I’m Out Of Place
Being on the ground I did my best chasing after them, but with no ability to fly at the moment I was quickly left behind panting heavily and sore from running. Even using my body to its full endurance there was no way I was going to catch them. That’s right, I was tired and in no way did I trip and fall into the muddy riverbanks, losing sight of them by the time I got back up. Yeah.
There wasn’t really much I could do aside from waiting for Master to return so I made my way back to the road and the fox. Helping him to catch a handful of fish from the river before I undid the magic undertow and let the river slowly drain itself back down to normal.
“Thank you kindly good sir. And if you ever need the help of a fox while your bird friend is around… please ask someone else.”
I bowed slightly thanking him for his help before he dashed away, feeling a little better now that I had managed to help at least someone today. Though I feel like I was forgetting something. I sniff the air a moment as something buzzes in the back of my mind.
The village was being attacked by demons! I could catch the scent of something burning as the wind flows downhill toward me. Scrambling to make the run for the village, praying that there weren’t too many casualties. Not that I was sure what I’d be able to do. I guess just help people run away.
Running quickly toward the village I gritted my teeth and pressed on as hard as I could. My legs were starting to complain about the amount of exercise I had put them through today. I think I’ve walked and run more just today than the last three years of my life. Getting close could hear the voices of the villagers.
That didn’t sound like screams. Cheering? Reaching to the edge of the village I could see the people gathered around someone. The smell of burning flesh tickling my nostrils as I looked and caught sight of a human-sized monster cut vertically in half, laying with both pieces in opposite directions right outside Heide’s cottage fence and pieces of another laying in a pile of blood and remains.
Getting close enough I saw her presently fawning over the man I could only guess was the savior and hero of these stories. He wasn’t facing this way, but he seemed to be pretty strong, a long red-bladed katana in one hand pointed down and stabbed into the ground and holding the hilt with an upside-down grip. What a disrespect to such a blade.
His hair was deep black, but his build wasn’t entirely Japanese, no he was definitely taller. And more muscular, even his crimson armor and tunic couldn’t quite hide how much bulk he had on his body. Just what I needed… A riajuu hero coming here. Though I suppose in another way this was lucky cause perhaps I could manage to seal at least one story away from me.
“Herr Harmon, you were so brave and strong killing those demons so easily.”
Eh? Ehhh? It couldn’t’ be… He was in the library, but surely he should be dead. I watched him let go of his blade. He turned and looked this way for a moment, I’m not sure if he saw me or not from the crowd around him. It was him alright, and just like me, he was younger and remade, though I doubt his remaking was wildly different compared with my old body. I felt my heart sink as the blade vanished from sight much in the way my staff does when I release it. Dammit all.
Don’t mistake this for disappointment in losing any chance with Heide, in fact, I had made up my mind not to do anything with her. Especially now that I understood the truth about her. Other men might be able to, but I’m not that kind of person. No, my heart was sinking because he was obviously more capable than I am to be the hero. How am I supposed to compete with a guy who already had the making of such a hero to start with?
I will admit that I was feeling flashes of jealousy when I saw his arm wrapped around Heide and another girl, stroking his hands rather boldly across their chests. I had some inclination about the softness of at least one of them, and the other girl wasn’t too much behind her from the look of it.
A few of the villagers dispersed to start finishing cleaning up after the double whammy of Gingerbread and the demon attacks. I decided to pitch in and help since in part some of this was feeling like my fault. I was slightly grateful no one tried to tell me it wasn’t necessary, at least I could feel a bit useful outside of the fox today.
The village women who had been more fortunate had moved back into their cottages and huts to cook foods to have a miniature feast for the hero. Enough food was cooked for everyone, though the portions were a bit small I wasn’t going to complain about fresh food after weeks of dried meat from my storage pouch.
The food was quite simple, Dark Rye bread and stewed turnips and pork with some apples and beans mixed in, and a large stein of beer. It wasn’t much but it was quite filling and the beer wasn’t bad at all. Though I will admit to missing my rice and sushi bento.
I was finishing up my third stein of beer wondering why I still wasn’t feeling buzzed when Master finally returned looking quite peeved off. His feathers were ruffled and I swore I could see a couple smoldering.
“Fairies got in the way and Pan managed to slip back into the route to Neverland. We’ve lost our chance to catch him for now.”
“I’m sorry, Master if I was better at this-”
“No, it’s not anyone’s fault. The fairies have been convinced we are their enemies and now they will be going around and messing with anything we might try to be doing. We need to get ye trained in fighting, tough really we need another Pagemaster who can help ye with that.”
“There is another one here in the village, one that can replace me.”
Master looked at me and then smacked my forehead with one of his wings. “You should have led off with that. And don’t think ye’re getting out of yer mess by passing the buck to another. Ye are the primary Pagemaster. You are the only one with full access to everything. The only way ye’ll be replaced is if ye go and get yerself killed.”
He looked at me and climbed up onto my shoulder. “So where is he, what color, and why are ye not talking to him?”
“Red, he might be over closer to the fire or having fun with a couple of girls in one of the cottages. He managed to kill two demons all on his own while we were chasing after Pan.”
Master snorted. “Red has always been a passionate color. And stronger than most beginners. That’s only because of the nature of their elements. Fire, when it begins, burns brighter and hotter for a brief window of time. But it then settles down to match with the powers of the other four.
“While it may not take as much to use their skills they require much more to keep using their power or they can quickly burn out. The steel makes them sturdy, at the cost of being stubborn to unreasonableness, but the mana it draws from both are fleeting without ever-burning fire or mithril infused with mana cores.”
I nodded my head slowly, listening to him speak as the party continues around us, still not entirely convinced, one of the village women had replaced my beer, getting me started on my fourth one.
“What about me?”
“Blue is supposed to be the strongest, but also starts the weakest. Yer power is starting off as a small stream in the mountains with the melting snows. And ye slowly gather more and more power until ye become like a stream, then a river and if ye manage to continue such momentum combining with the power of the wind, you could be like the kamikaze, the fearsome storm.
“And now that we have another Pagemaster to join with us we can get to training ye on how to fight and train your mana muscles how to react faster.”
I give Master a puzzled look as he speaks. “Mana muscles?”
“Aye, ye know how to use your powers a little bit, least with water and yer summonable weapons. But yer body will learn to do them faster under pressure of combat when ye think ye can receive bodily harm. It’s like training muscle reflex like a martial artist. Practiced until ye don’t even realize ye are doing the motions until ye already done them. You won’t get time to mentally prepare yerself to cast spells every time you will need to. Being able to do it in seconds is often the difference between life and death.”
I nod my head slowly, it made sense in some ways, perhaps getting my powers to move faster was forcing to think about it in faster ways instead of trying to simply speed up what I had discovered. It also seems to appear that it took almost five full tankards before I started feeling the effects of the beer. My body was starting to get heavy.
“I’m sure ye are wiped out, get yerself some rest boy. I’m going to see about our new traveling companion.” I half smiled wondering if I would wake to find bruises on that Riajuu’s face if he tried to argue with Master, took another long drink from my tankard and knew nothing more of what happened that night.