Parting With Science
Science is the the theory that everything follows a set of rules,
that everything is determined by those rules.
This era has proven that theory false.
The familiar sounds of a hammer beating echoed about.
“Hmm… maybe it’s a bit big?”
Looking at the splice protruding from the timber I was scrutinizing, I shaved it down a little with my file. I was working the timber’s ends so that one would fit into the other, creating a mortise and tenon joint. Given what I was going to use it for, I really didn’t want to use nails unless I had to.
“Did you do it?”
“Yeah, with this, we should be done…”
I just needed to insert this protruding shaft—the tenon—into the circular mortise on the other piece of wood, so I nodded to Nina, who was watching me work.
“Took you long enough, huh.”
Looking at how the sun had already passed its zenith in the sky through the trees above, Nina yawned.
“I did say you didn’t need to stay and watch.”
She just ignored my response.
She probably thought I’d hurt myself if she hadn’t stayed to keep watch.
I wasn’t exactly in a position where I could reject either, not after hitting my fingers with the hammer twice already.
“Now I just need to…”
Returning to my dragon form to lift the wood, I inserted it into the small hole I’d drilled into the cabin’s wall. Long story short, I built a water mill.
It’s been few centuries since we first started Scarlet’s farming culture. Although it’s a good thing that we’ve been able to stabilize our harvest volume, eating wheat as-is is somewhat difficult. We’ve been grinding it down into flour to produce bread and the like, but the milling work has been tough.
We use stone mortars to grind it up, but we gate around a kilogram at most from an hour’s work. Considering how we could harvest thousands and thousands of kilograms in any given year, our present situation had gotten to the point where we just didn’t have enough spare man-hours for it.
Which brings me to the water mill. Using water to turn the wheel and a cogwheel to change the direction it spins, it all drives the millstone. From my understanding, things that change the world’s natural motion into something else are referred to as prime movers, and if memory serves me correct, the oldest prime mover is the water mill.
Now that we have this, we should be able to drastically reduce the manpower we have allocated to processing our wheat into flour by simply putting it into the mortar to be ground.
The first thing I did was get a water wheel of the perfect size and install it. It took the water’s moving and began to spin… and then stop.
“Didn’t I tell you it wouldn’t work?”
I checked the water wheel while putting up with Nina’s chilly gaze, but the water was hitting the wheel’s wings properly.
It spun easily when I pushed on it thinking it might have just gotten caught somewhere, but it quickly stopped as soon as I took my hand away. It seemed… well, wrong.
“It worked perfectly when I tried it with that miniature model though…”
“Isn’t it just too heavy?”
Looking at me with questioning eyes, Nina poked the water mill. It then suddenly began to rotate at a blistering speed.
Startled, Nina sprung back. Just as she did so, the water’s surface began to foam up.
What appeared from inside the canal was a youthful merfolk girl, her lower half that of a fish’s. Her blue hair was slick from the water she swam through with graceful ease using her arms and dress-like waist fins. Her large, green eyes were brimming with curiosity, the youthful gleam I recall them having somewhat replaced with a deeper, maturity.
“Rin! It’s been so long!”
The merfolk girl was my former pupil and had worked as a teacher herself—Rin.
I suppose it had already been over thirty years since she set out from the village?
Although her race usually lived in the ocean, she was filled with such an expansive wanderlust that she came to the land, so her being unable to stand staying in such a small village and wanting to set out to explore was natural.
“Yep, long time no see!”
Swinging her arms around Nina and I, she gave us one great tug.
With basically no chance for us to resist, she pulled us into the water.
“… Good grief, you’re still the same as ever, I see.”
Nina spoke with slight dissatisfaction as she squeezed out her clothes, but I could tell she was happy.
Her expression was gentle.
“Ahahaha, sorry, sorry!”
She’d matured outwardly, but Rin was still the same old Rin.
For those of us with long lifespans living among humans and having to deal with their passing, her mostly unchanged appearance after the past fifty years was a very pleasant matter.
“Still though, the water wheel was acting up because of you huh? I knew it was acting a bit off.”
Hearing me, Rin tilted her head to the size in puzzlement.
“The wooden circle I added to the cabin a bit ago. You stopped it, right?”
“Nope, I didn’t do anything!”
Still confused, Rin answered. She was mischievous, sure, but she wasn’t the kind of person to lie. She was most likely telling the truth.
“Then what caused it…?”
I looked over the water wheel again. It was still acting weirdly, sometimes moving, sometimes not. I guess I got something wrong with my amateur craftsmanship skills after all?
“What’s it do, Mentor?”
“Oh, well, it’s supposed to get rotated by the water pushing on it… at least, that’s what should be happening.”
Now that I think about it, aren’t I looking at a water expert right here?
“Rin, do you have any clue why it’s not working right?”
But she just shook her head. Guess that was a bust, huh.
Shig usually was better than Rin when it came to structured things…
“Why would the wheel spin by being in water?”
Just as I thought that, it turned out she didn’t even get the fundamental part.
“See how the water’s flowing through the canal? As the water rushes against the blades in the wheel, it should turn.”
How nostalgic, Rin’s constant [Why?] questions.
She wasn’t bound by what some would think of as common sense or other preconceptions. It felt like I heard her ask things like this every day back when she was in our classroom.
“Wouldn’t the water just avoid it?”
“No, because water doesn’t have a will—…”
Responding in the negative out of reflex, I had to force myself to stop.
“It does though?”
Rin responded while I was busy having my mind blown yet again.
“Will is like—I want to do this thing—right? It has that. Same with rocks and wind. Like all of us.”
The girl spoke in conviction. Hearing how it didn’t sound like a simple, primitive faith, but something backed by a set of observations, I was shocked. If I assume what she said is true…
Then that means—this world isn’t based on science.
I was a human who devoted his entire life to researching the occult. Therefore, I’m not too knowledgeable when it comes to science and technology. But still, even if I am ignorant of technology, I know a lot about what science itself is.
For example, if I wanted to know what was a mystery, what wasn’t yet known, I needed to know how science worked and what the human race already collectively knew.
And the most important thing for science is reproducibility.
The same thing should be able to be reproduced upon recreating the same initial conditions. That is reproducibility.
Be it engineering or chemistry, everything was based on reproducibility.
It is also why questions about what someone else is thinking about another at a particular moment isn’t something science could solve. Even if you somehow managed to recreate the same situation, the issue is that the person’s inner thoughts would be different.
You could collect a large set of sample data and statistically derive a probability, but that was the limit of what was possible. To put it another way, science could not surmise a person’s mind.
Which is the reason that, if I assume Rin’s words to be true, this is crazy.
If water, wind, soil—if everything, not just living creatures, has its own will and that everything has freedom of choice, reproducibility is impossible in this world.
Even if you arrange the environment to be the exact same, what the water feels at that moment—like if it’s in the mood to turn the water wheel—could be different. For example, it might just turn the water wheel suddenly while someone’s looking at it to give them a surprise, but then stop as soon as they look away.
It was a hard story for me to swallow. If it was true, let alone science, this world itself seems impossible.
Even so, when Rin temporarily dammed up the canal and used a bucket to put water into the empty grooves, it spun normally. Thinking about it for a moment, I noticed that it was the same way I’d tested my miniature model. I took the bucket to try it out again myself.
“But why is it working like this then…?”
A human’s physical strength stood no chance to water, be it in force or volume. Thinking about it scientifically, water drawn from a river should have easily been able to spin it. But in actuality, the exact opposite was happening.
“Because, Mentor, you’re thinking about turning the wheel when you pour the water onto it right?”
Seeing my entirely stumped, Rin took the bucket again and poured more water into the grooves.
“Don’t spin the wheel thing~”
Just as she said that, the water wheel stopped.
“But that’s magic though?”
Rin was a merfolk, a race that excelled at magic that manipulated water. She was able to manipulate it so much without much of an incantation…
At that, I thought of a possibility.
“Wait. Could it be?”
In the past, I’d once given magical incantations a certain definition.
That you used words with meaning to carry your intention as an intermediary for your design.
That in itself wasn’t wrong.
However, perhaps it carried more of that intention—that will—than I thought?
I’d used the bucket to pour water into the water wheel with the intent and purpose of it making the wheel spin.
So if that’s why the wheel turned… well, Rin was saying that itself was also magic.
And that’s not all it meant.
Using my arms to lift the bucket.
Using my legs to walk on the ground.
Eating food, breathing, even living.
It meant that any and all of those actions I do so casually, everything I—no.
That everything this world is… is magic.