Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Summon a demon with this circle, huh? I glanced at Zero with astonishment.
“Hey, wait! Don’t tell me you’re gonna summon a demon here?!”
“I sure am. Just sit back and watch. It is quite the interesting sight.”
Ignoring my protests, Zero held both her hands over the circle and started chanting. I thought about stopping her, but I was too terrified to interrupt the spell. Instead, I half-rose to my feet so I could run any time. Not entirely determined to escape, however, I glanced back and forth between Zero and the circle.
Five minutes later and she was still chanting. I grew tired of staying on my toes. Just when I thought nothing might happen, the circle started to glow a clear blue. I could see something beyond it.
Oh, crap. It’s here! She really summoned one! I took a huge leap back. The light vanished in an instant. For a while, my eyes were fixed on the creature that appeared in the middle of the summoning circle. It resembled a human being, but it wasn’t exactly human. Like some sort of an insect, it had deep, green eyes with no white, and transparent wings growing on its back. And it was incredibly small. Smaller than my hands.
“That’s… a demon?”
“Yes. By the way, aren’t you a little too scared?”
“Shut up! The only ones not afraid of demons are you witches!”
I was watching from afar on full alert, all the hair on my tail standing on end. Zero wore a look of astonishment.
“It is fine. Just come closer. It will not bite. I say demon, but this is actually a fairy.”
“Demons and fairies are different creatures!”
“They are essentially the same. It varies between eras and regions, but we witches collectively refer to nonhumans as “demons”. That includes fairies, spirits, and of course gods.”
“Should you really be lumping gods together with demons?”
“Is it not part of the Church’s doctrine to regard pagan gods as demons? In other words, the Church itself acknowledges that the only thing that distinguishes God from demons is the people’s faith.”
Yeah. That kinda makes sense. For someone like me who didn’t worship any god, it was a more convincing idea than there being only one true God.
Slowly, I inched closer to the circle, studying the small, uneasy demon chirping like a cricket.
“It looks scared,” I said.
“I bet it is. Only rarely do low-ranked demons like this get summoned. It is not used to it.”
“Do demons have ranks?”
“Indeed, they do. There is a strict hierarchy among them. The higher-ranked ones are powerful, with a retinue of lower-ranked demons. Therefore if you succeed in summoning a high-ranked demon, you can get them to tell you how to summon lower-ranked ones. This was how the study of Sorcery developed and spread.”
“So what rank is this one?”
“Close to being the lowest. It is weak. You can probably crush it to death with your hands.”
Man, I got scared for nothing. I found it surprising how there was a demon weaker than me.
“Now, little demon. Grant me my wish,” Zero said as she presented a branch. The demon stared at it for a while before drawing a deep breath and blowing fire on it. It then regarded Zero with an inquiring look.
“Our contract is complete. Thank you.” Zero nodded, producing a small fruit from the bag hanging by her waist, split it in half, then tossed it into the demon’s mouth. The creature giggled before disappearing with a puff.
I let out a breath of astonishment as I stared at the empty space where the demon was just moments ago.
“Man, that’s incredible… It’s my first time seeing Sorcery and a demon.”
“It is roughly as you imagined it to be, right? Draw a circle, recite the incantation, summon the demon, and negotiate.” Zero extinguished the flames on the branch.
She was right. Except for the demon being tiny, it was just as I imagined, including the procedure.
“This is where the book comes in,” she continued. “It is divided into four chapters: Hunting, Capture, Harvest, and Protection, and contains instructions on how to perform Sorcery without the ritual, only the incantation.” Zero twirled her finger in the air and a small flame suddenly appeared.
I distanced myself quickly from the flame with my eyes wide open.
“This is the power of the demon I summoned just now—’light up a tiny flame’. I did not draw a circle, nor did I summon the demon, but as you can see, it is the same spell. This is Magic. Normally, you would need to recite “Kahlo Rai. Flame, come forth. Chapter of Hunting, Verse One: Rex. Grant me power, for I am Zero.”
“Y-You can omit the incantation too?”
“With enough practice, yes. The incantation is divided into three parts: For the spell I just cast, ‘Kahlo Rai’ is a command to the demon. “Flame, come forth” is a clear declaration of intent to guide oneself. The last part, uttering the spell name and your own name is a sort of a battle cry.”
“Does a battle cry really matter?” I muttered unintentionally.
Zero nodded firmly. “Giving your name and the spell name can provide huge assistance when casting Magic. As you become more proficient, you will not need the aid anymore. Eventually, reciting the incantation in your mind will be enough—a prayer, so to speak. Convenient, right? You can start a fire without flints.”
Sounds convenient, all right. Since I had bigger hands than the average person, I always had trouble starting a fire as there weren’t any flints big enough for me. As I breathed a sigh of admiration, Zero put out the flame dancing on her fingertip. I finally understood a little what she meant by “common knowledge no longer being applicable”. But there were still questions.
“How’d you use the demon’s power without summoning it anyway? Isn’t it necessary?”
“Not really. No one tried it before.”
What? For real?
“That’s ridiculous! Does that mean witches just wasted a lot of their time for a step that wasn’t even necessary?”
“That is correct. A word would have been enough, yet witches went through all the trouble of summoning demons, thereby exposing the world to danger. Because of that, they had to come up with defensive measures. That is Sorcery. The question is not ‘how did I cast a spell without summoning the demon’, but ‘why summon them in the first place when doing so was not really necessary?'”
I sat there speechless. Witches got the first step wrong, and Sorcery developed based on that mistake, a mistake that no one realized for centuries.
“The stolen book contains basic theories on Magic, including how you can cast spells without summoning demons.” Zero continued. “In addition, written in it are names of demons, their abilities, the incantations, and the required sacrifices. There is no room for negotiations with demons in the first place because what they can do is already fixed. Demons are governed by a predetermined set of rules, just like how throwing salt into a fire will make it burn yellow.”
Zero paused for a moment before continuing. “I call this the Magical Laws on Demon Contracts, or Magic for short.”
I finally understood the meaning of the unfamiliar term. Magic was a new craft that allowed witches to cast Sorcery easily and in a short amount of time by removing the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process.
Suppose you wanted to ask a king for a favor, which would be easier: Summoning him to your room, or sending a gift and a letter that contained your request? It would be the latter, no doubt. Yet witches spent ages figuring out how to summon the king to their room.
Now a lone book could rectify the witches’ mistake. Rounding up a thousand troops was necessary to bring down a witch, and even then one witch could kill a thousand men. The only reason that the Church won was because Sorcery took time. Witches in the middle of their rituals were defenseless and easy to kill. Only a few witches could perform powerful spells. Killing one of them greatly increased the chances of victory.
What if Magic, a craft that allowed casters to invoke spells in a short amount of time, spread throughout the world?
“Sounds like a serious matter, all right,” I said.
There had been ground-breaking advancements in technology throughout the world. The discovery of iron changed war. The development of the wheel and carriages changed commerce. What kind of change would the discovery of Magic bring, then?
First of all, witches would gain power. If their numbers increased, a war might break out between them and the Church once more. Might? No, it was no longer just a possibility. After five hundred years of hiding, witches had come out in the open, staging a revolt against the kingdom of Wenias. The stolen book was definitely involved in all this.
“So the witch chasing me last night used this “Magic” from the book,” I said.
“Yes,” Zero replied, dropping her shoulders.
“Did they steal the book?”
“No. They were only a novice. I tried asking where they read the book, but they were too hysterical, I barely got anything out of them, so I left. Apparently, someone taught them.”
“Someone taught— Wait a sec.”
Books were meant to be read. The knowledge contained in one could spread to thousands of people. Does this mean the problem is not only limited to witches? Zero said Magic could be cast by simply reciting the incantation and offering a sacrifice.
“Does that mean anyone can use Magic?” I asked.
“That is not true. Magic is highly dependent on one’s aptitude. Without it, you cannot use Magic no matter how hard you try. There exists a hurdle insurmountable with knowledge alone.”
“How would you know if someone has the aptitude or not?”
“Simple. Just chant a basic spell, and if there is a sign of it casting, you have the aptitude. If there is none, you do not have it. If you do have the aptitude, it will take at most five years to learn.”
Yup, that sounds really bad. There was no doubt that Magic was an incredibly powerful force. If five years were enough, someone would surely try to abuse it.
I finally understood Zero’s worries. Like she said, a page from the book could destroy the world.
I recalled the bolt of light that pierced the tree trunks last night. To produce that much power, it would have to be made of iron and fired from a huge bow wielded by someone ripped. One guy like that on the battlefield would be more than a threat. A group of people who could cast Steim could easily force an army to retreat.
Now things would be all good if these people had discipline. But what if they became bandits and turned to robbery? What if an absolute lowlife had the aptitude to use extraordinary Magic? Who would stop them? How?
The spread of Magic would cause a disruption in the balance of power everywhere. It would sow mayhem and spark wars.
“Sounds like a really troublesome book. Why even write it?”
Zero immediately paused, and I rose to my feet.