1. The Black Forest
“Fuah,” the warm breath creates a white haze and then dissipates just like all the previous ones. How refreshing, it’s like a mint for my lungs. Even though winter is still a long time away, that doesn’t matter on top of a mountain.
As expected, the temperature drops by ten degrees at 1,000 meters above sea level. Then again, autumn is just about to begin. There’s nothing strange about a low temperature in an unstable climate.
Regardless of those thoughts, the cold weather isn’t something that will slow him down.
He looks up at the bright, cloudy sky above the fir tree forest and mumbles a complaint. “…Why did I have to come to Germany and be dispatched to this mountain?”
The modern magician, Suimei Yakagi, was ordered to enter the mountain ranges of Germany by Nestahaim, the leader of the magic organization of which he belongs.
–He’s a magician. Should an ordinary person receive that introduction, that person would probably be confused. Whether or not that confusion is justified is irrelevant. For those people, those with titles like magician are nothing more than stage conjurers.
Merlin, Morgan, Odin, Circe, the witch of Macbeth; no life span is enough to even try and list those creations of fiction. Ten out of 10 people would say, “There’s no such thing as magicians.” The term spell caster could be said to have that sort of social position.
Yet, despite such claims, magicians do exist in the modern era that is proliferated with science and technology. Those magicians are the exact kind that first come to mind, the kind who explore mysteries and manipulate mysterious phenomena.
Magicians have used their tremendous power to guide people and create prosperity since ancient times. Magic, with origins in natural philosophy, branched out to establish every discipline known to man. Claiming that magic is the cornerstone of humanity wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Now, however, the source of innovation that was magic has been usurped by science. The status magic enjoyed during the era of Robert Boyle has gradually declined into one of fiction.
None the less, magicians continue to breathe in the backside of the world. They continue uninterrupted in their pursuit of mysteries. Of those people, a Japanese youth– Suimei Yakagi, comes to a stop. How long has it been since the trail disappeared? The only things around him are trees and stones.
Suimei frowns as he digs for the map and star chart within his bag. He tosses them onto the ground and mutters some strange words. Afterwards, he looks up at the sky to survey his surroundings before glance back at the ground. The map and star chart aren’t where he tossed them.
“Hmm… I’m not lost.”
Suimei hasn’t made any mistakes. He’ll reach his destination as long as he continues walking forward. The trees before him, however, have all grown randomly and close together to create a dark forest comparable to the Wald municipality. The overcrowded rows of evergreens block his vision to only a few meters with their branches.
Something like a dark forest is only a trifling matter for a magician. Suimei could easily illuminate the darkness with a simple spell, but can’t bring himself to muster the effort. He instead takes out a flashlight that was gifted to him by a friend from the pocket of his black suit.
He clicks it on and, “Hmm?” He flicks the switch, kachri, kachri, but nothing accompanies the sound.
“Ack, it’s broken. What’s with that guy? He got me good.” The flashlight was a birthday gift from his best friend back in Japan. He had yet to use it, so he assumed it would work without any problems.
Suimei scratches the back of his head and puts the broken gift back into his pocket. There are times when tools made from science and technology don’t work for magicians. Magic thrives when the resource of understanding tilts towards mystery and scientific comprehension falls short. On the contrary, magicians are useless in regards to highly mechanical objects.
His flashlight braking for no reason just now makes for a perfect example. That is because he is a person who learned magic and became a mysterious existence. As a result, he’s even hated by station ticket gates and automatic doors. They’ve given him problems more than just once or twice.
The flashlight is a mechanical existence, but it’s a simple one. The development of organic electroluminescence and diodes in recent years have led to the creation more mechanically advanced sources of illumination. Those have an even high probability of breaking.
This situation is something people often hear about even if they don’t actually experience it. It’s the phenomenon where cameras, lights, and radios stop working in sacred grounds and haunted places.
As is explained when anyone first begins to learn magic, the electromagnetic spectrum has a natural disposition to being influenced by mysteries. It plays an important role within the world’s mysteries through [light waves] which is part of the [Eternal Universal Principle]. Therefore, whenever the principle of [mysteries] arises, electromagnetic waves generated through scientific principles go haywire.
That’s probably why it broke… except, should something as simple as a flashlight break this easily? Suimei’s lack of experienced in this field prevents him from discrediting that something else could have broke the flash light. A power of mystery strong enough to influence machinery and the electromagnetic spectrum might be nearby.
The forest is colder than normal, more than what it’s high elevation should allow. The darkness in front of me isn’t caused by a lack of sunshine either. The flashlight didn’t just break because I’m a magician.
In short, that barrier is both a waymark and a defense against trespassing humans.
Suimei crosses the invisible boundary before him without hesitation and enters the forest. The lack of feeling underfoot is disconcerting. Nothing is there, not the firmness of the ground, nor the crunch of dried leaves or withered branches. The darkness surrounding him isn’t any better. It carries a sticky moisture characteristic to something living.
Seriously, it’s like I’m sinking into a dark ocean. Unlike an ordinary person who would have already run away, Suimei presses forward.
He soon cuts through the forest and light stabs his eyes. Afterimages are burned into his retina as his eyes adjust to shift in illumination. In complete change to what he just journeyed through, a cobblestoned road appears ahead of him.
“Is my destination down this road?” He assumes so since he can faintly see a building at the end of the path.
Suimei was entrusted with a strange task by the leader of the association. The reason– is a happy one for him who has moved up in ranking and reached high grand. From now on, he will have an assistant. “My old friend has received the one who will assist you at his place. Go retrieve it.”
Suimei’s expression hardened into a grim upon hearing those words. The association leader, Nestahaim, spoke with an innocent smile, but delivered an unreasonable demand. Yet, as Suimei was told, all he can do is press forward.
First off, this place.
Magicians prefer secluded areas that are difficult to reach. For them, there’s no problem if the place is in on some mountain range or on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. What bothers Suimei is that this location wasn’t designated on the old map within the association. That map alters itself whenever the land changes to reflect the correct geography. Further information can also be added. It was supposed to be absolute, yet this place wasn’t there.
If he were to ask the association leader about it, he would receive gentle laughter in return. He can already hear those chuckles. That reply would be enough to tell him he won’t get a clear answer.
Next is the phrase, “old friend”.
The leader called this person a friend, but that doesn’t mean that person isn’t suspicious. He’ll call anyone who shares the same ideals as him a friend. It doesn’t matter if the person adores him, follows in his footsteps, or blindly worships him; that person will be a friend without exception. Therefore, is this person really a friend? A disciple? Someone who revers him like a god? There’s no way to tell.
Finally, and most importantly, would be his remark about receiving an assistant. “Go retrieve it.” Those words first made Suimei wonder if he’ll be receiving a familiar. His abilities in magic, however, don’t extend to controlling familiars, a fact the leader is of well aware. As a result, he made sure the leader understood that while he may use the familiar every now and then, “I have no intention of keeping it on hand.”
So, just what is the leader’s intention? Suimei ponders that question up until the end of the mountain’s cobblestone road.
“I’m here…” Before him is an enormous, old fashion, Neo Renaissance styled, villa. With the sun hidden behind the clouds, only a gray light shines down. The colors black, white, and ash grey reflect off the gate and walls as a result.
Suimei continues forward and stops at the iron gate. The burnt black entrance almost looks like steel. Its grander size makes it a fitting match for the enormous villa. On it are gears, a reciprocating engine, and a pendulum. Is it trying to imitate a simple device like a clock?
He strikes the knocker against the door and a strong, metallic sound echoes into the house. Hearing such a sound is no surprise at an old magician’s house. Many have treated their places to reproduce such sounds. The hinges to one of the doors soon squeak open to reveal a dark interior. The sound makes Suimei feel the house’s age.
A silhouette separates from the dark interior and comes into view to reveal a young girl wearing beautifully decorated apron dress. Long, light brown, hair flows from her head. Judging from her height and appearance, she’s a bit young. Her expression is clear, but it also feels very cold.
The girl grabs the hems of her skirt and gives an elegant curtsey. Suimei tries to introduce himself in turn, “I am…”
“The association’s Suimei Yakagi-sama, I believe? We have been expecting you.”
Suimei displeasure leaks out as he says, “Really?”
The girl, however, places her hand on the door and forces the clock hand to move, accelerating both the escape pulley and anchor gear. The creepy chi chi chi chi chi sound that screeches out comes to a gentle stop. The zerol bevel gear then bursts into rotation, emitting gyaa as a piercing echo.
The heavy iron gates soon scrape over the ground as they open. Birds take flight as the entire mountain shakes. Their chirps along with the flaps of their wings rise up to fill the air.
The young girl extends her hand to Suimei from a bit within the entrance. “Otou-sama awaits your arrival in the back. This way, please.”
Suimei faces the girl and says, “Just a sec. I want to ask you something.”
“What would that be?”
“You are… curious about this villa?”
“No, who is the owner of this villa?”
“That cannot be right… Are you not the one who came calling us?”
The girl’s shock isn’t surprising to Suimei. Most people will research the places they’ll be visiting ahead of time. His tone is sullen as he says, “Sorry, the head of my organization is a mischievous one.”
The girl says, “I see” with a sigh. She then adds, “–Making your acquaintance is a pleasure. Welcome to Alzbine’s clock doll workshop.”
“Alzbine’s, here? This–” This is the famous castle of the puppeteer phantom?
Suimei once more looks over the villa. It looks like an old, black and white photograph, but as sunlight filters in, the villa comes to life with scarlet.
T/N: A reader brought this little gem to my attention in my last post. If you were thinking we’d have to wait until volume nine is released before getting some now content, guess again! I’m going to finish translating this gaiden before returning to the main WN story. If you guys see other things like this, send me a link. I’d love to translate them too.