Chapter 11 - Learning About Magic
Anna - [Tomorrow afternoon. Clear your schedule for the rest of the day.]
That was the message I got from her when I got home from my outing with Clovis. She then sent me the location where she wanted to meet up, and I realized that we were planning on meeting at the public library.
The next day, I told my parents that I would be meeting with a friend and doing something for the entire day. I took up my dad's offer for him to drive me there, and soon I was dropped off on the first floor of the parking garage.
Anna appeared once my father drove out of sight.
"Let's go," she said. Instead of heading inside the library, she headed towards where the stairs led to the upper floors of the garage.
I caught up to her. "We're not going inside?"
"The top floors usually don't have that many cars around this time," she explained. "Sometimes people take advantage of that and hang out there where they can afford to make a scene."
"So what exactly are we doing? I forgot to ask you earlier."
"I'm going to teach you the basics of magic."
Ah, right. She did mention something like that.
She sighed. "Let me make something clear. You're going to be working for me in investigating our school for any abnormal incidents. This is only because I feel that your future knowledge will be helpful in this regard. However, without knowing how to identify the supernatural elements, you won't exactly be very helpful."
Well, I couldn't argue with that.
"That said, I'll be giving you an extremely rushed education on the basics of magic. Nothing like a full apprentice's education, but enough for a layman to know not to accidentally kill themselves."
She waved her hand in dismissal at that. "Just another way of saying a beginner of magic. Everyone learns from someone in the beginning."
The two of us found ourselves on the empty roof. Anna looked around for a few seconds before she pulled out her utility lighter and muttered a few words. I noticed something ripple through the air, and the strange feeling of a buzzing sensation could be felt on my skin.
She lowered her lighter. "Alright, that should keep out others from interrupting us."
"I've seen you make walls erupt from the ground, shoot anti-magic fireballs, and create what looks like some kind of ward." I looked at her. "Is magic really that versatile?"
She gave a so-so gesture at that. "It honestly depends on your talents. Magic is not normally a human power, but we've learned to work around its rules to better benefit us."
"I keep hearing you say that," I told her. "You keep mentioning that magic isn't a human power. Then what exactly is it?"
She sat down and gestured for me to do so as well. "Before I explain that, let me tell you about what people commonly perceive as magic."
She cleared her throat and began her lecture. "Magic has been a long companion to this world for many years. The tales and legends of people doing miraculous things may or may not be true, but people always associate magic with the concepts of Mystery and Miracle."
"At its core, magic is just your will influencing the reality around you. Or if you look even deeper, magic is the power of your mind's influence. Your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, that is the core of what magic really is."
She sighed. "But the will of man is never equal, and the common populace often mistakes magic for miracles, expecting magic to be able to do anything. While not the main reason, this is one of the reasons why magic is hidden from normal society and kept secret."
Huh. I've heard my fair share of stories about greedy bastards annoying some wizards or witches to solve all their problems. Guess it would make sense that they would try to hide from all that.
"But the concept of miracles is something that helps me explain another concept." She pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil and drew a simple diagram onto it. "Magic is just a common description for how people affect reality. But if we go by proper terms, this is the level of how much each person can influence our world."
The Levels of Influences in Mental Interference
Illusion - Affecting only your perception of reality around you. Most mental illnesses fall under this category.
Magic - The ability to process a common concept of humanity through supernatural means.
Miracle - The ability to achieve what is normally beyond the ability of mankind, usually granted in the form of a wish.
I looked up at her once I finished reading. "Okay, I get the last two. But what's up with this illusion category? Especially that part concerning mental illnesses."
Anna sighed. "It's a bit hard to explain. But since magic is just the ability to exercise your thoughts in a particular way to manipulate the world around you, your perception of reality is extremely important in how you cast magic. People who see the world differently may be able to interact with the supernatural side even without being awakened like we are."
I thought of the stories I heard about how people with mental illnesses could sometimes see things that other people couldn't. "Are you saying that people with mental illnesses can see the supernatural?"
"No," she answered sharply. "I'm saying that people who see the world in a certain way can see the supernatural. That means that certain people with mental illnesses might be able to see the supernatural. Mental illness is not an association with magic."
Wow, that seems like a touchy topic for her.
I tried to steer the conversation to something else. "This last category. Does it have something to do with apostles?"
"Yes," she answered. "I mentioned before that an apostle is someone who was granted a wish by a supernatural being and bestowed a miracle. In your case, it would be something like time travel, which is something humanity has no power over."
"I'm still a bit confused about that," I told her. "I know that the difference between magic and miracles is whether or not humanity is capable of achieving it, but what exactly is the determining line? What makes time travel a miracle and shooting fireballs magic?"
She sighed once more. "You're still not getting it. Let me put it this way, do you actually think time travel is possible?"
Huh? That was a strange question.
"I mean, isn't it? Otherwise, I wouldn't be in this situation in the first place."
"I'm not asking whether it is possible. I'm asking whether or not you think it is possible. Do you really think something so great like changing the past to have a better future is possible?"
I was still confused about what she wanted me to say, so I just told her what I thought.
"I think that the past has already happened. You cannot change what has already happened, only what has yet to happen."
Even though I'm currently stuck in a time loop, I still have memories of my first life. I still remember what happened, and I could tell the differences between my first life and this one. The future I know doesn't exist yet, so the future of this world has the possibility of becoming anything.
She smiled. "Not exactly what I was looking for, but close enough. By conventional logic, if you travel to the past, that past becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past. So changing the past doesn't change the future, you are merely creating a new future from the past. An alternate timeline if you will."
Did she just quote E*dg**e at me?
"But the concept of a miracle overwrites that fact and somehow makes it work. It is the ultimate power that fulfills one's wish to a perfect degree. Even if logic says it's impossible, it's still possible because it is a miracle. So my theory is that you're not creating new timelines every time you loop, but actually rewriting time itself thanks to your miracle. Something impossible made possible due to the interference of something that exceeds humanity."
At this point, my head was beginning to hurt. I'm not usually one who reads complicated plots involving time travel and stuff like that, so this explanation was making my brain work a bit.
"Then what about magic," I asked. "What makes that possible?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "A skeptic could claim that I have an abnormally advanced flamethrower capable of creating condensed bursts of fire. Magic is always recreating a common concept generally accepted by the collective human unconsciousness. That means while the process is a mystery, the result is something most people are familiar with."
I think I get what she's saying here. "So as long as people find a logical explanation to how magic works, it's not considered a miracle?"
"It's more that as long as unawakened people have an explanation," she clarified. "Magic can only create something we can understand. That is the fundamental limit to how much humanity can affect the world around them."
She stood up suddenly after saying that. "But that's enough of a lecture for now. A good teacher always teaches both theoretical and practical knowledge."
"What?" I stood up as well. "What's that supposed to mean."
She gave me a smirk. "It means that I'll now be teaching you how to cast your first spell."
Not gonna lie, I was excited at having the opportunity to actually learn how to do magic by myself.
However, my hopes were dashed once she told me how I was supposed to learn.
Running laps around the perimeter of the roof was not what I had in mind when she told me she was going to teach me magic.
"Aaaannnd... done!" Anna clicked the timer button on her phone screen. "A little slow, but at least I know your current capabilities."
"Don't be such a baby, tough it out a little longer." Despite saying that, she threw an unopened water bottle in my direction. I desperately grabbed at it and twisted the cap off. "But now let's move on to step two."
I quickly finished drinking and looked up at her. "What's step two?"
"Showing you the difference between the mundane and supernatural. It took you about ten minutes for you to complete the number of laps I assigned you around this roof."
She showed me what was recorded on her phone, showing my results. "If you measure the roof's perimeter and multiplied it by the number of laps you ran, the distance you covered would be approximately the same as a mile."
Throwing her phone in my direction, my hands fumbled trying to catch it. She bent down and took a running position.
"Now, this is what happens when you use magic."
"For breath — my body exceeds itself."
Something in the air changed, and I felt a strange presence settle around her.
"Make sure you time me."
I barely managed to press the button on her phone before she sprinted forward with incredible speed. My jaws dropped as her body sped across the roof so fast, her body was a literal blur to my eyes. She completed her laps far faster than I did, and I realized that she was already almost done.
I clicked the button right as she stopped before me with barely a sweat to her.
"O-One minute and two seconds," I told her.
"Huh," she blinked. "That's a bit slower than I thought. Guess I need to work on that later."
She took back her phone from me and gave me a smirk. "The concept of humanity getting stronger though exercise is a commonly accepted belief. Magic takes this concept and magnifies it so that we can improve our body's capabilities to abnormal degrees."
She picked up a fallen piece of rubble near her foot. "By infusing our body with the power of our spirit, we can increase our strength and speed beyond most peak humans."
Her hand tightened, and the piece of rubble exploded as she crushed it in her hands.
"This is the basis of all awakened martial artists."