Hellping

Lunch was venison soup prepared by Phil, and as expected of a guild member which dealt with spices, there was a lavish addition of pepper in the soup, which warmed their bodies, and even formed sweat on their faces.

Kusla sipped at it, and with his fingers, wiped the sweat off his forehead.

He then grabbed his shortened front hair, stared blankly, and sighed,

“Good thing this is all the damage~.”

Weyland noted. Next to him, Irine put the skewer of hare meat into the furnace, unable to contain a smile even though she was told not to.

“I thought my heart would stop.”

“…Are you really fine?”

Fenesis’s concern left Kusla all the more deflated.

That confident challenge of his was met with a splendid failure.

“I thought something happened.”

Phil was done with his bowl, and downed a second bowl as he said,

“There was a fireball in the sky when I returned from buying ingredients for lunch. I thought the Whites had returned.”

His description was no hyperbole.

Kusla assumed that by filling the bag with foul air and igniting it, it would burn from the bottom, and the bag would gently float. It would ultimately burn to a crisp and fall, but he assumed it was merely a matter of adjusting the fuel output, and it should be easier to control compared to the fire herb.

However, it burned in the most unexpected manner.

“…The anxiety left me completely careless. I should have started small with every new experiment. It is the basic fundamental…”

So he muttered to himself, and sighed once again. After having fought the first snowball fight of his life, he was in such ecstasy, he assumed he was drunk, and the world looked so bright. He even assumed that he was invincible, that he could see beyond the distance.

In other words, the overwhelming joy got him carried away.

“Never thought it would burn completely~.”

“That’s pretty in its own way though.”

Irine removed the finely roasted skewer, and shared the meat with everyone as she noted so.

“Luckily, nobody was hurt.”

Phil was completely correct.

“But I didn’t expect there to be other gases that can combust aside from the rumored asphalt.”

“There are others?”

“We might be able to find some if we look…”

Kusla muttered so, and closed his eyes. He recalled the moment when the fire was lit, his back froze, and he knew immediately that he messed up.

The fire did not exude from the paper bag immediately as he expected, and on the contrary, the fire was absorbed into the bag like a waterfall, quickly expanded, and burst the paper bag in an explosion. It happened in the blink of an eye, but the scene back then was completely etched in their minds.

It had been years since he suffered such a catastrophic failure

“Hmm…but I do think there’s value in trying so~.”

Weyland stirred the bowl in the soup.

“In any case, we just need to put that combustible gas under the paper bag or something else light, and slowly ignite it?”

“Of course. It does feel like this is easier to control compared to the fire herb. Most importantly, the ingredients aren’t a problem.”

“Of course. There’s always cattle and horses and other livestock.”

Phil chimed in, and Irine nodded proudly, only to reel her chin in with a gaudy look.

“Just one request, please try it outside instead.”

The alchemists would deal with sulfur, and occasionally create rotten food, so they never fretted about the stench of feces, for it was commonly used in tanning or smelting. The stimulation might be too great to the upstanding citizen Irine who had no involvement with farming and livestock after all.

Weyland did not tease further, and merely shrugged.

“I’m with little Irine. What do you intend to do, Kusla~?”

“It is easier to extinguish the fire outdoors even if your front hair gets burned, you know?”

Fenesis teased. She showed no fear despite the fact that a colossal failure of an experiment  happened before her, and she looked happy instead.

Kusla was different however. He gritted his teeth, and after a while, he said dejectedly,

“I…need to cool my head a little. You may continue with the experiment.”

“Eh?”

Fenesis looked completely taken aback.

“You are lucky that the front hair is the only part burned off.”

Fenesis, Weyland and Irine were all stupefied, while the genial Phil looked sympathetic, nodding away as though saying, you were in danger just now, better rest.

“I’ll investigate the sulfuric acid and the acidic salt. That’s important too, since they’re from the same source as the fire herb.”

It sounded like an excuse, which it was. Kusla raised his bowl and drank the soup, hiding his expression.

“Hmmm~”

Weyland narrowed his eyes, as though trying to unravel the true thoughts hidden beyond the bowl, but he did not pursue the matter further.

“In that case, let’s go outside~.”

“We’re willing to help too.”

The escorts standing guard at the corners proudly offered themselves, clearly asking to leave the matter to them.

They probably meant that their responsibility was to work hard.

“That’s really a great help. I won’t be bored then~.”

Weyland prompted, resulting in ripples of laughter. Two people however did not; one was naturally Kusla, and the other was Fenesis.

“Let’s get cracking then!”

“Eh? Now?”

The escorting knights hollered in shock. They had trudged their way through the snow for four days, had departed early in the morning, and just had quite the snowball fight. They assumed that they could rest for a little while after their late lunch.

Weyland stood up, tied his belt again, and grinned.

“You know what will happen if you say that during your Knights’ training~?”

The muscular escort looked as though he just got slapped.

“We’re too lax.”

“So please~.”

Once Weyland said so, the other knights valiantly downed the remaining soup, as befitting their appearances, cleaned the bowls, cleared everything, and followed Weyland.

“I’ll hurry and make the paper bags then, even though I prefer to hammer iron.”

“I’ll help too. I may look this way, but I’m very skilled at delicate crafts.”

“Mr Phil, you can make books too?”

“My master always berated me for being too clumsy, but practice makes perfect.”

The ideal craftsman Irine nodded happily.

Once they finished their meals, they dispersed and went about with their work. Kusla however continued to take his time, and the failure of the experiment rendered him unmotivated in finishing his food quickly to get to work.

Time was not unlimited however.

Kusla downed the soup completely as though he was swallowing his own sigh, and put it aside.

Then, he responded to the stare directed at him.

“What?”

“…”

Fenesis heard Kusla speak, and lowered her head in shock, not answering at all, and merely fiddled at the already emptied bowl. She was the only other person who did not laugh when Weyland joked.

She probably was very interested in the flying experiment, and wanted to participate in it. Thus, she was so shocked when Kusla said he would stay at the workshop and do another experiment.

“You don’t have to accompany me.”

He was the only one who needed to calm down.

“Eh?”

“You want to experiment outside, yes?”

Kusla’s tone was a little terse, and he sensed that the reason why she remained was that she was worried that he might throw a tantrum if he was left alone.

Truly, he felt peeved at the idea of Irine, Phil and the knights gathered around Weyland, happily experimenting, but it was some fine medicine for him, who in his folly made a grave mistake.

He slowly got to his feet, turned around, and intended to head down to the baseball where the other experiment tools borrowed from the Poldorofs were at, only to hear a frantic voice behind him.

“I-I am not!”

If he instead asked her why it was so, he probably would receive an answer he would have hated to hear, that she could not leave him alone, or the like.

Already, he understood since their journey from Abbas that she loved to care for others, more so than she thought, and though it could be interpreted as a form of martyrdom, it was akin to possessiveness, or dominion, or in other words, coaxing a child.

Back then, Kusla understood for the first time that this was her mood whenever she was livid about being treated as a child.

“Hmph.”

He shrugged, hurried down the basement, and though there was no portable lighting, the torches on the ground floor were lit, and it was sufficient.

Snow remained on the baggage the escorting knights had brought, so the knots too were frozen. He pondered about cutting the ropes with his dagger, but on a second thought, the place was unlike the bustling Southern cities, and they might not be able to find sturdy ropes if they were to depart again. He decided to dispense with some effort, and get a fire torch to melt it. He turned towards the stairs, and nearly stumbled.

Fenesis stood at the middle of the stairs, looking at him with an anguished look as though she was part of an apparition tale.

“…I thought you’re a ghost.”

Fenesis’ skin was particularly white, and so was her hair, so she appeared to be brimming with light in this darkness. He made a rare joke, yet she betrayed nary a smile, and really appeared to be a ghost.

“What do you want?”

His voice was filled with spite, and Fenesis reeled back, dispelling the doubt that she was a ghost. Who would have known that she would appear like one.

“Keep it short. Or are you unable to say anything because you’re stunned by my stupid failure?”

Such an appraisal certainly was appropriate, and he intended to bear the pain, but he sensed something was amiss. Fenesis’ attitude had suddenly changed when Weyland suggested to continue experimenting with the combustible gas, instead of the fire herb, only for Kusla to reject it. Her mood was upbeat even when the experiment failed.

It was often said that the feelings of girls were very complicated, and Kusla did not understand what exactly she was thinking. By this logic, he would never understand what the Whites were thinking when they destroyed the town. While he lamented so─

“It is not so, but…it is similar.”

Kusla widened his eyes at her, and though her face remained tragic, she showed no skittishness even as their eyes met.

He gently sighed, and turned to face her.

“Similar?”

“…Yes.”

He pondered a little while, but could not associate the words together.

So he let out a deep sigh, and grabbed his hair.

“Understood, I’ll hear your piece, but before that, go get a wooden stick lit with a fire in the furnace. Got to melt the frozen knots and undo the ropes.”

“…”

She stared at him unflinchingly, and once she affirmed that he was not trying to brush her off, she nodded, went up the stairs, and soon returned.

Her face, as shown by the touch, appeared to be in deep thought, and when she handed it over to him, her expression seemed firmer than the frozen ropes, filled with many emotions.

“So? What do you mean, similar?”

Kusla asked as he continued with his task, for that would probably get her to talk, but unexpectedly, he did not get a response. He glanced aside, and saw her looking away, side eyeing him.

“…You’re not angry, are you?”

You need to ask at this point? Kusla was incensed and yet bemused, and finally kept his calm.

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“Th-that.”

“I’m not trying to befuddle you. It’s like smelting, nobody knows the result without tossing it into the fire. We won’t know what’s good and what’s bad. I thought we’ve been through this countless times already.”

It was a mentality an alchemist should have, but it should not simply be limited to alchemy alone.

Fenesis first lowered her head unbearably, exhaled hard as though there was an object stuck in her throat, and lifted her head.

“Y-you have been acting a little strange…ever since we got here.”

What then followed were words Kusla never thought of.

“Strange? Not that I’m horrible, or mean spirited?”

Kusla was somewhat self aware of that, but Fenesis bit her lips, trying her best to contain the wry smile appearing on her lips.

“No.”

She said it so confidently, but Kusla still did not understand. The frozen ropes thawed out, and he handed the torch to her.

“Hold this.”

The expression she gave was one who had something important to say, but the moment Kusla reached his hand further, she received it unwillingly. He then got down to undoing the knots, and asked her,

“What do you mean, weird?”

He held the ropes in his hands, and racked through his memories, but he remained mystified. So he wondered, what did he do for others to be mystified? Suddenly, Fenesis latched onto his arm, and he turned to her skeptically, only to be shocked by her teary face. If they were at the bottom of a cave, and not at a basement, her implication was that if they did not turn back, they would have no way of arriving at the surface.

But the place was merely an ordinary basement. Irine and Phil were working above them, Weyland and the knights were outdoors, handling a flying experiment that would have shocked the others.

Kusla nearly betrayed a smirk because of this, but naturally, he did not.

For Fenesis was that serious.

“Are you…”

So she spoke.

“Are you terrified of the angel’s legend?”

He once heard that when a person was completely focused on something, he would be completely oblivious to everything else, even if his arm was severed. He stared at her, ostensibly forgetting to breathe, and thought that it was true.

Was he terrified of the angel’s legend?

For just a moment, he wanted to sneer, wondering how it was possible, but that sneer froze on his face, for he vividly remembered the feeling when he stood at the edge of the massive hole left behind at the town the Whites destroyed.

“Why…do you…think so…”

He did not think he could say it was impossible. He faltered in the face of the blasted ruins of the town when he saw that temple. He recognized how dire was the act of the angels, and his belief that technology knew neither friend nor foe was under test.

But then, he thought.

He did not turn tail and run even when faced with this fear.

“No, not at all.”

“B-but, you have been acting weird ever since you stood by that large hole. It feels like you were hiding something, being pretentious.”

Kusla was gobsmacked, for it was as she said.

“And coupled with the failure from before…i-it is the first time I have seen you this erratic.”

Fenesis glanced up while looking down, and said,

“So I was wondering if you are really terrified…and…if you are forcing yourself to continue with research…”

If she had intended to tease him and tease him for being a coward, Kusla was confident that he could refute so.

But Fenesis looked so anguished.

And the reason being──

“If you are forcing yourself because of me, I──”

She was someone who would have such thoughts.

“You think I value you that much?”

Kusla hugged Fenesis to shut her up.

“You’re right, damn it.”

He locked onto her arms with more strength, and heard a cute squeal of pain.

“But I’m not backing down just because I’m scared of investigating the angle’s legend. When I ignited the foul gas and suffered failure, the first thing I thought of was your face. I must have looked pale back then, right? I finally managed to get you away from the spies, and yet I nearly doomed you because of my own failure.”

Kusla was in no mood to disguise his thoughts, and merely wanted to convey his feelings to Fenesis.

And it was for that reason that he could clearly narrate the moment the experiment failed.

“And also, I finally understand…that I’ve been acting tough, and putting on a facade.”

He sighed.

“It’s because of you too, damn it. You were so devastated when you heard that the Whites left scars here, that the land’s cursed. So, what about it? Are you still worried that I’m hiding my insecurities about the legend of the Whites?”

“Ah…ehh…”

Fenesis was left speechless, looked up at Kusla, and lowered her vision once again.

Finally, she nodded apologetically.

“But──”

“But what?”

She lifted her head while still in his clutches, and he put his mouth to her forehead, saying,

“You think I’ll become a weak, gentle man after three days of sleep?”

It did not matter that Fenesis’ worries were all for naught, the issue was how she viewed him.

But she, who was told in no uncertain terms, did not back then.

Instead, she pouted and glared back at Kusla.

“I am the same too.”

“Ah?”

“I shall not whimper because of these things again! I assumed…I assumed that you would have known…”

And once she said so, that usually whimpering girl returned.

But when he heard so, he remembered that when he went to save her, she laid an ambush with Irine, and swung an iron urn, knowing it was reckless, but she tried her best to escape.

Such recklessness was a stark contrast to the adorable little girl who never tried to resist even when she was taken as a cursed tool by the knights.

And just as her viewpoint had changed completely, so too did her demeanor.

“Really? But, there is something I have to be clear about.”

He grabbed her shoulders, and pried her away from him.

The harsh treatment had Fenesis looking as though she was about to be hanged, but she did not avert her eyes.

“What the Whites did was really so grand that it shocked me. Despite that, it proves that they’re a suitable opponent.”

And thus, there was one more task for Kusla to do.

“The legend of the Whites is almost within grasp, and we got no choice but to get it. Once we unravel the mystery, we’ll get the technology that only exists in our dreams. Maybe we’ll get trails on their whereabouts. We’ll be able to undo the curse on this land, the curse you forced yourself to say that you aren’t worried about.”

She, the recipient of this snide remark, wanted to refute, but could not say so.

She might feel that though they appeared to be disputing they were doing so for concern of each other, and could not bring themselves to be angry.

“That’s why I won’t give up, and I won’t be terrified. I’m not joining Weyland in his experiment not because I’m scared, but that I don’t want to fail again. I just need to calm down.”

So he affirmed, and chimed disingenuously,

“Of course…maybe my face did pale because of the failure just now, since I haven’t failed in a long time. Also, I might have been too relaxed from the joy of the snowball fight…”

It sounded like an excuse, and Fenesis too showed a clumsy smile,

But there was another reason for that smile,

“It is great that you are happy…”

“Huh?”

So he asked, and her smile became all the brighter, which enlightened him,

“That pout just now was…”

“Miss Irine said to do so, because I discussed this matter with her.”

Back then, she and Irine went out together, and he assumed Irine did so to coax the easily distressed Fenesis, to hear her thoughts, but that did not seem to be the case.

“She said that you are eccentric yet simple-minded, that you will be motivated if we involve you in this fun.”

“…”

Kusla had a migraine once he realized how Irine viewed him, and Fenesis too was equally guilty for agreeing with this assessment.

The biggest issue however was that it was super effective.

“Damn it…it was effective, too effective. Like a child who cannot drink.”

Fenesis smiled for real this time, and Kusla gave her a disgusted look, only to look aside, sigh, and grab his hair.

“But this proves that just as I’m keeping an eye out for you, so too are you looking at me.”

Fenesis was no tree or rock that merely knew to observe, she was a girl who would have mood changes, and could think. Thus, his concern for her was viewed as pretentious, which resulted in another misunderstanding. It seemed the same matter could have unexpected interpretations.

It would cause trouble, and also joy, so Kusla shrugged.

“Well, that’s how it is. You can go out and help Weyland.”

Of course, he said that on purpose.

Fenesis puffed her cheeks, having seen through him, and answered,

“All the more reason as to why I cannot leave you be, for you might fail again.”

She certainly had arrogance in how she said so, but that response was what he wanted,

“Yeah, partner.”

Saying that, he slapped her shoulder, and she responded to him with much vigor.

 

They had no knowledge on the characteristics displayed by sulfuric acid and the acidic salt.

It was something discovered when they were searching for the fire herb and the elixir, and Kusla felt that there was hardly any mention of it in the books he read. Phil oted that he knew of sulfuric acid, but only because he had seen books of technology passed around in the desert region, so it probably was a book amongst the records of acids kept by the Knights, which only a high ranking alchemist could access.

Thus, it proved that the technology was buried under the shrouds of authority, and the idea that they could discover it on their own was really riveting, that they would obtain the true essence.

The technology was a way of conveying the truth to this world, and nobody could keep it hidden for long.

“But it does seem complicated if we just add water.”

They did various tries, for there was a possibility that it could suddenly ignite, yet their wariness could not restrain their curiosity for long.

This fluid was truly mystifying.

“Smoke rises when we add water. It feels unnerving…like a witch’s cauldron.”

Once they added water into sulfuric acid, it would effervescent like water added into boiling oil, smoke and heat up. And once this diluted sulfuric acid was added into an iron vessel that was presumed unreactive, bubbles would form, and the iron would melt. One would have to wonder as to why God gave it such a complicated characteristic.

Despite that, the phenomenon happening before them was neither magic nor a miracle, and it could be replicated by either Kusla or Fenesis. Once they realized this fact, they found it was such a fluid.

“Adding water to quicklime makes it so hot that it can cook eggs. Everything’s possible.”

The diluted sulfuric acid could melt iron, but it seemed that adding more water would render it unable to do so. The acidic salt too showed a similar trend.

Both substances, upon being touched, would end up scalding people. They thought of adding salt to sulfuric acid to recreate that characteristic displayed by the acidic salt, so they added sugar, but the results were astounding.

The refined white sugar charred black immediately.

“So, other than creating the fire elixir, what else can be it used for? Since God allowed for this thing to exist, it should be used for something more useful…”

“Charring the sugar is a very appropriate lesson in teaching others not to splurge.”

Kusla stared at Fenesis, but one could not tell from her expression if she was joking or serious.

“So nothing from the interesting knowledge you know from?”

While she did not read hordes of books like Kusla did, she did grow up in the desert region, and had traversed through many cities during her unfortunate escape. There were one or two instances when they discovered something new thanks to her inspiration.

Just as a completely new thing would be formed by adding other items, so too would two people who had never encountered each other before reach a completely unexpecte outcome.

But Fenesis looked annoyed.

“Please do not look up to me in this manner.”

“It’s because I know you’ll hate it. It’s interesting.”

She sighed, probably thinking that it was pointless to answer him so, and decided to focus on her task at hand. Kusla pondered for a short moment, moved the chair to the wall a little far from the bench, and sat down.

“What is the matter? Are you still feeling unwell?”

She immediately approached him with a worried look, and he shrugged.

“It’s pointless for me to force the issue, so let’s take a step back and look. Maybe I’ll have an inspiration if I look from afar.”

“Ah…”

“And I have to see how much my apprentice has improved.”

Urr, a voice came from her throat, for she probably knew very well that no matter how she tried to act tough, she could not withstand this heavy pressure. However, she seemed to have a different idea instead, so she got down to experiment just to show off.

In fact, Kusla was merely a little tired, and wanted to rest, so he decided to watch her from afar leisurely.

She twitched her slender waist before him, swaying left and right as she fiddled with the tools, investigating the various reactions. She would certainly make a cute squeal if he reached out for her buttocks, and jolted, and after another two, three times, her reaction would dull, before she rolled her eyes at him.

It was a similar situation to his smelting investigations, the metals he was familiar with would react in a manner that would leave him joyous and not weary.

Fenesis initially was worried that she would be teased, and was a little wary, but once the work proceeded successfully, she would slowly begin to focus on it, and soon after, she paid attention only to her hands, and seemed to have forgotten about him.

She prepared the metal pieces, acids of various concentrations, and affirmed the reactions of each set, one by one. She had undoubtedly passed this aspect, and in this example, even poured the dangerous fluid down a stick to avoid splattering so.

Kusla was increasingly intrigued as he watched her, as though he was witnessing a story he heard of come to life. Surely it was because if they continued to chase the angels, this would be the feeling he would have.

A clergyman praying in the middle of a Cathedral would certainly look dignified, but Kusla found a sacredness that was no inferior. After all, was there a more sacred challenge than to uncover a secret hidden in this world said to be created by God, on a long table in this cramped hut.

There were many technologies that changed the lives of Man, all born in such huts scattered all over the world, but the townsfolk surely would not believe so. They always believed these were things the kings and rulers had all known, and yet not permit their people to use.

Technology however was no magic however. In many instances, it was the result of an encounter between hard work and coincidence, but in the vast majority of situations, it was the result of simple repetitions. The most important aspect in particular was that anyone could recreate it. No matter how one would try to hide it, people would discover, for they were the fragments of the truth to this world.

Thus, even those stories of legendary or mythical metals left behind could be recreated by anyone if they were facts, even if the person doing so was this pipsqueak who had just debbled with alchemy.

In this sense, perhaps technology was a rare equalizer in this damned world.

“Phew…”

He recovered, for he heard a sweet sigh ring clearly at his ear.

It seemed he had accidentally fallen asleep while supervising her.

There were metal fragments and plates placed on the long narrow table, along with stone tablets with limestone words recorded on them. Even the reaction between limestone and acid was recorded down.

She stood before the long table spaced out, looking around, wondering if there was anything else she could do. Once she had a look around, she seemed to understand that there was none, and her shoulders were lowered dejectedly.

Kusla smiled mischievously.

Given that she was disappointed after finishing her work, it showed that she had no way back.

He felt an immoral pleasure in leading her down this path, and felt ticklish

He stood up from the chair, and scanned the stone tablets she recorded on.

“The reactions are all different…doesn’t seem like there’s anything meaningful.”

“…”

Perhaps it was a reaction from her tension, but she looked at him despondently. He shrugged, pulled over the chair he was sitting on, had her sit down, and he leaned at the corner of the cramped bench.

“It’s interesting that it can metal metals, but I can’t think of any purpose. It’s convenient if it can eliminate unwanted metals while smelting….”

Kusla thought as he surmised the situation, only to notice that her eyes were half closed, and though he could not determine the time, it seemed the sun was about to set.

“Hey!”

“Ah!”

Fenesis lifted her head hastily, reached her eyes out, wanting to rub her eyes, but Kusla grabbed her hands to stop her.

“Don’t rub your eyes during an experiment!”

“…”

It seemed Fenesis was startled awake by Kusla’s grim look, and she widened her eyes at him, looked at her hands, and noticed that there was something dangerous on it.

“Luckily there’s two of us here. It’s possible to deal with the itch.”

Kusla leered, and Fenesis nodded obediently, only to realize the intent in his words a tad later.

She gave a look of disgust, and felt dumbfounded.

“Jokes aside, it appears we haven’t made much progress in our experiment. Who knows how it’s going on Weyland’s side. Maybe they’re doing well.”

He would be delighted to discover a way to fly, but he nevertheless hoped he would be the one doing so.

And the moment he thought so, Fenesis gave him an exceptionally frosty look

“What?”

Kusla asked, and that feisty pipsqueak raised her chin, saying,

“You did fall asleep.”

“Huh?”

“You looked a little groggy, so I did suggest that you go upstairs to rest, but you found me a hassle, saying that you were not sleeping. You did not notice that Mr Weyland and the others were done and had returned.”

“Ugh…”

Now Kusla could not say anything. He never realized so, and did not remember his conversation with Fenesis.

Fenesis gave a gleeful sigh.

“You really should improve yourself.”

Now it seemed she was the one reproaching a child.

Kusla turned his face aside, displeased with her arrogance, but she giggled,

“But I too am a little perturbed. The experiment would have failed if they continued.”

They were experimenting on the fragments derived from the sun, which was something they hardly knew about.

“Guess we should rest a little while…but there’s no place to sleep if they’re on the second level, right?”

“I’m fine with being in front of the furnace.”

“Don’t hug me even if you find it cold.”

“Wha…I-I should be the one saying that!”

Kusla ignored the fuming Fenesis, and just stretched away. The bones from his shoulders to his back cracked, and it was very comforting, but Fenesis was clearly terrified to hear this sound. He continued to shake his neck, caused more startling sounds, and Fenesis looked completely terrified.

“But I guess it’s not that easy. We’ve been doing too well after all.”

Kusla muttered so as he stared at the remains of the experiment left on the bench.

“Weyland hasn’t made progress, right?”

And his question left Fenesis gloomy.

“Mr Weyland looked terrifying when he returned.”

Weyland would become a different person altogether whenever he was engrossed in his experiments, and Kusla felt that whenever the former did not make much progress, he would be more frustrated than Kusla ever could be.

“Fly to the sky…fly to the sky…like a bird…or?”

He muttered, imagining that sight.

Angels could fly because they flapped the wings on their back, and it was different from them gathering smoke and flying up. It was more akin to a method they had not yet tried, to attach wings on the hands, and fly away.

Would that be the correct manner of doing so? One could not fathom how much arm strength was needed.

Anyone who had used the bellows before would have understood fully how reckless it would be to fly in the skies in this manner.

“If we can witness how it was like to fly, perhaps we should be able to get some clue.”

Fenesis too showed a serious expression that was different from before.

“Did they not say the shape of the key is determined by the hole?”

“Never thought you knew of such sayings.”

Kusla retorted, but he had to agree.

“But you’re right. If people can see God’s appearance, they’ll definitely find God who should exist in this world.”

“We might be able to see Him if we could make any consecrated glasses.”

“Hmm, best if we can make one that allows us to see souls rising into the sky. Tie them up, gather them together, and we might be carried along.”

Kusla recalled the various information Phil gathered, and also the various illustrations pertaining to the Whites found in Kazan and the other towns. Each and every one of them had something resembling an angel, so perhaps they should use the angel’s wings as reference, and ponder from the perspective of birds flapping their wings?

So as Kusla racked his brain, Fenesis suddenly tugged at his hem.

“What?”

And before he could get a response to his question, Fenesis continued to stare at something on the table while still staring intently. That really was a unique expression from her, one so stoic to the point where she forgot to blink, but there was something changing beneath the skin, certainly.

The sight was truly reminiscent of a Holy Maiden having a vision, and for some reason, Kusla assumed that he too had seen such a scene before.

“The soul…”

And once she muttered so, he finally recovered.

“Hey, are you seriously thinking of gathering souls and riding them into the sky?”

It was a joke made by Phil, but even if one weighed a corpse on a scale, there was no difference from a living body. The soul did not exist.

So Kusla wanted to say, but for a moment, he forgot to breathe.

Weigh using scales?

Was the matter of no weight different from the absence of existence however?

Yes, just like mist.

“Erm…may I try something before we go to bed?”

She gave him a rational look, one filled with some confidence, the eyes belonging to an alchemist.

And it would be rude to question her on what she intended to do while faced with this look.

Leaving aside the matter that she was his partner.

“Of course.”

Kusla heartily agreed, and Fenesis’s face was filled with shock and delight, but she immediately sheathed away her expression, and began to work. First, she stared intently at the stone tablets that had records of the many experiments she had done, affirmed them one by one, and reached for the vial with the crystals formed from zinc and sulfuric acid.

“Why did I not think of this after seeing how a paper bag could fly when filled with smoke?”

“What?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis hastily answered,

“It was the same for the asphalt spring. Combustible air is formed by adding fuel into the iron urn.”

Kusla did not understand the meaning behind these words, but she had completely ignored him, her sidelong face resembling a true alchemist, her heart only pursuing whatever she could see.

“Bubbles, bubbles.”

She sounded so confident while doing her experiments, certain that it was the correct answer. Surely in the future, she would be betrayed by this belief over and over again, for experiments were merely the accumulation of all the failures.

But despite so, it did not mean that this belief was often wrong.

Fenesis prepared the lead vessels in a fluid manner, put sharp zinc pieces atop them, and poured the sulfuric acid. The zinc fragments were then engulfed in lots of bubbles, and slowly melted away.

The moment she took the paper bag.

Kusla was flabbergasted.

“I was wondering what these strange bubbles are.”

They tried all the various items with the acid that could dissolve metals, and assumed that they did everything.

But it was not a comprehensive list of what they could do, for they had forgotten about the thing formed after throwing it in.

“This does form the most noticeable amount of bubbles.”

Bubbles continued to form like rampaging crabs. The naked eye could not see, and no smell could be detected, and one had to wonder if the bubbles were actually gathered, but nevertheless, there should be something.

And once the pile of zinc was gone, Fenesis stopped what she was doing, but she did not look disappointed, her eyes instead sparkled, and a smile formed on her lips. She, who was actually touching the bag, probably understood what happened.

Her instinct was correct.

“Please look.”

Fenesis let go of her hand.

“This is the shape of a soul.”

The paper bag left her hands, and rose slowly, really slowly, into the sky.

They could not tie a rope onto a soul, but they could gather a soul in the bag.

It was invisible to the naked eye, devoid of weight, but it definitely existed in this world.

Kusla patted Fenesis’ slender shoulder, and she gave a proud smile.

An alchemist was once who would try everything after succeeding once.

So Kusla and Fenesis gathered all the gases formed by the sulfuric acid and the acidic salts to experiment, only to find that the bubbles formed through lime did not work, and everything else worked. Whenever they saw the paper bag slowly flutter up, he too felt his heart flutter, but he might be teased if he said so.

It was fact however that nothing beat the feeling of working together with others to find a result befitting their expectations.

And thus, they could even go to the corners of the world.

He wanted to experience this feeling over and over again, no matter how many times.

“…Have you been experimenting?”

Kusla and Fenesis were more focused on the experiment than clapping away and celebrating, and right when they were about to get down to work, they heard Irine’s voice.

Irine looked a little groggy, probably because she had a little lap. Fenesis let go of the bag in her hand, and it slowly rose towards the ceiling. The duo burst out laughing once they saw Irine rub her eyes frantically, assuming that she had overslept.

The experiment was a huge success.

Irine hastily turned to run up to the second level, and Weyland too charged downstairs at a tremendous speed.

“Woooahh!?”

He grabbed his head firmly, and yelled as he looked up at the paper bag in the ceiling.

Fenesis happily covered her ears in response to this joyous yell, and Kusla covered his ears with his little fingers. The knights resting on the second floor and keeping watch outside too ran over.

Kusla and Fenesis loudly declared to the gathering onlookers in unison,

“We do not need to use the fire. Now we understand why the Whites wanted to gather so many sun fragments.”

“This is the method to fly in the second.”

It was a dream people always had when looking up at the sky, always thinking that they could never do so.

And at this moment, another miracle fell into the hands of Man.

“But…”

Kusla suddenly stopped, and Irine asked anxiously,

“An-anything inappropriate?”

Kusla couldn’t shrug, for he was at his limit.

“Let me…sleep…”

Kusla’s knee buckled before he could finish.

Next to him, Fenesis appeared to be sleeping, but they never let go of their clasped hands.

But nobody could be sure as to who would not let go.

 

Kusla opened his eyes, found the furnace burning red, felt a blanket laid upon him, and realized that he had fallen asleep. He usually could determine for how long he slept, but this time, he was unsure of anything other than the fact that he had a good nap. It seemed he did not have a dream, and merely remained groggy for a long time.

He slept so soundly that he started to wonder if the discovery of flight was merely a dream.

He had such a thought, for he was the only one sleeping next to the furnace, and nobody else was in this charcoal hut.

“…”

It was all a dream, or so he nearly assumed, only to hear noises outdoors. He got up, stretched every aching part of his body, and went outdoors. The sun reflected on the snow was too stinging when he stepped out, and he narrowed his eyes.

The sun had risen, but it was still a cooling winter morning.

Once his eyes finally got used to the dazzling light outside, Kusla found everyone else standing there.

“Finally up? You fail as a craftsman.”

“Maybe he doesn’t want to help at all. Only do so once we’re done~.”

Irine and Weyland sarcastically said, and Fenesis scampered over, standing next to him.

Her face was flushed, as though she just had fun.

“You are late. The experiment had just ended.”

Fenesis should have been as worn out as he was, but she was the first to recover. Kusla decided to assume that it was due to her being younger.

He shrugged, and looked towards the various things scattered on the ground/

It seemed Weyland had grasped the outcomes of the experiment while he was asleep, and Irine put her deft hands to work. Since Fenesis had suggested this experiment, it seemed they had some understanding.

There were iron plates, metal pieces and others laid on the deer fur carpet, and one item in particular had expanded greatly. Weyland in turn was getting the second bag to expand.

“You sewed the bladder?”

He saw that Weyland was not filling up the paper bag, so he asked Fenesis.

“Paper will burst if it expands, so we should use a sturdier bag. Seal all the cracks and openings with adhesive.”

“Hmm…then, what are they doing?”

Kusla pointed at Phil, who was atop the deer fur carpet, putting the leather cord through a leather tunic, making some twisted armor together with the escorting knights.

“It will be difficult to hold it up by the hands.”

“Huh?”

And Kusla’s question was merely met by Fenesis’ impish smile, nothing more.

While they were doing so, Irine deftly put the metal pieces and the fluids into the distillation vessels. That should be a modification of Kusla and Fenesis’s experiment. Weyland tied up the gas filled bag, and one could find, on closer look, that there was something tied to it.

Kusla’s heart raced once he noticed the heavy object with sufficient buoyancy, and his blood rushed to his fingertips.

“That’s probably it~.”

Weyland said, and sealed the bag that was as big as Phil’s. His actions looked incredulous, and there seemed to be a reel floating in the air, holding up the bag while he did his best to resist.

Kusla started to wonder if this was done to tease him, and narrowed his eyes towards the top of the nearby tree.

“Now then, Mr Phil~”

Weyland’s call brought Kusla’s consciousness back, and naturally, the latter did not find a rope descending from the heavens.

“How are you doing~?”

“I’m done.”

So he said as he opened the leather tunic with cords all over it near his chest.

One would not need to think further as to what it was for.

“Now then, let’s see where this highest honor goes to.”

Weyland said, everyone exchanged looks, and Kusla sensed that they were all looking at him. Of course, he knew why this was so, but he could not laugh at it, and merely sighed.

“Enough with the nonsense.”

He put his hand on Fenesis’ back while she was next to him, and nudged her forward.

“She’s the one who discovered it.”

She stumbled a few steps forward, came to a stop, and widened her eyes.

“Most importantly, she’s airy enough. Should be able to fly.”

“We weighed with scales. Just don’t get me or the knights to do this.”

Phil was so elated, for he was fine with anyone doing so as long as the person could float.

There was no reason not to be happy when humanity’s dream would be fulfilled at this next moment.

But Kusla nominated out of certain considerations.

The two paper bags that were prepared, and the sight of using them to fly.

One would assume Fenesis was the most suited just by imagining that scene.

“B-but…”

Fenesis gave Kusla an uneasy look, and he shrugged.

“I’ll hold your hand.”

And definitely not let go.

The words were probably effective, for while Fenesis looked terrified, she nodded a little.

“Put it on first…”

So the preparations began. Fenesis was so diminutive, and she put on the tunic, tied the knots, and then fastened it tightly. Kusla was skeptical if she could really fly, but the buoyant items used to hold the bags down seemed huge.

Perhaps she could really rise after all.

“I do not think that I will be abruptly taken to the skies.”

“So you experimented?”

“Yes. We have done so with a hemp bag of snow. I added another rope to the tree just in case, so even if these ropes do fall off, I have a safety measure in place.”

A knight held a spear, while another had a bow and arrow ready.

“Looks like you’ll experience how it feels like when a bird gets hunted.”

“I-I have no intention to…”

Kusla’s joke was met with Fenesis’s nervous response.

“Even if you get shot down, you don’t have to worry.”

Fenesis gave him a pleading look in response, and he gave a consoling smile as his fingers caressed her cheeks.

“It’s all snow at the bottom. There’s no way you’ll be hurt.”

“…”

Fenesis turned her head, looking aggrieved, for she might have been hoping that he would say something to the like of, I shall catch you even if you fall.

“How’s the preparation?”

“The bags are done.”

“Tunic…done.”

Phil carefully checked through, and nodded in satisfaction. Kusla looked towards Fenesis once again, and she, who had averted her eyes due to his teasing, finally turned towards him.

“Go enjoy yourself.”

And upon hearing this, Fenesis gave a stiff smile.

“Sh-shall we begin then? I’ll unseal the package?”

The most normal of them all, Irine, might be the most nervous, and even the knights who were strangely apprehensive about the mysterious technology were simply exhilarated about the prospect of flying into the sky.

Irine started to unravel the rope latching the bag to the massive urn, and the bag slowly but surely floated. The tunic tugging at Fenesis’ clothes, and she seemed to wince a little.

“I’ll undo the next one.”

Fenesis looked at Irine,and back at Kusla. Her green eyes were clearly showing something akin to fear, yet her face was on the verge of laughing, and Kusla knew very well what it was.

Curiosity.

“Now!”

And as Irine yelled, she undid the rope.

The second bag floated, and Fenesis’ body shook. One could see from her stiffened expression that the tunic was rather taut, and the ropes were rubbing away.

However, Fenesis’ body did not float, and it seemed as though something had reached her hands under a child’s pits, trying to carry it up

.Were two bags insufficient?

And right when this notion occured──

“Ah! Wo-woah!”

Fenesis squealed in shock as her body tilted forward, as though she was tripped forward, but her body did not land on the snow.

The onlookers watched with bated breath.

Fenesis’ petite body was clearly floating in the air.

“Ah, woah, woah!!”

But Fenesis, who was fulfilling the dreams of Man, did not appear to be enjoying herself, for she was completely discombobulated and flustered. Kusla held her hand, and stared at her eyes with a sneering smile.

He was not letting her go, no matter what, even if it was God tugging at her.

So Fenesis stopped flailing about.

It seemed very effective.

“Ohh…”

Someone marveled, and the relaxed Fenesis slowly left the ground, rising up, her eyes starting to rise from beneath him, and it was to a point where he had to look up at her.

He held her hand, and said,

“How does living in Heaven feel?”

She gave a fleeting smile, either because she was suffering in the tunic, or overwhelmed with emotions.

But Kusla did not ask her for this purpose. She, floating in the sky, gave an apt reply.

“…An angel.”

Irine murmured.

Yes.

Fenesis had two floating bags tied to her back, and though she looked clumsy, she might have resembled one if seen from afar.

She would appear to have spread her angelic wings on her back

And perhaps the Whites too were dubbed angels because of this.

“Now we recreated the legend~.”

“There isn’t any miracle or magic in this world.”

Kusla answered Weyland murmur.

“We found a way to look down at the world.”

It definitely was not an arrogant notion, for this technology would invalidated all city walls. With the spread of the wings, they could pass over countless soldiers.

They could then obtain their freedom, for they had their wings!

But right when Kusla thought so──

“Ah!”

Weyland let out a dumbstruck cry as he looked up at the sky.

Kusla too noticed, Irine covered her mouth, and finally, Fenesis turned around.

At this moment, the massively expanded bags started to break through the seams.

“──Ugh!”

Fenesis let out an inaudible shriek, but she did not form a silhouette on the snow.

Kusla pulled her in with his clasped hand, and reined her in his clutches.

Perhaps she seemed so feathery because another bag was intact, or perhaps the concept called hope was so lightweight?

“How does it feel to travel in the sky?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis remained in his clutches, coughing. Phil and Irine hurried over to pry the bag off, and she then said,

“…V-very unbearable…”

It was a realistic thought, far from a miracle or magic.

 

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