Hellping

Fenesis and Irine were taken as hostages.

Or not. They were not taken elsewhere, but this could be arranged for if there was a necessity.

Despite that, Fenesis looked a little uneasy, for her countless experiences taught her that they were in no position to choose.

Kusla naturally was in the same situation, but he merely felt the uneasy Fenesis grabbing his arm, so he had to try and act poised..

“I have heard from the Jedeel guild merchant, but he was as I heard in Abbas.”

Phil too surely was at a loss as to what to do. Kusla and company had no reason to begrudge him, even if he ultimately chose to stand on Alzen’s side.

“He begged me over and over again not to do anything violent to you. Truly, it is a waste that such a man is a mere merchant.”

Alzen quipped, and got down to business,

“Now then, as I have just mentioned, we intend to surrender to the enemy. Given that the Knights’ enemies have teamed with the Pope, there is no way this will end well, even though the war effort is not completely devastated. After all, the Knights existed only because they followed the Pope’s will to purge the pagans.”

It seemed that various forces in the entire world had united against the Knights.

“But currently, there are many who can’t back out, for the Knights had gained too many privileges. Some are probably intending to bolster their standing in the Knights amidst this chaos, and most will probably fight under the Knights’ flagship. An intense fight seems unavoidable.”

However, the Knights had basically fallen to the bottom of a hole they had dug through their wealth and heavy arrogance.

The Knights and the enemies certainly had much animosity, compared to the worshipers and pagans living in areas bordering the land of Latria, ruled under its pagan queen.

Alzen’s words left Kusla dumbfounded, for the latter never assumed the enemy would accept this surrender.

“In any case, the losses are always what we are looking at. Anyone will wish to be on the winning side of the war, and to minimize the losses. This is why nothing is ever outright distinct in war, for there is always room for negotiations.”

Alzen and company intended to surrender to the enemy, and needed Kusla and company.

In that case, there was only one conclusion.

“Are you intending to sell us off?”

Kusla’s question had Alzen chuckling in grief.

“Soldiers are no merchant goods, and if I do sell you off, our side will be defenseless. This has to be avoided.”

Kusla could not grasp Alzen’s motive, and though he wanted to lash out, he could not discern what would happen next.

“My ultimate loyalty is to ensure that Archduke Kratal returns to his land safely, and that it continues to belong to him. We need to be of use to ensure this objective.”

“…So in other words, you’re using us as tools~?”

Weyland, who had deduced this purpose, said unhappily.

“Yes. We are the only forces in this world with real alchemists, and can fight with alchemy, and Archduke Kratal is the one ruler commanding these forces. Most importantly, these alchemists do not fear God, and are willful…”

Even a would have deduced what would be said next.

“So you’re saying that the only one who can get these alchemists to obey is our great Archduke Kratal.”

Kusla interrupted in disgust, and Alzen clapped pretentiously.

Thus, Archduke Kratal would be deemed by the enemy as an important tool, and everything would happen with a happy ending.

But Kusla stared at Alzen intently.

“This really will work out as you wish.”

For this would mean that Kusla and company would be completely under Alzen’s jurisdiction, and truth be told, there was nothing different from before. A turnip once pickled in vinegar would never revert to its original state no matter how one would try to wish it.

The freedom they knew of, the vast world they recognized outside the walls, and especially the world that had the Whites and their legend, would remain in conflict with the benefits under Alzen.

Are we going to be under the selfish whims of a ruler again? Kusla was unable to suppress the rage in his heart, and was about to retort back──

“And it is because your thoughts are limited to this, that you have been acting like tools, always being used.”

Alzen gave an unamused smile, and gave a look at a knight.

“Bring the wine. They do not appear to believe me.”

He looked completely displeased, like a master being considerate for his disciples, only to be misunderstood. “Now listen.” He continued,

“At this point, we’re the only ones who can ensure your safety.”

“So, that──”

“Lest I ask, what do you intend to do with this girl?”

Kusla was about to rebut with frustration, only to be doused by Alzen.

“She has blood relations with the culprits who destroyed this land. Do you think you can survive without protection under any organization? And you solved the legend of the Whites. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten that a miracle’s like a curse?”

Alzen said, and the knight brought the wine. He poured the wine into the cup, and immediately frowned once he tasted it.

“How spicy.”

The knight probably brought the wine with ginger by accident. It really was spicy to a noble used to drinking sweet wine.

“It’s not a bad taste though. Anyway, as a metaphor, assuming that you wish to surrender to the enemy yourself, think about how they will deal with you? This girl’s existence will probably shock them. Even if she’s hailed as an envoy from God, if this ends up the case…you can assume what will happen next, no?”

After witnessing a miracle, they would be surrounded by the masses, who would await another miracle. For every expectation that was met, a new hope would be born, and they would be raised to a height until they could not satisfy completely.

And that height was the gallows.

“Of course, we have already experienced this ourselves when we escaped Kazan, and the commotion over the making of the church bell. We, already familiar with the issues, are able to handle them. You may think this is a prison, but as long as you remain in a workshop under our jurisdiction, you’ll be far from these issues, and able to have your freedom.”

Kusla looked so peeved, for he understood Alzen’s words very well.

“Considering this point alone, I’d assume that we’re a rare existence for you lot.”

Alzen said dumbfoundedly, leaned his back away, and clasped his hands on his knee.

His words were neither a threat nor an attempt to coax.

For the answer was always obvious.

“It seems that without your help, we won’t be able to overcome this ordeal without harm. It’s also best that you have our aid. This will benefit both parties, am I right?”

Please, understand this. So his expression implied, hoping that they would not act out of rage, and accept his proposal.

Weyland twitched, and Irine’s heel tapped at her other leg.

And Fenesis, who had been latching onto his arm, looked up at him, exerting strength in her hands.

“And after we break through? You say we’ll be forced into a workshop?”

Kusla asked.

“After? Of course. I don’t intend to change anything from when the Knights ruled this world, and I won’t cut the research spending. Either way, your research will earn lots. Archduke Kratal is never one to forget his debts, and you will be treated unprecedentedly lavishly. Your freedom to research will be assured until you die.”

“But we are still caged birds.”

Kusla licked his dry lips, and bit upon the leg of his prey.

“You’ll give us the freedom to research? Enough with this obvious lie. You know what we’re thinking, so you know what the next step is after we solve the legend of the Whites.”

“You’re interested in other legends, no?”

Alzen did not bother to disguise his assessment.

“Heh. In that case, you’d have guessed what we will do once we can fly like birds in the sjt.”

Kusla said as sarcastically as possible.

But he knew it was pointless to dispute. He knew that the only way out was to do as Alzen said. He knew he was powerless against the long, vast, torrent of the world, and he could never win against the irrationality of the world.

An alchemist might be able to turn lead into gold, but the gold would not have an alchemist’s sidelong face imprinted.

Kusla’s glare towards Alzen was burning with hostility, and Alzen blinked away, before he said,

“Ah, so you’re worried about that?”

He then waved his hand slightly.

“I said I’ve no intention to interfere in your research, and I’ll let you do as you please>.”

“Enough with the pretense!”

Kusla lashed out, and Alzen frowned, rubbing his temples.

However, there was no condescension in his expression as he looked towards Kusla, Weyland and company.

Instead, it was a very nostalgic look.

“How young you are.”

“Huh?”

“Reminds me of the past.”

Alzen sighed like an old man, his fingers crossed on his belly.

“I truly believed that I could complete everything by myself, that everything I could reach for was the entire world. It truly was a magnificent notion, for there are many in this world who cannot extend their arms out at will.”

Kusla had words to say, but he could not express it through his mouth. At the same time, he was perturbed, for he realized that the person before him was not the one he should try to vent his frustrations upon.

“If the legend is in the east, you’ll head east; if a superstition exists in the west, you’ll head west. It’s not like this isn’t plausible. Or are you intending to pursue the Whites’ journey? I heard from the book merchant that the Whites went to a place they can never return from?”

Alzen had grasped this much, and yet he believed he could convince Kusla and company.

“But truth be told, your mindset will end with a limit.”

Alzen closed his eyes, let out a long sigh, as though he was here to put an end to the journey.

“In other words, I want you to take in disciples, increase your people, and even without leaving the workshop, you can investigate many more things than you would by leaving.”

Kusla finally had a chance to rebut, and he latched onto it..

“You want us to raise disciples? It’s not easy to raise talented and trustworthy alchemists!”

They had such fiery passion that they dared to doubt a Saint, and most importantly, they had an indomitable spirit, never one to yield.

It was a gift.

But Alzen laughed till he shook, as though he had enough, and nearly choked.

“Hahaha. I suppose the master who taught you alchemy thought so as well.”

“Wha…!”

“The same master had raised two wonderful alchemists.”

Alzen then looked towards Fenesis.

“And I hear another is groomed to be one?”

He might have heard from Phil that it was Fenesis who discovered the method to fly.

“Alchemy itself is also a skill. A life’s work. It is difficult to teach, but not impossible. Am I right? Blacksmith girl?”

Irine, who was suddenly spoken to, was a little stunned, and nodded hesitantly while Kusla and Weyland watched.

“The important point is that you should grow up.”

Not to blindly advance, and not to rely on a self-destructive method.

Of course, he understood Alzen’s words.

But his body would not accept.

And he, caught in this dilemma, could not move, and he heard Weyland interrupt,

“But that doesn’t sound interesting~.”

Kusla looked towards Weyland as though he had broken free of his bonds, and Weyland merely gave a perturbed smile back at him.

“Pursuing the Whites in itself is basically an alchemist’s dreams. There’ll be lifelong regrets if we only hear through word of mouth. If we can talk to them, the best case scenario for us is to establish a workshop.”

“Hm, I understand your sentiments. I was someone who once swung the sword on the battlefield, and there were many times when I felt that I should enter the battlefield rather than command others.”

Alzen looked as though he had expected this reaction, for he maintained calm. Kusla however started to understand that Alzen was not always like this. Just as viscous molten iron would take shape when cooled, he became like this through various experiences.

Decades ago, he too stood at the same predicament as Kusla and company.

Kusla finally understood why he felt so rash and unbearable.

For he finally understood something, that he was not too special in this world.

“I shall ask.”

Alzen then fired an arrow.

“Did you truly think that the legend of the Whites were solved by you alone, by your own power?”

Of course not.

Alzen asked, knowing that Kusla and the others knew so.

“If you wish to attach a grander goal, you can’t shoulder the load completely. You can only trust others, seek their help, and you’ll unexpectedly discover that others can do just as well as you.”

The old him certainly would have disagreed with this sentiment.

But at this point, he trusted in the capabilities of Weyland and Irine, and would hope for them to assist him whenever he was in a fix. Fenesis even suppressed him in discovering an alchemy he had not noticed. Would the old him have imagined so?

The experience truly would change a person, and it was dangerous for anyone who dabbled in alchemy through theory alone and not experience. He truly understood so, that if he doubted Alzen’s words, he would basically be doubting the time he spent with Weyland, Irine, and Fenesis.

“But…”

Alzen, who had rattled off so fluently till this point, stammered for the first time.
“Having said so much, it doesn’t mean that the young will mature immediately. In the spur of the moment, you surely would not have recklessly planned to seek the Whites the moment you obtained the power of flight. Besides…”

Alzen gave a meaningful look between Kusla and Fenesis.

“Your obsession with the Whites isn’t due to the unique skills they have, no?”

And the next moment, he felt ashamed, as though someone had seen something about him that should not be seen. It was too late to find another excuse however.

Kusla took a deep breath, and stared intently at Alzen.

“Yes. This fellow here is most likely of the same tribe as the Whites.”

“This is the toughest part. It’s one thing if the spies actually stole your technology. In the worst case scenario, they might do something to the young lady.”

The tense atmosphere dissipated in an instant.

Everyone agreed with Alzen’s assessment.

Kusla was the only one who remained restless, for Alzen spoke what was on his mind. He might not have pursued the matter if the spies had only stolen the technology and ran.

“I shall not mock. Archduke Kratal is quite the temperamental person, and you are a lot easier to handle compared to him.”

Is this some kind of compassion? Alzen’s intent was ambiguous, but Kusla would only be laughed off if he backed down here.

Kusla continued to stare at Alzen intently as he reached a hand towards Fenesis, grabbing her in his clutches.

“If she wishes for it, I’ll look for the Whites, even if God has to stop me.”

Weyland curled his lips in bemusement, stopping short of clapping, while Irine widened her eyes.

The involved party herself, Fenesis, was stunned and delighted.

“I’m envious of such youth…but you have no need to pursue the Whites. You understand? it’s not a matter of you going, or sending people over. The journey you seek was already meaningless to begin with.”

“…What?”

Kusla and even Weyland stopped smiling as they looked at Alzen.

“What did you say?”

“I’m surprised you would believe this idiocy…that the Whites live at a distant land.”

Kusla could not help but look at Fenesis in his clutches, and she widened her eyes.

Even if it was for the sake of convincing them and stop them from proceeding further, he could not simply ignore these words.

Fenesis’ entire tribe was persecuted, and she, the lone survivor made it all the way here. One would assume her only solace was the knowledge that the descendants of the Whites might be still alive.

Kusla said furiously,

“Hey, enough with the irresponsible words.”

“I understood just from hearing a summary of what happened.”

“…Really…I’ll hear your grand opinion then.”

What would he know when he knew nothing about alchemy?

Instead, Kusla’s interest was piqued, and he wanted to know was sort of strange logic Alzen would have.

“They perished. None of them is alive.”

Who would have readily agreed in the face of such a brazen opinion?

“Your reason? What’s your proof?”

“Of course, I investigated about the nature of the sun fragments back in Abbas. Assuming that the town was destroyed on purpose, it’s very likely that it was through the fire herb created from the sun fragments, no? The whole situation would be difficult to explain if you had started under this assumption, because lots of fire herbs would be needed to do this.”

Kusla had once explained this to Poldorof, and Alzen probably heard from the latter. Despite that, he obtained a different conclusion from them, despite the similar understanding.

Kusla thought to himself. He had considered that there was no other possibility.

“I already felt it was strange. You have made it this far, so how could you not have realized that, but I realized after the talk that it’s because of youth. Say, if the Whites lived on a distant land, what were they doing the?”

“What? You’re asking…what were they doing?”

Kusla could not interpret Alzen’s question.

He felt that he was dragged along by the yoke.

“I-is there a need to ask? They had so many skills, and they’re definitely researching.”

And Fenesis, who was the same as the Whites, was thoroughly moved when she saw them toil in the workshop. No ordinary town girl would be interested in distillation, and her curiosity was likely to be due to her blood.

But Alzen glanced aside at Kusla, and gave a pitiful look of disappointment.

“The glided bird cries to be released, but does not need how to hunt no matter how its flies.”

Alzen gave a depressed sigh, and turned his eyes towards an unexpected person.

Irine.

“You should be the first amongst them to realize so.”

“Eh?”

Irine was obviously shocked to be mentioned, and so was Kusla. Weyland and Fenesis then looked towards her, and she shriveled.

“It is often said that status defines a person’s viewpoint. It wasn’t for long, but you were the leader of a town’s blacksmith guild, no?”

He was not asking a question without an answer, and Irine might have realized this, for the uneasiness vanished from her face. It seemed that a good commander not only had to command the troops, but also was capable of nudging people in the right direction.

Irine softly muttered,

“…I did once assume that the Whites might not have been researching.”

“Irine.”

Kusla called her name, warning her not to be overwhelmed by Alzen’s disposition, but Irine did not blink as she looked back at him, and clearly shook her head.

“Well…o-of course. I don’t think…this is a conclusion I would usually think of.”

“So what!? The Whites have their own technology, and most probably have enough curiosity. They’ll surely want to continue researching no matter where they are. It’s like how even if Weyland and I get chased out of a workshop, we’ll build another workshop as long as time allows, and we’ll grasp the structure of the tools and the methods. Aren’t the Whites the same?”

The frustration was leaking in his voice, but Irine did not back down. Oh you alchemists, she reined in her chin.

“I see. So this is the difference between me and you.”

The gaudy smile looked a little forlorn, for it seemed that she was reminded after a long while of the fact that alchemists and blacksmiths never got along.

“It’s true that given your abilities, you are able to create practical tools, even if they aren’t to our standards. The required materials can be smelted.”

“Then──”

“But…”

Irine interrupted the agitated Kusla, and spoke with the tone of a former guild leader,

“Have you ever thought of making your own things?”

“…Huh?”

Kusla asked.

“Let’s say, a hammer. It’s easy for you to smelt the iron, but what about the wooden part, the handle?”

“That’s a small matter.”

“Go make it, yes. Then, who’s going to chop down the wood to make the handle?”

“Th-that’s…”

“If you want to chop wood, you need an axe, and speaking of an axe, you need the skill to make blades, a sturdy bronze, which means you’ll need to build a furnace for high temperatures, so even if you know how to build one that can withstand so, it’s tedious to obtain the material called earth, and you need a scaffolding to ensure that it can be covered properly, so to do that, you need lots of thick ropes, and to make thick ropes, you need to grow lots of suitable plants, refine them, and you need to hunt animals if you want to build bellows, so are you hunting them with traps? With bow? Or raising them? Either way, it’s all very tedious, and requires lots of familiarity. But it’s fine, since you can learn them as long as you toil all night long, and you should be able to to prepare them. But listen up, the terrifying part here is that──”

Irine licked her lips.

“Everything made will be worn out, and you need to build new ones to replace them.”

Back in Gulbetty, Irine sat on the leader’s chair that was taller than she was, and shouldered the production of a town by leading the the blacksmiths. She was not a member of the workshop, and instead, stood at a position where she could observe all the craftsmen.

Irine was clearly a head shorter, but he felt himself looking up at her unwittingly.

He was an alchemist.

As long as he remained in the workshop, he could obtain various freedoms whenever he wanted.

“A blacksmith can’t survive by himself, and can only establish himself with the presence of others. If we want every blacksmith to survive, we need bakers, butchers, even people to rear the pigs. Sometimes, we may need to rely on some posturing bearded noble seated up there so that everyone can be rewarded properly.”

Speaking till here, Irine seemed to have regained her usual self, and the last line was obviously a dig at Alzen, but to Alzen, this little ribbing from a girl was simply a greeting to him that he could easily dismiss.

“Especially for alchemy research, that’s not all we have to do.”

They had various necessities ranging from massive ores, herb stones, gems to herbs, animal organs and so on.

Some in particular were only to be used for alchemy. Many more had to be obtained through transportation.

Truly, if one were to do everything by himself, he would have to build an entire country.

Kusla thoroughly realized his place.

He knew how blessed they were in this complicated web of organizations.

It was laughable to think that he could not trust anyone and could research on his own till this day.

“The Whites flew to a place where no one else was…maybe, but they couldn’t continue their research. Perhaps…there is a country somewhere in this world similar to us, but would their fates not be similar to how they are here?”

If that was the case, this journey was meaningless, and there was probably no capital of gold in this world.

But Irine did not look gleeful at the flabbergasted Kusla and company.

She said what she wanted, and folded her arms unhappily.

“But I’m not saying that the Whites did die.”

Everyone present looked towards Alzen again.

Alzen stroked his beard.

“It’s just the use of this logic. I manage the operations of a large force, so I have to pay attention to the flow of goods. I need to mobilize lots of resources, sometimes even the entire battalion, lest we wouldn’t be able to fight. This is the main reason why the Knights couldn’t conquer Latria over a long time. We might have lots of soldiers to attack, but we can’t feed them. So, if the Whites are still alive, and hoping to carry out their complicated research, they’ll never head to a place with people, and even if they did depart for somewhere, that environment is not conducive for research. By the flow of this logic,”

He took a sip of the wine that caused him to frown and complain that it was too spicy, frowned again, and said,

“Assuming that the Whites are still alive, and researching somewhere in this world we know of, we wouldn’t discover it. They would have occasionally needed some unique or extravagant item, which would have garnered attention. Does a bag of coins not ring when shaken? They would have to use their amazing skills for money, like making high quality bronze for sales, and would be so reputed that merchants would swarm. It is impossible for them to hide properly. Anyone living in this world will surely be involved with others. Alchemists may assume that they are isolated from society if they stay in the workshop, seeking the truth, but that is because their financiers are taking care of them.”

Kusla’s face contorted as he seemingly endured this pain, but he had to listen.

He boasted that he was an alchemist who revealed the truth to this world, but he did not understand the framework of this world at all.

“If there are a few passers-by seeking the Whites, they would have arrived at the end of this world, and that would mean that the Whites do not exist on this land we’re familiar with. Also, there are unbelievable signs of wreckage at the ends of this world. Is the conclusion not obvious now?”

The Whites were dead.

“But this might not be bad news entirely.”

Alzen regained his look as a ruler, gave Kusla and cold look, and sneered,

“This proves that your instincts are right.”

“…Mine?”

“You could tell from the power of the fire herb that there might be another reason why the town was burned down, no?”

“…That…is right.”

“I’m impressed. This isn’t sarcasm or complimentary. It is because of your conclusion that I was certain mine was correct.”

“…”

Kusla racked his mind.

He realized he was a blind sheep who saw nothing, but he obtained the torch called experience.

No alchemist would never fail.

The difference was simply an alchemist who could capitalize upon his failure, and an alchemist who could not.

And…

The moment he thought so, he realized the reason why Fenesis was so worried, the moment of the fowl stench occurred echoed in his mind.

“The Whites…”

Kusla’s parched throat croaked.

“Did they die of an accident?”

Kusla’s bangs were merely singed when the bag of foul gas was ignited, but that was an accident he was fortunate to escape from. He knew that, which was why he backed out of the experiment to cool his head off.

And no matter how he hated it, having been an alchemist for years, he understood that dangerous situations occur at dangerous places. Research itself was a matter of cutting one’s way through unknown territory, without a map or anything as a guide. It was commonplace for known items to be mixed together to form extraordinary effects.

No craftsman would never know of iron and sulfur, but almost none would know that it is tremendous by mixing iron and sulfur in water before igniting them.

And thus, they could only deduce.

Of course, he knew why Alzen would call it luck.

“If we assume that they used a little for experiment, and accidentally created something that could destroy everything in an instant…that will explain everything.”

The trading at this place used to surpass the South, so surely they could obtain lots of rich resources for research. Given the fact that the explosion occurred far from the town center, one could assume that they realized the inherent danger, and moved the workshop to the outskirts. Kusla and company had assumed it was because they had no choice, but it seemed there were various signs to begin with.

The Whites back then truly underestimated the power they had.

“This is what I think. I’d be elated to imagine something extraordinary, more potent than a fire herb. After all, no matter how one tries to hard the production of the fire herb, word will spread in war, when mass production occurs. When everyone has the same weapons, the difference will be the ease of usage. We’ll reign supreme if we have an extraordinary, powerful weapon. And…”

Alzen’s beard hid his smile as a ruler, and he looked out of the workshop.

“If that power can cause such wreckage, we’d have the world in our hands. After all, we’ll have to get on good terms with the Pope Himself.”

The next step, the next step, the next step.

Just like the interest (Kusla) that continued day and night without rest.

Such thinking was truly akin to an alchemist’s, but Kusla remained unmoved.

Cyrus and the people living on this land were seemingly released from the curse as the mystery of the Whites’ legend was solved, and Kusla too felt something released from his heart, before he felt any satisfaction. The Whites could fly into the sky, but even they could not break free from the structure of this world.

The fact made him feel that he had woken from a dream he should not have left.

It taught him that even if he tried to turn lead into gold through magic, unchangeable things would never change.

“Come, our alchemists.”

While Kusla was feeling lost, Alzen heartily said,

“Pack your bags. In order to escape our predicament, we have to first negotiate with the enemy; to ensure that it benefits us, we need to show the massive power we have. We’ll have to skirmish a little, so are you ready? Luckily for us, Abbas is fortified by walls, and has many great merchant guilds gathered, so we are financially set. We shall set camp there for a while, and raise our request. All you have to do is to exhibit your magic.”

There was no excitement to be heard in these words.

“How about turning lead into gold?”

Alzen’s words resembled sand mixed in bread.

Alzen was a practical person, and understood the logic of striking when the iron was hot.

But the sun had arrived at the mountain peak when he finished talking with Kusla and left the workshop.

He looked up, and seemingly spotted purple and blue crystals scattering aside the powdery silver sky.

It seemed this day would be colder than usual.

“We shall leave at dawn tomorrow.”

Alzen said, and quipped,

“Oh yes, and before then…reenact the flying technology to me.”

He looked a little gaudy, and if it was an act to show his great interest, that truly would be exemplary. Weyland merely smiled and agreed, for he probably realized that opposing Alzen would only cause him much harm, or that he truly believed Alzen had no malicious intent. It so happened then that other visitors arrived at the hut, so Irine and the knights left to assist somewhat.

Visiting the hut were Cyrus and the locals, who had food and fur blankets ready as thanks for solving the curse of this land, and also to personally witness the technology for themselves.

Perhaps Phil got Cyrus and company to visit just in case Alzen decided to use force and drag off Kusla and company, but it seemed their words were not a complete lie.

Kusla did not know if Alzen coveted this technology for himself, and shot a look to gauge the reaction. Alzen merely nodded a little, stating that it was fine.

And so, they decided on the time of departure, prepared fine dishes, and held a feast outdoors. Kusla prepared a torch, laid out the fur carpet, stacked rocks to form a simple furnace. Phil and Cyrus prepared the ingredients indoors, and Fenesis was busy with menial tasks as she hurried in and out.

Soon after, Phil and Cyrus served a large pot filled with ingredients.

The furnace fire burned wildly at this point, and wine was served before the dishes were done.

It truly resembled a feast, and to the locals, it was a day of celebration, for they had finally broken free from the curse. They probably heard from Cyrus beforehand, and though there was a language difference, they did shake hands with Kusla, Irine and Fenesis. Nobody shook Weyland’s however, for he was busy preparing for an experiment.

Kusla nonchalantly greeted them, ushered them to Phil, and went to a tree stump a little far away from the fire. He dusted the snow off his head, and sat down.

It might be a day of celebration to them, but to him?

His mood just would not improve.

Weyland proceeded with the experiment, and the locals surrounded him, watching every move he made excitedly. Cyrus translated what Weyland did for the onlookers. Alzen brought a chair out from the hut, and probably wanted to be part of that circle, but could only stretch his neck out given his position as a superior. Kusla witnessed everything.

Then silently, a silhouette appeared.

Kusla wondered that he might have chosen this spot, far from the others, just so that she would approach him.

“Too bad about the legend.”

Such were her first words.

“Why do I feel this is my line.”

“I…”

Fenesis merely said, and turned to look toward his side, so he nudged aside. Fenesis showed an earnest, happy expression, and gently sat by his side.

“I do not mind at all. I have said countless times that even if I am unable to meet them, it is the same as before. For you however, it might be a thread that snapped even after you worked so hard to obtain it.”

Kusla shrugged, and looked towards where Weyland and the crowds were.

“The legend ends here, but for the time being, someone did say that if we break through this trial, we can redevelop the town and revive the technology that destroyed it. There is still joy in this.”

These words sounded so hollow when said.

“Furthermore, it seems I can continue to research as I please, and I can send a few disciples to learn about various legends and superstitions all across the land.”

He tried to chime further, but he found himself fractured, like powder snow that could not be gathered.

He had companions in Fenesis, Weyland and Irine, who he did not have to worry about, and his freedom to research in the workshop was assured. Furthermore, he sought the technology that was so potent that it destroyed a town, which even the Whites failed to master successfully.

He felt a gentle breeze on his cheek, and a pair of eyes.

She remained silent, for she might have realized what he wanted to say.

“I am a child.”

He definitely would never say such a thing if it had been half a year ago.

Furthermore, the one next to him was a girl, whom eight out of ten would have deemed her a mere child.

“I already knew that though?”

And Kusla, met with this retort, glanced down at her.

Fenesis was not intimidated, and showed a matured smile.

“But I think this is just right as a man.”

“Huh? Not much development on the front, and you’re talking about men?”

Kusla retorted, and Fenesis gave him a childish glare.

“M-Miss Irine did mention so…I feel that makes sense.”

And it is not that I have not grown…or so she muttered.

“Heh.”

He haphazardly spread his legs apart, crouched down, and rest his chin on his hand, his elbow supported by his knee. Due to the height differences, he had to do so in order to get down to Fenesis’ eye level. Even their knees were of different heights.

But perhaps both of them were not too different within.

Kusla sighed with a pout, and heard a commotion from where Weyland and the others were. It seemed the bag started to float, and it might be a nerve wrecking situation to them the people who were completely unfamiliar with alchemy. Even though they had explained the situation beforehand, a few were terrified to the point of backpedaling, or even collapsed to the ground with wobbly legs.

Above the crowd was a bag with large heavy items tied to it, floating weakly.

“What Alzen wants to do is what anyone in this world will try to do. Prepare, execute, and plan again. Advance once a proper outcome is secure, and we shall continue on as long as we wish to, until our deaths.”

The bag might appear limp, but it certainly was floating in the sky

No matter how ugly it might look, people were still capable of miracles.

“…But that will not do, no? Is research itself not like this? And to be able to go all over to world to find various legends and superstitions…I do find that a rare opportunity.”

She was right.

He had to be elated with that.

“Yes, but, even so…”

Kusla shut up, and pondered for a while. He was unable to properly convey the feelings in his heart as words, for perhaps he was that immature.

“You aren’t doing a bad thing then.”

“Eh?”

In her shock, Fenesis asked,

“D-doing, a bad thing?”

“Yes, a bad thing, it doesn’t feel like a prank. What will happen if I find this answer? How will reality change? Will I clear the eyes of the kind people? Can I dismiss the uppity ruler as a chump? Can I flip the palm of God who toys with the fate of Man, mocking them? I don’t have the excitement to do so. Or maybe…”

Kusla recalled his conversation with Alzen.

It was an inevitable reality that they supposed the dreams of alchemists from the sidelines.

“I used to think that with alchemy, I could do anything, and topple anything, but maybe that thinking is an illusion. The Whites managed to achieve such a miraculous accomplishment, but they still can’t escape the framework of this work and obtain their freedom. They definitely suffered lots because of this.”

They were persecuted, yet they would have surely appeared at a certain town, and caused a repeat of things. This certainly was not because they optimistically believed that they might be accepted if they went to another town beyond the mountain range, but due to a more boorish reason, that if they wanted to continue their research, they had to stay at a sufficiently vast town.

“I thought that no matter how foolish the dream might be, alchemy could fulfill that. Don’t think it’s a very childish and foolish idea? But you see, isn’t that Weyland fooling around like a sniveling brat?”

The bag had risen past a coniferous tree, and the heavy items tugging down resembled a diagonally falling teardrop. Weyland had forgotten to explain to the locals, for he too watched wide-eyed at the bag that was changing positions left and right. The assisting knights and Irine too looked dumbfounded.

The bag was finally torn after it could not handle the weight anymore, the heavy items fell from the tall skies, the snow piles splashed hard due to the impact.

“Haha. He fell on his bottom.”

Weyland never thought of dodging until the items arrived, probably because he was too focused on observing. He fell, and was completely covered in white snow. While the onlookers caused a ruckus, Irine and the knights lifted him with wry looks.

“I sure was told to grow up.”

People often said so to him when he did his own experiments even though he was under the jurisdiction of the knights.

Back then, he truly assumed that he would lose his freedom if he did what others told him.

But at this point, he could obtain his freedom to experiment if he obeyed Alzen, and his companions’ safety would be assured. It was not too long ago that he realized this was the Magdala he sought.

If that was the case, what else could he seek?

Was there anything else worth the effort to keep going?

Surely not.

After all, it was his destination.

“I even wondered why Alzen wasn’t a reasonable, annoying person. If he was, he’d become an enemy I’ll have to defeat for my own freedom, no?”

Thus, he could continue to remain a mischief maker, and continue down the path no ordinary adult would ever walk down, all in the name of revenge against those who toyed with their fates. He could thus excuse himself and push on if he had a simpleton of an enemy.

“You really are a child…”

Fenesis noted in bewilderment, and Kusla could not retort.

“Well, Weyland’s probably more curious than me, if we’re measuring by that.”

Weyland started chatting passionately with the locals who were gathered around him, ignoring the fact that he had a pile of snow on him. Cyrus had to act an interpret, but given that he was holding the torn bag, surely they were discussing how to make a durable bag that could withstand such weight. Once the objective was obvious, languages might not be absolutely necessary.

Kusla watched their discussion from afar.

He pondered if he could be as enthralled as Weyland was.

For he never thought about what he would do if he arrived at a place he could not progress from.

How should he continue with his research in the future?

“Once we reach the land of Magdala, we’ll see the technology that can resist the world. But to me, I don’t really think that there’s anything more I want to do.”

Kusla said with a dry chuckle, and Fenesis frowned unhappily.

He patted her head.

“Well, since we have to live, there’s always something to do. We should be able to gain motivation once we get started, and it’s like what you and Irine said, it seems I’m always thinking too much.”

He stood up, and said,

“Let’s have dinner then.”

But Fenesis did not stand up, for she looked at Kusla with a teary face.

Kusla shrugged a little.

“My blood might boil with excitement if Alzen said something like wanting to destroy the Church or something. It might be good news to you too, right?”

Fenesis was dubbed as one with the cursed bloodline, and anyone who had seen her ears might have treated her a little better if not for the existence of the Church, even if they might have prejudices on their own.

But even the Claudius Knights could not do so.

Thus, the imagination of an alchemist, often deemed as a heretic, might not be a bad thing.

“…I dislike that.”

Fenesis finally showed a tense smile, and stood from the stump.

“I do not wish for anyone to encounter danger, either myself…or others.”

Fenesis saaid as she reached out, touching Kusla’s cheek. There was some cracked skin on his already damaged face, due to the poison of the white bear.

“Is it not enough to simply living simple, stable days?”

Kusla could not help but frown hard while Fenesis gently caressed him.

“I’ll feel useless.”

“Then as Miss Irine had said, you truly are useless when it involves me.”

Such words were sufficient for him to imagine how the usual conversations between those two girls usually went.

But she probably was not wrong here.

“How foolish.”

Kusla said, and grabbed her by the shoulder. She would tense up whenever he did so, only to relax and soften. He would be absolutely foolish to say that he loved it when she did so.

“Also, I did learn something about the angel’s legend.”

“Learned something?”

“There can be many viewpoints over the same subject. While there are so many interpretations of the legend, each and every one of them seem so real to me. Maybe there might be a fourth interpretation that will excite you.”

Truly, Alzen’s view might be more convincing than Kusla and company. They could not rewind back to a century ago to ascertain, so everything could only remain buried in the sands of time.

It seemed Fenesis really wanted to talk about something a little different however.

“What might seem a completely uninteresting life to you might be very interesting from another perspective.”

Kusla turned to look at Fenesis in his clutches, and saw a clear smile.

Such a smile would never be shown if one were to live a life where they had to grit their teeth and believe that the truth laid beyond the mountain.

“…Yes, maybe.”

Kusla responded with a faint smile, and Fenesis nodded while beaming away, affirming so.

Kusla looked up towards the starry sky. Even for a dull starry sky, the people of the past knew how to name them and draw pictures for entertainment. Some would even use the positioning of stars to prophecy the fate of a person. They truly were people who knew how to enjoy life to the fullest in this world.

He exerted a little more strength in his arms as he hugged her, and pulled her face close as though he was going to bite her head off.

“Thanks.”

She lowered her head slightly, and one had to wonder what face she made, for she buried it into his clutches.

He could imagine so however, and could make various explanations.

Truly, there were many things he could enjoy.

So he thought as he went towards the rowdy crowd at the feast. Fenesis had been leaning on him in a strange posture the entire time, and one would have assumed he was taking care of a sick child. The notion that she might be sick was not a bad thing at all, and so he chuckled.

The world would change along with the changing perspectives.

Perhaps it too could be changed as much as lead turning into gold.

The atmosphere at the feast was bustling, probably because of the alcohol, or the excitement people had after seeing the technology of flight, but looking at the situation, it did not seem to be the case.

“We need a large bag to fly into the skies, but if we try to sew or glue it, it will ultimately break because of the weight, or even leak. We need to find something that can become a large bag…that’s why we prepared a deer’s bladder. We heard the Whites too had the same idea~.”

Weyland drank his wine as he fiddled with the deer bladder that was torn at its seam, and continued talking, probably because he noticed Kusla’s arrival.

“The locals asked what this bag is for, so I told them what it was, and they say there’s something more suitable. It’s from a prey even a normal hunter can’t handle.”

The considerate Phil served Kusla wine.

“It’s said to be a large male deer resembling a shovel, so tall that a person has to look up. It has large, trunk-like limbs, so all arrows seem powerless against its skin and flesh.”

“They also said that they could occasionally catch some who accidentally fell to their deaths in the valley, but the Whites should be able to catch them~.”

Once they pieced the fragmented truth together in the correct manner, everything would start to fall into place.

This would be one part.

“With the fire herb?”

“Or maybe something more potent~.”

If the fire herb could be used for war, it would not be strange that it could be used for hunting.

Also, the impression the Whites had was that they were more suited in dealing with prey, rather than humans.

“In that case, this land is the place where all the ingredients to fly into the sky are gathered.”

“Though their purpose is still a mystery~.”

Kusla bit on the still somewhat raw jerky, and shrugged at Weyland.

“Just out of curiosity, maybe?”

“If we’re following this trail of that, I think it’ll be more of that~.”

Weyland said as he pointed his index finger.

“That?”

“Maybe they’re trying to fly into the sky to catch the stars~.”

Fenesis stood next to them, holding a mug as she slurped away, and looked up at the sky in realization.

It might sound like a daydream a girl would have; how believable would it be in reality?

“At the very least, I heard that there are people who live on terrifyingly high peaks, and can see birds that fly higher.”

“Now then, did they build their tools here, intending to fly into the high skies~?”

“They’d die if they fell.”

“But didn’t they die anyway because they misused the sun fragments~?”

Weyland was completely correct.

“And this isn’t the only reason why I think so.”

Weyland showed a strangely gleeful smile as he said so, not because he was drunk.

It was an overly joyous face.

Kusla and Fenesis exchanged looks, and someone suddenly shoved something over.

“Woah…ah? A towel?”

On closer look, it was Irine.

“You’re going too, no? Take your own.”

“Go? Where? At this time?”

Were they actually departingw for Abbas at this time? Kusla was mystified, and he then noticed that the locals, who were seated on the ground before, took the fur they had sat on, dusted off the snow, and folded them.

The escorting knight held a torch, and a few men carried wine vats. They did not carry any belongings, even though they were traversing at night, and with Phil leading the pack, the others followed to an unknown destination.

What’s going on? So Kusla wondered, and Fenesis tugged at his sleeve.

“We shall know once we head over.”

She smiled heartily, but her eyes appeared to be melting.

“Hey, you drank too much.”

“Fufufu…”

She did not seem to mind, but on second though, this might be perfect given that they would be going to a cold place together.

“Damn. Fine. Let’s go.”

Kusla pulled her hand, and followed the ranks at the back.

The sky was starry, but the moon was beyond the mountain, and it was completely dark. A trail of men moved on with the few torches they had, and it seemed like a dream. The accompanying calm was met with the unique rustling of feet upon the snow, which increased this feeling.

The file moved towards a certain place through the cold, tranquil night, and It seemed very possible that if they stopped and looked around, there might not be anyone.

Kusla held Fenesis’ hand firmly to ensure that she did not get lost
.
And definitely not because he was worried that he would lose her by accident.

He might be rather intoxicated himself if he could actually assume so seriously, and while he was dumbfounded by this notion, the file finally stopped after they had walked for quite a while.

A few were holding torches, but the night was so dark, he could only determine the silhouette of his outstretched hand.

Kusla could not determine where he was, and so he narrowed his eyes at where he came from, only to find a fire rising from the hut at a really low spot. Also, he could see a few more fires from the plaza, and finally understood where he stood.

“Is this the edge of the temple?”

They were at the place where the land was raised, the edge of the crater. They kept staring at their feet in the darkness, ensuring that they did not trip over as they advanced, and never noticed that they walked up a slop.

But why this place? Feeling skeptical, he saw every human begin to spread the fur towels and carpets, and sit down. They then extinguished the torches in hand.

The forces in front seemed to start serving wine, so Kusla quietly waited for wine to be served to him.

Before he received the wooden mug, he asked as he had to wait for far too long.

“What are we doing next?”

Phil was scooping into the wine vat a knight was carrying, and he was stumped.

“You don’t know?”

“I only heard that I need to bring the fur towel along.”

“Oh, well then. Anyway, drink up. It’s really cold here.”

“I feel really unmotivated to come to such a place.”

The crater centered around the temple appeared to be a swamp with black water gathered in it.

“Actually, we’re just here because it’s the highest place on these plains. We’re not looking towards the temple, but there, the north.”

“The north?”

Once Phil said so, he realized that the crowd was facing north.

“It’s hard to see without the moon, but have you not seen how rugged the col is? You can see the northernmost place from here.”

The torches were extinguished, his eyes slowly got used to the darkness, and there were countless more stars in the night sky.

Kusla did as Phil said, and looked down. Truly there was the silhouette of the mountain, seemingly cutting off part of the starry sky.

“In this cold, clear night, before the moon raises, you can see the northern skies. Like this night, for example.”

“You can see it?”

“I too found it unbelievable when I read it in books, but…”

It was unknown if Phil was intoxicated, or that it was his habit as a bookworm, for he showed a smile of much intent.

“So even if that lord Alzen refutes your guesses, I still believe…that maybe, the Whites are living in a certain world far from ours.”

“Hey…I don’t understand what you’re saying…what’s going on?”

“It’s a holy curtain.”

“Huh?”

“If the Whites flew for a higher, further place, that has to be where they are looking for. That’s what the locals said, and truly, that might be the case. One might also say that they flew in from there, but that does not make sense. If they did not come from there, where were they headed?”

Phil ignored the fact that Kusla might not understand as he prattled on, lost in his own thoughts. Kusla was a little incensed, but he realized that Fenesis, wrapped under the same blanket, moved a little, and his attention was directed to her.

She grabbed his abdomen, rather forcefully in fact.

“Ow…h-hey, what’s with that…”

Kusla’s protest against Fenesis ended there and there, for she was staring intently at a certain spot, stunned. He too was affected by her, and looked north.

For the first time in his life, he felt that if the world was such a boring place, it surely was because his own eyes merely saw boring things.

“This is a veil of light covering the sky. Can you believe it?”

Phil sounded so gleeful, as though he was the one who discovered so.

However, it surely was because whenever one saw such a mysterious sight, one would be so moved, it was as though one had seen it for the first time.

Beyond the col was a veil of light, fluttering away, as though swaying with the wind, scattered through the silvery powder sky.

“Are my eyes…seeing things?”

He could not help but mutter so.

“No, the view from here will be more majestic further north. This place only allows us to see the horizon. It’s said that a brave once went far north, and saw the veil right above him.”

What exactly was that sight? Kusla could not imagine. He did remember the written records of adventuring sailors, that anything could happen in the North.

Kusla finally understood the meaning behind Weyland’s words. If there was a veil fluttering from the sky, there had to be some secret beyond. Anyone would have assumed so, their curiosity beckoned like a cat.

“The locals too tried to imagine and interpret what those are. Most assume there’s a land of giants in the sky, and this veil is the window leading to a person’s house.”

“I guess both Northerners and Southerners think there’s something that lies beyond the sky.”

“Because they appear in our eyes when we look up…and, various things fall from there.”

Rain and snow aside, there was thunder, and of all related stories, there were often mentions of frogs and fish falling from the sky. An alchemist once wrote that in a humid summer day, there were large clouds that would appear suddenly, seemingly on the verge of collapsing, that there surely was a castle in the sky hidden in there.

Since nobody could head forth to ascertain, people surely could interpret at their own whims.

Even the Church was unwilling to let people ascertain if there really was a God beyond the clouds.

“Did the Whites really investigate if there are people living in the sky?”

“That’s definitely it.”

Phil paused, and then continued,

“It’s easier for us to dream.”

Phil was not a book merchant who loved to daydream, but one who knew how to dream.

“I too once heard of a story…of a castle in the sky.”

Fenesis finally seemed to have recovered from the riveting moment before her as she muttered so. She hushed her voice, for it seemed she was worried the veil of light would disappear if she spoke loudly.

“I suppose that certainly is beautiful.”

Fenesis was about to fall into dreamland, probably due to the intoxication and the warmth of the blanket, emitting an urge to taste her innocence.

“There’s no way it exists.”

“…Eh?”

“If there is any damage or flaw here, it is almost impossible to ferry the materials there. Alzen did mention something similar, no? The most common explanation is that if there really is a fort, then this city in the sky will have a completely worn down castle, and nobody lives inside, right?”

Kusla asked Phil to back him up, and the genial Phil gave a gaudy smile.

“It’s a pity.”

Fenesis looked at them, and gave a truly despondent look.

Not because Kusla teased her in the spur of the moment; there was still some proof that could back his claims.

“Actually, the skies do occasionally drop fragments of a castle.”

“Fragments?”

“Castle fragments. In other words──”

Kusla chimed in, and suddenly recalled the experiment just now. When Weyland added more weight and had it float into the air, it then fell. He managed to avoid the danger in the nick of time, and the heavy item fell to the ground, as the law of the world dictated. Back then, the snowflakes fluttered, the heavy objects, the large hole that appeared on the school, a certain large item, and also, the idea of flying into the sky to affirm if people truly lived there.

At that moment, the world seemed to end.

In other words?

Kusla stopped talking before he could continue.

Suddenly, he felt that everything was connected in his heart..

The arrows pointing in the correct direction could be seen everywhere.

Thus, all that was left was to figure out how to interpret the world.

“Then…?”

Fenesis’s perturbed response suddenly caused time to move. Kusla suddenly stood up, Phil lost his balance in shock, and the knight carrying the wine vat tumbled back, spilling the wine.

Kusla however ignored everything else, and he probably would not pay any heed to a torch landing on a fallen fire herb

His eyes could only see what he should see.

Those were all memories, a book called experience.

There could be many explanations pertaining to the legend of the Whites, and none of which could be deemed as absolutely correct. If it was said the large hole on this land was caused by the fire herb, the required numbers, power and production methods would not make sense. Thus, the notion that a failure occurred when they tried to create a new destructive technology sounded so convincing. As Alzen had said, the fire herb might have been used to hunt large deer that looked extraordinary, and naturally, their bladders were a necessity in the quest to fly.

It was all reasonable.

But as Fenesis had said, it was not a certainty that there might be other opinions on the entire matter.

So, if the entire assumption was wrong, so what? What if the Whites never caused such a large hole on this land to begin with?

Kusla and company had been obsessed with how the Whites caused the creation of that large hole, how it was possible to create the legend, but the event that occurred might not be correlated to the technology at all. One could realize that from Cyrus’ joy when he heard the curse of the Whites was solved.

An unreasonable, perplexing fact could be done once again with this technology. Did he not heave a sigh of relief after hearing so?

Was the purpose of alchemy not to unravel the hem of God’s mystery? Was it not to believe that the world could be understood?

In that case.

Could one also assume so, given the impression one would have of the Whites?

Were the legend of the Whites not to console the locals who were ravaged by a great tragedy, and to create something through facts they already knew of? Thus, it ended up with something theoretically possible, coinciding with the reality, as though a rough framework had been formed.

If the Whites were no the protagonists in that legend.
.
What if they were the party that so happened to be caught in the coincidence?

By this thought process, Kusla sensed that he understood what the Whites were aiming at. They definitely were not unreasonable Gods who did not know the hearts of men. If they too were like Fenesis filled with various emotions and a hereditary curiosity.

They surely would do so in the face of the unreasonable world.

Kusla felt an urge to tear up once he imagined that sight.

The courage and curiosity of the Whites who stood tall moved him to bits.

“Alchemy.”

“…Eh?”

He grabbed the perturbed Fenesis on the shoulders, hugged her with all his strength, let go, and showed a sly sneer of interest ‘Kusla’ on his face as he said to her who was wide eyed.

“I always wondered why those things were all classified under alchemy.”

“Eh? Eh?”

Kusla darted off.

“E-erm!”

He completely ignored Fenesis’ call, nor the stares of all that were present. He was uppity, lost in his thoughts, and merely ran off to his own objective. He flailed his arms, kicked the snow, his chest burning as though there was fire inside, but it was due to excitement.

“Haa, haa!”

He panted as he arrived at the entrance of the temple, and pulled out the dagger on his waist. One had to wonder how it was like, but whenever people went down the stone steps, the murals of the Whites depicted on the walls would appear hazily. Fire pillars rose by the side, and the Whites looked towards the sky with emotionless faces.

Kusla had a feeling he had seen these murals somewhere before, but it was to be expected. He could not see his face since he had no mirror by his side, and he could only see his sidelong face through his companions in the workshop, if they were there.

“I never thought they would be so similar to Fenesis.”

He was not referring to the faces, but the feeling of being bound to something, the heart falling for it, the mood of one trying to understand with one’s own senses.

Since they were existences an alchemist could see themselves in, he should have realized so right at the beginning. They were not gods who were heart to imagine, but that they believed there would be a discovery beyond, and gave their utmost in trying to understand.

“In that case…the part about smelting…”

Kusla wiped the sweat off as he knelt before the mural, backhanded his dagger as he stabbed down.

A clang echoed from the frozen ground, and after a second, third time, he scraped at the cracked ground. He then continued to swing the dagger down. While doing so, he heard footsteps from behind, and before they could voice out, he yelled,

“Help me out!”

He never stopped the entire time as he continued to stab at the ground, dug up the loosened ground, and soon after, his fingertips ached with a sharp pain due to icy numbness. He did not mind however, even if nobody else helped him.

Kusla continued to dig, lost in his objective, his calm mind smiling wryly at himself.

It was no wonder these people were all flabbergasted. They had assumed they were there to observe the mystery of the sky, yet someone started digging at the ground, and everyone else might have deemed him a lunatic.

It did not matter however. That was the life he lived till this point, and surely it would be in the future…

So he thought, but there was suddenly a descending angel opposite him──naturally it was a hyperbole.

Fenesis had put her torch aside, scowling, and started reaching for the rather large hole, digging the dirt out.

“Do…explain…later!”

Her diminutive self did not have long arms, and she had to sprawl on the ground to dig the earth out.

Kusla chuckled as he saw her like this, and also smiled at her empathy.

“You’ll understand immediately.”

He was absolutely confident, and this moment soon came.

Klang! His dagger hit something.

“Eh…”

Fenesis stopped once she heard this.

“I-is this…the sound of iron?”

Saying this was Irine, who arrived behind them.

“Why isn’t it the sound of a dagger hitting a rock~?”

Weyland asked, and Kusla’s smile resembled a beast primed to bite its prey, his fangs bared.

“Ah, damn…see, I said so, didn’t I…?”

Kusla muttered as he dusted the item his dagger hit, and continued to loosen the soil.

There clearly was a hint left by humans.

“Hey, what happened, alchemist!”

Alzen, unable to simply walk over like the common peasants, had hurried over, and he bellowed from the entrance. Kusla ignored him however as he continued to dig, and affirm.

There was an arrowhead carved onto it.

Where was it pointed at?

Kusla looked up, and could clearly see the faces of those standing at the entrance.

“Mr Cyrus.”

While everyone present waited for Kusla’s explanation with bated breath, he called for this name.

“Y-yes…”

“Was the drawing originally here? Or did you draw it when you built the temple?”

“Eh? Ah…we had a wandering artist do so when we built the temple…”

“How does that person look like?”

“Huh?”

Kusla repeated his head, and Cyrus tapped his head a little, trying to rack his memories.

“Eh…it happened twenty years ago…but I remembered his hair was a rare black, and strangely soft and airy. He was a tall chap, skinny too…he always had a smile on him, it seemed, but on closer look, it didn’t look like a smile. He seemed to be a well traveled artist.”

So what? Cyrus looked skeptical, but Kusla’s eyes turned towards Phil.

“How about it?”

The words reminded Phil.

“Wait…”

“Yes, the one who drew this was the teacher of yours who disappeared──Korad Abria.”

Phil naturally did ask Cyrus of Abria’s whereabouts, but he probably asked if a heretical inquisitor had come to this land, or if anyone had come by to investigate the legend on this land.

But what if Abria had already arrived at this land before Cyrus’ arrival, and had read through many books to the point where he did not need to ask the locals? He was the one who left clues for people seeking the angel’s legend, and the murals drawn by him were too reminiscent of an alchemist’s, surely there was some intent.

“T-then, where’s the teacher?”

“Over there.”

Kusla confidently pointed the dagger at where Phil and the others were at, so everyone turned back dumbfoundedly. It seemed as if Abria was standing behind.

Kusla gave a bemeaning, vile laugh.

The deplorable alchemist’s laugh was of one who was thinking of how to overturn an ordinary person’s common sense.

“To the South. He went after the Whites who intend to stun the world with their research.”

“South? Eh? No, but…”

“Hey, enough nonsense.”

Interrupting them was Alzen’s vice-like voice.

But this time, Kusla showed no timidity.

He postured a sneer as he exhaled a burning breath through his teeth.

“We’d have known if it’s the South. I already said it, didn’t I? Even if they’re around, there’s nothing worthy for them to research. There’s no way they can hide.”

“Yes, but you’re a commander, not an alchemist.”

Kusla said, and took a deep breath.

He turned around, for his partner was there.

“You want me to explain, right?”

“Eh? Y-yes.”

“But actually, you’re the one who told me that this world can be seen from various angles. That’s why people could hide at places far from others, quietly, without being detected. They can live peaceful lives even if they’re to research something that can overturn the world order.”

Fenesis looked confused as she looked back at Kusla’s eyes. She did not remember telling him so, and she was oblivious to it. Why tell me this? She looked a little hurt, as though she was teased.

But Kusla said,

“No, you know that. Think about it. You’re the one who taught me the secrets of alchemy. It’s like turning stone into iron, sand into glass, lead into gold, the world can change depending on the viewpoint. It’s possible to turn the world upside down. We did say this before. Aren’t there some people in this world who are worried if the world’s turned upside down?”

Fenesis widened her eyes, and they sparkled. A flash of knowledge appeared deep within those green eyes. Her lips quivered slightly, and her eyes were round, probably due to the excitement.

“There’s a reason why since history, people always thought that there were people living in the sky, or that there’s an old castle floating in the sky? That’s because fragments of the castle do fall from the sky. In other words──”

Stone and iron.

If there was something exceptionally large falling from such a great height, there would be no guarantee that a similarly heavy item fell into the snow.

A large crater was formed immediately, and the impact burned the houses.

And also, there were scattered metallic fragments nearby.

“It’s not a bad idea to think that it’s because of a castle in the sky, but let’s go a step further and make a wild guess, no? That’s what the wise sages of the past did. We look into the sky, there’s a moon, right? What if that’s not a hole on the lid called the sky, but a large object floating above us?”

They did discuss such topics before. The Church had been desperately trying to conceal these matters, and so such knowledge was uncommon, but anyone who had read the old books would have known of this hypothesis.

“Then, th-this is…”

Fenesis stared at the bottom of the dug cave dumbfoundedly.

“That’s──”

Kusla licked his lips.

“A star’s fragments.”

“Fool!”

Alzen was very agitated.

“What star fragments!? Enough nonsense!”

“Oh? So many you try to explain the planets’ paths recorded by the old sages as a commander? Those planets are well known for deviating off course. Mr Phil,you should be able to prepare something like a schedule, right?”

“Eh? Ah, yes, of course!”

Alzen pursed his lips as he glared at Kusla. Just as Kusla could only remain silent when faced with Alzen’s tall talk, Alzen could not refute Kusla.

“And assuming that the stars are balls floating in the sky, it explained perfect why the moon looks incomplete. If you make a snowball and light it by the side, you can immediately see it change and look incomplete.”

Behind Alzen, Cyrus recovered from his shock, and started translating to the locals.

The crowds started to yap away, becoming restless.

“B-but, what were the Whites researching this for? And you say it is a place far from here? They hid? I said that to research alchemy, you need to be at a place with many people, or are they researching the stars…something higher than the skies? That is,”

“It’s possible.”

Kusla looked back at Fenesis, who would only reel in surprise, on the verge of tears when she saw him smile.

But it was not due to sadness nor fear.

It was anticipation.

“At the monastery.”

“Ahhhhh!”

Yelling so was none after than Phil. His job as a book merchant entailed visiting where the books were, and in this world, many were either hidden in an alchemist’s workshop, or a monastery.

In a monastery, the subjects to be studied were,

Arithmetic, geometry, logic, rhetoric, grammar, music.

And astrology.

“Monasteries are always built far from people, and the people of the world don’t really pay attention to what they do inside. They do not really need complicated, fancy materials like alchemy. They simply need the patience to look into the sky, a blanket, wait, and maybe…”

A certain person as company?

Kusla glanced aside at Fenesis, who gasped.

“Just to note, if we deduce that the stars are spherical, we should be able to determine the path of these planets easily. In other words, these planets, just like the other stars, revolve around the sun.”

Kusla kicked the ground, and Alzen lost his balance for a moment, his escorting knight had to carry him.

Alzen looked gaudy, as though he was seasick, all because he was such a practical and open-minded commander, but such otherworldly words left him unable to comprehend.

“Do you think this is just some ridiculous fantasy? Such assumptions are forbidden by the Church though, lord Alzen. Do you know why?”

Kusla returned Alzen’s words right back at him.

And just as lead could be turned into gold, the relationship between master and servant had been reversed.

The Whites tried to attain this, the most inexplicable reversal of the world.

“It’s because the relationship between the skies and the earth will change.”

God created our land, and the stars follow obediently.

But if that was not the case, and that we were to revolve around the sun, like the other stars, where did God’s authority go to? Also, one would assume that the moon was in the heavens, but would it not be true if the reverse happened? Where then was the real Heaven?

The extremely simple questions nobody had investigated, the ones they had left in the lurch, suddenly exploded.

Where exactly was their exalted God?

If Hell was beneath their feet, would there be a Hell in the celestial bodies above?

“The Whites and their innate curiosity drove them to build overwhelming technology, and surely they had doubted the Church for a long time. Those were the ones who oppressed the Whites, and it would not be strange to assume that the Whites wanted revenge. The Church remained powerful, and could not possibly be burned by the dragon flamethrowers. According to stories relating to the Whites, such an act was unbefitting of the impression they had. It was truly just like them to be far from the crowds and investigate the movement of the stars, to prove if the stars were spheres. That’s the greatest form of alchemy. It’s bigger than turning lead into gold; that’s…that’s basically the creation of a whole new world!”

Kusla yelled with a smile on his face, his eyes widened as he forgot to blink, and once done, he stomped towards Alzen, who was held up by his knight. Before the knight could stop Kusla, Kusla grabbed Alzen by the collar.

“Now then, how about you assist our research? On the day we accomplish that, we can eradicate the Church that even the Claudius Knights couldn’t topple!”

Alzen was overwhelmed by Kusla’s ferocious vigor, and could not move, his eyes staring intently at Kusla like a man possessed.

Kusla shoved Alzen away, and let go.

He yelled at the dumbfounded onlookers,

“What are you doing there!? Go out and look at the stars! There’s proof of great alchemy before your eyes!”

He pointed outside, and Cyrus seemed possessed as he quickly relayed a few words.

The faces of the locals changed immediately, and they scampered out there.

A few knights too scampered out, and Irine too wanted to leave, but she stopped once she noticed how Weyland stood there. Cyrus too regained his mind once the locals left.

Left behind were Kusla, Fenesis, Weyland, Irine, Phil, Cyrus, Alzen and the knight supporting him.

“…You are lying, right?”

Such were the words demonstrating the difference between an alchemist and a blacksmith.

“And, isn’t that too much…of a guess?”

“Really?”

Kusla shrugged, and scratched his head.

” I realized something before we started this conversation. There was something amiss in the legend of the Whites.”

“Eh?”

“The glass~?”

Weyland said with a serious look, the usual sneer devoid from his face.

Such a reliable fellow, so Kusla chuckled.

“Irine, do you know what tools the monks would use when they want to enlarge something?”

“What? It’s…ah!”

“Yes, spectacles of glass. Think about it, the stars in the sky are so small, and even the moon is the size of a stretched little finger when full.”

The technology of flight was probably to observe from a closer position, or to see how the bag could fly, and determine the height of the skies.

“It seems there are still many incredible, new things in this world.”

Kusla said, and turned behind.

Fenesis was before him, and between them was a hole with a star fragment buried beneath.

The miracle was poking out from the icy ground, shining upon them.

“My ideal is to sleep in the land of Magdala, but it looks like I’ll have to leave that aside for now.”

“…”

Fenesis did not answer, and Kusla continued,

“You need to be awake at night if you want to observe the star, no? In that case ─”

“You’re an alchemist who doesn’t sleep~!”

Weyland interrupted, and Kusla kicked the dirt towards Weyland, just like his younger days. Weyland guffawed as he hopped by, and instead, it was Irine who got caught. Phil gave a wry smile as he kept his dignity as a merchant, and the already serious Cyrus looked flabbergasted. Alzen, still held up by the knight, appeared to be hungover.

Before him however was another alchemist, and a blacksmith and a book merchant who assisted them.

They were not to be trifled with.

“Damn, one of these days, I’m tossing him into a fiery furnace.”

So Kusla hissed, and he sensed the sound of a snowflake.

He looked over, saw Fenesis cover her mouth with both hands, giggling.

He wanted to continue with his pretentious attitude and let loose of his agitated emotions, only to be interrupted and awkward. He tried to suppress so, but Fenesis deftly crossed the hole, and arrived by him said.

It seemed she had just passed this part of the sky God might have once come across.

He never expected her to be so bold.

“You say so, but you will fall asleep accidentally if I leave you to observe alone.”

A gaudy looking Kusla looked tentative to speak.

In any case, he intended to rid himself of his moniker ‘Kusla (interest)’ and tell Fenesis of his real name, but that would have to stop for the time being.

“Yes.”

He reached his fingers, caressing Fenesis’ cheeks

“Partner.”

Fenesis beamed and nodded once she heard so.

And behind her, the Whites stared into the sky with stoic looks.

They resembled cruel gods, and also alchemists obsessed with research.

But to Kusla at this point, that sight of them seemingly admitted that the two of them were hopeless.

That is fine, so Kusla thought.

Was there anything wrong with reaching out for something as one’s heart desired?

Such stubbornness was a privilege of an alchemist.

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