3: Encounter

Part 1: Vagabond Arc "Ash-crowned Princess of Slaughter" Chapter 1: The Heroine Went Against Fate

16 minutes
3110 words

In the end, I couldn't reach the campsite that day and only arrived in the afternoon on the following day.

I only consumed what was left of the white bread and a fragment of salty dried meat. Apart from that, I deceived my empty stomach with the blackberries that were everywhere.

According to my calculations, I had enough food for three days if I economised. Considering that I had to travel to the neighbouring town, I had to come up with some kind of fighting method within two days.


As nobody used the campsite during daytime, there was nobody else there except me.

I approached cautiously and touched the ashes of the campfire with my hand. The ashes were fresh, but had hardly any heat remaining. It had probably been used by a traveller who passed by this morning. There was no sign of water on the ashes, so perhaps the fire had not been used this morning.

That traveller didn't find me because I had used an animal trail in the woods along the road. Could the animal trail I used have been the one wolves used to attack people? But I didn't see any new fur or dung on the ground, so I guess wolves don't really come out here.

It would have been helpful if there had been some embers left as I wasn't equipped to light a fire, but I wasn't greedy.

I picked up a handful of ashes and smeared them on my head.

Although I have cut off my long hair, my pinkish blonde hair was still very conspicuous. It would be somewhat comforting later if my hair stood out a little less.


After stashing my luggage in the shadow of a nearby tree, I started to look for a water source with only my knife and canteen.

Thinking there must be one, I searched for it and found a stream running across the well-trodden path of the main road. Though that's slightly inaccurate. The stream ran under the road, gushing out into the forest on the lower side.

Looking upwards, I saw another stream slightly further down the path, flowing into a crevice, or perhaps a hollow in a rock, and then gushing out again under the path.

Fundamentally, I believed that the water in the river would be cleaner upstream, but I decided that it would still be dangerous to drink without boiling it.

For the time being, I washed my hands in the river's water, wet a cloth and wiped my body. It's not like I was a neat freak, but it would be foolish to leave sweat and grime all over my body and let the smell give away my presence.


Never mind water, I couldn't even prepare a fire because I was unable to find any flint in that orphanage, since the older orphans made fire with Daily Life magic.

In this world, there was "magic". To be precise, what was commonly used was called "sorcery". The difference between the two was that "magic" was the original form that had existed since ancient times, and "sorcery" was the one that had been academically analysed and made usable to a relatively large proportion of the population.

For example, would it be something like magic being a carriage you made from scratch, and sorcery being a commercial one? There was no question which one would be easier to learn until you could use it.

That woman was a sorceress and had a lot of knowledge in that subject. However, with the exception of her interests she was lazy, so parts of her knowledge were questionable. ...Troublesome.


There were six types of magic: Light, Dark, Earth, Water, Fire and Wind, which were elemental magic, but to be precise, it could be said that there were seven types, because there was also non-elemental magic.

People were able to use sorcery if they had the appropriate element and a certain amount of magic power.

There was no convenient tool that could easily check which elements you could use, so it took a lot of work just to find out, at which point the majority of commoners gave up trying to use sorcery.

Apparently that woman had imagined that there would be a convenient tool which could determine your elements just by holding your hand over it, so she was indignant at the reality. ...It was only unnecessary knowledge that she memorised well.

I did plan on learning sorcery eventually, but what I needed now was Daily Life magic.


Daily Life magic was classified as non-elemental. It could be used to make fire and produce water, but it wasn't generally understood why such magic wasn't elemental.

That woman's master had taught her about the difference in the amount of magic power used, the principle of causality that interferes with space, and other very important things that might have something to do with the roots of the world, but she had no interest and couldn't remember any of it.

There were six types of Daily Life magic, and many commoners could use them, but not all of them. According to the "knowledge", those who could use Daily Life magic were only able to use one or two of them.

Though not quite satisfactorily, that woman had been made to learn all six types of magic by her master in order to be considered a proper sorceress.


Creating a light source comparable to a candle with Light.

Cancelling Light magic and blocking the light of a lamp with Dark.

Hardening earth into a solid form with Hard.

Making a tiny flame with Fire.

Producing a cup's worth of water with Water.

Generating a gentle breeze with Wind.


Among these six, the one most people learned was Light and the second was Fire. The third was Water, but people rarely learned the rest. It wasn't because they couldn't learn them all, but simply because they couldn't be bothered to.

...But, wouldn't these be the foundation to use magic of the six elements?

The key point was that this Daily Life magic was not "sorcery" but "magic", which meant that even commoners could use it since it didn't need to be analysed like sorcery, so people could learn it through accidental "luck" by watching others use it over and over again.

That was why, if you were aiming to learn it, it was necessary to see it many times and learn it by feeling it with your skin.

And, on a fundamental level, elemental magic required the chanting of a spell, while non-elemental magic could be activated with only a single syllable.

So Daily Life magic, which was non-elemental, was considered to be easier to use because it didn't require a spell. But in practice, it seemed to be easier to use the analysed sorcery.


That woman had been forced to learn by her master, so she remembered the training methods very well.

However, I was stumped by the first step. It appeared that in order to do this, you had to be able to feel the magic power within you, but I didn't really understand what my own magic power was.

For now, I'll try to search for information about magic power in that woman's "knowledge".


First of all, all creatures in this world had "magic power" without exception. The reason for this was the existence of "magic particles" which were the foundation of this world.

Not only the air, but also the water and the earth were full of magic particles. Although there were many theories regarding the origin of magic particles, such as it being a blessing of the spirits or it being produced by souls, the essence was that by breathing, drinking water and eating the bounties of the earth and the meat of animals, the body would accumulate magic particles.

What turned the accumulated magic particles into a usable form of energy was magic power, and apparently if you had a certain amount of magic power, your body would produce a "magic stone" that generated magic power on its own, but I'll leave that aside for now.


In short, there was already magic power inside me. But perhaps due to the abundance of magic particles in my surroundings, I was unable to distinguish my own magic power.

It may be akin to asking you to feel the amount of oxygen inside you.

...I became quite argumentative because I acquired a lot of knowledge. But I wasn't conceited enough to think I could learn everything by feel, and I didn't have leeway to do things leisurely.

Well...I didn't know about oxygen amounts, but I knew about the water volume. According to that woman's knowledge, the water content of a child was about 70%.

I put a finger on the blood vein of my wrist. Thump...thump... My blood was flowing.

Magic stones were created with magic particles through the medium of blood. If that was the case, then magic power must be flowing in this blood as well. When I closed my eyes and concentrated on trying to feel the magic power supposedly flowing through my blood, there was a faint...something...


As a result, I felt a faint sensation, but I didn't know whether it was magic power or just my imagination.

Although it couldn't be helped that I was in a hurry, even though I had no leeway I got distracted. But I couldn't keep doing this, so for the time being, while looking for a place to hide my luggage, I kept an eye on the terrain around me, collecting blackberries and repeating the image of absorbing magic particles through breathing.


In the end, I was unable to feel the magic power. Perhaps this required a change in my way of thinking. Although it was difficult to feel the moisture in the air, I could feel it in the rain. So I had the feeling that it would be quicker to get someone to hit me with a lot of magic power, but this was unrealistic for someone like me who was avoiding people.

I hid myself in a rocky crevice I found a little way up the stream, and sorted through what else I had to besides learning magic as I brought the berries I had washed in the stream to my mouth.

I thought I should learn to use the knife. That woman was a sorceress, but she more or less had the technique to use a dagger with the Dagger skill.

At this point, let's have a little review of what I knew about "skills".


A skill was a technical ability that people possessed, not something extraordinary.

That woman seemed to think that skills were cheats that allowed her to do whatever she wanted, but the world was not so easy and, as usual, she arbitrarily got indignant.

While not a special ability, there appeared to be something called "divine protection", but that was different from skills.

That woman's master told her that skills were general abilities that were "burned in".

Apparently, when a person repeated an action consciously, it fused with the magic power inside the body and a phenomenon where the action was burned into the soul occurred.

Put into an easy-to-understand term, the result of that process was called "skill".

That was why it was possible to do the same thing even if you had no skill for it. However, if the action was burned into your soul, you would be less likely to fail and you would never forget it.

For example, it was said that if you missed one day of sword training, it would take you three days to regain the technique. But techniques learned to the point of becoming a skill were not forgotten, making training more efficient and allowing further techniques to be learned more easily.

Even if your physical condition had worsened or you became anxious, it was significantly easier in combat because you could perform actions subconsciously that used to be done consciously.

However, skills were not something that could be easily acquired, and raising the "skill level" required even more training.

But even getting a level 1 skill was not as simple as learning the martial arts form, you had to perform the correct movement over and over again to acquire the skill.

In that woman's case, it took her almost three years to get the Dagger skill level 1 because she wasn't willing to learn it. Conversely, she acquired Fire magic skill within a few months, but wasn't that simply a matter of preference, not talent?


That woman was a Rank 2 sorceress.

Rank 2 meant having two levels in a combat related skill. That woman's skills were level 2 in Fire magic and Water magic, and level 1 in Dagger, I think? There were others, but they were general techniques so the memory was vague.

Skill level 1 meant you were a beginner, but not an amateur. It seemed to be common sense in this world that when you reached level 2, you were finally considered to be full-fledged in that field.

When your skill reached level 3, you would become a professional, making you suitable to be hired by nobles. At level 4, nobles and the state would try to recruit you, and at level 5 you would become someone respected and have people seeking your instruction, generally referred to as a "master".

However, there were even higher levels. At level 6, you would be someone who stepped beyond the boundaries of humanity. Someone like that would be the head court sorcerer of a great nation, or an instructor for an order of knights with a title such as "Sword Saint". They were such godlike existences.

According to unconfirmed information, the skill level went up to 10, and if you reached that level, you would no longer be a "human", but a "demigod". It was just a fairy tale legend though.


It looked like that woman had always been dissatisfied with the fact that skills weren't cheats, but I am relieved that skills were not the "easy power given by God" that she thought they were.

Because, wouldn't that mean being ruled by an uncertain existence called "God"?

A special ability given out with ease always carries with it the fear that it could just as easily disappear at the whim of the being who granted it.

That was why I had no interested in something like a powerful weapon of which there was only one in the whole world. Because something that could be snatched away couldn't be called as my own "strength".


While I was thinking about this, it was getting dark. I had eaten berries, so I wasn't hungry. But the amount of water in my canteen was making me feel quite uneasy.

I could keep hydrated with berries, but that wasn't enough, so if I couldn't learn Daily Life magic, I'd have to drink water from the stream at great risk.

Deciding to think about magic power after dark, I thought I'd practice with the knife a bit before dark.

I tried practising a knife stance that was present in that woman's knowledge of the Dagger skill. Apparently, since the time I stabbed that woman, I've been able to at least subconsciously grip the knife properly.

"...—"

I took a stance with one leg bent in front and the other extended behind while pushing the knife with one hand into the front to reduce the area of my body susceptible to an attack.

Slow. Even if this was the first time I was trying to use the knife properly, it was too sloppy. Let's stop trying to do any other forms and first practice only this one thrust.


After repeating the thrusting form several times, I exhaled when the sun had set and I could barely see.

I was concentrating so hard that the area was completely enveloped in darkness and the only sound was that of the water flowing nearby.

Let's practise feeling magic power a little and go to sleep, thinking this, I saw a flicker of scarlet light in the distance.

Is there someone at the campsite? I had no intention of making contact with people yet, but if they were bandits or something, I'd better leave this place. With this in mind, I quietly peeked through the bushes at the campsite, and as I watched the back of a big man in black leather armour roasting meat on a skewer near the fire, the man suddenly raised his voice.


"Who's there!? Come out!"

Author's Note

These are the maps of the Thurs continent, where Alicia lives, and Claydale, the major nation where the story takes place.

Please think of the continent as being about the size of Australia.


World Map


Claydale Map


Historically, Claydale annexed two other nations into itself.

The protagonist's current location is the Barony of Horace, part of the Earldom of Taurus on the north. It looks small, but it's about half the size of Tokyo's 23 wards.

The smaller sections are the territories of the nobles.

The same nobility also includes knights and quasi-barons, who don't own land but instead work under nobles of the baron rank or higher governing villages and towns. There are also noble families who only own estates and do not rule any land.


Next time: The man's true identity.

Translator's Note

There's a translated map of the world even though it's from the light novel. They're basically the same from what I've seen.

Differences when compared to the light novel

Legend:

  • [+] Something that was added in the light novel.
  • [–] Something that didn't make it into the light novel.
  • [≠] Some difference in details.
Show differences
  • [–] Her using an animal trail and not seeing any indication of wolves.
  • [–] The existence of a second stream further down the path.
  • [–] Learning magic by feeling with the skin.
  • [+] A "...Can't be helped." utterance before searching the "knowledge".
  • [–] The oxygen and water analogy, along with her thoughts about becoming argumentative due to the acquired knowledge.
  • [+] Note about technique to analyse skills.

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