Part 1: Vagabond Arc "Ash-crowned Princess of Slaughter" Chapter 1: The Heroine Went Against Fate
The story unfolds unhurriedly.
Apparently this world was very similar to the "otome game" called Falling in Love on the Silver Wings, commonly known as "Silver Love".
Otome game... I didn't really understand it, but it appeared to be a story where a heroine cajoled several men, supporting them and being supported by them, in a picture-story-like game world.
I couldn't believe that such an unprincipled person really existed, but according to that woman's "knowledge", the "heroine" was supposed to be "me".
Alicia... My name, was the same as the name of the game's heroine. In the game, she had a family name, but it appeared to have changed when she was taken in by a noble family.
It seemed that Mum was a noble's daughter who fell in love with Dad, an apprentice knight, and eloped with him, according to the "knowledge".
So, with the noble blood flowing in my veins and the noble relatives I had, I felt I could live a more comfortable life than I did now if I chose to. In the past, when I didn't know anything, nobles would have seem to be an out of reach existence, but I would have still longed to live like a princess despite my fears.
But...with the "knowledge" I now had, I found the nobles to be more terrifying than admirable, and above else a troublesome existence.
Besides, I had no intention of living a life influenced by the "fate" of the "otome game" that woman was so obsessed with.
That woman was convinced that this was a game world, but having acquired "knowledge", such a world is realistically impossible, I thought.
I am "me". I'm not a character in a game. I'm a single human living in this world.
I will defy fate and survive on my own. I had acquired the "knowledge" to do so.
Truth be told, in order to avoid getting involved in the game I should verify the content to some extent, but perhaps I couldn't obtain the rest of that woman's information and personality without implanting the magic stone into my heart, so my knowledge of her previous life was vague in my mind.
It may be that, in trying to reject that woman, I repelled the essential parts of her so I didn't get any knowledge in that area.
But, I already smashed that magic stone and threw it in the gutter. And even if I hadn't broken it I didn't plan to ever touch it again.
Nevertheless, when I tried to piece together my vague knowledge of the game, supplemented by my knowledge of other stories, I was able to get a rough idea of the main points of the story.
The cheerful, kind and hard-working heroine was actually the result of an elopement between a noble's daughter and an apprentice knight, and has been living in a church as an orphan ever since her parents were killed by rampaging monsters.
One day, she was found by the nobles and went to the school where the children of nobles go. There she became friends with the prince and his followers, and got bullied by his fiancé, the "villainess". Obtaining a Divine Protection in a dungeon, she went on an adventure to defeat the Demon King, and somehow had a happy ending. Such were the nonsensical contents of the story.
...Truly worthless. Even without becoming a noble, or marrying a prince, humans could keep on living.
I will not let anyone say that I was born for such "nonsense".
For the time being, I decided to head towards the neighbouring town which was in that woman's "knowledge".
According to that woman's "knowledge", this appeared to be a major nation called Claydale, located on the Thurs continent in a world called Ciel. The region where I was located was a barony in the northernmost part of Claydale, though that woman didn't remember the exact name of the place.
The reason I wanted to move to the neighbouring town was because the town I had been living in was more like a "big village". If it was the neighbouring town where the feudal lord, a Baron, lived, I thought there would be more places to hide than here for a murderer like me.
In fact, I wanted to get away from this barony before the nobles find me, but I was still a child and I couldn't handle long journeys, and in order to enter a walled city, you need to pay a tax of one silver coin per entry...that was about right for the small town I lived in.
Given that one had to pay taxes again to leave the barony and pass through other territories, the average commoner didn't travel much.
But there was a way to avoid paying this toll.
By accurately paying the appropriate annual income tax to the feudal lord, you will be able to acquire "citizenship" and travel anywhere in the territory. You can even buy peddling rights from the Merchants' Guild, which will give you a discount when travelling to other territories.
And then there's the Adventurers' Guild. If you register there and reach a high enough rank, you'll be able to travel freely within the country.
Naturally, there was no way I could suddenly become a high rank, but even as a beginner of Rank 1, you can come and go as you please in the town you had registered in.
The Adventurers' Guild was originally derived from the Mercenaries' Guild, which was supported by the Merchants' Guild, and adventurers were mercenaries who specialised in exploration, working alone or in small groups to eliminate monsters and explore ruins and uncharted regions.
But nowadays, they were just raiders of ruins or miners who supply the city with magic stones obtained from monsters. They had become the so-called "jack-of-all-trades", but even so, high-ranked adventurers who could defeat powerful monsters as an elite few were still treated favourably.
However, in order to register in the Adventurers' Guild it seemed that at a minimum you needed to be Rank 1...meaning you must have at least a level 1 combat skill.
...Skill? I tilted my head in confusion at the word that emerged so easily in my mind. As an orphan, a child with no knowledge or wisdom, I had never heard of "skills", but now was not the time to think about it so I would have to postpone it.
For now, my goal was to raise a combat skill to level 1 and become an adventurer. Any skill will do. However, while staying in this town seemed dangerous, heading to the neighbouring town was also a problem.
First of all, I was only a child, so even if I could get into the town, as a seven-year-old child, I'd be deceived by bad adults and would either be sold or killed.
So at the very least before entering the town, I needed to have the ability to run away from the likes of thugs. If possible, it would be great to gain a combat skill in the process, but I thought it would be difficult to learn a skill with only "knowledge".
First of all, I needed to ascertain what I could and could not do. Therefore, I decided to hide somewhere on the main road that connected this rural town with the neighbouring town.
The opposite side of the neighbouring town...apparently had monsters if you headed north for a while, but there were no monsters in these parts. The only ones you might encounter were wolves, and even then they were rarely seen unless you go deep into the forest, as there were soldiers patrolling the area on a regular basis. For me, the patrolling soldiers were more troublesome than the occasional wolf.
The horse-drawn carriage left for the neighbouring town early in the morning and arrived in the evening. That would mean less than two days on foot. It would probably take a child's legs twice as long.
If it was that far away, there must be a campsite somewhere along the way. Any such place would probably have a water source nearby, which would make it my first destination.
Bong...Bong... The bell of the town's clock tower rang twice and awoke my half-conscious mind.
That bell rang every four hours, once at midnight, so twice told me that it was now four in the morning.
Those who worked on the farm were awakened by the current bell, and the townspeople began their work when the bell rang at the eight o'clock. The orphans of the church began to work at four in the morning, but the old hag only woke up at eight, so it should be a little more until her death was discovered.
After checking that the faraway sky was getting brighter, I left the forest near the town in which I had been hiding and started walking along the road towards the neighbouring town.
I didn't know how far it was until the campsite, but surely even going at a child's pace could get me there by midnight...is what I thought, but I had underestimated a child's lack of stamina.
I had only spent four hours walking...even so, I thought I did pretty well. When the sky brightened and I heard the faint sound of the bell ringing thrice in the distance, I reached my limit and plonked myself down.
Well, if I thought about it, there was no way a child could walk for hours with hardly any food and very little sleep.
As expected, I felt a dizzying, dull headache and decided that this was a bad idea, so I slapped my weak, shaking legs and hid myself in the woods a few metres away from the road.
Dropping my luggage, I sat down to rest my back against the trunk of a large tree.
Exhaling lightly, I took the leather canteen out of my luggage and poured the leather-smelling water down my throat as though I were devouring it out of thirst, choking heavily on the fruit wine which had been mixed with the water to prevent it from spoiling.
Nevertheless, I managed to regain my breath, and as I put the water in my mouth with small sips, perhaps due to the fruit wine, my body warmed up and my consciousness became clearer.
Simultaneously, I felt very hungry and grabbed some white bread from the old hag's rations I had brought with me. Surely it would be best to eat this as soon as possible, as it would go mouldy if left for too long. Thinking so, I bit a mouthful. The nostalgic taste reminded me of the time I spent with my family a long time ago.
Soft white bread was a luxury item, and even when I was with my family we only ate it for celebrations, but I always looked forward to it when I was younger.
I used to wonder why my father, who was a soldier, apologised to my mother for not being able to eat white bread every day, and why she laughed and shook her head, but if my mother was a noble just like in that woman's knowledge, then my father's behaviour made sense.
To deceive my slightly lonely feelings, I bit off a piece of bread and washed it down with water from the canteen. I was finally able to feel comfortable when my belly was full.
Once I calmed down, I noticed the pain in my feet and frowned. All the children in the orphanage were barefoot. It was the first time for me to wear sandals and I wasn't used to them, so the skin chafed and bled.
It was painful...but not scary. After confirming that the wound wasn't serious, I found a clean, washed hand towel in my luggage and cut it into pieces with the knife to make a bandage.
While I did some simple treatment on the wound I got on my hand when I fought with that woman last night, I took the opportunity to wash it with the water mixed with fruit wine from the canteen and wrap it with the bandage I made.
...Even though I should have the "knowledge", a child's fingers were unexpectedly clumsy so it took me quite a while to finish the treatment.
"...Low on water."
I couldn't bring a lot of water with me when I left because I had other luggage to take. I also used some water for my treatment, so I had very little left.
Maybe due to the fact that I was worried about the remaining drinking water, that woman's "knowledge" was roused to the surface.
Small children must drink a lot of water. I see, it seemed that my previous state was due to a lack of water. When I wondered what I should do, I learned that it would be good to take in sugar and "vitamins" together with water from fruits.
That woman didn't really know what "vitamins" were, but surely they must be important. Still, where in this forest could I find such a fruit?
Then the "knowledge" surfaced again and when I looked around a bit, I discovered a chest-high shrub with blackberries growing on it.
They were a type of berry that could be found anywhere in the southern part of the continent where this country was located.
When I picked one and licked the juice after pealing it with my fingernails, the taste was barely sweet, the sourness was strong and it was a little astringent. It was usually not eaten raw, but made into jam or dried.
Still, that didn't mean you can't eat it raw. After making sure there were no snakes, I used a large leaf from nearby...Tosol grass? as a plate and picked some blackberries.
Thanks to my bulging belly, I suddenly felt drowsy. Nevertheless, I had to do what I had to do, so I decided to organize my luggage.
The luggage I brought from the orphanage consisted of a few clothes and fabrics, food and several coins.
The simple clothes I was currently wearing were what most commoner children wear, and since there was no distinction between men and women they were a little big, but I thought they were fine for now.
Why were there children's clothes in the old hag's room? Having acquired "knowledge", I realised that the cloth, although second-hand, was of good quality and that it was intended for the orphans to wear when the old hag was selling them.
There was only one piece of white bread left, along with some dried meat and a block of dried cheese, which should last me another three days if I divided them up a bit.
The money, including what that woman had with her, amounted to 15 silver coins, 8 small silver coins and 13 copper coins. A few copper coins would pay for a meal in a shop or stall, and one silver coin would pay for three days in an inn, so it was quite a lot of money.
And then, the problem was the contents of the bag that woman had been carrying.
The slightly dirty underwear was disgusting, so I threw it away and searched the depths of the bag. There was a bundle of withered grass and two ceramic vials that looked like potions. Then, out came a small book, like a notebook.
"...Unusual." Having seen the book, the "knowledge" I hold gave me such an impression.
Books were expensive but not that rare. According to the "knowledge", this continent used to rely on parchment made of animal hides, but 120 years ago plant-based paper started to be used was becoming mainstream.
The material used was the Tosol grass that I used earlier as a plate. This grass had large leaves covered in short, fluffy hairs and was very soft, which was why it had been used for centuries for cleaning up after using the toilet.
In fact, I had used it, but it could be said that there was no other use for it. The leaves were soft but had long fibres that only goats would eat.
It was said that plant-based paper originated when an old noble disliked the idea of wiping with leaves, so he had an alchemist research it by grinding and boiling it.
When heated, the Tosol grass lost its colour and became a slightly yellowish paper, and its quality had improved over the decades, so a book that used to be worth no less than ten gold coins now cost around a tenth of its original price.
Well, it didn't really matter, but the reason I said it was "unusual" was because the book was made of parchment.
The book had been re-written so many times it became worn down and flimsy, but it contained detailed descriptions of medicinal herbs and poisonous plants, as well as mushrooms and minerals that could be used to make medicine, accompanied by many carefully drawn illustrations.
I wondered whether there was such a side to that woman...but apparently she stole it from the personal belongings of the master of sorcery she was studying under.
...That woman, she was completely hopeless.
But I was grateful for this. I had "knowledge" and could understand the meaning of the letters, but to read and write the text, I needed to "learn". This will be a great teaching material.
One of the two potions was also stolen from the master and was a considerably high-grade restorative medicine, which that woman intended to use to cure me after she implanted the magic stone into my heart.
And the bundle of withered grass was instead a bundle of "medicinal herbs". However, these were nothing special, they were just some common grasses that grow everywhere and are commonly used as household medicine.
I took one of the herbs and chewed it in my mouth. A grassy smell pierced my nose, but I persevered and kept chewing, then I rubbed it into my injury and rewrapped the bandage.
By the time I realized it, the sun had risen considerably. Sensing that I was nearing the limit of my ability to stay conscious, I gathered up my luggage and put it on my back. I took the knife and cut off my long hair, which I had been told to grow out by the old hag in order to sell it, with a single stroke.
I devoured the berries I've been picking and, like a wounded beast healing its wounds, hid myself in the shadow of a tree and calmly closed my eyes, alert to my surroundings.
Not long ago, I was afraid of "darkness". I was afraid of "pain". I was afraid of "hunger" and "loneliness". But the reason I was afraid was because I didn't know how to survive.
I opened my eyes slightly and swung my knife at the head of the snake, which was nearly at my feet. Head pierced, the snake wriggled for a while and, undisturbed by any emotion, I watched it slowly become motionless.
I was afraid because I didn't know anything. But I was not afraid any more. Because now I had the "knowledge" to understand the degree to which I will not die, I had no reason to be afraid any more.
Have I come to feel this way due to the decades of knowledge I had obtained from that woman?
But, all that was irrelevant. I am "me". No one else but Alicia.
With this thought in mind, in order to relieve the fatigue of my body, I fell into a slightly thin sleep, remaining alert to my surroundings.
I will properly update every day until I run out of stock.
- [+] Something that was added in the light novel.
- [–] Something that didn't make it into the light novel.
- [≠] Some difference in details.
- [–] A description of the state of the monsters beyond the neighbouring town.
- [–] A reflection of why the old hag had nicer clothes for children in her room.
- [–] A line about that woman's dirty underwear being in her bag. Ew. Now it makes sense why it was a "problem".