[Magdala V6] Act 3

The forest path paved to allow easier extraction of fuelwood and wild honey stopped halfway through. The carriage could not head in any further, and they had to proceed by foot, with water and food saddled upon their horses.

It was for this reason that people built walls around their towns, confident that they could control everything.

Kusla did not think of this lifestyle as anything bad, but what was disturbing was that he would forget how vast the world was.

And when the forest just opened up before them without foreboding, he had a thought.

“This…again…”

He could understand why the spy would be so amazed. It was as though he entered a pixie’s secret pair, only to end up in the middle of the town. If they had arrived after being lost, they would have assumed the spirits granted them a dream.

But after awakening from a dream, the scenes of reality appeared before their eyes.

They were standing on a mound, and looking around, there were clearly trees that were chopped down. Most of the stumps were left as they were, for the purpose was not the development of the land. It was like a princess of an enemy country being humiliated, her hair seared off messily with shears. When looking down from a bird’s eye view, the land probably looked like it had a skin disease.

The glassmakers built four shoddy houses on this land, and there was a farm. This showed that they were not here for just a day or two, but intending to settle here and devour the forest completely.

The large gut in the middle was the center of the plaza, and there were three furnaces brimming bright red.

Also, there were large glass pieces by the side of the furnace, and they, of various colors, were lined in a row by the wooden desks. One would have assumed he was witnessing a miraculous sight of a pixie coat being made, but in any case, it was truly an anomaly.

“No wonder the townspeople are angry.”

Even though it was a forest far from the people, the authority had to be with someone. Also, considering the logistics, the amount of forest space was a mere small space. The places they could gather lumber, honey, herbs and hunt beasts were unexpectedly few.

Naturally, by mass producing glass here, no beasts would approach, no honey could be harvested, and the trees would continue to decline in numbers.

It was like a calamity.

“This should be considered a dragon.”

Kusla muttered inadvertently.

“Hey! Who’s there!?”

Someone suddenly called for them.

The duo, who had no intention to hide, went down the path to the vast, cleared workplace, standing between the stumps. There were other craftsment lifting their heads, but none stopped working, chopping the logs into planks, moving gravel, puffing the bellows. As long as they were living, their hearts pounding, they would silently fulfill the tasks they were assigned.

Looking at how none of them actually took up weapons, the glassmakers might not be as xenophobic as assumed.

“Are you lost? The town’s the other way!”

Perhaps this was commonplace.

Kusla called out in response,

“Someone in town asked me to deliver a letter!”

He took the letter out from his clutches, raising it up high. This not only garnered the attentions of the other craftsmen, they stopped working.

They exchanged looks, and then looked towards Kusla,

“Understood! I’ll call the boss!”

It seemed the person understood it was not good news in the slighest. He hurried into a house near the furnace, and then, a bearded man large liker a bear sauntered out.

“Who are you? Never saw your face around!”

Kusla shrugged, and answered,

“I’m a traveller! I’m here on the drugstory Missy’s request!”

It had been a while since he yelled like this. It was strangely tiring.

Kusla was starting to feel impatient, so he went straight to the point.

“She said the people in town are going to attack!”

Even at a distance away, Kusla could see that the man resembling the boss froze up. There was also some ruckus amongst the other workers.

The boss then finally seemed to have given up on doubting if Kusla was a spy sent from the town.

He exchanged words with the person next to him, and led another worker to where Kusla stood.

“You just mentioned Miss Helena!?”

The bear-like boss bellowed, despite them being at a distance they could hear each other. Perhaps it was out of habit.

“I don’t know her name. She’s just a puppy-like girl with fluffy hair.”

“Muu!”

The boss blurted, and stopped before them.

Then, he blatantly sized up Kusla and the spy, frowning.

“This one here is a merchant?”

He snorted at the spy like a pig, and turned towards Kusla.

“You look way too suspicious.”

This criticism was way on point, and Kusla could not bring himself to be angry.

Also, the boss had a large hatchet on his waist. The worker next to him too had the same equipment.

The blade showed his anxiety, rather than it being an attempt to intimidate.

“I got chased out by a merchant guild, and became a blacksmith, so I’m just wandering around. He’s just here to watch over me. You get that?”

It was really important of them to be thorough with what they had planned. The words just flowed out of Kusla’s mouth naturally.

“Hmph…well, you do have the dumb look of one who has no money troubles.”

Kusla was relieved that Weyland and the others were not present. Even Fenesis would be laughing if she heard that.

“So after I showed this foolish face at the drugstore, she just gave this to me.”

Kusla handed the letter over, and the boss glanced at it, not receiving.

What is it? While Kusla was wondering, the young worker by the side received it.

“Excuse me.”

This young man seemed different from the boss in that he knew courtesy. However, he was pretty thorough, the cautious kind of craftsman Irine would like.

“…This is Miss Helena’s handwriting. It says that the townspeople will attack, that we should hurry…”

“Hmm.”

It seemed the boss could not read. He puffed his beard as he glared at Kusla, probably hoping to conceal this fact, treating the latter like an attacking enemy.

“So when does it say?”

“The letter doesn’t say that…”

Both then turned to look at Kusla.

“If it doesn’t say so, it means she doesn’t know either. Probably something she tried to piece together while hearing what the adults were talking about. If the townspeople know that she leaked the town’s decision, the treachery will be enough for her to end up on the gallows. For a brat, she’s pretty gutsy.”

“Hhmmm…I can’t really express my thanks fully…but why Miss Helena? I thought the one in the town informing us would be the owner, Rozz…”

It seemed the glassmakers were on good terms with the drug merchants. Most likely, due to herb supplies.

The boss turned to look towards the young worker.

Anyone could tell that the young man was sheepishly retreating.

“Muu? What’s wrong?”

The boss was the leader of a bunch of boisterous, rowdy craftsmen, and naturally had quite the keen eyesight. While working, the boss has to monitor his apprentices, to see if they were learning, or shirking, cutting corners, and doing anything bad.

But the young man never confessed.

So instead, Kusla spoke up.

“I heard it’s thanks on her part.”

“Thanks?”

The boss turned to ask, his thick neck seemingly creaking as he turned.

“It seemed that while the girl was troubled by her bad eyesight, a craftsman here gave her an eyeglass. She seemed rather smittened by that person. Looks like you got a guilty, handsome chap here.”

It was obvious that the one who gave the eyeglass was the boy before them. Kusla explained while pretending not to know.

“Rihito, you’re doing this secretly?”

The boss admonished, and the young man called Rihito lowered his head in realization.

But he did not remain silent.

“I used the broken pieces…before I slept…”

This excuse left the boss dumbfounded, and the latter’s face was slowly breaking into a grimace.

“This isn’t what I’m blaming you for. You can make an eyeglass out of the broken pieces. The problem is…”

The boss sighed hard, and his body expanded before he exhaled again.

“Know your identity. We can’t pass the walls.”

“I-I have no intention of that–“

“It’s fine to reach out and help others, but know that once you feed a puppy, it will follow you. If you can’t raise it, you shouldn’t doing this. We aren’t supposed to be close to the townspeople. Don’t daydream, and don’t let her daydream. if you do, you end up stepping into a pothole, or get pulled in.

Hearing the boss’ lecture, Kusla’s lips curled up into a sarcastic smirk. It seemed that compared to the blacksmiths in town, the glassmakers were similar to alchemists. In that case, this young man might not be that reliable.

It was unknown what opportunity happened, but he did gain the admiration of a genial girl like Helena, to a point of willingness to sacrifice herself. Rihito himself looked the honest chap, and that eyeglass was probably one reason. Perhaps he helped her out often.

One would wonder if Rihito was kind to Helena because he liked her, or that he was kind to her despite not liking her. Kusla did not know, but it was really clumsiness on Rihito’s past.

“But now the puppy is barking to warn you of danger. Why not use this news?”

Kusla reminded, and the boss, who seemed to have more words for Rihito, turned around, saying,

“You’re right. I’ll have to thank you for bringing this letter through the walls. Thanks.”

The boss put his hands on his knee, bending as he lowered his head.

As the priest indicated, the forthright man was living as a hermit in the forest, yet he differed greatly from the impression of a mystical witch.

“You must be tired passing through the forest and coming here. I can still serve some wine and a place to warm yourself.”

The boss said, and turned back. Kusla too followed without hesitation.

Rihito, who was reproached because of Helena, was rooted to the spot with a gaudy look. It seemed he was blaming himself for being so useless, and also worried for Helena’s safety. Kusla passed him by, having assumed he would say something. However, Rihito kept his head lowered.

While Rihito had grown to be an adult male, his heart remained immature.

Kusla wordlessly passed him by, and asked as he followed the boss,

“It seems the workers here are really hated by the townspeople.”

“Hm?”

“But I never thought you could do as you please.”

The boss seemed to smile.

“Now we can’t decide on our workload. We don’t have to pay our taxes to the town, but we do have to pay elsewhere.”

“So the red gut in the middle refers to some other greedy fellow, right?”

Kusla looked towards the furnace bellowing in the middle of the plaza as he asked. The head too looked over, and sighed.

“We gained our privileges from the nobles of the southern Imperial country Ariel. Because of this distance, our hard work won’t be seen. They want to get whatever they can.”

“Hm…”

The workers’ steady actions left Kusla mesmerized as he kept walking. He had the urge to hire one or two to be his assistant, but once he saw them cautiously move the giant glass plate away, his mind was filled with questions.

“You’re moving the heavy, fragile glass to the South? That’s rather interesting.”

The spy asked what Kusla was thinking, not out of his own curiosity, but to grasp everything about the land as part of his job.

“We’re not moving the glass South. They have their own glassmakers. The glass made here is to be sold to the folks up North.”

“The North?”

Kusla asked, and they arrived at the hut.

The boss reached his hand, and raised the curtains covering the entrance, inviting them in.

This place appeared to be where the workers would eat, entertain themselves, and sleep. There was just a fire pit in the middle, no partitions anywhere. All the workers were toiling outside, and the place felt barren as they stood beneath the tall ceiling.

The white ash was mixed within the fire in the pit, cackling red.

The boss tossed a few pieces of wood into the fire, and with his eyes, he ordered the dejected Rihito to get some wine.

“There are a few reasons why the people of Yazon view us as an eyesore. Well, it’s not just them. Every few years or so, we’ll migrate to other lands and continue with such work. Every time, we end up incurring the wrath of the towns.”

Increasingly, they were sounding more like alchemists.

“One of the issues is wood. There’s no peat nearby to be harvested, so we do realize we’re causing trouble for the towns.”

“And the other should be who the glass goes to, right?”

Kusla guessed, and Rihito returned with an urn and cups.

The boss received the wine, and indicated for Rihito to return to work. However, Rihito was still worried about Helena, and after a moment of hesitation, he backed down when the boss glare at him, and did not pester about this, and quietly returned to his own workplace. It was a common thing to see in a craftsman’s workplace, where no personal freedom was allowed. The glassmakers lived in such an unstable environment, and there was an added need for them to kill their sense of self, to work for collectivism. The love beyond walls would naturally be forbidden.

Rihito appeared a serious person, and logically, he should understand this well. Perhaps it was out of carelessness, or that he did so because of his serious personality.

It was easy to blame his actions on immaturity, lack of experience, lack of willpower, but to the current Kusla, such an explanation would describe himself personally. Of course, it was all Fenesis’ fault.

Also, Kusla could tell Rihito was working hard to fit the mold of a glassmaker. He could not look down on the latter, and deep within his heart was a rare case of sympathy.

At this point, he already understood how to warn himself, but his heart might be taken by an unbelievable opponent. He was powerless.

And whether he could pursue the other party unhindered would be completely down to luck. A profession one was born in would be difficult to change, and fewer were given complete freedom like alchemists. Sometimes, he relied on his own capabilities, but in fact, it was because of his own good luck that Fenesis remained by his side. Perhaps he could ask, for a craftsman like Rihito, could be give up his job as a glassmaker to pursue Helena? Sooner or later, he would be overwhelmed by hunger, and would be in no mood to talk about love.

Looking at the predicament of others, Kusla’s own position was becoming clear. He was more fortunate than he had assumed, just as Fenesis had said.

So Kusla pondered as he brought the wine Rihito brought to his lips, frowning once he too a sip. It was scarily acrid. Even the stoic looking spy was coughing, nearly dropping his facade.

The smell was scary too, filled with strange herbs nobody whiffed before. This reminded Kusla of the wormwood wine dubbed as the witch’s drink.

“Muu, guess it is too much for our guests…sorry, we don’t have the money to buy grap wine, and since we aren’t on good terms with the town, we can’t get malt. Can only harvest fruits and vanilla, but we can’t really get any good ingredients in this season.”

They appeared to be living a difficult life. It was not easy leading a large group of men outside the walls.

“The nobles seem to be earning lots of money from us. The townspeople probably think we profited as well.”

The shock from the wine seemed to be beyond what the spy could take, as he brought the cup far away from himself. Kusla however tried another mouthful out of curiosity. While it was not something drinkable, the sensation was addicting.

“So you trade the glass to obtain goods from the North?”

Kusla asked, and the boss tilted his head,

“Further North, the availability of fuel will directly impact life and eath. We can’t hope to use our fuel for making glass. In the North, it’s dark all day long, and glass that allows the rare sunlight to shine in are really valued. This place can be considered the frontline that can deliver to the North, and the Southerners love the North’s fur and amber. Thus, we’re in charge of this trade.”

“I see. Now that you mention it, Yazon prospered because it’s the intermediary of the North-South trade. This becomes your dispute.”

The spy interrupted, and the boss nodded.

“On the other lands, we never had such a clear risk-reward conflict with the nearby towns…for the Yazon people, we’re leeches sucking away the town’s trade. It’s no wonder we’re hated.”

For that reason, the townspeople were willing to take arms.

“But this is deep inside a forest. Looking at what you admitted, it’s not like the nobles are sending people to watch over you for a long time.”

“So we can work as we please?”

The boss said, his face showing a lethargic smile.

“Well, don’t you find anything strange about this place?”

“Hm?”

Kusla, who was asked, looked around the room. It clearly resembled an empty tavern that required only wood. The only difference was that there were tools hanging on the walls, allowing them to work in the forest, and the flesh of wild hare and birds hanging on the ceiling beams.

“No women to be seen.”

It was the spy who answered.

“Yes.”

“Hostages?” 

The spy was really perceptive of this, probably due to his profession.

“It’s common for bad things to happen in places you can’t see. As you said, we got hostages. Any sign of improper conduct, my wife and daughter might be hurt. But, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to not have any women around.”

“You won’t have eyes sharper than a wolf around.”

Kusla’s words left the boss guffawing.

“That too. From the townspeople’s view, this isn’t a joke. Women in the forest are really an ominous existence.”

Kusla recalled the term he often heard after arriving in Yazon.

“Witches of the forest?”

“Right. The Yazon townspeople were really looking for reasons to chase us away. The situation isn’t as bad as it is here, but there are similar rumors. They hope for those doing weird work in the forest will vanish. In such situations, the witches story will be the most suitable. I know it’s a little harsh for the younger chaps…but we can’t do anything.”

The boss looked out towards the worksite. While no silhouette could be seen, they immediately understood who he was referring to.

“So the young men can’t spend happy days with the town girls. Misfortune is all that is left.”

“But bringing combustible things to the fireside is a fault too.”

Not all the people here were like Weyland, but not all were completely unattracted to females. The easiest way to prevent a fire would be to stay away from the spark.

The boss shrugged.

“It’s been generations of delivering herbs and other goods to the drug merchants in town, and we’re inseparable at this point. The merchant’s aim are the herbs we pick, and we ask him to intervene for us, to obtain the necessary ingredients from the town. For example, the scissors required to create glass, and the tongs to repair them. If we’re to ask for ourselves, the blacksmiths won’t bother. We aren’t witches, and we can’t settle this with magic. We can’t survive just on forest items. We needed someone to go to the town full of temptations. I thought that fellow would surely understand the importance of this…”

The boss had just denied Rihito’s feelings completely, but he was not a cruel person.

It was due to him having to control his own feelings.

“But it’s thanks to this, we’re informed of the danger. Falling in love isn’t a bad thing.”

If Weyland and Irine were around, they would have laughed, dismissing it as Kusla’s attempt to fend for himself.

“It is dangerous. It caused Miss Helena pain. Surely, lots of courage is required to deliver this letter.”

It was true that when Helena handed the letter over to Kusla, she looked to be devoid of options, and decided after much desperation.

She would regret for eternity if she did not d so. She had the presence of one driven to this state.

Such was one reason why Kusla was convinced.

That pain was something he empathized with.

“It’s just…”

Kusla looked around the room, saying,

“You’re in danger, but it’s a little tough for you to hurry and pack.”

There were still three burning pits outside, and there were a few other huts of similar sizes. Small they might be, those farms were still there. This place was pretty much a village.

“The houses and furnaces can be abandoned. The problem isn’t that we stayed here for a while, but that the other hills aren’t recovered.”

The boss again looked at the letter, frowning.

“But have the townspeople really made this decision?”

His voice hinted at suspicions to this letter.

“The situation feels serious. When I went to the church to pray, the priest did condemn you, to say the least.”

“The priest there…an old fox he is. His aim is to chase all the pagans out fro Yazon, occupy the position of chief priest, and become a bishop. He’s aiming to become the political core of the town, always looking for reasons to attack us.”

“An external enemy is the best way to rally the inside together.”

To achieve outstanding accomplishments as soon as possible, the best method would be to embroil the entire town in a major problem.

“Despite that, we’re on thin ice with the townspeople until now…is this it? I thought we could last the entire time…”

The world always mocked humanity’s arrogance.

And the more cautious one continued to live on, the easier it was to be devoured.

“In that case, we’ll just have to act on priority…?”

The boss muttered to himself, closing his eyes. The frown on his face could clamp a shovel grip, and he groaned before saying,

“Apologies, traveller. Mind if I ask something from you?”

“…Well, I have a dumb look. Can this do?”

“Every craftsman has a dumb face. Only when working do they look good.”

This boss isn’t bad after all, Kusla shrugged, and answered,

“Depends on what it is.”

“I want you to deliver a letter.”

From the boss’ face, one could tell it was no ordinary letter.

Before Kusla’s eyes was a face of much reservation, guts and years.

“I guess it’ll depend on the contents then.”

“The townspeople recognize all of us here. Since it’s such a dangerous situation, we can’t go across the walls. Despite that, the risk to enter and leave the town is too great.”

So it comes, Kusla thought, sighing.

The spy however remained unmoved, probably thinking that it was not too late to weigh the risks and rewards before replying.

Kusla prompted.

“We don’t want danger. But it depends on the reward.”

The boss widened an eye towards Kusla.

“Reward…? I have no money, but lots of glass. You’re a merchant, right? If you sell the glass, you’ll definitely earn lots more money.”

“Just so happened that we’re not lacking in that.”

Hm…so the boss groaned.

However, Kusla did not make things difficult just to spite him

“I never took payment from that little puppy called Helena. Not because I pity your circumstances.”

“Hm?”

“I want to hear about the legendary ash, to starve off the boredom of the journey. Heard that this is the source. Is there any explanation I don’t know of?”

These were the secrets preserved by the sealed group living in the forest. In normal circumstances, they would not be told to outsiders. In this situation, it was the best choice to force a confession when needed.

As Kusla asked this, the boss stared back with his pitch black eyes. They were a pair of distinct, undaunted eyes, of one living in a forest where anything and everything could be seen as the supernatural.

Naturally, Kusla did not look aside.

So the boss said,

“You’re an alchemist, right?”

Kusla did not panic, and neither was he shocked. On the contrary, while he did not know what was going on, he was delighted to be detected, rather than panicking about being seen through.

“I’ve seen a few like you.”

Kusla was thinking of an excuse to dismiss this claim, but then he felt it was unnecessary.

He scratched his head in a deliberate manner, snorting.

“So this is the reason why you’re so suspicious. You don’t reek of dirt, but you’re strangely calm. It’s the presence of one living by death’s doorstep, the feeling of someone who puts his own obsession before his own life.”

Kusla reeled his neck in, as though indicating that the boss was completely correct.

 

The spy next to him gave him a reproaching look.

“But,”

The boss said,

“You’re not a spy sent from the town, right?”

He mentioned.

“I have nothing to prove this.”

“No need for that. I know people like you won’t be interested in boring town politics. Also, I thought you’re not a normal person the moment you delivered Miss Helena’s letter. It’s one thing if you owed her a huge favor…but you don’t seem the case. It shows you came here thinking the ash legend is real. This is a folly no craftsman will make.”

It sounded like he was being praised and yet bemeaned. It was a strange feeling, but not a bad one.

“Anyway, I’m really on a journey now, and it’s true I’m here because I believe in the ash legend. After I heard the story of Yazon’s creation, I went to the drug shop, and the puppy said a few words to me. According to her, the ash legend really existed. That’s why you’re seeking the ash, even if you die.”

“That’s my grandfather’s generation! That puts us craftsmen to shame.”

It seemed the boss never intended to hide this fact.

Kusla glanced aside at the spy, who merely shrugged.

“But their efforts were futile. No way such a thing exists.”

“I thought it was a metaphor for a forest fire.”

The boss then glared back at Kusla.

“If it’s just all hearsay, that’s definitely what I’ll think too. But the story my grandfather left behind has nothing to do with a forest fire.”

“So gold and silver can really be grown?”

“Impossible. It’s just a metaphor.”

The boss heartily rejected this.

“Since you want to know about the legend of the ash, I’ll tell you. The purpose of the ash is to create glass. Even now, a common method to lower the melting point of bauxite and improve the quality of the glass is to add ash. Normally, we’re looking for the most effective ash, and our knowledge of herbs come from this. The story left behind by our ancestors mentioned of the best kind of ash. The scenes they saw could only be described as a miracle. It’s said that the glass melted at a temperature close to a summer sunlight. The finished item was just like a crystal. In other words, they created a beautiful, magical glass without having to use fuel. That’s just like alchemy, turning an ordinary egg into priceless gold. The father of my grandfather and their grandparents struck it rich with that, and built the town of Yazon.”

“Huh?”

Kusla asked.

“That town? You built it?”

“Yes. Right now, the townspeople there have the town my grandfather’s generation built, and they’re trying to chase us away. This is what they mean by a thief shouting thief.”

The boss vented his complaints, and continued,

“But our job was supposed to polish the rocks, cut the trees down, and move to the next land, and repeat the same cycle. Our ancestors were chased away from their original lands, arriving North. Right now, the reason why we’re still somehow working here is because after they were chased away, my father’s generation fought in the pagan war, and gained the authority to use this land from the nobles. It’s like returning to the hometown to work.”

There was no freedom within the walls, and outside the walls.

The boss touched his head, letting out a ruffling sound, and sighed again.

“But that authority’s just hanging by a thread, all due to the commotion from before. What happens next is involved in the letter I entrusted you.”

But Kusla was not interested in the political elements. Once he knew about the superstitions and truths about the mysterious ash, he harbored an unspeakable sense of excitement. While the legendary ash was never replicated, it was not important. that town is built from the legendary ash’, There was a difference between ‘lost techniques’ and ‘techniques that never existed’.

So Kusla pondered about this, and the boss harboring his own reality said with some spite.

“The noble strangling us has sent men.”

He sighed, seemingly hoping for Kusla to assist them.

“He says he want the knowledge our grandfathers left behind.”

“…Knowledge? Regarding the legendary ash?”

The excitement was never quelled in the slightest as Kusla asked with a greedy expression. The boss grimaced, saying,

“You’re quite afflicted. But what he wants isn’t the legendary ash, but the side effects.”

Kusla gulped in a self-deprecating manner. The boss seemed bemused as he continued,

“There’s a secret journal with those results, but we don’t need it now. The contents are too weird to be placed here with us. It’ll be trouble if someone comes in and deem us as heretics.”

Kusla’s interest was completely perked.

He raised his chin, prompting the boss to continue, who scratched his head.

“But we can’t just discard knowledge, especially not those our grandfathers worked hard to gather. So since my father’s generation, we left it with the town’s drug merchant. Even if it’s a little weird, they’ll help cover for us. At this point though, we’re in conflict against the town, and we might get killed.”

Muu, he sighed like a cow.

“All our faces are memorized. There’ll be a huge commotion if we just wander into the town.”

Looking around, there were about twenty to thirty glassmakers.

“Despite that, I can’t just ask a wandering passer-by. I don’t know where you come from, alchemist…but I think I know something about you very well.”

“What?”

“Your heart, fool.”

Kusla smiled, for he sensed it was praise.

“The reward’s the contents of that secret journal. You can browse through all you want. Even though it’s recorded in codes, it’s likely you’ll solve it.”

It was an unexpected reward. The spy interrupted,

“Why mention this?”

Alchemists cared only about obtaining precious knowledge, but the spy was different.

So the boss grimaced,

“The wrath of a noble isn’t easy to deal with. If we don’t hand it over to him, he’ll remove our privilege. It’s a definite need for us. Even if the townspeople try to chase us away, we can survive with the special protections. If we lose that, we won’t have to live. I think we should get the journal back before the townspeople start attacking us.”

Kusla lifted his head slightly, and slowly ashed,

“Does that secret journal contain anything greater than the ash legend?”

A masochistic desire prompted this question.

However, Kusla had no intention of delivering a dangerous message with any useless knowledge.

“…Now, I don’t know about this. The value depends on the person. But I can be sure this is a prescription no outsider can obtain easily. Our grandfathers’ generation was seeking the ash madly, and this thing was a record they found in this unbelievable pursuit.”

Weyland once said that glassmaking was a boring matter. It meant that to alchemists, there were no techniques that intrigued them.

The knowledge pursued by the glassmakers’ ancestors were left in the hands of the drug merchant, so it was very likely it involved plants before they were burned.

“So what kind of secret journal exactly?”

Hearing Kusla’s question, the bear-like boss bellowed like one,

“An aphrodisiac.”

This man was the one man on this world most unsuited to say these words.

But because of this, Kusla could understand that he was not joking.

“And how? The effects…well, there’s enough proof given how furious the nobles are. I heard that they actually used it since my grandfather’s generation. The battlefields of a noble are either the barren lands, or the bed.”

It was not something they had incomplete knowledge of, nor was it something that could be made through imagination. It was the aphrodisiac created by the people obsessed with ash. If Kusla could obtain this recipe, there would be no reason for him not to cross the walls while holding this dangerous letter.

“I’ve no reason to refuse.”

After obtaining Kusla’s promise, the boss bowed solemnly to him, and summoned Rihito over to write the letter.

From the looks of things, it seemed there were high expectations on Rihito, who in the future might be the leader of these workers. He was able to enter the town and trade with the drug merchant, probably due to him not easily tempted, and also to teach him how to negotiate with the outside world as part of this training.

However, Rihito’s face had some youthful vibe. He wrote the letter, returned it to the boss, and returned to the back to watch.

When the boss handed it over to Kusla, Rihito seemed hesitant to speak.

He was probably thinking, how’s Helena doing.

On the other hand, he was trying his best to kill his sense of self. He knew that the boss expected much of him, and he wanted to respond. In the end, the urge of self-control prevailed, and he never spoke up. He saw Kusla receive the letter, and went back to work.

Seeing Rihito in such a state, the boss said with some pity,

“Once we leave this land, it’ll be years until we return. Given this situation, we might not be able to return within 10 years. As you say, move the combustibles away from the flames, and the fire will die off. If we leave it be, it’ll cool down.”

The boss’ thoughts were conveyed along with the letter, and Kusla did not answer further. While the boss was correct, what if the things vien up were priceless treasures that could never be obtained again?

As he thought about it, Kusla felt, not it was not the case. The only ones capable of seeking their lands of Magdala were the alchemists, and a few rulers, and the bold. Most people in the world knew about compromising.

Kusla never said anything as he turned to leave the glassmakers’ den.

“Guess nobody knows what’s hidden there after all.”

The spy said while they were on their way back.

He probably was not the kind of person who would talk just because he could not stand the silence. The day’s experience probably left him with the urge to do so.

“It’s really a delightful outcome.”

After the horse neighed thrice, the spy said,

“About the aphrodisiac?”

“No. It’s about the ash.”

It definitely was not a metaphor for a forest fire, but something physical that could be touched.

The glass production was often affected by the fuel amount, and reducing the consumption was an important knowledge for the various craftsmen.

There existed once kind of ash that could generate a melting point equivalent to the sun, the completion of the glass similar to a crystal. It’s to the point of finding a way to turn lead into gold, the ultimate form of alchemy. It was no wonder why the grandfather’s generation wanted it at all costs.

This fact too informed him of something else.

The glassmakers did not discover the ash themselves. Some ‘person’ gave the ash to the glassmakers. When Kusla affirmed this with the boss, the latter answered,

“Yes. It’s said that the ash was given to our ancestors by strange people of unknown origins, while Yazon was still a settlement before becoming a town. As for whether it came from the Heavens, nobody knows.”

There was nothing to be surprised. Kusla’s heart was etching out a heavy silhouette.

“Those people said that it’s ash that grows gold and silver. From what my grandfather’s generation said, they probably came from the desert.”

People with the same deformities as Fenesis came from the desert of the Far East.

At the same time, those were the people the inquisitor Korad Abria  was looking for, the people who had the knowledge that could fight the dragons.

“Do you think the inquisitor from before referred to the ash in his messages?”

The spy asked. After some silence, Kusla nodded.

“You have a different thought?”

Kusla asked, and the spy did not say anything.

While Kusla felt the spy was being professional, the latter answered,

“I feel the story of the ash is too ridiculous.”

So it seemed, and Kusla agreed.

“You don’t think so regarding the aphrodisiac?”

Any man would want it, or even women.

In fact, there were many in the markets sold as aphrodisiacs. However, as for whether they were really effective, the answer remained unclear.

“Because it really exists.”

The spy affirmed.

“I saw it used on others a few times.”

“…It’s all a power struggle in the palace, right? Those people can get in bed even with those they hate.”

Such words had the spy staring directly at Kusla’s face. He did not appear to be trying to convince, but was showing the look of one who wanted to convey what he saw.

“That night was a burning one. I saw those who utterly despised each other somehow not resisting, and even succumbing when when drugged. It didn’t seem like anything else. Their hearts were resisting, but the other places were at the beck and call. It’s such a strange scene, basically a spell.”

The spy did not appear to be lying, and besides, he had no reason to.

Surely this spy was was hidden between the gaps of the wall, and really saw the witch appear.

“And if someone can really manipulate that magic freely, it’s possible to turn the land into gold then…an aphrodisiac might be scarier, in terms of danger.”

A heart of one in love is a heart confused.

A political decision, even affected by a moment of madness, would result in grave consequences.

“Also, there’s the reason why the glassmakers were forced to hand over the aphrodisiac recipe.”

“Hm?”

“Basically, a political marriage is done for two reasons.”

The spy’s eyes were filled with a professional demeanour as he stare forward.

“It’s either for an alliance, or a reconciliation.”

“You mean the nobles strangling the workers…are trying to force their way through one option?”

“While the chaos is at its peak, yes.”

Kusla narrowed his eyes.

“Isn’t it important to do this due to the chaos?”

The country requiring the aphrodisiac was the grand noble of the Imperial Country Ariel, south of Latria. It was no small country, its relationship with the Knights ambiguous, and remained on the sidelines in this war..

By logical deduction, the country might need the drugs to change the balance of power. Even as an observer, it could not remain completely unscathed.

And thus, those observers were often doubted and scoffed.

“I hope I’m just thinking too much…”

Saying that, the spy went back into deep thought.

Kusla glanced aside, and shrugged. He had different interests from the spy. When the boss mentioned their relationship with the town, it was the spy who showed interest.

Kusla was more concerned about the message Abria left behind. He did not think it referred to the aphrodisiac. The spy might find the aphrodisiac more realistic, and it was easy for him to imagine the potent threat. In a certain sense however, it was a known item.

Yet the story of the ash was utterly ridiculous. If it was reality, it would bring joy that would topple the sanity of the world. Most importantly, what got Abria’s confidence might not be simple knowledge. Surely it was something left behind by the Ancients.

Also, the place Abria  signed at was not directed at the aphrodisiac, but the legend..

There was the legend of the  angel descended from sun, summoning the sun to the land, and after scattering ash, silver and gold grew. If there was a basis for even one element, the world structure would change.

Of course, there were still doubts.

It took one, or even two generations of craftsmen to seek the closest type of ash. How much did they seek it painstakingly? Looking at how they had a secret journal containing the production of the aphrodisiac,  one could deduce it to be a daunting task.

And nobody found it.

In that case, could it be that Abria’s signature might be part of his job, and the message was elsewhere?

So Kusla kept pondering, but his basic directive did not change.

He was to hand over the boss’ letter to the drug merchant, obtain the 回secret journal, check the contents, and return it to the glassmakers. He would not lose anything if the townspeople did not notice, and two, he could obtain the precious method of making the aphrodisiac. As for what happened to the glassmakers, that was none of Kusla’s business.

So he thought, and at the same moment, he thought of Rihito, who was starting to get used to killing his sense of self, and Helena, who handed the letter to him without fearing her execution. It was their business, and in a moment, he discarded the thought.

After that, the spy and Kusla continued to return home without saying a word.

“So are you going to retrieve that secret journal?”

While they were leaving the forest before sunset, it was completely dark by the time they entered town. They assumed they would be questioned when they entered town, but in the chaos, there were the mercenaries, the Knights, and the greedy merchants moving through. The crowds never subsided, and they never stood out.

“What’s the name of the owner? This isn’t something that can be discussed with the apprentices. I don’t want to be mistaken.”

“The glassmakers mentioned him as Roze. I saw the name when looking through the catalogue of big names in the registry. Doesn’t look like he has an apprentice.”

“Roze? Quite the elegant name.”

“If we trace the name back, maybe his ancestors were pagans who settled down here.”

Even if the pagans had discarded their distinct dark robes and rugged staffs, they would surely have traces of their past remaining.

“Do I need to come along?”

Unexpectedly, the spy could joke.

“No need.”

The spy chuckled, and both went their separate ways quietly at a cross-junction.

The taverns and inns were opened, befitting of a town linking the North to the South, where travelers were many. Despite that, while the fuel prices skyrocketed, most could only rely on animal fat lamps to do business. Only the posh looking inns and buildings used wood as fuel.

It was a moonless night, and the dim lights of animal fat could not clear the darkness completely, the scenery remained like a dream. The passers-by moved along quietly, fearing their lights were to be snuffed out. Even the mercenaries were stifling their laughters.It seemed they were trying to endure. This was a suitable mood for him to obtain the witchcraft knowledge called an aphrodisiac.

The doors of the drug shop were already closed, but there was still some dim light shining on the house of the 3rd frloo. It would be troublesome if Kusla was spotted, so he went down the alley by the side, and went to the back. The surroundings were silent, and only a cat hopped past thier street. Kusla knocked on the back door of the drug merchant without hesitation. One might think he was a beggar, so he kept knocking on the door. As long as the knocking remained frantic, the owner would show up, knowing it was a visitor.

“…”

As he expected, there was a slit opened on the 3rd floor window.

He might have assumed he would not be spotted, but the alchemist who toiled night and day had eyes sharp enough to see the scowling face.

A pudgy bearded round face, definitely not Helena.

“I was tasked to deliver a letter.”

Kusla looked back at the window, hushing his voice as low as possible. The owner Roze seemed a little confused.

“From someone of much interest to you.”

Then, he waved the glass fragment he retrieved from the glassmakers’ workplace.

Roze’s face immediately changed, and he nodded, closing the door.

Soon after, the peephole of the back door opened.

“My apologies for visiting late at night. I heard you were at a meeting all day. It seemed I shouldn’t remain for long.”

“Y-you are? I…never saw you in town. You brought a letter?”

“I’m a traveler. This isn’t really a journey to be talked about…but I was asked by the craftsmen in the forest. I have no interest in solving the town’s fuel problems, just that I have my own interest now.”

The eyes staring through the peephole were sizing up Kusla sternly, trying to maintain some dignity, but there was no malice. In any case, he was the father of that puppy-like Helena, so this should be expected.

“Is that so…then, the letter for me…”

“I’m not an errand. I have a few things to tell you.”

Kusla had no intention of getting involved with the troublesome town politics just because he got spotted.

“…Understood.”

Roze closed the peephole, and unlocked the door.

The door opened, and there appeared a plump, short middle aged man.

Roze raised the torch at the door, and went to the shop.

“You’re doing well, using honey wax and all.”

Kusla commented as he saw the torch light in Roze’s hand.

“The smoke and smell from animal wax is way too stinging, unsuited for my shop. It’s expensive, but I have no choice.”

“I see.”

Everything was quiet in this night visit, and even the scent in the shop was duller than it was in the day.

Perhaps the spirits residing in the herbs were all in dreamland.

“This is a letter from the glassmakers boss.”

Roze received the letter from Kusla,  his lips quivering with his mouth.

“I just received a troublesome letter from a troublesome fellow .”

He noted sarcastically, and pouted. He looked timid, but had a serious personality, and was most suited to run a shop in this town. The trust his peers had for him was great.

“I know this town has some major grudges against the glassmakers because of the fuel. I understand your urge not to interest with them as much as possible, but this doesn’t seem to be the only problem. Since they can’t enter the walls, I did so for them.”

Kusla said, and Roze blinked his eyes, looking back incredulously. His eyes were swimming, never focused, probably because he could not determine where Kusla came from.

“I have some relations with the Knights, and right now, I’m living at their inn due to this. But I’m not part of the Knights. I’m here from Nilberk, and what I do is for you to help me, and for me to help you trade.”

Such words caused Roze to somewhat understand. In times of war, various people would wander to other lands through the assistance of authority.

Roze confessed,

“…The situation had been detoriating ever since the war started. If I tried contacting those people, rumors would be that I’m one of them…I’ll be in trouble.”

“Looks that way. The wall’s quite troublesome.”

“Thank you for delivering the letter and their words. Lots of problems can be solved if they can talk.”

Such words were truly befitting a kind-hearted man.

But Kusla did not continue with the idle chat, and prompted Rozz to open the letter.

“I don’t oppose your conviction, but the changes in this world will always toy the fates of many. The craftsmen are in danger of losing their privilege, and they’re asking you for help.”

“Eh? But…is there anything I can help? I can’t even protect their future generations anymore. The most I can do is to delay the council meeting…”

It appeared that in the council meeting, he played the role of a good citizen protecting the town, while trying his best to protect the glassmakers. The powerlessness and self-deprecation on his smile showed that his hard work was for naught.

“Of course, I’m not asking you to convince the townspeople. They say they want the secret journal their ancestors left behind.”

“Journal? That…ah!”

While opening the letter, Roze covered his mouth without thinking.

“I heard this shop contains that secret journal. I was requested to take it back.”

Kusla looked as though he did not mind as he stared intently at Roze. If the latter looked downcast or tried to hide something, Kusla would just call him out.

So Kusla mentally prepared himself, but Roze merely reread the letter a few times, as though slowly absorbing the contents as he closed his eyes.

“I understand.”

He answered without hesitation.

“You’re not refusing?”

Kusla asked, and Roze widened his eyes, smiling awkwardly.

“I feel that knowledge should be left for those who need it. Since they need it, I should hand it over to them. Besides, that secret journal was something their ancestors had discovered.”

“Thank goodness I don’t have to play the questioning game of hand it over.”

“Haha…they did take care of me. I’ll do whatever I can. So…the earlier I can hand it to you, the better.”

“Depends on how patient the townspeople are.”

Roze smiled awkwardly, and nodded.

“But is there enough time for me to hand the secret journal to time? I don’t want to end up being murdered in the forest.”

Kusla said, and Roze sighed weakly.

“Well…I can’t be sure, but I guess it’ll take a few days. The anger of the townspeople is really…well, there’s a realistic chance of them just attacking. Right now however, it’s no the unified view of the town.”

“Hm.”

“The angriest right now is the blacksmith guild that needs the fuel, and the merchants whose livelihoods depend on them. Also, we have to consider the Knights. The glassmakers are protected by the nobles, and the noble in Ariel is a powerful one. Nobody knows what the Knights will do if we rise up to challenge that noble’s authority.”

The Imperial Kingdom of Ariel had remained neutral in this war, and to agitate it carelessly might result in more enemies, a situation the Knights   would like to avoid.

“But the fuel prices of the town is continuing to rise, and to the people within the walls, it’s still a disaster. It’ll take a while until Spring becomes warmer. Perhaps once they rationalize everything, they’ll start war quickly.”

At this point, it seemed a few guilds and the priest greedy for political powers were stoking the flames. Despite that, the situation remained so volatile. Once there was a proper reason involving the fate of the town, the Knights could no longer stay uninvolved.

“Also, the way the townspeople blame the glassmakers is similar to them looking for sheep to be offered as sacrifices. Because of this chaos, we have many times more people arriving in this town, and they bought various things. The prices were rising really quickly. The glassmakers did use up lots of wood, but it’s not all their fault. It’s because the townspeople already thought of them as an eyesore, and blamed everything on them. People do find reasons quickly in such moments, surprisingly smart, I might say.”

Back in the church, the glassmakers were called the fangs of the witch. It seemed there were scuffles for a long time.

However, it seemed there was no just reason back then, just that the oppressors wanted to vent their feelings, and the glassmakers were the perfect choice. It seemed they were forced into this role countless times.

Kusla had long heard of such treatment in Fenesis’ story.

“I know this is unreasonable to the glassmakers, along with the hardships they suffered through…but such is the way of the world. The world within the walls and the world outside are different, unable to forgive. It’s a pity.”

Kusla shrugged, and the owner shook his head,

“Anyway, do you mind waiting? The secret journal is deep within my warehouse.”

“Fine.”

Kusla intended to loiter around in the shop when he answered, but Roze left with the torch, so he could only go along.

This shop was like others in the profession, the goods stacked up high.

The crates on both sides were so high, and there was just enough space for the owner Roze not to bump his belly. The crates contained herbs or spices.

Kusla did not know where the items were, so he kept moving cautiously.

Suddenly, he lifted his head, and saw the legs of a girl on the stairs leading to the second floor. It should be Helena. It was she who sent Kusla to the glassmakers, probably concerned about his visit.

“Do you know what the secret journal it is?”

The moment Roze asked, they passed the stairs, and the owner was rummaging for things at the warehouse facing the back alley.

It was a question that required little thought, but Kusla was peeved to think.

“I do.”

Roze’s hands never stopped. Through his back, it seemed he was not particularly concerned.

“Since you’re the one the boss entrusted with the letter, I won’t have to worry about you abusing this…”

Then, he suddenly turned around.

“You don’t seem like one who can be moved by money. Probably have the secret journal  as a reward.”

Kusla shrugged, basically affirming it.

“Or is it to say, that given your relationship with the Knights, you’re an alchemist?”

Seriously, it was pointless to disguise himself. Any observant fellow would have seen through him. Or was it that the armor of this ‘uppity’ alchemist was sticking too much on him, that he was a lost cause?”

“As a trader myself, I do see such people. I can tell from the disposition. Also, I heard that some great alchemist in Nilberk created an amazing weapon. The Knights would always press on with the initiative whenever things are going smoothly. So they hired many people like you to be despatched everywhere.”

Saying that, Roze chuckled.

“Have you seen that great alchemist? Is he some old man with a white beard?”

He’s standing in front of you, but Kusla never said those words out loud. It seemed the contributions of the dragons were widely known, but this ended up being a blind spot. Nobody would have expected the person himself to be wandering around here.

“Which country did that story calm from?”

Kusla had no interest in mortal praise.

And faced with his callousness, Roze merely laughed.

“Well, I’ve been investigating these little things because I want to be a competent alchemist. Do you know something of the legendary ash?”

Given the common thread that was the glassmakers, Roze might tell Kusla something he would keep mum of. However, the latter’s reply left Kusla dumbfounded.

“A legend is just a legend.”

“I heard that the generations of glassmakers before had been trying to find it.”

“The same can be said of my ancestors.”

Like the boss, Roze seemed to have deemed his ancestors foolish for seeking that legend.

“I heard they expended all methods, and basically burned all the plants they could. Our fortunes were used up, and the shop nearly closed. Despite that, they never found it. In other words, there’s no such thing.”

It was a reaction of common sense.

“Then what about the genesis of this town?”

“The story of the desert people who arrived and gave the ash to our ancestors? When we talk about such stories, we always start with ‘this is the story narrated those who came from the eternally frozen lands’, so I guess it’s about the same. They brought the funds to build the town, and back then, glass itself was rare, so that’s why it’s talked off as a miracle. Once the people found that the glassmakers would cut down the forest, they’ll chase them out of town. This is then the legend made up to cover up their guilt, so I think..”

His explanation was extremely close to reality, and not unreasonable in any way.

Was the legend just a fictitious story?

“I guess I really have to hand it to you, alchemist, for believing such a story…but it’s a must for the young men hoping to make a breakthrough. So, yes, I’ll be proud to be elevating one such young man.”

“What do you mean?”

“With the secret journal, you can become a top rate alchemist. This is what I mean.”

Roze said as he moved the crates aside, removing the urns, and scattered the items aside as he went deep into the warehouse.

Looking at the back, Kusla however was not angered

They lived in different worlds, and what they would notice, what they would be interested in, would be miles apart.

Long was he used to mockeries of his pursuit for the baseless, both in expressions and attitude. Roze’s kindness was one exception by itself.

“Just to ask, have you tried the effects yet?”

Faced with this question, Roze paused a few moments before answering, probably intentionally.

“No. Only the glassmakers know how to brew it…and more importantly, no matter the context, manipulating the hearts of men is a cardinal sin.”

“I see this shop does sell herbs that appeases the anger of men, and relieves their gloom.”

Kusla intentionally asked to stump the owner, who answered without any guilt.

“Those are all medication relating to health. I don’t think God will blame those who want to live on healthy.”

“So fulfilling a demented wish has something to do with maintaining a healthy life?”

The master stood up, and turned to Kusla.

“And when that wish is fulfilled, can the healthy heart finally regain calm?”

Kusla stared right at the owner’s eyes, and after a smile, he shook his head.

“No, the problem still remains. It might worsen even.”

He recalled Fenesis. The closer both of them were, the more restless his heart was, far from calm..

The owner nodded, as though wanting to partake in Kusla’s guilt.

“Now you should understand why in weddings, God’s blessings are to be received.”

“Without the help of God, the couples most likely won’t be happy after all?”?”

“Just something to prove that most rituals aren’t pretentious and meaningless.”

Kusla shrugged.

“But…”

The owner said again,

“This can be deemed a poison, but depending on the use, can also be used as a proper medicine. Or it could add to the list of sins.”

What is he saying? So Kusla wondered, and the owner had a book in his hand.

“This is the secret journal.”

It was a little book bound together by parchment.

“Leave it to me.”

Kusla said as he naturally reached out.

The owner never moved.

“I have a request.”

“…Well, I never expected you to just hand it over to me.”

Kusla said spitefully, and the owner showed a crooked smile, as though confessing his sins,

“I have nobody else to ask.”

First it was Helena, then the boss, and then the owner of the drug store.

But Kusla could understand. The people in this town, along with those relying on the town, were living every day with much restraint. They were all waiting for the moment, while the chaos reigned, while the conflicts remained. They kept enduring, hoping to change this annoying situation, or hoping to catch their breath.

The owner did not hand the book over, and instead approached Kusla. Typically, the latter would be wary to the point of not wanting him to be this closer. The only one he allowed to be that close was a pure white girl.

But after seeing the owner in agony, he found no reason to backtrack.

“O’ alchemist…”

The way the owner beckoned for Kusla was like a prayer to God in the church.

Perhaps he was really intending to confess his sins.

Without making a voice, he said, basically mouthing,

“Can you fool my daughter?”

He put the book in Kusla’s hands.

“With this medicine.”

It seemed he realized Helena was eavesdropping

“Why is that?”

“My daughter is smittened with the glassmaker.”

Kusla’s eyes drifted to the ceiling, but not out of surprise. He could imagine that at this point, beyond the ceiling, there was a girl sticking her ear to the floor. She could not disguise her affection well after all.

“But nothing good will come out of this love. As a father, I’m unwilling to accept.”

“So, poison?”

The owner groaned, and corrected himself.

“Medicine.”

How an item is viewed will depend on the person, but Kusla understood those feelings.

“But what do I do? This is a medicine that will cause people to fall in love.”

The owner looked at Kusla, looking as though he was deciding to commit a sin.

“Depending on the purpose, medicine can become poison. Use it on her. You can then explain that the glassmakers used this medicine to enchant her, and she should believe you.”

A medicine that would cause others to fall in love had an effect of making others fall in love with oneself, and there was a third purpose.

Such was proof of skill and application.

The medicine that could cause her to fall in love with someone could also be used to erase her love for someone else.

The trick was to instill the thought that her feelings were due to the medicine.

“It will be a good chance to experiment for you.”

“……”

Kusla flipped through the secret journal, and realized that it was all codes. There were few of such codes however, and it would not be difficult to solve it.

Then, there was a hushed, feeble voice, 

“Nothing good will come out of my daugher’s love. You might think I can just leave her be, but I guess you know what I’m really worried about.”

At this moment, Kusla understood. Helena’s father, Roze, already knew that Kusla went to deliver the letter. He noticed that it disappeared, so someone took it. He never expected his own daughter to do it, and was naturally anxious.

It was no wonder then he was so worried, terrified of what folly his own daughter would commit.

A simple talk of logic would in no way convince the person that her love was madness. Kusla himself understood this well.

“But this medicine might kill.”

“So will love.”

Roze, who had the appearance of a swine, just said a line unbefitting his appearance.

But on this world, some words sound so realistic because of that.

“I was like this when my wife went ahead before me. Right now, I’m still alive because of my daughter Helena.”

Kusla let out a little sigh.

On this world, it is a pain to live on without any hope.

The notion of living for those important to them.. would become a sturdy, powerful shield.

“Also, there’s a reason why the ancestors left behind this secret journal.”

“Reason?”

The owner nodded back at Kusla.

“For such moments. When people look so obsessed that they can’t set their hearts aside, this medicine will cause people to think that their obsession can be influenced by such medicine.”

“…”

Kusla was flabbergasted as he stared back at Roze, and gritted his teeth in bitterness.

If the side product discovered by the zealous ones seeking their dreams was this secret journal, that would be overly ironic.

According to Roze, his ancestors were so obsessed with the legend of the ash, that his family fortunes were on the brink. Thus it was taught that the secret journal was the result of their hard work, a fine medicine to curb addiction.

It was an overly bitter, potent medicine to alchemists, those who sought the metal called Orichalcum.

But Roze suddenly looked terrified.

“Or…am I not the normal one?”

God’s kind sheep would always remember the kindness they should have, and His teachings, all to abide by the proper way of life. It was this that the owner was in pain. He knew very well how cruel an act it would be to Helena.

In this sense, he had some resemblance to the alchemists.

But the difference was that he still had the desire to act a mind citizen, while Kusla himself had been dubbed the moniker of ‘interest’.

“Two things first.”

Kusla stared at Roze, and continued,

“That child is a lot smarter than you imagine.”

It was partly out of self-deprecation, but these were also words he learned from experience.

“Another thing. I do have lots of interest in this medicine…but I’m not one with the witches. I know the way to use it is different from usual. Are you sure you want me to use it? She’s still your daughter after all.”

Stomach medication had to be swallowed, and wound medicine has to be applied directly. An aphrodisiac would have to be used in an exceptionally ‘sensitive’ area.

Roze looked to be in utter anguish, as though his body was about to be snapped.

He was blinded by his worry for his own daughter.

“…I don’t want to hear such words from an alchemist.”

“I guess so.”

Kusla punched at the owner chest. The latter stumbled back.

“I’ll take this. I’ll just follow through with the promise of delivering it to the glassmakers.”

He spoke at normal speaking volume, wanting to ensure that Helena, who was most likely eavesdropping on them, would be able to hear

Roze remained rooted, unable to say anything.

Kusla turned away without hesitation, and left the shop.

The night skies remained dark under the clouds. It would be foolish for him to be harassed by the patrolling guards, so he hastened his steps in the coal-like darkness.

The outside air was so frigid, his body was being ripped to shreds, but the anxiety and groans swirling in his mind made the former feel more comfortable.

Roze’s request was to inject a highly bitter medicine. If one could manipulate even the irrational that is love, then the convictions that were not to be compromised would crumble from just a single medicine.

The thought alone was enough to cause him goosebumps.

What if one day, a single medicine would thoroughly affect his passion, the land of Magdala?

It would not involve any of one’s own will, as though he was forced to dress as a blacksmith.

Such an imagination was completely different from the threat of death when a dagger was pointed at him.

At the same time, he understood that it was for this reason, the medicine was so terrifying, and effective.

This was the reason why Roze said those words, for he had somewhat seen the ending

He returned to the inn, saw the lights were already out, and heaved a sigh of relief. After a long journey, the trio had finally gone to sleep.

Kusla reached behind himself to close the door, and meandered through the darkness like a catfish.

Then, he stared at Fenesis, whose silhouette remained visible even in the darkness.

One day, they will die, and henceforth, such a possibility still remained.

It was not a bad preposition to die together, but there was a likelihood either would hope for the other to keep living. In slightly unlucky times, there would be a high likelihood of him having to say, ‘leave me behind, go’.

When that time comes, this aphrodisiac, which could twist the hearts of men, would surely be importantly. The more he understands of this medicine, the more he could be prepared for the situation that would suddenly arrive. In that case, Roze’s request would have a different purpose.

It was not to sweep aside the pain of his daughter falling in a fruitless love, nor was it to alleviate his anxiety because of his daughter’s actions.

It would have been a precious experiment.

An aphrodisiac is a potent drug. As far as most knew, it was made from countless poisonous plants, so even when the concoction was perfect, any initial testing would be left to fate. One could try with dogs or pigs, but just as iron is never going to be copper, the effects on humans would change.

The effects of the poison or drug would depend on the physique. Kusla learned about this while researching on poisons.

In other words, if he used it on Helena, he would be able to do so confident if used on Fenesis, who had a similar physique. The effects would be as expected, but most importantly, he could not let her die.

It had been a while since he heard the voice of ‘interest’, which was echoing in his mind at this point.

The voice was saying that everything and anything was just a mean for his aims. The thoughts, the life of the girl he just so happened to know was merely a tool. Also, he was requested to use it on someone’s daughter, and in a certain sense, he was helping.

It was easy for him to give up being human for his objectives. Such was an inhumane alchemist.

But, Kusla thought.

If he affirmed the effects of the medicine, he would be killing himself. Would his beliefs be something that would be easily crushed by medicine?

Such a notion was too much of a bitter pill to swallow, and it harkened some immature vexation.

More so, loneliness.

He gently caress Fenesis’ cheeks. The defenseless cat was a little itchy, but then made a slight snore.

Such feelings would be affected by the medicine.

He had a feeling that the moment he believed this, he would be caught in a path of no return.

But looking away from the truth would not mean that it would disappear completely. Even if he purged the memory of the aphrodisiac from his mind, it did not mean it would disappear.

There was a high likelihood of the legendary ash being just a legend.

But the aphrodisiac did truly exist.

Should he take action, or not?

Kusla left Fenesis’ bedside, and laid down at his own sleeping mat, cursing himself quietly.

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