Fortunately, Lila was interested enough to show up at William’s house the next day. Although William was primarily interested in helping her, and making sure there were more good wizards in the world, he also had some selfish motives. Specifically, since she could use magic and he couldn’t, he wanted to ask her to try some experiments. Nothing dangerous, he thought, he just wanted to gain a better understanding of how magic worked. After all, he only had the word of a couple dozen pages and a few spells he’d seen cast to go on.
Lila and William went to the backyard, where there was a pristine target dummy. Not that it was new by any means, but since it was William’s, it hadn’t been damaged. “Okay, Lila, can you cast a fireball on that?”
“Umm… I uh… don’t remember the words. I can still do it though, I think…”
“It’s okay, just repeat after me. ‘O, pyromancy I call upon thee, grant me thine strength and obliterate my opponents with a mighty conflagration!’”
“Umm… Oh, pyroman-see, I call up on the, grant me vine strength and oblongate my up-oh-nents with a mighty conflagnation!” Lila’s fireball was pretty good for having most of the words wrong. Well, William certainly couldn’t fault someone who successfully cast magic when he couldn’t do anything. However, since was more of a small spurt of fire than a fireball, it still wasn’t great. “Umm, what’s a pyroman-see and conflagnation?”
“Pyromancy is just a fancy name for fire magic, and conflagration is pretty much a fancy word for lots of fire.”
“Uuugh. Why does magic have to have so many big, hard words?”
William shrugged. He supposed it just did. Then, he thought about it for a second. Maybe it didn’t have to? After all, he wasn’t sure if there was anything special about the language he was currently speaking. “Actually, I want you to try something. I’m going to tell you another chant that does the same thing, okay? Repeat this, ‘Fire magic, give me strength to blow stuff up with lots of fire!’” He wanted to say that it might work instead of absolutely work, but there was a reason he said it in a deceptive way.
“Okay! ‘Fire magic, give me strength to blow stuff up with lots of fire!’” This time, there was an obvious difference. William stood there nodding his head for a few second. To really perfect this technique, he’d need to replace the target dummy. Preferably with something big and solid, like a rock. He looked at where the dummy had been, and there was now just a pile of ash. “Good job. It’s much better that way.”
Lila looked stunned at the effect. “T-that’s what it’s supposed to be like?”
William nodded. “Well, maybe not quite as powerful, but you’re talented so that’s what it’s like. Can I have you try something else?” This time, he had her repeat the same thing, except in English. The words were all small, though. Her pronunciation was pretty bad, but he told her it was correct. Was it wrong to lie to a seven year old girl for the sake of learning about magic? Maybe. However, he couldn’t try these things himself. After practicing the words, she cast another fireball, this time at the ground. It was slightly weaker than the last fireball, but that was somewhat expected.
Thus, William had concluded several things. Instead of needing a specific chant, anything with the same meaning would work. The pronunciation seemed to matter for the effectiveness. “Ugh, I’m tired. I think I ran out of magic or something.” Lila observed. William paused to think on that. Magic was gathered from around wizards, as far as he understood. So, they couldn’t really run out of magic so much as… the area itself was magically depleted, at least for a while.
They changed locations, and William started one of the final experiments that he thought was safe. He gave her another sentence in English, completely unrelated to fire, magic, and fireballs. He completely expected this to fail, but he just wanted to be sure.
Instead of the expected null result, there was a fireball. It was in no way inferior to the best one Lila had cast. Thus, William changed his thoughts slightly. It seemed the pronunciation was irrelevant, as long as there was sufficient mana around, and the meaning of the sentence also didn’t matter. Were the papers, and the wizards who wrote them, right about anything at all? Well, they weren’t wrong in that it worked the way they did it.
Another experiment. “This time, I want you to say this chant, but it won’t work.”
Lila was rather confused at that, but did it anyway. It was a legitimate enough chant, as well, but it didn’t work. An additional conclusion was that belief affected whether or not it worked.
“Now, think the words in your head. It will still work.” Result? Nothing. This suggested a conclusion that “words are necessary, for some reason.”. It also required an apology from William. “Sorry, I was wrong, I thought it would work.” He hadn’t been sure at all, actually, but didn’t say that. “Now then, time to learn to read.”
“Whaat? Can’t you just teach me the chants?”
“I could, but I won’t always be around, and I definitely can’t help you on the written part of the exam. Besides, you can find out a lot of things through reading.”
Thus, they practiced that. William wasn’t sure what the regular curriculum for learning was, so he used something similar to back on Earth. William also worked on improving Lila’s vocabulary, a bit at a time.