Hellping

Through the materials for the fire herb, they discovered the technology of flight.

It was thus obvious that the technology used to destroy the town had something to do with the sun fragments, and it would be logical to follow this line of thought. The easiest item to think of would be the fire herb, but there was another question, why would the Whites prepare such a large amount of fire herbs that resulted in the destruction of a town?

The necessary ingredient to fly to the skies was an acid that could dissolve metals, formed from the sun fragments,but different from a fire herb. In other words, even if the Whites mass produced sun fragments for the sake of flying into the skies, they would have to add charcoal and sulfur if they wanted to devastate an entire town. Because of this, the situations seemed so ambiguous no matter how they thought about it. Their motives remained unknown.

The marker clearly led them down this direction however, towards an alley with a dead end.

Kusla sighed as he pondered before the furnace, only to hear frantic footsteps outdoors, and the door to the hut was slammed open.

“Hahaha! Mr Cyrus, you’re really a man~!”

“That was way too high, and you’re not a bird.”

Behind the guffawing Weyland was an exasperated Irine, and they were followed by Phil, who carried Cyrus in. The latter was seemingly dragged in, probably due to wobbly legs.

“B-but…I experienced…the legend.”

Cyrus was set on a chair, and everyone could tell that he was shivering lots. He was covered in snow, probably because of how he landed in the snow after flying in the sky, but it was not the entire reason as to why he was shivering.

After that, the Knights returned with the experiment tools, and it was Fenesis of all people who instructed them .

It was nothing particularly difficult, but the ability to confidently command others was a form of growth. Most certainly, the bolster in confidence was due to her sole discovery of flight.

Grave mistakes often occurred during such situations however, so one had to be careful, so Kusla thought as he saw her instruct others, reminded of his own failure

“Mr Cyrus, how does it feel to experience the legend?”

Kusla asked, and Cyrus, who so happened to gulp down his drink at once, put aside the wooden cup, gasped away as though he had just risen from the water.

“Ah…that truly…truly was wonderful!”

He was terrified to the point where his knees wobbled, yet he was able to say such words. Truly he was someone who tried to gather people upon this forsaken land.

“What excited me most wasn’t the fact that I could fly, but that we solved part of the Whites’ legend. Now…now we don’t have to fear the darkness we know nothing of!”

Cyrus spared no effort in covering that temple, all to seal away the curse lingering on this land. It was to be expected however, for they did not know why the town was destroyed, how it was, why, and had no choice but to seal away the hole that was the source of this calamity.

But since the mystery of the legend was solved, there was no need to fear whatever was beneath their feet. Once they understood the technology of flight, they could use the sun fragments to explain the rest of the legend. They would not burn with sunlight alone, and there were conditions to create the sun fragments. It could all be explained to others through a demonstration, and not through empty words. The  whereabouts of the Whites remained unknown, but since they understood how it was possible to fly, there definitely was a plan. In no way would there be a calamity beckoned like an incoming eagle or a swing of a staff.

Was there anything to fear if one knew that that calamity was caused by tying a floating bag, lumping lots of goods , and igniting with fire?

People assumed that the old wooden hut would become a den of sprites, for nobody could personally witness what the source of the buzzing was.

And thus, this land could finally stand anew with renewed freedom, and they could build new houses and slowly regain its past prosperity. This should be what Cyrus was excited about, but Kusla said as befitting of an eccentric alchemist,

“A feeble candle truly can shine into the unknown darkness, but will not suffice in tracking a wolf’s trails.”

Yes, while they had grasped the method of destruction, and could still hear the howling echoes from deep within the cave,they remained oblivious as to why fangs were bared at this land.

“Yes…that is true.”

Naturally, Cyrus was not naive to simply assume that he was invited to experience the legend.

He wiped his cheeks with both hands, and reverted to the expression of a hunter.

“We now know that the Whites aren’t fairies, but are like us. They wear clothes when cold, eat when hungry, and are capable of thinking of ideas. This land is vast, but there are few places we can go to.”

“Even if it means flying in the sky?”

Cyrus answered Kusla’s question with confidence.

“Even if it means flying.”

“Speaking of which, the birds definitely have a nest somewhere.”

Irine interrupted as she served them bread and steaming cups of beverages for lunch along with Phil. Fenesis and the knights came from the basement, holding their share. Beverage for the day was hot wine with a rich ginger taste.

“We’re at a dead end if the legend ends with them transforming into eels and leaving the town.”

Phil and Kusla were the only ones bemused by Weyland’s joke, and everyone else looked dumbfounded.

“Don’t eels roam in the river?”

Irine asked in everyone’s stead, and the book merchant Phil answered,

“It has always been a mystery as to how eels are born. Nobody has seen its eggs. A book titled the ‘Great Museum Catalogue’ written by ancient scholars stated that eels are born from the mud, but nobody had ever seen eels actually being born from the mud.”

“There are so many unsolved mysteries in this world, and nobody had ever discovered white eels.”

“Maybe the Whites hated everything, and after they destroyed this land, they escaped to the skies…but it’s important as to where they did go. They did wander everywhere, but never settled down, and came to this place after all.”

Once they heard Weyland’s words, everyone naturally looked towards Cyrus.

Of course, Cyrus knew very well as to why he was brought here.

“If there are places suitable to reside further north, someone would have discovered it..”

“But this place is unexpectedly vast for a mountainous region with a sparse population.”

Cyrus nodded, cleared his throat, and said,

“You’re right, but just as a river will flow into the sea, so will there be people using the river down the river. When there is smoke, there is fire. If there is a hunt, the mountain wildlife will be affected, and nothing will be completely hidden. If the Whites did venture north, it would be further up, and we don’t know if there exists an end to this world, or maybe…”

The northern hunter looked away from the distant horizon, towards the ceiling.

“It is a place we can never return from. If nobody can return after heading there, obviously no one will be able to detect our whereabouts.”

It sounded so terrifying, but such scare tactics were ineffective against alchemists.

“You mean heaven?”

“No.”

Cyrus flatly denied so, and gave Kusla a rational look.

“I always loved to venture, and before I was obsessed with this land, I loved to hear tales of the great merchants moving in and out of Abbas who would trade at faraway places. Once I personally experienced the experiment, I immediately realized.”

What is he referring to? Both Kusla and Weyland frowned.

Phil yelled,

“Yes! The direction of the wind!”

“Wind direction?”

Kusla asked, and Phil looked around, saw the paper bag on the long table, and held it..

“This is the boat the Whites rode on with the wind…let’s call it a wind boat.”

Phil puffed air into the paper bag, expanded it slightly, and held it in his hands.

“This is the continent we’re on.”

He then pointed at the long table.

“Even if we can fly into the sky, it doesn’t mean that we can wander in any direction as we please.”

“Why? Will the mountains block us?”

In response to Irine’s simple question, Phil shook his head from side to side.

“The wind direction. We don’t need to worry about wind direction in a mid distance since there will be a coxswain, but if we’re to reach those really far places, we’ll need to grasp the direction of the wind. There are some exceptions however.”

Phil prepared to float the wind ship, and said,

“In order to venture out to sea and navigate through, we’ll have to disembark through headwinds, for──”

His hand shook up and down, probably to mimic a wind effect.

And the wind ship that was in Phil’s hands started to pull its distance from the long table.

“It’s not a journey of no return. It’s possible to move through the headwinds, but we’ll be hindered. Nobody has ever navigated through the seas by riding the tailwinds, because in order to navigate through that distance, we’ll have to bear the same amount of headwind when returning.”

Irine nodded understandingly.

“Thus, it ties back to how it’s impossible to return through headwinds. Truly in this sense, it has the same meaning as going to happen.”

Cyrus nodded at Phil’s passionate explanation. It was hard for an alchemist, especially one who had been trapped in a cramped workshop, within the walls of a city, to fathom such a vast world.

But it was a logical explanation.

A floating feather could not venture through headwinds.

“So you mean the Whites went with the clouds above this land, drifted aimlessly afar, the place beyond the seas nobody had ever passed through?”

“Yes. Even if people had witnessed their departure through the winds, it is impossible to determine where they went. They really left no traces, and departed for a place nobody else could reply from.”

Kusla was instinctively skeptical the moment he saw Cyrus’ confident expression.

Despite that, he had no basis, and could only trust his instincts as an alchemist. It was impossible for him to clumsily believe that they could fall into a hole with no way back, though that hole was certainly suitable for hibernation. He glanced aside at Fenesis, and when she looked back in surprise, he averted his eyes.

Usually. I’d dismiss it as something preposterous and ignore it…”

Kusla muttered, and at the same time, looked over at the crux of the technologies left on the long table, the sun fragments.

“It’s hard to deny the facts, but we’ll need lots of sun fragments if we want to gather the bubbles from the metals and fly into the sky. It won’t be weird if they were converted into fire herbs and were too many that they ended up blasting the town, but…”

Weyland then continued,

“Kusla, you’re thinking that since the sun fragments alone won’t burn, why did they add charcoal and sulfur~?”

“Yes.”

So Kusla responded, Cyrus opened his mouth to talk, and at the same time, Fenesis raised her hand timidly.

“Ah, e-erm…p-please speak.”

She, who so happened to at the same time, was left red faced as she lowered her head.

Cyrus blinked, and Kusla sighed,

“Sorry, our apprentice here is a fool. If there’s a bunch of people on a mound, she’d take the initiative to move towards the cliff. Mind if you let her speak?”

He sought for Cyrus’ permission, and the latter, who was old enough to be her grandfather, heartily laughed and nodded.

“So, what do you want to say?”

Fenesis was peeved, for she felt belittled to have this opportunity to talk because of Kusla, but understood that she would look all the more foolish if she remained silent. She took a deep breath, calmed down a little, and said,

“I suppose…it is to destroy the evidence.”

“Just as I thought.”

Fenesis showed a relieved smile once she received Cyrus’ agreement.

“I-I too had to conceal my whereabouts occasionally while traveling. There were times when the situation was dire, and I had to hide in places I should not be at. So when I think about it, I feel that the angels…the Whites, they might have done so to destroy the evidence, maybe?”

She gave Cyrus a probing look, and the latter nodded.

Kusla too had made a similar hypothesis, but he just could not understand.

If they destroyed the town just to conceal the fact that they stayed there, why did they leave so many survivors behind to rebuild their town?

“They had the ability to scare people into secrecy. I don’t think this is to the point of removing traces of fire, sweeping away footsteps, or cleaning up food and crumbs from the floor.”

Fenesis nodded.

Kusla hesitated as to whether he should continue with what he wanted to say, and Fenesis gave him an exaggerated look, indicating that she was not one to easily burst into tears.

So Kusla discarded his excessive concern, and blurted.

“And, if they had to remove all evidence on a large scale, don’t you think they should have been a little more thorough? In other words, they didn’t complete the job, left survivors, and didn’t ensure that the legend would remain. Or maybe─”

Kusla looked towards Cyrus and Phil.

“Those who passed on the memories were not present as they were busy with something else?”

Cyrus answered,

“My guess is that there were quite a few survivors wandering around, for till this day, are there still many tribes who can recollect the events that day. The building I use as a house, along with the others were left behind from behind them. The wooden huts were all burned, well, almost, but there were quite a few things that were left behind, just reduced to dust after a long time has passed. There should be lots of survivors, as long as they’re far away from that hole.”

“I feel the same.”

Phil too chimed in,

“Those who read the records that were transcribed from verbal words, they’ll feel as though they were part of it. It is impossible to write such accounts through imagination.”

Kusla too had anticipated this, somewhat,

As expected.

“But even so, you think it’s all to destroy evidence?”

Kusla went straight to the point, and this little alchemist who brought this technology called flight back to Earth clearly nodded.

“Yes. They definitely had lots of unique tools that they could not fully bury, destroy, or throw into the furnace.”

“Tools?”

Kusla asked, and the thoughts in his mind were all connected.”The shape of the key is determined by the keyhole…I see, so the Whites tried to destroy their own tools?”

And once they heard that, everyone present looked around at the hut.

There were various experiment tools set everywhere, and there would be a lot more of them if they really tried to research in a workshop. All the more so that they would use unique ones for an alchemy experiment.

Some were made of tin, some of lead, or iron and bronze.

Each and every one of them was too sturdy to be broken, and would not rot even when buried.

“But isn’t that too ridiculous?”

The blacksmith Irine interrupted,

“They could have thrown it into the fire, no? Heat it to high temperatures with the bellows, and they should melt in a single night.”

“That can work, but what if they don’t have the time?”

“Eh?”

“Someone who has intentions to steal something may appear at any given moment, no?”

Or perhaps the Whites knew those people were malicious, that if they handed their tools over, there would be irrevocable consequences.

If the Whites went to various lands just to escape these people, only to be caught up, and created the fire herbs and ignited them out of desperation…

“So they caused a blast of high temperatures that would destroy everything?”

“Just to ask, what do you think, Mr Cyrus?”

Weyland asked, and Cyrus merely shrugged,

“I feel the same. I did see the experiment tools managed by the previous heads of the Poldorofs back in new Abbas, and they’re the same as these things.”

The tools were to be treasured well, and the notion to repair them once damaged was completely ingrained. He had never thought of destroying them, and the idea in itself might be sacrilegious.

This might be the reason why Weyland and Irine readily accepted this notion..

“I agree with this sentiment.”

So Kusla said, and Fenesis looked as though an arrow was shot through her chest, so his smile abated somewhat.

To her, her suggestion was not something to be happy over.

“I never understood why the fire herb exists when it can destroy an entire town, but the Whites might have made up their mind to depart for a place they cannot return from without worrying about being tracked down, and bury the source of their curse, the technologies. It’s a very practical reason, and the best way to do it.”

Technologies by themselves were of such nature, and Kusla, who lived in the world of alchemy, had to sigh while speaking.

“I…initially thought it was to crush the pursuers, but seemed weird. Never thought it would be to destroy those tools that were basically part of their body. Well, this destruction of evidence can explain something else.”

“Something else?”

Irine asked, and Kusla answered,

“If the explosion happened in the workshop, the question at hand is, where was the workshop. If they really intended to destroy the town completely, why did the explosion occur somewhere far away from the town?”

That makes sense, so Weyland stroked his chin.

“For optimal effect, they should have done it at the town center, where they gathered the sun fragments, but they didn’t. It’s my guess, but the Whites knew how drastic this would be, and wanted to minimize casualties, so they established the workshop far from the town.”

But no matter how they tried to be considerate, it was still such a terrifying calamity to the residents, an earth-shattering incident. They could only assume that the Whites exerted that force upon them without warning.

The murals in the temple depicted the Whites looking into the sky, like priests conversing with God.

“This should explain the angel’s legend completely.”

Kusla said half joking, and silence beckoned.

The atmosphere was indescribable, and did not seem as though they were pursuing the past. It seemed they were forced to look at their own mistakes, rather than the feeling of stripping bare the mysteries, and attaining the solution spanning a century.

They never assumed that it would be easier if they deviated from the topics of the Whites, but those of various motives who pursued the Whites were as obsessed with the technology as Kusla.

Kusla patted Fenesis on the head next to him.

Fenesis lowered her teary face, but she did not cry.

“Just to add, there’s a very important and realistic benefit to this.”

Weyland lifted his head, and nodded so,

“Yeah. We can actually ascertain this~.”

“Eh?”

Irine and Phil lifted their voices, and the others could not do so in the slightest.

“H-how? Do you have a magic staff to reverse time?”

Phil blurted out, and the others could only respond wryly “You read too many books.”

Kusla said,

“We’ll investigate the temple. If there are really various tools that were exploded there, there should be lots of debris. If we actually dig up the land there, we should be able to obtain quite the abnormal amount of metals. Maybe this will explain the legend of them smelting some unique metals .”

Phil slapped at his forehead.

“Now that we have the theory, it’s time to experiment.”

He deliberately indicated with a hearty tone, turned his head aside, and saw Fenesis give him an adamant smile.

 

It was past noon, and the white snow outside the hut reflected the sunlight greatly, yet it was freezing. Kusla and company hurried forth as though they were prompted so.

“But if the hypothesis is correct, then us residents might be able to sleep peacefully for the first time in our lives.”

Cyrus could not help but mention so as they walked on.

“If we can be sure that they went to a place of no return, we don’t have to worry about their footsteps, and we can set fire safely knowing the reason why this land was razed to the ground. It isn’t completely ludicrous to think that we can rebuild this town.”

Cyrus mentioned this to Kusla and Weyland for the umpteenth time.

After all, he decided to stay for this purpose alone, and no amount of excitement could convey how delighted he was.

“Finally…we get to retrieve the anchor in our hearts!”

He raised his hands excitedly while he stood by the cave the Whites left behind.

Kusla too should have been happy. This was not a conclusion he had arrived at alone, but he was involved in this matter that all historian authors would have written much about.

However, he remained rooted at the entrance, just as he arrived the first time, and looked at the stone ‘hat’ of the temple buried under the snow. Next to him, Fenesis too was silent, so Kusla thought that she probably realized what he was thinking.

“Why the long face?”

Phil called, giving an amused look.

“I’ll hang a leather bag on your lips.”

“Ahahaha.”

Phil laughed while staring intently at Kusla.

But he suddenly turned around, and went down the temple’s slope.

“Let’s see how I’ll topple it over!”

Cyrus, Weyland, Irine, and the errand escorts that were the knights who were already at the bottom of the stairs did not look back at Kusla.

Kusla exhaled cold breath from his nostrils, and gently rubbed his hands.

“You really are the restless alchemist.”

Weyland, ever the genius in enjoying whatever he did, arrived first at the temple, and Fenesis looked up at him, saying so,

Kusla sensed that the expression was similar to when she invited him for the snowball fight.

“Everyone thinks it is all over.”

However, Kusla was the only one who did not assume so, or so Fenesis thought. In fact, Phil was sufficiently polite in leaving this position to her, and Weyland surely had realized so, acting so lively while understanding so.

The mystery of the Whites resembled a water mill, for time continued to tick through the wheel, and the gears could only follow.

“That’s how I am.”

Kusla took half a step forward, trampling the snow beneath him.

“The next step, the next step, the next step, I remain restless like interest (Kusla), day and night, until I reach the land of Magdala.”

He inhaled, and the exhaled breath was white mist that continued to linger for a while.

It would vanish however, so until then, he would expunge all the agitation he had in his heart into words, as proof that he was alive.

Kusla said,

“Looking at it now, the technology of flight is hopeless. It requires lots of modification, and we can’t pursue the Whites immediately. In that case…”

In that case?

This question had remained in his heart for quite a while.

They were not fully free, and were in the service of the crumbling Claudius Knights,serving under the forces led by Alzen and Archduke Kratal, and it was likely they were deemed as the trump card to reverse the situation.

Even though they had used the angel’s technology in the war, they could not predict exactly how it would change.

Assuming that everything went smoothly, and they could break free from the perilous situation, would Alzen then force Kusla and company to research freely? Kusla could be certain that the answer would be a resounding no. Alzen was not naive in the slightest, and would prepare a cage for a pet bird. He might even pull some trickery in order to allow them to continue their service while they sought to fly. He would have no difficulty in getting a white cloth which he could dye black, and would do whatever he wanted.

In that case, there was only a single path left. If they wanted to seek the Whites, use their technology, and fly towards where they were, there was one thing he had to do.

In other words, he could only escape from Alzen and company.

“If we want to seek the Whites, we need to avoid a war that won’t be beneficial to us, We need to get our freedom, like birds, to avoid the fate of being caged till our deaths.”

Back when he had to obey the Knights, supervised as he researched in the workshop, he yearned for such freedom.

This might be the perfect opportunity to obtain this freedom, and might be the last.

“Is there any reason why you, ever the fearless alchemist, are hesitating now?”

He might be overjoyed if she had taunted him with a teasing look, but there was a look of gentleness on her face.

“First, Alzen and the others will be desperate. If we try to run away, I don’t think anything good will happen to us. It’ll cause trouble to Phil who’s part of the Jedeel Guild, the Poldorofs, Cyrus and the others.”

It would be pragmatic to think that they would ask for the whereabouts of Kusla and company, even if they had to hack down anyone in their path.

“Second?”

Fenesis prompted, and Kusla said with a sigh,

“It’s a path of no return.”

If what they had guessed was correct, the Whites went down that path.

And ultimately, it would prove that the hypothesis was correct.

Thus, once they escaped from Alzen’s pursuers, they would have to weigh between two matters.

The possibility that they could meet the descendents of the Whites.

And on the other extreme, the possibility that they could not return from afar.

He was not too nostalgic about the lands they had lived on thus far, but he inevitably would doubt the possibility of him returning.

“I do not mind.”

Fenesis took a step forward, trampled the snow, and though her feet were small, they had walked countless perilous paths, no less than Kusla did.

“It might be the first time I would depart from the first friend who knew about herbs…”

In the past, there was quite the commotion caused because of the aphrodisiac and the glass making process. She probably was referring to the daughter of the apothecary.

And Fenesis took a further half step from Kusla, probably to emphasize so. Kusla looked at her, and she smiled as though she was teased, before she sheathed it, and approached him.

“I do not mind going anywhere, as long as I am with you..”

These might be the words she had weighed for long, for once Kusla remained silent for quite a while, she blushed, and moved away from him

“Y-you are always like this──”

“No.”

Kusla interrupted Fenesis’ complaint, and said,

“I already knew you would follow.”

Fenesis’ ears pricked, raising the cloth wrapped over her head along with her hat.

However, she was not a girl who would always be bullied, and immediately frowned.

“Not that you are willing to accompany me?”

“You’re following me.”

The intent was the same, but it sounded different.

Kusla leered at the frowning Fenesis, and then sighed.

“But those two?”

They entered the temple not too long ago, but Weyland had exited, holding a certain thing in his hands, and he threw it at them. It was an obviously pitch black item on the white snow, probably some burned iron. They found what they were looking for.

Weyland then waved at Fenesis again.

“You don’t want to leave them?”

This foolish manner of questioning was a privilege limited to children, so Kusla thought as he quietly gritted.

“Damn.”

Nevertheless, he could not help but curse, and Fenesis giggled.

The old Kusla would never have hesitated, and chose to focus on seeking the Whites alone. In fact, he had defied the orders from the Knights many times, and devoted himself to his own research.

Despite this, alchemy ultimately was a matter of the everchanging, so the situation around him might change, which he had to me.

“And…it might sound like a betrayal to you.”

Kusla turned to frown at Fenesis, and the latter was taken aback.

“Speaking of which…the me now is still hesitant to conclude if following the Whites is something sane, even though Weyland and Irine want to come along.”

“They are willing to accompany, more like.”

Fenesis corrected him with a smile, surely out of consideration.

But Kusla disliked that she did so, so he tapped her head, sighed, and continued,

“Even with those two, we can’t be certain if we can find the Whites. Awaiting us in the future is a big adventure on a completely isolated land. Neither the prestige of the Knights nor the alchemists’ bluffs can work. We don’t know if currencies can work there, and we’re not adventurers, we’re alchemists, an apprentice and a blacksmith,only capable of executing our full abilities in a workshop. We’re no different from waste outside there.”

Fenesis was a little peeved to be seen as an apprentice, but she waited for him to finish, slowly looked afar, and though in deep thought,

“If we do not have to venture, we can spend the time doing more research.”

“Yes.”

Technology itself was something that could be done by anyone, just a matter of the process.

The Whites were earlier than Kusla’s group by a century, but anyone who had finished their century’s worth of research could catch up, even without seeing the Whites.

“Fufu. I suppose so though.”

“Huh?”

“When I was in the monastery, the clergymen too did their various research within the walls. They really stayed at the chairs, and did not move at all, all to pursue the truth to the  world. Perhaps an apprentice to a restless alchemist can be more delighted sitting at a dining table, fall asleep and not worry about being eaten by wolves.”

While she was joking, this might be her true thought.

She had experienced far too many life-threatening situations, and already knew how perilous it would be.

“You sure you don’t have to look for your compatriots?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis gave a forlorn smile, shaking her head,

“The people with direct blood relations to me no longer exist.”

He put his hand on her head, not to treat her as a child, nor was it to tease her.

He patted her head back and forth.

“Anyway…I’ll discuss this with Weyland. He probably has his own ideas, and I still owe him one. Sometimes, I feel that I might wish for his help in the spur of the moment.”

“Moment?”

Fenesis repeated obediently.

“Moment. Yes, moment. Him.”

Kusla deliberately shrugged, and Fenesis smiled happily.

She seemed to have thought of something, for she slowly crouched down, gathered snow, and made a snowball..

The snow made the snow fluffy, and it kept falling.

This probably was a characteristic of happiness.

“It is impossible to finish, for this is not the correct shape or form.”

And so, she said these words only a former nun would.

“So you mean that the adventure’s over, and that us alchemists should return to the workshop…?”

Kusla hissed unhappily, and Fenesis flew away the snow in her palm, clapped it off, and looked so fragile as she stood, yet so sturdy.

“The Bible has this one phrase. Ash to Ashes, dust to dust.”

“Oh curses…or so I want to lash out, but since the angel’s legend does exist, I suppose I have to believe the Bible a little.”

“I suppose you will look decent in clergymen garb.”

This comeback from a young lady might have been mustered after much difficulty, but Kusla merely shrugged.

“So it’s like praying in an ivory tower, and observing the skies where God is?”

“With a hot beverage and a towel as company.”

Kusla looked down at Fenesis who replied so, and finally let out a chuckle.

He however did not chime in, that he had an accomplice.

“Wh-why are you smiling?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Uu~…”

Kusla ignored the hissing Fenesis, looked back towards the temple, and sighed,

“That Weyland’s always so excited.”

Weyland exited the temple, holding lots of burned items, and throwing them away. Since they were able to pick up so much metallic rubble, there was no doubt it was originally a workshop.

Irine, Phil and the Knights exited as well, and following them was Cyrus.

There was no need to seal the place as a vessel of God’s wrath, but because of this, Cyrus turned to face the temple again, made a deep bow, and offered his prayers.

“I’ll be off to the hut. It’s cold.”

Kusla said, and turned around. Fenesis initially hesitated, but she finally chose to pursue Kusla.

It seemed the person to spend time with was a very important matter.

Kusla started to apply realistic colors upon the land of Magdala that had simply been glowing.

 

The moment Weyland returned to the hut, he put all the cleared tools outdoors.

The Whites used the technology of flight to depart for a place hardly anyone would reach; there might be more realism to this hypothesis, which proved that the technology could be applied for better effect. Perhaps he was feeling restless due to this belief.

However, he did not become careless of this and Kusla immediately realized so the moment he spoke.

“Looks like I don’t have to convince you even though you’re easily swayed, Kusla~.”

Light and sturdy, these were the reasons why Weyland prepared a bag sewed with parchment, despite the risk of divine judgment. He tossed the metal fragments into the acid, and said,

“We seek balance in everything we do, and if there is something heavy placed on one end of the scale, we have to add weight to the other end~.”

“If we want to see the Whites, we’ll have to pay the price for heading to an unknown journey, even if it means killing Alzen.”

Weyland raised his head, and guffawed silently with his mouth opened.

Kusla leaned on the tree as he witnessed this. The ones outdoors were Kusla、Weyland, and a knight a little further from the entrance to the hut.

Their hypothesis was seemingly validated, so Phil and Cyrus went to the plaza to discuss future collaborations. As part of the Jedeel Guild, Phil did whatever he pleased, and would probably try to get Cyrus to owe a favor and gain some profit.

Fenesis and Irine waited in the hut, and made bags of various materials for the experiment, as Weyland instructed.

It was afternoon, the warmest moment on this cold day, and it felt comforting to stay outdoors.

“And even if we continue to think, there’s always a loophole to be exploited. Maybe it’s not a bad thing to assume that everything’s balanced and cast a bet~.”

The bubbles that arose immediately were captured by the bag, and it slowly expanded like a trick.

“But that’d be pointless if the scale itself is heavy to the point of imbalance.”

“You’re right.”

The risk in pursuing the Whites was way too big.

“But do you want to remain under Alzen’s beck and call?”

Kusla’s question was met with Weyland’s smirk.

“You don’t have to test me, Kusla~. Not pursuing the Whites is different from being under Alzen’s command.”

So Kusla thought that while he did not want to praise Weyland, the latter truly was as outstanding as him.

“Once we solve the legend of the Whites, we’ll start to wonder about other legends or superstitions. I don’t want to be caged here.”

The war aside, Weyland meant that he did not want to remain in the cage Alzen would prepare for them, and be cuffed up by the collar. Even on this land, there might be many similar to the Whites’ legend.

Since they would be going on an adventure together, they could proceed to familiar places that were more practical.

“But do you have any idea? We need money to travel and research.”

Weyland tightened the bag with a leather rope, and the expanded bag was restless, resembling a bird that would fly into the distance the next moment.

“Well, if possible, the best option is to borrow money from Mr Phil’s guild for research. They have ships, an information network, and most importantly, a book merchant in Mr Phil~.”

“Alzen too has a lot of money. We don’t know exactly how powerful Archduke Kratal is, but he’s an archduke. Most definitely nobility.”

“But they do fancy alchemy, simply because it’s beneficial to war and money making~.”

As long as their owner had motives, they would be rid of their freedom to research.

Alzen however would definitely not allow Kusla and the others to escape. As Weyland had said, the technology possessed by alchemists could contribute to money making, and even affect the chances of winning the war. If they really were to work with Phil, and Alzen was to interrupt, the situation would be different, worse even.

“Shall we just have Alzen and Archduke Kratal lose the war and their heads…maybe…?”

Kusla thought, and suddenly realized something.

He looked towards Weyland, and finally understood why the latter was brooding in a manner so unbecoming of himself.

“Are you actually?”

“Huuuh?”

Weyland leered away.

One could probably assume how the topic would divert if it all started from the Whites.

And Weyland was far more decisive than Kusla.

“There’s no need for them to die on the battlefield just as we wish. We have the fire herb and the elixir, or even poison like mercury and arsenic.”

They could assassinate, or make it look like an accident.

Till this point, they had murdered their superiors, but a new one would replace them. It was impossible for them to escape this great organization called the Knights, and even if they did, they could not continue with their research.

But they had experienced several hardships and wonderful encounters on this wonderful journey, and it was not like the past.

They were owed a huge favor to someone who wished to build a new town, and an acquaintance affiliated to a massive merchant guild.

Furthermore, they possessed a technology no man could ever fathom.

If they really wanted to use all their tools to escape to their desired place in the shortest distance possible, there was no need to hesitate.

Alzen did show some understanding to Kusla and company, and they once survived a perilous situation. Truth be told however, they lived in different worlds, and he probably took them as pawns, and they had no need to feel guilty about this notion.

All that was left was to do, or not to.

And who would be killed.

“…I’ve no right to call myself the  restless alchemist. I’ve been dithering recently.”

“Hahaha. Maybe that’s the price of not sleeping well~.”

Kusla scratched his head and arched his back, looking down, just as when he was locked in the cell in the tower, willing to charge towards the Truth even if he had to be the enemy to the world.

Weyland looked at him and laughed boldly.

“Feels like the pranks of old.”

Of course, they were not actually pranks, and it was best that Fenesis was not told of them.

They were fine being the only ones to get dirty here.

“We’ll prepare for this then. It won’t be difficult.”

Kusla said, and Weyland let go of the parchment bag as a reply or so.

And, speak of the devil.

“What won’t be difficult?”

Kusla thought he was hallucinating.

He quickly turned towards the source of the voice.

“Al-Alzen?”

He called out in shock once he saw the silhouette approach from the trees.

“At least add a ‘Lord’.”

Alzen, standing before them, merely frowned, though still leisurely.

Kusla hesitated for a moment, and made up his mind the next moment. He reached for the dagger at his waist, crouched down, and got ready to jump.

If they wanted to do so, the location did not matter.

But right when he was about to take the first step, a burly knight stood forth from behind Alzen, and it was obvious he was different from the escorts who accompanied Kusla and company. There was no way Kusla could win no matter how vigorous he was.

From the corner of his eye, he noticed Weyland glancing towards the hut. Since Alzen could eavesdrop from the trees so easily, it was obvious that an ambush was set around the hut.

He was careless.

He had assumed that Alzen needed them, but would only send a messenger or so. He believed he could coax the messenger, since their existences were basically a miracle.

But there were some whom the tricks would be ineffectual on.

And it so happened to be Alzen of all people.

“All defenseless here, and you dare to talk about assassinating me.”

Alzen shrugged, and sighed.

“I applaud you for not being so naive to choose to escape…but a person who can’t put himself in the shoes of his soldiers can never be a commander.”

Kusla’s gritting teeth might seem as an applause to Alzen, but the latter did not look gleeful in any case, and instead gave a look that showed that he had clearly anticipated so..

He slowly raised his chin, narrowed his eyes, and put his palm between his eyebrows.

“…But, seriously, am I dreaming now?”

Before him, the parchment bag continued to float into the sky, dragging the rope along. Anyone would ahve assumed it was magic, or a miracle, to see this without any explanation, and be scared, but Alzen remained nonchalant.

“We’re in a nightmare now.”

Faced with the barest of defiance, Alzen slowly raised his hand, and said to Kusla and Weyland,

“Enough, calm down.”

A wry smile appeared on his face.

“I was able to attack like this not because of your incompetence. It is similar to how I would be a hindrance if I stayed in the workshop. Do you understand? I’ve always wondered how to use my troops, and this is the superiority I have over you.”

Is he showing kindness? Kusla stared intently at Alzen, but the latter looked back and forth between Kusla and Weyland, and showed a heartfelt wry smile.

“And I’m relieved to know that my guess was correct. My rush to get over here was not for naught, but it really put a strain on my old bones.”

Alzen glanced again at the bag floating in the float, and showed an earnest smile.

“Who would have thought flight is possible? You two are really alchemists.”

“So what?”

Kusla’s retort had Alzen looking back to the ground, the smile still on his face.

If Kusla and company were actual alchemists, then Alzen would be a true commander who could appraise the real deal.

“We intend to surrender to the enemy to break this deadlock.”

“Huh?”

Kusla looked towards Weyland, and the latter too looked back at him, wondering if he misheard.

It seemed that was not the case.

“Kukuku…of course, you tried to assassinate me, since you never thought of this. How do you think I would swear loyalty to the Knights with Archduke Kratal, to live and die together? Like you, we’re also linked through mutual benefits.”

“…”

Kusla was speechless, and stood still. Surrender? Enemy?

“We’ll talk about the details in the hut. I suppose this proposal isn’t a bad thing to you, no?”

Alzen said, and quickly went to the hut. The knight guarding Alzen had his back turned on them, but he was not an enemy that could be defeated with one stab.

Given that Alzen personally appeared, it showed that the situation was too dire, and one would find it difficult to doubt his words. This place was not easily accessible, and truth be told, Alzen and his master, the Archduke Kratal, were trapped in enemy territory. There was no reason why he could simply appear here.

Alzen had a grand secret plan in mind, and needed them no matter what.

In any case, the assasination ploy was ruined in an instant, and they had no choice.

“Hey.”

Kusla called out to Weyland, who too remained rooted.

“He said we’re real alchemists.”

“Heh~”

Weyland, whom he knew since they were still brats, snorted coldly,

“He means we only know about stuff in the workshop, and not the ways of the world~.”

Kusla kicked the snow at his feet, and walked forward.

This was the only thing they could do.

They could only move forward; hesitation was futile.

 

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