Well, I started work, so there.
After being a NEET, starting work again seem to disqualify me from being eligible to translate Kamimemo, I think.
In the meantime, I’m slowly trotting out with Magdala, slow enough that I think I’ll be a rotting corpse by the time I’m done.
To be honest, starting to work IRL again, I’m beginning to feel that I’ve been out of action for so long.
I guess the same thing applies I don’t translate after a long while.
And so this is me at my workplace right now.
During this time, I ended up joining Discord for some reason.
And that was when I was exposed to the LN translating Underworld (not like I was ever oblivious of their actions, but I ended up joining a few groups.)
And for some reason, Baka-Tsuki ended up having a discord channel, and I became the admin there for some strange reason. #JustPingThings.
It was surreal being more involved in the community than I did…for the past 7 months or so.
Just a side note, if you see me involved somehow, don’t expect me to log in more than 3 times a week.
Work just got hectic recently, and I’ve been a little fatigued recently, so naturally, slower updates.
Of course, this means that I won’t be able to finish volume 6 of Kamimemo in September. I’ll try to do up the main chapters however. Been running on fumes.
A gentle reminder that I don’t plan to do Clockwork Planet 4 for the time being. Partly due to scheduling, mostly due to definite license down the road. (Who wants to read a story of old man Halter being the lead protagonist this time? Not our loli(shota)-loving crowd who are all masochistic for RyuZU)
With regards to Bokushinu, baftn has submitted Act 5, and I did promise that I’ll edit his work once I’m done with Kamimemo 6.
Given his schedule right now, I think you guys should expect the series to be completed next year.
So, my original plan was to finish Bokushinu this year. That’s impossible.
So let us reshuffle the plan…and try to finish up Amaryllis by Xmas instead.
Now to talk about Magdala again.
Given that I went to Kamimemo 6 two months back as an obligation, I feel that I have an obligation to finish what I left off with here, especially since this is supposedly my main project.
But now that the Spice and Wolf series has been revived and rolling, I think it’s prudent to say that I don’t expect any more than the 8 volumes of Magdala we have right now. Time to use this time to catch up.
Also, here is a sneak preview of the next volume.
Back in 2014, a fan called Jason P. emailed me, stating that he wished to translate a chapter for his module assignment. The proposed plan was to translate volume 3, but I told him to translate volume 4.
Now, 2 years later, he has finished this project, and this is the work he will like to share with you (I have not edited this, but there are a few bits, namely the names, that I’ll tweak in the finalized work). Please enjoy.
PS: I only managed to regain my old email recently. Please message me on chatango if you need something so that I won’t end up being unable to you for 3 months or so, which is what happened to Jason.
“Gentlemen, you have no home to return to.” The deep voice resonated through the bonfire clearing packed with knights and civilians, mercenaries, merchants seeking to reap the profits of war, and craftsmen who had left their homelands for a new land. All were extremely on edge, but not one of them said a word. In this tense, suffocating atmosphere, they were holding their breath for what he would say next.
“Gentlemen, you have no home to return to. Therefore, we can only continue on. But there is nothing to fear. We, the Order of Claudius, have always been guided by the light, for we are the agents of Heaven! Gentlemen, you are not incompetent subjects aimlessly receiving a stipend. With the power of God and our faith, we will cut through the darkness of this world. Gentlemen, advance and reach out in front of you, and your new home will be within your grasp!” When Archduke Cratol finished, the crowd didn’t cheer for him, but gulped in apprehension. Most of the people there had left their homes, risking everything on this uncertain journey.
They had no choice but to continue forward. To find a peaceful land, they had to continue onward. They told themselves that with nowhere to return to, any obstacles in their path would be nothing they couldn’t overcome.
The queen of the pagan country of Latoria was known as the last pagan queen. She had just converted to the religion of the Church. With her conversion, Latoria was, in theory, no longer a pagan country. For the Order of Claudius, which had expanded its influence as a result of the war with the pagans, this meant they had no more enemies. For those people who had planned to live in Latoria, there were no new lands to conquer. Precisely because there had been pagan cities, the Church had taken advantage of them to plunder and settle under the banner of a just cause.
Be that as it may, they couldn’t stop. Just as the water in a river flows onward, never returning to the same place twice, they told themselves they had no choice but to continue on, that there was definitely a light ahead.
The scene looked like soup with beef chuck floating around. The gently-sloping fields covered in snow stretched as far as the eye could see, bare but for the occasional rock. Inside a simple, isolated hut in the middle of that drab scenery, the alchemist Kusla had no interest in the conversation and was absentmindedly gazing out through the cracks in the decaying wooden window.
“I simply cannot express my joy at being able to meet the beloved Claudius Knights!” The overblown speech resounded through the crude hut that would likely blow over in a strong wind. Kneeling on the floor was a nobleman wearing a fur cloak, his proof of nobility. Although he was obviously dressed to the nines, his attire didn’t even compare to the tailoring in the southern lands. In short, he was just a country noble, with his two attendants hanging their heads while shrinking into their crude leather armor.
“Right. I’ve heard about your ability to govern your territories. Our master Archduke Cratol has said that his only wish is to see a long association.”
“You have my gratitude.”
Kusla stifled a yawn at this typical exchange between influential people.
Five days ago they had left the town where Archduke Cratol had inspired the people and they had stopped in at one of the border toll offices along the main highway. The ancient kings had traveled around with the royal court, collecting taxes and holding
court, and perhaps as a remnant of those customs, the local lords would offer up a tribute whenever someone of high rank crossed the border.
It was quite a hassle, but confirming who was in charge of the area was probably very important to those with low standing. In addition, Kusla’s had now arrived at a place that would normally be considered enemy territory, since it was governed by heathens. Although actually, they should probably be called former heathens, but that was a touchy topic.
The particularly high-handed conduct of the seated knight also seemed as if he were trying to cover up that issue.
“As for that matter, here is something to amuse you on your travels.” The kneeling noble motioned his attendant to hold out a sturdy box. Though not very large, it produced a nice, satisfying sound.
“Hey.” The man sitting in the sole, crude chair in the hut motioned with his hand. He was Eilsen, the man who was officially Kusla’s employer.
While everyone’s gaze was fixed on the box, Kusla huffed with exasperation and moved away from the window, “… Excuse me”. Without hesitation, he reached out and opened the lid. The soldiers in the hut didn’t cry out at the gold grains packed inside, probably because it was a common sight for them.
“Hmph,” Kusla snorted and took out one of the tools of his trade from the pouch on his waist. He was an alchemist, so in his line of work he understood minerals and metals. He grabbed one of the gold grains and casually rubbed it against the flat, rough, black gem he had taken out.
“…This is above average, see?” He pointed out the gold streak left behind on the black gem, and Eilsen nodded in assent.
“I pray for the continued development of your territory.”
“Thank you for your kindness.”
Then Eilsen sent the local lord on his way like he was the king.
The Great War against the heretics had continued for twenty years. It had begun due to religious zeal, but was now becoming a mere pretext for seizing land. The group that had shown the most growth during the war was the Order of Claudius.
The legitimacy of their might was different from that of the Church, which was organized with the Pope at the top. As the agents of God, it was secured by their annihilation of the pagans. The Order didn’t show much interest in proselytizing, yet there were branches in towns throughout the world, just like the Church, and they kept in close communication with each other. The circulation of people and goods via this network also resembled that of a large company with extensive branch offices.
The Order of Claudius was like a merger of the Church and a large company, with a powerful military force added to the mix. Within the Order’s economic control were also mines and smelters, and a huge quantity of metal was in circulation. The reason that alchemists like Kusla were hired was that improved metallurgical techniques led to a huge boost in profits.
After sending off the country noble, Eilsen picked up one of the gold flakes and said tiredly, “Hmm. They didn’t follow in the wake of that stupid noble the other day?”
“Mixing gold with copper to increase the quantity and then saying it was valuable colored gold was certainly a brilliant plan, huh?” This was the fourth time Kusla had been summoned to assist Eilsen. It wasn’t unusual for those respectfully presenting tributes to double-cross their superiors, so the ability to assess the authenticity and quality of precious stones and metals on the spot was an indispensable skill.
“It’s a country of uncultured savages. It’s necessary to treat them the same way you might treat a dog you’re training.”
“Even more so because that dog insists on calling itself a cat, huh?”
Eilsen put the gold back and had his subordinate take care of the box. “It’s ridiculous,” he said brusquely.
This land belongs to the country of Latoria, the last country in the world ruled by a heathen queen. So the Church’s army corps, notably the Order of Claudius, had invaded and seized many towns. Out of all the towns captured, their greatest prize was probably Kazan, Latoria’s largest mining city, which had fallen just the other day. At that point, if they could hold this town, Latoria would be ruined.
Then Latoria’s queen suddenly went and declared her conversion to the Church.
Because the Order of Claudius was an organization for rounding up religious stray dogs, so to speak, if their prey suddenly turned into a cat, there wouldn’t be anything at which to aim their spears anymore. This was all the more a problem for those thrusting the spears.
“Still, they seem subservient in their own way. I think there was quite an amount in just that box, eh?” Kusla said in a servile manner, but he was also probing to find out what Eilsen thought about the current situation.
The motionless Eilsen, seemingly engrossed in his thoughts, suddenly looked at the black gem. “That’s a handy tool that lets you know the substance of something just by scraping it, huh? How reliable is it?”
“In the hands of a discerning goldsmith, it can measure purity to a one or two hundredths degree of accuracy.”
“I’ve heard the word touchstone used as a metaphor, but it’s my first time actually seeing one.”
“Does it intrigue you?”
Without getting angry, Eilsen shifted his gaze to Kusla at his somewhat joking manner of asking. “If you could infer the quality of anything just by rubbing it, nothing could be better. If you could choose your destination just by rubbing the stone marker at a crossroad, how easy would that be?”
Coming from Eilsen, who had many subordinates and was in charge of negotiating with the powerful people awaiting them at their destination, this didn’t really sound like a joke.
Within the Order of Claudius there was a unit whose insignia was the Azami crest. Whenever that unit was ordered to march, Eilsen was the herald who delivered proclamations so as to remove all obstacles. In other words, his role involved smoothing the way for the king’s passage, and so he was influential in his own way.
The role of this unit, for which Eilsen managed the marching logistics, was to reclaim towns that had fallen due to the violence wrought by the Order of Claudius. That is, its specialty was colonization.
Now too, the unit was right in the middle of heading with new settlers toward Latoria’s largest mining town Kazan, which had fallen to the Order. But Kazan, which had been a heathen land and thus captured with impunity, was ruled by the queen, who had now apparently converted to the Church’s religion. That being the case, it was like attacking one of the Church’s own towns. If the unit continued like this, there was a good chance that things would end badly. The reason was that it was quite possible to go from being the hunter to the hunted if they were regarded as heretics who had bared their fangs against the Church’s followers. What made matters even worse was that this didn’t mean they could abandon their march.
For one thing, it was a matter of their honor as knights. For another, many of those who had abandoned their homes for the sake of colonization had nowhere to return to. Placing their faith in the Order and their destiny, they had come this far. There were more than a thousand of them, and if they heard there was no new land, who knew what they might end up doing? Surely the Order, whose ranks had swelled with each of the many battles it went through, would know well that humans with nothing left to lose are no different from beasts.
It was in this difficult situation that Eilsen showed interest in how easy it was to use a touchstone. No matter how experienced he was, perhaps he was unable to erase all of his anxiety when facing the uncertainty of the future, or perhaps he was asking out of simple curiosity.
“As one who relies on Your Excellency’s keen insight, I don’t really wish to hear such sentiments.” Kusla didn’t say Eilsen sounded weak, but of course Eilsen noticed the implication.
Not getting angry at such remarks was also typical of a skilled negotiator. “I simply mean using anything that might be of use. Hey.” Eilsen called out to a young official waiting in the corner of the room, who quickly held out a sheet of parchment. “This is what you wanted. Don’t lose it before we enter the town.”
Receiving the parchment with some surprise, Kusla looked up at Eilsen with feigned servility, “That being said, there’s no reason to not compensate you, right?”
What Kusla received was a letter of privilege from the head of the unit bearing the Azami crest, Archduke Cratol, which guaranteed Kusla’s freedom in the new town. With this letter, he would even, for example, be allowed to light a bonfire in a church. This was because refusing to kowtow to this letter of privilege would be tantamount to defying the Order of Claudius.
This letter changed everything.
Because in Kazan there would no doubt be much knowledge and many techniques left behind by the heathens, things that were probably difficult for members of the Church to accept. No matter how valuable that knowledge might be, people who worried about appearances and heresy inquisitors who adhered to the faith might scrutinize it and then seal it in a stone warehouse or burn it.
But alchemists like Kusla weren’t concerned about heathenism or the Church. All that mattered to them was whether something would benefit their research; anything else was of no concern. If possible, Kusla wanted to be the first one in Kazan to see for himself and memorize, or procure a copy of, this dangerous knowledge and techniques before they were sealed away. To accomplish that, he would have to ignore irksome procedures and get access to various places. This was why Kusla meekly acted as a minion towards Eilsen.
“Naturally. In exchange for guaranteeing your freedom of movement in Kazan, you must share with me the entirety of the knowledge you obtain.”
“Perhaps there is another great alchemist who might be more suitable for you, my lord?”
The Azami unit already had its own proper alchemist with the title of “Doctor.” By all rights, Kusla shouldn’t have been able to go to Kazan, but he’d maneuvered his way into things.
“Nonsense. There’s a way to use a treasured sword like a treasured sword, and a way to use a sword for killing like a sword for killing.”
At first Kusla had been convinced that the fact that he and the other alchemists had been called on to examine the tributes was part of treating them like occasional hands for hire, but that wasn’t the case. In any organization, there are those who rise in the ranks purely on the basis of their political power. Alchemists were no exception.
Although if someone actually made it up to the upper echelon of the Order just by currying favor with various people, that too could probably be regarded as a kind of alchemy.
“But even setting that aside, I’m still concerned,” Kusla said, putting the parchment in his breast pocket. This situation was making him read between the lines. “Are you saying that we can’t stay in Kazan for very long?”
The Order was easily granting freedom of movement to someone like Kusla. That hinted at a sense of urgency on the part of Eilsen and his men.
At any rate, if the conversion of Latoria’s queen was to become accepted by the world, then forcibly settling in the towns she ruled might be perceived as a challenge to the Church’s authority. If that happened, they would quite likely be driven out of Kazan right after arriving, and if they left empty-handed without even laying eyes on the knowledge and techniques left there it would be a real loss. Even if they couldn’t take any gems or precious metals, it would be a different story if there was knowledge that was even more valuable.
Because of Eilsen’s position leading the march, there were glimpses of strategic moves that also took possible bad outcomes into consideration. Kusla stared fixedly at Eilsen. Now, with this march, rumors were flying about those “bad possibilities”.
“We must constantly be as prepared as we can be. That’s all.” Eilsen evaded the question.
Kusla didn’t pursue it further.
“Very good.” Kusla respectfully bowed his head and left the border toll office. He went outside and returned with relief to the wagon he and his companions shared.
Eilsen’s behavior was the only thing he could go on to understand the situation surrounding them and their destination, Kazan. Even though Kusla did not, of course, expect to hear a clear outlook on the situation from Eilsen’s own mouth, he had received sufficient clues. And whatever Eilsen’s intentions, simply having gotten hold of the letter of privilege allowing free movement about Kazan was a success.
Because there were a few days left until they reached the town, Kusla decided to spend the remaining time drinking and sleeping, but he suddenly noticed a white figure rustling at the edge of the fire. He thought it was someone preparing lunch, but a bunch of merchants were out to make some money by preparing the meal in a cauldron a little ways away. The food tasted better and cost less that way, so they’d been doing that for the entire march. Kusla and the others also had wagons stocked with food that wouldn’t go bad even during long periods of rain, but that meant compromising on taste. Therefore, this figure wasn’t someone cooking.
Kusla snuck up right behind the small, defenseless back. “Hey, what are you doing?”
“Wha!?” Right after that small cry, a pot or something was knocked over. Along with the characteristic sound of water spilling on an open fire, ash swirled up into the sky.
“… Ah?” Stunned, Kusla looked up at the swirling ash. When he looked back down, the person squatting in front of the fire and fiddling with something turned around timidly.
The pure white clothes were a nun’s habit, and her skin was white as well. Even her hair was pure white, so her large green eyes stood out all the more. The name of this girl who still fit the description young, or even childish, was Fenesis.
“If you play with fire, you’ll wet the bed.“
“I will not!”
“Won’t play with fire or won’t wet the bed?” Without really paying much attention, Kusla, looked at Fenesis’ hands suspiciously. “Lead?”
With that small pause, Fenesis finally managed to regain a little bit of her usual composure.
“I heard…that you guys are up to something suspicious.”
Kusla stared back silently at Fenesis, who flinched like a puppy in trouble.
Sighing, Kusla asked, “Is that what Irine said?”
Irine, who was traveling with them, was two or three years older than Fenesis and was the daughter of a blacksmith.
At Kusla’s question, Fenesis awkwardly averted her eyes. She probably thought that if she admitted that it was Irine, she might be snitching, but telling a lie was contrary to God’s teachings. Watching this not-unattractive girl’s internal debate had its own pleasures for Kusla, but she seemed to reach a decision more quickly than he expected.
Looking at Kusla, she said, “Be-because there is a suspicion of heresy, I have to investigate.”
“Huh!?” Kusla unintentionally let out a little laugh at Fenesis’ excessive bluffing. At that laugh, Fenesis herself probably realized this was an implausible excuse, and her face immediately reddened.
When they first met, she really had thought Kusla and Weyland were sorcerers, and she would get worked up thinking she was going to find evidence of heresy, but having learned the reality about alchemists, she shouldn’t be thinking that way any longer. In fact, Fenesis wanted to become a skilled alchemist who is able to play an active role as Kusla’s partner. So what was she trying to hide with that absurd excuse? Kusla looked at Fenesis disappointedly.
“Ah, by the way, where is Irine?” Asked this unrelated question, Fenesis looked at him like she’d been tricked. But when she met his gaze, she quickly averted her eyes and looked down. “…Sh-she’s gone to help make lunch….”
Kusla looked over to where they were preparing the meals, but there were too many people looking for food and he couldn’t see Irine’s characteristic red hair. Certainly, if you were free, it was fine to help out and earn some spending money, but he didn’t like the idea of a young girl thoughtlessly hanging out amongst mercenaries who were no different from bandits.
“I think she’ll probably make her way back here soon….”
“You mean a craftsman can’t bear to stay still?”
Blacksmiths began working before dawn and worked in front of the forge until after midnight. Kusla knew full well that Irine was the sort of person who couldn’t sit still. But watching her for the past few days, he also felt that, even if she was as restless as always, she was trying to forget something.
“Irine told you, right? That this is fortune-telling.”
Fenesis shrunk back in surprise. Her body didn’t stand out, but unfortunately her head did. Fenesis was wearing the veil of her habit over her head, but showing her virtue was by no means the sole reason.
There was a reason why a young girl like Fenesis was with the alchemist Kusla and his group. She wasn’t a normal young girl. She was one whose bloodline was said to be cursed, a characteristic of non-humans brought from faraway lands, and under her veil she had the pointed ears of a beast. And these ears always revealed her thoughts, since she was careless even under normal circumstances.
“… I, I heard that you were fortune-telling with Weyland. Fo-fortune-telling, is against God’s teachings.”
Kusla sighed. “Don’t say such disgusting things. There’s no way I’d do something like that with him.”
Weyland was an alchemist Kusla knew from long ago. Even though it was for a short time, the two of them had briefly set up a workshop in the port town of Gulbetty, and they would probably do the same in Kazan, the town they were heading to now.
“B-but ….” Fenesis stopped in mid-sentence, and Kusla shrugged.
“Do we look like we believe in stuff like fortune-telling? We were gambling.”
“We were just putting melted lead into water and writing characters. Whoever did it better would be freed of a chore. And then Weyland, he wrote the characters impossibly well. I don’t know what kind of trick he pulled …. In the end, I took on four chores in a row. I did it to finally be released from them.”
Kusla was Eilsen’s servant, and he obtained information about the situation in Kazan from him and a guarantee that he could act freely. Kusla did all that in order to do his job perfectly, because it was true that he was tricked and lost the gamble.
“By the way, where did that Weyland go?”
“… Oh, Weyland … he said he was going all the way to the back of the line ….”
“Huh?” Kusla asked in return, and Fenesis ducked her head like she was being scolded.
“There is a merchant dealing in books … Weyland said he was going to look at a book.”
“Even though I’m working, he’s off doing something refined,” he spat out. Because Kusla was thinking that Weyland was up to something, he was even more irritated. He looked down at the lead boiling above the fire. The pot that Fenesis knocked over was apparently the one with water in it.
“So, what did you want to predict? Surely it wasn’t something like whether or not there was heresy?” When Kusla abruptly got to the point, Fenesis trembled miserably. Even though it was done clumsily, she seemed to have thought that she had somehow or other successfully hidden her intentions.
“Anyway, you probably wanted to predict the future.”
“Uh …” Fenesis moaned and hung her head. She felt guilty about turning to fortune-telling even though she was wearing a nun’s habit. Or perhaps she knew all too well that Kusla would not be happy about her trying to predict the future through fortune-telling.
But Kusla did not laugh at Fenesis or get angry at her. That was because his view of Fenesis had changed slightly. The exact source of this change was how this “little girl” had managed to get the upper hand over him a few days ago.
At that time Fenesis was not a toy that Kusla took advantage of, teased, and played with, but a proper little alchemist who thought for herself, made a plan, and carried it out admirably to get the results she wanted. So when Kusla realized that he had fallen right into her trap, not only was he so mortified that it seemed like his head would split, he was also partly happy that he’d acquired another cohort.
Fenesis said she wanted to become Kusla’s partner, as an alchemist. As one of the cursed bloodline, her life was targeted all the time and she lived scrutinizing people’s expressions, so she probably yearned to be one of those rash people who had no regard for others and didn’t even care about their own lives.
But her motive didn’t matter. The question was whether she could move forward. And Fenesis had the wits and the courage to advance. Even though she was small, she had pulled it off. That was why he decided to pretend not to know about her slight foolishness. Given her amazing ability to scheme if necessary, that foolishness was also a little charming.
“Put water into the pot.”
“After all, it’s just child’s play.” Kusla sat down next to Fenesis. She was flustered, but he ignored it and kept talking.
“Lead melts well even on a log fire. Then when you pour the melted lead into water, it changes into various forms. That’s it. Here, pour the water in.” Kusla thrust the now-empty pot at Fenesis.
She was an obedient girl whose body moved on its own if told to do so. Anyway, by the time Fenesis poured fresh water into the pot, the flames that had weakened from the spilled water had regained strength. Kusla shook the pan a little and checked the condition of the melted lead. Then he lifted the pan with the lead in it and dripped it into the water drop by drop.
Fenesis had been making herself smaller until just a moment ago, but when she saw the behavior of the lead she suddenly peered into the water in a daze. She didn’t even notice Kusla looking at her profile.
He thought she was a simple person, but he didn’t feel it was bad that she was curious about everything. Someone with skill but no curiosity couldn’t become an alchemist.
“… Um,” Fenesis said while staring at the lead in the water, and slowly turned to look at Kusla. “Tha-that shape … what does it mean?”
Kusla gave a little shrug. “I don’t know. Fortune-telling is something village women do.”
“….” Fenesis looked a little disappointed. It seemed she was dying to know about the future.
Not surprisingly, Kusla scolded her. “While I won’t make fun of you for worrying about the future, it’s foolish to rely on something like fortune-telling,” he said, and Fenesis hung her head.
Of course, though, he understood her worries. Irine being unable to sit still and going off to help with the meals, and Eilsen dealing with the local lord in a particularly high-handed manner—each of these actions had the same root cause. They were worried about whether this colonization could succeed. If not, they would all have nowhere to go.
“Worrying is definitely not abnormal. But when you set me up, did you just simply believe in the outcome?”
After a little hesitation, Fenesis said, “… No.”
“Right?” Kusla said without amusement.
To summarize the trap that Fenesis had caught Kusla in …. She had bet on the expectation that he was a good person. She tried to get Kusla to save Weyland, who was suffering the consequences of a stupid involvement with a noble lady and who appeared to have been held up in Gulbetty, and she encouraged him to overlook the secret mining of gold by nomadic tribes. Both outcomes would have been inconceivable for Kusla up until now.
Basically, Fenesis expected that he would do it because he was a good person. Kusla didn’t really want to acknowledge it, but he did have some ideas as to why she had such an expectation. For that reason, Fenesis, who was daft with most things but quick-witted at odd times, had formed a hypothesis based on the facts she’d observed and carried it out skillfully.
“If that’s the case, the current situation is the same. Observe the facts and test them. Then construct your hypothesis. Verifying it is particularly important. Only then should you say something, but even so predictions always entail uncertainty. Assumptions are scary things. And misreading the results is not even the worst possible thing.”
When Kusla said this, Fenesis looked at him with her clear, green eyes. She was someone who listened carefully to what people said.
“The worst thing about baseless predictions such as fortune-telling is being completely unable to shake something off once you believe it. Because of that, people overlook important things and often interpret things to suit themselves. When dealing with matters where the causes and outcome are uncertain, there is always the risk of ending up in a maze, and the ill will of others might even be waiting on the road ahead.”
Kusla had no desire to tease and laugh at Fenesis, nor any desire to preach at her or stand above her. He simply wanted to tell her not to make a stupid mistake because she was finally trying to stand on her own feet.
“So don’t go around thoughtlessly predicting the future using something like fortune-telling. On top of that, you’re hoping for only good things, right? In this lousy world, no sane person would believe in fortune-telling.”
“But why not …?” Fenesis opened her mouth as if she were speaking without thinking, but Kusla glared at her and she shut up. But she then averted her gaze, and said with a rare sulkiness, “… I think you’re always too pessimistic.”
She glanced fleetingly at him. If he were a town craftsman with a stable life, it would probably be fine to pray for tomorrow to be a good day too. But unfortunately, Kusla was an alchemist, and in an alchemist’s workshop, ill will creeps in all the time. Nothing good happens when you let down your guard. He had told Fenesis that any number of times.
Besides, what Kusla wanted to say was just a bit different. “I’m not pessimistic. In fact, I’m not particularly worried about the future.”
“….” Fenesis seemed a bit confused. She knitted her pretty brows, thinking that Kusla was once again speaking in riddles.
“But I have my own reasons. It’s totally different from your reliance on fortune-telling.”
Glancing sidelong at the dejected Fenesis, Kusla added charcoal onto the fire where the lead was melting. The smell of delicious food wafted in from afar.
“Why do you think I’ve responded so obediently to Eilsen’s summons?”
Kusla heaved a sigh at Fenesis asking that again.
“Are you aware of what kind of work I’m made to do?” Kusla asked very sarcastically.
The childish Fenesis quickly looked at him, offended, and said, “V-verification at the customs office.”
“That’s right. And what I assess are the tributes presented by the local lords. By rights, however, it’s where the lords collect taxes.”
“The ones respectfully bowing and scraping are not the knights. Understand? The local lords assemble on their own land and pay their respects to the Order. Even though we’re already in Latoria. What does that mean?”
“… Uh … mm.” Fenesis’ gaze wandered in confusion. Kusla did not let the chance go by, and teasingly blew on her face. Caught off guard, Fenesis closed her eyes, and after wiping her face, she glared angrily at Kusla. It was childish teasing of a child.
“Those guys who are resigned to lowering their heads to messengers have surely already heard about Latoria’s queen. Yet even so, they think that it’s prudent to kneel. The power of the Order is still overwhelming. They think it’s better to bow down to the Order. Accordingly, if you think about it normally, there’s no way the Order will accept the queen’s conversion. It is bound to use its political power freely and obstruct this with all its might.”
“And it is only when you have this basic understanding that you should think there’s not much need to worry from here on. Baselessly, irresponsibly, and thoughtlessly believing it’s easy to know the future through fortune-telling, like you do, is wrong from the outset.”
With each word, Fenesis’ head drooped more, and at the end she curled up like she was going to cry.
“I’m not pessimistic. I’m simply cautious. And rather than optimistic, you are just careless by dabbling in fortune-telling. That time in Gulbetty with the golden sheep … well, it wasn’t that bad, but anyway, things are significantly different now. Got it?”
Being admonished in this logical way, Fenesis naturally felt downhearted, because she understood that he was right. Kusla thought her intelligence and obedience were not bad things, but Fenesis suddenly spoke without looking at him.
“Wh-what you said is right … I think.”
“Not ‘think.’ It is clearly right.” At his correction, Fenesis discontentedly clammed up. But she didn’t fall silent.
“Y-yes, but there are some things that can’t be verified … I think ….”
Kusla looked at Fenesis. Avoiding his gaze, she stared down at the fire. He thought for a few moments, then asked, “What did you want foretold?”
Fenesis turned a sulky look on him. She was just a bit angry, like when she was being teased.
“I don’t wish to say.” She suddenly turned away.
Without showing any expression, Kusla grabbed her ear through her veil. “Tell me!”
Fenesis screamed silently and twisted away. He hadn’t meant to grab hard, but it was a sensitive place. Kusla let go, and she glared at him with tears in her eyes, holding her head.
“Tell me. What did you want to predict?”
There was still lead in the pot, and it was simmering on the fire. Fenesis looked back and forth between the lead and what her hands were doing. But Kusla remained motionless, so eventually she seemed to give up. She didn’t look at Kusla, perhaps as a token gesture of protest.
“Th-the future, and ….” She said, pursing her lips. “Whether or not everyone can still be together …. That’s what I wanted to know.”
Finally, she raised her eyes and looked at Kusla. Taken aback, he could not immediately mask his expression. He was at a loss for words, because he himself never thought of such a thing.
But this was indeed very much like Fenesis. Innocent and completely without malice, she just quietly wished for a small happiness. And yet she didn’t even say “With everyone”. Because hers was a cursed existence, she said “Everyone,” unconsciously assuming she would eventually be separated from them.
Kusla felt something akin to embarrassment for one-sidedly presenting his coldhearted theories to someone like her.
“And besides.” Fenesis suddenly spoke, and Kusla faltered for a moment, but he was clearly better than Fenesis at not showing his feelings overtly.
“What?” He said shortly.
Fenesis slowly looked away and said, “Furthermore, while I think that your methodology is correct, I can’t believe that’s all there is.”
“Because you view the world … a little too harshly.”
Fenesis’ eyes were filled with a strange confidence, which Kusla thought was odd. It was right after that when it happened.
“A hypothesis based on the observation of reality … right?”
Kusla could not look away from her green eyes.
“This fortune-telling … No, gambling …”
Kusla stared at Fenesis seriously for a moment, and then the next moment scrutinized her eyes. “What do you mean?”
Encouraged by Kusla’s response, Fenesis straightened her usually hunched back, and said, “You suspected Weyland of fraud, but I don’t think you should have.”
“If you were betting on whether the lead would form a letter, I think it’d be a simple matter. If it was the fortune-telling that village women often do, wouldn’t Weyland have been used to doing this often with those women?”
For something like flipping a coin and guessing which side, people who are used to this can manipulate the throw and be spot on every time. You can’t manipulate this, though, he had thought. But that was a miscalculation.
Groaning, Kusla suddenly noticed Fenesis’ gaze. “What are you on about?”
Fenesis didn’t even smile. “Observing the facts and verifying the hypothesis. But even when the facts are the same, I think different people notice different things. You suspected Weyland was cheating, but I don’t think he’s that kind of person.”
She had used his own reasoning against him. He felt beyond foolish.
“So in that case, seeing a positive future in the shape of the lead …. That is, I want you to ease up on me.”
That was Fenesis’ meager protest. She wasn’t totally immersed in fortune-telling; it was just a small comfort. Kusla understood why he had felt embarrassed. It was because he himself had been unable to understand games simply as games because of his rejection of fortune-telling.
Fenesis did indeed innocently wish to continue her relationships with Kusla and the others, but by no means did her innocence ignore the truth.
“But if he really does cheat … I probably wouldn’t notice because of my ignorance. Therefore, if I follow that logic, your knowledge and experience, as well as your discerning eye, are necessary. But …” Fenesis said apprehensively.
“How about … you just lighten up a little? Of course, I too understand that this is a secret to survival. But even so…you always seem pained,” she herself said painfully.
Kusla didn’t know what to do. Alchemists are always regarded as a threat, looked at with suspicious eyes, and treated as a tool by their employers. To get by in such a world, they became indifferent to people’s feelings, think only about their own profit, and excel in understanding trickery. In that situation, Kusla thought he had never had such straightforward feelings directed at him.
Then he muttered “That’s not true” to himself. There was one time.
That was when he first had feelings for Fenesis. For Kusla, who could only behave like himself, true to his name meaning “interest,” that was when he realized he could really like someone.
But …, Kusla thought. He couldn’t help but feel that following her suggestion would mean he would lose out to something. He felt his wildness would be tamed.
Kusla stared back at Fenesis bitterly, but she looked at him as if she cared for him from the bottom of her heart. In her eyes was only a transparent sincerity.
In the end, Kusla couldn’t deal with being on the receiving end of forgiveness, and he pinched Fenesis’ small nose.
“Just leave me alone,” he said brusquely to the surprised Fenesis.
And he wiggled her nose all around, letting go after she got upset. He had no sense of superiority. Feeling like he had lost horribly, Kusla took a deep breath.
After a short while, the red-headed Irine came back, bringing lunch in a steaming pot.
She greeted Fenesis, who was alone by the fire, and then glanced at Kusla, who was drinking in the wagon bed. Since Fenesis was staring at him reproachfully, Irine seemed to guess the source of Fenesis’ sulkiness.
She dished out wheat porridge into four bowls from the pot and took two to the wagon, along with a scolding. “Did you tease her again?”
But Kusla, of course, refused to explain. How could he have admitted he teased Fenesis because he couldn’t deal with her worrying about him to his face?
“ … She’s just getting herself all upset.”
“Good grief, you’re like a young apprentice who can’t stay out of trouble.”
Irine, who worked in the smithy, had the nosy disposition of a meddler. He heard that she was also largely the instigator behind the trap Fenesis laid the other day. Given that, it was definitely this girl’s fault that Fenesis had been getting closer to Kusla. He had the scary thought that although the smelting process doesn’t change even when the amount of iron doubles, it seemed women change when there are more of them.
His stomach growled when he smelled the wheat porridge with melted cheese, so he accepted the meal Irine brought, but nothing else. Perhaps because he was always upsetting Fenesis, Irine gave up and didn’t press matters further.
“So where’s Weyland?”
“He said he was going to play at the rear of the line. Who knows when he’ll come back?”
“Eh …. Then there’ll be some food left over?” she asked and looked down at the other bowl in her hands. In different ways than Fenesis, Irine often left herself open to teasing.
“Don’t sound so happy.”
“Wh-what do you mean!?” Irine—who was quick to respond, was simple, and was easy to understand—could immediately become the main attraction if she went to a bar. Perhaps because she was such a contrast with the pure, white Fenesis, their relationship was particularly good.
“If you can’t eat it by yourself, give it to me. It’s a waste to throw it out.”
Irine looked at Kusla reluctantly and said, “Halvsies.”
Thanks to the smithy, where many people lived together, she was competitive for food. Kusla nodded silently without making any rude remark, took the other bowl from Irine, and divvied up half of Weyland’s portion into his own bowl.
“Ah, that reminds me,” Irine added, as if as an afterthought. “There was a rumor even at the cooking tent ….”
When Kusla looked suspiciously at her, she flinched a little, but continued, “Is the situation in Kazan okay? You’re working alongside that guy Eilsen, right?”
Because she was the widow of the master, Irine had taken the position of chief of the blacksmith’s association of the port town Gulbetty. Despite not being respected by anyone and having a hard time, Irine didn’t complain. That was because she firmly believed in the promise with her husband, a respected craftsman, that she would take over the position and lead the association.
Even Irine, who was usually stoic, seemed uneasy about the future. Kusla understood well that the rumor was a clumsy excuse and that she was the type of person who couldn’t really tell complicated lies.
Kusla came to this conclusion, but ground his teeth at the fact that there were times he had been fooled by Irine and Fenesis. He pretended that he was chewing the wooden spoon, exaggeratedly shrugged, and asked, “What would you do if I said things were terrible and there was nothing to be done?”
Irine was startled for a few moments, but soon glared at Kusla. “Can you stop with that kind of joke?”
“When you don’t understand something in the smithy, do you immediately ask the master?”
“You must have been told often to observe and steal. He really spoils you.”
In terms of logical ability, Fenesis might be superior to Irine. Irine talked a lot, but soon was held back by her feelings. That impulsiveness was typical of her straightforward personality.
“So, look closely at me and think about it.” Kusla put on an affectedly pleasing smile; Irine made a disgusted face and fully bared her teeth. There was a different kind of pleasure in teasing Irine compared with teasing Fenesis.
“Things seem fine for now, but ….”
“….” Irine looked at Kusla, annoyed.
His shoulders shook with laughter, and then someone appeared. “I’m sorry for interrupting your meal.”
Kusla looked over and saw three men who seemed to be mercenaries. “If it’s food you’re after, go somewhere else.”
“No, no. We heard you guys have tree oil, so could you share some with us?” The mercenaries were holding well-used cloaks made from some animal’s fur.
“Tree oil? Ah, tar, right? We’ve got some. Hey.”
When Kusla called out to Irine, who had been sulking, she took the leather cloaks from the mercenaries, muttering “So self-important.”
“Sorry, little lady. It seems like it’s going to rain or snow again in the afternoon.”
“No, I’m upset because of that disagreeable guy over there.”
Puzzled, the mercenaries looked at Kusla. He sipped the wheat porridge, ignoring them. Grumbling away, Irine took the mercenaries’ cloaks, then lightly jumped up on the wagon and fished through the luggage.
The tree oil the mercenaries mentioned, called tar or pitch, was a kind of oil obtained by heating a certain kind of wood, and it had various uses like preserving meat or treating skin diseases. Because it was an oil, it also repelled water. Irine and Weyland had made tree oil at the smithy in Gulbetty.
Shortly after they set out on their journey, it had rained, and word seemed to have gotten around that painting tar on would prevent water from seeping through the wagon covers.
The tar wasn’t hard to refine, but it was expensive due to the labor and fuel costs, so it was best to get it when you could. Kusla and everyone made it using the Order’s money, so they weren’t stingy with it.
Ignoring Irine, Kusla suddenly noticed that Weyland’s portion of wheat porridge that he had split with Irine was sitting untouched. He couldn’t bear to let it cool like that, plus it was something Irine had earned as compensation for her work. Tired, Kusla stood up and took the remaining porridge to the fire. He put it into Irine’s bowl and placed it next to the fire to keep it warm.
While he did that, Fenesis was restlessly eating some porridge with a wooden spoon and forcing herself not to look at Kusla.
“Hey.” When he spoke to her, Fenesis reacted like a startled cat, but she didn’t turn around, making Kusla smile crookedly. He was amused at her simple and childish reaction as well as how she sometimes backed him into a corner.
“You didn’t know about tar, right? What did you do about rain when you traveled?”
When Kusla asked that normal question, he knew that Fenesis’ ears were twitching under her veil. She probably wanted to tell him not to talk so familiarly with her because they were fighting, but she also felt bad about ignoring somebody who was speaking to her. Of course, Kusla had deliberately called out to her because he enjoyed her reactions.
In the end, it seemed like her sincerity won out. She turned around unhappily and answered, “… I used regular oil and … something with the same effect.”
“Really? The same effect?” Kusla asked in return, and Fenesis seemed to realize her mistake in continuing the conversation. She wrinkled her brow like she was suffering a headache, but gave up on being stubborn towards Kusla, who again asked what she meant.
“… It was something other than tar, I think,” she said, and returned her spoon to the bowl. “Certainly, there is that kind of oil, but it doesn’t come from a tree. It comes from small rivers or ponds. It floats on top of water, and you gather a lot of it with linen and drain the water. It was an oil that was more pitch black, had a strange smell, and burned well.”
Fenesis came from a place far south of here and astoundingly far to the east from there. He heard that that land was dominated by the scorching sun and endless sand and stone.
Kusla raised his chin slightly. “I’ve heard there’s an oil taken from rocks that has roughly the same effect as tar.”
“Yes. It was also called stone oil. But it’s more commonly called black pitch.”
“Ah, black pitch, I remember now. I’ve seen it once or twice, but it was only enough to fit in a small bottle. It’s something that you definitely can’t get here.”
While Kusla was talking, Fenesis’ gaze suddenly became distant. She was seeing somewhere else, and Kusla peered into her eyes and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Eh? Ah, it’s nothing ….” Fenesis came to her senses and, a little embarrassed, said, “I just remembered something, from long ago ….”
“Yes. Long ago I saw a lake of black pitch.”
Kusla thought that there was no way she could have seen that, but he remembered that Fenesis had come here from a far-away place. It was so distant that it was spoken of only in fairy tales.
“On days when the sun was blazing, it stank so much you couldn’t breathe, but the sight of part of the lake always on fire was incredible. Burning morning, noon, and night, it seemed like the end of the world, and yet also like the beginning ….”
Fenesis’ expression as she reminisced was one Kusla had seen before. It was the face of someone who had experienced one of the wonders of the world and hence no longer cared what befell them.
Fenesis suddenly smiled with self-derision and said quietly, “I don’t think I can get you to believe me ….”
By normal standards, a story about a burning lake would probably be regarded as the delusion of an uneducated girl. But Kusla was an alchemist and would surely spend his whole life chasing seeming illusions.
“I want to hear all the details.”
Puzzled, Fenesis stared back at Kusla.
“A lake of black pitch? How big was it? Do you know the exact place? Did fish live in it? Did the pitch flow in from somewhere? Or did it gush up from the ground? You said one part burns, but why doesn’t the whole thing burn?”
Fenesis blinked incessantly at Kusla’s rapid questions.
Kusla was burning with curiosity. If a burning lake exists in this world, then it was possible there were other mysteries as well. That was better evidence than anything that this world was not a boring place, but was filled with mysteries and that it was worth carrying on even through hardships.
“B-but ….” Fenesis said while backing away from Kusla, who was excitedly questioning her. She looked up at Kusla with worried, perhaps slightly criticizing, eyes. And then she said, “But … you won’t seriously listen to me, right? So I d-don’t want to … tell you.”
Just a bit ago, in response to Fenesis’ sincere concern, Kusla had pinched her nose and wiggled it around. This was Fenesis’ justified revenge. But when it came to willfulness, this alchemist rivaled even a king.
“I’m not interested in you, but I am interested in what you saw.”
Fenesis was so taken aback that she snapped up straight, but Kusla placed his bowl of wheat porridge by Fenesis without hesitation. “Look, I’ll share my cheese, so tell me.”
At this, Fenesis took a big breath like she was on the verge of yelling, but in the end let it out exhaustedly. “You are … the worst ….”
“What have you seen of me up until now?”
Offended, Fenesis stared up at Kusla from under her lashes.
“… Meanie.” Fenesis seemed to have mustered up a lot of courage to say this girly word, and even though she had averted her gaze, she looked worriedly at Kusla once more.
He said with a serious face, “I’m not mean. I’m an alchemist.”
Fenesis made an extremely reluctant face, but didn’t look away from Kusla. “… It’s just what I saw.”
She was a girl who did what she was told.
“Of course.” As befitting alchemy which turns lead to gold, Kusla changed his expression to a smile. Fenesis was still reluctant, but finally sighed with resignation, and also seeming a bit happy, falteringly began to tell him about the scene she saw long ago.
Fenesis finished telling Kusla about the mysterious burning lake about the same time Irine finished coating the mercenaries’ cloaks in tar. Perhaps not satisfied helping with only the meal, Irine felt quite refreshed after her manual labor, but when she returned to the fire, she immediately became suspicious.
That was because Fenesis, whose mood had improved by having someone listen to her story, was servilely making tea, which she had recently learned how to do, for Kusla. When Fenesis went to the cart to put away the tea leaves, Irine said, “I’m worried she’ll be cheated by a rake,” like she was insinuating something.
“You mean like Weyland?”
“Weyland would be the lesser evil.”
Kusla shrugged. After it was fully dark, Weyland finally returned. For some reason, he had brought a heap of books. He’d probably said something about returning them when he got to Kazan, but whether he actually would was doubtful.
Weyland was so shameless that he shocked even Kusla a little bit, but his interest in books was another story. While Kusla was browsing enthusiastically through the books, Weyland took one of the books and presented it to Fenesis, who had a similarly keen interest in books.
“Here, this is for little Ul.”
“Eh? For … me?”
Laughing, Weyland handed the book to the confused Fenesis. Bewildered, she timidly opened it, and Kusla too could see the magnificent illustrations.
“This is ….”
“Apparently it’s a collection of folklore and legends about Kazan and the surrounding area. Because little Ul doesn’t seem averse to this kind of thing~”
“….” Still with the same absentminded expression, Fenesis looked at Weyland, and then at the book in her hands. Then she looked once more at Weyland and laughed softly. “Thank you so much.”
“Nah, it’s nothing special~” Weyland was a complete womanizer. “This is for little Irine.”
“Can you stop calling me that?”
Irine, who was surely a more skilled craftsman than others though conscious of her youth, seemed a bit put out at being called “little”, but obediently took the book. She was surprised when she opened it up. “Huh, this is…?”
“It’s a cookbook~”
“A cookbook?” It was Kusla who asked this.
Why give such a thing to Irine? he thought. Weyland laughed, saying, “Look, little Irine, you often help with the meals for the craftsmen, right? I thought you’d be interested~”
“Ah, no, that is ….” Irine was confused. Kusla felt as though he saw something a little unusual. Kusla had mistakenly thought that Irine was helping to earn some pocket money, or to kill time, or else to distract herself from her worries about the future, and so Weyland’s assumption was clearly wrong. However, Irine hugged the book to her chest and shyly said, “… Th-thank you.”
Moreover, she expressed her gratitude happily and bashfully like a maiden receiving a gift for the first time. Kusla was surprised at her unexpected response, and Weyland nodded like that was only natural.
Two happy women and the smug Weyland. Kusla, who didn’t understand women’s feelings at all, found nothing amusing in this. “And is there anything for me?”
“Aah? But the books will be returned later, so don’t get them dirty,” Weyland said unpleasantly. Kusla knew he definitely said that on purpose, but because the two women were chuckling at the situation, he was even less amused.
“Did you forget about the favor in Gulbetty?” Kusla asked. Weyland shrugged and quickly reached out and hugged Fenesis’ small shoulders.
“I heard little Ul saved me …?”
Although Fenesis was a little surprised, she wasn’t scared of Weyland like she had been when they first met. With Weyland’s arms still around her shoulders, she was laughing like she’d been tickled.
“I heard that too.” Even Irine followed suit, her eyes seeming to say “Serves you right.”
“….” Kusla thought it would only bring trouble if he opened his mouth, so he silently took a book from the pile and forced himself to concentrate on its discussion of sulfur.
No matter how little ahead you can see, if you keep moving forward, somehow or other you can reach a conclusion. As if to prove that, Kusla’s group was standing on a hill overlooking the town of Kazan.
Even though there had been nothing but plains that continued forever, the gods had begun working two days ago. Seen from the top of the hill, Kazan and the large mining area spread out behind it were sights that could be called the work of the ancient gods.
The men frequently thought they had almost reached Kazan, but last night they realized they were right on top of it. Eilsen and his men had probably been considering whether to enter Kazan up until the last moment. If they thought they were still far from Kazan, it would be easier to head back. If they thought they were close, they would probably approach the city even if it meant loosening the reins.
“It’s like a fortress, huh,” said Irine while holding down her hair, which was blown by the cold, dry wind.
“More like ruins.” Weyland replied, but Kusla thought that both were right.
Kazan was made to be a gate at the entrance of the mining area. The city walls were high, and they surrounded the huge town like a solid fortress. Because their color closely resembled that of the nearby mountain stone, the town also seemed like ruins that had been exposed to the wind for hundreds of years.
Right now over a thousand knights, who had taken over Kazan, were apparently stationed there. Even though they had taken over the town, they had simply dissolved the council that managed Kazan instead of Latoria’s queen and banished the people who had fought in the war, but over two thousand people remained in the town.
Nevertheless, according to the reports of the knights who had thoroughly checked the number of kitchens and vacant houses after the town surrendered, there were still plenty of houses for the colonists to live in, as well as jobs. When they heard that, everybody in the unit cheered wholeheartedly. It was the moment they won their gamble. It meant that there wasn’t unrest in Kazan and that Latoria’s political situation was calm despite the news of the queen’s conversion, and if they completed the settlement things would work out somehow.
Eilsen and his men had probably ridden their horses hard, keeping in contact with the knights’ forces stationed in various places so as to keep abreast of things everywhere. No doubt they had also discerned the attitudes of the nobles who came with tributes in hand during the journey, and they had concluded that everything was alright.
Their good luck exceeded their expectations. Fenesis, who believed in that sort of thing, was of course staring enthusiastically at Kazan. For her part, Irine couldn’t bear it anymore and got off the wagon.
“Caravan! Advance!” Someone in the cavalry shouted while waving the flag on his lance. Everyone began moving quietly without cheering, probably because they were so full of hope and happiness that they couldn’t even shout.
Kusla’s group moved with the flow. And of course he too was busy calculating what he should do once he got over the city walls.
“What will you do when you enter the town?” Suddenly faced with this question, Kusla stared fixedly at her for a few moments.
“Errr ….” Fenesis said, perplexed by Kusla’s unexpected response.
But Kusla was confused too. “I explained it last night, right? I’ll descend on the libraries of the nobles and companies with that rascal Weyland. You do your job too, because we don’t know when something might happen.”
When he said that, Fenesis blinked in surprise and said worriedly, “Ah, um … that’s not what I meant ….”
“As for me, I might look for some cute girls who’ve suffered during the war,” Weyland suddenly cut into the conversation. “And I’ll even give them flowers~”
“Ugh, Weyland, not again … that’s not funny.” Fenesis turned a fed-up gaze on Weyland, but he was happy just for her to be looking at him.
Kusla turned both a cold gaze and cold words on Weyland. “We won’t do anything. We’ll just look at what we should look at.” He wasn’t scolding the light-hearted Weyland, or Irine, or even Fenesis. Kusla had come here for this reason and was living for that purpose. He wasn’t going to waste a moment, because wasting time would make Magdala that much further away.
“You’re so serious~” Weyland was fed up. Then he looked at Fenesis. “Is there anything little Ul wants to do~?”
Fenesis had been looking at the stubborn Kusla with slightly sad eyes, but when Weyland asked her that, she became very shy. It seemed like there was something, so he had brought it up with Kusla to lay the groundwork.
I was too thick and didn’t notice, Kusla thought to himself.
“Um, there is something I want to see.”
“Oh, what’s that~?”
Outside of the workshop, Weyland was a typical womanizer. Kusla, annoyed at Weyland enjoying his conversation with Fenesis, was also a bit interested in what she wanted to see, and he stole a glance at her out of the corner of his eye.
“They’re in this book I’ve borrowed, but I’ve heard there are many old legends in Kazan.”
“Ah, that’s right. That’s because it was originally a mine before Latoria existed. It seems it’s been there since lots of immigrants came from the East over five hundred years ago.”
“Is that right?”
“Well, I’ve just heard a few things. And? What does little Ul want to see?”
“Ah, yes. Um, it’s this ….” Fenesis reached up and grabbed something from the wagon bed. As he watched Fenesis struggle to pick up a large book, Kusla silently thought he wanted to tease her.
But Weyland was there, and Irine had returned to the wagon, so he behaved himself. Fenesis, who of course didn’t notice anything, opened the book and showed a page to Weyland. When Kusla turned to look, he could see several illustrations, although they could better be described as copies of some other pictures. There were many people and a monster like a dragon. Perhaps because the dragon was breathing fire, a heroic man was resisting with a large shield.
“Eh~? Little Ul, you’re interested in this kind of thing? That’s surprising~”
Surely he felt it was the type of adventure story that young boys enjoy. But there were onlookers around the dragon and hero, and the atmosphere was somehow carefree, just like an exhibition. Perhaps Fenesis was captivated by that relaxed feeling.
She said shyly, “Um … But I want to see this. I heard it is drawn somewhere in town that was originally a mine.”
“Hmm.” Weyland nodded and raised his head from the book then grinned at Fenesis. “Then, I’ll take you there.”
“Looking at technical books is good, but you can learn a lot from seeing the ruins of a mine. But that’s a side benefit~”
“Thank you very much.” Fenesis expressed her thanks with a wide smile, and Weyland nodded in satisfaction. But his glance at Kusla suggested that he had done this very much on purpose.
Kusla, irritated by Weyland’s actions and Fenesis’ innocence, pretended to ignore them and by no means showed his feelings, because Irine was watching.
Right then the company became noisy. Eilsen, at the forefront of the advance guard from the Azami Crest unit that would enter the town first, opened Kazan’s gate. Everyone probably saw this as the moment their new world opened up before them.
Of course, Kusla was no exception. The knowledge and techniques of the pagans left behind in Kazan. There awaited a new, unknown world. He told himself not to be rash. But like everyone else, it was impossible for Kusla to suppress such burgeoning hopes.