Chapter 26: Janus (5)
Lucid fell asleep, exhausted from crying, and slept the day away. Though the warmth of spring became more and more prominent by the day, nights still clung to the winter’s chill. He finally woke up when the cold became much too unbearable, threatening to freeze his body along with the dew that had accumulated on it. His fatigue had subsided, but the pain turned worse than before. He ached all over, and he was too sore to move.
As Lucid cleared his head, he realized that he had been right next to the wolf carcass all along. The more he looked at it, the more he felt his anger and despair rising again. He glared at the carcass, clenching his jaw, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Or was there? Perhaps it was due to the cold, but the shivering Lucid could only think of one thing: use the wolf as fuel for fire. It was large enough that it would burn without needing any other kindling, and it would be more than enough to keep him warm.
The problem was that even if he wished to make a fire, he didn’t have the means to do so. In the other world, making a fire had been a rather trivial task, but here, he needed a fire starter of some sort, like flint. On top of that, dealing with fire had always been an adult’s task, so Lucid had no direct experience with it at all. He had only ever seen others make fire. Could he really do it by himself? Burning the wolf had been a rather impulsive decision, but he was much too cold and hungry to think of other solutions.
‘Could I use magic?’
It was a sudden, but rather natural thought process, and Lucid proceeded to envision fire in his mind. He hadn’t even mastered Praete yet, but here he was, taking on an even bigger challenge. Under the circumstances, however, he had no choice but to try, and try he did. He tried to think of all the fundamental properties of fire. Bright, hot, burning through things… As he continued to think, his mind connected all the facts he knew, facts he had learned in the other world through school, to bring about new ideas. Suddenly, a clear image of fire filled his head. It wasn’t really in his head, to be precise, but all he knew was that he could somehow see the image of a fire, burning intensely.
“Anagnorish.” He mumbled. Lucid instinctively knew that he had acquired anagnorish of fire. He stared at the image he had created and focused on recreating it. Pincheno had explained that he needed to add conditions to the image. How big and how hot should his fire be? As Lucid continued on his mission, complete darkness fell over the woods. An owl screeched from a distance, and the eerie sound of rustling leaves carried through the wind. Then, in the stillness of the night, a sudden light shone through.
Lucid had done it. He had set the wolf on fire. Or at least, he had managed to set its head on fire. But it wouldn’t be long before the fire spread to the rest of the body. Lucid stood up and dragged his sweat-soaked body closer to the now burning wolf carcass. The heat from the fire soon hit him, but the only thing he could feel was utter euphoria. He had become a sorcerer.
Had the fire spread throughout the night, it would have surely engulfed the entirety of the woods, which included Lucid. Thankfully, the night had brought with it a rather dense rain, saving Lucid from certain death. The boy attributed this rain to Pincheno, who was rather adept with water, and he reprimanded himself for acting without thinking of all the consequences. As he stood on the road leading to the city, he noticed that his side still hurt badly and each step he took was pure agony, but he couldn’t afford to waste any more time. It was much too dangerous.
‘Thank you, Grandpa Pincheno,’ he thought. The rain hadn’t only tamed the fire, but it had also allowed Lucid to fill his water pouch and feast on some grilled wolf meat. The lack of proper tools had forced him to tear the meat apart with his hands like a savage, but he was still thankful for the chance to fill his belly. The pink tinge of under-cooked meat and its strange, rain-soaked texture had been the least of his concerns.
As he walked, he materialized coin-sized balls of fire and tossed them around. They looked like small sparks, but he was still having fun. It was like spitting fire instead of… well, spit. He made sure to step on each and every one of them as they hit the ground to stop them from spreading any further. Though he had tried to cast other types of magic, he had failed every attempt. He had tried with water, as Pincheno had, but he couldn’t quite envision it. He had tried rocks, in the hopes of using them as weapons, but that hadn’t worked either. The main cause for his failure was a lack of research. In other words, Lucid simply didn’t know enough. As such, he decided to at least become more familiar with fire, which was why he was playing around with the small sparks.
All he could see around him were plains, with just a few weeds and trees growing on the side of the road. He had come a long way, and everything he had seen had been a first for him. Still, he felt much less afraid. He had gone through so much, and now he had become a sorcerer. This thought alone made him feel brave. Relaxed enough to look at the scenery as he walked, he noticed a spring of water in the middle of the plains. He followed the small path that led to it, surely created by others who had come this way, and quenched his thirst before taking a seat under the shade. He then thought of Pincheno’s cane. Wouldn’t a cane make it easier for him to walk, as well? Immediately, he was hit with the idea of making one through magic.
The fundamental property, or charactiras, of a cane was simply “a stick that can aid in walking.” Lucid wondered whether that would truly be enough for anagnorish, but as soon as he concentrated on it, he was able to envision it. The image, however, was rather blurry.
“Chapter…” Lucid decided to add conditions to the faded image. He thought of the appropriate length and thickness, which helped make the image clearer. Still, it wasn’t enough to recreate it completely. What other conditions could he add?
“It has to be sturdy… Like… Metal?” Though he hadn’t come across metal in this world, he had enough knowledge from the other world to understand its the texture, shape, and properties. Just when he had focused on the material, he realized that he couldn’t “consumme,” or recreate it.
“This is hard…” he mumbled to himself. “It’d be faster to just pick up a branch off the ground.” Though he had initially thought that he knew about metal, his knowledge simply hadn’t been enough. Thinking of it now, successfully materializing fire had been nothing short of a miracle. It was, after all, one of the fundamental sources of energy. Disappointed that the magic had failed, Lucid turned his attention elsewhere. Praete, for example. He had been able to anagnorish it after acquiring diapho. Now that he was more familiar with the process of conjuring an image, it was worth trying again.
Some time had passed, and the boy found himself on the ground, crawling on all fours. In an instant, his hand slipped, throwing off his balance. He tried to stop his fall by tensing his body, but the pain at his side made that rather difficult. Lucid barely managed to avoid rolling all over the ground, but that wasn’t his concern at all. He was so elated that he found himself shouting towards the sky.
He had done it. He had cast Praete. Though it had only affected a small area, he had still managed to make it adequately smooth and slippery. The next step was to increase his mastery over it by either increasing the area of effect or manipulating the level of slipperiness. Depending on how he chaptered (modified the conditions) it, he could recreate various types of Praete. However, he found it didn’t apply to the pond, possibly because it wasn’t frozen over. Then, he was struck with a rather fun and interesting idea.
Lucid first applied Praete to a small section along the middle of the mountain path and threw his coat over it. He then carefully stood on top of the coat, pushing his feet against the ground. Surely enough, Lucid slid over the ground, right along the mountain path. He wasn’t particularly fast, due to his body weight, but he slid smoothly, like wood floating on water. He came to a halt a few feet from where he had started, but he was still very much excited. He had always envied the children who commuted on roller-blades, but not anymore.
Thanks to his clever idea, he had been able to reach the main road with very minimal effort, all while having a blast. He had even been able to practice his magic. He was fully satisfied with his day’s achievements, and he couldn’t help but smile. It was his first smile in a long while.
‘Should I just go on like this?’ Mere seconds had passed after this thought, and Lucid already found himself sliding down the road while throwing fireballs into the air. He had a rather productive time, continuing to train and practice his magic, which allowed him to gain a deeper understanding on the properties and processes of magic. He was thus able to keep his mind away from the negative, detrimental thoughts regarding his current (rather pitiful) state and the despair they caused him, instead focusing on learning patience and improving his self-confidence. He truly felt braver now.
Once he had passed another hill, he saw a town and its castle in the distance. He couldn’t quite make out the distinctive shapes yet, but the thought of having reached the vicinity of a bustling city full of people still filled him with excitement. He then remembered that his clothes were rather dirty. Upon closer inspection, they were caked with dirt, and sweat had soaked through all the layers. There were bloodstains all over, and the fabric was ripped in various places. In other words, he truly looked like a poor peasant boy. Even though that’s what he was, in every sense of the word, it didn’t mean he wanted to look like one. He also noticed he smelled rather bad.
Lucid made his way down the hill, determined to find someplace to wash up. He followed the distinct sound of flowing water, which led him to a rather wide stream. Though the water was freezing cold, it was still a chance to scrub himself clean, and Lucid jumped in without a second thought.
“Ugh… It’s so cold…!” Despite this, he still felt very refreshed and clear-headed once he was clean. He stumbled out of the water, trembling from the cold, and soon made a fire from some branches he had gathered. As he dried himself, he realized that his clothes would make him look dirty no matter what, but he was satisfied enough knowing that his body was clean.
“It’s warm…” The heat from the fire helped stop his uncontrollable shaking. Lucid felt quite happy, fully aware that his circumstances had improved rather significantly. It was late in the afternoon, close to evening, but he had a fire now, which meant less danger. He could finally allow himself to relax a little.
“Well, I’d never thought I’d see a child here, of all places.”
Suddenly, the deep voice of a grown man rang clear behind Lucid, who whipped his head back in surprise. There, at the edge of the woods, stood a man wearing a brown leather breastplate and a bow over his shoulder. He began to make his way towards Lucid, and the boy instinctively tried to stand, forgetting about the wound at his side. Pain shot through his whole body, and he fell to his knees with a whimper. In a heartbeat, the man was at the boy’s side, examining his small body without so much as a change in expression. “You’re badly hurt,” he observed.
Throughout the day, Lucid had been very careful about not straining his injury, which had caused him to momentarily forget about it altogether. Now that the pain was back, more intense than ever, he didn’t have the strength to reply. All he could do was glare at the man, ever vigilant.