"Let it be known that apparitions can easily cause disasters; that humans can easily resolve disasters; that deciding the victor based on strength alone will not be accepted; that nothing lies superior to elegance and intellect." - from an early draft of the Naming Duel Law, as recorded in Perfect Memento in [the] Strict Sense
On New Year's Day of the 115th year, the laws of reality in Gensoukyou changed. This was not an unforeseen event. For several weeks before, the impending alterations were the subject of intense negotiations between a multitude of powerful apparitions, some gods, and one human: the Hakurei shrine maiden.
The details of the events leading up to the promulgation of the Law of the Naming Duel are unclear, but must be related to the recent mass predation of humans by vampires, powerful new arrivals to the land. Other apparitions were no match for the vampires, to say nothing of humans, fairies, and the rest. Even the gods seemed stymied by some power the vampires held. When it looked like the only option left would be to let the Great Hakurei Barrier fall and flee to the outside world, the vampire menace abruptly ceased. This happened last winter.
The dropping of the Great Barrier is the perpetual threat that the Hakurei shrine maiden wields against all things supernatural, Gensoukyou's nuclear option. It's a less than zero sum game: either the losers lose and everyone else stays the same; or the winners lose a lot and everyone else gets annihilated. It seems that this is no longer the case.
The Law of the Spell Card and Naming Duel
Recorded on youkai paper, and granted the absolute force of natural and supernatural law, the shrine maiden has made provisions for how conflict will be governed throughout the Land of Fantasy. If this was designed to solve the vampire incident, it goes much further than that. It allows any being who can participate in a naming duel the chance to win, even if it's a small one, regardless of their strength or weakness relative to the opponent. It also allows the formerly inviolable shrine maiden to suffer defeat at the hands of the apparitions, repeatedly.
The ritualized conflict is called a naming duel, because it is fought using spell cards, which give meaning and intent to one's attacks. A spell card is a supernatural contract that every would-be participant makes with the shrine maiden. Each allows a combatant to use any one of their powers, in a way that's deemed fit for the duel, which prioritizes grace and aesthetics. Whether it's a magical spell, a legendary sword, the recitation of a holy sutra, or the manifestation of one's supernatural strength, the spell card allows it to manifest in a way that can attack or counter any opponent, but can in turn be countered in the same way. Since meaning drives the power of the spell card, each card should be given a name that captures the reasoning of the spell.
The most "beautiful" attacks will triumph. There seems to be a lot of layers to this statement. At a minimum, it means no dirty tricks, things like ambushes, handicapping an opponent outside of a fight, sniping from a distance, assassinating someone in their sleep, all the myriad ways of murder have been done away with. It also means no ugly fighting: no brawls or melees or fights in the dirt. Finally, it means that the most impressively ornate attacks are the ones that are rewarded: a solid crushing wall of magic or an invisible disintegration ray that might have spelled a sure kill in the past will hardly affect an enemy now. They'll instead fall to a shower of a thousand tri-colored sparks.
Since different creatures can have far different amounts of raw power, victory in the fight is measured by the participants' physical and mental capacity to continue casting spell cards. An opponent no longer capable of doing so must concede defeat, even if they still have reserves of strength. Another way to look at it is if an opponent can defeat all the spell card attacks employed against them, they are victorious. The nature of the spell card is it transforms attacks from weak to strong, but also from overwhelming to survivable.
There are a number of periphery rules related to duels.
- Spell cards must be named when they are employed. The card contracts may also be presented, but this is optional.
- The duel cannot end with the death of any participant who is not able to revive.
- The duel cannot end with permanent or serious injury to a participant.
- The reward for victory must be agreed to in advance of the duel.
- A duel can be refused, if the two participants cannot come to reasonable terms.
- In general, the loser must grant one request to the winner.
- The request cannot be relief from further duels.
- The request cannot be for harm to the loser or to others.
- The request cannot be for the loser's possessions, with the exception of a single sheet of a spell card contract. This may be blank or filled, but if it is filled, it cannot be the loser's sole copy.
- The request cannot be for any long-term service, including imprisonment.
- Any of the above terms can be waived with the consent of the vanquished. (This means, if one has recklessly demanded a forbidden reward, the defeated combatant has the right to refuse to consent even if they previously agreed to it, but they may yet acquiesce to the demand under their own volition.)
- It is permissible, and in fact required, to break one's oath or duty to fulfill a victor's request, because the naming duel is absolute. For example, a vanquished guard must give way to the victor. Since it is possible for any participant to win such a duel, if the guard was to stay true to her duty, she should have prevailed in the fight.
- The loser cannot seek revenge upon the winner.
- However, in return for this consideration, the winner must entertain the loser's request for a rematch.
In the six months since this reality shift occurred, both humans and apparitions have become bolder. More dare to venture into the human village, and at the same time, a number of humans are seeking training in order to be able to be granted the use of spell cards. Not everyone is qualified to fight in such duels, however, because you must at least have enough mobility to evade a spell card attack, or you will lose immediately. At a minimum, this means being able to fly.
The fairies have grown increasingly agitated by the excitement, and are now attacking everyone they meet recklessly, despite the fact that hardly any of them can properly use a spell card. This means they are dying in droves, but fairies quickly come back to life after having been killed off. The rabbits, on the other hand, are still rabbits, and show no signs of wanting anything to do with any of this, despite having enough magic to possibly be able to participate.
One gets the feeling that the gods are watching all this with bemusement and consternation, but one or two of the more adventurous ones have descended from the heavens to join in on the fun.