Author's Note: Welcome to a new story! This story is currently writing in progress, so it will be updated irregularly (like I am ever updating my stories regularly in the first place...). I find that I can never write a story without magic (except for the few really short ones I will be posting after I finished posting all of Contradiction), so this story is no exception.
Please note that English is not my first language, so please be kind enough to let me know of any mistakes in the comments.
This story is fictional. It is written in the first perspective of the main character all in past tense. A 4000+ words first chapter! Hope you will enjoy it! (I find my writing style has not changed much through the years....)
I was born with nothing but flaws, but little did I know that it was only because I did not have the chance to realize my talent.
Chapter 01 I am Anything but Useful
Land of the Sun. Year S445. Fire, Day 29.
I was woken by the feeling of the hot sun heating up my bed one day. I kicked off my blanket and jump down onto the hard wooden floor. I could see that the curtains had been pulled back and tied to a hook on the wall with a string. Mom must have done this while I was still sleeping.
My feet began to boil as they were heated up by the scorching floor. I quickly took out my pair of slippers from the cupboard beside my bed and slipped my poor little feet into them. I stretched slowly as I walked over to the curtain and closed it with one strong pull.
I live in the Land of the Sun. It is always so hot here all through history. I took a glance at the little fancy calendar hung on the wall beside my desk. This is the 445th year according to the Sun Year calendar, and day 29 of the Time Period of Fire.
The Land of the Sun is one of the two large areas inhabited by humans in this continent, no, perhaps in this world. According to our rare scholars, there is only one continent in this world, or at least many people have tried to cross the ocean but no one had ever come back bringing news of another piece of land.
Why are scholars rare you ask? It is because, due to unknown reasons, the people of the Land of the Sun are mostly warriors. Being a warrior is the highest level of glory one could bring upon his or her family. There are also no rules stating that only men or only women can be warriors, because there are two types of warriors: those specializing in close combat and those specializing in long range attacks. Most men strived to become a close combat warrior, because they consider it 'cool' to wear attention-grabbing armour and wield a large blade. Women, on the other hand, who are regarded to have weaker physical strength in general, mostly become long-range bowmen or lancers.
From the moment we reached 10 years old, the seniors of the land started training us to become warriors. Our childhood daily routine consisted of exercising, training our bodies physically, sword or bow practices, dining and sleeping. There were times for leisure and fun, but most people preferred to play 'training' games such as sparring with one another.
However, there is no guarantee that everyone can withstand the harsh training from the seniors. People born with poorer health (usually noticed after they continuously fail in their training) are gathered at a large temple at the centre of our country. The Temple of the Sun God is believed to have already stood there even before the Sun calendar started counting the days. These weaker people living in the temple are given the task of praying to the Sun God every day, learning the Ancient Language and stuffing themselves with as much knowledge as possible from the old, dusty scrolls kept in the temple. Their main task is to act as a storage database for the Land of the Sun and to think of ways to improve our living and weapons. Although I think their job possesses equal amount of importance as compared to the warriors, who protect the land and provide us with food, scholars are regarded as a lowly positioned occupation in our country, because according to our beliefs, food and safety is everything.
The Sun calendar year is divided into four time periods: Wind, Fire, Earth and Water, and there are 120 days in each period. People say the Time of Water is the coolest period of the year, but in my opinion it is just a little bit less hot, not that much of a difference compared to Fire.
I opened the door to my room and walked out. The wooden planks beneath my feet creaked as I moved slowly. I could smell breakfast coming from the kitchen. As I approach the dining room, I could hear mom singing to herself. I popped my head to peek at what she was cooking, but mom's sharp ears never missed to catch the sound of my footsteps.
"Oh, Alya, good morning!"
"Morning, mom." I replied politely. I have always liked to hear mom's sweet voice. It is so kind and soft.
"Breakfast will be ready in a minute, and before you eat, don't forget to go and wash your face."
I nodded and ran towards the direction of the cleaning room. The floor was vibrating with every step I took. I was worried that the frequency of the floor planks would resonance with my footsteps, but I managed to arrive at the top of the stairs safely.
The cleaning room was located at the basement of our hut. All the huts in the Land of the Sun have basements, where water and food are stored, as well as other things which are better to be kept away from the sun. I found the face-washing bowl at the innermost corner of the basement, where a little space had been set aside with a large bucket for baths.
The basement was dark, except for a little light shining through a few holes from the walls.
Wait? Light shining through the walls? Isn't this a basement? You are right. Holes were first drilled into the wooden boards that formed the walls of the basement. Behind the holes, there is a narrow opening extending up to the ground surface. A piece of metal is placed at a 45 degree angle to reflect light shining into the hole from outside. There is also a small stack of tied-up hay placed beside each opening on the ground level. During rainy days, people would cover the 'light holes', as we call them, with the hay to prevent flooding the basements.
When natural light could not be used, people would put some animal fat in a metal dish with a string for lighting. However, since animal fat could be used in many other various ways (such as using it as a sun block for the skin), people would try to minimize its use as a source of light.
I scooped a handful of water and splashed it onto my face. The water felt really nice as it dripped off my face back into the bowl (and onto the ground). I then wiped my face with the piece of cloth hung beside the face-washing bowl and looked up into the mirror on the wall. A smiling girl with red hair was looking back at me. The hair was tied into two long strands on both sides in front, and cut short at the back. The strands were tied with a string with a butterfly-shaped knot. Her emerald eyes sparkled as she blinked.
I smiled, and turned around 360 degrees. The girl in the mirror followed my actions. I jumped, and she jumped as well. I reached out my hand and touched her hand on the mirror. The surface of the mirror felt nice and cool.
"Alya, are you done yet?" I heard my mother calling from above.
"Yes, mom!" I shouted in response and quickly ran up the stairs back to the dining room. Two plates filled with ham, eggs and bread had been set on the table. Mom was filling a cup with milk which she then put down beside the plates.
"Eat up, and get ready to your first training session at noon."
I let out a reluctant growl and sat down at the table. The ten years of my life had been carefree and enjoyable when I only had to eat, sleep, have fun and occasionally help out with some housework at home. Now I am so not ready to take upon the important tasks of fighting for our land and hunting for food.
"Don't pout," my mom reminded. "There is nothing better than to be accepted under the guidance of Mr. Han."
I hid my pouting and took a large bite from my ham. Mr. Han was regarded as the best warrior of the Land of the Sun when he was young. Now that he is old and white, he has retreated from the front lines and took up the holy job of training the next generation.
I finished my breakfast and put all the dishes in the sink. While going back to my room, I stopped in front of the corridor where an art work of my dad was hung. It had been a long time since he had left us. If not for this painting, I think I would never have remembered how he looked.
The reason why I was accepted as Mr. Han's apprentice was also due to my dad. My dad had been a brave and strong warrior, I heard from my mom. He had fought under and alongside Mr. Han during the last battle with our neighbouring country. His life may have perished, but his story has been told to every living person in our village, and soon afterwards no one in the Land of the Sun has not heard of the name Angi. My dad and his family are respected greatly by the people of the Land of the Sun.
First of all, before I go to my training session, I guess I will introduce the surrounding area and our neighbouring country – The Land of the Moon.
On this only-known large continent, the land is divided into two countries: The Land of the Sun and The Land of the Moon. Both countries are very large, and no one knows which one is larger or how large each one is. In the middle of the continent, there is a great lake, and green woods dividing the land, forming the border between the counties. The lake is so large that you can only faintly see the land on the other side. The woods are so deep that one will lose count of time when they are inside it.
This lake and the woods do not belong to either of the countries. Men from both sides are free to enter the woods or to sail on the lake. However, if anyone is found to take a step in the other country, he or she will be killed immediately.
In the North of the continent there are ranges of mountains, and in the south there is a large desert. The mountain range extends from our country to the Land of the Moon. Although it is the same range, the mountains on our side are always bare, and the mountains on the other side are always clouded with a layer of mist. No one knows why, and no one cares to climb the mountain because there is obviously no food there.
The Land of the Moon is nothing but a mystery to me. No one ever talks about it except in times of war. I heard from the stories from my father that a long time ago we were but one country with the Moon people. However, due to the difference in the power and knowledge we practiced, the one country was soon split into two, and the people each followed their own practices. It was believed that the great woods in the centre grew after the separation, and the great lake helped to divide the land, while providing both sides with food and water.
I don't know if this is true. This is what was written in the scrolls inside the Temple of the Sun God, which the scholars spent days and night studying. I have never seen anyone from the Land of the Moon here. I am sure they got disposed of faster than I can get out of my room to see them. I heard they were tiny and weak, but I guess this is just what the elders said because they regard themselves as large and strong.
I went back to my room and changed out of my dress into some comfortable clothes and shorts. My room had cooled down a bit with the help of the curtain blocking the sun. I took my leather water bottle from my desk and ran down to the basement to fill it with cool water. I closed it tight with a cork and hung the bottle on my belt. I ran back upstairs to get my sandals and went to find my mother to bid goodbye.
"Have a safe trip, Alya," my mom said and kissed me on the forehead. "I will be a little late tonight because I will be fishing at the lake and selling them at the market this evening. Help me send my regards to Mr. Han."
"Yes, mom!" I answered her and ran out of the house.
My mother may be weak in strength, but she is surely not weak as a warrior. She is one of the great lancers in the Land of the Sun with the best aim. Since the death of my father, mom has retired from the safety division and become part of the food division. Usually she will go fishing at the great lake, and occasionally she will go hunting with her friends in the woods. The money she made from selling her goods was enough to keep us happy and alive.
I arrived at the training grounds after a few minutes' running. Basically the training grounds is an open area inside a tall circular fence with only one wooden door that serves as both entrance and exit.
The area inside the training grounds is divided into different sections. There is one section for physical training such as running and exercising. There is one section for sparring training with swords and lances. There is also one section for shooting practice. The fence around the shooting area is exceptionally high to prevent unwanted accidents such as beginners shooting over the fence…
I walked towards the only hut in the enclosed area. It was not really a hut, more like an open moment frame with thick layers of hay placed on the roof. Someone standing under the shelter noticed me approaching. He showed a huge grin.
"Hi Alya! Just in time for your first training. How's your mom?"
I have heard that in some parts of the world there is a culture where "asking about your mom" is not a good thing, but I am sure the man here meant no harm.
"She's well, Mr. Han, and she sends you her regards." I answered.
"Haha, it is much appreciated!" He replied with a laugh. Mr. Han has a really coarse and loud voice as a result from the years of shouting as a commander. "Here," he pointed to one of the empty shelves behind him. "You can put your water bottle here and we shall start training!"
I did as I was told. My body felt much lighter as I lifted the heavy weight off my waist. I left my water bottle on the shelf and followed Mr. Han out into the sun.
He led me to the physical training area. Pointing to the track, he said, "First you will run a few laps to warm your body up. Then we will do some basic exercise, and the last thing for today will be to let you try with different weapons and see which one you want to learn first."
Warm up? I thought. I feel hot enough to even need that!
I shaded my eyes a little as I looked up to the sky. The sun was bright as ever, and because it is noon now, it is the hottest time of the day. I walked out to the track and started running.
For a few minutes I ran slowly, but then I began to feel the energy drained from my body with every step I took. Within half an hour I felt like I had been running for ages and could not go on anymore. I stopped and gasped for breath.
Seeing this, Mr Han approached me and handed me a towel, which I gratefully took and wiped my face.
"It has only been half an hour, Alya. Most beginners can run for longer than that," he commented, not with an angry voice, but a little bit depressed I think.
"I am sorry, Mr. Han. I shall drink some water and continue." I said as I ran back to the sheltered hut and poured a mouthful of water into my mouth, which I swallowed in a large gulp.
It feels so much better in a shaded place!
My body was reluctant to go back out in the sun, but I could see that Mr. Han was looking at me. I forced my legs to walk back to the track. After a sign, I started running. The feeling was worse than before even when I have drunk some water. It was as if I hated running a lot. I felt the energy from my body dissipating quickly. I also felt the eyes of Mr. Han on my back. I did not want to disappoint him, nor give people an excuse to ruin my wonderful parents' reputation by being a bad daughter. I tried my best. The surrounds started to become silent. My vision was blinded by a bright light. I could feel my body getting lighter, and then it was nothing but white.
"Mr. Han, she is awake!"
That was the next thing I heard, a girly voice beside me. I opened my eyes and noticed that I was in the little hut in the training grounds. I was lying on a wooden plank layered with soft hay. I yanked myself up.
Mr. Han approached me, and the girl whose voice I heard earlier gave way to him.
"How are you feeling?" Mr. Han asked.
"I am… okay," I replied sheepishly. I did not know what to say.
"You fainted," he said. "I was really surprised that the daughter of Angi and Maura could faint so easily like that."
I blushed. It was embarrassed to be told something like that. "I am sorry…" That was all I could say.
"If you are feeling fine, let's continue." Mr. Han said, without looking to see if there was anything else wrong with me.
"Continue?" I asked, startled a bit because I would have thought he would let me rest.
"Yes," he said plainly. "Everyone needs to choose a weapon he or she wants to wield after the first training. You will have to choose yours as well."
"But the running…"
For the first time since this morning, Mr. Han showed a kind smile. "You will keep practicing a bit every day, and in time you will be able to run longer. Everyone starts differently."
I felt better at his words. Energy and hope had returned to me. I jumped off the bed and stretched my limbs. "I am ready, Mr. Han."
I was led to a corner of the training grounds where there were weapons hung from a row of hooks nailed to a piece of wooden beam placed horizontally on the fence wall, weapons in large wooden boxes piled up at the side, and boxes of arrows with a few bows leaning on the fence.
Mr. Han asked me to try them one by one and see how it felt.
I picked up a sword from a nearby box. It was heavy, and I mean, really heavy. The sword was almost as tall as me, considering I was not that tall at the age of ten. I swung it will full force. Due to an unknown reason, I guess it is called centripetal force, the sword flew out of my grip and landed on the ground. For a split second, I thought I saw my instructor shook his head from the corner of my eye.
That was a bit discouraging, but I picked up the sword and put it back into the box. Next I took put a lance. It was thin, and very long, and felt as heavy as the sword. I did not think the lance liked me very much, because the heavy iron at the tip of the lance was trying its best to cause a moment to topple me over. I could not swing it, let alone throw it. I return the lance back into the box after some difficulty.
Next I went over to where the bows and arrows lay. I thought this would be the easiest weapon of all because my mom could use it with ease when she was not very good with the sword herself. I picked up a bow from the ground. It weighed on my hold, but it felt much lighter compared to the sword or lance. I picked up an arrow from the box, and aimed at a large black dot drawn on the fence beside the bow area.
There was no one around. Of course, no one would want to stand in the way of someone who picks up a bow for the first time in his or her life. I focused my whole attention on the black dot. It was not a small dot, but a large and round one, almost as large as the size of a plate. I pulled the string on the bow. I could feel the force pulling back at my hand. The string was more stiff than elastic as one would have thought. It was tiring just by pulling the string of the bow. Even using all my energy in the pull, I don't think I can manage to get the string to make a five-degree angle with the vertical.
My arrow flew… out of my hands before it could be shot.
I flushed up again from embarrassment. I thought it might just be the fact that I am a beginner of a beginner for the failure. Therefore, I picked up my arrow and tried again. However, after a few ten tries I still could not get the arrow to be shot from the bow.
I started to panic as I heard footsteps behind me. Mr. Han took the bow from me and looked at it. He seemed to be trying to find something wrong with the bow, but from his expression I did not think he could find any. After a few seconds of examining he looked at me. I basically jumped a step backwards.
"I have been watching you," he said. "It is really weird that you are unable to fire a shot, even for a few meters, with that many tries."
I stayed silent. I did not even want to apologize because I knew that would not help.
"Your mother," he continued, "hit the back dot on her first try." He said with a sigh. Obviously my 'performance' was very bad.
I did not dare to move. I stood still as he stayed silent. After a while Mr. Han put back the bow by the fence. The atmosphere was getting cooler. I could see that the sun was ready to set. There were sounds of people talking as the other warriors-in-training were getting ready to go home.
"You can leave for today," Mr. Han told me. "We will continue practicing tomorrow and see how much you can do. Perhaps you need more time than the others to get used to this."
I thanked him and ran back to the hut to get my water bottle. Without looking at the training grounds again, I speeded home. I could see the smoke coming out of our little chimney. Mom had got back before me. I wonder if I should tell her what happened today.
I pushed open the door slowly and walked in. Mom seemed to be in the kitchen. I walked as noiseless as possible to the kitchen and stood there. Mom caught sound of my footsteps as usual.
"So you are back, Alya! How did it go?" She asked cheerfully.
I frowned and looked downwards at the wooden planks on the ground. My mind started to count the cracks on one plank when I replied softly, "I… did not do very well." My fingers fiddled behind my back.
She gave me an encouraging smile as she knelt down in front of me, so that she could see my face, and wiped away the tears that were about to drop.
"Don't worry, Alya…" Her sleeve soaked up my tears as she gently rubbed her hand across my face. She gave me a pat on the shoulder and stood up. "Come! Eat something first! You will not do well if you don't replenish your energy!"
I did as I was told and sat down at the dining table. We had fish and prawns for dinner. Every time mom fished something nice, she would reserve some of it for me instead of selling them all. I picked up my fork and took a bit of the food.
"It is delicious, mom," I told her.
"Of course," she would reply as usual, "because it is made for my little Alya."
That night, I went back to my room and lay down on my bed. The curtains flapped gently as the wind was blowing into the room. I cried for a bit, and hope that starting tomorrow things would change.
I could hear my mom opening the front door faintly. Every night she would go out and gaze at the stars. She told me dad was up there watching over us. That night the wind was slightly stronger than usual, and I could hear nothing my mom said to dad.
"This is not true, right? Angi…"
End Comment: Alya is like the typical shoujo manga main girl character who starts off with nothing special.... but hopefully later she will learn that she is not like that. In re-reading this story, I sometimes found that I am dragging the wordings a bit, but the descriptions of surroundings and situations are still not very enough... (just like how I hate to draw backgrounds in my manga XD)... I shall work on those a bit more.
Looking for a Shoujo-style Artist for this Manga!
If you are an artist and would like to adapt this story into manga format, please leave a comment and I will email you for details. The artist need to have a shoujo manga-style of art work because this is a shoujo manga story. A name (not name in English.... but name as in manga term) can be provided for the pages if the artist needs them.
Next chapter preview:
Chapter 02 The Path to Becoming a Scholar? No Way!
Being a warrior does not seem to match well with Alya's abilities. What will Mr. Han do to her? Will she be able to continue her warrior training or switch to become one of the minority group of scholars in the Land of the Sun?