The Northern Continent, in a massive forest along the eastern tip.
Centuries ago, the elves escaped their human persecutors by fleeing into this vast forest. The elven village Raratoia was currently covered by the early morning mist, and few people were actually wake yet.
The mansion that sat in the center of the village differed greatly from the regular homes in Raratoia.
Glass windows had been cut into the tree-trunk below to the branches of an unbelievably large tree. The entire mansion was the fusion of a building and a tree, a fantastic example of the mysterious workings of this world, while also maintaining a welcoming atmosphere.
I had just woken up in one of the mansion’s rooms that had been provided for me and was now sitting on my comfortable bed.
The clothes I was wearing had distinctively elven patterns sewn into them, but since they had been wrapped around my skeletal body they’d ended up becoming a little disheveled.
When I glanced into the full body mirror in the corner of the room, I saw blue lights sitting in the eye sockets of a human skull.
I’ve become very familiar with this body ever since I came to this world, but I still raised my hand and started making strange gestures just to confirm that it was really me I was looking at.
After that was done, I picked up the leather canteen of hot spring water I had placed next to my pillow the night before and began to drink from it.
The change in my body was almost instantaneous.
The skeleton I had been looking at in the mirror was replaced with a body that filled out the clothes when I drank the curse dispelling water.
The reflection of the strange looking skeleton was replaced with the visage of a browned-skinned, muscular man.
The man appeared to be in his mid-thirties and looked slightly Arabian with raven-black hair, a strong jaw, and stubble sprouting from his chin. However, the crimson eyes and the unnaturally long ears were not those of a human.
I started to move around to ease some of the stiffness in my shoulders.
“Hmm, there doesn’t seem to be any problems.”
I made that comment as I stood up in this still dark room.
There was a snoring, green fur ball lying on the bed whose tail fidgeted a bit when I stood up.
“Ponta’s still asleep……”
The sixty-centimeter small, fox-like animal had patches of skin between her fore- and hind legs that were similar to those of a flying squirrel. She had been my companion ever since I saved her shortly after coming to this world.
Her back was covered in light green fur with a white underbelly that extended to the center of her tail. There was no sign of her waking up as her mouth opened and closed.
The suit of armor that I always wore to hide my skeletal body and a two-handed bastard sword were sitting in a corner. I thought about changing but decided against it before leaving the room.
In this world, people woke with the rising sun, so the mansion was still quiet because the day had yet to begin.
I could hear the chirping of the birds that nested in the tree as I cautiously walked across the wooden floor.
I went down to the second floor and took a peek inside the dining room, but no one was there.
“Well, I suppose it still too early……”
When I scratched my head while staring at the unlit stove, a voice called out to me from behind.
“You’re quite an early riser today, Arc-kun.”
When I looked back I saw a young dark elven women with shoulder-length, snow-white hair and golden eyes.
She looked puzzled as to why I was in the dining room and her arms were crossed under her ample bosom.
She was the wife of Raratoia’s village elder and the acting elder while he was away on business.
“I was surprised to see an unknown person walking about.”
She giggled a little as she said that.
I usually walked around this place as a skeleton, believing that wandering around like that was bad for people’s hearts, but maybe she’d grown used to it.
At this point, the “cursed skeleton”-look had started to become _________Perhaps the cursed skeleton look was appealing in a broad sense.
“Really? By the way, why are you up so early?”
After looking up from my body when Glenys asked why I was up.
“Oh, that. I was wondering if the crewmen of the trade ship heading to the Fabuna’ha kingdom had given their permission yet? You could say it made me a little anxious……”
Glenys was startled for a moment by my reply before she shrugged her shoulders.
“You do know that you can’t gain permission from other villages in a single day? Do you really want to go to the Southern Continent that badly?”
Her words made me feel like an elementary schooler that couldn’t wait for an upcoming field trip, so I looked out a nearby window to hide my embarrassment.
I could see that the morning sunlight was starting to peek through the early morning haze.
“Huaa〜, good morning…… It’s a bit early isn’t it.”
When I heard the voice of another woman, I looked in the direction of its origin.
The yawning woman that was rubbing her eyes as she entered the room looked similar to Glenys.
She had the same snow-white hair, golden eyes and lilac skin as Glenys. Though her hair was longer, she greatly resembled her mother who was standing next to me.
Her name was Ariane Glenys Maple.
She was a warrior from the forest capital Maple and I’ve been in her care since shortly after I first came to this world.
“Good morning Ariane-dono.”
When I greeted the still yawning Ariane, Glenys clapped her hands together as if she had just thought of something.
“Since it’s gonna be a while until we hear anything about the trip to the Fabuna’ha kingdom and breakfast isn’t ready yet, how about you help Arc-kun with his swordsmanship Ariane?”
She turned towards Ariane with a smile on her face as she spoke.
“Yeah, I’d be really grateful if you could be my partner……”
After signing off on Glenys’ suggestion I also turned towards Ariane and waited for her reply.
My current body was that of my former game avatar and it still had the high stats I amassed from playing, but my lack of actual combat training meant that I moved rather monotonously in battle, so the last time I sparred with Glenys I was utterly defeated.
I had outstanding power and speed, but I couldn’t follow a curve ball…… or something like that.
While I doubted there were all that many people with her level of talent in the world, it would be for the best to become more accustomed to combat.
Ariane sighed a bit as she sleepily patted down her hair before she answered.
“I see…… I don’t want to work up too much of a sweat, but a light spar should be fine, right? Come on, Arc.”
Ariane walked out of the dining room and gestured for me to follow.
I gave Glenys a slight nod and she sent me off with a big smile and a small wave.
After a bit of moving about, I stood in the mansion’s backyard, facing Ariane with a wooden sword in hand.
As a warrior from Maple, Ariane’s swordsmanship was obviously on a different level than my own.
Not to mention that she had been receiving her mother’s training for all her life, while I’ve only just begun to develop my own fighting style.
While I wasn’t yet at the stage where I could learn anything from sparring with Glenys, training with Ariane should make me a decent enough fighter.
Since I wasn’t wearing the 『Holy Armor of Belenus』 today, my body felt light.
I tightened my hold on my wooden sword and quickly launched an attack at Ariane.
I’d thought without my armor I would be able to gain the upper hand using my speed, but Ariane managed to sidestep my attack at the last second and proceeded to launch a counterattack.
I jerked my body to avoid the attack and tried to fall back and regroup before attacking Ariane again.
However, she didn’t overlook such an opening.
With minimal movement, she managed to launch an unexpected thrust at me.
I reflexively leaped back when I noticed her incoming attack.
I didn’t intend to put so much power into the leap, but I realized that I was at least three meters away from Ariane.
In fact, when I looked back at Ariane I saw the dissatisfaction on her face as she stared at me with her sword lowered.
“Hey, wasn’t that dodge a little bit exaggerated?”
“Uh, sorry. It’s just……”
I was still confused by my own actions but I apologized anyway.
Moving back towards Ariane, I resumed a fighting stance.
This time Ariane opened with an overhead strike, I managed to block the attack with my reflexes, but when I saw her sword heading toward the left side of my stomach after her fourth swing I haphazardly swung my sword around to block.
“Normally you block attacks like this with minimal movement. Why are you overextending yourself so much?”
Ariane looked confused as she reviewed my unconvincing performance so far.
I wasn’t trying to act any differently than I usually did, but my movements were rougher than normal.
After that, we went through the same routine again and again, but it was only after the effects of the spring water had worn off did my movements improved.
“It seems that something’s wrong with your true body, want to stop for today?”
Shaking my head I told Ariane, who was currently holding her sword over her shoulder:
“Please, one more bout, Ariane-dono.”
I thought back to all our previous bouts as she readied herself.
While there wasn’t a major difference from our other bouts, I was more confident this time.
My gaze focused on the wooden sword in my skeletal hand.
“Here I come!”
With a spirited cry, I launched a diagonal slash.
Ariane managed to block the attack with the side of her sword and managed to slip inside my range and counter-attacked.
With a single swing, I managed to calmly block two of her attacks. However, while I had been dealing with those, she managed to shift her body to create a false opening that she could easily counterattack from.
Instead of falling into that trap, I tried to break the engagement and put some distance between us, but she anticipated that move and took a swing at me.
Ariane had a smile brimming on her face as we locked swords with one another.
“See, you can do it correctly.”
It was Glenys shouting from a window that interrupted our mutually high spirits.
“Breakfast is ready.”
With that comment, Ariane brought our spar to an end
“Whew, I’m totally starving right now.”
While Ariane was saying that and walking back to the mansion, I stayed and started to swing my sword around.
I was going over everything I’d learned from Ariane.
“There’s no doubt about it……”
I sighed a bit as I said that.
When I regained my body, the emotions that accompanied attacking or being attacked were regained as well.
Whenever I was attacked, the sense of fear and dread that surged up stifled my reactions and made me overextend myself in my defense.
Rather obvious, if you think about it.
While I was a skeleton, my emotions were heavily repressed and I could calmly deal with attacks, but when my raw feelings returned together with my flesh-and-blood body, it was impossible to immediately access the situation and respond accordingly because I had no experience controlling my emotions in stressful situations.
As a skeleton I was always prepared for battle, no matter the circumstances, but I doubted I would grow as a fighter if I relied on that alone.
If I wanted to live with a body made of flesh and blood, then I would need to repeat the earlier part of the sparring session again and again until I learned to be calm under pressure.
“This is gonna be harder than I thought……”
With that bit of grumbling, I looked up at the large tree as the wind rustled the branches above.