I haven't seen Slyph since.

I thought I'd be able to see Slyph sooner, or later. She was already following Roxy around for a few days, and I don't think our meeting was that bad, in my opinion at least. I thought it would just be a matter of days 'till I saw her around. I was wrong.

It seems I was the only one that felt that way, considering I haven't seen her since, from up close or afar.

"Rudy, come inside, it's your birthday party," Roxy says from the house's entrance.

Right now I am sitting on top of the fence surrounding the house, wondering if I'd see that young girl any moment now.

Guess not.

I suppose it's for the best. I wanted to apologize, but… part of me thinks it's for the best if we don't meet. I don't think befriending her is good for her, or for me in many senses of the world.

Somehow I just feel her life would be better without me. Her parents might live this go-around.

I still feel bad for bullying her.

Should I make a wish on the cake?

I jest, there is no cake, the cake is a lie. Medieval society, so no cake. I think. If not then why is there no cake?

"Coming," well I'll leave depressing thoughts for later, it's my birthday and all.

As curious as I am to the whereabouts of the little elf girl and why she was following Roxy around, I can't do anything about it.

I could look for her, but no matter how I think about it…

That's a flag right?

I shouldn't raise flags with five year olds. Then again, I shouldn't bully them either…

I'll at least see if I can return the coat through Laws, I can find him easily enough just gotta…

"..."

For the nth time today I am stockstill stuck in thought.

Right… I really don't know much about village life.

It then occurred to me that except for a few people whose faces I recognize, I don't really know their names. I really don't know anyone outside the household.

"I'll have to rely on sensei one more time," I said under my breath.

"Rudy!"

"Coming!"

/

"Happy birthday!"

Paul congratulated me with a sword apparent in his hand. Lilia, and Zenith hovering behind him in the background.

"This present is for you," he passed the sword over. A real sword. Unlike the practice one I usually spar with. This one is made of metal. It's a tad heavy, but wieldable.

The start of my hero's journey?

In this world there are three birthdays worth celebrating: The 5th signifying you are not a baby, but a child, the 10th signifying you are a young man, and the 15th signifying you are an adult. I am five years old.

Feels odd.

Realistically, I knew it was coming, doesn't make it feel any less weird.

I was a bit of a loner in my past life, so birthdays weren't exactly a big thing during my later years, even less when I withdrew into myself. Combine that with the five years I've lived in this world, and yeah, it's been a while.

Happy birthday?

"Thanks."

"Ahem," he coughed in to his fist in a way to gather my attention. "Well, you may be too young to wield that sword properly, but a man has to carry a sword in his heart to protect those important to him," Paul says eloquently. With his chin held high, and his eyes closed; he's doing his best serious impression. "You have to be prepared to defend those who are dear to you. You'll have a wife and kids of your own someday. It will be your duty to protect them. You can't get full of yourself just because you know a little magic. Magic is bad in close combat and can't keep up with fast-paced battles."

Excuse you. I'll have you know I've been taking it easy on you old man, let's see how you feel when I throw you into the stratosphere.

"Swordsmanship has the advantage there. If you master-"

"Too long!" Zenith interrupted with a half hearted chop to the top of Paul's head.

Thank you Zenith. I'll reward you with hugs.

"Therefore, you'll have to store this blade away, until the day you can beat your papa properly, and have grown into your own," he quickly ended.

"My turn, here, because Rudy likes books," she takes a knee, as she looks at me at eye level, giving me a leather bound book.

"Ah," I received the book. I do read a lot of books, and I do remember an early period where I was hungry for knowledge. But… it's more of a means to an end, than anything else.

Don't get me wrong. Reading a history lesson of this world is interesting, every once in a while, but… it gets boring quickly. In this world it's not fantasy, but fact, so rather than reading a fantasy story filled with love and adventure it's more like I'm reading a wiki.

In short, although I enjoyed reading in my past life, not so much now.

"Thank you mom," I took the book in her hands.

She gives me a sad smile.

damn…

I think it's noticeable that my enthusiasm isn't as high.

This is why I can't spend time with her. I'm a horrible liar, and it's too easy to hurt her feelings.

Taking a step towards her, I prepare to right my wrongs, reaching up to her cheek, I lean in and give her a kiss "Thank you very much mom. It makes me very happy to get such a heartfelt gift."

Truth; although I am not enthusiastic about the gift, it doesn't change the fact that it's one of the first gifts I've received in years. A gift from someone that genuinely cares about me. It's very important to me.

Books are expensive, you know?

I'll cherish it.

"Oh," she claps her hands together. "What a good boy you are!" She hugged me tightly.

A few minutes of hugging later, Roxy appears before me in her place.

"I created this a few days ago. Rudeus' adventurous personality, combined with his talent for magic, had me forget that a staff of some kind is usually imparted on to their students to perform intermediate magic. My apologies." She presents her hand to me. "Here. A bit late, but from your teacher," she reveals a wand.

"That's a magic stone. It acts to amplify mana…" Roxy then went on an explanation on what the wand is, and how it's tradition for a master to make one for their student. It will be very useful.

"Thank you very much teacher," I thanked her for it.

Like with Zenith, like with Paul, I really mean it. I am truly thankful.

I turned my head for a moment to check on Zenith's expression, it seemed she wasn't bothered by my enthusiastic response.

Roxy pats my head acknowledging my response.

"Rudy, I'll hold your graduation exam tomorrow," she said.

I see, so it's that time…

"Yes! I'll do my best master!"

I can't say I'm not sad. Or rather I shouldn't. I already have so much to be thankful for, but… the party has to stop eventually.

I got used to having Roxy around, that she has become a part of my life. It's hard imagining that one day she wouldn't be there, but she's reaching the limit of what she can teach me, and at the end of the day, she is my teacher, she was going to leave eventually.

Still though it's hard.

Regardless, we both have to move forward, one step at a time. I'll try my best, Roxy. Truly.

/

The moment of truth is here. We are in an open field outside the village.

I'm getting ready to perform the exam. This would mark the first time I've actually exited the town's boundaries, not including the forest.

"It should be fine if we're here," she directs our horse to a tree.

It's been a lifetime since I've had the memories of this place as a book, and for the life of me I can't remember the name of Hitogami's apostles. There was weasel face, punching oni, and masked guy, but I'm sure there were more, but, funny enough, I keenly remember miscellaneous scenes like this one right here.

Specifically the horse being struck by lightning.

Funny what the brain can remember. Can't remember certain things to save your life, but you can easily remember useless tips of trivia. Like this horse being struck by lightning.

"Ah sensei, do you mind if I take out my sword real quick."

'Luckily,' I'm carrying my metal blade with me, and stab it a few feet away from the tree, into the ground.

If I remember correctly metal conducts electricity, so this should be fine, right?

You owe me one horse.

Roxy looks at me quizzically, but continues with her lesson.

"I'm going to use the saint ranked water attack magic, Cumulonimbus. This technique is a magic that creates lightning strikes with violent rain."

"Yes."

"Please copy what I do."

Saint ranked water magic. The spell that qualifies a person as a saint ranked magician, and Roxy's trump card.

I can't deny I'm a bit excited to see what higher tier magics look like in real life. Advanced magic was already pretty fun, but saint class is what separates the talented from the prodigies.

So exciting!

"Because I'm only demonstrating, I'll just maintain the spell for a minute before dismissing it, and then… You pass if you can make the rain last for an hour."

"Yes!"

"I'm starting," Roxy raises her hands to the skies. "Oh great water spirit, the son of the lightning emperor who ascended to the skies! Fulfill my wishes, rain down your ferocious blessings, and show me your strength to this tiny existence! Let your godly hammer strike the anvil, and demonstrate your authority, and devour the earth with water! Ah, the rain! Destroy and wash everything away! Cumulonimbus!" she chants, thrusting her rod into the sky.

As she said, it lasts for a minute. The sky darkens and heavy rain starts falling. As well as the gathering of electricity.

"Bang!" The sound of thunder is heard, as it just struck a piece of metal.

That's loud! How the hell did that horse survive that last time! I'd go deaf if not dead from that.

The horse is spooked, I can hear it neighing, lord knows I would be too if I just realized I almost died. It tries to run away, but luckily it's tied to the tree, and is far safe and sound.

"Uwawa… that was close…" she mutters.

"You have no idea," I muttered too.

She turns her head toward me. "I'm going to give Caravaggio some extra protection," she says before walking off, and casting a rock dome over its head. "Oh, well. No harm no foul," she finishes the dome. "Alright now you try it," she says trying to keep her dutiful demeanor.

"Honestly sensei, the serious look doesn't-"

"Hurry up!"

"Yes!"

I know my limits. Best not to push her buttons right now.

"Oh great water spirit…" it is my first time, and as per usual for all first time castings, I cast the full spell, as sensei displayed. In order to shorten it, and then cast it silently, first I have to familiarize myself with the original version."...Cumulonimbus!" I casted.

Just like her, the winds increase, the clouds darken, and upon my last shout, it rains, and then…

It stopped.

"Not bad Rudy. One more time," my sensei ordered from my side, now leaving the earth dome she had the horse in.

"Oh great water spirit… Cumulonimbus!" I repeat the process one more time, the mana gathers for a second and then similar to before heavy clouds, and heavy rains begin, and it continues for a bit longer.

"Good Rudy, now keep up your concentration, and-" the clouds dissipate before she finishes her sentence.

It hasn't been five minutes.

"...don't forget to keep up your concentration. Again," she ordered.

And so I did.

Again, and again.

Even had lightning from time to time. But never lasting more than 15 minutes. Eventually I was running dry, and it was getting late, and we had to call it a day.

"...Rudy… it's time to go home…"

"No, wait! I got a bit more. I can do a bit more! Just give me a-"

"Rudy!" She grabs my shoulder gently, betraying her worried look. "It's enough Rudy. Not everyone casts in one day. It's fine. Simply-"

She stops as she turns my chin to look at her. She's a bit blurry.

My vision that is.

I reach for my eyes, it's not exhaustion, I'm familiar with that feeling. There's tears in my eyes.

"Dammit," I said in a low voice. "I wasn't ready."

Hugging me tightly in her tiny arms, we stayed like that a moment, before we separated.

We gave up that day and went home.

/

Failure.

You'd think it's something I'd get used to, thanks to my past life.

It isn't. Still hits hard.

So I hit back. "Rasengan," I blasted a tree for enteenth time.

It looks like someones been rubbing it with sandpaper 100 times.

Another failure.

After that pitiful display of magic, we continued the exam another day.

And another… and another… we've given it four shots, but are not seeing any results.

It's the end of the week now. Taking breaks in between teachings it's been eight days since the first test, and the lack of progress that was annoying at first is now just infuriating.

Where did I mess up?

Because Roxy didn't want any repeats of my past incidents we stopped at half reserves, and only do the exam every other day, but all that does is make my failures sting harder.

"Where did I go wrong?"

The protagonist did this on his first try, and yet I couldn't do it after fifty.

What the hell is going on?!

"I'm stronger. I can wield a sword," I pulled out my blade letting my magical reserves a moment to rise.

"I even have Toki! So what is it about the old protagonist that he can perform that spell, and I can't…"

Swing. Thud. I struck the tree with my blade, venting my frustrations.

"Is it plot?"

Swing. Thud.

"...Is it destiny?"

Swing Thud.

"Is it talent?!"

Swing. Thud.

An overwhelming sense of inferiority envelops me, and it's driving me mad. I hate it. I have an overwhelming amount of talent, or so I am told, but I can't do what I want. I can't cast the Rasengan, I can't summon the heavens, and even if I'm humored; being told that it's not expected that a child can cast saint class magic on his first try… I know better. I'm not a child.

I know the truth. And the truth is; that is all a bunch of hew-wey. You say impossible, I say improbable. Even if you says not to worry, that it'll take time, I know what I could and can't do, and I know otherwise, and yet…

I can't!

In a world of magic and might, what is possible is usually dictated by one's will, and my will says I should. A certain protagonist could do it after all, so I should as well, yet…

So… maddening…

I train relentlessly, in both sword and magic. If it was just a little mishap like being unable to hold the spell for half hour, I could make out the difference with the fact that I split my time in training both sword and magic.

But 10 minutes? That's not even half.

I expected a gap, not… 'this.'

I did everything like Roxy showed me. Did the incantation, got a feel of my surroundings, and tried to replicate the phenomenon. Emphasis on tried.

As for Rudeus, the original, he just one shot it. Because ofcourse he fucking did. All he did was…

"...remember a weather special on how clouds were formed… shit…" I hold the pommel of the sword stuck in place as I unstuck my mind.

It really was that simple, or rather… It was that complex.

That's right…

And like that, everything became so clear.

I was so frustrated by my own shortcomings, that I forgot that the original had a better understanding of physics than I did.

"Science is a cheat, isn't it," I pull out my blade still stuck in the tree, and sheath it away. Taking out my hand I look down at it, remembering the reason I chose to do magic this way in the first place, preparing to cast I let the mana whirl, and, "Rasengan," a whirlwind appears in my hand before dying off.

"Right…" I look back at the tree I've been unleashing my frustrations on. Pathetic.

Magic 101; the mind and the body are one. A disgruntled mind leads to a disgruntled body, creating terrible spells.

Frustrations… when I tie my abilities to my emotions, of course mental distress would be a factor. Unlike the previou Rudeus Greyrat, my emotions are more tied to my mana then his, so my weakness is doubled.

The only thing holding me back is myself.

"Let's fix that."

I lost my cool back then, and this is the result. The expression it's all in your head is appropriate.

The original Rudeus casted through Knowledge, he simply knew more than I did.

I can not replicate the same feats using the same methods. I never had in the first place. And in my confusion, in my rush, I missed something obvious.

I'm not him.

I cast through my feelings. I use my little scientific knowledge as the building blocks, a beginning for my spells, but ultimately, I rely on feeling the spell out to get the results.

All getting frustrated did, was cloud my senses. If I had split my magic by training in the sword as well as magic, then I split it in three by adding worries into the mix… and kept on dividing it by getting more and more anxious with each failure.

Like a snowball of insecurities going down hill and making an avalanche.

At least it would have. I stopped just in time.

"...is this why Roxy gave me breaks?"

Opening my Palm, I will the mana into a form, and a small whirlwind appears. Bigger, and brighter than before, before dissipating away.

"How embarrassing. An adult I may be, but mature I'm not… should have figured this out immediately, instead of throwing a tantrum. I owe her one… I'll give her some candy."

My mind cleared, I packed up my sword and went to where I left my coat, specifically Slyphs coat, hanging and went back home.

Just one problem.

"It's gone now…" looking at the tree where I know I for sure left her coat hanging. All I see is a tree.

I didn't notice anyone around.

Bending my knees, I cast a wind blast on the ground, and jumped, letting the wind carry me over the trees. Landing on a high branch, I grab it and look around for any thieves, only to see… a small figure in the distance dashing her way out the forest.

"Really was out of it," I said to myself as I saw the mop of green hair run away. "Well, at least I gave her coat back… in a way. Never did get to apologize though."

Hovering down, my worries have lessened. In every sense of the word.

With a lighter heart, I left.

I can't wait to take the exam once more.

/

I'd like to say that with the power of shonen protagonist I was able to face my exam the next day, and pass on my first try. Probably throw in an epic scream or two.

But no, life doesn't work that way. It took a while.

Over the series of days, now that I have gotten over my inferiority complex. I was able to calmly take the exam, and expand on my time a little every day.

In order to maximize my results I had Roxy perform the magic herself, and see If I could find any shortcuts like the other mc did. It definitely helped.

Until-

"Oh great water spirit, the son of the lightning emperor who ascended to the skies! Fulfill my wishes, rain down your ferocious blessings, and show me your strength to this tiny existence! Let your godly hammer strike the anvil, and demonstrate your authority, and devour the earth with water! Ah, the rain! Destroy and wash everything away! Cumulonimbus" I casted

Waited one hour… and succeeded.

Fuck yeah, eat your heart out Raiden!

"Congratulations Rudy, you passed." Roxy congratulated.

I-I did it…

"Yes!" I throw a fist into the sky striking a pose.

Poses are cool, let me be. I just spent two weeks stretching my magic control, as well as my knowledge on weather phenomena. If I had more time, I'm sure I could make the storm feed into itself like 'he,' did.

But all things must come to an end.

"I'm going to miss you," Roxy voiced out.

"Yeah," I agreed.

I'm gonna miss you too.

/

It was a quiet trot on the way home.

For a moment we didn't really know how to address each other, I had failed enough times on that final exam, that now that the moment has finally come we both didn't know quite what to say to each other. We didn't have any last minute things to say, or speeches prepared. I think part of us, both of us wanted me to fail just one more time so we could keep hanging with each other.

Or maybe that's just me.

Regardless, we trotted along contently on Caravaggio's back.

I thought of asking her where she goes next, or something along those lines.

"Is that…"

Didn't need to though, as something suddenly appeared along the dirt road. I noticed something ahead of us.

A very familiar coat.

"Sensei, I'm going ahead," floating away, I got off the horse, and with a leap, launched myself several feet ahead. Reaching the body, it indeed was who I thought it was.

"Heal!" I casted immediately.

It's Slyphy. And she's bleeding…

Roxy reaches my side a moment later, checking her body for injuries as I envelop Slyphy in green lights. Taking a look around I noticed a food basket in skaters, and a rock laying just a short distance away. A splash of blood on it.

I reach out for the rock.

"It hasn't oxidized yet, it's fresh…" and cast heal one more time just to be on the safe side.

"It looks like someone struck her, and ran away," Roxy uncovers her hood revealing her green hair, being shocked for a moment.

Green hair is a taboo hair color. If she had a gem on her forehead, she would be the spitting image of the Superd's, the most feared race in this world. In this world there was a time when the Superdians went on a massacre and because of it, ever since green haired people are seen as a bad omen.

Because of that, Roxy hesitates for a moment as she checks her forehead.

Superstitions are hard to get over I suppose.

"I see…" she breathes out. "It appears it was only surface level, the injury isn't as bad as it looks," she replied.

I breathed out a sigh of relief at that news.

Having green hair Slyphy has gone through many troubles, and it seems, she continues to go through them, even if I'm not aware of them.

Who the hell would hit such a young girl, and just leave her there?

If I hadn't been training would anyone have found her? Could she have bled to death? This is…

This wasn't supposed to happen.

Then again, neither was she supposed to go out looking for Roxy sensei. I had thought of avoiding Slyphy, because of some awkwardness, on my part, but I didn't think not doing anything would result in her bleeding by the road.

My life might not change with or without Slyphy, but Slyphies life has already been affected by me, if only indirectly.

The butterflies keep flapping.

I can't deny it.

My presence is making butterflies, and it won't always be for the better. The least I could do is help her out.

I guess this is the crux of too much knowledge…

I'm not a hero, and don't want nor plan to save everyone, but… when you KNOW that someone is suffering, and when they're in front of me like this… well, the guilt is burdensome.

"Power, and responsibility, was it…" I think of a certain famous spider-man quote.

"Rudy?" Roxy questioned as I carried Slyphies unconscious body.

"Ah, sorry, I was distracted."

"I understand. Do you know her?"she questioned.

"In a way…"

"That's good. We can take her home."

"... I don't know where she lives. I only know of her through reputation."

"I see." She gets up from her kneeling position, and goes next to the horse. "Let's take her back home. Your mother can take care of her in the meantime, while your father can find out where she lives."

"Mmm."

That was the plan anyway.

I carry her towards the horse.

"Mm… Papa…" Slyphy says with half opened eyes.

"No… just sleep now, you'll see your papa soon. Heal," I brush her hair with a finger.

Unconsciously, Slyphy hugs me a bit tighter as I heal her.

We travel speedily back home

That's right, she's just a lonely girl looking for a friend.

I'm an ass.

"Slyphy…"

"Hmm?" Roxy hums.

"Her name. Her name is Slyphy…"

"...I see…"

'I just wanted to talk to her,' was it… well, a promise is a promise.

"Sensei, I have a favor for you…" an idea sprouts in my head.

It's not much, but I can still make amends. I never did apologize for taking her coat.

Hopefully she'll like my present.