[Magdala V2] Act 4

“I want to meet a blacksmith called Azu Bahash.”

Kusla shoved the Guild door aside without knocking, and stormed in, finding a man standing in front of the leader’s table. His hair had the flair of a Knight, but his clothing were like a bandit’s.

He stared at Kusla in shock, his face appeared young.

“Where’s Irine?”

Kusla asked, and the young man immediately frowned.

“Huh?”

“I have business with Irine.”

“Who are you? Never met you before.”

He was lanky, but it appeared he was strong.

A blacksmith, huh? Right when Kusla deduced this quietly, a young voice could be heard from the side.

“Dickens.”

Irine spoke.

“Let it rest.”

“But.”

“Let it rest. He’s an Alchemist of the Knights.”

“!”

And with those words, the young man called Dickens showed a tense face.

However, he was of the age where his pride was important to him.

Dickens barely managed to rein in his expression, and glared at Kusla as he scattered to the side.

“Were you rather free over the past two days? Now then? What are you here for?”

“I want to meet the blacksmith called Azu Bahash.”

Kusla said as he approached the duty desk.

Irine appeared to be collating the account books, and a large ledger was laid out in front of her.

“I don’t remember a blacksmith with such a name around here.”

“Really? But it was said there was such a person.”

“…I don’t want to be misunderstood by you, so I’ll go straight to the point. I never thought of hiding anything here. We have a lot of people in this organization, and in our history, there is an awful lot of people moving in and out. So…that Mr Bahash? Anyway, what do you want with that person?”

She did not appear to be playing the fool, and the document’s transaction was dated 14 years ago. Back then, Irine was not of an age when she could speak properly, and probably did not know anything about this town.

“Hm, well, I do have some research related questions to ask.”

“Research? But this is–”

Once Irine said this, Kusla dumped the wooden board with the translated text and the document onto the table. This boorish action of his caused Irine to glare back angrily, and she reluctantly looked at the wooden board and the document. Once she saw that the document contained foreign words, her frown deepened.

But once her eyes were diverted to the wooden board, her expression got a little amusing.

“…Th-this is?”

Irine was trying her best to look calm, but even one who was not an Alchemist could see that she was faltering. Kusla’s mind immediately recalled Wolson’s words, but he had his own priorities.

Irine’s peaceful life was rather low on Kusla’s priorities.

“Do you mind revealing everything now?”

Kusla coldly stated, and Irine finally widened her eyes.

Her eyes quickly turned towards Dickens, and then back at Kusla.

“I am unexpectedly gentlemanly, you know.”

No matter what circumstances Kusla would say those words, a feisty lady like Irine would probably wave it off. This however was an exception.

“Dickens.”

“Wh-what is it?”

Dickens was a little tentative when faced with such a vague conversation, and he glanced at Irine, backing off.

Irine’s eyes were sharp.

Her eyes seemed to show that she realized what was the most important thing, that she woudl do anything to protect that priority.

“Return to the workshop for today.”

“No, but–”

“Go back.”

In this town, where the leader was not respected, the blacksmiths would not be sweating hard.

Dickens probably had an eye for the young widow Irine. One had to wonder whether he was captivated by her personality, or allured by the authority that Irine inherited from Brunner.

But he was no fool; he could tell how serious she was at this point.

He went silent, and though he gave a scowl on his lips, “I understand”, he pouted, and glared at Kusla before leaving the Guild building.

Bam, the noise outside the door was cordoned off, and Irine, looking really pale, spoke,

“How did you know about it?”

Now that something pressing was involved, she was not going to play dumb.

Kusla thought of Ings’ request that he keep this a secret from the Guild before the time was ripe. Even he was concerned about his position in the town.

But after a little pondering, Kusla shrugged, and muttered in his heart, whatever,

“About the refining process, how it is like, I was informed of this without missing out on anything. The blacksmiths in this town are really helpful.”

Irine merely frowned, her face not showing too drastic a change.

The only one who assumed that he could conceal this matter was the man himself.

Irine tersely responded,

“Those men only think for their own sakes.”

Ings and the others never cared of the pride of a blacksmith, and never respected the Guild when they told Kusla the matter of Damascus steel. All they cared about was their own profits.

“I’m the same too.”

“Shut up, alchemist!!”

Irine howled by a wolf.

“You’re an existence worse than a man without honor! Stop pretending that you understand!”

Irine was utterly furious, but Kusla merely narrowed his eyes as he let it pass.

“Well, it is true, but I do know something else.”

Saying that, he took a step forward, and put his hand on the wooden board and document on the table.

He stared unflinchingly at Irine.

He was trying to kindly tell her that if she said the wrong things, she would die.

“You’re hiding something about the Damascus Steel, aren’t you? Spill the beans.”

The secret to negotiating was to inform the other party that it was not a negotiating. If he could inform the other party of his loss before the battle began, there was no need for a showdown.

Irine lifted her head and looked at Kusla.

Her eyes looked adamant, but there was no real luster in them.

For even though she was seated in the Guild chairperson’s position, the allies who should be supporting their leader were only caring about themselves.

“I-I–”

“There’s no time. Are you telling me, or not?”

Bam, Kusla stamped.

Irine appeared to be like a girl who was harassed by a drunk in a corner of the street, and shrank back.

“Tell me the method to create Damascus Steel.”

Or else, for that instance. Right at that moment, Irine’s eyes gained some life.

Why? Right what Kusla was feeling startled by this, Irine glared back at Kusla with damning defiance.

“There isn’t such a thing!”

“Oh?”

Kusla immediately reached his arm out to grab Irine by her shirt. He assumed she would be a little intimidated, but even if it was figurative, this person in front of him was the leader of a bunch of stubborn blacksmiths.

The moist eyes remained undaunted as they stared at Kusla.

“Even if you do tear my mouth apart, my heart remains unbroken!”

Such words might seem inappropriate, but it was because of such resolve that this line, uttered to beat the Devil recorded in the Bible was so powerful.

“Ings and the others are probably discussing matters behind my back now. It’s a little late, but I heard about it, that migration matter.”

“…”

“You came here, trying so hard to coerce me, all because of that, didn’t you. Unfortunately for you, the forces heading towards Kazan will be here in a few days.”

“!”

Irine retorted with vengeance.

“It’s too late for you to prepare some gifts for the welcoming party now.”

Kusla knew that she was being deliberate, but his face was frozen still. She was the chairperson of the Crafting Guild after all, and certainly, the information she obtained should be reliable.

There was a few days left.

Just a few days, and the Goddess of Luck would pass by.

Irine gave Kusla a gleeful, victorious face.

“But I didn’t expect you to be so foolish that you’ll go running about because of such ridiculous rumors from Ings and the others. And I thought you were a decent Alchemist.”

However, if he were to succumb here, Kusla would have been cast off into the wilderness.

He took a deep breath, and, while gnawing back at the shackles of fate, said,

“Now then, how do you explain this? With regards to the legendary metal produced at this Guild, I am confident that my secret improvements will be of contribution.”

If this was about Damascus Steel being produced, that news probably would have spread a thousand miles away.

There certainly would be a lot of people introducing themselves, including the conmen.

“Who know!?”

Irine answered with a sneer, her eyes staring right at Kusla. That was the expression of one confident that she would never back down, and never needed to.

Kusla knew what sort of reaction would occur if he was to hit her. After they both glared at each other, Kusla let go of her as though he was tossing aside a rag. This was when Irine finally showed a look of suffering, putting her hand on her neck.

Kusla could not help but wonder, what exactly is holding up this lady?

Let’s try threatening her with the thing most precious to her.

“Looks like I made a mistake in my judgement. I wasted my time talking.”

“…?”

“It’ll be faster to hear from the person herself, but if I get the Knights’ authority, I can get the dead to talk. Do you know what I mean? This is the moment when authority is to be used.”

He stared at Irine’s eyes as he said this.

He would ransack Brunner’s grave, ravage his home, and trample upon all his records and memories.

Irine would remain undaunted even if she was threatened to be stripped naked and tied to a wooden pole at a cross junction, but she was looking utter pale at this moment. Perhaps she knew very well what the Knights’ search would entail.

However, Irine gritted her teeth.

She shivered, appearing to be on the verge of tears, saying,

“However you wish. You can continue to look for this thing that doesn’t exist.”

“…”

“If we have a way to create Damascus Steel, why aren’t we doing so? It’s because such a thing doesn’t exist now! Do you know how foolish an Alchemist and those dolts who don’t understand the honor of a blacksmith look seeking an art that doesn’t exist? Robert will be laughing with me in his grave!”

The distance between Kusla and Irine was enough for the former to land a fist at the latter’s delicate chin.

After pulling her distance from Kusla, Irine said.

“Selfish people like you will never be able to accomplish anything.”

BAM!

And with such a sound, Irine was stupefied. She turned her head aside, looking through the gap between her arms as she shielded her face, and watched Kusla. Kusla remained stoic as he kicked the table hard, and glared at Irine without a word.

He assumed that that with the materials he had, he would be able to get Irine to confess, but he was too naive.

However, learning that ordinary means would never be able to make her succumb could be considered a gain.

“I shall do as I please then.”

Kusla again kicked the table, took the wooden board and the text, and turned to leave. Irine remained behind him, appearing unable to rein in the fear she kept in check with her tension and agitation, and was weeping.

If he was to turn back, perhaps he would be able to seize an opportunity.

However, Kusla did not think that such a plan would work.

If such a threat was unable to get her to succumb, Kusla could only assume that there was something that could be supporting her. Surely, it was something beyond the natural emotions of wanting to protect a person’s honor and memories. Assuming that there was no method to create Damascus Steel, she would have simply laughed it off.

But in that case, she would not have any reason to show such a reason when faced with Fenesis’ translation, or the matter of Ings and the others seeking that Damascus Steel.

Something seemed off.

It was like a painting containing a mirage of stairs that would continue to head upstairs.

Or like a paradox of a liar saying that he would only lie.

Kusla wondered as he walked onto the street, and Fenesis was waiting by the door.

She was like an apprentice who was lectured and punished to stand on the road, shrinking back.

Kusla had her stay at this place, for he knew that the situation would get out of hand. However, it seemed the curse on her body was working, for she probably heard the entire conversation inside.

If she was to lash out, saying, ‘you’re terrible’, he would have to find an excuse for himself again.

Fenesis looked really dejected, as though she was the one being threatened.

“I didn’t hit her.”

“…”

“And that wasn’t for real. That was just a show.”

Kusla shrugged, and even though he said so, Fenesis remained silent.

This Alchemist was probably fiendish enough to use a baby as a sacrifice.

But Kusla felt that even so, Fenesis was still able to understand him calmly.

The reason why Kusla had such a thought after seeing Fenesis was like this, was because he too felt that he was wrong in some way.

“Well I did go overboard in some way, I guess.”

“…”

Fenesis merely pulled her head in silently, and turned her head around, seemingly worried for Irine who was behind the walls.

“Taking a weakness as hostage is a terrible thing.”

“…”

“Especially a person whom someone really endears…”

Rather than a sense of justice, one could say that Fenesis was saying this out of her own experiences.

Kusla put his hand on his forehead, and sighed gently.

“I didn’t really intend to go that much, but she’s way too stubborn. I just tried teaching her a lesson.”

It had been years since Kusla tried to actually defend his actions so vehemently.

And this caused him a renewed sense of impatience. “However–” while tortured by this inexplicable feeling, he tried to forcibly change the topic.

“Her reaction was really strange.”

“…?”

“The document you found is what I’m looking for, no doubt.”

He emphasized on the word ‘you’, and this caused Fenesis some displeasure.

In this situation, even if she was praised, she would not show a smile.

“But there definitely is something supporting Irine there, and that’s why she’s ignoring my threats.”

“…Because she hates you.”

Irine muttered, and Kusla could not help but mutter.

“If it’s someone’s who’s an imbecile, yes. Irine is a wise lady.”

“…”

“There probably is something that allows her to endure this reality.”

Fenesis’ eyes continued to look up from below the veil, and she muttered,

“L-Like Magdala?”

Kusla’s face was immediately devoid of expression, for Fenesis did not simply mention this term she remembered.

It was because she was starting to understand, little but little, the words Kusla was saying.

She was looking tentatively, probably downhearted due to the conversation Kusla and Irine just had. In fact, she probably was terrified by the words she just boldly said.

Kusla snorted, and had a glance at the bustling street.

Then, he lowered his head and looked at Fenesis, saying,

“Like Magdala it is.”

Fenesis’ expression immediately eased, and she hurriedly turned her face aside.

Did Damascus Steel truly exist? And did Irine truly know the way to create it?

Kusla kept wondering about it, and then sighed,

“Let’s return to the workshop for now.”

Luckily, there existed a second brain in Weyland at the workshop.

Upon seeng Fenesis nod, Kusla immediately strode forth.

 

They returned, and Weyland was having a late lunch.

However, he had a leg on his chair as he sat, and that was a habit he had only when they were at work.

Despite their return, Weyland did not look back, and seemed to be attentive to something. He seemed to be pondering about something from time to time, writing on a piece of paper next to him.

Kusla got behind Weyland to see what the latter was writing, and found there to be tax records of the town council running this town.

“What are you doing?”

Weyland lifted his head, not because he heard Kusla’s voice, but because he was using a scoop to pick some stewed beef and beans.

He opened his mouth blankly, and seemed to have noticed Kusla standing behind him.

“It’s my share alone~”

“Shut up. So? What are you doing? Trying to check on someone’s fortunes and do some bribing?”

The thick book Weyland was looking at contained the sums the people with properties should be paying. As the taxes were the same, this could be said to be a record of the fortunes of this town.

Of course, there were some who would avoid the council’s intense scrutiny and hide their secret assets. However, this world contained a pair of watching eyes called jealousy. It would be extremely difficult to conceal something in this town, where the residents remained unchanged/

“I’m looking for clues, the method to create Damascus Steel.”

“…?”

Kusla frowned with intrigue, and once he saw what Weyland was copying from the tax books, he felt hammered in the head.

“The birthplaces of the craftsmen!?”

“I noticed it when I was looking for description about Damascus Steel.”

Weyland said after chewing on the beans,

“If the method to create Damascus Steel is known by everyone, there has to be someone creating it, and this will become a place that produces it in masses. In fact, that never happened, and the ones who knew probably used Damascus Steel as a show of their secret expertise when the pilgrimage came about, or maybe Damascus Steel was something that only belongs to people of a certain area. No matter whether they have it, or they know the way to produce it, I’m guessing that these people are the prominent ones in this town. They accomplished, earned their rewards, brought fortunes to their spouses and relatives. Also, this isn’t just an issue on the method itself; there’s also a need to see the original materials they could get from their hometowns.”

“So in other words, you’re checking on where those who know about Damascus Steel come from?”

Kusla assumed that the immigrant blacksmiths would make use of Damascus Steel to migrate, and starting investigating from Irine. However, Weyland started off somewhere else.

Kusla believed that if he put some thought into it, he would ultimately come up with such a way, but he did not know if he could do so immediately.

The shaved time would be the most precious fortune in one’s fleeting life.

“How’s it going?”

In response to the question, Weyland showed Kusla the paper he wrote on.

“By my estimations, there are 5 places–and the most likely is a place called Clazini.”

Brunner, the previous Guild Leader, was born in Clazini, so this conclusion was understandable in some way.

However, such a conclusion could not be deemed that simply.

“Needless to say, that the birthplace of the Guild leader.Also, there’s quite a lot of rich people.”

The paper had area names on them, with some lines around them. That would probably be the number of people that matched the criteria.

Most of the were concentrated at the North, and some were at the East, with a few at a southwestern island. Unexpectedly however, none of them came from the desert region that produced the mythical Damascus Steel.

“This is actually a Pagan town, and I don’t think the blacksmiths are willingly gathered here, leisurely building the town. The Crusade began not too long ago at that time, and the resistance back then should be strong beyond our imaginations. Leaving aside the Knights and Mercenaries, the blacksmiths were probably gathered in masses here, prepared for a fight to the death. It’s not impossible that they just want to monopolize wealth.”

“So, naturally, we can kind of think that those people from Clazini are able to accumulate such wealth for some clear reason…”

“Yeah, but well, the swords forged there are famous for being tough and having shiny blades. They had some unique skills that allows them to fuse different metals together, so that alone should be enough to explain why they are so highly valued.”

“Forged using Borate?”

“Borates is something rare that we can’t obtain, and since we can’t practice, it’s hard for us when we don’t have the necessary skills to process the materials. They probably were really, really serious at their work; that knowledge of the materials and fine skills is enough of a precious fortune.”

“Hm.”

Kusla pondered in his mind on what he should be doing next.

“But no fire, no smoke. If the fortune is gathered at such a place, that should be enough reason for us to lock in on every person born in Clazini.”

“Hm? I suppose from your words that talking to that leader is a no go.”

“I was so forceful that I was told off by that Princess over there, but no dice.”

Kusla said as he pointed his chin at Fenesis. Though skeptical, she continued to scowl, and angrily shrank her neck back. In response, Kusla chuckled.

“Well, I can believe that you don’t have any shred of humanity in you, Kusla, so that means that we can’t force her to succumb unless we do something we can’t take back. That will be our last resort, isn’t it?”

The reason why Fenesis gave a perplexed face was probably because Weyland’s casual laugh was such a high dissonance from what he said.

“But this…doesn’t feel right.”

“Hm?”

Kusla handed over the wooden block of text Fenesis translated and the document that was bound into a book.

“The content on this document did cause Irine to falter, but when asked about the Damascus Steel, she remained stubborn and wouldn’t talk. Maybe Brunner was referring to the high quality swords they produced in their hometown; they couldn’t produce it with the technology in this town and the materials at hand, so they were probably joking about it, saying that it’s Damascus Steel.”

“At this point, she wouldn’t admit it, right?”

Kusla immediately realized Weyland’s retort.

“If they aren’t bluffing, I guess it’ll be more beneficial for her to admit the truth.”

In any case, Kusla did say that he was going to ransack the tomb.

“Even if Damascus Steel does exist, I think there’s a reason why she would still say it’s a lie.”

In that case, was the tale of Damascus Steel true?

Even so, Kusla still had some doubts.

“However, I don’t think being honest would hurt Irine in some way. If she can produce Damascus Steel, she’ll be proud of it, right?”

Getting involved with that metal would stain the reputation of the townspeople. Such a rumor was utterly ridiculous, but what if that was not a rumor?

“I can’t understand why she won’t admit to it.”

Upon hearing those words, Weyland curled his lips, saying,

“…Yeah. In any case, I don’t think she’s trying to monopolize that Damascus Steel production or something like that.”

“In that case, the reason for her not willing to speak up is that she has something she wants to protect.”

“Yep.”

Weyland looked mildly interested as he stared at the text written in the language of the desert region, before turning to Fenesis.

“What do you think, little Ul?”

“Eh?”

Fenesis was seated in a corner of the room, listening in their conversation out of boredom, looking sluggish.

Once Weyland called out to her for no apparent reason however, her body immediately jerked, and she answered,

“I-I think smelting is the work of the Devil…”

“Hm.”

Weyland snorted, and turned to Kusla.

“Now this really is a straightforward thought, isn’t it~! Even in an Alchemist workshop do we rarely do such a thing, but there are occasionally some people who do dump a Saint’s bones into a furnace.”

Weyland’s stare was met with a mere shrug and shunning, and Kusla said,

“But even so, it doesn’t look like Irine has anything to protect other than honor.”

“…It is a little hard to imagine.”

Weyland scratched his head, his arms folded in front of his chest as he groaned.

“A secret art inherited from the workshop, or something? Doesn’t feel like it…”

“It’s a little troublesome, but I guess we have to investigate the blacksmiths one by one, don’t we? It’s the easiest thing to start with.”

Kusla said, and Fenesis recalled the conversation he had with Irine, watching him with tragic eyes.

And in the face of such eyes, the conscience Kusla never had was starting to ache. At this moment, Weyland interrupted,

“Too bad though~”

“Huh?”

“We’re considered lucky to find out the people born in Clazini, and there’s only one master who knew of the situation back then. His name is Cenail Sophites. According to the reports, he’s at the ripe old age of 72, probably about to die at any given moment.”

It did not matter to Kusla and Weyland whether they would scare him to death, but if he really did die, they would be troubled. They were different from Mercenaries who would raze and pillage as their way of life.

“What about his family?”

“None.”

Kusla showed the face of one who just ate a bitter pill.

“What will you do? You don’t have any human conscience, but an old man without a kin and one step into a coffin won’t be scared of any heartless person, you know~”

“It’ll make things easier if he’s an old man who’s terrified and willing to live…”

“Better not have any hopes there. Those of the old generation are a different breed altogether. No matter whether they’re rich or poor…they have a Magdala.”

Weyland would only use this term when the most important thing was mentioned.

“Blimey.”

Kusla cursed.

Also, Irine would certainly have reminded that Sophites that the Alchemists were investigating on Damascus Steel. Coercion worked best when it came unexpected; if the other party knew of their arrival, they would be able to counter.

Perhaps it might be better to think of any possible weaknesses.

Kusla thought of this, and suddenly lifted his head.

“What is it~?”

Weyland seemed to have realized something to as he followed Kusla’s stare.

And then, Fenesis, who was being looked at, timidly shrank her head back like a girl cornered by two hooligans.

“When we talk about the sword of Orichalcum, we’ll think about the Princess.”

Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Weyland cocked an eyebrow, and turned around.

“Then, what about a stubborn old man?”

“A cute granddaughter.”

 

Typically, they should be attacking head on. Unexpectedly for them however, Irine and Sophites would not tell Kusla and Weyland that information easily.

Of course, if a frontal assault was not going to work, they would threaten, coax, deceive, beg, do anything to achieve their objective.

In any case, first, he should try a direct meeting with Sophites.

Kusla concluded this based on his typical thought process, but the idea to actually use Fenesis was not to be casually said. There were many tales of girls taking down undefeated giants all over the world, for it was a fact.

“…I didn’t expect it to not suit you at all.”

Before putting an ore they had never seen before into a furnace, Alchemists would always check to see if there were any related records. Some ores might explode upon contact with fire, and often, ores would be coagulated together, creating toxic gases.

Kusla and Weyland investigated on the past transaction records, seeing if there was any strange movement in Sophites’ taxes and fortunes. They also contained the Knights, requesting assistance to investigate on the place called Clazini, and had the town council investigate on the person called Sophites.

Also, during this period, they had someone else head to the toilet to prepare some clothing.

A set of clothing for a typical town girl.

“Leaving the ears aside, the hair’s way too white. Maybe it won’t be too obvious in a place like a palace.”

“A swan amongst the ugly ducklings.”

“That isn’t really much of a praise, you know~”

“But I intend to.

Kusla and Weyland had an exchange, and Fenesis stood in front of them, her head lowered as she endured this shame, her hands grabbing the skirt firmly.

However, Fenesis typically gave a surreal feeling, not simply because her hair was white as Weyland mentioned. The beautiful hair, slender shoulders, and delicate face were all beyond the natural. No matter which part of her body was cut off, Fenesis would stand out in the daily life of this town. This was what Weyland meant by her not really standing out in a palace.

“We can’t have her pretend to be a town girl, so I guess we should have her be a nun, a nun watching over a dying old man. If she acts this role well, it’ll be quite potent…”

“…”

“What is it?”

However, Kusla actually knew why Fenesis was giving such a hurt look. The moment he told her, “Put on the women clothing of this town’, she looked somewhat hopeful.

“Well, whatever, you aren’t suited for a town lady lifestyle after all.”

“!”

She appeared as though someone clawed her sensitive parts.

Weyland shrugged, for her knew what Kusla would say next.

“Your only place of refuge is here. Give up now.”

Kusla expected her to give a dumbfounded look, and inadvertently broke into giggles.

Upon hearing that she was teased again, Fenesis violently undid the ribbons on her hair.

“In-instead of that, please hurry and teach me the smelting of iron.”

“Don’t be angry.”

“I’m not angry!”

Even Weyland was giggling blankly along with Kusla, and Fenesis grew increasingly infuriated, her beast ears twitching.

The reason why they wanted Fenesis to learn smelting was that it would be better for her to have some smelting knowledge if she wanted to strike. Humans would have an easier time talking if they had a common interest they could talk about.

“Well I agree that this isn’t for fun. We better hurry; smelting iron takes a lot of time.”

“But in any case, you’ll be waiting until dinner time, right?”

After hearing Weyland’s words, Fenesis, who was still pouting away, appeared as though she was interested.

“That is the time when old people feel most lonely. Attacking the weakness is a basic in hunting.”

To obtain a maximum effect, they should attack at the most opportune moment with the most suitable method. Once they were sure of their target, and knew what to prioritize for their objective, all humans would probably do such a thing.

However, Fenesis undoubtedly sensed something heartless from Kusla’s words.

Kusla did not mind the little tantrum Fenesis was throwing, but it would be a little troublesome if he was hated by her, so he quipped.

“In other words, that level of willingness is a must. It’s all too likely that Sophites isn’t that kind of a weak person.”

“…Is…is that so?”

“If he is, there isn’t a need for such tedious means, and it would have been easier for us.”

“In any case, he never revealed to anyone the secret of Damascus Steel. That enough is enough for us to determine that he’s not an ordinary person.”

“Yep. I’m guessing the Knights definitely did probe about Damascus Steel back then. It’s not easy to keep a secret from the Knights.”

That was not just mere talk.

Fenesis appeared as though she wanted to say something, but probably assumed that if she was to make a rash decision, she would fall into a pit trap, and decided not to voice her opinion.

“In any case, little Ul, you want to learn a little on how to smelt iron so that it’ll be easier for you when you need it, right?”

“Hm? Ah, ye–yes.”

02_239

Upon hearing Weyland’s words, Fenesis straightened her back and answered in surprise.

Kusla showed no interest in Weyland’s words, but Weyland continued.

“Because this issue requires all of us to contribute~”

Weyland said with an elated look, and Fenesis inadvertently blanked.

“The plan to have you dressed as a town lady isn’t meant to be a prank on you. If possible, we’ll do whatever we can think of; this is a rule of an Alchemist we abide by, and in other words, we work together.”

“Work…together?”

“You’re an important force to this workshop~”

A quintessential member to us, he did not forget to add.

Weyland was right, but Kusla was more surprised than Fenesis to hear that.

Since when did he start to show concern for Fenesis? He probably reflected on the teasing he gave her on the previous day.

Weyland carelessly poked at the tender parts in Fenesis’ heart, and she could not control herself. The excessive feelings would only cause anyone to remain where they were. Weyland gave a teasing smile, and Fenesis kept her head lowered, her hands pinching the skirt, and she appeared to have forgotten how to blink, her shoulders could be seen quivering.

Lift your head up and show me your face, Kusla wanted to say, but he immediately got himself to calm down. He understood why Weyland was doing this, and not because the latter was teasing Fenesis.

If Damascus Steel truly existed, and Fenesis became the final trump to obtain information from Sophites, what would happen? Weyland had his own concerns, that Kusla might monopolize the information Fenesis obtained. Fenesis would be the one asking for the information, and if the superiors were to ask who did she belong to, Kusla would be the one nominated.

There was such a possibility, so Weyland was trying to mentally wedge into the relationship between Kusla and Fenesis.

Weyland usually could consider of things that would happen later.

If not the case, there was no reason why he would bother with Fenesis. Kusla would do the same if he was in Weyland’s shoes.

Alchemists would never use the word ‘ally’ easily.

In any case, the correct decision would be to not trust anyone.

“Well, smelting iron is troublesome, but fun. Just relax and do it.”

Weyland glanced aside at Kusla as he said this.

 

Fenesis changed her clothes, and exited the room, looking lethargic as she sighed. She probably had some hope to be dressed like a town girl after all. She folded the clothes neatly, put it on the table, and then tied her long hair so that it would be easier for her to do smelting. While doing so, she grabbed a handful of her white hair, staring at it.

“Well, pretty is pretty.”

Kusla said as he examined the information he requested from the Knights. Fenesis let go of her long hair, and answered with zeal,

“I don’t feel that you’re praising me here.”

“There was once a rich man of some Guild who did not know fear. He had interest in Alchemists, and he often said this,”

“?”

“He said ‘money itself is not a sin, but having too much of it makes it one. Isn’t curiosity the same too?’ Personally, I feel the same. Alchemists themselves aren’t bad; the technology they create do benefit people, and change their lives. The reason why Alchemists are such a taboo however is that they have a sense of curiosity far beyond normal. Beauty is also such a thing.”

Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Fenesis’ ears twitched as though there were worms resting on them.

“However, it is rather difficult to change something we are born with. If you wish, I can try looking for some dyes, you know?”

“…”

Fenesis again reached for a few strands of hair, grabbing them, giving a fatigues smile.

“You do have some tender moments from time to time. How sly.”

“Weyland taught me that.”

“Taught you what?”

“That after I’m thoroughly hated, once I show a girl my sincerity, she’ll easily crumble.”

Fenesis blinked as she watched Kusla, giving a troubled smile.

“Is it really okay to explain the trick to this?”

“The tails of the tails of the coin is the head. This might not be the case for humans.”

“…”

“Sometimes, there’s something behind that something behind.”

“…That’s, very convincing.”

Kusla nodded, and Fenesis gave a tired smile as she cringed back.

“More importantly–”

This time, it was not Kusla, but Fenesis who spoke.

“Am I really able to be of help?”

The smile vanished from her face.

Like water sprayed about onto a desert, the vanish immediately dissipated from her face.

“Of course.”

“…”

“To be precise, in some situations.”

Kusla assumed she would be dejected because of this, but she let out a long sigh of relief.

“You’re probably scared that people feel that you can do it, and that you’ll fail.”

Kusla teasingly pointed out, and Fenesis gently answered, Yes”.

“I won’t get angry just because you fail, but this doesn’t mean I don’t have any hopes. I’m not Weyland, but I’m your ally.”

Fenesis’ ears pricked, and at that instant, she appeared to be on the verge of tears.

As Weyland meddled excessively, Kusla had to tighten the relationship he had with Fenesis. If he was to say such careful words, and the results were too idealistic, he would feel a little guilty somewhat. He had a tough time determining if Fenesis had sense of reliance when it came to him, or that she had feelings for him, but those definitely were her true feelings.

“And if I make a request to someone else, I definitely have to think think that there is a chance it can fail. I won’t be so stubborn like you that I will pine all my bets on one person. For us, wagering like that–”

“U-understood.”

Is that a counterattack? Perhaps it was more like a silent sobbing.

Kusla could not help but chuckle, “I guess.” and said,

“So, it’s fine that you just think of this as learning Weyland’s smelting methods. We don’t know how stubborn Sophites will be. Some overly stubborn craftsmen do get agitated the moment they see a little girl.”

“…”

“It is true. He has no kin, and this can be said to be evidence of his stubbornness. If we really can’t do something, trying incite his feelings. Do what you can, and don’t neglect your preparations.”

Fenesis looked serious, and somewhat skeptical as she nodded.

“But this is when I’m serious as I say this.”

Kusla put aside his reading materials, saying,

“Weyland is a wolf when he’s smelting. It’s to be expected that you’ll be hit and yelled at.”

“…!”

“You won’t cry for nothing, right?”

“I won’t!”

In response to Kusla’s words, Fenesis guaranteed as she pricked her ears.

 

After a quick, simple dinner, “Now then” Kusla stood up.

The noise of the waterwheel dragging the bellows and ores being smashed could be heard downstairs. As he had yet to hear any growls, it appeared Fenesis was doing unexpectedly well.

In fact, Fenesis would surely follow the steps, and that alone would make her outstanding.

While that stubbornness of hers was truly danger, it could be easily settled by grabbing her neck and wringing it out. Thus, even Kusla was worried about Weyland’s plans. However, Kusla had his own aims, and in his heart, Fenesis was an existence of equal standing to a sword of Orichalcum.

If he had to choose one, surely he would choose Fenesis, who was within reach.

In other words, if he was to weigh between Kazan and having Fenesis on a scale, surely he would choose Fenesis, and then think of ways to get to Kazan.

Thus, Kusla was worried that Weyland would no some irreversible things all for his aim to get to Kazan. Perhaps Weyland wanted Kusla to realize this, to form a restrain on Kusla, and that Kusla could not simply manipulate Fenesis and monopolize beneficial information for himself.

There is still a back behind that back; Kusla could not help but lament.

It was pointless to think about it.

At the very least, Weyland was a smart man, and he probably had no interest in anything other than his own dreams.

That fact alone should be enough.

Kusla took a deep breath, and shook aside the random thoughts in his mind. No matter how one might sugarcoat it, what would happen next was not something pleasant. Even Kusla was uneasy about attacking someone who was in the midst of having dinner.

But if this was to be balanced against his own aims on the scale, it was obvious which side the scale would tilt to. In that case, all he could do was to charge on. This was the only way he would gain meaning in life.

Though he might not need to use it, Kusla inspected the dagger hanging at his waist, and looked mentally prepared.

Once his preparations was done, Kusla was about to leave the workshop.

However, he stopped abruptly, for there were footsteps outside the door.

Typically, he would first observe the situation.

But now that he was standing right in front of the door, he intended to strike first and catch the other party off guard.

“!”

And then, both parties gasped.

Of course, the significance of their reactions differed.

The other man was covered in soot, the sleeves rolled up to reveal a pair of dirty hairs, and even the soiled shoes after a day’s worth of work was not changed. His face and ears were red, his eyes a little listless. All that indicated that he just raced over from his workshop.

However, Kusla wordlessly stared back at Ings, shoved the latter out of the workshop, and walked out.

He turned his back on Ings as he locked the door, and turned around, asking,

“What do you want?”

Upon hearing these words, Ings seemed to have recovered, giving an intriguing look of one almost in tears and rage, and he lashed at Kusla,

“I-I heard that you went to the Guild! You threatened Irine!? That, that, you m-mentioned that, didn’t you!? Y-you also mentioned about me?”

“…”

Kusla stared back at Ings coldly,

Ings seemed to have obtained his answer from the silence.

“Y-you said it…wh-why!? How do you expect me to have a footing in the Guild!? If news of me asking an Alchemist for help gets out there, I won’t be able to stand as a blacksmith!”

There was no one around in sight, but he actually yelled out loud on the road. Perhaps he had lost his marbles after all.

Perhaps that young man Dickens blurted out about the matter with Irine.

In any case, Kusla stared at Ings as though he was witnessing something filthy, and shrugged,

“I never did promise you that I wouldn’t say anything to Irine, didn’t I?”

“Ah, that…”

Ings was left speechless at that instant, and he probably felt humiliated, for his face was flushed/

He was one of the famous people in this town, an impressive master at the workshop. However, he never did left the town, and his authority as a master was surely inherited from his highly esteemed father, so he did not know the hard work his predecessor had to put in to earn it. even so, he had a dream to head to the new world, a realization to callously intrude the dream of the eccentric Wolson, or a recklessless to rudely request an Alchemist for help.

However, how could this man yelling in front of Kusla be so foolish? Even the latter was a little lost on what to do.

The reason was that for this.

No matter the common sense, they never had the realization that they had to risk their lives for it.

Restraint.

“Is that all?”

“…!…”

“I’m busy.”

Kusla glared back at Ings, now like a sheep, and strode right past him.

Due to the toil of his work every day, the master could be said to be a walking, hulking mass of muscle. If he was to hit Kusla, even if the latter wielded his dagger, the outcome was obvious. Ings himself would have known it.

However, he did not move, and merely remained there, clenching his fists.

He did not know what would happen to him in this town once he got into a squabble with an Alchemist.

If he was to hurt an Alchemist, the Knights would come out.

Self-preservation. Fitting in. Honor. Order.

Kusla spat on the road.

Such a man was useless, hoping to pursue his dreams, but would not trample over such things.

Kusla walked on without looking back.

And Ings showed no intent to give chase.

Kusla took a deep breath, and walked into the evening crowd, passing by the people heading home after work and preparing for the final work for the day. His mind recalled the information the Knights gathered about Sophites.

Cenail Sophites, 72 years old, and like Brunner, his wife died before he came to Gulbetty. Perhaps back then, it was a risky thing to head to the new world, and anyone with a family would have practically no chances of going. Even if he did arrive 20 years ago, he was in his fifties back then. Perhaps he devoted himself to work so much soon after arriving in this town that by the time he realized, he found himself to be too old, and never took in a new wife.

It was unexpected that Sophites was a genial man. Even so, there were several times he was arrested by the guards in the middle of the night for indulging in alcohol. In those cases however, he was let go after a few words, so his alcohol addiction was probably not too serious.

He had long retired, and the authority he had as a master for opening a workshop appeared to have been auctioned off as he had no kin. The profits earned were mostly donated to the town council and the Guild, but the income he raked in despite the donation was still massive enough that his fortunes could be listed in the tax records. It was said that he never did interfered with the town or Guild affairs, and continued living leisurely in his home, the workshop.

A genial man who accomplished much, a crucial figure of the town.

Done it all, huh? Kusla showed a smile on his lips as he marveled quietly. This old man was like a Saint, hiding a certain secret, and Kusla could not help but feel rattled, would he be able to obtain that secret?

Unlike that fool Ings, Sophites might appear demure, but there was a presence of an ancient lurking in him.

The street, passing through the blacksmiths’ area, was called the Rust Street; it was narrow, and the buildings on both sides were clustered, the passers-by having the refreshed looks of people who worked hard. Each household looked plain, and the fragrance of dinner lingering from every single one.

It would require great courage to barge into another person’s daily life.

If that was to be called courage, surely Fenesis would be raging again. Sophites could continue to have dinner as many times as he wanted, but such a good chance in life would only occur once.

There was no reason for Kusla to feel apologetic.

“Mr Sophites.”

He knocked on the door, and called out the name.

The passing blacksmiths stared at Kusla in surprise, and then quickly hurried on.

Kusla knocked again, and right when he was about to call out the name, he sensed movement behind the door.

“Who is that?”

It was a genial voice, as the reports indicated.

“I’m from the Knights.”

Kusla’s choice of speech was coarse, for surely Irine would have badmouthed Kusla; rather than start off with the pleasantries and then be upfront, it would be prudent for him to be upfront instead to show his sincerity.

“Oh? What do you want with a retired old man?”

“In any case, open up the door.”

Kusla sounded a little anxious, and after a few seconds, “I understand” Sophites replied, and opened the door.

Standing behind the door is an old man who was like a hammer, worn out after many years of use.

Perhaps that impression was due to his bald head, white moustache, and slender body.

He was not tall.

But even so, he remained undaunted in the face of Kusla’s physique. One might say that he had a tenderness of one who could break into a smile immediately.

“Oh my.”

“I supposed you have heard that I’m the Alchemist, Kusla?”

“…Well, I did. Irine was really fuming.”

Sophites’ expression remained genial as he mentioned it, like an old man watching his grandson bicker with his granddaughter-in-law.

“Mind letting me in?”

Sophites’ frail shoulders formed an ideal shape after a long time of use, and there was not too much muscle mass. He shrugged like a young man, and moved aside as he opened the door wide. At that moment, a fragrance could be scented upon from within.

“Having dinner, huh?”

“Why yes, I was about to get started.”

Kusla entered, and found the room to be similar to the firm’s warehouse.

However, there were all kinds of ores and tools. The room was messy, and it was obvious that he did not use the items. This lonely man was merely awaiting the grave after retirement, and certainly it was the right choice to strike during dinner. He must have been lonely every day.

“Well, it’s rare for you to have dinner. Isn’t it bad if it gets cold? I’ll chat with you.”

“…The Alchemists nowadays are really kind, no?”

Sophites sounded chirpy as he answered. Perhaps he would have been delighted to have a visitor, no matter who it was. He had to support himself off something as he walked, and clearly his legs were almost gone.

While Kusla watched Sophites from behind, he suddenly had a thought in his mind.

Was his life accomplished? Did he have no regrets left? Did he feel there was any meaning to live on?

Kusla had some form of interest for a man who pursued his dreams, and was about to meet the end of his life.

However, this lifeless looking back probably had nothing to look forward to.

Kusla probably thought of this as he entered the room, probably affected by the atmosphere of the dim room.

“You really came right on time.”

“…”

Sophites quickly turned around, and smiled, saying,

“I just so happened to prepare for two. May we have dinner together?”

02_255

Laid out on the little table there was dinner for two.

Surely Sophites knew that Kusla would visit him during dinner.

The smile on Kusla’s face was contorted.

He could not let himself get careless against this old man.

“…I guess it is to be expected of a prominent member of this town.”

“Hoho. Well, as an Alchemist’s opponent, Irine did have a lot of burden on her, I guess. It has been a while since I last saw her cry.”

Sophites quickly sat at a chair, beckoning with his hand for Kusla to sit opposite. Though the latter was being led on, he became poised instead.

The atmosphere was indicating to him that this opponent was a rational one.

Kusla believed firmly that Sophites would easily divulge what he knew as long as Kusla took Irine as a hostage.

But because of that fact alone, Kusla was willing to change his mind and talk it out.

Sophites had something worth respecting.

That was something akin to the thing Alchemists sought.

Kusla sat down, and faced the dinner.

“I guess this is to be expected of a blacksmith capable of having his name recorded in the tax books. Quail for dinner, I suppose?”

“It is for someone who made Irine cry after all, and it has been a while since I had a guest. I had to work harder.”

He said as he took an urn, and poured wine into Kusla’s mug.

It was quality, clear and free of impurities.

“Now then.”

Sophites said with a satisfied look.

“Let us give thanks to God, and begin our dinner.”

 

The dinner was so fragrant, one could assume Sophites had a nearby inn prepare it, but in fact, it appeared that Sophites actually went to the market to buy the ingredients and cook it. The pot with the stew of river fish and root vegetables also contained quail that was roasted with onions and vanilla grass. Sophites’s hands skilfully diced the quail with a knife, and most importantly, he still had a set of good teeth able to gnash the meat and soft bones. It appeared his need to support himself off anything was merely an act.

Kusla increasingly realized the craftiness, and did not mind as he continued to dine on the pricey quail meat.

“Nice appetite you have.”

Most of the food was wiped out, and dinner came to an end.

Sophites looked delighted as he took a gulp of wine.

“But importantly, not gluttonous.”

“…”

Kusla looked down at the plate on the table again,and shrugged.

It was a simple meal, but so delicious that he was mesmerized.

“So, for a blacksmith’s standard, what do you think of this?”

“You have still yet to talk about that.”

He appeared to be smiling. That might be his true face.

No, he was actually smiling.

Seated in front of Kusla was a blacksmith who participated in the building of this town with his own skills, with strident conditions as compared to this point.

Surely, when he was unretired, he was utterly feared by his apprentices.

Kusla put the last piece of quail meat into the mouth, swallowed a gulp of wine, and finally heaved a sigh.

“I do apologize for making Irine cry.”

“Well, that is because she is a headstrong girl. I knew at first sight that she’ll be easily crushed by anyone who really knows how to hurt a human heart.”

“Well, I am the hated Interest ‘Kusla’, one that doesn’t understand a human heart.”

“At the very least, you know what you are. Knowing that alone in this world makes you a terrifying weapon.”

Sophites said, and filled Kusla’s mug again.

“The matter about migration seems to be frothing away.”

Frothing.

This choice of word indicated the manner this man viewed things.

Kusla took a gulp of wine, saying,

“I want to be one of the first migrants to Kazan.”

“Kazan…I see. Kazan, is it? On a side note, will our Ings and the others be chosen?”

He said those words as he looked into the wine in his vessel.

“…Huh.”

Kusla merely shrugged.

He never intended to help Ings and the others. While Ings did provide a great, beneficial information on Damascus Steel that would have warranted a favor, the merchants and townspeople are the ones who would put their favors and debts on a balance; for Alchemists, there was no such place for that.

If Kusla was to have him, would Kusla himself earn any benefit?

He took some wine; Sophites merely cackled.

“How ruthless you are.”

And while Sophites laughed, Kusla put an elbow on the table, leaning forward.

“Now then, do you know anything about the smelting of Damascus Steel?”

“Not at all.”

Sophites did not lift his head.

He was not intimidated, merely enjoying something, it seemed.

“Irine answered the same thing. Surely you know something related to Damascus Steel. Since bpoth of you stubbornly refuse to say, there has to be some sort of reason that could swear you into secrecy. What is it?”

Perhaps it was some forbidden witchcraft methods the world should not know of after all?

And also, it remained a mystery why Damascus Steel was not mass produced. If the Guild could produce it freely, there would be no need for them to appease the Knights. This however was not the case. Did they pick up some metal chunks that were in another localized area?

Sophites kept staring at the wine in the mug.

After a while, he lifted his head.

“There are only two people who know of this method in the world–”

He stared at Kusla right in the eyes, saying adamantly.

“Irine and me.”

Kusla desperately withheld himself from the other party’s powerful stare and his own surprise.

“Mind not being so relaxed about it? If I threaten you and say that I’ll strip Irine naked and throw her to the mercenaries’ dorms, you’ll succumb, no?”

Sophites narrowed his eyes.

And the smiling face still remained.

“This name ‘Interest’ seemed to be a fake.”

“Because I have respect for you.”

Sophites smiled, but it was a false one.

“How interesting, these words.”

“That’s because I feel you’re different from the ordinary blacksmiths. You have something very similar to us.”

Sophites maintained the fake smile, and slowly turned his face away.

“All this old man has are past memories. Perhaps, they are called…dreams, or something.”

Saying that, he sighed, and muttered,

“I cannot tell you that directly, for it can fulfill our wishes. It is different for Irine however.”

Irine’s dream?

Kusla was a little startled, and said,

“Irine said that those with dreams will never become good blacksmiths.”

“!”

At that moment, for the first time, Sophites showed a stunned look.

It was for an instance, but Kusla sensed firmly that Sophites had some strong emotions he was unable to repress.

“Irine actually said that?”

“You being so shocked is already shocking in itself. Is it because she understood what the order of a town is like?”

Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Sophites looked embittered.

It was certainly not a coincidence that he took a gulp of wine at that instance.

“That…foolish girl…”

What he said next certainly felt like something a stubborn master would say.

“No, the foolish one was Robert. That imbecile died without saying the most important matter, and that’s why things ended up this way. An utter imbecile who let a little trust be overestimated.”

Though his voice was not loud, the tone was shrill. Such choice of words was probably befitting his actual personality.

Kusla stared at Sophites without flinching, not sparing any changes to the latter’s face, so attentive he forgot how to breathe.

“But…if it didn’t touch out like this, I would have pretended not to notice anything and leave this world silently…those that brought changes to this town are the ones who remained aloof to everything else.”

In this town of tight-knitted human relationships, there were also those who had issues they could not settle on their own.

Sophites’ stared seemed to be looking through Kusla.

His eyes were giving off a dull, silver glint only those who experienced all kinds of hardships would have.

“I have a request.”

“Request?”

“If you find that method to create that Damascus Steel you refer to, and be chosen as one of the pilgrims, I do wish that you take Irine along as you leave this town.”

At this moment, not even Kusla could maintain a stoic facade.

Certainly, Irine was unhappy about her role as the Guild leader.

But because of this, such a request to Kusla was too farfetched.

“…I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“I just said that that girl has a dream, no?”

Sophites had a meaningful glint in his eyes as he looked at Kusla.

And the latter gave a look of one calling a fool a fool, his eyebrows frowning as he said.

“That is not what I mean. Do you know what you just said? We’re running around, trying to get the skills so that we can be chosen to move to Kazan, and you hid this from us. Now you’re telling me that if I know that, take Irine away? You’re like a snake biting its own tail. Also, if you want it, can’t you make that Damascus Steel and offer it to the Knights?”

Sophites listened to Kusla’s words without flinching, his white eyebrows the only thing twitching slightly, lesser than a breeze bristle.

“Just as humans have endearing love for their tools–”

“Huh?”

“There are such thoughts in the skills.”

Sophites averted his eyes, appearing to be looking afar, and sighed deeply.

With a sigh, he said the words that remained sealed in his heart.

“I have not wilted to the point where I can say, as long as the outcome is the same, the process doesn’t matter. There are all kinds of stories on the journeys to pursue one’s dreams, and because there are many stories, life is meaningful, no?”

No? Rather than ponder how to refute after hearing these words, Kusla thought of his probing into Thomas Blanket’s methods.

Whenever a target is set, and hard work was put in to venture towards that goal, surely there would be stories along the way.

More importantly, what was the one, strongest wish he had for Fenesis? That would be what he was considering.

Keep a few eye on the target.

In other words, walk down the path he yearned for.

“This isn’t something that can be easily understood and not something where you only need to accept the result. At the same time, I feel that girl should start on a new story. That girl was imprisoned in her past because of Robert, and has too strong a sense of responsibility. That imbecile Robert doesn’t know that some people will get bound down by some little wishes.”

Sophites said, letting out a sear sigh.

As expected, they did not get married due to lust, or to greed of personal wealth. Irine was fascinated by Robert Brunner’s skills, and for a blacksmith, there was not anything greater than this.

Thus, Irine was entrusted with this. Robert confided a ‘little’ wish to her–to protect this thing the blacksmiths Robert and Sophites built up, and were proud of.

“Right now, I’m on my last legs. All I can do is to tell tales about turning lead into gold.”

“…Alchemists can’t turn lead into gold.”

“But you can extract gold from lead, no? I shall leave Irine’s matter to you; if you can’t handle such a trivial matter, it will be troubling for me.”

Sophites was a man who came from the era of intense wars, and built this town with his own skills.

Like what Kusla would do to Fenesis, Sophites’ unreasonable choice of words left Kusla speechless.

“Also, even if you can find that secret of Damascus Steel yourself, whether or not you can obtain that metal is still a mystery.”

“What?”

“It is that sort of thing. This isn’t a metal that can be obtained by simply smelting. You need special knowledge and skills to smelt that metal. I do know the method, but my body can’t do it. Thus, you will have to request Irine in the end.”

Sophites stared at Kusla.

The deep-colored eyes appeared such that they could see the color of the soul.

“Move Irine’s heart, and take that girl away.”

Surely it was a strange request.

However, Kusla could not refuse. Of course, it was not because of the lure of being a pilgirm to Kazan.

It was because what Sophites said throbbed that little thing in his heart, that thing that was akin to a core of an Alchemist.

“I have a little worry–”

“What?”

“Irine is stubborn.”

“That won’t be an issue.”

“How do you know? Or at least, mind explaining?”

Sophites gave a lively smile,

“That girl is mesmerized with highly intricate techniques…”

“…”

“Out of her obsession for metal.”

You have heard of such a line before, have you not? The sly ex-blacksmith’s eyes were giving a cheeky glint as he alluded to this.

“That girl herself probably wanted to migrate to Kazan, and may have thought that Damascus Steel is a way to fulfill this dream. It is a matter of whether she will cooperate, and that skill is basically that kind…”

Sophites’ words caused Kusla to inadvertently retort,

“I’m not a Clergyman that guides the sheep.”

“You may think of God as a dream, and the Bible as the skill books. Also, why do Alchemists risk their lives?”

Kusla did not respond. Perhaps Sophites was more akin to being an Alchemist that Kusla was at that moment.

“So then, please.”

Sophites said as he beamed.

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