Successful magic, as with all things, follows the KISS principle: Keep it Simple, Stupid.
Forget complicated rituals, rare ingredients, hours-long chants and lengthy evocations of gods and spirits. Once you understand the principles of magic, complexity is a curse. I don’t usually dabble much with rituals myself. But a case like this requires extra firepower.
After dinner, we stroll leisurely to Punggol Park. Along the way, we discuss the spell, distilling and simplifying until we’re certain it’s foolproof.
The nagas, of course, would see us, and see the ritual. But I’m counting on it.
Lamp posts light our way through the park. A group of cyclists speed down the bike path. Anglers cluster at the fishing promenades by the central lake. Dog walkers and senior citizens and joggers flow down the trail.
We find an empty pavilion off the main trail, by a deserted footpath. I’m confident we wouldn’t be interrupted, but just in case, I cast a camouflage spell, causing curious gazes to slip right off this patch of space-time.
Eleanor would take over from here. I specialize in field magic, quick and dirty energy manipulation and effects; she prefers more complex and involved ritual work. I place my GoRuck on the table, open it completely, and distribute the packing cubes with the ritual ingredients.
“You brought all this here?” Diana wonders.
I open a packing cube and set out a set of cups.
“Do you walk around with these all day?”
“Only when necessary,” I say, producing a packet of salt and a water bottle.
“You came here prepared to do a ritual with everyone?”
I prepare a bundle of tea lights. “Yes.”
With my Benchmade, I cut open a packet of salt and pour it into a cup. Eleanor opens a bottle of water.
“Are you ready?” I ask.
“Let’s do it,” Shun Tian says.
He claps his hands. Lowers his head and mutters something. A few moments later, he twirls his wrists and snaps his fingers. Energies rush from the pavilion, expelled through his intent.
Armed with the salt cup, I pour a circle of salt around the pavilion, walking clockwise around it. The girls set up tea lights at the cardinal directions just behind the salt circle. Shun Tian fills a cup with water and places it in the middle of the circle. I take a lighter and light up the candles, going north, east, south and west. A soft wind blows, flames sputter and die, and we relight two more candles before we proceed.
Standing in the pavilion, in the middle of the circle of salt and light, Eleanor and I speak.
“The circle is closed.
“Bright powers of the universe, Buddhas and gods and spirit guides and all other allies, we invite you into our circle. Thank you for protecting and supporting us. We offer light and salt and water. Come, enjoy!”
The tea lights grow still and calm, burning steadily and brightly. A pleasant coolness dispels the humidity of the night air. Motes of gentle light dance at the edge of my sight.
“Gautama Buddha, we seek your help. Diana Ho is under attack. Her former teacher has sent a kingdom of nagas to harm her, in an attempt to bring her back into the fold. We did not seek this fight, and we have no desire to cause harm. We seek only to resolve this conflict peacefully.
“Please intercede on our behalf. Please help the nagas understand the harm they are causing, and lead them back to the Middle Way. Please help Diana heal her disease and peacefully bring this conflict to a conclusion in a manner that harms none.
“Powers of the universe, please watch over and guard us. May all harm directed at us be returned threefold, and may all the good we receive also be returned threefold. Help us see through these days ahead, and may all beings involved return to harmony with Universal Law.”
A cool breeze blows through the area. Leaves murmur. The tea lights flicker for a moment. Then, all at once, they extinguish.
“Woah,” Diana whispers.
“Thank you for coming,” Eleanor and I continue. “Please enjoy the last of these offerings, and fulfil our requests. Please continue to watch over us. Thank you. With this, you are free to depart, with our blessings and our goodwill.
“The circle is open.”
The light-motes zip away. Wind caresses my cheek. Energy flows out, leaving only the memory of a pleasant coolness.
“It is done,” I say.
“Did it work?” Diana asks.
“You sound confident.”
“You saw what happened to the lights,” Shun Tian says.
Diana bites her lip. “Was that… them?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Well! I thought…” she shakes her head. “I didn’t expect that.”
“If you know where to look and what to do, the world never ceases to surprise you.”
We clean up. The tea lights and other props go back into the bag. I pour the water over the salt circle. Once we’re packed up, we head back the way we came from.
“Is that everything?” Diana asks hopefully.
“It’s the only the beginning,” I say.
“Magic isn’t a cure-all. We need to tackle the problem from multiple angles.”
“What do you mean?”
“We need to take action too. Here, in the material world. Have you lodged a police report?” I ask.
“Good. The next step is to apply for a Protection Order from the court.”
“Hey, you want them to keep harassing you, it’s fine by me,” Shun Tian says. “Your life, your problem.”
She sighs. “Fine. And then?”
“We talk to Somchai.”
Silence, for a second.
“What?!” Diana says.
“We talk to Somchai.”
“You’re going to tell him that you are done with him, and you’ll never come back.”
“But, but… Is that necessary?”
“He’s a skilled magician in his own right,” I say. “He may cast magic to counter our magic, and we’ll have to come back here to do this all over again. Better to go straight to the source and end this once and for all.”
“Just one last talk with him, and we’re done.”
Diana folds into herself, a mouse curling up as a cat stalks past.
“I’ll try,” she says.
“No,” I say. “You will. You must. Commit yourself to action.”
“I can’t do this alone.”
“We’ll help,” Eleanor says.
“What if it’s dangerous?”
“I’ll be there,” I say. “Shun Tian?”
“Sure,” he replies.
“Then we’ll be fine. Besides, we’ve got the karmic reflection spell. Anybody who tries anything will regret it.”
She smiles. “Okay.”
We spend the rest of the journey hashing out timelines and actions, and part ways at the Hougang MRT station. The girls go northeast, Shun Tian and I head southwest. Seated next to me, his knee and shoulder rub against mine. I endure the sensation, letting it pass through me.
“You planned this from the start, didn’t you?” Shun Tian asks.
“Of course,” I reply.
“I knew it. I knew there was a reason you brought three magicians to meet her.”
“The more the merrier.”
“You know that the nagas will tell Somchai what we did, right?”
“I’m counting on it.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’ll know about the ritual and the spell we cast. He’ll understand that we’re ready to defend ourselves if things go wrong. If he’s smart, he’ll cut losses and let her go in peace.”
“‘Ey, brother, people are dumb, lah.”
“I’ve planned for that too.”
“What do you mean?”
“The spell will trigger the instant anyone does anything to us. We’re protected.”
“Magic takes time to act. You can’t count on it activating the moment you need it.”
“Which is why I have backups to the backup plan.”
“You keep up with judo training?”
“I earned a black belt last year.”
“Good. I still train in Filipino martial arts. If things go wrong…”
He sighs. “We fought enough for ten thousand lifetimes when we were teenagers. I don’t want to go back to those days. Harming beings generates bad karma for everyone. And these are nagas we’re talking about. You harm one, their entire kingdom will come after you. Unless you think you can wipe them all out—and all their allies and vassals—you shouldn’t fight them.”
“I don’t plan on starting fights. I plan on preventing them. But if they choose to escalate, we must be ready to respond in kind.”
Another sigh. “Very well. But I won’t use violence until… unless they do something.”
“Relax. No matter what happens, just one more contact with Somchai at the temple, and we’re done.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” he says accusingly.
“Me too.” I sigh. “There is one thing though.”
“I’ve got a contingency plan. But I need you to pull it off, if we need it.”
“What is it?”
I tell him.
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