William was very busy these days. He’d been working towards a position as Archmage for most of the past year. He couldn’t afford to take any time away at this critical moment. And yet, William found himself doing that very thing. Fortunately, the meeting place this time was only a day away. The instructions led him to a cave. This time, instead of waiting for him to show himself first, the demoness was already visible, standing at the entrance to the cave. “Good, you’re here. Come inside.” She waved impatiently, and turned to walk inside. William followed.
Inside the cave, he saw that the cave wasn’t completely normal. There were indications of magical enchantments being added, though William wasn’t sure what they were for exactly. He’d studied such things, but couldn’t supply the mana to activate them himself. Chris was also somewhat limited in that regard. To make a long-lasting effect, expensive materials were required, so it wasn’t easy to do experimentation. However, William could tell that it was some kind of magic that would create a barrier. Unlike spoken magic, enchanting items and areas was less fluid and versatile. Only fixed effects could be created, but similar effects could be obtained in different ways. Thus, William wasn’t sure if the theoretical barriers were designed to keep people out or in, or both. With enough time to study, he likely could. William couldn’t shake the thought that he might be walking into a trap. Though the demoness hadn’t been hostile towards him before, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t change her mind. It was also possible there was a renewed interest in studying Chris, though he could handle himself just fine if that were the case.
They soon entered a room that was obviously artificially made, with smooth, flat walls and floor. There was a circular magic formation in the center. Unlike the typical “magic circles”, magical formations didn’t have to be circular. Depending on their purpose, they could take any shape. William wondered whether this place had always been in human territory and just never found, or forgotten… or if it had just been set up over the past year. The demoness gestured to the circle. “We’ll start with tests in this mana gathering formation. It’s possible that you have the ability to sense mana, but just at a very, very low level.”
“Why is it so important if I can or can’t sense mana?”
The demoness turned to William. “Well, magical knowledge is tied to both a selection of intellectual abilities and the ability to sense mana. It’s like learning and intuition.” She folded her fingers together. “Only together do they make up the whole of one’s understanding of magic. The ability to sense mana allows one to bridge the gap between knowledge and understanding. Without it, learning about magic is many folds harder. There is also a significant difference between being unable to sense mana at all and barely being able to.”
That somewhat explained why Lila was so good at magic even though she did very little of the “learning” side of things. Well, comparatively little, anyway. She wasn’t stupid in any way, she’d just been uneducated when they first met. She just also wasn’t terribly interested in studying over experiencing. Thus, she was good at performing magic, but not advancing the study of it as a whole. However, William didn’t feel this was a good explanation for why one couldn’t come up with good theories about how magic worked just through sound logic. Unless, of course, it was some strange property of this world. “How can you test that? Even if two people have similar intellectual ability outside the area of magic, and one of them can sense magic better, it doesn’t mean that that person being better in the field of magic is because of that.”
The demoness smiled. “Well, there are certainly ways to test some of that, like decreasing one’s ability to sense mana.” She gestured to her horns. “Though, it has been shown that in areas with differing amounts of mana, those who can sense mana gain or lose intuition as the density goes up or down. There weren’t any effects on those without the ability to sense mana.”
William frowned. “How can that really be measured? It’s not like a leap of logic and discovery can be made on command.”
The demoness grinned in an unsettling manner. “Well, that is true. However, over the duration of a cycle… or a lifetime, for those who live shorter… Well, the effects are obvious.”
It suddenly interested William to have an unlimited lifespan so that he could do a study over the whole duration of a human’s life… then he decided that it was probably pretty evil to control someone for their entire lifespan. He doubted that all of those studied were volunteers. He didn’t have much further to ask about that topic, so they moved into the experiment. William sat down in the middle of the circle to meditate, trying to sense mana. He had done so every day for over thirty years, to no visible effect.
“I will activate the formation. It will steadily increase the density of mana in the circle. Tell me if and when you can sense any mana, or any other effect.” The demoness then activated the formation, and watched interestedly.
Chris also watched, ready to take action in case something happened. Soon, he was spinning in circles, around his narrow axis. If William were looking, he would recognize this as a sign of Chris being worried. It seemed to be an unconscious habit, though William thought he was developing more such actions since they had been together, in addition to the things William had asked him to do, such as glowing certain colors to indicate things. Chris was aware of the steadily increasing mana moving past him toward the circle where William was, where the mana became trapped. William continued to give no indication of noticing anything.
After a certain point, the demoness started frowning. Then, she backed up slightly, looking uncomfortable. Chris felt a strange pressure around him, but it wasn’t painful in any way. The mana in the area continued to converge, and Chris felt that it was getting to the point where it would be harder to control. That is, generally, denser mana meant there was more to work with. However, at this point, he felt that it was dense enough that he would have trouble doing anything with it. The pressure increased, but Chris still didn’t feel any sort of pain. He observed that the demoness, however, was getting an increasingly pained face, even as she moved away from the dense concentration of mana. William… didn’t seem to feel anything. Then, suddenly, a small crack appeared in the materials used to make the magical formation. Immediately after the small crack, all of the precious gems shattered, and all of the other materials distorted.
William opened his eyes at the sudden noise, only to find the demoness lying on the floor… and Chris as well.