4: Magic Power
Part 1: Vagabond Arc "Ash-crowned Princess of Slaughter" Chapter 1: The Heroine Went Against Fate
"Who's there!? Come out!"
I was found!? The big man whose back was turned towards me stood up noiselessly, grabbing the great sword beside him.
I couldn't see the man's face clearly due to the backlight, but the sharpness of his eyes made me think he was no ordinary person.
"Is it a monster...? If you don't come out, I'll smoke you out myself."
The man said in a low voice, drawing his great sword, and the "something" that emanated from him made my body grow cold, limbs trembling.
Could this be what was known as "killing intent"? I blundered!. Even though I should have left immediately upon being questioned, my mind was momentarily paralysed by the first strong presence I felt despite the "knowledge" I had.
Slamming my fists into my still trembling legs, I immediately turned around and started running.
There was still a chance of escape. Unlike me, who had been lurking in the dark for a long time, he was by the fire, so his eyes must not be used to the dark yet.
Crossing my arms so as not to hurt my eyes with the bushes, I kept myself low and ran through the forest at night.
I heard the sound of snapping branches from the scattered bushes behind me. That man was chasing after me. Contrary to his strong presence, I couldn't hear his footsteps.
My heart was becoming ever more frightened, so like the time I killed the old hag, I sank my emotions deep inside and exhaled.
When I whipped my screaming legs into changing course at a right angle, the slightly louder noise of the bushes told me of the man's bewilderment.
Before it had time to subside, I changed course again and ran through the forest, hiding in the shadows of the trees, this time trying to kill the sound of my footsteps.
If he was still chasing me after this, it meant that he had a clear intention to kill me.
The electrifying presence of that man became distant. I eased my running speed to quieten the noise I made and held my breath. At that moment, I heard a gust of wind followed by the sound of a hatchet piercing the trunk of the tree I was hiding behind.
It wasn't that the man's presence had become distant. He suppressed his presence and searched for my position.
Realising that he had failed to kill me, the man charged fiercely through the forest. Fast—! My immature body didn't have any more stamina.
Judging that there was no escape, I waited for the moment the man made an overhead swing with his great sword, and willingly thrust myself out with the knife I had at the ready, aiming for the man's log-like leg.
But the man immediately used the handle of his great sword and slammed its pommel into me.
There was a sound of something hard breaking, along with the man's surprised voice. The impact of the blow knocked the air out of my lungs and I rolled through the forest after being blown away. I dazedly listened to the footsteps of the man running towards me as my consciousness sank into the darkness.
"Well, my bad, boy! You were quite nimble so I thought it was a kobold and gave chase."
I was currently sitting in front of the campfire at the campsite together with that man.
A kobold was a kind of low-ranked monster that looked like an upright dog, but I never thought I'd be mistaken for one.
Apparently, this man was an adventurer who thought that travellers would be in danger if there were monsters on the territory's main road, so he gave chase, but because I was running around too much, he became stubborn and attacked me.
"Here, it's not really meant as an apology, but eat up, eat up!"
The man offered me a skinned and chopped snake that he had been roasting on the fire moments ago.
I had never eaten a snake, but someone told me that the older boys of the orphanage ate the snakes they caught in the forest because they couldn't stand the frugal meals.
The green snake, which was common in this area, only had a weak paralytic venom, not a lethal one, and would not attack an animal larger than a field mouse except in self-defence.
The me right now wasn't creeped out by snakes like the other orphan girls. As if lured by the smell of burning meat, I grabbed the skewer and bit a mouthful. The light, juicy taste spread through my mouth.
To be honest, the flavour was thin and not very tasty. However, being hungry and malnourished from the start, I gobbled up the food and finally felt alive again after drinking some water that the man gave me.
"So, boy. What is a kid doing in this kind of place? Where are your parents?"
The man had properly misunderstood me as a "young boy" thanks to me cutting my hair short and smearing it with ashes.
Apparently, the man had a rather stern look on his face, but was a good person at heart...or should I say good-natured? Seeing me keeping silent in response to such common words of concern, he probably thought I was a street urchin without parents, sighed lightly and changed the subject.
"...Is it still sore?"
I shook my head slightly in response.
The man healed me with a level 1 Light sorcery called Heal.
There was a faint bruise halfway between my chest and left shoulder, still sore to the touch but not unbearably so.
There were two types of level 1 Light sorcery: Heal and Cure. Heal restored stamina, so it was able to close wounds but the pain wouldn't completely vanish.
The other one called Cure was able to heal wounds back to how they were before, but the range of effectiveness was small, the healing took time to finish and stamina would instead decrease.
Heal could also treat a wound completely without leaving a scar as long as it was something to the degree of a cut and it was still fresh, so because its effective range and recovery speed was high it had become the common medical treatment sorcery.
Cure's use case was for situations like a noble's child who was weak to pain, or a large wound that would leave a scar on a yet to be married girl. Due to how troublesome the construction of this sorcery was, it seemed that even those with the aptitude for it tended not to force themselves to learn it.
If Cure was used on my wound, it would immediately be restored, but this man couldn't use it.
I had many questions I wanted to ask, but I was still not ready to let my guard down around this man, so I looked down in silence and saw the knife that had been broken by the pommel of the great sword lying on the ground.
"Ah~... My bad. I broke your knife. But that knife isn't suited for combat. That thing was probably a dagger usually held by a noble's young lady to commit suicide in case things go south. The sharpness is good, but the blade is so thin it might chip just from hitting a rabbit's bone."
The man rambled on as if making an excuse for breaking the knife.
But it wasn't like I was blaming him. Not having a knife was troublesome, but it was also a result of my pointless attempt to escape, and without this knife there was a chance that my bones would have been broken, unable to be healed by the man's Heal.
With that thought in mind, when I shook my head slightly to show I wasn't blaming him, the man displayed a rather unsettled look and presented me the knife from his waist along with its sheath.
"Use this one instead. It's not that great, but I used it for dismantling monsters so it's quite durable."
After the knife was pushed on me, I took it out of its sheath to reveal an old but carefully sharpened steel blade. The length of the single-edged blade was about 20 centimetres, and although it was not as thin as my old knife, which made it more difficult to penetrate deeply, it would probably not chip against bone.
For a steel knife that has been wrought and forged, not just cast and sharpened, the price must be quite high. The fact that he would give it so easily to a street urchin, even if he felt obliged to do so, made him so good-natured that I felt foolish for being wary.
"...Thank you, uncle."
"I'm still 20 years old."
I thought he was about thirty, but he was surprisingly young. On a closer look, though he had a stern face, his skin was young. I couldn't tell because of his thick stubble, but he wasn't an ugly man, and his face that was sulking in a way that was appropriate for his age was even charming, which made me smile.
"Oh! You finally smiled. Kids are best when they're smiling."
I shook off the hand that was roughly stroking my head and, returning to a straight face, looked at the man.
"Hey, teach me the way to use magic power."
"Wh-what is it, so suddenly..."
"Because not being able to use Daily Life magic is inconvenient."
"I don't really get it but...in the first place, it wasn't like I learned it after someone taught me."
The uncle said that when using Daily Life magic, he started to feel an unusual "flow" within himself, which he recognised as magic power.
In short, the order of learning became reversed in my case. And even if you could use Daily Life magic, you wouldn't necessarily feel magic power. Apparently, when you learn Daily Life magic at an early age, the flow of magic power becomes so natural that you don't feel any discomfort as it flows through you.
In my case, as a result of acquiring poor "knowledge" and trying to sense the flow of magic power in my own way, I might have become accustomed to it.
At this rate, it may become difficult to learn sorcery properly. As expected, I felt that it would be faster to feel the strong magic power of someone else.
"Hey, can you use strong magic power?"
"Well, yes. My sorcery isn't a big deal, but if it's Body Strengthening then that can use quite a lot of magic power."
"Right now, could you do it?"
"I can, but...well, it's fine I guess. It's dangerous so step back."
Dangerous? If I remembered correctly, Body Strengthening was a skill used by warrior types to strengthen their physical abilities by channelling magic power throughout their body. How could that be dangerous? When I took a few unsure steps away from him, I felt a surge of power fill his body and the flames of the campfire shook violently.
So this is Body Strengthening. Just by looking at it, I could feel an overpowering force. I approached him carelessly as if charmed and touched his arm, the uncle's eyes widened in surprise.
At that moment, my hand was repelled with a crackling sensation and I fell on my back.
The uncle rushed over in panic. I wasn't hurt, but there was still a small, numbing pain in my hand, causing me to be dazed while he scolded me.
"I told you to step back! Nothing will happen if you are able to use magic power, but a child who isn't used to magic power will get shocked!"
"Mhm...that was surprising."
I was surprised and it hurt a little, but not so much that I couldn't move. As I stood up with a slight grimace on my face and moved my numb fingers to loosen them, the uncle looked at me with an exasperated expression.
But, that was...no, this was magic power, huh. I could feel the slightest bit of magic power in my flowing blood. As I thought, my assumption that blood also contained magic power was not wrong.
With that woman's "knowledge", when I became aware of the blood vessels and capillaries running throughout my body, the magic power that had been spread thinly and vaguely through them began to be felt clearly by concentrating on the flow of blood.
When the magic power gathered in my heart along with the blood in my body, it became a little stronger with the heartbeat, and as it circulated through my body again, I felt my body heat up a little.
"Boy! Is that Body Strengthening!? No, it hasn't really taken shape yet..."
It seemed that by circulating the magic power along the bloodstream, I entered a state that was mimicking Body Strengthening.
This would help me with learning Daily Life magic and maybe even elemental sorcery. I was feeling a little excited as I circulated my magic power, when suddenly I felt dizzy and staggered, but the uncle grabbed my arm and supported me.
"Oi, you have to stop soon. While only little by little, Body Strengthening still consumes magic power. You'll collapse."
Even though that woman had the Dagger skill, she rarely used Body Strengthening, so I nodded meekly at his words since my knowledge in that area was weak.
"I'm not an uncle. Just call me Feld. ...Well, guess I can delay my return by one day."
Uncle, or rather, Feld stood up and looked down at me with a fierce smile on his face.
"For the whole day tomorrow, this great me will be drilling the basics into you. Prepare yourself!"
- [+] Something that was added in the light novel.
- [–] Something that didn't make it into the light novel.
- [≠] Some difference in details.
- [+] The man waited for her to finish eating the skewer before speaking (though it's already implied so in the web novel).
- [+] She mentioned specifically that she was reviewing her "knowledge" about level 1 Light sorcery.
- [+] The man was growing impatient as she kept being silent while sorting out her thoughts about Light sorcery.
- [≠] The man is 20 years old in the web novel and 21 in the light novel.
- [–] Part about learning Daily Life magic not necessarily making you able to feel magic power, and that learning it at an early age would make the flow too natural to notice.
- [–] Part about her becoming used to the flow of magic power due to trying to sense it on her own. Honestly, this part doesn't really make sense so I get why the author got rid of it.
- [+] Her "Hm?" after the uncle's request to step back because it's dangerous.
- [–] The uncle's "Oi—!" before she was repelled.