[Magdala V3] Act 3

Kusla was confident that he was able to remain calm in most situations. Despite his lover being murdered when he went out and indulged himself in wine, he was able to maintain a calm facade.

However, there was a limit to his composure.

Amongst the trio, the first to speak up was Fenesis.

“Congrat…ulations?”

The sentence became a question at the very end, and certainly, it was a line typical of Fenesis to say.

“Hey, enough with the jokes already. You’re getting married? To whom?”

Kusla was not implying that a fool would fall in love with Weyland. They were alchemists, and alchemists typically would not marry.

“She’s a noble Princess~”

Kusla did not panic once he saw Weyland answer no nonchalantly, and instead, he calmed down.

“…What’s going on?”

Kusla asked, and a vague smile appeared on Weyland’s face. He sighed lightly, and returned to the chair beside him.

“She originally said she had some gemstones with her, and invited me over to prospect…”

“So you ended up casting aside those gemstones and fell in love with her?”

Kusla was flabbergasted as he said this, and Weyland shrugged.

“She’s the one who proposed`”

Seeing the undaunted look, Kusla inadvertently felt a migraine.

“Know your limits. I guess since she doesn’t have an eye for men however, just got to say that she’s delusional.”

“That’s too much~”

Kusla assumed that by humoring Weyland, the latter would continue to joke as before. However, once Weyland said that, he slowly bent down.

“You’re right. But she’s a smart one. She went to voice her complaints to Autris.”

“…Autris?”

“Right. Alchemists can’t marry, and she’s a noble, which makes it even more impossible. Things got simple then. Just say that I’m not an alchemist.”

“What?”

Weyland straightened himself, and spread his arms wide as though he had given up.

“That Princess said that I’m not an alchemist.”

“But,”

Aren’t we alchemists? While Kusla was about to answer with a rhetoric, he realized..

He recalled the heinous stare from Autris back then.

And Weyland looked perturbed.

“Hm, but even if they say that they want me to prove myself as an alchemist, I can’t do or say anything here, and it’s troublesome. Furthermore, the blacksmith guild seems to have an unanimous decision in deciding that I’m a blacksmith~.”

Weyland’s stare was then directed at Irine.

Irine was flabbergasted as she heard the sudden news, and finally reacted.

“En-enough with those foolish words. How can our people possibility accept you?”

“No, that’ll depend on the situation, doesn’t it~”

“What do you mean?”

While Irine asked again, Kusla said,

“Autris probably told those useless people of yours that Weyland is a blacksmith, and got them to recognize him as the guild leader or something.”

“Your guess is right. Think about it. I remember there’s a few foolish ones who discussed the matter of Damascus Steel with Kusla back then, right?”

After hearing Kusla and Weyland talk, Irine frowned hard, and lowered her shoulders in dejection.

“It’s painful imagining that again…”

“On the bright side, you can think about how you’re going to leave this town, right?”

“…I don’t want to be consoled by you now.”

Kusla shrugged, and looked at Weyland.

“But you can just ignore these words then, right?”

Weyland gave a frivolous look as he sat on the chair, and at the same time, looked so frivolous.

This in turn caused Kusla to be skeptical. What was he being serious about?

“Things aren’t that simple here. We pulled a fast one on Autris in the Damascus Steel matter, and he has a grudge against us. He requested the Azami’s Crest to strike my name off the list of people headed to Kazan as I’m supposedly not an alchemist.”

Autris came to this town with the intention of leashing two young alchemists, but Kusla’s group managed to con their way past them, and escaped from his management. To him, it was no different from a slap in the face.

As payback, he seized the opportunity to restrain these two alchemists in this town, even if it was Weyland himself. Kusla too could understand this method.

“What did those people at the Azami’s Crest say?”

Weyland chuckled,

“Just as what that bastard Autris said, prove myself as an alchemist. In other words, they want me to send him a sword of Damascus Steel.”

But if they were to oblige this time, the Damascus Steel would gradually be mass produced, and the chances of it be exposed as a counterfeit would increase greatly. The worst case scenario would be the Archduke having them assassinated to preserve the value of the sword in his hands.

Weyland probably realized that too, and thus, never showed any intent to replicate it again.

“Then how are you going to prove that you’re an alchemist?”

“You should have seen Autris’ expression when he said that~.”

Surely he knew it was impossible, and thus he posed this difficult trial.

There was no way to actually prove who a person was.

Thus, there was something called a letter of introduction. An experienced blacksmith would dance something only a blacksmith would know, and people needed such things to prove their identity. Despite this, without a person with some authority or an organization recognizing this, nobody in town would affirm this person’s identity.

And the Knights, who originally affirmed Weyland as an alchemist, insisted that Weyland prove himself as an alchemist.

“He snickered and told me, how about you revive the dead? What was he saying, goodness~”

“…I see.”

Weyland let out a heavy sigh, and muttered,

“And…”

“Hm?”

“No…I never thought that Missy would be so interested in me.”

Saying that, Weyland stood up, and tumbled down the stairs.

“H-hey.”

“Let me have some time to myself.”

A weak voice could be heard from downstairs.

The remaining trio was stunned, unable to say anything, and Kusla was the first to speak up again.

“Imbecile.”

That was all he said.

“Ah, erm.”

Fenesis spoke up, seemingly released from the bind of a curse.

“If-if Weyland remains like this, will he?”

Well, yeah,  he won’t be able to go to Kazan. He’ll probably live a happy life in this town.”

Fenesis looked back and forth between Kusla and the stairs, and said,

“B-but Weyland wanted to go to Kazan so much.”

“Maybe. But he’s the one who did something stupid, and resulted in all this. Didn’t you hear him? No, I don’t think it’s a stupid thing. It’s marriage. Congratulations to him.”

Fenesis kept quiet, her eyes teary as she glared at Kusla.

“How cold of you. Aren’t you two colleagues?”

Irine folded her arms in front of her chest, her eyes narrowed at Kusla.

Kusla endured the stares of the two ladies, and was a little speechless as he cocked an eyebrow.

“Weyland never asked me for help.”

“…Well, if he told me that he wanted to make Damascus Steel, I’ll be conflicted too…but this means that you won’t help him?”

“Yes, but for a different reason.”

Irine was surprised by Kusla’s reply, and Fenesis kept staring at the stairs, expressing her concern for Weyland in her own sense.

This is troublesome, Kusla scratched his head, and explained,

“He said that she’s nobility of the town, didn’t he? A Princess, basically? And Autris too pulling the strings? These two are plotting to keep Weyland in town. Do you know what it means to oppose this? It’ll be equivalent to opposing the rulers of this town.”

“Ah.”

“And then, the Azami’s Crest forces will be heading North. This town Gulbetty will become an important stop between Kazan and the Southern towns. Those men of the Azami’s Crest don’t have the guts to overrule the people with power here, and they’ll continue moving North. We forced ourselves into the list by bribing them with Damascus Steel. We’re already having issues, and if more occur, they won’t go out of the way to protect us.”

Kusla sighed, and continued,

“Of course, that Autris should understand this well. If we do anything to help Weyland, he’s likely to start up a ruckus. What will the Azami’s Crest do? They’ll definitely abandon us. They’ll say ‘we can’t get in the way of Gulbetty’. And when that happens, what do we do? It’ll be difficult right? At this point, we don’t belong to this town anymore.”

Kusla deliberately posed this difficult question, and Fenesis immediately shrank back.

Irine was already on bad terms with the blacksmiths, and it was because she decided to pursue something she loved that she chose to leave with Kusla’s group.

“So Weyland has to deal with his own problem. Don’t get involved. If you do, we’ll lose out.”
Saying those words, Kusla went back to reading the book on extracting gold.

In this world, not being able to analyze the situation would cause one to sink beyond redemption, but analyzing the mistake will also cause one to fall into Hell. Kusla too never expected Weyland to be entangled this way. The latter should have known that fooling around like this would cause troubles, let alone a Princess.

He reaped what he sowed, and Kusla had no reason to help him. Furthermore, doing so would drag him down, which was another reason not to.

Besides, Weyland was not at a dead end. He had his own way of getting out of this.

In this awkward silence, Fenesis and Irine were anxiously fretting over whether they should head downstairs. At this moment, Weyland took his pitifully little bit of luggage up, and intended to walk out of the workshop.

Speaking up this time was Fenesis,

“Erm, where, are you going?”

Weyland gave a listless smile, and said,

“Hm…well, talk it out.”

In the end, he simply needed to break ties with that woman. That was all he could do.

All the developments had been logical.

Kusla practically could not be bothered to look at Weyland.

Fenesis and Irine watched him leave, and the workshop went quiet.

Both of them probably felt that Kusla’s explanation was illogical. Unable to accept this, they slowly went back to their work.

Kusla snorted softly.

There were no problems at all.

 

Weyland left the workshop, and never returned. The next morning, a soldier sent by the Azami’s Crest visited the workshop. The vanguard forces had arrived, so they were going to put their luggage into the empty carriage.

As the term implied, the vanguard were the ones who will reach the destination first. It seemed the commander did arrange for them to be part of the vanguard. If they were moving along with the rest who were first in moving to the town, the chances of them encountering pagan knowledge in Kazan would increase.

Of course, the Herald probably did so out of political concern, to lend a favor to Kusla and gain back collateral later on.

With this matter happening to Weyland, Kusla felt that it was a huge favor that the Herald would still make such arrangements.

It was a common tactic of them to give others an annoyingly large favor.

“There’s really a lot of items. How are we going to move them to the carriage?”

“We sent a wagon. First, we’ll bring it to the workshop. Anything valuable, don’t put them on the wagon. Or else we may have to tell you that we lost them.”

“Sorry to trouble you.”

Kusla originally assumed that the soldier would use this opportunity to ask for a bribe, but it appeared the Azami’s Crest forces were very disciplined. Other than those wearing chestplates and helmets like this soldiers, the others might be no different from bandits.

“Also, when you are done moving the luggage, please come to the inn. The Herald’s calling for you.”

Kusla instructed Fenesis and Irine.

It seemed they waited for Weyland till the middle of the previous night, and they were sleepy.

Kusla could only sigh. After seeing them move the luggage out, Kusla and the rest went over to where the Herald Alzen was.

He intended to go alone, but Fenesis and Irine insisted on going along too.

They probably wanted to listen in on Weyland’s situation. However, there was already a conclusion to this.

Kusla already knew that this was what Alzen wanted to discuss.

And thus, he showed no shock at all.

“Do anything to a Princess, and we’re lucky not to get the noose.”

Of course, they had no say to refute that line.

“But Weyland was once part of us here. If he gets people discussing, it’ll affect our honor. Anyway, we’ll have to ask His Highness for his opinion.”

Fenesis lifted her head, as though she saw a light of salvation, however, Alzen harshly notified them,

“However, my responsibility here is to settle every issue the corps have. Do understand the conseqeunces if you do anything that obstructs our movements.”

“Of course.”

Kusla replied with a grim look, and Fenesis lowered her head weakly.

“Our main forces will arrive tomorrow, or two days later, and we’ll begin to head North. Be obedient, and don’t get into trouble.”

Kusla bowed politely, prompted Irine and Fenesis, and was about to leave the room.

At this moment, Alzen said to him.

“Ahh, Kusla, right? Stay here for a moment.”

Kusla stopped in his tracks, and turned his head around reluctantly.

“What is it?”

After Irine and Fenesis left the room, Alzen replied to that question.

In other words, he did not want them to hear it.

“About that girl called Fenesis.”

Alzen briefly stated,

“We have done our investigations.”

Kusla shrugged, and the other party gave him and unexpectedly sharp stare.

Fenesis was viewed by the Knights as a cursed tool that could trigger an issue of faither, and those that knew of her true identity should only be limited to those in power, like Autris. However, to pave the path for his forces, Alzen naturally investigated about Kusla, and the process in which he got Fenesis.

“The countries in the North are barbarians who can’t understand the glory of the Knights. We have to have a tool that can easily shake the Pagans on appearance alone. In other words, while we aren’t sure whether a young alchemist like you are able to contribute, that young lady is different. Do you understand?”

There was a limited space on the wagon. If there were tools that could be used, and could not be used, they would sort them.

Fenesis’s appearance certainly could cause a major effect on the Northern lands. Without her, the Azami’s Crest would not bother to bring the problematic Kusla and the others to Kazan. While it seemed she was merely doing miscellaneous tasks in that workshop, but to the Knights, Fenesis was more valuable than Kusla, whom they could replace.

Everything was decided based on pros and corns, and the practicality.

However, they did not force Fenesis away from Kusla, definitely because the latter offered Damascus Steel. There was a possibility that they could replicate the Damascus Steel, so the Azami’s Crest would not cross the line.

This concerned Kusla’s own Magdala, so he had no intention of stepping aside no matter who it was.

Furthermore, Fenesis would definitely be suffering most when she was being manipulated.

However, Kusla naturally would not express his thoughts. With a stoic look, he tried to appeal to Weyland.

“Understood. That girl has some strange sympathy for Weyland anyway, so I’ll keep watch and make sure she doesn’t do anything funny. I too want…to go to Kazan after all.”

“…”

Alzen stared right at Kusla for a while, and averted his eyes.

“Good that you understand.”

“Pardon me.”

Kusla replied pretentiously, and Alzen waved his hand, shooing him like an insect.

Naturally, Kusla had no intention of staying for long, and thus, he hurriedly fade farewell, and left.

Soon after he opened the door and walked away, he found Fenesis and Irine standing there.

He did not say anything as Irine was there, but after seeing Fenesis, he sensed that she  probably eavesdropped on their conversation with her ears.

 

They returned to the workshop, and Irine went downstairs to remove the ash that was left after the steaming the previous day, so Kusla and Fenesis were left alone in the living room. Kusla gave a nonchalant look as he opened the book on how to extract gold, while Fenesis remained seated on the chair.

She really can’t hard her feelings, but that makes her cuter.

“Erm–”

“What?”

Kusla interrupted Fenesis, and the latter cringed immediately, but she did not keep remain quiet.

“Weyland.”

“Just give up.”

“…”

Kusla looked at her, and said,

“No, you still don’t understand? At this point, it’s better for you to pray.”

That kind of teasing tone probably annoyed Fenesis, for she raised her eyebrows and glared at him.

“You overheard our conversation, didn’t you?”

He stated brieftly, and Fenesis was honest in her response, taken aback.

Why is she still able to believe she can argue with me? Kusla could not understand.

“Then you should understand the reasoning now, right? No more of that now.”

Kusla went back to looking at the book, as though the matter had ended. However, Fenesis continued on with a trembling voice.

“I do understand the reasoning.”

“Then–”

“In other words, if I do not go to Kazan, neither will you.”

“…”

If they had been discussing about something else, Kusla would probably pat her on the head, saying Not bad.

And she would scowl, being all giddy with happiness while saying, Please do not make fun of me.

Kusla could easily imagine this scene, and thus, he felt really conflicted by Fenesis’ shallow thoughts.

“I told you not to express your true thoughts, didn’t I? If I had known you were so concerned about this, don’t you think that I’ll tie you up and throw you into the warehouse? Or are my words too difficult for you to understand?”

“!”

Fenesis stood up with a tense look. However, she sat on the chair again, probably because the long hem of her nun habit was hooked on somewhere.

Such a foolish girl.

Kusla was not in the mood to laugh.

“I understand how you feel about wanting to help weyland. Besides, he bought raisins for you.”

“I was not bribed by food–”

“But in any case, leave him alone. He deserves it. Most importantly, why do you want to be Weyland’s ally? Looking at that God’s teachings you kept nagging about, he committed adultery. Do you understand? Adultery.”

“I-I know that.”

Fenesis bit her lips hard, her face reddened due to the predicament.

Kusla wanted to continue nagging, but there was some truth to Fenesis’ words.

For the Azami’s Crest, Fenesis was the valuable one, and not Kusla. Kusla and the others simply managed to somehow buy the right to head to Kazan through that Damascus Steel.

And thus, Kusla gave Fenesis a somewhat serious look.

“Listen up. Weyland fell into the honey due to his own carelessness. The one who came up with that plan is Autris. He’s a shady one, and a smart bloke too. He caught that weakness of ours, and used the pride of the Knights and the excuse of the future developments to hold Weyland down. Autris gets to get back some pride after being bluffed by us. This is also a good chance for that noble Princess to owe him a favor. Autris is for real this time. If we force our way through this matter, we’ll just bring about misfortune.”

Fenesis was not a foolish one, and she probably could understand after some earnest, dedicated teaching.

Do you understand? With a skeptical look, Kusla looked at her, and she immediately cringed, glaring at Kusla.

“My misfortune…is not that I cannot go to Kazan.”

“…That’s a deep one.”

“Why?”

Fenesis said, and was silent.

“Hm?”

Kusla asked back, and Fenesis wiped her eyes, saying,

“Why are you able to remain so calm?”

“…Calm?”

“Y-yes. Why are you able, to remain, so calm, like you are counting something…”

“That’s because I understand how the world works. No matter how many hundreds of times this happens, my response shall always remain the same. I will never choose to help Weyland.”

That was the secret as to how Kusla was able to continue on to this point as an alchemist, not fall into any traps, and not deviate from the target. This probably was the only path leading to Magdala.

Whenever he acted on his feelings, whenever he got tripped up by the bonds, he would be further away from Magdala, and become a sacrifice to other people’s malice.

Kusla gently scratched the burn on the back of his neck, and said,

“You think I’m heartless, don’t you? But have you forgotten? I’m an Alchemist.”

There was no room to negotiate.

Fenesis probably realized this too, and she took a deep breath, the headpiece puffing as she exploded with this one line.

“You’re terrible!”

She toppled the chair, stood up, turned around, and ran to the bedroom.

She was a typical child who was overflowing with compassion, one who would cry seeing an abandoned pup, one who would shriek seeing a bird fall by a branch.

An ordinary person probably would hail her as kind. Unfortunately, this was an Alchemist’s workshop, so feared by the world. That kind of compassion was meaningless in such a place, and even detrimental.

Kusla watched Fenesis slam the door shut with all her might, and shrugged.

At the market, she demonstrated to Kusla what to do in order to survive, but that seemed to be limited to preparing for journeys. Meanwhile, Kusla could only leave Weyland’s situation aside. Only by living on heartlessly was he befitting of the nickname ‘Kusla’.

He did not think it was shameless to do this.

But the sudden stare towards him did not feel that way.

“Do I have to give you the same explanation?”

Kusla did not look at the stare, and Irine, peeking in from the stairs, poked her head out unwillingly.

“Grandpa always told me this.”

“What?”

“I have to be decisive when working.”

Irine sat on the stairs, not looking too friendly as she looked at Kusla, saying,

“Do one thing, and don’t hope to get the same results.”

“To be expected of that old man.”

Kusla was really impressed.

Irine did not look too proud however.

“Are you really going to abandon Weyland?”

“Don’t make it sound so bad.”

“But that’s it, isn’t it?”

Irine asked with a reproaching tone, and Kusla gave her a condescending look.

“Yes. Just as I walk by a man who fainted from hunger on the roadside.”

Any town would have such people, and the others would ignore. This seemed to have pricked Irine’s consciousness, and she frowned, but she did not back down.

“But Ul does seem to be serious about this.”

Irine had been calling Fenesis by her name, probably because that was what Weyland called her, or because their relationship improved over the past few days.

“And I’ve been thinking, is it really fine to go along with someone who’ll abandon his comrades at will?”

“But you have nowhere else to go now, don’t you?”

Irine let out an alluring smile.

“Worst case, I still have Damascus Steel to rely on.”

That thing could only be used once, and thus, it was effective.

And if anyone else knew that this could be replicated again, the risk would increase. Irine knew, but this was her final trump.

“Well…I’ll say what I really think. While I think you’re right on this one. I too came here because of a stubborn reason, so in any case, I can’t go back to the blacksmiths. I want to go to Kazan no matter what.”

Kusla closed the book, and stared right at Irine, asking,

“Something I want to ask. Why are you so biased towards Weyland?”

“What about you? Aren’t you friends?”

She answered Kusla with a question of her own, her face practically saying that if he did not answer this, she would never speak up. No matter how far she had fallen, she was one who was trained rigorously in a blacksmith’s workshop.

Kusla answered,

“To me, my definition of companions is, whether they are useful to me.”

“…How terrible to you.”

“Really? That’s still better than those who hold some vague ideals. They always yell companions here and there for no reason at all, only to betray and the crucial moment. The concept of value won’t betray though, and if they are useless, I can simply cast them aside. I won’t be betrayed due to annoyance, and I won’t reach my hands out because I like someone. Simple, and fair.”

Irine was at a loss of what to say.

She probably knew that talking ethics and morals to Kusla would not be effective.

“What about you? Smitten by Weyland?”

Hearing that, Irine finally stood up.

She snorted, and said,

“In a certain sense, maybe.”

She then continued,

“Before I came here, back when I was in the Guild, I thought he was just an evil man who just wanted to mate with women.”

To be expected of a blacksmith, the terms used were different.

“But you found yourself to be wrong after talking to him?”

Kusla noted sarcastically. Irine closed her eyes unhappily, and nodded unwillingly.

“He’s a kind one.”

“Only to women.”

“Better than someone who isn’t kind to anyone.”

Irine was no slouch at talking back.

That was why it was fun to talk to her. However, Kusla stopped joking, and got serious.

“Because I never expected that the serious Fenesis would be so protective of him.”

“…To be honest, this might sound like a complaint.”

Irine scratched her head.

After hesitating a little, she spoke,

“I guess I may be mesmerized by Weyland’s sweet talk too.”

“Oho?”

“I asked him why he was always spending so much effort wooing girls, and he looked so happy when he answered, I feel happy when they smile at me, so he said’.”

“Hah.”

Kusla chuckled, and even Irine did so.

But after saying this, she let out a little sigh,

“I don’t really like to talk about gossip…but that noble Princess who asked to wed Weyland is a very famous person in this town. There are some rumors about her too.”

“Bad taste in men?”

“…A little close. No, well, actually, it’s way off.”

Kulsa felt disinterested seeing how Irine did not complain.

Irine sorted her thoughts out, and said,

“Her name is Flau Fon Hindenburg. Miss Flau was once married.”

“…And?”

“Of course, she’s of noble birth, so she was engaged before she was born. However, it was to a ruler nearby infamous for being rotten and uncaring for his people. A lot of people could not tolerate the heavy taxes and unreasonable punishments of the land, and escaped to this town. However, that land had a rich forest and produced the wood needed for this town’s burning, the honey needed to preserve the food, and wheat to feed the horses, and the ruler controlled the supply of these resources. The nobles were in Gulbetty, ruler of the town back when they were a Pagan town, and even till now, the Knights remained skeptical of them. If they married someone very important to the town’s prospects, they could erase all doubts the Knights had…basically, it was a political marriage for mutual benefits.”

This often happened.

Kusla had no interest in this. Irine’s voice got shrill.

“How harsh of you. In the end, Miss Flau was married to the ruler, which was one thing. Later on, she never participated in Gulbetty’s events. Everyone was puzzled, and later on, they found out that the ruler locked her in the castle. He was so jealous that he wanted to possess her for himself. Also, it was said that he was violent to her. After an Archbishop’s ruling, Miss Flau was finally divorced. She returned to her home, and when she arrived in the town, the entire town raised a festival to celebrate for her.”

“I understand. Weyland sympathizes her for this unfortunate marriage? Then, how does it change the fact that Weyland deserves it?’

Kusla’s words left Irine speechless.

I still want to talk, her face was practically stating that.

And so, unable to endure this anymore, she let out a sigh, and continued on,

“Those women he reached out to are probably all like her.”

“…”

“At first, I thought he was simply seizing an opportunity.”

Irine looked spiteful, but she sighed, and lowered her shoulders.

I feel happy when they smile at me.

He was someone who would kill without flinching. However, he had that kind of nature to him, to say such frivolous words with a serious look. Weyland was a simple man, but on first glance, one would think that he was a complicated man; that was probably due to how devoted he was to his own thoughts.

“And Weyland did not throw a tantrum.”

“Hm?”

“He seemed so weak. If your lover doesn’t want to go with you, and tried to trap you, you’ll be raging, right?”

“…I won’t deny that.”

Kusla hesitated for a moment, and admitted it. Irine looked a little awkward as she giggled.

“And didn’t he say that the feelings that Princess has for him are real? I don’t think that’s to gain some sympathy. He’s really a kind man.”

Kusla never cared about what kind of person Weyland was.

He was only interested in something else.

“In other words, Fenesis has the same thought as you.”

“I guess. So when I saw you simply abandon Weyland, it’s to be expected that all she sees is a heartless fellow.”

“Unfortunately, my other name is ‘Interest’.”

Kusla would typically be saying this in a taunting, intimidating manner, yet at this time, he actually explained the meaning of this line. He never expected the situation to end up this way.

“But why?”

Kusla muttered to himself.

“If we continue to do nothing, we can go along with the plan and head to Kazan. If we do something now, we might end up being abandoned in this town. You should understand from that conversation that the Herald holds no goodwill towards us.”

In that case, it was easy to understand what any sane person would choose.

“Someone one told me that if any blacksmith is to do whatever they want, things will not end well for them.”

That was the concept Kusla wanted Fenesis to understand.

“You’re no longer a blacksmith.”

And with Kusla pointing this out, Irine lowered her head.

“That’s why I’m hesitating.”

‘Hesitating?”

She closed her eyes, groaned, and said,

“I’m hesitating over whether I should tell you, Ul isn’t as weak as you imagine her to be.”

“Ah?”

Kusla inadvertently retorted. Wait, he stood up immediately.

The wooden window of the living room was slightly opened, and from Irine’s standing position, he could see the outside

He hurriedly rushed to the bedroom, and opened the door.

The room was empty.

“She probably ran off to the Hindenburgs.”

“Damn it.”

Kusla cursed, and hurried out of the workshop.

 

It did not matter if Fenesis did not know where the Hindenburgs stayed; her residence was definitely near the section in the town where the nobles gathered.

And slightly north of the town center, at the top of the hill, was the ideal residence of the nobles.

First, grasp the range, and run over, and then ask for directions.

Surely Fenesis would have done the same. The finely shaped ladies chatting happily in front of the of the shop showed sparkles of curiosity in their eyes as they mentioned that a nun came running over. It appeared there was a reason as to why they were curious.

Of course, Kusla ignored them and went after Fenesis.

There would be trouble if Fenesis was to slip into the garden of the Hindenburgs, but Kusla worried too much.

A petite white figure was arguing with the gatekeeper in front of a large, luxurious garden.

“I have something to say to Weyland. Please.”

“I told you that no such person is here.”

The gatekeeper looked perturbed, and was about to push her aside.

Typically, there would be the poor begging for accommodation, fortune tellers selling strange medication to beg or tout their goods.

But Fenesis was different from them, and thus, the gatekeeper was at a loss.

It was due to her attire.

“We’re going back.”

Kusla walked over, and grabbed Fenesis by the back of her neck, dragging her off without showing any signs of relent.

Her appearance resembled that of a feline, but she was struggling like a fish being hooked. She was basically an animal.

She continued resisting, trying her best to break free from Kusla’s arm, but no matter how hard she tried, Kusla would not let go. He grabbed Fenesis by the back of her neck, and dragged her off.

Fenesis struggled for a little while, but appeared to quiet down soon after, and so, Kusla let go.

“You went to look for Weyland, didn’t you?”

Fenesis did not walk by Kusla’s side, and neither did she walk behind him, but in front of him.

She was not pouting, not terrified.

Simply furious.

“It’s impossible to find him in such a place.”

Even though Fenesis pretended not to hear Kusla’s words, the two edges under her hood twitched.

Kusla sighed, and continued,

“Nobles nomrally take in their loves in another house. The place Weyland is at is probably locked now. If he wants to escape, he’s able to. He hasn’t done it though, because he knows that if he goes against these feelings of his, it’ll get trouble–”

“I do not wish to listen.”

Fenesis harshly noted.

The fisherman they just passed looked back, wondering what was going on, but other than that, there were no one else on the streets.

The streets were quiet.

“It’s up to you whether you want to listen to me, but reality won’t change. Give up on Weyland.”

Fenesis did not look back, and did not answer.

“If we go interfere reckless, we’ll just have Autris set his eyes on us. You know he’s trying to take us down in one fell swoop.”

“You will be the one troubled about that. I will not.”

Fenesis spoke with a rigid tone.

Kusla held back the urge to click his tongue. Why was she so stubborn?

“And what do you intend to do after seeing Weyland? Encourage him by saying, let us work hard together?”

Fenesis was speechless.

“If you want to help him, you’ll have to convince that Princess, or prove that he’s an alchemist. What do you intend to do? You haven’t thought about it, have you?”

Fenesis slowed down.

Kusla had a feeling that it was pointless for him to keep talking, so he never said anything.

The distance between Fenesis and him was not too far, but definitely not within arm’s reach. Kusla could not help but sense that Fenesis was distant from him, due to the events that transpired at the market.

And so, both of them wordlessly returned to the workshop. Fenesis remained silent, grabbed the
Book she wanted to read, and ran off to the basement workshop.

Irine gave Kusla a stunned look, but the latter merely shrugged.

Of course, this did not mean that Irine was standing on the same side as Kusla. She wanted to check on Fenesis, and went to the basement.

 

Before this, no matter how often she was teased or pranked on, Fenesis would always appear at the living room for dinner.

But on this day, she never showed up. Irine was not an expert at meditation, but she could understand what both sides were thinking. And so, she was in charge of bring the food to Fenesis.

Kusla could understand what Fenesis was thinking. The best case scenario would be if Weyland could be saved. However, the problem was that Kusla would have to tackle this obstacle, to take risks.

Kusla had no obligation to save Weyland, and this had no benefit to him.

If the roles were swtiched, it was likely that Weyland would not save Kusla either. Kusla too would have felt that he had done something stupid, and choose to give up. This was a common rule in the profession of an alchemist.

And so, Kusla kept watch over Fenesis the entire night, to prevent her from escaping from the workshop.

There was a loud commotion in town since morning the following day, so much uproar, that it seemed a King had just returned victorious. The main team of the forces with Azami’s crest emblem had arrived.

They were in charge of seizing the reviled pagans’ towns, and convert them to residences of the Holy Lord’s sheep. The people in town were celebrating the arrival of such a sacred forces.

For the people of Gulbetty, if Kazan was converted into an Orthodo town, they would be able to increase their trade value and make the town more prosperous. The current market was filled with goods from Kazan, and the convenience of using faith as a statement was clear for all to see.

Kusla walked out of the workshop, and looked out from the top of the cliff, seeing the area surrounding the port to be really bustling. The naval fleet entering through the water routes arrived  along with the main forces of the Azami’s Crest.

The Knights were the strongest organization that mixed belief, military might and financial power.

Looking at Gulbetty from afar, one could clearly understand the meaning behind these words. Kusla realized that he was in such a massive organization, and his heart inadvertently felt a conflicted sense of powerlessness and omnipotence.

There were so many people everywhere who had such great power.

If he was careless, he would fall into their traps.

Kusla narrowed his eyes, and at this moment, Irine too walked out.

“Looking lively out there.”

“Did you dress up as much as you want?”

“Why? We’re not going for a dance.”

Irine replied unhappily, and Fenesis stood behind her.

“Close enough. Set up a parade in front of those in authority. Other than that, we just need to keep a low profile.”

“…That’s an annoying way of life.”
“The shape of the lock determines the shape of the key after all.”

“Then you better pray that there’s treasure behind that door.”

Kusla snorted, and walked out.

At dawn, a messenger visited the workshop, requesting for them to visit the nobles leading the Azami’s Crest, Archduke Kratal. As an Alchemist, Kusla was one of the prized possessions of the Knights, so naturally, he had to be treated differently from the small fries.

“Maybe he wants to extort Damascus Steel from us.”

“Is the Archduke that greedy?”

“Only with greed can you amass wealth.”

Irine shrugged.

She, being adept at talking, was used to the sarcastic conversations with Kusla. It was probably due to the practice she had with the cheeky blacksmiths in their workshops.

However, it was also likely that she spoke so much because Fenesis was not willing to say anything.

Fenesis brought something very special along.

“Hey, what’s that?’

Even when Kusla asked her, she ignored him. She continued hugging the old book, and remained silent.

Surely she was plotting something, but Kusla did not know the details.

If he continued to spite her and anger her, it was likely that he would have to chain her by the neck and drag her off when they were to leave. Thus, Kusla decided to ignore her.

They arrived at the Knights’ building, and found bright petals of the seasonal flowers scattered all over the road. The soldiers were standing in rows, holding their lances as they quietly awaited the arrival of the Archduke.

Of course, Kusla and the others could not enter from the front door, so they entered the building through the back door.

The Knights’ building was typically empty whenever they came by, but on this day, it was crowded.

Kusla felt that it would be trouble if he were to meet Autris, but it seemed this worry was unnecessary.

Probably, Autris would be eagerly standing by the Archduke’s side when they were to meet.

“Ah, you’re here.”

They arrived at the Herald’s officer, and a young lieutenant who was with the Herald the entire time called them.

“After the town’s nobles provide their officers, there’ll be a moment with the audience. Basically, when the Archduke speaks to you, just bow. That Archduke is an eccentric one though, so be careful.”

“Eccentric?”

“He likes some entertainment. He mixed up Alchemists and jesters once before. At a town before this place, some were forced to play firebreathing.”

“…We’ll take heed of that.”

Irine looked tense, probably because there were too many people. Fenesis in turn was not. She lowered her head, the eyes under the hood gloomy.

She’ll be obedient the entire time. Looks like there won’t be any problems.

And so, Kusla and the others were summoned to the waiting Archduke along with the other residents. They spent some time in the house of a wealthy person. Some cautiously brought their wooden boxes forward, while others carried posh looking bags. These probably were merchants who knew that if their gifts could leave a good impression on the Archduke, they would be rewarded far more than what they had given.

But while they were offering the wealth in their hands, Kusla was going to offer himself.

As long as he felt it was of benefit to him, he would be willing to grovel to others for the sake of moving towards Magdala. He did not care how many times he had to get on his knees and beg, how sleazy his praises would be. If the Archduke wanted him to perform some fire breathing, he would do whatever he could.

However, the only things he would not do, were the things that would get in the way of his path to Magdala.

Even without Weyland around, Kusla would not show any guilt.

He felt that there was no need to be guilty.

If not, he would basically be denying his prior life.

“Next, Ladell Merchants!”

Holding the namelist was the youth from before. He brought a few soldiers along, and after a summon, headed off to the hall at the end of the corridor. There were fewer people waiting in the room, but Kusla did not know when he would be summoned. Irine was feisty and bold in her actions, but even she was feeling so tense and jittery at this point. This would be the first time in her life that she would be standing in front of a noble. Kusla glanced aside at Fenesis, who remained still and seated away from him. The thick book was laid out on her lap, and she hid her face underneath the hood.

She appeared to be thinking.

She’s probably tense. Thinking about this, Kusla realized that the thick book at her knees looked like a Bible. Fenesis was once kept as a cursed tool by the Choir, and she was probably used to such a scene. That Bible was probably prepared for this occasion. Once the ears were revealed, and she was exposed as a heretic, she would then bring the Bible to her chest, and beg earnestly for forgiveness.

Kusla imagined that scene, immediately felt a sense of disgust, and hurriedly turned his face away.

Fenesis’ character was of one who would charge into misfortune on her own volition.

Thinking about this, Kusla could not help but reaffirm his thoughts of wanting to protect Fenesis. Perhaps the feelings were no different from seeing a trembling kitten by the roadside and cradling it.

Then, perhaps he had no reason to reproach Fenesis on her overly ridiculous emotional reasoning to help Weyland.

Thinking, Kusla suddenly realized something.

Weyland?

He looked down at Fenesis’ hands, and while the pages in that book were tattered, there was a neat piece of paper protruding out from within.

A label. What was that?

Recently, Fenesis had been reading a book with some mysterious myth like the Golden Sheep.

Fenesis, her personality, the brooding face, Weyland, and the Archduke whom they were to meet.

Kusla instinctively reached his hand out for the book at Fenesis’ knees.

At that moment, he saw her eyes.

And immediately after, the youth from before showed up.

“Next, the alchemist.”

He was called out, not by his name.

Kusla had no time to think, but Irine was not afforded such a luxury.

What happened at that instant caused her to widen her eyes in shock, startled.

“…What happened?’

The youth asked, and Kusla grabbed Fenesis by the shoulders as she slumped on him, answering,

“She’s too tense. Not feeling well.”

“Really? Hey.”

The youth commanded the soldier beside him, but Kusla rejected it.

“It’ll be rude to bring my assistant along to meet the Archduke. I’ll have her take care of this one.”

“Understood. Hurry.”

Irine witnessed Kusla smack the back of Fenesis’ neck with his hand, and was brooding over whether she should chide him. Looking at the situation however, she chose to take care of Fenesis.

“Have her sleep on this.”

Saying that, Kusla picked up the book that fell from Fenesis’ lap. The book opened to the page with the label when it landed.

It was a glamorous picture related to an ancient myth.

A lion’s body, a serpent’s tail, a beast with two wings.

One could easily understand what Fenesis intended to say to the Archduke.

“Say that she’s created by an Alchemist?’

There were such myths in the history of alchemy, where Alchemists would fuse different lifeforms together to create a new life.

“That’s a really bad joke…”

Kusla muttered as he followed the youth.

 

The meeting with the Archduke ended well, and left a great impression on Kusla.

The Azami’s Crest forces were not one that aggressively foguth; their main objective was to regain peace and civil order in the towns they conquered. Because of that, Kusla originally assumed that the Archduke leading the forces was a feeble, demure man. However, he was a hulk with a round waist and a blazing red beard. The Archduke remained smiling when they met, and truly, it was befitting of the forces being harbringers of hope. It was to be expected why such a man would enjoy entertainment.

The Archduke was one who was interested in anything and everything. One could even sense that he would head to the conquered Pagan towns out of his own interest.

But the main issue at this point was Fenesis. She had yet to regain consciousness even when they were to return to the workshop, so Kusla carried her all the way back. Her body was slender, frail, so soft that Kusla suspected that there might not be bones in her body. That was why Kusla held back when he smacked her neck.

“Mind telling me the reason?”

Irine sounded calm, but her eyes were wide open, and she stared at Kusla intently.

She was basically saying, If your reply doesn’t satisfy me, I’m not going to let you off easily.

Kusla hesitated.

However, this might be the perfect moment to reveal the truth.

“How open-minded do you think you are?”

“Hm?”

Irine frowned, and glared at Kusla, seemingly questioning if Kusla was fooling around with her.

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing specific. Have you heard of her bloodline?’

“This…but…what has it got to do with this–?”

Kusla removed the hood from Fenesis’ head, revealing those beast ears.

160

Irine was momentarily stunned, and she looked back and forth between Kusla and Fenesis.

“This one here has a cursed blood, but till this point, I haven’t really experienced it. She looks like she’s bound by her own curse.”

Kusla did not ensure that Irine was listening.

He covered the hood back, and Irine seemed to be finally released from some hypnosis, shocked.

“Going to report to the Church?”

Kusla smiled as he asked, and Irine gave him a stoic look.

The rational mind, emotions and religious belief in her heart were jumbled together, and she did not know what expression to show.

However, a person’s fondness, or lack of, could be concluded instantaneously.

Irine was calm when she saw Fenesis’ ears.

This alone showed that she was calm to some extent.

Thus, Kusla did not wait for Irine to reply, and placed the book Fenesis took to the table, opened it, and showed it to Irine.

“She put a label here. Have a look.”

Saying that, he pushed the book to the still skeptical Irine.

The latter stared at Kusla, not moving at all, and slowly swallowed her saliva.

She closed her eyes, saying,

“I believe what I can see.”

Kusla inadvertently shook his shoulders slightly.

“Then have a look at this.”

He pointed a finger at the book.

Irine widened her eyes, and stared at Kusla intently, taking a deep breath.

Her eyes finally landed upon that book, and seeing the contents, she shrank back. This reaction probably was not something that could be controlled rationally.

“The illustrations contain mythical creatures. But in the myths about Alchemists, there are stories of how some are able to fuse dead creatures to create a new one. It’s said that there’s a way to fuse dead bodies together, and let the blood flow. Such myths sound probable, but unfortunately, I never heard of anyone who succeeded.”

“…”

That illustration gave a chilling feeling, and Irine’s face went pale as she froze up.

However, the reason why she paled was because she found the resemblance of this illustration to Fenesis.

“She’s probably thinking that if she declares herself to be created by an Alchemist, she’ll be able to save Weyland, I guess. Looks like she went to Weyland so that she could tell him about this plan.”

After some stunned moments, Kusla spat,

“Such stupidity. She was going to do such a thing so publicly. Those people from the Church are there, and there’ll be a whole lot of ruckus as a result. The chaos can be quelled if we’re lucky, but do you think we’ll be able to make it to Kazan easily? This fool.”

Kusla remembered the reasoning to do anything for one’s objectives.

But there were many ways to be unscrupulous. Fenesis really would not choose. She never considered about herself, and would devote herself to her objective, no matter how meaningless or ridiculous it was.

He felt that this was tantamount to suicide, always had been. That was the vibe Fenesis gave when she was used as a tool by the Choir.

Kusla only took Fenesis in because he had enough, because he felt that there was no fool more worth protecting than her. He felt that it had been going well recently, but he might not be able to go along with her will with regards to Weyland.

It was common to see companions scatter and move away on their own.

No, perhaps it was a common occurrence, and because of that, she was unwilling to have a companion leave?

“B-but.”

While Kusla was wondering, Irine finally spoke up. She put the book down, and put her hand on her mouth, ostensibly suppressing the tension in her heart. She took a deep breath, before saying that.

Such a feisty woman. Kusla could not help but marvel.

“Then, what do we do now?’

“Chain her up and throw her into the luggage.”

With a stoic expression, Irine fumbled around on the table, and took the candlestick.

“I want to say that, but,”

If Kusla had not said that, it was likely that Irine would slam the candlestick onto his head.

“She’s always like this when she’s stubborn, never caring about herself, and never thinking of the consequences.”

“But…you aren’t going to save him, right?”

Kusla glanced aside at Fenesis.

He gave a wry smile. This predicament left him in a dilemma.

“Right. It was the same with you.”

“Eh?”

“She noticed that you were suffering at the Guild, and asked me to save you. She feels that I’m a good person who’ll save anyone.”

Irine shivered, and cringed back, probably because the topic was directed at her, or probably because she did not know how to respond to Kusla’s words. She appeared to be peeking.

“Is it…funny?”

“Very. She thinks that since I saved her, I’m a good man who’ll save anyone.”

Kusla stroked the sleeping Fenesis with his fingers, and she twitched her eyebrows lightly.

“It’s ridiculous. She knows that I’m an Alchemist. I only act for my own benefit.”

“…”

Irine stared at Kusla, and lowered her shoulders weakly, placing the candlestick onto the table.

“I heard about how you saved her. I also heard about her cursed blood, but I never thought that they’ll be…such cute additions.”

She actually said that they were cute additions.

Irine was a little different from those who were born in the towns and grew up in the narrow worlds. She experienced hardship, and travelled from one town to another, which meant that she was slightly more open-minded than the ordinary person, and this was likely some bad karma.

“But she looks rather happy.”

“…”

Kusla went silent.

“She really wants to save Weyland, I guess, but…I think…there’s another reason that she’s doing such unexpected actions.”

“…Another reason?’

Kusla looked away from Fenesis and towards Irine. The latter too looked away from Fenesis and towards Kusla.

“She has expectations of you, and that’s why she took unnecessary hurt.”

“…”

“She doesn’t want to think that the one who saved her is a bad person, I guess.”

“I’m not a bad person.”

Kusla shrugged as he said.

Irine frowned, looking as though she scented upon something foul from a toul item, but Kusla continued to show a smile on his face.

“I said it before, didn’t I? The shape of the key is decided on the shape of the lock. It’s because the world is like this that I have to learn the action of ‘interest’. I’m not the one at fault. The world is.”

At this moment, Fenesis groaned, probably because she had a nightmare. Kusla gently placed his hand onto her forehead.

“I’m troubled too to have hopes on me. My hands can only capture some ordinary things. The unpopular parts of the Church teachings are the correct ones. If a vessel is to try and hold more than what it can contain, it will break. And…never to recover.”

Saying that, Kusla shrugged again.

“The townsfolk say that Alcehmists are barbaric in their freedom, but actually, we ain’t much.”

“…Then, what do we do?”

As a blacksmith, Irine was able to say some realistic words that were helpful to Kusla.

“Tie her up in chains and dragging her off will mean that she’s going to suffer like she did with the Choir. No choice then. What do we do?’

“So–”

“Let’s go save Weyland.”

Stunned, Irine stared back and Kusla, and asked,

“You can save him?”

“Don’t know if it’ll work, but I’ll think of a way. But I got a request.”

“…What?’

She stared at Kusla with intrigue, and seemed wary of him, afraid that he would ask something impossible.

“It’s simple. Keep it a secret that I’m going to save Weyland.”

“Eh?”

“Feed a stray dog or cat, and they’ll desire more. The ones feeding them might be hunters desiring their fur though. Once this white cat feels that the world’s filled with happiness…”

Kusla hushed his words as he said this.

“I’m different.”

This world was so cruel, and illogical. Kusla knew very well that in such a thunderstorm, if he were to keep hoping for a savior every time, one day, he would end up with no way out.

He wanted to protect Fenesis, and wanted to continue down the inexplicable path towards the legendary, unattainable sword of Orichalcum.

However, it was unfortunately that both dreams clashed, for he could not take the action Fenesis would hope for every time.

Kusla could not say that he would continue living the rest of his life for the sake of women, like Weyland.

‘Interest’ never smiled, and never thought of smiling to anyone else.

But, for the sake of resting in the land of Magdala, he would aim towards that.

“Understood.”

Irine seemed to understand, and slowly stated,

“You want to say that you have your own considerations.”

“I’m a better man than Weyland, right?”

“Need me to tell you how many times he tried to wake Ul up?”

Irine noted quietly, and lowered her shoulders for some reason.

“Alchemists are really amazing people, more than I imagined.”

“Fine words. Alchemists specialize in turning lead into gold after all.”

Kusla said, and moved his hand away from Fenesis’ forehead.

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