They returned to new Abbas, and were met with a rapturous welcome.
But of all the exhilarated people, none were probably locals. There were three, four times the usual number of soldiers awaiting them, all of them soldiers Alzen had brought from the port city of Nilberk.
One had to wonder if Alzen had brainwashed them into thinking Kusla and company had amazing power, for they were all riled up. It seemed these forces had witnessed the miracle during their escape from Abbas.
Alzen bowed to Archduke Kratal, and then rallied the soldiers further. It would be hard for the soldiers to imagine that their superiors had intended to surrender to the enemy before the battle started.
Perhaps alchemy was an easier prospect to deal with compared to Alzen.
Of those living in Abbas, the most grim-faced was the ruler of the town, the head of the Poldorofs.
In fact, he probably would not be looking so dour if he knew that they had intended to negotiate before the battle started. Anyone would have been restless thinking about how their town would be a battlefield of defeat.
But once he heard from Kusla and the accompanying Cyrus that all obstacles to rebuild the old Abbas was gone, his focus was seemingly diverted from the upcoming battle, and instead on the planning of building a new town.
And so, days later.
Nilberk had impregnable walls and a port, and was a place suited for attack and defense that could last for years, yet Alzen deliberately abandoned it for the relatively rural Abbas, only to finally prove that his plan was completely correct.
The result was that neither force started fighting.
They dug holes at the entrance, buried as many fire herbs as they could, and waited for the alliance Southern nobles and the ex-pagans who had appeared to convert.
After the usual opening proceedings, it was Kusla who stood on the walls, reciting things an alchemist would say, threw a torch in an exaggerated manner, and there was an explosion that shocked even the offender himself, a large, burnt hole was the only thing left behind.
Looking form the walls, the enemy foot soldiers were all rooted, the horses rose in shock. Kusla was unspeakably giddy to see such a sight, and strangely, felt like those kings and nobles who were being adored.
Cross that hole if you wish to fight, he then taunted them, waited, and saw the enemy forces collapse.
This was the only actual part of the battle. Irine was a little displeased, for she, in charge of leading the pursuit, had maintained the dragon shaped flamethrowers bright and clean. She resembled a child who had just entered a workshop for the first time, yearning to use the tools she made, rather than a boisterous battle bruiser.
And as for the battle, the enemy sued for peace before Alzen could speak.
According to Alzen, it seemed the enemy did not want a ceasefire, but to surrender. Perhaps to them, they should be able to win this war if they could be allies with the forces led by Archduke Kratal.
Of course, it was not the case. They had hastened the extraction of sun fragments in anticipation for futures events, but no matter how they tried, they could only maintain a farce for another two, three times. As long as they limited their uses wisely, an unknown technology could become magic at any given moment.
The miracle and the curse too arose from it.
And as planned, Alzen requested to defect, and it went well.
Alzen however remained gloomy, probably not because he was unamused by how the enemy was terrified. The outcome was to be expected, but it took the nobles five days to negotiate due to all the focus on the proceedings, thinking that by doing so, both sides would maintain neutral.
And thus, both sides established their alliance and began to discuss their future plans, that since they finally arrived at this rural land, they should simply remain at this place and wait for the war to end, or that Archduke Kratal’s forces could retreat to their lands discreetly.
It was said that the location of their discussion had a large table with a scarlet table, with wine, stewed beef clod, roasted hare with herbs, various cheese, and freshly baked bread, eaten with silver cutlery. They chatted away, and the soldiers who ate and camped in the walls were surely cursing away.
The conclusions to such negotiations came on the tenth morning after Kusla and company returned to Abbas.
There was no bell tower in this town, but a bell was rang, informing everyone of an important decision.
It was a clear, still frigid day.
“Hey, you alchemists!”
Alzen opened the door unhappily. He was not at the underground workshop built by the Poldorofs when they sought for the Whites’ technology, but a base at the walls, a lounge in the spire. He scowled unhappily once he opened.
This place was originally meant to see if enemies were coming over the horizon, but as there were few battlegrounds, every town was taken as a warehouse.
And the floor of such a place was occupied by alchemists covered in blankets.
“Hey, wake up!”
Alzen growled impatiently, and finally, there was movement beneath a corner of the blanket.
A soft, white fur triangular ear poked out, and a sleepy Fenesis showed her face. She seemed to be feeling really cold, but a male arm reached from under the blanket, pulling the white hare back, and there was movement. It seemed the fellow who pulled her back was adjusting himself, trying to sleep better.
Alzen took a deep breath, snatched the spear from the escorting knight, and smacked the tip onto the floor.
“Wake up you fools!”
Fenesis once again poked her head from under the blanket, and she seemed to be fully awake, for she slapped the alchemist’s cheek.
“Ugh…hey…let me sleep…”
“I’m telling you to wake up!”
Fenesis shriveled in shock, and Kusla, annoyed by the noise, had to open his eyes.
“Huh?… I said I don’t need breakfast…”
Kusla opened his mouth, and pulled the pried blanket over himself once again. Again Alzen tapped the spear onto the floor, but Fenesis was the only one who shriveled. As for Weyland, he remained lifeless under his blanket.
“Such insolent fools…”
Alzen cursed, but nevertheless, he tried to regain his dignity as a commander.
“Anyway, to surmise, we finally made our decision this morning.”
Kusla and Weyland showed no response, and only the serious Fenesis looked back and forth worriedly between the commander and the alchemist who pretended to sleep.
“We’re going to break through the Knights’ bases and quietly return to our land. We might have to show miracles on the way again, so we have to continue gathering sun fragments for the time being. It’ll take us another three to four days to dig them all from the demon’s belly.”
The flustered Fenesis was caught between the calm sounding Alzen and the completely unresponsive alchemist. She made a little sneeze, and shivered.
And right on cue, Kusla pulled the blanket aside, grabbed Fenesis by the hand, and dragged her in.
In any case, Alzen had seen it all, it seemed, and he continued.
“And as you wished, we arranged to investigate the monasteries in the South. We’ll probably have to use the connections of the book merchant’s backer, the Jedeel Guild.”
Kusla probably wanted to warm Fenesis, or that he was feeling cold, for he embraced that white, petite body in his clutches, wanting to sleep. But right at this moment,
“And we have liaised with the glassmakers you spoke of.”
“Where are they? Can they get here immediately? You’ll bribe them with heaps of gold, right?”
Kusla closed in, and Alzen retreated with disgust.
The only thing more ridiculous than Kusla’s ferocious attitude was his terrible clothing.
“Hey…go take a bath later. You stink.”
Kusla and company had been cooped in this little room ever since they returned to Abbas. While Kusla did not mind, Fenesis hastily smelled her clothes.
“I heard those glassmakers’ privilege was held by another noble, so we can’t be too hasty.”
“Of course I plan to, but,”
Alzen paused, and Kusla closed in vengefully.
“No buts, we need their glass making expertise no matter what. There’s no need to explain the angel’s legend here, so what else is there to hesitate for?”
Kusla yapped away, and Alzen had enough,
“I’ve asked all I could. We should be able to get it done.”
Kusla continued to glare at Alzen, before he finally averted his eyes, and tumbled back to his blanket.
“…Is he still in a daze?”
He was asking Fenesis.
Kusla went under the blanket without a care in the world, and laid down.
“Goodness…that blacksmith girl is more active than you.”
Alzen seemed to be completely stupefied, and Kusla’s head turned around.
“Irine…is done with her tools?”
“I’m your commander, not your messenger.”
Alzen sighed, strode through the room, past them, and opened the wooden window.
“Hmph, nice view.”
As both the door and the wooden window were open, a chilling wind blew in immediately.
Fenesis shivered all over as though she was a cat splashed by icy water, and this time, she entered the blanket.
“Have you been observing like this every night? Any progress?”
Kusla did not answer, and Fenesis, whose face remained outside, hid due to awkwardness.
“It truly is a form of alchemy that can turn the heavens and the earth around. It’s truly hard to imagine.”
Alzen muttered, and let out clear white breath.
“That blacksmith girl’s sleeping soundly in the workshop, just like you. She’s making a tool that can observe stars from a ship, no? I guess she’s about done, because another scumbag has taken it out to do something.”
Kusla finally showed his face from under the blanket, glared at Alzen, and looked towards the other blanket.
He silently raised his leg, kicked it, and found only a pile of blankets there.
“Did your companion have a headstart on you?”
Alzen’s mockery had Kusla frowning, but the latter, while trying to get up, fell sideways.
“…I’ll go investigate later at night…”
So he said, and the body under the blanket twitched.
“Hmph, anyway, this is what I want to convey.”
Kusla did not show a response.
Alzen was not angry in the slightest, and he crossed them, intending to leave.
And right when the knight was about to close the door, Alzen suddenly turned around.
“Speaking of which, isn’t your moniker the restless alchemist?”
There was movement beneath the blanket.
Alzen guffawed dumbfoundedly, and hurried off.
The door was closed politely, and silence dominated the place again. However, the wooden window remained ajar, and frosty air entered along with the vague ruckus of the town. It was the existence of daily life, full of life, the act of people reverting to the norm, and it would continue. Surely it was the same to the sun and the moon in the sky.
But just like how one could have many interpretations of the recorded legends, or seek another meaning to the bustling festivals of a city, the stars glowing in the skies too began to have a different meaning.
Once this research was done, most in this world would unwittingly experience a reversal of the world. They would know the land was not the center of the world, and the place they were on was no different from the moon.
Kusla could imagine mass hysteria just by closing his eyes. The Church would greatly lose their authority, and Alzen would surely think of seizing this opportunity in a way even an alchemist would be appalled by.
Of course, this research might not end in his generation, and it seemed the Whites had begun research on the skies a hundred years ago, but the results were obvious given how the world had yet to be upended. They were a little apprehensive by the gravity of this issue, but at the same time, they were filled with vigor.
Kusla embraced Fenesis firmly in his arms, smiling.
“…What is it?”
Kusla answered flatly, and Fenesis did not pursue the matter. She nudged around in his arms, and sighed contentedly.
Actually, there was only one reason why he smiled.
The world was interesting, and shall continue to be.
The noise of the town, coming in from the ajar window, was increasingly louder.
The winter skies overlooking the town showed a faint white moonlight.