[Magdala V7] Act 3

They poured the pitch black earth, dark as darkness, into a dolium, and water into it. Their experiments had confirmed that the sun fragment obtained from the glassmaker could dissolve in water.

They stirred a little, waited a moment for the sediments to sink, and transferred the fluids atop into a different vessel. The fluids were murky, and had to be filtrated through cloth, followed thrice through paper made of shredded cloth. Once it was cleared, they brought it over the fire, and whatever they wanted would follow the steam outside, but for the time being, they simply brewed and have a look.

Thuk, thuk, there were little sounds from the terracotta plates in the vessel. The impure water and highly adhesive fluids would suddenly sputter when boiling, and the terracotta pieces were meant to prevent that from happening.

Such little discoveries were the results of past people trying and failing over and over again.

“…There’s something like salt.”

The amount of water lessened as it boiled, and there was a white string by the side of the fluid, like a stain on a cloth. It resembled a crystal of salt.

Kusla took a knife, gently cut along the line, and then reached the blade into the fire tongue.

“Ah!”

Irine blurted out.

There was a faint purple in the fire.

“Are…we correct~?”

Even Weyland muttered with disbelief.

“I’m not…really confident …”

But was it truly a coincidence? Phil, who helped obtain the earth, saw the water poured into the earth, looking dumbfounded, clearly showing that he missed the possibility of the earth actually having something.

And they obtained a powder with the characteristics of the sun fragment.

Kusla saw the remaining earth, saying,

“We need to gather some, along with earth. See if we can gather the same items. If we can, there’s no need to carry out the bombastic ritual in the demon’s belly.”

“You’re right.”

Phil too nodded silently, intending to hurry to the next step, only for Irine to interrupt,

“Eh, what do I do then? Do we need the distillation tools? ”

“Keep working. If this powder is something completely unknown, we’ll need them.”

They obtained too little from the glassmakers, and had to give up. But if they could certain a certain amount, he would have to try mixing, melting, roasting, cooling, and distilling them, and investigate them properly.

“I-I understand.”

Irine nodded, looking a little flustered, before returning to the furnace. She probably assumed there would not be much progress if she remained at this place.

“Now then, I’ll need ten…no, twenty vessels. Then, I need books detailing salt fields, or the knowledge of people who worked at salt fields. Some firewood for cooking, ink and paper for recording, also terracotta tools for filtration. Also…”

“W-wait a moment! I can’t keep up!”

Phil hollered as he ruffled his coat, pulling out a stack of paper and pencil inserted at his belt. He really was resembling a merchant living a simple life.

“Eh…vessels, salt related…then paper, terracotta tools for filtration. Paper or mesh, or a skin like those used for wines?”

“I guess so. If the purity will be affected, we’ll have to find a way to titrate them.”

“In that case, terracotta that can withstand heat will be suitable. Mudwater can be made drinkable.”

“Add that in then.”

“Well…there are so many guilds in town. If we ask them all, we should be able to obtain them.”

Phil hastily wrote down what was needed, raised the paper high, narrowed his eyes, and smiled gaudily.

“I have to ask your Knights to take care of the Jedeel Guild. If all these happened and nothing is obtained, the guild will lash out at me.”

“And now you’re saying so. It’s not your first time getting scolded anyway.”

Kusla refuted, and Phil chuckled like one who was seen through. He laughed like a youngsters, and one would not imagine him being a generation older at least.

“I don’t mind you considering your position like a merchant, but nobody can imagine the benefits when things are going well. It’s pointless to think much.”

“I understand. We should put all our wealth on this scale. If it really balances, we can look into the secrets of this world.”

Kusla felt peeved for Phil never said anything about grasping the world. He was an alchemist seeking the mysteries of the world, but it seemed he lost to Phil in curiosity.

“Hmph. What about the important earth from the demon’s belly? Can we move out?”

“Not all…but I’ll try by saying that it’s for the festival. I got good news from the guild. It seemed the white demon was captured.”

It was said to be a white bear used for the festival’s ritual, one whose existence was seemingly otherworldly.

Typically, this news would pique his interest, but he had important things to handle.

“Anything goes. Make haste, and the more the better.”

“Understood.”

Phil said, and hastily left the workshop.

“Now then…”

Kusla rubbed his hands, looking down at the vessel full of sun fragment powder and earth from the demon’s belly, saying,

“We’re starting to act like alchemists.”

Hearing that, Weyland was gobsmacked, while Fenesis nodded with a serious look.

The experiment was similar to one being in a pitch dark room, seeking out the items with one’s own hands.

It was possible to encounter something that would easily break, or a risk of circling around the same place. One had to wonder if the room was wide or cramped, and the real important things might be within inches, only that one might be careless and wander somewhere else.

While knowledge would play the role of a light tower, the presence of light would cause one to seek those within the light.

Thus, they had to discard all bias, and test all the ideas they had.

Such was the real essence of experiments, the only way to approach here.

“Hey, that’s the earth dug from nearly, it’s used as a control. Don’t mix them up! Write down on the vessel how much ash is added! Also, once done, wash all the tools!”

There was a long row of vessels on the long table, and Kusla gave one instruction after another. Scurrying along with his commands were naturally Fenesis, and the implicated Phil.

Weyland was not being slick tongued like before, as he was building a simple furnace outside the workshop using sun baked bricks. He set a fire, adjusted the flames, and boiled the fluid. Just like distilling wine, the fluids contained different materials, and the boiling points would differ. Thus, he would have to identify them. Also, he placed the analyzed powder on the fire, contrasting the change in colors of the flames.

He, usually the frivolous one, would suddenly become silent whenever real work down, so restrained even a priest would run away in shame. The way he observed the flame colors and recorded on the paper in his hands was like a poet trying to write.

“I heard they’ll scatter the ash in the ritual, so I was suspicious. It changes because of the ash.”

Kusla kept changing every condition he could think of as he made the fluids, taking time to check on Weyland, and once he saw the results on the paper, he said,

“The more ash there is, the thicker the purple. But there’s a limit to this. It’s not as rich as the sun fragment we got from the glassmakers.”

Weyland never dragged his voice, and spoke as though he was a different person.

“So, assuming the sun fragment is purely a crystal, there’s a limit to how many sun fragments we can form by adding ash into the mixture.”

Weyland nodded.

“Probably. But you can see that there’s some orange in the purple, so there’s impurities. What’s buried is a liver, probably not some bones.”

“If it’s something that can be filtrated, we can use the fluid in the pot to check. It’ll take a night for it to leak out, so let’s wait until the next morning. If it’s something removable by adding something else…we’ll try something similar to wine.”

“Egg whites, lime and lead.”

“Phil’s going to look annoyed again.”

Kusla’s cheekish words garnered no response from Weyland, and Kusla was not intending to make Weyland laugh in the first place.

There were too many things to do.

However, it was a feeling experienced after such a long time. Not too long ago, he was deported to workshop on the frontlines, and met Weyland, who at this point was before him, along with a strange brat. The water wheel began to move, the gears began to spin, starting a strange water, which he drifted along with till this place.

Not everything in the process was pleasant, but he had reaped.

In any case, the familiarity he felt after all was the process of alchemy as he sought something.

“What about Irine? She’s not pouting alone now, right?”

Kusla said, and Weyland finally smiled.

Weyland lifted his chin, and Kusla looked over. Irine was at a furnace away from the workshop, lifting her dress as she stomped on the large bellows in a crude manner, blowing the air in.

“It seems she has completely fallen for the burning sight of the furnace~.”

“She’s probbably a weird one too.”

“Her looking competely worn out really resembles little Ul~.”

“Whatever. I’m leaving this to you.”

Kusla shrugged, patted Weyland on the shoulder, and intended to return to the workshop.

But he stopped, for he noticed Weyland staring intently at the latter’s own shoulder.

“What? Does it hurt?”

“…No.”

Weyland answered, and stared at Kusla like a perturbed believer who had witnessed a miracle.

“Were we on such good terms to begin with?”

Upon hearing that, Kusla too looked at his hand. Truly, this hand was either flexing a fist, or wielding a weapon harder than that when facing Weyland. Even after they reunited, he was occasionally infuriated. Nevertheless, it had been many years, and the impulses to murder were long gone.

However, even he would think they were not friendly enough to pat each other on the shoulder and encourage each other for the good work they did.

“…Even iron will rust.”

“Hee hee. Can’t you come up with a better metaphor? I don’t thinkm this is a bad change~.”

Back when Irine asked if they were on good terms, Kusla refuted without hesitation. Even now, his answer would be the same.

Thus, he did not think it was as intimate as the world friend would imply.

“Feels like how water and oil don’t mix to begin with, yet with egg batted with them.”

“Heh.”

Weyland guffawed, and Kusla instinctively scowled, but it seemed Weyland was laughing at himself.

For his eyes had drifted afar, sighing as he said.

“Probably because I haven’t been fishing for women recently.”

He lowered his eyebrows with worry, looking at Kusla.

“The air here makes me happy.”

“Huh?”

Kusla wanted to sneer, but could not. They were facing each other, but they could not look at each other naturally in the eyes. Perhaps it was reconciliation between brats many years after their failed scuffles.

“The Truth remains the Truth no matter which angle you look at it.”

For a moment, Weyland widened his eyes, and was dumbfounded.

“You’re right.~”

“Hmph.”

Having finally snorted properly this time, Kusla pointed at the vessel atop the fire, turning away.

“Watch the fire. The experiment’s getting ruined.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to~?”

“A damned fellow.”

Upon saying that, he returned to the workshop.

Happy, he says?

“Damn you.”

It seemed Kusla had not matured enough to answer ‘me too’.

By the time the sun set, they had lots of discoveries.

As of this point, the salt substance obtained from the earth of the demon valley had a similar nature to the sun fragment. By adding ash, they could harvest a lot more, but after a certain amount, no matter how they tried, the amount they got would not change. Also, adding the ash would reduce the impurities. Typical earth had no similar substance, and they discovered that adding anything other than ash would not cause change.

If it was a sun fragment, perhaps it would be akin to mixing blood into a salt field, a by-product of burying the liver of the white bear? Was there anything else that could work as a substitute? They were unsure thus far.

Also, Phil sought out the people who worked at the salt fields, and inquired how to effectively produce them. Thus, they decided to imitate that method. First, they washed the earth using ordinary water. Then, they used the washed water to wash new earth, ensuring that the salt would dissolve in the water until the water could not hold it anymore. A similar method was used to extract lead from gold. The crux of making things efficient was to increase the purity of the extracted item, but the real discovery would await them the following day.

It was the next morning, after they spent the night sleeping at the workshop instead of returning to the inn.

“…We have crystals.”

The fluids on the little vessels naturally evaporated, leaving crystals behind. While there were some edges, it was a round arch, like an imperfect crystal, resembling what he had received from the glassmaker.

“What? So we can extract them without stewing~.”

“Bu…there’s some color.”

The crystals were slightly brown, a little faint.

“Looks like this can be improved. Look~.”

Weyland pointed at the terracotta pot and the tray of water.

A stewing point could isolate various impurities and release only water. Once the seeping fluids vaporized, there would be clean white crystals left on the receiving tray, and left in the pot would be brown crystals.

“Now to check if it’s the sun fragment…”

“Ensure that you do not destroy this town because of the experiment~.”

Weyland said half-jokingly, but Irine, who had just woken up, looked petrified.

“The sun fragment by itself won’t burn. Probably need to add something.”

“Like iron?”

“Eh?”

Reacting to these words was the blacksmith Irine.

“What? You don’t know about this, little Irine?”

“Didn’t I tell you not to add the ‘little’! This isn’t the important part. The iron will burn, you know? Mix…mix what? Oil?”

She sputtered, probably because she knew she would be in charge of everything related.

However, an alchemist would experiment in combinations a typical blacksmith would not imagine.

“Shall we have a try now?”

Fenesis was staring blankly at the crystals formed by evaporation, and lifted her head upon hearing Kusla beckon for her.

“Get the sulfur and the iron rod.”

“Y-yes ”

It seemed she had finished affirming where the items were placed last night, and might have known any possible escape route in case the enemies barged in. Compared to her initial appearance, many strides of progress were made.

“Also, do you have a steel shaving knife?”

This question was posed to Irine, displeased that there were some iron characteristics she knew not of.

“Probably in the toolbox…they have them all neatly arranged.”

Phil would have given a proud look if he was present, but he had returned to the guild the previous night for investigative purposes.

Nevertheless, Irine remained glum.

“It’s not a joke to make fun of me now, right?”

“Who’s going to do so? Well, it’s no wonder you don’t know. Sulfur isn’t popular in a blacksmith workshop after all. They’re always wondering how to extract sulfur from metals after all.”

Blacksmiths, and others like silver craftsmen, hated sulfur. Experience had taught that silver would rust because of sulfur.

“I’m going to roll iron powder with sulfur, and set it on fire.”

Kusla continued to explain to a skeptical Irine.

“Seeing once is better than hearing a hundred rumors.”

So he took and shaver for the iron rod, crumbled the sulfur and mixed it with the iron powder, stirred and left the mixture on the iron plate, and took a wooden stick with a lit flame at its end. The process was not difficult.

But the results were dramatic.

The place that started to react became red and hot, and smoke began to rise. It seemed there was some change in reaction, like grape skin being peeled off, but the burned parts remained black.

In the blink of an eye, the iron plates, being the last to bend, let out a sharp sound.

“The iron powder…melted…and coagulated?”

“It’s sticking onto the plate. We should have used wooden ones~.”

A black, crude metal was sticking to the plate. There were still little traces of yellow sulfur, probably because it was not stirred properly.

“The interesting thing about this reaction is that there won’t be any reaction just by stirring them. Without a fire to trigger, it won’t proceed to the next stage.”

“Despite that, it doesn’t mean the sun fragment will become a real sun once some compositions were mixed in~.”

Weyland chimed in mischievously, but Kusla nodded with a serious look.

“Of course, don’t approach the sun fragment while holding anything strange. Remember this, if you mix something in, there’ll be an unimaginable result.”

Irine and Fenesis, having nearly tumbled over after seeing the reactions between sulfur and iron, nodded firmly. The best way to teach an apprentice is for them to witness.

“So Kusla, what are we starting with~?”

Weyland asked, and Kusla looked over at the table, shrugging,

“Sulfur.”

O Lord, save us. Irine muttered.

The sun had risen completely, and there was a little blue in the sky. The weather was fine, and even the wind felt warm. While Kusla was not attracted to this mild weather, once he exited and remained still, he could hear the sounds of wood and earth being moved, along with melodies. It seemed the preparations were proceeding steadily, and that the gloomy mood they felt on first arrival was a lie.

One would have mistaken the festival preparations to be a hoax, but it was simply because they could not proceed without capturing the important cast member, the white bear. Thus, it was said that they would begin preparations formally once they had captured one. Phil said this town was lacking vigor as the Knights had attacked.

So Kusla recalled what they had talked about as he sat outside the workshop, basking under the sun.

“You sure are acting spoiled.”

Irine, who left the workshop to retrieve something, was dripping with sweat as she shot him a cold look,

“I am the young lord of a great guild after all.”

“Huh?”

Irine had finished analyzing the molten metal Phil had provided, and was intending to produce an iron plate. She sneered in a deliberate condescending manner. A blacksmith had to keep moving, and their philosophy was that if they had time to think, they should swing the hammer. As an alchemist however, acting on first notion would put Kusla in trouble.

“Sulfur, tartaric, iron powder, lead, bronze, mirdasang, realgar, egg shells, vinegar, animal fat, oil, wine, ash, fermented powder, honey vinegar, hemp, cotton, wood, charcoal, salt, bones…pig intestines…we tried them all…what else is there…”

Kusla shook his legs casually, pondering again. Weyland exited the workshop, appearing to have just woken up, muttering away as he scratched his head.

They mixed everything that could think of that were similar to the sun fragment, and lit them up, only for the reactions to be lacking. The most hopeful were charcoal and sulfur, and while they did lt and vaporize when reacting with the sun fragment, the heat produced was not as pronounced as mixing sulfur and iron powder. Also, there was a really stinging stench when using charcoal..

“Blood.”

Kusla suggested, only for Weyland to shrug.

“Tried that already~.”

And then, he tilted his head slightly in a pondering manner.

“Or is it not my blood? If it’s little Ul…ah, but traditionally, it’s pointless if it’s not a pure girl~.”

Weyland’s eyes deliberately fell upon Kusla, who leaned back into his chair, answering callously,

“We’ll have to look at what’s our definition of purity.”

“Oh? Hehehehehe…~”

Weyland made a lewd giggle, and it happened Irine exited with a bucket full of water. How crude, so she said before heading off to the furnace.

“Little Irine might be fine too~.”

“I don’t know if she’s pure, but she’s definitely innocent at heart.”

Weyland guffawed quietly, and this time, it was Fenesis who exited the workshop. She was managing lots of plates that were in the workshop, and had to observe and understand the reactions of whatever was added. Also, whatever that seemed not to react might change after a certain period of time. Thus, she had to lay them all over the workshop, and naturally had to remember whatever was placed at which locations. Kusla and Weyland would slowly add more of the same items, so it was also her responsibility to wash them until they could no longer be used. She also had to extract the sun fragments from the earth smuggled out of the demon belly by Phil. Once noon was over, she was clearly weary.

“I…washed the plates…”

Once she left the workshop, it seemed her eyes were stinging, probably because they had been working for as long as the plates were. She could not endure the northern, winter sun, and blinked as she grimaced, turning away from the stinging sunlight.

“Anyway, we’re going along with charcoal and sulfur now, right?”

“The two reactions are pretty interesting, like sugar lit aflame.”

Sugar would froth and become liquid when roasted over a fire, before turning into soot. This experiment used the most expensive of all ingredients, while the mixture of charcoal, sulfur and the sun fragment would give rise to similar characteristics, as though a new fluid would be created..

“if only we can get things burning with a boom.”

“Hm…or there is another possibility. What we have isn’t the sun fragment.”

“I really don’t want to think so…”

It was common in alchemy for many to obtain unexpected results, and then realize they were investigating in a completely wrong manner. Some had described the situation to be of a person blindfolded, with thick deer gloves on, asked to determine the gender of a person in heavy metal armor. It would be impossible to determine if the body shape was not particularly obvious.

Also, anyone fondling around aimlessly would be beaten up. It was the same situation in alchemy.

“Oh yes. What about the book merchant?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis reeled her chin with a gaudy look.

“He kept reading a book before the plate, and now is remaining still like a tortoise, withdrawn on the floor …”

It seemed he was in a similar state. Phil, who had been investigating at the merchant guild all night, learned of the contents of the crystal once he arrived in the workshop, and went back and forth between the workshop and the demon’s belly. He probably was seeking out such blind spots in seemingly unrelated, completely ignored, and find if gems were hidden within them.

“Do you have any thoughts on it?”

“Eh? M-me?”

Fenesis looked frantic, but Kusla did not ask just for a sly dig in the heat of the moment.

“You know what Weyland and I don’t. Something similar happened with the glassmakers. An outsider can have a better view of this.”

We are being serious here. It seemed Fenesis understood Kusla’s intent as she started to think
.
However, it seemed she noticed it was a salt field merely out of coincidence.

It was not something she could answer upon being asked, and she was wincing increasingly.

“Hm, I’m not hoping for you to give me an answer no matter what. If if you have something you’re concerned with, tell me.”

“Yes, yes.”

Fenesis dropped her shoulders dejectedly.

“There’s no need to be so hasty.”

Kusla gave a little wry look, and stood up from the chair.

“We have lots of time.”

Upon saying so, he intended to return to the workshop, only to notice Fenesis staring at him blankly. On a closer look, even Weyland was shocked.

“What?”

Kusla asked in annoyance, while Weyland and Fenesis exchanged looks.

For some reason, this reaction had been becoming frequent.

“No, we never expected you of all people saying so, Kusla~.”

“Huh?”

Skeptical about Weyland’s explanation, Kusla looked towards Fenesis.

Fenesis reined in her chin tentatively, her eyes looking up, looking hesitant before she said,

“It feels like you were always pursued by something…”

The restless alchemist.

He never slept, for he had no time to. He had no time to, for the destination was so far away.

So, in other words?

With this question posed before him, Kusla could only remain rooted.

It was not a pretty blue, but the cloudless skies of the North were rather clear, suitable for work. The town was neither too big nor small, and the workshop was distant from the town center, their freedoms unrestricted by the vexing rules. There were ample materials and tools, and there was much conveniences.

More importantly,

He glanced aside, and found Irine fighting alone at a distance before the furnace, pulling the already thinned iron plates. The knowledgeable book merchant was groaning in the workshop. The alchemist before him was one he knew since apprenticeship, of comparable skills. They were all displaying their skills, seeking the riveting technology…

Kusla suddenly recalled the words of a wandering poet who drank in a bar with him.

The people hurrying on the streets had their destinations. The obstructing lovers slowly taking their time would cause such people to be wondering why they were slow. However, it was not that the woman was slow, or that the man was lovestruck. They were slow, for they were not headed to their destination. Their objective was to be with each other, there was nowhere else they needed to be, and thus they were slow. The poet finally chuckled, they are different from you..

Back then, Kusla found it damning, but he did understand the logic behind it, so his impression was that he treated the poet to a mug.

But perhaps he should have treated the poet to a few more drinks.

These words seemed to have born some truth.

Where else would he need to go?

He sought a technology that could conquer the world, capable of leveling an entire town. It was interesting, overly, so. Why was it that the cursed people had such technology, but were never able to reside properly in a town?

Was it not because they were never capable of concocting such an air?

Would the answer be amongst them?

Kusla pondered, only to sense some dizziness. Impossible, no? He was in disbelief..

He had already boasted his objective. He could kill himself, and yet be satisfied once he realized he obtained the secret to alchemy. He could sense half of what he was lacking was filled.

There was no need to be anxious. There was lots of time.

While it was a comforting, soothing feeling, there was a strong sense of loneliness accompanying it.

Is there adventure over? Has the important mystery been solved?

He wanted to unravel the mysteries he had been fighting, but they were at a completely different place from where he was facing. They were at a place he assumed was unneeded, meaningless, a tripping stone.

Fenesis looked worried, a little tentative as she teetered towards a rooted Kusla. The latter did not look away, staring at her until her pearly white hands touched his. They were exceptionally cold, probably because she had just washed the plates.

However, the feeling was soft, especially when he exerted strength, he would be embraced tightly like an echo.

Till this point, no matter how he cursed at this world, she showed no response at all.

“A-are you fine?”

Kusla looked back at Fenesis’ green eyes, blinked his eyes, closed them, and looked up at the sky.

He then took a deep breath, exhaling a wry smile.

“Something like God’s revelation.”

“Eh?”

“That’s what I can believe right now.”

Looking perturbed, Fenesis looked back at Weyland, who pursed his lips and shrugged.

“Nothing. It’s about myself.”

While Fenesis was looking flustered, he reached his hand out for her hand, rubbing it over and over again.

“Let’s go look for the Truth in the workshop.”

They might have discovered the Truth outside the workshop.

But Kusla never mentioned this, and perhaps it was for this reason that his lips curled into a wry smile.

The charcoal and sulfur were separately mixed into the sun fragments, and after observation, they noticed it formed certain things, fluids. They tried adding water, but the results were not ideal.

“So we’re on a wild goose chase…”

“Hm…”

Kusla folded his arms, looking down at the roasted iron metal that had changed colors.

There was a long row of plates that had changed visibly on the long table.

Each of them showed a little, but never their true self, and hid themselves again.

Or perhaps such a reaction had nothing to do with the angel’s legend?

So Kusla thought, only to see Fenesis working silently, so he said,

“Did it vaporize?”

“Hm?”

“Like Stibnite.”

Kusla was referring to a mineral containing zinc. He once demonstrated to Fenesis what alchemy was by splitting the ingredients of bronze, one of them being zinc. The method was different from iron in that they had to hammer the stibnite ores to crumbs, put them in a cauldron, and heat it. The zinc would then become gaseous due to the high temperatures, floating into the air. They would then capture it, let it condense, and harvest.

If the phenomenon was similar to that of zinc, it would explain why they could not interpret the changes after the plates were heated. Whenever they added charcoal, there would be a foul stench and a faint colored smoke.

“That’s why we need a distillation tool.”

“What about Irine?”

“I’ll have a look.”

Phil, who was helping Fenesis and flipping through text from time to time, left the workshop.

And when he returned, he appeared to be on the verge of tears.

“She’s hammering the iron with a scary look…”

“If she’s completely focused, maybe we should wait until later?”

“Little Irine’s really amazing. She’s doing it all alone~.”

Weyland’s reaction was beyond concern. He was completely bewildered.

“Shall we wait for the tools to be completed? The earth in the demon’s belly isn’t there to be taken forever.”

“I-I guess so. I’ll be doubted the way I keep entering and leaving…the preparations of the festival is in full swing. I’ll be really grateful if we can cut down on the sun fragments used.”

“Cut down…these words are unfamiliar to us alchemists when we’re used to expending them at will~.”

“But we do have to settle the problem about the earth.”

Weyland’s words had Kusla sighing in agreement.

If what they obtained from that land was the sun fragment, then if they really replicated the heinous technology left behind by the angels, it would be a pity if they could not obtain the raw materials. The asphalt fuel for the dragon flamethrowers was an established one, and they knew where and how to obtain.

The only method to produce the sun fragment thus far was to gather the earth with the bear liver. They did not know if a bear organ could be used, whether it had to be underground, whether any place could work, whether the cold was important, how long it would take, and if they did not analyze the conditions relating to the production, it could not work as a useful weapon. Only when the planets were aligned in a cross would one discover the legendary sword, yet it was not practical at all.

Technology was not an existence on its own. One digging for sweet potatoes would pull out several roots too. Some of various sizes would be bound in a chain, and only by grasping them all would it became a stable technology.

There were too many things to do, one had to the urge to yell.

“If we can make contact with the other towns, I really want to try the earth with a prison. It was said they used a prison of old Abbas.”

“We can probably do so if we write to Alzen.”

We hope for you to deliver the prison earth that has absorbed the tears and guilt of the sinners…this might seem a decent letter from an alchemist.

“Now then, we have all been cooped up in the workshop since yesterday. Shall we have a look at the plaza? There’ll be a performance tonight. It’ll be lively.”

“We’re starting today? That’s fast.”

“The main participant of today’s festival is a living animal. Taking it slow will mean it can’t complete its mission.”

It was vastly different from the Orthodox festivals, which abided to prosperous days and constellation movements. Perhaps compared to Abbas, those Orthodox festivals were too focused on the show, that they forgot more important things, and remained so fundamental as a result.

Thus, what exactly was God saving people for?

The people ostracized by God’s teachings were gathered at this place, the place Kusla found peace in, which left him intrigued. What were people hoping for from the God in heaven when they look up into the skies?

At the very least, it probably was not the secret of alchemy.

“I suppose. There’s no way out if our anxiety causes us to fail.”

“Sure sounds meaningful from your mouth, Kusla~. ”

“You probably don’t want to end up sleeping and destroy your hands in the process, no?”

They were not seeking any technology that might save on fuel consumption.

Weyland chuckled nonchalantly, already looking like he was pondering whether to woo women at the festival.

“The festival gets lively at night~? ”

“Yes. We received news yesterday, so we should be able to await the arrival of the white bear today. This free time is when things get rowdy. Once the white bear arrives, we’ll begin with the ritual immediately.”

“The fur is the most important thing, right? Will you be tanning it?”

“Yes. In the past, there was a tradition for all the townspeople to gnaw at the fur until it softens, but it’s stopped down. Right now, they’ll stuff the fur into a pail of kalinite liquid, and hammer it with a wooden rod.

There were various ways to tan leather, and chewing on it would be the most primitive. Kusla imagined Fenesis gnawing the white bear fur like a squirrel, and thought he would be really interested to see her do so.

“Leathering skin by biting certainly sounds interesting…did they refrain from doing so because it seemed too pagan-like? ”

“No, it’s because the fur is too big, and the skin’s too hard. Every year, those who participated had their teeth worn out.”

Phil burst out laughing, and Fenesis herself looked terrified, reaching for her lips.

She, born in the desert, probably had experience breaking her baby teeth out with rocks.

“Finally, they’ll share the white bear meat with everyone to conclude it all. Once the fur is dealt with properly, the offering ritual will be done by the Poldorofs and us guild representatives.”

“So we pray for Her Majesty to obtain the power of the white demon?”

“Of course, we won’t present it as a demon.”

Looking through history, one would know that offering fur would be similar to reusing waste. The residents of Abbas hoped to obtain the power of the cursed people, and had several ploys, only to merely use what they obtained for political means. It was no wonder then that those capable enough to be dubbed as angels or demons would rid the citizens of its town.

“Shall we help Irine before night arrives?”

“Kusla can’t help much when all he does is read~.”

“Such words are an annoyance to me.”

Phil and Weyland teased Kusla, who was grimacing at their remarks. Fenesis went to him, whispering,

“I cannot help Irine either. You do not have to worry.”

“…”

This was probably Fenesis showing her kindness, but to the restless alchemist, such sympathy was unbearable.

“Your fault for being nosy.”

He rolled his eyes at her, only to be met with a snicker.

Truly, Irine did not look pleased when Weyland and Kusla offered their help. However, she ended up commanding them immediately, even enacting the presence of an old, experienced leader.

Kusla was peeved to be mocked by Weyland for being only a bookworm, but the skills left unused would definitely rust. They had to bend the metal plates, fasten them, or hammer down at oblique angels. This had Kusla exerting all his strength just to ensure the efforts were passable. Whenever Irine checked Kusla’s completion, she would narrow one eye and raise an eyebrow, only to tell him to work on the next thing. After that, she would swing the hammer personally to make the adjustments. While Kusla was no assistant to the head, he was a little more useful than an apprentice, it seemed.

While this infuriated him, it strangely left him nostalgic and elated. As Irine had said, working hard on what one could not do might make that person happy. When the distillation tools were finally taking shape, the sun was setting.

The town became rowdier, and there were bonfires like flames in the furnace. Looking out from the workshop, it seemed the skies at the heart of the town was dyed a faint orange.

“I’m hungry…~”

Said Weyland, who finished hammering the last plate.

“Yes. All we have to do is to weld them together. Go out and play now.”

Irine said, her eyes never leaving the parts.

They were treated as little apprentices of a workshop.

“Well, we got leader Irine’s permission. Shall we go~?”

“…Let’s do this.”

Kusla was a little displeased by the deterioration of his smelting skills, but it was not something to be improved within a day. Fenesis looked a little uneasy at the bonfire visible from afar, so he put his hammer down, and stood up.

“You’re not going?”

He asked Irine, who shrugged without looking back.

“The first thing a blacksmith learns is to strike while the iron is hot.”

“How impressive.”

“Enjoy yourselves.”

These words were for Fenesis, who seemed a little sorry to leave Irine in the workshop. irine had empathy, and if she really had a workshop to herself, surely it would lively, bustling.

“Let’s go. Phil’s probably waiting at the plaza.”

“The guild people just called for him, and even told him off. He probably was needed for the preparations~.”

“Is he s a child~?”

“I guess he doesn’t want you of all people saying that about him~.”

Weyland’s joke left Kusla scratching his head, but the latter was not furious.

Such was a trivial conversation. Even he found it strange to have such self-awareness.

“But I never thought I’ll be spending a day with you at a festival.”

“We did chores at the Knights’ castle during our apprenticeship. Never had the chance~.”

But if they really did, the two mischievous fellows might have enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Kusla had such a thought, and gave a wry look.

“But how do we enjoy ourselves at a festival? With wine?”

“First we have to grant the nicely dressed girls~.”

“Heh, you never get sick of it.”

Kusla chuckled, and suddenly had a thought.

He had completely forgotten there was a girl who had not dolled herself.

Kusla turned back to look, and was a little taken aback. Fenesis, whom he had assumed to be crestfallen for being ignored, was beaming away.

“Such good friends you are.”

“Ah?”

“Hm~?”

Kusla, and even Weyland, looked a little pouty upon hearing that, and they exchanged looks. However, they just had the conversation in the day.

If they insistently denied, they would be mired in a foolish Orthodox ritual, it seemed.

“Bonds.”

“That is my line.”

Fenesis’ cheery look clearly showed what this means.

“This shows that working together is important. I am thinking that as long as you two work together, there will be no mystery left unsolved.”

“Because of that, men form pairs with women~.”

Weyland patted himself on the chest as he said this, and Kusla had the urge to retreat, but he had no objections to this reasoning. They had two eyes, and could deduce their distance. With Fenesis, Irine, Weyland around, kusla was able to make it all the way from Gulbetty to this place. Such resembled the relationship between sulfur and iron.

There were many things in this world that would cause unexpected reactions when mixed together. Simple mixing alone might not cause any change, but a certain opportunity might give rise to a major reaction. Everything can change, and this was a basic principle of alchemy.

Mixtures would give rise to opportunities, resulting in great results.

Kusla repeated these thoughts in his heart, and suddenly stopped.

“Kusla, where do you want to go for dinner…hm, what’s with you~?”

“What is it?”

Upon contact with their sights, Kusla suddenly recovered. What appeared in his mind was a proverb.

Knowledge plays the role of a light tower. It helps those who seek things in the darkness, but it easily blinds people into seeking the areas shone only by the light…

“We forgot something.”

“Hm? ”

“I’ll go back to the workshop.”

“We worked so much, and you’re saying it’s still not enough? As to be expected of you, restless alchemist~.”

Kusla had already turned to leave before leaving Weyland’s joke out of earshot.

“What do you intend to do, little Ul?”

Kusla heard the voice behind him, but he did not turn back.

“We are luckier than expected, but some do say the Goddess of fortune is no more than the fringe of a Goddess.”

“You’re resembling an alchemist more and more~.”

The conversation continued, and the footsteps gave chase. A relieved Kusla then dashed forward.

They returned to the workshop, and Irine appeared to be resting. She, who was drinking wine, choked on it.

“Wh-what is it? What’s going on?”

“Move aside, will ya?”

He was no match for Irine before the furnace, but the workshop was a different matter. Kusla’s eyes scanned past the many plates Fenesis had carefully arranged, and brought out a few important ones.

This world was filled with many possibilities. Whenever one mixed things to bring out the Truth, the excessive numbers of possibilities would drive one to despair. Most would start from the simplest of combinations. After all, choosing two items from three would give three combinations, six combinations from four, ten combinations from five, and up till forty-five combinations of ten items.

However, combinations were not limited to this.

He was bound by the word called mixture.

Why did he not try this possibility?

“Ah, Kusla, that’s—”

Before Weyland could call out, Kusla mixed the contents of the two plates.

In other words, the mixture of the sulfur and the sun fragment, together with a mixture of charcoal and sun fragment.

At the very least, just mixing them would not cause the world to be destroyed.

But Kusla sensed his heart racing for some reason, something known as a premonition. A blacksmith of utmost mastery would know the purity of iron just by touching it. It was said the ancient king who ruled half the world could touch the scribe of a subordinate, and determine if it was good.

With the experience gained from all the experiments he made, Kusla clearly sensed something.

“Fire.”

He said tersely, and Fenesis, who seemed to have sensed something from his gestures, hastily lit a wood with a candle, before handing the wood to him.

Kusla took a deep breath, and looked back at the trio.

“The lot of you!”

Within the dim workshop, Kusla smirked.

“Pray to God.”

Nobody knew if he was praying for the success of the experiment, or praying for the world not to crumble.

Despite that, Kusla brought the firewood to the sun fragments.

And then,

“Ah!”

His vision turned white.

Perhaps it was no scream, but the noise of the world trembling.

And once the intense reactions ended, Kusla first checked to see if he was still alive.

“…Looks like we’re still alive…but…damn, I can’t open my eyes.”

Having seen a bright light in the darkness, his eyes were seemingly pelted with ink. Despite that, it seemed their limbs were still intact, their noses were aching due to the stinging stench. If they died, they probably would be in a world devoid of pain and age, and if this was not Hell, he probably was alive.

“Are you alright…? Looks like…the workshop did not explode.”

“…I guess…”

Kusla, having recovered his sights from the darkness, found Fenesis and Irine prone on the floor. Both appeared to have been shocked beyond words, but they were fine, and the ceiling showed no signs of collapsing.

After checking through everything, he finally picked up the candle left by the wall, and shone above the plate with the sun fragment. Following that was a groan beyond comprehension.

“Ugh…hey, the iron plate is red hot…it’s melting.”

“It’s really powerful…it’s just like…”

The sun. Once they muttered so, they realized.

What they gathered was undoubtedly the sun fragment.

“O-ohoho…th-th-this is completely beyond our expectations… ”

“This is the answer.”

Charcoal, sulfur and the sun fragments.

These were the three baits required to summon the fire spirit.

“It’s just like a fire herb~.”

“Don’t name it randomly. The future generations might use it.”

Weyland shrugged, his hands on his waist.

“The festival really isn’t at the right moment.”

“I want to say, yes, but…”

“Hm~?”

Weyland asked, and for the first time, Kusla showed him a sorry grin.

“Not today, damn.”

So he cursed with a smirk.

Fenesis finally stood up, staring at Kusla in shock.

“My hands are shaking.”

“You’re too happy~.”

Weyland did not tease Kusla for being intimidated because of the intense reaction.

Any person would laugh in excitement over the discovery of a startling matter. Such was the mood.

“So, now we can discover the way to fly in the sky, no? ”

“We can’t say it’s foolish now…”

They finally grabbed the hem of the outrageously independent, arrogant God who would not approach humans.

Their fingertips had touched upon the technology created by those dubbed as angels or demons.

Kusla kept his trembling hands in a fist, as though gripping this realistic feeling.

“It’s great that today’s the festival.”

He looked around at the trio, saying so.

“We can celebrate all we want.”

Weyland and Fenesis burst out laughing. Even Irine, who wanted to remain in the workshop, was grinning reluctantly.

“Goodness. This is a night of a historical discovery after all.”

Such words were no hyperbole to Kusla.

He firmly believed they created a turning point in history.

“Notify the spies. We need to write a letter to Alzen, and send it to the other fortified towns.”

“Then, drink away~”

“If you drink too much, you can’t work tomorrow.”

“We can leave it for then, little Irine.”

“Till when?”

Irine and Weyland bickered as they left the workshop.

Fenesis too followed suit, only to stop at the door and turn back to Kusla.

“Shall we go?”

They could see the lights of the festival from afar, the seemingly warm lights shining into the dim workshop.

It seemed such a sight was a certain sign.

Kusla took a step forward, and went out from the darkness.

Awaiting him was the companion he had no need for courtesy, along with his important partner.

“Yes.”

He held Fenesis’ hand, and closed the workshop door.

Once the spies heard of the bait to summon the fire spirit, they were left speechless.

Before the spies could recover, Kusla sent a message to Alzen, considered the expenses required for the experiments involving the weapons, before returning to Fenesis. He wanted to notify Phil, but the latter was probably hustling around for the festival, so he thought otherwise. After all, they could meet in the workshop the following day, so he decided to leave it be.

There were people hustling up and down the road leading to the plaza. One would have to wonder where these people were in the first place, for there were stalls crammed full with food and wine by the sides. Moving down the middle, he could smell the smoke of roasted meat and the oil fragrance of fried eels. There were also people laughing away, and among them, he could clearly identify his companions.

Companions?

Kusla gave a wry smile to himself for having thought so, and returned to his seat, asking for some wine. The discovery of the fire herb would leave behind a major contribution to alchemy, and would be an extraordinary item in actual usage. If they could control such heat and light as and when they wanted to, it would be easy to destroy a town, along with the people and their armor. The town walls would be insignificant. Such was undoubtedly the Sword of Orichalcum.

Most importantly, such an incomparably powerful item was something Kusla yearned. Surely it could protect those important to him. Alzen would probably use the fire herbs actively to crush Latria, and the Knights would be greater. They would thus be able to enjoy various freedoms.

He would no longer be a mere tool of the Knights, no longer would he have to hide in the shade. He would obtain a workshop of freedom in a place of freedom, without any distractions, and slowly seek the Truth.

And on the other hand, Fenesis, probably fatigued from drinking, was starting to look dazed. Kusla wiped the egg remnants on her lips, finding the situation ironic.

Once they obtained the technology in the angel’s legend, it was easy for them to receive a place for them to research freely. Having found that however, what other objective could cause his heart to flutter? One of immortality? Eternal youth? He had done something greater than turning lead into gold, merely mixing charcoal and sulfur into an element that could be extracted from the ground. That could allow them to conquer the world, and there was no alchemy greater than this.

The wine was sweet, acrid and warm, probably because he was at the end of his journey. All that was left was to investigate the past roads and turns they made. The freedom to research he finally obtained had left him disinterested.

It is impossible to learn everything, so he grimaced.

Nevertheless, Kusla did not despair, for Fenesis, who was sleeping away, placed her head on his shoulder. She had a tendency to cause a ruckus whenever she got drunk, only for that habit to not flare up on this day. It seemed she believed the destiny of darkness and pain was finally at its end.

Kusla put his arm around her shoulder while she leaned on him, thoroughly experiencing her warmth. Weyland at Irine arrived at their seats, and started teasing Kusla, but even these left the latter at ease. He smiled at the sleeping Fenesis, and continued to drink.

He probably wished for this time to last forever. There was no need to head elsewhere.

This is Magdala.

Maybe it’s time for me to return the moniker of the restless alchemist, ‘Kusla’, the one who continues to press on. Back then, after hearing of what others had dubbed him, Fenesis asked,

What is your real name?

Alchemists had no need for real names. The daily life of one in the workshop would entail suspicious people dying away, and nobody decent would intend to call their names. He was willing to share if it was Fenesis however. He hoped she would know more about him.

Will she be shocked to hear him mention this? Or elated? No matter the reaction, surely she would show a little hesitation, before bashfully calling his name. Even he, an alchemist who firmly believed the world was not a kind place, could be sure of this.

On the other hand, a drunk Irine began to harass Weyland, and the latter tried coaxing her with soft words. But right when he was about to touch her, she slapped his hand away, hammering away at the table furiously.

It seemed she was saying, I want to fall in love, but not with you! or something of that sort. It seemed Weyland was really as patient as a Saint to be able to smile at such a drunk.

Kusla again chuckled alone, and right when he greatly inhaled, letting the joyous air fill his lungs.

“Hey! Everyone in the town, gather at the plaza!”

The yell and the knocking of a pot echoed through the entire road.

There was so much buzzing, he could not hear the conversation between Weyland and Irine opposite him. At this point however, they quietened down.

“The white demon has arrived! It’s dying! Begin the ritual! Make your own preparations! ”

Those drinking exchanged looks, and hurriedly stood up, sprinting to the plaza.

It was difficult trying to capture a savage bear alive. They had to torment it until it could not resist, and there would be much trouble dealing with it.

It was said the ritual required a living bear, and it seemed that they noticed it weakening at a certain distant port, hurrying it here instead. Seeing how they spent nights rushing to this place in the midst of political unrest between Latria and the Knights, it seemed the situation was dire.

“What do we do?”

Kusla asked, and Weyland, who was looking at the crowd, looked over.

“I heard it’s supposed to make us feel surreal, right~?”

“We just saw such a thing.”

“How’s that impressive…hick…can’t you just look?”

Irine said in a strange slur, and stood up. Weyland gave a wry look as he too stood, helping her up, only to be deemed an annoyance.

Kusla himself wanted to go, but Fenesis was completely asleep. He wondered if he should wake her up, but he did not have the heart to wake her up after seeing her like this. Also, since it was a yearly festival, he gave up on the notice.

If he really wanted to have a look, he could wait till the next year. Also, was there not a white demon that was otherworldly here? He had no need to look. Who else could compete against her as a seducing villain?

Kusla shrugged, and smiled. Also, there were many who had similar thoughts at the tables and chairs lined by the road, merry-making and partying away.

“We’re going to have a look then~.”

Weyland had seemingly become Irine’s nanny as he lent her his shoulder while she was tumbling around, and they went into the crowds.

“Good grief.”

Kusla muttered with a grimace, and silently drank some wine. Suddenly, a silhouette appeared at the table.

He lifted his head to find a spy standing before him.

“It’s rare to have a festival around. You’re not going to have a look?”

“If I want to, I can wait till next year. This place is going to be Knights’ territory next year , no?”

Kusla smirked at the spy, who showed a wry smile instead.

“Probably so, as long as we use what you discovered.”

The spy sat on the empty chair, and started drinking the wine Weyland left behind

“That thing can be used by anything. The proportions might change the power, but it’s easy to investigate. Since we can gather the sun fragments from the sturdy ground, it’ll be a lot easier to use than the dragon flamethrowers.”

“I see. Well, I was wondering if the knowledge would be stolen, so I visited the workshop…I saw the materials right before my eyes, so I tried them. Even I could replicate it. That shocked me.”

Kusla burst out laughing. It was easy to imagine the ever cautious spy unable to resist his own curiosity, clumsily mixing the materials, only to be be utterly terrified.

“You’re unexpectedly bold for a spy.”

“Of course…that is to be expected when discovering a legend. I am a man after all. But…please do not inform the other spies and Lord Alzen.”

While saying that, the spy was beaming, probably thinking of his future prospects. It was to be expected after all, since they had just encountered their greatest fortune in life.

“It’s powerful, isn’t it?”

“Yes. I could feel my eyes shaking. Most amazing is how anyone can master it immediately.”

Such was the best aspect of a good tool.

If God Himself was granting them grace, but the people had to fast or venture on a pilgrimage for decades, such grace would be akin to nothing.

“But we have investigated various things about the festival…only to find something doesn’t match here.”

“That’s because we’re alchemists.”
The spy probably understood this boast, for he too chuckled.

“I guess it probably doesn’t matter whether the thing buried in the ground is the white bear organ.”

Kusla said, and the spy gave a serious look.

“Oh?”

“They are all living creatures after all. It should be the same for pork or chicken, but since the bear is massive, the effect is bigger. Despite that, since we have a rare beast here, I really wish for them to share the liver along with the meat.”

The spy stared at Kusla intently, remaining silent. Even in the face of the mysterious, solemn, traditional ritual, the mysterious veil would be pried apart in the face of an alchemist. Perhaps this was what the spy was thinking.

After a dumbfounded chortle, the spy removed his hat.

“As to be expected of you, I’ll say.”

“Heh.”

Kusla snorted, and nudged the clingy Fenesis back in place.

“Seems like you’re completely relied upon.”

“Stop being a busybody.”

Kusla’s response was terse, for he was feeling awkward.

The spy shrugged, and suddenly looked afar.

“The atmosphere at the plaza is buzzing. The white demon might have arrived.”

“You’re not going to look?”

“I think I can have a look next year.”

The spy responded using his own words.

“The Knights too have some busybodies coming over, so this will be the trending topic over these few days. We know the details well even though we have not seen it, and the two trusted colleagues of mine have gone on to have a look.”

The spy nervously added the last line.

“Same here.”

Kusla’s response had the spy chuckling, “I’ll get some wine” and the latter stood up, soon returning with Kusla’s share, along with some added dishes. While Kusla was always wary about food served by others, he probably did not have to worry about being poisoned this time around.

Kusla and the spy kept drinking, chatting endlessly. It seemed there was a solemn festival at the plaza, and one could occasionally hear some prayers. After drinking four mugs worth, the noise of the crowd returned to the main streets. The men walking in front had large raw meat on their trays, and they were allocated to the roadside stalls, the owners each rolling up their sleeves.

“It seems they have divided the meat completely. We’re going to deliver all the bear meat tonight.”

Saying that, the spy stood up.

“What, you want some too?”

“Eh? Ah, no. Actually, while investigating the festival, we found a few commanders of the forces who knew this place well, so we played dumb and asked about the land.”

It seemed there really was such a case.

“And so?”

“So they asked to try some of the meat, and I have to share some with them. If we ask the merchants living here, there might be some political issue, it seems.”

There was much pagan presence to this festival, and admitting it directly would only ruin one’s reputation.

Despite that, it seemed no matter whether it was North or South, there was a deeply ingrained belief that eating bear meat or liver could grant one a bear’s strength.

“Wonder if those two succeeded. I’ll go have a look. I’m worried.”

“They sure are passionate about their work.”

Kusla teased, and the spy showed a wry smile, vanishing into the crowd. There was the smell of roasted meat. Fenesis remained asleep, but she had some reaction to the fragrance, her little nose and hands twitching like a squirrel. Pious she was to God’s teachings, her body was honest.

Perhaps he could have gotten some meat for her to eat later. The spy would assist if he gave a holler, but thinking back, he did not act.

And then, after some time, the spy returned after checking on them, returning with a meat skewer.

“They finished their work. Thank goodness.”

“We have to please the rulers after all.”

“Yes. Ah, also, I asked for some meat..”

Kusla received the meat skewer from the spy, and as per usual, observed it carefully.

“Hm? One of them isn’t meat. What is this? ”

The spy was smiling impishly.

“A celebration.”

“Celebration? ”

“The treasure of all treasures…actually, I just remembered after hearing what you said. This is the white bear liver that should have been buried.”

It was said the liver was filled with the bear’s vitality, used as a strange vitality potion in the South. Kusla too felt it was a pity to eat the meat and bury the liver

Also, while he had never seen the white bear, he could taste its essence by devouring it.

“If I’m the only one eating, that Weyland will tell me off.”

“I shared some to the other two.”

How considerate of you. Kusla shrugged, and had a bite of the meat, only to be shocked by its toughness. It was not overcooked, but was already a tough one to begin with.

“This meat is amazing.”

“Oho, the liver is more so.”

Kusla narrowed his eyes at the spy, and ate it without a second thought. It was the liver of the white bear.

It was no tougher than pork liver, or a chicken’s heart, and not much different from the bear liver they ate together. The taste was truly ordinary.

“What do you think? ”

“Hm…but it is merely so..”

He swallowed, and took a swig of wine.

The spy watched him carefully, and nodded, seemingly satisfied.

“But it is really effective.”

“Huh?”

Kusla asked, and the spy explained while beaming,

“Oh, after all, the ritual was an imitation of what the angels in the legend did, no? Initially, we didn’t know what it meant, but after various investigations, and after hearing your discoveries and observations, we finally realized.”

“What are you saying?”

“That is…the angels prioritized efficiency all this while. They hated to waste. ”

Kusla did not know what he was trying to say. He was not reacting like Irine did when the latter heard they were going to experiment with iron powder and sulfur, but even he was left frustrated that there was nothing he knew not of with regards to the angel’s legend.

But if so, what was this spy trying to imply?

Was it due to the wine? The blood vessels in his head were stinging with pain.

“The fur of the white demon was offered to the rulers. Deary me, I have to be impressed by how they never wasted anything about the white demon.”

Kusla was quietly alarmed as he saw how pretentious the spy was. At the same time, he had confidence it was not the case. No matter how careless he was, he could taste the poison, for he had tasted almost all of them. In cooking, poison was an anomaly, and a strange scent could be detected.

And what he had just ate was undoubtedly a roasted bear liver.

But what was this feeling? Was he thinking too much?

He felt his brain expanding, his vision a little blurred, the ground seemingly tilting.

“They could have buried pork or chicken in the ground, but why didn’t they do so?”

Kusla inhaled hard, embracing Fenesis firmly. He put the metal skewer down, putting the same hand on his dagger.

“Even though they are bears, the white bear liver is the only one with poison.”

Kusla tried standing up, but could not do so.

Not because Fenesis was next to him.

But that a tremendous migraine and dizziness struck him.

“Ugh…argh…!”

With a thud, he fell towards the table. While those of the neighboring table looked towards him, they must have assumed him to be a drunk, and paid no heed.

“I thought you knew about the legend of the white bear.”

“What…legend…?”

The migraine, the repulsiveness, the dizziness, these factors left him unable to steady himself. Kusla recalled the probing look of the spy when he mentioned about the white bear liver.

“It’s very famous. The curse of the white bear can melt a person.”

Kusla knew about it too. But was it not a figurative depiction of how it would recklessly swing its sharp claws and tear human bodies to shreds?

“The actual depiction is to be taken literally. But nobody believed so. This is a sentiment the people recording the history of the North would echo.”

There was something truly unbelievable, a matter that would make anyone incredulous.

Kusla could not determine if these were the words he said, or the spy. Without hatred or malice, he exerted all his strength just to ask,

“Why… ”

“Why? Why, you say?”

The spy approached Kusla’s face. The grin on his face was one of arrogance, one an alchemist often saw on a person with authority.

“Haven’t you said so yourself? Those who obtained the powerful spells paid sold their souls to the Devil.”

Wait…Kusla had exerted all his strength just to keep his eyes open.

“Hoho. Yes. We know the materials, the usage is simple, we have a basic understanding on how to extract it, and the power can destroy the world. How can one not use this? We aren’t walking in the darkness just because we want to.”

The people in this world could be classified as the manipulators, and the manipulated. The spies, having been manipulated all this while, intended to cross this obstacle once they heard they had a chance, and having heard these words, Kusla was frustrated that he too felt the same.

“And loyalty should be rewarded in equal amounts. It’s futile to wait for any reward. We want to get our reward with our hands.”

It’s futile to wait for any reward?

Amidst the ringing headache, Kusla repeated the words the spy seemed to have said to imself.

But he could not gather his thoughts, his body could not move.

Once the spy said so, he sighed, and went around Kusla.
.
And then, he reached his arm towards Kusla.

“Hey…what are…you… ”

Kusla tried to exert all his strength to protect Fenesis, but his hands could not move. The arms that seemingly did not belong to him were easily pried away, and became part of a memory that was seemingly distant.

The memory was undoubtedly the burning village, where the girl he was on good terms with was taken for target practice by the bandits.

“This girl is pretty useful. I intend for her to be the foundation of our new Empire.”

Fenesis finally woke up, but the spy did not panic, his arm wrapped around her slender neck, lifting her a little higher. She widened her eyes, and understood her predicament. This might not be the first time for her given her arduous history.

She then saw Kusla sprawled on the table, and frantically reached her hand out.

Despite knowing it was not a distance her hand could reach.

Her hands were shivering out of regret, out of exertion, and like a candle flame at its last moment, suddenly froze and dropped weakly.

“Oh, so you too will show such a face too, restless alchemist. But do be at ease, for you shall be headed to a world without pain, age and suffering.”

“I…will…kill…you.”

“Me? No, you will die. Only we need to know the secret to summoning the fire spirit.”

The spy carried Fenesis on his shoulder, giving a look. A shadow landed upon Kusla’s face. It seemed they had paid for thugs, and Kusla had no strength to lift his head..

“Rest then.”

You restless alchemist.

Kusla heard these words in his increasingly weakening consciousness. Amidst his splitting brain, Fenesis’ name was spinning madly. His body was being carted off, or it felt that he was drifting away, taken by fate.

Damn, so he thought.

Such was the way of the world. While realizing this, his last shred of sanity snapped.

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