"Madam, I can understand why Magus's Hands was banned, given its involvement in assassination, but why are Eye of Appraisal and Fine Control forbidden too? Those two should be harmless, right?"
"I don't know why Eye of Appraisal was forbidden either, but we registered magi are only allowed to learn the simplified version -- Appraisal. That is one of our basic spells. Normally, we use Appraisal to check whether an ingredient contains magical properties. In other words, we appraise an item to see if its magical or not. It can also be used to inspect traces of magic left behind after a spell is cast.
"Herbalists like me can also use Appraisal to check whether our concoction meets our standards. Sometimes, we can also use it to check whether there's poison in food. However, much training is needed to tell the difference.
"What you learned, Eye of Appraisal, is the more advanced version of Appraisal. It's probably far more effective and even though I don't know why it ended up as a forbidden spell, I'm sure some aspect of its effects was noted by the kingdom's Special Bureau to necessitate its ban. You'll have to test it out slowly to find out why."
Maria took a sip of tea and continued, "As for Fine Control, I only heard that it was forbidden, but I don't know whether that's true or not. It's said that during Stellin VII's 50th birthday, a few thieves broke into the palace during the grand banquet and some of them used Magus's Hands and shaped it into keys with Fine Control and managed to open seven treasury doors without startling any guards or alarm systems. They robbed the treasuries clean.
"Those thieves transported the treasure out of the subterranean waterways of the palace and swapped out the locks of the gates of the waterways with the same technique. That caused the guards that came to search to waste lots of time trying to open the gates with keys that no longer worked, allowing the thieves to escape for good.
"Stellin VII was so infuriated that he vomited blood and fell deeply sick. The heist at the palace caused a huge commotion and after traces of Magus's Hands and Fine Control were found, it was concluded that those spells were used in the theft. Stellin VII even gave the order to check apprehend every single registered magus in the capital for investigation and many people suffered from it. The royal family only released them after the nobles voiced their objections in solidarity."
Claude felt that he was listening to fairy tales. First, he learned that someone used Magus's Hands to kill a king. Then, some thieves shaped Magus's Hands into keys with Fine Control to rob the national treasury. Looks like there are smart people in this world after all. Even I didn't think those spells could be used like that.
"Then, what about Decomposition and Reconstruction? Those two are purely alchemical spells, so why were they forbidden?"
He was under the impression that those two spells were the weakest of them all as he had no way of using them ever since he learned them. If he had an alchemical formation array, they would no doubt prove to be useful. At the very least, he'd be able to concoct some low-grade alchemical potions. But without one, he couldn't do anything with them.
The issue was that Claude had no way of procuring the necessary materials for a formation. He couldn't afford them, nor did he have access to them.
"Those two spells have been forbidden since a long time ago," Maria said in deep thought, "I heard that before our kingdom was founded, the nobles around the continent were busy fighting against each other. One duke was deeply mesmerized in herbalism and alchemy and wanted to discover a way he could defeat his enemies without breaking a sweat.
"He spent most of the resources in his dominion to make a large alchemical formation array and forced his subjects to slave away to dig out poisonous plants. After that, he used Decomposition and Reconstruction again and again to run experiments nonstop with the intent of making a smog that he could release in the domains of his enemies to kill them off.
"In the end, he succeeded and managed to develop a pungent, yellow-green gas. Anyone that breathes it in would have a hard time breathing and vomit blood to death. The duke was satisfied with the results and believed that he had come up with a great weapon. At that time, an enemy was just about to invade his dominion, so he released the gas against his enemies and killed most of them off.
"After that, the duke used it for further conquest with the nobles that neighbored his dominion and none were able to stand in his way. Nobody could do anything against that gas but retreat, and they had to do so really quickly. That gas had a unique property in that it was denser than normal air and it required 12 hours to dissipate fully. The gas would 'roll' in the direction the wind was blowing and someone had to watch it dissipate from afar to make sure it was completely safe.
"What the duke didn't expect was for the gas to render the lands where it was deployed to be completely unarable. Soon, his dominion fell to a famine and the civilians in that dominion scrambled to escape it. The nobles in the surrounding area sealed off routes heading to that duke's castle and not a single trading convoy carrying food was allowed to cross. In the end, the duke no longer had any men to command and starved to death in his castle.
"The yellow-green gas was eventually called Devil's Breath. Ever since then, the nobles across the continent all banned Decomposition and Reconstruction and the various succeeding nations inherited that custom, forbidding registered magi from learning that spell. Naturally, the kingdoms' own alchemists were allowed to learn those two spells and they tried to recreate the gas for their own use. But their attempts all failed."
Claude didn't know what to say. The two spells were forbidden because they played a part in bringing forth a poisonous gas. The people in this world were full of ways of getting in trouble with the most harmless of spells.
"That's why, never tell people that you learned these five forbidden spells. Otherwise, Claude, I'm afraid that I'll only be able to see you in the dungeon of the kingdom's Special Bureau," concluded Maria.
"Madam, what's that department you mentioned called?"
"It's full name is Aureasian Public Bureau of Investigation and Special Security. Normally people just shorten it to the Special Bureau. Nobody bothers to call it its full name."
"Then what other spells are forbidden by the Special Bureau?"
"Many more. Basically, any combat spell is forbidden. But there are some defensive ones that passed their tests and are deemed harmless, so registered magi are allowed to practice them. One such spell is Barrier."
Maria chanted a few words and caused a white glow to appear around her body. It looked like a spherical and transparent bubble that enveloped her within. What surprised Claude was that the bubble proceeded to conform to Maria's form. As she was seated on a chair, the bubble enveloped her figure, sandwiched perfectly between her and the chair without moving her in the slightest.
Claude poked the bubble with his finger and found to his surprise that it was elastic to some degree.
"What barrier is this?" asked Claude.
Maria waved her hand and dissipated the bubble.
"It's Air Barrier, the most useless kind of defensive spell. Apart from isolating temperatures inside and outside the bubble, it's completely useless against other kinds of damage. We think that it's only useful for keeping us alive during fires. However, it won't last long for that purpose either, only five minutes and we'll be burned to death all the same."
"So this wind barrier doesn't work against physical attacks at all? I realized that it had some degree of elasticity to it."
"It's pointless. One swing of a stick and it'll shatter. It's all bark and no bite. Now, you understand, right? The kingdom's Special Bureau only allows registered magi to learn these harmless and inconsequential spells."
"Then, forgive me for asking this, but can you tell me the basic spells you learned?" asked Claude gingerly.
Maria laughed. "Naturally. The seven I know are all harmless spells permitted by the Special Bureau. If you go to the capital to the spell shop set up by the bureau, you can spend ten gold krons to buy a runic formation diagram of those spells. Naturally, you'd have to be a registered magus to be allowed to purchase them."
There are spell shops as well? Isn't ten krons for a harmless spell a little too expensive?
"You've already seen Luminous Pearl and experienced Air Barrier for yourself. Though, you can't see the effects of Appraisal." Maria poured some water into an emptied saucer and tapped one finger into it. "The fourth spell is Chill. It allows me to freeze water into ice in a short time and make cool drinks during summer."
The water within the saucer soon lost its heat and turned cold quickly. Claud watched as the tea froze into ice. "Madam, isn't this Freeze?"
Maria smiled bitterly and retracted her finger. "Do you think the kingdom will let us learn Freeze? That's also a forbidden spell to them. Chill can only be used to make a little bit of ice, so it's considered harmless because all we can do with it is make cold drinks."
Claude was completely dumbfounded.
"The fifth spell is Submerged Breathing. As I almost drowned when I was young and even had nightmares about drownings, I picked Submerged Breathing as one of my seven basic spells. I won't have to worry about drowning for ten whole minutes with it.
"My sixth basic spell is Hydrogenesis. It allows me to create water out of thin air." The lady put the empty teacup on the table and stretched her hand above it to draw some circles in the air. Claude watched as a drop of water formed in the circle she drew, followed by another. Soon, rain seemed to fall out of thin air into the cup and fill half of it with clear water.
Maria waved to dispel it. "Hydrogenesis cost more mana than the rest and I can use it seven times per day at most to get seven cups of clean water. This is a more practical basic spell since I can use it to create pure water for my experiments and concoctions. I wouldn't have to worry about having no water to drink on a long journey either.
"Many registered magi in the capital believe that Hydrogenesis is a simplified version of Waterball or Rainstorm and spent lots of effort to research it in hopes of restoring the simplified runic formation into more advanced ones. But every one of them failed."
Maria picked the cup up and drank from it. "This water does taste great though. Where was I? Oh, my last basic spell. It's this.
Maria put down her cup and snapped in the air. Claude saw a small fire burning at her fingertips.
"This is Enkindle. It was debated for a long time before it was categorized as a harmless spell. Stellin V said that since anyone could use all sorts of methods to set things on fire, there was no harm in allowing magi to learn Enkindle for convenience instead of having them search for tools like common folk to set things alight.
"It was his statement that allowed Enkindle to be classified as a harmless spell. I learned it because of how practical it is. Those are my basic spells and they can't even be compared to yours," lamented Maria.