[Magdala V2] Act 2

Kusla and Weyland had a late lunch at the open-air market, and returned to the workshop. They brought along some salt and garlic bacon, 3 large Pilchards that were wrapped in bark and steamed, some bread, and also grape wine in a wineskin. Kusla handed a bun and Pilchard along with some silver coins to the boy who obediently waited in front of the workshop. The boy accepted it silently without a word of thanks, but he ate without being wary at all.

The boy wolfed down his meal, the social awkwardness of his actions so dainty in some sense.

While Kusla had such a notion, Fenesis sat at the table where the Pilchard was laid on, and clapped her hands together, praying, yet showed no intention to eat at all, and Kusla thought,

I really want to tease these two.

“Now then, what do we do?”

Kusla said as he cut the bread with a dagger, and sandwiched a piece of bacon as large as his hand. The stinging scent of garlic and the taste of the fat caused Fenesis, still praying with her eyes closed, to bend a ear in annoyance.

“We going to suck up to that Autris?”

Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Weyland gave him a weary look, and stabbed the dagger into the bread as Kusla did.

“Enough with the useless ideas~”

“…Well, I guess it’s pointless. We can forget about eliminating him too.”

“We’re all existences in the palm of the Knights after all~”

Weyland said, and did not draw out the dagger from the bread, instead cupping his hands behind his head as he looked up at the ceiling. Meal time did not seem to be a necessity to him.

In fact, the issue that frustrated Kusla and Weyland was certainly more important than the meal in front of them, in the sense that their livelihoods were at stake.

“So there’s some bearing to the rumor about the Crest.of Azami?”

Kusla asked, and Weyland continued to tilt his head up with his eyes closed, answering,

“There’s no mistake about it. Somebody booked a large inn in a central city of the Tsranoda Republic located to the South, and the inns doors had the Azami Crests placed on them…you probably would understand after seeing the books I stole~. The Guild is selling to the North because a new workshop is going to be built.”

Weyland bluntly admitted that the books were stolen, but Kusla did not go further into that, asking,

“I’m not asking about what the rumors are. I want to know how reliable they are.”

Once Kusla said that, Weyland looked a little annoyed, and said,

“I can have a talk with the birds at night~”

As I had expected, Kusla sighed,

Conversing with the birds at night would mean that Weyland got his information from a prostitute.

“The Crest of Azami will definitely come to this town…and they aren’t aiming here, but further North…”

Further North…in that case, they only have one destination, right?”

“Yeah.”

Weyland answered, and relaxed his hands as he returned to his usual posture.

“The largest town of minerals the Pagans have, Kazan. There are often rumors that it has fallen~. I guess we have some actual conclusion now.”

“Kazan…?”

Kusla gasped as he muttered.

There were too many things running through his mind, a fair share of what he had to think of.

At this moment, Kusla noticed Fenesis staring coldly at the now cold Pilchard, her hands not moving at all. He initially assumed that Fenesis was pouting because they were talking about some matters she did not understand, but her face was not looking disgruntled in any means, merely showing some uneasiness on her face.

Before she was adopted by the Knights, she was a wanderer along with her tribe, venturing through numerous cities, only to be persecuted, and she was the last one left behind. A language communication breakdown meant that she did not know who was the enemy, and who was her ally, so being unable to understand their conversation probably meant the same thing to her.

Once she began to realize this, she began to feel uneasy, but was unable to interject into their conversation, so she could only use her little hands to pick out the little bones, the sight of it so pitiful it was infuriating.

If you’re uneasy about this, just say it. Take action for ‘your own sake’.

Kulsa took a bite of bread, chewed on it along with the bacon, and said,

“We’ve been had by our boss.”

But Fenesis was a stubborn person herself. If Kusla was worried about her, he would have to pretend not to pay her any attention.

And so, to pretend that he was aloof, Kusla said as he curtly picked the tendon stuck between his teeth for the sake of it.

“This town’s the frontline in the war against the Pagans, so we can do whatever we want for our research. This normally isn’t the place for us young Alchemists to be at, but given the inexplicable death of our predecessor, anyone sent here might end up killed too. Because of that, we could come here if we’re prepared to bear the risk.”

The bacon was delicious, but his throat was parched.

Kusla licked the grease off his fingers, and raised the wineskin to gulp down the wine within.

“But the one who had our predecessor killed was actually one of our own, and he did it for personal gain. Since we managed to fish out the culprit splendidly, it can be assumed that we would be able to enjoy our freedom.”

Fenesis did not make a sound, but her hands stopped as she stared at Kusla.

“But the Knights really are a bunch of sly foxes. In a little while, this place will no longer be the frontlines where we can do whatever we want. There is a city north of here called Kazan, said to be the largest base set by the Pagans. Once that place is conquested and used as a base, Kazan will undoubtedly be the frontlines for the final crusade, so the refineries will be moved there, and the refineries here will have to shut down.”

If this was no longer the frontlines, what would happen next?

The shackle called Order would happen.

“The minerals that should arrive were detained, so we went to voice our complaints. They said that they refused to deliver because of a lack of budget, so they could not proceed with the request. In that sense, the ideal workshop that was supposedly part of our reward for bearing the risk of getting killed at any given moment is just a sham.”

“…”

“That’s why we’re discussing about what to do after this…right?”

Kusla looked at Weyland, and the latter remained seated on the chair, his head lowered as though he was dozing off.

He stabbed the dagger into the bread for the umpteeth time, cutting it until it was completely crumbled.

Perhaps he too was thinking of what to do with all his might.

“…”

Weyland did not answer Kusla’s words.

Kusla shrugged, and said to Fenesis,

“Even if we are to stay here, we will be forced to do some boring stuff. I can’t tolerate the idea of living such a life until I die of old age.”

“B-but.”

Fenesis stammered as she interjected.

“You can…do lots of experiments, right”

She was a caged bird who scampered around various cities just to survive, and finally landed in a monastery.

For her, who was viewed and used as a cursed item, how an Alchemist was treated did not appear to be that bad.

“Of course, we can continue to research however we want here, but Alchemists are not as free as what you say.”

“…Hm?”

Fenesis frowned tentatively. The reason why Kusla had urges to tease Fenesis was because he would see the latter’s obstinate side whenever he teased her from time to time.

“You look…rather free…”

“Hm, it’s just a matter of the cage’s size.”

Kusla drank some wine, and burped,

“We can move freely in the town, but we cannot leave it freely. Our fortunes are the knowledge in our head, and once we go somewhere else, this knowledge will become disadvantageous to the Knights, and such knowledge will quickly spread, so the Knights are terrified of Alchemists leaving the cities, sanctioning them from doing so. Alchemists are never allowed to suddenly leave a city. In terms of understanding the landscape of the world, you are more knowledgeable than us.”

Kusla gave Fenesis a somewhat self-deprecating look, and the latter obviously looked perplexed. She probably assumed Kusla was taking her for a fool, teasing her again, and did not know how to answer.

“Alchemists complete the tasks assigned to them in their designated towns by their superiors, and slowly gain trust. They will then be assigned to large cities, or bustling towns, and as their scope of research will increase, the amount of knowledge they can gather will increase. In any case, our fates are bound down to the towns we are assigned to. Those in little towns will live unimpressive lives, those in large cities will have quite a colorful lives, and as for those in bustling towns…well, their lives will be full of excitement.”

Fenesis stared at Kusla, appearing to be stating that she never had such a thought before.

Kusla himself would forget this from time to time whenever he went wild in the towns.

However, whenever he thought of using his freedom to do something, he would reluctantly be reminded of this cruel reality.

“Because of this, it’s a miracle that we’re able to make it to Gulbetty in such a situation.”

It was common that the scattered bait would get to work and be dealt with later on.

Alchemists were ultimately affiliated to the Knights, never in an equal position.

“But regarding this situation, there is a reason why we can’t give up no matter what.”

“Hm?”

In response to Kusla’s words, Fenesis stared back innocently with her green eyes.

Both Kusla and Weyland appeared to have a reason where they could not say ‘guess we got no choice’ and give up.

The Azami’s Crest want this town. This information Weyland obtained indicated that this workshop would no longer be important to the Cladius Knights in the future, but on the other hand, it also indicated a light at the end of the tunnel.

The Azami’s Crest was a corps responsible for maintaining the security and reconstruction of the towns that were conquered. This reconstruction would not only involve the Knights themselves, as the merchants, farmers, and blacksmiths would also need to be gathered before a town could be rebuilt. In other words, once the Pagans were swept aside, the Azami’s Crest would head North along with the people necessary to rebuild the towns.

To summize, that was the organization in charge of moving to the newly forayed lands.

Furthermore, their destination was Kazan, dubbed the largest mining town in the Pagans’ land. That place probably contained some unknown refining techniques being developed, and with new techniques and knowledge, there might be important clues for them to fulfill the things they could only dream of, and that certainly was not a hyperbole.

Who is the one sitting in front of me now? Thereafter, one would understand the question.

Till a while back, Kusla would have dismissed it was merely a myth, merely a superstition, but there was Fenesis.

In that case, the Pagan lands might contain something really unexpected.

Kusla and Weyland were confident of themselves as Alchemists, but even so, they did not accomplish anything for others to understand their abilities.

Accomplishments were a result of accumulated trust, and trust was gained through time. Ultimately, they could only accumulate their accomplishments through steady toil and time.

Unfortunately, the aspect called chance was never picky about choosing the opportune times. The once-in-a-lifetime chance one would encounter would occur at a moment one was never prepared for.

And even if Kazan did contain some unexpected knowledge and skills, once they were investigated and filtered, those dangerous techniques were likely to be sealed. If they were sealed deep into the Knights’ treasuries, they would never see the light of day again. It was likely only the initial batch of immigrants would be able to make contact with such skills before they were sealed.

Kusla stood up from his chair.

In such situations, any Alchemist would have such thoughts.

It was pointless for them to remain seated.

They had to do their very best.

Kusla shouted at Weyland,

“We got to try whatever we think of.”

Weyland immediately lifted his face, and got up from his chair.

“You do say some wise things from time to time~”

“Time to time?”

Weyland did not respond to Kusla’s retort as he grabbed a picking of the crumbled and stuffed it into his mouth as he moved to the door. It appeared he was saying that he could not think of anything else, and even Kusla was slightly taken aback to see him descend the stairs so bluntly.

It appeared Fenesis too was taken aback by Weyland’s decisiveness.

But even so, Kusla had no intention of dragging his feet around at this point, and he too wanted to hurry over to Weyland once he was done with his meal. Just when he was about to stuff the bread into his mouth, he thought of something.

“Ah, right, once you’re done with your meal, come along too.”

“Hm? Me?”

Why? She was really confused.

Though it was within his expectations, Kusla frowned, a bitter taste ostensibly spreading in his mouth.

That expression of his caused Fenesis to shiver, but Kusla paid no heed as he said.

“This is to be expected, you kno? What do you think this is for? Do you think we are going to let you come along to the new town without a word? Are you a pet dog or cat or something?”

Kusla gave an anxiety-ladened glared at Fenesis, and the latter seemed to understand that Kusla was implying something to her.

It concerned her future whereabouts, but she showed no intentions to be concerned by it.

It practically meant that she had long given up on it.

“I told you when we’re doing Cupellation. You have to think for your own sake more, and your vision will expand as a result of that. You should be able to see a lot more, like what you don’t like to do, what you don’t want to go along with, the benefits you will get for obeying even if you don’t like it, and other things.”

Fenesis looked skeptical upon hearing Kusla’s words. Certainly this was the first time someone said this to her, that even if she was used to following an illogical fate, she should at least put up some resistance. However, this was the first time Kusla ever said this to anyone else.

“You have to reach your hand out. That is what babies do.”

Kusla gave her a condescending stare, and she looked uneasy, apparently having lost her sense of direction as she whispered,

“…Y-yes…”

“Then finish up your food.”

Kusla looked away and said this.

Fensis was about to reply back, but after being tentatively for a moment she merely answered,

“…Yes.”

“Hm.”

Kusla stood up, and descend to the workplace downstairs.

While descending the stairs, he shot a side glance at Fenesis. Though she was eating frantically, the sight of it was so surreal.

He let out a sigh.

The road awaiting him was still long.

 

Kusla and Weyland first listed out what they could do, and then again affirmed the details, before they were left with no choice but to face reality.

“We just mentioned a bunch of potential plans, but I guess it’s smelting metals after all?”

“It gives the best payoff after all~”

Their conversation was in a deadlock by the time Fenesis was done cleaning up descended the stairs.

“So, how do we go about doing it?”

“Hmm? We go search the mines with the speculators…we’ll strike it big if we hit~”

The people looking for minerals would have to wander around in the hills all day, and start looking for things buried underground with the clues being the trees and the color of the dirt. They would be worried about being the lunch for the bears and the wolves, and harassed by the foxes and the birds. It was extremely likely that one would die because of an accident, or a slip, and It was said that only one out of a thousand would be able to find minerals to mine after a harrowing experience.

But if they do, they would strike big.

Kusla thought of the stories of those who found gold and silver mines, but all he could do was sigh.

Upon seeing Kusla and Weyland being like this, Fenesis was probably wondering how she should voice out. She did not approach the work table, merely sitting at the box placed in front of the cupboard.

Upon seeing Fenesis in such a state, Kusla let out a snicker. It was not necessarily at her, for there were crystals and ball-like gemstones placed in the cupboard behind her. Her dazzling emerald eyes glittered along with them, and she appeared to be an intricate doll.

“This is surreal.”

He mentioned this as he remained mesmerized by Fenesis’ appearance, but what they were going to discuss was not something to joke about.”

“Looks like we can only recreate the metal our predecessor Thomas made, I suppose?”

Upon hearing this, Weyland showed a rare grimace.

“We did our best, but we just can’t understand this.”

Weyland, more stubborn than rocks when it came to metallurgy, could only admit defeat.

One experiment was enough for him to understand the difference between him and Thomas.

Thomas’ metallurgy skills were superior to the point that he was able to be deployed to a bustling town in the frontlines. if he remained alive, he probably would be transferred to Kazan.

As expected, Kusla and Weyland were utterly furious at Post for murdering Thomas for his own personal gain, but Post was a man loyal to his own desires. As an Alchemist, Kusla did respect this aspect of Post, so he did have mixed feelings of the latter.

“Are we going to ransack this house? Maybe Post hid the metallurgy method somewhere.”

The assassinated Thomas Blanket created a metal of unbelievable purity in this workshop, and he recorded what appeared to be the plan on a parchment, but unfortunately, that was recorded in codes.

Kusla and Weyland managed to decrypt the critical parts, but the parchment was burned to ash by Post, who had Thomas murdered.

However, Alchemists typically left the results of their research somewhere in the workshop. Kusla and Weyland even went to the extent of checking the soot-covered ceiling and the back of the pillars, but to no avail.

Iron was an important metal that formed the backbone of human lives, and if they could increase its purity, they would be able to bring in a large income. If they were able to bring about such an accomplishment, the higher ups of the Knights would probably value them more.

However–

“Shall we try our luck with alloys? I heard there’s bronze imported from the North.”

“If we can come up with a brand new metal like brass.”

“Before that matter, we still need to look into the uses of this potential new metal.”

“Ugh…”

As they had expected, it was not that simple for them to luck into the lottery

In any case, they were already meticulous in looking for everything. If there was something they could do to accomplish, they would have done it.

Kusla was unwilling to voice out this opinion, but he had to mention it,

“How about we go at it head on and voice our complaints?”

“…”

Weyland gave Kusla a look that practically implied the latter was looking for a death sentence.

And Kusla, taken for a fool, looked sullen, but they did not have the option of breaking through with their useless looks and disposition.

“I don’t think Autris will take us for anything, but if we can talk to the folks from the Azami’s Crest, we probably can fool him, right?”

“Hm!”

“Or do we follow along with our luggage?”

Kusla cupped his hands behind his head, looking at the ceiling as he said this.

And Weyland noted.

“Then what about little Ul?”

Kusla looked down, and just so happened to spot Fenesis. She was seated obediently in from of the gemstone cupboard like a finely-chiseled doll, and she inadvertently recoiled upon hearing their conversation suddenly directed at her.

“We can sleep on straw and clothes in the stables if we’re alone, and we can earn our keep working for blacksmiths. But we can’t do that with Ul around, you know?”

“Ack, I guess.”

Kusla stammered, and Weyland sighed.

“I don’t have any objection to this plan if you return Ul to the Choir, Kusla.”

“…!”

Fenesis gasped.

The Choir functioned similarly to the Church’s version in that they would sing hymns of praises, but in fact, they were a bunch of fanatics in the Knights that favored killing without remorse. Fenesis was deployed to this workshop as a pawn.

But Kusla took her in.

“With something to protect, you can’t go about as freely as you want, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Weyland offhandedly mentioned, and in contrast, Fenesis gave a look as though there was a dampener upon her. Deep within the darkness, she yearned a place of solace that would accept her.

Fenesis’ heart again looked a little uneasy.

She could not ignore Weyland’s words.

“I don’t intend to return this girl back to the Choir. And also, why mention this out of a–”

Before Kusla was done with his words, Weyland suddenly looked away from him.

Kusla inadvertently followed his stare, and his eyes fell upon Fenesis, seated in front of the cupboard.

Her eyes were wide open, her face flushing, and anyone would have understood this reaction upon seeing it.

Kusla shot Weyland a look.

And Weyland in turn snickered as he looked back.

Finally, Kusla understood Weyland’s intentions.

“Well, in that case, I suppose we need to get an official permit from the Knights.”

Weyland grinned as he said this, and Kusla was dumbfounded as he sighed.

A childish prank, huh?

But Kusla had a notion, upon seeing Fenesis’ reaction, that if he let Fenesis to actually fall for him, her ‘lack of self-awareness’ would be dealt with.

In any case, no matter whether it was a person, object or location, the concept of ‘affection’ would cause one to have a strong sense of purpose. Despite this, all it would do was that the target of reliance would be changed to himself, and would not solve the root of the issue. Fenesis should change her own self more..

And so, she would be able to use her own hands to cling onto something.

“…Anyway, all we can do is to move forward steadily.”

“Hm?”

Kusla paid no heed to Weyland’s teasing, and this caused the latter to be mildly surprised.

He took a deep sigh, and continued,

“When we leave for the town Kazan, we got to get the techniques they need. Let’s start searching.”

Weyland gave a meaningful glance at Kusla, and impatiently noted,

“It’s most likely just iron~”

He noted in an unmotivated manner, but if he really was not interested, he would not have bothered with a reply.

“Now then, what do we do?”

Weyland asked, and Kusla answered with the will of an Alchemist,

“Let’s start asking about the things we do not know about.”

 

Neither the king, the nobles, or the Cladius knights, people with power, would gallantly and irrationally go out of their way to shelter Alchemists. They do have issues they had to settle, and Alchemists too had issues to settle. Both sides would forever be in a benefit relationship, and nothing more.

Thus, for Alchemists to let the rulers value them, they would have to abide by the ruler’s wishes and act accordingly. If Kusla and Weyland wish to get into the team moving to Kazan, they would have to prove their value for moving them.

Fortunately, though they had to fawn around with the Knights, they could use the positions the Knights for in. If they were to say ‘sorry, this is the wishes of our lord’, it would be likely that they could be allowed to do whatever they wanted.

There were many insolent folks amongst the Alchemists, and in fact, most people had such a personality, but in this case, the authority they could seize upon was out of the ordinary.

“Ah, y-yes, these are the goods imported from the North.”

A middle-aged man spoke as he wiped his sweat profusely. He was not obese in any sense, but the flesh on his face was intriguingly lose. He was a member of a middle-sized firm based in Gulbetty, and Kusla had him visit the firm’s warehouse.

Kusla might assume that he was used to seeing a warehouse filled with goods, but even he was taken aback after seeing the items the firm had. It was messier than an Alchemist’s workshop, and to summize, there was no sense of cohesiveness. Right beside the massive pile onions were skins stacked high up, and the clothing waiting for further furbishing were piled upon the wine barrels. A little twitch of the nose would allow one to smell the spices, and the animal and sulfur stench mixed within them.

However, the man leading him did not appear to lose his way despite this erratic warehouse. Kusla had an assumption that the merchants probably had their own way of sorting items.

This time, Kusla wanted the firm to show him some ores and metals deported from the North, but every action he did would cause the man to gulp.

It was not usually, commonplace actually, for an Alchemist to look around at copper and silver ores, tin ingots and crude iron, for Alchemists had to personally see and touch the materials before they make their purchases.

But this was a little different. There was a little lackey following Kusla this time. Whenever he touched a mineral, the lackey would flip through a thick book.

That lackey, holding an elegantly patched book made of deer leather, was of course, Fenesis, in her usual nun garb.

The merchant looked at tentatively, his fear for her more pronounced than it was at Kusla.

The Heretical Inquisition had this Alchemist lead her, ready to kill at any given moment.

That was probably what he had assumed.

But it was fine to let this misunderstanding linger, for it would be more convenient to do things.

Kusla was going about in a half-threatening manner, not to check on any trade secrets, but to inspect the items in the warehouse. One of the items in a wooden crate surprised him somewhat.

“Stibnite?”

The one thing Autris refused to delegate this morning was this Stibnite.

“Hm? Ah, yes, that is…”

The merchant appeared to be swallowing his stiff tongue as he gulped, and continued,

“Th-this is to be used as an additive for pig feed, and th-that…”

Upon saying that, his eyes quickly fell upon Fenesis.

Fenesis began to search the heavy book she tugged under her armpit, searched through the contents, and once she found what she wanted, she compared it to the actual item.

The serious look she gave due to her passion for studying certainly increased the impression that she was a member of the Inquisition.

And while she flipped through the book, the man’s face went from pale to sulfur.

While the mining and refining for stibnite might be foreign to clergymen, it was infamous enough to be dubbed the ‘clergy killer’, for it could be used as a poison. Stibnite was typically used as an additive for animal feed, and any clergyman eating it when feeling unwell will depart for Heaven, so the legend state.

There probably was a basis for it.

For in medicine, Stibnite could be used as an enemic.

“Where are these from?”

“Ah, yes. This…came through…Beoldo…it-it came from Kazan…”

The man flipped through a notebook, and glanced up to take a peek.

Kusla snorted, folded his arms in front of his chest, and stroked his chin.

So Kazan did contain some Stibnite after all,

“Is it fine to show me the swords and weapons? Anything imported from the Pagan’s lands?”

“Huh? Ah, yes, of course.”

Once he was done, the man led Kusla and Fenesis deeper into the warehouse.

Kusla followed the man, and Fenesis followed Kusla. She was dressed in a long, white habit, and though she had a nice rest, the fatigue derived from the cupellation work did not vanish completely.

Furthermore, she was embracing a heavy book, looking unreliable as she appeared prone to stumble at any given moment.

She was akin to a toy swaying around in front of a cat; Kusla had such a thought as he looked at the girl, and he really had the urge to reach out to support her as he watched that delicate body tumble and sway to and fro.

“Over here…erm, the Knights and the Church both gave the permit, so…”

The man was trying to explain the issue of importing items from the Pagan lands during the war, but Kusla practically ignored it. He knew that no matter whether there was war or not, merchants would do anything to profit. This was similar in concept to the Magdala the Alchemists had.

Thus, Kusla brushed his explanation aside, and drew a sword, swinging. The blade gave a blue tinge, showing the limberness.

“Nice iron.”

“I-I was shocked too…”

“The problem is, how is such a fine iron forged?”

Kusla sheathed the sword, and even the sound of sheathing was mesmerizing. The craftsman had fine skills.

02_106

“Is it the quality of the minerals, or the additives?”

“Additives?”

The merchant instinctively asked.

He probably assumed that it was something related, fore instinctively expressed his skepticism.

“Stibnite has other uses besides killing clergymen and being pig feed.”

Once he said those words, Kusla immediately noted Fenesis standing beside him, looking a little tense. He had no intention of teasing her, but his intuitive verbal etiquette had a little smut to it.

“Refined Stibnite can be fused easily with metals, basically all of them, like gold, silver, copper and tin. If the alloy has the right blend to it, it can lower the malleability and increase the hardness of it. I guess it’s likely that once the Stibnite is extracted, the craftsmen of Kazan would add a certain amount.

“Haa…th-that’s right…”

The merchant took the initiative to speak up, a rarity at that,

“It’s possible that any changes in the properties of metal may affect the transport of the other minerals.”

This man appeared to be smart.

Kusla gave a snicker, and returned the sword,

“The crafting methods may be kept a secret, but it’s impossible for them to withhold the purchase records. If you have a closer look at the records, you can get an idea of which workshops, and what additives are used to forge the metals. Looking at the quality of a metal from a certain town, you can have a rough guess on the material flower into and out of the town. If you cut off the Stibnite flow, it’ll definitely affect the quality of the metal.”

The merchant nodded, appearing to be an apprentice learning his job.

“But blacksmiths will do whatever they can to conceal this matter, so I suppose we are lucky to be able to realize this.”

Upon saying this, Kusla patted the shoulder of the impressed man.

This was the moment when the man was probably reminded that Kusla was an alchemist.

“And so, luck is something that should be shared with others. That is what you were thinking too, right?”

Kusla stared at the merchant’s face as his hand remained on the shoulder. The merchant’s lips contorted nervously, and he said,

“O-of course…”

Kusla was satisfied with that meek smile, and removed his hand.

“Now then, you do know what I am thinking now, right?”

Upon seeing the smirk on Kusla’s face, the man tried his best to show a smile, but failed.

And he remained still, appearing to be attempting to say something.

Kusla pondered in his intrigue, ‘ahh’ and blurted out.

“I don’t have any interest in how much you are earning here. If I do, I have better places to look.”

He was informing the merchant that he was not here to inspect on their taxes.

Of course, it would depend on whether the other party actually did believe him. The merchant man seemed to be convinced that his accounting books were in danger, rather than to believe Kusla’s words, and his suspicions were causing Kusla to feel peeved about it.

In any case, he slowly nodded, “Please wait for a little while” and made a turn to the right.

Kusla, who was left behind, let out a condescending sneeze when faced with the dustiness of the goods crammed inside this place. He stuck his fingers into a wooden box with straw sticking out from it, and pried it open. There was a golden apple as large as the palm of a hand. Once this thing was heated by hot water until the stem was hot enough, it could be placed on the table and used to warm the hand when the user was writing. Kusla held it in one hand, and marveled at the craftwork as he muttered, only to hear a little gulp from behind. Right behind him was none other than Fenesis, staring at him intently.

“It’s not a pure metal. It’s a plating.”

“…?”

“Plating…ah, I haven’t taught you what are they…”

Kusla gave with an impatient look, and Fenesis, who was holding a massive book with both hands, rattled off.

“I’ll do an experiment after I’m done reading.”

I don’t know what it was, but I’ll quickly show you.

It was basically her saying that she was hardworking, that she would be reliable.

“Hah.”

However, Kusla snorted it off, and Fenesis appeared dejected.

Kusla had a look around the warehouse, only to finally land his eyes on Fenesis, and tapped the the utterly intimidated latter on the nose, causing her to shake her hand.

“Wah!? O-ow!!”

“What did I say? Don’t react like a dog facing his reflection in the mirror.”

Fenesis then swung Kusla’s arm back hard, and held down her nose as she stared back.

“There are many different types of platings, like for example, a common plating used for gold is hydrargyrum. Hydrargyrum is cheap, but never once was it able to provide a satisfactory result.”

“…”

“Also, such things typically won’t be recorded in the books. A fool is one who thinks he knows everything just by reading books, and giving off an instinctive, primal reaction after being teased is all the more foolish.”

“…”

Fenesis gave a teary look as she pinched her nose, but it probably was not because her nose was hurting.

“Enough with that pouty look, show me that cute side of yours.”

Kusla noted monotonously, devoid of any emotion, and naturally, Fenesis realized that she was teased.

However, it was ridiculous of her to cry just from being teased.

Having realized this, Fenesis felt dejected, and turned her face aside.

Kusla sighed, but not because Fenesis’ thoughts could be read easily.

But because Kusla knew that she would be as anxious as the fish wading in shallow waters when she interacted with others.

“Were you concerned by Weyland’s words?”

Upon hearing this, Fenesis immediately shrank.

This young girl had a cursed bloodline flowing in her, seeking solace on this world.

Perhaps what Weyland said was merely a joke, but what did she feel to be told that she was the reason they had to move. At the very least, she probably was hoping to be a little useful.

In fact, she was enthusiastic when she first arrived at this trading place. As for why the merchants were tentatively wary of her as a heretical inquisition, it would be because she was too serious.

Kusla averted his eyes, and let out a soft sigh, only to stare at Fenesis again, saying,

“I kept you so that you’ll remain with me, and that’s the biggest premise to all this. Do you understand?”

“…But…”

“Or are you saying that you need proof to be put at ease?”

“Eh…!?”

Before Fenesis could recover, her petite was embraced in Kusla’s clutches.

His arms were wrapped firmly around her slender waist, ostensibly about to snap it. He stared at her eyes, looking as though he was though he was going to swallow her head first.

“Hm?”

Fenesis blurted, and at this moment, finally understood what Kusla was doing to her.

She looked like a child about to burst into tears, her lips twitching away. She then pressed the book at Kusla’s face, pushing him away with all her might.

She’s not hitting me? Kusla had a sudden thought, and was delighted with it. At the same time, he simply let go of her.

“Y-you…you’re really the worst of the worst!”

She was perplexed, troubled, and one had to wonder whether she was blushing out of embarrassment, or something else.

Fenesis, blushing away, was doing her best to tidy her appearance, and in that instance, Kusla had a peek at her expectant look when he embraced her. There was no way he mistook that face.

The girl could not live on by herself, and unknowingly, she lost her sense of self, and had a maniacal desire for something that could prove that she lived. Such a desire formed an impulse that far surpassed logic and rationality, an impulse of wanting to devote her utmost to a certain person, an impulse that resided in her heart.

But in a certain sense, this was akin to desiring salvation through death.

Thus, Kusla was delighted that Fenesis was willing to defy him.

Though her instincts for self-preservation were weak, it was still there.

Kusla had a feeling that this Fenesis alone was a worthy cause for him to forge a sword of Orichalcum.

“I got it. I got it. Don’t be angry now.”

“~~…”

“But you have to remember something.”

“Wh-what is it?”

Kusla saw through Fenesis’ thinking, that she wanted to ignore him and give in to her rage, but if she could have done that, Kusla would not be having such a hard time.

He gave a sarcastic jab, saying,

“I’m an alchemist. There is no way I can turn the worst form of lead into the best form of gold, you know?”

Fenesis was dumbfounded, and then, she immediately retorted,

“Th-the idea of turning lead into gold is wrong to begin with.”

“Oh?”

“T-to be exact, there is gold inside lead already.”

I won’t be fooled by your words.

Again, she showed a reaction of a child who was having a squabble, but perhaps she never did have a squabble before, for she probably had no friends to begin with. Having thought of this, Kusla had a notion that if such experiences were to continue to pile up, Fenesis might have a sense of self.

“But in that case, am I really the worst of the worst?”

As before, Kusla’s tone had a clear indication of ‘I’m going to tease you, right here, right now’. Of course, he never did show such a thought on his face.

“…Hm?”

“Because it does contain gold, does it not?’

Hm?”

“Lead is the lowest of all the metals, but if it contained gold, is it still it? Or do we say that it has the most value?”

Fenesis’ mouth was half-opened, and she was unable to say a word.

But once she saw Kusla beaming away, she had a notion that she had to close her mouth first no matter what happened.

Typically, the moments when she remained pricky was when she realized she was being teased.

The shape of an object is typically only amplified when under pressure..

And thus, when Fenesis abruptly realized something, she would show a gleeful face which one could not help but pinch with both hands.

“B-but, if the gold is extracted out of the lead, there is no gold left, and that is the kind of lead you are.”

Kusla had assumed that he cornered her, but she shot back with a roar. Fenesis was finally able to protect herself well.

That calm, gleeful expression on her expression really looked interesting.

Kusla shrugged, and looked at the warehouse entrance. The merchant entered, rigorously shaking the accounts in his hands. Fenesis zealously scanned her habit, wondering if it was ruffled because of Kusla’s teasing, and the latter patted her on the back.

“That’s it. Keep it up.”

Kusla muttered, and Fenesis stopped what she was doing to look up at him blankly.

“Hm?”

Once he asked, Fenesis frantically looked away, hiding her own panic.

The man was intrigued by Fenesis’ appearance, but once Kusla spoke to him, he spent all his efforts talking, and had no time to be surprised.

However, Kusla realized at that moment.

Fenesis was looking as though something was about to overflow from within her heart, like a water vessel that was burst. She pulled her habit down, desperately hiding the face deep within it.

 

The moment he left the merchant firm, every [person, from the accountant to the boss himself came to send him off.

While it was not necessarily a bribe, Kusla did not confiscated the imports they took in. It was not because he was afraid of retribution, but that he felt it was better to avoid getting involved with the vehement lure of the merchants. Like Alchemists, those people would try to guess the intent of the opposition, build relationships, and profit from it. They were not like Fenesis, but if humans were to have deeper bonds with others, their actions would be increasingly restricted. It was a matter of fact.

Thus, Kusla went to a place where the firm could not be seen, and finally was able to sweep the warehouse dust off his clothes.

“Didn’t get the clues I want.”

He pulled at the hem of his pants, straightened himself, and lifted his head to stare at the clear sky in the middle of winter.

”Creak”, the bones on his neck made such a sound, and this caused Fenesis, who finally managed to calm down, to be taken aback.

“W-what do we do now?”

“Hm?”

He never expected Fenesis to take the initiative to ask this question.

But he immediately realized that she was trying her best to act studious.

And though he did not comment on this, Kusla did not want to nip this new bud, and carefully chose his words as he spoke,

“If we can’t get anything out of a firm that big, I guess we’ll have the same results wandering around at other places.”

“Th-then…”

It was surreal to actually see her try so hard to speak.

But one could assume that it was impossible for her to say anything, so Kusla continued on before Fenesis could feel dejected.

“We’ll head to the Craftsmen Guild. The blacksmiths working in the town probably have an idea of where more of the materials are going, and they probably know something about metallurgy.”

“I-I see.”

“But don’t put too much hope into this.”

After hearing Kusla’s words, Fenesis looked stupefied.

For Kusla said those words with a look of disgust.

“Like…that?”

“Sort of.”

“Huh…?”

Fenesis appeared as though she either understood it, or did not. However, surely she did not understand.

Kusla had this thought, and continued abruptly,

“You do remember that I said that a craftsman’s workshop is a very dangerous place, right?”

With the large book in her hands, Fenesis asked with a serious look on her face, seemingly wanting to crush the anxiety in her heart.

“Wh-what do I do now?”

”Don’t believe in others that easily. Or else you will be tricked into saying some lewd words again.”

Kusla could have answered this, but at this point, Fenesis’s decision was that it would be most sensible to follow Kusla’s instructions.

He nodded, and answered seriously.

“Remain quiet and listen to our conversation. Don’t talk, and that’s all.”

Kusla obviously curled his lips at the very end, giving a mischievous smirk, and Fenesis, paying attention to him as she listened intently, immediately puffed her cheeks.

Shockingly however, once she let the air all, she immediately lowered her shoulders dejectedly, saying,

“…I understand. At the very least…I don’t want to get in your way.”

Perhaps she had a little vision of her own position at this point.

Once she saw Kusla nod silently, Fenesis appeared to be a little delighted.

And so Kusla led Fenesis down the bustling street of Gulbetty.

 

Soon after, they arrived at the next destination.

The Craftsmen Guild was located near the headquarters of the Cladius Knights’ Baggage Corps headquarters,and there was a golden hammer signboard adorned upon the splendid doors.

“Now then.”

Kusla patted off the dust he got from walking through the crowd. Right when he was about to enter, he noticed something,

Fenesis was not behind him.

Kusla turned behind to look, and found Fenesis putting a hand up at the wall of a large merchant firm, stumbling forward. She was holding the extremely heavy alchemist guide book with the other.

“…”

She was wheezing away, but once she saw Kusla waiting for him, she immediately strutted towards him.

She held onto the book with both hands, and appeared to be on the verge of falling over. In fact, she had to reposition herself several times as the book was slipping out of her clutches.

Kusla quietly took back what he was thinking about her before this.

“Give me that.”

He then tried to snatch the book, but his movements were restrained, for Fenesis was resisting as though her precious doll was about to be snatched away.

But at the moment she was about to snatch the book back, Kusla reached a finger out from his left hand, and poked at her nose.

“Don’t do too much for nothing. When you have to look for help, ask.”

Fenesis stared at Kusla’s finger as though it was a fly, and then slowly diverted her eyes to his face. She looked a little awkward, and appeared to be burying her face under her veil immediately.

However, she did not show cowardice. The thoughts Kusla wished to convey might be engraved inside her might, little by little.

“Goodness.”

Kusla said that, and just when he was about to sigh.

“I said that I don’t know!”

A shrill voice can be heard from behind the doors.

“And besides, what do you plan to do after knowing that? Huh?”

The growl sounded as though it was of a young lady. Kusla recalled the young widow called Irine who managed the guild.

Fenesis remained behind Kusla, fidgeting uncomfortably, but once Kusla turned around to give her a skeptical look, it appeared that she was slightly relieved.

“You actually believed the rumors!? Are you trying to slander the honor of the Guild?”

The furious growls were such that there was no need to eavesdrop. Luckily, the wooden doors of the Guild remained shut; there were passers-by on the street, and nobody actually paid any attention to this place.

And then, Kusla vaguely heard some vague exchanges, followed by a violent roll of footsteps. He understood very well that the door was about to be opened soon, and he gently strafed to the door of the door.

Soon after, the doors opened, “As the Good Book says, when there is smoke, there is fire”, and Kusla could hear one of the people utter these words.

The trio of middle-aged men looked utterly incensed as they exited, and it appeared they were in differing positions.

One of them noticed Kusla, and hurriedly turned around to stop another one from cussing out.

Kusla gave them a deliberate, sly smile, appearing to be saying ‘I heard nothing’.

The trio were probably blacksmiths, and they appeared gaudy as they entered the crowd.

Their backs could be seen as a little dejected.

“…Oh?”

A Guild would be a rigid organization that bands people with similar occupations together and tie them up so that they could all share their spoils. It was to be expected that there would be conflicts and friction amongst the members.

However, it was truly unusual for there to be hollering in a Guild house in the middle of the day, and even the word ‘honor’ popped up somewhere. For blacksmiths, the word ‘honor’ was akin to the Magdala alchemists had.

Kusla stared at where the blacksmiths vanished to, shrugged, and entered the Guild.

“What else is there to talk–”

The moment he entered, he could hear an utterly vengeful line, but before she could let loose her emotions, she quietly let it simmer.

“Pardon me.”

“…”

This red-haired lady who shut her mouth was the leader of the Gulbetty craftsmen guild, ‘Irine’. As before, she was dressed in plain unappealing clothing like a factotum. She was not an outstanding beauty, but given her honest personality, she was a lady who was rather popular amongst the men.

Irine was blushing due to surprise and awkwardness, and she went to the front of the cupboard, appearing to be attempting an escape as she began to rummage through it.

“Wh-what do you need here, o Alchemist?”

She said as she kept her back turned on Kusla. Typically, she would have been considered too young to be the Guild Leader, but this action alone emphasized her immaturity. However, Kusla chose not to respond, not for this reason.

The floor was scrubbed cleanly, the chairs were turned and placed on the tables, and the candlestands on the wall had some new candles on them.

Kusla then pointed his chin at Fenesis behind him, prompting her to close the door.

Fenesis cautiously closed the door, and with a thud, isolated this place from the noise outside.

This was when Kusla proceeded into his ‘alchemist mode’.

“It appears that I have caused an inconvenience while you were busy?”

“Huh!”

Irine snorted instinctively, and replied,

“So, o Alchemist, are you learning to be a spy?”

She then turned around, her face brimming with a contorted, forsaken smile. Once she saw Fenesis diagonally behind Kusla, her eyes immediately widened.

“She’s not of the heretical inquisition. You may relax.”

Irine gave Kusla a little surprised look, “No, erm, well,” and she gave a little cough, giving a gaudy look as she scratched the back of her ears. Perhaps she realized how uncouth she was in the face of the nun Fenesis with such a perfect appearance.

“…May I know what you want?”

She deliberately spoke with a formal tone, practically venting as she asked/

But Kusla did not intend to act as he did during his first greeting here.

Looking at the previous interaction, it appeared that would have caused an opposite effect.

“I do want to ask something about metallurgy.”

“…”

Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Irine gave an obvious frown.

“Are you two going too?”

She muttered.

Kusla in turn asked back, and this was not an act.

“Too?”

“U.”

Irine noticed that she was overthinking this, and hurriedly corrected herself,

“I-It’s nothing. Now then, what do you need?”

It might be good to press the issue and coerce her to confess. Perhaps that should work.

However, with Fenesis beside him on this day, he should present himself with a little dignity.

“I want to ask about metals. The metals coming in from the North…especially the materials related to Kazan.”

“…?”

Irine’s lowered her eyebrows in resignation as she stared at Kusla.

It appeared that what Kusla said was a little surprising to her.

Did she not hear all sorts of rumors with regards to Kazan?

“Why is this…well, someone like me probably never dreamt of it.”

Irine let out a sigh, appearing to be indicating that she could not understand him. Irine relaxed her shoulders, ‘Please have a seat’ and made such a gesture as she invited them to sit. She did not show any fear to an Alchemist, either because she was overly bold, or that she was broken inside; perhaps it was a mix of both, Kusla deduced. She was shoved into this position as a puppet, and if she was not in such a turbulent situation, she probably would be a nice, plain town girl with a cheerful personality.

“Now then? What do you want to know exactly? Our Guild alone has no less than 50 different occupations, and we have about one, two hundred kinds of items we create. What do you wish to investigate on? The original materials? The process? Half-finished items?”

Kusla pulled the chair from the table, and casually sat upon it.

“The original materials, and the half-finished items that are to be completed.”

Saying that, he found that Fenesis was struggling with a chair she could not take down, so he helped her out.

“…And the material to be made into?”

“Anything goes.”

“Huh? I told you before already that we have dozens of metal types alone that come to us. No matter what you say now–”

“I want those that can be improved on.”

Irine went quiet, probably trying to calm herself down. After taking a deep breath, she said,

“We do report to the Knights with regards to such matters, but your predecessor Mr Thomas did solve a lot of issues for us before, you know?”

She added an annoying line at the end, but Kusla could only give a wry smile.

For in this situation, he had nothing to refute with.

“I don’t need it to be metal alone, but is there something that can bring about huge benefit to the Knights once the issue is resolved?”

Kusla spread his arms wide as he said that, and this gesture was to emphasize that he was not hiding anything in his words.

Irine folded her arms in front of her chest, giving Kusla a skeptical look.

“In other words, you want to achieve an accomplishment?”

“You can summarize it as that, yes.”

After hearing Kusla’s confirmation, Irine scratched her head, looking a little befuddled.

“What a strange man you are, coming to the Guild because of such a matter.”

In any town, the Guilds and the Alchemists tread a complicated relationship. This goes double for the Guilds that borrowed money from the Knights, and the Alchemists who were hired by the Knights.

They were neither enemies, nor they were friends.

The Guilds would borrow money from the Knights, hoping to be closer to the authority of the Knights, and establish an advantageous position against the other competing firms in the town. In theory, this was the correct thinking, but in any case, debt would always occur.

And the alchemists had the lender–the Knights, as their employer, making them idle sons. Their father was not too aloof towards them, but no matter how the sons worked hard, they could never get their father to love them.

Thus, Alchemists did all they could to maximize such a relationship.

For if they were belittled, their research would be highly hindered.

Typically, Kusla would act according to this logic, but he was a little different on this day.

“I have a bet on my life, and because of this, I should be respecting those with knowledge and experience here.”

Kusla folded his legs, and then put his hands on his knees, dispirited as he talked.

Irine was startled as she continued to stare at Kusla, and then, she heaved a sigh of relief, showing a sarcastic smile on her lips,

“Someone once told me to be careful of an alchemist’s words.”

“Nice advice. It means that you have to put serious thought into it.”

Upon hearing those words, Irine pouted her lips unhappily,

“Now then, do you have any idea? As you may have guessed, we do want to have some nice accomplishments no matter what so that the Knights will value us more.”

No matter how unbelievable it might be, any honest person who was begged so earnestly would inadvertently believe.

Irine gave a perturbed look. She knew very well that she had such a personality.

“Erm…but, but well, it is as what I said before. We have reported to the Knights whatever we wish to modify, and Mr Thomas basically improved a lot of things for us.”

“…I do feel awkward when you mention that name.”

Irine was a little taken aback, and then gave a teasing smile.

She probably was the approachable kind of person.

She was also a girl who was easily unnerved, but unlike Fenesis, it was of a different kind.

“Because that is an amazing alchemist.”

“Can’t refute that. He’s so amazing it’s infuriating.”

“Hohoho.”

It was the first time Irine showed such a heartfelt smile, as though she was the one being praised.

It was likely that those working in the metalworks area felt that Thomas was exceptional.

“It would be wonderful if he was a craftsman and not an Alchemist.”

Irine stared afar as she muttered.

Kusla felt that her words had some spiteful, mocking intent to it, it was also her heartfelt words,

“If such an amazing man was a craftsman, he probably wouldn’t have died; what you said does make sense in some way.”

“…”

Irine glanced aside at Kusla, her lips relaxing.

Her hostility faded a little.

“But that is impossible. That man cannot join us.”

“Mind telling me the reason?”

Irine, a widow who inherited a Craftsman Guild in a bustling town, shrugged and said with an anguished smile,

“Someone chasing a dream will never become an outstanding craftsman.”

Those were the words of one who understood how the order of the world was like.

Kusla smiled, and twisted his head a little.

“Now I do understand why you remain in such a place.”

“You may praise me, but I won’t tell you anything.”

Kusla could not help but frown.

She felt delighted that she was praised by someone for something she wanted to be praised, but at the same time, she felt careless due to this praise, and felt wary. This was causing her a dilemma.

Now this isn’t a bad lady, Kusla thought.

“Well, Kazan, is it? It is currently in battle, so the items aren’t being transported here directly. However, there are many other materials that come in from other towns. After hearing what you said, I feel that request books and our records with Mr Thomas would be much clearer than those purchase specifics.”

“You can show me without asking for the blacksmiths’ permission?”

Irine showed a disgusted smile as she answered,

“Will they make a wise decision? If you want to, you can see it no matter how much you are obstructed.”

“Authority is something that can only be used at the crucial moments.”

“I don’t want to hear you make a joke here.”

“I do not intend to joke about here.”

Kusla stared right at Irine’s eyes as he said this, but the latter merely replied with a tragic smile.

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“I suppose.”

That was an expression of one who clearly understood that she had no right.

Irine shrugged, put her hands on her hips, and sighed,

“Where is that thing–are you going to wait here…or do I deliver it to the workshop later?”

“I will feel sorry if you are being so diligent.

Kusla said jokingly. Irine then narrowed an eye, giving a smile.

“I do not wish to go to an Alchemist’s place.”

“Then I shall be waiting here.”

Irine smiled wordlessly, and after waving her hand airily, she entered the inside of the house.

Kusla waited for the casually tied red hair to vanish, and let himself reminiscence the refreshing conversation they just had. He did not know why she had a dispute with the blacksmiths, but that rapid-fire lashing was really impressive.

“Nice lady, huh?”

Kusla commented as he stroked his chin, while Fenesi behind him began to feel jumpy.

He glanced past the shoulder to give her a look, and found her staring at Kusla worriedly.

“I’m not talking about that behavior of hers.”

Fenesis felt relieved at Kusla’s words, and exhaled.

Even if Fenesis could develop a personality of her own, and exhibit some behavior, Kusla did not feel that she would become like Irine. Irine and Fenesis were different in nature.

Even though they were gold, they differed in that one was Pyrite, while the other was Brass.

“Found it.”

Irine brought in a pile of documents as she entered.

Though she had a slender figure, she was the wife of a craftsman after all, and it appeared that she was rather strong.

Kusla widened his eyes slightly, and Irine dumped the documents onto the table with a thud, put her hand on it, and asked in a displeased manner.

“So, o skinny Alchemist, are you able to bring it back?”

“Unfortunately for me, my lackey’s one weak fellow. I’ll just bring some obviously useful ones back.”

“Hmph!”

Irine snorted, and Fenesis was taken aback by her as she cringed back. Perhaps she was looking over there.

Kusla stood up, and browsed through the dusty documents on the table.

“The oldest records was 4 years ago?”

“I suppose? Before that time, the Church was stronger, and the Knights didn’t have that much of a prestige. If we’re talking about back then, the details of most of the materials bought should be in the warehouse of the Bukulgs Firm.”

“Bukulgs Firm?”

“The original owner of the building where the Knights are at now. Before the Knights came they were the ones who financed us. It was said that this firm was the one that brought blacksmiths to this town.”

Kusla shrugged.

One could say that instead of being heartless, the Knights were suckers for efficiency.

To win the war, weapons and tools were a necessity, and thus, the Knights had to quickly gain full control of the Craftsmen Guild. The easiest way to do that would be to control the place that already controlled the Guild.

“Those that have nothing are the happiest, for those that have something will have them taken away.”

“Such an annoying saying.”

Irine sat on the chair, her body and the chair leaning to the side as she put an elbow on the table, her hand on her chin.

“But has it been 4 years…?”

Irine sighed. The chair she was seated at had an unusually tall backrest, and it was a customary ornament to be used for certain occasions, when the one sitting on it would be the biggest in command.

That uneasy look as she fidgeted about was akin to someone pouting/

“4 years ago? Were you still a brat sucking on your mom’s breasts?”

Kusla proceeded to tease her, but of course, Irine did not show anger.

“Nothing has changed thus far.”

“For whom?”

Kusla said, and Irine gave an annoyed look.

“Is it true that Alchemists can use magic?”

“You should know the answer yourself.”

“…”

Irine frowned hard, and curled her lips.

“I never thought that the person who should be seated here died so soon. It is true that he was well advanced in his years…”

“I do wish to meet him too.”

“…”

In the face of such a glare, Kusla remained nonchalant.

“Words can showcase a person’s personality. The letters signed off with Brunner are all…your husband’s, no?”

“Yes.”

Kusla did not know whether Irine really loved her husband, but certainly she was in love with his skills.

The aura of a metalworker.

Good grief, Kusla lamented.

“I suppose it is a craftsman’s happiness to have someone fall in love with his skills.”

In response to Kusla’s words, Irine merely shrugged.

“If I were a man, all these would be just mere fluff.”

“Are you saying you were eyeing for fortune and authority?”

“…What an annoying man you are.”

“Saying the truth makes me an annoyance.”

Irine snorted, and with her arm holding up her face, she feebly noted,

“I really found myself drawn to the metal…”

Upon seeing her like this, Kusla sensed that she was suffering every day.

Everyone had their own roles they should abide by. For example, man hammered metal, and women picked the flowers.

If they were deviated from their roles, it would be tough for them, arduous even. Fenesis would be an extreme, classic example.

“You don’t seem to have anything to talk about with your friends of the same age.”

“Yes. I do talk to them about my toiling tales of pouring coal into the furnace and making bricks, but nobody wants to.”

“Do you intend to talk to me about this?”

“Do you think there’ll be a nice, enjoyable conversation?”

The sarcastic smile she revealed was truly mesmerizing.

And in the face of such a callous remark, Kusla could only shrug, and say,

“You’re the leader of the Craftsmen, and I’m an alchemist.”

“Yes. We have to define our roles.”

Kusla snorted, and finally sifted out a third of the documents.

“I’ll be borrowing these first.”

“You don’t have to return me those documents. I don’t want to see you again.”

She remained faced to the side, giving a serious look as she said.

Kusla did not know whether she was joking, but because of that, he had a favorable impression on her.

“Well, I’ll get someone to send it back then.”

“Hmph!”

Kusla wanted to bid farewell, but Irine did not look back at him as she merely waved a hand, and quickly cleared up the remaining documents on the table.

Kusla then gave Fenesis, still seated on the chair, a glance.

Once she understood his intent, she immediately stood up. The thick book was held by Kusla, and in turn, the documents were left for Fenesis. She received them with some skepticism, but rather than being worried about Kusla, it appeared she was perturbed by the conversation Kusla and Irine had.

Perhaps it was due to the circumstances of the leader, but they felt gloomy within the Craftsmen Guild; they exited it, and the bright sunlight was pleasant.

No matter what Irine thought, the town remained bustling.

Kusla took a deep breath, and right when he was about to leave, he noticed Fenesis standing at the Guild entrance, not moving at all.

“What’s the matter?”

“Huh?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis seemed to have made up her mind as she said,

“Er-erm, that person seems to be having some troubles.”

She was dressed in a pure, white habit, and even her heart was that of a nun.

Her actual vocation was no longer a nun, but the Knights initially sent her to a monastery so that they could monitor her. That was when she subconsciously devoted herself to God’s teachings so that she could have a steady form of reliance, to purge the uneasiness in her heart. Abiding by God’s law would allow her some easy form of directive.

But even so, God’s teachings itself suited her very well.

Her personality was undoubtedly one that cared for others.

“Well, she’s living a life she’s not completely willing to go with, and in a certain sense, it may be frustrating for her.

“…Please don’t try to pass this off as nothing.”

“It’ll take a long time for me to fully explain this.”

“I’m willing to listen.”

Is this some little wisecrack? Kusla wondered, but he immediately realized that he too did use such an expression before. The influence he had on her certain gave him an inexplicable feeling that itched his heart.

He raised his chin, “Don’t pay too much attention to this, let’s go”, and seemed to be saying that before he continued forth.

Fenesis appeared to be curious about what happened behind the door, but she gave up, and quickly followed after Kusla.

“Please explain to me–”

“That man thing.”

Kusla said impatiently, and Fenesis immediately blushed, shutting up.

Her face still tense, she continued on, and after pacing with Kusla for 4-5 steps, she stared at Kusla, saying,

“She looks to be in pain.”

Kusla gave a glance aside at Fenesis, and then evaded a herd of pigs that were chased forward as they passed him by.

However, Fenesis was unable to dodge it, and was instantly swept to the back like a kitten in the river, and finally managed to evade them at a firm’s dock. Then she ran back to Kusla, ostensibly escaping the laughters of the workers.

“Before worrying about others, how about you worry about yourself first?”

Fenesis probably wanted to hide the awkwardness of her failure from before, but she should have realized what Kusla was getting at. She lowered her head with a frown, but that look of anger did not last for long.

“But you saved me.”

Once he saw Fenesis as the latter said those words, the faint smile vanished from his face.

For he understood Fenesis’ personality well. There was no way she would be discreet about this.

“Then–”

“Other people too…is that what you are getting at?”

Kusla said as he pulled the veil over her head.

For several seconds, Fenesis did not understand what Kusla did to her, but it was until her ears were slightly exposed that she realized, and in a panic, held it down.

“Wh-what are you…”

“I told you so many times, and you still don’t understand? Don’t be stubborn. Easily believing others is something very frivolous.”

“…”

“Do you think, just because I saved you from those Choir bastards, that I’m a good man who’ll save anyone and everyone?”

“!”

“Do you still not understand?”

Kusla suddenly stood still, and said with a serious look,

“It’s because it’s you that I saved you.”

Fenesis looked dumbfounded.

And then, it appeared she was slowly understanding what he was saying, and her cheeks gradually blushed.

However, she appeared to be on the verge of tears. Perhaps there had been people around her commenting on her without earshot that she was not worth that kind of value. The beast ears on her kept hearing words of disdain, words that rejected her, words that shunned her.

In a certain sense, Fenesis’ ears were truly a curse.

“Y-y-you really are–”

“I don’t know if you are going to say that I’m filthy waste, but as I had said before, don’t expect too much out of me to go about helping people unconditionally.”

Upon hearing those words, Fenesis, blushing furiously as she grabbed onto her habit by the chest, gave Kusla a forlorn look. Perhaps Kusla too was giving the same look.

He was an Alchemist, only interested in his own dreams. In other words, he would only devote his all for his own dream.

Kusla shrugged as he strode forth. Fenesis maintain a distance of a few paces behind him as she followed.

“I can’t turn lead into gold.”

He did not know whether Fenesis was listening, but he continued to look forward as he said,

“That lady’s problems are her own. The reason I settled yours is because yours overlapped with what I wanted to settle, that’s all.”

The duo went from a bustling street to a cramped alley, and past that was the workshop.

On the way back, Kusla turned back to Fenesis, saying,

“Alchemists will stray away when expecting something extraordinary during the process or the outcome. If the results of the refining are ideal, it is because of an angel’s blessings, and if it failed, a demon’s curse. Of course, there are people who wanted to make glasses so that they could find God, crystal vials to capture Undines, and those with such objectives are a different case altogether.”

Fenesis kept her head lowered, looking like an apprentice who was being told off.

Kusla continued on,

“Building relationships with others is the same thing. You should think of doing this for your own objectives, and not think of anything else. Those that know her, those that act because of her pain, will never end up well. ‘Kusla’ (Interest) is so feared by many, because it only works for its own benefit. Because of this, the interest will continue to add on, and fully move forward in this world filled with the lead-like pretense.”

Kusla actually did not wish to say such words.

But this was the conclusion he arrived at after having witnesed many facts in this world, so he had to.

And once he was done, he continued on with a sigh,

“I do wish that this world is a little more decent…but in this world, we don’t have time to make deteours.”

In response to those words, Fenesis slowly shook her head,

“S-sorry…”

She was basically admitting that she knew nothing about the world.

Kusla then patted on her head with a little more force.

“To be honest, I’m kind of delighted that you do have some hope in me.”

He moved his hand away from the startled Fenesis, and continued,

“And this really is just like you.”

Kusla actually did this with the intention to assist Fenesis somewhat, but he had some other plans too. He wished for Fenesis to rely on him a little more.

But once he added on this line to coerce her into obeying him, he felt an inexplicable sense of guilt, and remained silent.

There was no doubt, she had the will of a precious metal.

Kusla let out a sigh, and continued on.

 

Perhaps Fenesis was too worn out during the day, as she began to sleep without waiting for dinner.

While the scent of the fat Pilchard soup caused her her nose to twitch slightly, she only took a little nibble of bread, and was completely spent.

She sat on the chair, sleeping with a pained look, and so Kusla was left with no choice but to carry her to the bedroom. She really isn’t wary at all, and to think she’s able to live peacefully until now; Kusla had such a thought as he dragged the blanket towards her mouth.

“If you want, I can head downstairs~”

Weyland continued to gnaw through the fish bones as Kusla closed the door by turning his hand back. Kusla merely shrugged; only a bored person who would bother with such a joke.

“Now then, what developments do you have there? Looks like you were wandering around town for till late.”

Kusla sat at the chair where Fenesis just fell asleep on, and took a bite of the food she practically never touched as he asked.

“Hm, not much here. What about you~?”

“Just got some nice fish.”

After they went to a Crafting Guild to obtain some purchase lists and request forms, Kusla went to investigate on the goods shipped in from the North, and the goods created by the town’s blacksmiths, but he too did not obtain any information.

“Well, this workshop is a place far beyond our abilities after all.”

“Hm? That’s weak from you.”

Unexpectedly, Kusla was not making a joke, and he said,

“This is something I concluded from the facts. There’s a monster called Thomas in this town, and he’s not the kind of person who’ll have such troubles.”

Kusla had a little look at the request forms he obtained from the Guild, and cocked an eyebrow.

“Basically all the requests are completed, so it’s written. I really feel so ordinary now.”

“Even I want to call him Master here~”

However, Thomas was easily killed because he did not notice what he should have. Life itself was really fragile, and they could not drag their feet if they wished to accomplish what they wanted while alive.

“And finally, what I hear here is that the Crest of Azami is moving faster than expected.”

“So that’s it, huh?”

“From the people I hear this from, there are a few prepared for ‘grooming’.”

To avoid needless scuffles and wroughting during the migration, some prostitutes who knew the pagan’s languages would go along too. Those chosen women did not know if they would return back to their old towns, so they would always prepare for whatever that would happen around them. Of course, they were also amped and preparing for battle to find a good man.

“Well, if those Azami’s Crest guys drag their feet about, they’ll probably get lots of requests at wherever they stop at. There are many like us who want to go to the new world, but are at their wits end.”

“Which Alchemists will be going?”

“Who knows…but well, probably someone whom the nobles and prince off the South really like. Probably someone suave and great unlike us who are sent here to clean up the mess after a battle.”

“Hmph, I really don’t want such people who call themselves Alchemists.”

Weyland snickered, but it was more of a wry smile,

“There are some outstanding ones who never overcame their past or have some maniacal dream.”

“…”

Kusla felt displeased at Weyland’s decent insight.

“What do you want to do?”

He’s lacking in his own usual despot.

Kusla had such a thought, and Weyland finished off the last of his wheat gruel before putting the wooden bowl onto the table. He put his legs onto the chair, pressed his chin onto his knee, and chuckled, saying,

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“I really can’t stand my own ineptitude.”

Though he was giggling away in a silly manner, it was due to this that he appeared to be really self-deprecating.

“I do believe I’ll be chosen if I’m an Alchemist for another 20 years. Right now, I’m just a brat who’s just coming out.”

That”s being overconfident; he gave a little sneer. However, there was no way they could be chosen if they did not devote their all doing experiments with unknown outcomes, and search for new things.

The future will open up for them.

Even in this cruel, merciless world, Alchemists could believe in this.

“Then what about next time?”

Kusla said, and Weyland chuckled,

“The Goddess of Luck won’t leave anything behind. If you don’t reach out the moment she comes, you’ll never be able to catch her.”

Upon hearing these words, all Kusla could do was scratch his head.

“We got to be prepared to give up on our pride.”

Weyland then stared at Kusla, baring his teeth.

“You’re really open-minded. That is to be expected of you, Kusla.”

“I am an uncouth man after all.”

“That is a strength. Better to have fewer things to protect.”

Weyland said as he stood up.

He seemed to be pouting away, or so it seemed to Kusla.

“Is that a snide remark at me?”

“Hm?”

Weyland looked a little delighted as he smiled.

Kusla shrugged, and gnawed at the sliced, dried Herrings.

 

That night, Kusla and Weyland were in the underground workshop, discussing methods that could potentially let the Knights value them more.

They were mainly checking through the request forms Kusla brought from the Crafting Guild, but as expected, it was fruitless.”

“That Thomas really is a genius.”

Kusla gently placed the last request form onto the work desk, and Weyland cupped his hands behind his head as he rested on the chair backrest, sighing.

As Irine had said, the Crafting Guild had no less than 50 occupations, with dozens of metals they dealt with. Of course, there are numerous times the issues they wanted to improve as it inconvenienced their work. They would inquire the Knights on the issues they could not settle, or the issues they felt were solvable.

Of course, the Knights had no obligation to answer them, but no matter which town it was, the Knights would gather such requests. Typically, the extremely minor issues those unimpressive blacksmiths bring up would typically be fulfilled in some way.

The basis for research is typically due to a question posed. What is going on? Why did it happen? What materials will change into what? The more angles to these questions, the better.

And the Knights would surely lend money to the town. For the lenders, it would benefit them if the requested issues were improved on, and efficiency improved as a result.

Quite a nice plan, Kusla marveled.

It seemed Thomas made full use of this plan and exhibited all of his talent.

“I get the feeling that he did all he could when it comes to purifying metals as much as possible.”

Weyland could not help but comment.

There were a few treasure maps left on the table. However, Kusla and Weyland never did reach out for them, for it would not benefit them.

If these could be improved on, they certainly would be privileged by the Knights.

“Is this the only one we can work on now?”

“…”

Weyland did not answer, and instead sighed. Kusla used his fingers to pinch at a piece of paper, and written on it was the most important request form requesting the most important material in this world, metal, that even a genius like Thomas could not solve.

That would be regarding the mass production of metals.

“A research on improving the purity of metal can be done in a workshop too…”

“But mass production isn’t something that can be done with a few tricks like adding powdered bones and Birch wood~”

“Get dirty in mud and sweat, level the hills, and assemble bricks?”

Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Weyland closed his eyes, faced the ceiling, and protruded his lower lip.

“Us Alchemists are so low profile that we can’t possibly do such a thing~.”

Such a childish way of dismissing this caused Kusla to chuckle in bemusement.

“Draw out a design for a large furnace, hire a few dozen workers, spend a few years directing them on how to build it, and once it’s done, gather a few craftsmen with decent skills and enthusiasm, supervise their work for days, and then look for the best method in the furnace, I guess?”

‘The purity of such a metal will only be 80% of that in a workshop, but even that number is impressive enough. Isn’t this plan quite plausible here?”

“Yeah.”

Kusla said, and continued,

“But we aren’t looking to mass produce metal that won’t be of use.”

“Pure iron, or pure metal. If not…”

Weyland continued to face the ceiling with his eyes closed, saying in a prayerful manner.

“A perfect manner, the ultimate desire of an Alchemist.”

“Magdala.”

The moment Kusla uttered that term, Weyland let go of the hands cupped behind his head, and reverted to his usual pose.

“So, all we can do is to show interest in what was done in this little workshop. But this world is so big, so vast. Mankind’s purpose here is to race across this wide place.”

“You think it’s better to go about doing something that’s sloppy yet easy to do than to do something perfect yet hard to implement?”

“What can we do…what can we do? If there’s one way to get up there in one go~…”

This time, Weyland put his elbow on the table as he pondered.

“What method…huh?”

If they could find it, they would not need to be thinking so much.

An organization like the Knights would like to make use of that shockingly large scale proposal to find that method. No matter how egoistical they were, Alchemists were willing to be subservient to the Knights so that they could make use of this power. Ultimately, Alchemists were just ordinary people.

We know this is the way of the world, but we do have some unshakeable resolve; Kusla wondered. As Weyland had said, their objective was to think of what they could do in this workshop, a refined, purified, thorough method.

They just needed to do this for themselves, and it did not matter whether the thing produced would benefit anyone else. It was because of this personality Kusla had that his master anointed him the name of ‘Kusla’ (Interest).

“Hm.”

While Kusla was groaning as he looked up at the ceiling.

A thud could be heard.

Kusla merely moved his eyes at that instant, for he did not want to let out a sound of his body moving or his clothes rustling.

Weyland too was the same, but the knocking persisted.

Kusla directed his sight upwards, and then at Weyland. The latter nodded, and shrugged.

A visitor?

Typically, an Alchemist’s door being knocked on was not a good thing.

Furthermore, it was in the middle of the night, the time even the lackadaisical God would be asleep.

Weyland blew out the candle, and Kusla stood up in the darkness, moving towards the door tentatively.

If it was an assassin hired by a royal family or so, they could not be so calm. If it was a bandit or someone trying his luck, they still had a way out.

He went up a storey, and found that the bedroom behind the door remained silent.

Don’t wake up now; Kusla prayed. At the same time, the knocking occurred again, and he unhooked the clasp of the dagger at his waist.

There was still a candle lit in the living room, and Kusla had the urge to click his tongue. If there was a candle lit, that meant that they could not pretend that nobody was around, so he had no choice but to ask,

“Who’s that?”

He approached the door, and in any case, asked.

Right when he expected it to be a drunk or a prankster, the other party gave an unexpected answer,

“…I’m someone…from the Crafting Guild…”

It was likely that the other party was straining his throat, causing the voice to change. Even so, Kusla could hear that the other party summoned all his courage to say these words.

He frowned, looking extremely perplexed, but still answered,

“Your voice sounds familiar.”

And he could immediately hear the sound of someone recoiling in shock.

Perhaps the man merely gasped, but Kusla buckled back the clasp of his dagger.

“I’m the man…who passed you during the day…”

The man quickly confessed, so Kusla approached the door, and unlocked it.

He could see a middle-aged man standing in front of the door, a handkerchief over his head as he gave a wretched smile.

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