chore—that would come later—he still enjoyed spending time with his feathered friends. They didn't judge him or his abilities. And they didn't care if he was a little strange.

He dumped the contents of the bucket right in the middle of the chickens, and as he watched them fight over soggy lettuce and stale leftovers, he unfocused his eyes. He could see their life threads, fine strings that reached out to the other birds, connecting them into one great web. Paltar didn't use his ability often—his mother certainly disapproved of it—but he couldn't help but feel that it would come in handy sometime in the future. He gently traced the strings, watching them stretch slightly under his touch. He still didn't fully understand his ability, so he was careful when using it.

"Paltar!" his mother's voice boomed.

"I'm coming!"

He ran back into the family house. It was cool inside, and he could smell the tea that his mother had brewed from dried apple pieces and raspberry leaves. She had already prepared a cup for him by his chair.

"Let's get to work, then," she said, a gentle smile spreading across her face.

She hummed a tune as they worked their way through the pile of clothes on the table. He was getting faster with his needlework, but they still spent hours on mending the various holes and tears his father and older brothers had accumulated.

"They should know to be more careful," his mother complained. "I don't have the time to make them new clothes."

His eyes lit up.

"How about... you teach me, then?" he asked. "I could help you with that."

"Ah, Paltar," she replied, ruffling his chestnut hair. "You're such a good boy."

He worked hard for his future. It wasn't as if he would inherit the farm, after all. His brothers would be first in line. A whole generation of strong boys, as his father liked to say. Paltar knew he was proud of each and every one of them. He closed his eyes, and focused on his own life threads. The one that connected him to his mother glowed green, just like another that disappeared in the distance. His father must still be working in the fields. His brothers, too, if he interpreted the caramel-colored strings correctly.

"How are they doing?" his mother asked.

Of course she knew. He couldn't hide anything from her. She might disapprove, but at least, she didn't punish him for using his ability.

"Still working, I think," he finally answered.

"Good. There's much to do," she said, and went back to mending the sock in her hand.

The years flew by. Paltar honed his skills, and when the time came, he said goodbye to his family and their farm. Then, he went wherever the threads led him, and ended up as one of Meister Folderich’s apprentices. The work wasn't always fun—he mostly had to take measurements and run the shop—but there were always opportunities to work on his own designs. If he could afford the fabric, of course. Since his and Meister Folderich's tastes in fashion were quite different, he wasn't supported in his endeavors like some of the more fashion-conservative apprentices. Paltar didn't care if they made fun of his dresses. He cared for honing his skills and finding customers.

"Paltar!" Meister Folderich rushed toward him. "Put down that waste of fabric, and open the shop."

Paltar sighed, and moved the needle from his hand to his mouth. The dress was far from finished and his Meister had already belittled his ruffles and called the ribbons 'garish'. The man didn't know anything! Still, he was the master tailor, and he had to follow his orders. He carefully folded his latest project and put it in his bag, which he placed near the counter. The bag was too small, and the dress spilled out. But that wasn't a problem. If someone thought the dress was important enough to steal it, Paltar might just feel flattered.

Meister Folderich was already gone, his focus on another order. Paltar used this brief moment to take a break, go outside and let his thoughts wander. A gust of warm air greeted him as he stepped out into the sunlight and saw the busy streets. This world—or at least, this tailor shop—wasn't ready for his designs yet. Although he was the fastest and hardest worker of the apprentices, he also argued the most with Meister Folderich. And as the master tailor, he didn't like to have his authority or taste questioned. Even though Paltar's work here was very different from the office job he had a lifetime ago, he still felt undervalued.

'Just one more year,' he thought. 'One more year, and I'll be free to open my own shop.'

It was a small relief. One more year of having his designs ridiculed... He knew he would survive that, just as he had survived his office job. At least until he had died.

He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice someone entering the shop, but Meister Folderich clearly did.

"Paltar," he shouted, "What is this goose doing in here?"