It might be a bit late, but my master is actually a Magus.
Magecraft is the art of appealing to the foundations of the World, through the use of
, to enact phenomena of change within the scope of what is already realistically possible...or something like that. I was told Odo is the life force present in every human being, while Mana is magical energy that fills the world around us, but my understanding of the subject is still pretty shaky.
One thing I do know for certain is that to be a Magus means to turn your back on the world, and to devote yourself entirely to nothing but yourself and your craft. I was told once that the very act of keeping Magecraft hidden from the public eye was important, but secretly I sometimes thought that Magi were just people that liked to lock themselves up in their rooms and neglect the outside world.
"...I understand the story about Angels."
Trying to restrain my facial expression from clearly showing my feelings, I bowed my head.
Yes, this was my master.
Perhaps in contemporary society things are different, but at least where I lived previously, it was common to pay your superiors their due respect. So even if my master was unlikable, I still had to take a proper attitude.
"...On another topic, do you not intend to live in the mansion with Reines?"
"You think I could survive together with that devil? My stomach would be broken in three days. It already feels broken now..."
Lying on the sofa and rubbing his abdomen, my master made a sullen face. After a short while, he gave a tired sigh.
"Anyway, I said I'd take on the request, so I need to take at least the bare minimum of measures."
Since I didn't really know the details of their discussion, there was nothing for me to do but give a seemingly appropriate yet effectively meaningless response. As if he had realized something, my master closed one eye and gave a short hum.
"Speaking of which, what do you think of Angels?"
I'm sure my distaste for the topic was written clearly on my face. Whether it was in relation to Magecraft or not, I was pretty weak when it came to long conversations. Considering how straight-forward reality tended to be, it seemed to me that living people talked far too much. Especially those in the city.
"...err, they are messengers of the Lord who bring his blessings to humans, right? A long time ago, the priest near my home used to speak about them a lot."
"I'm not asking about them in the general sense. I mean, what do you think about them as far as Magecraft is concerned?"
"Ehheheheheheh! Even if you say it like that, there's no way she'll understand! She's pretty stupid, after all!"
Suddenly, a cheerful voice sprung up.
Naturally, the only people in the room were my master and myself. So, this must have been a third, formless person's voice. Both my master and I knew the true identity of that voice's owner, so it didn't particularly surprise either of us. Rather, knowing it was a waste of time to engage them, we simply ignored it as much as possible and continued with the explanation.
"...though I am not all that smart, to be honest."
"That's not the problem. Even beyond the fact that you are my disciple, I won't sit idly by and let one of my own be insulted in front of my very eyes. Remember that."
The sound of something slamming shut resounded.
Maybe because of the sudden change in tone from the previous conversation, the third voice abruptly retreated into silence.
With that settled, my master then extended his hand towards the table. Taking a cigar from his metal cigar case, he used a knife to cut a small piece off at the mouth. Striking a match, he lit the cigar and took a deep pull on it. With that done, he intertwined his fingers on his lap.
"Let's begin a new lecture, then."
In that lax fashion, he began to speak.
"First, let's start with the Angels you spoke of, the messengers of God. That's also correct. In fact, the Angels used in Magecraft draw their foundations from those ones. The abilities of these Angels who deliver the blessings of God are important to Magi in the modern era. Particularly, the use of Angels is currently in a state of being reinvented by modern Magi."
Even though it was a similar explanation yet again, this time I was able to understand it properly. The difference was obvious. The previous explanation was that of a common person, whereas this one was one from a lecturer of the Clock Tower. Losing his languid facial expression from earlier, my master now looked at me from across the table with a sharp gaze.
My master was not all that skilled when it came to Magecraft.
This wasn't humility, or modesty, or underestimation. It really was the case that, for better or for worse, he was just ordinary. Even if he was an authority within the Clock Tower at the moment, it was unheard of for such a figure to remain in the Fourth Order, or so I had overheard countless times from others in the two months I had been here. And yet, my master's value was not low by any means.
As a lecturer, he had managed to cultivate astounding results, to the point where I who was in the position of his personal apprentice was getting rushed down by other students. To have the honour of being taught personally by that
Lord El-Melloi II. Honestly, the envious stares hurt.
If I were to give an example, our relationship would be like that of a boxer and their second, or an athlete and their coach. Even if I had the perfect form in mind, I didn't have the
to actualize them. I didn't know how my master truly felt about those circumstances. What I did know, however, were the various nicknames that had sprung up for him in the Clock Tower thanks to his odd situation.
For example, Professor Charisma.
Or Master V.
There are a few more, but they are rather impolite, so I will refrain from repeating them.
In any case, I raised a question regarding the previous subject matter.
"What's being reinvented, the Angels?"
"Yes. You know about the four classical elements, right?"
While savouring the flavour of his cigar, my master raised four fingers.
Earth, Water, Fire, Wind. Listing these, he lowered a finger for each. These, called the four classical elements, were a fundamental part of Magecraft, and were something even I knew about.
"In Ancient Greece, these were the four elements begotten by the Arche," my master said.
Arche was Greek for the beginning of all things...or something along those lines, if I recalled correctly.
"According to Alchemy, the four elements and the Origin are one and the same. Even now, most people treat them that way. Things like the 12 Constellations, or the Five Elements of Oriental thought, are no different. They just serve as convenient systems to classify all of reality. Although those are the four elements used by places like the Clock Tower, we could actually add various elements, like Void, and the chemical elements. This tends them towards a more practical tint, but now I'm getting off track."
"Uhh, I was told that I was Earth."
"Right. In that kind of meaning, it's used to generalize where your talents and weaknesses lie. There are also those with Double Elements, even some
with all Five Elements, but let's get back to the original topic. In short, the system of Elements was used as a system of classification out of convenience, but starting with the rise of modern Magecraft at the end of the 19th century, that's begun to change. With the addition of the Concept of Angels to the system, they have been given a new meaning."
"A new meaning?"
Watching me to gauge how well I was understanding what he was saying, he continued to speak.
"The 'Vessels of Power' that a great number of people now believe in."
As if supporting a sacred cup over the table, he gave a small nod, and silence fell between us.
Smoke from my master's cigar began to gather in his cupped hands. The image reminded me of sanctified water. Were Angels supposed to be that water? Or the shape he was making with his hands?
"Magecraft is something that must be kept secret, but in contrast, Concepts become stronger and more stabilized as more people have faith in them. Similarly influenced by the thought process behind the Occult, poets like Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and WB Yeats strongly influenced the process."
My master's voice echoed heavily in the confined space of his apartment.
Next, from the vessel created by my master, the illusion of some kind of wave began to spread out. No, that might have actually been what was happening. Maybe I was just not smart enough to understand these kinds of phenomenon, but manipulating this kind of invisible 'power' was supposed to be the fundamental function of Magi. The repeating waves extending from his hands reflected off the various mirrors and charms in the apartment and surrounded us.
It seemed almost as if the room itself had been transformed into a Shrine.
"Did you just think this seemed like a Shrine?"
"There's no need to be surprised. I specifically made it to seem like that, so your judgment is dead on. Because I actually am turning this room into a Shrine right now."
Blinking in surprise, I had no idea what he meant.
Maybe my face looked a little strange, because my master began to chuckle. He seemed to be enjoying himself so much it felt like I had fallen for some sort of trap.
"You felt a strange change in the atmosphere, right? That's a shrine. In Latin, it would be called 'templum,' but you can just think of it as a place where God is able to manifest temporarily."
Maybe it was because the talk of Angels already implied a connection to the Church, but for some reason I easily understood his explanation.
"So basically, it's not just a place where believers go to worship, but a place in which God is actually present, so we call it a Shrine, right?"
"Yes, exactly. Right now, it might seem like I'm using the symbolism of a holy cup and various things around the room to make it look like that, but in reality this is the real deal. It's common for magecraft to require consecrated land, right? It's a technique that might look similar to the Bounded Fields of Buddhism, but in this case Angels are at the core of the effect."
As my master stopped speaking for a moment, I also descended into thought.
A Shrine is a place where God can manifest temporarily. And Angels are 'Vessels of Power.' So in this case, the relationship between the two is...
"So...does that mean the name Angel is just given to anything with an ambiguous magical nature, and are being used by magecraft?"
Still on the sofa, my master picked up the now long-cold tea and put it to his lips.
"Before, I mentioned that as more people believe in them, Concepts become more stable. That being the case, it wouldn't be strange for someone to think that they could use this wide spread Concept of Angels to stabilize the existence of Magecraft. Actually, if you look at a number of different magical societies, you can find many who find this way of thinking exceedingly alluring."
Putting the cup down, my master raised two fingers.
Using his fingers, he drew a pentagram in the air before him, whispering something like 'Before me Raphael, Behind me Gabriel' under his breath.
"That was what is called the Ritual of the Lesser Pentagram. It calls on the names of the Four Archangels, each representing one of the four elements, to consecrate an area or prepare for further various applications of Magecraft. Of course, something as simple as this prayer could be found easily in a magazine nowadays. Of course, rituals like this that flow throughout the world are almost all dummies, just observational, or just plain nonsense, so the Clock Tower just leaves them as they are."
With a satisfied expression, he moved his gaze to the window. A thin stream of sunlight made its way through a gap in the curtains. The phrase 'gap' really seemed to be fitting for people like us. The distance between us and the world...places overflowing with light, in contrast to the space we occupied, and the tiny gap in which the two were able to interact.
The faint light, like an Angel.
"That being said, the changes of a Concept do have an effect on Magecraft," my master murmured.
In the cup now left on the table, ripples were forming on the surface of the tea. It seemed like the ritual my master had performed was having an effect on it, even if a little late.
"Further, it may have simply all just been a part of someone's plan. Rituals that use the name of the Lord to bind demons were in abundant supply in the past. Of course, being Magi, it's not like everyone is a pious follower of Christianity. We simply made use of the universalized concept of the Name of the Lord, under which all things must submit. In recent times, its similar to how an Internet Protocol works - well, I guess that explanation would just confuse you even more. With that line of reasoning, the use of Angels was an inevitable point on the road. Compared to using the Name of the Lord, it's a much easier Concept to make use of after all."
That I understood.
The Concept of God was one that had a distinct "colour" to it. You could also call it faith. In comparison to that, Angels came in many variations, like Guardian Angels and Fallen Angels. For this reason, the kinds of rituals that could be used exploiting Angels was far greater.
And that was why my master had called it a reinvention.
"Now, the development of new Magecraft in the West is almost entirely dominated by the influence of these Angels. No, it's not actually limited to new Magecraft. It may be subtle, but the Concept of Angels almost certainly has an effect on all Magecraft. For the modern Magus, whether the goal is to make use of Angels or eliminate them, in some form they are conscious of any changes that occur in regards to them."
My master closed his eyes. Then slowly, as if sighing,
"In a way, it's safe to say that the modern Magus is in the business of collecting Angels."
Despite my insensitivity to matters of Magecraft, those words resounded even with me. They were somewhat poetic, but more than that, they seemed to cut straight to the heart of the truth. As if he was pausing to let the profoundness of those words sink in, the silence that followed was longer than previous ones.
"And so, the problem now is that castle," he said, moving his finger.
He was pointing at one of the pictures spilling out of an envelope sitting on the table. In a place that looked like the far depths of the wilderness, with its curving spires and warped ramparts, stood a grey castle.
Originally Reines had come here with a request for my master. I had become so engrossed in the lecture that I had completely forgotten. Hanging my head to hide the embarrassed expression on my face, I spoke.
"So, is there something with this castle?"
"I mentioned this earlier, but again, what I'm talking about is the public appearance of Magecraft - basically, the kind of magic that has become a household word. In reality, the Magecraft we use is something beyond that. It would be a mistake to say that the changes with the Angels have no effect here, but the details of that effect are unimportant. The real matter of importance is unrelated to that. Mysticism and Occultism act as if they are within the same domain as Magecraft, but they are not equal by any means."
My master's face become somewhat melancholic. He only ever received absurd requests from his step-sister, it was practically her calling card. Even so, he couldn't refuse. Apparently there was something involving an enormous sum of money, but I didn't know the details. The only thing I knew for sure was that it was directly related to the reason he received the title of Lord El-Melloi II. In a bitter voice, my master spoke again.
"But, as a Lord, there are Magi within my realm of influence who have become fascinated with these ideas. Of all things, they've become so obsessed with them that they want to remake the castle within their own territory. Take another look at that photograph."
Looking closely, it became quite clear that the castle had a very strange shape to it. Maybe it was a result of the weather at the time the photograph was taken, but with the way the sunlight washed over the castle, it projected a shadow as if the castle itself had an enormous, magnificent pair of wings. It looked like a winged god that had lost its arms and head. It was a design that was very reminiscent of the images of Nike of Samothraces that my master had spoken of earlier. The degree of appropriateness that coincidence had was enough to send shivers up my spine.
It was almost as if the castle itself was a single living entity.
...as if that castle itself were an Angel.
"The Castle of Separation, Adra," my master declared.
"It's previous master called it that, apparently. It seems that said master had some connections with the previous Lord El-Melloi. Honestly, if the previous Lord El-Melloi saw what was happening now, he'd be jumping for joy. I feel like he would harass me for hours, saying something like 'this is what you get for messing with things that don't belong to you.'"
The previous Lord El-Melloi.
Like now, his name came up in conversation every now and then, but it was still a mystery what kind of person he had been. All I had heard was that compared to my master, he had been an unprecedented genius. Also, from gathering little scraps of conversations, it seemed like he was a bit pessimistic by nature, but I couldn't tell for sure.
That, and one more thing.
It was something I didn't realize until later. Likely fairly early in the morning, my master had decided to accept the request he received from Reines. Whether he was just making the necessary arrangements, or was just gathering information, I didn't know, but whether he was being caught up in these developments against his will, or he had just plain given up and accepted it, it was sure to be something that hurt his stomach.
If you ask why, it would be because, after worrying about it for a while,
"...so, yes. I'm sorry, my Lady, but tomorrow I'm going to go take a look. Could I trouble you to join me?"
My master - Lord El-Melloi II, with an unpleasant expression and a bitter voice, asked me.