Chapter 18:

Rudimentary Magecraft

Little Red Riding Witch

“Feall! Are you okay?” Lucy rushed towards the injured boy.

“Hehe… nothing I can’t handle,” the latter tried to make out a grin, but soon turned to a grimace as the torn muscles in his body screamed in agony.

“Are you stupid or something?” Lucy continued to chew Feall out even as she picked him up and let him lean on her shoulder once more, reminiscing their first encounter with each other. “Why did you go all out in the first lap? We have to do twenty, remember?”

“Sorry… I just thought that maybe this time I’d be able to get it right…”

There was no time limit, so the two of them didn’t bother about speeding up or slowing down, and instead just took one small step at a time, going forward at their own pace. It was a perfect moment for Lucy to learn more as well – about her new friend, and about her own path to magic.

Finding a corner to sit, Lucy put Feall down and asked.

“So, how were you able to do that spell?”

“You mean Body Enhancement?” Feall could only widen his eyes in surprise in response, but if he were still able to move around, the young man would most likely jump in surprise. “Isn’t that the most basic spell of all? Surely you can’t have forgotten even that, and not to mention you’re not a mage, too, so this is…”

“I did forget, okay? Just tell me what you know.”

“Well, okay then…” Feall paused for a moment, piecing together the ideas in his head for a presentation easy enough to understand.

“For starters, how much do you actually remember about magic and magecraft?”

“I know that magic is done by Mythics and magecraft done by human mages,” Lucy lightly shrugged, “but other than that, not much.”

“Hmmm… that’s a tough one…” Feall closed his eyes and focused his thoughts more. But his pondering took time, enough time for the rest of the group to finish their first lap and continued on with their second.

Needless to say, their presence had caught the attention of a couple of trainees.

“Eh? What are you two doing?” Meliae was the first to stop. She was first among the trainees so far, too, so it was natural that she would also be the first to notice her new comrades’ strange behavior.

“Oh, Feall’s injured,” Lucy answered, disregarding the former’s light frown as the words left her mouth. “So, I’m helping him rest a bit.”

“Well, aren’t you a lucky guy!” Meliae, hearing the news, instead let out a teasing grin towards the poor victim, who instantly knew what she meant, so much that his cheeks were beet red the moment he heard the words.

“I-It’s not like that!”

“That?” Lucy, on the other hand, was unfazed. Perhaps it was due to her lack of interaction with people, or it was because she really had no ulterior thoughts in her current state, that she did not see the blatant teasing from the girl before her.

Meliae, seeing the events unfolding before, was amused, to say the least.

“Relax, I kid!” Giving Feall a strong slap on the back, which only served to further his pain by a dozen fold, the fiery girl let out a hearty laugh. “So? You think you can continue, Feall? Or do you want us to…”

For the first time in their interaction, Feall showed genuine anger and determination. “Of course, I could!” he shouted. “I’m not giving up! Not after I’ve come this far!”

“… It seems like I was mistaken. You got guts! I like it!” Meliae gave a thumbs-up as a compliment before getting herself back on the race track, but not before calling out the pair for one last time. “Oh, but remember, no time limit means that if you don’t call it quits, you’ll have to stay here until you’re finished with the training! So don’t dawdle too long, Feall, Lucy! I’m off now!”

“Wait, Meliae!” Upon hearing the eerie warning behind the cheerful tone, Lucy reached out. “What happens if we quit?”

“You get an equally bad punishment! No one has quit before, so I believe that explains itself!”

As Meliae disappeared in a stroke of flames, there was only one thing on Lucy’s mind.

I need to get this thing done, no matter what!

“Well, that was… awkward,” Feall, whose blood still hadn’t completely left his cheeks, awkwardly continued the conversation. And to his embarrassment, Lucy still hadn’t noticed anything but her intent to learn more.

“Oh, right. Please continue.”

“O-Okay,” nodded Feall. “Essentially, magic or magecraft, the key to them lies in here.”

“My… heart? Spirit?” Lucy scratched her head in confusion as Feall struggled to lift up his finger, but only managed to raise it up to her chest.

“Your head… ow…” Feall tried to raise his finger more, but the pain soon sent the boy to a grimace once more as he forcefully dropped his pose. “But… basically, it depends on your imagination. For Mythics, your innate affinity for mana means that you can just picture something in your head and it will happen.”

“That sounds really simple,” Lucy’s face didn’t show much joy even before the information. She knew that if it was so easy to do, then she wouldn’t be struggling like this in the first place.

“Of course, there’s a catch. ‘Magic’ is just a term devised by us humans, while in actuality, it’s more similar to a natural phenomenon. That means if you can’t explain how it works, you can’t make it happen. For example, if you have never seen a fire, then you can’t make one in your head. Simple, right?”

“Yeah… somewhat,” Lucy reluctantly nodded.

“Contrary to Mythics, humans don’t have that kind of affinity with mana, so even if we can imagine things clearly, we can’t attempt such things. That’s why for mages, we need a catalyst – words, or images, to be precise.”

“Words or images?”

“If you can link a phenomenon to a set of words called chants, then your body will slowly but naturally learn how to draw out the mana to make that phenomenon. Same thing with images – by drawing symbols or images on a surface, the same kind of thing can occur. You said you were once in the human world, right? Then you must have known about the Changeling ritual…”

“Yeah, I do…” Lucy answered, the chains of guilt and regret that she thought she had overcome soon returned to bind her once more.

“Oh… sorry if I said something I wasn’t supposed to.”

“No, it’s fine…”

“A-Anyway, that’s the gist of it,” Feall quickly returned the conversation to its original course. “So, for me, I was able to use that spell because I linked the ‘phenomenon’ of my body being enhanced by the wind to the ‘chant’ that I used.”

“Enhanced by the wind?”

“My affinity is wind,” Feall nodded. “And the feeling… well, if I had to describe it, it’s like I’m running along with the wind, you know. It pushes me forward, and I use it to run even faster.”

“I see…” the simple imagery made Lucy wonder about its application to herself. “And what is the ‘chant’ that you used?”

“You can’t use it,” Contrary to her expectations, Feall simply shook his head. “Though it might be the same result, each person has a different link between their ‘image’ and their ‘catalyst’. So even if you learn my chant, unless you have the same kind of ‘image’ in your head, it’s not gonna work. And two people having the exact same ‘image’ is unheard of.”

“I see… but can you tell me either way? I feel like I might be able to learn mine if I can hear yours.”

“I… guess,” Feall, before the genuine desire to learn, had no choice but to agree. “It’s Gaoth, lán-chorp rua. Where I come from, it means ‘wind, full-body rush’.”

“Rush?” Lucy quizzically replied. “Sounds kind of… painful, don’t you think?”

It was only a spontaneous reaction, but unbeknownst to even Lucy herself, that answer was her Mythic instinct at its fullest. And for Feall, that hint was more valuable than anything else he had learned.

“That’s it! Thanks, Lucy! I think I’ve figured out how to do this thing without getting hurt!”

“Huh? That’s it?”

“Yeah! I’ll show you!”

Before the girl could say anything, the boy had already returned to the track, revitalized as if never having sustained any injuries in the first place. Taking a deep breath, Feall got into his pose once more.

Gaoth, fleasc lán-chorp.

From “rush” to “dash”. A simple change in wording, but a great effect. For a normal mage, a chant was an unconscious attempt of ingraining a result of actions in the user’s mind. It had been an unconditional response for Feall to break down every time he would cast his spell, for the simple fact that his body had already remembered the consequences. And so, for him to evolve beyond his current abilities, Feall broke the limits of his imagination and restructured himself in a way he had never thought of before.

Gone was the burning sensation that tingled all over his body. Gone were the root-like lines that once spread through his being. For Feall, the only thing he could feel now was the soothing breeze on his skin, as well as the refreshing life force flowing through his muscles.

The boy swung his arm forward and leaped. One step. Two steps. Three steps. His speed went faster and faster, but his body only felt lighter and lighter. There was nothing to stop him. At this moment, Feall felt like he was invincible. But there was one small detail that the boy had failed to notice.

Even if he had learned the way of rudimentary magecraft, his mana had already run out thanks to his earlier outburst.

This time, fortunately, there was no falling over his face. Feall simply gradually slowed down and ran at a normal speed for a teenage boy. And as soon as he realized the result, the smile he had just formed quickly dissipated.

“Um… How many laps have I done, Lucy?” Seeing the girl by his side again, Feall couldn’t help but ask.

“One, I believe.”