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Jun 02, 2023 4:57 PM
Beginning of Tanya's journey, starting as a mortal
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She is born again.

For most of the first year of her life, she sees the inside of a mud hut. A fairly nice one, as mud huts go, but still. There's one bed, a stone stove sort of thing, two parents who have a sort of vague mixed ethnicity - somewhere between Asian and African. Her mother has thin, brown hair, carries her swaddled in a bundle most everywhere, and spins thread when she's not watering crops, washing clothes, cooking, cleaning, and doing a dozen other chores. The rest of the area seems like a fairly miserable vaguely-chinese village that can't be described any other way than 'poor'. Her father has a large scar on his cheek and is missing most of the day, sometimes for a week or two at a time.

She doesn't understand the language very well yet. Overheard gossip and baby-talk is not that easy to pick apart.

It's pretty obvious what's happening when there's screaming and growls outside, though. A horrible wolf-thing with glowing red eyes and unnaturally dark, oily fur chases her mother. It savages her, and Tanya falls, protected only by her mother's arms. Her 'father' comes by soon, and screams in rage, fighting the monster with a simple wooden spear. He, too, suffers a terrible wound, before more men arrive and stab the thing to death.

She ends up in a different mud hut, tended to by a middle-aged woman who mutters complaints under her breath constantly, swatted for anything that can be construed as 'misbehavior' even as a toddler.

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Tanya is a model baby. She never cries or acts out or does much of anything at all, all she does all day is listen for more words so she can learn the language faster. So any swats she receives are just the bitterness of her carer.

She tolerates the swats, as at least this woman is keeping her fed. Tanya is not even her own child so she should be grateful she is being taken care of at all. Though maybe this woman is still some kind of relative and that is what obligates her to keep Tanya fed and alive, in any case she should be grateful for being cared for at all.

When the woman isn’t close enough to listen to, Tanya has nothing to do but think. Nothing but time to think on her mistakes, on the people she cared about who she will never see again, on how much more she misses her battalion of battle maniacs than she thought she would, on Visha and her smile and her coffee.

Most of all, she has time to think about THAT BASTARD BEING X! Murdering her with that monster full of magic wouldn’t achieve anything for him! All he did was get her killed, and a lot of nearby civilians killed! If he wanted to kill her that badly why couldn’t he just have given her a stroke in her sleep! That meddling freak really was a devil masquerading as a god!

 

If anyone walked in on her when she is busy channeling her incandescent rage against that power mad bastard Being X, they would see a face that should not be showing on a baby. No infant should have that amount of rage on her face. Though whenever Tanya hears her carer coming closer she puts on a neutral expression again, and goes back to being the calmest most well behaved baby in history.

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She can learn to walk fairly easily between the age of 1 and 2. What's more, by now simple sentences have started to make sense.

The old lady, Ms. Wen, complains about monsters, about her ex-husband putting her out of his sight, about the village head, about taxes, about the weather, about the harvest, about the neighbors, about dogs, about Tanya's blonde hair, about merchants, about 'young masters', about having a baby foisted upon her, about the crumbling village well, about chickens, about her own cooking, about mice and gnats, about Tanya being too quiet of a child, about the sun being too bright, about how there's nothing to complain about lately. It's surprisingly useful for vocabulary. The frequent arguments with neighbors reveal that she was probably an ex-mistress, not an ex-wife, of whoever left her here. She gets a small bag of bronze coins every few months, which never fails to set off a whole day of complaints.

She is being kept in fairly good material conditions compared to the last hut though. A man wearing some sort of official-looking robe comes by a few times, and mentions that it's the least they can do for 'another orphan of the [something] beasts'. This one's bigger and warmer, and she has her own bed, and nicer food. Ms. Wen takes diligently good care of her and mostly stops swatting as she continues to be quiet. Though she often has a rotating list of several other small children to look after, whose parents come pick them up again later.

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The fact of the monsters sure is worrying, there isn’t much to do about that now but maybe Tanya can prepare herself. At least in this childhood she has adequate nutrition, so she decides to get to work early building up her body.

She toddles around as much as she can to build up stamina. But her little body really can’t do all that much just yet. Oh for the days where she could magically reinforce her stamina.

Wait a second… an idea occurs to her… did she have the mana aptitude she had in her last life? She is pretty sure she has the same body as her last life, she can see the same blonde locks hang in front of her face, and she is pretty sure her eyes are the same colour when she tries to look at her reflection in drinking water. So maybe she would have a aptitude for magic like in her past life. She isn’t exactly sure if you could even manipulate mana when this young, but maybe…

She carefully reaches for her mana like she has done tens of thousands of times in her past life, trying to see if it’s there at all.

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This results in a sharp pain in several points deep inside her body, particularly in her lungs.

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That is not the warm rush of mana she is used to! Let’s not poke around with anything painful while her body is still so small and vulnerable.

 

Eventually though, she gets bored, being a toddler is boring. She wants to be able to DO something, anything. She can’t even help around the house with a body so tiny and weak. So she tries reaching for her mana in the smallest most gentle way possible, calling for the barest trickle of mana. Not enough to power even the slightest of glow spells. Does that make a difference?

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Time passes. She experiences a third winter, and gets gradually more capable. People mutter about her where they think she doesn't hear or understand sometimes. Cursed. Unnatural. The other toddlers are incredibly boring.

Her exquisitely careful experimentation with mana is much more interesting. Over time, she can discover that there seem to be a bunch of invisible pathways for mana inside her body. She doesn't really have mana of her own, anymore, and is instead pulling it from the air- Or something. It works better when she takes deep, rhythmic breaths, at least. Pushing mana down the invisible pathways in more than incredibly tiny amounts hurts. Taking too much mana from the air hurts. Holding onto mana that she's taken from the air hurts, though more in a muscle-straining sort of way than a something-is-seriously-wrong way. Shaping the mana she manages to draw in into her old spell formulas, if she holds onto enough at once, if she holds onto it long enough, does, eventually, work.

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Tiny amount of increased stamina here Tanya comes! Remembering the complex spell formula for physical reinforcement, the simplest spell she knows, actually took her a few days but she manages to get it right soon enough. She makes sure to properly memorise the spell formula for her more complex spells that she certainly cannot cast now, but might be able to in the future. She begins running her physical reinforcement spell as often as possible, keeping it on whenever she can just to feel that familiar flow of magic, so she doesn’t feel so weak and helpless all the time.

She exercises more now she can magically increase her stamina, and it is clearly Tanya doing exercise and not engaging in playtime to anyone paying attention to her. She works on getting stronger with a single minded determination no child would have. In the afternoons you might find her doing after lap after lap of the hut as she works on her stamina.

Tanya barely speaks as a toddler, unlike all the other loud toddlers, but when she does speak it is usually to offer to ms. Wen to do simple chores. She wants to earn her keep and make sure she isn’t abandoned for being too different from the other children, and the best way to do that is to be useful.

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People seem to think she's so determined because a beast killed her parents. They don't stop her, though nobody really goes out of their way to help her either. Ms. Wen will shamelessly use her to pick up more demanding chores as she becomes capable of them. Helping cook. Spinning thread. Cleaning things.

Age four, and she's become a bit of a spectacle for the neighbors. Older teens and men from the village militia occasionally use her as an example- 'Look, you lazy lout, you can at least try as hard as Sunny Tanya does!' Stories, told in the fashion of old-style fairy tales meant to terrify children into obedience, talk all about the immensity of the heavens and all manner of demonic beasts and plants who want nothing more than to eat tasty humans, and include heroic mages who purge the beasts and defend the innocent.

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This world seems a good deal more magical than her last, and more unfamiliar. None of the countries in the stories seem familiar, perhaps the amount of magic and monsters and super mages has made this earths history diverge too much, if it even is an earth.

She wonders what Being X is playing at sending her here. The level of adversity isn’t worse than her last life. Maybe Being X will send monsters her way, something that causes so much collateral damage sure seems his style. Maybe the first monster was his work too. Killing her parents would be in character for him, to try to make her life more difficult. The joke is on him! Her new carer seems to have more resources than her parents did.

Tanya is happy to do harder chores as long as she gets fed, though she might want more food if she is made to keep burning even more calories. If she gets the chance she will even show off some basic math skills, she hasn't seen any books around so her numeracy skills should be an asset.

She will also take advantage of her popularity? Infamy? With the militia to request to practice spear work with them. She can just use a short stick to practice with if she is allowed to. She knows how to use a bayonet but there is more than enough difference between a bayonet and a spear to make her want practice with the primary weapon the village has access to.

She is getting more efficient at running her body reinforcement spell, wich she keeps active as much as she can, and maybe she is getting better it bringing in mana from the air by breathing differently, though maybe that is just from her getting older.

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The militia go along with it for exactly one session, then the village head comes out, frowns at her, and forbids giving Tanya any sort of martial training. He stares Tanya down and says, 'You should stop cycling. You are like a frog at the bottom of a well, thinking that what you see is all that there is to see.'

He-

Cancels her currently active body-strengthening formula, expressionlessly.

Then he leaves without explaining any further.

...Ms. Wen is happy to pile more and more demanding chores on her, no matter how the neighbors gossip about it being cruel. She overhears gossip about how she'll never get married at this rate.

Age five.

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Well the village head obviously knows some kind of magic!

Tanya can’t do all her chores without the stamina boost from her spell. She keeps using it just to keep up with chores but the village head obviously thinks there is something wrong with the spell. Maybe it’s bad for children's bodies? She does not want her growth stunted the way it was in her last life. She does not want to be a living chibi character even as an adult, like the way it was seeming she would end up as in her past life, not that she ever made it to adulthood. He never explained why she shouldn’t use it though, and she hates the feeling of being weak. So she maintains the spell at least to do her exercises and chores.

A 5 year old might be old enough to be taken seriously. So she marches (in her mind she was marching quite seriously, though to an outside observer it looked very cute) to the village heads hut and knocks on the door. If she was doing something wrong he should tell her what it was! And she wanted to know why she couldn’t practice with a spear! There were monsters out there, she needed to know how to defend herself.

 

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The village head, a man who seems remarkably hale despite apparently being about eighty, sighs and lets her in.

"You are ridiculous, child... Showing talent this young will make you a target. It will bring trouble to this village. Tempering your body this young will stunt its growth as well, you are already too late to avoid this entirely. Insane death-seeking lightning child."

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“This wasn’t something you could have just told me? Could you not have told me there were consequences a year ago? If I had known why I should stop I would have stopped, or at least known to only do it in secret.” She stays calm on the outside, but is rather mad that the village head just kept her in the dark for a whole year. A vague allusion to a parable is not enough info to make decisions on! Has he never heard of effective communication? You can’t expect your subordinates to know what to do if you never instruct them properly.

The fact her bodies growth would be stunted again pains her heart a lot more than she would have expected.

Will she be stuck as a chibi forever? Did Being X really have a loli fetish? She had only thought that as a joke. But this was two lives in a row… Damn that self righteous bastard, playing at being a god when he was a lolicon!

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"It would have just given you new ideas. Just like how I am not going to give you any instruction now. You should wait until you are older. When you are ten, perhaps."

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“I just wanted to be able to do more things before getting tired. Now I have too many chores to do them with just the strength of my body. If you had told me it was unsafe I could have stopped getting more responsibilities before it was too late. I could have grown up normally! You demanded I change my course but took no responsibility in informing me why. You didn’t tell me why I should stop, or show me a safer way to do it.” She scowls in a rather un-childlike way when she says this. The rumours of her being cursed are much more believable when witnessing that look on the face of a 5 year old.

The fact Tanya’s growth will be stunted really is stinging a lot more than she expected, and the part of her that was a HR manager was disgusted by the half assed job the village head did in warning her. If he had worked for her in her first life he would have been fired very quickly.

“And if another monster attacks? Only my mothers corpse shielded me from the last monster.”

For someone in charge of the whole village, this man had no sense of responsibility at all.

 

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"You currently look like a child, whether you truly are one or not. You should remember to act like one. I will not be absent again until you are grown, and that pathetic thing would not have killed a single person if I was not away, this I will swear if it alleviates your fears."

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She huffs and turns around and stomps away back home. Wich ironically was rather childish of her. She maybe should have been more polite to the person in charge but he was such an ass! Someone like him shouldn't be in charge of a ramen stand, much less a village.

When she gets home she asks ms. Wen to give her less chores, telling her the village head told her to not push herself so hard. Though it is obvious even to ms. Wen that Tanya is not happy about this.

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Ms. Wen harrumphs and goes and talks to the head and then comes back subdued (and complaining), and gives her fewer chores.

Age six. Nothing much happens. The gossip about her gets a bit more open. She's striking, and pretty, and still definitely not wife material with that attitude. An older boy, maybe ten or eleven, 'loses' his militia practice spear, which is nothing more than a sturdy stick with a carved point, really, near her, wink wink nudge nudge.

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She gives one of her incredibly rare smiles to him. Even when she is glad about something she is usually subdued. But this one act of generosity makes her break out into a genuine smile for the first time in a few months. She shouldn’t approve of someone breaking the rules and losing property that isn’t theirs, but the village head is a grumpy jerk so Tanya rationalises it.

She watches the militia practice when she can and tries to copy the moves behind her hut every chance she gets, she is even tempted to turn on her body reinforcement spell just so she can practice more. Some of her knowledge of using a bayonet applies but she also has to unlearn some lessons to wield a pole-arm affectively. So she is glad she got the practice in.

She tries to help out ms. Wen with less physically demanding chores to make up for the lost labor the village heads demand resulted in. If she gets a chance to show it, she can be shown to be very good with money and accounts. Tanya tries her hand at cooking by herself but is shown to be totally hopeless at cooking unsupervised without direct directions.

It’s not a bad year, even though every time she uses her spell to train more she winces internally at the idea of being stuck tiny and weak due to her growth being stunted.

 

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Age seven. Ms. Wen doesn't dare confiscate the spear even when she suspects it.

Being known as a reliable counter of things, at least, is a novelty for the village. And old man - not the village head, a different man - teaches her basic literacy so long as she helps him count things coming in and out of the village's little communal granary. They use characters here rather than an alphabet, but none of the kanji-equivalents are familiar. The granary also has the only writing in possibly the entire village.

And during the winter of the year she would turn eight...

Another beast attack. This one is some sort of enormous spider, or at least following a spider-like body plan. It has flesh and bone and muscle and fur, not chitin. The village head smites it with bolts of fire and takes it to pieces using a long bronze sword in a fairly showy battle. He clearly does know how to fight, at least.

The real trouble comes during the cleanup. One of the lumps of flesh being gathered up to go on a bonfire outside the village turns out to be some sort of egg. It bursts open and gores the teen that was dragging it with some sort of proboscis. They fall to the ground, writhing in pain.

Tanya is the next closest, and the eight-legged thing turns towards her even as shouts of alarm go up all around and the militia gather their wits.

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It’s been almost a decade since she was in combat, but the rush of adrenaline and focus comes to her as natural as breathing. In her last life she was recruited by the empire’s military mage program at the age of 9, being 8 years old and better fed and having done physical training actually makes her considerably more physically combat ready than she was then. She pushes mana into her body reinforcement spell harder than she has dared to before in this life, feeling the pain in her lungs and those spots along her body that hurt when she takes in too much mana.

 

She kicks off the ground with a stomp loud enough to be heard a hundred metres away, rushing for spear the teen dropped when he was gored. She scoops it up, it’s a lot longer than the one she was used to practicing with but in her adrenaline and magic doped state it barely felt heavy at all. She stabs it into the monsters face, the face is usually a weak point. She feels the spear catch and sink in a little, but less than she would have liked. A spurt of nasty dark monster blood catches her across the face as she pulls the spear out and steps away.

 

The beast flails at her with its limbs, one of its legs almost clipping her arm before her well honed instincts make her duck, she even manages to instinctively use her mana to push herself out of the way faster than she would have been able to do naturally. Nothing as insanely complex as a flight spell, just changing her vector slightly to help her duck quicker. Now she is low she stabs at the beasts stomach. She feels the spear catch into its flesh and then slide against a bone, stopping it from penetrating deeply. She snarls in annoyance, her usually angelic 8 year old face almost feral with anger against her enemy.

She pushes off the ground and into the air, jumping above the monsters many limbs to stab it from above, adding the weight of her fall to her spear lunge. The spear digs in deep, a fair bit below the neck equivalent of this thing as she lands on top of it. Her years of mage flight experience helping her keep her balance as the monster bucks under her. The stab she just made was probably fatal but just to make sure she pulls the spear out and stabs it a few more times into the monsters abdomen, before spearing it in the head. Each stab splashing dark ichor all over her, leaving her covered in blood as she methodically hunts for vital organs to make sure it stays down for good.

Eventually the monster stops struggling, she hops off its back but stabs it in the head one last time just to make sure. Covering her in even more blood and brains. She doesn’t realise it but the rush of adrenaline and the accomplishment of winning in combat have left her smiling. Someone charitable might say she looks like an angel of battle, most people would say she looks demonic with how much monster blood she is covered in and the unhinged smile she unknowingly has on her face.

She goes over to the fallen teen to check if he still has a pulse.

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The village head is in motion the moment he hears the first scream. He leaps in great bounds across the village, and lands-

-Just in time to see Tanya covered in monstrous gore splattered all around, standing over a bleeding person screaming in pain.

The village head stares, then sighs in resignation. "Solve one problem, and you keep a hundred others away."

He summons fire to his hands and reaches out, the sudden swirls of magic painfully obvious to Tanya's over-stretched system-

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Everything stops. There's a faint golden tint to the world, overlying all the gore, all the shouts and screams. The boy, the same one who gave her his spear, is still. No blood flowing. The militia are still. A ball of flame in the village head's hand like a beautiful gem, frozen mid-flicker, is still.

The painted mask he keeps attached to his belt floats up towards her slowly.

"Lao Fen is about to kill you, lost child. Pray for salvation, oh violent one. For even in this state my mercy shall find you, if you have faith. This world has no scientific advancement, and even the mightiest mages know that they are nothing before my wrath."

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The moment the world goes still, the familiar anxiety and horror floods her soul. She had hoped she would have longer before this sanctimonious bastard directly intervened in her life. She is practically shaking with rage by the time the mask comes before her.

”Your mercy? YOU ARE THE ONE WHO KEEPS THROWING ME INTO DANGER! that’s not mercy, thats blackmail. You kill so many people just because you can’t get over one mortal pointing out your MANY flaws. You only bring damnation and ruin!”

 

A lot of the grief at losing her last life suddenly comes flooding through, now she is directly facing the being responsible for it. Her last life might have been scary and difficult and filled with enough bloodshed to fill a lake. But she had people that she cared about that he tore away from her! Even if she didn’t already hate Being X for his many many flaws. She would not, could not, ever forgive him for that.

 

”Wrath is the only thing you know, you fake devil.” She spits some of the monsters blood out of her mouth, trying to hit the mask. “If you want to hold my safety as a bargaining chip to make me say the words. Then like last time I have no choice but to play along. But I will NEVER mean them. You already took everything that mattered from me, a lack of indoor plumbing and electric lighting won’t change anything. You will never gain worship because you are fundamentally unworthy of it.”

 

She has had 8 years to think of what she might say to him. She hopes she can jab at Being X’s ego with this, since his ego and need for validation is the only thing she really knows about him.

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"Human beings so often claim they will never do something. Or will always do something. And yet such solemn vows, I have seen, are so often broken in a mere few decades. The blink of an eye, truly."

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