“Dad, I want to learn swordfighting after all. Can you teach me please?”
I made the request next month, after Father returned from accompanying Marina to her school. The next day, to be exact, as he was doing his usual training in the courtyard.
I had been thinking about it a lot. And I decided.
I wanted to be able to swing around a sword after all.
He immediately dropped his sword and came over to me, looking like he just won the lottery.
“Whoa whoa whoa, did I hear that right, Hugo? Did you just say that you want to learn swordfighting?” he replied, a big, silly grin on his face.
“Yes, Dad.” I sighed. I really didn’t like that grin. It made me feel like I was walking into something I would regret. “So would you please teach me?”
“Of course I will! Don’t you worry about a single thing!” He laughed, patting me on the shoulder harder than I would like. “I’ll make you the best swordsman in the land! I promise you that!”
I seriously doubted that.
“But if I might ask, what’s with the sudden interest? I mean, all this time, it seems you always prefer magic over swordfighting.” He scratched the back of his head.
“I… just wanted to do it, that’s all…”
I couldn’t admit that I was doing it just so I could become cooler in the eyes of Marina.
Nuh uh. Too embarrassing.
When she comes back, it would be nice to have some muscles on my body, even if it’s just a little…
“Ah, you want to impress your sister, don’t you?” His grin got bigger.
…Goddamnit, was I that easy to read?
“Y-yeah…” I sheepishly admitted.
I could already feel my face warming up.
“Don’t worry, my boy.” He put his big hand on my shoulder again. “Once next summer comes, I’ll make sure that you’ll have some muscles in that skinny body of yours!”
And so my days of sword training began.
And I immediately regretted it.
Haah… haaah… haah… haah… W-what is this?
This isn’t sword training! This is physical fitness training!
He told me to run around the courtyard five laps before doing push-ups and sit-ups, twenty each! To a five year old boy!
“Don’t give up, Hugo! You need to build some muscle first before you could even go anywhere near a sword!” He shouted so passionately towards me, who was laying down on the dirt, out of breath.
T-this must count as child abuse!
“D-dad! I just want to learn how to use a sword! I don’t want to be a musclehead like you!”
“Silence!” He shouted back. “You’re not my son if you can’t handle this much!”
I knew he didn’t really mean it. He was just pretending, acting it up for dramatic purpose.
But didn’t he think he was going a little bit too hard at it? That he was enjoying it a little bit too much?
I could see Mother sitting on the veranda, shaking her head and sighing. However, she didn’t say anything. She didn’t tell Father to stop or to be easier on me.
Instead, she looked straight at me with a firm look.
I knew that look. She was telling me that it was up to me to give up or not.
She might look gentle, but she wasn’t one to spoil her kids, it seemed.
In the end, I persevered. Not because I wanted those muscles that badly (though they certainly would be nice), but just because I had made an oath to myself ever since I was reincarnated into this world.
I would not waste my life a second time.
Unlike my old self, I wouldn’t give up immediately. Just because it’s hard or just because I didn’t like it would never be a valid reason for me to abandon my efforts on something.
I loved learning magic but I hated physical exercise like this. And yet, I still had to do the latter, even if I didn’t enjoy it, or that I had no talent for it.
My goal was to learn at least basic-level swordsmanship. So that I could defend myself a little without using magic.
That, and to show it off to Marina once she returned home next year. No doubt she would already be even better at magic than before.
And speaking of magic, with Marina leaving, I seemed to have hit a plateau on my magic learning. Now that I was trying out Advanced-level spells, the explanation written by the books was getting too hard for me to understand properly.
Without her to explain them to me nice and easy, I couldn’t progress in my studies.
Mother couldn’t help, as she only knew how to do healing spells. And I seemed to have zero talent in that department.
It was a normal thing, Marina once explained. No mages were able to cast every spell in existence. Most of them would only specialize in a handful of branches and/or subjects.
Even so, Marina could cast every type of spell that she found in the books.
She must really be a genius at magic.
To not lose to her, I thought I should pick up some swordsmanship on the side. It would be ideal if I could be something like a mageknight; a warrior that could unite both swordsmanship and magic in one harmonious combination, resulting in a strength that surpassed the two on their own.
Well, it was just my aspiration. I didn’t know if I could really reach that level or not.
But I certainly would try.
Not trying would just lead me back to the hole of despair I used to be in.
It continued like so for a month, until I could do all of the routine Father demanded.
Every day after an exhausting practice, Mother would heal my aches and bruises with her magic.
It was really convenient. I didn’t have to sleep with muscle pain as a result.
It also meant that I could really push myself to the limit.
Maybe that’s why Father was being so stern with me in our practice. He knew he could get away with it because Mother was around.
“Alright, Hugo.” He threw a wooden sword on the ground in front of me. “Pick that up. It’s time we start the real lesson.”
As I expected, Father’s style of swordsmanship was basically just attack, attack, and attack until the opponent dropped dead.
He was a musclehead after all. He wouldn’t bother with complicated maneuvers and all that fancy stuff. He would just slash his opponents over and over with his big sword.
At least, that was the impression I was getting from his confused explanations.
Urgh, I miss Marina’s teachings even more now…
He seemed to be the guy that learned how to fight out of pure instinct. He couldn’t really teach his skill to others.
Well, even so, I managed to learn the basics nonetheless. How to hold your sword, where to place your feet, how you should attack and defend, and so on. So I was still getting something out of it.
Not to mention all the cool displays he was giving, like cutting rocks and felling trees with one single slice of his sword.
This was a fantasy world after all, so superpowered swordplay should be normal.
Without that, guns would just make swords and other melee weapons completely obsolete in both normal combat and warfare.
…Wait, did this world even have guns already? I couldn’t remember any kinds of firearms being described in my books.
Another month went by, when suddenly Father announced something that took me by surprise.
“Sorry Hugo, but I think you should stop learning swordsmanship from me if I were to be perfectly honest.” He sighed deeply, a look of resignation written all over his face.
“Hmm? What’s wrong, Father? Am I just that bad at it?” I tilted my head in confusion.
He didn’t seem to be the kind of guy who would just give up that easily. After all the “Never give up!” speeches he gave me in these last two months, now he’s suddenly giving up? That’s quite hypocritical, was it not, Father?
“No, not at all.” He sighed. “It’s just that… you don’t really have the talent to use my style of swordsmanship.”
My expression immediately turned sour.
I knew it. I had no talent after all.
“A-ah, don’t get me wrong!” he quickly corrected himself. “From the way you move yourself, you’re more of the agility type than the strength type. Many rapid small blows over slow, large ones. And I… can’t really teach that.” He scratched the back of his head.
I looked up with a thoughtful look on my face. Of course there would be different swordfighting styles in this world. I imagined that an agility-type swordfighter would use something lighter than Father’s greatsword, like a katana or a rapier. Maybe even a shortsword.
He took another sigh. “If this was the capital, I could easily enroll you to an agility-type dojo. But out here, there really wasn’t anything I could do about it.”
Huh, so there are dojos in this world.
“It’s okay, Father.” I smiled at him. “For now, I can learn your style. I’ll just learn the other style later, when I’m older.”
“When you’re older?” He raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah. I’m going to become an adventurer after all.” I answered readily with a grin.
Right. I was not planning to stay here forever.
Once I was older, and Marina finished her school, I wanted to form a party with her and travel the world.
If she wanted to, of course.
For a moment, Father seemed to be stunned by my answer. But then, he quickly smiled and gave me a good pat on the head.
“Following on your Father’s footsteps, eh? Good! Good! If I were to be honest, I wouldn’t want my son to be a boring merchant, or God help, a mere farmer.”
Dad, that’s kinda cruel to the farmers, don’t you think? Without them, we can’t eat after all.
Well, I wouldn’t want to waste my second life being a farmer either.
Such was the order of this world, it seemed. Farmers were pretty much in the bottom rung of society, along with other crude peasant occupations. Merchants were usually in the middle-class while nobility was on the upper crust.
As for adventurers, well, it depended on who you asked, really. From the books I had read, there were those that extolled the virtue of adventuring while there were other books that pretty much thought of them as mere brutes and outlaws, little more than bandits. The former was usually adventuring books, while the latter was pro-nobility “heroic chivalry” books with nobles as their protagonists.
Hmm, now that I think about it, with that many fictional books around, this world must already have the printing press.
I couldn’t believe I just connected the dots now. You could just see from the smooth, non-handwritten texts on said books.
So it was not that medieval after all.
“Yeah, I don’t want to stay here forever, Dad,” I replied back. “Sorry to disappoint you.” I gave a little cheeky grin.
“Haha, I always knew my son would have his father’s adventuring blood in him!” He now had moved on to slapping me on the back. “Now you just need to ask your sister! You want to go on adventures with her, right?”
I looked away. I couldn’t believe that I started blushing, just from a simple question like that!
“Alright then! We’ll continue the training!” He declared. “It might be good to learn a Strength-style, even if you’re not going to use it as your main style. You can surprise your opponent by suddenly switching to a different style mid-combo! And you can better learn the weaknesses of a strength-style swordsman, if you’re ever up against one!”
And so our training continued, at least for now.
I didn’t spend all my time just training with Father however. He knew the importance of kids having time to play and fool around, so he would always set aside time for me to do whatever I wanted, including going to the village and playing with the kids there.
I really didn’t know if I wanted to do the latter, after having quite the bad experience with my last trip there, when Marina was still around, but I certainly could use the change of pace. Being all cooped up inside didn’t feel healthy for me.
And so I would walk around the village, looking at the fields of wheat and potatoes that the farmers were no doubt growing earnestly. I would be greeted by them, and even offered to stay a while and have some food with them, if it were lunch time. They were truly honest people, I thought, and it was heartwarming to see them being so friendly to me. I just hoped that they weren’t doing it just because I was the son of the knight that was protecting them.
As for the village, that bully immediately turned pale the moment he saw me, before evading me entirely. I couldn’t help but smirk in response. It certainly felt good being feared by the bully like this, after what happened to me in my old life! And imagine, being scared of a boy 5 years younger than you! A mere 5 years old!
In a fantasy world like this, where things weren’t as “civilized” as my old world, perhaps overwhelming force would be the best solution to a lot of your problems.
There was another incident however that humiliated him even more.
I was visiting the village that day, on one of my day offs, where I found him and what I assumed to be his underlings hounding over a girl.
She had a long, black hair that was parted in the middle. She was thin, thinner than what I would expect to be healthy for a girl of her age, which seemed to be around the same as mine, maybe a little bit older. She was also short, shorter than me by one or two inches, and had a larger than average forehead. Judging by her look, which suggested some level of malnutrition, and her dull and simplistic black dress, she was definitely not from a well-off family.
To my surprise however, instead of being all scared like I had expected her to be, what with the three boys being bigger than her, she instead was glaring at them like an angry tiger.
A starving, really angry tiger.
“You little brat! Do you even know who you’re talking to, huh? I’m the village chief’s son, you know! You outsider should give me some respect!”
Outsider? So she’s new here? That explained why I never saw her around.
“You will never be deserving of respect! You are nothing but a cruel bully who oppresses others!” She pointed back at him, her whole arm shaking with rage.
Wow, she really was one fiery girl. Usually you would expect her to have a bright red hair if she’s this kind of a character.
Ha, and the three stooges actually flinched from that!
The bully–I couldn’t really be bothered to remember his name–moved forward in an attempt to grab her long hair, no doubt to give it a good long pull.
Only for her to grab him on the shirt, before punching him straight on the gut.
With just that one punch, the bully knelt over, holding his stomach as if he was experiencing excruciating pain.
Holy f****** s*** what was that?
“D-demon! S-she’s a demon!”
“S-she can’t be human!”
The two underlings, seeing what she just did, immediately ran away. The bully immediately followed, tears trailing down his fat cheeks.
And then, she grinned triumphantly, folding her arms under her completely flat chest.
W-who is this kid? How did she just beat up a boy nearly twice her size like it was nothing? She had no muscles in her body, and she had barely any meat either!
C-could it be? That she really is not a human? I don’t see anything fantastical at her! No horns, no long ears, nothing!
“Hm? Hey, what are you looking at?” She glared at me once she noticed my presence.
Eeek, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!
“N-nothing! J-just passing by, that’s all!” I nervously replied.
She eyed me suspiciously.
“T-that was impressive, by the way! What you did there!” I continued with a somewhat forced smile. “How did you do that? Knocking him out in one blow like that! You didn’t seem like you’d be capable of doing something like that, judging by how you look.”
I was just about to call her scrawny. Bad idea.
Her expression suddenly softened to my surprise, and— Wait, was that a look of sadness on her face?
“I-I don’t really know,” She answered, her hands shaking as she curled them into fists. “I was born this way, you see…”
And then, she ran away.
With how fast she was, even if I wanted to catch her, I wouldn’t be able to.
It was the very first time I met her.
And it would not be the last.
I was now six years old.
I still continued my sword training with Father. And I had to say, I seemed to be getting better at it. I was now sparring with him as my training. Although I obviously could never win, I actually was starting to dodge and parry his blows.
Well, I wasn’t in any delusion that he was going all-out with me. No doubt he would be able to beat me in a split second if he was truly serious.
I met the strange girl a couple more times on my visits to the village. I now knew her name. Sherry. Not her last name though. And she was working as a helper in one of the village farms, milking cows, cleaning weeds, and even splitting firewood. She seemed to be worked hard by the owner of the farm, an old, bitter grandma who was too weak to work her plot of land by herself.
And, from the teasing she got from the other kids, she seemed to be an orphan. The old lady had brought her from the nearest city to work on her farm.
No doubt as cheap labour of course. God, she’s still as skinny as ever. I can’t help but be worried about her.
Maybe I should ask Father if there’s something we can do about her.
My thoughts about her were soon put in the backburner however.
Marina was coming home after all.
Here’s how the new girl looks.