The Present is the living sum-total of the whole Past.
“You who are free, who are transparent, maiden of the fluttering wind. Gather yourself into this circle and shine. Follow this triangle and imprison flames.”
Within the circle was a hexagonal star made from two triangles. When I recited the incantation as I touched a tip of the star, wind gathered from around me into it like a whirlpool and caused the triangle I touched to glitter.
“Fire. Settle into the shining circle. Follow this inverted triangle and produce heat.”
Moving my finger away from the triangle, I moved it to the opposing triangle and recited another incantation. Upon doing so, flames whirled about within the magic formation, enveloping the pottery I’d placed on top of it.
—It looks like it worked.
Seeing the flame burning stably, I patted my chest and breathed out slowly.
Since that time, I’ve been repeating various experiments and came to understand a few things. First, magic used within the circle is not only stabilized, but its output is also determined by the size of the circle, regardless of the invoker. Second, its stability is proportional to how perfectly the circle is round.
The circle Rin drew by hand practically didn’t serve as a magic circle at all, but the one she drew with a mariner’s compass demonstrated effects similar to the one I drew did.
However, there were two exceptions to this. In the case where the invoker lacks enough magical strength, and in the case where the invoker has far too much.
In short, it can be thought of as a cup. Using magic without a magic circle is like scooping water up with your hands. Depending on the shape of your hands, how you use them, and how large they are, the volume of water you can pick up is different.
However, if you use a cup with the same size as someone else, it won’t matter what sort of hands you have. You’ll be able to scoop the same volume of water each and every time.
If we use a huge bucket instead of a cup for the example, there may not even be enough water to fill its bottom, or there may be so much water that it overflows from it. That’s how it is.
Another thing I understood is that if you depict shapes inside of the magic circle, it gains the effect of being a magic formation.
Although the circle stabilizes magic, I realized that polygonal shapes can restrict magical effects.
So far until now, the duration of magical effects haven’t been consistent either.
Along with intensity, I am able to adjust approximately how long it lasts. Even so, those who have been using magic so far can’t pinpoint exactly how long they’ve been keeping their magic active for.
By using these shapes, I’ve been able to make it such that the duration is decided roughly by the size of the polygons and how many sides they have. It lasts longer if there are more sides, and shorter if there are less. I’ve also come to understand that using more than eight sides, an octagon, gives little to no effect.
Magic formations constructed out of circles and polygons were like a candle’s wax and its wick, so to speak. The magic is stabilized by the circle and the internal polygon keeps it active longer.
An application of these principles would be this hexagonal star magic formation right here. This figure, combining two triangles, could store two completely different kinds of magic at the same time. This has made it possible to contain the heat of fire magic with wind magic, allowing me to make a sort of magic kiln to melt metal.
Although the magical principles of the kiln are as I mentioned just now, I’ve put sand into a pot I placed in its center, as well as removed its base and put a lid on it. Melting at the top of the sand, the liquid scarlite permeates down through it and collects onto one of my scales below.
I decided to call this a Lykos Kiln in commemoration of Luka’s species. In truth, I’d wanted to call it a Luka Kiln at first, but she refused me wanting to do that rather staunchly.
The best thing about this kiln is that it is able to smelt scarlite even if the person using it isn’t me.
Due to the stability of its flame and general efficiency from not losing its heat after trapping it with wind magic, Nina and Rin were both able to smelt scarlite.
Hearing the ringing of a bell, I looked up. I could see countless smoke trails and a similar number of Lykos Kilns. Each one could only process a small amount of scarlite, but we can get a sufficient amount of it simply by using more kilns at once. I think I made a hundred of them this morning?
One of the things that the Lykos Kiln brought about was a unit of time.
I wanted to determine a unit of time when I was deciding on our weights and measures, but I abandoned the idea after finding it to be excessively difficult. Be it water clocks or hourglasses, neither could be made very reliably with our current technology.
We’d been using sundials as reference to some extent, but the seasons changing made them a little unreliable and less useful. There may be ways for me to compensate for the changes in the sun’s height depending on the season, but I don’t know anything in that regard.
If the Lykos Kiln has enough mana infused into it and given that it is of a fixed size, its fire will always end after the same amount of time. We have split the day up into exactly twelve parts. Into what would be twelve two hour parts—that is, twelve lykos.
With that, as a quick practical application of metal ware, I decided to make a bell that would inform people that noon had arrived. Compared to when they were hunting, everyone’s work days lengthened when we switched over to agriculture. Times like sunrise and sunset were easy to understand, but lunchtime and midday breaks were necessary things as well. This bell would inform them it was time for that.
Along with those words was an unexpected, soft feeling on my back.
“I asked you to stop that.”
“Aww, but it’s finally lunch, I brought food!”
I didn’t have to turn around to know who it was. Be it her voice, the weight of her body, her warmth, or the sweet, flowery scent she carried, I’ve known them all since the time she was born. It was the girl who never changed despite always changing, it was Yuuki.
“Well, I do welcome that…”
Inside the tidy cloth was deep-fried behemoth meat and steamed scarlet potatoes, as well as bread. For dessert, there were water apples.
I call it bread, but as we haven’t yet came across anything to replace yeast, we can’t ferment the bread. I haven’t the slightest idea in how to go about looking for yeast, either. Even so, it was delicious enough as is. The texture was springy and you had to bite down to get through it, but it was sweet. It fit really well alongside deep-fried meat.
The bread softens when the meat fat soaks into it, so even its original toughness stops being an issue. Rather, its simple flavor feels like it catches the meat’s taste even more, allowing them to draw out each other’s deliciousness by a factor of two. You can’t make light of steamed scarlet potatoes with a bit of salt on them, either. You just sprinkle salt onto the freshly warmed potato and bite into its skin. How could that ever taste anything but great?
It was somewhat poor table manners, but eating a behemoth sandwich and a steamed potato with both hands by taking a bite of the potato and following it up with some of the sandwich and its rich juices makes for great eating. I then followed it with another bite of the potato, of course. In this primitive age, this combination is treated as something like a junk food. It’s great.
“That tasted amazing.”
Virtually inhaling the food, I reached for the water apple dessert while letting out a sigh of satisfaction.
“I’ll make a great bride, right?”
Caught unaware by Yuuki’s sudden attack, a piece of the water apple going down the wrong pipe sent me into a coughing fit.
“I’ve told you over and over, I—”
“Hmm? But big brother, I didn’t say anything about being yours?”
—am already married. Before I could finish my sentence, Yuuki cunningly tilted her head, acting innocent.
“Yes, well. Amata already has children, I think it’s about time you started thinking about those things as well.”
It’s been around three years since Amata inherited the leading position of the Swordsaints. He was blessed and found a good match for him, and had his first child last year, a boy. By this world’s standards, he was slow in doing so.
“Yep. Which is why you should just hurry up and accept me, big brother.”
Doing a one-eighty from what she said just a moment before, she once again caught me by surprise and sent me into another coughing fit.
“Didn’t you just say you weren’t talking about me?”
“But I didn’t say that I wasn’t meaning you though?”
Saying that, Yuuki took my arm and hugged it tightly.
“I’m sorry, Yuuki. I can’t answer your feelings.”
Gently, I moved my arm away and… I-I moved my arm… I tried to move my arm, but I failed.
Yuuki, you’re too strong. Wouldn’t I have to go into my dragon form to shake you off with you using that much strength?
I had no intention of going that far, so I gave up on extricating my arm.
“I have a wife that I love.”
“Ai, right? I know. I’ve heard about her from dad and Nina so many times.”
Pinching her lips together, Yuuki spoke as though pouting.
“If you know, then why…”
“Because she’s not here.”
Yuuki’s all-to-simple statement struck me like an arrow through the chest.
“… True, right now, she isn’t here with me. However, she will definitely come back. Some day.”
“But some day isn’t right now! Big brother, you’ve had to be alone for hundreds of years because of her!”
Her red eyes reflected my face. They were too dazzling, too dazzling to look directly into.
“It would turn out the same, even with you. In less than a century, I would be alone again.”
I hadn’t intended to actually say it, but it came from my mouth like water from a waterfall.
Yuuki’s expression was like she’d just been wounded.
I sincerely regretted ever saying those words.
＊ ＊ ＊
“I’m an idiot…”
“Yeeep. Idiot, definitely an idiot.”
That night. My head was hung and Nina was showing no mercy as she poured salt into my wounds.
“… I didn’t ask for consolation, but couldn’t you lighten up on me little?”
“I’m not about to let a guy who tormented a girl five hundred years his junior into crying tell me to lighten up.”
I had no response to Nina’s curt statement.
“… Then what do you think I should do?”
“Do what you want.”
She wouldn’t even throw me a rope.
“… I wouldn’t be in this mess if I could.”
“What are you wanting to do then?”
It was that question, however, that put me at a total loss for words.
“Ignore whether it’s possible or not, just say it already.”
“… I want Yuuki to be happy with someone who isn’t me.”
Unlike that time with Ai, these were words from my heart. I certainly love Yuuki, but not as a woman. I love her as a grandparent would their grandchild.
“That’s what you want to do about Yuuki, not what you want.”
Still, Nina’s words were harsh.
“I… I want to cherish my feelings toward Ai. I don’t want to forget the time I spent with her.”
If… just if… if I could find someone I love the same or more than Ai, there might be a day where my memory of her fades, maybe even disappears altogether.
That thought frightens me.
Nina flicked my forehead.
“Do you remember Dargo?”
Dargo was Darg’s first son. He was the second generation of the Swordsaints, as well as the first person to understand the significance behind the name Swordsaint other than that it was a surname.
“He was crazy timid.”
“Yeah. He looked exactly like Darg, but his personality was entirely different. He panicked so much when Jergo was born.”
Nina and I shared a chuckle.
“Speaking of Jergo, that time when she was five really scared me.”
“Wasn’t it when she was four? When she challenged an armored bear to fight him yeah? It was when Ryu was born.”
“Oh yeah, right. It was definitely when she was four.”
Jergo was the fourth generation Swordsaint, the first female Swordsaint. She was Darg’s last disciple and the progenitor of the one-handed sword style based on Violet’s sword techniques.
“That girl really was amazing… do you remember when she shattered Darg’s crag blade? She was all like what should I do, hah.”
“She even looked a bit like Yuuki.”
“Eh, maybe? Though wouldn’t Yuuki looking like her be the better way to say it?”
“Maybe. But no matter how I think about it, Jergo was definitely more about training than Yuuki.”
Nina and I spoke about the past with nostalgia, talking about our memories. There were children who proudly defended the village. There were others who disliked swords yet inherited the name Swordsaint. More still shed tears over not being strong enough. But all of them, all of them, loved this village and stayed with us.
“See? You didn’t forget.”
Suddenly, Nina said that.
“You didn’t forget anyone. No matter how much time has passed, you’ll always remember them.”
Her words were direct… but kind.
“It’s time you look toward the future.”
She said it nonchalantly, but I get the feeling it was something she’s been wanting to say for a long time.
“Maybe I’ll drink today?”
“… Just a little. You’re a terrible drunk.”
When I took out a jar filled with alcohol, Nina prepared a pair of cups while reminding me to hold back.
“I guess… to memories.”
“Yeah. To memories.”
That night, we reminisced until the sun rose.