A young boy sat meditatively on a rock atop a waterfall with his eyes closed. His eyebrows were furrowed in concentration.
A little droplet of water leaped up from the river next to him, sparkling under the sun before falling back into the river. One, then two, then three. Three tiny drops of water. To an ordinary person it would look like a fish was moving beneath the surface of the river, but if one paid close attention. They would see a strange tendrils of vapor rising from the boy’s body, flicking the water around him.
After the third droplet had fallen back into the river the tendrils quickly recoiled back into the boy’s chest as if it were a clam hiding in its shell.
“Only three today,” said the boy, looking at the river.
This boy was Grey! Six years old!
A year had passed since Grey had obtained the Vol. I Magic Theory Book.
When he had first gotten the book he had thought it would be easy to learn magic. After all, In stories a mage would say a few words and then poof! A spell would appear. In reality, magic was very difficult! It had a spiritual, mental, and physical component not to mention all those myriad phrases one had to memorize to activate their powers.
But above everything else. The most important thing about magic was aura.
Aura! A distinct spiritual energy generated by every living thing. If a person did not have a enough aura any magic they would do would fizzle out or worst yet rebound and hit them in the face. This was an established fact. Luckily for Grey, a person’s aura was not predetermined at birth. With enough training and time anyone could be taught how to use aura and even improve upon it.
The only trouble was, was that while the Vol. I Magic Theory Book did have training methods in how to use aura it was training only suitable for adults.
Running sixteen miles up a mountain? Lifting a two-hundred pound fifty times a day? Swimming up a fast moving river? Was this book crazy? He was only six years old! He could barely lift twenty pounds. Grey might be ambitious and clever, but even he couldn’t do the impossible.
So Grey decided to scale each training method down to his age. Instead of carrying a hundred pounds. He would carry fifteen. Instead of sixteen miles up the mountain. He would do two. As for swimming up a river. He settled for just learning how to swim.
After a year of hard work, his studies had finally gained progress. He could create his own aura. Initially, all Grey could manage to do was make a small wisp of air come out of his fingertips. But as he practiced relentlessly. His aura gradually began to extend down to his chest and into his lungs. Now when he concentrated hard enough he could make a light gust of wind come out of his body.
To the other village children who could do the same thing by flapping their hands. This kind of thing was pretty trivial, but to Grey this was great progress.
A gust today. A hurricane tomorrow! His future looked bright!
Grey went over to rest by a tree, and picked up a book from the grass where he had left it earlier. He had returned the Vol. I Magic Theory Book to that girl 8 months ago, and was now reading Vol. II Magical Cultivation Techniques.
Magic. A mysterious phenomenon that came into existence roughly 10,000 years ago. Back then, Magic did not even have a name. It was simply called ‘miracles’ because everyone believed it to be an act of god.
It wasn’t until 6,000 years ago that humans discovered they could harness magic to their bidding.
Thus came an era known as the Great Awakening and with it the birth of many new schools of thought. The most famous of which were known as the Six Profound Truths.
The Truth of the Soul.
The Truth of the Mind.
The Truth of the World.
The Truth of One.
The Truth of Many.
The Truth of Nothingness
Though each school had a different idea on how magic came to exist they all agreed upon one thing. To use magic you must first undergo a test known as the Ritual of Awakening. Only then would you be able to cast spells.
The Ritual of Awakening.
None of Grey’s books had mentioned exactly what the Ritual of Awakening was only that it had to be done. Was it a kind of quest where he had to slay some powerful creature and take back their body parts? Or was it like a potent elixir where one had to drink it to unlock their hidden potential?
Grey sat there looking at the river, thinking about every story he had ever read about heroes. Trying to figure out what it could be. It was times like this that Grey had wished he had been born in a city. That way if he wanted to know something he would only need to knock on the door of one of those mage academies and ask someone instead of staring blankly into space like a headless chicken.
So frustrating. To be so close to learning how to cast magic, but being unable to because he was ignorant. Grey frowned and slapped his cheeks to wake himself out of his stupor. No matter what he couldn’t give up! So what if he didn’t know what the Ritual of Awakening was? He could still train his body and when he got older he could definitely travel to a city and learn from one of those venerable magical experts.
Right now he should focus on what he could do for himself. Which was to practice! To run around and train himself to his utmost limits. So that when he did leave the village. He would be prepared for anything that might happen.
Grey closed his book and began to repeat his aura techniques once more.
Aura was a feeling that originated in his gut. Like the warmth of a good meal, rising up from his stomach up to his lungs, and then out of his mouth. Exhale. And aura would radiate from his body. Inhale. And aura would return to his stomach. Grey repeated and clenched his chest, slowly directing his aura out of his body. Forcing it out towards the grass around him.
Grey exhaled and everything around him moved as if blown by the wind. Success. Grey smiled, delighted. His body ached, but he had done it again! He had used aura for the fourth time in a row! He leaned back on a tree exhausted. What the book did not mention was how tired one would feel from using aura. Four tiny bursts of wind and Grey felt as if he had ran around the world several times over.
“Four! Four times in one day,” giggled Grey happily to himself. He grinned stupidly as his eyes slowly close shut, and fell blissfully asleep.
Many hours later, a loud yell woke Grey up. He opened his eyes to see three children punching and kicking a kid by the river.
“Hoo,” sobbed the kid, covering his head. His clothes had been torn to shreds, leaving him huddled in a bundle of rags.
“Take that monster!”
“Haha, die monster die!”
“Go back to the forest where you belong!”
“Hey! Stop that!” shouted Grey, running towards the children.
“What? Who are you?” spoke one of the children. He was the tallest one out of the group. He crossed his arms together and had an ugly scowl on his face.
“I am Grey,” replied Grey, politely. “Stop hurting him. Even if he did something bad. That is not right.”
“Not right?” said the boy, raising his eyebrow. “You hear that? He says it is not right.”
He turned mockingly to his friends who both snickered.
“I don’t think he knows who you are Halden,” said one of the children.
“He is really in for it now,” said the other.
Grey frowned. What were they talking about? Was he someone important?
“Hah. Seeing that stupid look on your face you really don’t know,” snorted the boy. “Look, I am in a good mood right now. Let’s say you go back where you came from and I forget you even exist.”
“No way!” said Grey, curtly. He saw the kid huddled by the river, shivering in terror. If he left now wouldn’t that mean these villains would continue to beat him up. He wouldn’t allow it!
“I don’t care who you are. Please stop hurting him.”
“Or what?” jeered the boy, “Are you going to tell on us?”
The other two children burst into laughter.
Grey glared angrily at each of the children. How did these kids turn out to be so mean. His village never had anyone so vicious.
“Who needs to tell on you?” said Grey. “If I don’t like something I will handle it myself like a man. If I don’t like you beating up that person then all I need to do is stop you.”
“Oh so tough,” laughed the boy. “What? Did you want to fight?”
“Ha?” said the boy. He was nearly twice as big as Grey and both his friends were at least a finger length taller. This little kid was really asking for a fight?
“What are you too dumb to understand? Ugly. Stupid. Poop Face.”
The boy’s veins nearly burst from his head. This little punk!
“That’s it,” glowered the boy, “Get him!”
Grey raised up his fists as the three children ran towards him, but as soon as one of them got close enough to throw a punch. He ran the other way into the forest.
“Haha. That idiot is running away.”
“What happened chicken legs?”
Grey ran deeper into the forest. The other children followed him closely, howling insults and shouting all the nasty things they were going to do with him when they caught him.
Tie me up and hang me upside down a tree? You have to catch me first, snorted Grey unhappily. He ran past a long branch and held it off to the side. As soon as one of the children got close enough Grey let go of the branch.
Whack! The branch hit that boy in the face, sending leaves fluttering as it left a mark on his cheek. The boy stumbled backwards clearly surprised. The forest was so thick that he had not seen it coming. His face was red with fury.
“I didn’t know you liked to kiss trees!” taunted Grey, running farther away.
“Get him!” howled the boy, angrily. “And hold him down when I get there.”
Grey ducked under another branch and came upon a dried up riverbed. He quickly scampered up the rocks. Having ran around the mountains a few times, Grey would often come across these dried up rivers and climb them for fun. A few feet away, one of the children made it past the trees and hurried after him up the river. A moment later, the child nearly fell over, stumbling over a rock.
He looked up at Grey with shock, seeing Grey climb up the rocks so effortlessly.
The second child made it out of the forest and stared at Grey surprised as well. Grey had climb so far that the child didn’t even bother following him, but went over to sit by a rock. The tall boy followed soon after bursting from behind the bushes. His face had an ugly expression when he saw how far away Grey was. He looked over to the child who had followed Grey up the river.
The child shrugged and shook his head. Who could climb up rocks that fast? Only a freak.
The boy turned angrily to Grey.
“Come down here you little punk!” shouted the boy. He was unwilling to admit that Grey had gotten away.
“What did you say?” laughed Grey. “I don’t speak with stupid people!”
The boy stomped his feet. His hands strangling an imaginary person. So irritating!
“Didn’t you say you were man!” shouted the boy, “What kind of man runs away from a fight?”
“A man that isn’t stuuupid!” said Grey, calmly sitting on a rock. He could see that none of the children could make it up the river and sighed in relief. Now that they were stuck down there by the lower half of the riverbank. They couldn’t catch him no matter what they did.
“Besides! I don’t even need to fight you anymore you dummy.”
“What!” said the boy, angrily. “What do you mean?”
“I said stop beating up that kid and you stopped. What are you deaf? Should I train you to jump through a hole too Mr. Doggy?”
“Ah okay, I get it you want a treat?”
The boy was reeling with rage. He has been tricked! Grey never intended to fight him in the first place. He only wanted to lure him away so the other kid could escape. Infuriating!
He was just a brat! One little tiny freaking brat! The boy picked up a rock and was about to hurl it at Grey when a child burst through the bushes behind him.
The child froze immediately and began to shake uncontrollably in fright.
It was that kid who the children had been beating up earlier.
Grey’s face suddenly turned pale.
“Haha,” laughed the boy, menacingly. “I was wonder who it was. It was you! What did you forgot something? Come let me see if I can find what you are missing.”
“Stop!” shouted Grey, fearfully. He had hoped the young kid had escaped to somewhere safe. Why did he follow them? Grey was now afraid the boy might beat him to death in anger.
“Oh? You want me to stop?” grinned the boy. “Why don’t you come down here so we can talk it out. We are all adults here. I promise my friends won’t hurt you.”
“Fine!” said Grey quickly. His hands slipped something behind his back. “But you have to promise not to hurt him.”
“Okay. I promise. Hehe.”
Grey made his way down river and walked to the boy. The boy’s two friends sat on a rock next to the trembling kid, but before Grey could speak the boy walked up to him and grabbed him by the neck, lifting him into the air.
“Haha. I finally I got you. You little punk! I said I wouldn’t hit him, but who said anything about my friends? Get ready to get your ass han-ergh!?”
The boy stuttered incoherently and fainted on spot, clutching his crotch. Grey had kicked him in the nuts! Grey wasn’t an idiot! If he was going to get beaten up. He wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Grey dropped to the ground and looked apprehensively at the boy’s friends.
“You!” shrieked one of the children. It was the same child who had ran up the river after Grey.
Grey pulled out a small stone hidden in the back pocket of his pants and threw it, hitting the child on the head. The kid staggered backwards a few feet and tumbled down the rocks, hitting his head on a rock as he fell. He lay on the ground and stopped moving. His breath uneven and hoarse.
The last child opened his mouth in surprise and quickly looked down at his feet. He was about to grab some rocks before Grey pulled out more pebbles out of his pocket.
“You think you can pick them up before I hit you?”
The child shook his head and looked apologetic.
“Um, okay you win. Let me go? I don’t like getting hurt.”
“You like hurting others, but you don’t like getting hurt?” said Grey, angrily.
Fury swelled up in Grey’s heart.
“Sorry?” said child, meekly bowing his head.
Grey trembled with anger, but shook his head.
“Pick up your friends and don’t come back here again.”
Even though Grey didn’t like this kids very much. He didn’t want to kill them. If he beat them all up and left them knocked out by the river who knows what wild beast might come and eat them while they lay unconscious.
If Grey did such an evil thing. He would never forgive himself. The child nodded respectfully and carried his friends on his back. A few minutes later, the child had made it into the forest and disappeared from sight with all of his friends.
Only when those deviants left his sight did Grey relax. The kid from earlier stopped shaking seeing his tormentors leave for the forest and walked thankfully towards Grey.
“Thank you,” said a lovely voice.
“Eh?” said Grey, astonished. Somehow, he had expected something manlier to come out of the kid’s mouth.
“Sorry for causing you trouble,” said the kid, bowing his head.
Grey took a closer look at the kid. There was something familiar about this kid’s hair. Ah! This kid was the girl that gave him the Vol. I Magic Theory Book a year ago!