[Magdala V6] Act 1

As the Queen of the Pagan Land Latria had converted to Orthodoxy, there was chaos in the North. Latria had been at war with the Southern countries for almost twenty years, and the just reason for the war was the conflict between the believers and the pagans.

Over a long while, there had been no battle with a decisive outcome, and if it kept on, it would be part of everyday life. Many were born while war was going on, and war lasted until they were suitable for marriage. The premises of the past was war, and at this point, there was too much at stake for them to stop.

And in this chaos, the ones that suffered most were the Claudius Knights, created to exterminate the pagans.

The Latrian Queen’s conversation was a ploy to prevent the Knights from gaining a proper foothold. Supporting her were the pagans living in the North, and the kings and nobles of Orthodoxy who were unhappy about the Knights’ rising power.

However, the Claudius Knights proved similar to the eight headed hydra in the myths of the pagans, that even after one or two heads were severed, it would not die easily.

They had veteran soldiers, outstanding commanders, overwhelming finances.

And alchemists performing miracles.

The Knights had begun their counterattack, and the alchemist Kusla and his gang had left the forces, headed towards a town the heretical inquisitor had once visited. It was said there was information relating to relics over there.

“But drifting around…really make us restless~.”

Weyland’s feet were nestled on the table, and he leaned back on the chair as he said so. He had long hair, stubble and beard on his face. He might resemble a bandit, but he was really an alchemist.

“I don’t really mind.”

In contrast, Kusla was pretty concerned about his appearance. While Weyland was bored to tears, nagging away, Kusla sat at another table, browsing a boy. Usually, there were two other girls around, but they were not around. The youngest Fenesis went to nap in the next room after lunch, while the blacksmith girl Irine was outside handling matters.

“I can’t just be contented with books like you there, Kusla. I can’t live if I don’t get to sweat lots before a furnace, feeling the scorching flames~~~~”

Weyland raised his arms towards the ceiling, like a poet making a dramatic confession.

Alchemists mostly were people researching metallurgy. Thus was the only common point between them, for each person’s methods, ambition, and purpose for research were far different. Weyland preferred to act, while Kusla preferred to read through books and rack his brains.

“And~”

No angel would descend from the ceiling to bless him, so Weyland put his arms down, looking a little spiteful as he looked towards Kusla.

“You might think anything’s fine as long as you get to hug and pat little Ul, Kusla. I’m really bored though~”

Kusla was not so foolish to take that seriously.

He flipped the page, shrugging.

“Well, I lent you Irine.”

She was a proper blacksmith girl with distinct red hair tied in a knot, always finishing her work completely in the workshop. At this tender shop, she was a first rate blacksmith, and it was because of her that they managed to break through the enemy ranks twice. All credit for the dragon flamethrowers should belong to her.

“Well, little Irine? Seem like it’ll be nice to rub them~.”

Due to her laborious work, Irine’s body was pretty toned, and there were curves in the right places. Kusla once carried her, and knew how shapely her body was. It would feel nice rubbing them, it seemed.

In contrast, Fenesis was slender and weak, neither chest nor bum were visible. She was young, juvenile however, so a saving grace might be that there is still room for her to develop.

“Now that we’re talking about this, it does feel similar to hunting..”

“Huh?”

Kusla did not understand these words, so he looked towards Weyland. The latter closed his eyes, looking as though he was figuring out the amount of coal to be added to the fire.

“One person chases, another person runs, and they fight! Both chew on each other passionately, and be happy. Something like that. You understand~?”

Weyland flailed his arms, wrapping his body with his arms as he said.

But Kusla could somewhat understand what he was getting at. Irine was lively in whatever she did, and mastered things easily. She would charge forth right from the get go, never sparing any effort. Such was what Weyland wanted to express.

Such people are fine for the bustling city life, but might not be suited to deal with the boredom of a journey.

“And then, little Ul…might be like a spice pack. A nice smell when you rub her, such that I want to keep her by my side. Very suited for a boring journey.”

Onlookers might have this impression because of her diminutive body, and that she was often covered in the nun habit, so Kusla snorted.

Truly, Fenesis did have a unique scent to her, and it might make sense to keep her by his side. Occasionally, it would be nice to tease her, to irritate her, to see her pout, or to see her foolish self whenever she lost to the demon of sleep. However, Kusla snorted not because Weyland was being on point. He just did not understand why this was mentioned so suddenly.

Even if it was to tease Kusla, he felt it was a lost case. Furthermore, Weyland could never have done anything to Fenesis.

Whenever Fenesis wanted to approach Kusla enthusiastically, the latter’s reluctance was obvious, but no matter the sacrifices or means required, he would choose Fenesis, and Weyland should know them well.

After all, the one nudging Kusla forth, and even sending an uppercut to the chin was none other than Weyland.

And thus, Kusla was hopelessly confused.

“…What are you planning?”

He was worried, and immediately retorted back.

“Nfufufu~~”

Weyland responded with a vague smile, ignoring Kusla’s stare like a breeze, stretched his back well, and stood from the chair.

“Speaking of which, Irine sure is slow~.”

Weyland turned his neck side to side, cracking it. For certain reasons, they were cooped in the room, unable to leave the inn, so it seemed he had no way to vent hs excess strength. This was probably the reason for their random thoughts, but Kusla was sighing for other reasons.

“Eh? You aren’t looking forward to it, Kusla~?”

“Looking forward to what?”

Kusla looked unbemused, and Weyland seemed to be thinking.

“A different you from usual~?”

“Are you an idiot?”

Despite the insult, Weyland continued to smile gleefully.

Irine was tasked to receive certain items. Kusla,Weyland and Fenesis were unable to leave, and thus, she had to do so.

Why they could not leave was because if they did, there would be chaos outside.

Back in Nilberk, after a series of events, Kusla and Weyland were deemed as great alchemists capable of delivering real miracles. After the many miracles, the official notice was that they had departed Southbound by boat. Fenesis herself had become a martyr, a person of the dea, and all the more she should not be outside moving. Irine, deemed an unbelievably amazing blacksmith, was the only one allowed to walk openly.

What Irine was asked to do simply to gather the necessities for their journey.

And the necessities were not food.

“Hm? Seems like she’s back~?”

Weyland pricked his ears, hearing the footsteps, and left the room. Kusla watched him leave, and sighed again. Though they had begun their journey, the alchemists were catching too much attention, and would be a hindrance. In that case, they had to fool in the manner alchemists would do, by gold plating.

In other words, they had to disguise.

“I’m back. Come on, you jerks, try them on!”

Irine’s voice echoed together with a thud.

Kusla stood up unwilling, and went to the next room, finding a pile of clothes before Irine.

“Will you inhumane alchemists be suited for these instead?”

Irine looked strangely enthusiastic, and Kusla snorted.

“Aren’t these blacksmith clothes? What about suitable?”

“Aren’t these fine?”

Irine asked with some major intent, and Kusla merely shrugged.

“This is yours. This is Weyland’s.”

“Looks like I’ll enjoy this~~!”

Weyland, who always enjoyed himself, was looking extremely excited, like a child receiving presents. Fenesis was probably woken by the commotion as she rubbed her eyes, exiting the inner room.

During the commotion a week ago, she cut the unique white hair of hers. She resembled an androgynous child, and could be mistaken for either boy or girl.

“Ah, this is yours, little Ul.”

Irine was enjoying herself all the more, reaching her arms out as she handed a packet of clothes. The sleepy Fenesis was confused for a moment, and looked a little annoyed.

“Don’t worry. This will suit you!”

Irine affirmed with a beaming face, but Fenesis looked skeptical.

It was probably because she recalled that soon after she entered the workshop they were at, she was made to dress like a town girl.

Her hair was overly white, and prettier than ordinary folk, which made her strangely different, like a princess from elsewhere made to look destitute.

Her unhappiness probably stemmed from that incident. At the very least, it was one of the main factors

The clothes Fenesis received was suggested by Irine, and highly supported by Weyland. Kusla would reserve his comments for the time being, not because he would find them unsuitable.

But that he had a feeling that it would really suit her, to the point of vexation.

“Righto, get changing! It’s busy out there in town. The tailors aren’t free either! If it doesn’t fit, I got to change them to change!”

Irine clapped. She probably did the same gesture to prompt the other blacksmiths in the workshops.

Weyland happily stripped himself off on the spot, and was glared at furiously by Irine.

Fenesis looked a little hapless, before she cuddled the clothes and returned to her nap room.

Good grief, so Kusla removed his clothes, picking up the plain clothes befitting of a blacksmith.

 

 

Weyland buckled his belt, and Irine sighed disinterestedly.

“It really does suit Weyland.”

“This is what I hear no matter what I wear.”

“Seems that way. But how about you comb your beard and hair? You look like a bad natured blacksmith?”

The duo bickered. Truly, they would not seem out of place even if they were in a town workshop.

“Well, we’re supposed to be blacksmiths trying to find places to live at, right? I can act as a capable one who can’t get along with the others in the city, or that kind of feeling, no~~”

Weyland said as he stroked his untrimmed beard.

“Ah–un. This is the impression you gave me. We do have such people in town back then..”

Back in Gulbetty, Irine was the leader of the town guild, in her deceased husband’s stead, so she probably knew about such people. Her face seemed a little rigid, probably because Weyland was playing this role too well, that it reminded her of her frustrations back then.

“Now, the problem is this one here~.”

Both of them looked towards Kusla. The latter would remain unfazed even when standing before a jury who would sentence him to death the next moment, and he reeled his neck back to intimidate.

He had a feeling what criticism he would face.

“Shockingly, your clothes don’t suit you at all.”

Irine sounded a little sympathetic as she giggled.

“What’s wrong here~?”

Even Weyland stopped with his joking attitude as he pondered for real. This left Kusla all the more infuriated. If Weyland was doing this purposely, Kusla would say he was doing a good job.

“Looks like a conman trying to disguise himself.”

“Either that, or the fool of a great merchant forced to be an apprentice in a workshop, forced to change himself~.”

“Ahahaha, I get what you mean!”

Kusla was beyond infuriated, his face completely expressionless.

“Hmm…but it is really strange. Ah, yes, maybe it’s that?”

“That? Whatcha mean~?”

“The thing wrapped around your head, Weyland.”

Irine pointed her finger at the towel wrapped around Weyland’s head. Typically, the latter would only do so in the workshop, but he wore it because he had to act like a blacksmith.

“If this is on him, will be look more like a blacksmith now?”

“…How will you look now~?”

Weyland removed the towel from his hand, giving an intriguing smirk as he looked at Kusla.

He looked as though he knew the answer, but he tossed the towel over.

“Wear it!”

He would look foolish trying to resist at this point.

So Kusla obediently put on the towel, and the duo immediately snickered in unison.

“Like a thief in disguise sneaking into a workshop.”

“Don’t get angry now, Kusla~.”

Even if the half-smiling Weyland had not said so, Kusla never had any intention to look ugly.

“So, what’s wrong? I don’t really want to praise the guy, but he’s decent, appearance wise”

“Is Kusla not looking crude enough~?”

Irine looked towards Weyland, and looked as though she had realized something

“How about he leave a beard or something?”

“A beard, on Kusla~?”

Weyland suddenly blurted, sounding mystified, and he shrugged.

“That will just make him look much weirder~.”

“Then what are we supposed to do? Can’t be getting him to dress up like he’s obviously an alchemist, right”

“Yeah…but who could have expected of him not to look good in be so unsuited to wear anything else other than an alchemist’s?”

They were basically lamenting about the matter, so Kusla sighed and retorted,

“I don’t care if I have to look like a stupid son..”

Weyland and Irine exchanged looks, as though the flat out agreement was unexpected to them.

“You don’t have to be so angry~.”

“Y-yeah. It’s just that your impression as an alchemist is too strong…right?”

Both of them consoled him in unison, indicating that the attire really was unbefitting of him. Beneath the stoic look, Kusla was a little hurt.

“Who’s angry here? Look, achieving my objectives is good enough. Who cares about whether the clothing suits me.”

Actually, these were his real thoughts. He was not forcing anything.

He removed the towel from his head, and returned to Weyland, just moving his body a little.

“The size seems fine.”

“Hm? Ah, y-yes? Thank goodness..”

Irine might have been reflecting on her actions, that she might have gone overboard with her words.

“Anyway, the counterattack went really well, right? There’s lots of people on the run hiding in this city. Most would just bring a set of clothing, so the tailors were really busy.”

The massive army, tens of thousands, were crushed by the Cladius Knights, with the aid of the dragon flamethrowers and the fake miracle performed by Kusla’s gang. The Knights gathered at Nilberk gathered strength, siphoning the surrounding main roads and towns. As to be expected of that power.

Such news spread all corners, and people started to think that the Knights were still invincible, and gathered in droves. Within this quiet room, one could hear the happenings in the town, and the only time it was really quiet outside was the short period before dawn,

People were entering and leaving the city all day long.

“I did work hard to squeeze through that packed workshop and get these clothes. It’ll take a while to tailor these clothes. Good thing the size matches. You fine with that, Weyland?”

“No problems.”

Hearing the leisurely response, Irine nodded in satisfaction.

“Now little Ul is the only one left. How long will she take to change?”

“Maybe she doesn’t dare to leave the room~?”

“…”

Irine turned towards Weyland, and nodded, probably thinking this was a possibility.

She went to the next room, knocked lightly on the door, and opened it a little.

If Irine had a tail, it would have jolted up immediately.

“Amazing! This really suits you! Oh it really does!”

Irine entered the room excitedly.

“Looky look, it’s fine! Great! Never expected it to suit you so well!”

Irine’s back was the only thing seen through the gap, but one could sense a skirmish happening in the room.

Irine was tugging hard at Fenesis’ hand, trying to pull the latter out, who remained unwilling to leave the room.

Once they saw the girls at the door, both Kusla and Weyland were at a loss for words.

When they had Fenesis dress like a town girl, she was really unsuitable.

However, there was this option.

“Don’t you think it really suits her!?”

Irine sounded as though she was hailing her own contributions, and Fenesis next to her was flushed red, her head lowered unhappily. Perhaps she was just feeling awkward about the whole thing, rather than just whether it suited her. For her, a pious believer, she was a stickler for rules and regulations.

She looked uneasy, figidity, as though she was doing something completely immoral.

She was dressed in a boy’s clothing.

“A cute girl is cute even when wearing male clothing…~”

On the other side, Irine, not minding the details, was completely ecstatic, going on a spiel,

“But a cute one entering a workshop will cause quite a commotion. The big sisters in town won’t let such a cute one by.”

“It’s troublesome if they want to teach her. if they’re too harsh, it’ll be like they’re bullying her. Too kind, they’ll be seen as biased.”

“The hair colors doesn’t really matter after the hair’s been cut.”

That certainly was the case.

However, Kusla shared no thoughts as usual. Once Fenesis boldly cut her hair, he released she had an androgynous vibe to her. She was relatively undeveloped to begin with, at an age which it was unknown if she was girl or boy.

But once she wore a boy’s clothing, the sweet scent whenever she wore a nun’s clothes had vanished, replaced with a refreshing, youthful mood.

Appearances are really amazing. For the first time in his life, Kusla understood the feelings of those who were conned by plated gold, and those who encountered fool’s gold.

“But what about the ears?”

Irine asked. Fenesis was someone with a deformity, dubbed a cursed bloodline.

However, the deformity were simply the inhuman ears on her head, resembling a cat, somewhat cute. At this point, they were sticking to her head due to her bashfulness. However, eyecatching things are eyecatching.

“A cap, maybe…but blacksmiths won’t have such things. The merchant errand boys might wear them from time to time…”

Irine tilted her head slightly to think, and Weyland just pulled a towel from her waist, before walking to Fenesis.

He knelt down, and wrapped it around Fenesis’ head.

“This is a good time to do this~.”

“…”

Irine’s mouth was wide open, looking impressed.

Before their eyes was a young, healthy apprenticeship slender like a girl, worried about the future work in the workshop, but still mustering all enthusiasm to work hard.

“…Yo-you can call me big sister, you know?”

Irine’s eyes suddenly became strange, and her words were such that it was unknown whether she was joking.

Fenesis remained perturbed, but Kusla sensed her glancing at him from time to time. Her face clearly showed that she wanted to know what he felt.

Nevertheless, he could not help but look aside.

And to describe it, his face looked extremely bitter.

“Hm~? What’s the matter, Kusla?”

Witnessing this, Weyland asked pretentiously

“What’s with that face? Doesn’t it suit little Ul?”

Irine’s hands were on Fenesis’ shoulders, as though declaring the latter to be hers. Kusla glanced sidelong to the uneasy Fenesis, and their eyes met, before they looked away.

“…It’s just a disguise. The objectives are all that matter. Doesn’t matter whether we look good or not.”

He said awkwardly.

Irine was miffed to hear that, and Fenesis looked devastated.

A little ‘looks good’ might have solved this, but he could not, for these words would imply so much more, and he hated that feeling.

Also, there was another reason why he did not want to praise her openly.

And he did not want anyone to realize.

The moment he had this thought.

“Don’t worry, little Ul. That guy’s a fool who arms himself with looks and stubbornness. You know that, right~?”

Weyland might have been overboard, but Kusla was unable to be angry, for the words were half correct.

Weyland might have realized this as he slowly approached Fenesis’ face, as though whispering to her,

“Kusla’s jealous~.”

“Eh?”

Fenesis stared blankly at Weyland. She might not have expected to hear those words. Irine too stood by the side, dumbfounded.

Kusla himself was the only one thinking how to murder Weyland on the spot.

“Because little Ul’s attire matches mine~.”

“Eh?”

Fenesis looked at Weyland and Irine from the side, comparing them.

The trio then looked towards Kusla, who actually reached for the dagger on his waist.

It was humiliation.

Weyland’s words really hit the mark.

“…Why do I feel that your opinion added so much more?”

Irine stared intently at Kusla, saying this.

Of course, it was Fenesis who paid more attention to Kusla

Her face was stiff, as though restraining the delight that was about to explode.

Weyland snickered, shrugged, and said,

“If things aren’t as I say, how about you explain~?”

Any drowning person would grab even a grass.

He had no choice but to say.

“…Never thought of that before.”

Weyland gave the look of a hunter who saw his prey take the bait.

“I think this is the best way to split us up~.”

Weyland tugged Fenesis away from Irine, grabbing the shoulder, taking a step back,

“Little Ul and I have matching clothes. We can act as a senior disciple unable to accept how rotten the city has become, and a cute junior disciple admiring the senior~.”

He beamed at her, and her eyes dulled for a moment. However, she was no longer the young lady to be teased. She quickly calmed down, and after some thought, decided to remain by Weyland’s side obediently.

Kusla understood the reason.

The moment Weyland grabbed Fenesis’ shoulder, Kusla panicked for a moment, and instinctively looked at Fenesis. Naturally, the latter looked delighted to see him panic.

“What about me?”

Weyland gave Irine a hearty smile.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about your role for quite a while, Irine. I can’t think of a reason why a highly skilled female blacksmith, perfect in what she does, will look for a new place to settle.”

“…Y-you’re right.”

Irine’s answer was vague, as expected of a free spirited blacksmith who fled a town.

Irine might have experienced lots of frustrating things, but even then, she worked hard to get everything running smoothly. The world revolved through such endurance. It was not normal to cross a wall and relocate, so they had to come up with an extraordinary reason for her.

So, what should they do?

“This is where Kusla comes in~.”

“Huh?”

Irine turned towards Kusla, and she was looking completely dumbfounded.

Fenesis too directed her skeptical, round eyes towards Kusla.

“I got this idea after seeing his dress up. It’s a reason anyone can easily believe~.”

Weyland gave a truly mischievous smirk, saying,

“Look, Kusla’s the foolish son who did bad things in the merchant guild and got kicked out, so now he’s trying to start over as a blacksmith, right~?”

“…What has that got to do with me?”

“The same old logic that hasn’t changed. Kusla is the arrogant fool who spent his money, but he’s working hard in his own way. The maiden-like girl who can’t let him be is you~.”

“Haa?”

Irine let out a shriek, first looking at Kusla, and then at Weyland.

“Wh-what do you mean? Me with this guy?”

“Nfufufu~.”

Weyland chortled, and did not answer, basically implying there was no need to.

Irine looked towards Kusla again, her face completely stiff.

However, Weyland’s explanation clearly made sense. In the towns they would visit, if there were anyone who would doubt their relationship and ask, they would have something to corrobate with.

The certain reasons why people would choose to leave the town was either because it was a painful experience, or that it was irrational, and the four of them were the latter wandered around between towns for the latter.

Weyland could not get along with the guild, Fenesis remained oblivious to the world, Irine was dumbstruck by love, and Kusla was a common fool amongst the rich.

No matter which town they were in, people would think they were hopeless, rather than doubt them. They might never be lashed out at.

“So, two pairs, all four of us, somehow met at a certain town, and became travelling buddies. I think any other explanation won’t be able to explain how we got together so easily~.”

Weyland puffed his chest confidently. It seemed it had been thinking about this while feeling bored.

However, Kusla could not reject this plan just because he hated it.

Fenesis, whose shoulder was cupped by Kusla, giggled, and Irine too looked exhausted. Everyone knew this explanation was just to make their disguise, not just a game. If Kusla was to take this for real, it would it would be the most foolish move.

“But I got a request.”

“Hm?”

Irine’s eyes swept towards Kusla, Weyland, and then Fenesis, telling them,

“Change it such that we left town because we’re lovestruck, that we’re really regretting it now, right? In that case, I believe I can play that role well.”

Weyland looked up towards the ceiling, chortling quietly.

Irine looked over at Kusla with disgust. She probably did that partially because she was worried about Fenesis’ feelings, and the rest being that she really felt this way.

Kusla said nothing, and accepted it all.

As long as he was headed to his Magdala, all else was trivial, or so he desperately tried to convince himself.

While they were trying to finetune their clothes and stories, Alzen sent his messenger. He was the commander of a company under the Cladius Knights, which hired Kusla and the others. They were supposedly in charge of maintaining order and repopulation in the pagan towns the Knights had conquered, and it was supposedly a relatively docile side, but at this point, it seemed that was not the case.

Kusla’s gang was seated on a carriage, hidden from the crowd, smuggled down the alleys to the back door of the Knights headquarters.

They entered the office, and heard a grumble,

“Thanks to the lot of you, I’m really busy!”

The gloomy face was lacking expression, probably because he was sleep deprived. Even while grumbling furiously at Kusla and the others, the quill pen in his hands continued to sign the parchments before him.

“You appear to be really busy now.”

Kusla relied, and Alzen’s shoulders shook, as though he choked on something. His expression remained unchanged, inscrutinable, but it seemed he was grimacing.

“Before we knew it, Archduke Kratal became the main commander of this counterattack. It’s because of your performance that our Azami’s Crest reputation has been rising.”

“If I may ask, what is this point here? I did once hear that as long as we can establish ourselves as the core of this war, we can go anywhere in this world, no?”

As long as this battle was won, the Claudius Knights could break establish the yoke on Latria, or so Alzen declared. But at this point, he was not looking delighted in the slightested.

Kusla’s words left this expressionless him to stop, and mutter,

“All the duties ended up on me…”

Alzen was the de facto commander with authority, and his title was simply that of a heralding commander. The responsibility was originally for him to arrive before Archduke Kratal, the grand noble being the symbol of the forces, to paste posters at wherever he would arrive. At this point, Alzen became the man responsible for everything.

It was unlike him to recline on his throne, to observe and boast arrogantly that he was the center of it all, and leave everything else to his subordinates.

The red bearded Archduke Kratal seemed to be the type who would say that crows and geese were the same, and would not sweat the details too much. In that case, Alzen’s workload truly was incredible. Even Kusla himself was showing a rare sign of sympathy.

“My sincerest apologies for being of no help.”

However, such words could be miscontrued as sarcasm. Weyland burst out laughing, and Alzen glared at Kusla.

“Hmph…whatever. Once I weather this storm, I shall think of this as the pride of my life.”

Whenever people accomplish anything, there had to be a reason.

Alzen was undoubtedly an officer.

“Anyway, preparations to send you to the next town is in order. What about you?”

Kusla stood upright, and so did Weyland, Irine and Fenesis.

“As you can see, we’re ready too..”

“Disguising yourselves as blacksmiths…I see. Hmph.”

Alzen’s eyes scanned past Kusla’s gang, and back at Kusla, snorting,

“We thought of what to say if people suspect us, don’t worry~.”

Hearing Weyland’s assurance, Alzen did not respond with a nod or anything.

“If you say so. Just going to brief about what I talked about.”

Alzen took out a few documents from the many of them, blinking as he sought the words.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re following the footsteps of the heretical inquisitor Korad Abria, but there are several areas our Knights can’t reach. The closest town to our dominion is called Yazon.”

Then, he looked towards them. Heard of that? Or so Alzen was implying. Kusla merely shrugged.

“Hmph. Yazon is really part of Latria’s pagan lands, but there was an Orthodox Church in the past. It’s said to be a town of many faiths.”

“Is it because the leader of that land is a flexible, two mouthed person?”

“No. According to the spy reports, it’s just flexible. In other words, the merchants have power there.”

“I see.”

Just as alchemists thought of faith as no more than dung, the merchants were an organization which allowed anything as long as they could make money.

“Just like Nilberk, it’s on the border between the North and the South, and prospers trying trading. It’s not uncommon for a border town, and even if you slip in, you probably won’t attract too much attention.”

Alzen put his documents down, and rubbed his eyes. Whenever he did so, he would resemble his age, a man entering his old age.

“But don’t ever let your identities as alchemists be realized.”

He said while rubbing his eyes.

At that moment, he reverted back to being the commander with wise eyes, one capable of reading the changes of the world even with his eyes closed.

“Opinions about you have been spreading wilder than you can imagine. I really have the thought of locking you into the warehouse for added security.”

“Haha.”

Weyland chortled, and Alzen opened his eyes.

“This is not a joke.”

And Weyland, basically a nobody to Alzen, erased his smile.

“Your existence will affect the morale of the Knights. The mood is such that as long as you’re around, any crisis can be resolved. We said that you went South, not just as a rumor. It’s to let the lot of them think that the South bases are sturdy enough. If they think that there is always a threat on their backs, they won’t be able to attack confidently.”

The nature of alchemists, like Alzen, is that nothing they do is pointless.

“Anything bad that happens to you will represent massive losses of fortune on our side. The fortunes called prestige and faith might be difficult to rebuild no matter what. It’s impossible to estimate them by money.

Nobody would expect them to be in such an important position.

But in such times of hardship, rumors often spread as easily as the plague.

There were benefits, and also downsides.

They had personally experienced reactions when those who could perform miracles failed to meet everyone’s expectations

“Leading your way shall be highly capable spies. They are all disguised as merchants, so you should be merchants. THey are all trusted aides of mine, and won’t reveal the secret of that young lady, or your identities.”

Fenesis was of a cursed bloodline, and that assurance left them relieved.

“However, I’m worried if you’re able to conceal your identities completely.”

Alzen gave a suspicious look at the gang.

At that moment, Kusla raised his chin, refuting,

“We’re alchemists. We’re the best at defending ourselves.”

In fact, there were many whose lives were threatened.

Alchemists lived alone under such circumstances.

“But that was back when you’re living alone, no?”

Such words delivered a straight punch right in his chest.

“Assuming that there is a miniscule chance of people making mistakes, if there are two of such people working together, the failures become more frequent. What about four? From time to time, there will be squabbles, confusion.”

Kusla was speechless.

Alzen, and even Weyland, Irine and Fenesis were staring at him, causing him to feel hot all over.

Such words seemed to show that the squabble and confusion between them was seen through.

“This is also why spies act independently. Even when acting together, they won’t say anything about each other’s job. My position now is that I have to manage thousands in the army trying to boast their abilities. Mind understanding my hardships here?

In metallurgy and refining work, the moment the quantity increases, the theories used before often never worked.

Alzen sighed hard, and cleared his throat.

“I want all of you to return, nobody left behind. If any of you is gone, we’ll have lost an entire battalion of Knights.”

Even Fenesis, who should have assumed dead, could bring an effect beyond what the others could do, depending on how she was used. One could understand by imagining if the Maiden was revived through some great miracle, how overjoyed the Knights would be.

It would be no joke.

“Despite that, I permitted your departure, because my guess is that it shall bring much more benefits.”

At this point,Alzen finally showed a smile.”

“Go get back the ancient technology that can defeat the dragons. We shall become rulers of the world then.”

Such seemed to be words from a child who had read an epic.

However, it was not a brat ignorant of the world saying this, but the crucial figure in the counterattack, centered on the base called Nilberk.

Any man not riveted by such developments is not a man.

The innocent exhiliation since childhood was awakening in his heart.

“But,”

Kusla stifled a laugh as he said,

“I suppose the administrative matters of the world will be busier than it is now.”

Alzen was momentarily stunned.

Then, his silhouette changed completely, as though the unchanging facial muscles from before were moving.

“Naturally, I shall require your help.”

Alzen was a reliable superior.

“Hurry on. I shall await good news.”

“Understood.”

Kusla and the others bowed, and left the office.

 

When they escaped from Kazan, they were basically wearing their belongings, and thus they were done packing. At the most, they would simply find Korad Abria’s words left in this town. Weyland and Fenesis were fine, but Irine alone had some trouble. The blacksmiths who worked with her had wanted to gift her the finest tools, and it took her a long while to reject them. Any wandering blacksmith carrying expensive tools around would catch too much attention.

Despite that, when Alzen’s spies, disguised as merchants, came to greet them, they were all prepared.

“Now then, we shall embark on a grand journey that will be known to future generations.”

“Assuming that we do find something amazing, no?”

“Heard we’re amazing people now. Might really leave our names in the annals~.”

“Again with the sleeptalk. The annals only record the meetings and the leaders, right? How can we…”

Though Irine was saying so, her eyes were brimming with excitement of anticipation. Most common folk could not dare to dream of being recorded in a section of history.

However, Kusla was disinterested in that. There was something more important for him.

The moment he thought so, the young lady next to him said,

“If we are recorded in history, you shall be a great alchemist hiding his identity, no?”

Fenesis looked really excited.

“It does feel exciting.”

She might have thought of this adventurous journey as one which she had to hide her identity as a princess.

Kusla wanted to make a few verbal jabs, but Fenesis kept beaming, saying,

“All this while, I have wandered while hiding my identity. But…this is the first time I feel happy about it.”

As one of the cursed bloodline, she had lived a gritty life of escape. She had to disguise herself, to deny her identity as one despised by people, all for the sake of ensuring her heart could continue to beat, or for the sake of the comrades who were slaughtered on their way.

This disguise however meant different. It was the first time in Fenesis’ life that she enjoyed being able to disguise due to some folly. Anyone born in the towns would probably have experienced a moment of fun disguising themselves.

The moment Kusla recovered, he found his hand nearly touching her face.

However, he did not want to admit that he was feeling riveted by her appearance, and thus, the initial urge to stroke her face became a finger flick.

“Stop grinning away. Who knows what kinds of traps are laid out for us.”

“I-I am not grinning away…eh? A-are there traps?”

She puffed her cheeks angrily to show her displeasure, only to immediately ask in shock.

What Kusla said was not necessarily baseless self-defense.

“Think about Kazan. Those with your bloodline were chained and shackled, buried into the walls.”

They were most likely the people who brought the flamethrower skill into Kazan.

It was said Fenesis came from the far East, and those people probably arrived a long time ago, migrants who brought such technology.

However, looking at the murals on the walls and what happened thereafter, one could clearly understand that the migration did not go well. Initially, the Ancients forced people to succumb through overwhelming technology, or worked together with people to develop the towns, but there was a break in this relationship at a certain point.

Most likely, they showed too many miracles.

Once the people saw how such miracles were solved, they would look forward to the next day, and the day after.

It was one thing if their expectations were met, but it was not that simple.

Nobody could become God.

And the non-divine beings with this God-like power were simply deemed as the embodiments of the Devil.

Such was the curse in Fenesis’ bloodline.

“We’re going to Yazon. Who knows whethere there’ll be an unfortunate past there.”

Surely it was not a good feeling to know that her own tribe ended with unfortunate fates, even if they were not directly blood related. However, there were such tragic stories all over the world. Thus, they had to grit their teeth, and never hope for happiness to come. The world is filled with misfortune.

However, Fenesis’ smile did not fade away.

“It is fine. If the curse of our tribe is due to those skills…”

SHe continued to look up at Kusla, smiling,

“I believe you can undo that curse for me. Certainly it will not become a bad thing just because of that.”

She said such things to the suspicious alchemists. If it was much earlier, Kusla would have thought of it as the words of an innocent fool who remained oblivious to the world, taking everything for real.

But Fenesis was no longer a simple little fool.

“Just don’t hope too much.”

Kusla coldly noted, and Fenesis beamed brighter than before.

“Yes. I will be sure not to hope too much.”

It seemed she did learn her lesson, and while it was comforting, it was a little humorless of her.

“Then make sure you can do it.”

“I will. And I can.”

She looked defiant, serious, but it seemed she was somewhat putting on a facade.

People do really change greatly because of little things.

That change was so great, Kusla felt he was left behind.

“Right, you lot haven’t forgotten anything, right?”

Irine called out, Kusla and Fenesis looked towards her.

“We’re off!”

They were headed on a new journey.

At that moment, Kusla called for Fenesis.

“What is it?”

She realized a tad later, and turned around to him in shock.

But that little delay resulted in Kusla swallowing his words back in.

“…Nothing.”

Upon this reply, Fenesis left with a skeptical look.

Your attire looks good. But he was never able to say those words.

It was not simply a case of some know-it-all talking down to others. Kusla was slowly realizing why he was unsuited for a blacksmith’s clothing. As Alzen had said, he had always worked alone, that thus was the reason why he did not look sufficiently crude.

In other words, he was still clinging onto a template, one called an ‘uppity’ alchemist.

The armor remained too tight on him, unable to afford enough space for him to embrace a white cat in his clutches. The cat was trying to squeeze into his armor, and he did not know how respond.

The problem was, it was not easy to remove this armor.

Kusla watched the back silhouette of Fenesis leave, and sighed.

 

There were three carriages, five mercenaries, three merchants, and Kusla’s gang of four.

The merchants were all spies, and the mercenaries were all extremely skilled warriors, preferring professionalism and oaths to gold.

The people were waiting to pass through the walls, and it was exceptionally busy, both going in and out.

The Knights centered their counterattack at Nilberk, and remaining soldiers in ambush or late to retreat moved from their towns and villages to this city. The soldiers ready to counter were storming out of the city.

Also, the Southern forces, with their strength preserved, were sending in reinforcements. The blacksmiths and merchants eyes lit up seeing these forces, and followed suit. Whenever there was war, and daily trading was impossible, it was the opportunity for new merchants to strike. New jobs for the blacksmiths would include repairing the damaged city attractions, or weapons crafting due to special demands.

This commotion happened right when the majority assumed the war was ending. The chances of new immigrants were running slim, and thus there were more crowds. Looking at the flow, it seemed the ports were bustling beyond imagination, with goods moving in and out.

Just squeezing their way to the outside was arduous enough.

“Ah…! It’s tiring…!”

Irine raised her arms, facing up as she laid on the stacks of wooden crates. The skies were clear, and there was no wind. They felt released from the pressure within the walls of the bustling city, and it was the perfect moment to nap.

Despite that, Kusla just had a thought that it was so Irine to just lie by the side without restraint, facing the sun shining from above, looking well and enjoying herself.

“I worked for about ten years. I feel like I won’t have to work for another ten…”

She muttered, her face showing the satisfied look of one enjoying her nap on a rest day.

Back in Nilberk, she led the production of the dragons, and toiled while ignoring food and sleep.

It should be forgivable for her to crave the luxury of sleep on this journey.

“Nnn~ but…if I take a nap…I’ll get a bad habit…”

She muttered as she laid out to the side, muttering.

It was admirable of her to try resisting the sleep demon, but the heavy work at Nilberk finally caused Irine to succumb. She stretched her back out, as though surrendering to the warm sun of spring. As she reached her fingers to wipe the tears dripping from her eyes, she met Kusla in the eyes.

“Why’re you scowling away on such a wonderful day?”

“…It’s how I am.”

Kusla tersely responded, looking down at the precious book he took from Nilberk.

It was the annals he saw in the Nilberk Church. It contained the words of Abria. The one he read that the Church was scattered into pieces, so he had the merchant guild provide another.

The annals contained the major incidents since the city’s foundings, and in the past, he would never read this. If he looked into it, he might find some information on the Ancients.

“Always lying.”

Irine leaned back once again, her hands cupped behind her head.

It was not the posture a fine lady should have, but it was a gesture befitting Irine.

“You’re throwing a tantrum because Ul isn’t around, right?”

Kusla knew she would say that, so he just dismissed those words as nothing, paying no heed to them.

“Well, you’re right. Guess you prefer to stay by her side than a gruff girl.”

Irine narrowed her eyes. It seemed she was self-aware, and was strangely bothered by it.

“Hmph. Well, you’re just good at keeping your lips sealed.”

“Huh?”

“Can’t even say, that looks good on you.”

“Wha?”

He blurted out without thinking, and hurriedly covered his mouth.

At this moment, it was obvious who was the fool.

“Well, Weyland’s not a kind man, but he’s a lot better in this regards. I guess Ul’s really happy to be given so much praise~.”

Hearing Irine’s words, Kusla could not help but look towards the carriage leading rhe pack. Though it was impossible to see them fully, he could vaguely see Weyland and Fenesis, chatting away happily. He saw the towels wrapped over their heads, which further sparked such thoughts. It was as though they were disciples on really good terms.

“Little Ul might be moved by those a little weird, but kind and capable of talking, rather than those who always prank her and not say the important things. She is an honest child after all.”

Irine, closing her eyes and basking in the sun, looked so relaxed.

No matter how Kusla glared at her, it was pointless under the warm sun.

And no matter how he tried to refute, it would merely be dismissed as a childish act.

Despite knowing that, he spoke up, because he had a bad feeling, that maybe,

“That is…”

“Possible.”

Irine never let him finish.

“Well, it’s common…anyone will be lovestruck by someone else if ignored.”

Irine’s eyes towards him showed no mockery.

Instead, they were sharp, angry.

“You think she’ll know if you don’t say? How arrogant can you be?”

Irine was always the honest one, outspoken to a fault, but even that was too cruel of her. Kusla was taken aback, wary, and Irine turned her head aside, seemingly pouting.

“But you’ll call it something like trust, right? Just like that guy. Seriously, what’s with that?”

At this point, they were finally on the same page. Irine was not blaming Kusla, but the deceased person in her memories.

“You probably think it’s shameful to say that. Even though you’re just awkward, lacking guts.”

Hearing that caused Kusla to feel he was slobbered by a huge hammer used for smelting. He gave Irine a bitter grimace.

In contrast, Irine did not look at Kusla any further. The latter knew it was pointless to continue, so he clammed up. All that was left was the rolling sound of the carriage wheels.

Irine was the first to break the silence.

“When you’re so hesitant, people might disappear. It can be her, it can be you.”

Her eyes were no longer showing rage or impatience.

Just loenliness.

Is that right, so asked Irine’s eyes as she looked up at him.

The world remained instable, treacherous and unpredictable, never one to pay any additional heed to them.

Their stable lives were suddenly trampled upon. Such was daily life.

“Even since I started moving along with you lot, we’ve been involved in dangerous things. Right, now, we’re going to a place we don’t know what’ll happen. It’s frustrating just looking on the side. Didn’t I tell you my own failures?”

After that, there was some condescendence in her eyes.

Seeing that, Kusla felt a little relieved. He had self-awareness of the parts Irine pointed out, and did think so. Also, looking at how furious Irine was, it probably was not about her scheming something with Weyland again.

“Even metals can break when they bend suddently.”

Despite that, he tried to explain himself. Irine looked increasing unhappy as she looked towards Kusla, saying,

“Only those who want to work hard and snap have the right to say that. You’re always trying to salvage the situation when it’s beyond the point of redemption, and always with others helping.”

“…”

There was no way he could beat Irine in such a debate.

Kusla owed Irine a huge favor, and his embarrassing moments were probably seen by her.

However, there were times when he would think.

This would probably be the feeling of a busybody big sister.

“And it’s because you’re always like this that Weyland gets the chances to tease you. Normally, little Ul should be sitting on your knees now. She surely hopes so too.”

It was true that when Weyland suggested that they took seperate carriages, Fenesis did look towards Kusla.

But the latter instinctively averted his eyes. If he had looked at her, it would make her think he had hopes, and he hated that feeling.

He too assumed he was thinking too much.

“Or do you want me sitting on your knees instead?”

Irine narrowed her eyes, saying such words without a tinge of femininity.

Kusla merely grimaced, and feeblt answered,

“You’re heavy, right? My thighs will break.”

“E-enough with that!”

Such words unexpectedly agitated Irine, who lifted the wheat straws on the carriage, throwing them at Kusla. Kusla had no intention of enacting revenge, for it was pointless, he remove the wheat from his head, and sighed.

The problem was clear to see.”

“If only pride can be cut off and discarded easily…”

Kusla put his elbows by the edge of the carriage, putting his head on his hands.

“If you really wanted to, you could have done so.”

Irine stabbed at him with another jab, but he had no room to refute.

Silence fell upon them again, and this time, Kusla spoke,

“If it’s for anything else, I can cut and discard my pride, or anything. This is different though, it’s at a place I can’t reach.”

He could only assume, reluctantly. Whenever he stood before Fenesis, he would arm himself without thinking.

And having become somewhat desperate, he told Irine,

“Without you lot around, things might have gone smoother.”

“I won’t mind even if you and little Ul embrace before me.”

She was right. If it were Weyland and Irine doing so, Kusla would not mind. The one bothered about whom Fenesis was smiling to was none other than himself.

“…Even I’m starting to hate myself.”

“That’s my line. I don’t want to hear anyone else say such boorish lines.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“What else can it be. Ul’s right next to Weyland now because you, who won’t react or will just spite others, end up looking jumpy whenever that happens.”

There were people who were unmoved by things, and would even kill God in silence.

Such were alchemists, the self-image he had believed in, yet correcting in such a dire state.

But why would Irine say such things to him? Kusla was unable to guess her intent. She scowled unhappily, and sighed.

“Despite that…I’m angry when I look at you because I’m jealous.”

This time, Kusla too was befuddled.

“…Huh?”

“Ahhh, I want to fall in love too.”

Irine loudly proclaimed, her legs flailing up and down.

So that’s how it is…so Kusla realized in exclaimation. It was like her wanting a taste of something delicious those around her were eating.

Stumped, Kusla noted,

“There’s still Weyland.”

“That has to be a joke. He’s a nice one, but I hate the frivolous ones.”

Hearing the calm reply, the uppity alchemist unwittingly nodded.

“You’re an alchemist, right? Can’t you take my fortune and figure out where my fated person is?”

Kusla didn’t know if she was serious, but he had to correct her misunderstanding.

“Don’t put us alchemists with those diviners.”

“You’re useless.”

“…Anyway, this isn’t something you should read your fortune on. If you meet him, can’t you use a love potion?”

“Eh?”

Irine immediately sat upright.

“Y-you can make sure a thing?”

“What? You have someone in mind?”

Kusla was immediately surprised, and inadvertently asked. Back in Nilberk, Irine spent entire days in the workshops, so weary that she stumbled back without noticing a glove had fallen off her hand, and fell asleep at the door.

In such a situation, it was unexpected of her to fall for someone. While feeling impressed, Irine shrugged with bemusement.

“Nope. I’m drinking it.”

“Huh?”

“Looking at you two reminds me of those feelings back then.”

Irine pouted like a child, and said bashfully.

“If I can get back those feelings drinking a love potion, I don’t mind falling in love with a frog. No, a frog’s better. There’ll be lots of trouble if I fall in love with a human.”

Was the work in Nilberk too much?

Kusla looked at her worriedly, and she brought her face close.

“Eh, more importantly, can you really make such a medicine? The rumors about alchemists aren’t all a lie, right?”

Though not to the extent of Fenesis, Irine’s view of alchemists was filled with such imaginations. However, an alchemist’s methods were not too different from a blacksmith.”

“Did you drug little Ul with that?”

So she was worried about that? Hearing that, Kusla was relieved.

Even though Irine was giving him a scathing look, he would not falter out of guilt regarding this.

“I guess I’ll do that then, since it might be easier for me to handle.”

If he could achieve any means by doing so, why would he hesitate?

It was because it was beyond expectations, that he was so flustered.

“Also, the medicine might be a little different from what you think. Rather than a love potion…I should say it’s more of an aphrodisiac?”

“A-Aphro?”

Even the boisterous, sometimes masculine her was left stammering, her cheeks reddened.

She did have a husband, but as he was in his advanced age, she might not have such experiences.

“It might be more like, one that can cause hallucinations, I guess. I never used it myself, but there were times when some reckless nobles requested me to make them.”

“…”

Irine clenched her fist, covering her mouth as she looked afar, her ears beetroot.

“Do you really want that?”

“Huh? What are you saying? I’m not such a lewd woman!”

Irine shrieked loudly, causing Kusla to be taken aback.

But once he understood that Irine misunderstood him, he was left somewhat bemused.

“The aphrodisiac, not the man thing.”

“Ugh!”

Irine grabbed anything she could throw at Kusla. Wheat stalks, garlic. Kusla either dodged them or parried them, waiting for her to calm down.

“Well, the ingredients are hard to obtain, and obviously, the means to brew it are pretty much based on some half-baked knowledge. There’s a lot of risk, and this is the reason why I haven’t used it. Those people researching on it might try…but such knowledge are what the nobles are really hands-off about. For them, this is more valuable than metallurgy skills.”

Sometimes, a new metallurgy technology would revive a mine to its glory, and thus, sometimes, massive fortunes were affected.

However, a love potion might end up affecting the central authority more directly.

The nobles  would prefer to conquer their enemies through political marriages, and protect their lands, rather than attack their enemies with swords and spears.

“If we can obtain such knowledge and ingredients elsewhere, I can try brewing it.”

Kusla said, looking afar.

“If I drink it, can I do as I please now?”

That might show that love is blind. Perhaps he might not care about what others, or himself thought.

So Kusla muttered, and Irine, finally breathing normally, said,

“Just like a fool.”

Was this used to describe her panicking self, or Kusla?

Perhaps both. No matter the answer, Kusla nodded in agreement.

 

They spent two days to arrive at Yazon.

They crossed a river checkpoint and spent a night there. There were people crossing the checkpoint, and it was chaotic, for there was the rebellion incited by the Latrian Queen and the Knights’ counterattack.

The situation was probably the same as Nilberk’s.

Some took the opportunity to run away, and some took it as an opportunity to arrive. Most were merchants eyeing business opportunities, and blacksmiths hoping to gain a foothold somewhere here through this chaos.

In any case, to Kusla, it was another person’s problem. One should be reaching out seek what he want, without holding back. Such is the meaning of living on this world.

Despite that, he had no confidence that he could remain the same in the inn.

Between the table, Irine kicked him twice.

Fenesis, who was on better terms with Weyland, took the initiative to serve him on the plae. Of course, she served Kusla too, but the latter could not even say thanks when he received his plate.

At this point, he hardly expressed anything, and it became a habit for him. In this case, would it be world for him to say anything? Such an idea stopped him. Needless to say, when would be the right time to say that those clothes suit her? It was too late, to the point of despair.

Assuming that when smelting metals, he was able to decide whether to add coal or shells at the most opportune moment; yet because he kept dithering, time passed greatly to a point of no return. The quarter spent a night in the inn, and again took the carriage. Kusla could not hear the bemeaning words of Irine, and never expected himself to cave to the silent pressure. It was because of such unsightliness that when the walls of Yazon finally appeared, he could not sigh in relief.

People could quickly divert their attention, and Yazon was an outstanding choice. There was a long queue before the wall, slowing their progress. It was not because the checks were too stringent, but that there were too many moving in and out. The footsteps of the horses came to a step, and one could see a lot crowd of people preparing to leave the town, passing the carriages as they went South.

Mercenaries, mercenaries, messengers, merchants, farmers returning to their villagers, mercenaries, knights, merchants, merchants…Kusla filtered out these people. Yazon had become an important base for the Knights’ counterattack, and it might not be unreasonable to understand why there were relatively more combatants.

The carriages would occasionally take a few steps forth, and when they finally arrived at the gates, the guards were half comprised of the Knights, and half the town soldiers.

Of course, the Knights did not send help for a kind reason like a lack of manpower. The control of a town would affect the security. If any external parties were to encroach, even the unwelcomed people would be allowed in based on the their intentions.

For example, right before Kusla’s eyes, the spy eyed the Knights, and showed them Alzen’s certifications. They were let through without a check. Despite that, there were some town guards around, and the Knights’ authoruty were a little dented. In any case, it was a strong-arm to show who was the ruler.

In any case, Kusla was a little sympathetic as to how the Yazon citizens were affected by the migrants.

As for why, it all started when the gang got off the carriages.

“Right. This is the first step of our record in history~!”

Weyland said as he got off the carriage, giving his hand to Fenesis.

Fenesis chuckled, putting her palm on Weyland’s.

“Hey, you fine with that?”

Irine nudged Kusla’s flank with an elbow.

“Weyland’s egging you on, and little Ul knows that.”

“…”

Irine seemed reliable when she was on Kusla’s said. However, he had no intention to stop Weyland. At this point, Weyland probably would not do anything to Fenesis.

“When smelting, nothing good happens when we panic.”

“But there’s a chance it’s too late.”

Despite Irine’s taunting eyes, Kusla merely shrugged.

“I can retry over and over again. This is the good thing about smelting.”

“Well, if only you can think of people as metals.”

“…”

Such words were really impactful from Irine, a blacksmith from head to toe.

People are people. Metals are metals. There was a limit to how much they could be compared. To take it for real would mean a tragic end.

“I know that.”

Kusla admitted, and added,

“In theory…”

Irine giggled with some bemusement. At this moment,

Kusla grabbed her shoulder, and pulled her close.

“Eh? What?”

“Move! Move!”

There were a bunch of brats of poor background, running before the carriages with bloodshot eyes.

Kusla grabbed Irine with his right hand, his left on the dagger. However, he scowled.

They were not exactly robbers.

For they were not looking at Kusla’s gang.

“Merchants! Merchants! Are you selling towels! Towels!?”

“Used soot is fine! Dried horse dung! We’ll buy them at high prices!”

They gathered around the spies disguised as merchants, seated on the driver seats.

However, some skipped past negotiations as they tried to muscle their way, scavenging for goods within the carraige. The spies realized, but hesitated on whether they should draw weapons. While doing so, growls bellowed.

“You brats! How many times must we teach you this! Scram! Scram!”

The guards patrolling the walls came galloping on horses.

The brats scattered like spiders, and a few slower ones were caught in whips, tumbling down.

It all happened in an instant.

“What’s going on?”

A spy passed, discreetly sliding the hidden hatch beneath him. There appeared to be a long, thin sword hidden there, but it might be overboard for merchants aiming to defend themselves.

“There’s too many people moving around, and prices keep rising. Those brats intend to fool travellers that just arrived, not knowing of the local rates, and earn some moeny. The scum of this town they are!”

The guard kicked aside a boy whose feet were tied, rolling on the ground. He glared at the others who were dragging themselves away.

“Lock the goods in the inn stables before they get stolen.”

The guard noted unhappily, and returned to the wall.

Kusla turned to ask the spy.

“Is this common?”

“Supplies are often scarce on the frontlines.”

The spy shrugged.

“We’ll be sitting ducks waiting here. Better go to the inn as the guard says.”

Kusla snorted, his eyes looking at the spy holding the reins, and was suddenly hit in the chest.

“Goodness, how long are you going to hold me?”

“Hm?”

Kusla finally realized he was still grabbing Irine.

“Anything you’re unhappy about?”

“Everything.”

Kusla let go, and Irine finally let out a sigh of relief.

“But, well, thanks.”

“Hmph.”

Looking ahead, it seemed a similar conversation happened between Weyland and Fenesis.

However, the mood there was easier. Unlike Irine, Fenesis knew what bashfulness was about.

Kusla felt much for Yazon, which territory had been ravaged by the Knights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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