Kusla was within the darkness.
His body could not move, his eyes could not open, and he could not yell at all.
Within his darkness, he could feel his body drifting with no sense of direction, yet it seemed he was lying at a certain place.
But there was the smell of rot and mold, along with blood. At the very least, he knew he was not in a comfortable place. He was dead, either surrounded by flies, gnawed at by the stray dogs, or thrown into the crevasse of sinners.
The spies assumed that as long as they had the powerful technology, they could conquer the world with their own hands. They understood the methods to produce the fire herbs, and how to collect them. What they had to do next was to finish off the outspoken, wily alchemists.
It was logical.
Strangely, he was not infuriated in the slightest, probably because he knew this would happen one day, or because of the determination shown by the spies. The latter were merely headed to their own Magdalas, eliminating all obstacles. Just decisiveness was worthy of respect, a brilliant move..
Thus, all Kusla felt in this icy darkness with a pungent stench was loneliness.
The white girl with the soft, sweet fragrance would have some moisture if embraced for long due to her higher body warmth. She was headed to a place he would never ever reach, to be used thoroughly by others, and perish through vicious means.
If he had not possessed her, he would not have this feeling. However, he had grabbed her with his hand. They shared the same blanket, giggling as they looked at each other. Thus, he could not forget..
All he felt was loneliness, cold.
Furthermore, if he was to be condemned to Hell, once both of them died, they would never be able to see each other again. Such a dunce of a brat would surely be brought to Heaven. And so, he had a deranged thought that he should reached his demonic hand to Fenesis, that she might fall to Hell because of debauchery.
So Kusla muttered in the darkness.
“On this land of Abbas, some people has misused the legend! ”
The strangely vague voice seemed to be coming from afar, but he did seem to have heard it before.
The lights in his memories were flickering, gradually showing the arrogant smirk on the face.
“The legend of the Whites, who were hailed as Gods!”
Kusla was unsure if he was dreaming, or if it was reality.
So he thought, God might have his own plans for unexpected circumstances.
“The legend of the Whites is a historical truth, and we are the inheritor! Look! This princess is the descendant of the lost bloodline, the one who created the miracle! ”
There was buzzing from the crowd, and the ground shook. Kusla knew that he was buried alive somewhere, and could easily imagine how Fenesis was being used.
“We have inherit the great works of the Whites, the people who created a new utopia upon this fallen land! Doubt if you wish! Fear if you want! But the great works of the Whites are present, capable of splitting the earth and the skies! Look! This is the miracle!”
Following that was the sound of a massive fireball, just like air being blown into a burning furnace from a massive bellows.
The chatter of the crowd vanish, probably intimidated to the point of silence.
“This is the power received by those granted with God’s power, the tremendous fire that burned the old Abbas down in a single night! Everyone, kneel! ”
He could hear the clanking of the knights’ armor, along with people kneel.
“Also, there are those who lost to their desires and the whispers of the Devil, intending to harm us who have formally inherited the miracle! I order all to find them before dawn! Stone those who mixed sand in the grain! We shall become the rulers of the new utopia, Abbas! The names of these men are—”
At the next moment, Kusla regained his consciousness, as though he was rising from the bottom of the water.
Was the spy’s speech just a dream? Where was this place? Was he still alive? Was he thrown into Hell?
Countless questions began to slowly form a silhouette in his blurry vision. Entering his sights was Phil, leaning over.
In his shock, Kusla instinctively tried to shove the face away. At this moment—
Kusla felt a tremendous migraine, and a repulsiveness rising up his gut.
Phil probably had anticipated this as he handed over a pail. Without a second thought, Kusla vomited out. Little of the poison was out, but his body was satisfied, and the urge to heave quickly subsided. This gave him the feeling of living.
Despite being weak, Kusla was truly breathing, and could not hide his skepticism.
And why was it Phil before him? Where was this place?
He never thought his companion to hell would be the obese book merchant, and was not too pleased with such a foolish ending.
His vision remained like a swaying rope, and he tried to regrasp it, only to see Weyland’s face lit by the light.
Ignoring where this place was, Kusla finally heaved a sigh of relief. Even the Devil would be dumbfounded if he mentioned this.
For even if it was Hell, he would not be bored to have Weyland around.
Weyland said as he handed over a wooden cup.
“This is the water blacksmiths use for quenching. Effective in treating headaches, abdomen pains and cuts. Probably can cure poison too~.”
That’s just a superstition, so Kusla was about to burst out laughing, but it seemed that was Weyland’s motive as he handed the cup over, before lying lethargically in a nearby chair.
So Kusla gulped it all down, and found it icy and sweet. It was possible to believe that it was water from the grail. This mere cup revived him from the brink of death
“How…long was I sleeping?”
“If possible, a thousand years or so. But the commotion of the festival hasn’t ended. There’s still some impressive act~.”
There was a meaning to his tone, so Kusla inadvertently realized, just maybe…
Hearing that, Weyland was stupefied.
“What? You were awake~?”
“…Just not dead yet.”
Kusla answered painfully, and relaxed. So it seemed it was all reality.
In that case, it meant their lives were targeted by the Knights.
The spy named three men.
Kusla, Weyland and Phil.
“Yes, they brazenly used the power of the fire herb. The town people blindly followed, and even those ruling this town are all dumbfounded. Well, can’t be helped. They’re scared thinking this town will be blown up again~.”
While Weyland was snickering as he described this, he looked frailer compared to before, gloom on his face.
Kusla suddenly felt that they might be dead, and were just waiting in the reception room to Hell, venting their frustrations.
“Were…you poisoned too?”
“I was had, sorta. Before then, Irine and I drank a lot…the poison nearly caused me to pass out, but my body seemed to have vomited on its own, so I woke up immediately. Might have felt better if I remained unconscious though.”
While they did not know the exact toxic effects of the white bear liver, they were sure it caused great pains and repulsiveness.
“I’m finally able to walk on my own~.”
Kusla relaxed. This caused him to smile.
He was unused to hearing Weyland showing concern for no rhyme or reason.
Kusla asked, and before Weyland turned towards him, Phil appeared by Kusla’s side.
He was holding another cup.
Kusla did not refuse, took it, and gulped it down.
“Little Ul and her were taken away. Well, little Irine’s a really capable blacksmith, so she’ll probably work hard with little Ul as hostage~.”
Or she could be taken as hostage to make Fenesis obey, once they murdered Kusla and the others.
“It’s not just the townspeople who were shocked too.”
“Never thought your companion was the descendent of the legendary ange ”
If Phil had doubted everything because of her white hair, he would have assumed there was a hidden monster under the shade of the tree at night. It was no wonder Phil was confused.
“She’s too beautiful for a little apprentice. I had been thinking it was strange…but I never expected that. It was more likely, so I assumed she was your ‘special’ assistant.”
These words had Weyland giggling away, while Kusla broke into a wry grin.
“I don’t know what Kusla thinks, but if she’s even a little cuter, I don’t mind~.”
“I heard that it wasn’t uncommon between ancient philosophers.”
The foolish jokes instead left Kusla at ease.
Kusla intended to get up, and refused Phil’s attempt to help.
But his muscles were like lead, unable to move freely.
Despite that, he supported his upper body, almost completely by willpower.
“…The Knights…those spies…what are they planning?”
Kusla asked, and Weyland continued, as though joking,
“Objective? Once they got the technology to conquer the world, there’s only one thing left to do, right~?”
“…He said he wants to create utopia…”
“Yes. We’re here to be taken as sacrifices.”
Kusla looked towards Phil, and then scanned the place. It was dark, resembling a warehouse, but the ceiling was low. Also, he could smell the body stench of fresh blood and wild beast amidst the faint rotting smell.
“……The demon’s belly？”
Kusla muttered, and Phil gaudily nodded.
“I don’t know if I should call this the path leading to the ventilation hole, or a room meant for such moments?”
“It’s such a place anyway.”
“You and I were probably dragged to an empty house by the thugs the spies hired, and Phil led the Jedeel Guild to save us. Never thought there’ll be good men willing to save alchemists~.”
Truly, it seemed there was such a memory deep within his aching head.
“I’m not a good person. I too was named as one of those to be hunted..”
Yes, the spies paraded the fire herb and Fenesis before the crowds, declared themselves as God’s representative, and vowed to hunt the savages who hurt them.
Clearly, it was to kill off the hindrances, those who knew how to create the fire herb.
“…But…when did we? I can understand if they just said our existence is evil …”
Phil answered Kusla’s doubt,
“This is the news brought by the people who provided food for the Knights at the south bank. The food was poisoned.”
“On the lord’s table.”
At this moment, Kusla saw through the entire plan. The spies obtained the white bear liver, fed it to the commander of the forces, and framed it as an assassination by Kusla’s group, seizing authority. This probably was the situation.
“The poison sounds like it’s the same curse as the white bear of the ritual. Never thought that would actually happen.”
“But it causes the body to melt…isn’t that hyperbole? Doesn’t Weyland still look human?”
Kusla chuckled, and Weyland gave a wry smile. Phil lowered his eyebrows awkwardly. Kusla wanted to tell them to stop pretending, only to discover the anomalies on his hands.
The swollen skin had become tattered with holes.
“Where it’s visible at least…”
Phil said, and Kusla reached for his face, giving a wry smile once he felt it.
“Oh…now I do look like an alchemist….”
“But it can be cured. I have researched through the records left behind by the seafarers of the North, and found that as long as they regain consciousness, it is possible to be healed.”
“Right now, I don’t…really care about my appearance. So? The poisoning was caused by the spies, I get that…but did they really start a fight against the Knights just to establish their kingdom? ”
The fire herb truly was a powerful technology.
Yet he felt reckless to think this would allow them to compete against the powerful Knights.
“It seemed they really intended so. After all—”
Just as Phil was about to begin explaining the reason why, there was the sound of the shutters being opened, and a conversation. Kusla immediately felt tense, and tried to stand up, but Phil stopped him.
Beyond the darkness was a candle-like flame flickering, along with a few trudging footsteps echoing silently.
Finally appearing was an old man with a cane, grimacing with a goat-like face. There was also the servant who received them while a disguised Kusla followed Phil to collect the key to the demon’s belly.
“Greetings, Master Poldorof.”
Phil earnestly bowed.
Poldorof was the master of the ruling family.
“I have no reason to accept the greetings of sinners.”
So he said unhappy, and sat on the chair the servant pulled for him. He cleared his throat, probably because he sighed too much, the words remained stuck in his throat, rather than him imposing his authority.
“You got involved in something big again.”
He glared at Phil.
“I admit most of it is due to me, but we are simply roped into this incident. Yes, we can say the Knights seized the initiative.”
Poldorof snorted, and turned towards the other two.
“And these two men?”
“Yes. They are the authentic alchemists who replicated the legend of the Whites.”
While he did not know what the ‘authentic’ part was about, he would accept it as praise for the time being.
Kusla chuckled in a self-depreciating manner, but Poldorof merely snorted, looking disinterested, the air causing the beard by his mouth to sway.
“I don’t doubt so. At the very least, the fire pillar was real.”
One would think his face was pale because the fire herb was too powerful, that for this old man who would soon be headed for Heaven, it was not suitable to be a bonfire for his departure.
“And the tools do not choose their owners. My father often disputed against my grandfather, saying that if the angel’s technology is discovered, that will be the source of conflict.”
“A wise man indeed~.”
Weyland praised, and the old man shrugged in appreciation.
“I had assumed it was simply a town razed down by a war, and the description was figurative. My grandfather’s generation and his ancestors think different though. One day, like madmen, they pursued to this place the Whites were said to have arrived. Of course, they never found it, but unexpectedly…”
He sighed once again.
“If the legend can only be dismissed as one, then it’s just a festival to drink and make merry.”
He shot a reproaching look. But Kusla found such an expression to be familiar and earnest.
“No paper can cover a fire…even in the Bible, there is such a teaching…”
Kusla sounded sarcastic, while Poldorof’s white, long eyebrows never twitched in the slightest.
“We Poldorofs are not of Orthodoxy.”
But he seemed a reasonable old man, so Kusla thought.
“Because of you, I was forced into a dilemma.”
He tapped the cane onto the ground, saying,
“The fellows within the Southern walls called them magnanimous, that as long as I handle you murderers over, they will think of us as comrades.”
“Our faces will be engraved into the coins of circuses~.”
Weyland joked. Kusla had assumed Poldorof would trip Weyland with the cane, but unexpectedly, the old man remained calm all the way.
Instead of having a pure will unaffected by anything precious however, one would say he had his mind steeled.
Also, Kusla had something he could not understand.
“Mr Poldorof…why did you not…do so? The Knights…have obtained the miracle. I can’t think of any reason to resist.”
Hearing Kusla’s question, Poldorof looked over. Perhaps he did not wish for his town’s legend to be misused by anyone, out of nostalgia?
Poldorof stomped his cane onto the ground in annoyance.
“If so, I would not have been so hesitant.”
Are our enemies not the Knights?
What is going on? Kusla narrowed his eyes, and Phil answered his doubt.
“The Knights will soon be dissolved.”
Kusla might not be as shocked to hear that the earth would split the next day.
However, Phil and Poldorof remained serious, and Weyland was not grinning away
“We brought the white bear here for a reason. The envoys of the South went around the sea routes locked down by the Knights, and are hidden in its belly.”
Is the white bear that massive? Kusla widened his eyes, but the old man never smiled.
“That’s just a metaphor. A letter was delivered during this festival. I heard the one leading the Southern forces is a spy? I don’t know how they obtained this information, but it doesn’t matter. Anyway, they have the same information as us, and made up their mind. They have their miracle, weapons, helpers, locations, so they should rise up, so it seemed.”
The old man said impatiently, but Kusla did not understand at all.
“The Knights were excommunicated from the Church by the Pope.”
Kusla forgot to breathe. The Pope was the leader of the Orthodox Church, the only representative on Earth for God. All authority was granted from him, and kings would bow to the Pope when crowned, for the Pope to impart mysterious power into the crowns. The Knights were excommunicated from the Church.
This meant that the brothers all over the world would deem the Knights as enemies. The conversion of the Latrian Queen was not an idea a few nobles of the South had suddenly thought of.
This showed the Papal was implicit in the conspiracy, fearing the power of the Knights would exceed it, and even declaring themselves God’s representative..
The Knights became the enemies of the world. That was why the spy said so.
It was futile awaiting any reward. It’s futile to wait for any reward. We want to get our reward with our hands.
“I was forced to stand on the crossroads. The hunters of the Far North act nimbly once they see an opportunity, so I don’t blame them. However, once they mistake recklessness for bravery, they will tumble and fall off the cliff. ”
“You don’t know what those Southerners call this place?”
Phil straightened his back, and answered with a grim look.
“The end of the Earth. People of various kinds escape here from the South.”
“Hmph. Quite a few heretics…well, the ones you speak of, how many of them do you think escaped here? Everyone who believed thought ‘Our God shall reveal the truth of the Bible to the world. God, save us’, and they were all persecuted by the Church till here. Of course, the God those men believed in never saved them.”
Finally, they understood what he was trying to say.
“The passion for the new God will never compare to the covenant with the old.”
The Church could never have been peaceful right from the beginning. Surely it had faced countless challenges of opposing faiths, or greed of power.
However, the Church continued to fight them back, and people started attending it, accepting the protection of the Pope, the representative of God
Even if they brought out Fenesis and used the angel’s miracle, Poldorof merely thought of this commotion as a rebellion of the same level.
Experience probably taught him so.
“But in that case, what is this hesitation you speak of~?”
Weyland asked boldly, and Poldorof pointed his chin nonchalantly at Phil.
“Those men want his heart too.”
“I know how to make the fire herb after all. They probably think I’ll write a book and reveal it to the public.”
Phil shrugged callously, and it was Poldorof who continued to grimace.
“If we throw this book merchant into the fire, we of Abbas will be enemies against the Great Jedeel Guild. Abbas was created as a trading post between the people of the Far North and the various countries in the South, maintaining relations with many areas. If we’re to be at odds with the merchant guilds, we will surely be strangling ourselves. Certain trade routes would certainly be severely hindered. However…”
Like a wily old strategist, Poldoro coughed twice.
“If for some reason, the Knights truly can control the world and silence the Great Jedeel Guild, I can ignore this.”
“If our Great Jedeel Guild vanishes from the world map, the other guilds can earn more profits. It benefits them all.”
What they meant was, while they were weighing the benefits and costs, the scales would not tilt to one side that easily.
Poldorof felt that even though the spies had the technology of the angel’s legend, along with the angel’s descendent, it was not a given that they could conquer the world. Thus, if they were to easily assist the spies, and the rebel forces led by the spies were to be slained, Abbas would surely be condemned for having assisted.
The problem being, while this thought process was logical, the unsheathed swords were glittering, reflecting the fire on the south bank of the river.
“If you don’t hand us over…you will have to be the scapegoat?”
“Yes. Those men are having a gamble. As long as we hand you over, it shows the Poldorofs are affiliated to them, and the people will recognize their authority. If we don’t do so, we’ll be slaughtered, signifying their authority.”
“Then…this isn’t some hiding place…”
“It’s a prison~.”
It was not to protect, but to prevent an escape.
“But even if you do hand us over, the lot of you might not remain alive.”
Hearing those words, Poldorof remained stone faced.
Kusla was pleased to have this direct response.
“Those former spies should have some smarts at least. If they want to win as much as possible, they will need the assistance of the guilds in this town. These are merchant guilds that deal with long distance trading. No matter where the fight is, surely they could assist in deploying the goods.”
This benefit might be one reason why the spies came up with that idea.
“But old man, aren’t the lot of you merchants?”
“We’re the Poldorofs, just interacting with the gloomy, skeptical, beast-like people of the Far North, with only our golden past keeping as afloat. Of all the various tribes of different languages and cultures, my family is the only one capable of being the window to them.”
If the spies wanted to ensure the proper logistics thereafter and yearn for the assistance of the merchant guilds, they would have to promise the guilds several privileges. Some of it would have to involve trading with the people of the Far North. But if this could not be achieved by discarding the Poldorofs the spies would have to show the latter respect.
The spies were willing to break apart Kusla’s group, who broke through all the tiles of Abbas, but were unwilling to be enemies against the Poldorofs. This should be enough reason for them to try and stabilize the situation.
Of course, if their request remained unfulfilled, they could cause others to suffer instead.
“I understand…strange that we’re not tied up.”
It seemed the poison had subsided, and Kusla said so with his now slightly limber tongue.
“Yes, unbelievable. Isn’t it.”
Poldorof said, his right hand stroking at his thinning white hair.
“We too can see through their plan, since it is so obvious. They are practically giving me a letter, telling me what to do. However, they missed out on something crucial. The people of this town are in the midst of a festival, and believed in their miracle. However, they could not completely ignore the possibility that the ears of the young lady on the palanquin are those of the white bear.”
“The fire pillar is real.”
“If that’s magic, maybe it’ll get them to believe more.”
Kusla looked over to Phil, who nodded.
“It’s something anyone can replicate.”
“That’s how it is. I heard everything from this fellow here, and he said it’s a technology you discovered. So I thought, why don’t I use the time they gave us Poldorofs to you instead.”
This little period of time is just hesitation for us. So he chimed with annoyance at the very end.
Kusla stared at Poldorof, and then turned to Weyland.
Weyland then gave Kusla a slightly skeptical look.
It seemed he did not misunderstand Poldorof’s words just because of the poison.
“So, what do you mean~?”
“Are you people men? I heard that the ones lifted up the palanquin is your princess?”
He subconsciously looked over at Phil. The latter gave a stiff smile, and then it vanished
On the other hand, Poldorof was staring intently at Kusla with his wolf-like silver eyes. His eyes seemed to be reproaching, and also raging.
Like a hunter living in the harsh lands of the North, one who valued blood and honor.
All Kusla could only do was to curl his lips.
“At the very least…I can be grateful for not using my testicles in the experiment.”
“What I mean is, find a way out and die trying.”
Kusla again turned to Weyland.
And Weyland showed an awkward smile
No way~? Their eyes were enough to convey this.
“Are you…demanding us to find a counterattack against their miracle?”
The old man coughed dryly.
“Is there any other reason to let you live? Once we find that method, we won’t be harassed by the foolish heretics coming to this town.”
This was truly a foolish request.
This was not a case of manliness. It would be best for Kusla if they could beat the spies and get Fenesis back.
But he knew there were some things that were pointless no matter how much they demanded so. If there was a beehive above him, and he had a stick, he could make up his mind and hit the beehive without fear. If all he could do was to yell however, it was akin to doing nothing.
“We don’t have our tools. Those spies must have moved everything away from the workshop.”
The sun fragments, charcoal, sulfur, every material that could be related to the new discovery, and the distillation tools Irine made.
There was no way the spies would leave them be. It was because of these miraculous tools that they felt they could conquer the world.
Poldorof tersely responded, pointing with his chin.
And so, his servant by the side stepped forward, pulling down a large cloth hanging by the wall.
Just for a moment, Kusla had an illusion, assuming Fenesis and Irine were seated there.
No, was it really an illusion?
He did not understand.
Though he did not understand, the tools with the tender, round curves were sufficiently defined to be dubbed feminine.
“This is the place my great grandfather generation built, and had been in use until the previous generations. The glassmakers who also idolized the legend of the Whites were said to be gathered here. During the last generation, my father hated this reckless challenge, but it seemed he couldn’t give up on the once in a million possibility. He never neglected the maintenance of the tools, and handed it to me. This is the one thing I want to continue with.”
Kusla remained in a daze as he heard this explanation. Before his eyes were various types of tools. There were even glass distillation equipment, which were uncommon. There was a set of equipment sufficient to create a technology capable of conquering the entire world.
“The Whites were wanderers who drifted into Abbas. The ones who solved the mystery again were travellers. This does seem strangely logical.”
Poldorof continued, remaining displeased.
But once Kusla saw this underground workshop that was maintained impressively well, he understood the reason.
“For you to use until dawn. Anything you’re lacking? Don’t mention about time. ”
Poldorof himself might have spent a certain period seeking the angel’s legend. The answer so happened to be beneath his feet, and he was probably miffed by it. If someone was to show up and rob him of his glory, surely he would have beaten that person up with his cane.
Poldorof was scowling not because he was a grumpy man to begin with.
He was simply displeased.
“I’ll have a look.”
Kusla said, and intended to stand up, but unlike his mouth, his legs were unable to move freely.
Weyland realized this, and stood up from the chair, hurrying to clear the tools.
“Impressive, but we’re lacking something most important. We can gather lots of sun fragments from the land here, but it’ll take some time. We won’t be able to make it in time.”
“About that, please have a look here.”
Phil brought a wooden crate in a corner of the room to the table, opening its lid.
“…What. You stole these from the workshop~?”
Weyland was smiling as he said so. Surely he assumed this was not the case. Kusla was peeved as he looked over at Phil.
The alchemists might have been the most honest.
“Blessings out of misfortune, it seems. Please forgive me.”
“You…took this without us knowing?”
It was unknown if he wanted to conquer the world, or lost to his curiosity, or just wanted to sell.
Perhaps the delusion of all these factors drove him to do so. Phil however did not look guilty, proud even.
“I’m always reading. I do want to try out the knowledge I have from time to time. ”
Go to hell, so Kusla wanted to curse. He did not do so, but not because they had benefited from the misfortune.
“And I feel that no matter when it is, it should be passed down. There is no bad knowledge or good knowledge, just bad application and good.”
Saying that, Phil shut the lid of the wooden box, and shoved it to the duo.
“Part of the reason the spies want to kill us is to obtain authority over the forces, and to pin us as murderers, but more certainly, it’s because we know how to make the fire herb. This is akin to sacrilege of reviving a knowledge buried over a hundred years, and burying it in darkness again. How preposterous of them to murder those who solved the mystery. These men will again reach new heights, giving me new topics to write about. Thus, I have to risk on everything, and assist you with all my might. Then, I will swing the hammer of justice down on those who resist knowledge!”
The genial looking Phil swung a fist down onto the table. Him saying these words with outrage left Kusla refreshed, nostalgic. Something within him seemed lit.
Kusla had to apologize to Poldorof, for the latter might really have crushed him. When Fenesis was choked by the spy, and his outstretched hand was powerless, he felt like a cow being slaughtered. Such was the case for those who only cared about the world, unable to escape from their fate. One might even feel solace in giving up, thinking they had understood everything.
At the very least, one person would be thinking ‘go to hell’.
Then, what about the others?
“We have materials, tools…what about the other minor stuff?”
“How many guilds do you think this town has?”
Poldorof retorted in annoyance, and Weyland burst out chortling.
“Well, since he said so, Kusla~.”
It seemed they intended to get down to work.
Kusla scowled, and slacked his jaw.
He was dubbed the restless alchemist, and always called himself an alchemist without tears or blood. The past him was so poor to the point of helplessness. Like a mutt kicked on its bum, running away with the tail tucked and ears drooped, he found himself to be truly embarrassing.
Back then, Fenesis did not reach out for help to this alchemist,
“But it’s a fact that we don’t have enough time.”
Hearing Weyland’s words, Kusla stood up. The toxins had not cleared completely, he was tumbling around, his legs quivering, his head rocking like a pail on a horse’s back.
But there was one part he probably was not mistaken about.
There was only one place an alchemist should be moving towards.
“We don’t have enough time, but that’s not much different from usual.”
“Well, if we want to unravel the secrets of the world, that’s still not enough time, isn’t it?”
Weyland bared his teeth, giving a hearty smile as he shrank his neck back.
“Yeah. If we give up now, we’ll sully the name of being an alchemist.”
Kusla steadied his footing on the ground, and took a deep breath.
He was ravaged by the poison to the point of weakness, and tried bucking himself up, but there was truly no time. For hundreds of years, nobody solved the angel’s legends, and he needed another technology to beat it up front.
Typically, one would assume it was so ridiculous, how could it be possible.
However, it was the alchemists who fulfilled those that were assumed impossible. Technology was a history full of making the impossible possible.
The blacksmiths would have their stirrups taken, mistreated by their kings.
But what he wanted to prove was always like this.
Kusla took one step, two steps, his hands on the table.
He felt some heat. Was it due to the sun fragments above him?
“I’ll show you a miracle. Alchemist can turn lead into gold.”
The beard on Poldorof’s mouth was shaking with a snort, and he neither nodded nor smiled.
They began to work. Poldorof had returned back out, pondering how to quell the citizens’ panic and the work thereafter. There was massive ventilation holes within the demon’s belly for the white bear ritual, and one of them was linked to this secret room. Also, it was linked to the basement of the Poldorofs.
Nobody would interfere with the experiments, but Weyland himself was also poisoned, so Phil was in charge of the experiment. He began to experiment in a decent looking manner, and while his actions were a little crude, the experiments should not be affected. Thus, they began to experiment within the underground cave where the white bear’s organs were buried. This was truly a mystifying scene, truly befitting of an alchemist. Fenesis would surely be happy to see this.
But even God would shiver knowing what they would be doing inside.
There were lots of sun fragments present. Phil’s unabashed greediness let to him carrying a crate full of them. Even if they were to be mixed with charcoal and sulfur, it was unlikely they would be able to defeat the attacking Knights. Even if both sides had swords, having a sword master wield it would garner different results from having women and children doing so. Furthermore, they had a dragon flamethrower. In theory, they required a certain something to increase the power of the already amazing fire herb.
Impossible. This would be the typical thought. However, there was no definite answer to whether it was really impossible. Given the current records, one would find that even metallurgy was refined over thousands of years. One might assume it to be impossible, but surely, there was a way to improve the efficient.
By this thought process, the only ones who would assume the hidden power of the sun fragment was used to its limits were the alchemists who merely smeared upon the past.
Also, they had another tactic to think of.
If they could find the remaining technology left by the angel, to fly in the air, it might become a bargaining chip.
At the very least, Kusla did not want the entire world. All he needed was a little workshop, not vast acres of land. All he wanted was to be able to remain on peaceful lands, to experiment with his good companions. At this point, he understood that his land of Magdala was actually so plain and simple.
Thus, all he hoped was for them to return Fenesis and Irine.
Weyland basically had the same thoughts. Phil himself said that as long as he knew the outline of this secret, anything he did could be converted into profits.
“It seems if the sun fragment can be distilled like wine, the power will increase.”
“Wine by itself can be burned. Just need to extract the essence.”
“Just like a soul.”
After this joke, Kusla continued,
“Of course, I know of an experiment where a dying person is weighed on a balance to test the weight of a soul.”
And the result was, there was no difference between dying and dead.
With both hands, Kusla and Weyland grabbed the smooth surface of the miniature tool easily.
Just as the glassmakers of Yazon depleted their family fortunes to seek it, it seemed the masters of the Poldorofs had invested lots of money on the angel’s legend for generations. One could tell from the four, five glass distillation tools of various sizes.
“Then what do you intend to do? If we’re doing the same as distilling wine, we need to mix the sun fragments with charcoal and sulfur, and heat it up. It’ll definitely burn.”
“I won’t hesitate to risk my life, but unfortunately, I have only one~.”
“Let’s try one with only charcoal, and one with only sulfur. The reactions should be somewhat different.”
“We want to be sure of what it really is, but…”
Kusla said as he gathered various materials on the little iron plate
“If we’re feeling really frustrated, we can throw the fire herb in to roast them.”
“Don’t forget the wine~.”
Despite the jokes in their conversation, they had to continue working.
First, they would insert sulfur and the sun fragment into the part to be hearted. The part was formed by a round, pudgy bottle body along with a long, crane-like beak. The crane beak was a long, thin cylinder, ensuring that there were no gaps while transferring the fluid into the vessel.
Phil brought the candle he had prepared beforehand beneath the distillation tool, and had the flame approach it.
“Putting it in.”
“Hopefully, it won’t start burning out of a sudden.”
Weyland said such ominous words, but Kusla ignored him as he focused on the distillation. The candle flame was stretching and shrinking like a snake’s tongue, licking at the bottom.
Nobody said anything, and Kusla stared intently at the contents of the tool unflinchingly.
It was as though he was waiting for that one unfortunate moment, to deject himself through this pessimism, and have it slowly burn.
The first to voice out was Weyland, and soon after, Kusla realized.
“The sun fragment…is melting.”
The mixture of sulfur and the sun fragment was slowly shrinking in the glass tool before them.
“What about the receiver?”
There was a thin mist around the glass vial in the cold pail of water, little, but some fluids gathered beneath.
Air alone would create water droplets when heated and condensed, so this could explain the observation.
But there was a little ash left at the candle flame.
If something had vanished, it would leave traces somewhere.
“Move the fire away. Wait for it to cool, and open.”
Weyland already began to act, moved the candle away, and silently waited for time to pass.
“Some smoke came out when the sun fragment shrank. If only we have some fletchlings here or something~.”
“Such knowledge from the miners to discover if there are toxic gases. But about this…”
Phil looked around.
“Are you looking for a bat?”
Kusla asked, half jokingly, but Phil answered with a serious look,
“No, spiders. Spiders can detect toxic gases even fletchlings can’t. They react painfully~.”
Kusla looked over at Weyland, saying,
“You knew about this?”
“First time I heard of this, because there were often spiders in the alchemist books back then. Looks like there’s something else to them besides giving a terrifying vibe~.”
“Probably one of the forgotten knowledge.”
Phil puffed his chest proudly, having a demeanour no child of his age should have.
However, there was no spider, and no fletchling. Kusla took the receiver from the cooled distillation tool, and fanned his hand to smell,
“…If you want to faint, fall backwards.”
Weyland noted sarcastically, but naturally, Kusla did not fall over.
“Feels like there’s some sulfur…not toxic. Anyway, let’s open and have a look.”
So he poured the contents onto the iron plate.
“Since we used the fire herb, we can use this to roast over the fire—”
Right at this moment.
The fluid on the plate suddenly boiled vigorously.
Phil yelled, while Kusla and Weyland instinctively pulled their distance. There were white smoke and bubbles frothing on the plate.
This reaction soon subsided however, and there was no fire pillar. Incredulous, Kusla glanced aside at Weyland, and the reckless alchemist had already reached his hand slowly for the plate.
“…It’s not hot~?”
This line answered Kusla’s doubt. The plate was definitely not heated, and it should be icy cold in this frigid day. The fluid in the receiver was encased in cooled water, and logically should have been completely cold.
Then, what was that just now?
While flipping through the books, Phil, who knew about books more than anyone else, said,
“Is it a kind of acid?”
“Acid？But this reaction…”
“It’s the strong acid that can be gathered at a volcano crater. I saw it once before. The Far North has volcanoes that erupt at any given moment.”
The boiling on the plate seemed to have subsided completely, leaving behind a few bubbles.
“If that is really the thing I know of, try pouring it into the lead vessel.”
Kusla gave a look, and Weyland immediately searched the tools for the required item.
It was large enough for a hand to barely hold. Kusla once saw records that the lead vessel was suitable for medicine that had been set aside for months, years. It was likely because the heaviness gave a sense of security, and lead, unlike iron, would not rot to the point of having holes all over.
Kusla poured the remaining drop of liquid into the receiver, down through the side of the lead vessel.
The fluid did not boil.
“It is exactly the same as what was recorded by the ancient Kudaros alchemist Abu Alu Illam. This acid is name is derived from the same word, called sulfuric acid, so it probably has something to do with sulfur. My guess is that there is some secret to it if it can be gathered from the volcano. Unfortunately, the method to make it remains unknown, either because the art is lost, or deliberately erased.”
Kusla was disinterested, for it seemed that Phil had read books of alchemy he never did.
“Because we’re from humble backgrounds~.”
Weyland sensed Kusla’s feelings as he said this, and the latter snorted.
Phil, staring at them, was dumbfounded.
“So? How does it help?”
Phil shrugged, and took the plate unhurriedly, washing it in the pail used for cooling. Kusla and Weyland tried to stop him, but it was too late, as Phil, already wiping the plate with his own clothes, gave an incredulous look.
“We have more sun fragments. Shall we redo again? ”
“This isn’t the problem…”
The book would not list all the perils. Carelessly setting aside items that were experimented was like walking blindfolded into a room full of doors. The Bible could have gone one step further and say that there were times even God could not help with.
“Next time, before doing anything, inform us.”
Phil replied, not understanding fully. Whenever Fenesis was told to act, she would abide obediently, and it seemed that even though she was a little dull, and slow, she was still a capable assistant..
“Really. So? Why wash the plate?”
“It seemed the sulfuric acid could melt most metals. Please look, just like this.”
Phil handed over the wiped plate to them. Clearly it had sunk in a little, a hole nearly breached.
“…If we make lots of this thing and pour it down their heads, they’ll cease to exist.”
“Might get resisted by the crude lead armor.”
Kusla groaned, and inhaled.
“It’s impressive, but even if we turn all the sun fragments here into this acid, will the situation change?”
A few spoonfuls of sulfuric acid and sun fragments were added to the tools. They did not know if his guess was correct, but even if they did use all the sun fragments in the wooden box, they could only most make a bucket and so of acid.
“We’re not trying to cause colds on the soldiers~.”
“Feels like if we investigate it thoroughly, we’ll have lots of interesting experiments, but…”
Kusla sighed deeply, his head on his forehead.
He was not feeling hopeless about the experiment, but he simply was not feeling well.
But no matter how he struggled, it would only last until daybreak.
If he did not give his all, surely he would regret.
“It’s nothing. Next.”
“So, charcoal and the sun fragment~.”
This time, it was about the same. The material formed out of the mixture of charcoal and sun fragment vaporized, leaving behind something akin to white skin. The receiver too had some fluids gathered, but there were two decisive differences.
The smoke was brown, giving off a foul, stinging stench.
“Too much…we don’t need a fletching. Even the Dead can revive choking~.”
They inhaled a little despite pinching their noses, but luckily, it seemed they would not die immediately.
“So, as far as you know of, anything that might match the description?”
Kusla asked Phil, who kept fanning his shirt as he answered.
He was worried if he would be bemoaned if this stench was to drift into the Poldorofs’ household.
“Unfortunately, the books do not have smell to them.”
The stench quickly dispersed, and after inhaling, Kusla reached for the distillation tool.
“Let’s try opening it.”
“What about the plate?”
They were dealing with acid. Kusla hesitated for a moment, decided to follow suit.
“Let’s try lead.”
Weyland dug out a lead plate from the pile of tools, and Kusla poured the fluid in.
“…Such a troublesome one.”
The plate fizzled and dissolved.
“In that case, try this.”
They poured it onto the plate this time, and it did not dissolve.
The reaction was clearly different from heating sulfur, so naturally, the extracted liquid should be deemed as something completely different. But of what use was it？
“Does it burn like oil?”
The metal plate did not dissolve, so Kusla brought the fluid applied on the dagger tip onto the candle flame. However, the fire did not burn upwards like the fire herb showed.
“Maybe we need to gather all three so that the door to the treasure cove will open.”
The materials used were sulfur, charcoal and the sun fragment. It could work if the two extracted fluids were gathered and setting them alight. After distillation, one would expect it to be more potent than distilled wine.
“Try mixing? But what about the plate? No matter which we use, one plate will definitely dissolve.
Acid would dissolve metal, and the unknown liquid would do the same to lead. Weyland too pondered for long, seeking a suitable vessel amongst the tools. “Erm, the glass did not dissolve.” Suddenly Phil, chimed in.
Oh God. The two alchemists groaned. They hoped that their brains were dulled simply because of the poison.
Kusla scratched his head, remade the acid, and slowly poured it into the glass vial he had just used.
“This alone won’t burn.”
“It’s the same as the fire herb. Maybe we can use a long stick on a haystack, and try putting a fire on it?”
It would be over if they were to set all the fluids aflame and create fire pillars in this cramped space. They extracted another portion of mixture into a new glass vessel, and then slowly brought some flaming hay over to it.
The trio did not speak up, most probably because they were trying to swallow their disappointment.
“Why isn’t it burning?”
Kusla said impatiently, Weyland’s hand was hanging on the table as he groaned,
“Coal won’t burn if it’s wet, so maybe it’s the same reason~?”
“Distilled wine is flammable even though it’s a fluid, same as oil.”
Well, you are correct, so Weyland pointed at Kusla, and looked up at the low ceiling.
“Strange. One plus one plus one doesn’t equate to three or four, but two or one now~.”
“Is it too naïve of us to think that we can simply harness its power?”
While the two fluids in hand might be precious discoveries in the world of alchemy, it would not save them from their predicament.
While it was difficult for them to make friends with the clergymen, at this point, they could empathize with the latter’s attitude to pray to God whenever they were attacked.
“In that case, we’ll have to choose the path that isn’t easy~.”
“Your meaning is?”
Phil’s question had Kusla smirking.
“Experiment, experiment and experiment.”
“The restless alchemist is going to show what he can do.”
Kusla inhaled hard, exerting his still poisoned body.
They mixed all the various materials, heated, cooled, and roasted them.
The responses they got were similar, or none at all. Weyland joked that it was similar to wooing the heart of a cold woman, who would at most reward with a smile when she was feeling good.
Lead would not turn into gold. Such logic naturally should apply at such situations.
“This is the end.”
He knew it should be useless, but he added ordinary, plain salt as a test, and there was no change.
On a side note, by adding acid, even lead would dissolve. Due to the change in nature, Kusla recorded the findings of acidic salt, but there was no greater discovery.
It probably was fine to be used as a condiment for their last dinner.
“…What do we do now?”
Phil fidgeted, but to Kusla and Weyland, this was just the beginning, so they shrugged.
“If two can’t work, make it three.”
“If that can’t work, make it four~.”
They began to mix the materials on hand, repeating their experiments. They filtered, mixed, adjusted the proportions, heated, cooled, roasted, washed, and filtered, mixed…ten times, twenty, thirty…they kept going. Little by little they progressed, yet they believed this would get them close to the Truth, and they got down to repeating the same motions over and over again.
They could not stop thinking. From their experiments, they knew that no matter how strong the heart is, any repeated anticipation and disappointment would wear away at it. Thus, they would not hope, but they would not give up. While concealing the ice and fire in their hearts, they continued to act with nonchalance. Such was the ability of an alchemist, the one method for their single-minded advance.
But no matter how mentally strong they were, their arms had their limits. After forty times, they started losing count if they had not recorded on the stone tablet. The fatigue and cold and the washing caused their hands to become numb, their arms heavy as though they had just carried a donkey, their temples seemingly embdded with a rod, their throats hot and stinging, yet never to be abated no matter how much water they drank.
The words recording the results of the experiment were not easy to decipher, for his vision was blurred.
Right on the brink was his concentration.
The determination to get Fenesis and Irine back, to get back at the spies, and to reach the land of Magdala, was fading fast. He could hear the Devil muttering at his ears, why do this?
Defying his fate would be similar to going against the rapid currents. For those that had fallen the height of a waterfall, even a bird would backtrack seeing the arduous toil of climbing back up.
It was completely impossible. He tried. It was enough.
Fenesis too would understand. She suffered much, and had a nice dream traveling with them. Was this not enough? She was supposed to be a cursed tool when they first met at Gulbetty, and perish there. It was him, not anyone else who saved her. Even if he could not save her at this point, he did not need to mind. There was no way she could hate him.
Is it not? Kusla?
Kusla inadvertently hollered, and suddenly lifted his face.
Weyland gave a skeptical look, while Phil looked flabbergasted. It seemed Kusla had fallen asleep waiting for a reaction during the distillation. This is fine. So Kusla waved his hand, evading their stares, and scratched his head.
He was startled. Was it a dream, or did the devil really beckon for him? The temptation itself was unnerving. The forbidden fruit of yielding was a fallen one, that anyone who tried it once would never remain in paradise again.
But in contrast, the completely red fruit looked sweet and soft.
Look, it resembled a bleeding pomegranate.
Someone seemed to be speaking by Kusla’s ear, and his eyes slowly began to focus..
What happened to the organ-like pomegranate?
Kusla reacted to Weyland’s voice, and gulped, slowly speaking,
Weyland gave him a cold look, devoid of any warmth.
Kusla gaudily averted his eyes. Weyland was not worried about Kusla, but fearful that Kusla would commit a foolish mistake due to fatigue, resulting in a serious accident.
Weyland understood that Kusla knew this very well, and let the latter of. If the latter was to sleep again, he might knock him unconscious without a warning, until they were to be taken to the gallows.
Or maybe he might skip this step…
Kusla punched his trembling leg, and stood up, stretching his body that was overly stiff, either due to the poison or fatigue.
There was some steady, real wind blowing in the basement, helping to ventilate the place. However, it was utterly cold, and their strength was being sapped away. While the Poldorofs had these suspicious experiment tools for generations, it was a wise decision for them to scrap the tin items.
Tin had a unique characteristic, that once it was overly cold, it would slowly crumble like hardened sand. There would be some cracking, indescribable shrill sounds. Some had called it the crying of tin.
As he thought about it subconsciously, he felt that it was lonely not having a girl next to him, one who would be elated to hear such trivia, and suspicious if he was bluffing her.
Before he knew it, Fenesis’ absence was no longer fuel for the anger in Kusla’s belly, but robbing his body of a certain thing instead.
Of course, his body was still moving. The habitual experience would not vanish that easily.
However, his soul could not follow his physical movement. If this kept up, it was a matter of time until his soul was torn apart, and the strands linking his body might snap.
After that, once they were done mixing four, five materials in different combinations, none of them could speak. Phil, who wandered around looking for books, should be rather healthy, but he was much older, and his body was a little too pudgy to be hustling around. He was panting, and had to take breaks and sit on the chair. Any bystander could tell he was slower to get up each and every time.
The only one moving like an ordinary person was Weyland, but he was not of much use.
Nevertheless, looking from afar, it seemed Kusla was the most useless. He was unable to get up from the chair, and could barely move his hands within the range he could reach. The reason Weyland never knocked Kusla unconscious from behind was surely because he had no strength to do so.
Or perhaps he was at a point when losing Kusla in this state would be troublesome to him.
Kusla suddenly felt like he was looking down at himself from above, and had the urge to laugh and cry. Is this not a microcosm of life? So he thought. People could only reach anything within the range of their arms. Anything that grazed their fingertips, or were flicked away, would never return again.
Naturally, he would think it was preposterous, that since he had reached out for it, he had to continue.
However, the reality before their eyes was cruel.
Kusla’s hands landed heavily on the table, unable to move. It was not because he was completely weary. He should be able to move. If he was simply down to his hands, he had confidence that he could move them until his demise.
But there was nothing he could do.
“…Somehow…a dead end~.”
Weyland, who had stood the entire time, finally collapsed onto the chair.
At this moment, the ceiling seemed to have lowered, and it was probably not an illusion.
“…We might have…missed something.”
Phil said with a parched, hoarse voice. Even at this moment, he remained defiant. Phil had experienced much hardship.
Kusla stared intently at the tools dirtied because of the repeated experiments.
If their hard work could be crystallized, he wanted to see how they would look.
“…Missed out on…like where~?”
It was one thing to be sarcastic, but Weyland sounded as though he was hoping for it to be the case. Phil showed a grimmer look than when he was jeered, and lowered his head.
“If only we have more time…”
He groaned. Since when did they miss out on anything? If anyone wanted to find people forsaken by God, there were three available.
Having thought of this joke, Kusla snickered, attracting the attention of the other two.
“I got…a conclusion.”
He let his sticky throat reverb like the bellows of hell. Whenever he breathed, his lungs would rumble, and he had no strength to cough. Despite that, finally at the very end, Kusla felt thoroughly relieved instead.
It would be great if they had time, like Phil said, but Kusla did not think so. They did everything they could, and utilized their time well. They simply never got an answer. However, it was a question with no definite answer, like the theological question of how many angels were dancing on a needle head.
Thus, there was no need to be disappointed just because they had no answer.
And as long as they were not disappointed, they could think of the next action to take.
“Bring…all the sulfur and charcoal.”
Confused wrinkles appeared on Phil’s lethargic face.
“Hohoho, that’s really just like you, Kusla~.”
It seemed Weyland understood immediately, and he could only smile wryly.
The only one left incredulous was Phil.
“We’re settling this score, up front.”
Phil’s mouth was left agape. Luckily, he did not voice it out. It was obvious what he wanted to say next, and while he mentioned to swallow the word ‘fool’ back, he said with an agitated look of disbelief,
“B-but, how do we do that?”
“Blow them up with the fire herb.”
“A-aren’t we working hard now because this isn’t feasible?”
“We have no other way out of this.”
Kusla shrugged, and Weyland giggled, choking and coughing away.
“…B-but…just look at the mirror. You’re all so worn out. Settle the score? Are you for real?”
Phil was telling the truth.
Nevertheless, it was still possible to eke out the last bit of strength during this little respite before the spies brought the soldiers along
If not, Kusla had another plan.
“Or when they start to close in here, we’ll ignite the fire herb.”
“Hm? Ohoho…how vicious you are Kusla, just like old times~.”
If a fire pillar was summoned in such a cramped space, there would be nowhere to escape. They would drag along many enemies to their deaths.
While it would be impossible to eliminate them all, they could enact some vengeance at least.
“I do feel we’ll be burned to death by the flamethrowers though.”
Saying that, Phil scratched his head.
“Let’s run away, right now.”
“I said, let’s run away. Our brains contain knowledge, and with enough time, we’ll find a way. Run first, and then think.”
“Do you think we can?”
Kusla sneered at this suggestion, for it was too cold, and something burning within his body was about to be extinguished.
“…Why are you so practical only with regards to this…”
Phil lamented, and Kusla merely tilted his head in response, not even bothering to shrug.
“But you can run. I won’t stop you.”
He knew that Phil was not coaxing them just to live. Surely Phil had experienced similar situations, and said the same lines as depicted in the book in his hands.
The difference was, the books would obey him, while Kusla and Weyland would not.
“You have enough reason to abandon everything and live. If you swear absolute compliance to them, you might be able to live.”
“But we’re already labelled. Nobody will believe us.”
“This is our just desserts~.”
Phil, the first to be an adult, stared sadly at the two alchemists who could be considered impish children.
“Yes. Even if you do run away, I won’t hate you. Even if you wag and beg for mercy, I won’t look down on you. You have your goals, and you’re obedient to that. I’ll respect you for that.”
Kusla said, and smiled to console Phil. As he smiled, he found it intriguing that he could show such a smile.
Saying this, Phil kept quiet. Kusla saw that Phil was probably reproaching him, and sighed. While this Phil was undoubtedly a peerless genius, he was ultimately a middle aged man with a pudgy belly. If Fenesis and Irine were here, his smile would have no regret or hesitation.
Grimacing at this, he sighed again.
At the very least, they had to ensure the fire pillar was burning wildly, for the girls to hear. He hoped it would be the call of farewell, an apology for being unable to protect them, rather than to be murdered quietly.
Kusla inhaled, and brought the air into the heavy body that almost had its spine shattered.
He knew that one day, he would die. However, he never thought it would be for real. If he had not been careless, if he had not let his guard down, he might have been able to avoid this. When the fire herb was completed, if he had thought of it as a hill of gold and silver, and took appropriate care, the spies would not have seized the opportunity. He would not have easily allowed the food given by others to end up anywhere else.
If he had continued to doubt everything in the world like before, this would probably not have beened. It was most ironic, that the greatest reward he had from travelling with Fenesis, Irine, and Weyland was the notion that trusting others was not a bad thing. However, it was for this reason that he let his guard down.
Kusla could not determine if it was a bad thing.
The only thing certain was that he once felt this happiness for a moment.
Not a bad life, it seemed.
“Kusla, will you choose wood to hug? Or metal~?”
What Weyland mentioned in a hearty tone was not the material of the coffin, but the container of the fire herb when they immolated themselves.
“If metal, it’ll be cold.”
“I guess. Let’s choose the wood then~.”
Seeing Weyland’s response, Kusla thought.
There was no doubt he did not fear death. In that case, what were the feelings swirling within his heart?
Kusla understood, but he was unwilling to talk. It felt like a demon, one that would appear the moment he spoke of it.
He felt lonely.
Kusla quietly muttered in his heart, only to chide himself for being a fool.
How could an alchemist call himself lonely!?
Nevertheless, this feeling was like a named dog. No matter how he tried to shoo it away, it would follow and dawdle around him.
Fenesis. Ul Fenesis.
Kusla knew it was the third time he had fallen asleep, and he waved his hand, trying to shoo away the closing black beast, as though making a desperate protest against this cruel world.
Then, his world was turned upside down, and after the shattering sounds of glass and toppling items, a dull pain struck his entire body.
The ground his face was on was as cold as ice, and the smell of dirt he experienced after a long while was not bad in the slightly.
He could not help but smile, for he was looking so unsightly.
“A-are you fine?”
Kusla was about to wave his right hand to stop a panicking Phil.
But he felt a stinging, numbing pain.
“Don’t move. You got cut by glass. ”
Phil grabbed Kusla by the arm, and Weyland, looking concerned, handed over a handkerchief as a bandage. The coat used to disguise himself as a young lord of a guild was torn and tattered, along with the sleeve of the undershirt. His garments, which he had worn for a long while, were long eroded, and it was a matter of time until they tore. Even if he wanted to mend, he had no money. Phil thought of many ways, but decided to cut off the sleeve.
“The acid used for the experiment is on the arm…ar-are you fine?”
“Hmm…at the very least, you’re still alive, huh~?”
Weyland’s voice came from above, and Kusla chuckled as he coughed twice to respond.
“It’s a large wound, but luckily not too deep. Wash it with water and bandage it.”
It seemed that Phil was used to travelling, and adept at dealing with wounds.
“Now I’m wounded all over…”
“Shows that you made complete use of the body God granted you~.”
Yes. Kusla grinned at Weyland, and struggled to get up. Phil hurriedly lifted him, and upon seeing that, Weyland commented,
“Why don’t you just sleep now? I’ll tie a pail of fire herbs to your stomach. ”
Kusla finally stood up, and refuted,
“I’m the restless alchemist.”
Weyland shrugged, grinning heartily. Kusla was a little torn on what to take of his reaction.
While Fenesis was not around, there was still Weyland. Kusla sat on the chair once again, his eyes as serene as a tranquil lake surface as he observed this underground cave.
He hoped that when the fire herb got burned, the explosions could reach Fenesis’ ears.
This was his only thought.
The table remained messy after the experiment, more so after Kusla fell asleep and fell over. Truly it did not resemble a table an alchemist should have, and finally, he could stop.
At this point, the familiar plates, vessels and distillation tools were a little cuter. He would be seeing candles for the last time, candles he stared at for hundreds, thousands of days.
But while Kusla saw the dirtied sleeve of acid that was cut away, he suddenly had a thought..
“Shall I bury the sleeve here?”
“The restless alchemist is going to sleep here.
“Nice joke there. Feels like we’ll be hearing groans of the evil alchemist here~.”
“Yes, I hope so.”
The buried sleeve would definitely continue to struggle even after its master’s demise, advancing to the Truth. Well, if such a legend was left behind, he probably would not suffer divine retribution.
Kusla smirked, and reached his hand for the sleeve. It was completely torn in this night full of experiments and countless labor. His finger pulled at the result of this toil.
Perhaps the sudden interaction with God happened accidentally.
The moment Weyland turned from the storage—
A flash appeared upon the messy table, and time stood still. A light as sharp as a sword shone into Kusla and the others, who had ceased to act, and the moment it radiated, it compressed. While time stood still, the severed sleeve slowly rose. It appeared as though God was trying to stab the arm through with this tattered sleeve, or that the sleeve wanted to excrete something, wincing painfully. The sleeve continued to absorb light, before disintegrating.
Rising out was a massive flame.
Appearing was the fire spirit, flapping its wings of flames, dragging the long scorching hair, its clothes fluttering away.
The fire spirit, not belonging to this place, was summoned as its body shivered, elated to be free from the Earth. One would have thought it would fly quickly into the skies as it was swallowed into the sky, immediately vanishing.
Whoosh. Following that, there was an astounding sound, and the sleeve burned to its life’s end finished its mission as it fell to the table surface dilapidated. Every one present could only stare at it silently, and nobody spoke up.
Kusla had assumed it was a dream, for it was so surreal. That fire spirit even smiled at Kusla.
It resembled a slightly grown, and matured Fenesis.
“…Did you…see it?”
Kusla had enough of the silence, and asked.
After a long silence, Weyland answered,
“We saw…the fire …”
Phil gulped, and said,
This was no illusion. Kusla stared at his sleeve. Though it was nearly charred completely, there was some white smoke. The ordinary thing from before actually began burning by itself. It was as though he had reached his arm into hell, and it became the catalyst to summoning the fire spirit.
No, how is this possible? Kusla shook his head.
How could they have possibly summoned the fire spirit? That was a certain reaction. The same raw material as the fire herb was used. Since a similar phenomenon happened, it indicated this was no magic, no miracle.
“…It’s similar to the fire herb, but…”
Yes. While both would ignite flames, it sounded as though it compressed the fire herb.
A few seconds slowly drifted by before Kusla’s eyes. Despite that, the impatient fire spirit left him unable to grab its hair.
“…Reason? What reason? ”
Every single word from Kusla was like a groan as he scanned the table surface. Then, he realized something was amiss. The sleeve was burning, for it had changed.
The sleeve was cut off because Kusla was hurt, and the wound was caused by the distillation tool. Back then…
Kusla recalled, and removed his shirt, drew the dagger from his waist to cut off the remaining sleeve, and tossed upon it the thing he left ever since their experiment. It was exactly the same as the fire herb, but did not burn despite having a flame on it. It was a fluid mixture of ash, the sun fragments, and sulfur, distilled to this form.
While waiting for the fluid to seep into the cloth, Kusla took the candle in his hand. He recalled that when he reached his hand out for it, his sleeve was hooked by the finger, brought to the magic array.
A candle flame was required for that.
And thus, the basement was filled with the colors of light once again, the flame tongue licking at the ceiling before dissipating.
His sleeve was instantly charred.
Kusla was left at a loss.
“…So this is the last thing lacking? ”
They mixed various items, experimenting, but the answer was too surprising.
“I never thought it should be in cloth and lighted up …”
“This might be the crux to break the deadlock.”
Kusla muttered, while Phil and Weyland nodded. Kusla, who would have exerted all his strength just to move his arms, got up from the chair.
“We got the clothing of God.”
This was no hyperbole, but close to the truth.
They wandered about the entrance of the demon’s belly, seeking the holes linked to the outside, checking the skies.
While the skies remained dark like ink, the stars were already pointing east, about to fade. The owls would sleep, the priests would wake. There was not much time left.
At this point, Kusla’s group finally understood what they had obtained.
“Let’s get this sorted out.”
Kusla placed his fingertips on the stone tablet. His hand was completely disfigured by the white bear poison, and due to the serious burn, it was all swollen. Weyland too was in a similar state, but Phil luckily was not hurt. Nevertheless, the latter’s clothes seemed to be stained in flying liquids, all burned to soot.
What they obtained was akin to a temperamental kitten.
“This fluid won’t burn by itself.”
“But by touching it directly, the hand will feel scorched~.”
Weyland twitched his little finger as he said so. Kusla never realized as his arm was aching from the cut, but the areas the fluid had touched was forming boils, giving a strange color.
Kusla and Weyland’s hands were scalded, and they were scarred all over, but they did not bandage themselves. It would be too dangerous if the fluid was to seep into the bandages.
“This fluid only reacts to fluid when mixed with cloth, paper and wood. Also, if soaked in the fluid, these things won’t burn if there’s no fire. So…”
“This is the material for our counterattack.”
“Which is the more potent one, compared to the fire herb?”
After that, they summoned the fire spirit again and again, and found that it was certainly more majestic, it would be hard to say if it would be more powerful as a weapon.
“The fire herb is powerful too. So, the advantage this has…”
Kusla pointed his thumb not at the fire herb, but at the glass bottle of fire elixir.
“Basically, it’s a fluid. The fire herb becomes obvious because of the black soot, and it’s very ideal for the resistance since it’s invisible.”
“If you soak it in cloth, it becomes a fire coat…maybe you can deliver these clothes to the enemy to wear, and shoot a fire arrow~?”
“And do we just watch and dance? ”
There was no way it was going to proceed so smoothly.
“But, well…we can only think using what we have.”
“How about we dip it in paper, and send it over as a letter to surrender?”
“Through words that will show by roasting?”
They were certain the elixir was not potent enough to burn any reader to crisp. It was unlikely there would be a bigger effect except for instantaneous shock. While Kusla was scratching away at his head, he had a feeling Weyland’s proposal was not completely out there.
“This is how we’re proceeding then.”
They understood the enemy was not an opponent they could beat up front. They had hostages taken from them, inferior numbers, and the enemy was heavily armed. The enemy had an ace, and it was unknown which would be more potent. The difference would be the usage.
Nevertheless, technology would deliver vastly different results based on its usage.
Furthermore, since they could not break through up front, they had to do the unexpected. Weyland himself was full of the unexpected, so what he suggested repeatedly, anything in his hands was often maximized to its full potential. Surely there was a way to break this deadlock.
Even if there was not, they had to create it.
“There’s nothing more suitable than this for an ambush. There’s a way, there will be! ”
Kusla scratched his head hard, standing from his chair. He did not know if the toxins had weakened, or that his rage had caused him to forget his pain. He was living like a bear, circling the workshop.
Weyland was inclined lightly into his chair, his legs stretched haphazardly, his arms folded as he kept thinking.
Phil stared at the characteristics of the elixir that were recorded on the stone tablet.
“Brother Phil, aren’t you a book merchant? Haven’t you read any books about assassination, or anything that might be helpful?”
Phil lifted his head in shock, and then shrugged, saying,
“It is common to see stories of assassination by poison, but only to the extent of poisoning the king’s food and drink. There are few depictions of what poisons were used. More ludicrously, there were stories of the assassin being a witch, waving her wand, and the ground will crack, lightning will appear, and the guards will be turned to frogs.”
“Well, if this is fact, the witch would be queen of the world now.”
But the situation did not happen.
“What shall I do…what shall I do…”
Kusla muttered again.
If they could not think of any way, Kusla and Weyland would be executed, while Fenesis and Irine would be sent unwillingly to the battlefield. Fenesis would be boasted as one capable of executing miracles, used thoroughly, and would be immediately executed like an insect once she was unable to rally the masses, or was an obstacle to the spies. Irine herself was capable, but she knew all the secrets. There was no way she would have a good fate.
For that moment, Kusla felt that the Magdala-like peace would never return. The truly fleeting moment of miracle had vanished, and he was left with nothing but the gallows.
It was merely a few days ago when he pinched Fenesis’ cheeks to rely on him, back when he assumed everything in the world was going well. However, the cheek he could reach out to was not around. The sturdy figure, ever prone to anger upon being teased and yet would follow him hastily, was no longer present. The nosy blacksmith who was a maiden at heart was no longer present as well. He had not repaid the debt to her, who had the flair of a blacksmith leader, a good person unable to leave others alone.
Most importantly, Kusla once found the path leading to Magdala.
He did not think there would be a miracle more amazing. He never had the notion of running away, for he knew very well that no matter where he went, it was no different from death.
The meaning of his life was vanishing.
“What shall I do…”
Nevertheless, fate remained cruel.
While God showed them a glimpse of light, he showed no answer.
Frustration and anxiety was almost burning his gut away. Weyland gave Kusla an apprehensive look, but the latter was unable to calm down in any way.
“If only…we have a little more.”
Phil muttered to himself.
“Yes. If we had enough, we would not have so much trouble to begin with. ”
A change in quantity is a change in nature. A grape would merely rot and dry, but if they were gathered in numbers within a bag, it would become a wonderful wine.
“Or maybe, is there any method that can be called magic.”
Kusla said, turning to Weyland.
To vent his frustrations, Kusla began answering in rhetoric.
“The spirits aren’t appearing, and so isn’t the demon.”
“Maybe there’s a possibility of linking it to a demon summoning ritual, brother Phil~?”
Alchemists would not rely on superstitions. Once they discovered any superstition, they would act calmly and logically to see if it worked.
But if there was really something worth trying, they would not care how foolish it would be.
Kusla too felt this was the only way to succeed, and looked towards Phil.
“…There are many books…pertaining to spells on this land. When the heretics fled the inquisitors in the South, they’ll leave behind their research. ”
“Shall we try?”
“…I don’t mind…”
From Phil’s tone, it seemed he had already tried so. He probably tried drawing a magic array in the basement using chicken blood, or something similar. If they truly believed there would be any change however, they would have no right to be alchemists.
The only ones who would be fooled by this would be those foolish folks appearing cautious, only to blindly believe those who loudly proclaimed it to be real. Those who believed the show the spies put on at the southern side of town were such people, of completely obedience.
The fire elixir appeared to be some ordinary fluids. One would draw an array on cloth, bring fire close to it, and anyone would mistake it as a miracle.
But leading the enemy this time were the spies, who knew very well it was no merely. They too had the fire herb, akin to a miracle. They could not pour hot mercury down a chicken’s beck for a miracle. They needed something more direct, a wonderful trick to force them to submit
This would be similar to Weyland’s idea, and would be better than lighting a shirt soaked in elixir, or summoning a fire spirit by drawing an array with the elixir. In any case, the plan was to present a miracle without leaving any doubt.
“Damn…has God escaped again!? ”
He was more incensed than ever, for he had witnessed the light of hope for a moment.
Weyland probably wandered around outside to sort out his thoughts, before he returned.
“It’s almost time. The sky’s about to brighten.”
In any case, there was insufficient.
He had hope, was betrayed, and had hope again…such emotions kept repeating themselves.
Kusla forced a sigh to crush the bitterness in his hard, and inhaled hard.
Once he exhaled, he made up his mind.
“So Brother Phil, if you have the chance to record the annals, make sure what’s written about our pranks is exciting.”
“Eh? Ah? ”
“We’re going to make a scene with the technology the angel left behind. Write something like ‘we opened the gates of Hell, and brought the Knights along’. ”
“Ohoho. Yes, those fellows are coming to capture us in the name of revenge. Looks like they’ll be coming in proper formation, so let’s send them packing from the front~ ”
Even though the result would ultimately be a defeat, they had to enact revenge. The alchemists would leave no names behind, and nobody would ask about them, but they believed their research would reach those after them. It was for this reason that they persisted on.
No person would actually do something completely meaningless without a second thought.
“We need to make it loud enough for the princesses locked behind the walls can hear us. Make sure the gates of Hell are opened to their maximum.”
If this was sufficient for them to express their apologies to Fenesis and Irine, the tools they had might be considered most suitable.
“We ended up here because I burned a Saint’s bones into the furnace. I see. God might really exist, and punish us.”
Weyland grinned, telling Phil,
“If we’re going to make it filled with pagan presence, I want a bigger cloth…well, isn’t it just perfect~.”
He was referring to a massive cloth used to cover the alchemist’s tools.
“We’ll draw an array using the elixir. It might be a bluff, but it’ll be somewhat effective, maybe? Brother Phil, can we ask you to do this?”
“If-if that’s all, that’ll be a piece of cake.”
They had to make it the greatest magic from an alchemist who could turn lead into gold. Kusla understood that Weyland’s proposal was like a script on hand. They were both hopeless pranksters back when they were apprentices at the Knights headquarters.
They were feisty, and hated each other so much, they tried to kill each other. While Kusla recalled about some useless pranks, they did cooperate before. It was thus easy for him to imagine Weyland’s plan. The scene was depicted in Kusla’s mind, and he smiled. They were to formulate one last grand, ridiculous spell before the serious Knights, so he thought as he thought of the steps.
Imagine that scene…imagine…imagine…
Kusla widened his eyes.
“Or maybe we can fire an arrow wrapped in a cloth soaked with elixir, followed by a fire arrow. Can this work?”
“Hm—we have to see if we have time for that. This is a little bland too~.”
Phil and Weyland were chatting nonchalantly, so much so that one would not have assumed this to be a matter of life and death. Next to them, a picture appeared in Kusla’s mind.
People might call it as ‘possibility’.
“Hm? Kusla, what’s with you~?”
Weyland sensed something was amiss with Kusla.
But the latter never responded as he stared intently at the stone elixir depicting the characteristics of the elixir.
All the investigated characteristics of the elixir were recorded. Transparent, not flammable on its own, but only with certain elements, along with the tongue of flames upon it would it burn.
So what elements were they?
Cloth, paper, and wood.
On the other hand, he could imagine the enemy’s advance. Since it would be out of revenge, they would be lined up in formation in respect to their deceased commander. This would be a form of transferring authority to the spies.
Speaking of which…
Kusla covered his mouth, checking once again, sorting out his own thoughts.
The technology would exhibit massive effects, depending on its usage.
But to achieve that, every obtained tool had to be utilized perfectly.
“We can create the miracle!”
“Maybe we can replicate the miracle of the angel. No, the demon.”
Hearing Weyland’s summon, Kusla turned to him.
“We’ll burn Abbas in a sea of fire.”
He realized he was grinning like a devil.
However, this was the only way, the best way, to perform a legendary miracle. They would prepare the gates of hell, and devour the elite forces of the Knights. There was no other.
Kusla explained the plan to Weyland and Phil. While this would require some assistance from Phil, he would have to rely on the man he was closest with, ever since they were apprentices.
“Kusla, you’re one real alchemist~.”
Weyland, upon hearing the plan, seemed to be holding in his tears as he gave a gaudy grin.
“Whatever. I can’t prepare this by myself.”
Weyland nodded, and stood up boisterously.
Phil, who too was assigned work, jolted in excitement.
“Right, let’s create a new miracle.
Also, at the end of every single legend was——
“So happens that we have princesses waiting for us to save.”
He was right.
The roles were set.
They simply had to dump their materials into the cauldron and let it stew.
This would be the greatest dish.
“Let the legend begin!”
The trio, full of vigor at this point, nodded in unison.