The few days thereafter were uneventful.
Kusla and Wayland were concentrated on rebuilding Thomas’ metallugical records, and did not notice any enemies hidden in the shadows, intent upon seizing the workshop that had Thomas’ records in it.
Fenesis too came by to the workshop obediently every single day, and simply watched Kusla worked. Kusla’s party did worry that she would be poisoned by her allies and pushed over to them, but it seemed there were no issues with her health. At this point, there had yet to be any trouble they had to deal with immediately. If it were mercury poisoning, the gums would turn black; if arsenic, the fingertips would swell. Both of them could easily see through such common techniques.
Whilst they thought a highly motivated inspector focused on his job would nitpick and look for trouble, Fenesis was honestly just observing them.
Perhaps the words said during the trip to the marketplace worked to some extent, and eased her bias and suspicions against the alchemists.
Though Kusla personally thought of it this way, it meant that with reduced bias and vigilance, there would be reduced tension.
And soon, she started to get bored about observing Kusla’s work.
“If you’re sleepy, how about you go over there to sleep?”
The weather had been chilly recently, the sky was often overcast, and it had been a while since the sky was as bright as it was on this day.
But the furnace was not extinguished for days, so no matter the weather outside, the workshop was warm and cozy inside.
Kusla raised this suggestion just as Fenesis was sitting on the chair, yawning away, and finally nodding her head away in a stupor.
“Eh, ah…no…I am fine.”
“Even if you are fine, I will start to get sleepy. Yawning is contagious.”
The robes on her body looked very wide, the hem and the sleeves were very long, and her petite self resembled a white cat as she sat on the chair and yawned away.
Kusla sighed, and Fenesis looked rather embarrassed as she slowly stood up and took a deep breath.
“How can an inspector go to sleep now?”
“Says the one yawning with his mouth? Who was the one napping?”
“I was not napping.”
Kusla shrugged, went back to work, hammered a nail, and laid out a piece of parchment.
“What do you have to do today?”
“Something very troublesome.”
Kusla answered in a somewhat stiff voice, and Fenesis was a little tentative as she went silent, probably due to her guilt for falling asleep. However, that was for just a moment.
“But that is not a proper explanation.”
“It is distillation. Distillation.”
Fenesis stared at Kusla wordlessly, and then averted her stare uncomfortably.
“If you do not know what that is, just say it.”
“I do not.”
“What happens when you heat water?”
Fenesis merely widened her eyes at Kusla’s sudden question, and so, he repeated it again.
“What happens when you heat water?”
“Eh…ah…well, it…becomes hot.”
“That is right. You are a genius.”
Fenesis was stunned by Kusla’s words for quite some time, only to recover and realize she was duped, and glared at him angrily.
“I am sorry for yawning beside you.”
But Fenesis was not willing to admit she fell asleep, and from her expression, it seemed she had no intention of apologizing. At this point, Kusla merely sighed, and beckoned for her to come over. She however curled her body back cautiously, “Come over and help.” and only after Kusla called for her did she lean over to the table unwillingly.
“Hold that part down.”
Kusla held a corner of the rolled up parchment, and made her hold the other side. This parchment probably came from a good lamb; the part with the words written on it was thick, but the edges would crumple and curl.
The tightly crammed words on the parchment were very tiny, akin to the psychotic-like feeling from Thomas’ room. Thus, there was no way to read it if the parchment was not laid out properly.
“Ho-Hold it down? W-What do so you plan to do with this?”
Fenesis cringed as she stood in front of the uneven parchment that was like an old person’s skin.
“Right. You do not have to be so terrified. I am certain that there is no poison on the parchment.”
“…I-I am not scared or anything here.”
But though she said so, it was probably a little nerve-wrecking for her to touch something made from skin for the first time. Its unique, soft touch was somewhat akin to a caterpillar with a hard shell.
“Do not overdo it. It will do appear if you pull it too hard.”
Kusla used the back of his left hand as he fitted a mark into a hole made on it. He then used the hammer, held firmly in his right hand, to nail it down.
Certainly, there were people who would have nailed the four corners of a parchment before writing on it. There were already small holes riddled on it, which meant Thomas must have done the same thing. But even so, if one did not watch his strength when nailing, there would be tears starting from the small holes at the corners. Thus, one had to be careful when doing this.
“Right…next one, right here.”
Fenesis followed Kusla’s instructions and moved around repeatedly to hold the parchment down. Due to her petite size, she could only hold it down by leaning her body from the chair.
And so, they continued to do this until all 5 pieces of parchment was nailed down.
The metallurgical records of Thomas’ repeated experiments were laid out in front of them.
They had yet to break the code, and did not know the details, but the reconstituted records alone were a testament to Thomas’ ability. It was not a marvellous method, or some brand new experiment; shown on the parchment was the universe the man named Thomas had created.
And so, as a fellow Alchemist, Kusla was stating at this universe depicted on the parchment with admiration.
But Fenesis, who was right beside him, was sniffing at her hands.
Kusla, feeling a little forlorn, sighed and said,
“If you are that concerned about it, go wash it off.”
Fenesis answered with what was ostensibly her catchphrase, but in the end, “Sorry, I will go and wash my hands then.”She said this, and went off to the water trough.
“I say, have you never touched a parchment before?”
Kusla asked as he threw a towel to Fenesis, whilst her hands were dripping wet as she started at her nun robes hesitantly.
“Ah… no, but I did hear of it before.”
It seemed, from how obstinate she was, that she was far off in personality from the ideal Sister.
“Did you not come from a monastery? Is there not a scribe assigned there?”
“There is, but…”
“I never saw the scribe before because my position is not high enough.”
The order that was said to have been set by God could actually be said to be assigned by the monastery, and the hierarchy was tightly maintained. Parchments were costly items, and it seemed the higher ranks wanted to prevent the parchments from being soiled by peasants. If seemed this was the reason why Fenesis was so excited when she was told she could read any book to her heart’s content during their first meeting.
Kusla recalled that whenever Fenesis returned, she would be behind a high ranking clergymen. She was really at the lowest level of hierarchy, treated as a tool.
“I have no idea why you want to be in such a place of suffering.”
“So that I can follow God’s teachings, and to me, I have no idea why you alchemists have such passion.”
“Heh, so we are peas in a pod.”
Kusla nodded, and Fenesis seemed a little surprised, wondering if she was fooled again, but she ended up relaxing in the end.
“Then, let us get back to what we were talking about.”
“When you heat water, its temperature will rise. And then?”
Have you finally stop treating me as a fool? She must have been thinking this.way
Fenesis continued to blink as she stood beside Kusla, and the latter continued to stare at Thomas’ little universe, saying,
“Do you not want to know what I want to do?”
“Ah…eh, ah, yes. But,”
“Then, after heating the water, the temperature will rise. What happens after that?
Kusla repeated his own question again, and Fenesis stammered for a while, before answering,
“I-It will evaporate.”
“Correct. Then, what will happen after adding hot liquor?”
“Eh? Should it not be the same?”
“What you say is not necessary wrong, but in fact, liquor is a combination of two different fluids; you probably know about that. Also, amongst these two fluids, one of them will evaporate first.”
Fenesis blinked her beautiful green eyes, haa, and answered as such.
“Also, you also know that when these two fluids vaporize, they will condense back into liquid when cooled down. This is the method of extracting and concentrating the two types of liquid in liquor; we call this distillation.”
Kusla took a wine bottle from the shelf and shook it in his hand.
Fenesis frowned, ostensibly a little furious at Kusla for start to drinking while working in the middle of the day.
“This is one way of making distilled liquor, and we need to use copper distilling equipment to do this. Though brewers are better at this technique, it is rumored that an alchemist was the one who invented this technique.”
“There is a mineral called zinc, and when combined with copper, can be made into brass. Erm…ah, this one here.”
There were samples of minerals and metals on the shelf, and Kusla brought a dull golden metal to Fenesis.
“It was said that it was used as money a long time ago, and the methods of making it was classified; I heard it produced under coincidental circumstances, and also, after several hundreds of years, the method to produce it has been lost. The current production method is brought back by those who traveled to the East, and passed on the technique till today.”
“…Are you, going to make this?”
“Today, what we are making is one of the original products, zinc. Zinc was originally discovered in the production of lead, a white substance that is lined on the top of furnaces. Alchemists have racked their brains, and finally realized its true identity; or rather, they discovered a mineral stone rich in zinc, and determined the optimal way to extract it. It is to cool its heated vapor suitably.”
Fenesis continued to stare blankly at the brass, at Kusla, and back again; perhaps it was hard to imagine.
“It is said that this method was a precursor to distillation, and repeated distillation can create liquor. Of course, nobody knows what the fact really is, and this may be just things some people just say randomly. But no matter what, the discovery of a technique in alchemy is closely related to other skills. Some insignificant discovery may bring about an unexpected outcome, like this.”
Kusla paused for a moment, and sighed harderm,
“I feel that what we can imagine….may happen someday soon.”
In response to Kusla, who puffed his chest and indulged in his spiel whilst shaking the coat he was dressed in, Fenesis merely answered briefly.
She felt there was nothing significant about the brass in her hand, and returned it.
Kusla took it back puzzlingly, and asked, stupefied.
“…I say, do you not have any thoughts of my explanation just now?”
In response to Kusla’s question, Fenesis continued to look dumbfounded.
She then glared at Kusla immediately, wondering if she was duped again, but the latter looked rather devastated.
“No, i am not teasing you. Hm, how do I explain this…”
“W-what is wrong with you again?”
Kusla raised an eyebrow as he said,
“A new discovery will bring about the development of a new technique, and a new technique will be used in an unexpected area, bringing about a creation of something marvellous. Do you not find this really amazing?”
Kusla shook the bottle, causing a splashing sound within, and took a swig from it.
But Fenesis’ response was still dull.
“This is something really amazing. All the alchemists in the world have been revealing the secrets of this world just like this. This is what everyone says, to remove God’s clothes.”
Kusla turned his stare towards Fenesis, but the latter protected the front of her robes instinctively. It seemed the experience of suffering at the hands of Wayland was enough to cause a psychological trauma, and to her, not letting her robes get removed was far more important than solving the secrets of the world.
“Speaking of which, I think one of the reasons why Alchemists can pursue some radical goals is because they feel they can do anything.”
The reason why Alchemists were despised by the Church was not simply because they seemed eccentric.
The teaching the Church promoted was that the current corrupt world will one day receive its final judgement, and that only those who always did deeds of goodness would enter Heaven.
They felt this world was constantly being corrupted by evil, and one day, they would meet their end.
But the future alchemists thought of was completely different. Soon in the future, their research would be able to blossom, what they could not do up till this point would become possible, and what they could not understand would be revealed to everyone. It was because they had such a belief that they could continue to indulge in their research.
But as expected, Fenesis, who was not used to this sort of thinking, continued to remain confounded.
And she did not get angry at such people for being so radically different from the Church’s philosophy.
She never thought of this in the first place.
“The original owner of this workshop, Thomas, is probably a classical case of alchemists I talk about. He was alone, drifting in the sea of knowledge, and through these records alone, I certainly can understand his determination not to give up. I am eager to decipher the things written on these parchments.”
Kusla paused, and lamented,
“This is how the world simply is.”
Perhaps this liquor was more potent than he thought.
In the face of Thomas’ brilliance that was laid out on the table, Kusla was anxiously trying to convey its brilliance to others.
But those who could not understand just could not do so. Most of the time, they had no intention of doing so.
Amongst them, “I do not understand, but you really look like a happy child”, Friche, who smiled to him as she said this, was actually a spy from the Church.
Kusla brought over the tool beside him.
Alchemists were just Alchemists, people who were despised for walking down the path of heresy.
“Is it, really that interesting?”
And so, what he felt from the sudden question was anger.
Kusla glanced aside, and found not an expression that was mocking him, but a shocked expression, taken aback from his furious look.
“—I said this before; our thinking is not exactly the most normal of them all.”
Kusla said this, and immediately turned back again.
He actually acted so proudly, just as how he was when he left the workshop, right after he was recognized as an Alchemist.
Why did he risk his life for this? Why did he choose to ensure the fate of being shunned by every person? Why did he not feel despair in this life devoid of companionship? Why, even when the person he could call his first love was killed in front of himself, could he only think of metallurgy?
He could not understand.
Of course, there was the existence of a goal, and he was working harder towards it, but other than it, all he felt was an unshakeable satisfaction.
Kusla added the metallurgical records he got the previous day, together with the speculated meanings and numbers of the code to the words on the parchments.
This joy was something only those that personally worked for it could empathise with.
Kusla thought as he inadvertently lifted his head.
And then, after turning his head back again, he found Fenesis, all curled up in fear.
“Ah, no… That was not, what I meant…”
“Want to try?”
As Fenesis remained startled, Kusla marched towards her, saying,
“One will not understand without trying it once. The same goes for you too; you probably had this experience before entering the monastery, did you not?”
In regards to Kusla’s words, Fenesis remained wide mouthed, and then, she slowly nodded.
“The work today is troublesome, but not too difficult, and not too time consuming. How about you try it?”
Fenesis remained still, ostensibly unable to comprehend what she just heard. After a while, these words start to sink into her mind slowly, and her eyes started to swim in confusion. This innocent girl then answered uneasily,
“…I will not do anything…that will defy God’s teachings, you know?”
In the face of such words from a pure maiden, who knew how many men on this world would smile and guarantee this.
However, what Kusla wanted to remove was God’s clothes, and not a maiden’s.
“Then you should see for it yourself.”
Kusla did not guarantee anything, but Fenesis accepted this, ostensibly treating it as a form of sincerity from the latter. She then nodded her head, ostensibly swallowing something hard.
“I will affirm this for myself. This is something important.”
Kusla felt that this line was astoundingly convincing, and was a little surprised, but he still managed to show a natural smile.
“Right, you should affirm this yourself.”
“Then, let us go downstairs and work together with Wayland.”
Fenesis stumbled backwards with a pale face, but Kusla looked up and laughed.
“You should affirm for yourself whether that man is a lunatic or not.
Fenesis showed a doubtful look again as she faced Kusla, grinning away as he walked towards the stairs.
And then, once she realized the meaning behind those words, she chased after him in large strides.
“Erm, did you just lie to me—”
“But that man will kill if there is a necessity, and he is an incorrigible womanizer. It will be wise for you to take note of this before you end up using your body to affirm this.”
The moment Kusla turned his head around to say this, Fenesis stopped in her tracks.
In this world, there were a lot of things where it would be too late once one affirms them.
Her expression was a mix of doubt and uneasiness, but sometimes, a pretentious expression would be useful.
She said angrily, and followed Kusla down the stairs.
It was a fact that blacksmiths were very popular amongst women.
They had to spend long hours working in front of a sweltering hot furnace, move the fuel, man the bellows, swing a large hammer to crush the ores, and move the refined ingots out. The result of such time-consuming work over a long period of time was a firm body devoid of excess fat, sculpted like iron. However, they did not need to live a vicious life of bloodshed like mercenaries, and one would even feel some poetic sense when viewing into their stares, focused on the furnace silently.
The two of them arrived at the second basement level of the workshop, and Wayland, half-naked on top, was near the mouth of the furnace and the waterwheel mechanism, staring at them.
There were many scandalous rumors of him being involved with some Sisters from a monastery before he arrived in Gulbetty, and those were probably not rumors that were exaggerated. After arriving downstairs, Fenesis was tugging at Kusla’s sleeve terrifiedly, and froze in her tracks once she spotted Wayland.
Wayland naturally detected them quickly, and glanced behind at them as he carried the wood materials on his shoulder and beside his abdomen. However, he did not mind in particular as he proceeded with his own work.
It would be too disrespectful to doubt that it was an act considering how serious he looked, and at this point, Wayland was practically a man seeking for truth.
His disheveled hair was merely tied loosely, and his rarely trimmed moustache always showed the suspicious of this person. However, this was also the proof of a man putting work as his priority.
And then, she showed a completely different expression as she quickly turned to Kusla, and chided him with a vengeful expression,
“I will never believe in your words again.”
“Even though that person groped you on the breasts the first time he met you?”
Fenesis was immediately rendered speechless, but soon thereafter, she regained composure and said,
“May-maybe he was a little rough…”
And to think that line came out at this moment.
Fenesis then ignored Kusla, who gave a forlorn look, and then continued to stare at Wayland, ostensibly mesmerized by that dexterous skill of his.
This caused Kusla to recall what Wayland once said.
First, create a bad impression, and then, show sincerity. The conquest will succeed thereafter.
You swine, Kusla muttered in his heart, I might as well use this the next time.
“Wayland, hold on for a moment.”
Upon hearing Kusla’s words however, Wayland did not turn back to look.
He was carrying a large bellow, made from leather hide, and placed it beside the furnace. A torch, rake, hammer, pincers, iron ladle, and all sorts of tools beside cast around the furnace. If he could add some strange bone or some offering, he could be seen as a magician.
But the current appearance Wayland showed was that of a finely-trained first-rate craftsman.
“What is it?”
When he finally turned around, he did not drag on his words like usual.
Naturally, he did not glance over to look at Fenesis, and his stare was completely devoid of a stare.
“I want to show this guest what we are doing exactly.”
At this point, Wayland’s finally gave Fenesis a serious look.
What sort of materials can I get from the girl?
He was thinking of this seemingly absurd idea with an undoubtedly serious expression.
“I’m not playing around here.”
Upon hearing Wayland’s words, Fenesis spoke up,
“I-I’m not p-pl-playing around here…either…”
Her voice got softer at the end, and it seemed she felt some sort of pressure from Wayland’s stare.
If he were dressed up, Wayland’s physique would be rather lanky as compared to a bystander, but in fact, his body was without excess fat, like a sculpture. The stains of charcoal covered all the way to his elbow, and he was sweating profusely despite the frigid weather.
In contrast, Fenesis, who would come over every day, sit on the chair, and stare at their work in boredom, could not argue.
But Wayland was really an absolute genius in this aspect.
After a while, he hid the annoyance he showed on his face a while ago, shrugged, and turned to the furnace again.
“Whatever, just don’t get in my way.”
Fenesis intended to say something, but stammered, and changed her tune as she thanked him,
“Thank you very much….”
She was a delicate lady who was dominated by a ferocious man.
At this point, Kusla felt that it was a little bland.
Fenesis, who was giving Wayland an expression of admiration, turned around to give a condescending expression at Kusla. This was also one of the reasons why Kusla felt this way.
“Then? What do I do here?”
Hurry up and tell, you Alchemist that only knows how to talk.
It really took him a lot of effort not to click his tongue when he felt this unstated line.
“Wayland, is the air vent upstairs done?”
Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Wayland turned around and shook his head.
“Not yet, but…ah, I’ll do that. I can’t let you handle it.”
“You know how to do that?”
In response to Kusla’s question, Wayland glared back with a savage expression far full of spite than any other situations,
“You just want to eat from a crucible, right!?”
As for who first started using this line, and what exactly did this line mean, perhaps nobody knew of it at this age.
But even so, both Alchemists and Craftsmen would use this line whenever they argued.
Kusla shrugged, and Wayland strode to the stairs and went up.
“You’re really bipolar.”
Kusla muttered wrly, and Fenesis, who was staring at Wayland as the latter went upstairs, said with a criticizing attitude.
“This is still far better than some people who only know how to talk, right?”
Unknowingly, Kusla became the hero, and Wayland became the hero.
Vicissitudes are everywhere, and some minor opportunities would cause things to change. This was the first time an Alchemist first learns.
“Then, what am I supposed to do?”
“…Wayland has gone to do the toughest reclamation part. We’re in charge of keeping the fire burning downstairs.
Kusla sized up Fenesis’ attire, and sighed,
“Your white clothes will be soiled if you wear them for work.”
There was a lot of cloth used for the veil, the loose clothing, and the large sleeves.
The pure white fabric was a symbolism of one’s poorness, obedience and purity, and looked worrying in this workshop filled with coal and oil.
“You better change into something else. I don’t know if there’s anything you can wear here.”
Kusla ran to the storeroom, searched through for a while, found some decent looking pieces of clothing, and things ended up as expected.
“Not bad. This looks rather cute, doesn’t it?”
“Please do not take this as a joke.”
Fenesis, who finished changing in the bedroom, was glaring at Kusla as she said this, ostensibly sandwiched in cloth.
Due to the constant folds on the creases, this clothing resembled more like a cloth armor wrapping around her rather than being worn on her.
Her long hair however remained in the veil, and insisted not to remove, saying that she could not bring it back alone if she removed it.
And so, Kusla could only add a sack on it, and it felt as intriguing as a finishing touch after some modification.
“Never mind, let’s leave this be for the time being. If we don’t get to work, that man’s going to roar at us.”
Fenesis nodded hard and indicated her agreement to Kusla’s words.
However, it seemed that she did not want to obstruct Wayland’s work, rather than a show of her fear of him.
“It’s very rare to see highly pure zinc ores, but there was mention of it once in the highest level of metallurgical records the Knights possess. It is a light violet mineral that’s like transparent amber…but what we can use are ores filled with large amounts of impurities.”
As Kusla was Wayland’s fellow apprentice in the same workshop, he had a rough understanding of where the equipment were when working. He soon found an ore, a large, uncrushed rock.
“This ore…well, it’s not too bad. If the color’s a little darker, it means there’s a higher iron content, and we don’t know whether we’re extract zinc or iron. Sometimes, there will be sulfur, but the most common impurity inside is lead; sometimes, we can find silver.
One could see a crystal, glittering like beeswax, from the ore, melted incompletely and amalgamated together. Kusla had already found the hammer, but upon seeing Fenesis, he was certain that the hammer was most likely heavier that she was.
Thus, he found a chisel and mallet from a nearby shelf, and handed them to her.
“Crush it. You just need to make them the size of pebbles.”
“And be careful of your eyes. The crushed fragments may fly into your eyes.”
Fenesis blinked in response to Kusla’s words, and nodded,
Her delicate arms were such that such small tools looked heavy in her hands, and she walked with a weird posture to the ore placed on the floor, ostensibly dragged down by the chisel and hammer. Kusla glanced at her, and her expression was similar to when she was facing the parchments on the table.
He raised his chin, indicating for her to proceed, and she bent down tentatively. She was practically picking flowers to make a flower ring as she sat elegantly in front of the furance, and this certainly was a strange feeling.
But it certainly was interesting seeing her cringe tentatively, kak, kok, and hammer away at the chisel.
Might not be a bad idea to have a female disciple, this ridiculous notion flashed in his mind, and he inadvertently scratched in response before proceeding to work on something else.
Technically speaking, the process to extract zinc was not easy, but the hard part was to cool the air suitable. This required careful attention of introducing air and regulating the temperature of the flames. Thomas had defined the amount of ores to be used and the amount of charcoal to be burned in his records, and the zinc content, composition, shape and impurities extracted from the ores would become the next crucial line in solving Thomas’ little universe.
It was often said that one had to steal his master’s skills through his eyes, but Thomas probably would have hated having the results of his metallurgical research stolen.
“Have you crushed it already?”
Kusla walked to the furnace, intending to do some preparations, but turned his head around upon seeing Fenesis’ uneasy look.
He peered over, and found that there were only bits, too small to be called fragments, beside her.
At this point, he could not help but sigh, kneel down, and reached his hands from behind her while almost pressing down on her.
“Don’t crush it so small. watch me.”
Kusla held her by the hands hard despite her being at a complete loss. He readied his chisel and held the hammer shank tightly.
Her hands, and even her petite body was in the clutches of his arms.
“It’s dangerous to ease your grip. Hold it as tightly as you can.”
He grabbed onto Fenesis’s hands whilst she was curled up in fear, started applying a moderate amount of strength to hold it tightly, gak, and smashed the hammer down on the chisel that was resting on the ore.
“Huh, this is some unexpectedly good ore. If a good ore is crushed well, the chopped surface will be glittering.”
Kusla deliberately added on this line, probably to show this broken surface to a somewhat uneasy Fenesis, and then proceeded to crush the rock twice, thrice.
Gak, Gok, while these sounds rang clearly, Fenesis would inadvertently cringed, but soon, she got used to it.
It seemed she had understood how to apply strength, so Kusla first let go of her hand that was holding onto the hammer.
“I’ll steady the chisel, so just hammer it hard.”
Fenesis’ small hand, which was holding the chisel, was completely covered by Kusla’s, so there was no need to worry that she would hit herself.
“If you’re scared of hitting it too hard out of a sudden, just tap at it lightly first, and then add more force to it gradually.”
Fenesis held her breath wordlessly, and started knocking at the chisel as she followed what Kusla said.
“A little harder.”
“Put more strength to it.”
“Just crush it thinking that it’s the head of the person you hate.”
The left hand holding the chisel had nothing to support off as it fell aside.
The ore beside her was crushed in halves, rolling about as they showed beautiful glitter.
“That’s how it is. Keep at it.”
Kusla let go of the hand holding the chisel, and patted Fenesis gently on the shoulder.
She looked back and forth at her hands, her face looking as if she just saw something inexplicable.
“That last smash was good.”
Kusla said, and Fenesis looked away whilst maintaining this expression.
“By the way, who did you think of when the person you hate is mentioned.”
Fenesis lifted her head, seemingly pondering over it for a while, but soon turned her stare back at Kusla, answering pretentiously.
“I suppose I do not have to say this, right?”
Fenesis snorted in a condescending manner, turned her head back, and continued to crush the rocks. She was certainly more ferocious than before, and one could heard this from the pounding sounds. Kusla was beside her, sifting through the rocks that could be used, and could see how serious she was. Perhaps, in contrast to her appearance, she really liked this job.
He gathered the crushed bits that were sifted, and then used a larger hammer to crush them.
At this phase, the impurities could be removed from iron or other ores, but not from zinc ores. There was a need to heat the other impurities to a certain temperature.
The fragments that were further grounded by Kusla were then placed on a scale, and the insufficient parts were to be crushed further before being added on.
“Hey, that’s enough already.”
There was no hesitance in the punching sounds; it was unknown if she had gotten addicted to it, and the crushed fragments had formed a hill
An emotionlessly looking Fenesis, upon hearing Kusla’s words, suddenly recovered from her trance like state. She was breathing erratically, but she looked satisfied after having vented her frustrations.
“That’s quite some effort you put in. Is there something that’s annoying you daily?”
Kuala wakes towards Fenesis, who was standing beside the scale, and took the hammer and chisel from her hand as he asked this. In response, her beautiful green eyes turned towards him.
She wiped the sweat below her nose with her hand, and answered with that same pretentious expression she once showed,
“Because there is someone who has been fooling me often.”
“Really? There’s a lot of bad people on this world.”
Fenesis could only show Kusla a look of forlornness and surprise in response to his words, but one could sense a smile from him.
“Then, we weigh these ores, and mix them with the prepared charcoal.”
“There is a need to use lots of charcoal, is it not?”
“Ahh, there’s a need to use it for the majority of the metallurgical processes. The firepower when it burns is great, and it obviously is material itself. These are made from beech, and there are lots of types we can use, like how we can choose pine or oak in the South if we want to refine material. However, a lot needs to be used no matter what kind of tree it is, so if we can find some way to smelt metal at a high rate, the saved cost will be massive.”
Her breathing was a little hasty, but Fenesis nodded seriously. It was a delightful thing for Kusla to have someone listen to him seriously.
As he thought about this, he suddenly thought, This is the exact same thing as how we control a person’s heart.
“After this, we’re going to throw this charcoal into the fire for burning, and once that happens, the amount of vaporized zinc will increase.
Kusla said as he pointed at the ceiling, and Fenesis lifted her head obediently to look there.
“Wayland will be in charge of condensing the vapor zinc and collecting it.”
Fenesis looked back again, and gave a look of incomprehension as she said,
“This sounds simple…”
“It is not too difficult once you understand the rationale behind it, but it’ll be difficult at the beginning when you fumble around.”
Obviously, Fenesis could not understand how difficult it actually was. The same was for Kusla, onceas once he left he left his vocational workshop, he really wanted to invent something through his own strength, only to realize then how difficult it was.
“But the difficulty you can quickly understand will probably come immediately.”
Whilst Fenesis was unable to comprehend at all, Kusla pointed at the bellows beside him, and gave a little smile with some meaning behind it.
“NOT HOT ENOUGH!!”
Wayland’s roar came from upstairs.
Whenever Fenesis heard this line, she would grit her teeth, curl up, and squat down.
BuUt she was not cringing in fear because of the sudden roar, but that she was too light, and that she did not have enough strength. If she did not do this, she could not use the bellows.
Her face reddened, and she groaned as she used all her strength to press the bellows down, poull it open, and press itn down. Kusla however was watching her work with a relaxed look on his face.
“I think that’s a little too much! This seems to be used for refining iron.”
Amongst all the metal refining processes, the highest temperature that was needed to be maintained would be for iron. A large amount of air had to be drawn into the bellows, but there was no need for such a high temperature when refining zinc.
“For Clergymen, perhaps constant prayer and faith will purify you, but in our line of occupation, we have to keep sweating.”
Fenesis glared at Kusla, please do not say such things to me now, her eyes were ostensibly saying this. Her face turned red, and she was starting to pale everywhere else.
She probably had anemia.
At this moment, Wayland’s anxious yell came from above, but Fenesis could not stand up after pressing the bellows down with her body. Kusla then carried her to the window sidewindowside, where it was cooler and breezy.
It seemed she could not breathe normally like usual, and she was panting, seemingly devoid of consciousness.
“Are you okay?”
Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Fenesis merely widened her eyes slightly, but her eyes were not focused.
Kusla then patted her cheek gently a few times, and then stood up and rolled his sleeves.
And then, he pulled the large bellows open, before proceeding to press it down hard.
Air was immediately introduced into the furnace, and sparks flew.
Upon hearing the holler from upstairs, Kusla cackled maliciously and continued introducing air into the furnace.
The large amount of air entered the large furnace, and it continued to burn inside, the cackling sounds ostensibly from the midst of Hell. Tthe flying sparks flew by the hill of gathered materials, and the flames in the furnace turned from red to yellow, and then to white. There were a lot of superstitious people amongst the blacksmiths, but this phenomenon was such that even Alchemists, who were deemed eccentric by others, could not help but frown.
But for those who had witnessed it once personally, anyone could understand why.
It was literally sanctity.
The glow shining behind God must have been the same as the glow that comes when refining metal in the furnace at high temperatures, and Kusla certainly felt this way.
“Lead’s starting to boil now. Is it not ready yet!?”
He opened the small metal window at the furnace’s peephole, and found that there was some boiling in the crucible. The still unmelted parts were iron and other impurities.
“Almost done here! Keep it up for another half of a Spring Festival Prayer Song!”
Kusla answered, and gradually cut back on the air volume introduced.
In metallurgy or other forms of work, the purpose of singing was to adjust the intervals and durations when air was introduced.
They could use a drip or an hourglass for this purpose, but when doing physical work, nobody would be bother to observe such minor changes. In this situation, singing would allow one to become happier when working.
Often, there would be Alchemists being reported to the Church for reciting some spells or some strange prayers in front of a furnace, but when dealing with a small fire and a small furnace, it would be better to sing softly.
After that, Kusla conversed with Wayland, who was upstairs, many times, and stopped introducing air at the anticipated moment when unvaporized lead ash would appear. The records Thomas let behind was most probably correct, and though there were some efforts, the firewood and charcoal did burn up at the same rate. After letting the furnace cool for a while, they just needed to obtain the cooled zinc crystals from the roof and the specially designed supply outlet to complete everything.
It seemed simple, but Kusla ended up sweating all over.
Good grief, just when he was sighing away, Fenesis finally regained consciousness.
“Looks like you won’t become Saint Alkaniks.”
“That’s a Saint who protected blacksmiths.”
Fenesis showed a look of displeasure, but she stared beyond Kusla and to the furnace.
“Is it over?”
“Most of it.”
Fenesis finally heaved a sigh of relief, and relaxed her body as she leaned on the wall.
“Can you stand up?”
“…Is there anything there that needs to be done?”
Like a typical Sister, despite her being worn out due to her fatigue, she would continue to work obediently as long as it was not done. She was forcing herself to stand up, and though she was already staggering as she stood, but Kusla was still impressed by her willpower.
“There’s a reward for you after such hard work. Let’s go upstairs.”
Kusla first took off, and Fenesis held down this cloth armor draped on her with all her might as she followed.
They went upstairs, through the workshop filled with items all around, and opened a door inside. Standing in front of them was not a wall, but a protruded furnace and an aqueduct used to drive the waterwheel.
Kusla had grabbed a bottle of liquor as he passed through the workshop. And Wayland, who had already put on his shirt, was seated in front of the furnace.
Wayland only seemed to have noticed them when he heard Kusla’s question, and he turned around to give a suspicious look. Perhaps it was because when working, he would be so tense that he would go berserk even if there was only a breeze; the side effect of this was that once work was done, he would immediately revert back to being his useless self again.
He raised his chin. Normally the wind shaft that was also designed to be a peephole would have something like iron box that acted as a passage used for drawing air for cooling. Kusla then proceeded to look inside.
He then shrugged, and turned to look at Fenesis.
“Have a look.”
She reverted back to that condescending look she once showed him, coupled with a skeptical look thinking she was duped again, and Kusla was unable to laugh at it.
“Zinc is very light, and can float in the air.”
“…I will take note.”
She said, and crouched down to look into the metal box.
She was then immediately taken aback by the stinging stench in the box, and inadvertently retreated.
She lifted her head and stared at Kusla and Wayland.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
Fenesis did not answer as she gulped and looked into the box again. Behind her, Kusla handed the bottle to Wayland, and the latter proceeded to gulp it all down like he was drinking water.
There was a need to cool the metal box if they wanted to collect zinc efficiently, and the marks of water being splashed around it was the proof of the aftermath.
“This ore really is not bad. The Alchemist Rice Mitchenbelk said this once. Zinc is the Lama Philosonic, like a stem, and yet like a needle, and feels like a snowy white cotton.”
“…Beautifully refined…but…there’s still the weighing and analysis of the ash…”
“Leave it to me. If we’re able to get this result in a pristine manner, it won’t take too long to decipher it.”
“That Thomas…really is a magician.”
Wayland said, and laid down.”
Magic, Fenesis reacted to this term and turned her head around, her face showing an expression of inexplicable confusion. She looked ready to cry, and yet about to laugh; an unstable emotion.
That emotion was probably ‘excitement’.
“The ores dug from the ground can become like this one they’re handled correctly.”
Upon hearing Kusla’s words, she seemingly staggered and looked over at the inside odd the metal box, ostensibly attracted by it; it seemed she was unable to control the surprise within her.
“It’ll be more touching if we can extract gold from lead ore.”
“Eh, but, that is—”
Fenesis immediately turned her head around.
Kusla laughed, and said,
“Turning lead into gold? Hahaha. Lead will never become gold, but we can extract gold from lead ores. That’s probably just some rumors a few vile Alchemists spread about and deliberately exaggerated.”
“Though you have to use so—much lead ores just to extract this little bit of gold.”
Wayland, lying on the floor, spread his arms wide to gesture, and finally shrank his reach to an extent of 2 fingertips.
“We’re always doing this and that kind of metallurgical jobs.”
“And we’ll continue on.”
It’s just that simple, Kusla lowered his head and stared at Fenesis, whilst the latter, like a puppet with its strings snapped, “Haa”, answered.
“Let’s go upstairs. The temperature here will drop drastically. What about you?”
“Me? Lemme have one more swig of this~”
Wayland laid down on the floor as he stared into the metal box, and shook the liquor bottle in his hand.
Kusla then shrugged, patted Fenesis on her back shoulder, and called her up.
Unlike the outside, the inside of the workshop was still warm, and after closing the door inside, the flowing water splashing on the waterwheel seemed a little distant as the room suddenly quietened. At this point, Fenesis was like a converted believer who just witnessed a miracle as she looked stunned, her lips tightly sealed, unable to say a word. As they were on their way up the stairs to the bedroom, Kusla saw that her legs were still shuddering, and decided that there was no choice but to give her a hand.
“Are you touched somewhat?”
His tone was filled with some ridicule, but Fenesis continued to stare at him, and nodded her head slowly and deeply. Even when Kusla and Wayland were serving their apprenticeship, when they planned to poison that obnoxious master of theirs, they did see him smile once, but only once, and heard him say something nice.
That was when they succeeded in their experiment, when he was as moved as Kusla and Wayland were, whilst the latter two were unable to say anything,
“Welcome to the world of an Alchemist.”
Fenesis looked back and forth between Kusla’s face and his outstretched hand, and it would be most appropriate to call her expression that of confusion.
After a while, she then tentatively, fearfully, grabbed him by the outstretched hand, slowly but firmly.
Kusla faced the table in the bedroom and said this whilst staring at Thomas’ little universe. It seemed that to her, the meaning of the draws on the parchments were completely different from just a while ago.
“You’re feeling it’s a little pitiful, isn’t it? We aren’t able to do anything related to magic.”
It seemed Fenesis wanted to say something, but chose not to in the end, and kept her mouth shut.
“If there’s nothing you can report to your superior, he won’t be happy, I suppose?”
Wayland was enjoying the liquor in the inner room, and at this moment, Kusla realized he too was thirsty.
“I can report to them that you two have been drinking in the day.”
“But the Church congregation also drinks.”
“Please do not associate your excessive indulgence with the grape wine used for Eucharist. That is a sacrilege to God.”
Kusla lowered his head forlornly; it seemed Fenesis was not really angry.
“But as compared to all the invigilators I’ve met up till now, you’re a lot better than them.”
“Those people never had the intention to understand our work. Your face shows an undisguised disgustedness, but you did come with some basic knowledge and introductory books to read. You even dressed up like this, sweating so much and helping us press the bellows.”
Upon seeing how she was dressed, Fenesis lowered her head a little embarassedly.
“But dido you find this enjoyable?”
Upon hearing Kusla’s question, Fenesis lifted her head.
And then, she gave an unwilling smile.
“Right. It’s so touching that you can give up on everything else. When the remaining knights stand on top of a hill, looking at the distant sunset, even when all the allies they fought alongside for years died, they can still reach the end of this day peacefully, or something like that.”
“…King Kuzar’s legend.”
“Right. The truth is, hopes are everywhere.”
Kusla poured some liquor into a glass, and said this as he raised it to his eyes.
“Alchemists are the light of truth.”
Fenesis stared at Kusla, who was about to drink the liquor down, and ostensibly let out a deliberate sigh as she raised her eyes to look at him.
“Thatis is impossible for someone who likes to lie, like you.”
“…This line really sounds convincing from someone who’s fooled so often like you.”
Upon hearing Kusla’s mocking, Fenesis inadvertently curled her lips, but gave a wry smile in the end.
“I shall report what happened today as it is.”
“Whatever you wish then.”
Kusla answered, but Fenesis continued to stare at him intently.
It really was an inexplicable expression, as he face showed what seemed a smile, and yet forlornness. “Hm?” Kusla could not help but ask.
Fenesis hesitated for a while, and then said softly,
“You…no, you people really live a free life.”
The world was created by God, and in this world of order, the only ones who could truly obtain freedom was a king who had everything, or heretics that had nothing.
Naturally, Kusla and the rest could not be kings.
But even so, Fenesis’ face showed envy when she said this, but her smile was riddled with lethargy.
In a monastery, especially one affiliated to the Knights, there would naturally be nothing of the term ‘freedom’. However, there was a freedom to choose whether to enter a monastery.
In response to Kusla’s question, Fenesis did not meet him in the eyes as she wordlessly stood up.
“I’ll go change my clothes.”
Kusla said as he placed his hands on his cheeks to twist his neck as he watched Fenesis enter the room at the side.
That night, Fenesis returned to the monastery, and Wayland was sleeping soundly due to the fatigue from the work in the day. Kusla filled a glass vessel with water, lit a candle that could float on it for lighting, and started reading Thomas’ code.
There were a still pieces of parchment left, and using the results of the zinc refining and past results, Kusla would be able to find a way to refine iron with such high purity.
Even as the plants had rested, Kusla, as befitting of his title, did not feel tired at all.
Listed on the parchments were not simply some dry metallurgical results, but also some of Thomas’ own feelings and thoughts being listed within. Kusla could tell, whilst reading between the lines, that Thomas had felt excitement from achieving some form of breakthrough through his many experiments.
The parchments only listed the final correct result, but one could definitely tell that in this workshop, he went through countless hardships and numerous sufferings, but never gave up, never wavered, and was focused on heading to his goal.
Naturally, Kusla did not know how Thomas died.
But if he were to guess based on his opinion, it would not be a far stretch to think that Thomas, upon achieving iron of such purity, drank too much in his exhilaration, and got involved in some meaningless scuffle.
These parchments clearly listed the excitement he felt that time, and it could be felt despite his calm handwriting and conservative choice of words. Kusla took a deep breath, and the unique smell the parchments had entered his nose.
He too was infected by Thomas’ excitement.
But what excited him more was that if they could attain a way to purify iron to such an extent, they might be able to find a way to Magdala. This was the biggest reason for Kusla, who betted his entire existence on it; no, the only reason why every Alchemist could insist on being one was to search for Magdala.
But one had to note that there had to be no mistakes in this process.
Kusla checked through the numbers and codes several times, opened an old book, and compared it to the other books left in Thomas’ workshop as he deciphered it.
And so, once this line appeared, his mind went blank for a short moment.
He backtracked a few times, deciphered the codes, re-inspected the metallurgical outcome used for solving the secret, and affirmed it again.
Even so, the deciphered result was the same.
It was neither his own mistake, nor that he saw this mistakenly.
Once there were two parchments left, there was this last line.
A trivial detail caused the entire meaning to change.
Kusla put down his pen and got up from his chair.
And it was soon after that Wayland flared up like a drunkard and flipped up from the bed.