The sounds of clashing dull blades can be heard throughout the courtyard.
「 Come on Renald. Is that all you got?! 」
I’m in the midst of exhaustion, sweat is sticking on my shirt, gasping for air. Many slight cuts can be felt stinging around my arms and face. I still stand, yet my body felt heavy. I tighten my grip on my sword while pointing it to the instructor. Waiting for his next move.
「 Remember what you’ve learned, kid! 」
He dashes towards me. A heavy slash to my right. Same old trick huh. I parry it. The force knocks me back a bit. Balance is thrown out of the window. I plant my left foot behind me, somehow maintaining my already sluggish posture. He jumps back, creating distance. He readies his sword; a mocking smirk plastered on his face. Damn it, he’s going easy on me.
I took a deep breath, and release it slowly. Remembering what I’ve learned, I start feeling my mana — calling it to surge throughout my body. Channeling it to my left hand. As I concentrate on the magic runes for my spell. Small detailed red runes start hovering in front of my palm. I push my gesturing left hand forward and chant,
『 Pyre! 』
Gush of flames flows out of my hand. He protects himself as expected. Crossing arms; covering his head. Slightly burnt marks can be seen all around his light armor. My mana reserve is now quite depleted; only enough for one more spell. It’s all or nothing.
I prepared and concentrated on a completely different magic rune. Mana surges throughout my body, as I direct it to my left hand again. White blue-ish runes start hove-
「 HAAAAA!!! 」
Shit, he unexpectedly jumps at me. Sword and arms up his head. Desperate to deal the final blow. Out of panic but with a tinge of calmness, I finished my rune image and shout,
『 Pulso! 』
Force thrust blows outwards of my hand. Knocking him back, throwing him off balance. He’s trying to balance himself. His legs appear to be jelly. Now is my chance. I close the distance. My sword thrusting to his personal space. With the tip of my dull blade near his neck.
「 Nice one, kid. I yield. 」
At last, I was able to come out victorious…
I fall down to the ground. Legs and arms widespread in the dirt. Having the time to rest and catch up with my breath.
As soon as I calm down, my heartbeat slowly yet surely increases. I desperately place my hand on my heart. Each beat, becoming heavier and louder, until it was the only thing I could hear. Agony starts spreading as each beat increases.
My lungs that have already been out of breath, tightened, making it harder to breathe. I’m being hanged again, but this time without the painful sensation around my neck.
「 Hrrrk… 」
「 Kid, are you okay? Oh shit, hang in there! 」
The once clear blue sky somehow becomes blurry and foggy. Time seems to slow to a trickle; I don’t know how long I have been laying in the dirt. Seconds feel like minutes as my heart throbs heavily as if it wants to break out.
Am I going to die again?
Something unknowingly flows to my lips as I unconsciously swallow it. It was very sour and thick. My throat starts to warm up and itches. So I cough and cough, feeling the water overflow around my face. But some still manage to pass through my throat.
As the unknown substance went inside my stomach, the heat gradually stirred around my throat and stomach. As if campfire charcoal was placed inside. It was mind-numbing, all of my senses could only feel the heat. Ironically, it was a great way to diverge my attention from the horrible agony.
When the heat becomes unbearably uncomfortable, it immediately cools down. As it cools down the pain subsides, my heartbeat slows down, and breathing becomes easier. Until it, all went back to normal.
I got up and tried sitting on the ground. I looked at the instructor that was beside me. Mentally exhausted from all of the pain I experienced.
「 What… happened to me, sir? 」
「 Your mana got depleted. How many times do I have to tell you to not empty your mana reserves?! 」
「 Sorry, sir. But thank you for the mana potion, sir. 」
「 Since you are so sorry, tomorrow we’ll run an extra three miles! 」
「 Yes sir… 」
I won the battle, yet I lost the war. I must get a good night’s sleep today…
My vision goes to a daze, looking to the trees until Instructor Kalish stood in front of me and his hand reached out towards me. Guess I have to stand up now. I reached his hand and got up. He offers his water canteen. I gladly receive it and jug down on it like a stranded man, desperate for water.
「 To think you can chant two spells consecutively in just a year since we first started. Not bad for a mama’s boy. 」
I almost choked when I heard that. I would’ve been ashamed if I didn’t progress quickly, since magic so far is actually quite easy. Is it because I’m used to abstract and complex concepts? I finish drinking and begrudgingly respond.
「 Yes, sir. 」
「 You did pretty well this time. Unlike last time where you depend too much on how your opponent’s next move is, you quickly react to unexpected moves. Do you remember why? 」
「 Because if I anticipate too much on the opponent’s move, I will be really startled if it didn’t go as I expected, sir. 」
「 Not bad. 」
But I must say, although learning magic theory is easy, applying it and using it in the middle of combat is the opposite. It’s so hard since you have to be mindful of your opponents while simultaneously preparing and envisioning your spell cast to the exact detail. Maybe I should practice chanting more at midnight.
「 Next time we meet, we will start learning Aegis magic. Make sure to get a head start by reading basic Aegis magic books. Try to learn the spell《Parma》. It’s a spell that casts a protective shield from physical attacks in front of you. 」
「 Finally! Yes, sir! 」
「 But remember before we start learning, we’ll run six miles! Not including the extra three miles! 」
「 Yes sir… 」
「 Any questions before we are finished with our training session? 」
「 Since I’m already quite proficient in basic Assault magic. Can I start experiencing real combat experience from monsters? 」
It’s about time I start finding out what it feels like to take out monsters. My body is still quite young and inexperienced, I need to get used to killing monsters as soon as possible. The instructor gazed at me with a grin. His gaze was piercing; sending goosebumps all over. Seemingly checking whether I’m ready for it.
「 Huh… Sure, I guess… But, only with Lady Heva-sama permission. Let me know if you have her permission by tomorrow, and on the day after tomorrow, we’ll head out to the southwest forest. 」
「 Thank you, sir! 」
「 Then, if there’s nothing else, the training session is over. 」
「 Alright. Thank you for your instructions as always! 」
I bowed slightly. It was only until Instructor Kalish’s silhouette was gone that I moved my head up.
Both my body and mind are fully exhausted. Damn it, I should’ve been more careful on managing my mana reserve. I forced myself to go inside the house, I was on my way to my room. Since it’s still around evening, I came up with a plan to try my hardest to review the magic I’ve learned so far and to learn the new spell.
「 Ara ara~ My boy is injured again as always. 」
And there she was at the front of my room, my mother in her blue gown. On top of her head sat a black pillbox hat with a veil covering her face. With how spectacular she is right now, she must have gone out somewhere and arrived back home recently.
「 Hi mother… Did you know that I finally bested instructor Kalish in a duel? 」
「 Oh my, is that why you got heavily injured huh sweetie? 」
My mother walks right at me and starts hugging me.
「 Yes mother. M-mother, I’m sweaty right now! It will ruin your dress! 」
「 That’s fine. You don’t need to worry about it. What’s more important right now is to get you treated right away. Most noble girls like their boyfriend gentle without battle scars, you know. 」
「 M-mother! 」
Seemingly not noticing my puffed red cheeks, she pulls away and grabs my hand as we come inside the room. Nearing the bed, she points to it, indicating I should lay down on it. She took off her hat as I lay down and sat near the edge of the bed beside me. She closes her eyes, looking like she’s concentrating on a spell. Magic runes appear as her cold hand touches the shirt on top of my chest.
「 Our dear goddess which art in heaven…
Our dear goddess, Maria…
Bless this soul your healing gift…
Heal our beloved ones;
『 Sano! 』 」
Small blobs of light start flickering around me. I can feel my wounds closing up, albeit the very few bigger ones are only partially healed. This is the power of the《School of Miracle & Blessing Magic》.
「 I went to meet with your father today. He said that he’s quite proud of your progress and will admit you to the Bosarts University after you turn sixteen. 」
Bullshit. That father of mine deliberately says that only to make you happy, mother. I’ll bet he’s only admitting me to that university just so he won’t lose face from the noble community and spend more time with you. Last time I met him a few months ago on Ryden’s birthday — the second oldest son in the Alderhide family. He praises older siblings more than I. When we are talking and my mother is around he glimpsed over to her constantly, thinking I wouldn’t catch that. But most importantly, he only acted politely towards me, as if I was a stranger and not a son to him. Can’t really blame him though, since compared to my older siblings’ skills and achievement, mine is minuscule.
That reminds me, apparently, my mother isn’t the only wife he has. There are two other wives, with my mother being the youngest of them all. From my observation that day, that father of mine treats my mother better compared to his other wives. And from how I was basically treated like air by the other relatives in this family, I’m truly at the bottom of the barrel.
「 Now take a rest. I know you want to study, dear. But some of your wounds have not been fully healed yet. 」
「 But I still have so many things to learn! 」
「 No buts, Renald. 」
「 Fine… But then… at least allow me to go into the southwest forest with Instructor Kalish. 」
Her eyes widen, grabbing both of my hands with hers as she squeezes them.
「 What?! Why do you want to go to such a dangerous place?! 」
Her painful expression is quite worrying and a bit of guilt rises inside me. I avert my gaze away from her and say,
「 Mother, you are over exaggerating things. Eldest brother Elric has already swept out most hostile monsters in the forest. What’s left is just weak monsters and the wild hunt. With the guidance and protection from Instructor Kalish, I’ll be fine. 」
「 For goodness sake, Elric is a noble adult! It’s expected for him to kill monsters to protect the land and commoners, while you’re still a noble boy! Please tell me why… Why do you want to go there? 」
「 Because… I want to get stronger and to experience real combat, instead of spending all of my time training in the courtyard. 」
「 I just don’t understand… Why do you want to become stronger so bad? Is there something bugging you, Renald? 」
「 No, no, no! I’m fine, mother. 」
「 I don’t think so Renald. It seems as if you are in such a hurry to get stronger. Every day you train and learn magic non-stop. A stepback such as mana going out of hand, or difficult concepts seems to never stop your amazing progress.
But from these past few months, I’ve observed you, it looks like you are doing all this to run away from something. Call it a mother’s intuition. 」
What? I’m just studying hard and preparing myself for the future. How could that be considered as running away from something? Am I missing something?
Silence remains in this room…
「 If you’re still not ready to share it with me then it’s alright. Your lovely mother can wait, just for you. Just promise me you will always be careful and prioritize safety first. I’ll also make sure to tell Butler Drake to give you some options for your trip. 」
「 Huh… Oh, really mother?! Thank you so much, mother! Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to prioritize my safety first. 」
「 But you must take a rest today okay? No more studying for the day. 」
「 Okay mother. 」
「 Bye sweetie. Remember, no studying today. 」
She pecks a kiss on my forehead and then leaves the room. The slight moisture on my forehead and sharp steps fading away are what’s left of her.
My mind is still worn out, but that’s not an excuse to not study more. After making sure time has flown away for a bit, I get off the bed and make my way to the desk. I open the book about Aegis beginner magic and start reading the content. While reading, I rest my hand on top of my head, trying to massage away the headache — a normal occurrence for me.
Drops of blood start dripping out of my nose – another normal occurrence for me.