“Such ridiculous words again~”
Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Weyland, who had a cloth wrapped around his head and his muscles exposed, chimed in cheerfully, holding the mug of air-chilled beer in hand.
“I do think that we’ll be able to think of something if we put our efforts into it. But…I feel that there’s something to be respected about him.”
“Ohoho? I get what you’re saying…well, we will have to convince little Irine after all, huh? It’ll be all over when she remains unmoved even after some sudden violence. That fatal blow has to be left for the end, you see. However, what is it about the feelings in the skills Sophites talked about?”
Saying that, Weyland stared at the ceiling blankly, and Fenesis was in front of the furnace, frantically dumping wood and coal, removing the thing known as slag. She was sweating profusely, probably because she could not expose her muscles like Weyland could, and there was a bottle of water and some salt put next to her. She seemed to be quite a quick learner.
“I don’t know. Quite a few skills required people to risk their lives to develop them, but can you understand the technician’s feelings for those skills?”
“Normally speaking, this is impossible. This world is way too cruel~”
Weyland’s callous looking eyes were not indicating a joke, and it appeared he was cursing at God. When Kusla reviewed the superb skills left behind by the former owner of this workshop, Thomas Blanket, he was fascinated by it as though it was the construct of the universe. However, such a fascination was caused by the endless, repeated number of tests and results Thomas kept seeking.
For example, Kusla would never associate Cupellation with the great Alchemists of the past, and also the refining process for zinc. Outstanding skills and techniques will spread all over the world, but the issue of ‘who went through such hard work to produce such techniques’ were scantily remembered.
The only ones who would lament the cruel world would only sink into the world of prayers.
They had a large lead guiding them along, but they just could not think of a breakthrough.
Kusla cussed, and Weyland pondered silently.
Sensing a stare on him, Kusla turned behind to see a weary Fenesis drinking some water, staring at them.
“…How’s the purification of iron going?”
Kusla asked, and Fenesis glanced aside at the furnace, nodding stoically.
And from her demeanour, Kusla could see a clear objective.
“Well, you’re sweating so much I thought you’re crying.”
Fenesis hurriedly wiped her eyes with her hands.
Upon seeing that, Kusla looked over at Weyland.
“You didn’t beat her up, did you?”
“No way. I can’t possibly do such a thing~”
Weyland giggled. Perhaps he thought it would be too much of a hassle to use his hands, and kicked her instead.
“Have you extracted a little iron yet?”
“I got these at first, but they haven’t cooled.”
“All these? How black…”
The iron was put in a stone vessel, the color akin to iron granules that were melted and shaped; Weyland placed a hand at his chin, saying,
“Even though I told her to remove any slag that suddenly appears, she doesn’t know why that is the right thing to do, you know~? Luckily, this place has a collection of ores from all kinds of places. I do think that it’ll be better if she’s to repeat the same processes a few times, and understand the results formed by different ores.”
“Looking at what you said, I guess little Ul here doesn’t have a chance to show up now.”
Kusla glanced aside at Fenesis while the latter pricked her ears and worked, and he shrugged.
Having learned that she would not be of help this tim, it appeared there was a strange feeling growing in her heart.
“Better to learn the techniques as quickly as possible. Also, if the fire continues to burn in the furnace, you’ll get better results.”
“Hm? Well, I guess.”
Fenesis answered lifelessly.
“But, I guess it’s fun to look for something that we can’t imagine.”
The crimson flames were upon Weyland’s face, and shadows were all over the place, giving the smile some real presence.
“What will you do now, Kusla?”
In the face of that question, Kusla wordlessly cocked his head.
Fenesis was standing at right where he was looking at.
“My name is ‘Interest’ (Kusla). I do not understand the notion of ‘thoughts’, and there is nothing I can do with that young lady down there now.”
Kusla’s words were blatantly honest, but it was better for Fenesis to actually understand clearly beforehand. Weyland bared his teeth, cackled, and slowly drifted to the furnace. Fenesis obviously overheard their conversation, and was looking extremely tense, but Weyland went by her, poured all his beer into the furnace, and tapped her head with the now-emptied mug.
“The termperature was too high.”
“Before answering me, get to the waterwheel.”
Fenesis went outside as per Weyland’s orders, and the latter watched her leave, before beaming away as he looked at Kusla.
“You wanted to do that, didn’t you, Kusla?”
“Well, it’s true that if things got serious, I’ll want to do everything.”
Weyland’s laughing so hard his shoulders were huffing, and while watching Fenesis undo the connecting shaft, he said,
“You’re really bad at lying.”
“Becuase I never ever lie to myself.’
Kusla retorted, and Weyland exhalted, before reaching his arm for his shirt placed on the work desk.
“Alright, I’m going out to hunt for some nightbirds.”
“If there are feelings in those techniques, there has to be a reason for that.”
Kusla watched Weyland practically mutter to himself, and sudddenly realized,
“Are you going to visit a blacksmith’s–”
“A workshop furnace will be ruined if you don’t heat it up once in a while.”
Having said that, he teetered up the stars.
It seemed he was acquianted with some blacksmith’s widow. Instances like Irine were an extreme, but it was not uncommon for a blacksmith and his wife to have a significant age difference. Weyland realized that there might be someone from the Clazini area who had knowledge on creating Damascus Steel, and perhaps, he might be able to obtain some information from a blacksmith’s widow.
But this certainly was Weyland’s modus operandi, and Kusla remained unfazed.
Also, Weyland firmly believed that Fenesis had lost her chance to obtain any particularly important information, and thus discarded her.
Such a refreshingly straightforward Alchemist.
Fenesis returned after adjusting the bellows, and upon seeing that Weyland was gone, she involuntarily felt mystified.
Kusla shrugged, saying,
“He said he has nothing to teach you now.”
Fenesis nearly bought it for an instance, but after a smile, she tilted her head, saying,
“I don’t believe your words.”
“What will you do? Continue to refine the remaining bits? I do think the results will be interesting.”
“I’ll do it.”
Fenesis adamantly replied.
“I’ll watch you. Carry on.”
Fenesis nodded seriously; perhaps she did her work in a prim and proper manner when she was back at the Monastery.
Kusla watched her work, and simply answered,
“If you fail, I’m going to beat you up.”
Fenesis was taken aback, and stopped what she was going. However, when she turned back to look at Kusla, she gave a lively smile.
“I said that I’m not going to believe what you say.”
Fenesis beamed away as she replied, and Kusla snorted. Then, Fenesis continued to work on the iron and fire.
Kusla watched her work from the chair beside the work desk, pondering.
The techniques that were researched and developed would certainly not contain any feelings of the ones who created them, but the process of developing it certainly would be intimately bonded with these people, and surely, the myriad of emotions by the creator would be contained in it. Kusla knew that, but he also felt that it was impossible to deduce from a certain technique what happened in the process.
However, Kusla was scowling away not because the issue posed was unreasonably difficult, but because he had a firm belief somewhere within his heart that Sophites would not tell him anything that was remotely impossible to begin with. If Kusla was to deduce this with his heart, he should be able to deduce what Sophites was saying. Thus, he continued to rack his head furiously.
If not for the request to take Irine away, Kusla would have simply dismissed this as some simple smockscreen. Even Fenesis could tell that Irine was suffering in that Guild.
In that case, the thing that bound Irine to that Guild would be as what Sophites implied, a pasting word from Robert before he died. Perhaps Irine really agreed to that request that was entrusted to her ‘I shall leave the rest to you’, even if she really wanted to learn smelting techniques, head to Kazan, or such.
Sophites was hoping for Kusla to correct Irine’s tilted thinking.
And also, the technique to create Damascus Steel was deeply rooted to this.
Kusla had a restless feeling, that he almost understood, but did not. He had a feeling that as long as he thought of something, everything else would be revealed.
In fact, leaving aside the relationship between Sophites, Irine, and the Damascus Steel technique, what Kusla did not understand was the technique used to smelt Damascus Steel. Sophites explained everything else, and Kusla did not feel that the old man was lying in this aspect.
Also, in terms of smeling, it was implausible that it would be so ostentatious.
He did not think there was a need for some blood from a legendery hero, a spell left behind by some ancient archmage,or such, so there should only be a few answers to it. That, a sudden blank in his supposed expertise, was the source of his restlessness.
The techniques in his memories were all parched and tasteless, unemotional.
This technique had much emotion in it–and so important one would never succumb no matter how he was threatened.
The flame flickered, and Kusla slowly lifted his head.
He felt a little amiss, and noticed that he fell asleep without realizing it.
The bellows roared along with the waterwheel like a demon, pumping air in, and it echoed along with the flames cackling in the high termperatures of the coal. Kusla stood up from the chair, and with a loud groan, stretched his back.
Fenesis was seated on a large box containing coal, in front of a furnace, putting the poker off the floor like it was a staff, her hands on it, her chin resting on the back of her hands. Her back was slouched, her ears were slumped, and her head was tilted, as though she was an old lady worn out after a mere stroll. It seemed she was nodding off, tired in front of the flickering flames. Actually, she might actually be asleep.
However, her eyes were slightly opened, and her blurred eyes seemed to spy something beyond the flickering flames.
Suddenly, sparks blared after the coal cracked, and this little motion finally caused Fenesis to notice Kusla, as she frantically got up.
“I-I wasn’t sleeping.”
Kusla snorted, shrugged, and looked into the furnace.
Fenesis hurriedly got up, and due to the sudden change in center of gravity, she tumbled over, her petite body about to fall forward. Having anticipated this, Kusla gently held her in his hands.
“When you’re tired, don’t stand up immediately. You’ll feel giddy. Sometimes, you’ll fall forward to the scorching furnace.”
Fenesis’ consciousness probably went up the chimmey and drifted into the sky or something, but she immediately responded, wanting to grab onto something. Her eyes were bleary, and her little hands were grabbing onto Kusla’s arms. Her mouth was not opened, and her breathing erratic; it was obvious that it was a subconscious action. Kusla could imagine that such a thing definitely happened in Fenesis’ life before, and let out a languid sigh.
Weary from wandering and escaping, she probably grabbed onto something while her consciousness was faded.
Kusla could understand.
He let Fenesis sit on the floor slowly. Her hands were placed on her knees, and she collapsed limply onto the floor. Kusla then took the poker from her hands.
“Have a little rest.”
Saying that, he raised the poker and prodded at the coal in the furnace. After adjusting the temperature, he took a long scoop placed by the furnace, and proceeded to scoop out the slag. IT seemed there was no glass or lead in the furnace, but there was some gold or silver impurities common in ores.
While Kusla did all kinds of adjustments, Fenesis remained seated limply on the floor, staring inti the furnace blankly.
She would fall asleep if it got quiet, so Kusla said,
“The crux to refining ores is whether you can keep everything in such a high temperature over such a long time.”
Kusla said as he handed the poker over to Fenesis.
The latter timidly received it, put it on the floor as though it was a staff, and slowly got up.
“No matter how unfamiliar an apprentice is, anyone can refine iron to a certain level of purity by adding enough coal and making sure the bellows are powerful enough.
It was unknown if Fenesis was paying attention to Kusla’s explanation, for her eyes were closed, and her fingertips were rubbing between her eyes. She then picked up the bottle placed on the work desk, and drank some water.
“When there is so much impurities in crude iron, if you want want a purity level, you first need to have the knowledge and techniques. Of course, the process will differ accodingly based on what you want to use this iron for.”
Having said that, Fenesis looked a little gaudy, and pulled her distance from Kusla.
“For example, the hardness, or malleability of iron required to make nails, swords and rasps are completely different. If the iron is too hard, it will be so brittle it will snap easily when you hit it. If it is too soft, it can’t be used to create tools. It is difficult to master the fire control. For swords, after killing two people, the blood and fats sticking onto it will cause the sword to lose its function as a sword. Thus, swords have to be sharp, and at the same time, able to be used as a blunt weapon, to be able to smash a person’s head in along with the helmet.”
Kusla’s explanation caused Fenesis to show a face of extreme disgust.
He gave her a mocking sneer, and she cringed her neck in, answering with a taunting look,
“Rasps can be used to wallop the heads of some dullwitted apprentices, but the main purpose is to file things. Thus, the only requirement for the iron is that it is hard. There are times where it becomes too brittle that it snaps once it drops onto the floor.”
Kusla pointed his chin at the furnace.
“Add some coal. The furnace is cooling.”
Fenesis was about to scamper over, but she immediately gave up.”
She slowly tottered over, took some coal out from the wooden box, and added it into the fire.
“Well, refining iron has always been something like this. It’s because of this that I don’t understand at all.”
Fenesis peeked at Kusla.
“I have been reflecting on everything that happened, a technique that is filled with feelings.”
Irine obstinate refusal; Sophites’ words.
As Weyland said, this world was cruel and heartless, never once remembering the feelings of anyone.
“Refining and smelting itself is a lonely job. Techniques are techniques, just a mean for the objective. I;m guessing that it isn’t a feeling that isn’t so simple that it’s obvious. If there is something that can be conveyed, all that is is probably hard work that makes people go ‘ahh, this will be tough on us.”
Fenesis averted her eyes, seemingly pondering; her beast ears were twitching, and this probably was the same as Kusla’s habit to stroke his chin whenever the latter was thinking.
“But this is just the hard work when it comes to refining iron. Not feelings.”
Kusla cupped his handsbehind his head, and leaned on the wall.
“Or maybe it is because I am ‘Interest’ (Kusla) that I don’t understand?”
Fenesis muttered in a pouting manner, his breath blowing off his fringe.
Fenesis stared at Kusla blankly, “erm” and softly whispered,
Kusla looked back at her, and she immediately shrank back, lowering her head.
He let out a sigh, and asked, “Now what?”
“I-I only saw the text.”
She was shivering as she answered, and she continued on tentatively,
“I’m not angry. I just don’t understand what you are saying. What are you referring to?”
Fenesis pulled her chin back in, and shrank back, her eyes looking up.
She involuntarily reached her arms out.
“The thoughts…in the technique?”
Fenesis noted, unconfident in her words.
“I read the papers you gathered and brought from the Guild…”
Kusla looked down at the work desk.
“Yes. Actually, I asked Mr Weyland a few questions.”
Kusla’s face nearly became sullen the moment he heard Fenesis add the suffix ‘Mister’ to Weyland. Of course, as he was ‘interest’ in human form, his face remained stoic throughout.
“I asked about refining on a large scale, turning an entire hill into a furnace, something like that.”
Alchemists like Kusla would never be able to do this.
However, what was Fenesis trying to get at?
Kusla was simply curious about this, and he looked over at Fenesis. The latter was fiddling the hem of her hemp-made work clothes with her fingers, and, finally determined, she said,
“I think it’s really something amazing.”
Kusla wanted to continue on, and after a pause, he said,
“Yeah, it really is something amazing.”
Fenesis looked somewhat skeptical as she stared back.
Those eyes of hers were clearly implying that he never did understand what she was saying.
“Erm, that is not what I was saying.”
“I-I was talking about the time when we were refining zinc.”
Fenesis’ words increasingly aroused Kusla’s skepticism.
As Kusla frowned, Fenesis could not help but grimace.
It seemed she felt awkward about what she was thinking, but at this point, dithering would only cause one feel jumpy, so she said,
“I had fun, refining zinc.”
“Yes…you were literally spacing out back then.”
“Hm? Ahh, Sorry for the little teasing. So, what are you getting at?”
“Erm…we-well-well, back then, but…I…”
One had to wonder whether she was feeling confused, for her voice trailed off at the end.
However, Kusla got the feeling that she was simply lacking in confidence.
Fenesis had something she wanted to say.
Sighing, Kusla stomped.
Fenesis’ body trembled, but her eyes were not daunted as they looked at Kusla.
“That it is really wonderful for everyone to complete something together.”
Fenesis’ eyes were green, her pretty hair was white, and even her beast ears had white fur upon them.
She had no home, no hometown, and spent her entire life fleeing from persecution, drifting around until this got to this place.
Perhaps it was because of this, that everything at this place was so new to her, that she was able to figure out the truth from something Kusla took for granted.
“After asking the question, I began to think when refining. I-I don’t know what method that lady at the Guild knows, but if that is something that can’t be completed alone, something that can only be done by working together with people important to her, I won’t tell yyou even if I’m violently treated.”
“Aren’t you telling that to me now?”
Kusla chuckled, but his eyes remained on Fenesis throughout.
And Fenesis met him in the eyes, saying,
“I-I…learned a lot of things over here, and I’m really happy about this. If I’m to recall them one day, these will definitely be wonderful memories to me.”
“Don’t say that now.”
Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Fenesis went quiet.
However, Kusla felt an inexplicable throbbing in his heart.
For Fenesis’ viewpoint was one he never thought of.
And if he was to follow this trail of thought, there would appear a proof that would convince him that it was the truth.
Completing something with everyone was truly something wonderful.
Everyone? Completing? Something?
What did Irine say to Kusla?
Selfish people like you will never be able to accomplish anything.
Kusla ignored the last of Fenesis’ words that were akin to a flickering flame, and sielntly pondered.
It was the right direction. Certainly there was no doubt about it.
He was confident.
That was the crux linking Sophites’ words to Irine’s thoughts. If Stibnite had to be added to increase the malleability of iron, there had to be some additive added so that the iron would be strong no matter how it was hit. In any case, such a technique inplicated somebody really important to Irine, and also involved honor, the attribute, most valued in town.
In that case, what exactly was such a technique? At the very least, he could understand that this wasn’t some major work that could be completed alone. As Sophites had said, he himself could not do it, but Irine could create that Damascus Steel.
Kusla recalled all the techniques that were researched.
There had to be people helping, and yet, this was a technique that could be completed alone.
If it was not something that was really physical, or something that required a lot of work.
What was left was…
The original materials required to make a certain something.
Right when Fenesis was about to speak up,
Kusla felt something flash in his mind.
“Ahh, I see. So that’s how it is.”
He completely ignored Fenesis, and strode across the workshop in large steps.
He stood in front of the vessel placed by the furnace.
Contained inside it was the iron extraced from ores of different kinds, from all kinds of places. ores that an Alchemist workshop would surely have.
He recalled the unique attributes of Damascus Steel. What kind of features were there? What kind of metal was it?
He turned his head around, and Fenesis shrank back in shock.
Taking a deep breath, he declared,
Fenesis widened her eyes, and Kusla said.
“Those guys once had their own Magdala too.”
He looked outside the window.
It was dark, real dark, yet there was the color of dawn there.
“What do you intend to do now?”
“I’m going to the Guild now.”
“Eh, erm, it’s still night…”
“Blacksmiths have early mornings, and even when they can’t see their own outstretched fingers, it’s morning. Of course, it won’t be too early.”
“I’m going too!”
Fenesis adamantly answered.
“There’s still some iron left, you know?”
Kusla asked. That stumped her, but she immediately pulled herself together.
“Th-this is an issue of priorities.”
Kusla chuckled, and glanced aside at the furnace. It was probably fine to leave it as itt was.
Also, he had no intention of remaining there for long. Surely he would force Irine to succumb this time.
“Now then, hurry up and get changed.”
While Fenesis stopped, Kusla shrugged and said,
“I’ll reward you. Think of whatever you want–other than dolls.”
Fenesis did not reply, merely showing a half-smile of disgust on her face, and dashed up the stairs.
Watching her leave, Kusla’s mind was filled with ironic thoughts.
Was he really an alchemist who did not comprehend the human heart, only moving forward towards his objective?
Maybe I should be turning in my name ‘Kusla’ now. He thought.
The outside was terrifyingly cold.
The stars were like snowflakes, still flickering in the night sky. Simply sniffing at the cold air alone would render anyone sober.
Kusla and Fenesis passed through what remained a dark alley, heading towards the Guild building.
Fenesis actually had a little rest while doing her refining work, but she did not actually recover much. Her legs gave out a few times, and she stumbled forward, certainly not because the road was too dark.
Kusla reached his hand out, and after some hesitation, Fenesis grabbed his hand.
Her hands were a little coarse, probably due to the refining work she had to do that caused blisters on her hands.
“I thought of the past.”
Fenesis felt that something was amiss, and gave such a look at Kusla.
Kusla walked on, muttering,
“I remember the days back then, when I was serving my apprenticeship with Weyland.”
“Back then, I was living my life as how it is right now, living in perpetual darkness. All that back then was for something you might frown upon after hearing.”
Fenesis stared at Kusla, looking perplexed as to why the latter would mention such a thing now.
“However, this is the key to solving this.”
Kusla said as he lifted Fenesis hand. Her hand was so white, the color contrast between them was striking.
“I’ve been working alone in the workshop for a very long time, so I kept forgetting.”
The white breath gently vanished behind them, and the commonplace things faded away like the breath.
Suddenly, the tranquility was broken as they arrived at the street. Unlike the alley from before, the sky was already brightened, even though the morning sun was yet to raise, and the streets were lighted up. Despite this, there were torches lit along the streets, and toiling hard are the merchants preparing for the markets, and the fishermen at their boats, getting into positions.
Kusla let go of Fenesis’ hand, for he probably felt that there was no need to lead her anymore, and at the same time, he felt that an Alchemist should not be holding a young girl’s hand while walking down the street.
Thinking about this alone was a refreshing feeling to him. If he was not like this, perhaps he would have realized the answer from the hints Sophites provided.
Kusla hummed in his heart as he walked on, and soon, they arrived at the Guild house.
After some thought, Kusla stopped in his tracks, “Hm?” while Fenesis remained skeptical, he led her to a side alley.
Fenesis was giving an uneasy look, probably due to a gaudy misunderstanding as she was led to this place devoid of people. Kusla invariably had the impulse to tease her, but for the time being, he held it in.
“First, we’ll have a look at the situation. It’ll be tough to do this if there are still Masters around. You don’t want this to get out of hand, don’t you?”
In the end, Kusla could not help himself as he teased her. Fenesis immediately scowled, wanting to chide Kusla, but was left with no enthusiasm as she sighed in a lethargic manner.
All that were left were those green eyes giving a pouting vibe,
“You really are an Alchemist.”
“…I feel that there is something in those words. What is it?”
In the face of Kusla’s question, Fenesis sighed, and said,
“Like a child.”
Fenesis actually mentioned those words
However, Kusla merely watched the Guild entrance, “Un.” and nodded away.
At that moment, there was a yawning man, dressed in blacksmith clothes entering the Guild. Once the doors opened, he greeted the people inside, and after some laughter, the doors were closed. The masters would gather at the Guild every morning like this to socialize with their peers, or to settle work matters.
If one looked closely, he might find a few Guilds being the same.
Such was the scenery of a morning in town, and surely, it would be the same every day in the future.
“You’ll understand once you have a little look.”
Kusla quickly said, and Fenesis naturally did not look really exhilarated.
Instead, she sighed blankly, and let out a soft sneeze.
“Need me to get you some wine? Looks like we’ll have to keep waiting for a while.”
Fenesis rubbed her hands, and shook her head,
“I’ll fall asleep after drinking.”
“…Yes, and you’ll go on a drunken stupor.”
Fenesis looked visibly annoyed, turning her head with disdain.
However, as she did so, she said something that took Kusla by surprise.
“Maybe, once I get drunk, I might talk incessantly.”
Kusla looked dumbfounded. Such words definitely should not be said during supervision.
“What do you mean?”
“What you just said,”
“…Don’t talk like that.”
“You aren’t teasing me here, right?”
She butted back.
Kusla appeared to be on the verge of bursting into laughter.
“Now then, what do you want to say? Keep talking.”
Kusla hated having his emotions exposed, so he turned his eyes towards the Guild. The master just now appeared to be having a nap, but it seemed it would take a little while longer before they could end the morning meetings.
“You told me to think of what I wanted back then.”
“Well, yes, I did. What do you want? That viewpoint is worth praising, as amazing as turning copper into brass using zinc.”
The latter half of the praise sounded so deliberate.
Kusla heard the sound of clothes rubbing behind him, and it seemed Fenesis was twitching her body in displeasure.
“Please listen to me seriously.”
Kusla said, and Fenesis let out a fatigued sigh.
Perhaps she was thinking about that it would be futile for her to say anything to this Alchemist.
“Can I really have what I want?”
Kusla could not help but look back, for he could hear something abnormal in Fenesis’ voice.
Fenesis’ green eyes were staring at Kusla intently.
“You said it before. I don’t know what I really want.”
Kusla glanced at the Guild once, before looking back at Fenesis again.
His body tilted over, indicating that he was really paying attention.
“So, I’ve been thinking all this while.”
“Was that why you tripped over?”
It was at such moments where she could be astoundingly honest.
But she again said,
“Can I really make any wish?”
Even in this darkness, Fenesis was so white nobody could simply laugh it off.
Kusla stared at Fenesis.
And then, he nodded,
“Find out the thing you really desire most. When you do that, you’ll naturally find all kinds of different scenes. We call this Magdala. In this world that is like lead, that is the only beacon that keeps us going forward.”
“Like precious metals?”
One had to wonder if she spent time to find this term on a book, or that she heard from Weyland.
In any case, Fenesis really did adapt well to the workshop.
“Yes, but, of course, there are things that I can’t do. For example, I can’t get you a large gemstone. Also…if you say that you want complete freedom, I’ll be worried about that. You understand?”
Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Fenesis widened her eyes slightly, looking a little dumbfounded.
“That isn’t it.”
“Oh…well, I won’t stop you from wishing for what you want. No matter how ridiculous or otherworldly it is, I won’t stop you. I’ll only do that when I find that isn’t what you’re really wishing for. If you say something like hoping for the Choir’s recognition back then, I’ll stop you.”
Fenesis cringed back unhappily.
Kusla then chuckled, saying,
“Also, us Alchemists can smell each other out to see if we’re of the same breed.”
Kusla bent over, trying to bring his face to the back of Fenesis’ neck. The latter was probably used to this, for she quickly evaded it, and pushed Kusla off.
“Let’s do this then!”
Kusla straightened himself, and looked at Fenesis.
It did not appear that Fenesis intended to lie or say any random thoughts she just so happened to think of, and she did not appear to be putting up a front to defend herself. She looked really tense, her face frozen, her breathing light and finicky. The ears under the veil were pricking, clearly showing how nervous she was.
She was serious.
For the first time in her life, Fenesis might have thought of something she really wanted.
“Just a question, mind telling me what that wish is?”
Kusla asked, and for some reason, Fenesis shrank back.
Then, she shook her head like a little child.
“I-I’ll tell you when the time is right.”
It might be a little too much of a fuss, but perhaps she was really embarrassed after all.
Kusla did not tease her however, and did not find her to be childish.
It might be something awkward to ignore the surrounding stares and desire something from the bottom of the heart.
Kusla recalled his own situation being the same.
“That’s the only thing I won’t lie about.”
Kusla said, and chuckled.
Fenesis gave Kusla a blank stare, and frantically shook her head.
I wasn’t bluffed. Fenesis might be whispering this to herself. Kusla was not peeved about this, and after a little chuckle, he watched the Guild again.
Fenesis had a wish.
What exactly was it? He wondered.
“Mind giving me a clue?”
Kusla asked, and heard some light breathing from her.
“I came here, following my priorities.”
Kusla looked back, andd though Fenesis appeared to be shriveling slightly, her eyes were fixtated on him.
“You can be quite a person if you aren’t afraid.”
Chuckling, Kusla nodded, and though Fenesis seemed miffed about it, you might be right about it, she seemed to have admitted it.
Such an interesting fellow.
However, Kusla immediately shut his heart with a smile on his face.
As he muttered, the doors opened in front of him, and the masters walked out.
Some were greeting each other, some were yawning, but almost all were headed to the blacksmith street. The others heading elsewhere probably had to purchase materials, or had other matters to attend to.
Kusla calmly counted the people.
The crowd quick dissipated.
The last to exit was Irine.
She waved goodbye to the masters on both sides, cheering on the men who obviously looked sleepy.
However, there were only twelve who came out.
So did that mean there were a few more masters?
Amongst the masters who left, Ings was not one of them, and neither were the people who were with him on that day.
There would be a few who would not attend, either because they were out of town, or that they did not want to dine with a cruel widow like Irine.
Wolson said that Irine was not that kind of lady.
Kusla too felt the same.
But even so, he would not do anything that would defy his beliefs.
The last of the masters vanished into crowd before him, and Irine, who kept waving till that point, suddenly put her hand down, let out a long sigh, and turned to return to the Guild.
A forlorn sigh.
“Now then, let’s go.”
Kusla said, and exited the alley.
Fenesis remained speechless as she followed him.
Once the doors opened, Irine was left defenseless as she cleared the dishes, looking back at Kusla and Weyland.
It appeared that she had yet to comprehend just who was standing there.
But the moment she reacted, she did not lash out or anything.
The glow vanished from her eyes, and she continued to clean up the cutlery silently. It appeared that she decided to ignore them.
“Aren’t you going to say ‘aren’t you really free for 3 straight days’?”
“Aren’t you really free for 3 straight days?”
Irine retorted without looking at Kusla, and brought the cutlery into the inner room.
The cutlery were all porcelain, as to be expected of a rich Guild.
Kusla snorted, pulled out a chair from a table that was not in use, and sat on it.
This one table was not used at all.
Surely it was like this every day.
However, each table was polished so brightly, and they were tended to as though the room was packed with people.
When seen up close, it might appear to be a touching scene of hard work.
However, for those who remained skeptical that her marriage was for conniving reasons, that hard work was just a show.
“Looks like there are quite a lot of tidy tables.”
When the opponent remained aloof, one had to hit her right where it hurt.
Irine returned, and for a moment, stopped her hands; it appeared it really hurt hurt.
“…There are quite a few masters eating with their apprentices recently.”
Kusla deliberately raised his tone, and Irine again stopped her hands.
She looked dazed as she looked elsewhere, and after several seconds, she looked at Kusla again.
“If you want me to hate you, beat me, why don’t you? If you’re lucky, you can get some of God’s forgiveness from that Sister over there, huh? Learn from the Pagans and do whatever you want!”
Irine’s eyes were as searing as her hair color as she lashed out at Kusla.
And Kusla took Irine’s lashing head on, slowly closing his eyes.
Fenesis looked really uneasy, but it appeared she understood that she could not interrupt.
Kusla lightly inhaled, and opened his eyes.
“This is a mean I’ll only use at the last moment, but I have a promise with Mr Sophites.”
“I had dinner with him yesterday. He treated me to quail meat.”
Kusla stood up, and Irine looked wary as she shriveled.
However, Kusla did not mind her reaction, instead moving towards a table where the dishes were not cleared from.
There was still scraps of sausages on the table, and Kusla suddenly reached out for one, picked it up, and ate it.
“Such a fine sausage. To be expected of the Guild.”
“…What did you discuss with grand–Master Sophites?”
Kusla remained so calm and poised, and Irine put on a furious facade to hide the uneasiness as she said this, for she feared that Kusla exacted violence on Sophites.
“Well, this certainly is delicious, but anyone will want to eat food they made, and not the leftovers from others. That was what we were discussing about.
Kusla sat on the table.
“You did tell off Ings and the others, didn’t you?”
Irine wanted to let out an instinctively growl, only to stop midway through.
She gulped, suppressing her raging emotions, and eked her voice,
“What do you mean by that?”
“It is cruel of you to lambast them for their wishes to head to the New World.”
Irine gasped, and her face was flushed due to anger,
“Someone who doesn’t understand anything about honor has no right to talk about this.”
“Maybe. I’m not a blacksmith. But, I do think that I understand a person’s dreams better than anyone else.”
Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Irine averted her eyes for an instant.
Kusla closed his eyes again
And then, while his eyes remained closed, he said,
“Stop fooling yourself.”
Kusla opened his eyes, and he saw Irine being a bird eyed by a hunting dog.
“I do agree that Ings and the others don’t know anything about honor. However, the reason why you feel this way definitely isn’t because they want to leave this town.”
Irine’s mouth was slightly opened, but she immediately closed it again.
Surely she wanted to ask the basis of those words,
“I have a basis for this. If you feel that Ings and the others hoping to leave is damaging to honor, you won’t be able to protect Robert and Sophites and the others.”
“They were also immigrants into this town, and to them, they had to leave their howntowns, so that would mean they are traitors, no? Of course, maybe the reason they left is that there are too many blacksmiths, or that there was something they found unpalatable. But, what is the reason behind that? Isn’t living on a miry life without a purpose also a reason why it is unpalatable? Why can you reprove them for such a reason.”
Kusla said this, but in fact, most of the people in town would say, wanting to venture into the turbulent new world was not a reason to be impatient, and that they should stay buckled to Order instead.
However, Alchemists were a bunch of people who would abandon such common sense, and zealously pursue their dreams, not letting go of it.
Humans would typically have such tendencies.
And if there was nothing to protect, it would be easier to move on.
Robert and Sophites’ wives died before them.
“No then, what do you think the honor they ‘lack’ is about? Try talking to Ings for a while, and you’ll understand. What they lack isn’t honor, but restraint.”
Irine’s face froze, and she slowly pulled her back in.
However, she did not refute.
“Those people really have no reservations. You can tell from their eyes that are not exposed to the outside world; they have tunnel vision, only able to see what is in front of them. They thought of Wolson’s words, and came interrogating you without holding back. When they failed, they went on to request an Alchemist. I don’t deny that they should do whatever they could to achieve their aims, but there has to be a priority to this. Only by doing things in steps will they be able to go further, to be able to anchor themselves onto this world, and to continue forward without stopping. We should be respecting those people for that.”
Kusla said, and paused,
“Those people don’t have an aim, no standards to bind their actions to. Also–”
Kusla stood on the table, and pointed his chin,
“You don’t have one right now.”
“Wha-what are you saying right now?”
Irine wanted to back away, but her body knocked into a table.
Kusla shrugged, and sighed.
He shook his head in reluctance, probably deliberately.
“But unlike the young lady seated there, you still have a slightly functioning brain.”
Irine warily shielded herself, but even she could not hide the uneasiness in her heart as she watched Fenesis, who was teased by Kusla. At this moment, looking away would be akin to admitting defeat.
“You’re smart, you know your own circumstances, and you know where to go to. However, you know that you lack something decisive, and that’s why you kept going for second best instead.”
Kusla stepped forward, and Irine could only shrivel.
However, it appeared she did not think of going around the table.
Perhaps she subconsciously realized that she had nowhere to go to.
“Sophites said that our dreams can be fulfilled, but yours can’t. That is why you didn’t tell me the method to create Damascus Steel.”
“And currently, the method to smelt Damascus…no, that old man said that is was a creation. He said that there are only two people who knows how to create it. One of them is old, unable to do it. In other words, the only one I can request this from is you.”
Irine remained speechless.
However, Kusla did not mind as he carried on,
“Also, he said something strange back then. If we discover the secret to Damascus Steel and get chosen as part of the first batch of migrants, I’m to take Irine along–that means you, and leave this town. This really is a strange proposition.”
Kusla continued forward, and Irine could not stop him from closing in.
At this point, the distance between them was just a matter of two people’s heights.
“But now I understand the reason why he said that. The problem here isn’t about getting the answers by following the clues, but to understand a little and let it all clear up, like a chain. In most situations, it is because someone misunderstood a certain something that caused matters to become like this. For example…”
Kusla finally took a step forward, and looked down on her as he appeared to be covering her. Irine reached her hand out to shove Kusla.
However, Kusla grabbed her hand, and forcefully shoved it onto her neck, pushing her down.
“What you really desire here,”
The table shook, and Irine appeared to be grabbing her own neck.
“What you really desire definitely isn’t something like this…”
Irine ontinued to suffer without looking away from Kusla, let alone fighting back. She appeared to be tormented by illness, a patient waiting for release.
“What you desire is really something simple, but this isn’t something you can solve yourself. What you desire is to complete something with someone else.”
Kusla said, and let go.
“In other words, something that requires the knowledge and strengths of others.”
“This is the secret of Damascus Steel, I suppose.”
Kusla got up, and looked at Fenesis.
It seemed Fenesis wanted to say something, but she clenched her fists, and held back.
Kusla sighed, and while Irine relaxed as she laid prone on the table, facing up, he said to her,
“They gathered the skills, tools, materials, blacksmiths and everything else together for the sake of brainstorming a way to be chosen as the migrants, and created the legendary metal. This is something that can only happen by gathering people, who would never work together, to accomplish. This is the reason why you froze when I asked about how to create Damascus Steel, no? Damascus Steel is something that can’t be smelted.”
The legendary metal was a creation of blacksmiths, unable to live on as they were, gathering together to find an exit.
The fact that this place did not become a major production field for Damascus Steel itself vindicated Kusla’s view. The metal Robert and the others created was probably only similar to Damascus Steel, and not the real one. Anything fabled, or lost in history would have counterfeits, and Damascus Steel was no exception. Kusla did see wandering conmen selling dyed metals.
However, Robert and the others had no choice but to do this. In other words, they had no intention of create a counterfeit, just their prides as blacksmiths, and created an intricate replica to fool the Knights, only to never work on it again. There was a key difference between them and conmen, that they had clear standards, judging what should be more valuable to them.
As almost had ever seen Damascus Steel before, they probably faced a huge temptation to earn lots of money by creating it over and over again.
But they never did, and basically, it was a plan they had when they were at their wits end. If they made it once, the Guild that valued honor highly would forgive them. Irine understood the feelings of Robert and the other seniors more than anyone else, and because she felt the same, she probably did not want anyone else to use this for personal profit.
That was why she insisted on taking second best.
She took on the role of being Guild leader, and made everyone work hard together. This was a little different from her original wish, but the fact that everyone worked hard together remained the same.
Certainly, the reason why Irine was deemed a conniving widow was because everyone saw that she was lying to herself. Just like what Kusla said to Fenesis, people could vaguely smell if someone did not do anything on their own will. This was not exactly a specialty Alchemists had. Irine knew nobody would visit, yet she cleaned the Guild so nicely, it was deliberate. One could tell that she was fooling herself.
Insistence could kill.
However, why was it that Irine remained so insistent on completing something with someone else? If one was to deduce the answer, he would find that there was a reason for that insistence. Kusla understood such a person so well.
“You’re an orphan, aren’t you?”
Kusla said to Irine, and then, he heard Fenesis let out a startled voice.
Irine did not answer.
“I don’t know what circumstances you were in back in your hometown…but I can imagine that you came to this town alone, wanting to rely on your compatriots, and you came to Robert’s place uninvited, and worked hard there. Maybe Robert remarried after so many years because of lust, as the people say, but he also wanted to entrust the Guild to you. Those born in this town, those blacksmiths that are like bred sheep, will never be able to protect what he created.”
Sophites berated Robert for making such a trivial request, for it would shackle certain people.
“It seemed he also told you to be wary of Alchemists.”
Irine covered her face with both hands, and sobbing could be heard.
With a pained look on her face, Fenesis approached.
But Kusla kicked Irine, perhaps trying to wake her up.
Irine timidly stared at Kusla, and one could see the tear-stained face through the gaps between her fingers.
Kusla curled his lips into a smirk, saying,
“So, are you going to create that Damascus Steel?”
“We want to go to the land of Magdala no matter what.”
One had to wonder how long Kusla and Irine remained silent.
However, Irine moved her arms, covering her eyes, and when they remained visible again, he could see something raging and burning inside.
“I have…a question…”
Irine asked as she faced up, hiccupping from time to time, probably a habit of hers whenever she cried.
“Grandpa…what did he say, about me?”
Kusla snorted, backed off, and turned around.
Leaving these words behind, he pointed his chin at Fenesis.
Fenesis looked worried for Irine, but it seemed she had realized something as she obediently teetered to the Guild doors, where Kusla was.
Having said all he had to, Kusla had already set the firestarters, and enough coal and wood.
All that was needed was for the fire to blame, metal to ooze.
But when Kusla placed his hand on the door, Fenesis placed hers on the bellows.
Her voice was so soft it was unbefitting of this occasion.
But it appeared Irine heard it.
“What it is?”
Fenesis hesitated, but after that, she finally summoned some courage, saying.
“There is still happiness in this world…”
Even if the materials were the same, the methods differed, and what may be obtained will be different.
Even though Irine did not know about Fenesis, she could sense something from the latter’s words.
“It is written in the Bible–”
Irine watched Fenesis.
“Ask and it will be given to you.”
One had to wonder if Irine smiled after hearing those words.
But Fenesis turned to look at Kusla, and like a little girl pretending to be an adult, that solemnt expression of hers seem to imply, my advice can help too.
Kusla tilted his head, and opened the door.
The frigid air and the bustling atmosphere of the town struck him immediately, but Kusla narrowed his eyes not simply because of this.
There were two people standing in the opposite corner of the street.
There was Weyland, warming himself with a flickering flame, and Sophites, holding a cane as he watched Kusla.
“Looks like your plan to strike first failed.”
Kusla said after crossing the street, and Weyland sneered.
“This is an assist~”
It was likely Weyland realized the fake Damascus Steel when he watched Fenesis smelt the iron.
But Weyland did not know Irine, so he certainly sensed that it was easier to talk to Sophites than Irine. In other words, he knew that if Kusla had the same conclusion, he would surely head to Irine.
Thus, he visited Sophites, timed the moment when Kusla and Fenesis would be able to convince Irine, and brought Sophites along.
They were thinking for their own sakes, yet their actions were unexpectedly similar.
Even during their apprenticeship, this was the case.
And some things were simply long forgotten.
“Well, what about Irine?”
Sophites said some antiquated words.
“She’s not a foolish girl.”
Sophites chuckled, tapped Kusla’s leg with his cane, and crossed the street before entering the Guild.
Once he saw Irine, he would be able to determine how violently she was treated. There was no need to worry however; a blacksmith’s violence in the workshop could be way beyond this.
“Now then, I’m going back to the workshop to sleep~”
Weyland said with a huge yawn, and then asked, “What do you two intend to do~”
His inclusion of Fenesis was his way of indicating that he would not be bothering Fenesis anymore.
Kusla glanced at Fenesis beside him, answering,
“All things come to those who wait.”
Weyland shrugged, giving a wry smile.