[Magdala V2] Act 1

“Still fuming?”

Kusla’s words were like the air exhaled in the frigid air, echoing and dissipating after a while.

And then, he heard the sounds of minerals being smashed.

“It’s just a little joke, you know?”

Smash

This time, a loud smash rang, and the mineral rock, the size of an armful, split in too.

“A little…joke?”

The being handing the hammer and chisel in front of the mineral rock slowly lifted her head.

It was a girl who on first glance resembled a little white furball.

Her pure white hair, coupled with the glittering emerald eyes below that looked extremely intriguing, made her a resemblance of an intricate doll.

Kusla had his hand pressing against his cheek at the work desk as he noted in a bothersome manner,

“…Well, whatever, maybe it differs from person.”

“You are the worst!”

Kusla did a concession through his own way, but she in turn turned her head slightly, her little fangs bared as she hissed at him.

“You…you made just a…vi-vile…!”

“…”

The pure white girl was probably not even half of his own mass, but Kusla averted his eyes from her.

However, he was not reflecting upon his actions.

“Such a huge fuss over nothing.”

The girl glared at Kusla over this absent-minded mutter, and bit her lips tightly, her body quivering. This reaction was already to be expected of her, but her emerald-like green eyes were gradually contorted.

“Huh? Hey, what are you crying—”

Perhaps Kusla said it too quickly as the face was no longer looking up, and she continued to immerse herself in the crushing of the minerals like it was a sworn enemy of her family. He understood clearly from that sight that she was more headstrong than the ores she was to smash.

Goodness gracious. Kusla scratched his head.

Due to a certain commotion that happened a month ago, the girl was hired as an assistant to the workshop in name. It was said she came here from a distant Southeastern desert. This place was the main battlefield of the continual war against pagans that devastated the world for more than 20 years, and the girl was adopted by the Choir of the Cladius Knights, a massive organization that obtained fortunes and authority, the leadership-granting entities. As part of this organization, the Choir is dubbed the Idyllic, yet the people gathered under it were definitely not some innocent, pious believer.

However, this girl, Ul Fenesis would definitely not care about this The girl’s race was persecuted before the war even began, and this continued through the purge that was the war that ravaged pagan grounds, until she was the only one left on this world. No matter the country, area, city, organization, they were all dubbed the ‘cursed blood’, vilified by the people, anyone who tried to reach out for them would be tried as demons. Of course, the Knights did not protect Fenesis out of compassion; they kept her by intending to use her cursed blood as an actual curse.

The commonly followed logic was that those involved with the cursed ones in any way were cursed themselves.

Such logic was foolish to the people who had ventured from city to city, but to those that lived in the one city or town for their entire lives, this was the best way to maintain order for the organization. Whenever a damaging act was done, the person would never be able to go back to his original standing again, and that would act as an example.

In other words, there were times where honor was more important than lives.

And Fenesis was an existence that greatly defied the order of this world.

Now then, as for why would Fenesis be working at this workshop, or rather, why would Kusla’s group be with her, there was naturally a reason for it. Kusla, watching over the obstinate Fenesis reluctantly, was an alchemist, an unorthodox profession of the world.

With a lethargic look, he sighed and opened the book. Of course, that book was such that it could be considered a precious thing, but in terms of rarity, Fenesis would possibly be much rarer than that.

The combination of white hair and green eyes was such a rarity the rich could throw a fortune for her. On top of those, there were other aspects like her beautiful face, serious, methodical and obedient personality. If it were a slave trader selling her from a faraway land, there was no doubt that she would fetch him a fortune.

However, whether it was her fortune or misfortune, , she did not end up on this path, but was taken in by the sinister organization, the Knights, as a cursed tool.

And with a stubborn look, she was smashing the minerals into small bits, her head shaking violently.

She would definitely put on a head veil whenever she headed out, restraining her ears as if she were punishing herself. That action was not simply because she was afraid of others seeing it; perhaps she too felt that those ears were taboo to begin with.

If she were disciplining herself, Kusla would go out of his way to educate her; naturally, her self-reproaching posture showed no signs of joy.

Because of that, Kusla forbade her from wearing the veil in the workshop. While she was repulsed by the notion, she did not voice her refusal. It seemed she was uneasy with it during the first 2, 3 days, but at this point, she was completely used to it, and had a bandanna wrapped around her forehead to collect her hair together, and her downy hair shook.

The white fur covering her cat-like ears had a different gloss from her hair.

“Kusla.”

Kusla heard his name being called suddenly, and turned his eyes to the stairs leading to the upper level. It was rare for a few alchemists to be working together, but due to prior incidents, he was working together with his old friend Weyland in this workshop.

“I’m making a little trip to the harbor~.”

“Ah, yeah…huh? The harbor?”

“Ohohoho.”

Weyland, with his messy long hair and unkempt beard, resembled a bandit rather than an alchemist. The smirk he showed on his lips was akin to one wondering how to use the stolen treasure, but there were only a few reasons as to why alchemists would head to the harbor.

“What information is there?”

“Ohohoho.”

Weyland could no longer hide the grin on his face as he immediately turned away to leave.

And Kusla stared at the stairs that was devoid of presence, peeved as he stood up.

He held the handrail, still reeking of fresh timber, as he walked up the stairs. This workshop was burned by arson during the incident a month ago, and was only repaired a few days ago.

However, this place was meant to facilitate dangerous medicine and high temperature work, and as there was consideration for fire accidents during construction, the workshop was not as devastated as it looked on the outside, and repairs were quickly done.

It was only a week ago when the trio of Kusla, Weyland and Fenesis again met together after the incident. However, it felt as if they were very comfortable with this place, ostensibly living in this place for a long time.

Once he arrived at the upper level, he spotted Weyland excitedly preparing to leave.

Even if he wanted to inquire about the details, it was unlikely he would be able to get anything from an alchemist who is unwilling to state something.

“Speaking of which~.”

However, Weyland put on his coat, and unexpectedly spoke this time,

“Why is little Ul being so angry here~?”

“…Who knows?’

“Well, it’s not like I don’t understand your mischievous urge to tease girls you like~.”

“…”

It felt like leftover food that rotted and reeked..

At least, that was the expression Kusla showed Weyland..

“I just told her the old name of stalagmite, that kind of a little joke.”

“…Stalagmite? Ahh, those found in limestone caves, huh? Why teach her that~?”

“The old term of ‘that man thing’.”

The moment Kusla said that, Weyland ostensibly tried to recall as he carelessly looked over at the ceiling. After a while, his sight lands back on Kusla.

“…Little Ul really would recite it when she’s staying, huh~”

“Yeah. It’ll be quite a sight, dressed as a sister and reciting that ‘man thing’ over and over again.”

“…”

Weyland tried to give a surprised look, but stroked his chin gently as he spoke,

“To be honest, I would have liked to see that~.”

“I know, right?”

Kusla said, and Weyland gave a faint smile as he snorted, walking towards the entrance.

And then, he placed his hand on the door, saying,

“Well anyway, I won’t talk about your hobbies, but she’ll hate you if you force her too hard. You’ll lose everything if you like something to a point of being hated.”

“…Goodness, that’s unnecessary from you.”

Kusla himself was not intending to say such innocent words, that he did not have that sort of relationship with Fenesis.

To be honest however, the feelings he had for Fenesis was not carnal desire, but a protective desire, and instead of love, it was a possessive urge of his with regards to tools and knowledge.

Also, when thinking about Fenesis, Kusla would recall the sight of him taking care of a young bird who had set up next under the overhang of the roof of his old workshop. The parent bird met its demise after an attack from a cat, and he, in his impulse, raised the bird. This feeling he had was similar to back then; the bird had everything taken away due to a sudden accident, and would have died if left without care. In the end, the bird did not learn the basic skill of survival called flying. Surely Fenesis’ circumstances was similar to the young bird back then.

But though Fenesis may be as foolish as a bird, her predicament was a lot more complicated than it. There was a decisive difference between them, that Kusla had an outstanding debt from Fenesis. This resulted in Kusla having a motive in reaching out to her, and making sure she did not deviate from her path.

And nonetheless, Fenesis was a girl who was easy on the eyes. Kusla would never think of devouring the the young bird he raised, but it would be a different issue if it were Fenesis.

Thus, Kusla was certain with regards to his attitude towards Fenesis.

The embodiment of this confusion was an expression of his desire for Fenesis to be able to survive on her own at this point, he would be troubled when Fenesis were to stand on her own and leave him.

To put it in direct terms, perhaps he wanted to be emotionally attached to her after all?

Kusla had a feeling that was the closest to the truth, yet it was somewhat off in some regards.

“…The second name of ‘Kusla’ (Interest) is being unable to cry.”

Kusla was a little astonished that he would actually ponder over such matters seriously, and with a sigh, he locked the door.

He then sealed the shutters that were opened for ventilation Though it was winter, the morning sun was still very intense, and the room was unexpectedly bright due to the sunlight shining in despite the sealed shutters.

There was a reason why Kusla deliberately locked the door once he informed Kusla of his departure. Even alchemists, so vilified by the world, would have an unexpected number of burglars visiting their workshops hoping to test their luck.

Alchemists were hired by people because they were versed in metallurgy and poison concoctions, and these techniques required a vast amount of money. If they were able to obtain the expertise, there was no doubt they would have an overwhelming advantage in the war, or would allow massive savings in military expenses. If there were new metallurgical knowledge obtain, it would be likely that the abandoned mines no one cared about could be revived and be highly productive.

Either way, such possibilities would require a massive amount of money, and things like human lives were insufficient in the face of this sum. There were a few who decided to smash the heads of the intellectuals and their intellectual property, and there were some who would eradicate them to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. In fact, the previous owner of this workshop, a highly skilled alchemist, was killed by his employer, and furthermore, the absurd reason was that the employer suspected the alchemist to be so overly skilled he would have revealed the corrupted practices.

Alchemists were humans who lived in such an environment, researching on metals and mineral ores.

They probably had various objectives, but the majority surely had their similarities.

Looking at the reasons why they were living in this damned world, there were those who wanted to chase their dreams, there were some who knew from the bottom of their hearts that no matter how much they persevered, God would never smile upon them, and there were some who thought that since God would not smile upon them, they would devote their lives on their favorite things even if they had to risk their lives.

Thus, alchemists were idealists with dreams who would sacrifice their lives, honor and pride and humans.

And they called their dreams the land of Magdala.

Kusla too was no exception as he too yearned for the method to smith the metal of God called Orichalcum. Furthermore, he was seeking some things that were too preposterous.

And so, he wordlessly descended the stairs.

The workshop, built along the cliff, had its bedroom and kitchen facing the road, so it was possible to walk down the cliff to the lower level. While the lower level might be considered the basement, it had the best exposure to the sun because it was along the cliff, and there was a great view.

From the stairs, Kusla looked down at Fenesis at the workplace in the lower level, the equivalent of a basement, sitting on the woven mat as she smashed the minerals.

Her back was arched, smashing the minerals with fury. The same thing happened during first time when she did the refining work, as though she spent a lot of effort at first, her efficiency increased after Kusla told her to think of the person she hated when she smashed it.

The owner of this cute face certainly was resolute.

However, Kusla understood from back then that Fenesis was different from the bird, and that she was not the innocent kitten she appeared to be.

At any rate, due to her cursed blood, she had the experience of nobody reaching out to her, and her entire race massacred. She probably had such painful memories, and so she blindly looked for a place of acceptance to bury the loneliness that knew no bound. She always believed that no matter the place, no matter how cruel the treatment she had, the loneliness could be buried as long as someone was willing to accept her.

And so, half the reason why Fenesis came to this place was undoubtedly because of the lack of choice. No matter how much she tried to refuse, once her superior gave the approval, she would surely end up forced to return to the workshop, just like the journey she had till this point. Kusla however would rather believe Fenesis came to this place out of her own wishes.

On a side note, Kusla was willing to take Fenesis in because the latter owed a debt to him. Because of Fenesis, Kusla (Interest), who was named as such because of him unable to view humans as humans, was finally able to notice that he was able to love after all.

But Kusla was definitely not a Saint, and naturally he took Fenesis for selfish reasons. Fenesis was a necessary ‘ingredient’ for his dream.

What he desired so painstakingly was the strength to protect those precious to him, and the ones worth protecting, in this damned world until the very end. The strength would be Orichalcum, and he felt Fenesis was a suitable candidate to protect using the sword of Orichalcum.

Of course, he knew very well how foolish those words were.

In fact, the Knights could not comprehend why Kusla would propose to keep Fenesis, not because they had no thoughts of passing the precious curse over, but that they never thought the eccentric, unscrupulous alchemist would allow himself to be shackled by the curse on the neck.

In any case, since he had the cursed girl with beast ears living with him, the Knights would have many reasons to assassinate him if they found him to be a hindrance, and they could block any unusual actions. When he went to pick Fenesis, the words of the Choir were to be expected,

Fools

Kusla could only shrug at that. There were many cunning Alchemists, but few could be as wise as what the world would say.

If they could rationally weigh the costs, they would not be able to be alchemists.

However, Kusla sighed not because of that problematic issue alone. Another burdensome matter to him was that Fenesis was different from a young girl, and that her previous experiences left her unable to seek freedom.

She would only shed tears late into the night when she closed her eyes, and that was the decisive proof showing that the green eyes never looked at the front. Kusla had first assumed it was just her personality, but at this point, he firmly believed this issue was the source of the problem.

Fenesis herself never noticed these things, and she probably did not have any adults who would teach her these earnestly. Rather, the Choir who brought her in from a faraway land was merely thinking of using her.

Thus, the reason why Kusla told her the lewd joke and agitated her was not because he wanted to bully or tease her.

He just wanted Fenesis to notice her own problem.

He descended the stairs, arrived at the work desk with an opened, thick book, and went back to supervising Fenesis. Fenesis continued to smash the minerals for a while, and before long, she stopped.

“I am done with the smashing.”

The extremely monotonous tone seemed to be saying, Do you want me to smash your head in too?, but that itself was not a bad thing. If she was energetic, there would be a long my wounds and illnesses healed.

Back then, she was extremely moved, seemingly gaining a peace of mind when they were refining zinc back then, so she would be extremely serious when it came to doing such work. She was also unable to hide her elation with Kusla’s group were tasked with their current job from their employers, the Knights.

Alchemists would often be tasked with researching on metallurgy, but from time to time, there would be a sudden onslaught of work that went beyond their call of duty. The work this time was to appraise the minerals that were confiscated by a neighboring governor from one of the merchant guilds passing through his land.

Alchemists would think that such boring work should be left to the craftsmen, but the Knights said to let the Alchemists, masters amongst the experts, to validate them, probably intending to get a favor from the governor.

The mineral taken in was a lead mineral called galena, and most of the rumors about Alchemist turning lead into gold was most probably related to this mineral.

In fact, whether a lead mine could be mined into would depend on the amounts of gold and silver that could be extracted from the produced lead. In other words, Kusla’s group would have to appraise how much gold and silver was contained in the mines. The method for appraisal however had never been changed drastically since ancient times, and it was not difficult with with the powerful technique of Cupellation. Thus, even Fenesis could do it.

Kusla left this work to Fenesis, which had the dual purpose of training the assistant that was hired in name.

“Pour the fragments into the sieve, and wash it with water.”

Fenesis was still fuming at the lewd words Kusla just said to her, but she followed his instructions and she began work accurately.

She had knowledge.

She read the book that was on the work desk with more enthusiasm than she did for the Bible.

It was a book written by a monk ‘Concerning metals’, a plain title.

It was the same book as the one Fenesis brought along the first time she entered this workshop, and once she decided that she wanted to come to this place, Kusla placed an order from the book merchant.

She probably knew that there was a decisive difference between putting the fragments into the sieve and washing it compared to washing beans.

The minerals differ in quality based on their compositions, and the rate they sink differ. By placing the minerals in water, the heavier lead would sink further than the other obstructing materials. With that, it would be possible to sieve out the non-lead bits.

Fenesis rolled up her sleeves, showing two slender arms as she arrived at the canal of water outside the house, washing the minerals with a splash. This would be refreshing work in the summer, but not in the winter as her arms were instantly frozen red. Perhaps the water was too icy as when she washed the minerals again, the sieving motion became dull.

Kusla intended to watch by the sidelines, but Fenesis’ lips were all purple, and she endured the pain, using the immobile fingers to pour the minerals into the sieve. When she tried to do it a third time using willpower, Kusla had enough, and got up from his chair.

No matter how terrified she was, Fenesis would head to the Alchemists’ workshop alone in the middle of the night as long as her superior ordered her. Looking at her personality, if she were ordered to do it alone, it seemed she would do this till she had frostbite.

“You can’t sieve it out by sinking minerals in water.”

Kusla said as he stood behind Fenesis while the latter was unaware, shocking her into nearly dropping was she was retrieving from the canal. He then reached his arms around her like an embrace, towards the sieve.

 

02_035

“The way to do this is not to be too strong with it. Shake it with this much strength from time to time.”

Fenesis’ anger probably was yet to subside, her body obviously frozen.

Kusla however did not mind as he shook the sieve, and then raised it from the water. Fenesis was surprised that he was able to do it so quickly, and was more amazed once she noticed the beautiful gloss on the lead and the other materials in the sieve, and then showed a look of regret.

“Also.”

He said to her while she was stumbling about, trying to move the iron pot of sieved material that was once in the water.

“The feeling of the fingertips is important enough to affect the outcome of refining. If you push yourself too much, you won’t get as much of what good results you may expect. Don’t forget.”

Fenesis headed indoors, and once placed the iron pot with a thud, Kusla, who entered at the same time, suddenly grabbed her hand. Her hand so frigid like ice it was heartbreaking.

She probably was still fuming as she wanted to retract her hand, but Kusla just would not let go.

She probably hated him again, and seemingly eking out a voice from her throat, she said,

“Let—”

Before she could say that however, Kusla stared at her, and said,

“Answer me.”

His tone caused Fenesis to quiver.

Her timid looking eyes ignited his sadism.

Though he was no Weyland, he too would inadvertently have to urge to tease the girl.

But at this point, he had no ill intentions.

“Your answer?”

“…I-I…understand…”

“Carry on then.”

“…”

Kusla suddenly let go, and Fenesis brought her hands to her chest skeptically before nodding tentatively,

“The melting point for lead isn’t high. There’s no need to put in so much effort blowing it, but first, you need to have enough coal.”

She placed the iron pot into the furnace, her once frozen hands now exposed in front of the scorching fire. It seemed her nose was runny, probably because of the difference in temperatures, and she sniveled as she wiped her nose while working.

Once her nose stopped being runny, the color of the fire inside the furnace was just right, and the fragments on the iron pot was like a stew.

Lead was an interesting compound. When the lead filled with impurities reach melting point, by allowing it to cool, the pure lead will coagulate together. Once this layer of coagulated lead was sieved out, the impurities like gold and silver would increase in concentration.

Through the aforementioned process, the pot would be left only with impurities after repeating this process a few times. However, events in the world were not that simple; once the impurities are purified to a certain extent, the solidified lead would be mixed amongst them too.

With an iron ladle, Fenesis extracted the lead, then manned the bellows again to raise the temperate in the furnace, let it melt, cool it, and extracted the lead.

With the physical labor, the area in front of the furnace was a scorching hell.

She took off the bandanna tying her hair as she wiped the sweat over and over again. Her ears suddenly twitched, and her sweat jumped off like fleas.

However, it was probably futile to wipe it off with the bandanna, as she let it drip down, forming a puddle on the floor.

She only knew the basic properties of lead for this assignment, and Kusla could tell from his experience how much impurities there was. Once the sweat dripping down her chin had dried of, he patted her on the shoulder,

“Right, you’re done with this work.”

“!…”

She looked intoxicated as she lifted her head at Kusla, and nodded with a blank look as she put down the iron ladle.

“Go make the ashes. There’s burnt items over there, so just smash them with a rod or something.”

She nodded obediently, and trotted off.

Rather than her anger from before being extinguished, it could be said that she was unable to be angry.

She sat down in front of the wooden box Kusla pointed at, and smashed the contents with a wooden bat. After seeing her work, Kusla returned to the upper level.

It seemed Fenesis had calmed down somewhat when he returned, and when she spotted him, she averted her eyes unhappily.

However, her astonishment seemed to overcome her discontent as Kusla placed a jug with a large handle beside her. And when he placed a little bisque plate with samples on it, her astonishment became intrigue.

“Try some, and have a drink.”

Kusla said curtly, and Fenesis looked over at him and the items a few times, frowning.

“It’s salt and water. You’ll faint if you continue to work like this.”

“…”

And after comparing Kusla against the placed items, Fenesis nodded vaguely.

She stopped crushing and mixing the contents of wooden box, took the jug, and sniffed it, ostensibly suspecting if it was wine. Once she realized it was water, she had a sudden sense of thirst, and closed her eyes, chugging down the water, only to choke on it immediately. Her throat was still unbearably parched as she continued to chug down.

Once she was done, she looked extremely blissful, in ecstasy, to a point where she forgot to wipe off the water on her lips. It was only when she made a burp did she show a bashful look.

Kusla said that there was salt on the plate, but she was still a little hesitant to lick it.

She took the plate, skeptical if it was really salt, but since Kusla ordered her to finish it before continuing, she inadvertently showed a sullen look.

However, she noticed an issue, how was she to finish up the salt on the plate? Her hands were dirtied due to the work, and for an instant, she glanced at the canal outside the house; however, he did already tell her to finish it up before continuing her work, and he might get angry if she were to go wash her hands. Thus, she could only lift the plate and lick it with her tongue, and hurriedly turned to the side when she seemingly noticed Kusla staring at her.

Kusla seemed amused by how she was acting like a little creature licking its food, but she probably would be utterly furious if his thoughts were to be made known.

She had a lot of sweat, so Kusla prepared a lot of salt for her. She however licked it in no time, and after putting the little plate down, she chugged down the water again.

She then continued with her work, the flying dust causing her a huge sneeze.

She was preparing the ash required for Cupellation, and this was one of the reasons why an Alchemist’s workshop had a dodgy presence to it.

Amongst the many tools and materials in an alchemist’s workshop, the most noticeable would definitely be the bones.

Precious were the bones of large animals like bears and deer, for they were rare in quantity. There were also bones of smaller carnivorous animals like wolves and foxes, or bones of birds ranging from large ones to small ones like cranes, sparrows and quails. There were also times where they would use human bones, and some eccentric bones would try to steal the bones of the Saints from the Church for selfish use. Alchemists were not corrupted by the teachings of heretics, that their minds were befuddled, that they would commit sacrilege against God. The reason they did that was extremely simple, that other materials would often be added during metallurgy, and they would add bones to soften the metal when refining it, and burn them slowly.

But on an experimental scale, there was no need for Alchemists to use a vast amount of bones.

Now, as for why was there a need for so many bones adorned all over the workshop to a place where they are associated with Alchemists, that would be because they are required for Cupellation.

“They are, powdered.”

There was a pause in Fenesis’ words, probably because her nose was itchy.

Kusla then inspected the ash, nodded, and prompted Fenesis to proceed to the next step.

Fenesis then poured the ash in the wooden box to another iron pot, filling it up. She drew a hole in the ash, and placed the pot beside the other pot with molten lead in it. While the he quickly looked for the most suitable tool in the workshop for the next step.

Kusla inadvertently felt a little proud upon seeing her brisk actions.

Surely, such knowledge could not be obtained from studying, and she definitely had been looking around the workshop and affirming the steps in this experiment before the experiment began.

Though impressed, he could not deny that she was being too rigid.

Of course, being an Alchemist, he could not say could be this was a problem himself. Any person as meticulous as the fins of a water wheel could become a virtuoso Alchemist that could discover new things, as long as he had the curiosity. Certainly, there was no lack of such persons around.

Fenesis did not lack curiosity, and she, having affirmed the steps in the experiment, looked like a cat eyeing its prey as she waited for the next step.

But obviously, she lacked something.

While pondering over this, Kusla deduced the temperature from the air surrounding the newly added pot and the small amount of smoke rising from the ashes, and said,

“Pour the lead in.”

Fenesis nodded as she stared into the furnace.

Using a different long metal lade, she scooped the molten lead and poured it into the new pour. Intriguingly, the lead did not mix into the ash, instead flowing into the hole slowly.

Following that would be the step that gave Cupellation its name.

She cautiously poured all the lead into the lead, and once she was done, she took up the tool she prepared.

It was a fan made of thin animal leather, a tool meant to send air into the furnace, but it looked so small and feeble compared to the bellows. Though she should have read this up in a book beforehand, she still looked hesitant when holding the fan.

However, she began to fan timidly.

After the aforementioned method of increasing the impurities in the lead, she was to separate gold and silver from metals at the final phase through Cupellation.

This process was realized to such an extent, even Kusla felt that the technique was magical, and as far as he knew from the records, this process was so process there was nary a drastic change even after hundreds of years.

However, it seemed Fenesis’ movements were a little rigid as she fanned; that was probably because she assumed the breeze coming from the fan was not too reliable, and that she was still somewhat skeptical of whether the recorded phenomena would actually happen.

The fanned breeze blew over the lead that piled on the ash, and after cooling, it formed a thin white membrane on the surface.

That was similar to the membrane formed when warm cow and goat milk were cooled.

The white substance was called Murdasang, a type of lead, and was commonly used for dyes.

However, the wonders of making such a material was that for some reason, this membrane was the only thing that mixed into the ash.

Fenesis’ flank was ostensibly struck as she jolted in shock, probably surprised by the reality that was undoubtedly unfolding in front of her.

That white membrane was floating on the molten lead, like the hot air concentrated together, slowly seeping into the ash.

That was really an unbelievable sight.

It was a process of the molten lead being akin to a living thing, shedding its skin little by little.

Each layer was thin, but like the hidden truth within being revealed, the white Murdasang was actually, undoubtedly, revealed.

Fenesis sat in front of the furnace, her hands hold the fan as she concentrated on the fanning.

Soaked in sweat as she vented the air, her face was completely red, probably because of the direct exposure to the heat

However, she did not break away from this position.

Her expression was always so serious as she stared into the furnace, checking on the situation.

No matter the book, the secret to Cupellation was that the wind blowing at the lead could not be too strong. Otherwise, the strong winds would cause the lead to cool too quickly, and what would be formed would not be Murdasang, but simply lead itself.

By sending in the wind, the cooling would hasten, and thus, many wanted to cool it quickly to get the result.

Any human would have such thoughts.

However, while Fenesis was attracted by the results revealed in front of her, her hands just could not move quickly. She continued to watch the thin Murdasang membrane seep into the ash, not noticing the sweat trickling down her forehead, eyes and cheeks, and dripping from her chin.

Soon after, she finally stopped moving her hands, remaining still as she was absentmindedly entranced by this sight.

Kusla did not need to stand up to know what happened.

The truth was probably revealed when all the membranes were finally shed.

The gold and silver contained in the lead finally showed itself after all the crushing, washing, melting and isolation. It looked to be the exalted truth that would never be stained no matter the ordeal.

The ancients showed respect to such gold and silver by coining the term precious metals. Human beliefs would be shaken after setbacks, would tremble after being washed away, would be lost after melting, and would be easily betrayed by even the slightest of breezes after some teachings. However, the pretty metals in the ash were different from this lead, and after much inspection, they would be left behind in its granular state.

Kusla got up, and Fenesis reacted sensitively to this sound, looking over at him.

She was showing an insecure look, seemingly about to break down into tears, but this was definitely not because Kusla was walking over to her. It was because the emotions in her heart were about to flow out due to the results in the furnace that were facing her.

Kusla stood beside her as he peered into the pot.

There was only granular bits of gold and silver left in the hole of ash, and the pretty grains were so full of glitter one had to wonder if they were still in molten state.

Kusla placed his hand on Fenesis’ head.

Her head had become so hot it was ostensibly baked, probably due to her time in front of the furnace.

She let out a little snivel as she lowered her face, and Kusla gently patted her shoulder, saying,

“What did I just say?”

“…”

Fenesis again turned her head over to Kusla.

And that first was no longer filled with rage like how it was before.

“Your head will be boiled if you continue to stay in front of hot air like this. Also, there’s still a lot o lead left. In other words?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis’ eyes were swimming, averting him as she continued to look at the middle of the ash, left with parting regrets.

However, she would obediently follow any order she was given.

She moved her body with much reluctance, took the jug, and drank the water.

“Let’s talk about what made you angry.”

The moment Kusla said this, Fenesis, who was chugging the water down her slender neck louder, had her ears prick nervously. Her cheeks were gradually becoming red, but perhaps this was not because she was in front of the furnace. That man thing, this was definitely the first time in her life that she said such a lewd term.

“You never understood my real intention, so I’ll tell you.”

“…”

The eyes filled with fury showed much skepticism, seemingly saying you are just trying to throw me a smokescreen.

However, Kusla did not back down. Surely the stare of a little lady like Fenesis would not cause him to.

And he was not joking; a brief look of the Cupellation work this time clearly indicated what Fenesis’ problem was.

“You have fallen into the trap of tunnel vision.”

“…”

“Tunnel vision. You understand? Tun-nel-vi-sion.”

Kusla said each part with emphasis and just when the headstrong Fenesis was about to argue back in protest.

“What do you intend to say when you don’t take care of yourself well?”

“…!”

Fenesis was a stubborn person, and those beast ears of hers would remain shut unless the reality was laid bare in front of her. Kusla got her to do this Cupellation experiment so that she could understand this undeniable fact.

“You have to always look at the big picture, and pay attention to many things. Only then are you able to take care of your own body, or rather, when you ask me about any terms you don’t know of, you won’t end up being teased by me by blindly believing me.”

“…”

Fenesis twitched her mouth over and over again, seemingly wanting to say something, but was unable to do so.

And Kusla said, saying,

“If you’re in an awkward situation of repeating that man’s thing with that damned serious look, just think of it as a funny story.”

“Bu-but that is—”

“But what will happen if it is a spell worshiping the devil? How do you intend to explain if anyone else is to hear it?”

And Fenesis, who was about to argue back, was left speechless.

This was not an exaggeration of a hypothesis. There were many who set such traps, and Fenesis must have felt distaste seeing people in her previous organization do such things.

“This is where you should be suspicious of the people around here. The Cupellation experiment you just did may have some dangerous minerals that were mixed in, and the ones who would do such things aren’t just those with ill intents. If you did the experiment as it was just now and ignore your surroundings, no number of lives would have saved you.”

“…”

“God is unkind. It isn’t rare to see poisons mixed in common mineral ores or buried underground. Alchemists are facing the unknown, and even if this isn’t the case, you’ll miss out on many things if you’re too narrow visioned. You’ll miss the good, and the bad.”

“…”

Fenesis lowered her head, the sweat dripping from her bangs.

However, she still looked to be displeased.

“Are you trying to say that this is inevitable because you aren’t used to the work?”

“!”

It seemed he hit the bulls-eye as she pulled her lips together.

And even so, she had her own virtues, that even though she was stubborn, she was serious in her work.

“…Yes.”

She reluctantly replied with a whisper, and Kusla let out a sigh.

“Even I can’t guarantee that I have any means to ensure your full safety.”

For example, his dream to protect anyone fully.

“…”

Fenesis locked her lips tightly, probably not comprehending what he was trying to say here.

“But no matter the means, there are normally only two reasons why I can’t master such methods.”

“…That is.”

“One of the reasons is that the person’s an idiot.”

In response to Kusla’s words, Fenesis widened her eyes, a loud thud ostensibly happening in front of her as she pull her chin in. Once Kusla stared at her dumbofounded eyes, she stubbornly pulled in her chin further.

It would be illogical not to tease such a person.

But this was not the time to be joking.

And Kusla stated briefly,

“The other reason is when there is no purpose.”

“Eh?”

In response to that brief surprised cry, Kusla stated again.

“Purpose.”

Fenesis definitely was not a fool, and that was apparent back when she accepted her superior’s orders and was unreasonably brought to the workshop in the middle of the night. She would be absentminded when doing some things, but her brain works rather quickly, and she would be able to determine what was dangerous, and what was not.

However, she had a tendency of losing her mind and being headstrong when it came to things she liked, to a point where it could be called self-abandonment. To begin with, her actions could easily have been interpreted as incoherent.

At first, Kusla assumed it was because she was being overly serious.

But he understood after seeing her weep silently as she slept in the middle of the night. He understood that people like Fenesis would sometimes do things incoherent with their objectives, and the majority of such people lost their families to War and hunger, before being adopted by the knights.

The common theme they all had was that they did not have anything resembling a goal.

They were toyed too much by the illogical fates dealt to them, resulting in them being unable to find a meaningful goal coherent with their actions.

Kusla was able to tease Fenesis so easily, for every single thing she did was aimless and at random. He had some semblance of a protective urge over her, and the reason why he had such ill-fitting feelings for an Alchemist was because Fenesis seemed to be wandering around blindly in a dangerous place.

It would be fine if he were just bullying and teasing her.

However, Fenesis was a part of his one dream in life he gambled on.

He could not think of anyone else worth protecting on this world.

Fenesis was sweaty all over, like a lost girl wandering in town on a rainy day, and Kusla patiently noted to her,

“With a goal, you will focus your mind on the path leading towards your goal. You’ll know what you want to do, what you shouldn’t do, and the most important thing is that to achieve your goal, you have to treasure your life, no matter how much more you get to live. This is especially important for people like you and me.”

“…”

“It’s not too difficult; just treat yourself as important. When you do so, you’ll naturally notice many traps, and you won’t be bothered unnecessarily by any unnecessary things. For example, you don’t have to sacrifice your body for the Choir that wanted to use you as a cursed tool however they please.”

However, Fenesis frowned the moment she heard those words.

The problem was that she was not chiding Kusla, but that she was suffering.

It was something as a matter of fact, but to this girl, it was really difficult for her.

To put it on similar terms, the meaningful goal that would be coherent with her actions would be having ‘hope’.

Fenesis always wished to be accepted, but could she really say that she had such hopes when she executed the Choir’s orders? That could not be called hope; that was just her having a lack of options and filling her hunger as a result of that.

And when Fenesis lowered her head to give the answer, Kusla did not feel that she was being as unruly as a little child.

“But, I don’t think…you’re taking proper care of yourself…”

“Hm.”

Kusla nodded as he stroked his chin.

Alchemists were a collective of fools, and they would occasionally dwell into improbable danger.

But Kusla never lost his way.

He looked down at Fenesis, and said,

“Do you think you are?”

“…Huh?”

“You have to take care of everything about yourself, right?”

“…”

Fenesis widened her green eyes, and stared at Kusla blankly.

However, she quickly recovered as she glared at him, seemingly thinking that he intended to fool her again.

“Is that a body of flesh?”

“…”

Fenesis responded to his words with silence.

But he did not mind as he continued on,

“Should you not do experiments because you don’t want to lose your arms? To add on, do you not do it because you treasure your life? But this clearly goes against ‘my’ values. In other words, I’m not just a body of flesh.”

“…”

“But I’ll excuse myself from losing my hands that will cause me to lose my arms due to things that don’t involve experiments, because I won’t be able to do them. The same thing happens if I die, but if it’s to seek what I want to find, I’ll be prepared to offer my life in delight. This is what is meaningful to my life; the reason why I’m stunned after seeing you is because you’re risking yourself by doing meaningless things.”

Fenesis stared at Kusla, her face ostensibly teary.

And he continued on with an emotionless face.

“Everything is weighed against my objectives on a scale, and I’m that scale weighing everything. Where is your scale? What shape is it? What are you going measure on it? I really,”

And he poked a finger on Fenesis’ forehead.

The completely weary Fenesis stumbled backwards.

Perhaps she had no intention of resisting in her heart.

“Am unable to see that scale.”

Fenesis rubbed her forehead as she stared at Kusla.

Her eyes looked ready to break into tears. She was not a girl troubled because of anger; she was a young girl who continued to seek her parents, and could not be left alone. She was a girl who was unable to find whatever was important to her no matter how she tried.

Kusla felt that perhaps the curiosity Fenesis had towards smelting would be a scale for her. However, she at this point was merely delighted to see new things. Nowhere would such a diabolic objective be found in the world of alchemy.

However, Kusla’s opinion was that she just wanted to do things through ostentation and disposition. Ostentation and disposition were always simply ways to justify their existences through their ‘ideal selves’. In other words, behind this thin membrane disposition and stubbornness would be a Fenesis who had lost herself, just that she had yet to discover it, or that she had not awoke.

Also, he felt that once Fenesis was able to regain something that belonged to her, he would be able to properly evaluate his attitude towards her for the first time.

His dream of protecting someone using the sword of Orichalcum would offer lots of options.

For example, to be a big bird protecting a little bird, or to be a knight protecting his beloved princess.

Nonetheless, he did not think of any setbacks he would encounter in his quest to attain his dream.

And so, he said with conviction,

“Well, I can’t be pessimistic about this.”

Naturally, Fenesis did not understand the meaning behind these words.

With Kusla having pointed out all her weaknesses so brazenly, she could not help but look at him skeptically.

“Don’t show such a look. You’ll only get an unreliable answer if you do that, and that’s why you were used by organizations like the Knights’ Choir, or that you devoted yourself to the unnecessary metallurgy work to a point of risking your life.”

He pinched Fenesis’ face, and rubbed it around.

“Of course, I know this isn’t something that can be accomplished so quickly, but after hearing me out, do you at least understand your own problem in some way?”

In response to Kusla’s words, Fenesis, not resisting despite her face being pinched, finally nodded.

“Even if you have to find yourself, your raison d’etre.”

“My…”

“Now then, that’s it for that day. There’s still lots of lead, and lots of fuel here. Just work until noon.”

“…”

“Your reply?”

“U-Understood.”

Fenesis answered, and grabbed her work clothes tightly.

“What’s the matter?”

If you have anything to say, just say so now that was the tone Kusla spoke with, but Fenesis averted her eyes and shook her head slightly.

He let out a sigh, and said curtly,

“Say it.”

Fenesis jolted in fear, and cringed back.

After some silence, she quickly said,

“E-erm, sorry.”

And then, she returned to her work in a frenzy.

Kusla watched her actions, and shrugged his shoulders as he continued to dwell in the book he was to read.

She lost her way, but she was so earnest and serious.

Such a troublesome person He wondered as he rested his chin in his hand.

A guest visited the workshop at the time when when Fenesis was done pouring the last bit of lead onto the ash.

Most of the time, it would be a bad thing for an Alchemist’s door to be knocked on, but once he heard that the knock was the code only members of the Knights would know of, he realized that wasn’t the case.

“This is the cargo the Knights sent.”

A boy slightly taller than Fenesis said this as he handed over a sealed parchment.

He wore a hat made of rabbit fur that was over his eyes, and his clothes comprised of layers of hard hemp, the hemming comprising of coarse, hard wolf fur or some other animal, giving the impression of a rectangle. Accompanying this boy was a mule carrying a hill-like pile of goods.

He was a typical courier that came from the hills, but in fact, he was a special courier hired by the Knights. Though he may appeared this way, he usually carried items valuable enough to build a house, and it would be impossible to think of this boy ferrying such baggage around. Of course, whenever he moved, one could see the weapons hidden under those few layers of hemp.

“Let’s verify.”

“So do I move the goods in?”

His physique was similar to Fenesis, but it was apparent from his eyes and verbal mannerism that his composure was not something Fenesis could compare to. One might even say he had a pessimistic vibe about him.

“I’ll leave it to you.” Kusla said, and the courier nodded slightly, immediately removing the knots on the mule and moving the goods.

It was likely every single item the boy moved from the mule’s back was valuable, but he managed to spread the weight of the items evenly through a unique package method. Kusla could not help but marvel that this was a person hired by the Knights, and at the same time, he noticed that the boy’s stare was focused on a single point whenever he moved the items into the workshop.

He looked over at where the boy was looking, and saw that Fenesis was standing at the stairs, poking her head out.

“I am…done with work.”

“Then have a little break.”

And Fenesis nodded in response to Kusla’s instructions.

She wanted to return to the lower levels, but Kusla could tell that she was very interested in the items that were being moved in.

Surely this person really was too innocent for not being willing to state this.

“…Just don’t get in the way.”

After hearing Kusla’s words, Fenesis cringed her body back like a prank being discovered, but she nodded and remained on the first level.

“What’s the matter?”

And so, Kusla directed those words at the boy who stopped moving.

This distrustful boy clearly was a person of the hills, and he put down the items in surprise before returning back to work. It was definitely not Fenesis’ wish to be so careless as to reveal her beast ears, but Kusla was a little flustered after seeing the boy’s reaction.

Perhaps she should have covered her ears, and even her face after all?

No matter what he did, Weyland would always try not to get too close with Fenesis, for he knew that if he got into a dispute with Kusla, it would end up with quite the troublesome result.

However, there was no way he would brag about such a matter to all the people in the world.

In any case, there were people amongst the fellow ranks of the Knights who were not intimidated of Alchemists.

And the boy, one such person, was especially difficult to deal with.

Kusla did not intend to do anything Fenesis at this point, that is mine, but he had quite a possessive streak of

Just when he was pondering about such matters, Fenesis picked up the jug she had finished, and was about to head to the kitchen when she suddenly turned around.

“Oh? The goods from that side has come~”

A familiar voice rang, and Kusla turned around to find Weyland, who had just gone to harbor.

The courier boy took a step back, ostensibly taken aback by Weyland’s presence as the latter pressed himself on the cargo tied onto the mule’s back.

Delivered to the duo were the minerals Weyland requested as reward for the previous incident, and surely, his satisfaction was to be expected.

But Kusla had a bad premonition after hearing the neighing of the horse on the path, and looked over.

And then, he found that what stunned the boy was not Weyland, but a horse that was waiting behind.

“Hey, what’s with that?”

“Hm? Ah, this huh? Ohohoho.”

Weyland, dressed like a bandit, was snickering away, seemingly plotting a conspiracy.

It seemed that good-for-nothing was up to no good, evidenced by the earnestly perturbed face of the youth who lead the horse to this place,

“That’s quite a lot…good’s from some firm?”

“It looks like they’re going to sell it somewhere north. There’s a lot of new stuff, so I borrowed it for the time being.”

And Weyland, who was rubbing his face on the mule’s items, ordered the boy to move the books he seized from the port into the workshop.

It was unknown whether the youth was to move the goods from the harbored ship to the guild, or that he was in charge of unloading; one thing for certain was that it was not his intention to be at this place, but he could only follow Weyland’s orders reluctantly.

For any person in the town, an encounter with an alchemist would be akin to encountering a natural disaster.

If he were to resist however, one had to wonder how the Knights, having dominion over this town’s authority, would react; thus, he could only obey, wait for the disaster to pass, and ponder over how to solve the problem.

Nonetheless, once the youth return back, he would surely be met with a stern rebuke.

The value of the books that were tied recklessly onto the horse’ back would probably be no less than the items the boy brought over. If he were to lose one, the youth’s pay would be docked.

And at this point, the firm that lost its books would definitely be in a frenzy.

“…Erm.”

Kusla looked back, and saw Fenesis giving an impatient look.”

“What are those things?”

“The crystallization of of Weyland’s self-indulgence.”

“Fuel that’s needed to continue on~”

In response to Weyland expressing his delight, Fenesis showed a face of one enduring a blunt trauma.

As an Alchemist, Weyland was more honed than Kusla.

Despite not know what he was thinking, one could easily guess where Weyland’s thoughts were developing to.

And to Fenesis who was told to find herself, he probably was a dazzling existence.

To Kusla however, Weyland’s actions were truly unorthodox. The precious minerals and books were crammed into the already packed workshop; surely there had to be a little to greed.

Kusla first cleared up the legal goods that were transported from the Knights, for he sensed that he could not deal with the books.

“…Gold ores, silver ores, copper ores…high quality ones from all the lands…?”

Kusla affirmed the invoice in his hand from top to bottom, and Weyland moved the wooden boxes in before prying them violently.

Weyland had completely cast aside the books he robbed from the harbor, and the youth who was done with his ferrying gave a skeptical look, wondering if he could head back; “Good work” Kusla could only say so with reluctance, and the youth gave him a vengeful look before returning back with the horse.

Why hate me? Kusla was a little perplexed by that.

“Quartz, Chalcedony, Topaz, Jasper, Agate, Malachite…you really are being greedy here.”

The second invoice listed precious stones, luxury goods one would find a waste to use all on experiments.

“The ones left are what you really want, right?”

Even the boy, who remained unmoved to anything till this point, cringed his neck slightly once the wooden box of items bundled most securely was mentioned.

“Sulfur, Realgar, Cinnabar and Stibnite, huh?”

They were crystals of arsenic, rocks containing the potent poison called mercury that was dubbed ‘Killer of Clergymen’.

No matter how this item was harvested, it would be poisonous, and for various reasons, certain governors would be rather familiar with such things. It could be a tool to kill political opponents, or to be used when traitors are aiming to take their lives.

Based on the aforementioned scenarios, typical governors would not allow the distribution of such materials even if they were simply used for experiments.

Kusla’s group managed to fish out from the town a Knights’ executive who had been hoarding wealth in the previous incident, and the Knights did not haggle regarding the rewards they demanded. Kusla requested to take in Fenesis, and Weyland wanted rare experiment materials that would normally not be obtained. Naturally, this reality could be seen from this invoice.

Kusla flipped through the invoices, and his wry smile that was due to Weyland’s greed faded away.

For an instant, he could not comprehend the last line.

“…This is.”

Kusla lifted his eyes, and at the same time, Weyland lifted his head.

Immediately afterwards, the courier boy let out a brief sound as he escaped through the window.

Surely he did not escape because he had a guilty conscience.

The boy was trained as a courier of valuable goods that he was to immediately escape once he noticed any unrest brewing. This was a different matter altogether.

“What in the world is this…?”

“It says that the Cinnabar and Stibnite will be withheld for now.”

Kusla waved the invoice as he said, and Weyland got up abruptly.

“Going to express your complaints?”

Weyland strode out before Kusla could finish his question.

“Ah, hey, wait fo—”

But Weylands profile quickly vanished.

And Kusla made a sour look.

The written contents on the invoice was basically stating that the highly controversial poisons were held back for the time being.

It did not seem to be a lack of reserves. Clearly, it was an arbitrary decision.

Alchemists could not live on if they were belittled.

If they were to kneel in front of others, they would be demanded to grovel the next time. If they relax even once, they would be used, and what would happen if they were used? Fenesis would be a classic example of this.

Weyland was able to instinctively understand the situation.

Of course, Kusla too felt the same.

However, he stopped himself from chasing after Weyland, for he noticed Fenesis, who was looking perplexed. Having finished such manually taxing work, Kusla was afraid of bringing her into the town. If Weyland was to head to the supervisor alone, one had to wonder what sort of a commotion he would cause.

It would be one thing if Weyland was working by himself, but he was working with Kusla himself in the same workshop, and though the latter did not wish for it, the former’s actions would affect him.

Kusla immediately weighed the costs, and looked back at Fenesis, who was staring at him perplexedly.

“I’ll be out for a while. Don’t ever touch these things.”

“Hm? Ah, yes, okay.”

“And then,”

He turned his back to the window, minding the situation behind him, and said,

“You’re to stay in the lower level until we come back; take a nap. Don’t come upstairs.”

“Eh?”

“You understand?”

“…!”

Fenesis nodded, seemingly overwhelmed by Kusla’s pressure.

The latter gave her a distrustful look, Do you really understand?

And Fenesis, seemingly understood instinctively that she was not being trusted, pulled her lips in. Of course, that was what Kusla was aiming for. It was easy dealing with people who were overwhelmed.

“I’ll be back soon.”

And after saying that, he went out, locking the door from the outside.

The boy was not too far away as he looked over at Kusla.

He looked extremely displeased, perturbed; surely he knew a mistake in his work would affect his credibility.

Nevertheless, Kusla waved at the boy, and the latter blinked hesitantly before heading over obediently.

“This is for you. Wait here.”

Once he said this, Kusla took a silver coin from his pocket and pushed it into the boy’s hand.

“…?”

The eyes of the reticent boy’s showed intrigue that appeared to outstrip his delight exceedingly, but he did not push the coin back. Most people would push the coin away in such situations, but it seemed the collective understanding of them being fellow Knights members was at work here.

“Don’t let anyone inside. That includes you as well.”

“…”

“Wait for use to come back, and you’ll get another one. Of course, I’ll send a note as to why you’re late during work.”

Kusla stared right into the boy’s eyes.

The latter stared at the coin in his hands, and then looked over at Kusla.

The pitch black eyes looked to be exceedingly proficient in weighing the benefits and costs rationally.

“What about talking?”

And the boy asked.

Perhaps he realized Kusla had concerns over something.

“If you want to die, that is.”

The boy immediately showed a smile befitting of his age, shrugged, and placed the silver coin into his pocket.

“Command received.”

“You’ll go far in life.”

The boy again showed a smile, only to revert back to being a person of the hills with much doubt the next moment.

Surely this was to be expected of a talent handpicked by the Knights.

Kusla patted the boy on the shoulder, and went down the path to chase after Weyland.

The port town of Gulbetty remained bustling on this day, and there were carriages loaded with goods, the young errand boys dragging their mules to deliver the goods to the workshop, and so on.

The weather had been clear the past few days, so the sea surface was tranquil, and many ships were docked at the harbor or loading their decks with goods before moving out. If one were to stand at the bar beside the docks for a day, he would be able to see a lot of goods loaded and unloaded, like large bellows expanding and contracting.

Kusla quickly strode through the bustling streets to chase after Weyland. As an alchemist, Weyland was able to make it this far, and in fact, there was nothing to worry about him if he were to head out alone. However, the premise would be if he were an alchemist who owned his own workshop.

And even if that was not the case, Kusla and Weyland had differing goals, so the latter’s one-sided decisions would not necessarily benefit Kusla, and he probably did not have the term ‘teamwork’ in his heart; only the weighing of profit and loss.

Of course, Kusla did not chide him for this, for in this world, they would not live long if they were to abide by God’s law.

Most likely, even if they did not collaborate, that would be their own lives. Perhaps it would be the reason why they would simply live for their own sake after all.

However, Kusla had his own worries when he chased after Weyland.

They managed to unmask the man who had been siphoning the funds from the Knights back then due to luck, but even so, they did managed to make contributions. The Knights should be rewarding them, and they probably would.

Of course, it would be a different case altogether if they did not obtain Cinnabar and Sitbnite due to a lack of resources, but Kusla had a feeling that was not the case.

The Knights appeared to be simply going back on their word, rescinding what they do and leaving others to dry. Naturally, Kusla’s first reaction was fury, yet at the same time, surprise.

This was the workshop at the frontlines, and surely there had to be total freedom where they could do whatever they wanted. The research results of the Alchemists could affect the quality of the iron used for metal, the quality of the weapons, and affect production as a whole, so there was no reason for the Knights to anger the Alchemists. The local leaders and the Church were also participating in the war against the pagans, and they would wear each other’s military might. Imperative are the production of weapons, the seizing of the mines in pagan lands, and the retention efficiency of metals in this War.

Because of this, Alchemists allowed themselves to be controlled because they were allowed to do whatever they pleased so that the Knights were able to reap the benefits. While it was assumed the latter would do this, this scenario felt a little abrupt.

At this point, Kusla felt a different atmosphere.

He lifted his nose at the cloudless, clear sky; there was moisture in the wind, probably an arriving storm.

In other words, there was one possibility of him being similar to the floating logs on the sea…

While pondering over such things, he caught up to Weyland, who was in front of the Baggage Corps.

“What are you folks doing!?”

Growls could be heard as the guards wearing helmets, gauntlets and breastplate, raising their spears as they blocked the path.

The instance they raised the question, Kusla began to feel his worries were justified.

Though there were guards when the group revealed the conspiracy by the previous Baggage Corps leader Alan Post, they were never this pretentious.

What was placed in their rooms were decided by their owner’s liking.

At this point, the occupants of this building were the kind who would display their splendour.

Also, most of those that would focus on such aspects were easily agitated.

“That’s my line~!”

Weyland said as he grabbed the spear. It seemed the soldiers wanted to push forth with strength, but they were rendered unstable, their footage seemingly gone due to Weyland’s little push, and they collapsed so awkwardly. Having collapsed, they looked up at Weyland blankly while the latter held the spear.

Even in the bustling port town, this was the road where money and power was most concentrated.

Furthermore, fluttering in front of the building.was the flag with the insignia of the Knights, rulers of the world.

Many turned their stares over, and though they did, they did not dare step forth.

If anything were to happen to them, and if they were assumed to have any relation with the commotion, they would have no standing in the town from the next day onwards.

Weyland tossed aside the spear, and violently pushed aside the thick doors.

And Kusla could only follow him into the building from behind.

“Eh…”

There was an elderly white-bearded man carrying a pile of parchment scrolls, and he let out a little surprised cry when he saw the intruders barge in. It seemed that he was still working, and beside him was a petite apprentice who was holding something large, akin to a map. Both master and disciple were shocked, but Weyland did not pay heed as he continued on, knocking hard into the shoulder of the old man that was standing on the corridor.

The man did not fall over, but his body did stumble slightly.

Kusla stepped forth while the man was about to shout, and placed a silver coin on the bundle of parchments.

“Sorry. Please pardon us.”

And then, he gave a nod before leaving.

The elderly man, who was about to yell for the guards, left his mouth ajar in shock.

This tact managed to handle the situation easily.

Upon seeing weyland push the office doors aside without knocking, Kusla felt a little tense as he took a deep breath.

“We got to talk.”

Weyland went straight to the point without stopping in his tracks.

He was standing in front of a young, skinny man, with a waiting servant, writing something on a parchment with neatly trimmed corners. The man was the one sent by the Knights to replace Post, and if he remembered correctly, the name was El Autris. That man looked to be completely compliant to the organization’s orders, and he did give a peeved look when Kusla’s group came over to greet him.

However, he did affirm the identities of Kusla’s group and agreed to the freedom of research in the workshop back then, so there was nary a huge commotion. Also, he did not seem to be the type to get involved with problematic matters.

Everything that could be seen in the office was orderly. It seemed he liked to straighten his back and glare down at others, but this caused Kusla’s group to feel relieved about it.

They did not pay much attention after the salutories, for they originally assumed he would be something to be trifled with. It seemed this little carelessness caused them quite the hassle however,

“…Follow the rest as per orders.”

“…Understood.”

Autris hushed his voice, and the servant followed suit. This hushed conversation indicated that such situations were a common occurence.

The servant passed by Kusla and Weyland, ostensibly missing their presences, and even lowered his head politely to his master. Kusla kept looking at the servant, while Weyland stared at Autris.

Neither side could allow themselves to avert their eyes for even a single moment; Weyland aside, even Kusla would assume this.

This chemistry was established from their apprenticeship, when they were poisoning each other’s meals; Kusla felt a little nostalgic about this.

“Now then, what is with this unexpected visit?”

02_075

Autris said as he fiddled with a sand pot ornamented with gold. To dry the ink quickly, the excess was to be absorbed by the sand.

However, Weyland’s reaction was never as long as the ink. He stamped his foot on the desk, and kicked the feather pen off the table top.

“Tell me, the reason. If I am satisfied, I will go back.”

I, will, kill, you.

Kusla recalled the common sight of pagan prisoners being led around the streets and merely stating such prattle.

“…”

Autris merely straightened, the feather pen, and let out a sigh.

And then, he said,

“There is a limit to the budget. I cannot simply increase it whenever I like to.”

Weyland did not respond.

Autris showed no fear as he continued on,

“I do sincerely apologize for not being able to grant what you wish as promised. I do feel miserable for not meeting your expectations.”

A barefaced lie.

Kusla muttered in his heart, and Autris continued on,

“However, I did attain this position on orders from my superiors. Now then, do you not mind pondering from this aspect, why are you assigned to that workshop? Where do your research fees come from? Whose authority is it that you are protected from the heretical inquisition?”

This lecture was no different from a scolding to an impetulant child, and he had completely deemed them as fools.

Perhaps this was a case of who were the rulers, and who were the ruled.

Even if he did not say so, having gone to jail many times and meeting many illogically harsh treatments, the concept called the world’s order was long ingrained into the minds of Kusla’s company. No matter how much they pretended to be ruffians, Alchemists could never forget this logic. It was tragic, but it was reality.

Austris showed no signs of stepping aside. His predecessor was a war-hardened person who was exceptional in his work, only to be a wealth-grubber in private, and the Knights would definitely not send a person with shady personality over.

He was the guardian of order.

Kusla watched Weyland’s back with a bitter look.

“Of course, if you do have a breakthrough with regards to the smelting of metal, and if the fuel used for refining or the quality of the produced metals are improved, we will increase the budget accordingly. I did hear that your predecessor was an oustanding Alchemist, no?”

Once Autris was done, there was an abrupt silence.

What would they do?

Threaten him?

However, Autris did seize the initiative from right under their noses, and it could not be assumed that a threat at this point would have work.

Even so, Weyland did have his own pride. The most important aspect for an Alchemist was that they were not to be underestimated.

Even when Kusla was pondering about this, he was spontaneously balancing the costs of whether he should use forceful means along with Weyland. If they did naively think of this as an act of betrayal, they would never be able to be Alchemists.

People with differing goals would ultimately be acquianted, even if they had old relations.

Alchemists would merely head towards their goal earnestly .

“Understood. I’ll head back~.”

And so, Weyland suddenly said this, dragging his voice at the end like usual.

He then turned around and walked out. His actions were overly spontaneous to a point where Kusla was left flabbergasted.

Autris too did show the same reaction, and it did seem he expected them to show some resistance at least.

However, when Kusla caught up to Weyland’s back, he noticed the surrounding atmosphere. There was an ominous feeling to the stroll, a presence of the cold, frozen order and the eternally continuing daily life.

While Kusla let out an annoyed snort, Weyland’s mutter reached his ears.

“This really is a bad thing~…”

Kusla assumed that he had misheard, but Weyland’s face was inexorable.

Perhaps Weyland was saying that it was troublesome to have to kill someone who belittled him after all, but Kusla did not intend to pursue the matter further. There was nothing Weyland would not do.

Weyland stroked his chin as he walked, an action he would do when experimenting, and muttered,

“It seems the story about the crest of Azami is true~…”

Azami?

Kusla nearly misheard it, and was taken aback.

“Azami…don’t tell me it’s that.”

After hearing Kusla’s query, Weyland quickly narrowed his eyes as he turned his face around.

“Yes, it’s that~…”

Weyland’s affirmation allowed Kusla to understand the former’s willingness to back down.

It would be warm if they were to stand outside under the sun, but the building caused the winter air to be frigid, thoroughly chilling. Kusla felt as if it was something pressing upon him, and inadvertently shivered.

“The flames in the refineries here are going to be extinguished~”

Weyland’s soft voice echoed intriguingly in this quiet building devoid of any human presence.

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