Before I realized it, I was stuck inside a baby's body.
I thought I had died. I should've died. I remembered how painful it was, for water to enter my lungs. It lasted for a good few horrifying minutes until I finally lost my consciousness. It was like a really, really bad asthma attack, and I was certainly familiar with those, having it for most of my life.
But then, when I woke up, I was already a baby.
At first, I thought I was in Hell, and my new state is my personal torture. To be stuck in a baby's body forever, unable to do anything.
But then, when my mother picked me up and kissed me warmly in the cheeks, I knew that this place couldn't be Hell. Not even Purgatory.
In fact, it felt closer to Heaven for me.
I was reborn to a well-off family. We live in a small mansion in the countryside, far away from the hustle and bustle of modern city life that I was used to. The air was fresh and the scenery was green.
It was truly my kind of a dream house.
Unfortunately, you can't really live in a house like this in Japan. Unless you're some rich guy who can afford not to slave away in our big cities.
My brother and sister certainly could, I imagine, but knowing their personality, they wouldn't be interested in such a leisurely, and dare I say it, lazy life. They love the hustle and bustle of the modern era, where you only got a few hours of sleep and no rest even on weekends and holidays.
I was jealous of that drive they had.
If only I was more like them, I would've become a better person perhaps.
Or at the very least, I would hate myself less.
But on the other hand, my lazy side detested them for it, thinking they, and many others like them, are just perpetuating the brutal work culture that us Japanese are famous for abroad.
Yeah, I still read the news. Sometimes.
Anyways, back to my new life, I enjoyed my new life as a baby, despite the humiliating fact that I couldn't control my bladder and bowels whatsoever. I just have to cry to get my parents' attention when that happened, so they would hurry to change my diaper.
And, as much as it shames me to admit this, I enjoy being coddled by them that way. I have no worries whatsoever. It was an easy life, full of love that my parents showered onto me.
The moment I could crawl however, I started exploring around, just so I can get a better understanding on the kind of house I'm currently living in.
When I scraped my knee from it, it was where I learned that this was a world where magic existed, as my mother healed the wound instantly with what I assumed to be a healing spell.
And in that moment, my eyes were opened.
The vaguely European-like features and looks that my parents had and their medieval-looking clothes, and the fact that there was no electricity whatsoever, and now the discovery of magic actually existing.
I was in a medieval fantasy world!
I couldn't believe it at first, but as I picked up more and more conversations between my parents (I can start to understand them at this point), it was completely proven to be true.
There was no doubt now.
I was in another world entirely.
Born to a family of three, I was the middle child with one older brother and one little sister.
At first, I was just like them, a bright child with a bright future. At elementary school, not to brag or anything, I was quite famous for being the smartest, and the cutest kid in class. I was always smiling; always cheerful. I had many friends, and even many more secret admirers. It was a blessed, happy life.
It all changed when I was in Junior high.
Like the naive idiot I was, I came to the defense of a girl being harassed by a group of bullies. Back then, I was all over the idea of being a defender of justice, protector of the weak and shield of the innocent.
Only to end up being beaten up so bad that I had to be hospitalized afterwards.
I didn't do it the cool way either. I stopped fighting the moment I fell to the ground. I begged them to stop with tears in my eyes, completely overwhelmed by the pain I received by them kicking me repeatedly in the stomach. And when I lost my consciousness, I soiled myself, with the girl I was supposed to save watching all of it.
My family, naturally, tried to sue the school, but thanks to the parents of the bully group's leader being a significant donor of the private school, not to mention his links with both the government and the Yakuza, the suit didn't go anywhere. The bullies only got a simple probation, and they continued to terrorize the school afterwards.
For me, however, it traumatized me completely.
I refused to go to school for an entire year afterwards. My fear of the bullies was so much that I couldn't even step outside the house without a panic attack. My family tried a number of therapists, but none of them could really cure the fear that had rooted deeply into my heart.
I suppose for my naive little self, it was the very first time he was faced with the harsh reality of the world.
When I went back to school, on a new one, naturally, my grades dropped significantly. I stopped smiling, and I became a recluse. I started avoiding real life altogether, submerging myself in fictional worlds instead through books, anime, and video games. Those three were my only escape in my one year of absence. My favorites were always stories where the hero prevailed over evil, over the injustices they faced, no doubt influenced by my condition.
At high school, my addiction only continued, leading to me failing my entrance exam to Tokyo University, even though all my other siblings managed to do so.
I acted like it didn't matter. "College isn't everything after all," I argued to myself. "What's actually important is what comes after."
And indeed, I was right.
My older brother became a successful young CEO while my little sister became a forefront scientist at CERN, researching quantum mechanics and all that fancy science stuff.
As for me, I only got an office job so ordinary that it wasn't even worth noting.
I couldn't escape the truth anymore.
I had become a failure.
Depression took in, and I started eating and sleeping unhealthily, ruining what good looks I used to have before. I became fat, and perverted as well, as I masturbated daily to pictures of anime girls I found on the internet. My hormones didn't get a normal release with a girlfriend or even a wife, like my brother. He was already married, and with a hot wife too. Just another list of reasons to be jealous of him.
At this time, I still was an avid reader of hero fantasy, particularly of the isekai genre. I especially loved the wish-fulfillment aspect of them. Took me away from my crappy life, even if for just a moment.
However, I always took issue whenever the hero did something I would never do myself. Like being a pervert to the girls, or being a jerk for no reason.
If I were reincarnated to a fantasy world like them, I would never do what they're doing!
Yeah, I still kept my white knight tendencies, even after all these years.
And then, I was fired from my job.
They were downsizing, and I was one of the employees they deemed useless.
It broke me. I worked there for ten years, having to bear being pushed around by my co-workers and having my work's credit being stolen.
I was afraid. Afraid that what happened at my youth would happen all over again if I spoke up.
In the rain, I walked.
I walked and I walked and I walked, not really knowing where my feet were taking me.
And then, I saw her. A girl carried away by the river's heavy current.
I looked around. There was no one else nearby.
It had to be me.
...Ah screw it, my life is not worth living anyways!
I jumped. And with whatever strength I had, I caught up to her and carried her to the side.
I couldn't even swim.
When I was done however, I failed to get my own self to the shore, as my legs suddenly went into a terrible cramp.
...So this is it, huh?
Well, at least I actually got to be a hero this time around.
And so I drowned.
All with a smile on my face.
Never would I imagine that I would reincarnate myself. All like in those stories I loved to read.
I quickly learned how to read. I must know more about this world and the quickest way to do so that wouldn't freak out my parents, would be to learn it through books.
Unfortunately, our house only has a couple of them. It seemed our family isn't interested in having grand libraries like your typical rich folks usually are.
Nevertheless, I quickly managed to pick up on the words and grammar of this world. To my surprise, they weren't that far off from the English language back at my world.
Thank God I actually learned English (even though I only did so because I wanted to understand the English side of the Internet).
Thanks to that, I now knew the general layout of this world and the various countries that existed in it.
Oh, and I also got my hand on a magic book.
A real, honest-to-goodness, magic book.
Naturally, I immediately tried the spells in it, starting from those that looked the easiest.
The book said that you were supposed to chant a certain set of words to cast a spell. However, I immediately learned that you still can do it, even without the chant!
And I learned it all through pure accident!
My reading capability was still limited, so I couldn't quite understand the words I was supposed to chant. I tried to chant anyway, making up the words instead.
And it worked! I formed a small ball of wind from the palm of my hand!
I couldn't believe it! So I decided to experiment. I changed the words around again.
And yet, it still worked! The same phenomenon and sensation still happened! I still feel this warmth travelling to my palm and bam, I got a ball of circling wind!
Only for it to disappear immediately the moment I rejoiced.
Hmm, concentration, I suppose. I need to maintain it in order for the spell to stay.
I then tried casting it without any chanting whatsoever. Just raw and pure concentration as I imagined the same sensation and the same ball of wind appearing on my palm.
And it worked! It actually worked!
I read the book further, but it didn't say anything about casting spells without chanting.
Then, could it be that I'm special in the matter?
Could it be that I'm actually a magic genius?
And so with that bigheadedness and arrogance, I started gleefully trying out magic as much as I can.
Only to pass out after the sixth spell, even wetting myself in the process.
I forgot. You did need mana to cast magic after all.
If you pushed yourself too much, this would be the result.
When I woke up, I was already back in my room, laying down on my bed.
My clothes were clean and dry, which meant Mother must have changed them.
"Oh, you're finally awake."
I looked to the side, and there, I saw my older sister staring at me.
Her name was Marina, and she was around 5 years older than me, making her six right now. She had shoulder-length dirty blonde hair, and she had green eyes, just like Mother.
Even so, she wasn't like other kids her age. She always acted, for a lack of a better term, mature.
It was hard not to see her as my older sister, even though technically, if we counted my previous life, I was far older than her.
"You… you've been sneaking into Papa's study, haven't you? Learning magic on your own?"
There it was. She gave me that look again. The look that made me immediately feel guilty.
She would make an excellent mother. Wouldn't have to yell to scold her kids. Even the father would be scolded by her with ease, I imagined.
"That's not good, you know. You need a teacher to teach you magic. Magic is dangerous to try on your own."
"How about I become your teacher?"
And so, from that day on, I learned magic under her.
To my surprise, she was actually somewhat of a good teacher.
No, not somewhat, she was actually, genuinely, 100% good at it.
She could already cast all the basic level magic with ease. And not just that, she even demonstrated several intermediate-level ones to me! And she was just six years old!
I learned that she was actually considered a magic prodigy by my parents later on. They even already gave her her own wand. And it was a fancy, regal looking wand at that. Not anything like the magical girl wands you would expect girls her age to hold.
I could tell how proud she was of that wand. She always took care of it, carrying it in her dress' pocket anywhere she went.
I actually tried to get a hold of it one day, but before I could, she already snatched it back.
I got a lecture from her afterwards, about how I shouldn't be taking people's magic wands because it could be dangerous. "Your magic power is enchanted significantly with a wand in your hand. You're going to hurt yourself if you cast anything while holding it!" She told me in her usual naggy, bossy tone.
Really, she was the perfect picture of the overly serious and responsible older sister character.
When I first heard the news from Mother that she was pregnant, I was ecstatic.
Finally, I was going to get a sibling!
But then, I realized that they could be a boy! And I hated boys!
They kept teasing me, pulling my hair and even lifting my dress! And they laughed at the bear panties I was wearing!
"Mom, I don't want a baby brother! I want only a baby sister!" I told her.
"Oh dearie…" She just smiled at me. "I don't know if it's going to be a boy or a girl. But I do know that you would have to be a good big sister to them, alright?"
"I don't wanna do it if it's a boy though… Boys are icky and gross!"
"Ah, I see the boys in the village is giving you a hard time again." As usual, Mother just saw right through me. "That's the more reason why you should take care of your baby brother well. Raise him up to be a gentleman, then you'll have an adorable little brother you can always play with."
I didn't believe her at first. Those nine months felt terribly long, as I anxiously waited for the baby to be born.
When the delivery day happened, I waited nervously outside the bedroom, pacing back and forth as I bit my thumb.
Father was the first to enter once the healer told him to. After several minutes, the healer told me to enter as well.
"It's a male, Marina. Congratulations. You now have your own little brother." Father patted me on the back.
My smile disappeared into a frown.
It really is a boy after all…
But then, the moment I saw him—
My heart melted on the spot.
"Aaw, he's so cute! Can I hold him, Mother?"
"Of course, dear. Just be careful, alright?"
That day, I swore to be the best big sister that I could be.
I would raise him right! He wouldn't be like those village hooligans!
Four years had passed since I started learning magic with Marina. I was now five years old, making her ten.
I had grown a lot since then, both in height and in my ability with magic.
I had reached the level Marina showed me when we first started. I could now cast all basic level magic with ease and some intermediate level ones.
She, on the other hand, had surpassed herself even more. She had mastered all intermediate level magic and she was now dabbling in advanced level ones.
Our father and mother both agreed to send her to a magic school, so that her talent could be cultivated further.
She would go next year, at eleven. It was a boarding school, located far away than the boonies we were in right now.
I would only be able to see her once a year, in the summer holidays.
I knew I should be happy for her, but I still couldn't help but feel a twinge of loneliness in my chest.
In these four years, I had become quite attached to her, it seemed.
"Sis, why don't we skip the magic lessons today? Let's go to the village!" I suggested to her.
She raised her eyebrows. "Hmm? That's unusual. Usually you are so diligent. And suddenly you want to skip your studies?"
"I-I just thought we could use a break, that's all." I lied.
The truth was, I suddenly felt I wanted more time with her. Time that wasn't just spent on her teaching me magic.
I wanted to make memories with her.
Naturally, I couldn't just say to her face. I was nothing like my old kid self, who was always forward with everything.
Now, shyness was a significant part of me. What if she mocked me if I told her the truth? She certainly could tease me for being a crybaby!
I didn't want that. I wanted her to think of me as dependable. Or even cool, if a five year old could ever be that.
"Well, I suppose we can do that," she replied with a smile. "We'll have to ask Father first though."