“Can’t you think of something from your old world that could help us?” Cassandra suggested to Mana. Mana seemed to think about it for a little while.
They were sitting on the beach, taking a little break. They’d each gone over a different area, including Kimi, and had so far not found even the slightest sign of the flute.
“The flute is made of wood, I guess?” Mana asked Kimi.
Kimi nodded. “It’s made from a magical tree.”
“If it were metal, perhaps we could make a metal detector of sorts. Not that I know how those are made.”
“What’s a metal detector?” Cobal asked.
“If I were to guess,” Cassandra said, “it’s a device that detects metal.”
Mana nodded. “Pretty much, I don’t quite know how it works, but it’s something people use to find lost coins and things like that, it’s like a machine on a stick that makes a beeping sound if it gets close to metal.”
“Can’t you make one for wood instead?” Cobal asked.
Mana shook her head. “For starters I have no idea how they work in the first place, so at best we could try and figure out if we had anything magnetic to work with. And wood isn’t a metal so that makes it impossible.” She looked at Cassandra. “Unless you have any ideas?”
Cassandra shook her head. “If you were an expert at magic we could use your wind magic to try and clear bigger areas of the sand to dig through, but with how unreliable it is that’s too risky.”
Mana nodded. “Old-fashioned searching it is.”
Cobal looked at Kimi. “Why is it so important that you get this specific flute? Can’t you use your magic to find it somehow?”
Kimi shook her head. “Magic can only be performed through a focus. If you lose your focus, you need to either find it again, or find a new focus. Getting used to a new focus takes time and practice. And this one is very special, so I can’t lose it.”
“It sounds like there are a lot of restrictions to magic, are there any other important ones?” Cassandra asked.
Kimi thought for a few moments. “You can’t make something out of nothing.”
Mana nodded. “Equivalent exchange, that doesn’t surprise me.”
“What do you mean?” Cassandra asked.
“When you make something out of metal, wood or even dough, you need something to turn it into another thing. You need your material to work with. Magic is the same. You can’t make a thing out of purely nothing, you need a base to work with. In my world this idea is called equivalent exchange.” It’s used for alchemical reactions.
Cobal considered for a moment. “I have a question then, when Mana used air those times, where did that come from?”
“All around us, air is everywhere.”
“That makes a lot of sense actually.” This wasn’t Cobal’s strong suit so he felt a bit silly asking questions about it, but he wanted to understand it more. “But I don’t think you used a focus to do that, did you?”
Mana thought. “Now that you mention it, I didn’t.” She looked at Kimi.
“Simple magic can sometimes be done without a focus, but you won’t be very successful in the long run. It takes a lot more energy as well since you have nothing to focus your power through. Instead you’re just throwing energy into the void hoping it sticks to the right things and does what you tell it to.” Kimi paused. “It’s more complicated than that, but that’s what it boils down to. I highly recommend finding a focus of sorts before too long.”
Mana nodded. “Maybe this Dionil can help us with that.”
“So this means without that flute of yours, you can’t cast magic?” Cobal asked. He was starting to understand things a bit better.”
Kimi nodded. “I can’t get us out of here. I’m sorry, but as far as I know, you’re stuck here too.”
Mana sat back and let out a big sigh. “We best find the flute then. It can’t be that hidden, right?” She chuckled. “Unless?” She seemed to have some idea but didn’t follow up on it.
“Well, let’s continue searching for a little while longer before going to sleep. Maybe it’s just as simple as looking harder.”
Cassandra laughed. “I doubt that.”
“So do I but just don’t say it out loud.” Cobal replied. He stood up and went back to searching.
Eventually it got so dark that they really couldn’t see what they were doing and they all decided to go to sleep. They’d continue in the morning. They had to sleep on sheets on the sand but it wasn’t too bad. What made the night more eerie was the sky, which had nothing. It was just complete darkness. It had a haunting feeling to it and it took Cobal a while to finally fall asleep.
Morning came and they all woke up again on the strange island. Kimi was sitting on her hammock just slowly swaying back and forth. Mana and Cassandra had woken up a little bit before Cobal. Cassandra had already gone back to searching, but Mana was looking at one of the gates, seemingly lost in thought. Cobal walked towards her.
“What’s on your mind?”
“There’s something about this space that confuses me. If there’s something created here, it’s got to come from somewhere.”
“You mean that talk about the laws of magic you had yesterday?”
Mana nodded. “I’m very familiar with that concept, magic existed in fiction in my old world and in some of the stories I loved the idea of equivalent exchange was prevalent. Granted, there were many stories where magic was this magical thing.” She chuckled. “Pun intended. But where it was this magical thing that made no sense and just kind of worked. That was fine in some stories, but I loved the ones that had more to them, where magic was like science except different, if that makes sense. When we were young in school, we were taught that things don’t just disappear. For example, when water is boiled it evaporates, but those vapors still exist. The form of the matter has been changed, but the matter hasn’t disappeared. No new matter was created, but old matter was just converted into new matter.”
She blushed. “I’m rambling, aren’t I?”
Cobal smiled. “A little bit, but if it helps you figure this out, then by all means continue.” He didn’t really understand what she was saying, but Kimi was nodding along so it must make some sense.
Mana nodded. “There’s something about this place that seems off, like I said earlier. Where did it come from, where is it? I would accept the idea of being teleported to another world, but it seems too weird for that, if that makes sense. Why have an island with Torii gates around it? That seems like it was heavily inspired by whatever Might placed here. Why would a court wizard use something to do with the former hero?” She paused, pondering something.
“Maybe this wizard was a big fan of the hero?” Cassandra offered.
Mana shook her head. “I don’t think that’s it, I think something else is going on.” She closed her eyes and silently focused for a while. When she opened her eyes, several small fish appeared around their feet in the water.
A smile appeared on Mana’s face. “I knew it, there’s definitely more to this.” She closed her eyes again and before long a large wide brimmed hat suddenly appeared on her head. “Now I look like a proper mage.”
“How did you do that?”
“You know how I said you can’t create things out of nothing?”
“I just made this out of nothing.”
“I see that, but how?”
“Because this place isn’t real. That’s why it’s not following the rules of magic.”
“What do you mean this place isn’t real?”
“It’s more like a dream, something created by the subconsciousness. It’s an illusion of sorts.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Think about it, why would you create an entire different realm to lock someone up if they could just leave again?”
“But she lost her magical focus after she was sent here.”
“Did the court wizard account for that? How did he know that would happen?”
Cobal didn’t have an answer to this. It did all seem a bit too convenient. “So what does that mean for us then.”
Mana thought for a second and closed her eyes again. From her palm started growing a tree branch that turned bright white and purple as if it had a purple cow pattern. After a few moments of focussing it was done. She walked up to Kimi with Cobal in tow.
“Is this what you were looking for?” She asked.
Kimi grabbed the branch and it immediately shifted form into a white and purple flute. “How did you find it?”
“I willed it to appear in front of me. You never really lost it in the first place, that was just your subconscious being rewritten from the outside. It’s kind of like a hypnosis of sorts. Thinking about it, that’s probably a lot easier to pull off than creating an entire pocket dimension to lock someone into.”
“Wait a minute, I have a question then,” Cobal said, “if we’re not in a pocket dimension, then where are we?”
“I’m not sure, but if I were to guess, we’re still in the process of walking through that gate. To the outside world it might seem we’ve vanished, but we’re just standing there.”
She looked at Kimi. “Can you get us out of here now?”
Kimi nodded. “I’m not sure I understand your explanation, but with my flute back I can get us out of here.” She swung it down wildly like a sword of sorts and then lifted it back up. The instrument reformed from a flute to a harp. Kimi started playing it, and one by one the gates started sinking into the water.
Cassandra, confused by what was happening, asked, “So what is happening right now?”
“I think Mana’s figured out how to get us out of here,” Cobal replied, pointing at Kimi.
Music started emanating from the instrument and for a moment they all felt very serene. Then when the second to last gate disappeared below the water, the music stopped.
“I must thank you so much for saving me,” Kimi said, a tear in one of her eyes. “I was worried I’d never leave this place.”
Mana smiled. “It’s no problem, I’m happy I could have been of help.” She pointed at the harp. “That’s an amazing magical focus you have there.”
Kimi nodded. “I know, it was a gift from the king of spirits. It’s handed to the spirit of music whenever they take over from the previous generation. It forms into any instrument I want and it plays the most wondrous music you can imagine.”
“I hope I can one day get a focus as good as that, it would help me immensely.”
“Maybe we can ask the king of spirits for one, but getting an audience with him isn’t something anyone can do.”
Mana smiled. “That’s a problem for later, for now let’s get out of here quickly, your brother is waiting.”
Kimi pointed at Mana’s chest. “If all else fails, I sense you already have something that might serve you well as a focus.”
“I’m not sure I follow?”
“Let’s go,” Cobal said, motioning them to follow.
“Another time,” Kimi said, as they all went through the gate.