For all kinds of magic, the higher its skill level the more varied its uses will be.
He predicted it would be easier to estimate exactly what one’s ability may be when another stat category was revealed.

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    Two abilities came to mind when thinking of various stat window interfaces.
One would be an ability that would continue to be useful throughout the future, and the other was fraudulent, unusable.
Under these circumstances, he was more likely to receive the latter ability, but still that would be too ridiculous; Ayra shook his head to clear away his expectations.

    He felt like he would immediately faint because of the intensity of the vertigo he had felt since before.
Right now, rest should be his first priority.

    “There’s no time limit for quests, right?” Ayra asked.

     The pebble nodded–though it somehow looked a little sulky.
It was so cute, he bit it a little 1 ; the spirit started twisting its body, feeling slightly shy.
No matter how he viewed it, Pebble’s personality is weird.
Anyhow, it was all forgivable since it’s cute.

     Ayra picked up his now-cold meal placed on the bedside table, haphazardly ate it, and crawled–shaking–into the bed.
As soon as his head hit the pillow, he fell asleep as if he passed out.

     Perhaps because of his poor physical condition, his dreams brought no peaceful respite.

 

     In the dream, he had heard that his brother was getting married, so he was on his way back to the estate.
When he arrived, carrying all sorts of strange gifts he had made in the labyrinth, his family happily welcomed him.
Perhaps because he had been gone for so long, perhaps because of their old age, none of them could recognize each other very well.

    ‘Are they really my family?’

    He had no idea–he hadn’t seen them in a long time… Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember the faces of his family from his previous life either.
There was no guarantee, then, that he would remember the faces of his current family as well, right? As he hesitated, Father placed his hand on Ayra’s shoulder.

    ‘You must protect the fief’ he said.

     Just as he was about to say ‘Yes,’ Ayra stepped backwards in surprise.
The family members he had finally amicably reconciled with were scattered in pieces all over the place, amidst the wreckage of a ruined wagon.
Blood gushed everywhere, and a white hand–he had no idea whose hand it was–poked out of the wreckage.
Unable to scream, Ayra staggered backwards and almost fell over.
He heard a rumbling sound, looking back, he saw the tall castle tower–the symbol of the Solar estate–toppling down.

     An intense earthquake had occurred, and the whole estate shook without mercy.
As Ayra attempted to escape from the collapsing castle, his foot caught on something, and he stumbled.
It was a wooden sign that must have hung from someone’s shop.
After wiping clean the carefully engraved four-leaf clover pattern on the sign, Ayra looked around to witness that the houses of all the residents of the Solar territory had collapsed and burned into ashes.

    With no intact buildings nor living people in sight, Ayra was the only one left to observe such a horrid sight.

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     As he stood, devastated, monsters with blackened mouths burst out of the inflamed ground.
He thought that he should run away, but his body would no longer move.
At that moment, the monster’s wide-open mouth swallowed him all at once.

 

     He woke from his sleep, startled.
“W-what was that.”

     He had been sweating so much that his whole body was drenched in cold sweat, and a chill had permeated his core.
He was still terribly sleepy and cold, but his dreams had bothered him so much that he had no choice but to crawl out of bed.

     The castle in the Solar territory was located on the highest point in the land, and, inside it, the Lord and his family’s bedrooms were located on the highest floor.
Thanks to this, Ayra was able to look down upon the Solar territory through the window in one glance.
Shivering, he stared down at the people in the territory starting their morning activities.
The ashes from the ruins from his dreams overlapped with the view; he immediately tightly shut his eyes and opened them again.

     ‘Becoming the new Lord must have become a huge pressure on my shoulders.’

      Releasing a sigh, Ayra gulped down a glass of water and crawled back into bed.
He fell asleep in an instant; fortunately, he had no more nightmares.

 

******

 

     Enlightening was a goal that any mage strived for, but it was also something to be feared.
Enlightenment placed a heavy burden on them both mentally and physically, causing the mage to become ill for a few days at best, or, at worst, driven insane or crippled.
There had been mages who’d lived long and healthy lives after awakening more than ten times, but, in some rare cases, there had also been mages who died without being able to overcome the shock of even a single enlightenment.

     For that reason, Ayra stayed in bed for several days.
It was fortunate that, rather than being in pain, he fell into an uncontrollable deep sleep accompanied by the occasional vertigo.
He slept deeply only to be woken up by the presence of his attendant, ate his meal, and slept again afterwards.
He woke up from the need to urinate, washed himself in hot water, did his errands, ate the now cold meal the attendant had brought, and slept again.
In the middle of that process, the attendant once asked with a worried face if he was ill and needed to call a member of the medical team, but Ayra simply replied that he was fine and was only feeling drowsy.
He drank another glass of water and slept again.

     Like that, he ate and slept; ate and slept……

     Now that the aftereffects of the enlightenment had passed, Ayra laid on his bed even as the grasp of sleep had left him.
He had no desire to leave the bed because it was so cold, and he also wanted to delay his uncertain future just a bit longer.

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     ‘I’m completely a bumpkin from the labyrinth.
How the hell can I govern the estate?’

     It was daunting to be asked to start managing the estate affairs suddenly.
He sat, using the pebble as a stress ball, when the governor, who could no longer wait, entered the bedroom again.

     “Ayra-nim, have you awoken?”

      “Yes……”

      As soon as he heard the young lord’s answer, the governor opened the door and entered the room.
Ayra remembered the young governor’s strict and cold face, but he couldn’t remember his name again.
If last time he forgot the man’s name because of the chaos of the funeral proceedings, this time he forgot from the sheer time he spent in slumber.
As soon as he became curious, magic power was sucked from him, and the stat window popped up.

 

HP: ???
MP: ???
Physical Attack: ???
Magic Attack: ???
Affection: ???? <3

 

     Ah, that’s right.
His name was Ginas.
He couldn’t remember the last name, but it doesn’t seem like his last name was ever written down.
Ayra also checked the quest that he was unable to progress since he had been sleeping for the past few days.

 

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[Let’s raise the level of this cute Pebble.]

*Check 10 people’s stats (1/10)
*Introduce this cute Pebble to 10 people (0/10)
Reward: Opening a new stat category.

 

     Fortunately, the quest could be accomplished by looking at the stat windows of those he had already checked.
The quest could be accomplished by checking Ginas’ stats ten times, but that would probably be inefficient.

     Just as he thought that, the governor’s polite but sharp voice was like a thorn in his side, “Are you very unwell? Shall I call for a doctor?”

     “No.
I’m all better……”

     Feeling Ginas’ chilling gaze, Ayra’s conscience stung and felt he could no longer be idle; he slowly stood up.

     “I was worried that you’d been ill for so long, but I’m glad you’re well now.
How do you feel about having breakfast with the castle’s vassals this morning?”

     Somehow, it felt like the other was placing extra emphasis on ‘so long.’ Conscience pricked, Ayra nodded obediently, “Yes, fine.
Let’s do that.”

      “Understood.
Then, we’ll prepare the dining hall.
Take your time coming out.” The governor, who spoke as if there was the Great Wall of China’s worth of distance between them, closed the door and left.

     Ayra belatedly remembered, ‘I should have introduced the cute Pebble to him,’ a beat later.
Fortunately, the next batter came right up.

     “Ayra-nim, good morning.
I’m the grand chamberlain, Botello Delora.
I took care of Ayra-nim when you were young.
Do you remember me?”

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      Even before Ayra called up the stat window, the grand chamberlain introduced himself politely.
Ayra felt that the old face seemed somehow familiar; tracing back his memories, he thought he may actually vaguely remember him.
“In…the past…you made honey tea with dried flower petals, caught me snow butterflies…”

     “Ah, thank you for remembering me.” He seemed very moved that Ayra had memories of him despite the long time apart.
The young lord pretended not to notice that the older man briefly turned and wiped away his tears.

      “If it’s okay with you, I’d like to serve Ayra-nim from now on.”

     “I’ll leave myself in your care.”

     Botello had politely offered his service to Ayra; one could see at a glance the deep sorrow that lined his old face, recalling the Solar family that he had long served.
He was someone who would have been closer to Ayra’s family than Ayra himself, who had only lived here for a few years as a child before leaving for the Labyrinth.
When Ayra saw Botello’s eyes wet with tears, Ayra, flustered, deliberately pretended to not notice his sorrow and pulled out Pebble.
He didn’t forget to call forth the stat window either.

     “How’s this? It’s a cute spirit I made.
Its name is Pebble, and we’ll come as a set in the future,” Ayra said.

     It was quite effective; Botello’s not yet fully dried eyes trembled.

     Mages were only common in Labyrinth; it was actually quite rare for average people outside to encounter mages, and these encounters were often intertwined with terrifying rumors.  Ayra couldn’t deny that the rumors were true, so he was left with a bitter taste in his mouth.
Even he thought that half the mages were crazy people that couldn’t live peacefully with each other.

     Of course, he himself belonged to the other half.

 

 

 

TL: The un-prodigal son returned.
Poor Ayra has a bumpy road ahead of him.
But, at least he has a cute Pebble that wishes sincerely for his happiness and health <3

In Korean, there’s a saying “Cute enough to bite.” I always wonder if we’re just too deep into cute aggression–it’s a thing! Google it up! 

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