Hellping

After witnessing the temple, they went to a charcoal hut that was not the shoddy wooden cabin they had imagined, but an intricate stone structure complete with a water wheel.

“Feels like this place is more of a workplace for large fires instead of a charcoal hut.”

This hut had a basement and two levels, and was accompanied with a smelting furnace powered by a water wheel. There probably was a demand for knives, given that the tanning industry was rife. The smoldering stove for charcoal was outside, and well maintained. Surely people often used it.

“To this settlement, fire is a special existence.”

The scars from the legend still existed, and people were still bound by the devastating memory.

“It’s understandable after seeing that river. It’s probably like a painting out of hell.”

When he was a child, Kusla witnessed his hometown razed to the ground.

But the land was not simply devoured by fire. It suffered an unprecedented experience that was most likely witnessed for the first time ever since humanity arrived on this land.

“That technology’s actually capable of this.”

Even Weyland, who could often laugh it off no matter how shocking it was, seemed utterly defeated as he put his hand on his forehead.

Kusla could have put up a facade if Weyland had acted nonchalant.

However, it was so shocking that they forgot to do so.

“This is the fear caused by our ignorance…we can’t laugh at others now.”

Kusla said, recalling how he stood for ages before the temple.

They entered the temple, fueled by their curiosity, which lit their path through the terrifying darkness.

They passed through the entrance of the temple, and arrived at a cave deeper than the one they had entered by. There appeared to be intricate crevices between the rocks forming the entrance, preserving some visibility. The cave was not dug up by man, and the fact was confirmed by the fact that the rock between them had turned into glass or ash. Fire of tremendous temperatures devoured the place.

And it was likely that fire exploded from the core of the cave.

Kusla followed Weyland down the stone steps, and his footsteps were cautious, for he could not erase the foolish thoughts from his mind. He had a feeling that if he trampled about, a pillar of fire would rise.

Once he got to the bottom, his eyes got used to the darkness, and he could somewhat distinguish the surrounding objects.

Weyland, who was before him, lifted his head, and stared intently at something.

“What is it?”

Weyland merely lifted his chin when posed with the question.

And Kusla looked over at where Weyland was looking.

“…A mural…? Angels?”

Looking up the hole, he found that the temple ceiling was tall, about four to five times his height. Stretching high up was a powerful looking mural. Depicted upon them were similar looking people dressed in robes with distinct animal features, akin to heralds, their hands raised above, flying.

Such a simplistic design felt strangely ominous, and they gasped, for there was a mysterious flame colored in bright red dye, stretching from their feet to the temple’s ceiling. Depicted here was not simply a fact that had happened, but a respect, lament, flummox, or simply, the urge to question.

Why did they do that? What was this town, this land?

There were parchments, meat and fruits offered at the base of the mural. There was nary a sight of rats, nor any signs of decay, as they laid there, perhaps because of the frigid weather, or the timely offerings.

Kusla knew that he was overthinking it, but it seemed the meat and fruits were in awe and silenced.

“Well, we can be sure something did happen here.”

They couldn’t see any expressions on the sidelong faces of the angels,and the emotionless eyes, depicted as holes on such murals, looked up towards the sky. The people kneeling at their feet lamented, but their cries fell on deaf ears. Would it be biased of them to assume that the angels were cruel?

“I really…don’t want to show her this.”

Kusla muttered as he stared at the mural. He knew that Weyland was looking at him, but he did not look back.

After all, he did not truly intend to shy Fenesis away from this.

“…I am fine.”

Fenesis, having entered through the entrance along with Irine, said adamantly. She might have resolved herself.

“I am a little relieved, actually.”

“…Relieved?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis gave a restrained, bitter smile.

“Yes. A certain person will be fuming if there is nothing interesting found after we have come all the way here.”

They went through hardships to pursue this legend. Kusla once said that if there really was nothing, others would have laughed their hides off.

But he was not to be swallowed by the legend.

For it was he who would devour it instead.

“Ah, you’re right.”

Kusla nodded, his hands on his hips as he made an exaggerated sigh. He stood before the mural that nearly overwhelmed him, and had to at least act decent to salvage the situation.

“Since it had turned into quite the situation, that’s an opponent worthy of us. Alchemists are those who dare to grab the hems of God, and not to be terrified of this little thing.”

It was obvious how pretentious he was being, but it was a form of pride as an alchemist, which should relieve Fenesis somewhat. This girl with the cursed blood was smiling with relief.

And so, drawn back to reality, Kusla said while being in the charcoal hut,

“Alchemists are those who dare to grab the hems of God. We’re going to find a way to fly in the skies, understand what the Whites did here, and kick the hinds of the locals if they continue to shiver. We’ll seek out the trails of the Whites, and seize them!”

“Seize?”

Irine’s question had Kusla snickering.

“I got lots of questions to ask.”

“Like, whether the Whites are as adorable as little Ul?”

That’s just your wish, right? Kusla had to chuckle at this, but his mind started to conjure such images, so he hastily answered to erase it.

“I’m going to ask if they really created the godly metal Orichalcum, and others.”

Irine’s eyes immediately blinked away. She did once create a replica of the legendary Damascus steel. The always enigmatic Weyland too seemed interested, and bucked up.

“Yeah. The best way to get answers is to capture the people involved and ask. The best way to that day is to fly in the air like birds and look for them~.”

“That’s the logic. Let’s prepare for our experiments.”

Kusla clapped, as though hinting at a magic code, and the workshop soon regained his usual atmosphere.

“Alright, where shall we begin from?”

Irine rolled up her sleeves, released her tools from her belongings, and asked enthusiastically.

“One likely manner as to why the town exploded is the fire herb, but we’ve no idea on the technology for flying. Our current objective is to seek out other methods, and my guess is that it’s a technology no inferior to the fire herb or the flamethrower, efficient for battle.”

“City walls shall be obsolete, huh~.”

“Alzen will be crying tears of joy.”

The Knights, employers of Kusla and company, were in a state of war against the ex-Pagan country of Latria who had allied with the Southern rulers, and the Pope, ruling the Church, had decreed to purge the Knights. No matter how strong the Knights were, this truly was a disadvantageous situation.

Despite that, they could possibly reverse the situation if they capitalize upon the amazing technology left by the Whites.

Kusla and the others did not wish to partake in the war though. No matter what happened to the Knights, they wished to simply set up a workshop to proceed with research, and were fine with whoever was invigilating them.

The issue then was that while they assumed the survival of the Knights was unrelated to them, the Knights had the opposite viewpoint.

“Anyway, haven’t you already figured it out?”

Irine’s sudden question left Kusla momentarily perturbed, and then he immediately understood what she referred to. It was an interlude that happened while they were searching for the sun fragments at the new Abbas, which they had resided at just days ago.

Irine was skeptical that there were things other than birds that could fly in the sky, and so was Fenesis.

“If it’s something very light, it can float without effort when smoke from a flame rises.”

“So we can’t apply this idea?”

Truly it was the thought of a blacksmith who could create anything with her hammer.

“I suppose it is possible if we use the fire herb or the elixir…but it is easier to witness the real deal than to explain with words.”

“Hm…? But we just need to gather the smoke, don’t we?”

Irine was the most skeptical about the idea of flying, but it seemed she was sometimes curious because she was suspicious.

“Of course. First, we need some thin paper, glue, and rope. Make it into a bag. A bran adhesive will be the best option…”

It was the part exposed after the wheat husks were pried off, hard, and sticky when mixed with water.

“They probably have some powerful glue made while tanning that should be better than bran. I’ll go get some. Leave the paper to me too. I’m a book merchant after all.”

Phil slapped his chest with his fist.

“Weyland and I will create a sample then.”

“Understood. We’ll just make the bag then. Mr Phil, little Ul and I shall assist in procuring the ingredients. Please lead the way.”

“Leave it to me.”

After this discussion, Irine and Fenesis put their fur coats on. Irine, ever deft in her actions, went out first, and the slightly clumsy Fenesis followed with her hands on the door, before glancing back at Kusla. The latter assumed she was disappointed that he did not ask her to stay, but it did not seem to be the case, for she smiled impishly, waved at him, and gave chase after Irine.

Naturally, Kusla did not bother to wave back as he began preparing sulfur, coal and the sun fragments. In the meantime, Weyland was preparing the distillation equipment, and said gleefully,

“You should have waved back~.”

Kusla did not look peeved, and merely sighed back at Weyland,

“There’s some joy in not waving back, I believe.”

No way am I able to do such a frivolous gesture──Kusla could easily imagine her looking elated the moment he reacted in a panic.

In any case, it was fortuitous that she was not dejected due to the tragic fate that befell the Whites.

“Fine relationship~.”

Weyland nodded understandingly, and Kusla answered with a straight face.

“Thanks to the lot of you.”

Unexpectedly though, Weyland remained still as though he was spellstruck. Kusla ignored the response as he continued with his preparations, opening the lid of the wooden box containing the sun fragments.

“What? It’s thanks to your help that we are who we are today, no?”

They racked their heads together, and worked together to overcome crisis after crisis, and finally made it this far.

Most importantly though, he truly did not know how to deal with Fenesis, and for that, he owed Weyland and Irine a huge favor. He tried to steady his emotions, acting as though he was narrating a fact, but he was unable to keep it hidden until the very end.

Finally, he bitterly confessed,

“It was truly unbecoming.”

Weyland seemed to have recovered, and gave a really conflicted look as he reached down and coughed while laughing. Kusla was a little intrigued, for in the past, he would be frustrated from such a response.

“Kusla~.”

“Ah?”

Kusla asked, and the still smiling Weyland said, looking gaudy,

“You’re a decent bloke.”

“…”

A frown appeared on Kusla’s nose, and he looked absolutely disgusted by those words.

They brought a few fire herbs and elixirs, for they were worried that a mishap may happen during the movement, and that they would have to remake them.

Despite that, the fire herb was simply a combination of the sun fragments, coal and sulfur. The elixir in turn was a distilled form of the sun fragments, mixed with sulfur and charcoal respectively, before the liquids formed were mixed together. It took a lot of effort searching for a new technology, but it was extremely easy to replicate it once found.

Of them, the sun fragments mixed with sulfur created a certain kind of strong acid. According to Phil, it was an acid named based on sulfur, called sulfuric acid.

“We need to investigate the sulfuric acid and the products created by mixing them.”

Kusla suggested as he gently swayed the fluid in the glass vial.

They discovered various solids and fluids while investigating the sun fragments left behind by the Whites, and were not completely done with it. Sulfuric acid in particular was unreactive when poured onto a metal plate, but when salt was added, that fluid exhibited an inexplicable characteristic──it melted the iron plate. Kusla thought that it was all God’s creation, that whatever God did was truly remarkable, and if he continued to investigate, he might come across something more incredulous.

“So…acidum salis? That’s quite the simple name from you, Kusla.”

“The most important thing is to make it easy to understand. We don’t have to obfuscate things for the later generations.”

“Of course~.”

Weyland shrugged, grabbed some coal and sulfur, mixed it with the sun fragments, and formed the fire herb. They put the mixture upon an iron urn, lit a wheat straw, and threw it into the urn.

After that, there was a deep hissing in the urn, like a giant rumbling. A fire pillar then rose…

Kusla saw the fireball vanish like a shooting star, and was a little discouraged.

“Kusla, I noticed a problem~.”

“What a coincidence. Same here.”

The ignition of the fire herb would trigger an explosive light, and the elixir could trigger a similar reaction if mixed into paper, cloth, or wood. It was as potent as the flamethrower, so they assumed a direct correlation between the power and buoyancy, but it seemed they were too naive.

“What do we do about the fact that it immediately burned up…if we can continue to replenish the fuel…huh?”

Kusla immediately understood the reason why Weyland stopped.

“I see. This is the reason why lots of fire herbs were prepared.”

The problem was that while it could create a powerful fire, it would burn up instantly. Thus, the solution was to add lots, just like adding water to counteract the boiling vapor. Luckily, the fire herbs were light.

They started to understand why the Whites created the fire herbs in masses.

“But…was it that successful when they did so?”

Kusla did not frown, and said so with some bemusement.

One would understand by simply imagining the scene.

A human would sit in a position dangling beneath a large paper bag, and a fire would be raised like a stove. They would then quickly pour the fire herbs in, and whenever one was added, the fire demon’s fist would raise higher, holding the paper bag up…

The idea as to whether it was successful was completely beyond their imagination.

“We’ll only know if we try~.”

Weyland said with an easygoing look, but Kusla could not simply agree.

“Think about it. How many fire herbs do we need to put next to a burning stove?”

“Ah…”

Weyland realized what may happen, so he closed his eyes, and groaned.

“What if it’s designed like a sandglass?”

Perhaps a possible solution was to drip the fire herb like a sandglass, through a metallic tube that would not burn.

“Hm, let’s get to it then~.”

Weyland said, and added,

“We won’t cause trouble even if the whole place is blown up, no~?”

Faced with this black humor befitting of the fire herb, Kusla could only shrug and sigh.

Fenesis and Irine, who had been mixing the ingredients with Phil, quickly made the paper bag.

It was not anything particularly interesting, but girls would emit a unique sense of determination when working on such fine crafts. Such a sight had Weyland grinning away, while Kusla looked peeved.

He felt a little frustrated, for he had a feeling that the notion of their actions being cute was a form of corruption.

“Ready…what, is the matter?”

Fenesis, having sensed that something was amiss with Kusla, was stunned.

Kusla was speechless at his own folly, and at the same time, shook his head in denial.

They then put ropes onto the paper bag Fenesis and Irine made, a seat at the bottom, and made a candle the size of a little finger before they put on the fire herb. Irine remained skeptical, and Fenesis seemed to find it all surreal. Thus, he decided to show them how an object flying in the air would look like.

“Just make this, and light the fire. Simple enough~?”

Weyland held up the paper bag, lit a fire, and the flame glowed gently beyond the paper bag, which then began to expand. One could easily see that something was filling up within.

There was a trail of smoke rising above the candle, gently filling the bag, and Weyland slowly let go. The bag nearly fell for a moment, but it then regained its expanding self, and slowly but surely, it began to rise with the smoke.

“Woah…”

The two girls widened their eyes in shock, and the alchemists were pleased.

The bag gently rose into the air, finally hit the ceiling, and started buzzing. It dangled for a while, and slowly fell.

“That is the logic, sort of.”

He said, reaching out for the bag. Irine and Fenesis regained their senses, and seemed to be freed from a spell.

“Th-this is a fine method, no??”

Fenesis too nodded in agreement with Irine’s words.

“Can we not simply…enlarge it?”

“No matter what an alchemist encounters, he shall first ascertain, and repeat countless repetitions of experimentation.”

Weyland the continued,

“If we increase the number of candles, the weight will become an issue, and so is expanding the bag. The weight increase is not to be underestimated. This is why experiments proved that a small bag like this can fly~.”

“But since we know the buoyancy is affected by the firepower, the idea is to use a flame as powerful as a fire herb,which might work…but…”

While Kusla was speaking, Weyland brought a fire herb onto a long, thin iron spoon, and took it near the candle flame.

A sizzling immediately erupted like water droplets landing on a hot rock, and the fire herb burned up immediately.

“It is powerful, but it cannot sustain for a long time. We thought of dripping the fire herb like a sandglass into the fire, which should work.”

“And thus we understand why the angels in the legend made lots of fire herbs .”

Fenesis, Irine and even Phil nodded silently in agreement.

“But you lot were frowning away.”

Phil, who had been observing silently the entire time, noted so.

“Hm? Oh, yes.”

Kusla said in a somewhat lamenting tone, and shrugged.

“Logically, it should work. The fire herb is extremely potent. It is lighter than wood and the like, and if we can continue to pout it in, it should work.”

“So what is causing you to hesitate?”

Phil asked, and Fenesis said apprehensively,

“Is it because…there is danger?”

Kusla did not answer, and reached for the paper bag he had been experimenting on. His fingers pinched the soft and warm wax, forming the shape of a vessel. He then put a minuscule amount of fire herb in, and then took a lit wheat stalk near it.

The fire herb caused a light much brighter than a candle, and was burnt immediately.

“Given that it burns up in an instant, a little bit won’t suffice. We need to generate the fire continuously, and it is almost impossible to control the flow compared to a candle.”

“…I see.”

Phil nodded grimly. One could imagine it to be an arduous task.

“If we have to make something like a sandglass, it’ll have to be metallic, right?”

So the blacksmith Irine asked,

“Iron is still iron no matter how you thin it. And…can it really float?”

“Is there no lighter metal to be used?”

“Tin is a lot lighter. How about it?”

“Hm…”

There was an atmosphere of futility lingering about, so Kusla said,

“For the time being, we intend to try. If we can’t get results, we’ll try something else.”

“But how do you intend to go about doing it?”

“We’ll start off with a tool, like a spoon, quickly dump the fire herb into the fire.”

Irine probably visualized the scene, for her waist shivered.

“I-is that fine?”

The worrywart Fenesis too looked at Kusla uneasily.

Kusla gave the look of an executioner preparing to behead someone.

“We’ll have to borrow their help.”

“Them?”

Kusla pointed at the ceiling, where their escorts should be resting at.

“I-is that fine?”

The Knights prided on their honor more than anything else, and to ensure that their dignity remained intact. Kusla slowly nodded with a solemn look.

“The armor is just a precaution. Actually, a little movement isn’t anything much given your steel-like bodies, no?”

And once he said so, the particular knight could only nod, given their reputations.

They had this knight put on the armor that was part of his baggage as a precaution, but truth be told, he should be fine as long as no mishap occurred.

“T-then…”

Even his comrades, who were grizzled warriors, stared at this knight worriedly. No matter the courage they had, it too would be dented slightly in the face of something unprecedented, unheard of, magical.

The only ones looking completely intrigued were Kusla, Weyland,and Phil. The two girls held each other’s hands worriedly.

“I’ll begin.”

Tied with rope to a tree branch was a paper bag with its opening facing down. The bag itself had a little perch resembling a cage’s, and it had a wooden plate atop it. It was part of the experiment, and the premise was to light the wooden plate. At this point, it was burning like a lit twig.

The knight covered his helmet faceplate, and with his gauntlet, held the spoon, scooped the fire herb, and added it to the flame.

The flame rose immediately, but as expected, it immediately regained its original form.

“Got to keep going.”

The knight heard Kusla’s instruction, and continued in a fluid manner, either because he knew that, or that he overcame his fears. He kept pouring quickly, and for every scoop he poured, the flame grew bigger, but it did not appear to be effective.

And there was another problem.

“Ah.”

Before the knight could cry out in the armor, the paper bag was burned up due to the rising flames, and fell.

“I-I…I was clumsy…”

The knight immediately got down on a knee, his head lowered, but failure was to be expected.

“No, that’s fine. What failed was our experiment.”

So Kusla said, but could this experiment really succeed through repeated failures alone?

“The stronger fire is good, but we can’t avoid the fact that the fire will spread everywhere…”

It would have continued burning if they had no preventive measures. They could expand the opening of the paper bag to take in the smoke, but that meant that the bag had to be bigger, which meant that it would be heavier.

Or perhaps they had to make a bag that was large enough to put a person in before this experiment could make sense?

It was a dilemma on the level of wiping off sweat with a dirty hand.

“Sorry to have you bring out your armor. Come here for the time being~.”

The knight lowered his head, feeling really apologetic upon hearing Weyland’s words, and he scurried backwards.

Phil、Irine and Fenesis helped to remain the armor that was too inconvenient to remove, while the remaining two alchemists scowled away.

“We knew it won’t work.”

“It’s important to have a premonition that it won’t work, huh~.”

There were many instances of them forcing the issue and doing as they pleased because they assumed that it would work, and instead wasted their time and effort.

However, if it could be said that an alchemist’s wish is to accomplish something nobody could have thought was possible, how should he go about doing so? Could anyone moving on blindly and relying on good luck gain the glory?

Kusla brooded over this countless times back when his apprenticeship ended and he was sent back to the Knights’ workshop as an alchemist, but soon after, he stopped doing so. At this point, the problem resurfaced again.

“There’s a limit to the fire herbs we have. We don’t have enough to experiment at will~.”

“That’s the biggest issue. It’d be great if we can harvest some here.”

“Are you going to try the town that hasn’t been touched because of that past disaster?”

They had no issues with the extraction of the fire herb, and the issue at hand was merely the scale.

They should be able to gain lots of beast organs due to the tanning work, but they had to dig holes and scatter ash regularly…such actions would be too obvious, and would require some time and expenses.

“It’ll take lots of time to send someone back to Abbas and get some sun fragments here.”

“You’re right…and we don’t know if Alzen’s messenger is at Abbas.”

Weyland’s skepticism caused Kusla a long and faint sigh.

This too was an issue.

Alzen clearly yearned for this technology to reverse their disadvantage.

The moment the Pope declared the Knights as heretics,the situation turned dire, and he surely had sent men for them.

Alzen’s forces were embroiled in turmoil at the port city of Nilburk due to the creation of a bell. No matter how fast they tried to hurry, it would take them three to four days to reach Abbas, and another two to hurry here from there. In that case, they had at most another two to three days left, and a week at most.

If they were dragged back to the battlefield, they would not be able to seek out the legend of the Whites as they wished.

Or should they wait for the war to end?

So they would hope, but the issue then would be whether the Knights could reverse the situation.

The Poldorofs ruling Abbas were especially skeptical of this, not because of their bias of hatred against the Knights, but that due to their experiences of being born living in the North, they had seen many passing refugees.

Most of the people who had escaped from the South were heretics who had declared that they discovered a new god, and were hunted down by the heretical inquisitors.They insisted that they had found their new savior, but they were not helped in any way, and could only make it all the way here.

A powerful being could not be toppled that easily, and the world would never turn around. Poldorof noted that he had seen too many instances of this, and while it was boring to say so, such was the truth of the world.

The Knights, declared by the most powerful entity of this world to be heretics, had no chances of winning. The potency of the fire herb and the flamethrower alone weren’t a match for the overwhelming numbers. There were countless heretics who had come and went, and the Knights might become one of them.

In that case, unless one had a martyrdom mentality, it was folly to agree to Alzen’s request to join the war. They should instead use the chance created by this turmoil to be free souls, and it was a logical choice.

Such might be a reason why Kusla was interested in the idea of flying.

Flying in the air was a symbol of freedom.

“If we keep trying stupidly, we might waste valuable materials and time.”

Kusla then continued,

“But we’ll discover something if we keep moving. More importantly, rumors had it that someone actually flew.”

Weyland too nodded slowly.

“Of all the magic alchemists aspire to see, flying in the air is one of the kind, huh~.”

“Then how do we go about doing that? Time’s not going to stop while we hesitate.”

One plausible idea was to request Irine to make an intricate metallic funnel, and try to keep the fire herb dripping into the flames to maintain a powerful flame. They could even ask her to make an urn-like vessel with a small opening to control the fire well.

The problem was that given the situation, it would not be easy to replenish the fire herb once it was finished. It was not impossible if they had the time, but the time in particular was a problem.

“Anyway, it’s foolish to worry about waking up in the morning and wondering which side of the bed to get off~.”

Weyland gave a self-deprecating smile, but this truly was the trick for an alchemist to avoid getting lost in wandering into a labyrinth of delusions.

“Let’s forget about using the fire herb for the time being. We have too many issues.”

“Of course. There are many other things in this world that burn~.”

They did not have wings to expand like wings, and so the next best method was to gather smoke and find a way to rise.

Perhaps the solution was to use anything combustible they could get their hands on.

“We won’t get the answer at the end of the easy path.”

Kusla sneered at the snappy Weyland, but he too agreed with the sentiment, for he felt that it would not be fun if he easily knew the answer.

“That’s really interesting, dammit~.”

Weyland slapped Kusla’s back as he guffawed away.

The two girls and Phil returned after assisting to remove the helmet from the knight, and they looked so gloomy, probably because they already understood in their own way how difficult this experiment would be. They were devastated that they could not find a solution, but once they returned to the workshop, the despair scattered.

“Hey, get ready.”

All the combustible belongings they had were laid onto the table.

It was obvious that both Kusla and Weyland were not downhearted.

“We’ll need to find something that can burn more than wax, something more stable than the fire herb.”

“Y-yes.”

Fenesis’s lips quivered a few times, and she looked exceptionally elated when answering him.

“I’ll contribute by labor then.”

Irine said as she picked up the paper roll and the glue.

“Something that burns more than wax?”

Phil was a merchant who specialized mainly with books, and his knowledge far surpassed the others.

Hm, so he groaned, and then he slapped his belly.

“I’ll source for anything combustible from the local merchants.”

“What about fat, rapeseed or distilled wine?”

Kusla started to fold his fingers, and Phil too folded his fingers mischievously.

“And peat. We do have some coal delivered here too.”

“What about asphalt? We have some, but in limited quantities.”

Irine, who rebuilt the flamethrowers, suggested so.

“Can we harvest them nearby?”

Kusla asked, and Phil shook his head gaudily.

“Haven’t heard of it, but…oh yes, we might be able to find something.”

“What do you mean?”

Kusla asked, and Phil tapped his temples, as though racking a catalogue in his mind.

“Ehh, I did see the records left behind by merchants who went to the desert, and there were depictions of an asphalt spring, that anyone approaching it might come across a stench that doesn’t belong to this world. There is a strange rainbow color on the surface, and disgusting bubbles oozing from the bottom of the spring…”

Kusla too read such a description in a book, and knew of such an existence. Why mention it now though?

While he felt skeptical, Phil widened his eyes.

“Yes. Those bubbles burn!”

“Bubbles?”

“The weight issue is thus resolved then, no? Maybe the Whites used that thing to fly.”

“Truly…if we can obtain bubbles that burn, we should be able to solve this…”

Kusla however groaned, for it was said that the spring of asphalt came from the desert region afar.

“If there really is a spring of asphalt, everyone would have known of it, no? Or is it that the hole was caused because the spring combusted. I can understand if that is the case.”

Asphalt was a particularly great fuel. Its value would be impossible to gauge if it was found here.

Kusla did not think it would be possible to discover asphalt without triggering issues. Asphalt in particular would emit a distinct black smoke when burning. If they were to use it in the settlement, surely the ruse would be seen through.

Phil too shook his head gloomily.

“Never heard of it…never found them in the places I visited.”

“I guess so.”

But Phil’s words reminded Kusla of something.

If it was combustible air, that truly could solve the issue of the weight.

And he had an inkling of an idea what that would be.

“Hm…and I thought I had a good idea…”

“So, it’s a good idea. I just thought of something that can be used.”

“Heh?”

Phil,Fenesis and Irine looked towards Kusla.

An alchemist had unlimited options to choose from.

“Isn’t there a lot of livestock at the plaza? Also, we do cut out their bellies when tanning leather..”

“…Are you intending to gather their souls so that you can fly?”

Phil joked, and Kusla said,

“I want you to gather lots of dung for burning, as much as possible.”

Phil stared at Kusla dumbfoundedly.

“That’ll be quite expensive, no?”

“Nope, it’s not particularly extravagant…I want to use them for burning.”

Since they were already well acquainted during their travels, he probably would not be shocked about such requests, but nevertheless, Phil looked incredulous.

“That is weaker than peat though…”

“It doesn’t matter. Gather as much as we can. Hey, you two help out too.”

The two girls got called out and pointed at by the chin, and they clearly reeled back and frowned. Were they fuming that he had commanded them with such an uppity attitude, or that they, the demure maidens, were ordered to do such things?

“If you aren’t willing to get down and dirty in a workshop, you can’t be an alchemist’s apprentice.”

“I’m a blacksmith!”

Irine protested, and Fenesis looked like an abandoned kitten.

“I-I am…”

She stammered, trying to find an excuse. Kusla stared at her right in the eyes. He did not want her to be devastated because of her cursed bloodline, but if it was such a reason, that was not so bad.

“An alchemist’s apprentice partner,no?”

“…”

Fenesis’ beast ears drooped weakly, and her mouth pouted in a triangular shape.

He recalled her showing a similar expression back then they first met, whenever she got bullied.

“Get moving. Alzen’s messenger might show up and drag us back while we’re still dithering.”

“Uu…Miss Irine…”

Fenesis sought a final solace by hoping Irine would accompany, but the latter gave a sleazy smile.

“Eh…yes, I have to make the paper bag. Ahaha…”

“Auuu…”

“You’re so accustomed to travelling. Making fires out of cow and horse dung isn’t anything out of the ordinary, right?”

Fenesis gave a look that implied that it was a different matter altogether. Nevertheless, Kusla could not understand how this girl culd eat a skwer of fatty meat and yet faint at the sight of a pig being eviscerated.

She seemed to have resolved herself thereafter however.

“I…understand.”

“Hahaha, it’s fine. You might faint from the stench if it’s the summer. This much work is meagre compared to a miracle as displayed by the alchemist himself.”

Phil patted Fenesis on the shoulders, and the latter nodded dejectedly, seemingly convincing her. Once he saw her leave, Kusla said,

“She wants to be an alchemist with this little resolve?”

“You’re hopeless without me around huh? Good grief~.”

Weyland mischievously imitated Kusla’s voice, and he glared back with an icy look

However, he did not pursue the matter that was Weyland’s leer.

For a third of his issues were pointed out.

“But what are you going to do with it? I know dung is cheap and convenient, and also used for smelting. Mr Phil did say that it is weak in power, and heavy. Isn’t our issue now the weight~?”

“The asphalt spring.”

“Huh?”

Weyland did not seem like he understood, but he did not ask, for perhaps it would be unbecoming of him as an alchemist to ask without understanding.

“Anyway, the paper bag is burned. Irine──”

“I-I know.”

Irine sheepishly answered, for she probably was guilty about pushing the dirty work to Fenesis, and began to work on a new bag. Kusla did not expect her, who had been doing the heavy work, to have such nimble hands, faster than Fenesis. She truly was a girl born to be a blacksmith.

“Let’s look for something light and combustible with elegance.”

“Thank goodness I’m not an apprentice anymore~.”

Kusla merely shrugged at that joke by Weyland.

When it came to something light and combustible, the first thing one would think of was something that could be made as a firestarter, like the inflorescence of cattails, certain varieties of mushrooms, or seaweed that was dried thoroughly by wind. Each of them could be ignited with a spark caused by clashing stones, but their power remained insignificant, and there was difficulty in gathering lots of information.

Kusla and Weyland wrote down all the combustibles they knew of, and refuted them all after much discussion.

While alchemists and blacksmith had many opportunities to use high temperatures, these were usually controlled through arm strength. Obviously, one could generate high temperatures by pumping air through large bellows, but they were then more concerned about the capabilities of the bellows and the shape of the furnace, rather than what was the fuel used.

Alchemists were thus infamous for being heretics, but even they had yet to come across a powerful fuel that was light and would allow them to fly.

“Oil won’t work either~?”

“We’ll have to find a cauldron large enough to create a massive fire. I remember hearing that this wouldn’t work.”

“Hm…”

This would be a classic example of how difficult it was to find a balance, but the Whites clearly did, and flew in the air. Surely there was a way. As Phil said, the reason why people could not see God was because they did not know how he looked, and thus one could not prove that God did not exist.

“You already have an idea, haven’t you, Kusla~.”

“Just an inkling.”

“Hm…”

Weyland groaned as he stared at the stone tablet. He could not be sure that Kusla’s thought was correct, but he must be frustrated, for he had yet to understand what the latter was thinking.

After all, while it was commonplace and cheap to use animal dung as fuel, that lacked power, and could at most be used as a replacement for wood. It was heavy, and really unsuited to be used in this experiment involving the fire herb, all to get a paper bag floating.

After this moment of toil, some sounds could be heard outdoors, for Phil and Fenesis returned. Phil did not seem to mind, as he appeared to be used to crude labor, but Fenesis put down the heavy sack from her shoulder, and tumbled over. The knight escorting her from behind lifted a bag three times heavier than hers, probably out of kindness, and simply put it down.

“Is this enough?”

Phil asked as he patted his hands, and Fenesis too patted her hands once she heard this sound, sniffing at her clothes. She usually remembered that she was once a nun who thought of poverty as a virtue, and acted so in every way, yet she was strangely elegant this time around.

“Yes. And we need a large urn. Best case scenario, a metallic one. Do we have one in the basement?”

“I’ll have a look. An empty one?”

The knight went to the basement. That posture clearly indicated to leave the simple manual labor to him.

And on the other hand, Fenesis, who sat on the floor, finally stood up, while a grimacing Phil and an apologetic Irine consoled her after her toil. Fenesis gave Kusla a begrudging glare, probably to indicate that she was not needed to do this since Phil and the knight were around.

Naturally, Kusla ignored her.

“We happen to have something suitable.”

Soon after, the knight lifted a metal urn large enough to store Phil himself.

“There are some burn marks by the side huh…what’s its use? If it’s for wine, there should be a metallic taste.”

“It’s different from burning charcoal. It’s a vessel used to extract tar from wood.”

One would put wood in the center, some firewood around the urn, seal the urn with a lid, and steam it.

This steam process that eschewed burning could generate lots of useful liquid.

“Then pour all the dung in it…”

Kusla approached the bag, intending to pour the contents. The knight and Phil too gave assistance.

It seemed the bag contained cow and mule dung.

“Feels strangely relieving to smell this once in a while. Reminds me of my childhood when I would help on the farm.”

He glanced aside at the girls who were stifling their noses with handkerchiefs or the like, and simply poured the dung into the urn.

“We use it during war too. It’s calming to smell this.”

The knight chimed in.

“Through the battle horses or the transporting ones?”

“Right. That’s why it smells like we returned to the battlefield.”

The stubbornly silent, yet straightforward knight smiled. Certainly, one could say that unraveling the legendary angel’s technology was akin to an intellectual battle against the Whites.

While talking, the urn was half filled.

Irine and Fenesis watched from afar, their faces clearly showing an incredulous look, that though alchemists were often doing the ridiculous, it was moreso this time. Perhaps they were pretending to be pure girls who would abstain from flith, and it was the barbaric knight who was very enthused.

“And over there too…ah, yes, yes..”

“Clay?”

Weyland tilted his head, pondering. Clay was a necessity for a charcoal hut, to insulate the air within. Kusla sealed the urn with the clay.

“Right, this should do it. Next, the bag.”

“Don’t we have a few over there?”

Irine pointed at the bags used to ferry the dung.

“No, I want those that won’t let water through. Mr Phil, can you please head down to the tanning area?”

“Of course, but what are we looking for?”

Kusla cackled.

“Organs.”

Truly, the combination of a dung filled urn and organs was an increasingly strange one befitting an alchemist, but Kusla did not want something that unnerving.

“I want a bladder,the bigger the better.”

“Hm? You wish to make a raft? Or something to replace a paper bag?”

“Neither. It’s more like a bellow.”

This explanation left everyone all the more nonplussed.

Once Kusla experienced this moment of superiority, he showed a wry smile.

“You don’t have to think too hard about it. If we fail, I’ll lose standing, right?”

He did not expect everyone to stare blankly at him, and he was slightly intimidated by this unexpected response. The first to chuckle was Irine.

“You’re not wrong, but──”

Irine continued as she looked towards Fenesis,

“We’re obviously going to wonder what craziness you’ll come up with this time, right?”

Fenesis nodded towards Irine, and then nodded at Kusla a few more times.

“Now isn’t the time to be impressed, no?”

Kusla gave Fenesis a harsh look, and she reeled her neck in, as though someone had poured icy water upon her back.

In any case, nothing good usually came out of things when people assumed it to be exactly like magic. Over the long term, people would be more eager to seeing miracles, and then he would be deemed as suspicious, and had eyes rolled at him, and in dire situations, would be persecuted.

Nevertheless, it was the wish of an alchemist to do the unexpected, and to fulfill outcomes that were never dreamt of.

In that sense, perhaps it was a decent attempt from him.

“Hmph.”

Kusla snorted, looked down at the urn sealed by clay, and said,

“All that’s left is to pray that it ripens with the magic.”

This little bit of pretense was sufficient for an alchemist’s dignity, after having been befuddled by the Whites.

 

They put the sealed urn at a place where the heat could be felt, and let it be.

One of the escorting knights went outside to keep watch, while the other two stared at it, as though worried that a demon would rise out of it. They probably were being so cautious because it was the first time they had witnessed an alchemist’s work.
.
In any case, Kusla’s burden was relieved somewhat since someone else was watching. He told them that if it got too hot, they were to move away from the urn, and went to rest for the time being.

He actually wanted to think about other potential methods, but the only thing that came up was a yawn. His eyes felt numb deep inside, or in other words, sleepiness.

After he was poisoned at Abbas, he went through lots of turmoil before arriving here, and he willed himself through, accumulating much fatigue on his journey here. It so happened to be noon, the time which he would be most tempted to sleep. Weyland was no better as he buried his head into his arms dejectedly, brooding. Given how he remained still, perhaps he too had fallen asleep.

Irine and Fenesis had been working on a large paper bag together, sometimes sniveling, sometimes looking towards the furnace with skeptical looks. The urn was sealed with a lid, but there was some leaking stench. They probably had enough of the stench, for once the bag was done, they went out of the hut together.

Perhaps the girls had some private words to say. Fenesis looked spirited, but she might have lots of thoughts, for this land was once ravaged by the Whites, and the legendary ‘curse’ had tormented her so many times. It was at such moments when Irine would surely be able to keep her company.

While thinking about this, Kusla then realized a sense of nostalgia, the memory of working alone in the workshop, living only for himself.

It seemed drastic change came to humans easily.

One would hope it was for the better however. How did it seem at this point?

He searched his memories, and felt that it was interesting at least. He could not believe that he could argue about trivial stuff with others, but he hoped to at least continue the peaceful times.

Thus, he was most worried about getting involved in the war due to Alzen and the Knights.

Since they had discovered the technology used by the Whites, Alzen would surely involve them in the war, even if they were unwilling.

“This too is a curse.”

Kusla grumbled, and suddenly thought of a possibility, that the Whites never actually resided on any land, but were persecuted the entire tim? Their pursuers might have been local rulers who wanted that technology, or fundamentalists who blinding believed in miracles. Thus, Kusla was reminded of the time when he first met Fenesis.

She was a White, a cursed person, and those who involved themselves with her were deemed heretics. She was treated as how others deemed fit, and shunned like the plague.

It was partly because of the notion that those would involved themselves with heretics would become heretics themselves, but would the same not apply involving technology? If those involved with the Whites learned their technology, would they not suffer much hardship too? Would the Whites too feel guilty about it…

Of course, it was all hypothesis, but one could find it a plausible explanation for all the legends involving them.

In other words, the reason why they remained an enigma was because they intended to hide their whereabouts, and thus the need to fly.

“Then what’s with the explosion?”

Kusla muttered, and the knight glanced up at him, but he remained immersed in his own thoughts.

The likeliest reason was that it was a misdirection, that once the town was in great panic, they would escape to the skies, and thus nobody could track them.

The issue was that, was the damage too great to be a misdirection?

Would they not adjust the firepower and still proceed so? After all, if they wanted to destroy the town just to misdirect, why did they not do so completely? There would be no legend thereafter.

Nevertheless, the guess remained reasonable. They could have used the fire herb to traumatize their pursuers, to erase any further thought to give chase, before escaping through the skies.

It was plausible..

This would thus explain why the people who rebuilt Abbas tried to obtain the power of the Whites. There was a possibility that they were not innocents who were suddenly wiped out, but that revenge was enacted upon them before they coveted the Whites’ technology. Those writing history would twist the facts to their own benefits, and omit the reason why the Whites destroyed the town, acting as though they had destroyed it in the spur of the moment.

All parties cared only for themselves, and this was a classic example of how this scoundrel world worked.

But if this deduction was correct…and he pondered further, would they not have met the same fate for being heavily involved in the legend of the Whites?

Similar signs had appeared. The spies who were astounded by the amazing technology of the Whites at Abbas nearly murdered them. Even Kusla could not remain calm after seeing the ending the Whites wrote for this land.

He bit his nails in a frenzy, and started to feel uneasy. Perhaps they were being too defenseless. One would wonder if that Cyrus was truly helping them.

And then, Kusla lifted his head. The two girls had not returned in a while. Even if they were chatting by the hut or visiting the settlement, did they not have a knight accompanying them?

He felt that he worried too much, but he had learned a lesson the hard way recently that if it happened, it was too late.

Right when he was about to stand up from the chair, it happened.

Screams could be heard outside.

He reached for the dagger at his waist before he could ponder, and barged outdoors.

“What happened!?”

The fear and rage he experienced when Fenesis was abducted by the spies ran through his blood.

And then, someone tapped his head.

“Ugh!”

He instinctively turned his head around, but the sight left him unable to comprehend momentarily.

He exchanged looks with the other party, but perhaps it was because he could not comprehend what happened, for he could not recognize her.

Fenesis, who met him in the eyes, was holding a snowball in her reddened hands, stood still as she looked as though she was going to throw it over.

“You…woah?”

The moment he spoke up, he got hit in the face.

“Ahahaha, not bad, Mr knight!! Even an alchemist is powerless!”

Irine burst out laughing. Next to her was the knight who should be keeping watch, and he clearly looked apologetic.

“Come on, come on, don’t hold back. You too, little Ul!”

Irine turned towards him as though she was venting her usual gloom.

“Hey, you lot!”

And Irine ignored Kusla’s growls as she threw the snowball. While he guard himself, another snowball pelted towards him. It did not hit him, instead at his feet, but in a certain sense, it was more shocking than the one that hit his head.

The one who threw that snowball was Fenesis

“…What are you laughing at!?”

Kusla finally eked these words at Fenesis, who clearly was intimidated, but she crouched down, pinched another snowball, grinned away, and clumsily threw another.

It was an earnest smile from her, and she was so happy that the snowball did not fly straight.

“Yeah, like that!”

Irine cheered her on, and continued to pelt snowballs at him. She, with quite the impressive arm strength, threw at him with more fury. The two girls looked really happy, but rising up in Kusla’s mind was fury.

To think he was deep in thought, and worried about them.

Thinking that he had no time to bother with them, Kusla was about to retreat to the house──

“Guah!”

Someone suddenly dumped lots of snow onto his back, and he turned around in shock as it was too sudden, tumbling onto the snow.

He looked up, and saw Weyland sneering away, having succeeded with his mischief.

“You people had lots of fun~~~~!”

He got down on all four, gathered as much snow as he could with both hands, and swung the snowballs he made with the strong arms honed from hammering iron.

“M-Mr Weyland,that is unfair──kyaaah!”

Irine was unable to escape in time, and was hit in the face by a snowball bigger than her face, causing her to fall face up like a frog.

“Nfufufu.”

A gleeful Weyland licked his lips, and noticed the two dumbfounded guards at the door.

“We’re going to shut them up good. Help us out!”

Is he for real? The two knights exchanged looks, and finally understood that he was when he yelled at them, charging forth while throwing more snowballs.

They were astounded by how independent the alchemists would act, but they saw the other knight lift Irine up, Weyland’s snowball hitting them, and Fenesis laughed out loud. They then decided to dispense with the pleasantries.

Those who knew how to enjoy it were the winners, and they rolled up their sleeves.

“We’re not going to hold back if it’s a contest now!”

They started making snowballs with the arms large enough to wrap around Fenesis’ head. On the other hand, Irine and the other knight regrouped with Fenesis, received the snowballs she made, and counterattacked at Weyland.

“Damn…those imbeciles…”

The daftness of those fellows had Kusla feeling incensed. I’m the one thinking so hard. What are the lot of you doing?

After all, if they had the time to do this, why could they not use it for experimenting? They could have also searched for the people who remained even after the destruction of the town, and reinvestigate rumors of the angel’s legend. They had lots of things to do, and time was limited.

He gave a frown of disdain, and in the meantime, Irine and Fenesis scurried around, cupping their heads, as they avoided the snowballs Weyland threw. Right on cue, the clumsy Fenesis fell over, and she landed face first into the snow.

He had an urge to move over and help her, but Irine burst out laughing while still shocked, and Weyland continued to pelt snowballs at Fenesis. She, who had tumbled onto the snow, rolled and wriggled about, laughing. She squealed away while being hit by those snowballs.

She was a serious, prim and proper, innocent quiet girl who would not put on a facade of toughness if nobody teased or made fun of her.

Or so he thought, but at this point, she was rolling on the snow, her mouth agape as she laughed.

Kusla was strangely astounded when he realized that she had such a smile too.

She finally got up, and though her pretty hair was in a mess, her eyes remained dazzling, and she bit her lips to stifle a laugh. She pinched a snowball, and threw at Weyland. Upon seeing that, Kusla felt extremely restless.

She actually showed such an expression to someone other than himself.

Fenesis’ snowball landed before it reached Weyland, but the latter was bemused as he made an exaggerated evasion. He could have evaded the snowball from Irine, but he deliberately let himself be hit, and the girls burst out laughing in joy once they saw that. The knights made bigger snowballs, and threw them over, laughing away once they saw Irine and Fenesis squeal and scamper away.

Kusla could only witness this scene, rooted, not knowing what he should do. Logically, he should reproach them, and shoo them back into experimenting, but he could not, for one reason was that he found it too shameful to admit so.

But while he was immobilized by the conflict between his sanity and emotions──

A short squeal was accompanied with panting, and someone barged into his back.

“Haa…haa…hyaah!”

“Ohhhh, little Ul, that is unfair~.”

“I-I am not!”

The panting Fenesis used Kusla as a shield, and leaned onto his back. Before Kusla was the pursuing Weyland, holding a sturdy looking snowball.

“Oh well, I’ll have to settle the score with Kusla one day.”

“H-hey!”

“Prepare yourself. I’ll prepare a really large one for you!”

Weyland said, got down on the ground, and gathered snow again. Kusla in turn remained still, the conflict between his sanity and emotions unresolved, and he froze like a weasel that was suddenly released into the wild.

“Say, you──”

He turned back to look at Fenesis,for he did not know what else to do. If she, who had clumsily escaped towards him, saw his displeasure, she would understand that she made the wrong decision to come over.

She would most likely widen her eyes in shock, and look forlorn. She might feel disappointed in him for being stubborn and too serious, but that little resolve was needed if he wanted to shield her from harm or suffering.

But the moment he looked behind, it was he who was shocked, for there was a determined will in the green eyes looking up at him.

She did not come to him out of coincidence, just because she had too much fun.

Fenesis gave him a gentle smile, while he remained dumbfounded. Her cheeks were red as she had run around, and her bangs, drenched in sweat and snow, were exceptionally glittering. The confident look in her eyes showed one thing──

Fenesis wanted to invite him.

“Please help me.”

She said with a smile.

“Are you not my partner?”

She gave a gaudy smile filled with some mischief, and her soft cheeks puffed. Before he knew it, Kusla found himself smiling gaudily. After all, what else could he do?

The smiling face lifted up at him looked a little more gleeful.

Damn, so Kusla thought.

What he really wanted was not a future stable life in a workshop.

What he really wanted was this smile before him.

“Gather the snow.”

He rolled his sleeves.

“Time to fight back.”

“Yes!”

Fenesis pricked her ears, and loudly answered.

 

“Achoo!”

As he wiped the wet hair beneath him, he heard a sneeze beneath his handkerchief that sounded like a frog. There was enough firewood burning in the furnace to smelt iron, and huddled before it was Fenesis.

“You had way too much fun.”

He chided coldly, and she, who would usually shrivel, did not react. She was under the handkerchief, but she turned her body towards him, smiling without a care in the world. Her lips were purple, and she resembled an evil witch in those fairy tales.

“I am happy.”

Usually, whenever she said so, it was just to hide how dejected she was, but she probably was not lying when she said so.

Kusla covered her face with the handkerchief.

“Same here.”

In hindsight, he was a fool to worry about everything and be all depressed. Thinking seriously about things was different from overthinking it, but he was relieved to know that she did not seem to be devastated by the Whites.

She, under his handkerchief, giggled away, and sneezed once again.

“Ahh~we had fun~.”

Entering the charcoal hut half naked was Weyland, whose clothes were all soaked, and he had to strain them outdoors, but he looked no different from usual. Irine too looked no different, and it seemed the difference of actually doing physical labor showed at this point.

“We’re done with the ropes. Let us hang the wet clothes.”

A knight poked his head in from the next door, indicating so. There was no furnace in the neighboring room, just stone stoves set up everywhere. The knights created flames in there, and a rope was hung up there, acting as a place to dry their clothes.

“Please do~.”

“Reminds me of the menial tasks I was ordered to do during my training.”

Even Kusla was bemused by these words. Everyone had grown younger in that short moment.

And the one who dragged him in while he hesitated over his participation was a girl who was about to grow into an adult. He realized that perhaps he was not as matured as he assumed.

It seemed like a pity, yet also a form of solace, a tickle at a frostbitten place. He sighed, and ruffled Fenesis’ hair with the handkerchief.

“Oh yes, Kusla, how long do we have to put it~?”

Weyland said as he tapped at the iron urn.

“Our noses aren’t as sensitive to the smell now, but I think that’s how it smells like at the stables.”

While they had their snowball fight, the urn filled with cow and mule dung might have been heated completely, and the contents might have ripened.

“Worried about elegance at this point?”

Kusla retorted, and sensed Fenesis turning around beneath his hands. She probably started to sniff at her smell uneasily.

“Well, I suppose it’s about time.”

Perhaps he had rid himself of his worries after the snowball fight, for he was filled with vigor. The pure joy of attempting to discover a new technology made his body all light and fluffy.

He moved his hands away from Fenesis. The tools on the long table had remained untouched ever since the preparation of the experiment. He chose a few items, namely the paper bag Irine made, the iron rods used for distillation, a candle stand with a candle flame on, some clay, and the bladder of a deer-like animal Phil obtained while they had fun.

“Hmm…I didn’t expect this though…”

Weyland groaned as he stared at the items in Kusla’s hands. Fenesis tilted her head in confusion, not understanding what Kusla was planning.

“These should be enough. Move the urn outdoors.”

“Us?”

The knights were either drying clothes or helping Phil prepare lunch for the playful group. Weyland looked unwilling, but he deftly moved it out.

He, who did not know what would happen next, was actually looking forward to it.

“So, what do we do next?”

Weyland put the large urn on the snow, where the carnage of their battle remained.

Irine, who exited the hut a tad later, “Cold!” shivered as she yelled,

“First, this bladder…Irine!”

“What?”

“Sew up one of these ends. Make sure air won’t escape.”

“Huh~? I’m not your menial servant.”

“This fellow here might end up poking a few more holes.”

Kusla pointed at Fenesis, who looked aggreived, but had no intentions to snatch the bladder away. She probably assumed that she could not do it either.

“Guess I don’t have a choice.”

“Just one end.”

“Like a bag for wine?”

“Yes.”

An animal’s stomach or bladder could be made as a highly waterproof bag. The bladder in particular was extremely elastic, and its size would depend on the animal itself. Extremely large ones could be used as floating bags when crossing rivers.

It was the perfect item for an experiment to fly in the sky.

“Wait a moment.”

Irine turned to leave, and Kusla began to prepare. He took a rod, stabbed at the clay sealing the urn, and once he was sure that it went in, he sealed the tip of the rod with clay. He then brought the flickering flame of the candle to the tip.

And then, he pried away the clay sealing the hole. At that moment──

“Ah!”

Fenesis exclaimed.

The air emitting from the rod was ignited.

“…Didn’t think this was possible~.”

Weyland narrowed his eyes, looking upset.

“I remembered after hearing about the asphalt spring, and it so happened to be a coincidence that I knew about it. I once dumped some cow dung into the furnace, and the smell of the remaining excess was too foul, I got a few urns, dumped them in, covered them with lids, and forgot about it. It was days later when I took a candle, seeking the foul stench in the workshop, and then, boom!”

Kusla opened his arms wave, and Fenesis reeled back in shock, as though a fireball was emitted from his hands.

“There’s a wise saying to clean up anything we use, but this discovery happened because I didn’t abide so.”

“So, it ignited because there was a combustible gas coming from the dung that was to be used as fuel?”

“It’s not powerful, but it’s as light as air, right?”

Weyland shrugged.

Irine then returned with the stitched bladder.

“Right, done. Mind showing what’s the magic this time?”

“Just watch.”

Kusla received the bladder, and blew into it to ensure that the air would not escape.

It seemed fine, so he squeezed out the air, pried aside the clay sealing the rod, and stuck the bladder onto it. It slowly expanded, and was filled with a combustible gas that was in the urn.

After it expanded a while, Kusla gave Fenesis a look, wanting her to come over

“Once I move the bladder, seal the opening.”

He removed the bladder, and saw her seal the rod attentively, as though she was covering a wound. Perhaps she just did not wish to smell it.

With the expanded bladder in one hand, Kusla held the paper bag in the other, and sealed their openings.

“Let’s see if it works then.”

Once the air in the bladder entered the paper bag, he sealed the paper, put the bladder aside, and took the candle.

All eyes were gathered on Kusla, including the knights watching from slightly afar.

“This is the moment of truth.”

Kusla cautiously opened the paper bag, and put the candle flame near it.

And a blink later, he realized it was a grave mistake.

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