In the blink of an eye, nearly three years had passed since Leo, Kyrio, and I became friends.
Let me give you a rough overview of our journey together since becoming friends.
The first year laid the foundation, the second year saw us each advancing in our respective specialties, and by the third year, we were writing our graduation theses to finish our education at the Military Academy.
However, students who had a clear sense of purpose often began studying their chosen specialty from the first year.
And, indeed, I had a clear sense of purpose. I knew what profession I wanted to pursue: I wanted to become a detective.
To become a good detective, there are indispensable pieces of knowledge that one must acquire: the knowledge of magic, which can be said to be this world’s foundation, and the knowledge of the current state of investigations.
I decided to spend my first year accumulating knowledge primarily in these areas.
Life at the academy was enjoyable.
The classes were divided according to grades, and I, having entered as a scholarship student, was naturally placed in the top class. Kyrio, Leo, and Bob were all in the same class.
Bob kept poking at Kyrio and me even after we entered the school. He would always choose moments when Leo, a higher-ranking noble than him, was not around.
The other students in the class, whether major or minor, seemed to have their thoughts about me, a commoner who entered the school with top grades, and Kyrio, a girl from a nearly extinct family, crossdressing. Nobody ever tried to stop Bob’s harassment.
But to me, Bob’s harassment was trivial.
The real issue was Kyrio.
Every time Bob harassed her, she would glare at him with bloodshot eyes filled with killing intent.
If you didn’t know the story, you might think that Bob’s harassment didn’t affect Kyrio at all. However, knowing her background, it was clear she was holding back tears.
So, I would stand up for Kyrio, or more accurately put, I would send Bob flying every time.
“You realize who I am, don’t you?”
Bob would always shout after being sent flying.
“Shut up. No matter how powerful your noble house is, it doesn’t matter to a commoner like me.”
This was the line I would always say, standing in front of Kyrio to protect her.
“Go on, do it!”
Leo, who would appear out of nowhere, would cheer us on with a laugh, just like always.
Then, with a flushed face, Bob would attack us with his cronies, and Kyrio and I would fight back. Eventually, Leo would join in, laughing, and would knock everyone out with his mighty arms, friend or foe alike.
And, as is customary, the three of us would be sent to detention.
Annoyingly, the class would always side with Bob, and we were the ones always punished.
Leo, too, was probably seen as an eyesore by the rest of the class. Maybe they wanted to hurt his seemingly unshakeable spirit, even just a little.
It was a strange thing, but I could somewhat understand their feelings.
Anyway, these days of getting into trouble and being scolded by the school somehow didn’t feel bad. We had few allies, but it seemed to bring the three of us closer together. At first, our friendship was artificially created due to Leo’s forceful ways, but eventually, we became close enough to talk about anything.
Kyrio’s worries. Her complicated feelings about her parents. The shackles of continuing to strive to be strong as the heir to her family, even though she wanted to quit.
Leo’s complaints. His sighs about how all the other nobles around him were idiots. His pride in thinking that he was destined to go down in history as a great figure.
My dreams. Becoming a detective. Or rather, mysteries. When I tried presenting a little mystery pop quiz, both of them enjoyed it more than I expected.
There was even this particular incident.
“But in the end, it’s about whether or not it’s plausible, right?” Leo said during break time, after both of them failed to solve an impromptu ‘who-done-it’ quiz and I was explaining the answer.
He didn’t seem to be serious, as he was grinning.
“What do you mean?”
“Your problems are interesting. They’re unique; I haven’t heard of this kind of thinking elsewhere. You build up logic and eliminate the impossible to find the culprit. But it’s not foolproof, right?”
“It’s not foolproof, but there’s evidence.”
“That’s my point. For instance, what if the evidence was forged? Or, what if, by some fluke, it just happened to turn out that way? There’s also the logic where you narrow down the culprit based on their actions, but that’s not foolproof either. The culprit could be acting irrationally, doing things that only make it worse for themselves. It’s almost unlikely, I admit. In essence, it’s not absolute. It’s just plausible.”
“Isn’t that a bit of a stretch?”
Kyrio interjected with a smile, seemingly enjoying the conversation.
She had taken quite a liking to my mystery quizzes and would always ask if I had any new ones during recess.
“No, it’s not that much of a stretch. Admittedly, it’s an extreme argument. Like saying there’s nothing certain in this world, there’s no way to reach the absolute truth. But if we go that far, isn’t that entering the realm of philosophy?” I say.
“I suppose. Realistically, when you’re investigating to find a culprit, all you can do is proceed based on what’s plausible. But this is a quiz, right? Then, shouldn’t this kind of answer be acceptable, too? If you say it’s not, then it’s your fault for not setting the rules from the start.”
“Leo, you’re really sore about losing, aren’t you?”
Kyrio laughed, but inwardly, I couldn’t help but be impressed.
For you see, Leo’s opinion fundamentally struck at the very heart of mystery novels.
These types of stories fall flat unless the reader shares an understanding of what is fair game and what isn’t—in other words, an agreement on what is reasonable within the plot.
Yet, this isn’t solely an issue confined to the realm of mystery novels. Whether it’s DNA or fingerprints, things deemed evidence in the past world are never ‘absolutely certain.’ There’s a non-zero chance that someone else out there shares your DNA, and evidence can always be forged. In this way, both mystery novels and reality share a common vulnerability: neither offers absolute certainty.
I couldn’t help but praise Leo wholeheartedly despite his lack of expertise in mystery novels.
“Naturally,” he responded, grinning broadly, without a hint of modesty.
This pretty much sums up my life at the school; it was enjoyable.
What about my academic pursuits?
Things were going almost too well on that front.
The headmaster, Merlin, took quite a liking to me, even offering me private lessons.
My initial lessons in magical studies at the Military Academy began with a harsh reality check: magic is inconvenient. We were drilled into the idea that magic is practically useless.
“Magic alone can accomplish nothing,” Merlin would often remind our class during his lectures.
Magic could be broadly divided into two categories.
Spells that affect the human body, such as healing or enhancement spells.
Spells that manipulate fire, water, earth, air, and chill, the five elements of nature.
“Whether it affects the human body or manipulates the elements, the fundamental principle of magic remains the same,” Merlin explained in our first lesson.
It seemed straightforward enough, but aside from Leo and me, the rest of the class, who were all top students, seemed perplexed.
In essence, magic is a technique that manipulates ‘something’ present in the environment through mana.
Coming from a world where magic didn’t exist but having a basic understanding of science, this made perfect sense to me.
Magic doesn’t create something out of nothing.
Fire spells increase temperature, while chill spells decrease it. Water spells gather moisture from the air or manipulate existing water. Earth and wind spells, similarly, manipulate the air and ground through magic.
Healing and enhancement spells also work by manipulating the body with mana.
Magic is, at its core, simply that—a technique.
“In the chaotic times before Pangaea stabilized into its current four-country system, magic mainly developed as a technique for battle. Yet even the elves, adept in magic, found it difficult to kill an enemy with magic alone. It’s a matter of power and speed,” Merlin explained.
“Firstly, magic lacks instantaneous power. By the time you cast a spell, your enemy could have either fled or counterattacked. A physical blow would be far quicker. Even with fire magic, only I and Van can handle flames at a level that would instantly burn an enemy to death,” he says, gesturing toward me.
The classroom was filled with envious and angry glares directed at me.
“Next is speed. Magic generally takes time to cast. You need to recite a spell, or even when casting without an incantation, it takes time to form the necessary mental image. It’s a brief moment, but in battle, it’s a critical delay.”
“Can’t it be used to deal a certain amount of damage from a distance?”
Bob stood up and asked.
It was a rather good question, coming from him.
I was impressed.
“As I mentioned before, the issue with power means that magic has limited range. Moreover, accuracy decreases with distance. Of course, individual skill and training play a part. Still, at that point, a bow would be much more effective.”
I was surprised. I thought magic was supposed to be more omnipotent.
Listening to the lecture, I began to realize it was not.
“The same goes for close-quarter combat. Trying to burn or freeze an enemy up close leaves you open to escape or counterattack. The same applies to physical enhancement. Enhancing your body with magic and then attacking with a sword is less safe and less efficient than attacking directly with the sword.”
“So, in combat, magic is a tricky technique best used at mid-range and in conjunction with other methods. Despite this, why is magic held in such high regard worldwide?”
Merlin tapped his staff against the floor.
“Because it’s invaluable in non-combat aspects of life and essential to our daily living. Healers specialize in recovery magic. Fire used in daily life is controlled by magic. That said, there are still no methods found to cool things down other than fanning. “
The class erupted into laughter.
“If you are not robust enough for manual labor, enhancement and earth magic can be effective for farming, even in old age. Magic is actually crucial outside of combat. It may not align with your preconceived notions, but even in these scenarios, magic is not omnipotent. For instance, because magic relies on mental imagery, it tends to be imprecise. It is better at destruction than creation. You can create a block of ice but not an ice sculpture. You can break a wall but not create a smooth one.”
Magic, it seemed, was not the omnipotent force the world made it out to be.
It was merely a system of techniques.
“I mastered it as a hobby, despite understanding all this, however.”
Merlin concluded the lesson with a dry chuckle.