“So what? That’s it.”
Kusla answered, and sliced the dried meat on the table.
They met up with the vanguard team in an important trading town in the mountains.
Weyland giggled as he leaned forward.
“In that case, why didn’t you claim your reward, Kusla~?”
Kusla shoved Weyland’s gleeful face back, and ate the dried meat.
“It’s really unbelievable that you would actually go against your beliefs, Kuslla~”
“I didn’t. Didn’t you hear me?”
Weyland then immediately answered,
“In that case, why didn’t you celebrate with the higher ups~?”
Kusla turned his face back, and Weyland had no intention of letting him go just llike that.
With a displeased look, he said,
“…I obtained my reward in another manner.”
“Yes, and so…I didn’t twist my beliefs.”
Kusla too knew that he was just making an excuse.
However, the reason why he was so agitated as he chewed on the meat jerky was not because of this, and also not because Weyland was pestering him.
There was something that infuriated him more, not because of this, and not because of Weyland pestering him.
There was something, more than anything else, that angered him.
“Hm? Looks like the Alchemist Kusla had a slip in the mind?”
Kusla threw the remaining bit of dried meat to the mocking Weyland, but the latter dodged it easily.
He closed his eyes, and groaned.
No matter how many times he thought about it, he was incensed.
It happened when Kusla met up with the vanguard and reported on the wanderers to Alzen. Kusla was alone in an inn room, his legs on the table as he drank wine, while Fenesis walked in.
She spoke up tentatively, and there was a gourd of wine in her hands.
Weyland did not learn his lesson even after what happened in Gulbetty, and was wooing girls again. Irine was out doing what Kusla tasked her to do.
“Why didn’t you mention it?”
It seemed Fenesis realized that Kusla knew about the wanderer’s secret. There was no need to ask her she knew. He did not pay attention, but thinking back, Fenesis would have been careful about a book with such contains. Thus, she probably left some of her hair in the book. If someone were to flip the book, she would know immediately.
And then, she saw Kusla discover the content of that book, but the latter did not report to the Herald.
Thus, she could only thank him.
Fenesis’s thoughts were so naive, too naive.
“Mention? What is it?”
Thus, Kusla showed an impatient attitude.
Fenesis said tentatively,
“Erm…about the golden…”
Kusla sihed, and put removed his legs from the table.
And with his eyes half opened, he stared at Fenesis.
“What’s with this wine? You intend to thank me?”
“You don’t have a reason to do that. I just followed my beliefs and seized the benefit, that’s all.”
The gourd of wine nearly fell out from Fenesis’ hands.
“The secret those people have can be turned into profit either way. Of course I’ll use it for my own benefit.”
Fenesis gave a stoic look, her spirit practically gone from her as she stared at Kusla.
“It’s a fact that I didn’t reveal that secret to the Herald. However, I never once twisted my own way of life.
The expression vanished from Fenesis’ face.
Kusla had no idea what she was thinking, but it was easy to imagine. If Kusla manipulated that information, the simple, happy journey the wanderers had would be turned upside down.
“But those people will probably continue wandering around. That’s the end of the story. Take this wine, and get out of the room.”
Once Kusla said that, tears fell from Fenesis’s eyes.
“Why are you crying? Didn’t you hear me?”
Frustrated by Fenesis, Kusla said those words.
And she shook her head, saying,
“I heard about it. So…”
And Fenesis continued,
“Why…must you be so stubborn?”
Fenesis lifted her head.
Seeing such an expression, Kusla recalled Irine’s words.
Fenesis looked sad. She was hurt.
“You exchanged for that gold, didn’t you?”
For a moment, Kusla was speechless.
“I heard from Miss Irine.”
Irine was out at this point. As a reward for keeping the secret, Kusla looted a pile of gold from Caldoz and the others, and so Irine was bringing this gold to exchange for jewellery that could be easily carried along.
This gold was a proof of act he he did without twisting his beliefs, and not losing Fenesis.
Kusla could that from their belongings that there was no gold. However, he kept an eye on the crude cart they had. If they were prospectors looking for gold mines, they would surely hide the gold near them. With that mindset, it was obvious that the cart looked unnatural. Looting valuables was a specialty of an alchemist. Kusla could easily imagine how they hid the gold.
They had gold nails on the cart, rather than just metal, and had a coating of metal above to hide it.
Kusla did not confiscate their gold, but instead weighed the benefits of reporting to the Herald as compared to blackmailing the wanderers into giving up an acceptable amount of gold.
And Kusla got them on the throats. In future, he could be able to use it.
However, he did not report to the Herald this time, which Fenesis hoped for. She might end up having a beautified image of Kusla, and have unnecessary expectations of him.
Thus, Kusla wanted to have her understand that he was a heartless, cold-blooded alchemist, and added on.
“I rather blackmail them and loot them for money than to set them up and please the Herald. What I did has always been to benefit myself. So, I don’t know what you’re mistaken about, but you don’t have to thank me.”
Fenesis held onto the wine, seemingly looking for support, and the contorted look on her face was seemingly on the verge of tears.
She probably was worried about Caldoz and the others, and also, feeling heartbroken about how unscrupulous Kusla was.
But it was fine.
It was fine as long as Fenesis’ hopes about him were not beyond his wildest imaginations.
Thinking this, Kusla waved her off like a dog, wanting Fenesis to get out.
“You’re really that kind of person.”
For a moment, Kusla could not understand what she meant, but he felt that she should be able to understand what he was getting at, and was about to answer, that’s right.
But before he could say anything, Fenesis spoke up first,
“I know, actually.”
Fenesis pulled her head in.
“The one who saved Mr Weyland was you.”
And in the brief pause, before Kusla could say a second word,
Fenesis lifted her eyes with a pouting look, saying,
Fenesis wiped her tears. Kusla was speechless.
She knew about Weyland?
For a moment, Kusla was unable to breathe.
“So, I was not sure if you would let go of Mr Caldoz and the others. Thus, I spoke with Miss Irine, to think of a plan.”
“So, Miss Irine said that you are not a bad person, that even after knowing the secret Mr Caldoz and the others have, you will consider my feelings.”
The tear-stained emerald eyes were staring right at Kusla.
She then averted her eyes, probably hesitant on what she should say next.”
“I-if I were to put myself as hostage, you would let them go…”
Saying that, Fenesis lowered her head, blushing slightly. Kusla did not want to realize that.
Perhaps he had no confidence that he could maintain his poise.
Fenesis lowered her head, and took a deep sigh,
“Let them go.”
She then lifted her head, showed a troubled smile, and said,
“You are really despicable after all.”
At that moment, Kusla realized that he fell into a trap.
Irine betrayed him. Though she appeared to be working with irine, she definitely revealed the truth to Kusla. Thus, it was to be expected that Fenesis had some expectations about the Cladoz situation, and this was the exact same situation Kusla wanted to avoid.
But after planning with Irine, Fenesis predicted that if she were to beg Kusla as usual, he would not let Caldoz and the others go.
Kusla did not want to report Caldoz to the Herald, and considering that if he did, he would have hurt Fenesis, the relationship between those two would be unsalvageable. Kusla took action with regards to Weyland, and if this fact was ever revealed to the public, Kusla felt that he would never forgive Caldoz and the others.
But as long as a fact remained unknown, a person’s position would be changed drastically.
Just as lead can be turned into gold, so gold can be turned into lead.
Fenesis plated herself well, and used herself as a bargaining chip.
To put one over Kusla.
Refining her plots.
Just like an alchemist!
“You’re saying that!?”
Kusla stood up and growled furiously.
“You bluffed me?”
Fenesis shrank her neck and body back, and exerted more strength on the gourd of wine she was holding onto.
However, she did not remain silent.
“…You told me to do whatever I want.”
Kusla was speechless.
And so, he was so infuriated that he nearly fainted, and sat back on the chair again.
Was it Fenesis’ fault? For fooling him? No, himself? For demanding that from her?
Stunned, he stared at her. He finally realized how foolish he was.
She knew everything, and continued maintaining an aloof attitude, managing to deftly hook Kusla.
Thus, it would not be surprising if her actions during their time with Caldoz and the others were all just an act.
In any case, Fenesis only did that after ample confidence. She felt that Kusla would coonsider her feelings carefully before doing what she did.
Shall he find a hole to bury himself in?
He really was a hopeless fool after all.
Kusla felt the pain brought by his folly, and Fenesis said to him tentatively,
After a long moment of silence, Kusla lifted his head, and saw Fenesis beaming at him. This was preposterous.
“I do resemble…an alchemist now, no?”
Kusla closed his eyes.
The one who told her to do as she pleased was him.
But despite knowing that Fenesis became cavalier in her attitude, he never expected himself to be caught in a trap she set up.
Like a little girl who successfully completed a dispatch mission, Fenesis looked up at Kusla with a hopeful expression.
Those eyes contained not only delight and relief.
But also confidence.
And also, a pride devoid of arrogance.
“…Don’t you mention this to Weyland.”
With a forced tone, Kusla said. That was all he could only say.
Fenesis pulled her neck in, looking gleeful.
That face seemed to be saying that her thoughts of Kusla not being a bad person was correct.
And then, she said,
“I am your comrade after all.”
Kusla stood up, looked down at Fenesis, and smacked her on the head. If he did not do so, he would not have stopped himself from embracing Fenesis. The latter was inadvertently startled by this action, and Kusla snatched the gourd of wine from her, uncapped it, and brought it to his lips.
Soon after, Irine returned, and Kusla saw the gleeful sneer on her face.
She probably overheard everything outside.
Kusla shoved aside the two ladies who were exchanging looks, and went off to a bar in the town.
And so, he met up with Weyland.
That was simply what happened.
“I told you not to show me such a face. Do you want burnt rice for food?”
Kusla let loose such vile words that were used when blacksmiths or alchemists squabbled.
But Weyland ignored Kusla’s words as he cackled and drank away. Kusla too had no intention of beating him up, for it was obvious who was being the fool?
Weyland seemed to have noticed almost everything that happened, and he waved at the bar entrance. Without turning back, Kusla too knew who arrived.
Kusla snorted at Fenesis while the latter approached him with a smile, and poured some more wine into his mug.
If others were to worry for his sake, he would be a fool.
And Fenesis brazenly sat beside Kusla, the emerald necklace on her.
“Erm…this is for me, right?”
Kusla did not answer. He could not say anything.
If it was like before, when Kusla ignored her, surely she would be hurt, and scowl.
However, she looked really happy.
Kusla knew that it was impudent of him, but he stood up, ostensibly trying to escape.
And Fenesis actually pursued after him.
She even asked that. At that moment, Kusla felt an arduous pain in his head.
Kusla stood at the door of the bar, and turned around.
Weyland and Irine were grinning away at the table.
“…I guess I was the one who said not to express my true thoughts easily, right?”
Fenesis beamed happily.
She was probably satisfied, or probably afraid of the revenge that would come if she continued to press the issue, for she was about to return to the table.
If this embarrassment continued, Kusla probably would not be able to forgive himself either.
Fenesis shrank back in shock, and looked back at Kusla.
She continued to smiling with a teary look, and scampered back to the table.
Kusla could only sigh as he watched her, and returned to the table. What he was peeved at was that, though he was duped, he could not feel peeved for some reason.
Fenesis’ growth was something worth being delighted over.
In their road to Kazan, there probably would be new issues. However, they probably would be able to continue on happily. Kusla could not help but think of such things unbefitting of him.
And as he stared at her, he felt that, though he was not Irine,
Perhaps he should try believing in luck.
That perhaps, in this unsightly world, it would not be a bad option to desire something one could associate with the day of Spring, a sweet little daily life.
However, the sudden galloping of a horse caused Kusla to stop in his tracks.
A horse suddenly arrived abrupting before the bar, raising its fore legs.
Riding on it was a man dressed as a mercenary, and he hopped off without any regard, running into the bar, yelling,
“The Queen of Latria has converted to Orthodoxy!”
Kusla widened his eyes at the man.
“Our destination has been converted to a land of believers. So, so—”
The man wheezed as he said that, and all the people in the bar looked at him.
“We have no justification to occupy Kazan now.”
The bar went silent.
“Then…where are we going to?”
Kusla and the others could go on because Kazan was a pagan town.
But what if it was no longer a pagan town?
“…There’s one thing we can be certain of.”
Another person said.
“We have no place to return to.”
The winds are unpredictable.
Kusla sat by the chair, feeling abnormally calm as he harbored such a thought.
And he held Fenesis’ trembling hand, making sure she was beside him.