[Magdala V5] Act 5

With the believers escorting them, Kusla’s group returned to the workshop, and unexpectedly found a carriage sent over by Alzen.

After getting onto the carriage, Kusla heaved a sigh of relief. The nature of the issue at hand had changed.

The Knights headquarters facing the center plaza was bright, and the armed mercenaries crowded the places, making it seem extremely secure.

The carriage broke through the ranks, slowly moving forward. The commotion caused by Kusla’s gang seemed to have spread out, and all the mercenaries at the plaza immediately reacted knowing the carriage ferried them, swarming it in an instant.

The pressure while being surrounded by barbarians was not to be taken lightly.

“Those Saints are really amazing, remaining calm even when surrounded by hordes.”

Kusla muttered.

Even Weyland could not laugh at this joke.

“So, what do we do?”

The men outside were patting at the wooden windows of the carriages, and the glass lamp hanging from the ceiling shook.

Even the stoic Kusla found it difficult to remain silent..

“Guess…we’re giving up on the plan~…”

Looking this situation, if they were to work callously, they would be pushed to the brink of danger.

Despite that, Kusla did not have any wonderful plan to build the bell.

“It’ll be best if the other alchemists get to finish it first~.”

They just needed to be done before the catapult could officially be in use.

But given how developments had turned out, the alchemists might die before they got to leave on their adventure..

Those taking action would be eyed.

And Kusla took action, performing a false miracle to the mercenaries.

Kusla held his chin up, but could not think of anything.

His powerlessness left him nauseated.

A little, chilly hand was pressed upon Kusla’s other hand.

“Surely it will be fine.”

Who else but Fenesis would say such things?

“Do you really believe that miracles will happen?”

Kusla asked sarcastically, and Fenesis smiled, looking a little perturbed.

“This is a deduction gained through experience.”

“Ah?”

Fenesis tenderly spoke,

“Because I managed to survive till now.”

“Pff.”

Weyland laughed.

Kusla stared at Fenesis, widemouthed, and gave an uncertain smile.

“Well…that is true…”

Fenesis too showed a gaudy smile, and held Kusla’s hand harder than before.

“And now, I am not alone.”

“…”

In the past, whenever Fenesis encountered a difficult situation, she would have to face it alone.

She had to traverse this vast world alone.

Suddenly, Kusla felt strangely embarrassed about his self-given moniker, the restless alchemists.

“A peculiar lady you are.”

Kusla groaned, and looked up.

“I guess you are right. And you?”

With a taunting look, Fenesis asked,

Kusla smirk.

“Just an alchemist God won’t care about.”

He would have to find the gold bar in the pool of lead. He had no choice but to succeed.

The carriage finally made its way through the chaotic crowds, escaping into the Knights Headquarters.

The Headquarters itself was bustling like a beehive, and once they were brought into Alzen’s room, all chatter quieted down, the huge contrast causing a defeaning ringing in the ears.

“How popular you are.”

Unlike the chaotic atmosphere outside, Alzen seemed relatively calm.

“Got hounded by some wild dogs.”

Kusla glared at Alzen, as though blaming him for everything. However, Alzen merely made a rational decision from his viewpoint, and had no blame on this.

“Well done.”

“Really?.”

“We were so close to a riot just now.”

Alzen simply admitted, but Kusla did not think of it as a joke.

“Some yapped about wanting to hang the people who made the catapults, but naturally, we cannot, or there will be infighting. It’s common to cut off the weakest link within when losing to the enemy outside.”

At this moment, Kusla had an inkling.

“So, the one who spread news about our act at the plaza was…”

“Yes, I decided it, personally.”

The bell shall be made by the alchemists who created this miracle. Behave until it is built.

It was likely that Alzen, upon receiving the report, quickly turned the situation around.

Kusla was unsure of how bad the commotion at the plaza was, but according to Alzen’s methods, it seemed it was a really volatile situation.

Despite that, the situation remained bleak.

“About the bellmaking, those little tricks of miracles won’t work.”

So what do you intend to do? Kusla implied spitefully.

They stoked the mercenaries’ expectations, and made promises with them..

Of course, he himself was cornered on the tavern alley, unable to muster courage to tell the mercenaries, that there was little likelihood of him making the bell.

“You can only do it.”

Alzen said.

I knew you would say that, so Kusla thought.

You high ranking officers are all the same, thinking that you just need to order, push the mission to your subrodinates, and they can perform.

You ignore the worries of the subordinates, and refute any complaints they have.

If there was any failure, the subordinates would be discared like pawns..

Such was the way of the world.

And thus, he had to rely on himself for everything.

“At this point, you have to do it either way.”

Alzen said, without a doubt. Kusla was speechless..

Kusla kept thinking amidst the silence, trying to find a way out using this thought as ‘Interest’.

“And if we fail?”

He expressed his question.

Neither he nor Alzen were looking at each other.

“Then you shall bear the responsibility accordingly.”

The consequence was not as simple as them being ignored.

If Kusla failed, there would be increasing proof that God had forsaken Nilberk.

What would they do to preven this? It was easy to guess. The Knights would decry Kusla’s gang as fraud alchemists and Maiden, that they were spies from the enemy aiming to break the unity of the Knights. That was the only way they could protect their dignity.

God has not abandoned this city. This is a trial for us. Come, let us show the despicable enemy what Justice is.

Surely that would be the final outcome.

Since it got this far, there had to be a live sacrifice. The Knights had to divert everyone’s concernt to a certain point, a symbol akin to a bell, God, an idol to gather the hearts of many.

Any living person standing on this position would surely be crushed by the heavy pressure.

Alzen’s intent was clear.

Kusla’s hand stealthily reached for the waist. There was a dagger there.

There were no guards in the room.

Would he think a rat would not bite?

Kusla himself would surely bite just to survive.

“I have a question~.”

The moment Kusla’s fingers reached for the button, Weyland’s voice echoed leisurely.

“What?”

“What do you mean ‘at this point’? Were there any available options beforehand?”

Weyland definitely spoke up knowing Kusla’s intentions.

Alzen turned his head around, and Kusla had to retract the hand on his waist.

“Hmph.”

The superior who escaped Kazan along with them said,

“We might have room for failure if we were not so cornered to begin with.”

“Hm?”

Kusla blurted.

Alzen looked over at Kusla with a blank look.

“You know about the bellmaker’s situation now, don’t you.”

Kusla cursed, and Alzen slowly looked away.

He said,

“I do.”

“And you’re still …”

Kusla got increasingly agitated, wanting to draw the dagger out while Alzen looked aside.

“But we still have room for failure.”

“!”

Alzen’s decisive tone had Kusla stopping himself. He glanced over, and naturally noticed the latter was about to draw the dagger.

However, his expression remained unchanged, probably as it was all expected..

“Or I wouldn’t have risked the lot of you.”

Trying to dangle a carrot even at this point?

Kusla blatantly shot Alzen a suspicious look. If Alzen had any intention of bluffing them, he would slice the latter’s throat before the latter could call for others.

This was the only way to solve this crisis.

“Do you really think…there is room for failure?”

Faced with Kusla’s question, Alzen merely sneered.

“Really? If you fail to make the bell, you can just say so. Just say that others were jealous of your success and pull tricks to ruin you.”

Alzen spoke in a matter of fact, not giving Kusla any room to breathe.

“The success of the dragon production is there, and there is a high likelihood of your explanation being accepted. I thought you would have done so already.”

But they never did.

The reason was that they did not want to take the risk.

“The situation is always changing. Even if you are regretting why didn’t you do that, it’s pointless now.”

Alzen never looked towards Kusla, his tone never reproaching, yet it left Kusla unbearable.

They were the ones who made such a decision out of cowardice. If they had ignored everything and thought things through from an alchemist’s viewpoint, would they not have a different conclusion instead?

With something to protect, one’s thoughts would dull, and what they see would be exaggerated dangers beyond what they really were.

Those that kept seeking safety would ultimately be at risk of being unwanted.

Kusla felt that the beliefs that protected him till this point were shaken.

“The problem is now.”

Yes. Now.

If they believed Alzen and were brought to the bellmaking place, everything left would be a gamble. If they succeeded, they would be off the chopping block.

There was nowhere to run.

Kusla was not so foolish as to leave everything to chance.

In this situation, if it had been himself before he met Fenesis, what would he have done?

Kusla stared at Alzen, and slowly lowered his center of gravity.

Alzen surely ignored his little actions, thinking that he dared not to attack.

If he wanted to run, this would be the time.

If they wanted to survive, they would have to escape while the city was in chaos.

“There are three choices.”

Alzen spoke calmly,

“一To produce it as usual. Whether you succeed or not, God knows.”

Naturally, Kusla could not choose this option.

It was possible if they were mass producing at once however.

But laying out bell molds at the place would be admitting to his uneasiness.

How would the mercenaries react? Kusla could not predict.

“And the other two?”

Weyland asked.

Alzen turned around, saying,

“I heard there are certain forbidden methods to create a buell.”

“!”

Live sacrifices.

Without thinking, Kusla replied,

“Live sacrifices are useless.”

Faced with that retort, Alzen coldly commented,

“Is that so?”

What do you know?

Kusla was about to speak up, but Alzen did so first.

“At the very least, there are a few myths about live sacrifices the mercenaries are discussing.”

“That…”

“Such is a live sacrifice, the purpose being the adorable, pitiful appearance of that young lady.”

Alzen looked right over at Fenesis.

Kusla took a step forward, shielding her.

“She should be a decent choice…would garner quite an effect, I would say.”

The innocent, pretty girl was also an actual Maiden who triggered the miracle.

There was no one else more worthy to be a live sacrifice.

But it had nothing to do with whether the bell was made successfully.

“Hm. So, this should be enough..”

“I can’t understand the purpose of doing this.”

Hearing Kusla hiss back, Alzen lifted his head, saying,

“If we throw the young lady into the furnace, we can easily convince those mercenaries. I can control those beasts, surely.”

So, die.

It was said that those who led through battles had situations when they had to say such lines.

“Once we throw the young lady into the furnace, we can easily raise the soldiers’ morale. This is a matter of experience. Don’t forget, live sacrifices gave rise to many superstitions. How powerful they are is not for me to elaborate.”

There was a logic as to why stories of live sacrifices spread till this day.

Kusla looked towards Fenesis.

The girl with the cursed bloodline lowered her head, hiding her expression beneath her hood.

“Just finish the miracle. Do alchemists not do that to begin with?.”

Do they not hurt or abuse others for their own objectives.

Despite that, Kusla wanted to dispute, knowing it was an undeniable fact.

“And so, the third option.”

Alzen said, looking right over at them.

“Run.”

Kusla doubted his ears.

“Wh…at?”

“I said, run.”

Alzen repeated himself, his cheek muscles twitching, as though gritting his teeth.

But why was he putting up a facade?

What was the expression he wanted to disguise?

“You don’t believe me?”

Of course. Kusla had intended to stab Alzen just so that they could escape.

“I don’t believe it either.”

At that moment, Kusla realized something. Alzen was holding back a smile.

It was likely——

“As a commander, this is really unbecoming…but I am a person. I’m scared, that if I make this decision, I’ll be a different person. I can’t defend myself for making such decisions. Despite that, I can’t make the call.”

Alzen let out a heavy sigh..

“I can’t keep this cold facade. You have provided a miracle to me…no, the Archduke and the our forces. To be honest, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t shaken about the prospect of sacrificing you to bring our forces another miracle.”

Alzen gritted his teeth, holding back his mouth, probably reproaching himself for this dilemma.

“It was truly a miracle. I was laughing like a child.”

Alzen finally could not hold it in as he chuckled. It was so powerful, so gaudy, yet so sincere.

“If I were to throw you into the furnace or send you to the gallows, I can’t recognize that miracle. Such an experience would be a trial, akin to iron turning into steel, but…”

Upon making eye contact with Alzen, Kusla backed down.

“If I were living in a parched world, I don’t necessarily have to give up on the water, right?”

Kusla did not know whether to interpret the words as weakness, or a human touch.

For Alzen’s words were too unexpected.

Was he not a commander cold like metal, steady like lead, sturdy like gold, an embodiment of authority?

That should be the fact.

But miracles could prompt people to change.

“The boats can’t evacuate everyone, but there are hiding places. We aren’t so naive to think that we’ll definitely win. I have a few more plans just in case. There are certain people and things that need to be evacuated from Nilberk. Until then, I should be able to disguise the lot of you as part of the boat crew.”

“But what happens after we escape~?”

Weyland asked once again.

There was a reason why his voice had no intent of thanks.

“To be honest, we still have to be protected by the Knights…and we’ll be known as the alchemists at the last moment…even then, we’ll have to give everyone an explanation, no~?”

Those people are spies of the enemy.

Alzen naturally hid away his smile, reverting back to a commander calmly facing reality.

“Yes. Once you escape, you will never become alchemists of the Knights again.”

Of course, it would be the same in the Northern Lands.

“But, having managed the forces for so long, quite a few owed me favors. I can introduce to you a noble of decent standing. Head over for now…and wait for the chance.”

Alzen’s last words seemed a little hesitant.

Is it possible for those who unfortunately steered away to return to the path?

Why did the Bible emphasize greatly on the resurrection?

For once a person has a knee on the ground, he’s unlikely to stand up again.

“I won’t force you now. Make your choice.”

Alzen poked a finger onto the desk.

“Do you choose to be an alchemist, risking everything for your dreams, or do you be like a blacksmith, hoping to live another day?”

Would they rely on the superstitious power of sacrifce, or do they close the workshop down, just thinking of protecting themselves, and keep praying?

Kusla quietly lamented that he should not be brooding over this. He never doubted the reason why he was dubbed the name of ‘interest’. There was still a ray of hope. This once in a million hope.

Kusla again looked towards Fenesis.

How would be sacrifice this adorable girl and gain the hope for his dreams?

Could he do it?

No, if he felt that he could, he would. Such should be what alchemists. If he was still called interest, an alchemist looking at the world with his cold eyes, he would risk everything just to head to Magdala.

“Make your decision before dawn.”

Alzen waved his head, shooing them off..

On the way back, nobody spoke up. It was the same when they returned to the workshop.

Nobody looked at each other, for they all knew that once their eyes met, they would have to discuss this matter.

It was not easy talking about this matter at all.

Kusla could not believe that he himself was unwilling to break this awkwardness. He could not understand how he ended up being so incompetent. This was supposedly an issue they could discuss using all the time they had left.

Who, other than fools, would waste time when time was of the essence here?

But Kusla just could not move. He was supposed to be the ‘interest’ hurrying towards the land of Magdala day and night.

“But you made up your mind already, right?”

Sparking things off was a somewhat sleepy Irine. Preparations of the dragons’ mass production was done, and all that was left was the assembly. It was at this crucial moment that Weyland roped her back.

Perhaps Irine said so just to change the mood of the situation.

She wanted to tell Kusla that there was nothing to worry about.

“Well Kusla, you can’t possibly be taking little Ul out as firewood~.”

Weyland too spoke up. He was kneeling before the furnace, sorting the coal.

Kusla then opened his mouth, but was unable to say anything.

An alchemist somehow ended up in such a state, and most tragically, he somehow ended up being most concerned of Fenesis’ eyes.

He was in complete shambles. What was the callous alchemist worried about?

The supposedly callousalchemist had a white young lady next to him.

Was it what he wanted? In that case, why the confusion?

The reason being that he might leave behind the land of his own Magdala, as depicted in Korad’s words, forever.

If he wanted to pursue this dream, he would have to sacrifice her.

Kusla did not know why he was so bothered, or even what he was bothered about.

Because he would never choose to abandon Fenesis.

“…What do you think?”

Kusla eked out a voice.

“My choice will be the final say, but this has something to do with you, right?”

Kusla too knew that he was pushing the load he could not bear to others.

Irine was the first to speak.

“I’m definitely help Ul. If we can continue to do smelting, I’m fine going to the South.”

Then, Weyland.

Kusla looked towards Weyland, perhaps hoping that the latter would nudge him forward.

“Well…I guess~.”

Weyland looked back, smiling at Fenesis.

“While little Ul is adorable, I will choose what Alzen said, and throw her into the furnace~.”

“Wha. H-hey, you serious?”

Irine glared at Weyland, but the latter chuckled, not paying her any mind.

He was probably serious.

After dumping the waste at his feet into the furnace, he stood up.

“Well, I’m a cruel alchemist, just an acquiantance with little Ul. It’s a real pity…but I weighed her up against my own dreams. I don’t want to keep Kusla’s weakness company~.”

Kusla felt his heart jolt, aching so badly.

These were alchemists——

“Kusla, you’re not going to do this for real, right?”

Kusla could not move.

As though he was hit with a cursed arrow to turn everything to stone.

“If Kusla uses his smarts, wiles and cold-blooded mind of an alchemist, to think inhumanly like ‘interest’, he should be able to understand that I’ll make this descision. Then, his choice will be to go next to little Ul, draw his blade at me. Then,”

Weyland smiled.

“He’ll kill me~.”

“Y-You’re joking, right?”

Irine’s lips showed a timid smile as she said,

Kusla was a little far away from Weyland, while Fenesis, right next to Irine, was about the same. It was not a joke. They should not be hoping that Weyland would give up his own dreams for Fenesis’ sake.

In any case, he too was an alchemist.

An alchemist aiming for the land of Magdala, using all the tools at his disposal. The term conscience was reduced to ash by them already.

“You’re not going to do anything even after all that? If I take little Ul as a hostage, what will you do? But if you protect her, can you defend against my dagger~.”

It might have been a joke.

If he was serious, he would have done so. However, Weyland did not sound like he was joking. The best Kusla could do would be to kill Weyland before the latter took Fenesis as a hostage.

Move!

Kusla yelled in his heart.

But at this moment, he clearly could not.

“In other words,”

Weyland looked towards Kusla, shrugging.

“You’re not an alchemist, Kusla~.”

Kusla was not so calm to remain unfazed when told off like this.

His legs moved.

Weyland remained still.

“This is just a little argument after all~.”

“!”

“It’s unlike an alchemist to try and attack me after a taunt, not because of his own dreams~?”

Weyland was right.

Kusla did not know what he wanted to do. He was just a howling dog.

“Is there an answer now~?”

Weyland teasingly poked Kusla’s foot with his toes.

“You became an alchemist because you wanted to go to the Land of Magdala, Kusla. No, all alchemists become alchemists for this reason.”

“What…isn’t that nonsense?”

Weyland grimaced.

“But on the other hand, there’s no saying that if you become an alchemist, you have to go to Magdala. Most importantly,”

Kusla opened his eyes wide, and held his breath.

Kusla was terrified. He forced his stiff legs to move forward, wanting to cover Weyland’s mouth.

“You——”

At this moment, Weyland suddenly vanished.

Then, Kusla felt his vision falter, a thud echoing loudly in his mind.

Only then did he react. Weyland suddenly stormed in, landing a fist right at his chin, knocking him down.

Right when Kusla was about to pass out, he saw Weyland, looking down at him, while in a daze.

“found something worth protecting.”

His consciousness faded into darkness.

The moment he closed his eyes, he scented upon a faint sweet smell.

Kusla knew that he was dreaming.

For the scene before him was exactly the same as countless before.

He was standing still in the village he was born in, the surroundings burned to wasteland.

Thus it was a dream, certain scenes did happen in reality.

The tattered village had just been trampled upon by bandits, reduced to ash amidst the flames.

Typically, this dream would last until Kusla found his childhood friend amidst the rubble.

This was the part limited only to the dream, different from reality. She was in fact taken as target practice, killed by arrows. Kusla however hoped that she had burned to death instead.

However, he could not hear his childhood friend calling his name amidst the ruins.

He could only hear the galloping of the horses他, along with the heavy thuds of the armor. Those were the Knights, passing by once in a while, checking if the smoke was not simply borne out of mountain fire.

Once they saw the situation of the village and Kusla, they understood. In this state of the world, such situations were common. However, this was the first time it happened in Kusla’s life. He thought it was everything to the world.

Thus, the orphans who survived this tattered village could only rely on the Knights who were planning to turn around and head back.

He said, I wanted power.

Kusla recalled. He never was an alchemist right from the beginning. Back then, he bitterly wondered how he was going to get power, and the final conclusion he got was to obtain the sword of Orichalcum, and metallurgy was the mean to obtain Orichalcum.

If this power he yearned for was no more than a mean, the answered was obvious right from the beginning.

This was probably the reason.

In his dream, Kusla was facing the Knights who were leaving from him, and he was screaming, watching them leave, unable to move. He knew if he did not give chase, he would not be adopted by the Knights, and he would lose the chance to become an alchemist.

Because.

Because, he——

“…Finally woke up?”

Fenesis asked, looking at Kusla who had opened his eyes.

Kusla had a few experiences of passing out, and no matter the result thereafter, he was never too shocked.

Fenesis put his head on her lap, taking care of him.

The room was quiet, the soft candlelight being the only thing casting away the darkness. It was probably the bedroom.

“…What about that bastard and Irine?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis smiled with some awkwardness.

“They are both at the workshop.”

“…”

Kusla sighed, and relaxed.

He too was as calm as this room.

“Are you fine?”

Kusla listlessly stared towards a certain corner of the room, ignoring Fenesis’ question.

But, he did not remain silent.

“I had a dream.”

“Hm?”

Saying that, he closed his eyes.

“I dreamt of my past. I grew up in a torn village, and would probably have grown up to become a shepherd. As for what I looked forward to, probably the annual festival, eating lamb, drinking goat milk wine, getting drunk into the night. This was the life I wanted to live, but some incident happened. I dreamt of the incident that changed my life completely.”

Kusla let out a heavy sigh, either sighing out the gloom from getting beaten by Weyland, or his own frustration.

After that, he stopped talking.

Neither did Fenesis.

She stared at Kusla unflinchingly.

“I do not want to stand on a path of seperation again.”

“?”

Kusla opened his eyes, and found Fenesis staring blankly at him.

He showed a sarcastic grin.

“Then go back there.”

“…Back?”

“I left the village, aiming to become an alchemist. Right now, I’m wondering if I should give up on being an alchemist.”

He said it. So that is it, he thought.

But the lap pillow was a soft yet sturdy existence..

And his feelings, resting upon it, felt so distinct, undeniable.

“For some reason…I feel defeated.”

Kusla said.

Fenesis stared at Kusla silently.

Then, she showed a faint smile, probably out of the innate kindness she was born with.

“Because you are a serious person.”

Kusla stared at Fenesis’s eyes, and the latter never looked aside, even smiling,

“Ever since we met..”

“…”

Kusla knew what she was talking about. Back then, he was disgusted at himself for thinking only about alchemy, even when his lover was killed. He remained unmoved, and even if he did obtain a sword of Orichalcum that could protect those important to him, what was the point?

Was it not silly of him to devote his passion upon something meaningless?

It was Fenesis who guided him while he was circling the same spot.

You are not so cold-blooded to forget about metallurgy even when your lover was killed. You just wanted to work hard, obtaining the sword of Orichalcum, hoping to prevent another tragedy.

“And also,”

Fenesis said, and went quiet.

Kusla looked up at her, seeing her purse her lips, averting her eyes as though she was enduring something.

Is she feeling awkward? Once he realized this, she was looking back at Kusla again.

Looking infuriated, she stammered,

“So-so am I——”

But she was never able to continue.

Kusla looked at Fenesis stoically, his hand gently stroking her slender bum.

“H-hyah!?!”

She tried to stand up immediately, but as Kusla was lying in her lap, she could not run away.

She swung a slap into his face.

Pak. That was loud and clear.

“Wh-what are you doing…”

“So, what did Weyland tell you?”

Hearing that, Fenesis muttered, looking aside.

“…I-Irine too…”

“Those two…”

Kusla cursed, and closed his eyes lethargically. Again those two teamed up to do something unnecessary. They were probably amused, and thinking that it did not involve them, and thus why they did so.

Upon this thought, Kusla had another idea.

Irine earnestly helped him in Kazan.

And he knew Weyland was not a bad person. If he was, he would have tied Fenesis up and sent her to Alzen. Weyland too could be considered implicated. Could he have his own intentions, believing he could rise up again?

Kusla could not understand.

But there was one thing certain, that Fenesis could still remain by his side safely.

Kusla once again sighed defeatedly.

Seeing that Kusla was not saying anything, Fenesis stammered,

“Y-You, a-about, me…”

Seeing Fenesis being so nervous, even Kusla wondered if her heart would pop out from her mouth.

“Ab-about me…”

“Yes.”

Kusla never let her finish, and his answer remained vague,

No way I can say that, so he thought

He was an alchemist who could quiet crying children.

“…Stubborn.”

Fenesis pouted unhappily.

You’re the one person I don’t want to hear that from, so Kusla thought, but he never refuted.

For it was fact.

Fenesis lowered her head, and said, as though she was forced to say so,

“Yo-you became an alchemist because of your dreams…then, as an alchemist, you should pursue your own dreams. I-I think I said something strange…”

She was right, so he never responded.

He could imagine Weyland and Irine excitedly teaching various strange things to the girl.

Surely he was infuriated because they were right on point.

Kusla peeked a little at Fenesis.

Fenesis reeled her neck back, looking to be on the verge of tears.

Without her blushing, the expression she showed would be of one about to be killed.

But Kusla knew.

Embarrassment would not doom a person to death.

“I-I do feel that I am unsuited to be an uppity alchemist…”

“Uppity?”

“Fue?!”

Hearing the response, she let out a weird squeal, as though she was doing her best to withhold her laugh.

“Weyland said that too?”

“…M-Miss Irine did…no-not really, erm,”

“Got it. I see. So that’s it.”

Kusla tried to pass it off.

The answer was clear, the resolution obvious.

But he just could not rationalize it. If everything could be explained through logic, he would not be an alchemist. If everything could be explained through logic, he would have obtained a proper job the moment he became an alchemist, and lived a boring, stable life. Despite that, he would probably be involved in the same crisis now, worried about his own livelihood.

But the truth differed.

In this sense, I’m really the same as before, so Kusla thought.

Kusla stared at Fenesis, who remained speechless after being interrrupted, and he frowned.

Such a cute girl really was unsuited to be an uppity alchemist.

Speaking of which.

Was he supposed to head to Magdala because he was an alchemist? Or did he become an alchemist because he wanted to head to Magdala?

Kusla averted his eyes slightly, before looking back at her.

“You’ve grown a little.”

Hmph. So she took a deep breathing, pouting, her ears drooping as a result. It certainly was an interesting sight.

However, this rage seemed to have become her motivation moving forward.

“N-not that I have grown. I am not a child anymore…”

Kusla gave a half smile that was basically asking, why?

He said,

“Then, what——”

He stopped.

He widened his eyes, and saw the ceiling.

The white hair fell upon his face.

The hands holding down his head were tense, covered in cold sweat.

And thus, the warmth of that tenderness seemed different from before.

It felt like cheese heated over fire.

“…I am not a child.”

Fenesis straightened herself, and put Kusla’s head back on her knees.

“I am an…alchemist, chasing after my own dreams.”

Kusla lifted his eyes, and stared listlessly at Fenesis for a moment..

Fenesis did her best to stare back, using her initial momentum. After a while however, she was deflated, and looked away timidly like before.

But it was a fact it happened. The actions did happen.

A sword contained both soft and hard metals, and thus, had both the malleability to remain intact, and the sturdiness to remain rigid.

And the sword-like Fenesis caused a slit in Kusla’s heart, but what flowed out instead was not blood.

“If you are an alchemist, what am I??”

Fenesis said in a huff,

“A hopeless——hya?!”

Kusla reached his hand for her bum to shut her up, and got slapped again.

But this time, he grabbed that hand, not letting go.

“Those two taught you things again?”

Fenesis tried to wave off his hand, but stopped upon hearing his words.

“Th-they often say that…?”

“No.”

Hearing that, she gasped, and stared at Kusla intently, saying,

“Not them.”

“What are you trying to say?”

Kusla naturally would not throw Fenesis into the furnace.

And thus, even if Kusla managed to escape South and continue to be an alchemist, he would not be a real one.

Thus was what Fenesis meant when she called herself an alchemist.

With a stoic look, she looked down upon Kusla.

“If you do reach the Land of Magdala, will you give up on being an alchemist?”

There was originally no purpose to this question.

But after some visualization, for some reason, Kusla answered without hesitation,

“No.”

“So, this is what I want to say.”

Fenesis took a deep breath, and straightened her back.

“You may have become an alchemist because of your serious personality, but I have to say something.”

A tender, smiling face.

“I like alchemy, just like you. I joined you, because you seemed to enjoy doing it.”

Welcome to the world of alchemists——

Fenesis was once mesmerized by the refining work of zinc.

And if Kusla and Weyland were fascinated by their own work, what would be her choice?

“…What do you want me to do?”

Kusla held Fenesis’ hand firmly. By hypothesis, he could predict what she was going to say.

“I received a promise from you, right?”

Don’t sacrifice yourself for the bellmaking.

Fenesis looked down at Kusla, smiling forlornly.

“That was a lie.”

Fenesis put her other hand on Kusla’s.

“I shall die before everyone, and everyone can remain in the North. This is my…Magdala.”

The girl bearing the cursed bloodline said bashfully.

The Knights spent an entire night hastily building a massive furnace.

They stacked the bricks, filled the gaps with lime, and dug a large hole in the ground to store the metals.

The furnace resembled a giant bathtub capable of accomodating a giant five times the size of a human.

Such a large furnace was required to make the bell.

Also, there was a platform above the furnace. It was modified from a gallows, a staple for any city.

Despite that, the purpose of the gallows remained unchanged.

Also, there was a trapdoor, which makes it convenient. There was ample height for one to endure the rising heat, even when standing above the furnace..

The people gathered at the plaza could probably see the people standing on the platform.

“Some have insisted that God has abandoned us!”

The booming voice echoed at the plaza.

The modified gallows shook a little, creaking.

Archduke Kratal was lashing out furiously on the platform.

“But that is not the case! The Lord cannot possibly abandon us Knights. We have fallen into the vicious trap of the Pagans, in this cursed Land. Fortunately, the Lord has granted us a hand!”

Nobody spoke. Instead, at the plaza, there was a silence hotter than the furnace.

“We shall bury the Pagans with the hammer of Truth. Our Mission shall be to reclaim the peace and faith on this Land!”

However, the soldiers lacked the bell signifying this faith.

While everyone looked towards towards the bell tower, Archduke Kratal said once again,  

“We are in the midst of darkness. Surely there are many feeling lost, wondering where we should go. But the Lord is with us, and has revealed to us the path. We cannot see Him, but we can see his messenger. The angel of redemption has descended upon this city!”

The plaza erupted into thunderous applause.

The mercenaries raised their weapons, yelling.

A petite body appeared on the gallows, dressed in the white clergy robes, her hands tied before her, bronze shackles bound to her feet. It was all to ensure that she sank into the Hellish boiling metal beneath her.

Clearly she was not a Maiden to be worshipped, nor capable of a miracle.

She was simply a pitiful doll to be thrown into the furnace, for people harbored unrealistic hopes for her.

Thus, Kusla understood. The Ancients might not have been hunted down because of their prior invasions. He recalled the mural on Kazan, that there were ordinary people beside those fighting deformed and the enemies summoning dragons.

In another way, one could interpret it as the Ancients fighting for those oppressed. After the battles, they lived in the city for a while. At the very least, there was no way to conclude for sure that the Ancients were vicious invaders.

Despite that, they were deemed as cursed existences. Even when they offered aid to others, creating miracles, on a certain day, they were still unfairly treated.

After witnessing a miracle, people would want a second one, and after a second one, would demand for a third.

On a certain day, once the Ancients were unable to reciprocate the expectations, people started becoming deluded.

Are they unwilling to share these miracles with us?

No, maybe the miracles are a lie after all?

The higher they are, the harder the fall.

And the Ancients, aliens to the land, finally vanished into the annals of history.

This too might have happened..

These were merely hypothesis, but Kusla had enough reason to believe.

The scene before him was enough proof.

Even the mercenary who offered the wildflower had no objections to this sacrificial ritual.

“All have heard that this Maiden, Ul Fenesis, has brought forth many miracles! Her appearance in this city is God’s plan!”

The Church priests left Fenesis from the sides.

And she, who had her head lowered the entire time, lifted it.

She appeared to have given up, or was attempting to protect something.

Kusla felt that she was a lot thinner in a single night, as though something important was robbed off her.

“We shall use the flames lit by the Maiden, and with the miracle, we shall create the bell, declaring to the world of our Justice!”

There was rapturous applause.

“Let the enemy hear our voices, and let them now we are never going to retreated on this accursed land! We are the fighting believers! Brothers! You are no pitiful sheep shivering in your homes, but shepherds protecting your sheep from the vicious wolves! Come, raise your weapons! Stand and raise your voices!!!”

Archduke Kratal raised his arms, yelling. The platform shook.

The spectators beneath responded to his call, rallied to utmost euphoria.

The red bearded archduke’s hands stopped above his head, clenched.

“Glory to God!!”

The trapdoor opened in response to his call, and the pitiful girl was devoured within.

Falling were the white robe, along with the whiter hair resembling an angel’s wings. Everything happened in an instant. It was not a divine miracle people imagined it to be.

It was a simple fall, instant and definite.

Following that, along with a blunt thud, the robes were scorched in the high heat of the boiling metal. The rising steam set the robes aflame, and the remaining white hair rose, fluttering in the air for a moment, before being ignited as well.If there was a poet around, surely he would write, such resembles life.

But no poet was present.

Present were the armies outside the city, and the warriors ready to defeat them.

“Look! The Maiden has abandoned her body of flesh. Her Soul has been summoned by the Lord!”

Archduke Kratal then yelled,

“Brothers! Will you remain timid seeing the Maiden’s courage!?”

Once done, the Archduke stomped hard again, and the gallows shook.

“The enemy has come! This is the chance to display your courage to the Maiden!”

A moment later,

Beast-like bellows filled the plaza.

“The bell is not to encourage you! You have lots of it! The bell is made to celebrate your triumphant return!”

The warriors swung their weapons wildly, hollering. The carriages ferrying the dragons raced towards the plaza. All the workshops had been mobilized for the assembly work, so that it could be done in time.

On the call of the horse-riding commanders, the soldiers strode down the main streets leading out, swarming out in droves.

The enemy would probably be terrified.

The soldiers were all riled up.

They had forgotten something important.

They forgot that a catapult’s purpose was to destroy the walls and cause casualties within the city walls.

The catapult could no longer fend against the fearlessly advancing soldiers, along with the fire breathing dragons.

“Open the gates!”

Someone yelled, and following that, deafening roars and footsteps. The battle had begun.

The crowded plaza from before had disappeared, and left were the workers working on the furnace.

Archduke Kratal stood on the fallows, his arms folded as he looked afar.

“Are you satisfied now, alchemists?”

The two priests by the side shriveled upon hearing that..

They brought a girl to the gallows, all so to ensure their survival.

“Hm. I have a distaste for the gallows. Swords are better than ropes.”

Saying that, the Archduke descended the massive, delicate stairs. The two priests hastily followed suit.

Following that, a man stepped onto the empty gallows stairs.

He had long hair, along with an untrimmed beard.

Weyland stepped onto the gallows, gleefully looking towards the city, and then beneath his feet..

“Isn’t it hot~?.”

Kusla answered,

“Move already. It’s hot.”

There was a hidden panel beneath the trapdoor..

Hidden there were the sweaty Kusla,

“Even without my hair, it does feel really hot…”

And Fenesis.

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