[Magdala V5] Act 4

The main issue about building bells was, how much tin was to be added to copper.

The more tin, the better the sound, but it would be more brittler. If there were equal amounts of tin, the building process itself would be affected by the weather, and the resulting bell might be brittle, or dull sounding. The demands for building a bell were a blacksmiths instincts and experience honed from many years of failure. It completely defied what the Alchemists demanded.

Despite that, Alzen gave the orders, so Kusla and the others had to do so. Most importantly, Kusla had to stop the Knights from retreating.

He and Weyland went around gathering the raw materials, and Fenesis too joined the ore treatment, grinding them, washing, filtering the impurities with acid and lead, and trying out various copper-tin combination. There were no special materials added in the experiments, and they were done in a structured manner, the proportion of tin being the variable; once done, the grains were poured into a cast. The actual bell would be so big, it could cover a kneeling Fenesis completely, but there was no need for that for these experiments. They did twenty and so alloys of different proportions.

It was almost dawn when they were done smelting all the minerals.

Once Kusla and the others arrived at the workshop, Irine went off to the other workshops, instructing the other blacksmiths on building the dragons, and did not return. Thus, when Kusla awoke from his light sleep, he found the workshop to be completely quiet.

The only things heard were the sleeping sounds, the creaking of the water wheel, and the furnace spitting flames. Amidst the silence, Weyland slept with his arms formed, looking up, while Fenesis was cupping the poker, leaning on the wall as she slept.

The workshop was so big, there was sufficient space even with twenty casts present. Fenesis was a completely different person from when she was at the Gulbetty workshop; her physique was much stronger, and she grasped the basics of the work. The experiments ended faster than expected. Kusla saw the white girl sleeping peacefully, and recalled the words Irine said in Kazan. Whatever is the correct decision can only be known by trying.

Korad, who adamantly departed for the land of death, probably knew that when he said there was something there he wanted.

Kusla chuckled, and shook his head.

He stashed away his weary smile, and kicked at the poker she was holding.

“Wake up.”

“Feuh, huh?!”

Fenesis probably had a dream as she slept; shelifted her head in shock, and she slowly reached for the poker. At this moment, she finally noticed that she had fallen asleep, and looked up at Kusla tearily.

“…P-Please do not pull my ear…”

It seemed she had recalled Kusla’s threat to pull her ears if she fell asleep.

Kusla shrugged, dug his little finger into his ear, and said,

“Keep working.”

Fenesis looked up at Kusla in shock. “Y-yes!” and replied.

Then, he kicked Weyland too, and pulled out the alloys from the casts.

“The colors are completely different.”

They laid the alloys onto the workdesk, observing the stark contrasts.

“Pure copper is red, and if we add more tin, it becomes golden, then silverish. An experienced blacksmith might be able to determine the amount used just from the colors.”

“…So pretty.”

The freshly cast bronze glittered under the morning sun, and Fenesis could not resist the urge to reach for them.

“Hot!?”

“Knew you would do that~.”

“Fool.”

With Weyland teasing and Kusla scorning, Fenesis reeled her neck back in anger, pouting her lips into a triangle.

“The colors are obvious, but you need to knock to hear the sounds. Try them.”

Kusla handed a hammer over to Fenesis, and raised his chin.

Though a little confused, Fenesis cautiously knocked on them.

“Bronze is malleable, so the sound dulls. If the alloy hardens, the pitch gets louder.”

With Kusla explaining, Fenesis cautious tapped the alloys before her.

Whenver she tapped at one, the ears under her veil would twitch. Suddenly, they shook greatly.

“This sound…”

“This probably is the purity level used to make the bell.”

The alloy was a pretty golden, right between red and silver. It could be said to be perfect for making the Church bell.  

“Nice ears. You can become a blacksmith whenever you want. I eny you..”

Kusla deliberately teased Fenesis, who glared up at him.

“I think it is not too late to change after I learn the secrets of Alchemy.”

“Oho.”

Weyland chortled, and Kusla smirked. Quite the talker, aren’t you?

Fenesis scowled, trying to act serious.

She tapped the alloys in order. The more silvery it got, the crisp sound became shrill.

“Once it gets this white, it becomes too hard, and shatters easily. Like a certain somebody.”

“…”

Kusla said as he tapped on Fenesis’ head, who immediately scowled again.

But she did not fight back, instead looking towards Weyland.

“So why have the blacksmiths been unable to build a good bell?”

“Pff.”

Weyland laughed, not because he found Fenesis’ question funny.

It was because Fenesis was asking Weyland, not Kusla.

Her revenge on Kusla was petty, and yet effective.

“This involves lots of other factors. For example, the ores might have impurities if they aren’t filtered properly, or there are problems enlarging a bell ~”

“What are the specifics? Are they something I can understand?”

Fenesis looked more passionate than before as she kept asking Weyland.

Clearly she was trying to spite Kusla, who would be the real fool if he reacted.

So Kusla grimaced with folded arms, remaining silent.

“I can tell you the answer…but you have to think in order to learn~.”

“Uu…I see. Understood. I shall think..”

“Hm. So write down all the questions you can think of. There might be lots of questions you don’t know the answers to, but because of that, there might be issues we haven’t thought of~.”

“There are?”

“Of course. For example, there are many accounts of alchemists all over the world committing countless heinous acts, no~? To be honest, some of those rumors were beyond our imaginations~.”

“…”

Fenesis was initially assigned to the workshop to supervise Kusla and Weyland, back when she had a bad impression on alchemists as a whole. Such words might be hurtful to her ears.

Fenesis shriveled, and looked up at Weyland.

“Well, I’m not telling you off here~. People are like this after all~. Any unfamiliar metals, they think of it as a creature, and add some tail, back, chest to them, turning little fish to large dragons. This is the power of imagination~.”

Also, there were times during experimentation when the results were beyond expectations. Experiments are fun.

Kusla wanted to say, but it would appear he wanted to attract Fenesis’ attention, so he endured.

“Of course, most imaginations differ from the facts, so there will be problems. With knowledge and experience, the imaginations become closer to the truth~. There’s good and bad to this. Some truths might seem dull, nothing to imagine. THis why I’m different from Kusla, I like my girls to wear their veils properly. Just show a bit of the face~.”

Weyland reached for Fenesis’ veil, and adjusted it.

Fenesis tensed up apprehensively, but Kusla knew she was being bashful, not fearful.

“You should learn how to hide this secret, little Ul~. That will attract the imagination of men~.”

“Hide…secret?”

Fenesis muttered to herself.

You’re giving her weird ideas agin, so Kusla glared at Weyland, only to be ignored by the latter.

“This is why I reach out to various girls. The charm of a girl I just met is the strongest. I know this is criminal, but I can’t help it~.”

Weyland put a hand on his chest, leaning back like a stage actor as he declared that.

Kusla felt weak, and could not bring himself to agree with that. Fenesis however was giggling at how much of a dandyman Weyland was.

“So, little Ul, write down the issues that will happen when enlarging a metal.”

“Y-yes.”

“Now then,”

Weyland looked towards Kusla.

“What do we do? Shall we watch little Ul think?”

“…”

Fenesis retreated in annoyance. Seeing that, Weyland deliberately beamed at her, and she ended up laughing again.

Kusla looked disinterested in this, his face freezing up, but regarding the case of bell making, he had a few questions to ascertain.

Kusla was about to mention this, only to hear frantic footsteps beyond the door coming to an abrupt halt. Everyone looked towards there, Kusla drew the dagger at his waist, pulling Fenesis by the shoulder.

Kusla opened a door, and a person immediately fell inside.

“Huh?”

“M-Miss Irine?!”

Fenesis hollered as she scampered over. Irine remained limp on the workshop floor. One of the thick leather gloves she used for smelting had disappeared for some reason.

Did she escape from some barbarians?

Kusla had such a notion for a moment, but after hearing some snoring, it seemed she was simply worn out.

“The lot of you…”

Kusla sighed, nudged the hapless Fenesis aside, and lifted up a collapse Irine..

She was a little taller than Fenesis, but she felt heavy on his shoulder.

It seemed the curves were there, and whatever left was the weight a blacksmith required.

“Prepare the bed.”

“Y-yes.”

Fenesis hurried into the workshop, preparing panickedly. Irine’s face was covered in soot, and some slight burns on her. It seemed she was hit by some explosive fragments. Despite that, her tired, unconscious face looked satisfied.

Kusla snorted, and laid Irine down on the bed Fenesis prepared.

“Wipe her face and body. Change her clothes.”

Fenesis looked up at Kusla skeptically. Kusla shrugged, and answered,

“Or do you want me to do that?”

Fenesis’ face flushed immediately, shaking her head.

“Once you finish taking care of Irine, do what Weyland tells you to do. He’s pretty laid back, but he isn’t bad at alchemy.”

“Eh, ah, yes.”

Kusla reminded Fenesis, and left the room.

“Watch out for those two. I’m going out for a while.”

“Hah? Where you going~?”

“It’s important to determine the factors to create a bell successfully, but the failures are also important.”

He probably could obtain the bell fragment if he went to the blacksmith. Perhaps he could find the reason for failure by analyzing the purity of the fragment and the proportion of the alloy materials.

“That makes sense~.”

“Also, I’m checking out the situation.”

Both of these reasons were his main objectives.

“Hmm? Then bring little Ul along. Is she not pouting away~?”

Weyland giggled.

“Or you’re the one pouting, Kusla~?”

“…Scram!”

Kusla ignored the guffawing Weyland, and left the workshop. The weather remained cold, but due to the sun high above, it seemed warm outside. The craftsmen street the workshop was at looked lively. Just looking at this, it seemed the city was as lively as usual, but there had to be some situation going on, given the previous incident’s commotions.

Arriving at the plaza, Kusla knew what he expected was correct.

“Worse than I thought.”

Kusla muttered, and scanned his surroundings. There were the mercenaries, unable to remain patient in their inns, some yelling with weapons in hand, some silent. Some were gathered in the corners, whispering away with grim looks.

He could not sense any enthusiasm from them, perhaps he had presumed that they were hired, and not fighting out of loyalty.

From time to time, they would look in the same direction.

Kusla knew what they were looking at.

They were looking at the Church bell.

Kusla left the plaza, and continued down the streets.

The pedestrians on the street passed and go, and there was almost no difference compared to yesterday, sans one.

There were people on the sides of the streets, selling metal plates, wooden planks, and even hemp at high prices. There were also many making purchases there, and the whole place was packed. Everyone was trying to deal with the metal balls that would be flying in the coming days. There were also buckets being sold, probably to counter the flames caused by the burning metal balls flying in.

People were carefully choosing their armor, lifting their eyes at the sky uneasily from time to time.

The latest version of the catapult had arrived outside the walls, and no matter how thick or tall the walls were, they were meaningless before it. Such a rumor reached everywhere within a single night.

Nevertheless, Kusla really took exception to that rumor.

Normally speaking, it was pointless to try defending with thick plates. The catapult projectiles were bigger than a human head, and scorching red, falling from high above. No metal plate was going to withstand it. It was likely, the metal plates would be crushed..

Considering that there would be many metal balls falling into the large city, one would understand that putting a metal plate above the head was pretty pointless. If one was lucky enough, he probably would not be hit.

Despite that, everyone was terrified of the catapult that rendered the city walls as nothing. Perhaps it was as Weyland said, that people would put in endless imagination in things they do not understand.

In that case.

The city folk and the mercenaries on the battlefield were already in such a state. What would the people he was going to visit be like? Those who built the bell to redeem people’s souls, only to fail repeatedly.

Kusla simply wanted to visit the blacksmiths for one reason; to build a bell, he would have to visit the bellmaker. However, this visit was not simply to figure out the problem in the creation.

He had to be sure of what he was creating, what were the consequences if he failed.

Kusla asked a few people on his way, and then went towards the city area clustered with gold and silver craftsmen, instead of the blacksmith workshops. Every single building in the area was glamorous, but unfortunately, the splendorous buildings were devoid of life.

Large armies were outside the city, eager to attack. It was natural that the people were worried. The bellmaker doors were shut, looking dilapidated. There were eggs and dog feces pelted upon it, and chicken heads nailed on.

Kusla did not bring Fenesis along simply because he had predicted this situation.

A few gloomy looking soldiers were huddled on the empty alley, looking around.

Kusla could not tell if they were looking for the culprits, or that they were the culprits instead.

Of course, the soldiers noticed Kusla, but they knew from his attire that he was an Alchemist. They hushed their voices, and made no weird sounds.

Kusla snorted, and knocked on the dilapidated looking door of the bellmaker.

“Hey, open up!”

Three times, two times, and after a pause, he knocked another three times.

But there was no response in the workshop.

” I’m not going to do anything to you. I’m an Alchemist. Let me in to talk, lest I involve the higher ups.”

Kusla rattled off a spiel of words, and finally, sounds were heard from the door.

It seemed a table or something was used to fortify the door.

Finally, the lock clicked, and a crease opened.

“I’m the alchemist Kusla. I want to ask about the bell.”

“…”

THere was a frail looking bulky man. It appeared he was neither able to sleep or eat well for a week.

“Fo-for what reason?”

“The same as the other alchemists. I want to know what happened when the bell making failed. Also, to look at the workshop. You’re the chief craftsman?”

“…”

Typically, whenever a group failed, the leader would be blamed. There was no doubt from the appearance that he was the one in charge of the bell. He knew he could not refuse, and sighed with resignation as he let Kusla in. The house was typical of a blacksmith, the first level being a wide workshop, and usually, there were at least ten craftsmen working here.

“Pretty cold.”

“…There’s no fire in the house.”

There was a large sand pool for building the bell in the middle of the workshop, and it was likely nobody touched it ever since the bell was removed. There were a few large fragments of the bell left inside, and one could imagine this was where the mold was made.

“So this is where the bell is built?”

“…Yes.”

“Where is the mold sand from? The seaside?”

Kusla went straight to the point. He had no intention of wasting time on idle chat.

“…Yes. The sand used for building is all sea salt…after the Spring Saint festival, we took the melted snow from the river to wash the sand that’s to be used.”

“Looks like…you’re pretty thorough in the washing at least.”

Kusla pinched a bit of sand, and tasted it to find no salt. He spat it out, and found lots of things covered in cloth before the furnace.

“The bell?”

Kusla pointed at the things, and the big man nodded. Kusla went over, and uncovered the cloth. Hidden under the cloth was something really horrible. Of course, it was not a bloodied corpse. It was the fragmented bell.

“What went wrong?”

“Who knows…probably the weather…or probably…”

The big man said lethargically,

“There’s no way we can really figure out why the bell broke…temperature, humidity, proportions. There are too many reasons to think of…for this job, the most important attribute is perseverance. There are times of success, and of failure…we pray to God, to the spirits, and leave it up to the wills above. Even if we fail, we can’t give up. That’s bell making.”

Though sounding weak, the big man was clenching his fists, his fingers turning white.

Surely he was a man with a strong sense of responsibility, so Kusla calmly analyzed.

“Then how about you try again?”

Kusla asked, and the man’s massive body shook.

He looked back at Kusla timidly.

“Can’t do it?”

Kusla asked again, and the man unwittingly lowered his head.

“…I would have continued…if I alone bear all punishment. But…”

“If you fail again, your entire family will be burned at the stake?”

“…”

Kusla did not know if it would really happen.

But the man really believed so, and he had the lights out to hide from the crowd’s strongly skeptical eyes.

But it was to be expected of him, given what happened to his door.

“Then this workshop will be divided. Your work and reputation will be gone.”

Kusla looked around the workshop, and continued,

“The crafting’s didn’t go well, and it fell from somewhere high?”

“…”

The man did not respond, and merely lowered his head, shivering.

“How unlucky.”

“That’s not it!”

The man lifted his head, growling.

Kusla accepted that complaint silently, merely shrugging.

“Just a matter of luck. Most things on this world are.”

He said, drawing his dagger, and tapping the bell fragment with the hilt. It made a wonderful, beautiful sound.

“In the hands of the Heavens, we can only continue to struggle.”

“…”

Kusla picked up a piece the other alchemists had divided, and stuffed it into his own bag.

Then, he looked towards the man, smiling.

“But in this maelstrom of misfortunate, clinging onto what you yearn for isn’t necessarily an enjoyable thing.”

“…You think that because you’re an alchemist.”

“Yes. So be an alchemist.”

The man was flushed red in anger, glaring at Kusla, but soon after, he was deflated, and lowered his head..

Kusla coldly looked back. Whether the man could take a step forth would decide his future fate.

While stopping here would ensure that he would survive, his life will be completely meaningless. Each man only has one death, so what meaning was there to just preserve one’s own life? Why not just take a step forth, with no fear of death or failure, and head towards the goal?

Kusla scanned the empty workshop.

His eyes fell upon the stairs leading to the second floor.

“But I can’t say that I don’t pity you.”

His eyes looked back onto the man, who looked over with a mystified look.

“When you have things you want to protect, the way you see the world changes. I can’t agree with that, but looking down and closing shop…might also be a way of living.”

Kusla said, and turned to leave the workshop.

A few young children were upstairs, peeking down.

Kusla had thought that repeating the same rigorous choices and moving down the correct path to the goal, even with all dangers present, is the one absolute truth to the world. It was just a while ago that he knew of a different option, that just heading into the right direction was enough.

He did not bring Fenesis along, for he did not want her to know the consequences of what she would do. If that little brat knew this bell making would affect lives, she might have martyred herself first.

Since it involved lives, Kusla had to think of something else.

Irine told him before. He was not alone, he had to live with Fenesis.

The catapult outside the city was primed, the people inside the city were terrified. Maybe the fate of the bell would be left to the Heavens, but no alchemist would leave their lives to fate. If this bell failed, they might be killed by the people of the city. For that reason, Kusla had to be prepared.

But what should he do? Thinking about that, he broke into a wry smile.

Kusla did not think Alzen would ignore the situation of the bellmaker. Surely Alzen knew very well what would failure mean.

Despite knowing the consequences however, he was willing to risk Kusla and the others making the bell. His intentions were clear for all to see.

For him, Kusla and the others were tools in the literal sense of the word, to be used, and not to be stored in the shed.

I’m not going to be used by you that easily, so Kusla quietly cursed.

Thus, he had to think seriously.

He could not die here, and could not let the Knights retreat.

Alchemists would never keep their doors shut and pray for the calamity to pass. But at the same time, the present him would not sacrifice everything just to advance.

“…I’m really useless.”

Kusla muttered, reproaching himself, but as he lost his will, he suddenly felt some warmth.

He took a deep breath, letting himself cool down, and exhaled.

A cloud of white mist fluttered from his mouth, white like a certain person.

Kusla returned to the workshop, and shoved a fragment of the failed bell into a listless looking Weyland.

Weyland quietly looked towards Kusla, asking about the situation of the city. The latter merely shrugged, hinting that it could be guessed.

The weight and mass of the alloy would change according to the proportion of the metals. By careful measurement, one could determine the exact proportions. Of course, it was possible to isolate the metals by tossing it into the furnace.

Kusla left the measurement to Weyland, and looked over to Fenesis.

“Thought of anything?”

“…Just a little…”

Fenesis seemed devoid of confidence, but Kusla  scanned the stone tablet, and nodded.

“Not bad that you wrote this much. It’s not really a bad thing to write messily.”

Kusla’s words left Fenesis stunned, who looked back at Kusla, her lips pursed while she remained unable to disguise the delight on her face.

“And…a few of them are well written.”

“Eh.”

“When the alloy product is too big, it shattered when cooled. That does happen. How did you know?”

Fenesis had the tendency of puffing her cheeks, but whenever she got praised, she would shrivel, as though wanting others to bully and tease her.

“I-I went to a masonary before. They told me that.”

“To heat it and cool it with cold water?”

“Yes.”

Objects would expand when heated, and contract when cooled. For something sturdy like rocks, the larger they are, the bigger contrast in temperature changes, and cracks were more likely to be formed..

“Improper mixing of metals can work too.”

“…When bread expands, if the flour is not evenly distributed, the bread will crack when heated…”

“So how do you explain the salt mixed in the sand?”

That was the first thing Kusla checked at the bellmaker workshop.

Fenesis answered cautiously,

“There were lots of things around the salt field that cracks after contact. Human hands, faces, metals, stone.”

Kusla had never seen a salt field before.

But Fenesis did. When there is excessive salt, hands and faces will crack. Everything else would be observed by salt, rusting away.

Kusla’s face gloomed.

“…That?”

He remained silent, and she asked with trepidation.

He coughed in an exaggerated manner.

“My knowledge comes from the books.”

“Eh?”

“And your knowledge comes from experience. Your journey—”

Kusla said unhappily,

“Leaves me envious.”

Fenesis was probably taken aback by Kusla ‘s words. For a moment, it seemed she could not understand the meaning to his words.

Perhaps it was because she experienced a cruel escapade, and not a sightseeing journey to be envied by others. It was filled with hardships and sadness, and those who were envious of her knew nothing at all..

Kusla had always lived his life in a closed workshop, learning about the vast world only through books.

Because of that, Fenesis probably understood that Kusla was being sincere. After a while, she said,

“I do feel that if I were you back then, I would have learned lots. It is a pity.”

“…”

“And,”

She gave a gaudy smile.

“You may be able to create a miracle.”

She looked strangely depressed, and one might wonder if that would have happened. If Kusla had not saved her, would she be saved?

Kusla saw the earnesty in Fenesis, and was disgusted in his own folly.

But he instinctively responded,

“That’s impossible.”

He said that confidently. Anything he could not do, he could not.

“…You are surprisingly honest when it comes to such matters.”

Fenesis looked despondent and elated.

And soon, Kusla knew the reason.

“But you saved me.”

Having a helpless little girl rely on him was not a bad thing, or at least, she was no baggage to him, something worth being happy about. The key to the cabinet filled with various surprises was cackling away, and Kusla did all he could to maintain the stoic look.

Then, he answered,

“Better treasure all the useful tools.”

Fenesis reeled her neck in, her green eyes looking up humbly.

But her act was too shoddy.

“Companion, you mean?”

Before she knew it, her eyes looked feisty.

Kusla answered with some bemusement,

“Still considered a baggage.”

“That is fine.”

Fenesis looked towards the stone tablet again.

“If you are willing to bring me along.”

Kusla did not see Fenesis’ expression, but he was sure she was not showing any look of regret.

An alchemist has the keen sight to prospect gold from rocks.

Kusla reached for Fenesis’ head, tapping it twice, and said no more

Soon after, Weyland returned, his arms frozen red from the well water.

“I do want to go help.”

Irine woke up before noon, not on her own will, of course. The workshop in charge of mass producing the dragons sent a man, so Kusla knocked her awake. After some clarification of the situation, Irine gave instructions, and in the meantime, another workshop requested for instructions from her.

Though feeling peeved, Irine clearly gave a few instructions, and sent them off. She then grabbed a piece of bread, wolfing it down, clearly looking famished. While eating, she said,

“But I think this will be difficult.”

She was wearing the workshop clothes, a man’s top, probably loaned by a coworker.

“It’s difficult to make a pure slab of bronze, let alone a bell with curves. That Alzen wants it to be a sure thing? That’s ridiculous.”

“He felt that no matter how ridiculous it is, an alchemist can do it.”

Irine sighed unhappily, as though she was the one being reproached.

“The ones with such hopes to begin with are ridiculous. Seeing how it is, I guess you people don’t understand the reason why a priest has to attend the bellmaking.”

Irine said with disgust, and Kusla looked at her intently.

“There’s a reason for the priest to show up? I thought it’s part of the ritual.”

It was probably that with a priest watching, the bellmaker cannot obfuscate by getting a bell from another town. The bellmaker Kusla found had closed down, and it was impossible for him to say the bell was made, and present it immediately.

“A priest’s prayer may work a little…but his mission is to exert pressure.”

“In what sense?”

“To prevent the bellmaker from running away if it fails. The usual tradition for each city is that the bell is crafted on a given day of a week. If it fails, it’s to be done on the same day of the week, the following week. The priest is there to ensure the bellmaker won’t be scared of failure and dither. The basics of bellmaking is to give it his all.”

“So the priest appears every week, and the bellmaker has no choice but to get down to it?.”

“That’s right.”

The city population often remained where they were, always staying in the familiar streets they were in, and everyone treasured their own reputations.

Of course, reputation meant nothing to alchemists, for they always worked alone, never caring about what others thought.

“You’re doing unnecessary things. Once the bell breaks, it’s difficult to start working again.”

Irine said with sympathy, as though she had personally witnessed that bellmaker’s predicament.

“And there is another reason why the Church sends a priest. Since the bell needs the devil’s tin, he’s there to calm the people down.”

“Devil’s tin?”

Fenesis was really sensitive about such terms, and Irine explained with a grimace,

“Tin is brittle, and isn’t popular with the blacksmiths. Also, it makes a screeching cry.”

Kusla saw the confused look on Fenesis’ face, and had to elaborate,

“Tin cries in the cold.”

“…”

Fenesis narrowed her eyes at Kusla, not again with such stupid jokes, so she implied. This time however, Irine finally took his side.

“It’s true. The lower the temperature, the tin will cackle and creak…they do say tin’s a feminine metal. How rude..”

“And because of that, the pitch of the bell goes higher when tin is added.”

“Iiiiiiii—”

Irine bared her teeth at Kusla, and recovered,

“Now’s not the time to talk about this. Got to get back to work.”

“What about the dragon production?”

Kusla asked, and Irine showed a meaningful smile, one like a blade with a blue light.

“Going very well. Leave it to me.”

Since the proper blacksmith said so, that should be the case.

“See you then.”

Saying that, Irine turned to leave. She’s one feisty lady, so Kusla chuckled as he watched her leave.

Irine’s words gave Kusla some thinking points.

Bellmaking really was different from other metals.

“The blacksmiths in this city don’t focus on reliability, huh?”

It was impossible to realize the real intent of a priest’s presence unless one had lived in the city the entire life, and managed other people. Once Kusla had this information, he could not help but think about a certain issue.

He stared at the main door Irine left from, asking,

“So Weyland, do you have the guts to risk everything on the bell making?”

Kusla deliberately emphasized the word ‘guts’.

It seemed Weyland was poking his face into the furnace to check, and he leisurely answered,

“To be honest, I have no such guts~.”

“Eh?”

Fenesis was obviously a little taken aback.

“Because this is not our job.”

“But.”

Fenesis opened her mouth, hesitant to speak. If they did as Alzen ordered, to craft the bell, then with their accomplishments of the dragons, Kusla and the others would be central figures in the anit-Latria army.

If they could enter Latria successfully, Kusla would be able to get unrestricted access, and track Korad’s footsteps.

In that case, there might be discoveries.

“The rewards for your success, you mean?”

“…”

Fenesis, and even Weyland went quiet. He pondered meaningfully as he stroked his chin.

Bellmaking itself was filled with the possibility of failure, but Alzen ordered them to complete it perfectly

And if they failed, they would earn the ire of the city folk.

Naturally, there was the possibility of success.

“But this situation will depend on how you interpret it.”

Kusla said,

“Once the wood burns up, there will still be ash.”

“So you have a solution~?”

“The important thing is that we don’t fail. To not fail, we just need to give up on success.”

“…?…?”

Fenesis looked confused, not understanding what riddle Kusla was making

Kusla chuckled, and Fenesis immediately reeled her neck back with anger.

“There’s 19 alchemists here. Someone will succeed.”

“…So what?”

“So we can just leave it to them.”

“Ah? But, that——”

“One person needs to succeed, the Knights can begin counterattacking, and we can protect our lives. We just need to pretend to make one.”

Before this, Kusla would not have such a thought.

“It’s really unlike you, Kusla~.”

Weyland said, beaming away. He never denied what Kusla said, probably because he figured out what the latter wanted to say.

“Bellmaking for the others is simply about surviving, but for us, it’s just a huge profit.”

Kusla put his hand on Fenesis’ hand.

“With this fellow’s around, we just need to stay in Latria, and get the chance to obtain the knowledge of the Anicents. There’s no need to stand in the center of the counterattacking army. We just need to find something like the dragons, and the benefit won’t be any less than succeeding in making the bell. There’s no need to work so hard.”

Weyland grinned boldly. Once people obtained some truths, the way they see things will have a riveting change.

Many times, it’s better to take a step back for the long con than to singlemindedly seek the largest benefit. This should be more so if there were those one wanted to protect.

“Leave the dangerous work to those who can only stand out doing such work. It’s dangerous to be too serious about bellmaking.”

“You’re a bad man~.”

“Better than not knowing anything.”

Kusla shrugged, and looked towards Fenesis.

“Moving forward bullishly need not always be the best thing.”

Fenesis reeled her neck in unhappily, either because Kusla was being sarcastic, or…

“But can things go as planned~?”

“Hm? Are the others that unreliable??”

Kusla asked, and Weyland shrugged,

“No. What I’m saying is that the others might push the dangerous work to others too~.”

I see, so Kusla quietly noted,

“There’s unexpectedly a lot of useless fellows.”

“Don’t exclude yourself~.”

“…”

Kusla glared at Weyland, and lifted his head to proudly say,

“I obviously have a plan.”

Weyland was giggling away, bemused.

“Your pride is a lost cause.”

“But entrusting our fates to those guys is a little da dangerous.”

If everyone waited for each other to talk, all there would be left would be a stalemate.

While Kusla and Fenesis went to the Church archives, Weyland visited the blacksmith streets, and probably had grasped what the other alchemists were doing.

Weyland however averted his eyes.

“Go check it out yourselves~.”

“…Hm?”

What is he saying out of a sudden? While Kusla was feeling mystified, Weyland yawned, saying,

“It doesn’t benefit me. Why should I tell you~.”

“…”

Kusla was fuming, and asked

“Then what benefit do you want?”

Upon hearing that, Weyland’s smile got bigger, for Kusla was catching on.

“Even if we’re pretending to make the bell, we do have to report to our boss, no? Will leave this to you~.”

“…Is that so?”

Alzen might do something if he knew of their lackadaisical attitude. He might even take Fenesis as a hostage.

Thus, they had to act rigorous.

“For me, I shall provide the intel you’re unable to, Kusla~.”

“You…”

Kusla was momentarily speechless, and could only glare atWeyland.

“You want a fight?”

“Kuku. This is what I’m talking about. If you’re going to another workshop, you’re likely to start a quarrel~.”

“…”

Kusla knew that Weyland spoke the truth, and was unable to refute, looking bitter.

At this moment, Weyland sensed another stare from elsewhere, and looked towards it.

“So what are you looking at?”

“Eh.”

Fenesis’ ears twitched, and she reeled her neck timidly.

The green eyes were rolling. It seemed she was interested in Weyland’s words .

“Meeting…people?”

Kusla ignored Fenesis, and instead grimaced at Weyland. The latter did not say anything, and merely laughed away.

Finally, Kusla tapped Fenesis on the head to pass the matter off.

“Working together is very important. It’s rare to have the numbers, so we should make use of them and do whatever we’re good at.”

“Couldn’t you have done this right from the beginning~.”

Like wheat, Weyland shook away Kusla’s words, and put on his coat.

“Time is of the essence. If there’s any benefit, I’ll encourage them~.”

“…Work hard already.”

Kusla sounded peeved, but he really trusted Weyland’s work. Weyland had the people skills to get along with others.

“Same to you~.”

Weyland said, and left the workshop. Kusla watched him leave, and sighed.

Kusla was simply ‘interest’, not the familial kind.

However, such an insistence of him was strangely immature. Once again, Kusla let out a sigh.

Kusla and Fenesis were left in the workshop, seated before the furnace, dealing with their work.

“Are there any more?”

There were various item names on the tablet, from precious metals and stones to mineralss

There were also animals listed, from cows, horses, chickens, to frogs, newts and bats. There were also body parts listed, bones, flesh, eyeballs, organs, brain.

Also, there were herbs, poisonous grass listed. It was said that adding these items in after brewing the alloy will increase the effectiveness.

Kusla knew that most were ineffectual, but he wrote them down anyway.

Suddenly, Fenesis picked up the chalk, and wrote a few words. Seeing that, Kusla chuckled.

“The crest of the Knights?”

“The Church’s things, pendants.”

“Well, it’s true…if we throw these things into the furnace and it fails, we got some people to blame…”

Of course, Kusla was chuckling for a different reason.

“You of all people thought of these. Do you really believe in God?”

Even Kusla never thought of Fenesis to be this bold.

Yet Fenesis said, undaunted,

“Both the Knights and the Church have done things defying God’s teachings.”

Now she’s cuter and more reliable now, so Kusla thought.

“Let’s experiment them.”

“Yes.”

Fenesis solemnly agreed, and stood up.

Both of them melted and mixed the alloy metals they made, first increasing the amount of copper, and then adjusting the amount of tin.

The optimal proportion of bronze alloy needed for the bell was 80% copper, 20% tin. Both of them made gradual adjustments to the alloy. They already knew the amount of copper and tine required, so Kusla had Fenesis calculate how to do so. She hunched down before the tablet, bending her fingers as she frantically calculating, resembling a squirrel finicking over where it should hide its food. She was cute.

She was becoming physically capable, and she had basically remembered how to dump in the coal and wood. Though she remained inexperienced in controlling the tempertures, but it was not something that could be learned through words, only through repititions. She was like a sponge, absorbing knowledge..

Seeing her like this, Kusla suddenly thought,

Weyland pushed the troublesome work to him, probably having expected that he would accept. Surely it was not because he often got into disputes with alchemists, and could not go to the other workshops to gather information. Weyland knew this mission was pointless and boring to himself, but not to Kusla. In other words, while this work might be pointless, with Fenesis around, Kusla would not try to escape responsibility.

What the girl before him got, what Kusla got.

Kusla listlessly watched Fenesis hurry around, and sighed.

It was as Weyland thought.

They kept toiling on, and before they knew it, it was already sunset.

Of course, Weyland and Irine did not return to the workshop. Usually at such times, Kusla would have brought Fenesis out to dinner, but the work was not done. Kusla grabbed an errand boy from another workshop passing by the door, shoved a few silver coins, and had him buy back some food.

At this moment, Fenesis kept adding coal before the furnace, adjusting the bellows. There was a stove in the furnace, filled with copper and tin. After toiling for the entire day, she finally got to relax.

All they had to do afterwards was to wait for the charcoal to finish burning, and let the molten metals cool. The errand boys returned with dinner.

The foods were all bought from the stalls, hard black breads, meat with tendons, and cheap yogurt.

Kusla laid out the bread and the other foods, checked for any strange things, before handing them over to Fenesis. There were 19 alchemists in the city, and some might want to eliminate competition. That, or that the enemy could have snuck in a few assassins.

But Fenesis frowned seeing Kusla this cautious.

“The size of the bread should be the same. You are being impolite.”

Faced with Fenesis’ rebuke, Kusla could only smile.

Fenesis was probably concerned with the situation inside the furnace, for she moved a long box over, and sat on it, eating as she observed the fire. Kusla sat on another wooden box next to her.

He peered at her while she remained brightened, and got a feelign that she had sat there for years.

The new materials added into the stove seemed to have melted.

The final seperation would be a really difficult job.

But the hope remained that the new alloy would be more useful than the old.

Kusla had a thought, but, and took out the parchment in his clutches, laying it out. The effect was already there. It contained the words Korad left, and finding the parchment alone was a sign of Fenesis’ worth.

It might be a map of a path leading towards Magdala.

What Korad left behind might be related to the myths.

“What are you scheming again?”

Fenesis suddenly asked.

“Hm?”

“You look like you are up to some evil.”

Kusla snorted.

“This is a treasure map. Of course I’m looking evil.”

The appearance of this thing might affect them in a way they could never predict.

“Actually, I really don’t care about this damn war. All I want is to follow Korad’s footsteps.”

Kusla did not care about whether the Northern lands were ruled by the Knights or the Pagans.

Why he feared the Knights would lose, was not because his research funds came from the Knights.

Kusla thought that the pious Fenesis probably would not think of this logic. However, she stared at the parchment in his hand, saying nothing.

“What? You’re not angry?”

“Eh?”

“This is a war on God’s justice, and I treat it as nothing.”

Kusla beamed, and Fenesis might have some agreement with that statement.

“According to God’s teachings, starting wars by itself is wrong.”

“Guess you win.”

Kusla said, and Fenesis puffed her chest proudly.

“But it will be good if we can hurry and find as soon as possible.”

She showed an intimate smile.

Seeing her show him gentleness, Kusla himself ended up displeased.

Surely it was because of her tenderness that he had to notice the difference between the ideal and reality.

A feeling a guilt rose up his heart.

“It may not be something worth looking forward to you.”

“Eh?”

Kusla had no heart to continued. Even if he did, he could not change the reality.

In that case, he should remain silent, but Kusla spoke up.

“…You saw what happened in Kazan, right? The cursed bloodline doesn’t refer only to the appearance. If the myths are real, the path Korad went through contained something unbelievable…this journey will be scary and painful to you.”

Because, if it was real, there was proof that the cursed bloodline refered not only to appearance..

If Kusla had to pursue his own Magdala, surely it would hurt Fenesis.

“…”

Kusla was staring at the parchment the entire time he spoke, and he did not see Fenesis’ expression.

“Not at all.”

Thus, for a moment, Kusla was late to react. What did she mean?

“Surely this will not happen.”

Kusla lifted his head to see Fenesis show a tragic smile.

“Even if my people were massacring people with superior technology and feared, as it was in Kazan,”

She paused, looking as though she would cry at any given moment, but she straightened her back, making herself confident.

“I still believe the technology is neither good nor bad. It all depends on who uses it. In fact, you protected us with the dragons.”

When they broke out Kazan, Fenesis stood on a dragon, smiling.

She said she felt alive.

Thus, Kusla finally understood the true meaning behind her words.

“Your dream is to create the sword of Orichalcum. Not to hurt others, but to protect. In that case…in that case, you can definitely prove to others that the technology is neither good nor evil. You can definitely do it, for you are obeying your dreams.”

Fenesis said, beaming,

“I often thought that you could rid me the curse of my bloodline.”

It was a fleeting dream formed from a flickering flame.

Kusla probably had such a thought, because he could not believe the girl before him could trust him completely. Or perhaps, the girl cursed by the ancient sage was before her, the tragic tale seeming so surreal to him.

Kusla thought that perhaps it was a little of both.

Once he realized this, Kusla inadvertently reached for her teary, smiling face.

He frowned, as though checking her existence with a stare.

“…How many times have I told you, don’t hope for me to create miracles.”

“It is no miracle. It is a deduction…gained from observation and experience.”

The face in Kusla’s palm looked timid, blinking as she said.

Seeing her like this, he chuckled.

With some self-depreciation involved.

Kusla sighed. He never expected her to hope that he would undo the curse on her. It was the antithesis of why he thought the journey would hurt Fenesis.

The moment there were new discoveries, Kusla himself might not be able to prevent new discoveries from being used for invasion. Even he started to have the notion that it was best they did not find anything.

Surely Fenesis too understood this reality. Yet she said those words despite that. Kusla could vaguely understand, and thus, he sighed.

The world was overly chaotic, and he was simply an alchemist hired by a massive organization. He found himself small before his grand goal of seeking the sword of Orichalcum. Life is short, and the things one can get in a lifetime is pitifully little.

However, Fenesis’ bloodline might help him break through that common rationale.

It was a cursed bloodline gained by numerous threads, bound together.

Even the God of metals would not remain buried in a simple manner. Perhaps he himself should not harbor any hopes.

Despite that, just once, he would let himself harbor expectations.

So he thought, and laughed sarcastically, and at the same time, reeled back the hand touching Fenesis’ cheek.

How can I allow myself to dither over this? Kusla lambasted himself. Can’t be careless. This world is cruel. Without any determination, I’ll be crushed by reality.

“Don’t make such hopeful deductions based on your own opinions.”

Kusla said with a little teasing.

“…I-I have no hopes on anything…”

Upon being teased, Fenesis’ ears twitched, and she stood up a little angrily, before continuing with work.

The more the alloy was mixed, the more difficult it was to seperate them, and the results would be more unpredictable. In contrast, Fenesis was overly white compared to the pitch black alchemists. Perhaps I’m worried of getting her involved in my life, so Kusla thought.

But in the face of this everchanging world, he believed it was a normal reaction.

Thus, once the conversation ended, and after some silence, Kusla’s first reaction to a sound was relief.

“Wh-what is that sound?”

Fenesis stopped, ignoring that she was teased as she asked Kusla.

The sound was astonishingly loud.

“Has the sky fallen?.”

Kusla said, and sighed.

“This is the sound made when the world ends.”

Another boom echoed outside the window, followed by rock and wood being shattered, the earth shaking. Fenesis’ face paled, and she turned flustered. Kusla opened the workshop door, poking his head out. There were no stars to be seen in the night, probably due to the clouds. A third boom echoed, followed by a noise akin to a giant’s footstep.

Whenever there was a boom, the pedestrians on the streets would sprawl upon the ground in fear, leaving aside whether it was useful

Such showed how quiet the city had been.

“There’s no bell even when the city’s in danger. It’s a little unpleasant.”

God has forsaken us.

Such a saying would not be an exaggeration at this point..

“Technology is technology.”

Kusla said, and a fourth landing noise echoed.

The catapult had begun attacking outside the city walls.

“It all depends on who uses it.”

The fifth metal ball ended, and finally, someone blew the horn, as though declaring that they were present.

Without God around, they would have to depend on themselves, and the roars of tragic determination followed.

Kusla shrugged, and closed the door.

He returned into the workshop, finding Fenesis collapsed.

“The city’s big. Won’t hit us for the time being.”

Also, there were no shouts. It seemed the enemy had no intention to attack for the time being, so it was probably a threat and a test. The assembly of the catapult was faster than expected. It seemed the leisurely attitude from before was out of pretense.

How would the Knights react? If the mass productions of the dragons were in time, should they struck? Or do they wait until the bell’s made?

Kusla had such thoughts swirling in his mind as he cuddled a trembling Fenesis.

Soon after, Weyland returned with information.

The words inscribed on the metal balls were,

This shall be God’s judgment. Two nights to retreat from Nilberk.

“Had a look at the plaza. It’s really chaotic there, like a city with a rebellion going on~.”

It was simply a commotion, but the soldiers in the city gathered with arms, and it was not difficult to think of a rebellion going on.

“What about Irine?”

“She’s fine. Never noticed the sounds outside when the dragon production’s at the crucial point~.”

“To be expected of her.”

Kusla chuckled, and sighed,

“So, we’re going to break through with the dragons again?”

Kusla looked towards Weyland, who too smiled.

“To where~?”

It was a city facing the sea. Even with boats, they might not be able to evacuate everyone. If the higher ups had any intention of escaping, the subordinates would have revolted.

Kusla suddenly had a thought of the term ‘one fell swoop’.

How would a captured rat try to escape?

While Kusla was in deep thought, the workshop door rang.

“Lord Alzen has words for you.”

The messenger was panting hard, drifting in sweat all over.

“He wants us to enact a miracle?”

Kusla tried to sound calm, but the grim look on his face remained.

“The mercenaries are making a ruckus. Only the lot of you can settle this.”

Kusla looked towards Weyland, who merely shrugged.

It seemed the trapped rat’s utmost priority was to prevent them from killing each other.

“What do you mean, we have to be there?”

It was troublesome to receive excessive hopes.

The messenger replied.

“They want a miracle.”

Looks like things are getting troublesome, so Kusla thought.

The city walls were powerless before the latest model of catapults, and such news had spread all over the streets.

It was still the middle of the night, pedestrians moving to and fro, and the city remained dark. Everyone was worried that if they made a light, they would end up as a target for the metal balls.

They knew it was impossible to see from outside the city, but this was all they could do. It was probably a subconscious act.

The mercenaries too were no exception, and they lost all bearings, their actions erratic..

The messenger arriving at the workshop informed of a ridiculous commotion caused by recklessness. They could not leave it be however.

The cause was a young mercenary getting himself drunk at a tavern, and had a verbal spat.

The topic was regarding which squad was more outstanding. Such disputes were common, and typically, whenever they started fighting, there would be a few punches, some injuries.

The reason why this got serious was due to the metal balls flying over the walls.

“Can’t get them to settle down?”

“Seems tough to handle~.”

Such were the thoughts of the two alchemists after hearing everything.

“The mercenaries have utmost belief in your miracles. They have no malice.”

“But it’s because of them boasting this incident that we have to calm them down with a miracle, right?”

While the mercenaries were gleefully boasting at the bar tables about how they had protection from God, the metal balls suddenly fell. The terrified fellows surely wanted to find people to vent on to cover up their fears and anxieties.

Thus, someone yelled, demanding for the so-called miracles, and the dark night was eerily quiet. It was obvious, without looking up, that the catapult attacks ended.

“If Archduke Kratal or Lord Alzen are to appear, it will be a clash between squads. The other mercenaries will too ask for their superiors, but Lord Alzen is busy with the other commanders, and has no time to deal with this.”

“Also, they probably won’t want to end up fighting each other.”

Since everyone was sharing the same fate in the same city.

“But things will get out of hand if left be.”

And the mercenaries believing in the miracle Kusla and the other enacted would surely have their grudges.

They could not ask Alzen to deal with them, and if left be, the mercenaries’ pride would be wounded. Thus, their ire would be directed at Kusla and the others. They would think, why aren’t you helping us!

The panting messenger came to explain that matters were dire, and that they themselves could not deal with the situation.

Kusla himself found this ridiculous, but such was commonplace.

Alchemists were merely tools, and miracles were merely a tool.

“Please enact a miracle for them to soothe them.”

It seemed the messenger himself yearned for a miracle to quell the anxiety from the overbearing metal balls.

“Also, if you’re able to calm those mercenaries now, your standing amongst the forces shall be unshakeable.”

Even at such moments, Alzen never forgot about reminding others of the interests involved. Kusla himself was impressed.

But he was right.

After some thought, Kusla said to an uneasy Fenesis,

“We brought quite a few tools to process the ores, right?”

“Y-yes.”

“What are you planning~?”

Weyland asked, and Kusla answered,

“Douse those hot-blooded fellows some cold water. It’s a habit now, isn’t it?”

“Hm?”

Kusla ignored Weyland, who pondered with a hand on his chin, and instructed Fenesis,

“Get the bottle marked indicated for water and ice. It’s dangerous. Don’t shake it.”

Fenesis nodded stiffly, and teetered into the workshop.

Next to Kusla, Weyland lifted his head with realization.

“I heard the inquisitor would perform miracles when forcing pagans to convert~.”

“Doing the same now.”

Kusla said honestly. At this moment, Fenesis brought the bottle out carefully, and he received it.

“I’ll take this.”

“And the miracle?”

The messenger asked.

Kusla merely shrugged.

“Lead the way. Once they draw swords, there’s no stopping them.”

The messenger nodded, and led Kusla’s group to the place of incident.

The tavern was located at a very messy street, a bunch of drunkards flailing their weapons vigorously. Given the situation, one could expect something happening.

The messenger led a few men through the drunkards, only to bump into a human wall. The lot of them were wielding weapons, their faces flushed red, reeking of alcohol as they growled at the center of the crowd.

Fenesis was stunned, and even Kusla had goosebumps.

Before the wanton violence, the alchemists could only deal with them through violence.

At this moment, the messenger exhibited the guts he should have.

“Stand back! Give way for the Maiden and the Alchemists!”

The messenger sounded exaggerated, but Kusla knew that in such situations, any sign of weakness from them would lead to them being overwhelmed by the surrounding drunks.

Kusla leaned a little forward, his lips showing a smirk. Weyland too pretended to look fearless. Such was their specialty. Kusla leaned towards Fenesis, whispering

“It doesn’t matter how nervous you are, but grit your teeth, don’t show fear, and act Maidenly.”

Fenesis lifted her head towards Kusla, and did as he said, gritting her teeth gingerly, seemingly pouting like a child. She put her hands on the sides of her lips, relaxing herself, and stopped moving. Such movements sapped her strength entirely.

Her expression could probably fool at least 8 out of 10.

“Right, let’s move.”

Kusla nudged her on the back, ushering her forth first.

The mercenaries moved aside, glaring at the entourage with heinous eyes, as though they were accused of heresy.

Some of them were already fuming, that God’s cruelty and their comrades’ mistake doomed them to this predicament, yet there were some who knew no shame, talking of some miracles. Who else was supposed to support them?

They passed through the human wall, and before their eyes were the skeptics and the fervents facing off.

“O Alchemist!”

The battered mercenaries forced to the sides of the streets yelled in unison.

The one who offered flowers to Fenesis was amongst them.

They were all delighted, as though witnessing God on the battlefield..

Or perhaps, an easier way to describe them would be that they were martyrs surrounded by pagans.

They were probably about to be questioned by their pursuers.

Since we have God’s protection, let’s show them!

“They don’t believe our miracle!”

“It’s one thing if our names are sullied. We can’t forgive those who mock our saviors!”

The mercenaries complained, only to hear cold sneers,

“Show us your miracle then.”

The surrounding mercenaries hurriedly moved aside.

There was a man with a battleaxe resting on his back, and clearly he was a warrior capable of slaughtering his way through the battlefield. The vibe he had was different from those behind. He probably was one who experienced tens, even hundreds of battles.

“Your existence in this damned city is an eyesore. What saved you is luck. It’s common on the battlefield.”

The man spat once he said that.

Kusla understood a little of the man’s unhappiness.

He too was unhappy about how Fenesis believed in luck.

Look at reality. There’s no miracle! Don’t spread your laxity to others!

Or rather, they were not as lucky as Kusla’s group when they brought through the siege.

There’s no protection from God, we scraped our way to escape, and now we’re in despair. Now in such a situation, when someone boasts about God’s protection…

Kusla felt a headache, but the drawn sword had to be sheathed back.

“You’re really unlucky, huh? If you ignore them, you’ll be branded as tratiors. If you come over, you’ll be begged for a miracle that doesn’t exist.”

He got increasingly brash, probably uneasy about the situation himself.

“Show us a miracle. This is a night when a demon descends.”

He mocked, and the surrounding people leered, entrenched within their smiles were boiling anger and anxiety. They appeared to be a bunch familiar with the cruelty of the world, howling away. Trying to fool us with a miracle that does not exist?

“I heard them say that thing of yours is called hellfire? That it scatters the enemy? You probably shooed them away with torches, didn’t you?”

“If this is called a miracle, that’s naive of you!”

Amongst the verbal lashings, one could vaguely hear teeth being grounded.

The restraint showed by their side was really praiseworthy.

Kusla coughed once, and opened the bottle.

“Hm? What? Apology wine?”

“Or some bottle with the Holy Spirit?”

“Hehe, some fairy tale?”

The men opposite guffawed.

“You want to see miracles?”

Kusla nonchalantly replied, and the mercenaries’ smiles froze.

“Hey, gather all the torches here, brighten up this place. Also, get a table and a wooden bowl over.”

Kusla ordered the mercenaries next to him, and they did as told. Kusla shot an icy look towards the mercenaries opposite.

“I’ll show you a miracle.”

“…”

The leader’s hand remained on the hilt of the axe, looking unfazed. However, the men behind him were clearly starting to panic.

No, wait, maybe…

Kusla ignored their reactions, leaned over to Fenesis’ ear, and whispered,

“Read a Bible Scripture. Any will do. Just make sure it sounds cold.”

“…?”

Fenesis looked over at Kusla skeptically, and the latter repeated,

“Just make sure it sounds cold.”

Once he was done, the mercenaries got the items from a nearby stall, setting them up in the middle of the street. The torches were all gathered, and the table was immediately brightened like a painting.

With the mercenaries looking, he held a bottle.

His callous attitude intimidated them instead..

“Are you summoning a snake?.”

The mockery was weak.

Weyland knew what Kusla was going to do, checked the surface and back of the wooden bowl, before putting it back. A wordless Kusla saw Fenesis approach with doubt, and asked,

“Figured it out?”

“….”

Kusla snorted, as though telling her to wait silently.

Then, without looking at the onlookers, “Too bad!” he yelled.

“A miracle of fire will be impossible.”

“…Then what are you showing us?”

Someone asked with disappointment. Kusla smiled, saying,

“Since the weather is so cold, let’s summon an ice spirit.”

“Ah, huh? A spirit?”

Kusla said boldly, stupefying them completely.

“I’ll show a miracle. With the blessings of the ice spirit, I can create ice flowing like water.”

The onlookers were stunned, as though someone was about to present a round square.

Kusla looked towards Fenesis, raising his chin.

Fenesis too was stunned. She did not know what Kusla wanted to do, and was flustered seeing Kusla instruct her.

“You’re the one starting this miracle.”

He deliberately teased, and she was infuriated hearing that, only to cool down a little.

“If anything…”

“Of course. This is life.”

Hearing that, Fenesis looked up at Kusla unhappily. It seemed she had prepared herself for the worst..

“She’s a Holy Maiden who served the Diocese. Starting too many miracles will attract much attention, so I shall take over this time.”

Kusla’s introduction was too bombastic, and Fenesis lowered her head, her face flushed.

“The means used by a conman is child’s play to an alchemist, but she is a real Maiden. You can tell. This is something insignificant to the world you’re familiar with.”

Once done, Kusla tapped on Fenesis’ foot.

She shriveled in shock, and he could only whisper to her, “Stop dithering. Hurry.”

Fenesis gulped. Kusla knew she was not trying to stifle her sobbing. She was sounding determined.

It seemed that, having spent time with him for a long time, her guts grew.

Fenesis began,

“Before God created the sun, the sky was dark, the seas was frozen, the earth was covered in frost.”

It was a famous psalm depicting how God lavished grace upon the people.

It was cold enough, but if she continued, Spring would arrive.

“God…ow?!”

Kusla stomped on Fenesis’ foot, cutting her off.

“At that moment, a long, interesting river spread through the land. The water of that river is right here.”

Kusla pointed at the bottle on the table.

There was a marker indicating water and ice.

Everyone present looked over.

“As everyone knows, water can become ice, and ice can become water. This thing however is water, and ice. Of course, it is not a mixture of them. This is water that can be found only in the ancient frozen land. Currently, this land is graced by God, blessed by the sun. Once this water is poured out, it will freeze immediately. Strange. Of course, it is impossible to keep this miracle sealed in the bottle without the blessings of God and the spirit. But with the power of the Maiden, this isn’t difficult”

“S-stop bluffing! Hurry and show us!”

Someone shouted.

Kusla looked over, and beamed at the person.

He seemed overwhelmed by Kusla, and retreated behind his companions.

At this moment, the curiosity of the onlookers reached its peak.

Kusla shot Fenesis a look.

“Stand aside, and pretend to pray towards the bowl.”

Saying that, Kusla opened the seal to the bottle, and once he saw her pray nervously, he raised it.

“This is a miracle those calling upon his power can use!”

Then, in an exaggerated manner, Kusla poured the water into the bowl.

“Wh-at!?”

“Ohh! Water!”

The water flowed out like a fine thread, landing in the bowl Fenesis prayed into, before becoming ice. The water in the bowl became ice, becoming thicker, immediately forming a hill.

Kusla emptied the contents, shook the last drop out of the bottle, and the water there too froze and clung onto the neck.

 

It looked as though ice had flowed out from the bottle, completely different from the water people were used to, and completely ignored the worldly logic God created.

“So,”

Kusla slammed the bottle onto the table.

“So, which of you said the miracle is a fake?”

A pile of ice filled the bowl. It supposedly was water from the bottle. Most importantly, everyone could tell that even with snow in the bottle, there was no way this much was possible.

The bottle contained things that could not have.

Silence filled the surroundings, and one could hear a pin drop.

It lasted only a moment however, before rapturous cheers occured.  

“A miracle! We have a miracle!”

The mercenaries who escaped Kazan raised their hands, hollering. At that instance, the surrounding fellows broke into an uproar.

The bickering mercenaries stood with disbelief. They were unable to believe the fact before their eyes.

Kusla smiled at Fenesis, who sighed unhappily. It seemed she was displeased about involving herself with this fraud.

“Never thought you would think of using glacial acetic acid~.”

Weyland whispered to Kusla .

“Fro…?”

Seeing the skeptical look on Fenesis’ face, he shrugged, and stuffed the ice in the bowl back into the bottle..

“Glacial acetic acid. It’s ordinary vinegar.”

“Eh…”

Fenesis was shocked beyond words. She took the bowl, sniffed at it, and looked away, repulsed by the smell.

“But this is highly concentrated. If vinegar and water are mixed together, it makes it difficult to freeze. Pure vinegar however is different. This thing will freeze when cooled a little, and that’s why it’s called glacial. It has a unique characteristic.”

“If you don’t shake it, it won’t freeze~.”

Fenesis was completely stunned, You are treating me as a fool again! probably out of anger at being teased again.

“I’m serious. You saw that, didn’t you?”

Hearing that, Fenesis nodded with much frustration.

“Those seeing it for the first time will call it a miracle. If they know the truth, they’ll probably go crazy.”

Kusla quietly snickered. It was their faults for being fooled after all.

“Mission complete. Time to hurry back to the workshop——”

Kusla said, only to stop.

The leader removed his headscarf, handed his battleaxe to his companion, and approached Kusla with a squirm. The celebrating mercenaries next to Kusla immediately got put their hands down, ready to throw arms. However, the man did not throw his headscarf down to the ground.

He clenched a fist, his muscles were so tense, the veins on the back of the knuckle popping.

“Is there anything?”

Kusla asked. The man bowed slightly, lowering his head before Kusla, saying,

“We fought our way our, losing a few of our brothers to make it to Nilberk. We found this place forsaken by God. We couldn’t help ourselves when someone just mentioned miracles.”

The mercenaries who escaped from Kazan looked a little gaudy after hearing the confession.

Luck could never be equally distributed.

“But that was really the real deal. The real thing.”

“So we said——”

A mercenary on Kusla’s side was about to speak up, only to be stopped.

The man remained bowed, looking extremely serious.

“Please help us. No, surely you are God’s envoys sent to this city.”

The man said.

“Surely you can build the bell for this city tower?”

Kusla was about to speak up.

“Right! You fellows are the real deal! Please! Build a bell to show everyone God has not forsaken us!”

Even the mercenaries watching from the outside swarmed in, each of them staring wide eyed and Kusla’s group.

Even if there was a calamity from the Heavens, as long as the city bell rang, they could remain fearless.

People would feel that there would be nothing that could defeat them, as long as the weather was fine, and their hunger was satiated. Any time they felt abandoned by God, they would lose courage and sanity.

“Save us! Grant us a miracle!”

“Grant us a miracle!!”

The mercenaries begged with bloodshot eyes, their hands outstretched.

All Kusla could do was to prevent Fenesis from being pulled over by the mercenaries.

“Back down! Back down! Don’t hurt our saviors! They hold many miracles! Don’t be rude!”

The Kazan mercenaries stood to shield off Kusla’s group, but their expressions towards him were the same as the others

Those eyes were saying, we have hope now that you are willing to help.

But bellmaking itself was not that simple. That was why Kusla gave up on the challenge.

He misplayed his hand.

Kusla forgot about the folly of the many. Perhaps he himself was infected by Fenesis’s naivete.

“A miracle! A miracle! A miracle!”

“Grant us God’s blessings! Show to everyone that God has not abandoned us!”

The mercenaries raised their swords and axes, cheering victoriously. Kusla looked over to Weyland.

Weyland grimaced, but did not shake his head.

Any ordinary people, having witnessed a miracle, would ask for another.

“You’re our saviors!!”

Kusla could only accept the joyous cheers of the mercenaries.

What will you do if we can’t repay your expectations?

Kusla thought of the bellmaker’s workshop.

He did not think the mercenaries were any wiser than the city folk.

 

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