Mother was perpetually occupied with caring for my younger sister, Leena, who is four years my junior, leaving me to diligently assist with the farm work in her stead.
That day, I managed to complete the day’s work just as the sun dipped below the horizon. I found solace under the shade of a tree, immersing myself in my favorite book while giving my body a much-needed rest.
My book of choice is an adventure novel—a thrilling tale of dragons and swordsmen locked in mortal combat.
When I first delved into the literature of this world, particularly its novels, I was taken aback to find that they were all fantasy. But on reflection, it made perfect sense. In this world, reality itself is fantastical.
No one would complain about the preponderance of ‘reality novels’ back in my world just because most stories took inspiration from real life.
In truth, the novels here aren’t all that different from those in my original world, apart from the fact that their settings appear fantastical to me.
Adventure, romance, literary fiction—they have it all.
That said, science fiction is conspicuously absent, and most notably, the world is devoid of my beloved mystery and detective novels. The lack of these genres has been, perhaps, the greatest shock since my reincarnation.
I had a hunch as to why science fiction and mystery were missing, though I couldn’t quite put it into words.
Regardless, I was lost in my book, resting my body.
This is the chapter where I started to learn about magic.
My father, having finished his chat with other villagers, returned with a warm smile on his face.
I closed my book and looked up.
“Still a bookworm, I see,” he said with a chuckle and then added earnestly, “You’ve been a great help with the farm work lately.”
His sudden sincerity took me by surprise.
“Wh-What’s this all of a sudden?”
I was taken aback.
“No, it’s just… You’re getting the hang of the farm work, and you’ve built up some muscle. I think it’s about time,” he said, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
I was still clueless, my face blank with confusion.
“Magic. I was thinking it’s time I taught you,” he finally revealed with a broad grin, and at that moment, realization dawned on me.
This was it.
This was really happening.
“Are you that excited about it, Van?” he asked, noting the change in my expression even though I hadn’t said a word.
He ruffled my hair affectionately.
I tried to sound more childlike, but my excitement had already transformed my tone.
“All right then. It’s dangerous, so let’s go over to that clearing.”
He led me away, towards a grassy area where few villagers ventured.
This was it; I was finally going to learn magic.
I could hardly contain my joy.
“Now, Van, how much do you know about magic? You’ve been reading books, haven’t you?” he asked, a gentle smile on his face as he watched my excitement.
“Magic… um, it’s about concentrating the mana flowing through your body and directing it to influence something. That’s what the books said,” I replied, recalling what I’d read about magic in my books.
“Haha, that’s quite a technical explanation. But you’re not wrong.”
“But, Dad… What is mana, to begin with?”
I threw at him a question that had been bothering me for years.
“I thought you might ask. You see, Van, even the royal court sorcerers—the top mages in the country— aren’t entirely sure what mana is.”
The royal court sorcerers are supposed to be the experts in magic, the very best.
Yet the mana’s truth eludes even them?
“It’s important to think that mana flows through your body. If you want to produce flames, you just need to concentrate and imagine that happening.”
So, it’s all about visualization?
“Yes, imagine. How strongly and vividly you can picture it—that’s what determines the success of your magic.”
This was an unexpected revelation.
So, mana was a hypothetical force invented to aid in visualizing magic?
That would explain why no book provided a detailed explanation.
“In order to conjure flames through magical means, one must be able to vividly and convincingly imagine the process. However, I can’t advise you on exactly how to do that. It all depends on the individual’s own senses and perceptions.”
“Ah, I see,” I muttered softly, an insight suddenly striking me.
There’s a reason why genres like science fiction or mystery don’t exist in this world.
If magic, the fundamental technology of this world, relies so heavily on personal and sensory experience, then it stands to reason that the development of science would be significantly delayed.
There wouldn’t be any room for genres that presuppose a “shared body of technical knowledge,” like science fiction or mystery.
“It’s not just fire. Take healing magic, for example. You’d have to imagine your mana mending wounds or restoring vitality. The process has to be detailed, and above all, you must believe in it yourself.”
“Ohh. But what about the incantations you utter when casting spells?”
“Ah, those are spells, but the actual words vary from person to person. Essentially, they’re just there to help the caster form the image in their mind.”
Talking oneself through it, then?
“So, how do you conjure flames, Dad?”
My father scrunches up his face, seemingly embarrassed.
“Well, I guess I imagine providing mana to something like the essence of fire in the air. That’s why my incantation goes…”
He extends his hand towards the void, pausing momentarily before continuing.
“Gather, essence of fire, come forth and blaze.”
So this is his spell. He spoke while staring intently at the space in front of his hand.
Sparks flickered, and soon after, flames appeared in his palm.
I couldn’t help but express my admiration, to which he responded with a sheepish smile, extinguishing the flame.
“Well, it’s something like that.”
“That’s amazing. So, can you do anything with magic if you can imagine it well enough?”
“Certainly not,” he chuckled. “There are surely things beyond the reach of imagination, and there are types of magic that are easy to perform even if they are hard to visualize. Some spells require special procedures and can’t be used without proper study. You have to learn those.”
I see. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place.
That explains why the magic books I read focused more on what could be achieved with magic rather than how to perform it.
That is what’s really important in magic.
“Come on, try to conjure a flame. It’s one of the basic skills.”
Encouraged by my father, I took a deep breath.
“Don’t worry, even if you fail, I’ll be here to help. Just imagine the process of your mana creating a flame, and believe in it.”
Nervously, I extended my hand, fixating my gaze upon the space before me, attempting to concentrate so intensely that nothing else existed.
“Don’t be so tense. You don’t have to succeed right away. Even this basic flame conjuring usually takes about half a year to learn.”
I could hear my father’s reassuring voice.
Now, how should I imagine this?
Wait, hold on. I might have a significant advantage here.
Consider, for instance, mana.
What if we imagined it flowing through our veins alongside our blood? I can easily picture it, as I retain a fair bit of knowledge about the human body from my previous world. The arteries and veins, the organs, the bones, the structure of the brain—I can vividly imagine how magical mana circulates through these parts.
Whether the construction of the human body in this world aligns with that of my previous one is irrelevant. The key is how detailed and concrete I can make the process in my mind to the point that I can believe in it myself.
The same goes for the flame.
What are flames? I have that knowledge as well. A flame is the combustion of gas.
It requires oxygen, a flammable gas, and an increase in temperature.
How does temperature increase?
I think it had something to do with molecular motion. Put simply, if the molecules vibrate violently, the temperature rises.
First, I need to imagine drawing mana to my hand.
It travels through my veins, bypassing bones and organs, accumulating in my hand.
Then, I imagine releasing this energy, drawing in the oxygen and flammable gases to gather in my palm. Whether such things actually exist is irrelevant; I can imagine it. My magic draws these elements from the air, gathering them in my palm.
Next, I channel my mana into these gathered elements.
The magic causes the molecules to vibrate violently.
More and more, until…
My father stands there, stunned, as I feel the heat in my palm.
A flame exists in my hand.
It’s only warm, not burning me, even though it feels like it could scorch me at any moment.
The flame, about the size of a baseball, burns brilliantly in my hand.
“To conjure a flame on your first try, and without an incantation…”
My father’s eyes are wide open in astonishment.
Uh-oh. Did I overdo it?
Worried, I look at him, but then…
“Hah, my son’s a genius… Praise be to Saint Fatia!”
He suddenly starts running, shouting my mother’s name.
“Hey, Vitna! Vitna, come look, Vitna!”
He leaves me behind, running towards the house.
“Come on now… Oh, well. I guess it’s fine.”
With the fire extinguished for the moment, I decided to follow my father’s lead.
After returning home, I was coerced into showcasing my magical abilities in front of my mom and my sister, Leena.
Witnessing my prowess, my mom jumped for joy, throwing her arms around my dad in delight. Leena, on the other hand, simply stood there with a dumbfounded expression. Well, that was to be expected.
During dinner, I curiously inquired about their elation and what was so thrilling about all of this. My dad, now brimming with more smiles than usual, took a sip of his ale and gladly enlightened me.
“Listen, Van. In this country, if you aspire to become a respectable individual, you need to get yourself into the Military Academy.”
I had a vague awareness of this.
Regardless of noble lineage, securing a post in Shaark without graduating from the prestigious, residential Military Academy was virtually impossible. However, it seemed that if one was affluent enough, even a noble could easily get into and graduate from the Military Academy.
Typically, ninety percent of the students at the academy were nobles, and the remaining ten percent were wealthy non-nobles who were in good graces with the upper class – a fact well-known across the land. Ultimately, it was a school of connections and wealth.
“But, to get into the Military Academy, you need money, connections, or preferably both. For common folks like us, it’s pretty much out of the question.”
However, he quickly added with a slightly flushed face, “There’s still the entrance exam, which is free to take. However, for an average child who passes, the tuition fees are too steep, rendering it practically pointless. But if one performs exceptionally well in the exam, they can become a scholarship student, exempting them from admission and tuition fees. By the way, the entrance exam mainly assesses one’s aptitude for magic.”
Hmm, with that in mind, magic in this world seems to hold a meaning beyond just being a mere skill.
“Wait, does that mean I might have a shot at becoming a scholarship student?”
I asked skeptically, half in disbelief.
“Absolutely. If you can successfully cast spells without incantation at this point, imagine where you could be by the age of twelve when you’re eligible to take the exam. You could definitely secure a scholarship. Hell, you might even qualify for it right now as you are.”
Despite the last bit of his sentence sounding like drunken babble, I decided to take his word for it.
“Mom, is that true? Do you think I could become a scholarship student?”
Feeling somewhat distrustful, I turned to my mom, the more reliable of the two.
“Yes, Van. With your abilities, I believe you could become a scholarship student.”
“But, isn’t it true that there’s only one scholarship student allowed per grade?”
“That’s right. But Van, I believe you have a chance.”
While she arranged the dishes, my mom asserted confidently.
I decided to voice the sense of discomfort that I’d been harboring from the start.
“Do you both really want me to go to that school?”
As I asked, my parents exchanged glances, both looking somewhat surprised.
“Of course. If you graduate from the Military Academy, you’re guaranteed a good job.”
My dad stated it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“But I planned on taking over the farm from you, Dad.”
I had just started to get the hang of helping out around the farm.
“Van, you love reading books, don’t you?”
My mom spoke to me gently.
“You’re a brilliant child for your age. The Military Academy might be out of reach, but once you turn twelve, we were thinking of somehow sending you to a commercial school in the capital city, right, Dad? You’d have access to plenty of books, and even if you decide to become a farmer, knowing various things and having influential acquaintances could make life easier.”
Even though a commercial school wasn’t as expensive as the Military Academy, it wasn’t cheap either. And we were not a wealthy family.
Knowing this, I was surprised that my parents had discussed and decided on this matter without telling me.
“Wh-Why didn’t you tell me about this?”
“Because if you knew, you would’ve just held back and refused.”
With an intoxicated yet content smile, my dad exchanged a laugh with my mom.
“We thought we’d keep it a secret until the last minute. You never even asked us for new books despite how much you seemed to want to study more.”
I fell silent, not knowing how to respond.
The realization that I was profoundly touched was evident as I felt a warm sensation welling up in my eyes.
“Does your tummy hurt?”
Leena, who had been quiet all this time, looked at me with concern.
“N-No, I’m fine… But, Mom, Dad, if I go to school, who will help with the farm?”
“By the time you turn twelve, I should be back to working on the farm. Besides, Leena will be all grown up by then, won’t you, dear?”
“Yeah! Leena is already a big girl!”
Leena chimed in, grinning ear to ear.
“Well, we’ll still need your help on the farm. Plus, you’ll have to study magic. We’ll teach you what we can, and I’ll head to town to buy you some good books. I used to be a merchant, despite my looks. And besides, compared to tuition fees, the cost of books is practically nothing.”
Saying this, my dad swayed slightly, clearly affected by the alcohol.
Looking around at my family, a realization hit me.
It seemed I had been blessed with an incredibly fortunate reincarnation.
Not because of any memories from a past life but because I had this family.
If there was a God out there, I owed them a debt of gratitude for bringing me into this family.
To Saint Fatia as well.