"Witches aren't real." I tried to reason with Vestiarina.
"They most certainly are. Otherwise, there wouldn't be one flying around shooting strange blasts at people."
"Sounds like a Caster to me. Nothing a Caster couldn't do."
"I'm a Caster and I'm not nearly as strong as her." Vestiarina said with concern.
I already knew I couldn't trust her. I woke up in this random hotel room in Kilead and I'm stuck here for a while too, which is probably her fault. Hearing that she's a Caster completely validated my suspicion.
"That reminds me. I need more on who you are."
"Is my name not enough?"
"A name doesn't tell me anything. Your attire on the other hand does. Civilians don't just casually wear armor. Who are you with?"
"What are you talking about? It's just protective."
She couldn't pull a lie over me that easily.
"Who do you work for? You claim to be a Caster, and I know that even in Kilead, armor isn't the norm. I also know that I didn't just accidentally get all the way from Hwen to here, coincidentally remembering none of it. Tell me honestly who you work for."
"Unfortunately that's confidential."
"You. Kidnapped. Me. You can at least tell me that."
"That's quite a bold assumption to throw at me, Takuya."
"Who else would've done it? Do you see anyone else in this room? It's either you or someone you work with who brought me here, in which case you'd still be guilty by association. I'm not here to discuss this. I'm not here for anything. Just tell me who you work for. It's not that difficult. I don't care if it's confidential."
"I really can't tell you."
"You're under a contract to serve me, are you not? Then I order you to tell me who you work for."
"I can't tell yo- "
Vestiarina abruptly stopped speaking and made a facial expression devoid of any emotion. As her face made the expression, her ring lit up with a bright purple glow that lasted for a second or two, then faded as well as her blank expression. "Steel Umbrella. Catholic Church. Vatican." That was all she said in a flat tone before she returned to normal.
"I'd say 'Curse you for using that damn contract', but I'm the one who wanted it. I was just kinda hoping you wouldn't figure out how easily it works this soon."
I discovered I could make her tell me anything I wanted, which is such an insane amount of control over her that I couldn't believe she willingly gave away. I could use this to easily interrogate her for everything I want to know. I could also probably make her do anything I want. I decided the most logical thing to do would be to use the contract to learn everything I can about her. But, to be honest-
"I'm not comfortable with this contract, Vestiarina. How do you undo it?"
"Why do you want to undo the contract?" She earnestly asked. As much as I didn't trust Vestiarina, she did say she wanted this arrangement. That was even more reason to be suspicious. No sane person would bind themselves to another's beck and call like that. There was very obviously something for her to gain from it that I hadn't figured out yet.
The contract was the only thing keeping her from backstabbing me. That was my only benefit from this, Vestiarina's limited information aside. Canceling our contract is essentially stripping myself of the shield I had against Vestiarina, something that was essential considering I had no idea if she should be trusted. Even so, control over another person to that extent is overstepping the bounds that humans should have never touched. Something like that is too ungodly for me to tolerate. I would have never let such a technique be created if I could do anything about it. And someone willing to be on the end of that control is too scary for me to want to be around.
"You say you're okay with it, but that doesn't work for me. I don't know you, and your information on me is limited. Regardless of how you feel, I can't let someone be subject to something so vile, and I refuse to hold this power over someone. Not because I don't trust myself with it, but because I believe that no person should hold the will of another. Free will is a right that can't be so easily revoked, even voluntarily."
Is what I said in a horrible subconscious effort to sound noble, but while I firmly believe that, I had another pretty big reason.
I absolutely will not involve myself in the affairs of the Catholic Church. Especially not the Vatican. The division of Europe into smaller continents and the annexing of Italy into Kilead created enough tension within the Roman Church for it to divide itself into sects across the world. That's not even including the other branches of Catholicism and Christianity independent from the Roman Church. That was millennia ago, yet the world of religion stands divided even now. It's way too volatile of a playing field for external involvement.
A long time ago, Hwen used to be multiple countries including Japan and the Koreas within the continent of Asia, but an apocalyptic event called Heaven's Divide killed a fraction of the world's population and split many continents into pieces. There's speculation about what actually happened, but many believe Heaven's Divide to have occurred as science concludes the same. Hwen was created as a result of Heaven's Divide, and wow this is boring and way besides the point. I'm thankful Hwen's conflict was only geopolitical and not religious is the point.
I wasn't just going to blurt out that I'm opposed to getting involved with the church, so I was hoping that my initial reason would be enough.
"You pass." Said Vestiarina. I was a little confused as I wasn't told I was being tested. If I knew that, I might've approached that differently. I might have even studied if I knew ahead of time. Actually, I'm not that studious.
"What do I pass?"
"I was making sure you had the integrity to help us out. If you had been complacent with the contract, we would've had an issue."
"So you didn't actually want to be a part of this contract?"
"I wouldn't exactly say that I don't want to be bound to you, but the contract is necessary regardless. I just needed to make sure that you hate the idea of it."
"Necessary how?" I loudly asked. "Hurry up and cancel it."
"Did you not learn how?"
"There isn't a how. There was never a technique made to cancel this type of contract." Vestiarina answered, and way too calmly. "The only way to cancel the contract is via the conditions set by the contract itself."
"And those are?"
"The contract is voided when you die."
"This is a pain. I'll figure this out later. The contract will stay for now because I can't do anything about it currently, so it better be necessary like you say it is. Also, if I find out you're using me for an ulterior plan, I'll kill you."
Why did I say that? Those last words never crossed my mind. I was annoyed, sure, but not that furious. I absolutely was not going to kill her. And I'm mindful of my words too. Guess I should just be careful from here on.
"Wow, you went from 'Such control over another is vile' to 'I'll kill you if you betray me' really quick. I kinda dig that though."
"You appear to be a knight of the Vatican. Is it appropriate for you to be conducting yourself in such a manner and saying such indecent things?" I asked, one more for the "Out-Of-Character Moments" collection.
"How prudish. Are you sure you aren't the nun that went missing several years ago?"
"I just think you should practice what you preach. You might not be taken seriously otherwise."
"Oh, but I haven't preached anything. I may not be associated with the Vatican in the way you think I am. I'm employed by the innermost circle of the Vatican, that much is true. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'm the most devout worshipper or that all my beliefs align with the orthodoxy."
It's not like I was going to press her about it or lecture on purity, abstinence, kindness, or anything else included in the church doctrine. I didn't care that much. I just don't like hypocrites very much. That makes me a hypocrite, but it is what it is. The self-reflection would come another day.
"Doesn't really matter to me. Anyway, where were we? Right. Sorry to wait until now to tell you, Vestiarina, but I can't help. I won't involve myself in religious matters. Any small movement within the church, no matter how insignificant, could spark a holy war."
"You're exaggerating." Replied Vestiarina, clearly bluffing.
"It is that bad and you know it. I don't follow any religious institutions and even I know that."
"Fine, I admit that right now is a very unstable time for the Catholic Church. But don't think of it as helping the church, think of it as helping me."
"Yeah, technicalities of association can't sway me on this."
"Aw, but you passed our test and everything. Why not just help me out?"
"No. And why did you make it seem like the contract is a burden? I mean, it is, but you added me to it without my consent and admitted that you wanted it."
"I do, it's just a shame you won't help little ol' me after all this trouble we've been through."
Correction: Trouble that you put me through. And it was too late to act like a dainty maiden as soon as you walked in here wearing a full suit of armor. And I'm pretty sure that's a sword on your back.
"It's unfortunate but that's how it is. Now, if you could just tell me where my clothes are at-"
That's when I remembered.
I was still in my undergarments.
At the same time that this realization slapped me in the face, Vestiarina also had a realization. She figured out something she could use to her advantage, and it was obvious through one of the most obnoxious smirks I had ever seen.
"You know, I happen to have gone out and bought you clothes, since all your stuff, uhh, happened to be missing when I found you. They're yours if you agree to help me out. Though I suppose you could stay like that, not that I mind. Perhaps I should join you."
What to do in this situation?
"...A witch, was it? Just sounds like a Caster who's a little ahead of themselves. Shouldn't be an issue."
"Glad we're seeing eye to eye," Vestiarina said, making sure to be as smug as she could. "But it won't be that easy. If this was just a Caster we were dealing with, Steel Umbrella of the Vatican could have taken care of them, unless they were monstrously powerful."
"If they're not a caster, why can't you handle them?"
"This individual isn't called a witch for no reason. We haven't been able to deal with them because magic is out of the Catholic Church's domain."
Magic? If magic really existed, I'd have heard about it long ago.
"Magic only exists in theory. Casts are as close as one can get to magic, and they're pretty much the same thing."
"Do they not have magic in the rest of the world? There are more magicians here than Casters. I really don't want to talk about how we could be so unequipped to counter magicians despite this being the case."
"Never seen magic. I always associated magic with Casts. The concepts are one and the same to me."
"It's a lot more complicated, but it basically works like this. Casts defy natural law by using energy from the Caster to create and manipulate. Magic uses a little energy from the magician and a lot of energy from the atmosphere, which allows magicians to create new things from existing things, reshape their environment, and create magic that is more versatile in its type and source than many Casts."
"It makes sense, but it doesn't."
"In a way, magic is the enhanced successor to casts. Magic takes the core principles of Casts and builds upon them. Of course, only people who have heard of both would know that, and there are very few. This doesn't come as a surprise, because magic isn't as heavily kept secret as casts."
"Nope. Not everyone knows of it, but most people you ask will, at least around Kilead. That's not to say Kilead is populated with magicians, though. Very few who know of magic can use it. Not that the people who can't use it can never become magicians. It all comes down to aptitude, and dedication to perfect the craft above that. The same applies for Casters, so you understand this already."
I mean, yeah, hard work triumphs over talent in just about everything, but that's not something I have abided by very well as a Caster.
"Oh, and while I'm thinking about it," Vestiarina continued explaining her explanation of the somewhat already explained. "Let me correct myself. I didn't mean that there are only a handful of people who know of casts and magic. I'd say about one-third of Casters can use some basic magic. Even more at least know about it despite not being able to use it. In comparison, most magicians have never heard of Casts. The number of people who know about both is quite a lot, but it also isn't when you factor in these things."
"...Magic is public knowledge, and there isn't any civil discourse? No fear? No fights? No riots? No disruption? No discrimination or persecution?"
"Nope, but there are those who are concerned about abuse of magic on civilians. That doesn't really happen though, except in rare cases like this witch, so people are generally calm about it."
I suppose my grand conspiracy was officially disproven. Since Casts and magic are fundamentally identical, if there's no freakout over one, why would there be over the other? There might be some geopolitical reason why the people of Kilead are so calm and open about magic, but that's way beyond the depth I want to tread. For the time I was fine with simple logic. If they're not freaking out over here, why would they freak out over there? That's the antithesis, and it's torn my theory apart. However, it brought me to a new question. If the risk of civil conflict is minimal, why are Casts and Casters still hidden from the public? If there wasn't something that would happen if Casters went public that world powers want to prevent, there wouldn't be an effort to be secretive about the field of Casting.
Food for thought, but for another time.
"I get the gist. I think I'm ahead of you here. Do you want me to overpower the witch so you can apprehend them?"
"We brought you here because we've heard you're capable of doing that as you are right now, but no. You're going to need to learn some magic before you take on that witch."
"Did you also figure that since I'm a Caster, I'd have an easier time learning magic?"
"We were hoping for that, but if that turns out to be not the case, then it's not a big deal."
"I really don't know myself what it might be like. We'll just have to see. So, what are you going to be teaching me?" It was a moronic question to ask.
"Like I said, magic is out of the Catholic Church's domain. I won't be teaching you anything."
"How am I going to learn any magic then?"
"By going to school, of course."
When the school closed so they could clean up after the riot, I didn't expect to be (possibly) kidnapped and taken to Kilead. When I woke up in Kilead, I didn't expect to have a knight lady tell me I'm going back to school. Am I just going to go along with this?
Yes, I am. I don't have to. I could probably subdue Vestiarina, take the clothes, and be on my way, but I'd have to find my way back to Hwen on my own and I'd have the Catholic Church as an enemy once they found out. Not the biggest issue I could have, but I still want to avoid that. That aside, I'm just doing it because it will stave off the boredom. Not that I've been bored in a while. But that's a good thing.
"Do I start school tomorrow?"
"Yes, but unfortunately there are some circumstances. You may have to do some things that you feel uncomfortable with."
"What does that mean?"
"How good are your acting skills?"