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DAW C3: Understanding the World (1)

The first thing my returning consciousness registered was the sight and sound of a man and a woman looming over me.

They were speaking, yet their words eluded comprehension.
The language they spoke was neither Japanese nor English—it was something entirely different.
The pair had the look of Westerners about them: blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin. They seemed to be in their late twenties or early thirties.
My detective instincts kicked in, prompting me to involuntarily analyze their features in succinct detail.

However, something was amiss.
Beyond the incomprehensibility of their words, there was an oddity in the sound itself.
The way I heard their voices was distorted.

In a flash, memories from before I lost consciousness flooded back like a surge of electricity.

That’s right.
I was stabbed, left in a situation so dire that death seemed inevitable.

Ah, I must be in a hospital right now.

But as I glanced through the gap between the man and the woman’s faces at the ceiling above, I had my doubts.
The ceiling, made of roughly cut wood, had an aesthetic touch to it. It was the kind you’d expect to find in a hotel or a Western-style house rather than a hospital.

A wave of anxiety washed over me.
Could it be that this confusion, this inability to understand anything, was a result of damage to my brain? Had I been stabbed, left in critical condition, blood flow to my brain cut off, rendering me unable to make sense of what I saw and heard?
The thought sent a chill down my spine.
Their unintelligible words, this baffling situation, the strange quality of the sounds—all of it could be explained.

This can’t be happening.
Attempting to find evidence to deny this grim reality, I tried to move my body, only to be gripped by despair.
My body wouldn’t respond as I wished.
Was this what being paralyzed felt like? If so, then it must mean I had indeed been stabbed, and there was damage to my brain.

Incapable of casually visiting a bookstore to indulge in mystery novels anymore, I closed my eyes in despair.
I had been feeling incredibly sleepy since I regained consciousness, perhaps due to the shock.

As it turned out, my speculations were far from the mark.
In my defense, accurately assessing such an extraordinary situation with such scant information was asking for the impossible. If this were a mystery novel, readers would deem it unfair.

It took what felt like a few weeks in my perception of time for me to notice a change.
Gradually, I began to understand snippets of what the man and woman were saying.
It wasn’t much; I could pick out greetings and realized they were calling my name.
If my inability to understand language was due to brain damage, such improvements seemed unlikely.

Furthermore, as I tried desperately to move my body and assess my condition, I realized that my physique was completely different from before.

To put it plainly, my physical form was that of an infant.

With this revelation, I faintly began to understand what had happened to me.

This was, for lack of a better term, reincarnation or transmigration.
After being stabbed, it seemed I had died and been reborn in a country that was not Japan.

However, this led to another question: why did I retain memories from my previous life?
As much as I doubted it, I considered that perhaps remembering one’s past life wasn’t such an extraordinary thing. After all, numerous accounts of people have claimed to remember their past lives.
The credibility of these claims varied widely, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

If that were the case, this situation could work to my advantage.
If I could start over as a child, yet with my current mental faculties intact, I might be hailed as a prodigy.

Letting my imagination run wild, I began to plan.
Knowledge was crucial. I needed information about my current circumstances.
The most immediate concern was figuring out which country I had been reborn.

My thoughts were abruptly shattered two or three months later, when the woman—presumably my mother—picked me up.
For the first time, I had a clear view of the outside world.

Fields stretched as far as the eye could see, with log cabins sporadically dotting the landscape.
It appeared I had been reborn in a quite rural, foreign country. Given my parents’ simple and handmade-looking attire, I had suspected as much.

However, what caught my eye next made me question everything. On the path outside, a creature resembling a horse with six legs was running.
What in the world is that?
At first, I doubted my eyes, but there was no denying its horse-like appearance or its six legs.
There were multiple creatures just like it, with passersby acting as if this was completely normal.
Surely, the existence of such creatures would be well-known, even in a foreign country. I should have heard of them.

And then, something even more astonishing happened.
My father was outside, and in front of him lay a pile of freshly cut grass.
He muttered something, and then, unmistakably, flames erupted from his bare hands.

Had I been able to speak, I would have uttered that single word in surprise.

He was producing flames from his hands without the aid of matches, a lighter, or any other ignition device.
It made no sense, yet I couldn’t deny what I had seen.

It was then that I finally realized I might have been wrong about everything.
The biggest question wasn’t which country, but rather, which world I had been reborn into.

It took me a full two years to master everyday conversation to a satisfactory level.
In my perception, it hadn’t felt like two years at all, but since I was celebrated on my second birthday, it must be true. My impressions were mostly of lying around, unable to move as I wished, so it was unavoidable that my sense of time was a bit skewed.

In any case, what I needed was knowledge.
And for that, language was key. Whether spoken or written, I had to learn words and characters.

Driven by this singular goal, I dedicated myself to the task.

By the time I was three, I could navigate the house independently and converse normally with my parents.
Around then, I also started to voraciously read through the dozens of books on our bookshelves, focusing primarily on children’s books.
The children’s books, likely purchased by my parents for my benefit, didn’t skip over the common knowledge adults take for granted. They were instrumental in helping me understand this world.

And then came the age of seven.
By this time, I had read every single book in our house and even the village library, though small. I was genuinely thankful that books weren’t a rare commodity in this world. If they were, my family and village wouldn’t have had any books at all, and my store of knowledge would have been significantly less.
Fortunately, it seemed that movable type printing had already been invented in this world.
Of course, I didn’t just rely on books; I bombarded my parents, the neighbors, and the village elder with questions, eager to learn as much as I could from them.
Thanks to all this, I earned myself a reputation. Everyone in the village, including my parents, teasingly called me a ‘bookworm.’
The elder even jokingly said, “This lad might just end up running the country someday!” with a hearty laugh.

Now, let’s summarize the knowledge I’ve acquired by age seven.

Starting with what’s close to home:
My name is Van.
I don’t have a last name, as in this world, only nobility carry family names.
Mirrors are considered a luxury in this village, so I’ve only seen my reflection in the water. It revealed a rather adorable boy with light golden hair and deep green eyes.

My mother’s name is Vitna.
She hails from a family of farmers who have been in this village for generations, and she’s the third daughter.
She has gold hair like me and blue eyes. However, her appearance exudes strength rather than delicacy, thanks to her life of constant fieldwork.
I might have guessed her to be in her late twenties or early thirties with my Japanese sensibilities, but she’s actually only in her early twenties.
My apologies.

My father is Stein.
He shares the same gold hair and blue eyes, and apparently, he was a traveling merchant before he fell head over heels for my mother and decided to stay in this village, eventually marrying her.
Compared to my mother, he looks pretty ordinary, though he does have a gentle aura. That being said, he does seem a bit unreliable.
In fact, it feels like he’s the one being led around by the nose at home.
He was just entering his mid-twenties when I turned seven. Quite young, really. Or perhaps marriage just happens at an earlier age in this world, at least compared to my own sense of time.

Now, onto the world itself. This place is called Pangaea, which serves both as the name of the world and the continent.
A vast expanse of land surrounded by seas, and those seas are enclosed by what is referred to as the End of the World.
When I came across this term in books and asked my parents about it, they seemed just as puzzled. All they could tell me was that there was some kind of ‘wall’ out there.

In a nutshell, Pangaea could be aptly described as a classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy realm.
I hadn’t delved much into fantasy novels but had my fair share of exposure to the clichéd fantasy worlds through gaming.
Swords were abundant (as were spears, axes, and bows), magic was prevalent, monsters roamed the lands (including dragons, which I heard were legendary in strength), and adventurers were aplenty. There were dungeons and, apparently, temples as well.

Indeed, this fantasy world is home to elves, dwarves, ogres, and other such races—at least, it used to be.
They’re not around anymore, not because they were annihilated, but rather, they have intermingled.
The classic settings of elves and humans at odds and marginalized mythical beings were once the norm in fantasy, and though my parents confirmed such tales, they assured me those were tales of the past.
Long ago, humans warred with elves, and dwarves didn’t quite get along with the elves, but all of that is history now. Inter-species marriage has become common, and today, pure-blooded elves, dwarves, ogres, and even humans are rare. The bloodlines have all mixed.
That being said, the dominant traits in one’s lineage still play a role in determining one’s appearance and abilities. My parents and I, for instance, have a strong presence of human and elven traits.

Geographically speaking, Pangaea is divided into four major territories: North, South, East, and West.
If listed in order of land size, they go: Pace in the North, Shaark in the West, Namto in the South, and Isu in the East.

Despite the vastness of this world, all the nations share a belief in a nameless Creator God, a monotheistic deity, rendering any additional titles superfluous. Interestingly, though, idol worship is strictly prohibited.

I, along with my parents, reside in a village named Mott, nestled in the mountains of Shaark.
As the second-largest territory, Shaark thrives on agriculture and fishing, governed under a monarchy, with the noble class and the church holding substantial influence.
The Church of Shaark uniquely venerates not just the Creator God but also a saint known as Fatia, believed to be the creator of Shaark. I can’t say I’m particularly interested, though.
To the citizens of Shaark, Saint Fatia is perhaps a more tangible entity of faith than the Creator God. I’ve seen my parents pray to her in times of need. Of course, idolatry of Fatia is forbidden as well; thus, prayers are offered through spoken words alone.

That pretty much sums up my immediate world.
As for the more intricate historical details, those are hard to come by in my village.

No books were to be found regarding the laws of physics and chemistry, suggesting that these fields might not be well-developed here.
However, the basics seem consistent as gravity feels the same, and water turns to steam when heated.
The sun rises and sets, the moon and stars grace the night sky, all reminiscent of my former world.
A day consists of 24 hours, a week spans seven days, though a year is 360 days, which is a slight deviation.

What intrigued me the most was the concept of magic.
There were textbooks available, but they only detailed what magic could accomplish, not how to wield it.
They would say, “First, gather mana at your fingertips,” but from my perspective, I hadn’t the faintest idea what mana even was.

Yet, magic here isn’t some esoteric art. Rather, it seemed like an essential skill everyone possesses to a certain extent.
Elderly folks would use magic to augment their physical capabilities when their bodies ailed them; farmers proficient in earth magic would manipulate the soil as if it were liquid; when I fell and bruised my elbow, my mother healed me with magic, placing her hands over the wound and whispering incantations, easing the pain in moments.

So, I implored my parents to teach me magic, but they hesitated, deeming it too dangerous for me at such a young age.

Eventually, my father agreed to teach me when I turned ten, just as I got the hang of helping in the fields.

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