[Magdala V7] Act 2

Before meeting with him, they wanted to gather all their information about Phil. In this aspect, there was nobody more reliable than the spies.

Kusla and Fenesis temporarily retreated from the riverbank port to the inn, mentioning the man Phil Botteo. Not too long later, the spies gathered intel.

“But I don’t think we’ll need much effort even if it’s not us doing to work.”

Despite praising them for their efficiency, one of the spies responded languidly.

“He’s a famous person in this town. Even an errand boy can gather this much.”

It probably was a form of courtesy, showing that he had no intention to be praised just for this simple task.

Also, at this moment, Weyland and Irine had woken up together. For the longest time, Irine had assumed she was embracing Fenesis, so when she opened her eyes, she made a cute wail, and punched Weyland.

They were huddled in the assigned room, hearing the spies’ report, and Irine kept her distance from Weyland, maintaining her defenses next to Fenesis.

“Phil Botteo…might be read as Bocho in the South. He’s the book merchant of Jedeel Guild.”

“I heard of this guild’s name.”

Kusla said, and the spy nodded.

“It’s a big one. It came from a faraway place as a trade. The Jedeels were famous nobility since ancient times, so while they’re merchants, they’re practically nobility, their relationship with the knights not good, not bad…well this is one way to describe it. When the forces were deployed to the Promised Land of Kudaros, every single merchant of the Jedeel Guild had wider eyes than the Knights when they advanced into the land of desert. Of course, there’s also the issue of the product types and quantities they could bring back.”

It seemed there were many more people who hated to be confined in the towns than imagined.

“So he’s a book merchant of this massive guild. I don’t know him, but I might have bought a book of his.”

“The Guild does have business with the Knights, so this is a likely possibility. Also, I heard the man who archives the records of that Sanctum Library is that Phil Botteo.”

“Sanctum Library?”

Within the borders of a massive Southern empire called Rutcris, there was a country within a country, where the greatest power of Orthodoxy belonged. The majestic cathedral was splendorous, like a maze, and it had been 800 years since its founding. One of them was said to be a library containing all the knowledge of the world, and it was said to contain 130,000 to 140,000 books.

It was said there were many forbidden or magic books collected by the heretical inquisitors, and rumors had it the library with such a massive collection was linked to an underground graveyard hundreds of years ago. Some books were undiscovered till this day, and it all sounded ominous.

“Also, the man who compiled the Sanctum Library’s catalogue with Phil Botteo was said to be that Korad Abria.”

It was no longer to be deemed as too much of a coincidence. This was not a matter of meeting a particular person.

It was the same logic as insects approaching any form of light in the darkness, no matter how dim it was.

“Apparently, this book merchant was the disciple to the heretical inquisitor, a student. Books related professions in the past were rarer than they are now, so I suppose there was a master-pupil relationship between this inquisitor and a book merchant.”

“There are people in the Knights Headquarters who became heretical inquisitors just to read the forbidden books.”

“While this is a world that will cover up all the rot, people would want to peer into the contents, so one way to do so would be to be the man making the lid.”

That probably was a premise, sincerity. There were many instances of actual performances differing from the actual objectives, and in this regard, alchemists were no slouches. The interests of the employers were unimportant, for alchemists dabbled in it for their own purposes.

“And so he followed the steps of the heretical inquisitor by himself, and came to this town.”

“He said so himself?”

“It’s said that whenever he gets drunk, he’ll repeat it as many times as he wanted.”

It seemed everyone in town knew of it.

An unexpectedly serious Irine frowned at the fact that he had loose lips, while Weyland was chortling away, seemingly interested. What about Fenesis? Kusla tilted his head to see her reaction, and she was looking at him, completely apprehensive.

Calm down! So he gave a wry smile to her, and she took a deep breath for real.

“Just to ask, did this Phil follow his teacher’s footsteps just to see the teacher he respected again?”

“Of course not?”

Even you have such thoughts? The spy’s eyes were grinning mischievously.

“Looking at the unique traits we discovered about him, it seems he doesn’t have much interest in being an inquisitor.”

The boatmaker too did mention this.

He was often away, and brought back stones and grass, sometimes cooped within the demon’s belly beneath the plaza.

What were the town rumors about him?

“Someone said he might be an alchemist.”

“Truly, it is not strange to be doubted as such by the townspeople. From what was heard, given how the bookmaker is looking for a blacksmith with good skills, there is some credibility to these rumors.”

Irine lifted her head upon hearing the words ‘blacksmith with good skills’.

Kusla pointed at Irine, saying,

“Any chance for her to perform?”

She was the outstanding blacksmith who hammered out a forgery of the Damascus steel, and rebuilt the dragon flamethrower.

Irine was acting as cautious as a blacksmith would be, pretending to be disinterested, but was obviously looking a little gleeful.

If she had ears like Fenesis, surely they would be twitching elatedly.

“In a certain way, yes.”

But the spy’s response was ambiguous.

“In a certain way?”

“It was said what he wanted aren’t too difficult. Distillation tools, and the like.”

They were tools used to distill wine, and it was no easy to make good quantity ones, but it was not impossible to find a blacksmith to do so. There was much precision required to intricately seam the gaps together and ensure steam would not escape, it was a particularly common skill. As she thought about this, Irine nonchalantly replied,

“Ah, I see.”

She scratched her head with her little finger, and said,

“When the blacksmiths say there is some difficulty, most of it is down to other problems, even though there are times when it’s really the case. Like, if they build according to the request, there may be more troublesome matters thereafter. One of the biggest issues would be counterfeiting money.”

The spy closed his eyes, and nodded silently.

And the alchemist, who had complete disdain for the orderliness of every town, could only retort,

“Is that so?”

“Yes. Moreover, he was rumored to be an alchemist, you know? A blacksmith won’t be happy to be asked to make a silver spoon. This is the end of a pagan country, and didn’t they say further North is where the barbarians live?”

“That’s correct.”

“So that’s all the more reason to refuse. Distillation tools involve breweries, the town council collecting taxes, the beer brewers and the wine brewers who pay the taxes, the inn guilds providing alcohol, the brewery guild, everything will be implicated. The Church will also come in to make a commotion, saying that brewing too much is a sign of unruliness to the order, something troublesome. It seems like while everyone has the skill to make such things, they’re not willing to create for a suspicious person. He might not be one who’ll notice such details. You said he’s a book merchant, right? It doesn’t sound like he knows much about the world.”

“That’s harsh.”

As an illiterate person herself, Irine might have a grudge against books, but she did seem to have her own logic of doing so.

“An old blacksmith from before once said, never learn words. That’ll weaken your memory, and you won’t remember anything. The blacksmiths that want to make things easier will try to convert their smelting process into words, but such an ability is really terrible.”

Truly, these words would be expected for someone who repeatedly swung the hammer every day in the workshop, accumulating experience that could not be easily conveyed in words.

“Of course, it’s not like it’s definitely a bad thing…”

It seemed that since she was illiterate, she was somewhat venting her own frustrations.

“But I do feel what Miss Irine said is pretty spot on.”

The spy said.

“The book merchant himself was a typical fellow unable to remain cooped in the stable town life..”

“Those that find these words painful can cover their eyes.”

Kusla said, and the two girls scowled unhappily.

“But someone like him is actually selling books? Aren’t books the kind of things the rich will buy? Also, I don’t think there’ll be customers at such a place.”

Irine mentioned, probably to divert from the stinging topic.

“There are two kinds of book merchants~.”

Speaking up was Weyland, who had remained silent the entire time.

“One will be like this alchemist here, guzzling away at books while hiding underground, and going out to sell books~.”

Weyland pointed at Kusla.

“And the kind who gather lots of books to sell.”

“Lots…of books?”

“Yes. Like what you said, little Irine, books are a little different from things of the world. There are people looking for such books, books that are missing from a horse carriage, or books that are deemed dangerous and deliberately sealed away, to be forgotten. I don’t like reading as much as Kusla, but there’s still some interest in seeking out rare books hidden somewhere in the world, an adventure~.”

Weyland stroked his chin, chiming in elatedly.

Irine looked flabbergasted, but it seemed she did somewhat understand.

“So, like looking for treasures?”

“Similar, but even if you work so hard to find this one existing book on this world, it definitely doesn’t mind you’ll strike it rich. After all, truly rare are those willing to spend big money to obtain calligraphy text of the ancient empire, or the strange ones interested in tax details.”

“But there are definitely such weird ones out there. After all, these things will earn a fortune.”

“That is true.”

The spy’s agreement had others feel there was something else to that.

Speaking of which, no sane person would actually arrive at this town.

“So, this book merchant was a follower of the person we’re looking for, and stopped in this town.”

Everyone turned to Kusla.

“Also, he called himself the protector of knowledge, knows of the rumors about the dragon flamethrowers, and probably wanted to meet the Knights because of this. Personally, I think he’s someone who’ll happily chat about this.”

The same too for the people who tried to reveal the secrets

“Whenever he got drunk, he would boast about Korad Abria’s actions. It might be deliberate.”

“Deliberate?”

“Maybe he’s doing so to attract attention from the likes of us.”

One did not know what purpose he had. If he were a heretical inquisotr, he would probably leave a slice of meat in a pot to lure flies in, and murder them all. However, that merchant seemed not to be the case.

“We too considered Mr Kusla’s deduction. It was too easy to gather information. He is affiliated to the massive Jedeel Guild as a book merchant, dealing with the brokerage of worldly knowledge, but he might be too outspoken. We have to assume he has some plans. I do not think he is someone who does not weigh the factors.”

“Just to ask, is there any problem if I bring along ‘a blacksmith with good skills’?”

“There will be political issues as Miss Irine had said, but if anything happens, just run.”

The spy’s lips curled in a heinous smile.

“The Knights elites are protecting you after all.”

It was a line nobody would complain about.

“Can we meet him?”

“Feels like he welcomes all visitors.”

“We shall meet him then.”

Kusla nodded.

They decided to meet Phil Botteo, but Kusla recalled something he had forgotten to ask.

“Anything new you heard about the legend of the white demon?”

Fenesis naturally froze once she heard that, and even Irine, who heard of this for the first time, immediately realized it had something to do with Fenesis, and widened her eyes.

However, the spy smiled calmly, and answered,

“I suppose it is better to hear from the person you’re meeting. After all, no matter who I asked, they would always start of with, you should hear from Mr Phil. In other words, nobody else has dug deeper into the history of this town as much as he did. He might be better than the locals in this regard.”

According to the spies, Abbas was different from the various southern towns, for they had no such thing as a council, but that the aristocrats with lots of power, the Poldorofs, were temporarily ruling. While it did not really matter, the rulers hated any scandals involving them. Those rumors detrimental to them, degrading of their characters would be thoroughly rubbished, deliberately forgetting.

Thus, the twisted stories would have no standing, gradually meaningless, and the people interested in them would dwindle in numbers.

The adventurous Phil Botteo instead knew much about the surrounding towns and distance countries, and instead filled in the blanks to the story. It was very likely he thus ended up more familiar with the town’s history than anyone else.

“However, even the Knights are a little uneasy about mentioning this traditional festival.”

“Hm?”

“Even though every town has changed somewhat…”

The spy glanced towards Fenesis, and showed a rare, tender smile.

“According to what I have heard, it doesn’t have much to do with you. The Knights are more concerned about things on their side.”

Politically, it seemed. While there was no intention to forcibly stop the festival, if they quietly permitted it, it would be a source of trouble, so it seemed.

Kusla never realized what was going on, but he probably could ask the book merchant about this.

At this point, the tension on Fenesis’ face was not completely abated, but she was probably relieved to know it was not a noose on the cursed people, to be paraded around on the streets.

Then, Kusla’s group went towards the building the Jedeel Guild was based in, as heard from the spies.

It seemed they had decided to set up next to the guild’s wares, doing and saying everything to prove that they had no hostility.

They were basically saying.

If you are to work with us, than the entire northern hemisphere, including Latria, is free for you to trade with.

saidAs the spy had said, since they were able to establish a massive guild here, surely they were offering loans to nobility at the headquarters, the nobility relying on their fortunes to continue the war. Also, the guild loaned to them not out of loyalty, but to obtain privileges from the rulers, just as the alchemists provided their skills. Thus, it was to be expected that they would choose the winning side in the war.

Unlike those who only knew of suppression through brute force, Alzen was never someone with such short-sightedness. It would not be shocking for him to kill two, three birds with one stone.

Nevertheless, the trading was not something alchemists should concern themselves with. For Kusla and the others, as long as they could do research, and get closer to their Magdala, anything goes.

And pertaining to this, there was nobody worth looking forward to like Phil Botteo.

“What do you want with me?”

The Jedeel Guild base was at a less conspicuous building on the main street.

The entrance was wide enough for a carriage to move into the building. It seemed those items were all product samples, from farming tools, herbs and minerals, to masks of unknown purposes and old fashion rough coats. Further in, one could see a furnace and a cashiers, the merchants huddled around them, chatting leisurely.

One would probably believe this cutout was a certain afternoon in the South.

“I heard rumors about you, so I want to talk.”

Kusla gave a welcoming smile, and the book merchant too responded in kind.

“Hahaha, nothing decent, I suppose?”

“At the very least, not something I’ll be bored with.”

Phil’s smile might harbor some wariness of a wild beast, and it would not be strange in the least. After all, he had just rambled about the dragon flamethrowers in the faces of the Knights.

One would probably assume the Knights acted quickly, and scouted him.

However, Kusla unexpectedly realized something.

Phil’s smile was heartfelt, and at the same time, relieved.

If that was genuine, there would only be one reason.

“Since ancient times, it is the famous things in town that make tourists happy.”

Such words had Kusla confident. That commotion might have started new rumors beyond this town, within Phil’s expectations. As Kusla had thought, Phil’s actions were all to attract the attention of those with the same goals.

In that case, Kusla only had one line required to be conveyed.

“Seems like you really know this route well. We spent quite the nice time in Kazan, Nilberk and Yazon.”

An alchemist would have quite the few opportunities to reach out to those who could not express their interests freely.

Whenever he did so, the other party would either grin heinously, or give awkward smiles.

Phil Botteo might be the only one who would smile wholeheartedly.

“Re-really!? Really!? How wonderful it!”

He was so elated, he was about to embrace, so Kusla thought, only to actually embraced. The Northerners truly had some gloom to them, but the passion of the Southerners, when distilled like this, was a little too overbearing.

“Ohh, God has not abandoned me! Finally, finally…”

Phil was so moved, it appeared he was touched to be reunited with a bosom friend of the same town, but when Kusla was embraced once again, Kusla understood the real reason.才明白真正的理由.

You are an alchemist, no?

Phil’s eyes were glancing over at the wry smiles from those gathered before the cashier, sneering ‘Mr Phil is being his strange self again’, the merchants were clearly hissing questions. The logic probably was that, if one wanted to cover up some unknown white smoke in the warehouse, they should burn the whole house down instead.

Naturally, Kusla would not make a foolish mistake of being shocked. He laughed heartily like one reunited with a compatriot, acting slowly as he patted Phil on the shoulders.

“It seems God has arranged for this meeting.”

“This means my prayers have finally come into effect.”

The alchemists followed the Knights’ footsteps to this place. It would not be strange to view them as visiting demons, for those who had hidden their heinous past and skeletons in their closet.

While Phil was a little exaggerated and dishonest, his delight clearly seemed honest.

In that case, there was only one answer.

“The truth may finally be revealed.”

He said.

It was not a matter of good and evil.

It might even be beyond benefit and cost.

“You’re saying that you’re on the verge of getting God’s clothes?”

From an angle those unrelated merchants could not see, Kusla gave the look of an alchemist to Phil.

And Phil acted in the manner of a merchant a tad older than Kusla, responding graciously.

“All as long as we can obtain the angel’s blessings.”

Phil was truly Abria’s student after all, and it was no coincidence that they managed to pursue his footsteps to this town. They were staring at the same thing, looking at the same results, which led them here.

Kusla turned back to look at the trio.

And even smiled at Fenesis.

“Oh yes, it’s inconvenient to stand and talk. Please follow me in. This ridiculous war is making us all too free. We have no business!”

Phil said as he nudged them inwards, even shaking hands fervently with Fenesis, Irine and Weyland. The other merchants might have assumed the strange fellow might have strange visitors, and paid no attention to them.

They entered the building of the Jedeel Guild, passed through the corridor, and were whisked into a room. It was more of a Southern style, with a reception room facing the courtyard, the sun shining warmly into it. However, the Southern flair existed only in terms of style, for the sky remained cloudless and grey for acres. The courtyard was dyed white in snow, and the leaves of the fruit trees had fallen, the trees resembling graves.

It was not suitable for a cheery topic, but it might deemed appropriate.

Phil had Kusla and the other visitors enter the room, stood on the corridor to look around, crept inside, and with a backhand, closed the door behind him.

And then, before his hand left the handle, he said,

“It’s about the angel’s legend, no?”

The gloomy airs of the North seemed to have dampened his excitement somewhat.

Phil served them with some heated, diluted wine with honey, along with raisins.

Irine, who never feared about getting poisoned, immediately reached for it, popping a raisin into her mouth, her throat making a little groan. For a moment, Kusla tensed up, but Irine groaned as she said,

“It’s——spicy…”

“Ahaha, too much wine soaked in it. It’s hard to strike a balance.”

It seemed these were raisins soaked for distillation. Do not eat even though it is not poisonous, so Kusla shot Fenesis this look. The latter had a tendency of turning rowdy. So she nodded obediently, looking a little remorseful.

“But no wine can beat our drunkenness.”

As there was no need to conceal the fact that they were alchemists, they had no need to pretend to be elegant.

“Drunkenness really can be used to describe this. Yes, we’re all drunk in the hearts. I had assumed you’re soldiers here to apprehend a drunk.”

Clearly he knew that by starting a commotion before the Knights, there would be two kinds of people. They would either be the spies looking into this suspicious merchant who leaked news of the dragon flamethrower, or people who had similar goals to him.

“There’s also this possibility?”

“Impossible.”

The book merchant chuckled heartly.

“It seemed you haven’t realized how immature the vibe you give.”

Kusla narrowed his eyes unhappily, but Weyland was chortling, and Irine seemingly sighed in agreement. Was she the same too? So Kusla glanced glanced aside at Fenesis, the latter looking sheepish.

“So the scouts who came with giddy looks can’t handle the dirty work of the Knights?”

It seemed he was no mere book merchant who would sit leisurely on a guild chair, selling high priced books.

He probably suffered various hardships trying to seek out precious, forgotten books, or books that had to be erased from the world.

“There are.”

Opposite them, Phil Botteo leaned over.

“As alchemists seeking the angel’s legend, I suppose you are most likely the ones who revived the dragon flamethrower.”

Kusla thought, was he, who was a tad older than them, not acting like a child when he called others immature?

But he was not repulsed in the slightest.

We can conquer the world. Alzen, who had once said this, showed the same look.

“It is for you to assume.”

Phil nodded, looking pleased.

“The Knights reversed the tide with an unbelievable weapon. I was truly shocked when I heard the news. Someone might have found all the truths before me, in a place I knew not of, and my knees nearly buckled.”

While this world was created by God, it was due to His meddlesomeness that the truths were hidden deep beneath the ground. No matter how passionately one would yearn and seek for ages, he often would end up unable to attain what he could not, only for others to dig them out in a moment.

Phil’s nature was similar to an alchemist’s.

A child passionately seeking treasure.

“In that case, I suppose you have been looking into this for a long time, Mr Botteo?”

Kusla asked, and the obese book merchant smiled bashfully.

“Call me Phil. The name’s Botteo, but it’s actually read as Bochou. This is the family name my personal master gave me…but it makes me uneasy. Probably because I haven’t grown much compared to when I was younger.”

“So Phil, when did you start investigating the legend of the angel?”

“When I was still a child.”

When he said so and looked far, he looked as defeated a man could be, as though the path he had taken till this point was not bad

“Since you made it all the way here, I suppose you know of the name Korad Abria?”

“We came here after discovering he hid a letter in Nilberk.”

“Hm…so there are hints in Nilberk too…the Knights there are too powerful, and I could have caused trouble for the guild if I was careless, so I never began to investigate there.”

Phil was strangely angsty about it, probably because he was the one who should be most familiar with this topic.

“But speaking of which, it seemed that letter was out to recruit companions to begin with.”

Kusla narrated the content he recorded, and Phil gave a gaudy look.

“That man does say some serious words from time to time, and is thus despicable. Truth be told, he is truly as eccentric as what they could call him.”

Phil’s etiquette might have been crafted by Abria.

“Regarding that legend, I was still a child when I met him, and he was already investigating the legend. He said he was going to pull the angel out from the book.”

It sounded as though he was summoning a demonic beast from a forbidden, evil book.

“That man once said books will make sounds, and could form songs once they were all gathered. He might have heard the angelic voices from the countless books nobody else could hear. He said that he was going to hunt down various books, choose those that had the marks of the angel, and compress them”

Saying that, Phil gave a nostalgic look towards Kusla.

“Probably to offer some help to you alchemists.”

“Not to find the answer himself?”

Even though he was dressed in the black robes of a heretical inquistor, it was hard to imagine Abria’s seeking of the angel’s legend out of his own religious zeal. If it was out of his own curiosity, would he not want to witness it for himself?

Kusla was skeptical, but Phil gave a troubled smile.

“This is thus the difference between you and us.”

“DIfference?”

Phil nodded.

“You can rediscover knowledge that had disappeared. In fact, one can understand from investigating the books brought from the promised land of Kudaros. What they call the latest mining technology had already been discovered by the ancient desert kingdom. Such situations aren’t uncommon, but for us…”

Phil changed his personal pronoun.

Such might be the expression of many who had grown and lost their youthful vigor.

“Once the books are lost, they will never be revived again. Even if certain truths, logic or mathematics were rediscovered, it will be difficult to restore them again, like music. Of the ancient kingdoms that were wiped out, how people viewed the existence of gods would never be replicated once lost.”

Phil sounded as though he had turned younger by 30 years.

“In other words, us book merchants never thought that we could view everything as they were. We did everything trying to link the lost things together. It would be nothing but arrogance to read new books nobody read, or views no author had mentioned or written about. Such an authority…”

He cleared his throat slightly.

“Lies in the hands of others..”

This famous merchant who acted independently did so to conceal his true motives, and also because he had no choice but to do so. He sounded like an enlightened clergymen. Kusla was shocked and elated to know that there were others, besides alchemists, who could have such thoughts.

It was no wonder that he was not a person who could live the peaceful life in town.

“Can we assume then that we have such an authority~?”

Weyland interrupted excitedly. He, who celebrated hedonism more than Kusla, might found Phil’s strange thoughts of wanting to suppress desires to be too bounding.

But it was likely the contrary. Phil was too greedy as a book merchant, and imposed limits on himself. He felt that he could do whatever he wanted as long as he did not cross the line. Weyland looked really happy, probably because he could sense the maddening persistence.

“Of course, Mr Abria understood his job. Pulling the angels out from the books is the job of the alchemists. He said it was the work of a first rate alchemist.”

Weyland was sneering, but he was really delated. The gears were in sync. Any person who understood the potential of the technology, and no one’s heart would not race seeing a massive machinery begin to work.

“I have something to ask.”

Kusla asked, and Phil blinked.

“What is it?”

“Has the disciple completed his master’s work?”

If he was the one who stopped because of this doubt, he would no longer be present at this place.

“I am the protector of knowledge of the Great Jedeel Guild, the book merchant Phil Botteo.”

It seemed this fellow was the kind to dream that his name would be recorded in the annuls.

Kusla’s lips naturally curled into a smile.

The group was led to a warehouse said to be accommodated specially for Phil. Fenesis, Irine, and even Kusla and Weyland were flabbergasted.

“If there is a fire, I wish to be buried in here.”

It did not sound like a joke, for the things crammed from floor to ceiling were not books bounded together, but scattered parchments or scrolls.

“Are these all related to the angel?”

Irine inadvertently muttered.

“No, half of it is related to my actual work..”

“So, are these considered ‘books’~?”

Even Weyland had to exclaim dumbfounded. The information gathered in this warehouse was massive.

“Not exactly. Actually, my work is similar to an alchemist hired by the Knights. It’s not like I’m not selling books at all, but it’s not progressing frequent. Income-wise, I should be able to call myself a book merchant.”

Phil said, seemingly self-reproaching.

“My main work is to ensure my employer, the Great Jedeel Guild, can trade successfully.”

Saying that he pulled out a scroll made from the hard bark of a certain plank, the marks on similar to a worn out thumbprint of a craftsman.

“This is a scroll made from the bark of white birch. It’s easy to erase the words completely on, so one can write with ink and engrave on the other side. It’s often used as a replacement for paper in this place that’s covered in ice and snow. It does not wilt, and if preserved well, can last for long. Right now, I’m investigating the local cultures and religions.”

“So it’s easier to grasp the hearts of who you’re trading with?”

Kusla flipped the book that’s covered in dust, saying while not lifting his head up.

“Thus so. While the business competitors are vying for gold and wine, we exalt the name of the ancient gods as respect. It’s very effective. I can also investigate in various ways, for my own purposes.”

“I see. Just like an alchemist.”

Kusla closed the book, and shelved it again.

“So what about the angel’s portrait?”

Phil giggled as he took out a book with a deer hide cover from a long, glossy black box. The long box was stuffed with various asbestos, and on closer look, the box itself did not seem metallic, but crafted out of leather. Hardened leather could parry away blades, and unlike metals, would not conduct heat easily even in flames. It seemed he was seeking the possibility of this box surviving a fire in case it happened.

“While it is in the form of a book, it contains only oral stories heard from the North. Some of them were left behind by Mr Abria, and some were records I made.”

Kusla listened to his explanation as he opened the book that ballooned like a snake belly due to the parchment.

How should he describe that feeling?

It might be most appropriate to say the gust blew from the pages.

The torrent of knowledge could be felt on the skin.

“And I suppose Mr Abria and I have already considered the crux of this legend. Given the knowledge we have, we don’t have the expertise to form it. Moreover, they left no records, maybe because they did not want others to easily replicate this dangerous technology. The records had been rather indirect.”

Kusla’s sights followed the contents of the words.

On it was written: to the cursed people, the deformed humans dubbed the angels in Yazonhave finally resided in the land called Abbas after their long trek. It also stated the source of all the local legends. The sun was summoned, and Abbas was destroyed.

“Abbas was~?”

Kusla lifted his head, and found Weyland leaning over, frowning. Fenesis gasped.

“Eh? Haven’t you heard before arriving here? Abbas was located somewhere else.”

It was then that Kusla recalled the spy’s words.

“…We did. But we never thought…”

“The destruction of the town was real. The more outlandish it is, the real it is.”

“But is there no real possibility of it being ruined by war~?”

Weyland raised a realistic guess, but Phil shook his head, his face giving a peaceful smile.

“Not at all. It vanished completely.”

“Did you witness it?”

He was not asking maliciously.

And Phil probably understood this, for he nodded affirmatively.

“Of course, I personally went to look. The legend of Abbas’ destruction reached every place in the North. However, I might have underestimated…”

Saying that, Phil lowered his head, still smiling it seemed. However, Kusla sensed that he was not smiling, but gritting his teeth, enduring some kind of fear.

“It was a terrifying sight. There was a massive crate in the middle of the forest, a large hole. There is wood to be harvested in the North, and lots of minerals. It’s also possible to hunt the hide of wild beasts, so it had not suffered to the point where the difference in shipmaking skills was widened greatly against the South. A long time ago, I heard the North was more prosperous than the South. Abbas was the most bustling town of the trading posts. Yet such a place was…”

He gulped.

“It was said to have vanished in a single night. The angel that descended from the heavens summoned the sun onto the earth, and swept everything in blinding lights and flame. It was said that at a nest two peaks away, one could witness the night turning into day. It was eighty, or even a hundred years ago, but the marks left behind remain visible to this day.”

Phil did not seem like one to joke, his narration unlike a wandering merchant pandering to the countries.

But it was still a little unbelievable.

It could erase a town in an entire night?

Kusla’s eyes drifted back to the book in his hand.

Written on it was: all who manipulates the spirits of fire shall be met with calamity.

“B-but why do that? Is it because…they were persecuted? Just like back at Kazan…”

Irine asked. She did not openly show concern for Fenesis’ reaction, but firmly held the latter’s hand.

Fenesis however did not appear to be panicking.

Her eyes met Kusla’s, and even in this tense moment, she could smile.

“There were certainly records that the people were deemed to be of equal stature to demons in Kazan, but in the logs of the other travelers, they were highly respected, and the details were full of contradiction. There was a unique trait however, in that all the rumors indicated the that the angels destroyed Abbas as a warning. Another point is that ever since then, they went further North, to vanish without a trace forever.”

They were persecuted, and fled for their lives, cooperating with the locals by sharing their technology, but were feared for being overly powerful, and hated. This process repeated itself, and finally, they fled to the ends of the world, and had nowhere to go. It was probably then that they had enough.

“Also, they left words behind, saying that if anyone was to pursue them, the same fate would befall him. These words passed down for generations, in places where they were viewed as gods of destruction, and places where they were deemed angels of miracles instead.”

“So…leaving aside whether they are angels or demons, is the summoning of the sun a technology that can be replicated again?”

“The theory of magic has similar definitions too.”

His joke was pretty interesting even for an alchemist.

“But to burn a town in an entire night…is that really possible? Even with the dragon flamethrowers, it takes time to burn everything down…~”

Even Weyland, who was always grinning at everything, said such words.

For it was truly something hard to imagine.

“The warning left behind is really something to ponder about.”

Kusla flipped to the relevant record, and muttered.

It was mentioned in the book that as long as the sun is the source of all of Life, by filtering through the presence of Life, it could be reused as the sun.

“But this is no whispering of love, it is the vengeance and pain of Hell…like the crying of a human when born…”

Kusla narrated as he felt nauseous. It was a sign of hope, an urge to yell in excitement. It was nothing as trivial as burning the bones of a Saint to smelt metals, looking for the results. The ‘sacred art’ of an alchemist, one often dismissed as arrogance, was written upon it.

By controlling Life, one would manipulate the flow of all things.

The depiction of the sun in the first page of the Bible was not coincidental.

There was no doubt the sun was the beginning of all life, ash to ash, dust to dust, the elements pouring from the sun would seep through the ground, and become the sun again.

“So you think the rocks and plants are the source of life on the earth, and brought them back?”

Kusla’s eyes drifted towards Phil, who was a little taken aback, before grinning sheepishly,

“So you have heard.”

“And the results?”

“Please leave the mischief aside for now.”

The merchant probably racked his brains, gathering various things that could feel the life of earth.

“But I have been seeking the ancient books from the promised land of Kudaros, even looking through the Sanctum Library. There were similar descriptions before, though the razing of a town is a particularly unique situation…”

It was akin to the legend of bigfoot. All across the world, there were stories of lakes formed by the giant’s footsteps. By depicting these lakes on the map, one could see that they came from the Northern ends of the world, vanishing into the western seas.

One could be amazed to think someone could fantasize such a tantalizing story, or perhaps…

“What about the legend of those flying in the skies?”

“On the next page. That was the message they left behind.”

Kusla then flipped the page, and saw the illustration of an angel with wings.

“The sun is the source of all living beings, and since it appears in the sky, it represents that Life can float in the sky. Thus, by breaking free from the presence of life of the Earth, one could rise into the air…”

Uh huh~, so Weyland voiced out.

The sudden change of text was akin to one a heretical clergy would say, and that was what left him dumbfounded.

And even Fenesis, who had been listening with bated breath, was left speechless.The overly preposterous matter had dismissed all kinds of dignity

“…The sun is not floating in the sky, no?”

Her question however had Kusla looking up to sigh. His response was so outlandish, for this was a matter of knowledge defying instincts.

“Book merchant, you have quite the knowledge, don’t you? How will you explain this?”

“Hmm, how sly of you. It seems you have the understanding of it.”

Overhearing their conversation was Irine, who showed a strange look.

“What are you saying? Of course the sun is clinging to the sky. I heard the stars are the holes in the sky.”

Without much intent, Irine merely repeated the stories told by the Church.

But even if one was not an eccentric alchemist trying to turn lead into gold, there were many points that remained unbelievable.

“According to what you say, when the sun sinks into the sea, won’t it get cooled instead?”

“Eh?”

Upon being asked, Irine tilted her head in confusion.

Weyland, having had enough, voiced out,

“The Church doesn’t want to admit, but the ancient sages assumed the sun floats in the sky. It might not be a sphere even, and they insisted all the stars, even this land are the same~.”

This saying would implicate the Church’s teachings, and except for the unique one that was Abria, the actual inquisitors who would have paraded Fenesis around would be slain anyone with such heresies.

“B-b-but, how do we prove this without flying in the sky? That has to be a lie, yes?”

The upright citizen, model blacksmith Irine raised natural question, but the sages had two powerful tools, observation and hypothesis.

“It’s either the sky is moving, or the ground is. This debate has gone on forever. If this Land isn’t the world created by God, there’ll be people worried. Thus, they hope for the skies to be moving instead.”

Kusla tapped at the ground lightly, Fenesis and Irine looked down in unison.

“However, the investigations of the stars movements has been occurring since ancient times, leaving behind records before the Church was established. It was the era of prosperity for the desert region, before the Promised Land of Kudaros had been completely barren.”

Fenesis showed a surprised looking, lifting her head towards Kusla.

“I heard the stars there are really pretty.”

The girl who fled from the Promised Land of Kudaros looked afar, recalling her distant hometown.

“Truly…there is praise of it being ‘as pretty as the moon’. I hardly heard of that though.”

“Oh, are you from there too?”

Phil asked with much enthusiasm, while Fenesis hurriedly lowered her head.

On the other hand, Kusla inadvertently imagined a girl like Fenesis looking up at the night sky, while the silver moonlight shone upon the massive desert. The silvery white hair might cause one to assume her to be a moon goddess.

The earnest urge to personally witness arose within him, and then he grimaced.

How foolish.

“Anyway, through the observations since ancient times, people have realized the regular movements of the planets, and developed them into knowledge that are used today. That’s astrology. There are some stars dubbed as planets though, and they are troublesome, wandering around in irregular paths. The sages who assumed everything on this world had to follow logic had a headache trying to explain why these stars move like drunks. One thought that was developed was that the stars aren’t holes in the sky, but that certain stars move around the sun. By this thought, the movement of the stars become simple.”

“This assumption can answer another important question. There’s no end of this land, and if we continue to move East, we should end up back at where we are from the West. It’s a lot easier to accept than the idea that the end of the seas is a waterfall, and that there are monsters there.”

Irine widened her eyes, seemingly at a loss for words.

When Kusla learned of this explanation for the first time, he felt he was forced to think of a circular rectangular.

At this point, his view was that, perhaps this was the case.

“But it’s pointless to think about it. This isn’t a question that can be solved by thinking.”

“And assuming the planet is a sphere, that explains why the moon looks incomplete. The real answer however will require alchemists hundreds of years later to explain, unfortunately.”

Phil said so, but he did not seem disappointed. Perhaps it was because as he had been living in the world of books, he was used to the notion that some worlds were not something he could construct.

“Or perhaps, if we can find a way to fly in the sky, we might be able to be sure.”

Then, Irine seemed to have recovered, and she said, somewhat furious,

“B-but flying is definitely impossible, right?”

“What about birds?”

Once asked, Irine in turn threw a tantrum as though she was insulted. Kusla himself understood why she was feeling ill-tempered. Weyland continued,

“In fact, even without wings, it is possible to fly. Many in the past have realized this~.”

What unbelievable reasoning are you going to come up with next? Irine acted wary.

“We can experiment now~.”

“Eh?”

“Put two sticks together in a cross, put a little candle at where they meet, and wrap a thin piece of paper over the entire thing. Make sure to leave an opening at the bottom. Light the candle, and watch it rise~.”

“……”

“Doesn’t smoke rise? That’s the force use~.”

“Ah!”

Irine, who had been on the verge of tears the entire time, finally heard an analogy she could understand, and heaved a sigh of relief. It seemed those forced to witness wondrous technology had such a feeling too.

“But there’s one problem. No matter how much we try to empower this, we can’t rise into the sky. We need lots of firewood, but with these firewood, we can’t float, let alone carry people. If what is written is really the case, we need a completely different manner to fly, something other than fire.”

“In that case, something like birds~.”

Even though he knew it was incorrect, Weyland suggested it, for there was nothing else they could think of.

“But all we need to do is to find the presence of Life on this land. This should be the key.”

“With this…we can destroy a town, and fly…you mean?”

Irine, who had maintained a brave façade all this while, was looking like a child told of a horror story by an adult.

“According to the description, it seems they’re different things altogether…but in any case, such thoughts already existed, whether in Orthodoxy or Paganism, anything that rises like spring water as something sacred. I suppose it’s because part of it contains an unimaginable power that is the beginning of all things..”

“Just like a volcanic eruption. There is a lifeforce to be felt from the Earth, surely there is such a force beneath our feet.”

Phil chimed in, and Weyland hollered,

“Oh, so you saw a volcano erupt! I’m envious. I heard the iron forged from the flames of Hell have some mysterious power within!”

“No, that’s impossible. I’ll die. The temperatures there are really hot, even the rocks will melt. There’s no way for me to approach. It’s truly a place only Gods can approach.”

“The Pagans taught that the god of thunder would hammer with lightning, and use the heat to forge swords.”

“On days with thunderstorm, you can erect a pillar on the roof and tie a hammer to it. That’ll explain the source of this legend.”

Phil said. Kusla and Weyland shrugged in unison.

“We already did.”

The two girls, Fenesis and Irine, looked utterly dumbfounded at the two mischievous adult males.

“But there were records of the chaos left from the villages near Abbas when it was destroyed. Some records mentioned of the current topic, though that isn’t something to be taken as gospel.”

“What do you mean?”

“There was a guess that the angels never intended to destroy Abbas. There was an accident when using such firepower to smelt metals, and ended up destroying Abbas.”

“Smelting?”

“There’s enough firepower to cause a town to vanish. It was said that for a few days, there was thick smoke rising from the town center for days. They probably assumed it to be smelting, but comparing it to the other records, it seemed the situation was not much different from a volcanic eruption. The power was such that nobody would be in the mood to smelting, so it’s probably something borne out of imagination.”

It seemed that was the case, but there was a pity to such thoughts. If it was some really powerful smelting that could destroy a town, surely it was not iron. Even iron would melt in a furnace fire.

In that case, what could it be? A fleeting thought passed by, and after that, Kusla bitterly mocked his immature thought.

The metal of God, Orichalcum.

If it really existed, there would be nothing he would be happier with. However, such daydreams would extrapolate the angel’s legends. People were often charmed by mysterious thoughts, especially for such a moment.

They had to focus on the things before them. Kusla took a deep breath, and said,

“So of course, using the knowledge you have as a book merchant, you kept looking for this breath of life, but couldn’t…right?”

As one dubbed a book merchant, Phil’s knowledge should suffice to a decent extent.

“Yes. I have practically tried everything rising from the ground, but I never actually harvested anything…I tried boiling using the hot springs of the North, but at most, I collected sulfur or salts. Then, I thought about the matter of improving the alcohol content, making wood vinegar and charcoal, so I thought if I used some distillation tool, I might obtain a different result.”

“So that’s why you’re looking for a capable blacksmith.”

“Yes. But they are related to alcohol, and the blacksmiths here aren’t willing to help because they want to avoid trouble. If I order from the South, that’ll cause them trouble.”

Upon hearing Phil’s explanation, Kusla glanced aside to Irine for a moment. Those who devoted themselves only to books might not know of the political issues behind these distillation tools, so said Irine, and she turned aside awkwardly.

“But alchemists and these tools are inseparable too. I suppose you can prepare some, no?”

The expecting stare was directed to them, so Kusla raised his chin at Irine.

The sheepish Irine then said,

“…I can help if there are materials.”

“Ohhh! Wonderful! Also!”

Phil gave Kusla and Weyland the typical smile of a merchant.

“Both of you will help, no?”

Distillation was like brewing wine, while the steps were definite, it would be difficult to brew them if the makers were unfamiliar. Moreso for those working on minerals or other objects-.

Kusla looked a little dreary. Phil never feared Kusla and the others for it seemed he was confident they were not assassins sent from the Knights, but actual alchemists immersed in technology, seeking the angel’s legends. Even for that, he was being too defenseless.

After all, if it could really be fulfilled, it would be an accomplishment that would topple the world order. While investigating the angel’s legend, Phil must have suffered through toil nobody could compare with. More crucially, this trading posts set up at Abbas had their headquarters in countries opposing the Knights.

Since it was obvious they had some involvement against the Knights, Phil asking this rhetoric would either be a hopeless fool, or a strategist.

And as Kusla contemplated, hesitant to ask, Phil chuckled with apprehension.

“Am I being too gracious?”

Such a smart business.

Kusla raised his chin, and the pudgy Phil beamed,

“It’s simple, really. If the Knights are to win the war against Latria, it will be wise to assist those related to the Knights. As a massive arm in a far trading post, we can’t afford to lose this place.”

Alzen clearly had no intention to burn the merchant guilds here, and would try to pull them over. The guilds would have guessed the Knights, capable of storing reserves, would do so. If he was to assist in recreating the angel’s legend, like them, he should be able to enjoy various privileges.

“So on the other hand, what if the Knights lose? ”

Phil probed. Kusla was not amused, but Weyland was shaking with laughter.

“Better get what we know before the Knights scamper~.”

“That’s how it is. In any case, I should be assisting you two.”

Kusla shrugged in agreement. It was not an alchemist’s privilege to do things thoroughly, let alone a strange merchant who was suspected to be an alchemist.

“So I thought we should get down to preparing the materials. I hope you can be a little more cautious, and not let others know that we’re making distillation tools.”

“We probably won’t need to worry about this as long as we have a workshop.”

“No worries. You can imagine why I’m rumored to be an alchemist.”

Most optimists would assume they could fulfill their optimistic futures, but few would actually prepare for that.

It seemed Phil was one of the rare few.

“I tried many possibilities, and if one day we can discover the angel’s legend, what circumstances would that be? There won’t be anything to lose..”

Like a child, he puffed his chest, expressing himself with confidence.

The workshop was located near the town suburbs. Abbas too had a craftsmen street with various workshops, but it seemed a few of them did not belong to the town’s guilds.

These guilds were managed by the guilds of the far trading posts, all to repair ships and carriages for cargo and trading, so it seemed the guilds could handle all the work themselves.

If they had merely relied on the blacksmiths in the town, their guild carriages might be delayed, and when the demand was high, they would wish to deliver the goods at soonest possible. Such arranges were meant to avoid being too late, and allowing others to benefit.

There were obviously quite a few disputes around, and if these incidents were to turn into outrage malice, the chances of operating a guild well in this rural place would be bleak. Thus, they had a state of compromise in which they had to cooperate look ensuring their own benefits.

The Poldorofs, caretakers of this town, did so because this town was established by the guilds.

“How crude.”

Irine chimed in.

The furnace was outdoors, the surroundings were walls made of mud bricks, and there was a shoddy hut forlorn by the side, on the verge of collapsing. It was enough for emergency work, and though shoddy, it was one.

“The Grail might not be made from gold.”

“Right. The exterior might look bad, but the furnace is the latest design from the South. It should produce an impressive temperature.”

“Eh? Really?”

Hearing that, Irine’s eyes immediately lit up.

“I won’t lose to anyone in terms of knowledge.”

Surely it was a shot of confidence for a book merchant to say so.

“Let’s clean up the furnace and prepare the materials..”

There was no roof near the furnace, and thus they had to sweep the pile of snow. They built a little fire to warm the ground. There was lots of do.

“But you have thought of what you want to distill, no? The materials and sizes will change accordingly.”

Hearing what Kusla said, Phil gave a troubled half-smile.

Nothing, is it?”

Phil might have read a massive amount of books, but he was no alchemist.

His pride might have been shot though, as he said with a puff,

“I-I do have some idea.”

“Hm?”

“The rumors I showed you had this part, use the rocks that have remains of life, and though completely frozen too can release Life once again…I’m guessing if it refers to the devil’s heart.”

What is he talking about out of a sudden? Even the alchemists were shocked.

“The devil’s…heart?”

“If the rage and pain of Hell mean the same, that’ll make sense. More importantly, I don’t think the traditional Abbas festival has nothing to do with the legend.”

Phil’s words might seem awfully brutish, for most of the time, he would be talking to himself, and not others.

Kusla had a sense of familiarity, and then recalled the boatmaker mentioning about a white demon appearing during the town’s festival. This definitely was what Phil was referring to.

“What is that festival? We’re not too sure of it.”

“Basically, this is a ritual involving a live sacrifice.”

A ritual involving the sacrifice of the white demon.

How paganistic.

“But right now, it is a ritual to obtain political protection from the Latrian Queen…we offer the fur of the sacrifice for the returns.”

Having heard that, Kusla finally understood why the Knights were having so much trouble.

Breaking up the traditional ritual would pit them against the town, but if they allowed it without reproach, it would be akin to recognizing Latria’s sovereignty over this town.

“But there is something amiss, I feel. If this merely is the purpose of the festival, there is no need to enter deep into that cave, and begin the ritual in a suspicious manner. Surely they were trying to obtain something when they first began. Something other than political protection.”

Phil narrated with a serious look, as though he was agitatedly describing his ventures into the forest late at night, and having witnessed some strange travelers.

However, the cave in the middle of the town was definitely dubbed the demon’s belly.

“You do stay in that cave for seemingly reason, but it’s for this?”

“Yes. But you’ll understand what I mean once you see it. They tear apart the massive body of the white demon, pulling its organs out, and bury them in the specific locations. One would have a feeling that there was a meaning to it. I thought the rocks with the remains of life would refer to the hardened heart after the blood was drained, and it was dried. In the ritual, there is one line. Grant us the power within this white body. Grant us the power of this beast.”

Phil licked his lips, took a deep breath, and said,

“And then, the person will put on the fur of the white beast. It’s like a hope for inhuman knowledge and power will reside in the human body.”

Kusla inadvertently gasped, and drifted his eyes to Fenesis. The latter too had a frozen face. It was no longer a coincidence. There was something, somewhere, linking together in a place they could not understand.

If the angels were the cursed people like Fenesis, one could understand the reason why the fur was put on.

Those children imitating the adults would understand. They would think that pulling the some postures would give rise to a similar effect.

“Currently, the ritual after this ends up as follows, the power of this white demon will be transformed into a sacred power, to empower our Queen Her Majesty…before offering the fur. I thought that wasn’t supposed to be the case though. That’s what the later generations added, but it should be for themselves in the first place. Have you heard of what the color of the legendary angels were?”

Of course, Kusla was not foolish to turn to Fenesis. He maintained his poise, saying,

“The hair is white, and there are certain parts differing from humans.”

Phil nodded.

“Having read through the scrolls left everywhere, we knew the angels’ appearances are like the fur of wolves or fox. No, there is a cat god in the deset, so maybe those were cats…”

“That’ll explain why people wear the fur during the ritual~.”

Weyland chimed in, playing dumb.

“Yes. Also, moving further north from Latria, you’ll see that their skins are whiter, their hair lighter in colors, sometimes silver or grey. This makes them similar to beavers and foxes and other animals. Thus, I can’t help but imagine a terrifying guess.”

“Say it. We have two alchemists here.”

Kusla’s words had Phil smiling.

“Will the legendary angels reveal the secret to Life? Can they manipulate all lifeforms God has created, and manipulate the logic of Life…”

Perhaps they ended up creating the white creatures of the North?

It might be mysterious to think of, but if the angels were the cursed people from the desert, the secret of Life should be discovered in the desert. The people living there were basked under the sunlight all year long, their skins tanned, and nobody heard of any animals there having whiter skins.

If they considered how the skies were cloudy and never blue, this would be seen as a coincidence.

“Of course, this topic’s just something to talk about over wine. However, I do have some guess to why they put on the fur of the white demon.”

“The people of Abbas wanted to obtain the power from its destruction?”

Phil nodded fervently.

Kusla was not opposed to this notion.

Despite that. There was something he was curious about.

“Speaking of which, what exactly is that white demon?”

The boatmaker gave the impression that it was not a worldly creature.

And upon hearing this, Phil beamed with glee,

“In the past, those adventurers who crossed the frigid oceans would mention the Far North, that the Far North might not be a place for people to live in. Winds and snow were no hindrance, but there was a certain power capable of twisting the laws God dictates. Can you imagine the sun not setting and rising Can you imagine two suns rising on the horizon in the morning? The Northern seas has monsters that were never seen before, sea beasts with huge horns drowning in hordes. There were also creatures with two fangs the size of children, resembling fish and pigs, massive and savage, one you have to lift your heads. In any case, it is all too strange. It feels like our minds are in chaos. Most terrifyingly, the demon giving chase after our ships was attacking like a ghost. It has seven lives, can parry various metallic attacks, and with a swing of its huge claws, can tear bronze shields apart like parchments. Its fangs can gnaw souls along with armor. It is…an ominous…”

After brewing up enough emotions, Phil concluded,

“An ominous…white…bear.”

Phil narrated the last line with a terrifying tone, and there was a pause.

“…Bear?”

“Yes.”

Phil was looking grim, but Weyland scratched his cheek, and Irine tilted her head slightly. Fenesis probably had never seen one, and was looking perturbed seeing everyone’s reaction, before giving Kusla a pleading look for help.

Kusla sighed.

“A bear? Not a wolf?”

At this moment, it seemed Phil finally understood why their reactions were so underwhelming.

“So-so I say, the Southerners are…! You think of wolves as terrifying animals, and that may be so, but there are many creatures in the lands of the Far North who think nothing of them! At the apex are the white bears. You’ll understand once you see them! Even the most impressive of wolves can’t defeat a white bear cub.”

Kusla did hear legends of the white bear.

It was said its strength was overly massive, capable of melting a person apart. It might be too mild to describe it as tattered cloth, but it was truly unimaginable.

“Uu…it’s probably as difficult as conveying how amazing a book is to an outsider…”

Phil clutched his head with a grimace. Seeing him in this state, Kusla suddenly looked towards Fenesis. He then grimaced,

“Well, we’ll have to see it ourselves. I heard the festival won’t stop otherwise.”

“O-of course! You’ll understand once you see it!”

No matter how one would sputter, there were times people would not understand. On the contrary, there were things that could not be overturned by words, simply because they had witnessed.

Kusla learned this from Fenesis after all.

“So…there are two things to investigate?”

“The breath of Life left upon the earth in the form of Hellish rage and suffering…~”

Weyland stroked his beard as he muttered.

“The other bit is to find stones with traces of Life.”

If these words were to be taken as literal, each of them would involve the secrets of alchemy.

Every person yearned the secrets of Life, but was there any existence other than God that could reach it?

Most people on this world would be terrified.

And the only fools to laugh off such notions were the alchemist.

“So, what are we distilling first?”

Irine asked with an annoyed look, either because she was acting tough in the face of this eccentric topic, or that she was frustrated by how Kusla, Weyland and Phil were obsessed with the ridiculous conversation.

The three adults exchanged looks, and Kusla answered,

“From where the heart is.”

May God protect us.

It was rare of Weyland to actually mutter this.

The demon’s belly was located in the center of the town, a religious place. If the four of them were to enter freely, it would attract too mcuh attention.

Amongst them, even if Irine did follow, she was not of much use, and it seemed she had no intention of coming along. She, a pious Orthodox believer to begin with, might have thought it was weird. Weyland hesitated, but it seemed he realized it was a new furnace, and lost to the temptation. Thus, Fenesis was the only one left. It seemed she could not shake off the shocking matter of the cursed people destroying Abbas, and remained at a loss of wht to do. Perhaps she realized it took her long enough, and was not rattled to the point of inaction. Despite that, it seemed there was turmoil in her little heart, for as he asked her if she was going to the demon’s belly, she shook her head slowly, showing an unhappy smile.

Kusla felt it was not a decision to be made in the spur of the moment. Fenesis once smiled with forsaken hope as she drank the goat milk. The alchemist devoid of blood and tears had room to keep progressing, but the cursed people had no place of solace even at the dns of the earth. Thus, she probably had no intention of heading down to where the cursed bloodline started.

Seeing her like this, the words that naturally blurted were,

Any time is fine. When you are unhappy, look for it.

He pinched Fenesis on the cheeks to hide his awkwardness. So he raised half his lips, and left the workshop.

But he never expected this.

“Please pretend to be my servant, and follow me with your head lowered.”

“…”

The alchemist who would shush the crying children had just dressed himself as a blacksmith on a journey, and yet at this point was disguised as a servant working as a lowly servant. There was a mixture of egg white and sand scattered on his hair, which was then messily ruffled. He then put on hemp clothes with worn sleeves, hard wooden clogs that were hard to walk with in a straight line, and hunched his back. At this point, he no longer resembled an alchemist.

“We have to be thorough in our disguise. I disguised myself in various identities to obtain the rare books, and snuck into various places.”

Kusla understood wery well it was a disguise to make him ugly, but Phil had no malice at all. He never considered Kusla’s feelings when he swiftly began his preparations.

If not for the refreshingly unabashed attitude, Kusla would have beaten him to a pulp.

“Now lower your head. Arch your back.”

“…Understood, understood.”

“Answer me with yes.”

Kusla had his back slouched as he glared up at Phil, but Phil smiled back without any malice.

So Kusla swallowed his unhappiness, grouchily answering with ‘yes’. Good thing Irine, Weyland and especially Fenesis were not around, so he thought.

After disguising himself at the Jedeel Guild, Kusla went with Phil to the Poldorofs, caretakers of this town, to retrieve the key to the demon valley. From what he heard in the conversation between Phil and the Poldorof servant, it seemed the Jedeel Guild were highly generous, having funded heavily in various parts of the festival.

Thus, they probably closed an eye to the strange actions of Phil the eccentric.

“The festival’s here soon. Please don’t do anything strange here.”

“Yes, I do now, but can we really hold it now? We avoided war, but the Knights still have their ears and eyes here, no?”

Phil asked while playing dumb, and the servant shrugged.

“It’s a long stranding tradition, and they know it’s just for show. Also, it doesn’t seem like they hope to attack, so they probably think there’s no need to agitate the citizens here. My Master said the Knights never really requested for anything.”

The servant seemed relieved. He, serving the rulers of this town, could have lost his job and position because of the war, and in the worst case scenario, be sent to the gallows along with his master.

“But there is something strange here…”

“Hm? Strange?”

“Hm—what do the Knights want here? They’re not fighting a war, they’re not here to hang your heads.”

“We’re already strangled. They sealed the sea routes of Nilbersk, and even the rivers, so now we can’t do business. Everything we can transport by land will be hijacked. We drank all the wine we wanted to sell.”

Phil grumbled, and one had to wonder if he remembered Kusla was listening behind him.

It seemed however that all the merchants in the town had the same thoughts.

“It is strange to talk about it. The powerful Knights have diverted their important forces to this rural place, and hasn’t been utilizing them. There’s no sign of them trying to chase Master Poldorof out.”

“Is that so? This is an important trading place to Latria. It’s an appropriate tactic to intimidate the enemy and control the treasury.”

“Hm…”

The servant however groaned with some disagreement. Suddenly, he turned around, and looked towards Phil,

“Actually, rumors amongst us has it that you discovered some troublesome forbidden book again.”

“Eh? No, ahahaha…that was two years ago…I had caused you much trouble back then…”

“Really…think of the local culture. There are a few clergymen who escaped from the South because they were suspected for heresy.”

“Wh-what you mean is…”

Phil hunched over. Kusla was not quietly bemused, and instead, was impressed by him.

Deducing from the conversation, it seemed Phil had his eyes on heretical clergymen and the like who escaped from the South, tried to obtain them, and was detected by the Pope’s office. No sane person would do this thing of zero benefit, one that would leash a figurative upon onself..

But of all these books were so rotten, one could not hope for knowledge centuries old to be passed down. It was because of fools, impressive eccentrics like Phil who cared not for anything else, devoting their lives to whatever they liked, that alchemists like Kusla could obtain the knowledge of their forefathers.

“Lend me the key then.”

Phil bowed with a perturbed look, waited for the servant to close the door, and let out a heavy sigh. Once he noticed Kusla’s stare, he gave a genial graimce.

“Good thing he didn’t swing a few knives at me.”

“From now on, I’m going to call you Brother Phil.”

Phil blinked a few times, and grinned bashfully.

After that, the duo arrived at the town center, and Phil opened the door leading to the demon’s belly with the key made of bronze. It was about thrice the size of an ordinary house door.

As they had heard, there were stairs once they opened the door, and there was the stench of musk drifting from deep within the darkness.

“We’re not going to suffocate to death here, right?”

“Masses enter during the festival, and there are air vents elsewhere.”

Phil nonchalantly opened the bag of tinder, and brought a wheat stalk to one that was burning. After lighting it up, he turned to Kusla.

“Yes master.”

Kusla responded, and brought the candle holder Phil wanted. The latter inadvertently showed an immature smile.

However, such smiles vanished like smoke as they descended the stairs. The air was so cold, one would worry if the candle flame would extinguish due to it. Amidst this chilling cold, one could smell the stench of animal rot and musk.

“A metal fence?”

Once they finishd descending, he found that the height of this place was barely tall enough for a person to raise his hand, but it was deep. There was a door made of iron rods at the entrance, the rods as thick as Fenesis’ arms.

“A countermeasure in case the white bear tries to escape.”

Phil opened the door with the key, and entered. One he heard such thick rods were used to stop a creature, Kusla understood that the largest bear he had seen paled in comparison.

“I guess something similar occured before. Right now, they add distilled wine in the honey, get it drunk, and then sever its limbs to prevent that from happening.”

Such savagery truly was something befitting the pagans.

However, it seemed they had much determination to deal with the white demon and transport it to this place where the ritual was to be helped. They were undaunted all to obtain its power and knowledge, no matter the hardships.

“And this is the altar.”

Phil placed the candle on a cavity in a wall, saying so,

Even the smallest of all candle lights showed that the altar was tidied cleanly and neatly. While it differed in style from Orthodox, it did not seem Paganistic, but rather, intriguing. He could believe it to be an Orthodx altar with its intricacies still unsorted.

“It was said this altar was left behind by the angels. After investigations, we found the illustration a priest drew eight hundred years ago, with a similar looking one. If the angels came from the promised land of Kudaros, this might be a forgotten ancient Orthodoxy. Perhaps this is one reason why the Knights allowed for the festival to proceed.”

“I see. Where is the place the heart is buried?”

Kusla asked, and Phil pointed.

Right beneath Kusla’s feet.

“…You should have said so earlier.”

“It doesn’t matter that you trampled on it. While the festival is particular about where the heart is to be buried, anything goes after that. It seems they care only about the act of burying, and my guess is that they hope something might grow from it, and that’s why they left this part.”

“Or maybe they intended to dig it up after burying it, and eat it. Like some overly sour fruit, certain fish, or beast organs. Sometimes, it’s part of the process, how to deal with them. What, is it surprising? It was thought in ancient times that the fastest way to obtain the enemies’ power is to ate the hearts of their enemies.”

Such notions had existed for a long time, and putting on the fur was probably of the same thought. Some hunters would put on fur to distract their prey using scent, and also to knew the nimbless of a beasts. Also, did kings not use fur as coat to obtain the mysterious power of the forest beasts?

“…Truly, now that you mention this, I think this is a possibility too. The bear meat is shared, so the liver too can be eaten, I suppose? The South think of bear liver as a treasure. Eh, was it not determined as forbidden in the Church Senate?”

“It’s forbidden, which means there are many who break the rules. There are many matters that become ambiguous along the phase of time however. It is such an important ceremony, but there’s no correct origin to that.”

Phil sighed unhappily at Kusla’s words, seemingly in agreement.

“Yes. While reading through the text, I find that once the emphasis changes slightly, the details will be somewhat lacking. The real crux of this ritual is either blurred by the passage of time, or long lost when Abbas was burned down.”

People lost their homes when old Abbas burned down, and if they wanted the power left behind by the angels, they would be more desperate than the ancestors of the glassmakers living near Yazon. After all, it was a power capable of destorying a town, and obtaining that would ensure that they could conquer the world. It was not hard to imagine the people back then thinking the same. They eked their brains, trying their best to replicate the scene, but as they did not know the correct manner to do so, they ended up being too obsessed.

“Shall we try digging? I think there are a few hearts around.”

Since Phil said so, Kusla knelt on the ground. He touched the earth that was cold as ice, soft as it was loose.

“It’s a cave, and there’s earth beneath it?”

“They paved it.”

“…To replicate the old Abbas?”

“Yes. It was said they held this ceremony in the underground priosn. If the angels wanted to bring out the pain and rage, it might have been treated as an execution ground. From there, I thought of mushrooms that grow from blood and flesh, or insects and bats that feed on corpses…but there are no insects or bats in the cold regions. Some mushrooms are used as tinders, and some glow in the dark. In this sense, it’s somewhat appropriate.”

It was true that most mushrooms would grow in specific areas. Hearing Phil’s guesses, Kusla looked around. It was a cave covered in darkness, the smell of musk permeated the air, giving off a tranquil, gloomy presence.

It appeared there was nothing flammable.

“I visited various caves, and boiled and roasted everything that grew in there, including this place. Nothing useful though. I expanded the thought, tht if I can gather stuff from the plains, I’ll use them.”

“I don’t think there’s something wrong with this thought. It’s said that a human corpse can change the color of a rose’s petal.”

Kusla looked from the ceiling to the ground, and pointed his finger down.

There was some obstruction, but he felt that if he could exert some strength, he could dig the ground up with his bare hands.

And at the same time, he noticed something amiss about its appearance.

“There’s something weird about the surface…is something scattered?”

“It’s ash. Lots of ash scattered during the ritual.”

“Ash?”

“It’s according to tradition, but the source of it has been long forgotten.”

“Probably some purification, or a practical purpose to mask the stench…hmm…is it this?”

He quickly dug up something similar to stone from the ground.

It was not big to begin with, certainly small enough to fit a palm. While it felt hard, it seemed to change shape if he exerted strength. The overly wind dried fruit and the parched remains of the Saints gave such a feeling too.

“It was massive to begin with, but I guess it lost moisture. The temperature won’t rise here, so it’s able to maintain shape and not have maggots grow through.”

“…Are we distilling this? The remains of Life?”

Kusla had a close look at what appeared to be a bear’s heart, and sighed.

“I used to smelt a Saint’s bones. Everyone knew that adding dog bones can improve the smelting process, so I had curiosity in a Saint’s bones.”

“And the results?”

“The same.”

If this heart was thrown in, and something relating to Life can be extracted, a pig’s heart, or even a tick’s might do the same.

Or was it that it could not work unless a speckless virgin was used?

“But what if we replicate the movements of the angels in and out of old Abbas…? If the conditions really match…”

Kusla muttered as he racked his brain. Within it was the legend of the angel that was recently solved, the story of the glass. It was not some outlandish logic as far as he knew of, but it remained a mystery for so long because the combination was unique.

In that case, it seemed this matter might be down to them investigating the wrong thing. The answer might be near, yet became a blind spot.

Kusla thought again, but never had a concrete view of the matter.

“If the answer just shows up, there’s no need to work hard, no?”

“I had assumed it might be different for an alchemist.”

Phil’s expression showed no hint of whether he was joking.

“I am no magician.”

So Phil leered. It seemed that was a joke. Kusla sighed, pretentiously slipped the heart into his waist pocket, and asked Phil,

“There won’t be any issues if I bring it out, right?”

“I have heard a white bear has seven lives, so a missing life should be fine.”

The overarticulation probably was a habit of a reader.

Kusla kept the heart, and muttered the legend.

“The breath of Life the sun brings to the Earth…but the voices of rage and pain…”

Suddenly, he felt the heart in his waist pocket thump.

Before returning to the workshop, he took a detour to the inn to report to the spies. While Phil himself had no intent, it did not mean his superiors had not. The spies were there to observe their actions, but there was no harm in sharing information. In experiments, misunderstandings would give rise to fatal accidents.

However, while returning, Kusla was dressed as such, and the innkeeper shot him a cold look, thinking he was a beggar. Even the spies staying at the inn never recognized him immediately.

“Even we don’t disguise ourselves this much.”

“When I’m no longer an alchemist, let’s just say that I’ll do the same work as you.”

Kusla said, and even the spies had to give a wry smile.

After that, Kusla returned to the workshop, and saw Phil exit. He was holding a stone plate for keeping records, and he said he was to jot down the insufficient materials.

He went to the outside, visiting the furnace, and saw a round bottom and two legs exposed at the furnace. Irine’s upper body was burrowed into the furnace, probably checking the inside or cleaning. One would expect Weyland to be behind, marvelling at her, but unexpectedly, he was focused on chopping the wood.

Kusla went back, opened the door to the workshop, and entered.

Inside there was Fenesis, crushing the ores that were hoarded, preparing for smelting.

“Ah, welcome ba…”

Fenesis said as she lifted her head, before remaining rooted.

“What now?”

Kusla retorted, and Fenesis was all the more flustered as she looked around, before staring at Kusla tentatively once again.

“E-erm…”

Then, Kusla recalled that he was a lowly servant to be directed at a merchant’s whims.

“It’s me.”

Saying that, he shrugged, and Fenesis gave an awkward chuckle. So Kusla thought that if the disguise worked so well, he could show Irine and Weyland, and it might be amusing.

However, it seemed Fenesis’ smile froze not simply because of Kusla’s appearance.

“And…what happened?”

Have you found fragments of Hell in the demon’s belly?

Kusla glanced aside at Fenesis, and silently pulled out something from his pocket, putting it on the long table.

“This is?”

“A heart.”

Fenesis backtracked in fear.

“It’s nothing rare though. You can go to a butcher and ask. Pork or chicken heart are pretty good. The chewiness once they’re roasted is really something.”

These two things are not related, so Fenesis gave a reproaching look. Once she saw the black, shriveled heart resembling rotting wood on the table, she looked a little surprised.

“…Will this give rise to a great fire?”

“We’ll know by throwing it into the fire…but I guess not. It’s just an ordinary heart. When we roast a chicken’s heart in a kitchen, it doesn’t explode, right?”

Fenesis gave a lethargic sigh, probably out of relief, or perhaps of a different reason.

However, as he saw how she was looking at this heart, Kusla pondered about something different.

The long pause was due to him choosing his words.

“Say, are you fine?”

“Eh? Ah, th-this is not going to terrify me much! I did cut lamb and veal on my journey!”

She yapped unhappily.

Kusla was not laughing.

“I’m not referring to this. We might be getting close to something you’re not willing to approach.”

Once he went straight to the point, Fenesis looked enlightened.

She then grabbed her apron, put together her hands that were dirtied by the ores, rubbed them, and lowered her head slightly, saying,

“I am fine…”

She lifted her head, giving an unexpectedly cheery smile.

“I may be…pushing myself, but I am really fine. I do find it strange.”

Perhaps the cursed people were condemned simply because their appearances caused people to misunderstand, to interpret them maliciously. However, all hopes of that vanished when she heard of Abbas’ destruction.

Perhaps there were other towns destroyed just like Abbas, and nobody knew of them. Of course, the cursed people could not all be kind angels, and there were probably some who took the technology for evil. Perhaps with the passages of time, some areas had long forgotten what the cursed people did, but despite that, people had an impression of them as dangerous people.

Such an impression might be reflected in the descendents, who had lost the technology. One could imagine the sinners amongst her ancestors.

However, Fenesis was not overwhelmed by this, and she rolled her sleeve, revealing her slender arm, ruggedly working on what she could do.

“More importantly, are you not going to wash your head and face? There is hot water used to melt snow here.”

Fenesis observed Kusla’s face again, giggling.

Kusla was not concerned about his attire, but his head was resembling a bird’s nest, and it troubled him.

“I’ll be washing some ores soon. I can give you a wash.”

“…Don’t associate my head with ores.”

“How obstinate you are. That is why I think there is not much difference.”

Fenesis gleefully reeled her neck in.

“So are you saying I’m a blockhead?”

Fenesis was beaming as though she had received a present she yearned for, and turned to return into the workshop. Kusla felt it was foolish, but once he knew Fenesis was not as dejected as he had assumed, he was relieved.

And so, with Fenesis pouring water at the trough, Kusla washed his head vigorously, thinking it would be great if there was soap. After the hot water soak however, most of the sand and egg white was washed away. He finally gave his face a wash, messily wiped off the water with his bare hands, only for a cloth to cover his head from behind.

“You are no longer a child. Time to wipe your hair thoroughly. Here, do not move.”

He reached for the cloth to show that he would wipe his hair, but Fenesis stopped him. Naturally, he could have ignored her, but for some reason, he did not. Thus, he sat on the chair, with someone behind him; given his past experiences, it was either intimidation, or moments before he was to be hanged.

The crude cloth could not absorb much water, and it merely caused him pain. However, it was nostalgic. He thought of the ropes, and recalled his childhood memories, before he knew what an alchemist was.

“About that.”

While he was immersed in his thoughts, Fenesis’ voice reached his ears, reeling him back in.

“I am really fine.”

As his head was completely covered, he could not see the expression she made.

While she sounded tough, it was at such moments that she would show the wiles of a woman.

Beneath the woollen cloth, he did not look back, for he had a feeling she hoped he would.

“I can somewhat assume the outcome, that it so happens to be the case. While this shows there is a reason for our cursed bloodline, I am relieved in some sense.”

“Relieved?”

The moment Kusla asked, there was another woollen cloth on him, or so he assumed, but in fact, it was Fenesis embracing him from behind, along with the cloth.

“Yes, relieved.”

The slender arms wrapped around his neck, but he had a feeling it was not accidental. Probably deliberate.

“I have met something thoroughly eccentric. Even in the face of a person whose bloodline was hated, despised, he remained interested.”

Surely Fenesis said so just to make him laugh. In fact, Kusla felt that he should be laughing it off.

But he could not. In a barbaric manner, he grabbed the arms that were wrapped around his neck, stood up, and turned around.

“Ah, no…”

Fenesis’ resistance was probably to prevent him from seeing her crying face. Without taking a big breath, Kusla ripped off the cloth off his head, and slapped it onto her head. He then hugged her as though he was going to abduct her.

What was the fate this little, slender body had to bear?

Kusla never believed in God, and never agitatedly cursed Him, for he knew it would be akin to yelling at rocks.

But at this point, he finally felt some feeling he had not experienced in a long while.

It was no rage however, but a mere thanks. Perhaps he was some eccentric after all

“It’ll be trouble if the experiment subject is someone who scurries around. It’s great for me if she has nowhere to down.”

He lifted the cloth to peek slightly, and Fenesis was looking up at him with tears, her lips pouting.

She kept trying to put on a facade, but she probably cried because her heart was filled with anxiety and pain. Kusla finally smiled once he saw her like this, he smiled. The smile contained some self-depreciation of his own eccentricity, it seemed.

“It’s impressive that you never cried before Phil.”

He wiped the tears with his thumb, and Fenesis stared at him quietly with her large eyes. She looked a little unhappy, probably because to Kusla, she was kicking up a tantrum, that if he wanted to praise her, he should give her a reward.

Kusla bent over, and snuck himself into the woollen cloth covering her head. Once all the ingredients were added, everything else would come to a boil.

It was right at this moment that a voice rang.

“Ul, is the water boiling?”

Fenesis did not show panic. Through the cloth, it was Irine they heard, who seemed taken aback as she teetered a few steps, stopped, and hastily left.

They chuckled giddily beneath the cloth.

“You learned one or two bad things there.”

“…I do not know what you are saying.”

She answered with a sulk, probably because the maiden was embarrassed.

Kusla coughed twice, and poked ups head out from the cloth. Fenesis reluctantly removed it, and cautiously folded it as though it was some memory.

“I guess this is everyday life for us if we have a workshop?”

Kusla nonchalantly blurted out what he was thinking. Fenesis looked up at him in shock, and then her smile radiated.

“I suppose every day will be delightful.”

Kusla looked down at her, and her smile was too dazzling to the alchemist, so much so that his lips had to curl.

However, it seemed the fortune was more than he expected, for alchemists could turn lead into gold. In other words, the godly technology shall charge the dark past of the curse people into a bright future, and that would be why he was an alchemist.

“Maybe there’ll be truths that’ll cause you to suffer, but you need to use it as the motivation to grab the future.”

Fenesis grabbed firmly the folded cloth, and nodded with a determined smile.

“Speaking of which, is not the maiden Irine asking for water?”

“Ah, yes.”

Fenesis answered, and hurriedly went to the water, only to abruptly stop.

“What is it?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis looked up with her knowledgeable, serious green eyes.

“I have something to inform you. While tapping at the rocks, I thought of lots of things, and recalled something similar to the demon’s belly…a ritual held within.”

“What is it?”

She closed her eyes, remained silent for a moment, seeming sorting her thoughts out before she answered,

“A salt field.”

The unexpected words left him confused. The salt field was a crater dug from the ground, with sea water irrigated in, the water evaporated to extract the salt. There were many geographical limits to them; there has to be little rain, and had to be established as a seaside region with lots of winds. Thus Kusla, who was never able to travel freely, never witnessed it.

“It’s common in the desert.”

“Does it have anything to do with the Life of the earth? No, the Bible did mention large tracts of salt…earth…saltiness…”

Kusla mumbled these words repeatedly, delving into the sea of knowledge. Speaking of which, it seemed Phil said he tried everything he could gather from the earth. But it seemed something was amiss

What was it?

Feeling anxious, he scratched his head repeatedly. Then, Fenesis said,

“I was once asked to offer blood to the salt fields.”

“Huh?”

Kusla’s attention was drawn back from his thoughts as he stared at her wide eyed.

“This is what it means, I believe, the effect of a speckless virgin…”

Fenesis said somewhat bashfully, but Kusla did not care.

“Drip the blood in? Why? For what reason?”

“I am not too sure about the details, but it seems that when the sea water can become thicker, some iron will be added. It’s said that the color of the sea water will change, and the impurities giving off a serious stench will sink and harden as dirt, giving rise to richer salt water. It seemed someone noticed the change when something of iron fell in accidentally. Then…”

“They tried various things.”

Based on common experiences and discoveries. The reason it was terrifying was because it used fresh blood.

“So they tried blood, with has the scent of iron.”

“Yes. Then it seemed it was no different from iron itself. Even the proportions were measured. A drop of blood for a thousand and five hundred salt water.”

Since it was so precise, it appeared it was no prayer nor curse, but a technology gained through experience and observation.

“Hm, so what are you trying to say? What has this got to do with the demon’s belly? The heart used for the ritual is like blood and iron, can be interchanged for something else?”

Kusla diverted his eyes to the dried flesh on the long table, but Fenesis shook her head.

Her response left him anxious, and while he was feeling doubtful.

“No, I am thinking there might be something similar to the salt fields.”

“What…do you…”

Mean? Before he could finish those words, the sight of the demon belly within awoke in his mind.

What if he was thinking in the wrong perspective? Humans or animals would bury things deep under to preserve them. Looking at the situation however, it did not seem the heart was buried to pray for the white bear’s revivial.In other words, it was to change. Of all the animals who would store their food in the forest, some understood that leaving their stored food untouched would lead to them being turned to wine. Would burying the heart, or some other hearts, be a wish for it to change in some where? if they cared not for what they buried, was it because they knew there would be no change?

In that case, the last possibility was to bury as a medium, hoping that whatever buried in the ground would act as fertilizer. Phil had suspected this to be the case.

But what if it was not for these purposes?

Phil said that he gathered everything he could from the earth, but was it truly so? Think of the glassmakers? There were such foolish blind spots on this world.

In other words.

In other words, there was one answer.

“Is it a salt field?”

Fenesis widened her eyes, nodding vigorously.

“Y-yes. I did think there would be organs buried there, probably as fertilizer, but it does not seem to be the case.”

“So you thought it might be something that causes the land to change?”

It so happened to be similar to the salt fields.

To grant lots of salt.

“I really have to thank God for making sure you have nowhere to go.”

Kusla said as he stared at her

“…Wh-what are you saying?”

The harsh memories, along with the notion that he might be up to mischief, had her show a wary look, but Kusla merely laughed it off.

“Didn’t I say that I don’t have such freedom? There’s a bias to what I know. Thanks to you, I have reinforced a world I have never seen.”

Fenesis puffed her cheeks, looking as though she was teased once again. Even Kusla understood however that she was embarrassed.

“B-but…you are lacking in cautious and courtesy. How long will it take for you to make up for it?”

Right when Kusla was about to nod away, wait, he racked his memories.

“These words are truly correct.”

“Why is that?”

She asked defenselessly.

“Think. Every time, I feel like I’m forced by you to act. It’s the same now, same at Yazon, and same at Kazan…hey, you’re the callous one—”

Kusla never could finish his words, for Fenesis threw the cloth at him, her face beetroot.

“Y-yo-you truly are…”

Kusla placed aside the cloth thrown at him, and shrugged.

“I think I once said that I don’t hate how you’re always persist.”

At that moment, her face went so red, her eyes were teary, her expression clearly accusing him of being sly. However, she did not choose to run away.

Instead, she stormed towards him, as though her legs were shackled, grabbed the cloth with her face looking aside, quickly covering her head, and trudged into the next room with heavy footsteps.

“?”

Kusla grabbed his head, and gave pursuit. She, with the cloth wrapped around her head, knelt by the cupboard. Perhaps she had deluded herself into thinking she was a pious, pure girl. Reality however remained cruel, so Kusla nonchalantly concluded. Suddenly, he could hear the workshop door slammed aside. He went over, and saw that it was Phil who went to prepare the materials

“Whoo, goodness me, they’re always yapping. Always asking what’s the point of that. I already said that’s not the point!”

Here too was a reckless fool. He was occasionally helpful to alchemists or clergymen, but useless in others

But it did not seem so.

The world was not that simple.

“Good work.”

“Ah, not really. Anyway, do you have any idea of the demon belly? I’m thinking if I should flip through the books.”

“Actually, I have something to ask of you.”

“Heh?”

“Get some remains of the demon’s belly.”

Dumbfounded, Phil stared back at Kusla.

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