Just a Bystander

by Aefraga

Everyone wants to believe they are the hero of their own story. But in a world where prophecies are real, what happens if you're not the Chosen One?

A budding arcanist named Caden enrols in the Academy, entering the same cohort as one of the legendary Chosen Ones, and finds himself caught in a tangle of fate that threatens to unravel the entire Empire. 

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Cover art by Fuyu Dust.

A number of people have asked about how they can support me, so I've started a Patreon page for those who would like to make a financial contribution.

"Just a Bystander" is a work of love and I intend to keep posting it for free on RoyalRoad for everyone to enjoy. As someone who has been blessed with a full-time job that has remained stable even in the midst of a global pandemic, I would like to stress that I am able to continue writing with or without financial support and that you should not feel compelled to put dollars into this. 

I've chosen not to offer early chapters because I'd like my readers to keep apace with each other, and there are time constraints that come with my situation. The best I can offer for now is the promise of special Discord privileges once I get the opportunity to get them up and running in the future.

Thank you for reading my work. I hope you continue to enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. =)

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Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
1. On the Sidelines ago
2. A Thief of Memory ago
3. Precision Matters ago
4. Advanced Glyphs ago
5. Challenging Fate ago
6. Familial Ties ago
7. Dinner and Duel ago
8. Power Ladder ago
9. Bolts and Bonds ago
10. Thaumaturgy Trial ago
11. Kant Touch This ago
12. Unraveling Clues ago
13. Mania ago
14. Spillage ago
15. Venting ago
16. Freedom of Choice ago
17. A Breath of Relief ago
18. Cracks ago
19. Herding ago
20. Ensnared ago
21. Arcana Reframed ago
22. Ineffable Forces ago
23. Piercing the Veil ago
24. A Friendly Reckoning ago
25. Food for Thought ago
26. Bound ago
27. Making Peace ago
28. Puzzlement ago
29. Fey Afield ago
30. Chipping at the Fetters ago
31. Links in the Chain ago
32. Captained ago
33. Defiance ago
34. A Step into Darkness ago
35. A Plea ago
36. Force ago
37. Convergence ago
38. New Threads ago
39. Breaking Barriers ago
40. Snipping Strings ago
41. Lapses in Judgement ago
42. A Walk in the Dark ago
43. A Shadow of Life ago
44. Becoming ago
45. The Fulcrum ago
46. Forgotten Things ago
47. New Ground ago
48. Development ago
49. Raising Standards ago
50. The Beginning ago
51. Reviving Volition ago
52. Seismic Shifts ago
53. Streams and Shadows ago
54. Darkness Incarnate ago
55. Collapse ago
56. Unexplained Intervention ago
57. Sketching Futures ago
58. New Aspects ago
59. Navigating the Unknown ago
60. Beacons ago
61. Travel Plans ago
62. Domestic Affairs ago
63. Thwarted Plans ago
64. Building Blobs ago
65. Unseen Hurdles ago
66. Abrupt Departure ago
67. Intercepted ago
68. Possession ago
69. Delirium ago
70. Call to Aid ago
71. Frayed Threads ago
72. Undercurrents ago
73. Entwined ago
74. Giving ago
75. Eldritch Reasoning ago
76. Memories of the Ancients ago
77. Finding Common Ground ago
78. Avoiding Conflict ago
79. Familiar Chords ago
80. Invasion of Privacy ago
81. Alternative Threads ago
82. Certain Choices ago
83. Dire Pronouncements ago
84. Reversal ago
85. Broken ago
86. Violent Resolutions ago
87. Reawakening ago
88. Mending ago
89. Manipulated ago
90. De-escalation ago
91. Cover-Up ago
92. Complications and Consequences ago
93. Detachment ago
94. Consolidation ago
95. Faith ago
96. Tenuous Trust ago
97. Exchanging Information ago
98. Theoretical Issues ago
99. Prophetic Advancement ago
100. Anger and Agency ago

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This is going to a popular story!

Reviewed at: 26. Bound

At my current progress it's easy to tell this story has all the ingredients to be one of the stories that blow up on this site. Much of it is centered around the academy and some unknown, but powerful, force affecting the world. While that's not all this story is, the closest comparison I can make is to Mother of Learning. This story isn't somehow worse for being similar, but rather everything that was done right is being done right here as well!

The world, from what we've seen of it, is beautifully laid out to get everyone easily on board and it's slowly unraveling as the character(s) discover more of it themselves. Everyone has well defined personalities that we see being developed through each chapter and at the same time many other people are being introduced that have more mysterious thoughts and plans. Who the people are actually matter and count for something. The magic for the most part is a hybrid of soft and hard magic systems. Largely it's true that the magic functions under certain rules and even then rules can have different interpretations leading to completely different outcomes. The soft magic comes into play via the "fate" aspect of things, almost like it exists on a level above where the normal rules of magic apply. And finally this has a world that just  feels like it has history. Who knows if that's actually true, but the writer did a good job giving that impression and making the world feel more real.

So overall this story plays to every strength MOL had and uses them to take the story in new and exciting direction. This is definitely a case where someone learned from what worked and applied it to their own story in a way that doesn't feel copied or lesser. I'm really excited to see where this goes from here and I hope others can leave reviews too so this story can get noticed more. I definitely think it has the potential to gather a fanbase like the other popular stories on here have.


Btw, can anyone tell me why spell check never works on this site? I'm kind of tired of having to copy paste long comments or reviews like this into a doc so google can tell me how to spell. Please send me a pm if you've gotten yours to work somehow.



A novel you need to experience,(broaden your mind)

Reviewed at: 26. Bound

This story is pretty impressive, while I don't agree with some of the actions the Mc took cause I'm a coward, I'll have to say I'm pretty impressed with this story.

Best points--world building, character building, good plot, etc

Bad points--(not gonna say it cause it's my personal preference, and I don't wanna poison the author's or the readers mind) 

Definitely worth a read


Nice magic system

Reviewed at: 26. Bound

Just read it. Totally blew my expectations away because the blurb made it seem like your typical generic RoyalRoad story that you shelf forever after you binge up to the lastest chapter. However, this isn't one of those stories. I'll be following this one to the end - I have a good feeling.


Professional Quality

Reviewed at: 26. Bound

 Normally a book this good would cost money. It does everything right; compelling characters, a good plot, good worldbuilding, and fun magic.

Read this immediatly.


I tried to start it the night before but didn't feel the urge to keep going. It felt a bit too familiar to be interesting.  Boy was I wrong!

The intro notwithstanding, the writing is tight, the reactions and dialogue well crafted and the deep insights into the character relations are unexpectedly believable in light of the strange situation the MC funds himself.  Just about every character has a good description, both visually and behaviorally distinct with interesting background. The supporting characters are also more than paper cutouts.

I think the best part is the struggle of the MC who is trying to defy fate and rails against prophecy.  We get hints of it working on the background smoothing some things out but also goading Caden forward.  In fact, all the characters are interacting believably, and best of all, the underlying motives of all the main characters and many of the side characters are there to tease out.  They are true to their motivations and follow them believably, but they deviate in organic ways.

The magic too is well thought out, feels powerful and arcane but has clues scattered about that delight my curiosity.  The idea that understanding builds power is very well detailed and I get the sense that just like MacGuyver was able to build amazing devices from every day objects, we see that eveyday objects taken for granted are actually marvels of discovery.  

There were only a few cases of very minor grammar issues I've noticed, almost every one superficial.  The editors are doing a great job of catching all the stuff that would bother me otherwise.

A very well thought out plot that is motoring along,


The story prose, pacing and overall tones are excellent.  It is playing with concepts that are very pervasive but rarely done right.  Typically they get overused and become trite however the author doesn't fall into that trap.  

The character development is absolutely FANTASTIC.  The reasoning for the characters makes sense.  They start out a little strange but the dialogue is natural and then down the rabbit hole for why and how.  However, its not a data dump but typically done via dialogue instead of the omniscent narrator.  Very refreshing. 

I highly recommend this story.  It honestly is one of the best I have read on here and I love He Who Fights with Monsters and I would rate this one right with it.





Great start but can't really tell where the story is going yet

Reviewed at: 29. Fey Afield

This story definately has the makings of something great. The premise is really unique and the magic system is incredibly interesting. The characters also seem pretty interesting so far. They all seem to be pretty well written and I'm looking forward to how they develop. So far they've had pretty realistic reactions to everything that's happened to them and it's interesting to see how dedicated they are to improving as mages without seeming unrealistic for teenagers. So far however not a lot has actually happened. The MC and chosen one are still the only ones aware of any of what's going on behind the scenes while the others are mainly just working hard because they want to become successful mages. All in all this story is off to an excellent start all around but if the slow pacing continues it will be a while before it really kicks off. This is why so many reviews say that the magic system is the highlight of the story. It's one of the few things that's really gotten developed enough for us to make guesses about where it's going. Meanwhile the rest of story could go in any number of interesting, or uninteresting, directions.


I don't know why but so far this novel reminds me a lot of mother of learning. Maybe in the sense that both mcs have to understand a major magical phenemonom that's taking control of their life on some level. Or maybe it's just the characters and writing style.


If You Are Reading This It’s Not Too Late...

Reviewed at: 17. A Breath of Relief
Spoiler: Spoiler


This is the one. I never thought that I would ever give a five star review on any book, not to mention one on Royal Road. 

The style and grammar remind me of the Tao Te Ching; everything reads extremely simple the first time, but if you reread it, you can perceive the depths. The authors word choice can be simple, but the nuances are there, and their significance is always revealed in the end. 

As for story and character content, I have NEVER seen any author manipulate the psychology of the characters AND the audience simultaneously, and so masterfully. If you don't believe me, check the comments section of any chapter. This isn't just any book, or any light novel, this is the magnum opus of a lifetime. I cannot comprehend the amount of effort and talent that went into this creation. 

All I can do is attest to how much this novel pushed the limits of my imagination, creativity, and personal philosophy to the point of breaking. And then some. Somehow, the author makes you question everything. I cannot stress this enough, this serial webnovel has completely re-contextualized the way I see the world. 

If you still have a holdups about reading this after reading my complement cunnilingus and circumlocutions word salad, I must say, everything is better when you experience it yourself. I guess the good thing is, it's not too late for you to do so... yet. 


What criteria are you critics using? This is a bonafide book. And i want more


An excellent Magic school story, with excellent characters and interesting plot

Reviewed at: 28. Puzzlement

 The magic system is well-developed, and ties very well into the characters and plot. Exposition can be a bit heavy during classes, but I don't think that can be avoided with a school story in which the magic system is so essential to understanding the plot. Otherwise, worldbuilding is minimal, but well executed. 

Characters are varied and interesting.

I suppose the pacing can feel a bit too fast at times, but that's usually when prophecy is at work, so it makes sense.