[Magdala V4] Act 4

Thus, instead of choosing to meet the local clergymen, Kusla led Irine back to the workshop.

On the way back, he said, you are to tell her that, and at that moment, Irine gave an inscrutable look.

“Why are you never so honest when it comes to this?”

“I don’t care about what you think of it, but if I am to talk to her, I will end up mentioning the last picture on the painting.”

“…”

Irine stared at Kusla, digesting his words, and then sighed, haven’t given up.

“Don’t let little Ul know about what the painting is about, well, I agree. Okay, I get it. I’ll just tell her that you should have reflected on it somewhat after hearing me tell you off.”

Kusla somehow ended up as a fool, but nothing good would happen even if he did nitpick simply to salvage his own reputation.

“Whatever. I’ll leave it to you.”

Kusla heartily accepted, and Irine, walking by his side, seemed displeased for some reason.

“What is it?”

Kusla questioned, and irine asked in irritation.

“Instead of caring about your own pride, you should be prioritizing little Ul, right?”

Kusla shrugged.

“If it’s correct, I’ll do it.”

“…”

Irine pursed her lips firmly, “Goodness me.” sighed, and said,

“Only in such situations are you so direct. How sleazy you are.”

“Huh?”

Kusla asked, but Irine did not comment further.

After Kusla brought irine back to the workshop, he went straight to the plaza.

In any case, no matter how Irine tried to convey his words, he could anticipate her reaction.

It was not an impossibility, but Kusla did not want to remain there when that happened.

And most importantly, what to do? At this point, he could not think of any solution.

After Irine had been hammering it over his head, Kusla thought about how to work together with Fenesis, but naturally, he could not think of any good idea. Something he found difficult to say, that he realized a long time back, was that staying at Gulbetty might have been a better option.

Rich finances. Authority to do anything in town. Personal safety.

The Southern countries had rose in arms to rebel against the Knights, and Gulbetty too should be involved, but at the very least, it probably was not as isolated as this frontline. There should be a few ways out.

At this point, all Kusla could only think of was to follow Alzen and break through the line, and then seize the opportunity to escape. Alzen and the others would be giving their all to escape, and would not be going out to chase down one after another. The problem was, for obvious existences like Kusla and Fenesis, could they wander in the Northern lands, and live on?

They could not escape to any village or town. Also, Kusla was not prolific in travelling, let alone hunting.

His eyes seemed to have seen that once the two of them escaped together, they would lose their way, and freeze in the forest.

“No good way out of this…?”

Kusla muttered, and another Kusla appeared in his mind, giving a pretentious tone.

How can there be one?

The only way out, the only option, is to abandon Fenesis.

Or perhaps, you can offer Fenesis and Irine as a gift, and establish your positions amongst the Knights. Such was a cold, yet pragmatic decision.

But once he heard the voice of this ‘Interest’, Kusla was merely filled with rage.

He groaned as he stood in the plaza, and there was a change in the flow of the crowd.

And he immediately realized the soldiers fighting outside the town had retreated.

It seemed they had pulled back before their forces were overly depleted, and ended being a preparation for a retreat.

Alzen made his next move, intending to hold the fort from a breakthrough. This move was better than waiting for their demise, but would that be better than embarking on the journey towards death.

What to do? In reality, most decisions were not made based on experimentation. There was no accommodating option to keep trying until it worked. Thus, Kusla had been overly conservative in his way of life. There was only one Fenesis, a life could never be revived. One only lived once, opportunities were once in a million. He remained beside the fountain, racking his brain.

What should he do?

He appeared to be falling in the chaotic darkness, sinking into deep thought.

And while that happened, footsteps rang near him. Someone bent down and sat next to Kusla.

“…What?”

Kusla tersely replied. It was Weyland.

“That’s my line~”

“Ah?”

“The mood in the workshop isn’t for humans to live in, so I escaped~”

Irine probably informed Fenesis on what happened. Kusla could imagine what reaction that white maiden would have, and his nostril picked up on a faintly sweet scent of breasts.

“So cute she was, but being overly cute is driving me mad~”

Weyland said, and kicked at Kusla’s boots.

“Go back to the workshop~”

“Got other things to do.”

If simply embracing Fenesis would allow him an idea, Kusla would have remained on her like a parent bird on its eggs.

But unforunately, something would be amiss if he was to remain with Fenesis or Irine. The name ‘Interest’ would melt along with Kusla’s mind, like honey.

“Always the pragmatic one, Kusla~”

“Reality is too alluring. Can’t look away.”

Weyland looked defeated as he looked up at the sky.

“Don’t you have any good ideas?”

“Probably no further than you are, Kusla~”

Weyland was not an incompetent, and neither was he someone who could not adapt quickly.

And as Kusla knew this well, he could not help but blurt out these words,

“Is it a mistake to come here?”

Once he said this, he found these words to be deflating. He could sense a slightly surprised look from Weyland, who was right by the side.

But Weyland did not answer him, and neither did he mock.

“If we’re going by this reasoning, being born is already a grave mistake in itself~”

“…”

Kusla looked over at Weyland, the perverse womanizing alchemist who had much history with him giving a deliberate hearty smile.

“You can leave those words for the gallows~. Are the four of us still safe~? The fire in the furnace has yet to be completely extinguished~.”

“…Never thought I would be encouraged by you.”

“Same here. Never thought you would save me back in Gulbetty.”

“Well, yes.” Kusla could only respond tersely.

It seemed Weyland did feel he owed Kusla some gratitude, in his own way.

“But~”

“Huh?”

“Never thought you would succumb, Kusla. Little Irine did say that she convinced you.”

Weyland looked at Kusla, the smile vanished from his face.

It seemed he had already heard from Irine.

“Well that’s how it is.”

Kusla simply admitted defeat,

Weyland appeared to be stunned for sure, but Kusla felt relieved about it.

“She went the long way around saying that since we’re all going to die, the two of us can just die together, you know? Her mindset’s just like a Princess. If that’s her Magdala though, that’s a lot more convincing.”

“Ah.” Weyland nodded away in agreement.

“it’s surprising. No matter who is it, all the Magdalas are the same.”

“Hm? That girl does have such a vibe~. She may appear feisty, but she is considered a prim and proper lady~.”

“……You serious?”

Kusla asked with skepticism, but Weyland merely shrugged.

Kusla felt he was no inferior to Weyland in terms of picking ores or smelting, but surely Weyland was superior with regards to women matters.

Even so, Irine was a prim and proper lady?

He could at least admit she was a good person.

“Speaking of which.”

“Huh?”

“Things aren’t going too well~.”

Weyland slowly noted,

“Whether it’s the current situation, and little Ul.”

“…Isn’t this just reality?”

“Reality huh. In that case~.”

Weyland leaned back, and looked up at a high place.

“If this is reality too, it does feel like there’s a chance~”

Before his eyes was a dragon used as a part of the fountain, stationed at this place. Like what Alzen tried to lean on, if this dragon could spew flames, he would surely be able to dissipate this damned situation.

“Want to figure out a miracle to revive the dragon? It’s like pouring mercury down the mouth of a dead chicken.”

Kusla stifled a laugh as he said this, while Weyland continued to look up at this dragon statue with a strange posture, remaining still.

“Hey.”

“…Maybe~”

“Huh?”

Kusla raised an eyebrow as he questioned, and Weyland merely murmured.

“Don’t you find it strange that this is the only part that isn’t real~?”

“What do you mean…”

Kusla said, agreeing with his view. The Orthodox seeing the paintings depicting the origins of this town would most likely assume it to be ridiculous. As to be expected of foolish pagans.

But Kusla and the others already knew that people like Fenesis truly existed.

In that case, as Weyland had said, the notion that ‘only the existence of dragons are unrealistic’ did not seem right.

“No, but…in any case.”

“Well, for sure there isn’t an Orichalcum sword.”

Weyland got up, and looked at Kusla,

“What if someone said that to you?”

Kusla was speechless.

But he was not agitated. Weyland looked really serious.

“You alright?”

“Very. No, more importantly, the real reason might be that there’s no other way~”

Frivolous in tone, Weyland’s eyes betrayed no smile.

You got to be joking, right? Kusla thought.

Dragons are supposed to be mythical. Nobody had ever seen them.

But Kusla noticed something amiss.

Nobody saw it?

If so, why do the creatures called dragons exist in all records since ancient times, and all of them depicted as spewing fire?

“Something does seem strange here~…I did look at the painting little Irine found…hm, it was the one cut away. Don’t you find it similar?”

“Similar?”

Weyland stared intently at Kusla.

“Similar to the weapons and armor that great Herald had us inspect. In other words—”

“Ah!”

Only then did Kusla realize the similarity of those two.

In other words, the shape and sizes were completely matching.

“Since they are the tribe that had spread the smelting and extracting skills to this area, they probably had more abilities to offer. In that case, the dragon might…”

“But…even alchemists aren’t be considered mages. Summoning a dragon from a laker linking to Hell is a delusion. The dragon’s blood shall continue to burn, never to be doused by water, and able to stop time, cure ailments; it’s foolish to hail such contents. That’s—”

Saying this, Kusla was suddenly at a loss of words.

Weyland gave Kusla a perplexed look.

A dragon’s blood was easily flammable, never extinguished when contact with water. When it is soaked in water, time seemed to stand still, and it’s able to cure all ailments?

He seemed to have heard of such effects somewhere?

And appearing in his mind was one line in the ‘Book of Dragon Blood’.

“If a dragon was hurt, the burned dragon blood would scatter, bringing calamity to humanity, and so on.”

Kusla looked up at this dragon statue.

He felt something was amiss. Something seemed strange with those words.

No, the dragon statue was amiss to begin with.

Why did it look to be in agony as it looked up to the sky?

And the dragon’s mouth was not spewing water—

“Blowing flames!?”

Kusla exclaimed without a second thought. Weyland widened his eyes, and some in the crowd frantically pacing across the plaza stopped in their tracks. Kusla did not mind however. Once he had an idea, he would be so tense, he would forget to breathe until he had linked everything together.

The effects of dragon blood. That text in the book, and also, The ones similar to Fenesis depicted on the paintings.

“Kusla?”

Weyland called for him, but the latter did not respond, merely looking back.

His face slowly broke into a smile.

“There’s no way we can try to revive the dragon.”

He was smiling, for he could only smile.

“But if we can really get it to revive.”

Kusla started breathing again, as though gulping.

“Don’t you think a miracle will happen?”

The ‘Book of Dragon Blood’, and the words engraved in that hidden cave.

The Calamity of the flames of Hell would come upon those seeking it—

Kusla started running before he knew it. Weyland seemed to have some words to say, but he did not stop. They were headed to the workshop, and he shoved the door aside, rushing in.

Irine was seated by the bench at the work area, having started to learn words to alleviate the excessive uneasiness she had. At this moment, she jolted.

“W-what, what is it?”

Irine kept blinking away, but Kusla ignored her, and hurried into the inner room.

“Ah! Wait—!”

When he opened the door to the bedroom, he found Fenesis shriveled into a ball on the ball.

She gave her visitor a shocked look, one that lasted for seconds.

Once she saw that it was Kusla however, she was a little terrified, a little anguished, a little displeased, and seemed to bashful to look straight at him. Kusla averted his eyes from this Fenesis, pondering in his heart that if he was to describe her with his lacking vocabulary…

A gripping expression.

Thus was the reason Weyland ran away.

But at this point, Kusla was looking for his bag, the book that was inside, the ‘Book of Dragon Book’ that was covered in black leather.

“E-erm.”

Fenesis spoke, having seeming made up her mind.

But Kusla ignored her actions as he opened the black book, and flipped through the pages at frantic pace. It contained loads of common knowledge, long, monotonous content that left him sighing. The dragon landed on that hill, spewing flames that could be seen hundreds of yards away, before returning back to Hell, and such narration. Typical adults would never pay much attention to it.

However, the technical books left behind by alchemists were also commonly disguised as fortune telling or mythical books, recorded as anecdotes.

And thus, he read this book as such.

“…”

Kusla quickly closed the book. Once he knew the trick, the code within posed no challenge to him.

“Erm…”

At this moment, Fenesis spoke up, having finally made up her mind.

Kusla looked down at her, and she showed a teary face on the bed.

She had some things she had to say, but her emotions were the only things surging into her mind, and he really was at a loss of what to do.

And seeing Fenesis react this way, Kusla coldly responded,

“Stand up.”

“Erm, ah…eh?”

“Stand up. Get ready.”

“…”

Kusla glared at Fenesis.

“I need your help! Pack up and get ready!”

He raised his voice, for he was really angered, rather than the stunned look Fenesis showed.

However, he too was unsure if that anger was directed at Fenesis or himself. When he was wondering what Fenesis was doing on the bed, he never expected her to see the Mother figure and the emerald pendant she had been rubbing. This alchemist, dubbed ‘interest’, was left wondering as to what expression he should show when facing such a girl. Should he not bellow when he was being irate, no?

Kusla clicked his tongue, leaving behind Fenesis in the bedroom as she was clearly flustered yet moving along as he returned to the workshop. Weyland too returned , “Hey Kusla~” he called out, and was silenced by the ‘Book of Dragon Blood’ thrown at him.

“Hm? This is?”

“The book I found in the abandoned mines. Probably something sealed behind the hidden doors. Those people raiding that place don’t know its value and just threw it aside.”

Weyland gave a few glances at the front and back of the cover, and slowly opened the pages.

“But this book is most likely the one in this town that should be most sealed up.”

Kusla said, and heard teetering footsteps from the bedroom, as Fenesis scampered out.

“So-sorry. Kept you waiting.”

The emerald pendant was swaying before her chest, probably as she was overly anxious.

“Showing such a thing so openly is basically asking for others to attack you!”

Fenesis was met with a cold stare from Kusla and a reprimand, and she hastily tried to hide the pendant inside her clothes, but as her clothes were overly thick, she was not too successful. Kusla sighed, naturally reached his hand for the Mother’s figure in her hand, opened her collar, and stuffed it it.

For a moment, she appeared to be at a loss as of how she would be treated, but when she recovered, she held her chest down, blushing as she retreated.

“What can you do, hiding that flat chest of yours?”

One could see Fenesis’ ears prick beneath the veil.

She lowered her chin, and pouted, glaring at Kusla with a teary look, and aside in annoyance.

Rather than being watched with a gripping expression, Kusla felt more at ease to be treated with annoyance.

And then, his eyes were directed at Irine, who was completely oblivious as to what was going on.

“You, come along too!”

“Eh? Me?”

“And Weyland too. Get a larger hammer and chisel, or something similar. I’m guessing we need some manual labor.”

“Hm? Well, if you say so~>”

Weyland replied, and slowly trotted to the various tools placed in a corner of the workshop.

Irine remained seated on the chair, slightly dazed as she suddenly spoke up,

“You thought of something?”

Kusla tersely responded.

“We’re going to affirm that.”

They were headed to the Cathedral in the ruins of the mines.

They scaled the ruins of the mines to the entrance of the Cathedral, and there were numerous soldiers stationed there, watching the enemy camp.

Once they found Kusla and the others, they were all left shocked in unison, but did not say much.

They probably had no idea who Kusla’s team was, and that the reality they had witnessed at that place was so cruel, it trivialized this matter.

From this position, it was obvious how much Kazan was surrounded.

It was one such that Alzen would be forgiven for reacting as such.

“Let’s go.”

But if Kusla’s guess was correct, even that enemy formation could be easily beaten back.

They went down the old sewer, and arrived at the Cathedral with the dragon statue.

“…Amazing.”

Irine let out an impressed cry, but Kusla quickly gave instructions.

“Hey, watch the entrance and see if there’s anyone coming from the top.”

Irine pointed at herself, and wordlessly agreed.

“I’ll call for you when it’s your turn. You’re the lead here!”

Kusla said as he unveiled Fenesis’ head.

“Hyaa!”

The snowy white beast ears had nowhere to hide as the light shone in from the top.

“Get down, now.”

“…Eh?”

Fenesis remained rooted, having assumed that she was mistaken. Kusla repeated.

“I said to get down.”

“…”

“Knees on floor, keep your body low.”

What kind of joke is this, Fenesis’ face implied, but Kusla showed no change in his expression, and she finally realized that he was serious.

She lowered her ears in fear, her knees landing on the floor apprehensively as she crouched before Kusla. Appearing at this point was a blueprint to incite people to poke at her and bully her.

Irine, watching the entrance, noticed the two of them, and raised her voice panickedly.

“Wa-wait, what are you doing!?”

“Quiet.”

Without looking at Irine, Kusla answered,

“If you don’t keep quiet, she can’t hear.”

“Ah?”

Kusla leered as he ignored Irine.

“Prick your ears and listen clearly.”

Once Kusla said this, Weyland realized his intentions, and chuckled.

“Now then.”

He gently raised his right foot.

“If there’s a strange echo, that’s the entrance to Hell.”

With a thud, he tapped on the stone floor with his heel.

Even for those proficient in raiding, those were simply humans. Their hearing has a limit to how good they were.

But if they were Fenesis, who had unhuman ears.

From the myth recorded in the ‘Book of Dragon Blood’, Kusla deduced that the Cathedral might have a hidden room. Thus, Weyland and him had been knocking all over the stone floor. Fenesis immediately understood her mission, and confidently brought her ears to the floor.

Soon after, she got up in a jolt,

“Over there.”

Fenesis pointed at a certain spot without hesitation, in a way that lacked thrill.

It was that massive dragon statue.

“In that case, Weyland, your turn.”

“Eh? Me~?”

“You pulled a fast one on me during that lead fortune telling, didn’t you? Acted like you did so for the first time.”

“…”

You’re still talking about that? Weyland had such a look, but he probably had some conscience as he raised a hammer, its handle almost as tall as he was.

“But don’t you feel some guilt at all~?”

“That’s an unnecessary emotion for an alchemist.”

“Got to hand it to you, Kusla~ go~”

Weyland raised the hammer, and slammed it on the dragon statue.

A loud sound rang, and shrapnel scattered, but only some cracks formed.

“This really is more hassle than I thought…”

Weyland said, and slammed the hammer over and over again.

The dragon statue showed cracks, shrapnel falling, on the verge of breaking apart.

Fenesis was probably terrified about the fact that they were destroying a magnificent statue, as she dusted her clothes as she watched on with a frozen look. Irine too approached the entrance of the Cathedral, looking conflicted at what they were doing, only to let out a little cry as she tumbled over.

“What are you doing?”

It was the soldiers, who panicked as they heard the commotion, hurrying over as they pushed her down.

However, Weyland merely glanced aside, and ignored them as he swung another strike. The hammer was then swallowed into the belly of the dragon, with a blunt sound different from before. Due to that, the cracked parts collapsed like dominoes, giving rise to a cloud of dust along with the shrapnel.

And everyone present had their eyes fixed.

At the back of the collapsed statue.

A certain ‘creature’ was there.

“W-wah, wahhh!!”

Shrieking and tumbling onto the floor were the soldiers.

Kusla saw that Irine was completely overwhelmed, unable to cry out.

And Fenesis subconsciously tugged at his sleeve.

That thing glared at the unruly intruders from the back of the statue.

Striking Kusla and the others later was not simply a look of fear.

“!?”

The first to retreat was Weyland, and after a beat, the anomaly reached where Kusla and the others were standing.

The first to panic were the terrified soldiers.

“I-it’s a miasma! Toxic gases from the mines!”

Man, armed with some half-baked knowledge, would only have their fear amplified.

But despite so, there was truly a stench. It was a unique smell, like rock being cut up.

The only one covering her nose and not knowing what to do was Irine.

Kusla and Weyland knew what that was, and Fenesis appeared to have realized something,

“This smell…is it…?”

She looked up at Kusla, muttering.

Weyland again swung the hammer down, enlarging the hole, and moved the rubble aside.

A stinging stench filled the hole, and something akin to a large bear was sprawled all over the floor.

“How magnificent!”

A few dragons were hidden there.

Wrong, it should be said to have the appearance of a dragon, akin to the replica seen at the plaza.

“Irine, your turn.”

Kusla instructed Irine while she had tumbled to the floor in shock.

“You’re going to investigate the dragon corpse, as for us,”

He showed a sneer, pausing his words,

“We’re going to investigate the dragon blood.”

Saying that, Kusla took a step forward, only to have Fenesis tugging at his sleeve, stopping him.

She looked up at him apprehensively, but when their eyes met, she hastily let go.

“I won’t be going anywhere.”

Kusla put his hand on hers.

“Wait here for a moment.”

Once her head was patted a few times, Fenesis shrank back, and seemed to have something to say, only to remain quiet.

Together with Weyland, who merely shrugged at this, they entered the room behind the statue.

It was a room with a high ceiling, so high that neight of them could reach even with their arms raised. There were six dragon statues there.

Some were lacking in body parts, while others were contorted.

“Wounds from the war, huh?”

Weyland muttered, and stopped once he spotted something.

“What is it?”

Kusla stood beside Weyland, and he too gasped.

Leaning on the wall were two sets of skeletons that had been long deceased.

“…Don’t say anything.”

Kusla merely muttered, and went deep into the room to search for his target.

Weyland watched the skeletons, and then followed Kusla.

The two skeletons seemed to be leaning on each other.

Their clothes were gone with the wind, but that unique shape was distinguishable. They had ball and shackles chained on the feet. It was likely they were the deformed who were sealed along with the dragons.

“Weyland.”

Kusla had descended the stairs deep inside the room, and called for his partner’s name.

And soon, he arrived at his side, before giving a whistle.

“Want to try dropping a candle accidentally now~?”

“No way.”

Kusla tersely responded.

Before them was a lake darker that darkness.

A brief touch on the toes would show that it was no ordinary water. It was a fluid more viscous than that, so much that it was similar to the hatred and malice of humanity.

“So this is the true identity of the dragon blood?”

Weyland said, totally taken aback by this.

Dragon blood would bring about the flames of hell, and on the other hand, was effective against countless ailments. All that sank in it would avoid the shift of time.

It was an omnipotent existence, so befitting of a rural pagan’s thoughts.

But what if it was written as something so mythical, a deliberate hyperbole?

It was no wonder Kusla had some familiarity with these words.

What triggered the saying that it would ignite the flames of hell, was simply the flammability. Whatever description that it was able to cause countless ailments, it meant that it could be used on certain diseases. That anything immersed in it would not be affected by time, in other words, could be considered ‘preservation of meat’.

Kusla realized that the dragon blood exhibited such characteristics.

From the crucial description of the flames of Hell, he was able to affirm this answer.

This dragon blood referred to asphalt, the oil from rock.

Such oil was extremely rare to find, such that it appeared the only place to extract it would be at Fenesis’ birthplace, the distant desert area.

Anyone seeing such a thing for the first time would surely be utterly terrified.

Because it was easily flammable.

Also, it would create black smoke, giving the impression that the world was about to end.

If such a thing was fired from the mouth, such a ghastly scene it would be.

Such was the mechanism behind this legend of the dragon.

“Now then, time to wake up the sleeping dragon.”

Kusla said, and turned around to leave.

Irine finally recovered, and thoroughly inspected the metal dragon, from the damaged parts to the inner structure.

At this moment, the Knights themselves had arrived, probably having received intel from the terrified soldiers.

What surprised Kusla was that Alzen was amongst them.

However, that face did not seem to have understood much.

He probably wanted to rely on anything, if possible.

“What is going on here?”

“As you can see.”

“Wha.”

Alzen stopped in his tracks upon seeing the glare from the dragons behind the damaged statue.

However, he cleared his throat, as though remembering that he could not make a joke of himself before his subordinates, and straightened his back.

“The legend of the dragon is the real thing.”

“…”

“We are currently investigating this. Most likely…the dragon being able to spew fire is a weapon.”

“Weapon…”

“There is a fountain at the plaza, no? Something like that.”

As Irine said, the statue at the plaza clearly looked to be in pain. It was no wonder, for the dragon itself was supposed to be prone on the floor, its mouth opened.

“B-but, so what? Using a fountain as a weapon is…”

“Of course, a fountain exudes water, but what if the water is flammable?”

Kusla sneered.

“Archduke Kratol did ask of alchemists to do some fire breathing, no?”

This is the same thing.

Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Alzen remained silent.

Irine then walked out form the hole, probably aiming to end the conversation.

“I had a look, and it does seem to be the case. There is something like an intricate bellow. The function, I believe, is probably the technology similar to the fountain.”

“Is it possible to use them?”

“There are two that seen completely fine. They are made using extremely pure bronze, pretty like they were made last week. Also, if we can get spare parts from another one, we can rebuild one or two. This though, I don’t know if I can do it. If it’s just me, manpower-wise, it won’t be enough. Also, this place really stinks…”

Given that she could still grumble, surely she had somewhat calmed down.

Kusla nodded, and looked towards Alzen,

“That’s the situation. What do you intend to do? I’m guessing this can scare the pagans more than pouring mercury into a dead chicken. At this point, we can extract asphalt from the lake deep inside, scatter them all over the enemy, and set them aflame. We won’t have to take the bloody path out, but a path of flames.

Alzen was still sceptical of whatever happening before him, his eyes fixated unflinchingly on the ‘dragon corpse’.

But he was truly the man acting as Herald of the Knights.

He took a deep breath, his eyes glimmering with light again.

“I shall discuss this with the Archduke.”

“Meaning?”

“We can gamble on this miracle. Alchemists, show us your abilities, and prove yourselves to be above money-grubbing worms.”

Kusla then nodded slowly, answering,

“Of course, but we have a condition to this assistance.”

“Which is?”

“A safe departure. Promotion after this is all over, and a workshop befitting our status assigned to us.”

“…”

Alzen stared at Kusla, surely weighing various options in his mind. Even though the ‘dragon corpse’ and asphalt were there, without the assistance of Kusla’s team, any ordinary person would probably light the asphalt like a torch and shoo away the enemies like wolves.

“Certainly.” Alzen nodded,

“As I swear upon my name, Alzen, I shall assure your safety on the journey, and whatever happens after. However…”

“However…”

“The premise is that we can make it out safely.”

Kusla nodded courteously, and answered,

“As you wish.”

He then turned towards the others,

“You heard him.”

Weyland stroked his chin, sneering away. Irine had her hands on her hips, “Who died and mad eyou king?” grumbling away.

Finally, Fenesis watched Kusla with sadness for some reason, but Kusla ignored her, and looked towards Alzen again.

“I suppose time is of the essence now?”

“Naturally.”

And so, Kusla and the others got down to reviving this ancient technology, to harken a miracle in this tribulation.

Escaping from Kazan was a completely different matter from a skirmish at the entrance of the town.

Also, the enemy did have contact with the residents living inside the town, and appeared to have realized the Azami’s Crest intentions to escape. They attacked the walls, and started firing arrows into the town to disperse.

For the craftsmen and merchants who came along with the Azami’s Crest, even if they did escape from this town, they had no future awaiting them. They came to Kazan, hoping to have work here, and even if they were transferred to a new town with authority secured, it was likely that they would only suffer more than usual.

Thus, the enemy forces outside the walls fired arrows containing letters that wrote: No matter the truth to the matter, we have no intention of harming non-combatants. Once the town revives, we shall accept these people as new citizens. The only condition is to be enemies against the Knights.

Within the walls of the town, there were spies sharing information with the enemies outside. If the people inside the walls were to fawn over the Knights, they would have no way to deny once the Knights left Kazan.

But the Knights, despite their inaptitude, were still the Knights, not opponents that could have swords drawn at their necks.

The town was filled with uneasiness, as though immoral tempered clergymen had falsified that they were abandoned by God, all to spread the faith.

There was nobody, nothing, that was worth believing, to be tested. All of them worked only for their own benefits.

If this situation was to collapse, all that was needed would be some trivial opportunity.

If they were to remain in the tense atmosphere the entire time, they might be driven insance.

One could count their lucky stars if there was work to be done.

“Does this refer to pine resin? Then this magic powder to burn the water is quicklime…after that is sulfur, phosphorus, and mercury…”

“Sounds dangerous. How much for each?”

“Not written in here. Looks like we can only sample with a few. Hey! You there! Don’t approach the asphalt while holding the fire!”

The siege battle continued over the walls again, and the mercenaries banded together to prevent riots in town. Most of the craftsmen did not offer assistance, probably worried of the consequences, and the revival of the dragon was basically done by Kusla’s team.

They had all their torches in the Cathedral, and the craftsmen who had decided to cast their lot with the Knights were gathered, analysing the corpse of the damaged dragons, checking the internal structure.

And to ensure that the asphalt extracted from the underground lake would burn most efficiently, Kusla continued to read the ‘Book of Dragon Blood’, and Weyland would experiment.

Once he had ascertained the method, Weyland would repeat experiments based on his instincts. When he knew he could not gain any new information from Kusla, he would scowl, his expression telling Kusla not to bother him.

Kusla then had a look at Irine. She had an extraordinary ability to assemble a bellow that worked along with the water wheel, loved to research, and her desire to experiment might not be inferior to Weyland, no, even exceeds his. At the very least, she was previously the leader of a blacksmith guild, and she continued to work like a veteran, even when she was involved with others who were taller than her, or at least double her age.

Kusla suddenly found that the Cathedral in the ruins of the mines had become a massive workshop.

Everyone followed their assignments, and did whatever they were tasked with. Though jumbled up, they all had a common goal.

Of course, dividing the work was not some rare thing, for blacksmiths would do the same in workshops. Sometimes, merchant goods like clothes would require years of journey, arrivals at various workshops in various countries, before the final product was made.

But for Kusla, who had always worked alone, this was a refreshing, intriguing experience.

This first experience could simply be said as united as one.

He felt abnormally lethargic, yet strangely refreshed, and snorted.

Laughing at himself, for having no right to criticize Fenesis for going blind seeking solace.

Alchemists all sought the same goal, to head towards Magdala, but every one of them governed themselves,

And thus, as nobody could trust anyone, just the notion of working together with others would be scorned upon. Kusla too had firmly believed that working alone suited him most, that it was the most polished way of doing things on this world.

But reality seemed a little complicated, and there were some things that would have remained unknown without experiencing.

This wasn’t a bad thing.

Kusla felt a little lethargic, and leaned on a wall, realizing at this moment that his posture was akin to surrender.

“…What?”

While he was quietly mocking himself, a nun stood before him.

She had already learned how to find work for herself, scampering everywhere to do menial chores, and got herself all covered in soot, dust and sweat. At this point, Fenesis went from being a pure white nun to a grey rat.

The grey rate then spoke up,

“Are yo okay?”

Kusla assumed she was questioning the pace of the working.

“Probably. Weyland’s a fanatic at research, and Irine does seem experienced in commanding others. Maybe we can modify a bellow and exude asphalt instead of air. Not a bad construct. That sort of thing should be built easily.”

Kusla commented as he watched the workers scurry around like ants and bees, but awaiting him were the somewhat angry stare reom the pretty green eyes.

“Please have some rest.”

“Huh?”

Before Kusla could answer, Fenesis had already approached him, and remained by his flank.

“You are not looking good.”

“…”

It seemed she intended to lend her shoulder, and bring Kusla over to a certain place.

“You are wrong here. It’s an ugly scheming face now, isn’t it?”

Saying that, Kusla wanted to nudge Fenesis aside, but the grey rate nun remained obstinate.

“You always told me not to force myself.”

Truly, I did. So Kusla thought.

In fact, ever since they departed on the long journey from Gulbetty, he did not sleep much, and kept toiling away.

He was almost at his limits. A certain part in his mind understood this well.

“…But I cannot just go to sleep by myself.”

Kusla said without much thought, and even he was taken by surprise.

He cared about the feelings of others.

The unity displayed in this massive workshop was clearly reflected upon him.

“Also,”

Fenesis’ words grounded Kusla back to reality.

“I too had such a thought before, but I did accept your advice to rest.”

The girl’s words were completely correct.

But Kusla still refuted.

“I am the Restless Alchemist.”

“I heard that is just a description.”

Fenesis’ rebuttal left Kusla chuckling in bemusement.

“I get it, I get it. But walking back to the workshop is troublesome…”

“There is fire outside. Can you make your way there?”

“Don’t put me on the same level as you.”

Kusla did state so clearly, but Fenesis leaned on his flank, trying to support him, and they both walked down the sewer. There were torches everywhere, for people to move back and forth, and thus no worry about a lack of lighting.

But when they were slightly afar from the Cathedral, the buzzing from before seemed so distant.

“…It got quiet.”

Kusla muttered without a thought.

“No turning back. Please have a little rest here.”

Fenesis said with seriousness. Truly she was a stubborn busybody of a nun.

Kusla was not exactly a hindrance to the work at this point, but an alchemist sought to see reality, and grasp it. He knew very well whether they needed him there.

“I won’t be going back. Even without me managing, it’s likely to finish well.”

Fenesis looked up at Kusla in surprise, probably stupefied by how understanding he was.

“I used to think that working in groups was just a method those blacksmiths would do for their boring jobs…but now they are using on the dragon-shaped flamethrowers. Quite a masterpiece.”

Once they went from the sewer to the outside, a chilling cold, one about to rip their bodies apart, struck them. However, there were no clouds in the night sky, and the stars filling the sky were like silver powder scattered around.

Prompted by Fenesis, Kusla sat by the fire. She did not sit down immediately, went off somewhere, and returned with a large pile of blankets in hand. It was likely the soldiers keeping watch had prepared them; they were no longer in sight, either as they were in the Cathedral, patrolling around the town, or might be fighting against the enemies at the walls. Nobody could be certain as to whether they remained alive.

“Good work there. You can head back to work.”

With the blankets draped over his body as he remained by the fire, his fatigue creeped in like melting ice.

Of course, this was the worst place to be sleeping in, but so tired he was that he did not mind.

“No, I want to stay here.”

Kusla was about to close his eyes, but Fenesis insisted on his side. He gave her a look of annoyance.

She did not look straight at Kusla, but at the fire, in a somewhat petulant manner.

“During a journey, those travelling together will lean on each other for warmth.”

Saying that, Fenesis was sitting down, beyond the blanket Kusla had wrapped around. She probably had another reason to stay behind.

But as he was too weary, Kusla’s mind could not function as usual. He had a vague idea, not completely, of what Fenesis intended to do.

In any case, as it was too troublesome for him, he had her petite body lumped along with his beneath the blanket.

“I know that much common sense at least…or rather, both of us should be naked.”

It would be warmer to have two people naked in embrace rather than be in clothes under the blanket. This was not an excuse to the Church, and though strange, it was fact.

But as he said it to her ears beneath the veil, he scented upon ash and asphalt, rather than the usual scent of breasts.

Was it because of this? Fenesis retorted.

“…That is the case, but it is crude coming from your ears.”

“I want to sleep.”

Kusla himself nearly fell asleep amidst the conversation.

“If you have something to say, do you mind hurrying up?”

Fenesis could not hide whatever was on her mind, probably due to this personality of hers. Kusla was peeved that he was one outwitted by this Fenesis, but she remained apprehensive.

From her actions, it seemed she had finally made up her mind.

The contact made between both bodies explained many things.

“It is about…what I heard from Miss Irine.”

“Hmph.”

Guessed so. Kusla snorted.

“Sh-she said that…you would…bring me along.”

He did not know how Irine conveyed his message to her.

But the reaction she showed was enough to get Weyland running from the workshop.

In fact, she harbored some expectations, but could not spit it out. Thus, she was really elated. She however was obviously a handicap, and was perturbed by this. Yet she was so elated.

Probably.

This might be the actual reason as to why Weyland chose to escape.

And thus, Kusla sensed that if he was present, he would be more annoyed than usual, or even have goosebumps.

But when he heard her summon her courage to say this, what he felt was not disgust, an urge to nudge her aside.

“Strangely, I find that working together in a workshop isn’t a bad thing.”

And also, he was reminded of a possibility, that instead of living on alone, he might bet on a method so that neither of them would die. As Irine had said, clumsily committing to the right thing would always be better than committing the correct mistakes.

Hearing Kusla’s words, Fenesis’ neck shrank. She acted as though her heart was shot by an arrow.

He reached his arm out and wrapped it around her shoulder. Fenesis’ body shivered, probably due to sensitivity. The biggest joy alchemists have was in obtaining the reactions of various things, and the bigger the reaction, the better.

Fenesis’ head drooped, and with his other hand, Kusla lifted her chin slightly.

“…”

The sudden change in situation had Fenesis frozen in place, and she seemed to have something she wanted to say, only to become silent once she saw his deliberate smile.

She was so terrified, yet she did not resist.

Have I become a vampyre now? Such a notion left Kusla chuckling again, and he approached the soft Fenesis, intending to leave his mark on her.

At that moment.

“Do you mind doing that later~?”

Separating the two of them was a piece of parchment.

And the voice stopping them down the middle was Weyland’s voice.

Even Irine could be seen hanging around.

“Hm? Eh! Ah, goodness, Mr Weyland, why are you stopping them?”

“I won’t do so if you’re willing to be my partner, little Irine~.”

“Huh? No way. Besides, you licked some asphalt, didn’t you? What are you intending to do with that mouth?”

“Maybe that will create some fiery love affair~.”

The bickering between both sides was similar to partners who had collaborated over many years. Also, other blacksmiths followed them out from the back.

All of them were holding various tools, while Weyland was holding a few vials, containing not wine, but asphalt.

“That’s how it is. We’re going to experiment. Come help out too~.”

Kusla narrowed his eyes, and sighed.

“Can’t the luck last a little longer?’

He said to Fenesis before him, and her eyes remained closed, as she said with a teary face,

“…Pl-please let go of me…”

She was blushing. Kusla let go of her chin, and she, already exposed in an embarrassing state, crouched down.

He shrugged, suppressed his urges to sleep with the last of his strength, and got up,

“Now then, time to start with the experiments. We’ll continue next time”

He teased. Having been told off so directly, a dumbfounded Fenesis looked up at Kusla in rage,

“Goodness, you…”

“Hm?”

“Nothing at all!”

Fenesis was fuming, as she pulled the blanket aside, and stood up.

But she did not leave Kusla’s side.

She was practically declaring her position.

Irine and the other blacksmiths were assembling the heart of the dragon. It was assembled through the connection of cylindrical metal pipes between several control valves and drivers.

“The basic structure isn’t a difficult one. Just put the asphalt high up, and the spout at the bottom. Using the weight of the fluid itself, the force would cause the fluid to spout. That’s the same theory as a fountain. If you want to increase the distance, you will have to add pressure, similar to a bellow structure, and open the control valve. The shape of the dragon is also logical. By using that posture, the backside containing the asphalt will be high up, and the shape of the wings perfectly mimics the effects of a bellow. The reason why the wings are added is because of their length, that the lever physics is at well. It does appear that those people who made this had a logical yet adventurous thought process behind it.”

Irine explained coherently. As to be expected of a capable blacksmith.

Though she had many reasons to be gloomy in Gulbetty, the biggest reason remained that her outstanding ability would never be satisfied in the rigid workshop of the town.

“That asphalt, according to the allocation of materials in the ‘Book of Dragon Book’, will have a massive change in flammability. The stickiness is the toughest issue to do it.”

“Stickiness? Seems like it’ll fly further if it’s as dilute as water though.”

Kusla said, and Weyland shrugged.

“If it’s that sticky, it’ll stick on the enemy and cause quite a tragedy, no?”

“…I see.”

It was a weapon designed to kill.

“To get it flying far, there’s a certain level of stickiness needed to increase the effect; but at the same time, the mechanism is more likely to be jammed. If there’s too much resin and sulfur, the flammability will decrease. The best ratio isn’t stated in that book, so I guess it’s through word of mouth.”

And the ones who knew the ratio were probably hidden in the dark corner behind that statue, silently leaning upon each other, awaiting their final moments.

“So that’s how it is. At the very least, we are done with preparations~.”

Weyland poured out the last bits of the contents in the vial. Irine received the flint from Kusla, and lit the firewood at the bottom of the device.

“This really is scary, but we need to heat it and soften it~.”

Weyland explained with enthusiasm. With all her focus, Irine watched the heart heat up.

“Once you hear some slight knocking coming from the inside, that means it’s just right. I’m guessing the inside will explode if you continue to heat it up~.”

Irine heard Weyland’s explanation loud and clear, and watched the heart intently.

And then, without anyone speaking up, she slowly nodded.

“I think it’s good.”

Saying that, she put a hand on the bellow that could exert pressure on the contents.

“So, who’s going to wake the dragon up?”

All the eyes were naturally directed to Kusla.

“Me?”

“Well, you’re the one who found it.”

“…Feels like I am set up to be villain here.”

“It’s true that we’ll never be able to step on these lands again~.”

Kusla looked aside at Weyland, and snorted.

He placed his hand on the bellow.

“Don’t exert too much force. If this breaks, this place will end up a sea of fire.”

The words describing the injured dragon probably referred to this.

Also, these lands being rich in minerals would describe the shattered scales of the dragon, and that the dragon’s body was created from the materials obtained from the mines. That was not wrong, in any case.

“Better to die in an experiment than at the execution platform.”

Irine shrugged, and held a lit piece of wood before the metal tub. This was to lit the asphalt sputtering out.

“Isn’t it better to shoot at the asphalt rather than have the wooden touch it?”

“So, the flames of hell. The Devil’s threat won’t be effective if they see this before their demise, huh?”

“Such a terrible joke.”

Irine said, and retreated.

With everyone watching, Kusla gave a few presses on the bellows, felt that he had the pressure needed, and pulled the valve.

“!”

At that moment, the air expanded. A sun appeared before them, creating a blazing rainbow. Everything happened in a split moment, and there was no time to be terrified, marvel, or show any emotion.

A few seconds passed, and there was some lingering heat, such that one would wonder if the skin was burned off the face, and that the demon of flames just shot off in a straight line. It was quite some distance, and the asphalt burned far away, that even in the darkness, black smoke could be distinctively identified.

Once they realized what was going on before them, the emotion everyone present had was probably not shock.

From their eyes, the guilt over reviving such a vicious technology was clear for all to see.

And also, there was another feeling, one similar to excitement.

With this weapon, surely they would overwhelm the enemy, and break through the siege.

Such a weapon was the Devil’s trick, so they say.

“Those people at the Church will pass out upon seeing this thing.”

The legendary dragon regained life here.

After that, all they had to do was to assemble the dragon again, adjust the proportion of the asphalt, ready their forces, and time the moment to break out of the town.

Seeing how the attacks kept coming, the commotion within the town walls were at its breaking point.

Even the people who came along with the Azami’s Crest had started to realize that the Knights were already the losers; a pervasive notion was that a riot would not be unexpected, even amongst those harbouring hopes and supporting the Knights.

Of course, there were those original residents who hoped for the town to be of old. The situation was volatile, and they had to act fast.

Weyland, irine, Kusla and Fenesis were already at their physical limits, yet they continued to toil through the night.

However, it was better than dying. It was better than giving up on their dreams.

With that as fuel, they continued to work.

However.

That only lasted until they managed to repair the second dragon that remained, the one that incurred relatively little damage.

Kusla frowned as he had a terrible migraine, probably due to the excessive fatigue, or the scent of the asphalt. At that moment, a soldier called for him.

“I am here on Lord Alzen’s orders.”

“…if you are asking about the progress, we’ll make it, as I have reported.”

Kusla could not hide his anxiety, his tone clearly conveying disdain.

“No.”

However, the soldier whispered.

“WE have a problem.”

Kusla looked back at the soldier. This soldier did not have much gruffness to him.

He had a thin, long face, and an apt description would be that he was someone in a position to order others, akin to Alzen and the others.

“Please call the other alchemist over.”

“…Seems like it’ll be a bad thing for you to be spotted. Wait for us inside.”

Kusla pointed at a passage, which led to the room containing the offertory instruments, and the ‘Book of Dragon Blood’ he discovered in. The soldier looked over at where he pointed, and nodded slightly, fidgeting around as though he was looking for something as he passed through the blacksmiths, and quickly vanished at the other end.

Kusla watched him, and muttered to himself, now why did he come alone?

In any case, surely it was not a good thing.

He steeled himself for this.

And so, he called out for Weyland, before both of them headed to that room separately.

Weyland entered first, followed by Kusla.

And the mood there left him smiling.

“I’ll start with the conclusion.”

The soldier said,

“We have insufficient asphalt.”

Kusla looked over at Weyland, who then scowled unhappily.

“I did not waste it~.”

“If we can have a little more time, perhaps it might be a little better…”

“But what do you mean insufficient? That lake isn’t as big as it looks, but we managed to obtain quite a fair bit.”

“I did some calculations based on the asphalt used in the experiments and the burning radius.”

The soldier said, and took out a parchment from within his leather armor.

There was an illustration of a dragon on it, along with lines from the dragon, people, and numbers labelled by their side.

At that moment, Kusla finally understood.

The story of the dragon was not about reviving magic.

It was thoroughly based on reality; a mere drop or two of asphalt would not be able to burn everything before them.

Considering the size of the enemy camps and the numbers, we need three times our current supply to prevent the enemy from charging in. of course. If we want to burn them all to crisp, we’ll need an astronomical amount.”

It might be fine enough if the battle happened in a narrow valley, where the flow of attack was limited.

However, the land outside Kazan was vast, let alone a creek or a forest.

Even with three dragons assembled, the range a dragon could deal with was limited, and the asphalt would be fired in a straight line rather than scattered.

“Of course, this is just a calculated result, and the idea is that the enemy are wooden puppets who will not fear. In fact, humans aren’t, and should be terrified of fire…”

“But by that definition, since they aren’t wooden puppets, they will figure out that as long as they don’t stand before the dragon, the fire won’t be that scary.”

“That’s how it is.”

The reaction of the enemy was unpredictable.

And Alzen was not charmed by the dragon, thought of it as a weapon, analysed the outcome, and deduced that they had insufficient asphalt.

“The purpose of a retreat isn’t to wipe out the enemy. If we can do so, there’s no need to retreat. The important thing is to ensure that they realize it’s pointless to pursue, that they know even if they did, major losses would be incurred.”

“So?”

Asking at this point was Kusla.

Alzen and the others stood on ground facing direct danger, as compared to the alchemists.

Even after the calculations, it was the case. They lacked asphalt. Was there an alternative method?

They were not people who would be satisfied with an outcome.

They had used all the tools at hand, and did whatever they could do.

Kusla put himself in Alzen’s shoes, wondering what would the latter do.

The typical way to retreat would be to scare the pursuers off. Even if the contents were empty, they could also befuddle the enemy, like turning lead to gold.

“I once saw you fool everyone at Gulbetty.”

He used the word ‘fool’.

But truly, it was an illusion, empty within.

“If we want to strike fear into those pagans who are thoroughly superstitious, we can make up for the lack of asphalt through fear.”

“So deliver a strong blow right from the strat?’

“That’s one possibility.”

But that was not the answer. The soldier was trying to imply that it should be something to the effect of a stage performance.

:However, both of you have a tool that can be used.”

The one tool most suited to terrify the pagans. Unexpectedly, the one to freeze up was Weyland. Kusla had predicted this, and watched the soldier.

“Do we have the right to refuse?”

Kusla asked, and the soldier lowered his gaze.

“Lord Alzen would never kowtow.”

“…So you came in his stead?”

Kusla said, and Weyland looked over at him in shock.

The soldier, still looking fine, nodded slightly.

“Lord Alzen knows whose contribution this is. However, he does have a decision to make.”

“Even if we do try to escape now, it’s impossible now.”

The soldier answered Kusla with silence.

But that was so.

Time was of the essence, and the crux here was that the tiger, no, dragon flamethrower was lacking in fuel.

In that case, they would need another weapon. One that would make upon for the terrifying flames, the lack of asphalt.

Naturally, they thought of this idea. The Knights had ‘Fenesis’ brought in from faraway lands, for this purpose.

“Please do understand that me being here is out of Lord Alzen’s kindness, so that he would not impose his orders on you.”

“But the situation hasn’t changed.”

Kusla grumbled.

He knew what they wanted, and he himself could not think of an alternative.

That dragon weapon could not be simply deemed as a weapon; surely there was a need to have it impressed as a creature summoned from Hell.

But it was not to say that there were no ideas.

The key was the painting Irine found.

“An archmagi to control the cursed ancient weapon, is that so?”

Kusla watched the soldier with suspicion.

“But isn’t that girl too cute?”

That was his half-hearted attempt to refute.

“We are not the forces of evil, and neither are we noble. In this case, perhaps the epithet ‘Holy Witch’ would be more appropriate?”

Holy Witch.

That might be an epithet suited for Fenesis.

“Tomorrow, at dawn. Whether she will be riding on the dragon, or on a platform that can be stowed on a carriage, that will be for you two to decide. In any case, we hope for the both of you to present a splendid performance as you did in Gulbetty. Whether we can escape this will hinge on this.”

The soldier boewed, and turned to leave.

Kusla stared at the empty wall, remaining still.

“Kusla.”

Weyland called for his name.

“if there’s anything you want from me, I’ll assist your escape~”

Kusla looked over at Weyland in shock.

“Of course, that’s not for you. It’s for little Ul.”

Kusla had no idea how much Weyland said was real, but it might be.

However, he shook his head. It was surreal. If they wanted to survive, they would have to latch on to the Knights at all costs, and there was no other way.”

Furthermore, there was another important matter.

“We’ll use anything we can use, for our goal. That is an alchemist.”

Kusla said.

Naturally, he should be using the girl as a cursed tool.

Fenesis and Irine had already returned to the workshop, so Kusla descended the hill, and head towards the workshop.

There were piles of fire rising on the other end of the wall, and the enemies could clearly be seen, but the battle was proceeding a little slowly. The Knights could not attack, and the enemy held their positions, waiting for the Knights to charge out of the walls when dawn broke.

Kusla saw the enemy standing upright in the darkness, and sensed that three dragons would be insufficient for them to evade the enemy’s ambush in the darkness.

And if they wanted to terrify the wits out of the thousands of enemies, they would have to rely not only burly muscles, or massive rods.

What the enemy feared were the slender arms of the king that were of no apparent use on the battlefield, and the staff used to swing.

Surely Fenesis’ existence would come in play here.

There were a fair few of the enemy living in this town, and they would surely understand what had happened. The myths they believed in was real. Then, they would understand that it was baring its fangs.

The goal was clear, the outcome to be anticipated. Also, without a countermeasure on the enemy’s part, the outcome was clear for all to see, even without a torch.

In that case, there was no reason not to use this move.

But what was he apprehensive over?

He stopped before the workshop. The light of the flame was leaking through the gap of the closed wooden door. There were a few surrounding workshops that had decided to assist the Knights, creating materials to revive the dragon. Amidst this, Kusla appeared to be someone brooding over the loss of his keys.

“Fool!”

Did he not decide to open the door leading to the hidden world of Truth, for the sake of Magdala?

Did he not swear, that he would do anything for the sake of this?

So Kusla convinced himself as he opened the door.

Like many things on this world, once one decided to open it, it would easily open. This fact that was open to them was something that could not be deemed as unprecedented.

The interior of the workshop was different from the outside, boiling with steam. There was a deep rumbling coming from the furnace.

Irine was nodding away, hugging a fire rake. Two other blacksmiths who appeared to be assisting her had fallen asleep.

He was quietly berating them over how careless they were, and found something on the work desk, shaped like dough, and a metal plate. That was the alarm clock he had taught Fenesis. Once the dough expanded, the plate would fall onto the floor. Surely it was something she had heard, and was using.

If she had remained by his side, they would be sharing knowledge like this.

Kusla went towards the bedroom inside.

He slowly opened the door, and the moonlight shone in through the gap of a chipped wooden window, with her basked under it.

It was a completely defenceless sleeping face.

It was a face of one without any tragedies on this world, only the ripened flowers, the doting birds, and the peaceful days awaiting her.

However, how much tragedy and hardship came upon this face was something Kusla could only deduce with all his might. It was a miracle that Fenesis was able to endure this Hell. And, something rare, was that despite all those encounters, she could still maintain such a defenceless sleeping face.

Kusla went to the bedside, and sat at the corner. When he took her in, she was still relatively naïve, pretentious, stubborn despite being weak, and a hopeless imbecile.

But at this point, she knew how to advance on her own, and sometimes surpassed Kusla when it came to this.

This town used to accept deformed people like her, and for her, that might be more important than those watching her with normal eyes. Were we always existences who were despised and ostracized by the world? For this question that was filled with despair, surely it could grant her an answer of hope.

What Kusla was about to say to Fenesis would shatter this hope completely. It was not something completely baseless, but a conclusion made by observing the facts, analysing the situation, and seeing how everything aligned to this. He was about to inform her the definite reason as to why deformed people like her were ostracized and reviled by the world.

And then, he would have to tell her, someone so reviled and ostracized, to exert fear upon others.

Before Kusla discovered the secret of the dragon legend, he considered the options to survive, and one possibility was to offer Fenesis over. How was that different from what he was going to do? For the sake of living, he would have to hurt someone. Of course, he had made similar decisions till this point. Thinking back on how he lived, he knew that he would end up in Hell once he died. But at this point, he remained hesitant. Certainly, the one principle he harbored in his heart had collapsed completely. Where has the name ‘Interest’ gone to? Kusla asked himself.

It was likely that when he interacted with Fenesis and Irine, it dissolved away like sweets made of sugar.

Do you want to relax? Fenesis once said this to him.

And it ended up this way.

The old me was the right one after all, so Kusla thought.

He should not have opened up his heart towards others. He should have just kept low, remained skeptical, grit his teeth, and live his life. He should not know about the joys of the world he had never thought of.

“!”

Suddenly, he sensed something touching him. He gasped, and straightened himself.

He turned his head around, and found Fenesis staring wide eyed at him.

“…You awake?”

“I cannot just sleep by myself.”

She smiled. Surely she did say those words to Kusla with some intent.

“Miss Irine told me to sleep…”

She sighed, her eyelids gently closing.

“But when it’s too tiring…it’s harder to sleep.”

Or rather…Kusla had a thought.

Fenesis had experienced countless cruelty. Such experiences left her with an ominous vibe.

If that was not the case, surely that would not explain this predicament.

Fenesis’ showed a strangely tender look.

“Miss Irine told me to sleep.”

“What?”

Kusla asked.

But Fenesis gave a snicker, answering,

“She said you believe you hid your expressions well.”

Such was the face of a woman. Such was the tone of a woman.

“Of course, you do let slip from time to time…”

Fenesis reached her hand out for Kusla.

“But when you do, it is often easy to understand.”

“…”

“There is something you do want of me.”

Such a wise lady.

No, this might be simply down to whether she was capable of it, or not.

Bottom line, it was an issue on experience. How many of such nights did Fenesis experience?

“You…”

Kusla spoke up, paused, and frowned.

He found himself to be utterly ridiculous.

He never realized his real self.

And surely, Kusla accepted his moniker ‘Interest’ (Kusla).

To establish an ‘image’, to proof that it was to be expected that he would not bother with how others felt.

“You.”

Fenesis said,

“Are a kind person after all.”

She chuckled, and gave a little sigh. The expression on her face clearly reiterated to Kusla that the latter could love.

“You wish for me to be the archmagi creating the dragon, yes?”

“How…did you…?”

“Fufu. Did you think I did not notice?”

Her gaudy smile had taken in so much anguish from the world, and yet so passionately depicted a nun preaching God’s teachings.

“There were a few points in that painting, they looked unnatural.”

“…”

“Miss Irine was careless. I always identified myself a cursed one, for the sake of living on, for the sake of every day. Once I heard anything unstable, I would associate it with myself. If not…my days would be the ‘abyss of no return’, as you said.”

Fenesis prattled on as she fidgeted with a corner of Kusla’s clothes.

“And your change of heart was too drastic.”

Naturally, Weyland would not believe that Kusla was convinced by Irine.

In that case, why would he assume that Fenesis would be fooled? With a scowl, he had said that those know-it-alls would neglect many things, and come to the wrong conclusion.

Fenesis was no simple girl. He knew that well.

“So I thought something had happened. Everything else was simple. You probably found a reason why I cannot remain in this town. If that’s the case, the significance of that painting, and Miss Irine’s words…will prove it. So I thought you might put me on a pedestal in this war. I am…a cursed tool after all.”

She exhaled.

“But,”

She tugged at his clothes with more strength.

“You seem to be in anguish, and that delights me. You could have chosen to have thought of me as a simple tool, one to be discarded. In fact, the Knights who had reached out to me had already done so.”

Kusla did not know how to react. It was as though he had encountered a miracle he did not know of, that he could only observe. For such a precious mineral, that was all he could only do.

“You said to be sure of the goal you set, and become stronger for this aim, no?”

Fenesis was no longer the one he first met.

She knew how to divert Kusla’s words as material, and said with an angry tone.

“If you do intend to use me as a cursed tool, I do not mind.”

Fenesis narrowed her eyes, as though the moonlight was stinging, as she continued,

“For I am relying on you.”

The girl who blindly sought her solace.

Yet she could not find that security.

“…But you are going to do something beyond what you imagine.”

Kusla could not believe what he just said. He came to use Fenesis as a cursed tool, yet the words he said seemed to be restraining her.

And he understood this paradox well, yet he could not swallow his words.

“Lots of people shall die before you. You are that kind of thing.”

Even without Fenesis activating it, even if it was for the sake of their survival, even though lots of people would die before their eyes. She would be the representative of such an act.

Would Fenesis allow for such a thing to happen?

No, Kusla had another question. Was it fine to let her to it?

“Till this point, many have died.”

That was Fenesis’ answer.

“As I lived, many have lost their lives. Many have told me, at least you can continue to live on well. In fact, I did escape till this point, leaving them to die. The reason is that I do not wish to die; even if I had to watch them killed before me.”

How many people on this world could say such words with such calmness?

“I have been told off by you many times. Not to be blind. The reason why I was blind was probably because I wanted to avert my eyes from these facts.”

Fenesis let out a little sigh.

“But when the barbarians came attacking at Gulbetty, it was the first time I hoped for others, not me, to escape. Back then, I realized that those who wanted me to escape had such feelings.”

The alchemist Thomas smelted iron of an unbelievable purity, and his ability left the previous ruler with much fear, such that Kusla and Weyland were nearly killed.

Back then, Fenesis did tell them to leave her, to hurry off and escape.

“But you told me not to, and had me silenced. For me, if others want me to escape, I never refused it once.”

The giggling face was of bemusement.

With much remorse, Fenesis chuckled.

“And you brought me along in your escape. Back then, I realized. That might be the start of fate.”

Her tiny hand was grabbing onto Kusla’s clothes.

That one action explained one matter more than many words, do not leave me alone.

“So…”

Kusla and Fenesis met silently in the eyes.

“I will.”

It was a terse, yet powerful line.

“I do not wish to think of myself as a mere baggage. If I am said to be cursed, being a baggage is the curse to me.”

The one who reached out to aid was Kusla. He never thought much of her initially, but the more he understood her, he started to hope that she would hold his hand.

And then, it was Fenesis reaching her hand out this time.

Kusla clasped that hand, and whispered,

“You are behaving as one of those in the workshop.”

Certainly, not all in the world is pretty.

So, Fenesis’s smile at this point was akin to a girl on a sickbed.

Yet they could continue on.

Without letting go of her hand, Kusla slowly bent over, paused, and stared at her.

For some reason, she watched him with dejection, and closed her eyes, ostensibly terrified.

He chuckled, and landed a kiss on her pretty forehead.

“I did say to wait for another time after all.”

It seemed Fenesis had already predicted this, for her opened eyes were filled with rage.

“…How sleazy you are.

And so, with Fenesis’ being like this, Kusla could only shrug, and stood up.

“Sleep now. We’re most likely in for a turbulent day tomorrow.”

“…You too.”

In response to Fenesis’ words, Kusla turned around,

“I am the Restless Alchemist after all.”

Dumbfounded, Fenesis gave a snicker, and slowly closed her eyes.

Without a sound, Kusla left the bedroom.

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