Just a Bystander

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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Word Count (13)
1st Anniversary
Top List #50
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
101. Transcendence ago
102. The Tempest ago
103. Charting a Course ago
104. Little Steps ago
105. Double Act ago
106. Support and Subjugation ago
107. Trepidation ago
108. Flight and Fire ago
109. Forced Violence ago
110. The Cost of Thaumaturgy ago
111. Patching Up ago
112. Diametric Powers ago
113. Fragility ago
114. Double Desperation ago
115. Augeric Assistance ago
116. First Principles ago
117. Foresight ago
118. Plans of Engagement ago
119. Soul-Searching ago
120. Mystery at Dawn ago
121. Depths Unknown ago
122. Prophetic Doom ago
123. The Question ago
124. Transfiguration ago
125. Purpose ago
126. Sighted ago
127. The Shape of Thought ago
128. Unlocking Secrets ago
129. New Heights ago
130. True Sight ago
131. Caught ago
132. Layers and Layers ago
133. Changed Plans ago
134. Inner Turmoil ago
135. Eldritch Reckoning ago
136. Self-Determination ago
137. Monstrous ago
138. Fragments of Humanity ago
139. Unchosen Paths ago
140. Breaking Frames ago
141. Unveiling History ago
142. Cosmic Confrontation ago
143. Bereft ago
144. Demiurge's Urges ago

Leave a review

drakan_glasses BE NICE! Fair critique is fair, but be respectful & follow the review rules. There will be no mercy.
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This is the most frustrating novel I have read in my life.

 Every aspect that could be interesting is jingled in front of the reader and then taken away by stuff like "can't tell".

 It's like the author told the reader:

 - "Behind this door are the answers to your questions".

 Then very visibly pulls out a key, locks the door and walks away.

And it applies to everything.

- The Prophecy? "Can't tell" says the character.

- How to do magic? "Can't tell" says the character.

If teaching magic bogusly "stunts" you, what the hell is the point of the academy?

The story basically establishes that the best way of learning magic is doing it independedly and everyone insists in it.

 What is the point of the academy?

And almost as equally infuriating is everything relating to the Prophecy because it gets the same treatment.


I hate this novel.

The Overall rating is a reflection of my enjoyment with this story.


An excellent deconstruction of the Chosen Hero

Reviewed at: 119. Soul-Searching

Caden is Just A Bystander, but he's not just a bystander. Choosing to involve himself in the grand matters of prophecy and fate, he's a great avatar of a desire to not just re-choose the same mistakes and to not just go along with what the spiders in the web want.

I don't love all the directions the plot takes, but the writing is impeccably solid and the characters shine.


Excellent. Simply Excellent.

Reviewed at: 17. A Breath of Relief

I never leave reviews. Never. This alone should tell you what I think of this story.
I'm leaving this review as of chapter 16, but so far I would place this work on par with Mother of Learning. It's that good. What I particularly love is the well deep characters, the way they converse, and most importantly, the well thought out and developed magic system that we are learning.

I will absolutely recommend this to anyone.


Improving as the story progresses.

Reviewed at: 1. On the Sidelines

As the story has progressed, the quality has improved.  The story was somewhat interesting, it's now much more interesting. While it's true this could use some TLC on earlier chapters, the state of the story is good enough to want to see it continue.

This story takes a different slant on prophecy and inevitability. Huge potential. 


Good story, painful magic

Reviewed at: 11. Kant Touch This

I'm enjoying the story but the magic is so complicated & not really fun at all. If magic existed in real life but was algebra I would just buy a gun & stick to good ol simple technology. I don't need PHD in engeneering to watch a TV, or use a laptop. Honestly. No fun at all.

i can, however, accept that all of the characters are top Uber smart students capable of using this system, so it's acceptable, or would be if I wasn't bombarded with technical magic theory every 2 seconds instead of an actual story.

The combat is also bland & technical. Like listening to a radio presenter describe a basketball match using only technical terms and in monotone. There's no excitement, description or emotion. Just technicality. It's a little bit painful to read. The plot seems great and the story has potential but as of chapter  11 this potential has not been realised

that being said the plot & story seem relatively good so far but I'm currently forcing myself to get through it hoping it gets better.


**update** I've dropped this because it does not get better, the story is told with about as much emotion as Steven hawkings voice simulator (rip) and it focuses on the overcomlicated magic to the point it feels like reading the ingredients to a shampoo bottle or hair conditioner. With sprinkles (& I do mean sprinkles) of actual story here and there.

if the author focused on telling a story and toned down the lectures and magic system by about 70%-80% this would be a good story.

For example instead of saying "he launched a pre-prepared force bolt at Dave, forcing him to desperately dive to the side to avoid being caught in the explosion" and explaining the technical side of things [in an exciting/captivating way] before or after the fight

 the author would say "he launched a seven-trigram diagram shifting reverse effect force bolt to pressure Dave, the formula he had pre-prepared would cause an explosion upon impact" taking all excitement and emotion out of the scene and bombarding the reader with technical drivel 


it makes it extremely hard to read and almost painful at times.


there is a good story underneath all of this, if you love magic theory this may be for you. 


Arcanophany is a fantastic word!

Reviewed at: 25. Food for Thought

And all of it's derivatives.

So far this story has set the stage for something that could be truly epic. It is a story that understands and executes on the Magic School setting with perfection.

We are given a character with enough understanding to believe he is great, and need to be humble, only for the story to immediately show him how little he knows. So we get to learn alongside him as all of his knowledge is revealed to us, then recontextualized for both him and us.

It has characters that seem real even at first contact. They aren't cutouts or cliche's, despite being specifically set up to fullfill the roles of tropes and roles.

It has a world similar enough to our own that it only need to show us the few ways that it is different for us to feel the wonder of understanding, without making us uncomfortable in our unfamiliarity.

I hope you can keep this going at this pace.

If I had to give any recommendations, it's slow down, let us know these characters and world some more before you start throwing too many character shifting and world changing occurrences at us. Let things settle some, and this can be great.

Michael Duffy

It's an easy five stars from me bois!
I've never seen a single grammar mistake, and everything is well formatted.
The story is bloody ace, and it's intellectual enough, without being needlessly complex, and not trashy, so much better than most on this site
The characters are believable, and no-one is a blatent mary sue to self-insert, and a great, natural learning curve to character development
This shit oozes style, it's well written enough that the realisations of the characters are genius, the links are there, but most wont spot them, and considering the character are the creme de la creme, it's sooo good, genius are often poorly done, but this ain't that!
Keep up the great work author!, and hopefully this meager contribution helps your algorithmic success.


Refined style. Top tier story. Humor and mystery is well done. It doesn't feel cliche or like a 2d academy story at all. It's very interesting.


Rate against the heavens!

Reviewed at: 27. Making Peace

This is a great story.

Follow as our protagonist strives o defy the hey gate of the world, and cost of walking that path


I really like it so far.

Reviewed at: Dinner and Duel

For me it''s really good and I usually don't read novels with male leads unless the main character is passably interesting. The magic seems to be an actual learned skill instead of just bloodline bullshit, so I find that very fascinating. 

I can already smell a conspiracy in the story.