Magdala de Nemure:Volume07

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Novel Illustrations[edit]

These are the novel illustrations that were included in Magdala de Nemure Volume 7


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Prologue[edit]

In the past, he was dubbed the restless alchemist. Rumors accumulated, for the outside world could not look into the workshop that was lit all night long.

But looking at the situation, it might be more appropriate him the alchemist with no time to sleep.

In fact, experiments were tax consuming. There were times where he needed to control the fire for the entire nights, or keep stirring, during which he could never look away.

Thus, he was trained not to look away for long periods of time during his apprenticeship. In mid-winter, he kept staring at the block of ice on the table, observing the changes occurring. It was an arduous training.

He saw the white mist seeping out, a thin layer of mist on the surface, silently melting away. He never missed any of it, and at the same time, kept recording the changes on the stone tablet using lime.

If his observations were not good enough, he would be beaten. This was probably how ice would look like when melting, but if he had recorded down the changes using imagination or assumptions only, he would also get beaten. For the first time in his life, he learned that it was not easy to observe things as they were.

Ordinary townsfolk had no training, and neither did they know the purpose. They harbored fear for no apparent reason with regards to his sleeplessness. The clergymen dubbed ‘KuslaInterest’ as a sin, for interest has no breaks or rest, continuing to pile on, and was an anomaly from the balance between toil and rest God had mandated.

And so, this certain alchemist was spending time on a certain afternoon.

He, already used to observing various things silently, was paying attention as usual for a long time. His attention was directed at something basking in the sunlight beneath a polished glass window. It was a little girl hunched like wool, sprawled upon a massive book spread upon a table.

She looked as though she was about to burrow into the book, or that she, already asleep, was dragged out of the book. She had a pretty face, white skin, and peerless hair, along with cat-like triangular ears shaking on her head. Anyone trying to conjure an image of her would end up finding it surreal.

The shoulder-length hair reflecting the sunlight resembled faint purple. Her nape was exposed, revealing the tender, pretty collarbones. Unfortunately, it was overly delicate, without much flesh, and the exposed collarbone stood out. While she had taken her proper meals, her body remained as such. Was it due to her body type? Being too young? Or both?

The fingertips gently grazed the protruding bones, and she eked out a strange sound from deep within her throat, turning to the other side.

She showed no signs of waking up, so the fingertips continued to slide to the back of her head, into her hair. The hair was softer than usual as it was exposed under the warm sun, and it should resemble the feeling of putting the fingers into the warm snow.

Aside from the rustling of the hair strands, all he could hear was soft snoring.

Alchemy was a skill of understanding the element of the item, controlling it and changing. By this context, while he had understood this little girl somewhat, he could not control and change her much. Her unexpected actions or sudden changes left him shocked, and this proved he was lacking in observation and experiments.

So the alchemist thought as he withdrew the fingers from the silky hair, before tapping the triangular eyes twitching above her head. The ears reacted like a cat’s upon being touched, swaying back and forth, trying to shoo off those disturbing her sleep.

However, any alchemist worth his salt was to do one thing after observing and experimenting.

To preserve the subject.

Anything left as it was would absorb moisture and become limp, degrading when exposed to sunlight. People were familiar with the phenomena called deliquescence. Even glass would become brittle over a long time, let alone metals which showed spots of rust here and there. Those with rust would end up completely different.

Before experimenting, any subject with drastic changes in nature would end up ruining the whole process completely, and any loss or damage would be preposterous. He had to ensure the subject was not stolen or damaged, he had to protect it.

So he wondered, could he do it?

His tendency was to follow the nature of his profession, his answers often biased to the negative. Change remained constant, and he should not remain rooted. Alchemy in particular was established due to this reasoning, and this world was filled with cruelty and irrationality. Since he lived, he should never be hoping for peace.

However, there was a thought hidden in his heart defying all logic, experience, one simply borne out of his own motives.

He wanted to protect.

He did not know how reckless this plan would be. However, it was proven that whenever an alchemist made up his mind, he would be more relentless than a snake.

And if he could really protect her until the very end, he might be able to rid himself of the ‘restless alchemist’ moniker.

For he would rest in Magdala.

Alchemists lived for this after all.



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Act 1[edit]

A shaving blade was used to cautiously pry a thin, long crystal that was somewhat white and sharp on the edges. The blade itself was unique, one used to divide a thick parchment into three thin layers.

By removing the tip a little, the blade was brought with the crystallized power into the candle flame, which turned purple. Though there was a clear color change, a few blinks later, the flame reverted to its original color.

Though it was called the fragment of the sun, the color shown was nowhere near being the sun.

“If it’s purple, it’s probably not tartar, but alum. Pot ash~.”

Weyland, resembling a bandit with his messy long hair and stubble, scratched his chin as he noted. If anyone had commented on his resemblance to one, surely he would cheerily respond ‘I specialize in stealing women’s hearts’.

What he had mentioned were names of some common medicinal stones. Tartar is a crystal formed in wine, mostly scraped from the barrel, used to preserve meat or tanned leather. Alum too had the same purpose, a common favorite for fur makers. ‘Pot ash’ however was the remaining crystals formed when the ash of burned plants was submerged in water, and the clear parts were cooled and vaporized. It could be used similarly to tartar, and also as a material for soap. All these materials had a common characteristic of forming purple flames when roasted over fire.

Kusla and company were investigated on the mythical miracle left behind by an angel, and the crystals were the clues given to them by the glassmakers residing near Yazon. It was said it was a material that could summon the sun, a sun’s fragment.

“These three were investigated thoroughly, according to tradition, but I never heard that any of them could be used to summon the sun.”

“Hmu…you’re right~.”

Weyland, who had been bending down to stare at the candlelight, straightened his back and hammered at it a few times.

“We say that, but we never thought lead oxide could be used in glass making.”

Truly that was the case. It was only recently that they realized the things around them had innate extraordinary effects.

The grandparents and ancestors of the glassmakers who gave the sun fragments to Kusla nearly bankrupted themselves seeking substitutes for the legendary ash to be used in glassmaking. They repeated the experiments many times, even burning all plants to ash, but it all ended for naught. Thus ended their dreams. In fact, they never required that much effort, and the ash was not of plant, but simply lead oxide. It was extremely common, a side product of a blacksmith workshop, and was at most used for cosmetics.

The town and the glassmakers had many disputes, and the blacksmiths and glassmakers especially were at loggerheads over the fuel issue. Thus, the findings remained undiscovered for long.

“Also, none of tartar, alum, ‘pot ash’ burn like oil. Can’t really imagine these things being able to cut through the darkness in the forest and chase away the beasts.”

“This is where it doesn’t make sense~…”

“The results show that it’s not toxic, tasteless, odorless, dissolves in water, and gives a purple flame…what do you think. Any ideas?”

Kusla rattled off the characteristics listed on the stone plate, asking the red-haired girl Irine. The latter was a capable blacksmith, obsessed with smelting, but strangely, had little interest in whatever medicinal stones were used. She had been watching a cage placed on a shelf.

The hole in the wooden cage was somewhat large, with two mice inside.

“Hm? I can think of only those three for purple flames. Salt is yellow, eggshells are orange…green for bronze. Maybe some ores that are tougher to burn will show bright red sometimes.”

During the smelting process, various items would be thrown into the fire. A capable blacksmith such as Irine would have decent observation skills, and she probably would not let it slip.

Thus, they would have to look into new usage of common medicinal stones, for they had to investigate the crystal, this ‘sun fragment’, that the head had entrusted to them.

“More importantly, shouldn’t we release these mice? It’s rare that they survived your inhumane experiments. Will be pitiful to keep them locked up.”

At this phase, they knew it was not toxic. Of course, they did not use it on themselves.

However, it was after they confirmed the survival of the mice, and tasted it, that they found it odorless.

“How kind of you. Haven’t you experienced mice biting through the tool grips?”

“I got bitten on the ankle while sleeping by the fire, but that’s another story, right?”

Irine sought the agreement of another girl next to her.

“Erm……yes. I do think it is not right to kill…”

The white hair was cut, revealing Fenesis’ tender neck. One would have assumed she was an apprentice dressed in boyish clothes, but the boyish clothes emphasized her feminine charms, leaving Kusla anxious.

This was one reason why Kusla was scowling away.

The remaining reason being that even with her boyish clothing, she could not disguise the girlish presence, and innocence.”

“You’ll develop feelings feeding these things. Didn’t I warn you already!?”

Upon being reproached, Fenesis shriveled her neck back, looking devastated.

Though Kusla had warned them beforehand, she, along with Irine, fed the mice crumbs through the gaps of the cage, smiling away. The southern mice often looked ugly and ferocious, for they were always scamping through the flow of dirty drain water, greedily nibbling upon carcasses of various creatures and leftovers. However, the mice of Yazon were not. There were few stone structures, most houses having hay on their roofs, and some would rear lamb atop them. Thus, the mice here resembled more like passing ones from the forests.

They were cute, relatively skin, their fur of wilted leaves colored, glossy and oily. Whenever they twitched their round eyes and little noses innocently, anyone would be overwhelmed with an urge to dote on them.

However, mice being mice, they would multiply exponentially, even nibbling on various experimental tools and materials. They were always top of the rankings on the list of organisms people hoped to erase from the surface.

“Is that all your ears can do? Doesn’t your blood boil seeing these mice?”

Hearing that, Fenesis immediately pouted and refuted,

“I am no cat!”

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 04.jpg

Tchi tchi tchi, the mice shrieked, probably shocked by her outburst.

Fenesis had ears different from a human, similar to a beast instead, and would feel dizzy whenever she remained in a sunny, warm place. Kusla was thinking that she really was like a cat.

“Hm. We’ll leave them for another two, three days. This fragment might have some slow toxicity.”

In response, Irine and Fenesis looked towards the mice with much pity, but Fenesis immediately turned to Kusla again.

“I-if it is slow, will you two——”

“Ah, yeah. If I’m suffering in the middle of the night, treat me well.”

Saying that, Kusla turned to the bookshelf, picking up a book a book full of experiment records, wanting to find out if there were any hidden clues in the experiment results. Fenesis, who had been fuming at Kusla all this while, immediately switched to a gloomy, worried look. She really had a face full of expressions that left Kusla impressed. Perhaps this quality was emphasized further due to the presence of a classic blacksmith, Irine, who was never flustered by anything trivial.

If anyone was to record a memoir of Fenesis’ personalities and reactions, of the many traits she had, one might have to act ‘potent poison’ to the list.

Slow, yet powerful.

Soft in the mouth, with a sweet fragrance. Poor in manners.

“But none of the merchants know, and the current knowledge we have doesn’t match the correct answer. Looks like we have to look into the legend itself.”

“Look into ancient text and find lost technology. Guess this is the best benefit to being an alchemist~”

Kusla’s likes differed greatly from Weyland in many instances, from women to alcohol, but since they were ultimately alchemists, they were merely men passionate for adventure.

Their eyes were naturally filled with much passion once it involved anything relating to ‘reviving an ancient technology recorded in ancient manuscripts, forgotten in the depths of time’.

“Just like a child.”

Irine, who had been teasing the nose of the mouse nibbling at the strands of the cage, sneer at the men.

“Men are still children no matter how old they are.”

Weyland chortled heartily, and Kusla noted with some sarcasm,

“I really want to show that look of yours when you were obsessed with making the dragons.”

She did not realize that she had yet to remove the gloves used to grab the red hot metal when she returned from the workshop to the room, and once she returned to the door, she passed out. Her face was full of soot, her hair zinged due to the hot air, lots of scalds on her elbows. Despite that, Irine looked really happy, as though she had passed out in a delirium.

It was boring being a blacksmith in a city, so she joined the alchemists’ journey without care for the consequences. It would be stretching it a tad to say that Irine was a proper blacksmith of the town, and furthermore sacrilegious to say she was a prime and proper town girl.

“Besides, we’re always dealing with dry, boring work. There’s not much work related to anything a real alchemist should do.”

“It’s disappointing to know reality~.”

“But didn’t you make the aphrodisiac? What happened to that thing?”

“Gave it to Kusla. What happens next, I don’t know~.”

Weyland sneered towards Kusla, only for the sneer to vanish as he looked away from Kusla, to somewhere else.

Irine immediately sensed Weyland’s reaction, and looked over as well.

And before here was Fenesis, the latter’s flushed head lowered.

Irine abruptly turned towards Kusla, and approached him with a grim face.

“Di-did you actually?”

“Huh? Don’t be foolish. You think I’ll use it?”

Kusla calmly answered while his collar was being tugged at,

“I told her how to use it. She’s probably thinking about it.”

“How to use it? That’s why she’s like this?”

Then, while Irine was still taken aback by Fenesis’ reaction, Weyland nimbly approached and nibbled her ear.

“Eh? Ah? At-at such a place…?”

Irine’s reaction was unexpectedly interesting, and Weyland beamed in bemusement.

Kusla however did not find it funny, and the moment he tried to pull aside the hand grabbing his collar, Irine immediately retreated back hastily, like she was scalded by something.

Then, she widened her eyes at both Kusla and Weyland, before she retreated as she grabbed Fenesis by the arm.

“These…men…are terrible!”

She cursed, and led Fenesis out of the room.

Weyland gleefully watched this scene, while Kusla sighed hard.

“Look, it’s not appropriate for me to be saying this, but stop teasing them already. Have you forgotten that we’re going to continue our journey?”

It would be an added hassle to the troublesome journey if there were people scowling in the cramped carriage.

“Nihihi. How cute. But…thank goodness we have them as company~.”

Weyland paid no heed to a bystander’s words, but beneath his lazy face was a certain mindset.

“Rule number 1 of being alchemist. To remain calm at all times…this isn’t easy to do. Well, with both of them around, this should be enough to vent our frustrations. We can calm down now~.”

Weyland looked towards the sun fragment on the large table, his eyes blazing and glittering like many a greedy merchant. Such was his original expression.

However, such an expression would be a hindrance when observing new things. It would cause anxiety, tunnel vision, and self-conceitedness.

And once they obsessed with experimentation, accidents would easily occur. This sun fragment would not drive them to such extremes, but it was said to drive away the darkness in the forests and wild beasts. It might even be a material for an ancient weapon, so it never hurts to be cautious.

They suffered much during their apprenticeship, and gained this expression after their experiences, yet such an ironic outcome occurred.

Alchemists could obsess in experiments to the point of neglecting food and sleep, for they had the excitement of babies. Surely such outcomes would be amazing, and they wanted to discover it before anyone else. Without such excitement and passion, there was no way they would devote themselves to simple experiments requiring lots of patience.

And the fuel to such excitement and passion were stereotypes and self-conceitedness.

Kusla himself was like one sending his hunting dog out to hunt while clinging firmly onto the leash while investigating the true identity of this crystal.

Between such extreme opposites, it was mentally taxing, and extremely difficult to maintain a balance between their rationality and passion.

Furthermore, right before them might be a fragment of a technology that could topple the world’s order.

“I guess this one’s like the sun, if we keep staring at it, our brains may get fried.”

He deliberately said with nonchalance to calm himself down.

Looking at the crystal on the table, Weyland too kept away the glittering eyes from before, smiling with ambiguity,

“This isn’t a simple item we’re dealing with~.”

Such a small crystal contained a miracle created by an angel who arrived at this place.

It might sound like a hyperbole of a fictitious story, meant to emphasize God’s teachings in Pagan lands, but if the angel’s miracle was proven before, that made things different.

The remaining two were said to be an angel descending from the skies, and a sun summoned from the ground. Many doubted such acts, but still deemed them as possible truths; such might have been their true thoughts after all.

Weyland stretched his arms wide, along with his back, yawning away.

“Pwoah〜〜…wonder if the birdies aren’t angry anymore~?”

“That’s your responsibility.”

“Yes. Yes.”

Any other troublesome matter, and he would not be moved to act, even if he was all beaten up. Anything involving women however, and it was a different matter.

The moment Weyland was about to step out of the room, he looked towards Kusla, asking,

“Oh, Kusla~!”

“Huh?”

“You didn’t use the aphrodisiac, right~?”

Kusla was not incensed in the slightest, and merely shrugged in response.



The room Kusla and the others lived in was within the inn the Cladius Knights owned.

Another room was used for experimentation, and they rented another room with a furnace and well water to be used.

On the surface, however, they had no relations with the Knights, and were not travelers who could roam freely. Irine and Fenesis stormed out, and Weyland followed thereafter, trying to pacify them. A little later, Kusla left the room, and bumped into a man dressed as a merchant.

The man had a spoon and feather in his cap, and clearly resembled a traveling merchant, but in fact, he was a spy sent by the Cladius Knights, in charge of disguising Kusla and the others while the latter had their identities concealed. Of course, this also meant he was supervising them.

“I just brushed by a rather fuming Miss Irine…did something happen again?”

“That Weyland teased her again, making her angry.”

“Another major incident.”

How carefree you are, so he implied.

“Probably to relieve stress from the experiments.”

“Is the experiment going well?”

“No. At most, just some basics. We got too little of it, and there’s little of what we can do.”

“I see.”

The spy noted dejectedly. If Kusla and the others really did recreate the other two miracles of the angel, the spies supervising them would have improved reputations.

“So, where are you going next?”

“Back to the room. Watch this place and make sure the tools aren’t stolen. Your job is to watch, right?

“Of course I don’t mind…”

It seemed the spies were already used to the alchemists’ selfishness, only somewhat miffed.

“No poison gas will leak, right?”

It seemed this man, who had seen all the light and darkness in the world had some knowledge of alchemy.

Kusla shrugged, and answered,

“If you see any purple smoke come out from the gaps, hold your breath and run away.”

“I want a headcloth used to deal with the plague.”

The headcloth would cover the head completely, and the mouth was long and thin like a bird’s beak, filled with lots of garlic and basil used to neutralize what was assumed to be the toxic gas causing it. Back when they enacted the ritual to revive a chicken, Kusla had Irine and Fenesis put them on to give the vibe.

“Just to comment, with or without headband, anyone can catch the plague. Some really bored alchemist checked through the records.”

“O God, grant me your mercy.”

“More importantly, we’re not done preparing to head to the next town?”

Kusla asked, and the spy mimicked a shrug.

“That’s what I’m here to talk about.”

Kusla and the others were seeking the trails of the heretical inquisitor Korad Abria, who seemed to have discovered the legend of the angel. It was said that twenty years ago, he ventured into a place any normal sheep of God would hesitate to move into, where the war was the most intense, and all connections were lost.

According to the Knights who had actually seen him leave, the last he was spotted was at the next destination, Abbas.

“Abbas is a somewhat complicated town.”

“Complicated?”

Kusla repeated the term, for it was interesting.

“You seem to be saying that the towns we’ve been in so far aren’t so bad.”

“I’ll add in the word ‘especially’ then.”

The spy was not smiling.

He seemed serious.

“First, there’s still debate as to whether Abbas is a town.”

“Look, I’m not a noble with land, and I’m not the head of a prestigious family. Get to the point.”

The spy snorted impatiently. It might be an act of familiarity.

“Apparently, appearance-wise, there’s no doubt it is a town. It has walls, gates and houses. However, the current Abbas is just a place to live. Those living there now are the citizens who couldn’t live in the original Abbas.”

“Hm? Guess it’s down to war, disease, or infertile lands…whatever it is, it doesn’t sound like anything we haven’t heard of.”

The Knights could not deny being one of the causes why people lived like this, so Kusla could not resist the urge to sneer. It seemed the Orthodoxy waged war for such a long time, for it was the Promised Land robbed by the Pagans thousands of years ago. Thus, it was pretty much older than anyone could imagine.

“You mean, Abbas the heretical inquisitor Korad Abria was last spotted is different from the current Abbas?”

In that case, the situation might really be tricky. No matter the reason, anyone who had to move from their hometown to a new place would have to leave their memories behind. There was nothing trickier than this for an investigator.

“No. According to the information, the destroyed Abbas was just a tradition passed down for generations. That heretical inquisitor was last heard in this current Abbas.”

“Oh? And so?”

The spy licked his lips, noting dejectedly.

“Abbas is located at a trading point between the far North and the Southern Countries, a gathering place where the Far North products are supplied to the Southern lands. It’s no different from Yazon in this case, but the problem is the middlemen.”

The Far North was a place covered completely in snow all year long, and it was said that depending on the seasons, the sun would not set even at night. In contrast, there were seasons when the sun would not rise after setting. The languages and customs there were all different, so much that it was inappropriate to classify them as Orthodox and pagans.

Kusla heard that they had traded fur, gold, or amber that was washed ashore to the Southern countries. According to the books left behind by the extremely curious pilgrims and alchemists, a new continent appears on the seas in the water. In some countries, the sun would rise twice.

However, Kusla’s understanding was limited to his knowledge, and this term to him had always meant the ends of the world.

Was it tricky to intercede in trade between the end of the world, and the southern countries?

As Kusla looked back, the spy answered,

“The merchant guilds in the far South.”

“South?”

“The current Abbas exists because the migrants gave offerings to the Latrian Queen, symbolizing their loyalty to her, gaining autonomy. Abbas does not belong to any noble; it’s an independent town, and in fact, it’s just a disguise on the surface.”

Kusla scented upon the familiar smell. Alchemy was one filled with much risks, filled with many useful things. Thus, the Cladius Knights and those wealthy people had the same old method of dealing with them.

They would insist that they had dealings with these unscrupulous alchemists, but these alchemists were not their men.

“So Latria quietly allowed them to deal with the Southerners who’re supposed to be their enemies?”

“Excellent observation.”

The spy continued,

“Abbas has its own autonomy, so if anything bad is done there, all responsibility belongs to Abbas. The Southern merchants’ guilds would use this autonomy as a shield, set up their guild houses, and build a base for distant trading.”

Yazon too was a watershed linking the North and the Souths, a town where Pagans could wander freely before the Church. However, as long as the Church building was not officially recognized as one, the Latrian Queen could have boldly proclaimed it to be a pagan town, before she converted. Then, it was down to what the Orthodoxy would say, but since the church in the town was not destroyed, there was no need for disputes. The church did exist, the clergymen were preaching, so the ambiguous matter could be left as it was, to benefit all.

This ruckus gradually became a habit, and the trading between Pagans and Orthodoxy, supposedly on hostile terms, became normal. Despite everyone else know, this was not a fact powerful organizations on either side would admit. While the Knights were stationed in Yazon, it was standard to maintain an ambiguous rule at the trading points.

However, it was a different matter if they were open a guild. A Guild was in no way meant to spread the Gospel, and no matter how one would try to word it, it was ultimately a town looking out for its own profitability. It would not be strange to see the merchant guilds, and the nobles ruling over the lands where the bases were at, questioned about their faith.

“They shouldn’t be working with the fellows over there, but Latria could tax the profits gained from increased trade, and after a while, they just let things slide, you get me?”

“Right.”

In that case, there was one simple reason.

“Once the operations of a certain place have been approved quietly, the locals won’t be happy to see outsiders, especially when they weigh the pros and cons.”

The spy nodded firmly.

“Also, the headquarters of these large guilds are all against us. The countries working with Latira to attack the Knights, that is.”

It seemed this was no coincidence.

The old cadre who informed them about the heretical inquisitor Korad Abria had noted that as Abbas was at the border, it was madness to occupy it. In fact, during the later stages of the war, the Knights too abandoned it, resulting in another power slipping in to fill the void. The Knights would not enter, and because of this factor, Abbas was a safe place to the anti-Knights forces.

For the aforementioned reasons, the enemy of the enemy is a friend to the Orthodox forces south of Latria, antagonistic against the Knights. Such logic was easy to understand.

And thus, as the trade volume increased, so did the profits, and Abbas became a hive of Knights enemies.

“Just to ask, those Southern merchant guilds that have set up base in Abbas, are they creditors to kings and nobles?”

Wars requires lots of money, and even Kings could not splurge money simply by proclaiming his exaltation.

“Yes. Till now, it seemed the nobles of the South have borrowed lots for military expenses. It seemed in return, these nobles will grant free, safe trading routes to the Far North once they destroy the Cladius Knights.”

“Or more simply, they’re working together with Latria to secure this trading post in the far east, attacking the Knights.”

“We can’t be sure, but it is very likely.”

Kusla gently sighed. It seemed Abbas became a moneybag for the various southern countries. The Knights had prepared everything to strike, but the predicament had changed completely, so surely they were on tenterhooks. They were on guard, excluding outsiders, and would bare their savage fangs at anyone approaching.

It would be expected then there would be news of Yazon’s fall to the Knights, given that it too was trading with the North, which would amplify the security on hand.

It was a tricky situation.

If they advanced without caution, they would end up picking a lit matchstick while completely soaked in oil.

“So now what? We can’t be giving up here, right?”

Kusla’s was somewhat barbaric, but that was because there was a reason in Abbas awaiting his venture. Such was the value of the angel’s legend.

But even with Kusla interrogating, the spy showed no fear, and instead laughed bodily, stretching his arms out to sort out his merchant cap disguise.

“After hearing of what happened in this town and Abbas, Lord Alzen merely laughed it off.”

“Laughed it off?”

“Yes.”

The spy’s grin got bigger, like a hunting dog thinking of its master’s greatness.

“I heard he said, “Send the men over. Ensure the investigations go well even if we have to conquer that town”.”

“What?”

“He was grinning, saying that it’s killing two birds with one stone. Get the angel’s myth, and cut off the Southerners’ trade.”

For the cool and poised Alzen, it really was a daring preposition. However, Kusla recalled that when he mentioned about the angel’s myth, he heard something more unbelievable from Alzen.

We can conquer the world!

That herald said so with a childish expression.

Speaking of which, even children these days would not have such lofty aspirations, for they understood the tough fists of their parents. A little older, and they would know the viciousness of their older siblings and friends. In town, there were grizzled, vigorous craftsmen even the older siblings would fear and give way to, along with the mighty mercenaries thoroughly crushing those craftsmen in the bar.

Ultimately, there were some rulers who would use mercenaries as pawns, and these rulers had kings above them, and yet kings were a dime a dozen.

Alzen understood this very well, yet his eyes were glittering when he proclaimed that they could conquer the world. He was declaring that given a dragon flamethrower would overwhelm a battle thoroughly, enough to launch a counterattack, it was natural then that they would conquer the world.

The amazing thing about Alzen was that his actions matched his thoughts, and he was not a noble who would be all puffs.

“So we’re going against the grain?”

“Also, the headquarters of these large guilds are all against us. The countries working with Latira to attack the Knights, that is.”

It seemed this was no coincidence.

“Now that the Latrian Queen has converted to Orthodoxy, the actions of our Knights will be deemed as attacking our comrade towns…by this logic, as long as we don’t admit that she converted, that logic won’t stand. In fact, there are many Orthodox followers unwilling to abide, but it’s a different case to be attacking Abbas.”

“We’re making enemies of the Southern countries.”

“Yeah. We’re basically burning their moneybags.”

Kusla smirked.

“Did Alzen really say to do this?”

“He said that since we’re going to conquer the world, it doesn’t matter in the end. Just a matter of when we make them our enemies.”

He’s mad, so Kusla thought.

They did not know if they could really find the angel’s myth.

But Alzen made that decision, perhaps considering it was inevitable they would be in a full-scale conflict against the South, and intended to rob their fortunes. Nevertheless, it was a daring move.

His decisions left Kusla riveted, the latter thinking of him as an impressive resident of Magdala. He was one of those headed to the light at the end of the horizon, and was able to feel that he was living as a result, being one of the happiest and saddest out there.

“So now we can investigate to our hearts content.”

“The fate of the world rests in your hands.”

While it sounded like a joke, there was some seriousness to it.

Alchemists could create miracles.

And faced such a hopeful expression, Kusla’s smirk became a sneer.

“The equivalent price for someone hoping to gain powerful magic is to have the devil take his soul…are you still willing?”

The spy leered at Kusla’s words.

“They say we can’t fight without swords or stirrups, but there aren’t any blacksmiths wearing crowns out there.”

Skills alone would not make one great. In any case, it was those adept at using the skills that surpassed others.

The development of technology was a different matter from using it.

“I know this well. It’s etched to the bone.”

“But it’s not like we can’t gain freedom even without being in lofty positions.”

The spy smiled earnestly, clearing his throat.

“This world isn’t simple after all.”

“If it were, we wouldn’t need an alchemist to begin with.”

“You’re right.”

The spy shrugged.

“So, we’re going to wait here until reinforcements arrive?”

“Yes. However, they will be here tomorrow, or the day after.”

“…That’s decisive.”

This showed how serious Alzen was.

The moment he made the decision, he had his subordinates give the command to sortie.

“It moves me to here.”

So Kusla answered, but in that case, they should not be talking. They had to make haste with the preparations.

“Anything?”

“If it’s about today’s weather, I have something to say.”

Kusla smiled, and walked off. His footsteps were frantic, for his heart was.

Alzen felt the angel’s legend was real. According to the uncertain report from his subordinate, he had already sieved out the truths, and as a commander, sent out forces to investigate again. He determined it was no daydream. He might be on the cusp of attaining technology to conquer the world.

And having thought that, Kusla felt a term riveting in his heart.

Was this not the Sword of Orichalcum?

If it was really technology that could conquer the world, it was exactly the same as what Kusla was chasing after.



Kusla returned to his room, and found Fenesis before the desk, the parchment laid. There was a stone tablet for recording next to her, so she probably was practicing on writing words from the Church. It was the daily homework Kusla tasked her.

Seeing her in this state, while Kusla was unwilling to agree with what Weyland said, he had regained some calm.

It was unsightly of him to be elated over the Sword of Orichalcum, or the prospect of conquering the world.

“Where’s Irine?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis kept tapping at the limestone as she answered demurely,

“Erm…she said she will be working out a little.”

Copsulation, romance, the best methods to deal with them was to bring them to an anvil and smash to crumbles. Such should be the way a stubborn blacksmith would work, which Kusla really liked.

“It seemed Mr Weyland has given chase…”

“Irine likes to make fun of others, but she’s pure in unexpected areas.”

Fenesis awkwardly smiled.

“And you’re too bashful.”

“Uuu…”

Her face was flushed red again, probably because she recalled again. However, at least her face was not completely red.

“Th-that is normal for me. How am I supposed to remain calm?”

For an innocent girl who knew no filth, her past was thoroughly tragic, but perhaps as it was too tragic, she might seem so distant from those words.

It was no different from a grizzled mercenary, often mistaken for bears, would fall in love with a town girl, after pondering for arduous moments only to pluck and hand over a wildflower.

“Whatever. There are things we are and aren’t good at.”

“…Eh?”

“No matter how we understand, we can’t deal with things we aren’t used to.”

Having spent time with her, Kusla understood this really well. The involved herself stared blankly at him for a moment, only to slowly reveal a smile.

“Truly, you are clumsy at strange places too.”

He worked so hard to find a pedestal for her, only to receive such words instead. In contrast, he had to admit what she said was fact.

“I have self awareness.”

“You say so, but your mischief still knows no bounds.”

Fenesis seized the chance to pile on, but Kusla calmly answered,

“When I say you’re like a cat, I’m not making fun of you.”

Fenesis had ears different from humans on her head. Those were proofs that could not be covered, proofs that ensured she was often viewed as a cursed resident on every land she lived in.

“…But, I am no cat.”

That was why whenever she answered, her expression was filled with more sadness than disgust. For this reason, whenever they mentioned about the most absurd, the first thing she would think of would be humans dressing as animals in a town festival.

Kusla could only shrug at her.

“Well, cats are cute. I’m praising you.”

“Eh?”

Fenesis lifted her head, looking as though her heart was moved, her two eyes staring intently back. Her lips seemed intent to convey something, throbbing, but seemed to be enclosed in an ice block, and no voice could be heard. So this is what it means to be frozen, so Kusla thought. Nevertheless, this response from her left him awkward.

For what he wanted to show her was compassion.

“What? I’m praising you here.”

After repeating himself, Fenesis was taken aback, as though someone had yelled into her ears.

She then reeled her chin back, her eyes peeking up like an abused, a kitten who was pranked on.

“…You are…mean after all…”

“I’m praising you here, and you call me mean. This is a theological issue.”

It seemed she had not recovered from the shock she had, and she clutched firmly at her chest, before gulping a large breath of air later, and exhaling it out.

“Truly, you are picky about the terminology at crucial moments. It’s close to theology, for sure.”

The large, beautiful green eyes looked over again, tauntingly.

“You’re always, suddenly…focusing on the irrational.”

Though she said that with some unhappiness, it seemed she only said so just to hide her embarrassment.

Perhaps Kusla was the prey who was lured by that tail.

“But this is how the world is.”

“…Yes. So while I am shocked by the irrationality of the year, I am not begrudging.”

“Hm?”

“For despite the world being like this, there are some aspects better than what we imagine.”

“Than what we imagine”, so she happily smiled as she deliberately emphasized these words.

This should be what they call teasing, and certainly felt like a cat climbing to the back of the neck, fooling around.

“I do find comfort seeing how you’re increasing becoming a damned alchemist.”

Upon his spiteful words, she was laughing, her shoulders shaking.

Her too showed a faint smile, in self-depreciation.

“I can’t take this foolish conversation.”

Kusla muttered softly, and Fenesis smiled while mimicking his shrug.

The pleasing atmosphere helped cool the mood between them, and she said,

“Any good news?”

“Do I look happy?”

“Yes. That strange kindness, for one..”

She actually said such words with a joyous smile. It seemed in the future, she would be a tougher girl to handle than Irine.

“Well, it’s true that I’m pleased, because the prey I’m looking for is right in front of me.”

He worked so hard to ensure the pursed lips would not curl into a smile.

“Alzen gave us aid to head to the next town. That practical man felt there’s miracle at the end of the road, of course I have to be excited. While we haven’t solved the mystery of the ‘sun fragment’, it’s a minor issue. Once we know what the problem is, it’s the same as solving half the problem.”

Something deep within his heart was brimming out through his mouth, in the form of words.

Faster, faster, faster. The alchemist within him was prompting...

“We won’t have to wait for days. There’s no time to waste.”

“Eh?”

“Got to inform Irine and Weyland to make haste in their preparations. You should pack your belongings tonight too.”

“Y-yes.”

Fenesis hastily replied, but she seemed a little gloomy.

“What’s the matter?”

“Eh? I-it-it is nothing.”

She hurriedly shook her head to deny, but her eyes were drifting elsewhere, the large triangular ears clearly drooping down.

“What? You don’t like to travel?”

Even for an adult male, a long journey was hard labor. No matter how used she was to travel, it was surely because she had to, not that she wanted to.

“Look, I know how you feel, but that’s all before we figure it all out. Once we find the myths, we can have whatever we want. We can have a workshop at wherever we like, and focus on research to our hearts’ content.”

“Yes….”

Kusla raised these examples excitedly, while she answered with a kind smile.

He was puzzled, but she rolled the parchments that were laid out, hiding the expression on her face.

What is going on? So Kusla stared at her actions, only for her to suddenly say,

“Erm…before we leave, can I look for Miss Helena?”

“Helena?”

She was the daughter of the herbalist they met, who fell in love with a young glassmaker, resulting in the commotion over the angel’s legend of the ash left behind.

Ever since then, as she was of similar age to Fenesis, they got along well, and the latter would visit her at the shop to chat from time to time.

“Don’t worry. Just don’t stay for too long.”

“I-I am no child. I understand my limits.”

Fenesis puffed her cheeks unhappily, kept the parchments, put on the headcloth to hide her ears, her sidelong face looking a little unhappy.

Kusla interpreted it as her being gloomy for the impending journey, and preparing herself for it.

“Then, I shall return soon.”

Kusla did not bother to look over at Fenesis, and merely waved his hand.

Fenesis put her hand on the door, and paused a moment before she nudged it aside.

Kusla looked over, but Fenesis suddenly nudged the door aside in a daze, and left.

“What’s going on?”

After a moment of thought, Kusla still could not understand.

Thus, he left aside the things he could not understand, and began working on what he should be doing.

Once Kusla conveyed the spy’s report and plans to head to Abbas. The trio showed differing reactions. Weyland was of pure delight, while Irine was flatly nodding away like a blacksmith.

Fenesis was the only one gloomy after all. Perhaps the reason was simple after all. A long journey would be harsh on the body, and to the feeble her, staying in Yazon would be better.

But she would grimace only when this was mentioned, and everything else, she would remain the same. One could tell that she was working hard to remain calm.

Look, if you’re intending to hide your feelings! So Kusla thought unhappily, yet at the same time, he understood very well that he was concerned by it. If the problem was really dire, he did not think Fenesis would try to hide it further. If it was just a trivial matter, he would be refused if he tried to interrogate in an overprotective manner.

Despite that, whenever Fenesis had her own troubles, she might end up choosing an unbelievable resolution without care for the consequences. Thus, he decided to uproot the matter before things got complicated.

After brooding over it at the cross junction, Kusla decided to compromise to avoid rattling the snake.

“Little Ul?”

The following day after the news was conveyed, while Fenesis and Weyland were off preparing for their journey at the market, Kusla asked Irine, who was in the room, inspecting the tools.

The Yazon workshops remained short of fuel, and the quality as a result was barely passable. She had nothing much to buy as a result.

“She seemed unhappy when I told her we’re going to Abbas. Then, she seemed to be hiding something.”

Irine was on a stool, her legs spread crudely wide as she raised the hammer in her hand, slamming at the leg of the chair. She narrowed her eyes, ensuring it was not loose or scratched in any way. She clearly resembled an amazing blacksmith in this manner, a proper one indeed.

And thus, her response was as nonchalant.

“Nobody taught you to steal skills with your eyes?”

She roughed up the shears, and slowly raised her hands towards the desk, touched a vial of grease, and used a thin metal spoon to apply it on the rollable joints.

“Unfortunately, alchemist don’t inherit their skills and knowledge from the workshop, but from books.”

Kusla himself knew it was a shoddy excuse, and upon hearing that, Irine merely scoffed it off dumbfoundedly.

“You’re awfully serious whenever little Ul is mentioned. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”

Kusla quietly endured these words, and calmly asked,

“So, anything you can pick up?”

“Of course. I’m wondering if you’re sharp or dull, but I can’t really say that.”

What do you mean? Kusla frowned a little, and Irine snickered, teasing him,

“You don’t seem like you have any friends.”

“Huh?”

So he retorted, and Irine put her hands on her waist, sighing in an expected manner.

“It’s because of Helena.”

“Helena?What’s with tht sleepy looking girl?”

In any case, when he told Fenesis they were leaving Yazon, she was the one who suggested to look for Helena.

“You really don’t understand?”

Again Kusla was questioned, and he pondered along the lines of this hint, but he still did not understand.

Irine glared at him with cold eyes, and said,

“She’s on good terms with Helena. In other words, she doesn’t want to leave her friend.”

“Ugh?”

A strange voice came from deep within his throat, for he assumed there was no way it was for this ridiculous reason. But at the same time, Irine’s eyes did not seem to imply it was a joke.

“…Are you serious?”

Irine sighed, raised the little hammer, and tapped at her shoulder impatiently.

“Yes, I understand this is so immature, and because of this, she is trying to conceal it before you.”

Since Irine pointed this out, she should be correct.

“But it might be the first time for little Ul…maybe it’s not that much of an exaggeration, but she finally has a friend after such a long time.”

She came from the Far East, the promised land of Kuldaros, where the Orthodox and pagans had a war for decades. Fenesis, whose life was endangered from both sides, was fleeing for her life the entire time.

Though she was later saved by the Knights, those that heard of her predicament would understand she was no different from a prisoner.

It was impossible for her to have a chance to freely make friends.

But, friends, are just friends!

“Hey, are you…?”

Irine hunched over, a hand rest under her chin as she looked up towards him.

“Jealous?”

Who would be so foolish? The reason why he did not refute so was because the question was beyond what he expected.

“Your thoughts are more outlandish than an alchemist’s.”

“Really? Is it not because you treat little Ul like an overprotective mother cat?”

“She insisted she’s not a cat.”

Irine gave a wry smile, her upper body straightened.

“But you really can’t imagine? Aren’t you alchemists moving along with where the Knights send you to? You should have experienced the pain of leaving, right?”

“Well, we experienced leaving, like those on good terms with us were actually there to steal our skills, and executed by the Knights, or those we fought to the death because we knew they were assassins sent to kill us…”

As he folded his fingers to count, Irine became increasingly listless.

And after Kusla folded 4 fingers, he suddenly recalled.

“Ah, I forgot. There was once I felt sad.”

“Eh?”

“When my lover was killed.”

He did not really feel sad back then. After all, she was a spy of a force opposing the Knights. It was extremely common.

However, a certain busybody claimed that he was really sad back then.

She was a demure nun of young age, with a fate worse than the alchemist.

“These are all I can think of…but I don’t think I can say this separation is painful. For that white cat at least, her friend is safe and living well.”

Once Kusla said this, Irine showed a tired smile.

“Now I understand why you’re always living in the towns, yet always assumed to be witches in the forest. The world you live in is too different.”

Kusla merely shrugged.

“But speaking of which, you did live in the same workshop as Weyland, right? Didn’t you feel sad leaving him? Something like that.”

“Weyland?”

This should be the case, it seemed. Kusla searched his memory, but unfortunately, he did not understand.

“First of all, I’m not on good terms with him.”

“Doesn’t seem like it.”

“When we went our separate ways, a few adults around us had to pull us away.”

“Eh? Doesn’t that mean you’re on good terms?”

Kusla replied with a straight face.

“No, that’s because we thought we would never see each other again, so we took all the large hammers and tools used for smelting to try and kill each other.”

But thinking back about it after a long while, he found it to be a hearty matter worth a few smiles.

“…How foolish. Maybe you really can’t understand after all.”

“So I said I can’t.”

He deflated replied, and there was a short silence in the air.

To break this silence, Kusla muttered,

“So, what should I do?”

Irine widened her eyes at Kusla.

If a pigeon landed by the windowsill and asked what was for dinner, anyone hearing that might give a similar expression.

“Well, alchemist, if you don’t know, first you’ll open the text.”

It was never too late to investigate similar problems people of the past might not have solved, before racking their brains over it.

“If you don’t know how the other party is like, you won’t know what is the best way to deal with it. Normal metals react differently from rusted metals when in acid..”

Kusla said, and scratched his head in frustration.

“I don’t want to hurt her.”

But he could not resist adding one more line.

“Except when teasing her.”

“Enough.”

Irine suddenly stopped him, turned her face against, and stuffed a fist into her mouth. From her sidelong face, she seemed to be fuming, or enduring something. Probably snickering.

Laugh if you want, so Kusla thought. The man dubbed the restless alchemist, ‘interest’, was left flustered and perturbed by a girl.

Despite that, nothing else mattered as long as he achieved his aims.

For his goals, he would do anything, even giving up on his pride and pedestals.

“You…”

Irine glanced aside at Kusla,

“You really like little Ul.”

It did not matter how much pride he had to lose. Since he just made up his mind, he could not just run away at the first moment of trouble.

However, he would have to struggle somewhat, and make space between them.

“…You knew that already, didn’t you?”

“I’m not teasing you here. I find this wonderful.”

“Hey!”

“I really do. Wonderful. It’s a word I haven’t used in a long while. I’m shocked that I still remember.”

Irine said as she smiled, and Kusla was merely perturbed. He was used to being mocked, being looked down upon.

But Irine’s smile was not the case at all.

“Didn’t I say so when we just arrived in this town?”

Said what?

Before Kusla could reply, Irine answered,

“I’m really envious of you.”

The red-haired girl covered her cheeks apprehensively with her hands.

“And how clumsy you are in such areas.”

Kusla instinctively assumed she was just being a busybody, but it seemed she had a different intent.

“When I saw those brats first enter the workshop, I thought that when there are more things I can’t do than what I can, I feel happier.”

Her hands left her cheeks, dusting off her apron, and her eyes looked beyond the ajar wooden window, saying,

“Don’t you think so?”

No alchemist would actually echo that opinion after hearing it. If there were no objectives left on this world, no mystery to be solved, how boring would the world be?

Furthermore, Irine, who would have such thoughts, was not a good blacksmith who belonged to the confinements of the town just to be praised. She was an adventurer whose satisfaction was derived from continual advancement.

“Maybe.”

Kusla agreed, and put his elbows down, looking out of the window as Irine did.

“The more we age, the more certain armors would appear on us, and our actions are in turn restricted. Damned it may be though.”

Due to a lack of appropriate words, he chimed in the last bit, and Irine began laughing out loud at the very end.

“Ahahaha. But didn’t you discard your pride to ask me?”

“Because I have a problem I want to solve.”

“Yes. And I said it’s wonderful.”

Irine smiled fearlessly towards him.

Kusla could only remain on the defensive before her.

Strangely, he probably had no reservations about it.

“So I’ll be kind and tell you. Don’t treat little Ul that way. She likes to act tough. She’s a girl with lots of pride. If you treat her like a child, she will be hurt, so you can’t mention that yourself.”

“Uuu…but——”

“Hear me out. Despite that, she definitely hopes to have someone to talk to. This role was played by me not too long ago…now whose turn is it going to be?”

Enough with the boasting, so Kusla wanted to say, but he was the one asking for help after all.

So he continued to listen silently.

“And even then, you can’t just be talking the entire time, or say that she should forget. These are what you normally do.”

“It’s like smelting.”

The heat of a furnace should neither be too hot or too cold. The additives to remove impurities should only be added at the right time, at the suitable amount.

“The truth makes sense in many ways.”

“And so?”

Kusla asked, and Irine waved her hand, ushering him over.

Giving an annoyed look, he nevertheless approached her, bringing his ear over.

Irine remained seated to let him know who was in the lead, and seemed satisfied as she happily whispered into his ear.

However, her suggestion left Kusla snorting.

Since she said so, it should be correct, but it so happened to be directly conflicting with what he always said. At this point, how could he say this with such a face? Irine clearly understood his troubles, for she was enjoying herself.

“If this won’t work, I’ll listen to whatever you want me to do.”

She clearly had utmost confidence to say that to an alchemist.

Or perhaps she was trying to agitate him.

“…Armor.”

He groaned, and continued,

“I talked about turning lead into gold. If it’s the armor on my body, I have to think of how to change, is it…”

“Truth really does explain everything.”

Irine happily indicated.

Kusla sighed, and grabbed his head, thanking her nevertheless. He intended to head to the experiment room, so his feet shifted to the door.

The moment he was about to step out of the room, he stopped, and turned to her.

“What you mentioned.”

“Hm?”

“If it doesn’t work, will you really listen to what I say?”

It was typical of an alchemist to capitalize on everything they could use.

While he had no intention to use it, this thing called promise could be withheld for the time being.

“If you don’t bungle it up.”

The bridge of Irine’s nose remained firm, like steel reinforced on it.

Kusla was in turn relieved, smiled, and left the room.



While they were preparing, the Knights reinforcements arrived in Yazon, and the already bustling town was like a boiling pot of water.

The spy did not seem to be exaggerating when he conveyed Alzen’s words, for the arriving Knights were a real force, of grizzled veterans, even with soldiers on horseback.

Alzen truly intended to invade Abbas. The biggest proof was the stockpile of grain and various goods on the carriages, along with something unbelievable.

“Even the dragons are here.”

There was no need to agitate the people of Yazon, so the dragons were tightly sealed, but Irine was the first to find out. As to be expected of their maker.

“He’s for real..”

“It makes us tremble~.”

“You scared?”

Kusla taunted Weyland, but part of it was for himself. The bar of expectations was that they would be lavishly rewarded if they succeeded, but at the same time, the gallows awaited them if they failed.

“Wohohohoho. If we can’t find it, we’ll be the laughingstock of all of history~.”

“Do we really have an idea?”

“What do you think?”

Kusla retorted, and Irine looked displeased.

“That’s irresponsible.”

“How would I know if we have an idea?”

Irine remained silent, but she seemed tentative to talk.

It was likely that no matter the perspective, the future developments would leave her heart jolting, unable to calm down. No matter whether they succeeded, there was a strong premonition of a prelude being unveiled, and he too could not help but feel unsteady in the heart.

“But isn’t this interesting?””

Kusla snorted.

“The scales demand for equal balance. Since our objective is a technology that might turn the world over, what we should bet on must be of equal value.”

Given that they had such expectations, if they could not produce the results, the consequences would be utterly dire. Even with the accomplishment of the dragon flamethrowers ensuring that they would not be hunted, it seemed they would not get any ordinary treatment in the future.

For that reason, when the time came, the throne of gold would await them.

Next to him, Fenesis was tugging at his clothes.

“Let us enjoy it.”

He patted her on the back.

“Aren’t you an alchemist?”

She lifted her head, smiling after much teeth gnashing.

The Knights reinforcements never stopped, and two days later, they departed. Kusla and the others appeared not to be related to the Knights, so they were grouped with the merchants hoping to seize business opportunities, along with wandering blacksmiths, and the hordes of people flocked like fledglings following their mother. Thus, it was a bustling trip, and with the army waving the Knights’ flag protecting them, they had no need to worry about raids from bandits and thieves.

And when they were resting, the merchants, having sniffed out the opportunities, would wander around to sell food and drinks, while the studious wandering shoemakers and tailors would promote their wares. It was a journey not lacking in bustle and goods.

Thanks to them, there was surely no boring moments. However, there were downsides, which would it could be considered selfish to be considered one, but it was the case for Kusla.

On their journey to Yazon, they were basically in the middle of a festival procession, frantic and hasty, and this never stopped even after leaving.

Perhaps it was for this reason that Fenesis never looked lonely even after leaving her new friend Helena, especially when they embraced and went their separate ways at the gates. Instead, it was Helena who was on the verge of tears, and Fenesis was kindly comforting her.

Fenesis had become stronger. There was no doubt, and it was something worth being happy over.

Kusla found himself bored. He lowered his pedestal, and owed Irine a favor, but Fenesis seemed intent not to show weakness. Kusla kept repeating the scenario in his mind several times, trying to successfully convey what Irine taught him.

While they sat on the wobbling carriagem, she had her back on his side, still holding the stone tablet as she practiced the words of the Church. She did that not to distract herself from the gloom of leaving Helena, but to learn the words as quickly as possible, to learn about ancient words, and be of use to their experiments. Her zeal was clear to see. Fenesis’ whimpering self-seemed to be far in the distant memories.

There was nothing for him to nitpick, so he placed his elbow by the railing, blankly staring at the scenery.

He knew Irine’s suggestion was correct, but it was pointless if he could not use it.

Her anguish after separating from Helena was not something Kusla had to console over, but he could not cheer her up just by telling her to forget. Whenever Fenesis shows weakness, this is what you should say, what Irine whispered to him was,

Find me when you’re unhappy, whenever is fine.

He always repeated to Fenesis, who always unconditionally placed hopes on himself, to rely on him, and not anyone else. He did so because he did not want the hassle, and felt if he did not do so, she would never grow up.

At this point however, he was waiting for the moment when she would rely on him, and she gradually found a way to move on by herself without relying on others.

Such might be the way of the world.

So Kusla pondered under the blue sky.

“I see the town—!”

Looking at this from a certain perspective, the arduous time lasted for ten days or so, and it was past noon.

They heard this bellow from the advancing vanguard.

After ten days of travelling, even the most ferocious of warriors would show fatigue. Furthermore, they were headed north, and the air got colder, the winds more frigid, the roads more dire by the day.

Due to the Knights forces leading in front, they had an easier time passing through. Despite that, there was rain with hail over the last two days, and the wheels sank into the mud, resulting in everyone having to push. Thus, they climbed the mountain while covered in mud all over.

Perhaps it was reward for them after experiencing this hardship.

Once they finally passed the hardship, the cold rain stopped, the dark clouds paved aside by the winds. Once their drenched clothes and belongings turned dry, they stood at the peak.

The scenery before them was really a different world.

It was a clear cloudless sky, yet it felt hazy. The forests were obvious, and between the gaps, one could see the black river meandering like a snake, for everywhere else was dyed white by the snow. Every single person was covered in dirt, some snivelling in the cold. Some pulled the collar to their mouths, watching this scenery without a word.

From the peak to the end of the mountain path, there was a river running through the middle, ostensibly floating upon a pure white sea. It also resembled the belly of a snake that had devoured an egg, prone upon the snow.

Abbas. So someone said.

The wooden town walls were like a screen belonging to the previous century, looking really unreliable. There were several long trails of white smoke seeping from the gaps of the wall, but it seemed they were not remnants of the war, for Abbas never wanted to fight the Knights, and the Knights never tried to breach her walls.

The Southern merchant guilds had branches in Abbas to facilitate their business, and any conquest would be deemed a declaration of war against the Southern countries. Also, the guilds would not wish for their goods to perish in the flames of war. Most importantly, there was nary a fighting force of soldiers. It was disadvantageous, or even neurotical, for there to be no soldiers around.

The Knights had sent messengers over, and believed in Abbas’ sincerity, for they knew Abbas had no plot to hide any soldiers, and that it was impossible to recruit soldiers at this place.

The reason for that being that, even if they tried to gather all their forces in this distant land, the Knights had already controlled the land routes of Latria, and there was Nilberk buffering against the southern sea routes. Thus, it was difficult bringing hordes of soldiers and horses into the North.

Also, Latria and the merchant guilds established in Abbas were unspoken allies, but given that Latria was on the verge of destruction, she had no power to devote forces to this rural town of Abbas.

There were no riots, for the people of Abbas knew the Knights would arrive, and had steeled themselves for it.

Thus, the Knights managed to penetrate Abbas’ walls without starting the flames of war, and looking down from the peak, the forces could be seen streaming into the the town south of the river.

The town was divided into two parts, north and south. The north was bigger and livelier, while the buildings in the south were grand, and there were an abnormally large number of houses with large gardens. Most likely, they were places for the merchant guilds to hold their goods. The Knights might have intended to station their forces there as a temporary base.

The southern town was atop a mound, tall enough to overlook the north. It was obvious the Southern guilds had ties to Latria, but one would be uneasy setting up shop in Pagan lands. Thus, before anything happened, they tried to build a military advantage in such a position, with courtyards and warehouses to store important goods, which the Knights were trying to seize upon.

In any case, the Knights managed to absorb Abbas into its dominion without dealing directly with her. There were no battles, just people being ushered through the walls, and there was no reason for any disgruntlement. They could achieve their objective by preventing the Knights from declaring war against the countries that had set up their guilds here.

For Kusla in particular, it was a relief for him to not worry about precious information being destroyed by battle, or that the brains containing knowledge would be severed.

Though he had received intel from the spies, it was strangely surreal witnessing Abbas from the peak.

Kusla gently placed his hand on Fenesis’s shoulder, as though checking if it was reality. The shoulder remained thin and frail, but with some added reliability. The latter looked up at hi, baring the smile of newly sprouted spring underneath the mask of cracked dirt.

“It does sound like the prelude of a legend.”

Such arrogant words truly struck a chord in Kusla’s heart.

She was right.

Kusla smiled, and Fenesis’ smile bloomed further. The dirt fell off her face, bit by bit, like a hatching fledging.

“Just a little more!”

A travelling merchant, seemingly used to such travels, yelled loudly.

Everyone seemed to have recovered from a spell, and strode off.

They remained silent, but there was a burning sensation felt.

Since they arrived at the end of the world, they had to grab something.

It seemed everyone had the same thought.



The Knights entered the southern half of the town, while Kusla and the others went to the other side of the river, the bustling north. They took a boat from the south, and there were many of these boats. Some drifted upstream to this town, and some were preparing to sail down to the sea, shipping out goods from the far North, or shipping in goods from the South.

The port however was a little unique. It did not seem like there was a river running through the town, but that there were towns divided by a river.

The reason for that was due to the fact that there were gates and walls built along the north and south banks. It seemed most likely it was to prevent invasion through the river, but to Kusla, it seemed the river was flanked by two towns instead.

They arrived at the northern port of Abbas and assumed there would be hostile looks. However, while the residents looked uneasy, they never particularly paid heed to these people. Those resembling merchants were all the more poised.

This town relied more on trade than Yazon, so the residents might have been used to seeing swarms of strangers roaming into the town. The merchants were so calm, for they probably realized the Knights had no intention of destroying the town. For them, any trade was fine. Either way, Kusla and the others had nothing to complain if they could avoid all hassle

After that, they arrived at the inn the spies arranged for them, and removed their baggage, and the dirt coated clothes that were hard like armor. One could seemingly understand how it felt to be an insect molting.

While stretching their stiff bodies, a deep growl could suddenly be heard from the next room.

“Uuu~~~~~~……”

“Ahhh~~~~~~~~!”

The beast like groans were actually Fenesis and Irine.

They poured the boiling water provided by the inn into the wooden pail, and went to remove the grime from the journey.

As there were a limited number of pails, Kusla and Weyland let the women first, and waited for their turns.

“These voices give me the urge to peep~.”

Weyland said. Whether he was covered in dirt and mud, there was not much obvious change, for his usual attire was already filthy.

“Is that the sound maidens make when they bathe?”

One could practically hear a barbaric voice coming from the door. Bring the

“It’s interesting seeing the difference between being completely careless and being embarrassed~.”

“I don’t understand.”

Kusla shrugged, and peered through the window.

The inn was a four storied building, and their room was at the top. The main street opposite the inn had buildings of similar heights along it, down the right, until the end of the town. As they had heard beforehand, the great merchant guilds south of Latira were gathere at this place, the flags of their crest flapping boldly.

“Knowledge is all too clear on paper, but it’s rather surreal to witness it personally.”

Even as the snow-chilled breeze blew by in the town, there was a sense of solace.

One would have the urge to drink distilled wine and marvel at the scenery of this foreign country.

“You’re being quite the poet there. What do you mean~?”

Weyland said as he uncork a bottle.

It was the distilled wine Kusla wanted to drink.

“Hey, leave some for me!”

“Can’t we make more later anyway~? With Irine around, we can make as many distillation tools or dragon flamethrowers.”

So he downed the wine, slapping his knee.

“Hmph.”

Kusla coldly snorted, and looked beyond the window again.

Before his eyes was a street beyond the foreign lands of Latria, linked to the ends of the world.

The knowledge on paper would likely list this as an uncultured land ravaged by Pagans and barbarians, but the scenery was not much different from the southern towns. One of the reasons was that the merchant guilds had occupied half of the town. Looking at the town itself, the walls did not appear to be defending it, but rather to protect the existing of these guilds and the goods within.

Perhaps it was for this reason that the atmosphere in this town was similar to the South, not the south, and different from the few pagan towns they passed. There was no church bell, no chapel, and most of the people beneath his eyes travelling by the streets were dressed as tourists. One could easily think of the uniqueness by realizing this town was a trade hotspot instead of a place to live, but Kusla still felt the town was differed from others.

The air seemed to distant.

He was an alchemist, an alien to any town, a disdained existence, and for this reason, he was particularly sensitive to this atmosphere.

“Pwoahh—feels good—!”

Right when he was about to pick out the strangeness of the town like trails of smoke, he heard Irine’s carefree voice.

Her skin, once sullied in dirt, flakey and rough due to the frigid winds, was smooth and glossy like a bowl of beans. Fenesis too followed, her fatigue oozing out probably due to her warmed body, and instead, she looked groggy. Her skin and hair were white, and one would imagine her as a jellyfish.

“Our turn next~.”

Weyland said excitedly, and even Kusla could not resist the temptation of washing his face with hot water.

He shall aside his thoughts for the time being, and head to the next room to get the pail.

But right when his hand touched the door to the next room, someone pulled him.

“H-hold on a moment!”

“Huh?”

Irine looked frantic.

“W-where are you going?””

“Where else? Get the pails. I’ve been waiting for you two to be done.”

“W-wait, wait a moment.”

“Huh? Hey, I’m tired too. Let me use it already.”

While Kusla retorted, Fenesis caught Irine’s eyes, woke from her grogginess, and hastily hurried over, opening the door to the next room in a secretive manner, and entered it.

“What’s going on?”

While feeling doubt, Kusla’s shoulder was tapped upon.

He turned around to find Weyland.

“Kusla, you should start learning the heart of a maiden~.”

“…Huh?”

Strangely, while Kusla had such a though, Irine shoved him over to Weyland, and returned into the next room. Soon after, they could hear the sounds of pail water poured out onto the streets. Later, Irine and Fenesis returned nonchalantly, handing over the pails with grins.

“Thank you for letting us wash first.”

Next to Irine, Fenesis showed a pretentious smile. Kusla received the pails from them, and tilted in confusion. While heading downstairs to the kitchen with empty pails in toil, Weyland looked over at the pail he was going to use, saying,

“They really don’t want others to see the hot water dirty~.”

“…Those two think they’re pixies or something?”

In response to Kusla’s words, Weyland showed a smile maintaining his ambiguous stance on the matter.



The inn’s kitchen was filled with people queuing for hot water. Typically, he could have used his privilege as an alchemist to cut through, but he was hiding his identity at this point, and if he was to start a commotion, it would cause trouble. Thus, he obediently queued, but Weyland unexpected jumped the queue for hot water, and exited the kitchen gleefully. He might have sweet talked someone into letting him though.

Kusla sighed dumbfoundedly, and told himself it was not a bad thing to pretend being a kind citizen as he continued to queue obediently.

Once he was done filling the pail with water, he brought it back to the room. Irine and Fenesis were lying on the bed, asleep.

“So us men will sleep in the hay?

The spies were unable to secure another bed, which meant that someone would have to lay out a straw mat to sleep on. However, he did not wish to accept this unconditionally.

Luckily, there was another bed.

Then, he suddenly realized that if he was to clean himself slowly, then Weyland would be sprawled all over it once he was done. Surely it was for that reason that Weyland was so uncouth in the kitchen.

Kusla gritted his teeth angrily, even having the urge to splash water on the bed so that nobody could sleep. At this moment, Weyland walked out from next door.

“Whew~ I’m used to having a huge sweat before the furance, but the mud’s really unbearable~. Feels a lot better~~.”

So he said heartily, saw the two girls on the bed, and was utterly elated.

“Ufufufu. So cute. I really want to slip my hand between them for warmth.”

Kusla was completely dumbfounded, and as he understood why Weyland would do so, was immediately displeased. He shook his head in self-loathing, abandoned the urge to throw hot water over them, went to the next room, and put the pail down. It would be a waste to let the hot water cool after all the effort to get it.

He casually glanced aside, and saw that the pail Weyland used was cleared of hot water, hanging properly by the wall. While he looked the shoddy type, an alchemist was required to clear up after every use, and this principle was etched firmly within him.

“He’s a vexing one.”

Kusla cursed, and began stripping, clearly the dirt from his body. The hot water he had not had in a while nearly gave him the urge to moan, and he leered at himself, thinking that he might not have any right to laugh at those two girls. After washing his hair, face and body, he felt a lot refreshed.

Then, he started sorting out his to-do list in his mind.

He should not be having a nap after a bath. He had to find the angel’s legend through these hands, this head.

“Right!”

He put on his clothes again, and returned to the room with enthusiasm.

But once he entered, it was all sapped away, and his lips were stiff. Weyland had fallen asleep as he expected, and incredulously, next to Fenesis and Irine. Irine was embracing Fenesis firmly like a hot water bottle, while Weyland was opposite Irine, his arm under Fenesis and Irine, looking extremely satisfied. Between them, Fenesis was groaning painfully.

It was at this moment that Kusla realized that while he might not be an upright, kind citizen, he might be unexpectedly strait-laced..

“Whatever.”

He pouted furiously.

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 05.jpg

First, he would visit the people who knew most about this town. Basically, such people were not the old residents, but the missionaries that could be found in any such town.

Looking down from the peak, there was no sight of any belltower in this town, and it was truly the intersection between the pagan lands and the far North. They had affirmed there was no church, but the missionaries definitely existed like rats. They were scattered all over various towns, sometimes because of religious zeal, and some to gather new believers for their unestablished churches, to have their own churches, out of practical considerations.

No matter the motive, there was a need to understand others before trying to convince, a common theme altogether. Missionaries would surely understand well what the residents believed in, what legends existed.

Kusla flapped the coat draped on the window, dusting off the dirt.

This much would not make the clothes any cleaning, the white of the dirt crumbs and dirt were similar. Ash to ash, dust to dust. This obvious example would strike memories of the biblical text. He picked up the dagger, tied it to the waist along with the bag containing the sun fragment, and was done with his preparations.

He glanced aside at the sleeping trio, and was no longer incensed. This world was an endless path, and he could not keep advancing without relying on his own legs, and he had no obligation to bring along those without the urge to continue.

The restless alchemist, it had been a while since he remembered this moniker.

And right when he went out to the door, his hand touching the handle.

“Ah!”

He could hear a barely audible cry, and looked back to find Fenesis getting up between Irine and Weyland.

However, she was looking weird, her eyes almost closed, not looking at him. Her ears were also tilted wildly. It seemed this would be the look of a corpse dug from the grave.

Kusla was a little startled to see this, and Fenesis began crawling out between the two as though she was possessed. She was not acting her usual self, shoving aside Irine’s face, prying away Weyland’s arm, not worried that those two would be woken up, it seemed him.

He could not determine where she was looking, and once she got off the bed, her knees seemed weak as she fell on her backside. Before her lower body got up, her hands were already outstretched, crawling.

She looked demented, or possessed by the devil.

Finally, she got up on her dull legs, stumbling over, falling towards Kusla.

“H-hey.”

Kusla panickily lifted her up, and her body had lingering traces of warmth from sleeping between those two.

But Fenesis was grabbing onto Kusla’s clothes firmly, not letting go.

Was she dreaming?

So Kusla thought, but he realized it was not the case.

“…Do not…leave…me…”

For as she muttered, her expressionless eyes were weeping.

Fenesis was probably still asleep. She was able to walk her, probably for similar reasons as Weyland keeping the pail.

She, with the cursed bloodline within her, was endangered no matter which town she went to, and could only escape from one journey to happen. In her dreams, she was invaded upon, and before she opened her eyes, she would be thinking of how to begin her escape.

Such actions would end up being ingrained in her, and she would act before she could thinking. She was sleeping soundly, and would not wake up even if her ears were teased, yet she could sense that mood.

Kusla embraced Fenesis, who was softer than usual because of the exceptional heat, and sighed. He had no intention of bringing along someone who had no interest, but since she had followed, he would not refuse.

He reached his arm around her head, still in its nightmares, latching on firmly to calm her down, lifted her by the collar, and pulled her.

“Wake up!”

Fenesis finally blinked at this moment.

“Are you done?”

“AH…eh?”

Fenesis looked around, and stared at Kusla again.

“It’s impressive that you’re still trying to follow even when you’re sleeping. I’ll bring you along, get ready.”

He let her go, and while she stumbled, she did not fall down on her backside.

While she was looking somewhat incredulous, she did realize what she did while dazed. It was obvious from how her cheeks were flushed.

However, she was not embarrassed, her compressed emotions turning into an elated, tearful smile.

She sniveled, wiped her eyes, and hastily looked for her coat, put it on without dusting it, and hurried to Kusla. She was pretending to be a young apprentice, her deftness befitting her facade, but there might not be another with such a beaming face.

Kusla did not understand why Fenesis was being so happy. Was it because she no longer had to wander for her life, or that she caught up to Kusla?

In any case, it did not matter much to Kusla.

For whatever the reason, he had the urge to reach out and touch her.

“…Ah, fueeh?”

And when Kusla reached out to Fenesis, the latter narrowed her eyes and shriveled her neck. The green eyes looked up in clear abuse, yet they were moist with some expectations.

It seemed that way, but actually, she had just woken up, and Kusla reached out for her disguise.

“You forgot your headcloth. Your ears are exposed.”

“Nya~?”

Kusla grabbed Fenesis’ left ear, shaking it left and right. After flicking the ear and letting go, Fenesis held down her ear, and glared at Kusla. Naturally, Kusla ignored her reaction, and hurried down the corridor.

Fenesis obediently sought out the headcloth, wrapped it around her head, and gave chase. She scowled, not even giving basic courtesy like, kept you waiting.

She seemed to be pouting, instead of fuming at the pain she suffered.

For the time being, he would ignore the reason as to why she was pouting.

Kusla showed a wry smile as Fenesis hurried off in large strides before him, and was about to close the door, only to see that Weyland had woken up on the bed.

Weyland was looking around, leering lecherously.

Damn you. Kusla twitched his lips, and closed the door.

If those two had not been in the room, he would not let Fenesis have the chance to pout.

So Kusla thought. If minerals had no impurities, the situation would differ.

Such foolishness, so he quietly muttered in his heart.

He descended the stairs, and found that within the inn, there were some lively fellows from Yazon raising their mugs. The three spies were among the scent of wine, fragrant roasted meat, and noise, chirping away.

While they obviously had different appearances when seated together, whenever Kusla faced a single one, he was unable to tell who was who. They really were a bunch of mysterious fellows, so he thought.

One of the spies noticed Kusla.

“If you’re looking for the pipsqueak, she’s out there.”

The little smile on his face might be due to Fenesis storming by, out of the bar in a huff.

Of course, there was some slight mockery in the use of the word pipsqueak.

“Just to ask, where are you two going?”

Like two sides of the same coin, care and supervision were two aspects of the same act. Kusla informed them of their objectives, and if anything was to happen, it would be easier to gain their help.

“I want to look for a missionary. There should be one in this town, yes?”

“In that case, you might want to knock on the doors of a few merchant guilds.”

“Merchants?”

“Those helping God’s servants are basically accumulating wealth in heaven.”

In other words, those that provided wandering missionaries with food and clothes were wiping off the sins of accumulating wealth.

“Also, help gather some information on this town’s old legends.”

“We’re discussing this matter.”

Kusla shrugged, and went out.

The coal in the bar’s furnace remained new and fresh, and Kusla’s body inadvertently shriveled once he exited, met by the cold, stinging air. Even if he wanted to experiment with the sun fragment in such a cold place, the conditions would have to change, so he thought.

Fenesis was waiting near the entrance of the inn. She was not looking over, probably because she was fuming. Despite that, when Kusla walked, she followed, and he had an increasing urge to tease her.

It was clearly Fenesis’ fault, so Kusla selfishly interpreted.

But as they walked on the street, the cold breeze blew, and this anxious feeling was blown aside. This might be the reason why people in the cold regions were filled with gloom,

Kusla and Fenesis wordlessly walked down the inn. There should be a missionary in this town, and they could ask or knock on the door of any guild. However, it might be better to understand the guilds in this town, rather than to headlessly look around.

The best way to understand this town would be akin to experimentation, to observe carefully. Thus, for the time being, Kusla decided to survey around. Just as Fenesis next to him was disguised as a boy apprentice, Kusla changed his role as the young lord of a craftsman guild who was expelled. He could not fool around in such a foolish role.

It seemed that as a trading town, Abbas had massive profits, for its roads were wide. The ground was not paved with dirt, but with wooden logs shaved in half, probably due to the snow. Whenever a carriage passed, there would be a unique clattering sound. There was definitely a rich forest up the river.

But after they arrived at the plaza in the center, he realized the cleanliness of the road was not completely down to the abundance of money.

The plaza was round in shape, the roads extending out in four directions, in Southern style. The exterior was decorated with fresh flowers and lush trees, the residences surrounding the plaza being ornamented.

“So they’re preparing for a festival…maybe this is the reason why there’s no war here.”

Since the festival was to be held at this place, it seemed it was not of Orthodoxy. However, the Knights would not be pointing their spears at the residents, telling them to stop. Their actions clearly showed they did not conquer this place through wanton measures.

For most of the town residents, the ruler was simply who they handed their taxes to.

As long as their daily lives were not disturbed, it did not matter whether it was the Latrian Queen or the Knights.

“This doesn’t feel like…a Cathedral. A temple? What’s being worshipped inside?”

The stone temple in the middle of the plaza had a large gate made of wood and metal, but the temple itself was not big. Looking from the outside, it seemed there was only space for one after opening the gates. A suspicious Kusla tapped at the gates, and from the sound, he deduced there was quite a massive space behind.

“So…there are stairs behind? How far does it go??”

Kusla’s clothes were tugged at, and looking back, he found Fenesis giving him a look.

The residents decorating at various points of the plaza were staring intently. Back when he was acting like an alchemist, he would just look back at the residents and question them thoroughly. However, this was not the time for him to be causing a ruckus. He could only pretend to be a foolish traveler, and leave quietly.

Kusla and Fenesis passed the plaza, with a few stares upon them, until they stopped caring.

“This place might have buried legends, just like Kazan.”

Kusla said half-jokingly, and Fenesis, who wanted to avoid conflict at all times, looked back to affirm, before sigh with a reluctant look.

As they continued to observe the town, he noticed that while it was so big, it was strangely quiet. The buildings were grand, and there were many houses, but there were few people hustling around. There were few people at the plaza preparing for the festival to begin with. Perhaps the residents were hiding in their houses because of the Knights, or perhaps they were not working outside due to the winter. While there were a few working on the blacksmith streets, one could feel the languidness walking down the streets.

“It’s a depressing town.”

Kusla quietly muttered, and next to him, Fenesis made a little sneeze.

But she, who had been scowling at him the entire time once they left the inn, might have sensed this gesture was an act of defeat of some sort, for she looked aside, giving the ‘I was not sneezing’ face.

And Kusla, who found it foolish to sigh, said,

“Hey, go run an errand.”

The ears under Fenesis’s headcloth twitched, and she turned her face around.

“Buy some drinks from that stall.”

He tossed a silver coin, and Fenesis hastily caught it, peeking at his expression.

“There should be someone selling hot wine out there. I want that. You can choose whatever you like.”

“…”

It appeared Fenesis had some words to say, but she kept quiet and teetered off.

She returned, and he saw that she bought goat milk boiled with honey and ginger. It might be suited for a princess, being a substitute drink for wine, when those port workers were trying to avoid falling into the water in a drunken daze. It seemed she was sniveling snot due to the hot air, for she kept huffing at the goat milk, sniveling, looking frantic.

The port was crammed with boats, and it seemed that as a trading area, it was quite the prosperous place. However, there were few numbers, and lack of activity. Perhaps the war against the Knights was increasingly heated, and the Knights sudden counterattack salvaged the situation. The control over the land and sea routes meant that Abbas was akin to a lone island in enemy territory. Trade is like a river flow; once it gets cut off, the only thing left was stagnation.

“Well…”

While Kusla was still observing the situation at the port, someone called for him. Surely there was no strange person around, and obviously, it was from Fenesis next to him.

“What? Is the ginger too spicy?”

“…I am no child.”

The heat dampened her face, and she was sniveling, making her look as she was crying like a bullied fellow.

“We are…looking for a missionary, no?”

Given her hearing ability, the conversation in the inn was not going to stump her.

“That is correct. Is there anything concerning you?”

So he replied, and Fenesis gently shook her head, saying,

“No. I simply never expected people of the Church to be here.”

Fenesis was originally a nun, but before that, she was one of the Cursed Ones, and ever since her birth, she was persecuted by both the Church, and the pagans

“You thought you had nowhere to run to?”

Fenesis looked up in shock, her stiff face slowly relaxing, and she smiled sadly.

“Yes.”

Her hands were holding the sweet goat milk with ginger spiciness as her eyes looked beyond the river

While Fenesis was protected by the Knights, the Knights never did it out of morality. Her cursed bloodline could be used for many purposes. Simply put, they took her in as a tool

But no matter where she went, as long as the Church’s ears remained, peaceful days would not visit her.

Kusla took a sip of the harsh, sour wine, saying,

“But if we can find the legend, this might not be the case.”

“Eh?”

“I won’t let anyone say anything unnecessary. Maybe we can be like the glassmakers, build a workshop in the forest, with privileges, protections.”

Hearing these words, Fenesis stared at Kusla as though she had seen a meteor rain.

“The angel’s tail is definitely at a place we can reach to. So…according to the logic of this world, if we think about this now, nothing good will happen thereafter, but–”

Kusla reached his hand out to Fenesis, rubbing her head along with her bangs.

“I should be thinking of a reward. Or maybe…”

For one moment, he hesitated, but he said it.

“I can set up a workshop in Yazon.”

“…Ya…zon?”

Fenesis seemed to be thinking of something, looking away from Kusla, only to hurriedly look back.

“Th-then…wh-why Yazon…”

“Ah?”

Kusla raised an eyebrow as he glared down at Fenesis, who reeled her neck back like a cat, blinking.

This scene lasted for a while, and Kusla sighed, looking elsewhere.

“Don’t you have a friend there?”

Fenesis was taken aback, nearly spilling the goat milk.

“Hey, careful.”

However, Fenesis seemed to have not heard this advise. At this moment, she looked as though she was on the verge of tears, as though she was teased mercilessly as she stared back.

“H-how did you know that…?”

“Huh?”

Kusla looked displeased when he retorted, but he was fuming out of embarrassment, for it was Irine who informed him.

Nevertheless, it was him who noticed something strange about Fenesis. All he did was take a page out of Irine’s book and borrowed its knowledge.

He tried convincing himself with this excuse, saying,

“I can tell by looking.”

“…”

Fenesis pouted unhappily.

She looked embarrassed, and guilty, and happy.

“Look, I don’t have any friends…but I know it’s a nice feeling to have people accompanying you. I thought separation was as normal as breathing, and wouldn’t think I would be hurt by something like this.”

Kusla stared at the wine in his hand as he endured the awkwardness these words left him with. Warm, disgusting acrid, yet something addictive.

“But some busybody told me it wasn’t the case.”

When he first met Fenesis, his lover was killed. She was a spy sent by the Pope to steal Kusla’s skills, and thus he had no pity for her, nor any pain. It was during then did Fenesis told him the truth.

Kusla looked back at Fenesis, and rubbed her head out of awkwardness, blotting out her stare.

“So, I can more or less understand the feeling.”

His lips were grimacing bitterly.

“It’s called growth, even though it sounds stupid.”

He shrugged, and downed the wine. Fenesis stared at Kusla in shock, and then finally smiled as though something had thawed.

“Your growth has delighted me.”

“…Who do you think you are?”

He tapped at her face, and easily nudged her demure body.

But she did not fall down, her smile never vanishing.

“I am an alchemist’s apprentice.”

It was amusing.

He truly found it hilarious, but it was not a bad feeling.

“Once we find the angel’s legend, the reward is there for us.”

Kusla muttered, but this was no grandeur delusion, no daydream.

For depending on the usage, it might be a technology capable of conquering the whole world.

But this was not all to Kusla’s goal.

The angel who left the legend behind might be a cursed one, one of Fenesis’ people, her cursed bloodline. Ultimately, it might be because they as a group had such advanced technology.

In that case, no matter where they had to go, especially at this place where they could meet a missionary, that there might be a day the curse that tormented her the entire time might be undone.

He already knew the angel was definitely no angel, and the technology was no mere technology, but something that could be recreated again.

Thus, it might be fulfilled.

It might break the curse that caused those precious to him to suffer, to be exposed to danger.

The Sword of Orichalcum he kept pursuing was in fact not one used to cleave the earth apart, but to sever the decades of consequences. Despite that, Kusla did not mind, as long as the results were same. As long as he could reach the land of Magdala, the place of serenity, and live up to the title of the restless alchemist, there would be nothing else better.

“Right.”

Kusla voiced out, trying to leave the groggy imagination behind him.

“Let’s go.”

He dumped the unfinished fluids of the mug into the gutter, for there was no need to continue warming his body.

But as Fenesis watched Kusla’s actions, she seemed to have some desire to do so, but she could not.

And thus, what Fenesis did was truly befitting of her.

“Nn…ngh, ngh…”

It should be hot, but she closed her eyes and finished it all in one gulp.

“Pwoahh!”

If that had been wine, he could have said she did a good job, but a sweet goat milk with ginger and honey was truly not worth the praise. Despite that, the Fenesis he first met would surely not have done so, and probably would not.

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 06.jpg

Truly she had grown.

“I-I shall, ack! Return the mug.”

Fenesis was speaking unnaturally, probably resisting the urge to vomit, or burp.

She received the mug from Kusla, and on the way back to the stall, she stopped for a moment, covering her mouth.

But she did not vomit.

“Alchemists have to learn how to struggle.”

Kusla patted Fenesis on the back, and as she shriveled in shock, he burst out laughing.

While Fenesis was fuming, she would stop whenever she was about to burp.

“You don’t have to rush.”

Muttering that, Kusla strode off.

Yes, there was no need to panic.

For the thing he really yearned to have was near him.



As Kusla waited, Fenesis stared back at him, looking somewhat suspicious, probably because she still could not believe, but it might also be because her stomach was not feeling well.

No matter the reason, Fenesis really looked foolish as she tilted her upper body back, her hand on her stomach as she walked gaudily. If anyone were to bring her to a guild, anyone would be wary of him, thinking he had intentions. Right when he was hesitant over whether he should send her back to rest.

Fenesis, who was frowning unbearably, suddenly widened her eyes, looking elsewhere. Kusla was long used to seeing this reaction from the cat whenever she sensed the presence of others. He followed her eyes, and found a little scuffle at the opposite back

“What do you mean I can’t go in!”

Before the southern town walls by the river, there was a man in a standoff against a soldier. The Knights had entered by the south, and thus, the gates were shut, with strict security. However, it did not seem like the soldier at the gate was of the Knight, but a town guard.

The man harrassing the guard resembled a merchant, and from afar, he looked obese, much mileage and age accumulated on his body. It seemed he was much older than Kusla and Weyland, and looking at the large luggage and knee-high mud, one could understand that he had just arrived.

Kusla shot Fenesis a look, and went to the riverbank.

“I hurriedly turned back because I heard the Knights have arrived. What’s with the attitude of yours!?”

“Master Poldorof gave this order because the Knights have arrived. He said not to allow any trouble, so no suspicious people around.”

“Me, you say? When I lived in this town for four years?”

“I know you, that’s why I’m stopping you. You’re Phil Botteo, right?”

“Yes! The knowledge keeper of the Great Jedeel Guild is me! If you stop me, you’re offending the Great Jedeel!”

Whenever the man flailed in protest, the strands of onions tied on his backpack would sway. Garlic and onions were said to be the best companions for a simple, modest traveler.

Looking from afar, it seemed the merchant called Phil might not be one for ploys.

However, Kusla was interested in the various signs, one calling himself a keeper of knowledge, and marked as dangerous by a town guard.

Did he not resemble an alchemist?

And right as he was thinking about this.

“I heard the rumors! The Knights revived the Knights!”

Upon hearing what Phil loudly exclaimed, the guard jolted in shock.

“Fo-fool, watch your words!”

They hastily held down Phil, trying to drag him away. Like Kusla, the residents at the port knew nothing, and watched this commotion. Someone actually cheered him on, “Hey, don’t give up, Mr Phil!” It seemed that merchant was very famous here.

“I’m not planning anything! It’s very important! We’re on this land God created! What is the past we walked on! This is it! It’s important…!”

A guard probably had enough; Phil continued to yell while being dragged away, and the guard covered his mouth. Despite that, the man called Phil continued to struggle, and the moment the hand covering the mouth let go, he yelled in a voice loud enough for the entire port to hear,

“Let me write!”

And then, he was dragged into a little hut down the river, his voice drowned out.

Left behind nearby was eerie silence. There were men reining in rope, dragging the boats up the shores, flipping it over, and stuffing kemp into the gaps between the wood; there were also men moving goods, and men just wasting their time. Every single person exchanged looks, shrugging and giving wry smiles.

“He’s the same as usual.”

Kusla heard a faint chuckle, and turned around to see a man, probably a blacksmith with some wooden hammers hanging by his waist. He was probably a boatmaker.

“Is he someone famous in this town?”

Kusla asked, and the body half naked in this freezing winter sighed with white mist, chuckling,

“Very. He’s willing to fly as long as he gets to write.”

“Books? Is he a book merchant?”

“Probably? But he’s a strange one. He’s always going North, but I never heard of him bringing back anything decent that could be sold. There’s someone among the guards I know who said he checked the lad’s luggage before, and they were all stones and grass. Of course, they weren’t minerals or herbs, and were worth nothing, nothing to be taxed over, but he looked like he brought back treasure. You see him in the bar though, and he’s a good lad. He’s a knowledgeable one, and even showed me the books with the latest boatmaking skills from the South. He’s a famous person in this town, at least.”

It seemed he was a boatmaker after all. Kusla listened to the boatmaker as he saw the guards whisk him into the hut. The merchant called Phil might be a strange one, but he knew of the existence of the Knights’ dragons.

And also, what he said, let me write.

For someone proclaiming himself as the keeper of knowledge, he might be the kind of person Kusla wanted to know.

“And you’re a wandering blacksmith following the Knights, no?”

The boatmaker sized up Kusla, seemingly critiquing him.

His eyes then drifted towards Fenesis, and appeared not to fancy them much.

It seemed he found them too slender to be swinging hammers, building boats.

“That’s what I tell everyone. Yes, I’m wandering around, until my old family calms down.”

Kusla answered as he gave an undaunted smile, and the boatmaker seemed to have his own interpretation.

“Oho. Some young lord from the South? Not bad. If you need to build a ship for distant trading, you can look for me. I came to this damned place from the South, back when I was looking for work, but instead of making sailing boats in this town river, I dream that one day, I’ll be able to build a massive ship sailing down the waves.”

Kusla liked the man, but not because the man accepted his bluff completely.

But that no matter what happened, it was a good thing to have dreams.

“I don’t know about shipbuilding though. I specialize in metals here.”

“Oh, a mineral trader?”

“I do everything relating to metals.”

Hearing Kusla’s answer, the boatmaker nodded with an impressed look, and suddenly looked towards the hut.

“You should have a chat with Phil then.”

“Why so?”

“That Phil has always been looking for capable blacksmiths, but it is said what he asks for is too difficult for anyone to make. Everyone told him to return South, where he can find as many capable blacksmiths as he want, but he insisted not to leave this place. He is an eccentric one. Why did the Great Jedeel Guild employ someone like him. The rumors… …”

Then, the boatmaker suddenly clammed up.

Kusla gave a skeptical look, and he responded with a wry smile.

“Not that. Just that I’ll be scolded by the boss, like, why do I like to chat away. Our boss is a local here, his face like the sky here, gloomy when we don’t expect it.”

Truly, the sky was clear, but grey.

“I agree. Us Southerners quick chatter sure is nostalgic. ”

“Heheh. Thanks for saying that.”

The boatmaker might be a magnanimous person to begin with, and after laughing, he whispered, somewhat concerned about his surroundings,

“It’s a rumor, just a rumor, that Phil’s an alchemist.”

The expected answer meant that Kusla had no need to pretend.

“Alchemist…? But…”

“Well, it’s just a rumor. But he does enter the demon’s belly from time to time, spending the night in there.”

It seemed Kusla’s scowl was picked up by the boatmaker.

“Ah, the demon’s belly is that thing, the temple in the middle of the plaza. You didn’t see it?”

“I did. Are there stairs behind the door?”

“Yes yes. There’s an underground cave beneath this town, and that’s the entrance. I heard that since ancient days, they hold a ritual that shouldn’t be talked about, and it was used as a jail. Recently, it’s only used for the festival.”

One had to wonder if he had loose lips to begin with, or was trying to build rapport with Kusla, believing the latter to be a great merchant.

Despite that, Kusla never missed out on what he said.

“That festival is pretty unique, worth a look. The Knights so happened to show up when they’re preparing for real…but it doesn’t look like it’ll be stopped.”

Kusla maintained a disenchanted look the entire time, but the past knowledge was plowing a tornado in his mind. Next to him, Fenesis too was working hard to look stoic.

Kusla exerted all his might to not arrest that man called Phil immediately, slam him onto the chair, and interrogate with every mean he could use.

To divert the expanding emotions, he nonchalantly asked,

“And the festival is?”

Speaking of which, there were hardly any examples of anyone being able to predict exactly what would happen.

“Ah, the festival celebrating the legend of the white demon.”

Kusla was not foolish to turn towards Fenesis, but the latter was completely etched in the memory. It was obvious that she was completely stiffened, and the boatmaker too noticed this.

“Hm?”

He stared at Fenesis intently.

Though her head was covered in the headcloth, the color of the hair remained obvious.

This Abbas was the town where the heretical inquisitor Korad Abria was last heard of.

There were rumors of a cursed white demon in this town, and truly, it sounded like a preplanned story.

“Maybe…you…”

Kusla had a quiet thought, that it might be faster for his hand to reach for the dagger on his waist, than it was to just talk it off.

And right when he weighed the possibility of this heinous act, lowering his waist,

“Well, you don’t have to feel bad about it. Nobody’s going to slander just because you have white hair. This place is different from the South, it’s common to have lighter hair.”

The boatmaker chimed cordially.

“But once you personally see the white demon, you might tremble in fear.”

So, the white hair was not enough for the boatmaker to think of the cursed people’s descendants? Or perhaps he knew nothing of it at all? Either way, it seemed the hassle was solved.

“Hm, what’s the matter? Were you shocked when you heard about the cursed demon? Ehehehe, for a wandering young lord, you’re pretty superstitious. But in any case, that thing can only be called a demon. The old folks of the town call it God, and it sounds like it, but it’s a god of destruction.”

While Kusla had already calmed down, what the boatmaker said left him curious.

“The demon you speak of is?”

“You’ll be staying in this town for the time being, right? Then you should leave the joy till the moment you see it.”

Sine it was the recreation of a cursed demon at a borderland, it was most likely a parade of a massive doll in the town. Kusla had heard of similar festivals in various parts of the world.

However, the boatmaker boasted, as though he was fluffing his prized wares in the bar,

“You’ll be shocked out of your mind, how in the world is there such a creature on this world..”

Living being?

“Oh, I revealed too much. Anyway, that’s that. If we meet in the bar, let’s have a drink together. Same for you lad. If you don’t have any work, you can come look for me. We’re getting lazy because of the war, but it’ll be busy once it ends. I’ll take care of you.”

The boatmaker reached his long and muscular arm out, patting on Fenesis’ shoulder.

There was somehow a kind, hearty boatmaker in such a cold, rural place.

“Farewell.”

Saying these words, he teetered off.

Kusla and Fenesis watched the boatman leave, and remained rooted for quite a while.

“Heard that?”

He finally spoke up, saying just these words.

“Y-yes…”

Fenesis stammered, and took a deep breath, probably to calm herself down.

“You can take it as an unrelated coincidence, right?”

He was asking himself, and his partner.

“I was often told that if I saw anyone whispering in the corner of my eyes, I had to think of them as selling me out.”

They had to think of the worst-case scenario.

“Just in case, we have the Knights to rely on. Right now, they’re on our side..”

The elites were within the tightly shut gates of the south. Even if the townspeople were to try and execute Fenesis for being a cursed one, the Knights would protect her with astounding military superiority.

“But.”

The cursed white demon.

Was Fenesis’ tribe ultimately unable to break free from the curse?

The term creature was worrisome.

“I don’t think it’s possible…”

Kusla muttered, and Fenesis tugged at his clothes.

Her hand appeared to be trembling, perhaps because she was exerting too much force.

“Please do not say so.”

They could somewhat imagine the worst possible situation. One of the worst would be she would be imprisoned, and paraded around during the festival as a cursed person.

Fenesis might not be the only one who came from the desert to the East, wandering and escaping for their lives. The angels who came here in the past might even have some descendants.

In any case, the outlook could not be deemed as optimistic. Back in Yazon, they were called angels, but in many more, they were called demons.

But if they merely thought of the worst situations and shivered in a corner of a room, Kusla never would have become an alchemist seeking the Sword of Orichalcum.

His eyes landed upon the little house .

“Yes. As an alchemist, we should act when there are rumors.”

Phil Botteo.

He was a book merchant, but could not be classified as a typical one.

Also, the temple known as the belly of the demon had to be related somewhat.

What was its true identity? Angel, or devil?

While the sun remained visible in the clear skies, the skies remained a gloomy grey.



Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 07.jpg

Act 2[edit]

Before meeting with him, they wanted to gather all their information about Phil. In this aspect, there was nobody more reliable than the spies.

Kusla and Fenesis temporarily retreated from the riverbank port to the inn, mentioning the man Phil Botteo. Not too long later, the spies gathered intel.

“But I don’t think we’ll need much effort even if it’s not us doing to work.”

Despite praising them for their efficiency, one of the spies responded languidly.

“He’s a famous person in this town. Even an errand boy can gather this much.”

It probably was a form of courtesy, showing that he had no intention to be praised just for this simple task.

Also, at this moment, Weyland and Irine had woken up together. For the longest time, Irine had assumed she was embracing Fenesis, so when she opened her eyes, she made a cute wail, and punched Weyland.

They were huddled in the assigned room, hearing the spies’ report, and Irine kept her distance from Weyland, maintaining her defenses next to Fenesis.

“Phil Botteo…might be read as Bocho in the South. He’s the book merchant of Jedeel Guild.”

“I heard of this guild’s name.”

Kusla said, and the spy nodded.

“It’s a big one. It came from a faraway place as a trade. The Jedeels were famous nobility since ancient times, so while they’re merchants, they’re practically nobility, their relationship with the knights not good, not bad…well this is one way to describe it. When the forces were deployed to the Promised Land of Kudaros, every single merchant of the Jedeel Guild had wider eyes than the Knights when they advanced into the land of desert. Of course, there’s also the issue of the product types and quantities they could bring back.”

It seemed there were many more people who hated to be confined in the towns than imagined.

“So he’s a book merchant of this massive guild. I don’t know him, but I might have bought a book of his.”

“The Guild does have business with the Knights, so this is a likely possibility. Also, I heard the man who archives the records of that Sanctum Library is that Phil Botteo.”

“Sanctum Library?”

Within the borders of a massive Southern empire called Rutcris, there was a country within a country, where the greatest power of Orthodoxy belonged. The majestic cathedral was splendorous, like a maze, and it had been 800 years since its founding. One of them was said to be a library containing all the knowledge of the world, and it was said to contain 130,000 to 140,000 books.

It was said there were many forbidden or magic books collected by the heretical inquisitors, and rumors had it the library with such a massive collection was linked to an underground graveyard hundreds of years ago. Some books were undiscovered till this day, and it all sounded ominous.

“Also, the man who compiled the Sanctum Library’s catalogue with Phil Botteo was said to be that Korad Abria.”

It was no longer to be deemed as too much of a coincidence. This was not a matter of meeting a particular person.

It was the same logic as insects approaching any form of light in the darkness, no matter how dim it was.

“Apparently, this book merchant was the disciple to the heretical inquisitor, a student. Books related professions in the past were rarer than they are now, so I suppose there was a master-pupil relationship between this inquisitor and a book merchant.”

“There are people in the Knights Headquarters who became heretical inquisitors just to read the forbidden books.”

“While this is a world that will cover up all the rot, people would want to peer into the contents, so one way to do so would be to be the man making the lid.”

That probably was a premise, sincerity. There were many instances of actual performances differing from the actual objectives, and in this regard, alchemists were no slouches. The interests of the employers were unimportant, for alchemists dabbled in it for their own purposes.

“And so he followed the steps of the heretical inquisitor by himself, and came to this town.”

“He said so himself?”

“It’s said that whenever he gets drunk, he’ll repeat it as many times as he wanted.”

It seemed everyone in town knew of it.

An unexpectedly serious Irine frowned at the fact that he had loose lips, while Weyland was chortling away, seemingly interested. What about Fenesis? Kusla tilted his head to see her reaction, and she was looking at him, completely apprehensive.

Calm down! So he gave a wry smile to her, and she took a deep breath for real.

“Just to ask, did this Phil follow his teacher’s footsteps just to see the teacher he respected again?”

“Of course not?”

Even you have such thoughts? The spy’s eyes were grinning mischievously.

“Looking at the unique traits we discovered about him, it seems he doesn’t have much interest in being an inquisitor.”

The boatmaker too did mention this.

He was often away, and brought back stones and grass, sometimes cooped within the demon’s belly beneath the plaza.

What were the town rumors about him?

“Someone said he might be an alchemist.”

“Truly, it is not strange to be doubted as such by the townspeople. From what was heard, given how the bookmaker is looking for a blacksmith with good skills, there is some credibility to these rumors.”

Irine lifted her head upon hearing the words ‘blacksmith with good skills’.

Kusla pointed at Irine, saying,

“Any chance for her to perform?”

She was the outstanding blacksmith who hammered out a forgery of the Damascus steel, and rebuilt the dragon flamethrower.

Irine was acting as cautious as a blacksmith would be, pretending to be disinterested, but was obviously looking a little gleeful.

If she had ears like Fenesis, surely they would be twitching elatedly.

“In a certain way, yes.”

But the spy’s response was ambiguous.

“In a certain way?”

“It was said what he wanted aren’t too difficult. Distillation tools, and the like.”

They were tools used to distill wine, and it was no easy to make good quantity ones, but it was not impossible to find a blacksmith to do so. There was much precision required to intricately seam the gaps together and ensure steam would not escape, it was a particularly common skill. As she thought about this, Irine nonchalantly replied,

“Ah, I see.”

She scratched her head with her little finger, and said,

“When the blacksmiths say there is some difficulty, most of it is down to other problems, even though there are times when it’s really the case. Like, if they build according to the request, there may be more troublesome matters thereafter. One of the biggest issues would be counterfeiting money.”

The spy closed his eyes, and nodded silently.

And the alchemist, who had complete disdain for the orderliness of every town, could only retort,

“Is that so?”

“Yes. Moreover, he was rumored to be an alchemist, you know? A blacksmith won’t be happy to be asked to make a silver spoon. This is the end of a pagan country, and didn’t they say further North is where the barbarians live?”

“That’s correct.”

“So that’s all the more reason to refuse. Distillation tools involve breweries, the town council collecting taxes, the beer brewers and the wine brewers who pay the taxes, the inn guilds providing alcohol, the brewery guild, everything will be implicated. The Church will also come in to make a commotion, saying that brewing too much is a sign of unruliness to the order, something troublesome. It seems like while everyone has the skill to make such things, they’re not willing to create for a suspicious person. He might not be one who’ll notice such details. You said he’s a book merchant, right? It doesn’t sound like he knows much about the world.”

“That’s harsh.”

As an illiterate person herself, Irine might have a grudge against books, but she did seem to have her own logic of doing so.

“An old blacksmith from before once said, never learn words. That’ll weaken your memory, and you won’t remember anything. The blacksmiths that want to make things easier will try to convert their smelting process into words, but such an ability is really terrible.”

Truly, these words would be expected for someone who repeatedly swung the hammer every day in the workshop, accumulating experience that could not be easily conveyed in words.

“Of course, it’s not like it’s definitely a bad thing…”

It seemed that since she was illiterate, she was somewhat venting her own frustrations.

“But I do feel what Miss Irine said is pretty spot on.”

The spy said.

“The book merchant himself was a typical fellow unable to remain cooped in the stable town life...”

“Those that find these words painful can cover their eyes.”

Kusla said, and the two girls scowled unhappily.

“But someone like him is actually selling books? Aren’t books the kind of things the rich will buy? Also, I don’t think there’ll be customers at such a place.”

Irine mentioned, probably to divert from the stinging topic.

“There are two kinds of book merchants~.”

Speaking up was Weyland, who had remained silent the entire time.

“One will be like this alchemist here, guzzling away at books while hiding underground, and going out to sell books~.”

Weyland pointed at Kusla.

“And the kind who gather lots of books to sell.”

“Lots…of books?”

“Yes. Like what you said, little Irine, books are a little different from things of the world. There are people looking for such books, books that are missing from a horse carriage, or books that are deemed dangerous and deliberately sealed away, to be forgotten. I don’t like reading as much as Kusla, but there’s still some interest in seeking out rare books hidden somewhere in the world, an adventure~.”

Weyland stroked his chin, chiming in elatedly.

Irine looked flabbergasted, but it seemed she did somewhat understand.

“So, like looking for treasures?”

“Similar, but even if you work so hard to find this one existing book on this world, it definitely doesn’t mind you’ll strike it rich. After all, truly rare are those willing to spend big money to obtain calligraphy text of the ancient empire, or the strange ones interested in tax details.”

“But there are definitely such weird ones out there. After all, these things will earn a fortune.”

“That is true.”

The spy’s agreement had others feel there was something else to that.

Speaking of which, no sane person would actually arrive at this town.

“So, this book merchant was a follower of the person we’re looking for, and stopped in this town.”

Everyone turned to Kusla.

“Also, he called himself the protector of knowledge, knows of the rumors about the dragon flamethrowers, and probably wanted to meet the Knights because of this. Personally, I think he’s someone who’ll happily chat about this.”

The same too for the people who tried to reveal the secrets

“Whenever he got drunk, he would boast about Korad Abria’s actions. It might be deliberate.”

“Deliberate?”

“Maybe he’s doing so to attract attention from the likes of us.”

One did not know what purpose he had. If he were a heretical inquisitor, he would probably leave a slice of meat in a pot to lure flies in, and murder them all. However, that merchant seemed not to be the case.

“We too considered Mr Kusla’s deduction. It was too easy to gather information. He is affiliated to the massive Jedeel Guild as a book merchant, dealing with the brokerage of worldly knowledge, but he might be too outspoken. We have to assume he has some plans. I do not think he is someone who does not weigh the factors.”

“Just to ask, is there any problem if I bring along ‘a blacksmith with good skills’?”

“There will be political issues as Miss Irine had said, but if anything happens, just run.”

The spy’s lips curled in a heinous smile.

“The Knights elites are protecting you after all.”

It was a line nobody would complain about.

“Can we meet him?”

“Feels like he welcomes all visitors.”

“We shall meet him then.”

Kusla nodded.

They decided to meet Phil Botteo, but Kusla recalled something he had forgotten to ask.

“Anything new you heard about the legend of the white demon?”

Fenesis naturally froze once she heard that, and even Irine, who heard of this for the first time, immediately realized it had something to do with Fenesis, and widened her eyes.

However, the spy smiled calmly, and answered,

“I suppose it is better to hear from the person you’re meeting. After all, no matter who I asked, they would always start of with, you should hear from Mr Phil. In other words, nobody else has dug deeper into the history of this town as much as he did. He might be better than the locals in this regard.”

According to the spies, Abbas was different from the various southern towns, for they had no such thing as a council, but that the aristocrats with lots of power, the Poldorofs, were temporarily ruling. While it did not really matter, the rulers hated any scandals involving them. Those rumors detrimental to them, degrading of their characters would be thoroughly rubbished, deliberately forgetting.

Thus, the twisted stories would have no standing, gradually meaningless, and the people interested in them would dwindle in numbers.

The adventurous Phil Botteo instead knew much about the surrounding towns and distance countries, and instead filled in the blanks to the story. It was very likely he thus ended up more familiar with the town’s history than anyone else.

“However, even the Knights are a little uneasy about mentioning this traditional festival.”

“Hm?”

“Even though every town has changed somewhat…”

The spy glanced towards Fenesis, and showed a rare, tender smile.

“According to what I have heard, it doesn’t have much to do with you. The Knights are more concerned about things on their side.”

Politically, it seemed. While there was no intention to forcibly stop the festival, if they quietly permitted it, it would be a source of trouble, so it seemed.

Kusla never realized what was going on, but he probably could ask the book merchant about this.

At this point, the tension on Fenesis’ face was not completely abated, but she was probably relieved to know it was not a noose on the cursed people, to be paraded around on the streets.

Then, Kusla’s group went towards the building the Jedeel Guild was based in, as heard from the spies.

It seemed they had decided to set up next to the guild’s wares, doing and saying everything to prove that they had no hostility.

They were basically saying.

If you are to work with us, than the entire northern hemisphere, including Latria, is free for you to trade with.

As the spy had said, since they were able to establish a massive guild here, surely they were offering loans to nobility at the headquarters, the nobility relying on their fortunes to continue the war. Also, the guild loaned to them not out of loyalty, but to obtain privileges from the rulers, just as the alchemists provided their skills. Thus, it was to be expected that they would choose the winning side in the war.

Unlike those who only knew of suppression through brute force, Alzen was never someone with such short-sightedness. It would not be shocking for him to kill two, three birds with one stone.

Nevertheless, the trading was not something alchemists should concern themselves with. For Kusla and the others, as long as they could do research, and get closer to their Magdala, anything goes.

And pertaining to this, there was nobody worth looking forward to like Phil Botteo.

“What do you want with me?”

The Jedeel Guild base was at a less conspicuous building on the main street.

The entrance was wide enough for a carriage to move into the building. It seemed those items were all product samples, from farming tools, herbs and minerals, to masks of unknown purposes and old fashion rough coats. Further in, one could see a furnace and a cashier, the merchants huddled around them, chatting leisurely.

One would probably believe this cutout was a certain afternoon in the South.

“I heard rumors about you, so I want to talk.”

Kusla gave a welcoming smile, and the book merchant too responded in kind.

“Hahaha, nothing decent, I suppose?”

“At the very least, not something I’ll be bored with.”

Phil’s smile might harbor some wariness of a wild beast, and it would not be strange in the least. After all, he had just rambled about the dragon flamethrowers in the faces of the Knights.

One would probably assume the Knights acted quickly, and scouted him.

However, Kusla unexpectedly realized something.

Phil’s smile was heartfelt, and at the same time, relieved.

If that was genuine, there would only be one reason.

“Since ancient times, it is the famous things in town that make tourists happy.”

Such words had Kusla confident. That commotion might have started new rumors beyond this town, within Phil’s expectations. As Kusla had thought, Phil’s actions were all to attract the attention of those with the same goals.

In that case, Kusla only had one line required to be conveyed.

“Seems like you really know this route well. We spent quite the nice time in Kazan, Nilberk and Yazon.”

An alchemist would have quite the few opportunities to reach out to those who could not express their interests freely.

Whenever he did so, the other party would either grin heinously, or give awkward smiles.

Phil Botteo might be the only one who would smile wholeheartedly.

“Re-really!? Really!? How wonderful it!”

He was so elated, he was about to embrace, so Kusla thought, only to actually embraced. The Northerners truly had some gloom to them, but the passion of the Southerners, when distilled like this, was a little too overbearing.

“Ohh, God has not abandoned me! Finally, finally…”

Phil was so moved, it appeared he was touched to be reunited with a bosom friend of the same town, but when Kusla was embraced once again, Kusla understood the real reason.

You are an alchemist, no?

Phil’s eyes were glancing over at the wry smiles from those gathered before the cashier, sneering ‘Mr Phil is being his strange self again’, the merchants were clearly hissing questions. The logic probably was that, if one wanted to cover up some unknown white smoke in the warehouse, they should burn the whole house down instead.

Naturally, Kusla would not make a foolish mistake of being shocked. He laughed heartily like one reunited with a compatriot, acting slowly as he patted Phil on the shoulders.

“It seems God has arranged for this meeting.”

“This means my prayers have finally come into effect.”

The alchemists followed the Knights’ footsteps to this place. It would not be strange to view them as visiting demons, for those who had hidden their heinous past and skeletons in their closet.

While Phil was a little exaggerated and dishonest, his delight clearly seemed honest.

In that case, there was only one answer.

“The truth may finally be revealed.”

He said.

It was not a matter of good and evil.

It might even be beyond benefit and cost.

“You’re saying that you’re on the verge of getting God’s clothes?”

From an angle those unrelated merchants could not see, Kusla gave the look of an alchemist to Phil.

And Phil acted in the manner of a merchant a tad older than Kusla, responding graciously.

“All as long as we can obtain the angel’s blessings.”

Phil was truly Abria’s student after all, and it was no coincidence that they managed to pursue his footsteps to this town. They were staring at the same thing, looking at the same results, which led them here.

Kusla turned back to look at the trio.

And even smiled at Fenesis.

“Oh yes, it’s inconvenient to stand and talk. Please follow me in. This ridiculous war is making us all too free. We have no business!”

Phil said as he nudged them inwards, even shaking hands fervently with Fenesis, Irine and Weyland. The other merchants might have assumed the strange fellow might have strange visitors, and paid no attention to them.

They entered the building of the Jedeel Guild, passed through the corridor, and were whisked into a room. It was more of a Southern style, with a reception room facing the courtyard, the sun shining warmly into it. However, the Southern flair existed only in terms of style, for the sky remained cloudless and grey for acres. The courtyard was dyed white in snow, and the leaves of the fruit trees had fallen, the trees resembling graves.

It was not suitable for a cheery topic, but it might deem appropriate.

Phil had Kusla and the other visitors enter the room, stood on the corridor to look around, crept inside, and with a backhand, closed the door behind him.

And then, before his hand left the handle, he said,

“It’s about the angel’s legend, no?”

The gloomy airs of the North seemed to have dampened his excitement somewhat.

Phil served them with some heated, diluted wine with honey, along with raisins.

Irine, who never feared about getting poisoned, immediately reached for it, popping a raisin into her mouth, her throat making a little groan. For a moment, Kusla tensed up, but Irine groaned as she said,

“It’s——spicy…”

“Ahaha, too much wine soaked in it. It’s hard to strike a balance.”

It seemed these were raisins soaked for distillation. Do not eat even though it is not poisonous, so Kusla shot Fenesis this look. The latter had a tendency of turning rowdy. So she nodded obediently, looking a little remorseful.

“But no wine can beat our drunkenness.”

As there was no need to conceal the fact that they were alchemists, they had no need to pretend to be elegant.

“Drunkenness really can be used to describe this. Yes, we’re all drunk in the hearts. I had assumed you’re soldiers here to apprehend a drunk.”

Clearly he knew that by starting a commotion before the Knights, there would be two kinds of people. They would either be the spies looking into this suspicious merchant who leaked news of the dragon flamethrower, or people who had similar goals to him.

“There’s also this possibility?”

“Impossible.”

The book merchant chuckled heartily.

“It seemed you haven’t realized how immature the vibe you give.”

Kusla narrowed his eyes unhappily, but Weyland was chortling, and Irine seemingly sighed in agreement. Was she the same too? So Kusla glanced aside at Fenesis, the latter looking sheepish.

“So the scouts who came with giddy looks can’t handle the dirty work of the Knights?”

It seemed he was no mere book merchant who would sit leisurely on a guild chair, selling high priced books.

He probably suffered various hardships trying to seek out precious, forgotten books, or books that had to be erased from the world.

“There are.”

Opposite them, Phil Botteo leaned over.

“As alchemists seeking the angel’s legend, I suppose you are most likely the ones who revived the dragon flamethrower.”

Kusla thought, was he, who was a tad older than them, not acting like a child when he called others immature?

But he was not repulsed in the slightest.

We can conquer the world. Alzen, who had once said this, showed the same look.

“It is for you to assume.”

Phil nodded, looking pleased.

“The Knights reversed the tide with an unbelievable weapon. I was truly shocked when I heard the news. Someone might have found all the truths before me, in a place I knew not of, and my knees nearly buckled.”

While this world was created by God, it was due to His meddlesomeness that the truths were hidden deep beneath the ground. No matter how passionately one would yearn and seek for ages, he often would end up unable to attain what he could not, only for others to dig them out in a moment.

Phil’s nature was similar to an alchemist’s.

A child passionately seeking treasure.

“In that case, I suppose you have been looking into this for a long time, Mr Botteo?”

Kusla asked, and the obese book merchant smiled bashfully.

“Call me Phil. The name’s Botteo, but it’s actually read as Bochou. This is the family name my personal master gave me…but it makes me uneasy. Probably because I haven’t grown much compared to when I was younger.”

“So Phil, when did you start investigating the legend of the angel?”

“When I was still a child.”

When he said so and looked far, he looked as defeated a man could be, as though the path he had taken till this point was not bad

“Since you made it all the way here, I suppose you know of the name Korad Abria?”

“We came here after discovering he hid a letter in Nilberk.”

“Hm…so there are hints in Nilberk too…the Knights there are too powerful, and I could have caused trouble for the guild if I was careless, so I never began to investigate there.”

Phil was strangely angsty about it, probably because he was the one who should be most familiar with this topic.

“But speaking of which, it seemed that letter was out to recruit companions to begin with.”

Kusla narrated the content he recorded, and Phil gave a gaudy look.

“That man does say some serious words from time to time, and is thus despicable. Truth be told, he is truly as eccentric as what they could call him.”

Phil’s etiquette might have been crafted by Abria.

“Regarding that legend, I was still a child when I met him, and he was already investigating the legend. He said he was going to pull the angel out from the book.”

It sounded as though he was summoning a demonic beast from a forbidden, evil book.

“That man once said books will make sounds, and could form songs once they were all gathered. He might have heard the angelic voices from the countless books nobody else could hear. He said that he was going to hunt down various books, choose those that had the marks of the angel, and compress them”

Saying that, Phil gave a nostalgic look towards Kusla.

“Probably to offer some help to you alchemists.”

“Not to find the answer himself?”

Even though he was dressed in the black robes of a heretical inquisitor, it was hard to imagine Abria’s seeking of the angel’s legend out of his own religious zeal. If it was out of his own curiosity, would he not want to witness it for himself?

Kusla was skeptical, but Phil gave a troubled smile.

“This is thus the difference between you and us.”

“Difference?”

Phil nodded.

“You can rediscover knowledge that had disappeared. In fact, one can understand from investigating the books brought from the promised land of Kudaros. What they call the latest mining technology had already been discovered by the ancient desert kingdom. Such situations aren’t uncommon, but for us…”

Phil changed his personal pronoun.

Such might be the expression of many who had grown and lost their youthful vigor.

“Once the books are lost, they will never be revived again. Even if certain truths, logic or mathematics were rediscovered, it will be difficult to restore them again, like music. Of the ancient kingdoms that were wiped out, how people viewed the existence of gods would never be replicated once lost.”

Phil sounded as though he had turned younger by 30 years.

“In other words, us book merchants never thought that we could view everything as they were. We did everything trying to link the lost things together. It would be nothing but arrogance to read new books nobody read, or views no author had mentioned or written about. Such an authority…”

He cleared his throat slightly.

“Lies in the hands of others..”

This famous merchant who acted independently did so to conceal his true motives, and also because he had no choice but to do so. He sounded like an enlightened clergyman. Kusla was shocked and elated to know that there were others, besides alchemists, who could have such thoughts.

It was no wonder that he was not a person who could live the peaceful life in town.

“Can we assume then that we have such an authority~?”

Weyland interrupted excitedly. He, who celebrated hedonism more than Kusla, might found Phil’s strange thoughts of wanting to suppress desires to be too bounding.

But it was likely the contrary. Phil was too greedy as a book merchant, and imposed limits on himself. He felt that he could do whatever he wanted as long as he did not cross the line. Weyland looked really happy, probably because he could sense the maddening persistence.

“Of course, Mr Abria understood his job. Pulling the angels out from the books is the job of the alchemists. He said it was the work of a first rate alchemist.”

Weyland was sneering, but he was really delated. The gears were in sync. Any person who understood the potential of the technology, and no one’s heart would not race seeing a massive machinery begin to work.

“I have something to ask.”

Kusla asked, and Phil blinked.

“What is it?”

“Has the disciple completed his master’s work?”

If he was the one who stopped because of this doubt, he would no longer be present at this place.

“I am the protector of knowledge of the Great Jedeel Guild, the book merchant Phil Botteo.”

It seemed this fellow was the kind to dream that his name would be recorded in the annuls.

Kusla’s lips naturally curled into a smile.

The group was led to a warehouse said to be accommodated specially for Phil. Fenesis, Irine, and even Kusla and Weyland were flabbergasted.

“If there is a fire, I wish to be buried in here.”

It did not sound like a joke, for the things crammed from floor to ceiling were not books bounded together, but scattered parchments or scrolls.

“Are these all related to the angel?”

Irine inadvertently muttered.

“No, half of it is related to my actual work…”

“So, are these considered ‘books’~?”

Even Weyland had to exclaim dumbfounded. The information gathered in this warehouse was massive.

“Not exactly. Actually, my work is similar to an alchemist hired by the Knights. It’s not like I’m not selling books at all, but it’s not progressing frequent. Income-wise, I should be able to call myself a book merchant.”

Phil said, seemingly self-reproaching.

“My main work is to ensure my employer, the Great Jedeel Guild, can trade successfully.”

Saying that he pulled out a scroll made from the hard bark of a certain plank, the marks on similar to a worn out thumbprint of a craftsman.

“This is a scroll made from the bark of white birch. It’s easy to erase the words completely on, so one can write with ink and engrave on the other side. It’s often used as a replacement for paper in this place that’s covered in ice and snow. It does not wilt, and if preserved well, can last for long. Right now, I’m investigating the local cultures and religions.”

“So it’s easier to grasp the hearts of who you’re trading with?”

Kusla flipped the book that’s covered in dust, saying while not lifting his head up.

“Thus so. While the business competitors are vying for gold and wine, we exalt the name of the ancient gods as respect. It’s very effective. I can also investigate in various ways, for my own purposes.”

“I see. Just like an alchemist.”

Kusla closed the book, and shelved it again.

“So what about the angel’s portrait?”

Phil giggled as he took out a book with a deer hide cover from a long, glossy black box. The long box was stuffed with various asbestos, and on closer look, the box itself did not seem metallic, but crafted out of leather. Hardened leather could parry away blades, and unlike metals, would not conduct heat easily even in flames. It seemed he was seeking the possibility of this box surviving a fire in case it happened.

“While it is in the form of a book, it contains only oral stories heard from the North. Some of them were left behind by Mr Abria, and some were records I made.”

Kusla listened to his explanation as he opened the book that ballooned like a snake belly due to the parchment.

How should he describe that feeling?

It might be most appropriate to say the gust blew from the pages.

The torrent of knowledge could be felt on the skin.

“And I suppose Mr Abria and I have already considered the crux of this legend. Given the knowledge we have, we don’t have the expertise to form it. Moreover, they left no records, maybe because they did not want others to easily replicate this dangerous technology. The records had been rather indirect.”

Kusla’s sights followed the contents of the words.

On it was written: to the cursed people, the deformed humans dubbed the angels in Yazonhave finally resided in the land called Abbas after their long trek. It also stated the source of all the local legends. The sun was summoned, and Abbas was destroyed.

“Abbas was~?”

Kusla lifted his head, and found Weyland leaning over, frowning. Fenesis gasped.

“Eh? Haven’t you heard before arriving here? Abbas was located somewhere else.”

It was then that Kusla recalled the spy’s words.

“…We did. But we never thought…”

“The destruction of the town was real. The more outlandish it is, the real it is.”

“But is there no real possibility of it being ruined by war~?”

Weyland raised a realistic guess, but Phil shook his head, his face giving a peaceful smile.

“Not at all. It vanished completely.”

“Did you witness it?”

He was not asking maliciously.

And Phil probably understood this, for he nodded affirmatively.

“Of course, I personally went to look. The legend of Abbas’ destruction reached every place in the North. However, I might have underestimated…”

Saying that, Phil lowered his head, still smiling it seemed. However, Kusla sensed that he was not smiling, but gritting his teeth, enduring some kind of fear.

“It was a terrifying sight. There was a massive crate in the middle of the forest, a large hole. There is wood to be harvested in the North, and lots of minerals. It’s also possible to hunt the hide of wild beasts, so it had not suffered to the point where the difference in shipmaking skills was widened greatly against the South. A long time ago, I heard the North was more prosperous than the South. Abbas was the most bustling town of the trading posts. Yet such a place was…”

He gulped.

“It was said to have vanished in a single night. The angel that descended from the heavens summoned the sun onto the earth, and swept everything in blinding lights and flame. It was said that at a nest two peaks away, one could witness the night turning into day. It was eighty, or even a hundred years ago, but the marks left behind remain visible to this day.”

Phil did not seem like one to joke, his narration unlike a wandering merchant pandering to the countries.

But it was still a little unbelievable.

It could erase a town in an entire night?

Kusla’s eyes drifted back to the book in his hand.

Written on it was: all who manipulates the spirits of fire shall be met with calamity.

“B-but why do that? Is it because…they were persecuted? Just like back at Kazan…”

Irine asked. She did not openly show concern for Fenesis’ reaction, but firmly held the latter’s hand.

Fenesis however did not appear to be panicking.

Her eyes met Kusla’s, and even in this tense moment, she could smile.

“There were certainly records that the people were deemed to be of equal stature to demons in Kazan, but in the logs of the other travelers, they were highly respected, and the details were full of contradiction. There was a unique trait however, in that all the rumors indicated the that the angels destroyed Abbas as a warning. Another point is that ever since then, they went further North, to vanish without a trace forever.”

They were persecuted, and fled for their lives, cooperating with the locals by sharing their technology, but were feared for being overly powerful, and hated. This process repeated itself, and finally, they fled to the ends of the world, and had nowhere to go. It was probably then that they had enough.

“Also, they left words behind, saying that if anyone was to pursue them, the same fate would befall him. These words passed down for generations, in places where they were viewed as gods of destruction, and places where they were deemed angels of miracles instead.”

“So…leaving aside whether they are angels or demons, is the summoning of the sun a technology that can be replicated again?”

“The theory of magic has similar definitions too.”

His joke was pretty interesting even for an alchemist.

“But to burn a town in an entire night…is that really possible? Even with the dragon flamethrowers, it takes time to burn everything down…~”

Even Weyland, who was always grinning at everything, said such words.

For it was truly something hard to imagine.

“The warning left behind is really something to ponder about.”

Kusla flipped to the relevant record, and muttered.

It was mentioned in the book that as long as the sun is the source of all of Life, by filtering through the presence of Life, it could be reused as the sun.

“But this is no whispering of love, it is the vengeance and pain of Hell…like the crying of a human when born…”

Kusla narrated as he felt nauseous. It was a sign of hope, an urge to yell in excitement. It was nothing as trivial as burning the bones of a Saint to smelt metals, looking for the results. The ‘sacred art’ of an alchemist, one often dismissed as arrogance, was written upon it.

By controlling Life, one would manipulate the flow of all things.

The depiction of the sun in the first page of the Bible was not coincidental.

There was no doubt the sun was the beginning of all life, ash to ash, dust to dust, the elements pouring from the sun would seep through the ground, and become the sun again.

“So you think the rocks and plants are the source of life on the earth, and brought them back?”

Kusla’s eyes drifted towards Phil, who was a little taken aback, before grinning sheepishly,

“So you have heard.”

“And the results?”

“Please leave the mischief aside for now.”

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 08.jpg

The merchant probably racked his brains, gathering various things that could feel the life of earth.

“But I have been seeking the ancient books from the promised land of Kudaros, even looking through the Sanctum Library. There were similar descriptions before, though the razing of a town is a particularly unique situation…”

It was akin to the legend of bigfoot. All across the world, there were stories of lakes formed by the giant’s footsteps. By depicting these lakes on the map, one could see that they came from the Northern ends of the world, vanishing into the western seas.

One could be amazed to think someone could fantasize such a tantalizing story, or perhaps…

“What about the legend of those flying in the skies?”

“On the next page. That was the message they left behind.”

Kusla then flipped the page, and saw the illustration of an angel with wings.

“The sun is the source of all living beings, and since it appears in the sky, it represents that Life can float in the sky. Thus, by breaking free from the presence of life of the Earth, one could rise into the air…”

Uh huh~, so Weyland voiced out.

The sudden change of text was akin to one a heretical clergy would say, and that was what left him dumbfounded.

And even Fenesis, who had been listening with bated breath, was left speechless. The overly preposterous matter had dismissed all kinds of dignity

“…The sun is not floating in the sky, no?”

Her question however had Kusla looking up to sigh. His response was so outlandish, for this was a matter of knowledge defying instincts.

“Book merchant, you have quite the knowledge, don’t you? How will you explain this?”

“Hmm, how sly of you. It seems you have the understanding of it.”

Overhearing their conversation was Irine, who showed a strange look.

“What are you saying? Of course the sun is clinging to the sky. I heard the stars are the holes in the sky.”

Without much intent, Irine merely repeated the stories told by the Church.

But even if one was not an eccentric alchemist trying to turn lead into gold, there were many points that remained unbelievable.

“According to what you say, when the sun sinks into the sea, won’t it get cooled instead?”

“Eh?”

Upon being asked, Irine tilted her head in confusion.

Weyland, having had enough, voiced out,

“The Church doesn’t want to admit, but the ancient sages assumed the sun floats in the sky. It might not be a sphere even, and they insisted all the stars, even this land are the same~.”

This saying would implicate the Church’s teachings, and except for the unique one that was Abria, the actual inquisitors who would have paraded Fenesis around would be slain anyone with such heresies.

“B-b-but, how do we prove this without flying in the sky? That has to be a lie, yes?”

The upright citizen, model blacksmith Irine raised natural question, but the sages had two powerful tools, observation and hypothesis.

“It’s either the sky is moving, or the ground is. This debate has gone on forever. If this Land isn’t the world created by God, there’ll be people worried. Thus, they hope for the skies to be moving instead.”

Kusla tapped at the ground lightly, Fenesis and Irine looked down in unison.

“However, the investigations of the stars movements have been occurring since ancient times, leaving behind records before the Church was established. It was the era of prosperity for the desert region, before the Promised Land of Kudaros had been completely barren.”

Fenesis showed a surprised looking, lifting her head towards Kusla.

“I heard the stars there are really pretty.”

The girl who fled from the Promised Land of Kudaros looked afar, recalling her distant hometown.

“Truly…there is praise of it being ‘as pretty as the moon’. I hardly heard of that though.”

“Oh, are you from there too?”

Phil asked with much enthusiasm, while Fenesis hurriedly lowered her head.

On the other hand, Kusla inadvertently imagined a girl like Fenesis looking up at the night sky, while the silver moonlight shone upon the massive desert. The silvery white hair might cause one to assume her to be a moon goddess.

The earnest urge to personally witness arose within him, and then he grimaced.

How foolish.

“Anyway, through the observations since ancient times, people have realized the regular movements of the planets, and developed them into knowledge that are used today. That’s astrology. There are some stars dubbed as planets though, and they are troublesome, wandering around in irregular paths. The sages who assumed everything on this world had to follow logic had a headache trying to explain why these stars move like drunks. One thought that was developed was that the stars aren’t holes in the sky, but that certain stars move around the sun. By this thought, the movement of the stars become simple.”

“This assumption can answer another important question. There’s no end of this land, and if we continue to move East, we should end up back at where we are from the West. It’s a lot easier to accept than the idea that the end of the seas is a waterfall, and that there are monsters there.”

Irine widened her eyes, seemingly at a loss for words.

When Kusla learned of this explanation for the first time, he felt he was forced to think of a circular rectangular.

At this point, his view was that, perhaps this was the case.

“But it’s pointless to think about it. This isn’t a question that can be solved by thinking.”

“And assuming the planet is a sphere, that explains why the moon looks incomplete. The real answer however will require alchemists hundreds of years later to explain, unfortunately.”

Phil said so, but he did not seem disappointed. Perhaps it was because as he had been living in the world of books, he was used to the notion that some worlds were not something he could construct.

“Or perhaps, if we can find a way to fly in the sky, we might be able to be sure.”

Then, Irine seemed to have recovered, and she said, somewhat furious,

“B-but flying is definitely impossible, right?”

“What about birds?”

Once asked, Irine in turn threw a tantrum as though she was insulted. Kusla himself understood why she was feeling ill-tempered. Weyland continued,

“In fact, even without wings, it is possible to fly. Many in the past have realized this~.”

What unbelievable reasoning are you going to come up with next? Irine acted wary.

“We can experiment now~.”

“Eh?”

“Put two sticks together in a cross, put a little candle at where they meet, and wrap a thin piece of paper over the entire thing. Make sure to leave an opening at the bottom. Light the candle, and watch it rise~.”

“……”

“Doesn’t smoke rise? That’s the force use~.”

“Ah!”

Irine, who had been on the verge of tears the entire time, finally heard an analogy she could understand, and heaved a sigh of relief. It seemed those forced to witness wondrous technology had such a feeling too.

“But there’s one problem. No matter how much we try to empower this, we can’t rise into the sky. We need lots of firewood, but with this firewood, we can’t float, let alone carry people. If what is written is really the case, we need a completely different manner to fly, something other than fire.”

“In that case, something like birds~.”

Even though he knew it was incorrect, Weyland suggested it, for there was nothing else they could think of.

“But all we need to do is to find the presence of Life on this land. This should be the key.”

“With this…we can destroy a town, and fly…you mean?”

Irine, who had maintained a brave façade all this while, was looking like a child told of a horror story by an adult.

“According to the description, it seems they’re different things altogether…but in any case, such thoughts already existed, whether in Orthodoxy or Paganism, anything that rises like spring water as something sacred. I suppose it’s because part of it contains an unimaginable power that is the beginning of all things...”

“Just like a volcanic eruption. There is a lifeforce to be felt from the Earth, surely there is such a force beneath our feet.”

Phil chimed in, and Weyland hollered,

“Oh, so you saw a volcano erupt! I’m envious. I heard the iron forged from the flames of Hell have some mysterious power within!”

“No, that’s impossible. I’ll die. The temperatures there are really hot, even the rocks will melt. There’s no way for me to approach. It’s truly a place only Gods can approach.”

“The Pagans taught that the god of thunder would hammer with lightning, and use the heat to forge swords.”

“On days with thunderstorm, you can erect a pillar on the roof and tie a hammer to it. That’ll explain the source of this legend.”

Phil said. Kusla and Weyland shrugged in unison.

“We already did.”

The two girls, Fenesis and Irine, looked utterly dumbfounded at the two mischievous adult males.

“But there were records of the chaos left from the villages near Abbas when it was destroyed. Some records mentioned of the current topic, though that isn’t something to be taken as gospel.”

“What do you mean?”

“There was a guess that the angels never intended to destroy Abbas. There was an accident when using such firepower to smelt metals, and ended up destroying Abbas.”

“Smelting?”

“There’s enough firepower to cause a town to vanish. It was said that for a few days, there was thick smoke rising from the town center for days. They probably assumed it to be smelting, but comparing it to the other records, it seemed the situation was not much different from a volcanic eruption. The power was such that nobody would be in the mood to smelting, so it’s probably something borne out of imagination.”

It seemed that was the case, but there was a pity to such thoughts. If it was some really powerful smelting that could destroy a town, surely it was not iron. Even iron would melt in a furnace fire.

In that case, what could it be? A fleeting thought passed by, and after that, Kusla bitterly mocked his immature thought.

The metal of God, Orichalcum.

If it really existed, there would be nothing he would be happier with. However, such daydreams would extrapolate the angel’s legends. People were often charmed by mysterious thoughts, especially for such a moment.

They had to focus on the things before them. Kusla took a deep breath, and said,

“So of course, using the knowledge you have as a book merchant, you kept looking for this breath of life, but couldn’t…right?”

As one dubbed a book merchant, Phil’s knowledge should suffice to a decent extent.

“Yes. I have practically tried everything rising from the ground, but I never actually harvested anything…I tried boiling using the hot springs of the North, but at most, I collected sulfur or salts. Then, I thought about the matter of improving the alcohol content, making wood vinegar and charcoal, so I thought if I used some distillation tool, I might obtain a different result.”

“So that’s why you’re looking for a capable blacksmith.”

“Yes. But they are related to alcohol, and the blacksmiths here aren’t willing to help because they want to avoid trouble. If I order from the South, that’ll cause them trouble.”

Upon hearing Phil’s explanation, Kusla glanced aside to Irine for a moment. Those who devoted themselves only to books might not know of the political issues behind these distillation tools, so said Irine, and she turned aside awkwardly.

“But alchemists and these tools are inseparable too. I suppose you can prepare some, no?”

The expecting stare was directed to them, so Kusla raised his chin at Irine.

The sheepish Irine then said,

“…I can help if there are materials.”

“Ohhh! Wonderful! Also!”

Phil gave Kusla and Weyland the typical smile of a merchant.

“Both of you will help, no?”

Distillation was like brewing wine, while the steps were definite, it would be difficult to brew them if the makers were unfamiliar. More so for those working on minerals or other objects-.

Kusla looked a little dreary. Phil never feared Kusla and the others for it seemed he was confident they were not assassins sent from the Knights, but actual alchemists immersed in technology, seeking the angel’s legends. Even for that, he was being too defenseless.

After all, if it could really be fulfilled, it would be an accomplishment that would topple the world order. While investigating the angel’s legend, Phil must have suffered through toil nobody could compare with. More crucially, this trading posts set up at Abbas had their headquarters in countries opposing the Knights.

Since it was obvious they had some involvement against the Knights, Phil asking this rhetoric would either be a hopeless fool, or a strategist.

And as Kusla contemplated, hesitant to ask, Phil chuckled with apprehension.

“Am I being too gracious?”

Such a smart business.

Kusla raised his chin, and the pudgy Phil beamed,

“It’s simple, really. If the Knights are to win the war against Latria, it will be wise to assist those related to the Knights. As a massive arm in a far trading post, we can’t afford to lose this place.”

Alzen clearly had no intention to burn the merchant guilds here, and would try to pull them over. The guilds would have guessed the Knights, capable of storing reserves, would do so. If he was to assist in recreating the angel’s legend, like them, he should be able to enjoy various privileges.

“So on the other hand, what if the Knights lose?”

Phil probed. Kusla was not amused, but Weyland was shaking with laughter.

“Better get what we know before the Knights scamper~.”

“That’s how it is. In any case, I should be assisting you two.”

Kusla shrugged in agreement. It was not an alchemist’s privilege to do things thoroughly, let alone a strange merchant who was suspected to be an alchemist.

“So I thought we should get down to preparing the materials. I hope you can be a little more cautious, and not let others know that we’re making distillation tools.”

“We probably won’t need to worry about this as long as we have a workshop.”

“No worries. You can imagine why I’m rumored to be an alchemist.”

Most optimists would assume they could fulfill their optimistic futures, but few would actually prepare for that.

It seemed Phil was one of the rare few.

“I tried many possibilities, and if one day we can discover the angel’s legend, what circumstances would that be? There won’t be anything to lose..”

Like a child, he puffed his chest, expressing himself with confidence.

The workshop was located near the town suburbs. Abbas too had a craftsmen street with various workshops, but it seemed a few of them did not belong to the town’s guilds.

These guilds were managed by the guilds of the far trading posts, all to repair ships and carriages for cargo and trading, so it seemed the guilds could handle all the work themselves.

If they had merely relied on the blacksmiths in the town, their guild carriages might be delayed, and when the demand was high, they would wish to deliver the goods at soonest possible. Such arranges were meant to avoid being too late, and allowing others to benefit.

There were obviously quite a few disputes around, and if these incidents were to turn into outrage malice, the chances of operating a guild well in this rural place would be bleak. Thus, they had a state of compromise in which they had to cooperate look ensuring their own benefits.

The Poldorofs, caretakers of this town, did so because this town was established by the guilds.

“How crude.”

Irine chimed in.

The furnace was outdoors, the surroundings were walls made of mud bricks, and there was a shoddy hut forlorn by the side, on the verge of collapsing. It was enough for emergency work, and though shoddy, it was one.

“The Grail might not be made from gold.”

“Right. The exterior might look bad, but the furnace is the latest design from the South. It should produce an impressive temperature.”

“Eh? Really?”

Hearing that, Irine’s eyes immediately lit up.

“I won’t lose to anyone in terms of knowledge.”

Surely it was a shot of confidence for a book merchant to say so.

“Let’s clean up the furnace and prepare the materials…”

There was no roof near the furnace, and thus they had to sweep the pile of snow. They built a little fire to warm the ground. There were lots of do.

“But you have thought of what you want to distill, no? The materials and sizes will change accordingly.”

Hearing what Kusla said, Phil gave a troubled half-smile.

Nothing, is it?”

Phil might have read a massive amount of books, but he was no alchemist.

His pride might have been shot though, as he said with a puff,

“I-I do have some idea.”

“Hm?”

“The rumors I showed you had this part, use the rocks that have remains of life, and though completely frozen too can release Life once again…I’m guessing if it refers to the devil’s heart.”

What is he talking about out of a sudden? Even the alchemists were shocked.

“The devil’s…heart?”

“If the rage and pain of Hell mean the same, that’ll make sense. More importantly, I don’t think the traditional Abbas festival has nothing to do with the legend.”

Phil’s words might seem awfully brutish, for most of the time, he would be talking to himself, and not others.

Kusla had a sense of familiarity, and then recalled the boatmaker mentioning about a white demon appearing during the town’s festival. This definitely was what Phil was referring to.

“What is that festival? We’re not too sure of it.”

“Basically, this is a ritual involving a live sacrifice.”

A ritual involving the sacrifice of the white demon.

How paganistic.

“But right now, it is a ritual to obtain political protection from the Latrian Queen…we offer the fur of the sacrifice for the returns.”

Having heard that, Kusla finally understood why the Knights were having so much trouble.

Breaking up the traditional ritual would pit them against the town, but if they allowed it without reproach, it would be akin to recognizing Latria’s sovereignty over this town.

“But there is something amiss, I feel. If this merely is the purpose of the festival, there is no need to enter deep into that cave, and begin the ritual in a suspicious manner. Surely they were trying to obtain something when they first began. Something other than political protection.”

Phil narrated with a serious look, as though he was agitatedly describing his ventures into the forest late at night, and having witnessed some strange travelers.

However, the cave in the middle of the town was definitely dubbed the demon’s belly.

“You do stay in that cave for seemingly reason, but it’s for this?”

“Yes. But you’ll understand what I mean once you see it. They tear apart the massive body of the white demon, pulling its organs out, and bury them in the specific locations. One would have a feeling that there was a meaning to it. I thought the rocks with the remains of life would refer to the hardened heart after the blood was drained, and it was dried. In the ritual, there is one line. Grant us the power within this white body. Grant us the power of this beast.”

Phil licked his lips, took a deep breath, and said,

“And then, the person will put on the fur of the white beast. It’s like a hope for inhuman knowledge and power will reside in the human body.”

Kusla inadvertently gasped, and drifted his eyes to Fenesis. The latter too had a frozen face. It was no longer a coincidence. There was something, somewhere, linking together in a place they could not understand.

If the angels were the cursed people like Fenesis, one could understand the reason why the fur was put on.

Those children imitating the adults would understand. They would think that pulling the some postures would give rise to a similar effect.

“Currently, the ritual after this ends up as follows, the power of this white demon will be transformed into a sacred power, to empower our Queen Her Majesty…before offering the fur. I thought that wasn’t supposed to be the case though. That’s what the later generations added, but it should be for themselves in the first place. Have you heard of what the color of the legendary angels were?”

Of course, Kusla was not foolish to turn to Fenesis. He maintained his poise, saying,

“The hair is white, and there are certain parts differing from humans.”

Phil nodded.

“Having read through the scrolls left everywhere, we knew the angels’ appearances are like the fur of wolves or fox. No, there is a cat god in the desert, so maybe those were cats…”

“That’ll explain why people wear the fur during the ritual~.”

Weyland chimed in, playing dumb.

“Yes. Also, moving further north from Latria, you’ll see that their skins are whiter, their hair lighter in colors, sometimes silver or grey. This makes them similar to beavers and foxes and other animals. Thus, I can’t help but imagine a terrifying guess.”

“Say it. We have two alchemists here.”

Kusla’s words had Phil smiling.

“Will the legendary angels reveal the secret to Life? Can they manipulate all lifeforms God has created, and manipulate the logic of Life…”

Perhaps they ended up creating the white creatures of the North?

It might be mysterious to think of, but if the angels were the cursed people from the desert, the secret of Life should be discovered in the desert. The people living there were basked under the sunlight all year long, their skins tanned, and nobody heard of any animals there having whiter skins.

If they considered how the skies were cloudy and never blue, this would be seen as a coincidence.

“Of course, this topic’s just something to talk about over wine. However, I do have some guess to why they put on the fur of the white demon.”

“The people of Abbas wanted to obtain the power from its destruction?”

Phil nodded fervently.

Kusla was not opposed to this notion.

Despite that. There was something he was curious about.

“Speaking of which, what exactly is that white demon?”

The boatmaker gave the impression that it was not a worldly creature.

And upon hearing this, Phil beamed with glee,

“In the past, those adventurers who crossed the frigid oceans would mention the Far North, that the Far North might not be a place for people to live in. Winds and snow were no hindrance, but there was a certain power capable of twisting the laws God dictates. Can you imagine the sun not setting and rising Can you imagine two suns rising on the horizon in the morning? The Northern seas has monsters that were never seen before, sea beasts with huge horns drowning in hordes. There were also creatures with two fangs the size of children, resembling fish and pigs, massive and savage, one you have to lift your heads. In any case, it is all too strange. It feels like our minds are in chaos. Most terrifyingly, the demon giving chase after our ships was attacking like a ghost. It has seven lives, can parry various metallic attacks, and with a swing of its huge claws, can tear bronze shields apart like parchments. Its fangs can gnaw souls along with armor. It is…an ominous…”

After brewing up enough emotions, Phil concluded,

“An ominous…white…bear.”

Phil narrated the last line with a terrifying tone, and there was a pause.

“…Bear?”

“Yes.”

Phil was looking grim, but Weyland scratched his cheek, and Irine tilted her head slightly. Fenesis probably had never seen one, and was looking perturbed seeing everyone’s reaction, before giving Kusla a pleading look for help.

Kusla sighed.

“A bear? Not a wolf?”

At this moment, it seemed Phil finally understood why their reactions were so underwhelming.

“So-so I say, the Southerners are…! You think of wolves as terrifying animals, and that may be so, but there are many creatures in the lands of the Far North who think nothing of them! At the apex are the white bears. You’ll understand once you see them! Even the most impressive of wolves can’t defeat a white bear cub.”

Kusla did hear legends of the white bear.

It was said its strength was overly massive, capable of melting a person apart. It might be too mild to describe it as tattered cloth, but it was truly unimaginable.

“Uu…it’s probably as difficult as conveying how amazing a book is to an outsider…”

Phil clutched his head with a grimace. Seeing him in this state, Kusla suddenly looked towards Fenesis. He then grimaced,

“Well, we’ll have to see it ourselves. I heard the festival won’t stop otherwise.”

“O-of course! You’ll understand once you see it!”

No matter how one would sputter, there were times people would not understand. On the contrary, there were things that could not be overturned by words, simply because they had witnessed.

Kusla learned this from Fenesis after all.

“So…there are two things to investigate?”

“The breath of Life left upon the earth in the form of Hellish rage and suffering…~”

Weyland stroked his beard as he muttered.

“The other bit is to find stones with traces of Life.”

If these words were to be taken as literal, each of them would involve the secrets of alchemy.

Every person yearned the secrets of Life, but was there any existence other than God that could reach it?

Most people on this world would be terrified.

And the only fools to laugh off such notions were the alchemist.

“So, what are we distilling first?”

Irine asked with an annoyed look, either because she was acting tough in the face of this eccentric topic, or that she was frustrated by how Kusla, Weyland and Phil were obsessed with the ridiculous conversation.

The three adults exchanged looks, and Kusla answered,

“From where the heart is.”

May God protect us.

It was rare of Weyland to actually mutter this.

The demon’s belly was located in the center of the town, a religious place. If the four of them were to enter freely, it would attract too mcuh attention.

Amongst them, even if Irine did follow, she was not of much use, and it seemed she had no intention of coming along. She, a pious Orthodox believer to begin with, might have thought it was weird. Weyland hesitated, but it seemed he realized it was a new furnace, and lost to the temptation. Thus, Fenesis was the only one left. It seemed she could not shake off the shocking matter of the cursed people destroying Abbas, and remained at a loss of wht to do. Perhaps she realized it took her long enough, and was not rattled to the point of inaction. Despite that, it seemed there was turmoil in her little heart, for as he asked her if she was going to the demon’s belly, she shook her head slowly, showing an unhappy smile.

Kusla felt it was not a decision to be made in the spur of the moment. Fenesis once smiled with forsaken hope as she drank the goat milk. The alchemist devoid of blood and tears had room to keep progressing, but the cursed people had no place of solace even at the dns of the earth. Thus, she probably had no intention of heading down to where the cursed bloodline started.

Seeing her like this, the words that naturally blurted were,

Any time is fine. When you are unhappy, look for it.

He pinched Fenesis on the cheeks to hide his awkwardness. So he raised half his lips, and left the workshop.

But he never expected this.

“Please pretend to be my servant, and follow me with your head lowered.”

“…”

The alchemist who would shush the crying children had just dressed himself as a blacksmith on a journey, and yet at this point was disguised as a servant working as a lowly servant. There was a mixture of egg white and sand scattered on his hair, which was then messily ruffled. He then put on hemp clothes with worn sleeves, hard wooden clogs that were hard to walk with in a straight line, and hunched his back. At this point, he no longer resembled an alchemist.

“We have to be thorough in our disguise. I disguised myself in various identities to obtain the rare books, and snuck into various places.”

Kusla understood wery well it was a disguise to make him ugly, but Phil had no malice at all. He never considered Kusla’s feelings when he swiftly began his preparations.

If not for the refreshingly unabashed attitude, Kusla would have beaten him to a pulp.

“Now lower your head. Arch your back.”

“…Understood, understood.”

“Answer me with yes.”

Kusla had his back slouched as he glared up at Phil, but Phil smiled back without any malice.

So Kusla swallowed his unhappiness, grouchily answering with ‘yes’. Good thing Irine, Weyland and especially Fenesis were not around, so he thought.

After disguising himself at the Jedeel Guild, Kusla went with Phil to the Poldorofs, caretakers of this town, to retrieve the key to the demon valley. From what he heard in the conversation between Phil and the Poldorof servant, it seemed the Jedeel Guild were highly generous, having funded heavily in various parts of the festival.

Thus, they probably closed an eye to the strange actions of Phil the eccentric.

“The festival’s here soon. Please don’t do anything strange here.”

“Yes, I do now, but can we really hold it now? We avoided war, but the Knights still have their ears and eyes here, no?”

Phil asked while playing dumb, and the servant shrugged.

“It’s a long standing tradition, and they know it’s just for show. Also, it doesn’t seem like they hope to attack, so they probably think there’s no need to agitate the citizens here. My Master said the Knights never really requested for anything.”

The servant seemed relieved. He, serving the rulers of this town, could have lost his job and position because of the war, and in the worst-case scenario, be sent to the gallows along with his master.

“But there is something strange here…”

“Hm? Strange?”

“Hm—what do the Knights want here? They’re not fighting a war, they’re not here to hang your heads.”

“We’re already strangled. They sealed the sea routes of Nilbersk, and even the rivers, so now we can’t do business. Everything we can transport by land will be hijacked. We drank all the wine we wanted to sell.”

Phil grumbled, and one had to wonder if he remembered Kusla was listening behind him.

It seemed however that all the merchants in the town had the same thoughts.

“It is strange to talk about it. The powerful Knights have diverted their important forces to this rural place, and hasn’t been utilizing them. There’s no sign of them trying to chase Master Poldorof out.”

“Is that so? This is an important trading place to Latria. It’s an appropriate tactic to intimidate the enemy and control the treasury.”

“Hm…”

The servant however groaned with some disagreement. Suddenly, he turned around, and looked towards Phil,

“Actually, rumors amongst us has it that you discovered some troublesome forbidden book again.”

“Eh? No, ahahaha…that was two years ago…I had caused you much trouble back then…”

“Really…think of the local culture. There are a few clergymen who escaped from the South because they were suspected for heresy.”

“Wh-what you mean is…”

Phil hunched over. Kusla was not quietly bemused, and instead, was impressed by him.

Deducing from the conversation, it seemed Phil had his eyes on heretical clergymen and the like who escaped from the South, tried to obtain them, and was detected by the Pope’s office. No sane person would do this thing of zero benefit, one that would leash a figurative upon oneself…

But of all these books were so rotten, one could not hope for knowledge centuries old to be passed down. It was because of fools, impressive eccentrics like Phil who cared not for anything else, devoting their lives to whatever they liked, that alchemists like Kusla could obtain the knowledge of their forefathers.

“Lend me the key then.”

Phil bowed with a perturbed look, waited for the servant to close the door, and let out a heavy sigh. Once he noticed Kusla’s stare, he gave a genial grimace.

“Good thing he didn’t swing a few knives at me.”

“From now on, I’m going to call you Brother Phil.”

Phil blinked a few times, and grinned bashfully.

After that, the duo arrived at the town center, and Phil opened the door leading to the demon’s belly with the key made of bronze. It was about thrice the size of an ordinary house door.

As they had heard, there were stairs once they opened the door, and there was the stench of musk drifting from deep within the darkness.

“We’re not going to suffocate to death here, right?”

“Masses enter during the festival, and there are air vents elsewhere.”

Phil nonchalantly opened the bag of tinder, and brought a wheat stalk to one that was burning. After lighting it up, he turned to Kusla.

“Yes master.”

Kusla responded, and brought the candle holder Phil wanted. The latter inadvertently showed an immature smile.

However, such smiles vanished like smoke as they descended the stairs. The air was so cold, one would worry if the candle flame would extinguish due to it. Amidst this chilling cold, one could smell the stench of animal rot and musk.

“A metal fence?”

Once they finishd descending, he found that the height of this place was barely tall enough for a person to raise his hand, but it was deep. There was a door made of iron rods at the entrance, the rods as thick as Fenesis’ arms.

“A countermeasure in case the white bear tries to escape.”

Phil opened the door with the key, and entered. One he heard such thick rods were used to stop a creature, Kusla understood that the largest bear he had seen paled in comparison.

“I guess something similar occurred before. Right now, they add distilled wine in the honey, get it drunk, and then sever its limbs to prevent that from happening.”

Such savagery truly was something befitting the pagans.

However, it seemed they had much determination to deal with the white demon and transport it to this place where the ritual was to be helped. They were undaunted all to obtain its power and knowledge, no matter the hardships.

“And this is the altar.”

Phil placed the candle on a cavity in a wall, saying so,

Even the smallest of all candle lights showed that the altar was tidied cleanly and neatly. While it differed in style from Orthodox, it did not seem Paganistic, but rather, intriguing. He could believe it to be an Orthodox altar with its intricacies still unsorted.

“It was said this altar was left behind by the angels. After investigations, we found the illustration a priest drew eight hundred years ago, with a similar looking one. If the angels came from the promised land of Kudaros, this might be a forgotten ancient Orthodoxy. Perhaps this is one reason why the Knights allowed for the festival to proceed.”

“I see. Where is the place the heart is buried?”

Kusla asked, and Phil pointed.

Right beneath Kusla’s feet.

“…You should have said so earlier.”

“It doesn’t matter that you trampled on it. While the festival is particular about where the heart is to be buried, anything goes after that. It seems they care only about the act of burying, and my guess is that they hope something might grow from it, and that’s why they left this part.”

“Or maybe they intended to dig it up after burying it, and eat it. Like some overly sour fruit, certain fish, or beast organs. Sometimes, it’s part of the process, how to deal with them. What, is it surprising? It was thought in ancient times that the fastest way to obtain the enemies’ power is to eat the hearts of their enemies.”

Such notions had existed for a long time, and putting on the fur was probably of the same thought. Some hunters would put on fur to distract their prey using scent, and also to know the nimbleness of a beast. Also, did kings not use fur as coat to obtain the mysterious power of the forest beasts?

“…Truly, now that you mention this, I think this is a possibility too. The bear meat is shared, so the liver too can be eaten, I suppose? The South think of bear liver as a treasure. Eh, was it not determined as forbidden in the Church Senate?”

“It’s forbidden, which means there are many who break the rules. There are many matters that become ambiguous along the phase of time however. It is such an important ceremony, but there’s no correct origin to that.”

Phil sighed unhappily at Kusla’s words, seemingly in agreement.

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 09.jpg

“Yes. While reading through the text, I find that once the emphasis changes slightly, the details will be somewhat lacking. The real crux of this ritual is either blurred by the passage of time, or long lost when Abbas was burned down.”

People lost their homes when old Abbas burned down, and if they wanted the power left behind by the angels, they would be more desperate than the ancestors of the glassmakers living near Yazon. After all, it was a power capable of destroying a town, and obtaining that would ensure that they could conquer the world. It was not hard to imagine the people back then thinking the same. They eked their brains, trying their best to replicate the scene, but as they did not know the correct manner to do so, they ended up being too obsessed.

“Shall we try digging? I think there are a few hearts around.”

Since Phil said so, Kusla knelt on the ground. He touched the earth that was cold as ice, soft as it was loose.

“It’s a cave, and there’s earth beneath it?”

“They paved it.”

“…To replicate the old Abbas?”

“Yes. It was said they held this ceremony in the underground prison. If the angels wanted to bring out the pain and rage, it might have been treated as an execution ground. From there, I thought of mushrooms that grow from blood and flesh, or insects and bats that feed on corpses…but there are no insects or bats in the cold regions. Some mushrooms are used as tinder, and some glow in the dark. In this sense, it’s somewhat appropriate.”

It was true that most mushrooms would grow in specific areas. Hearing Phil’s guesses, Kusla looked around. It was a cave covered in darkness, the smell of musk permeated the air, giving off a tranquil, gloomy presence.

It appeared there was nothing flammable.

“I visited various caves, and boiled and roasted everything that grew in there, including this place. Nothing useful though. I expanded the thought, tht if I can gather stuff from the plains, I’ll use them.”

“I don’t think there’s something wrong with this thought. It’s said that a human corpse can change the color of a rose’s petal.”

Kusla looked from the ceiling to the ground, and pointed his finger down.

There was some obstruction, but he felt that if he could exert some strength, he could dig the ground up with his bare hands.

And at the same time, he noticed something amiss about its appearance.

“There’s something weird about the surface…is something scattered?”

“It’s ash. Lots of ash scattered during the ritual.”

“Ash?”

“It’s according to tradition, but the source of it has been long forgotten.”

“Probably some purification, or a practical purpose to mask the stench…hmm…is it this?”

He quickly dug up something similar to stone from the ground.

It was not big to begin with, certainly small enough to fit a palm. While it felt hard, it seemed to change shape if he exerted strength. The overly wind dried fruit and the parched remains of the Saints gave such a feeling too.

“It was massive to begin with, but I guess it lost moisture. The temperature won’t rise here, so it’s able to maintain shape and not have maggots grow through.”

“…Are we distilling this? The remains of Life?”

Kusla had a close look at what appeared to be a bear’s heart, and sighed.

“I used to smelt a Saint’s bones. Everyone knew that adding dog bones can improve the smelting process, so I had curiosity in a Saint’s bones.”

“And the results?”

“The same.”

If this heart was thrown in, and something relating to Life can be extracted, a pig’s heart, or even a tick’s might do the same.

Or was it that it could not work unless a speckless virgin was used?

“But what if we replicate the movements of the angels in and out of old Abbas…? If the conditions really match…”

Kusla muttered as he racked his brain. Within it was the legend of the angel that was recently solved, the story of the glass. It was not some outlandish logic as far as he knew of, but it remained a mystery for so long because the combination was unique.

In that case, it seemed this matter might be down to them investigating the wrong thing. The answer might be near, yet became a blind spot.

Kusla thought again, but never had a concrete view of the matter.

“If the answer just shows up, there’s no need to work hard, no?”

“I had assumed it might be different for an alchemist.”

Phil’s expression showed no hint of whether he was joking.

“I am no magician.”

So Phil leered. It seemed that was a joke. Kusla sighed, pretentiously slipped the heart into his waist pocket, and asked Phil,

“There won’t be any issues if I bring it out, right?”

“I have heard a white bear has seven lives, so a missing life should be fine.”

The over articulation probably was a habit of a reader.

Kusla kept the heart, and muttered the legend.

“The breath of Life the sun brings to the Earth…but the voices of rage and pain…”

Suddenly, he felt the heart in his waist pocket thump.

Before returning to the workshop, he took a detour to the inn to report to the spies. While Phil himself had no intent, it did not mean his superiors had not. The spies were there to observe their actions, but there was no harm in sharing information. In experiments, misunderstandings would give rise to fatal accidents.

However, while returning, Kusla was dressed as such, and the innkeeper shot him a cold look, thinking he was a beggar. Even the spies staying at the inn never recognized him immediately.

“Even we don’t disguise ourselves this much.”

“When I’m no longer an alchemist, let’s just say that I’ll do the same work as you.”

Kusla said, and even the spies had to give a wry smile.

After that, Kusla returned to the workshop, and saw Phil exit. He was holding a stone plate for keeping records, and he said he was to jot down the insufficient materials.

He went to the outside, visiting the furnace, and saw a round bottom and two legs exposed at the furnace. Irine’s upper body was burrowed into the furnace, probably checking the inside or cleaning. One would expect Weyland to be behind, marveling at her, but unexpectedly, he was focused on chopping the wood.

Kusla went back, opened the door to the workshop, and entered.

Inside there was Fenesis, crushing the ores that were hoarded, preparing for smelting.

“Ah, welcome ba…”

Fenesis said as she lifted her head, before remaining rooted.

“What now?”

Kusla retorted, and Fenesis was all the more flustered as she looked around, before staring at Kusla tentatively once again.

“E-erm…”

Then, Kusla recalled that he was a lowly servant to be directed at a merchant’s whims.

“It’s me.”

Saying that, he shrugged, and Fenesis gave an awkward chuckle. So Kusla thought that if the disguise worked so well, he could show Irine and Weyland, and it might be amusing.

However, it seemed Fenesis’ smile froze not simply because of Kusla’s appearance.

“And…what happened?”

Have you found fragments of Hell in the demon’s belly?

Kusla glanced aside at Fenesis, and silently pulled out something from his pocket, putting it on the long table.

“This is?”

“A heart.”

Fenesis backtracked in fear.

“It’s nothing rare though. You can go to a butcher and ask. Pork or chicken heart are pretty good. The chewiness once they’re roasted is really something.”

These two things are not related, so Fenesis gave a reproaching look. Once she saw the black, shriveled heart resembling rotting wood on the table, she looked a little surprised.

“…Will this give rise to a great fire?”

“We’ll know by throwing it into the fire…but I guess not. It’s just an ordinary heart. When we roast a chicken’s heart in a kitchen, it doesn’t explode, right?”

Fenesis gave a lethargic sigh, probably out of relief, or perhaps of a different reason.

However, as he saw how she was looking at this heart, Kusla pondered about something different.

The long pause was due to him choosing his words.

“Say, are you fine?”

“Eh? Ah, th-this is not going to terrify me much! I did cut lamb and veal on my journey!”

She yapped unhappily.

Kusla was not laughing.

“I’m not referring to this. We might be getting close to something you’re not willing to approach.”

Once he went straight to the point, Fenesis looked enlightened.

She then grabbed her apron, put together her hands that were dirtied by the ores, rubbed them, and lowered her head slightly, saying,

“I am fine…”

She lifted her head, giving an unexpectedly cheery smile.

“I may be…pushing myself, but I am really fine. I do find it strange.”

Perhaps the cursed people were condemned simply because their appearances caused people to misunderstand, to interpret them maliciously. However, all hopes of that vanished when she heard of Abbas’ destruction.

Perhaps there were other towns destroyed just like Abbas, and nobody knew of them. Of course, the cursed people could not all be kind angels, and there were probably some who took the technology for evil. Perhaps with the passages of time, some areas had long forgotten what the cursed people did, but despite that, people had an impression of them as dangerous people.

Such an impression might be reflected in the descendants, who had lost the technology. One could imagine the sinners amongst her ancestors.

However, Fenesis was not overwhelmed by this, and she rolled her sleeve, revealing her slender arm, ruggedly working on what she could do.

“More importantly, are you not going to wash your head and face? There is hot water used to melt snow here.”

Fenesis observed Kusla’s face again, giggling.

Kusla was not concerned about his attire, but his head was resembling a bird’s nest, and it troubled him.

“I’ll be washing some ores soon. I can give you a wash.”

“…Don’t associate my head with ores.”

“How obstinate you are. That is why I think there is not much difference.”

Fenesis gleefully reeled her neck in.

“So are you saying I’m a blockhead?”

Fenesis was beaming as though she had received a present she yearned for, and turned to return into the workshop. Kusla felt it was foolish, but once he knew Fenesis was not as dejected as he had assumed, he was relieved.

And so, with Fenesis pouring water at the trough, Kusla washed his head vigorously, thinking it would be great if there was soap. After the hot water soak however, most of the sand and egg white was washed away. He finally gave his face a wash, messily wiped off the water with his bare hands, only for a cloth to cover his head from behind.

“You are no longer a child. Time to wipe your hair thoroughly. Here, do not move.”

He reached for the cloth to show that he would wipe his hair, but Fenesis stopped him. Naturally, he could have ignored her, but for some reason, he did not. Thus, he sat on the chair, with someone behind him; given his past experiences, it was either intimidation, or moments before he was to be hanged.

The crude cloth could not absorb much water, and it merely caused him pain. However, it was nostalgic. He thought of the ropes, and recalled his childhood memories, before he knew what an alchemist was.

“About that.”

While he was immersed in his thoughts, Fenesis’ voice reached his ears, reeling him back in.

“I am really fine.”

As his head was completely covered, he could not see the expression she made.

While she sounded tough, it was at such moments that she would show the wiles of a woman.

Beneath the woolen cloth, he did not look back, for he had a feeling she hoped he would.

“I can somewhat assume the outcome, that it so happens to be the case. While this shows there is a reason for our cursed bloodline, I am relieved in some sense.”

“Relieved?”

The moment Kusla asked, there was another woolen cloth on him, or so he assumed, but in fact, it was Fenesis embracing him from behind, along with the cloth.

“Yes, relieved.”

The slender arms wrapped around his neck, but he had a feeling it was not accidental. Probably deliberate.

“I have met something thoroughly eccentric. Even in the face of a person whose bloodline was hated, despised, he remained interested.”

Surely Fenesis said so just to make him laugh. In fact, Kusla felt that he should be laughing it off.

But he could not. In a barbaric manner, he grabbed the arms that were wrapped around his neck, stood up, and turned around.

“Ah, no…”

Fenesis’ resistance was probably to prevent him from seeing her crying face. Without taking a big breath, Kusla ripped off the cloth off his head, and slapped it onto her head. He then hugged her as though he was going to abduct her.

What was the fate this little, slender body had to bear?

Kusla never believed in God, and never agitatedly cursed Him, for he knew it would be akin to yelling at rocks.

But at this point, he finally felt some feeling he had not experienced in a long while.

It was no rage however, but a mere thanks. Perhaps he was some eccentric after all

“It’ll be trouble if the experiment subject is someone who scurries around. It’s great for me if she has nowhere to down.”

He lifted the cloth to peek slightly, and Fenesis was looking up at him with tears, her lips pouting.

She kept trying to put on a facade, but she probably cried because her heart was filled with anxiety and pain. Kusla finally smiled once he saw her like this, he smiled. The smile contained some self-depreciation of his own eccentricity, it seemed.

“It’s impressive that you never cried before Phil.”

He wiped the tears with his thumb, and Fenesis stared at him quietly with her large eyes. She looked a little unhappy, probably because to Kusla, she was kicking up a tantrum, that if he wanted to praise her, he should give her a reward.

Kusla bent over, and snuck himself into the woolen cloth covering her head. Once all the ingredients were added, everything else would come to a boil.

It was right at this moment that a voice rang.

“Ul, is the water boiling?”

Fenesis did not show panic. Through the cloth, it was Irine they heard, who seemed taken aback as she teetered a few steps, stopped, and hastily left.

They chuckled giddily beneath the cloth.

“You learned one or two bad things there.”

“…I do not know what you are saying.”

She answered with a sulk, probably because the maiden was embarrassed.

Kusla coughed twice, and poked ups head out from the cloth. Fenesis reluctantly removed it, and cautiously folded it as though it was some memory.

“I guess this is everyday life for us if we have a workshop?”

Kusla nonchalantly blurted out what he was thinking. Fenesis looked up at him in shock, and then her smile radiated.

“I suppose every day will be delightful.”

Kusla looked down at her, and her smile was too dazzling to the alchemist, so much so that his lips had to curl.

However, it seemed the fortune was more than he expected, for alchemists could turn lead into gold. In other words, the godly technology shall charge the dark past of the curse people into a bright future, and that would be why he was an alchemist.

“Maybe there’ll be truths that’ll cause you to suffer, but you need to use it as the motivation to grab the future.”

Fenesis grabbed firmly the folded cloth, and nodded with a determined smile.

“Speaking of which, is not the maiden Irine asking for water?”

“Ah, yes.”

Fenesis answered, and hurriedly went to the water, only to abruptly stop.

“What is it?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis looked up with her knowledgeable, serious green eyes.

“I have something to inform you. While tapping at the rocks, I thought of lots of things, and recalled something similar to the demon’s belly…a ritual held within.”

“What is it?”

She closed her eyes, remained silent for a moment, seeming sorting her thoughts out before she answered,

“A salt field.”

The unexpected words left him confused. The salt field was a crater dug from the ground, with sea water irrigated in, the water evaporated to extract the salt. There were many geographical limits to them; there has to be little rain, and had to be established as a seaside region with lots of winds. Thus Kusla, who was never able to travel freely, never witnessed it.

“It’s common in the desert.”

“Does it have anything to do with the Life of the earth? No, the Bible did mention large tracts of salt…earth…saltiness…”

Kusla mumbled these words repeatedly, delving into the sea of knowledge. Speaking of which, it seemed Phil said he tried everything he could gather from the earth. But it seemed something was amiss

What was it?

Feeling anxious, he scratched his head repeatedly. Then, Fenesis said,

“I was once asked to offer blood to the salt fields.”

“Huh?”

Kusla’s attention was drawn back from his thoughts as he stared at her wide eyed.

“This is what it means, I believe, the effect of a speckless virgin…”

Fenesis said somewhat bashfully, but Kusla did not care.

“Drip the blood in? Why? For what reason?”

“I am not too sure about the details, but it seems that when the sea water can become thicker, some iron will be added. It’s said that the color of the sea water will change, and the impurities giving off a serious stench will sink and harden as dirt, giving rise to richer saltwater. It seemed someone noticed the change when something of iron fell in accidentally. Then…”

“They tried various things.”

Based on common experiences and discoveries. The reason it was terrifying was because it used fresh blood.

“So they tried blood, with has the scent of iron.”

“Yes. Then it seemed it was no different from iron itself. Even the proportions were measured. A drop of blood for a thousand and five hundred saltwater.”

Since it was so precise, it appeared it was no prayer nor curse, but a technology gained through experience and observation.

“Hm, so what are you trying to say? What has this got to do with the demon’s belly? The heart used for the ritual is like blood and iron, can be interchanged for something else?”

Kusla diverted his eyes to the dried flesh on the long table, but Fenesis shook her head.

Her response left him anxious, and while he was feeling doubtful.

“No, I am thinking there might be something similar to the salt fields.”

“What…do you…”

Mean? Before he could finish those words, the sight of the demon belly within awoke in his mind.

What if he was thinking in the wrong perspective? Humans or animals would bury things deep under to preserve them. Looking at the situation however, it did not seem the heart was buried to pray for the white bear’s revivial.In other words, it was to change. Of all the animals who would store their food in the forest, some understood that leaving their stored food untouched would lead to them being turned to wine. Would burying the heart, or some other hearts, be a wish for it to change in somewhere? if they cared not for what they buried, was it because they knew there would be no change?

In that case, the last possibility was to bury as a medium, hoping that whatever buried in the ground would act as fertilizer. Phil had suspected this to be the case.

But what if it was not for these purposes?

Phil said that he gathered everything he could from the earth, but was it truly so? Think of the glassmakers? There were such foolish blind spots on this world.

In other words.

In other words, there was one answer.

“Is it a salt field?”

Fenesis widened her eyes, nodding vigorously.

“Y-yes. I did think there would be organs buried there, probably as fertilizer, but it does not seem to be the case.”

“So you thought it might be something that causes the land to change?”

It so happened to be similar to the salt fields.

To grant lots of salt.

“I really have to thank God for making sure you have nowhere to go.”

Kusla said as he stared at her

“…Wh-what are you saying?”

The harsh memories, along with the notion that he might be up to mischief, had her show a wary look, but Kusla merely laughed it off.

“Didn’t I say that I don’t have such freedom? There’s a bias to what I know. Thanks to you, I have reinforced a world I have never seen.”

Fenesis puffed her cheeks, looking as though she was teased once again. Even Kusla understood however that she was embarrassed.

“B-but…you are lacking in cautious and courtesy. How long will it take for you to make up for it?”

Right when Kusla was about to nod away, wait, he racked his memories.

“These words are truly correct.”

“Why is that?”

She asked defenselessly.

“Think. Every time, I feel like I’m forced by you to act. It’s the same now, same at Yazon, and same at Kazan…hey, you’re the callous one—”

Kusla never could finish his words, for Fenesis threw the cloth at him, her face beetroot.

“Y-yo-you truly are…”

Kusla placed aside the cloth thrown at him, and shrugged.

“I think I once said that I don’t hate how you’re always persist.”

At that moment, her face went so red, her eyes were teary, her expression clearly accusing him of being sly. However, she did not choose to run away.

Instead, she stormed towards him, as though her legs were shackled, grabbed the cloth with her face looking aside, quickly covering her head, and trudged into the next room with heavy footsteps.

“?”

Kusla grabbed his head, and gave pursuit. She, with the cloth wrapped around her head, knelt by the cupboard. Perhaps she had deluded herself into thinking she was a pious, pure girl. Reality however remained cruel, so Kusla nonchalantly concluded. Suddenly, he could hear the workshop door slammed aside. He went over, and saw that it was Phil who went to prepare the materials

“Whoo, goodness me, they’re always yapping. Always asking what’s the point of that. I already said that’s not the point!”

Here too was a reckless fool. He was occasionally helpful to alchemists or clergymen, but useless in others

But it did not seem so.

The world was not that simple.

“Good work.”

“Ah, not really. Anyway, do you have any idea of the demon belly? I’m thinking if I should flip through the books.”

“Actually, I have something to ask of you.”

“Heh?”

“Get some remains of the demon’s belly.”

Dumbfounded, Phil stared back at Kusla.



Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 10.jpg

Act 3[edit]

They poured the pitch-black earth, dark as darkness, into a dolium, and water into it. Their experiments had confirmed that the sun fragment obtained from the glassmaker could dissolve in water.

They stirred a little, waited a moment for the sediments to sink, and transferred the fluids atop into a different vessel. The fluids were murky, and had to be filtrated through cloth, followed thrice through paper made of shredded cloth. Once it was cleared, they brought it over the fire, and whatever they wanted would follow the steam outside, but for the time being, they simply brewed and have a look.

Thuk, thuk, there were little sounds from the terracotta plates in the vessel. The impure water and highly adhesive fluids would suddenly sputter when boiling, and the terracotta pieces were meant to prevent that from happening.

Such little discoveries were the results of past people trying and failing over and over again.

“…There’s something like salt.”

The amount of water lessened as it boiled, and there was a white string by the side of the fluid, like a stain on a cloth. It resembled a crystal of salt.

Kusla took a knife, gently cut along the line, and then reached the blade into the fire tongue.

“Ah!”

Irine blurted out.

There was a faint purple in the fire.

“Are…we correct~?”

Even Weyland muttered with disbelief.

“I’m not…really confident …”

But was it truly a coincidence? Phil, who helped obtain the earth, saw the water poured into the earth, looking dumbfounded, clearly showing that he missed the possibility of the earth actually having something.

And they obtained a powder with the characteristics of the sun fragment.

Kusla saw the remaining earth, saying,

“We need to gather some, along with earth. See if we can gather the same items. If we can, there’s no need to carry out the bombastic ritual in the demon’s belly.”

“You’re right.”

Phil too nodded silently, intending to hurry to the next step, only for Irine to interrupt,

“Eh, what do I do then? Do we need the distillation tools? ”

“Keep working. If this powder is something completely unknown, we’ll need them.”

They obtained too little from the glassmakers, and had to give up. But if they could certain a certain amount, he would have to try mixing, melting, roasting, cooling, and distilling them, and investigate them properly.

“I-I understand.”

Irine nodded, looking a little flustered, before returning to the furnace. She probably assumed there would not be much progress if she remained at this place.

“Now then, I’ll need ten…no, twenty vessels. Then, I need books detailing salt fields, or the knowledge of people who worked at salt fields. Some firewood for cooking, ink and paper for recording, also terracotta tools for filtration. Also…”

“W-wait a moment! I can’t keep up!”

Phil hollered as he ruffled his coat, pulling out a stack of paper and pencil inserted at his belt. He really was resembling a merchant living a simple life.

“Eh…vessels, salt related…then paper, terracotta tools for filtration. Paper or mesh, or a skin like those used for wines?”

“I guess so. If the purity will be affected, we’ll have to find a way to titrate them.”

“In that case, terracotta that can withstand heat will be suitable. Mudwater can be made drinkable.”

“Add that in then.”

“Well…there are so many guilds in town. If we ask them all, we should be able to obtain them.”

Phil hastily wrote down what was needed, raised the paper high, narrowed his eyes, and smiled gaudily.

“I have to ask your Knights to take care of the Jedeel Guild. If all these happened and nothing is obtained, the guild will lash out at me.”

“And now you’re saying so. It’s not your first time getting scolded anyway.”

Kusla refuted, and Phil chuckled like one who was seen through. He laughed like a youngster’s, and one would not imagine him being a generation older at least.

“I don’t mind you considering your position like a merchant, but nobody can imagine the benefits when things are going well. It’s pointless to think much.”

“I understand. We should put all our wealth on this scale. If it really balances, we can look into the secrets of this world.”

Kusla felt peeved for Phil never said anything about grasping the world. He was an alchemist seeking the mysteries of the world, but it seemed he lost to Phil in curiosity.

“Hmph. What about the important earth from the demon’s belly? Can we move out?”

“Not all…but I’ll try by saying that it’s for the festival. I got good news from the guild. It seemed the white demon was captured.”

It was said to be a white bear used for the festival’s ritual, one whose existence was seemingly otherworldly.

Typically, this news would pique his interest, but he had important things to handle.

“Anything goes. Make haste, and the more the better.”

“Understood.”

Phil said, and hastily left the workshop.

“Now then…”

Kusla rubbed his hands, looking down at the vessel full of sun fragment powder and earth from the demon’s belly, saying,

“We’re starting to act like alchemists.”

Hearing that, Weyland was gob smacked, while Fenesis nodded with a serious look.

The experiment was similar to one being in a pitch-dark room, seeking out the items with one’s own hands.

It was possible to encounter something that would easily break, or a risk of circling around the same place. One had to wonder if the room was wide or cramped, and the real important things might be within inches, only that one might be careless and wander somewhere else.

While knowledge would play the role of a light tower, the presence of light would cause one to seek those within the light.

Thus, they had to discard all bias, and test all the ideas they had.

Such was the real essence of experiments, the only way to approach here.

“Hey, that’s the earth dug from nearly, it’s used as a control. Don’t mix them up! Write down on the vessel how much ash is added! Also, once done, wash all the tools!”

There was a long row of vessels on the long table, and Kusla gave one instruction after another. Scurrying along with his commands were naturally Fenesis, and the implicated Phil.

Weyland was not being slick tongued like before, as he was building a simple furnace outside the workshop using sun baked bricks. He set a fire, adjusted the flames, and boiled the fluid. Just like distilling wine, the fluids contained different materials, and the boiling points would differ. Thus, he would have to identify them. Also, he placed the analyzed powder on the fire, contrasting the change in colors of the flames.

He, usually the frivolous one, would suddenly become silent whenever real work down, so restrained even a priest would run away in shame. The way he observed the flame colors and recorded on the paper in his hands was like a poet trying to write.

“I heard they’ll scatter the ash in the ritual, so I was suspicious. It changes because of the ash.”

Kusla kept changing every condition he could think of as he made the fluids, taking time to check on Weyland, and once he saw the results on the paper, he said,

“The more ash there is, the thicker the purple. But there’s a limit to this. It’s not as rich as the sun fragment we got from the glassmakers.”

Weyland never dragged his voice, and spoke as though he was a different person.

“So, assuming the sun fragment is purely a crystal, there’s a limit to how many sun fragments we can form by adding ash into the mixture.”

Weyland nodded.

“Probably. But you can see that there’s some orange in the purple, so there’s impurities. What’s buried is a liver, probably not some bones.”

“If it’s something that can be filtrated, we can use the fluid in the pot to check. It’ll take a night for it to leak out, so let’s wait until the next morning. If it’s something removable by adding something else…we’ll try something similar to wine.”

“Egg whites, lime and lead.”

“Phil’s going to look annoyed again.”

Kusla’s cheekish words garnered no response from Weyland, and Kusla was not intending to make Weyland laugh in the first place.

There were too many things to do.

However, it was a feeling experienced after such a long time. Not too long ago, he was deported to workshop on the frontlines, and met Weyland, who at this point was before him, along with a strange brat. The water wheel began to move, the gears began to spin, starting a strange water, which he drifted along with till this place.

Not everything in the process was pleasant, but he had reaped.

In any case, the familiarity he felt after all was the process of alchemy as he sought something.

“What about Irine? She’s not pouting alone now, right?”

Kusla said, and Weyland finally smiled.

Weyland lifted his chin, and Kusla looked over. Irine was at a furnace away from the workshop, lifting her dress as she stomped on the large bellows in a crude manner, blowing the air in.

“It seems she has completely fallen for the burning sight of the furnace~.”

“She’s probably a weird one too.”

“Her looking completely worn out really resembles little Ul~.”

“Whatever. I’m leaving this to you.”

Kusla shrugged, patted Weyland on the shoulder, and intended to return to the workshop.

But he stopped, for he noticed Weyland staring intently at the latter’s own shoulder.

“What? Does it hurt?”

“…No.”

Weyland answered, and stared at Kusla like a perturbed believer who had witnessed a miracle.

“Were we on such good terms to begin with?”

Upon hearing that, Kusla too looked at his hand. Truly, this hand was either flexing a fist, or wielding a weapon harder than that when facing Weyland. Even after they reunited, he was occasionally infuriated. Nevertheless, it had been many years, and the impulses to murder were long gone.

However, even he would think they were not friendly enough to pat each other on the shoulder and encourage each other for the good work they did.

“…Even iron will rust.”

“Hee hee. Can’t you come up with a better metaphor? I don’t think this is a bad change~.”

Back when Irine asked if they were on good terms, Kusla refuted without hesitation. Even now, his answer would be the same.

Thus, he did not think it was as intimate as the world friend would imply.

“Feels like how water and oil don’t mix to begin with, yet with egg batted with them.”

“Heh.”

Weyland guffawed, and Kusla instinctively scowled, but it seemed Weyland was laughing at himself.

For his eyes had drifted afar, sighing as he said.

“Probably because I haven’t been fishing for women recently.”

He lowered his eyebrows with worry, looking at Kusla.

“The air here makes me happy.”

“Huh?”

Kusla wanted to sneer, but could not. They were facing each other, but they could not look at each other naturally in the eyes. Perhaps it was reconciliation between brats many years after their failed scuffles.

“The Truth remains the Truth no matter which angle you look at it.”

For a moment, Weyland widened his eyes, and was dumbfounded.

“You’re right.~”

“Hmph.”

Having finally snorted properly this time, Kusla pointed at the vessel atop the fire, turning away.

“Watch the fire. The experiment’s getting ruined.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to~?”

“A damned fellow.”

Upon saying that, he returned to the workshop.

Happy, he says?

“Damn you.”

It seemed Kusla had not matured enough to answer ‘me too’.

By the time the sun set, they had lots of discoveries.

As of this point, the salt substance obtained from the earth of the demon valley had a similar nature to the sun fragment. By adding ash, they could harvest a lot more, but after a certain amount, no matter how they tried, the amount they got would not change. Also, adding the ash would reduce the impurities. Typical earth had no similar substance, and they discovered that adding anything other than ash would not cause change.

If it was a sun fragment, perhaps it would be akin to mixing blood into a salt field, a by-product of burying the liver of the white bear? Was there anything else that could work as a substitute? They were unsure thus far.

Also, Phil sought out the people who worked at the salt fields, and inquired how to effectively produce them. Thus, they decided to imitate that method. First, they washed the earth using ordinary water. Then, they used the washed water to wash new earth, ensuring that the salt would dissolve in the water until the water could not hold it anymore. A similar method was used to extract lead from gold. The crux of making things efficient was to increase the purity of the extracted item, but the real discovery would await them the following day.

It was the next morning, after they spent the night sleeping at the workshop instead of returning to the inn.

“…We have crystals.”

The fluids on the little vessels naturally evaporated, leaving crystals behind. While there were some edges, it was a round arch, like an imperfect crystal, resembling what he had received from the glassmaker.

“What? So we can extract them without stewing~.”

“Bu…there’s some color.”

The crystals were slightly brown, a little faint.

“Looks like this can be improved. Look~.”

Weyland pointed at the terracotta pot and the tray of water.

A stewing point could isolate various impurities and release only water. Once the seeping fluids vaporized, there would be clean white crystals left on the receiving tray, and left in the pot would be brown crystals.

“Now to check if it’s the sun fragment…”

“Ensure that you do not destroy this town because of the experiment~.”

Weyland said half-jokingly, but Irine, who had just woken up, looked petrified.

“The sun fragment by itself won’t burn. Probably need to add something.”

“Like iron?”

“Eh?”

Reacting to these words was the blacksmith Irine.

“What? You don’t know about this, little Irine?”

“Didn’t I tell you not to add the ‘little’! This isn’t the important part. The iron will burn, you know? Mix…mix what? Oil?”

She sputtered, probably because she knew she would be in charge of everything related.

However, an alchemist would experiment in combinations a typical blacksmith would not imagine.

“Shall we have a try now?”

Fenesis was staring blankly at the crystals formed by evaporation, and lifted her head upon hearing Kusla beckon for her.

“Get the sulfur and the iron rod.”

“Y-yes ”

It seemed she had finished affirming where the items were placed last night, and might have known any possible escape route in case the enemies barged in. Compared to her initial appearance, many strides of progress were made.

“Also, do you have a steel shaving knife?”

This question was posed to Irine, displeased that there were some iron characteristics she knew not of.

“Probably in the toolbox…they have them all neatly arranged.”

Phil would have given a proud look if he was present, but he had returned to the guild the previous night for investigative purposes.

Nevertheless, Irine remained glum.

“It’s not a joke to make fun of me now, right?”

“Who’s going to do so? Well, it’s no wonder you don’t know. Sulfur isn’t popular in a blacksmith workshop after all. They’re always wondering how to extract sulfur from metals after all.”

Blacksmiths, and others like silver craftsmen, hated sulfur. Experience had taught that silver would rust because of sulfur.

“I’m going to roll iron powder with sulfur, and set it on fire.”

Kusla continued to explain to a skeptical Irine.

“Seeing once is better than hearing a hundred rumors.”

So he took and shaver for the iron rod, crumbled the sulfur and mixed it with the iron powder, stirred and left the mixture on the iron plate, and took a wooden stick with a lit flame at its end. The process was not difficult.

But the results were dramatic.

The place that started to react became red and hot, and smoke began to rise. It seemed there was some change in reaction, like grape skin being peeled off, but the burned parts remained black.

In the blink of an eye, the iron plates, being the last to bend, let out a sharp sound.

“The iron powder…melted…and coagulated?”

“It’s sticking onto the plate. We should have used wooden ones~.”

A black, crude metal was sticking to the plate. There were still little traces of yellow sulfur, probably because it was not stirred properly.

“The interesting thing about this reaction is that there won’t be any reaction just by stirring them. Without a fire to trigger, it won’t proceed to the next stage.”

“Despite that, it doesn’t mean the sun fragment will become a real sun once some compositions were mixed in~.”

Weyland chimed in mischievously, but Kusla nodded with a serious look.

“Of course, don’t approach the sun fragment while holding anything strange. Remember this, if you mix something in, there’ll be an unimaginable result.”

Irine and Fenesis, having nearly tumbled over after seeing the reactions between sulfur and iron, nodded firmly. The best way to teach an apprentice is for them to witness.

“So Kusla, what are we starting with~?”

Weyland asked, and Kusla looked over at the table, shrugging,

“Sulfur.”

O Lord, save us. Irine muttered.

The sun had risen completely, and there was a little blue in the sky. The weather was fine, and even the wind felt warm. While Kusla was not attracted to this mild weather, once he exited and remained still, he could hear the sounds of wood and earth being moved, along with melodies. It seemed the preparations were proceeding steadily, and that the gloomy mood they felt on first arrival was a lie.

One would have mistaken the festival preparations to be a hoax, but it was simply because they could not proceed without capturing the important cast member, the white bear. Thus, it was said that they would begin preparations formally once they had captured one. Phil said this town was lacking vigor as the Knights had attacked.

So Kusla recalled what they had talked about as he sat outside the workshop, basking under the sun.

“You sure are acting spoiled.”

Irine, who left the workshop to retrieve something, was dripping with sweat as she shot him a cold look,

“I am the young lord of a great guild after all.”

“Huh?”

Irine had finished analyzing the molten metal Phil had provided, and was intending to produce an iron plate. She sneered in a deliberate condescending manner. A blacksmith had to keep moving, and their philosophy was that if they had time to think, they should swing the hammer. As an alchemist however, acting on first notion would put Kusla in trouble.

“Sulfur, tartaric, iron powder, lead, bronze, mirdasang, realgar, egg shells, vinegar, animal fat, oil, wine, ash, fermented powder, honey vinegar, hemp, cotton, wood, charcoal, salt, bones…pig intestines…we tried them all…what else is there…”

Kusla shook his legs casually, pondering again. Weyland exited the workshop, appearing to have just woken up, muttering away as he scratched his head.

They mixed everything that could think of that were similar to the sun fragment, and lit them up, only for the reactions to be lacking. The most hopeful were charcoal and sulfur, and while they did lt and vaporize when reacting with the sun fragment, the heat produced was not as pronounced as mixing sulfur and iron powder. Also, there was a really stinging stench when using charcoal…

“Blood.”

Kusla suggested, only for Weyland to shrug.

“Tried that already~.”

And then, he tilted his head slightly in a pondering manner.

“Or is it not my blood? If it’s little Ul…ah, but traditionally, it’s pointless if it’s not a pure girl~.”

Weyland’s eyes deliberately fell upon Kusla, who leaned back into his chair, answering callously,

“We’ll have to look at what’s our definition of purity.”

“Oh? Hehehehehe…~”

Weyland made a lewd giggle, and it happened Irine exited with a bucket full of water. How crude, so she said before heading off to the furnace.

“Little Irine might be fine too~.”

“I don’t know if she’s pure, but she’s definitely innocent at heart.”

Weyland guffawed quietly, and this time, it was Fenesis who exited the workshop. She was managing lots of plates that were in the workshop, and had to observe and understand the reactions of whatever was added. Also, whatever that seemed not to react might change after a certain period of time. Thus, she had to lay them all over the workshop, and naturally had to remember whatever was placed at which locations. Kusla and Weyland would slowly add more of the same items, so it was also her responsibility to wash them until they could no longer be used. She also had to extract the sun fragments from the earth smuggled out of the demon belly by Phil. Once noon was over, she was clearly weary.

“I…washed the plates…”

Once she left the workshop, it seemed her eyes were stinging, probably because they had been working for as long as the plates were. She could not endure the northern, winter sun, and blinked as she grimaced, turning away from the stinging sunlight.

“Anyway, we’re going along with charcoal and sulfur now, right?”

“The two reactions are pretty interesting, like sugar lit aflame.”

Sugar would froth and become liquid when roasted over a fire, before turning into soot. This experiment used the most expensive of all ingredients, while the mixture of charcoal, sulfur and the sun fragment would give rise to similar characteristics, as though a new fluid would be created…

“if only we can get things burning with a boom.”

“Hm…or there is another possibility. What we have isn’t the sun fragment.”

“I really don’t want to think so…”

It was common in alchemy for many to obtain unexpected results, and then realize they were investigating in a completely wrong manner. Some had described the situation to be of a person blindfolded, with thick deer gloves on, asked to determine the gender of a person in heavy metal armor. It would be impossible to determine if the body shape was not particularly obvious.

Also, anyone fondling around aimlessly would be beaten up. It was the same situation in alchemy.

“Oh yes. What about the book merchant?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis reeled her chin with a gaudy look.

“He kept reading a book before the plate, and now is remaining still like a tortoise, withdrawn on the floor …”

It seemed he was in a similar state. Phil, who had been investigating at the merchant guild all night, learned of the contents of the crystal once he arrived in the workshop, and went back and forth between the workshop and the demon’s belly. He probably was seeking out such blind spots in seemingly unrelated, completely ignored, and find if gems were hidden within them.

“Do you have any thoughts on it?”

“Eh? M-me?”

Fenesis looked frantic, but Kusla did not ask just for a sly dig in the heat of the moment.

“You know what Weyland and I don’t. Something similar happened with the glassmakers. An outsider can have a better view of this.”

We are being serious here. It seemed Fenesis understood Kusla’s intent as she started to think . However, it seemed she noticed it was a salt field merely out of coincidence.

It was not something she could answer upon being asked, and she was wincing increasingly.

“Hm, I’m not hoping for you to give me an answer no matter what. If if you have something you’re concerned with, tell me.”

“Yes, yes.”

Fenesis dropped her shoulders dejectedly.

“There’s no need to be so hasty.”

Kusla gave a little wry look, and stood up from the chair.

“We have lots of time.”

Upon saying so, he intended to return to the workshop, only to notice Fenesis staring at him blankly. On a closer look, even Weyland was shocked.

“What?”

Kusla asked in annoyance, while Weyland and Fenesis exchanged looks.

For some reason, this reaction had been becoming frequent.

“No, we never expected you of all people saying so, Kusla~.”

“Huh?”

Skeptical about Weyland’s explanation, Kusla looked towards Fenesis.

Fenesis reined in her chin tentatively, her eyes looking up, looking hesitant before she said,

“It feels like you were always pursued by something…”

The restless alchemist.

He never slept, for he had no time to. He had no time to, for the destination was so far away.

So, in other words?

With this question posed before him, Kusla could only remain rooted.

It was not a pretty blue, but the cloudless skies of the North were rather clear, suitable for work. The town was neither too big nor small, and the workshop was distant from the town center, their freedoms unrestricted by the vexing rules. There were ample materials and tools, and there was much conveniences.

More importantly,

He glanced aside, and found Irine fighting alone at a distance before the furnace, pulling the already thinned iron plates. The knowledgeable book merchant was groaning in the workshop. The alchemist before him was one he knew since apprenticeship, of comparable skills. They were all displaying their skills, seeking the riveting technology…

Kusla suddenly recalled the words of a wandering poet who drank in a bar with him.

The people hurrying on the streets had their destinations. The obstructing lovers slowly taking their time would cause such people to be wondering why they were slow. However, it was not that the woman was slow, or that the man was lovestruck. They were slow, for they were not headed to their destination. Their objective was to be with each other, there was nowhere else they needed to be, and thus they were slow. The poet finally chuckled, they are different from you…

Back then, Kusla found it damning, but he did understand the logic behind it, so his impression was that he treated the poet to a mug.

But perhaps he should have treated the poet to a few more drinks.

These words seemed to have born some truth.

Where else would he need to go?

He sought a technology that could conquer the world, capable of leveling an entire town. It was interesting, overly, so. Why was it that the cursed people had such technology, but were never able to reside properly in a town?

Was it not because they were never capable of concocting such an air?

Would the answer be amongst them?

Kusla pondered, only to sense some dizziness. Impossible, no? He was in disbelief…

He had already boasted his objective. He could kill himself, and yet be satisfied once he realized he obtained the secret to alchemy. He could sense half of what he was lacking was filled.

There was no need to be anxious. There was lots of time.

While it was a comforting, soothing feeling, there was a strong sense of loneliness accompanying it.

Is there adventure over? Has the important mystery been solved?

He wanted to unravel the mysteries he had been fighting, but they were at a completely different place from where he was facing. They were at a place he assumed was unneeded, meaningless, a tripping stone.

Fenesis looked worried, a little tentative as she teetered towards a rooted Kusla. The latter did not look away, staring at her until her pearly white hands touched his. They were exceptionally cold, probably because she had just washed the plates.

However, the feeling was soft, especially when he exerted strength, he would be embraced tightly like an echo.

Till this point, no matter how he cursed at this world, she showed no response at all.

“A-are you fine?”

Kusla looked back at Fenesis’ green eyes, blinked his eyes, closed them, and looked up at the sky.

He then took a deep breath, exhaling a wry smile.

“Something like God’s revelation.”

“Eh?”

“That’s what I can believe right now.”

Looking perturbed, Fenesis looked back at Weyland, who pursed his lips and shrugged.

“Nothing. It’s about myself.”

While Fenesis was looking flustered, he reached his hand out for her hand, rubbing it over and over again.

“Let’s go look for the Truth in the workshop.”

They might have discovered the Truth outside the workshop.

But Kusla never mentioned this, and perhaps it was for this reason that his lips curled into a wry smile.

The charcoal and sulfur were separately mixed into the sun fragments, and after observation, they noticed it formed certain things, fluids. They tried adding water, but the results were not ideal.

“So we’re on a wild goose chase…”

“Hm…”

Kusla folded his arms, looking down at the roasted iron metal that had changed colors.

There was a long row of plates that had changed visibly on the long table.

Each of them showed a little, but never their true self, and hid themselves again.

Or perhaps such a reaction had nothing to do with the angel’s legend?

So Kusla thought, only to see Fenesis working silently, so he said,

“Did it vaporize?”

“Hm?”

“Like Stibnite.”

Kusla was referring to a mineral containing zinc. He once demonstrated to Fenesis what alchemy was by splitting the ingredients of bronze, one of them being zinc. The method was different from iron in that they had to hammer the stibnite ores to crumbs, put them in a cauldron, and heat it. The zinc would then become gaseous due to the high temperatures, floating into the air. They would then capture it, let it condense, and harvest.

If the phenomenon was similar to that of zinc, it would explain why they could not interpret the changes after the plates were heated. Whenever they added charcoal, there would be a foul stench and a faint colored smoke.

“That’s why we need a distillation tool.”

“What about Irine?”

“I’ll have a look.”

Phil, who was helping Fenesis and flipping through text from time to time, left the workshop.

And when he returned, he appeared to be on the verge of tears.

“She’s hammering the iron with a scary look…”

“If she’s completely focused, maybe we should wait until later?”

“Little Irine’s really amazing. She’s doing it all alone~.”

Weyland’s reaction was beyond concern. He was completely bewildered.

“Shall we wait for the tools to be completed? The earth in the demon’s belly isn’t there to be taken forever.”

“I-I guess so. I’ll be doubted the way I keep entering and leaving…the preparations of the festival is in full swing. I’ll be really grateful if we can cut down on the sun fragments used.”

“Cut down…these words are unfamiliar to us alchemists when we’re used to expending them at will~.”

“But we do have to settle the problem about the earth.”

Weyland’s words had Kusla sighing in agreement.

If what they obtained from that land was the sun fragment, then if they really replicated the heinous technology left behind by the angels, it would be a pity if they could not obtain the raw materials. The asphalt fuel for the dragon flamethrowers was an established one, and they knew where and how to obtain.

The only method to produce the sun fragment thus far was to gather the earth with the bear liver. They did not know if a bear organ could be used, whether it had to be underground, whether any place could work, whether the cold was important, how long it would take, and if they did not analyze the conditions relating to the production, it could not work as a useful weapon. Only when the planets were aligned in a cross would one discover the legendary sword, yet it was not practical at all.

Technology was not an existence on its own. One digging for sweet potatoes would pull out several roots too. Some of various sizes would be bound in a chain, and only by grasping them all would it became a stable technology.

There were too many things to do, one had to the urge to yell.

“If we can make contact with the other towns, I really want to try the earth with a prison. It was said they used a prison of old Abbas.”

“We can probably do so if we write to Alzen.”

We hope for you to deliver the prison earth that has absorbed the tears and guilt of the sinners…this might seem a decent letter from an alchemist.

“Now then, we have all been cooped up in the workshop since yesterday. Shall we have a look at the plaza? There’ll be a performance tonight. It’ll be lively.”

“We’re starting today? That’s fast.”

“The main participant of today’s festival is a living animal. Taking it slow will mean it can’t complete its mission.”

It was vastly different from the Orthodox festivals, which abided to prosperous days and constellation movements. Perhaps compared to Abbas, those Orthodox festivals were too focused on the show, that they forgot more important things, and remained so fundamental as a result.

Thus, what exactly was God saving people for?

The people ostracized by God’s teachings were gathered at this place, the place Kusla found peace in, which left him intrigued. What were people hoping for from the God in heaven when they look up into the skies?

At the very least, it probably was not the secret of alchemy.

“I suppose. There’s no way out if our anxiety causes us to fail.”

“Sure sounds meaningful from your mouth, Kusla~.”

“You probably don’t want to end up sleeping and destroy your hands in the process, no?”

They were not seeking any technology that might save on fuel consumption.

Weyland chuckled nonchalantly, already looking like he was pondering whether to woo women at the festival.

“The festival gets lively at night~?”

“Yes. We received news yesterday, so we should be able to await the arrival of the white bear today. This free time is when things get rowdy. Once the white bear arrives, we’ll begin with the ritual immediately.”

“The fur is the most important thing, right? Will you be tanning it?”

“Yes. In the past, there was a tradition for all the townspeople to gnaw at the fur until it softens, but it’s stopped down. Right now, they’ll stuff the fur into a pail of kalinite liquid, and hammer it with a wooden rod.

There were various ways to tan leather, and chewing on it would be the most primitive. Kusla imagined Fenesis gnawing the white bear fur like a squirrel, and thought he would be really interested to see her do so.

“Leathering skin by biting certainly sounds interesting…did they refrain from doing so because it seemed too pagan-like?”

“No, it’s because the fur is too big, and the skin’s too hard. Every year, those who participated had their teeth worn out.”

Phil burst out laughing, and Fenesis herself looked terrified, reaching for her lips.

She, born in the desert, probably had experience breaking her baby teeth out with rocks.

“Finally, they’ll share the white bear meat with everyone to conclude it all. Once the fur is dealt with properly, the offering ritual will be done by the Poldorofs and us guild representatives.”

“So we pray for Her Majesty to obtain the power of the white demon?”

“Of course, we won’t present it as a demon.”

Looking through history, one would know that offering fur would be similar to reusing waste. The residents of Abbas hoped to obtain the power of the cursed people, and had several ploys, only to merely use what they obtained for political means. It was no wonder then that those capable enough to be dubbed as angels or demons would rid the citizens of its town.

“Shall we help Irine before night arrives?”

“Kusla can’t help much when all he does is read~.”

“Such words are an annoyance to me.”

Phil and Weyland teased Kusla, who was grimacing at their remarks. Fenesis went to him, whispering,

“I cannot help Irine either. You do not have to worry.”

“…”

This was probably Fenesis showing her kindness, but to the restless alchemist, such sympathy was unbearable.

“Your fault for being nosy.”

He rolled his eyes at her, only to be met with a snicker.

Truly, Irine did not look pleased when Weyland and Kusla offered their help. However, she ended up commanding them immediately, even enacting the presence of an old, experienced leader.

Kusla was peeved to be mocked by Weyland for being only a bookworm, but the skills left unused would definitely rust. They had to bend the metal plates, fasten them, or hammer down at oblique angels. This had Kusla exerting all his strength just to ensure the efforts were passable. Whenever Irine checked Kusla’s completion, she would narrow one eye and raise an eyebrow, only to tell him to work on the next thing. After that, she would swing the hammer personally to make the adjustments. While Kusla was no assistant to the head, he was a little more useful than an apprentice, it seemed.

While this infuriated him, it strangely left him nostalgic and elated. As Irine had said, working hard on what one could not do might make that person happy. When the distillation tools were finally taking shape, the sun was setting.

The town became rowdier, and there were bonfires like flames in the furnace. Looking out from the workshop, it seemed the skies at the heart of the town was dyed a faint orange.

“I’m hungry…~”

Said Weyland, who finished hammering the last plate.

“Yes. All we have to do is to weld them together. Go out and play now.”

Irine said, her eyes never leaving the parts.

They were treated as little apprentices of a workshop.

“Well, we got leader Irine’s permission. Shall we go~?”

“…Let’s do this.”

Kusla was a little displeased by the deterioration of his smelting skills, but it was not something to be improved within a day. Fenesis looked a little uneasy at the bonfire visible from afar, so he put his hammer down, and stood up.

“You’re not going?”

He asked Irine, who shrugged without looking back.

“The first thing a blacksmith learns is to strike while the iron is hot.”

“How impressive.”

“Enjoy yourselves.”

These words were for Fenesis, who seemed a little sorry to leave Irine in the workshop. Irine had empathy, and if she really had a workshop to herself, surely it would lively, bustling.

“Let’s go. Phil’s probably waiting at the plaza.”

“The guild people just called for him, and even told him off. He probably was needed for the preparations~.”

“Is he s a child~?”

“I guess he doesn’t want you of all people saying that about him~.”

Weyland’s joke left Kusla scratching his head, but the latter was not furious.

Such was a trivial conversation. Even he found it strange to have such self-awareness.

“But I never thought I’ll be spending a day with you at a festival.”

“We did chores at the Knights’ castle during our apprenticeship. Never had the chance~.”

But if they really did, the two mischievous fellows might have enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Kusla had such a thought, and gave a wry look.

“But how do we enjoy ourselves at a festival? With wine?”

“First we have to grant the nicely dressed girls~.”

“Heh, you never get sick of it.”

Kusla chuckled, and suddenly had a thought.

He had completely forgotten there was a girl who had not dolled herself.

Kusla turned back to look, and was a little taken aback. Fenesis, whom he had assumed to be crestfallen for being ignored, was beaming away.

“Such good friends you are.”

“Ah?”

“Hm~?”

Kusla, and even Weyland, looked a little pouty upon hearing that, and they exchanged looks. However, they just had the conversation in the day.

If they insistently denied, they would be mired in a foolish Orthodox ritual, it seemed.

“Bonds.”

“That is my line.”

Fenesis’ cheery look clearly showed what this means.

“This shows that working together is important. I am thinking that as long as you two work together, there will be no mystery left unsolved.”

“Because of that, men form pairs with women~.”

Weyland patted himself on the chest as he said this, and Kusla had the urge to retreat, but he had no objections to this reasoning. They had two eyes, and could deduce their distance. With Fenesis, Irine, Weyland around, Kusla was able to make it all the way from Gulbetty to this place. Such resembled the relationship between sulfur and iron.

There were many things in this world that would cause unexpected reactions when mixed together. Simple mixing alone might not cause any change, but a certain opportunity might give rise to a major reaction. Everything can change, and this was a basic principle of alchemy.

Mixtures would give rise to opportunities, resulting in great results.

Kusla repeated these thoughts in his heart, and suddenly stopped.

“Kusla, where do you want to go for dinner…hm, what’s with you~?”

“What is it?”

Upon contact with their sights, Kusla suddenly recovered. What appeared in his mind was a proverb.

Knowledge plays the role of a light tower. It helps those who seek things in the darkness, but it easily blinds people into seeking the areas shone only by the light…

“We forgot something.”

“Hm?”

“I’ll go back to the workshop.”

“We worked so much, and you’re saying it’s still not enough? As to be expected of you, restless alchemist~.”

Kusla had already turned to leave before leaving Weyland’s joke out of earshot.

“What do you intend to do, little Ul?”

Kusla heard the voice behind him, but he did not turn back.

“We are luckier than expected, but some do say the Goddess of fortune is no more than the fringe of a Goddess.”

“You’re resembling an alchemist more and more~.”

The conversation continued, and the footsteps gave chase. A relieved Kusla then dashed forward.

They returned to the workshop, and Irine appeared to be resting. She, who was drinking wine, choked on it.

“Wh-what is it? What’s going on?”

“Move aside, will ya?”

He was no match for Irine before the furnace, but the workshop was a different matter. Kusla’s eyes scanned past the many plates Fenesis had carefully arranged, and brought out a few important ones.

This world was filled with many possibilities. Whenever one mixed things to bring out the Truth, the excessive numbers of possibilities would drive one to despair. Most would start from the simplest of combinations. After all, choosing two items from three would give three combinations, six combinations from four, ten combinations from five, and up till forty-five combinations of ten items.

However, combinations were not limited to this.

He was bound by the word called mixture.

Why did he not try this possibility?

“Ah, Kusla, that’s—”

Before Weyland could call out, Kusla mixed the contents of the two plates.

In other words, the mixture of the sulfur and the sun fragment, together with a mixture of charcoal and sun fragment.

At the very least, just mixing them would not cause the world to be destroyed.

But Kusla sensed his heart racing for some reason, something known as a premonition. A blacksmith of utmost mastery would know the purity of iron just by touching it. It was said the ancient king who ruled half the world could touch the scribe of a subordinate, and determine if it was good.

With the experience gained from all the experiments he made, Kusla clearly sensed something.

“Fire.”

He said tersely, and Fenesis, who seemed to have sensed something from his gestures, hastily lit a wood with a candle, before handing the wood to him.

Kusla took a deep breath, and looked back at the trio.

“The lot of you!”

Within the dim workshop, Kusla smirked.

“Pray to God.”

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 11.jpg

Nobody knew if he was praying for the success of the experiment, or praying for the world not to crumble.

Despite that, Kusla brought the firewood to the sun fragments.

And then,

“Ah!”

His vision turned white.

Perhaps it was no scream, but the noise of the world trembling.

And once the intense reactions ended, Kusla first checked to see if he was still alive.

“…Looks like we’re still alive…but…damn, I can’t open my eyes.”

Having seen a bright light in the darkness, his eyes were seemingly pelted with ink. Despite that, it seemed their limbs were still intact, their noses were aching due to the stinging stench. If they died, they probably would be in a world devoid of pain and age, and if this was not Hell, he probably was alive.

“Are you alright…? Looks like…the workshop did not explode.”

“…I guess…”

Kusla, having recovered his sights from the darkness, found Fenesis and Irine prone on the floor. Both appeared to have been shocked beyond words, but they were fine, and the ceiling showed no signs of collapsing.

After checking through everything, he finally picked up the candle left by the wall, and shone above the plate with the sun fragment. Following that was a groan beyond comprehension.

“Ugh…hey, the iron plate is red hot…it’s melting.”

“It’s really powerful…it’s just like…”

The sun. Once they muttered so, they realized.

What they gathered was undoubtedly the sun fragment.

“O-ohoho…th-th-this is completely beyond our expectations…”

“This is the answer.”

Charcoal, sulfur and the sun fragments.

These were the three baits required to summon the fire spirit.

“It’s just like a fire herb~.”

“Don’t name it randomly. The future generations might use it.”

Weyland shrugged, his hands on his waist.

“The festival really isn’t at the right moment.”

“I want to say, yes, but…”

“Hm~?”

Weyland asked, and for the first time, Kusla showed him a sorry grin.

“Not today, damn.”

So he cursed with a smirk.

Fenesis finally stood up, staring at Kusla in shock.

“My hands are shaking.”

“You’re too happy~.”

Weyland did not tease Kusla for being intimidated because of the intense reaction.

Any person would laugh in excitement over the discovery of a startling matter. Such was the mood.

“So, now we can discover the way to fly in the sky, no?”

“We can’t say it’s foolish now…”

They finally grabbed the hem of the outrageously independent, arrogant God who would not approach humans.

Their fingertips had touched upon the technology created by those dubbed as angels or demons.

Kusla kept his trembling hands in a fist, as though gripping this realistic feeling.

“It’s great that today’s the festival.”

He looked around at the trio, saying so.

“We can celebrate all we want.”

Weyland and Fenesis burst out laughing. Even Irine, who wanted to remain in the workshop, was grinning reluctantly.

“Goodness. This is a night of a historical discovery after all.”

Such words were no hyperbole to Kusla.

He firmly believed they created a turning point in history.

“Notify the spies. We need to write a letter to Alzen, and send it to the other fortified towns.”

“Then, drink away~”

“If you drink too much, you can’t work tomorrow.”

“We can leave it for then, little Irine.”

“Till when?”

Irine and Weyland bickered as they left the workshop.

Fenesis too followed suit, only to stop at the door and turn back to Kusla.

“Shall we go?”

They could see the lights of the festival from afar, the seemingly warm lights shining into the dim workshop.

It seemed such a sight was a certain sign.

Kusla took a step forward, and went out from the darkness.

Awaiting him was the companion he had no need for courtesy, along with his important partner.

“Yes.”

He held Fenesis’ hand, and closed the workshop door.

Once the spies heard of the bait to summon the fire spirit, they were left speechless.

Before the spies could recover, Kusla sent a message to Alzen, considered the expenses required for the experiments involving the weapons, before returning to Fenesis. He wanted to notify Phil, but the latter was probably hustling around for the festival, so he thought otherwise. After all, they could meet in the workshop the following day, so he decided to leave it be.

There were people hustling up and down the road leading to the plaza. One would have to wonder where these people were in the first place, for there were stalls crammed full with food and wine by the sides. Moving down the middle, he could smell the smoke of roasted meat and the oil fragrance of fried eels. There were also people laughing away, and among them, he could clearly identify his companions.

Companions?

Kusla gave a wry smile to himself for having thought so, and returned to his seat, asking for some wine. The discovery of the fire herb would leave behind a major contribution to alchemy, and would be an extraordinary item in actual usage. If they could control such heat and light as and when they wanted to, it would be easy to destroy a town, along with the people and their armor. The town walls would be insignificant. Such was undoubtedly the Sword of Orichalcum.

Most importantly, such an incomparably powerful item was something Kusla yearned. Surely it could protect those important to him. Alzen would probably use the fire herbs actively to crush Latria, and the Knights would be greater. They would thus be able to enjoy various freedoms.

He would no longer be a mere tool of the Knights, no longer would he have to hide in the shade. He would obtain a workshop of freedom in a place of freedom, without any distractions, and slowly seek the Truth.

And on the other hand, Fenesis, probably fatigued from drinking, was starting to look dazed. Kusla wiped the egg remnants on her lips, finding the situation ironic.

Once they obtained the technology in the angel’s legend, it was easy for them to receive a place for them to research freely. Having found that however, what other objective could cause his heart to flutter? One of immortality? Eternal youth? He had done something greater than turning lead into gold, merely mixing charcoal and sulfur into an element that could be extracted from the ground. That could allow them to conquer the world, and there was no alchemy greater than this.

The wine was sweet, acrid and warm, probably because he was at the end of his journey. All that was left was to investigate the past roads and turns they made. The freedom to research he finally obtained had left him disinterested.

It is impossible to learn everything, so he grimaced.

Nevertheless, Kusla did not despair, for Fenesis, who was sleeping away, placed her head on his shoulder. She had a tendency to cause a ruckus whenever she got drunk, only for that habit to not flare up on this day. It seemed she believed the destiny of darkness and pain was finally at its end.

Kusla put his arm around her shoulder while she leaned on him, thoroughly experiencing her warmth. Weyland at Irine arrived at their seats, and started teasing Kusla, but even these left the latter at ease. He smiled at the sleeping Fenesis, and continued to drink.

He probably wished for this time to last forever. There was no need to head elsewhere.

This is Magdala.

Maybe it’s time for me to return the moniker of the restless alchemist, ‘Kusla’, the one who continues to press on. Back then, after hearing of what others had dubbed him, Fenesis asked,

What is your real name?

Alchemists had no need for real names. The daily life of one in the workshop would entail suspicious people dying away, and nobody decent would intend to call their names. He was willing to share if it was Fenesis however. He hoped she would know more about him.

Will she be shocked to hear him mention this? Or elated? No matter the reaction, surely she would show a little hesitation, before bashfully calling his name. Even he, an alchemist who firmly believed the world was not a kind place, could be sure of this.

On the other hand, a drunk Irine began to harass Weyland, and the latter tried coaxing her with soft words. But right when he was about to touch her, she slapped his hand away, hammering away at the table furiously.

It seemed she was saying, I want to fall in love, but not with you! or something of that sort. It seemed Weyland was really as patient as a Saint to be able to smile at such a drunk.

Kusla again chuckled alone, and right when he greatly inhaled, letting the joyous air fill his lungs.

“Hey! Everyone in the town, gather at the plaza!”

The yell and the knocking of a pot echoed through the entire road.

There was so much buzzing, he could not hear the conversation between Weyland and Irine opposite him. At this point however, they quietened down.

“The white demon has arrived! It’s dying! Begin the ritual! Make your own preparations!”

Those drinking exchanged looks, and hurriedly stood up, sprinting to the plaza.

It was difficult trying to capture a savage bear alive. They had to torment it until it could not resist, and there would be much trouble dealing with it.

It was said the ritual required a living bear, and it seemed that they noticed it weakening at a certain distant port, hurrying it here instead. Seeing how they spent nights rushing to this place in the midst of political unrest between Latria and the Knights, it seemed the situation was dire.

“What do we do?”

Kusla asked, and Weyland, who was looking at the crowd, looked over.

“I heard it’s supposed to make us feel surreal, right~?”

“We just saw such a thing.”

“How’s that impressive…hick…can’t you just look?”

Irine said in a strange slur, and stood up. Weyland gave a wry look as he too stood, helping her up, only to be deemed an annoyance.

Kusla himself wanted to go, but Fenesis was completely asleep. He wondered if he should wake her up, but he did not have the heart to wake her up after seeing her like this. Also, since it was a yearly festival, he gave up on the notice.

If he really wanted to have a look, he could wait till the next year. Also, was there not a white demon that was otherworldly here? He had no need to look. Who else could compete against her as a seducing villain?

Kusla shrugged, and smiled. Also, there were many who had similar thoughts at the tables and chairs lined by the road, merry-making and partying away.

“We’re going to have a look then~.”

Weyland had seemingly become Irine’s nanny as he lent her his shoulder while she was tumbling around, and they went into the crowds.

“Good grief.”

Kusla muttered with a grimace, and silently drank some wine. Suddenly, a silhouette appeared at the table.

He lifted his head to find a spy standing before him.

“It’s rare to have a festival around. You’re not going to have a look?”

“If I want to, I can wait till next year. This place is going to be Knights’ territory next year , no?”

Kusla smirked at the spy, who showed a wry smile instead.

“Probably so, as long as we use what you discovered.”

The spy sat on the empty chair, and started drinking the wine Weyland left behind

“That thing can be used by anything. The proportions might change the power, but it’s easy to investigate. Since we can gather the sun fragments from the sturdy ground, it’ll be a lot easier to use than the dragon flamethrowers.”

“I see. Well, I was wondering if the knowledge would be stolen, so I visited the workshop…I saw the materials right before my eyes, so I tried them. Even I could replicate it. That shocked me.”

Kusla burst out laughing. It was easy to imagine the ever-cautious spy unable to resist his own curiosity, clumsily mixing the materials, only to be utterly terrified.

“You’re unexpectedly bold for a spy.”

“Of course…that is to be expected when discovering a legend. I am a man after all. But…please do not inform the other spies and Lord Alzen.”

While saying that, the spy was beaming, probably thinking of his future prospects. It was to be expected after all, since they had just encountered their greatest fortune in life.

“It’s powerful, isn’t it?”

“Yes. I could feel my eyes shaking. Most amazing is how anyone can master it immediately.”

Such was the best aspect of a good tool.

If God Himself was granting them grace, but the people had to fast or venture on a pilgrimage for decades, such grace would be akin to nothing.

“But we have investigated various things about the festival…only to find something doesn’t match here.”

“That’s because we’re alchemists.” The spy probably understood this boast, for he too chuckled.

“I guess it probably doesn’t matter whether the thing buried in the ground is the white bear organ.”

Kusla said, and the spy gave a serious look.

“Oh?”

“They are all living creatures after all. It should be the same for pork or chicken, but since the bear is massive, the effect is bigger. Despite that, since we have a rare beast here, I really wish for them to share the liver along with the meat.”

The spy stared at Kusla intently, remaining silent. Even in the face of the mysterious, solemn, traditional ritual, the mysterious veil would be pried apart in the face of an alchemist. Perhaps this was what the spy was thinking.

After a dumbfounded chortle, the spy removed his hat.

“As to be expected of you, I’ll say.”

“Heh.”

Kusla snorted, and nudged the clingy Fenesis back in place.

“Seems like you’re completely relied upon.”

“Stop being a busybody.”

Kusla’s response was terse, for he was feeling awkward.

The spy shrugged, and suddenly looked afar.

“The atmosphere at the plaza is buzzing. The white demon might have arrived.”

“You’re not going to look?”

“I think I can have a look next year.”

The spy responded using his own words.

“The Knights too have some busybodies coming over, so this will be the trending topic over these few days. We know the details well even though we have not seen it, and the two trusted colleagues of mine have gone on to have a look.”

The spy nervously added the last line.

“Same here.”

Kusla’s response had the spy chuckling, “I’ll get some wine” and the latter stood up, soon returning with Kusla’s share, along with some added dishes. While Kusla was always wary about food served by others, he probably did not have to worry about being poisoned this time around.

Kusla and the spy kept drinking, chatting endlessly. It seemed there was a solemn festival at the plaza, and one could occasionally hear some prayers. After drinking four mugs worth, the noise of the crowd returned to the main streets. The men walking in front had large raw meat on their trays, and they were allocated to the roadside stalls, the owners each rolling up their sleeves.

“It seems they have divided the meat completely. We’re going to deliver all the bear meat tonight.”

Saying that, the spy stood up.

“What, you want some too?”

“Eh? Ah, no. Actually, while investigating the festival, we found a few commanders of the forces who knew this place well, so we played dumb and asked about the land.”

It seemed there really was such a case.

“And so?”

“So they asked to try some of the meat, and I have to share some with them. If we ask the merchants living here, there might be some political issue, it seems.”

There was much pagan presence to this festival, and admitting it directly would only ruin one’s reputation.

Despite that, it seemed no matter whether it was North or South, there was a deeply ingrained belief that eating bear meat or liver could grant one a bear’s strength.

“Wonder if those two succeeded. I’ll go have a look. I’m worried.”

“They sure are passionate about their work.”

Kusla teased, and the spy showed a wry smile, vanishing into the crowd. There was the smell of roasted meat. Fenesis remained asleep, but she had some reaction to the fragrance, her little nose and hands twitching like a squirrel. Pious she was to God’s teachings, her body was honest.

Perhaps he could have gotten some meat for her to eat later. The spy would assist if he gave a holler, but thinking back, he did not act.

And then, after some time, the spy returned after checking on them, returning with a meat skewer.

“They finished their work. Thank goodness.”

“We have to please the rulers after all.”

“Yes. Ah, also, I asked for some meat..”

Kusla received the meat skewer from the spy, and as per usual, observed it carefully.

“Hm? One of them isn’t meat. What is this? ”

The spy was smiling impishly.

“A celebration.”

“Celebration?”

“The treasure of all treasures…actually, I just remembered after hearing what you said. This is the white bear liver that should have been buried.”

It was said the liver was filled with the bear’s vitality, used as a strange vitality potion in the South. Kusla too felt it was a pity to eat the meat and bury the liver

Also, while he had never seen the white bear, he could taste its essence by devouring it.

“If I’m the only one eating, that Weyland will tell me off.”

“I shared some to the other two.”

How considerate of you. Kusla shrugged, and had a bite of the meat, only to be shocked by its toughness. It was not overcooked, but was already a tough one to begin with.

“This meat is amazing.”

“Oho, the liver is more so.”

Kusla narrowed his eyes at the spy, and ate it without a second thought. It was the liver of the white bear.

It was no tougher than pork liver, or a chicken’s heart, and not much different from the bear liver they ate together. The taste was truly ordinary.

“What do you think?”

“Hm…but it is merely so...”

He swallowed, and took a swig of wine.

The spy watched him carefully, and nodded, seemingly satisfied.

“But it is really effective.”

“Huh?”

Kusla asked, and the spy explained while beaming,

“Oh, after all, the ritual was an imitation of what the angels in the legend did, no? Initially, we didn’t know what it meant, but after various investigations, and after hearing your discoveries and observations, we finally realized.”

“What are you saying?”

“That is…the angels prioritized efficiency all this while. They hated to waste. ”

Kusla did not know what he was trying to say. He was not reacting like Irine did when the latter heard they were going to experiment with iron powder and sulfur, but even he was left frustrated that there was nothing he knew not of with regards to the angel’s legend.

But if so, what was this spy trying to imply?

Was it due to the wine? The blood vessels in his head were stinging with pain.

“The fur of the white demon was offered to the rulers. Dearie me, I have to be impressed by how they never wasted anything about the white demon.”

Kusla was quietly alarmed as he saw how pretentious the spy was. At the same time, he had confidence it was not the case. No matter how careless he was, he could taste the poison, for he had tasted almost all of them. In cooking, poison was an anomaly, and a strange scent could be detected.

And what he had just ate was undoubtedly a roasted bear liver.

But what was this feeling? Was he thinking too much?

He felt his brain expanding, his vision a little blurred, the ground seemingly tilting.

“They could have buried pork or chicken in the ground, but why didn’t they do so?”

Kusla inhaled hard, embracing Fenesis firmly. He put the metal skewer down, putting the same hand on his dagger.

“Even though they are bears, the white bear liver is the only one with poison.”

Kusla tried standing up, but could not do so.

Not because Fenesis was next to him.

But that a tremendous migraine and dizziness struck him.

“Ugh…argh…!”

With a thud, he fell towards the table. While those of the neighboring table looked towards him, they must have assumed him to be a drunk, and paid no heed.

“I thought you knew about the legend of the white bear.”

“What…legend…?”

The migraine, the repulsiveness, the dizziness, these factors left him unable to steady himself. Kusla recalled the probing look of the spy when he mentioned about the white bear liver.

“It’s very famous. The curse of the white bear can melt a person.”

Kusla knew about it too. But was it not a figurative depiction of how it would recklessly swing its sharp claws and tear human bodies to shreds?

“The actual depiction is to be taken literally. But nobody believed so. This is a sentiment the people recording the history of the North would echo.”

There was something truly unbelievable, a matter that would make anyone incredulous.

Kusla could not determine if these were the words he said, or the spy. Without hatred or malice, he exerted all his strength just to ask,

“Why…”

“Why? Why, you say?”

The spy approached Kusla’s face. The grin on his face was one of arrogance, one an alchemist often saw on a person with authority.

“Haven’t you said so yourself? Those who obtained the powerful spells paid sold their souls to the Devil.”

Wait…Kusla had exerted all his strength just to keep his eyes open.

“Hoho. Yes. We know the materials, the usage is simple, we have a basic understanding on how to extract it, and the power can destroy the world. How can one not use this? We aren’t walking in the darkness just because we want to.”

The people in this world could be classified as the manipulators, and the manipulated. The spies, having been manipulated all this while, intended to cross this obstacle once they heard they had a chance, and having heard these words, Kusla was frustrated that he too felt the same.

“And loyalty should be rewarded in equal amounts. It’s futile to wait for any reward. We want to get our reward with our hands.”

It’s futile to wait for any reward?

Amidst the ringing headache, Kusla repeated the words the spy seemed to have said to himself.

But he could not gather his thoughts, his body could not move.

Once the spy said so, he sighed, and went around Kusla. . And then, he reached his arm towards Kusla.

“Hey…what are…you… ”

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 12.jpg

Kusla tried to exert all his strength to protect Fenesis, but his hands could not move. The arms that seemingly did not belong to him were easily pried away, and became part of a memory that was seemingly distant.

The memory was undoubtedly the burning village, where the girl he was on good terms with was taken for target practice by the bandits.

“This girl is pretty useful. I intend for her to be the foundation of our new Empire.”

Fenesis finally woke up, but the spy did not panic, his arm wrapped around her slender neck, lifting her a little higher. She widened her eyes, and understood her predicament. This might not be the first time for her given her arduous history.

She then saw Kusla sprawled on the table, and frantically reached her hand out.

Despite knowing it was not a distance her hand could reach.

Her hands were shivering out of regret, out of exertion, and like a candle flame at its last moment, suddenly froze and dropped weakly.

“Oh, so you too will show such a face too, restless alchemist. But do be at ease, for you shall be headed to a world without pain, age and suffering.”

“I…will…kill…you.”

“Me? No, you will die. Only we need to know the secret to summoning the fire spirit.”

The spy carried Fenesis on his shoulder, giving a look. A shadow landed upon Kusla’s face. It seemed they had paid for thugs, and Kusla had no strength to lift his head..

“Rest then.”

You restless alchemist.

Kusla heard these words in his increasingly weakening consciousness. Amidst his splitting brain, Fenesis’ name was spinning madly. His body was being carted off, or it felt that he was drifting away, taken by fate.

Damn, so he thought.

Such was the way of the world. While realizing this, his last shred of sanity snapped.



Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 13.jpg

Act 4[edit]

Kusla was within the darkness.

His body could not move, his eyes could not open, and he could not yell at all.

Within his darkness, he could feel his body drifting with no sense of direction, yet it seemed he was lying at a certain place.

But there was the smell of rot and mold, along with blood. At the very least, he knew he was not in a comfortable place. He was dead, either surrounded by flies, gnawed at by the stray dogs, or thrown into the crevasse of sinners.

The spies assumed that as long as they had the powerful technology, they could conquer the world with their own hands. They understood the methods to produce the fire herbs, and how to collect them. What they had to do next was to finish off the outspoken, wily alchemists.

It was logical.

Extraordinarily logical.

Strangely, he was not infuriated in the slightest, probably because he knew this would happen one day, or because of the determination shown by the spies. The latter were merely headed to their own Magdalas, eliminating all obstacles. Just decisiveness was worthy of respect, a brilliant move…

Thus, all Kusla felt in this icy darkness with a pungent stench was loneliness.

The white girl with the soft, sweet fragrance would have some moisture if embraced for long due to her higher body warmth. She was headed to a place he would never ever reach, to be used thoroughly by others, and perish through vicious means.

If he had not possessed her, he would not have this feeling. However, he had grabbed her with his hand. They shared the same blanket, giggling as they looked at each other. Thus, he could not forget…

All he felt was loneliness, cold.

Furthermore, if he was to be condemned to Hell, once both of them died, they would never be able to see each other again. Such a dunce of a brat would surely be brought to Heaven. And so, he had a deranged thought that he should reached his demonic hand to Fenesis, that she might fall to Hell because of debauchery.

Fenesis.

So Kusla muttered in the darkness.

“On this land of Abbas, some people has misused the legend! ”

The strangely vague voice seemed to be coming from afar, but he did seem to have heard it before.

The lights in his memories were flickering, gradually showing the arrogant smirk on the face.

The spies.

“The legend of the Whites, who were hailed as Gods!”

Kusla was unsure if he was dreaming, or if it was reality.

So he thought, God might have his own plans for unexpected circumstances.

“The legend of the Whites is a historical truth, and we are the inheritor! Look! This princess is the descendant of the lost bloodline, the one who created the miracle! ”

There was buzzing from the crowd, and the ground shook. Kusla knew that he was buried alive somewhere, and could easily imagine how Fenesis was being used.

“We have inherited the great works of the Whites, the people who created a new utopia upon this fallen land! Doubt if you wish! Fear if you want! But the great works of the Whites are present, capable of splitting the earth and the skies! Look! This is the miracle!”

Following that was the sound of a massive fireball, just like air being blown into a burning furnace from a massive bellows.

The chatter of the crowd vanishes, probably intimidated to the point of silence.

“This is the power received by those granted with God’s power, the tremendous fire that burned the old Abbas down in a single night! Everyone, kneel! ”

He could hear the clanking of the knights’ armor, along with people kneel.

“Also, there are those who lost to their desires and the whispers of the Devil, intending to harm us who have formally inherited the miracle! I order all to find them before dawn! Stone those who mixed sand in the grain! We shall become the rulers of the new utopia, Abbas! The names of these men are—”

At the next moment, Kusla regained his consciousness, as though he was rising from the bottom of the water.

Was the spy’s speech just a dream? Where was this place? Was he still alive? Was he thrown into Hell?

Countless questions began to slowly form a silhouette in his blurry vision. Entering his sights was Phil, leaning over.

In his shock, Kusla instinctively tried to shove the face away. At this moment—

“…Ugh…uu…!”

Kusla felt a tremendous migraine, and a repulsiveness rising up his gut.

Phil probably had anticipated this as he handed over a pail. Without a second thought, Kusla vomited out. Little of the poison was out, but his body was satisfied, and the urge to heave quickly subsided. This gave him the feeling of living.

Despite being weak, Kusla was truly breathing, and could not hide his skepticism.

And why was it Phil before him? Where was this place?

He never thought his companion to hell would be the obese book merchant, and was not too pleased with such a foolish ending.

His vision remained like a swaying rope, and he tried to regrasp it, only to see Weyland’s face lit by the light.

Ignoring where this place was, Kusla finally heaved a sigh of relief. Even the Devil would be dumbfounded if he mentioned this.

For even if it was Hell, he would not be bored to have Weyland around.

“Here, drink~.”

Weyland said as he handed over a wooden cup.

“This is the water blacksmiths use for quenching. Effective in treating headaches, abdomen pains and cuts. Probably can cure poison too~.”

That’s just a superstition, so Kusla was about to burst out laughing, but it seemed that was Weyland’s motive as he handed the cup over, before lying lethargically in a nearby chair.

So Kusla gulped it all down, and found it icy and sweet. It was possible to believe that it was water from the grail. This mere cup revived him from the brink of death

“How…long was I sleeping?”

“If possible, a thousand years or so. But the commotion of the festival hasn’t ended. There’s still some impressive act~.”

There was a meaning to his tone, so Kusla inadvertently realized, just maybe…

“…The spies’…act?”

Hearing that, Weyland was stupefied.

“What? You were awake~?”

“…Just not dead yet.”

Kusla answered painfully, and relaxed. So it seemed it was all reality.

In that case, it meant their lives were targeted by the Knights.

The spy named three men. Kusla, Weyland and Phil.

“Yes, they brazenly used the power of the fire herb. The town people blindly followed, and even those ruling this town are all dumbfounded. Well, can’t be helped. They’re scared thinking this town will be blown up again~.”

While Weyland was snickering as he described this, he looked frailer compared to before, gloom on his face.

Kusla suddenly felt that they might be dead, and were just waiting in the reception room to Hell, venting their frustrations.

“Were…you poisoned too?”

“I was had, sorta. Before then, Irine and I drank a lot…the poison nearly caused me to pass out, but my body seemed to have vomited on its own, so I woke up immediately. Might have felt better if I remained unconscious though.”

While they did not know the exact toxic effects of the white bear liver, they were sure it caused great pains and repulsiveness.

“I’m finally able to walk on my own~.”

“I see…”

Kusla relaxed. This caused him to smile.

He was unused to hearing Weyland showing concern for no rhyme or reason.

“What about…Irine?”

Kusla asked, and before Weyland turned towards him, Phil appeared by Kusla’s side.

He was holding another cup.

Kusla did not refuse, took it, and gulped it down.

“Little Ul and her were taken away. Well, little Irine’s a really capable blacksmith, so she’ll probably work hard with little Ul as hostage~.”

Or she could be taken as hostage to make Fenesis obey, once they murdered Kusla and the others.

“It’s not just the townspeople who were shocked too.”

Phil interjected.

“Never thought your companion was the descendent of the legendary angel”

If Phil had doubted everything because of her white hair, he would have assumed there was a hidden monster under the shade of the tree at night. It was no wonder Phil was confused.

“She’s too beautiful for a little apprentice. I had been thinking it was strange…but I never expected that. It was more likely, so I assumed she was your ‘special’ assistant.”

These words had Weyland giggling away, while Kusla broke into a wry grin.

“I don’t know what Kusla thinks, but if she’s even a little cuter, I don’t mind~.”

“I heard that it wasn’t uncommon between ancient philosophers.”

The foolish jokes instead left Kusla at ease.

Kusla intended to get up, and refused Phil’s attempt to help.

But his muscles were like lead, unable to move freely.

Despite that, he supported his upper body, almost completely by willpower.

“…The Knights…those spies…what are they planning?”

Kusla asked, and Weyland continued, as though joking,

“Objective? Once they got the technology to conquer the world, there’s only one thing left to do, right~?”

“…He said he wants to create utopia…”

“Yes. We’re here to be taken as sacrifices.”

Kusla looked towards Phil, and then scanned the place. It was dark, resembling a warehouse, but the ceiling was low. Also, he could smell the body stench of fresh blood and wild beast amidst the faint rotting smell.

“……The demon’s belly?”

Kusla muttered, and Phil gaudily nodded.

“I don’t know if I should call this the path leading to the ventilation hole, or a room meant for such moments?”

He shrugged.

“It’s such a place anyway.”

“You and I were probably dragged to an empty house by the thugs the spies hired, and Phil led the Jedeel Guild to save us. Never thought there’ll be good men willing to save alchemists~.”

Truly, it seemed there was such a memory deep within his aching head.

“I’m not a good person. I too was named as one of those to be hunted...”

Yes, the spies paraded the fire herb and Fenesis before the crowds, declared themselves as God’s representative, and vowed to hunt the savages who hurt them.

Clearly, it was to kill off the hindrances, those who knew how to create the fire herb.

“…But…when did we? I can understand if they just said our existence is evil …”

Phil answered Kusla’s doubt,

“This is the news brought by the people who provided food for the Knights at the south bank. The food was poisoned.”

“On the lord’s table.”

At this moment, Kusla saw through the entire plan. The spies obtained the white bear liver, fed it to the commander of the forces, and framed it as an assassination by Kusla’s group, seizing authority. This probably was the situation.

“The poison sounds like it’s the same curse as the white bear of the ritual. Never thought that would actually happen.”

“But it causes the body to melt…isn’t that hyperbole? Doesn’t Weyland still look human?”

Kusla chuckled, and Weyland gave a wry smile. Phil lowered his eyebrows awkwardly. Kusla wanted to tell them to stop pretending, only to discover the anomalies on his hands.

The swollen skin had become tattered with holes.

“…Inside…like this?”

“Where it’s visible at least…”

Phil said, and Kusla reached for his face, giving a wry smile once he felt it.

“Oh…now I do look like an alchemist….”

“But it can be cured. I have researched through the records left behind by the seafarers of the North, and found that as long as they regain consciousness, it is possible to be healed.”

“Right now, I don’t…really care about my appearance. So? The poisoning was caused by the spies, I get that…but did they really start a fight against the Knights just to establish their kingdom?”

The fire herb truly was a powerful technology.

Yet he felt reckless to think this would allow them to compete against the powerful Knights.

“It seemed they really intended so. After all—”

Just as Phil was about to begin explaining the reason why, there was the sound of the shutters being opened, and a conversation. Kusla immediately felt tense, and tried to stand up, but Phil stopped him.

“Don’t worry.”

Beyond the darkness was a candle-like flame flickering, along with a few trudging footsteps echoing silently.

Finally appearing was an old man with a cane, grimacing with a goat-like face. There was also the servant who received them while a disguised Kusla followed Phil to collect the key to the demon’s belly.

“Greetings, Master Poldorof.”

Phil earnestly bowed.

Poldorof was the master of the ruling family.

“I have no reason to accept the greetings of sinners.”

So he said unhappy, and sat on the chair the servant pulled for him. He cleared his throat, probably because he sighed too much, the words remained stuck in his throat, rather than him imposing his authority.

“You got involved in something big again.”

He glared at Phil.

“I admit most of it is due to me, but we are simply roped into this incident. Yes, we can say the Knights seized the initiative.”

“Hmph.”

Poldorof snorted, and turned towards the other two.

“And these two men?”

“Yes. They are the authentic alchemists who replicated the legend of the Whites.”

While he did not know what the ‘authentic’ part was about, he would accept it as praise for the time being.

“Not…frauds.”

Kusla chuckled in a self-depreciating manner, but Poldorof merely snorted, looking disinterested, the air causing the beard by his mouth to sway.

“I don’t doubt so. At the very least, the fire pillar was real.”

One would think his face was pale because the fire herb was too powerful, that for this old man who would soon be headed for Heaven, it was not suitable to be a bonfire for his departure.

“And the tools do not choose their owners. My father often disputed against my grandfather, saying that if the angel’s technology is discovered, that will be the source of conflict.”

“A wise man indeed~.”

Weyland praised, and the old man shrugged in appreciation.

“I had assumed it was simply a town razed down by a war, and the description was figurative. My grandfather’s generation and his ancestors think different though. One day, like madmen, they pursued to this place the Whites were said to have arrived. Of course, they never found it, but unexpectedly…”

He sighed once again.

“If the legend can only be dismissed as one, then it’s just a festival to drink and make merry.”

He shot a reproaching look. But Kusla found such an expression to be familiar and earnest.

“No paper can cover a fire…even in the Bible, there is such a teaching…”

Kusla sounded sarcastic, while Poldorof’s white, long eyebrows never twitched in the slightest.

“We Poldorofs are not of Orthodoxy.”

“Pardon us…”

But he seemed a reasonable old man, so Kusla thought.

“Because of you, I was forced into a dilemma.”

He tapped the cane onto the ground, saying,

“The fellows within the Southern walls called them magnanimous, that as long as I handle you murderers over, they will think of us as comrades.”

“Our faces will be engraved into the coins of circuses~.”

Weyland joked. Kusla had assumed Poldorof would trip Weyland with the cane, but unexpectedly, the old man remained calm all the way.

Instead of having a pure will unaffected by anything precious however, one would say he had his mind steeled.

Also, Kusla had something he could not understand.

“Mr Poldorof…why did you not…do so? The Knights…have obtained the miracle. I can’t think of any reason to resist.”

Hearing Kusla’s question, Poldorof looked over. Perhaps he did not wish for his town’s legend to be misused by anyone, out of nostalgia?

“Hmph.”

Poldorof stomped his cane onto the ground in annoyance.

“If so, I would not have been so hesitant.”

“Wh-what?”

Are our enemies not the Knights?

What is going on? Kusla narrowed his eyes, and Phil answered his doubt.

“The Knights will soon be dissolved.”

“Huh?”

Kusla might not be as shocked to hear that the earth would split the next day.

However, Phil and Poldorof remained serious, and Weyland was not grinning away

“We brought the white bear here for a reason. The envoys of the South went around the sea routes locked down by the Knights, and are hidden in its belly.”

Is the white bear that massive? Kusla widened his eyes, but the old man never smiled.

“That’s just a metaphor. A letter was delivered during this festival. I heard the one leading the Southern forces is a spy? I don’t know how they obtained this information, but it doesn’t matter. Anyway, they have the same information as us, and made up their mind. They have their miracle, weapons, helpers, locations, so they should rise up, so it seemed.”

The old man said impatiently, but Kusla did not understand at all.

Phil continued,

“The Knights were excommunicated from the Church by the Pope.”

“What!?”

Kusla forgot to breathe. The Pope was the leader of the Orthodox Church, the only representative on Earth for God. All authority was granted from him, and kings would bow to the Pope when crowned, for the Pope to impart mysterious power into the crowns. The Knights were excommunicated from the Church.

This meant that the brothers all over the world would deem the Knights as enemies. The conversion of the Latrian Queen was not an idea a few nobles of the South had suddenly thought of.

This showed the Papal was implicit in the conspiracy, fearing the power of the Knights would exceed it, and even declaring themselves God’s representative…

The Knights became the enemies of the world. That was why the spy said so.

It was futile awaiting any reward. It’s futile to wait for any reward. We want to get our reward with our hands.

“I was forced to stand on the crossroads. The hunters of the Far North act nimbly once they see an opportunity, so I don’t blame them. However, once they mistake recklessness for bravery, they will tumble and fall off the cliff.”

“Are they…mistaken?”

“You don’t know what those Southerners call this place?”

Phil straightened his back, and answered with a grim look.

“The end of the Earth. People of various kinds escape here from the South.”

“Hmph. Quite a few heretics…well, the ones you speak of, how many of them do you think escaped here? Everyone who believed thought ‘Our God shall reveal the truth of the Bible to the world. God, save us’, and they were all persecuted by the Church till here. Of course, the God those men believed in never saved them.”

Finally, they understood what he was trying to say.

“The passion for the new God will never compare to the covenant with the old.”

The Church could never have been peaceful right from the beginning. Surely it had faced countless challenges of opposing faiths, or greed of power.

However, the Church continued to fight them back, and people started attending it, accepting the protection of the Pope, the representative of God

Even if they brought out Fenesis and used the angel’s miracle, Poldorof merely thought of this commotion as a rebellion of the same level.

Experience probably taught him so.

“But in that case, what is this hesitation you speak of~?”

Weyland asked boldly, and Poldorof pointed his chin nonchalantly at Phil.

“Those men want his heart too.”

“I know how to make the fire herb after all. They probably think I’ll write a book and reveal it to the public.”

Phil shrugged callously, and it was Poldorof who continued to grimace.

“If we throw this book merchant into the fire, we of Abbas will be enemies against the Great Jedeel Guild. Abbas was created as a trading post between the people of the Far North and the various countries in the South, maintaining relations with many areas. If we’re to be at odds with the merchant guilds, we will surely be strangling ourselves. Certain trade routes would certainly be severely hindered. However…”

Like a wily old strategist, Poldorof coughed twice.

“If for some reason, the Knights truly can control the world and silence the Great Jedeel Guild, I can ignore this.”

“If our Great Jedeel Guild vanishes from the world map, the other guilds can earn more profits. It benefits them all.”

What they meant was, while they were weighing the benefits and costs, the scales would not tilt to one side that easily.

Poldorof felt that even though the spies had the technology of the angel’s legend, along with the angel’s descendent, it was not a given that they could conquer the world. Thus, if they were to easily assist the spies, and the rebel forces led by the spies were to be slain, Abbas would surely be condemned for having assisted.

The problem being, while this thought process was logical, the unsheathed swords were glittering, reflecting the fire on the south bank of the river.

“If you don’t hand us over…you will have to be the scapegoat?”

“Yes. Those men are having a gamble. As long as we hand you over, it shows the Poldorofs are affiliated to them, and the people will recognize their authority. If we don’t do so, we’ll be slaughtered, signifying their authority.”

Kusla chuckled.

“Then…this isn’t some hiding place…”

“It’s a prison~.”

It was not to protect, but to prevent an escape.

“But even if you do hand us over, the lot of you might not remain alive.”

Hearing those words, Poldorof remained stone faced.

“Not exactly.”

Kusla was pleased to have this direct response.

“Those former spies should have some smarts at least. If they want to win as much as possible, they will need the assistance of the guilds in this town. These are merchant guilds that deal with long distance trading. No matter where the fight is, surely they could assist in deploying the goods.”

This benefit might be one reason why the spies came up with that idea.

“But old man, aren’t the lot of you merchants?”

“We’re the Poldorofs, just interacting with the gloomy, skeptical, beast-like people of the Far North, with only our golden past keeping as afloat. Of all the various tribes of different languages and cultures, my family is the only one capable of being the window to them.”

If the spies wanted to ensure the proper logistics thereafter and yearn for the assistance of the merchant guilds, they would have to promise the guilds several privileges. Some of it would have to involve trading with the people of the Far North. But if this could not be achieved by discarding the Poldorofs the spies would have to show the latter respect.

The spies were willing to break apart Kusla’s group, who broke through all the tiles of Abbas, but were unwilling to be enemies against the Poldorofs. This should be enough reason for them to try and stabilize the situation.

Of course, if their request remained unfulfilled, they could cause others to suffer instead.

“I understand…strange that we’re not tied up.”

It seemed the poison had subsided, and Kusla said so with his now slightly limber tongue.

“Yes, unbelievable. Isn’t it.”

Poldorof said, his right-hand stroking at his thinning white hair.

“We too can see through their plan, since it is so obvious. They are practically giving me a letter, telling me what to do. However, they missed out on something crucial. The people of this town are in the midst of a festival, and believed in their miracle. However, they could not completely ignore the possibility that the ears of the young lady on the palanquin are those of the white bear.”

“The fire pillar is real.”

“If that’s magic, maybe it’ll get them to believe more.”

Kusla looked over to Phil, who nodded.

“It’s something anyone can replicate.”

“That’s how it is. I heard everything from this fellow here, and he said it’s a technology you discovered. So I thought, why don’t I use the time they gave us Poldorofs to you instead.”

This little period of time is just hesitation for us. So he chimed with annoyance at the very end.

Kusla stared at Poldorof, and then turned to Weyland.

Weyland then gave Kusla a slightly skeptical look.

It seemed he did not misunderstand Poldorof’s words just because of the poison.

“So, what do you mean~?”

“Are you people men? I heard that the ones lifted up the palanquin is your princess?”

He subconsciously looked over at Phil. The latter gave a stiff smile, and then it vanished

On the other hand, Poldorof was staring intently at Kusla with his wolf-like silver eyes. His eyes seemed to be reproaching, and also raging.

Like a hunter living in the harsh lands of the North, one who valued blood and honor.

All Kusla could only do was to curl his lips.

“At the very least…I can be grateful for not using my testicles in the experiment.”

“What I mean is, find a way out and die trying.”

“……”

Kusla again turned to Weyland.

And Weyland showed an awkward smile

No way~? Their eyes were enough to convey this.

“Are you…demanding us to find a counterattack against their miracle?”

The old man coughed dryly.

“Is there any other reason to let you live? Once we find that method, we won’t be harassed by the foolish heretics coming to this town.”

This was truly a foolish request.

This was not a case of manliness. It would be best for Kusla if they could beat the spies and get Fenesis back.

But he knew there were some things that were pointless no matter how much they demanded so. If there was a beehive above him, and he had a stick, he could make up his mind and hit the beehive without fear. If all he could do was to yell however, it was akin to doing nothing.

“We don’t have our tools. Those spies must have moved everything away from the workshop.”

The sun fragments, charcoal, sulfur, every material that could be related to the new discovery, and the distillation tools Irine made.

There was no way the spies would leave them be. It was because of these miraculous tools that they felt they could conquer the world.

“There are.”

Poldorof tersely responded, pointing with his chin.

And so, his servant by the side stepped forward, pulling down a large cloth hanging by the wall.

Just for a moment, Kusla had an illusion, assuming Fenesis and Irine were seated there.

No, was it really an illusion?

He did not understand.

Though he did not understand, the tools with the tender, round curves were sufficiently defined to be dubbed feminine.

“This is the place my great grandfather generation built, and had been in use until the previous generations. The glassmakers who also idolized the legend of the Whites were said to be gathered here. During the last generation, my father hated this reckless challenge, but it seemed he couldn’t give up on the once in a million possibility. He never neglected the maintenance of the tools, and handed it to me. This is the one thing I want to continue with.”

Kusla remained in a daze as he heard this explanation. Before his eyes were various types of tools. There was even glass distillation equipment, which were uncommon. There was a set of equipment sufficient to create a technology capable of conquering the entire world.

“The Whites were wanderers who drifted into Abbas. The ones who solved the mystery again were travellers. This does seem strangely logical.”

Poldorof continued, remaining displeased.

But once Kusla saw this underground workshop that was maintained impressively well, he understood the reason.

“For you to use until dawn. Anything you’re lacking? Don’t mention about time. ”

Poldorof himself might have spent a certain period seeking the angel’s legend. The answer so happened to be beneath his feet, and he was probably miffed by it. If someone was to show up and rob him of his glory, surely he would have beaten that person up with his cane.

Poldorof was scowling not because he was a grumpy man to begin with.

He was simply displeased.

“I’ll have a look.”

Kusla said, and intended to stand up, but unlike his mouth, his legs were unable to move freely.

Weyland realized this, and stood up from the chair, hurrying to clear the tools.

“Impressive, but we’re lacking something most important. We can gather lots of sun fragments from the land here, but it’ll take some time. We won’t be able to make it in time.”

“About that, please have a look here.”

Phil brought a wooden crate in a corner of the room to the table, opening its lid.

“…What. You stole these from the workshop~?”

Weyland was smiling as he said so. Surely he assumed this was not the case. Kusla was peeved as he looked over at Phil.

The alchemists might have been the most honest.

“Blessings out of misfortune, it seems. Please forgive me.”

“You…took this without us knowing?”

It was unknown if he wanted to conquer the world, or lost to his curiosity, or just wanted to sell.

Perhaps the delusion of all these factors drove him to do so. Phil however did not look guilty, proud even.

“I’m always reading. I do want to try out the knowledge I have from time to time. ”

Go to hell, so Kusla wanted to curse. He did not do so, but not because they had benefited from the misfortune.

“And I feel that no matter when it is, it should be passed down. There is no bad knowledge or good knowledge, just bad application and good.”

Saying that, Phil shut the lid of the wooden box, and shoved it to the duo.

“Part of the reason the spies want to kill us is to obtain authority over the forces, and to pin us as murderers, but more certainly, it’s because we know how to make the fire herb. This is akin to sacrilege of reviving a knowledge buried over a hundred years, and burying it in darkness again. How preposterous of them to murder those who solved the mystery. These men will again reach new heights, giving me new topics to write about. Thus, I have to risk on everything, and assist you with all my might. Then, I will swing the hammer of justice down on those who resist knowledge!”

The genial looking Phil swung a fist down onto the table. Him saying these words with outrage left Kusla refreshed, nostalgic. Something within him seemed lit.

Kusla had to apologize to Poldorof, for the latter might really have crushed him. When Fenesis was choked by the spy, and his outstretched hand was powerless, he felt like a cow being slaughtered. Such was the case for those who only cared about the world, unable to escape from their fate. One might even feel solace in giving up, thinking they had understood everything.

At the very least, one person would be thinking ‘go to hell’.

Then, what about the others?

“We have materials, tools…what about the other minor stuff?”

“How many guilds do you think this town has?”

Poldorof retorted in annoyance, and Weyland burst out chortling.

“Well, since he said so, Kusla~.”

It seemed they intended to get down to work.

Kusla scowled, and slacked his jaw.

He was dubbed the restless alchemist, and always called himself an alchemist without tears or blood. The past him was so poor to the point of helplessness. Like a mutt kicked on its bum, running away with the tail tucked and ears drooped, he found himself to be truly embarrassing.

Back then, Fenesis did not reach out for help to this alchemist,

Absolutely not.

“But it’s a fact that we don’t have enough time.”

Hearing Weyland’s words, Kusla stood up. The toxins had not cleared completely, he was tumbling around, his legs quivering, his head rocking like a pail on a horse’s back.

But there was one part he probably was not mistaken about.

There was only one place an alchemist should be moving towards.

“We don’t have enough time, but that’s not much different from usual.”

“Hm~?”

“Well, if we want to unravel the secrets of the world, that’s still not enough time, isn’t it?”

Weyland bared his teeth, giving a hearty smile as he shrank his neck back.

“Yeah. If we give up now, we’ll sully the name of being an alchemist.”

Kusla steadied his footing on the ground, and took a deep breath.

He was ravaged by the poison to the point of weakness, and tried bucking himself up, but there was truly no time. For hundreds of years, nobody solved the angel’s legends, and he needed another technology to beat it up front.

Typically, one would assume it was so ridiculous, how could it be possible.

However, it was the alchemists who fulfilled those that were assumed impossible. Technology was a history full of making the impossible possible.

The blacksmiths would have their stirrups taken, mistreated by their kings.

But what he wanted to prove was always like this.

Kusla took one step, two steps, his hands on the table.

He felt some heat. Was it due to the sun fragments above him?

“I’ll show you a miracle. Alchemist can turn lead into gold.”

The beard on Poldorof’s mouth was shaking with a snort, and he neither nodded nor smiled.

They began to work. Poldorof had returned back out, pondering how to quell the citizens’ panic and the work thereafter. There were massive ventilation holes within the demon’s belly for the white bear ritual, and one of them was linked to this secret room. Also, it was linked to the basement of the Poldorofs.

Nobody would interfere with the experiments, but Weyland himself was also poisoned, so Phil was in charge of the experiment. He began to experiment in a decent looking manner, and while his actions were a little crude, the experiments should not be affected. Thus, they began to experiment within the underground cave where the white bear’s organs were buried. This was truly a mystifying scene, truly befitting of an alchemist. Fenesis would surely be happy to see this.

But even God would shiver knowing what they would be doing inside.

There were lots of sun fragments present. Phil’s unabashed greediness let to him carrying a crate full of them. Even if they were to be mixed with charcoal and sulfur, it was unlikely they would be able to defeat the attacking Knights. Even if both sides had swords, having a sword master wield it would garner different results from having women and children doing so. Furthermore, they had a dragon flamethrower. In theory, they required a certain something to increase the power of the already amazing fire herb.

Impossible. This would be the typical thought. However, there was no definite answer to whether it was really impossible. Given the current records, one would find that even metallurgy was refined over thousands of years. One might assume it to be impossible, but surely, there was a way to improve the efficient.

By this thought process, the only ones who would assume the hidden power of the sun fragment was used to its limits were the alchemists who merely smeared upon the past.

Also, they had another tactic to think of.

If they could find the remaining technology left by the angel, to fly in the air, it might become a bargaining chip.

At the very least, Kusla did not want the entire world. All he needed was a little workshop, not vast acres of land. All he wanted was to be able to remain on peaceful lands, to experiment with his good companions. At this point, he understood that his land of Magdala was actually so plain and simple.

Thus, all he hoped was for them to return Fenesis and Irine.

Weyland basically had the same thoughts. Phil himself said that as long as he knew the outline of this secret, anything he did could be converted into profits.

“It seems if the sun fragment can be distilled like wine, the power will increase.”

“Wine by itself can be burned. Just need to extract the essence.”

“Just like a soul.”

After this joke, Kusla continued,

“Of course, I know of an experiment where a dying person is weighed on a balance to test the weight of a soul.”

And the result was, there was no difference between dying and dead.

With both hands, Kusla and Weyland grabbed the smooth surface of the miniature tool easily.

Just as the glassmakers of Yazon depleted their family fortunes to seek it, it seemed the masters of the Poldorofs had invested lots of money on the angel’s legend for generations. One could tell from the four, five glass distillation tools of various sizes.

“Then what do you intend to do? If we’re doing the same as distilling wine, we need to mix the sun fragments with charcoal and sulfur, and heat it up. It’ll definitely burn.”

“I won’t hesitate to risk my life, but unfortunately, I have only one~.”

“Let’s try one with only charcoal, and one with only sulfur. The reactions should be somewhat different.”

“We want to be sure of what it really is, but…”

Kusla said as he gathered various materials on the little iron plate

“If we’re feeling really frustrated, we can throw the fire herb in to roast them.”

“Don’t forget the wine~.”

Despite the jokes in their conversation, they had to continue working.

First, they would insert sulfur and the sun fragment into the part to be hearted. The part was formed by a round, pudgy bottle body along with a long, crane-like beak. The crane beak was a long, thin cylinder, ensuring that there were no gaps while transferring the fluid into the vessel.

Phil brought the candle he had prepared beforehand beneath the distillation tool, and had the flame approach it.

“Putting it in.”

“Hopefully, it won’t start burning out of a sudden.”

Weyland said such ominous words, but Kusla ignored him as he focused on the distillation. The candle flame was stretching and shrinking like a snake’s tongue, licking at the bottom.

Nobody said anything, and Kusla stared intently at the contents of the tool unflinchingly.

It was as though he was waiting for that one unfortunate moment, to deject himself through this pessimism, and have it slowly burn.

“…Hm?”

The first to voice out was Weyland, and soon after, Kusla realized.

“The sun fragment…is melting.”

The mixture of sulfur and the sun fragment was slowly shrinking in the glass tool before them.

“What about the receiver?”

There was a thin mist around the glass vial in the cold pail of water, little, but some fluids gathered beneath.

Air alone would create water droplets when heated and condensed, so this could explain the observation.

But there was a little ash left at the candle flame.

If something had vanished, it would leave traces somewhere.

“Move the fire away. Wait for it to cool, and open.”

Weyland already began to act, moved the candle away, and silently waited for time to pass.

“Some smoke came out when the sun fragment shrank. If only we have some fletchlings here or something~.”

“Such knowledge from the miners to discover if there are toxic gases. But about this…”

Phil looked around.

“Hm…not here.”

“Are you looking for a bat?”

Kusla asked, half jokingly, but Phil answered with a serious look,

“No, spiders. Spiders can detect toxic gases even fletchlings can’t. They react painfully~.”

Kusla looked over at Weyland, saying,

“You knew about this?”

“First time I heard of this, because there were often spiders in the alchemist books back then. Looks like there’s something else to them besides giving a terrifying vibe~.”

“Probably one of the forgotten knowledge.”

Phil puffed his chest proudly, having a demeanor no child of his age should have.

However, there was no spider, and no fletchling. Kusla took the receiver from the cooled distillation tool, and fanned his hand to smell,

“…If you want to faint, fall backwards.”

Weyland noted sarcastically, but naturally, Kusla did not fall over.

“Feels like there’s some sulfur…not toxic. Anyway, let’s open and have a look.”

So he poured the contents onto the iron plate.

“Since we used the fire herb, we can use this to roast over the fire—”

Right at this moment.

The fluid on the plate suddenly boiled vigorously.

“O-ohh!”

Phil yelled, while Kusla and Weyland instinctively pulled their distance. There were white smoke and bubbles frothing on the plate.

This reaction soon subsided however, and there was no fire pillar. Incredulous, Kusla glanced aside at Weyland, and the reckless alchemist had already reached his hand slowly for the plate.

“…It’s not hot~?”

This line answered Kusla’s doubt. The plate was definitely not heated, and it should be icy cold in this frigid day. The fluid in the receiver was encased in cooled water, and logically should have been completely cold.

Then, what was that just now?

While flipping through the books, Phil, who knew about books more than anyone else, said,

“Is it a kind of acid?”

“Acid?But this reaction…”

“It’s the strong acid that can be gathered at a volcano crater. I saw it once before. The Far North has volcanoes that erupt at any given moment.”

The boiling on the plate seemed to have subsided completely, leaving behind a few bubbles.

“If that is really the thing I know of, try pouring it into the lead vessel.”

Kusla gave a look, and Weyland immediately searched the tools for the required item.

It was large enough for a hand to barely hold. Kusla once saw records that the lead vessel was suitable for medicine that had been set aside for months, years. It was likely because the heaviness gave a sense of security, and lead, unlike iron, would not rot to the point of having holes all over.

Kusla poured the remaining drop of liquid into the receiver, down through the side of the lead vessel.

The fluid did not boil.

“It is exactly the same as what was recorded by the ancient Kudaros alchemist Abu Alu Illam. This acid is name is derived from the same word, called sulfuric acid, so it probably has something to do with sulfur. My guess is that there is some secret to it if it can be gathered from the volcano. Unfortunately, the method to make it remains unknown, either because the art is lost, or deliberately erased.”

Kusla was disinterested, for it seemed that Phil had read books of alchemy he never did.

“Because we’re from humble backgrounds~.”

Weyland sensed Kusla’s feelings as he said this, and the latter snorted.

Phil, staring at them, was dumbfounded.

“So? How does it help?”

Phil shrugged, and took the plate unhurriedly, washing it in the pail used for cooling. Kusla and Weyland tried to stop him, but it was too late, as Phil, already wiping the plate with his own clothes, gave an incredulous look.

“We have more sun fragments. Shall we redo again?”

“This isn’t the problem…”

The book would not list all the perils. Carelessly setting aside items that were experimented was like walking blindfolded into a room full of doors. The Bible could have gone one step further and say that there were times even God could not help with.

“Next time, before doing anything, inform us.”

“Huh?”

Phil replied, not understanding fully. Whenever Fenesis was told to act, she would abide obediently, and it seemed that even though she was a little dull, and slow, she was still a capable assistant…

“Really. So? Why wash the plate?”

“It seemed the sulfuric acid could melt most metals. Please look, just like this.”

Phil handed over the wiped plate to them. Clearly it had sunk in a little, a hole nearly breached.

“…If we make lots of this thing and pour it down their heads, they’ll cease to exist.”

“Might get resisted by the crude lead armor.”

“Hm…”

Kusla groaned, and inhaled.

“It’s impressive, but even if we turn all the sun fragments here into this acid, will the situation change?”

A few spoonfuls of sulfuric acid and sun fragments were added to the tools. They did not know if his guess was correct, but even if they did use all the sun fragments in the wooden box, they could only most make a bucket and so of acid.

“We’re not trying to cause colds on the soldiers~.”

“Feels like if we investigate it thoroughly, we’ll have lots of interesting experiments, but…”

Kusla sighed deeply, his head on his forehead.

“Kusla?”

He was not feeling hopeless about the experiment, but he simply was not feeling well.

But no matter how he struggled, it would only last until daybreak.

If he did not give his all, surely he would regret.

“It’s nothing. Next.”

“So, charcoal and the sun fragment~.”

This time, it was about the same. The material formed out of the mixture of charcoal and sun fragment vaporized, leaving behind something akin to white skin. The receiver too had some fluids gathered, but there were two decisive differences.

The smoke was brown, giving off a foul, stinging stench.

“This is…”

“Too much…we don’t need a fletching. Even the Dead can revive choking~.”

They inhaled a little despite pinching their noses, but luckily, it seemed they would not die immediately.

“So, as far as you know of, anything that might match the description?”

Kusla asked Phil, who kept fanning his shirt as he answered.

He was worried if he would be bemoaned if this stench was to drift into the Poldorofs’ household.

“Unfortunately, the books do not have smell to them.”

“Makes sense.”

The stench quickly dispersed, and after inhaling, Kusla reached for the distillation tool.

“Let’s try opening it.”

“What about the plate?”

They were dealing with acid. Kusla hesitated for a moment, decided to follow suit.

“Let’s try lead.”

Weyland dug out a lead plate from the pile of tools, and Kusla poured the fluid in.

“…Such a troublesome one.”

The plate fizzled and dissolved.

“In that case, try this.”

They poured it onto the plate this time, and it did not dissolve.

“Yes.”

The reaction was clearly different from heating sulfur, so naturally, the extracted liquid should be deemed as something completely different. But of what use was it?

“Does it burn like oil?”

The metal plate did not dissolve, so Kusla brought the fluid applied on the dagger tip onto the candle flame. However, the fire did not burn upwards like the fire herb showed.

“Maybe we need to gather all three so that the door to the treasure cove will open.”

The materials used were sulfur, charcoal and the sun fragment. It could work if the two extracted fluids were gathered and setting them alight. After distillation, one would expect it to be more potent than distilled wine.

“Try mixing? But what about the plate? No matter which we use, one plate will definitely dissolve.

Acid would dissolve metal, and the unknown liquid would do the same to lead. Weyland too pondered for long, seeking a suitable vessel amongst the tools. “Erm, the glass did not dissolve.” Suddenly Phil, chimed in.

Oh God. The two alchemists groaned. They hoped that their brains were dulled simply because of the poison.

Kusla scratched his head, remade the acid, and slowly poured it into the glass vial he had just used.

“This alone won’t burn.”

“It’s the same as the fire herb. Maybe we can use a long stick on a haystack, and try putting a fire on it?”

It would be over if they were to set all the fluids aflame and create fire pillars in this cramped space. They extracted another portion of mixture into a new glass vessel, and then slowly brought some flaming hay over to it.

“…”

“…”

“…”

The trio did not speak up, most probably because they were trying to swallow their disappointment.

“Why isn’t it burning?”

Kusla said impatiently, Weyland’s hand was hanging on the table as he groaned,

“Coal won’t burn if it’s wet, so maybe it’s the same reason~?”

“Distilled wine is flammable even though it’s a fluid, same as oil.”

Well, you are correct, so Weyland pointed at Kusla, and looked up at the low ceiling.

“Strange. One plus one plus one doesn’t equate to three or four, but two or one now~.”

“Is it too naïve of us to think that we can simply harness its power?”

While the two fluids in hand might be precious discoveries in the world of alchemy, it would not save them from their predicament.

While it was difficult for them to make friends with the clergymen, at this point, they could empathize with the latter’s attitude to pray to God whenever they were attacked.

“In that case, we’ll have to choose the path that isn’t easy~.”

“Your meaning is?”

Phil’s question had Kusla smirking.

“Experiment, experiment and experiment.”

“The restless alchemist is going to show what he can do.”

Kusla inhaled hard, exerting his still poisoned body.

They mixed all the various materials, heated, cooled, and roasted them.

The responses they got were similar, or none at all. Weyland joked that it was similar to wooing the heart of a cold woman, who would at most reward with a smile when she was feeling good.

Lead would not turn into gold. Such logic naturally should apply at such situations.

“This is the end.”

He knew it should be useless, but he added ordinary, plain salt as a test, and there was no change.

On a side note, by adding acid, even lead would dissolve. Due to the change in nature, Kusla recorded the findings of acidic salt, but there was no greater discovery.

It probably was fine to be used as a condiment for their last dinner.

“…What do we do now?”

Phil fidgeted, but to Kusla and Weyland, this was just the beginning, so they shrugged.

“If two can’t work, make it three.”

“If that can’t work, make it four~.”

They began to mix the materials on hand, repeating their experiments. They filtered, mixed, adjusted the proportions, heated, cooled, roasted, washed, and filtered, mixed…ten times, twenty, thirty…they kept going. Little by little they progressed, yet they believed this would get them close to the Truth, and they got down to repeating the same motions over and over again.

They could not stop thinking. From their experiments, they knew that no matter how strong the heart is, any repeated anticipation and disappointment would wear away at it. Thus, they would not hope, but they would not give up. While concealing the ice and fire in their hearts, they continued to act with nonchalance. Such was the ability of an alchemist, the one method for their single-minded advance.

But no matter how mentally strong they were, their arms had their limits. After forty times, they started losing count if they had not recorded on the stone tablet. The fatigue and cold and the washing caused their hands to become numb, their arms heavy as though they had just carried a donkey, their temples seemingly embdded with a rod, their throats hot and stinging, yet never to be abated no matter how much water they drank.

The words recording the results of the experiment were not easy to decipher, for his vision was blurred.

Right on the brink was his concentration.

The determination to get Fenesis and Irine back, to get back at the spies, and to reach the land of Magdala, was fading fast. He could hear the Devil muttering at his ears, why do this?

Defying his fate would be similar to going against the rapid currents. For those that had fallen the height of a waterfall, even a bird would backtrack seeing the arduous toil of climbing back up.

It was completely impossible. He tried. It was enough.

Fenesis too would understand. She suffered much, and had a nice dream traveling with them. Was this not enough? She was supposed to be a cursed tool when they first met at Gulbetty, and perish there. It was him, not anyone else who saved her. Even if he could not save her at this point, he did not need to mind. There was no way she could hate him.

Is it not? Kusla?

“Shut up!”

Kusla inadvertently hollered, and suddenly lifted his face.

Weyland gave a skeptical look, while Phil looked flabbergasted. It seemed Kusla had fallen asleep waiting for a reaction during the distillation. This is fine. So Kusla waved his hand, evading their stares, and scratched his head.

He was startled. Was it a dream, or did the devil really beckon for him? The temptation itself was unnerving. The forbidden fruit of yielding was a fallen one, that anyone who tried it once would never remain in paradise again.

But in contrast, the completely red fruit looked sweet and soft.

Look, it resembled a bleeding pomegranate.

“…Ugh…huh?”

Someone seemed to be speaking by Kusla’s ear, and his eyes slowly began to focus..

What happened to the organ-like pomegranate?

“Kusla!”

Kusla reacted to Weyland’s voice, and gulped, slowly speaking,

“I’m fine.”

Weyland gave him a cold look, devoid of any warmth.

Kusla gaudily averted his eyes. Weyland was not worried about Kusla, but fearful that Kusla would commit a foolish mistake due to fatigue, resulting in a serious accident.

Weyland understood that Kusla knew this very well, and let the latter of. If the latter was to sleep again, he might knock him unconscious without a warning, until they were to be taken to the gallows.

Or maybe he might skip this step…

“…Damn.”

Kusla punched his trembling leg, and stood up, stretching his body that was overly stiff, either due to the poison or fatigue.

There was some steady, real wind blowing in the basement, helping to ventilate the place. However, it was utterly cold, and their strength was being sapped away. While the Poldorofs had these suspicious experiment tools for generations, it was a wise decision for them to scrap the tin items.

Tin had a unique characteristic, that once it was overly cold, it would slowly crumble like hardened sand. There would be some cracking, indescribable shrill sounds. Some had called it the crying of tin.

As he thought about it subconsciously, he felt that it was lonely not having a girl next to him, one who would be elated to hear such trivia, and suspicious if he was bluffing her.

Before he knew it, Fenesis’ absence was no longer fuel for the anger in Kusla’s belly, but robbing his body of a certain thing instead.

Of course, his body was still moving. The habitual experience would not vanish that easily.

However, his soul could not follow his physical movement. If this kept up, it was a matter of time until his soul was torn apart, and the strands linking his body might snap.

After that, once they were done mixing four, five materials in different combinations, none of them could speak. Phil, who wandered around looking for books, should be rather healthy, but he was much older, and his body was a little too pudgy to be hustling around. He was panting, and had to take breaks and sit on the chair. Any bystander could tell he was slower to get up each and every time.

The only one moving like an ordinary person was Weyland, but he was not of much use.

Nevertheless, looking from afar, it seemed Kusla was the most useless. He was unable to get up from the chair, and could barely move his hands within the range he could reach. The reason Weyland never knocked Kusla unconscious from behind was surely because he had no strength to do so.

Or perhaps he was at a point when losing Kusla in this state would be troublesome to him.

Kusla suddenly felt like he was looking down at himself from above, and had the urge to laugh and cry. Is this not a microcosm of life? So he thought. People could only reach anything within the range of their arms. Anything that grazed their fingertips, or were flicked away, would never return again.

Naturally, he would think it was preposterous, that since he had reached out for it, he had to continue.

However, the reality before their eyes was cruel.

Kusla’s hands landed heavily on the table, unable to move. It was not because he was completely weary. He should be able to move. If he was simply down to his hands, he had confidence that he could move them until his demise.

But there was nothing he could do.

“…Somehow…a dead end~.”

Weyland, who had stood the entire time, finally collapsed onto the chair.

At this moment, the ceiling seemed to have lowered, and it was probably not an illusion.

“…We might have…missed something.”

Phil said with a parched, hoarse voice. Even at this moment, he remained defiant. Phil had experienced much hardship.

Kusla stared intently at the tools dirtied because of the repeated experiments.

If their hard work could be crystallized, he wanted to see how they would look.

“…Missed out on…like where~?”

It was one thing to be sarcastic, but Weyland sounded as though he was hoping for it to be the case. Phil showed a grimmer look than when he was jeered, and lowered his head.

“If only we have more time…”

He groaned. Since when did they miss out on anything? If anyone wanted to find people forsaken by God, there were three available.

Having thought of this joke, Kusla snickered, attracting the attention of the other two.

“I got…a conclusion.”

He let his sticky throat reverb like the bellows of hell. Whenever he breathed, his lungs would rumble, and he had no strength to cough. Despite that, finally at the very end, Kusla felt thoroughly relieved instead.

It would be great if they had time, like Phil said, but Kusla did not think so. They did everything they could, and utilized their time well. They simply never got an answer. However, it was a question with no definite answer, like the theological question of how many angels were dancing on a needle head.

Thus, there was no need to be disappointed just because they had no answer.

And as long as they were not disappointed, they could think of the next action to take.

“Bring…all the sulfur and charcoal.”

“Eh?”

Confused wrinkles appeared on Phil’s lethargic face.

“Hohoho, that’s really just like you, Kusla~.”

It seemed Weyland understood immediately, and he could only smile wryly.

The only one left incredulous was Phil.

“We’re settling this score, up front.”

Phil’s mouth was left agape. Luckily, he did not voice it out. It was obvious what he wanted to say next, and while he mentioned to swallow the word ‘fool’ back, he said with an agitated look of disbelief,

“B-but, how do we do that?”

“Blow them up with the fire herb.”

“A-aren’t we working hard now because this isn’t feasible?”

“We have no other way out of this.”

Kusla shrugged, and Weyland giggled, choking and coughing away.

“…B-but…just look at the mirror. You’re all so worn out. Settle the score? Are you for real?”

Phil was telling the truth.

Nevertheless, it was still possible to eke out the last bit of strength during this little respite before the spies brought the soldiers along

If not, Kusla had another plan.

“Or when they start to close in here, we’ll ignite the fire herb.”

“Hm? Ohoho…how vicious you are Kusla, just like old times~.”

If a fire pillar was summoned in such a cramped space, there would be nowhere to escape. They would drag along many enemies to their deaths.

While it would be impossible to eliminate them all, they could enact some vengeance at least.

“I do feel we’ll be burned to death by the flamethrowers though.”

Saying that, Phil scratched his head.

“Let’s run away, right now.”

“Huh?”

“I said, let’s run away. Our brains contain knowledge, and with enough time, we’ll find a way. Run first, and then think.”

“Do you think we can?”

Kusla sneered at this suggestion, for it was too cold, and something burning within his body was about to be extinguished.

“…Why are you so practical only with regards to this…”

Phil lamented, and Kusla merely tilted his head in response, not even bothering to shrug.

“But you can run. I won’t stop you.”

He knew that Phil was not coaxing them just to live. Surely Phil had experienced similar situations, and said the same lines as depicted in the book in his hands.

The difference was, the books would obey him, while Kusla and Weyland would not.

“You have enough reason to abandon everything and live. If you swear absolute compliance to them, you might be able to live.”

“But we’re already labelled. Nobody will believe us.”

“This is our just desserts~.”

Phil, the first to be an adult, stared sadly at the two alchemists who could be considered impish children.

“But…really?”

“Yes. Even if you do run away, I won’t hate you. Even if you wag and beg for mercy, I won’t look down on you. You have your goals, and you’re obedient to that. I’ll respect you for that.”

Kusla said, and smiled to console Phil. As he smiled, he found it intriguing that he could show such a smile.

“You…”

Saying this, Phil kept quiet. Kusla saw that Phil was probably reproaching him, and sighed. While this Phil was undoubtedly a peerless genius, he was ultimately a middle-aged man with a pudgy belly. If Fenesis and Irine were here, his smile would have no regret or hesitation.

Grimacing at this, he sighed again.

At the very least, they had to ensure the fire pillar was burning wildly, for the girls to hear. He hoped it would be the call of farewell, an apology for being unable to protect them, rather than to be murdered quietly.

Kusla inhaled, and brought the air into the heavy body that almost had its spine shattered.

He knew that one day, he would die. However, he never thought it would be for real. If he had not been careless, if he had not let his guard down, he might have been able to avoid this. When the fire herb was completed, if he had thought of it as a hill of gold and silver, and took appropriate care, the spies would not have seized the opportunity. He would not have easily allowed the food given by others to end up anywhere else.

If he had continued to doubt everything in the world like before, this would probably not have been. It was most ironic, that the greatest reward he had from travelling with Fenesis, Irine, and Weyland was the notion that trusting others was not a bad thing. However, it was for this reason that he let his guard down.

Kusla could not determine if it was a bad thing.

The only thing certain was that he once felt this happiness for a moment.

Not a bad life, it seemed.

“Kusla, will you choose wood to hug? Or metal~?”

What Weyland mentioned in a hearty tone was not the material of the coffin, but the container of the fire herb when they immolated themselves.

“If metal, it’ll be cold.”

“I guess. Let’s choose the wood then~.”

Seeing Weyland’s response, Kusla thought.

There was no doubt he did not fear death. In that case, what were the feelings swirling within his heart?

Kusla understood, but he was unwilling to talk. It felt like a demon, one that would appear the moment he spoke of it.

He felt lonely.

Kusla quietly muttered in his heart, only to chide himself for being a fool.

How could an alchemist call himself lonely!?

Nevertheless, this feeling was like a named dog. No matter how he tried to shoo it away, it would follow and dawdle around him.

Fenesis. Ul Fenesis.

Kusla knew it was the third time he had fallen asleep, and he waved his hand, trying to shoo away the closing black beast, as though making a desperate protest against this cruel world.

Then, his world was turned upside down, and after the shattering sounds of glass and toppling items, a dull pain struck his entire body.

The ground his face was on was as cold as ice, and the smell of dirt he experienced after a long while was not bad in the slightly.

He could not help but smile, for he was looking so unsightly.

“A-are you fine?”

Kusla was about to waive his right hand to stop a panicking Phil.

But he felt a stinging, numbing pain.

“Don’t move. You got cut by glass. ”

Phil grabbed Kusla by the arm, and Weyland, looking concerned, handed over a handkerchief as a bandage. The coat used to disguise himself as a young lord of a guild was torn and tattered, along with the sleeve of the undershirt. His garments, which he had worn for a long while, were long eroded, and it was a matter of time until they tore. Even if he wanted to mend, he had no money. Phil thought of many ways, but decided to cut off the sleeve.

“The acid used for the experiment is on the arm…ar-are you fine?”

“Hmm…at the very least, you’re still alive, huh~?”

Weyland’s voice came from above, and Kusla chuckled as he coughed twice to respond.

“It’s a large wound, but luckily not too deep. Wash it with water and bandage it.”

It seemed that Phil was used to travelling, and adept at dealing with wounds.

“Now I’m wounded all over…”

“Shows that you made complete use of the body God granted you~.”

Yes. Kusla grinned at Weyland, and struggled to get up. Phil hurriedly lifted him, and upon seeing that, Weyland commented,

“Why don’t you just sleep now? I’ll tie a pail of fire herbs to your stomach. ”

“Ah?”

Kusla finally stood up, and refuted,

“I’m the restless alchemist.”

“Hohoho~.”

Weyland shrugged, grinning heartily. Kusla was a little torn on what to take of his reaction.

While Fenesis was not around, there was still Weyland. Kusla sat on the chair once again, his eyes as serene as a tranquil lake surface as he observed this underground cave.

He hoped that when the fire herb got burned, the explosions could reach Fenesis’ ears.

This was his only thought.

The table remained messy after the experiment, more so after Kusla fell asleep and fell over. Truly it did not resemble a table an alchemist should have, and finally, he could stop.

At this point, the familiar plates, vessels and distillation tools were a little cuter. He would be seeing candles for the last time, candles he stared at for hundreds, thousands of days.

But while Kusla saw the dirtied sleeve of acid that was cut away, he suddenly had a thought…

“Shall I bury the sleeve here?”

“Huh~?”

“The restless alchemist is going to sleep here.

“Nice joke there. Feels like we’ll be hearing groans of the evil alchemist here~.”

“Yes, I hope so.”

The buried sleeve would definitely continue to struggle even after its master’s demise, advancing to the Truth. Well, if such a legend was left behind, he probably would not suffer divine retribution.

Kusla smirked, and reached his hand for the sleeve. It was completely torn in this night full of experiments and countless labor. His finger pulled at the result of this toil.

Perhaps the sudden interaction with God happened accidentally.

“Kusla, that—”

The moment Weyland turned from the storage—

“——!”

A flash appeared upon the messy table, and time stood still. A light as sharp as a sword shone into Kusla and the others, who had ceased to act, and the moment it radiated, it compressed. While time stood still, the severed sleeve slowly rose. It appeared as though God was trying to stab the arm through with this tattered sleeve, or that the sleeve wanted to excrete something, wincing painfully. The sleeve continued to absorb light, before disintegrating.

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 14.jpg

Rising out was a massive flame.

No.

Appearing was the fire spirit, flapping its wings of flames, dragging the long scorching hair, its clothes fluttering away.

The fire spirit, not belonging to this place, was summoned as its body shivered, elated to be free from the Earth. One would have thought it would fly quickly into the skies as it was swallowed into the sky, immediately vanishing.

Whoosh. Following that, there was an astounding sound, and the sleeve burned to its life’s end finished its mission as it fell to the table surface dilapidated. Everyone present could only stare at it silently, and nobody spoke up.

Kusla had assumed it was a dream, for it was so surreal. That fire spirit even smiled at Kusla.

It resembled a slightly grown, and matured Fenesis.

“…Did you…see it?”

Kusla had enough of the silence, and asked.

After a long silence, Weyland answered,

“…Saw it~.”

“We saw…the fire …”

Phil gulped, and said,

“Spirit.”

This was no illusion. Kusla stared at his sleeve. Though it was nearly charred completely, there was some white smoke. The ordinary thing from before actually began burning by itself. It was as though he had reached his arm into hell, and it became the catalyst to summoning the fire spirit.

No, how is this possible? Kusla shook his head.

How could they have possibly summoned the fire spirit? That was a certain reaction. The same raw material as the fire herb was used. Since a similar phenomenon happened, it indicated this was no magic, no miracle.

“…It’s similar to the fire herb, but…”

“More…extravagant …”

Yes. While both would ignite flames, it sounded as though it compressed the fire herb.

A few seconds slowly drifted by before Kusla’s eyes. Despite that, the impatient fire spirit left him unable to grab its hair.

“…Reason? What reason?”

Every single word from Kusla was like a groan as he scanned the table surface. Then, he realized something was amiss. The sleeve was burning, for it had changed.

The sleeve was cut off because Kusla was hurt, and the wound was caused by the distillation tool. Back then…

Kusla recalled, and removed his shirt, drew the dagger from his waist to cut off the remaining sleeve, and tossed upon it the thing he left ever since their experiment. It was exactly the same as the fire herb, but did not burn despite having a flame on it. It was a fluid mixture of ash, the sun fragments, and sulfur, distilled to this form.

While waiting for the fluid to seep into the cloth, Kusla took the candle in his hand. He recalled that when he reached his hand out for it, his sleeve was hooked by the finger, brought to the magic array.

A candle flame was required for that.

“Ugh! ”

And thus, the basement was filled with the colors of light once again, the flame tongue licking at the ceiling before dissipating.

His sleeve was instantly charred.

Kusla was left at a loss.

“…So this is the last thing lacking?”

They mixed various items, experimenting, but the answer was too surprising.

“I never thought it should be in cloth and lighted up …”

“This might be the crux to break the deadlock.”

Kusla muttered, while Phil and Weyland nodded. Kusla, who would have exerted all his strength just to move his arms, got up from the chair.

“We got the clothing of God.”

This was no hyperbole, but close to the truth.

They wandered about the entrance of the demon’s belly, seeking the holes linked to the outside, checking the skies.

While the skies remained dark like ink, the stars were already pointing east, about to fade. The owls would sleep, the priests would wake. There was not much time left.

At this point, Kusla’s group finally understood what they had obtained.

“Let’s get this sorted out.”

Kusla placed his fingertips on the stone tablet. His hand was completely disfigured by the white bear poison, and due to the serious burn, it was all swollen. Weyland too was in a similar state, but Phil luckily was not hurt. Nevertheless, the latter’s clothes seemed to be stained in flying liquids, all burned to soot.

What they obtained was akin to a temperamental kitten.

“This fluid won’t burn by itself.”

“But by touching it directly, the hand will feel scorched~.”

Weyland twitched his little finger as he said so. Kusla never realized as his arm was aching from the cut, but the areas the fluid had touched was forming boils, giving a strange color.

Kusla and Weyland’s hands were scalded, and they were scarred all over, but they did not bandage themselves. It would be too dangerous if the fluid was to seep into the bandages.

“This fluid only reacts to fluid when mixed with cloth, paper and wood. Also, if soaked in the fluid, these things won’t burn if there’s no fire. So…”

Kusla said,

“This is the material for our counterattack.”

“Which is the more potent one, compared to the fire herb?”

After that, they summoned the fire spirit again and again, and found that it was certainly more majestic, it would be hard to say if it would be more powerful as a weapon.

“The fire herb is powerful too. So, the advantage this has…”

Kusla pointed his thumb not at the fire herb, but at the glass bottle of fire elixir.

“Basically, it’s a fluid. The fire herb becomes obvious because of the black soot, and it’s very ideal for the resistance since it’s invisible.”

“If you soak it in cloth, it becomes a fire coat…maybe you can deliver these clothes to the enemy to wear, and shoot a fire arrow~?”

“And do we just watch and dance?”

There was no way it was going to proceed so smoothly.

“But, well…we can only think using what we have.”

“How about we dip it in paper, and send it over as a letter to surrender?”

“Through words that will show by roasting?”

They were certain the elixir was not potent enough to burn any reader to crisp. It was unlikely there would be a bigger effect except for instantaneous shock. While Kusla was scratching away at his head, he had a feeling Weyland’s proposal was not completely out there.

“This is how we’re proceeding then.”

They understood the enemy was not an opponent they could beat up front. They had hostages taken from them, inferior numbers, and the enemy was heavily armed. The enemy had an ace, and it was unknown which would be more potent. The difference would be the usage.

Nevertheless, technology would deliver vastly different results based on its usage.

Furthermore, since they could not break through up front, they had to do the unexpected. Weyland himself was full of the unexpected, so what he suggested repeatedly, anything in his hands was often maximized to its full potential. Surely there was a way to break this deadlock.

Even if there was not, they had to create it.

“There’s nothing more suitable than this for an ambush. There’s a way, there will be! ”

Kusla scratched his head hard, standing from his chair. He did not know if the toxins had weakened, or that his rage had caused him to forget his pain. He was living like a bear, circling the workshop.

Weyland was inclined lightly into his chair, his legs stretched haphazardly, his arms folded as he kept thinking.

Phil stared at the characteristics of the elixir that were recorded on the stone tablet.

“Brother Phil, aren’t you a book merchant? Haven’t you read any books about assassination, or anything that might be helpful?”

“Eh?”

Phil lifted his head in shock, and then shrugged, saying,

“It is common to see stories of assassination by poison, but only to the extent of poisoning the king’s food and drink. There are few depictions of what poisons were used. More ludicrously, there were stories of the assassin being a witch, waving her wand, and the ground will crack, lightning will appear, and the guards will be turned to frogs.”

“Well, if this is fact, the witch would be queen of the world now.”

But the situation did not happen.

“What shall I do…what shall I do…”

Kusla muttered again.

If they could not think of any way, Kusla and Weyland would be executed, while Fenesis and Irine would be sent unwillingly to the battlefield. Fenesis would be boasted as one capable of executing miracles, used thoroughly, and would be immediately executed like an insect once she was unable to rally the masses, or was an obstacle to the spies. Irine herself was capable, but she knew all the secrets. There was no way she would have a good fate.

For that moment, Kusla felt that the Magdala-like peace would never return. The truly fleeting moment of miracle had vanished, and he was left with nothing but the gallows. . It was merely a few days ago when he pinched Fenesis’ cheeks to rely on him, back when he assumed everything in the world was going well. However, the cheek he could reach out to was not around. The sturdy figure, ever prone to anger upon being teased and yet would follow him hastily, was no longer present. The nosy blacksmith who was a maiden at heart was no longer present as well. He had not repaid the debt to her, who had the flair of a blacksmith leader, a good person unable to leave others alone.

Most importantly, Kusla once found the path leading to Magdala.

He did not think there would be a miracle more amazing. He never had the notion of running away, for he knew very well that no matter where he went, it was no different from death.

The meaning of his life was vanishing.

“What shall I do…”

Nevertheless, fate remained cruel.

While God showed them a glimpse of light, he showed no answer.

Frustration and anxiety were almost burning his gut away. Weyland gave Kusla an apprehensive look, but the latter was unable to calm down in any way.

“If only…we have a little more.”

Phil muttered to himself.

“Yes. If we had enough, we would not have so much trouble to begin with. ”

A change in quantity is a change in nature. A grape would merely rot and dry, but if they were gathered in numbers within a bag, it would become a wonderful wine.

“Or maybe, is there any method that can be called magic.”

Kusla said, turning to Weyland.

“Is this…likely?”

To vent his frustrations, Kusla began answering in rhetoric.

“The spirits aren’t appearing, and so isn’t the demon.”

“Maybe there’s a possibility of linking it to a demon summoning ritual, brother Phil~?”

Alchemists would not rely on superstitions. Once they discovered any superstition, they would act calmly and logically to see if it worked.

But if there was really something worth trying, they would not care how foolish it would be.

Kusla too felt this was the only way to succeed, and looked towards Phil.

“…There are many books…pertaining to spells on this land. When the heretics fled the inquisitors in the South, they’ll leave behind their research.”

“Shall we try?”

“…I don’t mind…”

From Phil’s tone, it seemed he had already tried so. He probably tried drawing a magic array in the basement using chicken blood, or something similar. If they truly believed there would be any change however, they would have no right to be alchemists.

The only ones who would be fooled by this would be those foolish folks appearing cautious, only to blindly believe those who loudly proclaimed it to be real. Those who believed the show the spies put on at the southern side of town were such people, of completely obedience.

The fire elixir appeared to be some ordinary fluids. One would draw an array on cloth, bring fire close to it, and anyone would mistake it as a miracle.

But leading the enemy this time were the spies, who knew very well it was no merely. They too had the fire herb, akin to a miracle. They could not pour hot mercury down a chicken’s beck for a miracle. They needed something more direct, a wonderful trick to force them to submit

This would be similar to Weyland’s idea, and would be better than lighting a shirt soaked in elixir, or summoning a fire spirit by drawing an array with the elixir. In any case, the plan was to present a miracle without leaving any doubt.

“Damn…has God escaped again!? ”

He was more incensed than ever, for he had witnessed the light of hope for a moment.

Weyland probably wandered around outside to sort out his thoughts, before he returned.

“Kusla~.”

Weyland said.

“It’s almost time. The sky’s about to brighten.”

In any case, there was insufficient.

He had hope, was betrayed, and had hope again…such emotions kept repeating themselves.

Kusla forced a sigh to crush the bitterness in his hard, and inhaled hard.

Once he exhaled, he made up his mind.

“So Brother Phil, if you have the chance to record the annals, make sure what’s written about our pranks is exciting.”

“Eh? Ah?”

“We’re going to make a scene with the technology the angel left behind. Write something like ‘we opened the gates of Hell, and brought the Knights along’. ”

“Ohoho. Yes, those fellows are coming to capture us in the name of revenge. Looks like they’ll be coming in proper formation, so let’s send them packing from the front~”

Even though the result would ultimately be a defeat, they had to enact revenge. The alchemists would leave no names behind, and nobody would ask about them, but they believed their research would reach those after them. It was for this reason that they persisted on.

No person would actually do something completely meaningless without a second thought.

“We need to make it loud enough for the princesses locked behind the walls can hear us. Make sure the gates of Hell are opened to their maximum.”

If this was sufficient for them to express their apologies to Fenesis and Irine, the tools they had might be considered most suitable.

“We ended up here because I burned a Saint’s bones into the furnace. I see. God might really exist, and punish us.”

Weyland grinned, telling Phil,

“If we’re going to make it filled with pagan presence, I want a bigger cloth…well, isn’t it just perfect~.”

He was referring to a massive cloth used to cover the alchemist’s tools.

“We’ll draw an array using the elixir. It might be a bluff, but it’ll be somewhat effective, maybe? Brother Phil, can we ask you to do this?”

“If-if that’s all, that’ll be a piece of cake.”

They had to make it the greatest magic from an alchemist who could turn lead into gold. Kusla understood that Weyland’s proposal was like a script on hand. They were both hopeless pranksters back when they were apprentices at the Knights headquarters.

They were feisty, and hated each other so much, they tried to kill each other. While Kusla recalled about some useless pranks, they did cooperate before. It was thus easy for him to imagine Weyland’s plan. The scene was depicted in Kusla’s mind, and he smiled. They were to formulate one last grand, ridiculous spell before the serious Knights, so he thought as he thought of the steps.

Imagine that scene…imagine…imagine…

Imagine.

Kusla widened his eyes.

“Or maybe we can fire an arrow wrapped in a cloth soaked with elixir, followed by a fire arrow. Can this work?”

“Hm—we have to see if we have time for that. This is a little bland too~.”

Phil and Weyland were chatting nonchalantly, so much so that one would not have assumed this to be a matter of life and death. Next to them, a picture appeared in Kusla’s mind.

People might call it as ‘possibility’.

“Hm? Kusla, what’s with you~?”

Weyland sensed something was amiss with Kusla.

But the latter never responded as he stared intently at the stone elixir depicting the characteristics of the elixir.

All the investigated characteristics of the elixir were recorded. Transparent, not flammable on its own, but only with certain elements, along with the tongue of flames upon it would it burn.

So what elements were they?

Cloth, paper, and wood.

Magic array?

On the other hand, he could imagine the enemy’s advance. Since it would be out of revenge, they would be lined up in formation in respect to their deceased commander. This would be a form of transferring authority to the spies.

Speaking of which…

Kusla covered his mouth, checking once again, sorting out his own thoughts.

The technology would exhibit massive effects, depending on its usage.

But to achieve that, every obtained tool had to be utilized perfectly.

“We can create the miracle!”

“Eh?”

“Maybe we can replicate the miracle of the angel. No, the demon.”

“Kusla~?”

Hearing Weyland’s summon, Kusla turned to him.

“We’ll burn Abbas in a sea of fire.”

He realized he was grinning like a devil.

However, this was the only way, the best way, to perform a legendary miracle. They would prepare the gates of hell, and devour the elite forces of the Knights. There was no other.

Kusla explained the plan to Weyland and Phil. While this would require some assistance from Phil, he would have to rely on the man he was closest with, ever since they were apprentices.

“Kusla, you’re one real alchemist~.”

Weyland, upon hearing the plan, seemed to be holding in his tears as he gave a gaudy grin.

“Whatever. I can’t prepare this by myself.”

Weyland nodded, and stood up boisterously.

Phil, who too was assigned work, jolted in excitement.

“Right, let’s create a new miracle.

Also, at the end of every single legend was——

“So happens that we have princesses waiting for us to save.”

He was right.

The roles were set.

They simply had to dump their materials into the cauldron and let it stew.

This would be the greatest dish.

“Let the legend begin!”

The trio, full of vigor at this point, nodded in unison.



Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 15.jpg

Act 5[edit]

After the night of the festival, the town was quieter than usual. Perhaps this was the calm before the storm.

Once the sky exhaled a milky white, the town showed signs of a new commotion. A Knight clad in full armor, raising a flag, dressed in formal gown, had arrived, charging charged down the wooden paved road, straight from the port. Surely, their arrival was a messenger sent from the port, delivering news to the Poldorofs who were discussing day and night.

He had a white cloth wrapped around his left arm, and this was something any Knight would wrap whenever they insisted on absolute justice. Most of the time, it represented condolences, but in the Knights context, it meant a promise of blood.

Before dawn broke, in the midst of the frigid winter winds, the old head of the Poldorofs received a letter from the messenger on horseback at the plaza, before the belly of the demon, his beard shivering slightly.in the midst of the harsh winter winds.

“We swear to the flag that we’ll punish the murderer severely. This is unforgivable, even if he is God.”

The determined voice echoed through the plaza at midnight.

Every single Poldorof could only kneel.

“There are two alchemists and a book merchant hiding in the town. Find them and deliver them. Or the deaths of our Knights shall be repaid by all in this town.

The Poldorofs lowered their head further, showing their respects.

The Knight stared at them while on the horse, and turned it around in a pretentious manner.

The moment Kusla heard the neighing, he opened the door leading to the demon’s belly.

“Hey, where you going?”

The horse stopped, and the horse turned around. The horse hissed, and the Knights widened his eyes. The Poldorof members in the middle scampered away one after another.

Kusla and Weyland exited the demon’s belly, resembling demons from hell, white breaths seething from their heinous smirks.

“You have something for us?”

The Knight looked completely bewildered on the saddle. He probably never expected Kusla and the others to appear.

Perhaps it was due to the unique garb.

Kusla was completely covered in white fur. It was the white bear fur that was tanned and used for the ritual.

The fur was rid of its fat, hammered, and melted alum, still resembled raw hide. One could even smell blood from it, yet Kusla wearing it from the head made it appear like an oversized coat.

“Shall we show you what is the true miracle of the Whites?”

“Y-you!”

The Knight hissed, gasping,

“The alchemists! We found the alchemists!”

His voice roared through the quiet town. The Knights again looked towards Kusla’s group.

“I’m not going to be bluffed by you again. I heard that all the miracles were due to that white princess. I was completely fooled by you back at Gulbetty. But it won’t happen again!”

“Ah, so you really are a simpleton. Be fooled again then.”

“You…!”

The Knight reached for the sword at his waist, but withheld it, and did not draw.

“Don’t think you can run away right now. It’s not my job to be the inquisitor...”

The Knight held the rein once again, faced forward, and glanced aside, saying this,

“Just wait. There’s still a chance for me to stab into your bodies as long as you’re not torn apart.”

“Looking forward to it.”

Kusla said, and the Knight quietly turned his horse around.

The wooden road gave a unique sound.

“Let’s begin.”

“Are we really ready?”

“Logically, no~?”

Weyland’s eyes looked towards Poldorof, who stood in a corner, scowling. Next to him, Phil was disguised as a servant, on standby as he held a torch.

After all, Kusla and Weyland had appeared.

The Poldorofs had finished their obligation, but if Kusla’s plan had failed, the Poldorofs would be forced into being reinforcements for the spies’ forces. The miracle enacted by the spies would surely lead them to victory, but they would be abandoned by the real God down the road.

And Poldorof, unwilling to embark on this foolish journey with them, “Succeed.” said so with a displeased look.

“We’ll have to see how willing the spies are to be bluffed.”

“If they want to play magic, they’ll need some extravagant methods.”

“We’ll use those methods to create a bigger one.”

Kusla and Weyland chuckled heartily, and soon after, there were shadows appearing on the road reaching south from the entrance of the demon’s belly. One, two, and soon after, there was a squadron.

“Trying to put on a show…watch that.”

Kusla chuckled as he saw their advance. The two soldiers leading the way were each holding dusters, probably trying to defend against the alchemists from tossing fire herbs around.

“Preparing for the storm…I guess?”

“Well, they really read the Bible thoroughly. There’s a story of the sheep led by the blind shepherd, and where they ended up.”

The forces approached solemnly, quietly, and the leaders so happened to be the three spies.

They were already dressed as upper ranks, looking boisterous. This was an important moment for them, who dreamed to stand before the masses, and endured everything that came their way.

And of the forces that came directly from the port, there was something particularly eye-catching.

The dragon flamethrower.

It was a weapon secondary to the fire herb, but could be more potent than the latent depending on the usage. There was no need to use this to execute the two alchemists.

But to the spies, Kusla and his group were such a formidable nemesis. Because of that, the authority granted to execute them would be greater, and the spies could not view them as feeble enemies. They brought in a battalion, appearing as though they were to fight an army. The greater the emphasis on the enemy’s potential ability, the bigger the effect of crushing the enemy.

“I heard you have something for us?”

Kusla said.

“We do, but nothing to talk about.”

The spy was a smart man. He feared that if they answered wrongly, the alchemists would seize something. He raised his right hand, and the Knights at the back pulled the bows and raised their swords.

“How are the princesses doing? I can ask that at least, right?”

Kusla recalled his uppity, brash attitude as he boasted about kicking down authority, raising his chin really high as he asked. Next to him, Weyland was snickering away, even appearing to be in the mood as he sneezed.

“Praying for our armies. You alchemists know the dark arts, so let our purifying flames burn it all to ashes.”

“In other words, they’re not among you.”

Kusla deliberately raised his chin to the spy’s rear.

“We shall not let your filthy hands touch her. We shall protect the White.”

Those emphasizing the name of justice would often put on the mask of a victim. Even a child knew grudges begets vengeance.

“Oh, nice sentiments.”

Kusla raised his hands to his shoulder level, and let out a long, slow sigh.

“After all, I ate the essence of the white bear, and put on this fur. You can feel the remains of life in this white bear fur; try putting it on. Maybe you can experience what real power.”

This was simply putting up a farce.

The spies learned that the fire herb could conquer the world, and thought of a plan to seize it. They seemed to have assumed those words to be mockery, and while they did their best to maintain a stoic façade, one could tell they were gritting their teeth on their lower jaw.

“Those obsessed with power are utterly foolish. Repent in hell.”

Same goes for you, Kusla quietly snickered. The spy raised his hand higher, and the Knights changed formation. They scattered and surrounded the demon’s belly, each armed with weapons.

After the night of the festival, the town was quieter than usual. Perhaps this was the calm before the storm.

Once the sky exhaled a milky white, the town showed signs of a new commotion. A Knight clad in full armor, raising a flag, dressed in formal gown, had arrived, charging charged down the wooden paved road, straight from the port. Surely their arrival was a messenger sent from the port, delivering news to the Poldorofs who were discussing day and night.

He had a white cloth wrapped around his left arm, and this was something any Knight would wrap whenever they insisted on absolute justice. Most of the time, it represented condolences, but in the Knights context, it meant a promise of blood.

Before dawn broke, in the midst of the frigid winter winds, the old head of the Poldorofs received a letter from the messenger on horseback at the plaza, before the belly of the demon, his beard shivering slightly.in the midst of the harsh winter winds.

“We swear to the flag that we’ll punish the murderer severely. This is unforgivable, even if he is God.”

The determined voice echoed through the plaza at midnight.

Every single Poldorof could only kneel.

“There are two alchemists and a book merchant hiding in the town. Find them and deliver them. Or the deaths of our Knights shall be repaid by all in this town.

The Poldorofs lowered their head further, showing their respects.

The Knight stared at them while on the horse, and turned it around in a pretentious manner.

The moment Kusla heard the neighing, he opened the door leading to the demon’s belly.

“Hey, where you going?”

The horse stopped, and the horse turned around. The horse hissed, and the Knights widened his eyes. The Poldorof members in the middle scampered away one after another.

Kusla and Weyland exited the demon’s belly, resembling demons from hell, white breaths seething from their heinous smirks.

“You have something for us?”

The Knight looked completely bewildered on the saddle. He probably never expected Kusla and the others to appear.

Perhaps it was due to the unique garb.

Kusla was completely covered in white fur. It was the white bear fur that was tanned and used for the ritual.

The fur was rid of its fat, hammered, and melted alum, still resembled raw hide. One could even smell blood from it, yet Kusla wearing it from the head made it appear like an oversized coat.

“Shall we show you what is the true miracle of the Whites?”

“Y-you!”

The Knight hissed, gasping,

“The alchemists! We found the alchemists!”

His voice roared through the quiet town. The Knights again looked towards Kusla’s group.

“I’m not going to be bluffed by you again. I heard that all the miracles were due to that white princess. I was completely fooled by you back at Gulbetty. But it won’t happen again!”

“Ah, so you really are a simpleton. Be fooled again then.”

“You…!”

The Knight reached for the sword at his waist, but withheld it, and did not draw.

“Don’t think you can run away right now. It’s not my job to be the inquisitor…”

The Knight held the rein once again, faced forward, and glanced aside, saying this,

“Just wait. There’s still a chance for me to stab into your bodies as long as you’re not torn apart.”

“Looking forward to it.”

Kusla said, and the Knight quietly turned his horse around.

The wooden road gave a unique sound.

“Let’s begin.”

“Are we really ready?”

“Logically, no~?”

Weyland’s eyes looked towards Poldorof, who stood in a corner, scowling. Next to him, Phil was disguised as a servant, on standby as he held a torch.

After all, Kusla and Weyland had appeared.

The Poldorofs had finished their obligation, but if Kusla’s plan had failed, the Poldorofs would be forced into being reinforcements for the spies’ forces. The miracle enacted by the spies would surely lead them to victory, but they would be abandoned by the real God down the road.

And Poldorof, unwilling to embark on this foolish journey with them, “Succeed.” said so with a displeased look.

“We’ll have to see how willing the spies are to be bluffed.”

“If they want to play magic, they’ll need some extravagant methods.”

“We’ll use those methods to create a bigger one.”

Kusla and Weyland chuckled heartily, and soon after, there were shadows appearing on the road reaching south from the entrance of the demon’s belly. One, two, and soon after, there was a squadron.

“Trying to put on a show…watch that.”

Kusla chuckled as he saw their advance. The two soldiers leading the way were each holding dusters, probably trying to defend against the alchemists from tossing fire herbs around.

“Preparing for the storm…I guess?”

“Well, they really read the Bible thoroughly. There’s a story of sheep led by the blind shepherd, and where they ended up.”

The forces approached solemnly, quietly, and the leaders so happened to be the three spies.

They were already dressed as upper ranks, looking boisterous. This was an important moment for them, who dreamed to stand before the masses, and endured everything that came their way.

And of the forces that came directly from the port, there was something particularly eye catching.

The dragon flamethrower.

It was a weapon secondary to the fire herb, but could be more potent than the latent depending on the usage. There was no need to use this to execute the two alchemists.

But to the spies, Kusla and his group were such a formidable nemesis. Because of that, the authority granted to execute them would be greater, and the spies could not view them as feeble enemies. They brought in a battalion, appearing as though they were to fight an army. The greater emphasis on the enemy’s potential ability, the bigger the effect of crushing the enemy.

“I heard you have something for us?”

Kusla said.

“We do, but nothing to talk about.”

The spy was a smart man. He feared that if they answered wrongly, the alchemists would seize something. He raised his right hand, and the Knights at the back pulled the bows and raised their swords.

“How are the princesses doing? I can ask that at least, right?”

Kusla recalled his uppity, brash attitude as he boasted about kicking down authority, raising his chin really high as he asked. Next to him, Weyland was snickering away, even appearing to be in the mood as he sneezed.

“Praying for our armies. You alchemists know the dark arts, so let our purifying flames burn it all to ashes.”

“In other words, they’re not among you.”

Kusla deliberately raised his chin to the spy’s rear.

“We shall not let your filthy hands touch her. We shall protect the White.”

Those emphasizing the name of justice would often put on the mask of a victim. Even a child knew grudges begets vengeance.

“Oh, nice sentiments.”

Kusla raised his hands to his shoulder level, and let out a long, slow sigh.

“After all, I ate the essence of the white bear, and put on this fur. You can feel the remains of life in this white bear fur; try putting it on. Maybe you can experience what real power.”

This was simply putting up a farce.

The spies learned that the fire herb could conquer the world, and thought of a plan to seize it. They seemed to have assumed those words to be mockery, and while they did their best to maintain a stoic façade, one could tell they were gritting their teeth on their lower jaw.

“Those obsessed with power are utterly foolish. Repent in hell.”

Same goes for you, Kusla quietly snickered. The spy raised his hand higher, and the Knights changed formation. They scattered and surrounded the demon’s belly, each armed with weapons.

Then, right opposite them was the dragon flamethrower that could reduce everything to dust, along with someone dressed in an exaggerated monk look, holding a silver vat by the side. It seemed it contained the miraculous fire herb.

“Are these your final words~?”

The surrounding Knights might assume it was the spy who said so.

For it was obvious they shifted their gravity to their toes, taking it as a signal, ready to pounce.

But they were mistaken.

The one saying that was Weyland.

“Such a boring life”

Weyland, who had been coldly watching the conversation between Kusla and the spy, left the door he was leaning on, stood up, took up a roll of cloth by his foot, and spread it onto the ground.

“…Do you want us to lop your heads off?”

The alchemists were planning something.

The spy was thoroughly confident, but even they looked a little uneasy. He straightened his back, saying with authority.

“For some black magic, that’s not a bad way to do it~.”

“What are you——”

The spy’s words vanished the moment Weyland tossed the candle.

“!”

Whoosh! With a deep sound, the large cloth fluttered in the air, blaring a fleeting, eye catching flame before burning completely. The Knights flanking them showed fear, but just a moment. The spy seemed to be relieved.

“Is the miracle performance over?”

One had to wonder how many fire herbs they used during their speech, but Kusla could hear the blazing sounds amidst his blurry consciousness, so it should be quite a spectacle. This performance might be considered child’s play. In fact, once the Knights saw this was all to Kusla’s act, they looked as though victory was on hand.

“Such magic might work back in Gulbetty. We can repeat this with the fire herbs used by the Whites as many times as we want.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

Right as Kusla answered,

“Fine! You alchemists only know how to cheat! Have you not thought of showing others the truth for once!? We have a real miracle backing us! We’re different from you! Whatever! Everyone! Murder these two serpents of the vineyard!”

He had enough, raised his hand, and swung it down.

Right at that moment.

Weyland’s hand was holding the other candle as he let it fly. The lit candle slowly made an arc, the flame fluttered in the wind, so weak that it could be extinguished in an instant.

However, this could be used to describe life. Most people were unable to thoroughly burn the bodies they were granted. They would burn and glow, and would extinguish the moment they land, or while in midair.

But there were a rare few who, even after landing, could redirect the flames elsewhere, prompting a large fire.

It was for this reason that the saying ‘A flash of inspiration’, was related to light and fire.

And once the fated candle landed upon the ground…

It vanished in the light.

“Ugh—!”

Even Kusla and Weyland turned their faces away, their arms covering. The explosive flames rose up in an instant, turning night into day, a fire pillar of a demon god that was obviously different from lighting oil or coal

The fire pillar rose up high, seemingly splitting Kusla and Weyland from the spies and their men, before vanishing.

It happened in a blink, but once the flames vanished with the afterglow, and upon seeing the people opposite, they felt as though they were eons apart.

“Why, nice to meet you, envoys of justice.”

Despite Kusla greeting them, the spy was stuck on the horse. His horse was rampaging in fear because of the fire, and to his sides, three men in total were frantically pulling the reins.

“Ho-how is it possible?”

The spy was dumbfounded, but was nimble enough not to fall from the horse. Such a sight was truly incredulous.

Adept at dealing with trends, he managed to successfully weather the storms.

However, in this world, there were things even the craftiest would be unable to deal with, things completely different.

“A fire herb?”

The spy at the front turned to ask the others behind him.

The dumbfounded duo shook their heads while in shock.

“No… fire herbs are black…so, what is that…what is it… ”

Whenever a king installed stirrups on a horse, he would grant much favor to a blacksmith, and yet would have the power to have the blacksmith executed. Once the stirrups broke, the only one capable of repairing would be the blacksmith, the only one capable of improving the metals used.

“This technology…”

Kusla dusted his clothes, glaring at the spies as though he was shooting fireballs through his eyes.

“Can definitely be improved, and in the process, something completely different might be discovered.”

“You really underestimated this. Everything in the legend about the Whites, or rather, the angels, is real. The black fire herb hasn’t reached its most potent. That’ll be completed in another manner. Since we’re talking about the tools needed to recreate this miracle, we need to consider the whole town, understand?”

The underground cave, the ritual of the white bear, everything. It was said the town structure was similar to old Abbas, rebuilt by those who were homeless due to their scorched hometown. He had affirmed this with Poldorof.

Of course, Kusla never realized this right from the beginning. He sensed something was amiss when he thought of a way to revive, why it went so well.

After all, the Whites truly sought efficiency, no unnecessary acts. Thus, he thought, it might be the same situation as when the sun fragments were gathered. Since it was not an outcome decreed by God, but to imitate the reason why this town was built, a similar outcome would naturally be derived.

Despite it not being the case, people should be extra cautious on where they should stand, to see whatever that was supporting them from behind. Any king assassinated by his men would surely put this to mind.

“Wood.”

Kusla said.

“It often snows in cold places, and gets muddy easily, which is why this town is paved with wood. I was thinking that this most likely is the case, but most likely doesn’t mean completely. It’s the same as the ritual of the white bear. Have you recalled the past legends of Abbas? There’s something mysterious inside.”

The angel that descended from the heavens instantly turned Abbas into a sea of flames, causing it to vanish completely from this world. The fire herb was what Kusla assumed to be the culprit when experimenting.

But on a different thought, anyone that had used the fire herb would have realized this. When the spies and their forces arrived before Kusla, leading the way were the two men holding dusters. The fire herbs attract attention, overly so, and lots of it would be scattered on the road if they wanted to turn the entire city into flames. To do that however would arise anyone’s suspicions, and it would be impossible to remain as a legend till this day. The description of the narration would imply the black powder was used to destroy the town. Perhaps black snow had scattered upon the town, which was then engulfed in flames.

By deduction, there was the following answer,

One would have to recall the characteristic of the fire elixir, the mixture of two fluids extracted from the distilled combination of sun fragment, coal and sulfur. It was only with specific materials that its potential energy would explode.

The following materials:

Cloth, paper.

And then…

“The wood beneath your feet has elixir on it, and will exhibit greater power than the fire herb. You’re now standing upon the gates of hell.”

Kusla pointed, and the Knights panicked, as though there would really be fire rising.

Some imbeciles hastily raised their feet, and fell over due to their heavy armor and imbalance.

Each and every single person looked at their feet, and then at Kusla, sweating apprehensively.

The blinking decreased, the breathing erratic, looking around fearfully.

Where could they run to?

It was obvious the road leading down was wooden paved!

“In any situations, magic can only be executed through methods. Your plans to parade your way here completed our miracle instead.”

Weyland continued to light up many torches without a care, and Kusla picked up one of them.

“Beneath your feet is a magic array that opens the gates of hell. It’s pointless to escape. You can tell from the performance how fast the fire spreads, right? This is the truth to how old Abbas burned to ashes in a single night, without anyone expecting.”

Kusla gave the spy a wry look.

“Surely at that moment, some people wanted to make the Whites suffer.”

“Ugh…y-you …”

“Hey!”

Kusla yelled, and everyone present was stupefied.

“Hey you! Put out the torch to light the flamethrowers! It will explode!”

Hearing that, every person looked over to see a pale, frightened soldier hastily trying to put out the flame, and was about to throw the torch onto the ground, only to be stopped by his comrades at the last moment. They cupped the torch with their own hands to extinguish it.

Every person gave an expectant look awaiting instructions, not at anyone else, but at Kusla.

“Technology is terrifying and intriguing because of how aptly it can be used. If all people care only about plucking the fruits, the vineyard will rot. Those saddled on the horses are such.”

Kusla pointed at the torch, and everyone looked over in an instant.

It was obvious who was commanding the entire venue.

“B-but, th-that …”

The spy tried to find ways to defend themselves, but he could not. He had nothing to say to the onlookers.

For they never sweated furiously in a workshop, and might not have an answer even if they did ponder hard.

“Catch them! They’re the ones who fed the poisoned bear liver to the Knights commander!”

Words alone would be difficult to motion people to act.

And thus, people could only believe miracles they could see with their own eyes.

Kusla, who hated how well he understood this, removed the white bear fur.

“Look at me! I was one of those poisoned! You saw the symptoms! The pious Knights you follow, don’t they look like they’re melting when they died!?”

The bare upper body was rotten, disfigured. It was not a symptom that could be pulled off with a few tricks, and obviously differed from various skin ailments.

The witnessed immediately believed Kusla. Some fell to the ground like believers who witnessed the Saint’s scars, and some discarded their weapons and fell limp. Some bolted off, and some lunged towards the spies’ saddles.

The spies never hollered or resisted, and kept staring at Kusla while they were restrained by the Knights. It would be an exaggeration to say they had no hatred, or rage, but rather respect and shock in their eyes. Nevertheless, it was certain they never resisted.

The entire time, Kusla watched the Knights tie the spies’ hands to the back and force them to kneel on the ground.

And then, he slowly approached them.

“Kusla, you’ll catch a cold~.”

Weyland brought the white bear fur over, half-joking as he intended to put it on Kusla. However, the latter hesitated over it.

“How kind you are.”

One of the spies said. It seemed he realized why Kusla did not receive it immediately.

“It’s a rare white fur after all.”

It would be a waste to have splattered over it.

So Kusla thought, and the spies looked at him right in the eyes, their faces strangely honest. One way to describe it, if it could, was a ‘it is done’ look.

Kusla found the spies impressive for making decisions immediately once they saw the opportunity. They suffered much hardship for this moment. For their own Magdala, they advanced towards that one light that appeared in that brief moment, with their own methods. They deliberated between good and evil, and alchemists in particular were too fallen to criticize them. The only thing was to deem them appropriate based on their methods, and it appeared while the methods were mostly correct, they made a mistake at the last moment.

That was all it took.

“There’s no need to hesitate. We bared our fangs against you once, and we’ll do so again given the chance...”

The spy’s warning had Kusla drawing his dagger, but the latter looked at the back of the blade repeatedly, only to shrug and sheath it again.

“It’s some fine medicine, though bitter it is.”

He had let his guard down, for he had enjoyed his time with Fenesis, Irine and Weyland.

It nearly ended up an unsalvageable situation, but he salvaged it.

“Go beg Alzen for mercy. It’s up to you whether you can save your lives.”

The spy stared at Kusla calmly, smiled, and lowered his head.

He spared them probably due to Fenesis and Irine’s influence, but he did not find it inappropriate. Weyland too smiled reluctantly as he saw this.

“Lock them in the cells.”

Kusla saw the spies get whisked off, and looked towards the road before him, saying,

“Make way.”

Kusla said, and the Knights retreated to the sides of the road, part like the sea.

The flamethrower was abandoned in the middle of the road, looking really gaudy.

“The dragon looks lonely with nobody using it.”

“That’s how tools are~.”

Kusla and Weyland walked side by side to the South. The Knights left behind were wondering if they should follow, or simply run away.

“Ah, right.”

Kusla turned around, and tossed the lit torch. The grizzled soldiers ducked in unison, their heads covered. The fire spirits that were released might appear from the ground again, and this action of theirs was utterly foolish.

However, the most awkward of it all was probably when the torch landed and rolled about on the ground.

“Relax. We’re not planning to burn this town down.”

The Knights exchanged looks, stood up, sheathed their swords, and followed the duo.

To them, they should be following model citizens of compassion, purity, capable of miracles.

Kusla easily understood their thoughts, and sighed in annoyance, but he followed them quietly. The southern walls were guarded by gatekeepers who had yet to realize the political change, and it was easy convincing them. Equally effective was the sight of the alchemists and the forces raising their weapons.

They should use all the tools they could use.

Like a king forcing a path through, Kusla went towards the streets where the large merchant guilds were, and entered one extremely splendid building. Once he arrived at the last door, there was a monotonous hammering heard from inside, and fire could be heard burning, along with the sound of boiling. Irine and Fenesis were confined to this room, and they probably were forced to work inside.

It was really something the spies who hated efficiency would do, Kusla chuckled.

Kusla and Weyland had the others back off, opened the door, and entered

“Hm?”

As expected, the room beyond the door somewhat resembled a workshop.

But strangely, nobody was already. The hammer was probably connected to the outside water wheel, hammering at the metal mindlessly, and the water-like fluid was boiling excessively at the furnace. Where did those two go to?

So he thought, only for two things to come attacking.

Weyland grabbed something flying in from Kusla’s right, and the latter grabbed the left.

Kusla blocked a large kettle swung from up to down.

Beyond the kettle was a large pair of widened green eyes.

“A fancy welcome it is.”

Kusla said, and Weyland guffawed.

“How cruel, Irine.”

Weyland nimbly caught the swinging hammer.

Irine and Fenesis were dumbfounded. Kusla turned to lock the door. It seemed Phil was among the Knights who had led them here, but Kusla did not want them in, for Phil might end up writing the events down.

“Wh-why?”

Kusla took the kettle from Fenesis’ coal covered hands, placed it on the floor, and sat down. In fact, he was nearly at his limits just standing there.

“Why? Is there a point to asking that?”

Kusla grabbed Fenesis’ hand, pulling her over.

The one thing he wanted most was finally within grasp.

“We’re alchemists. We can turn anything——”

He stopped, for she had already leapt onto him.

When they first met, the white girl was always tentative, shivering, despondent. At this point, she leaped onto him without a care in the world, yelling with all her might, that she had something she wanted no matter what.

Kusla could not brace him, falling from the kettle, and tumbled back.

Despite that, Fenesis did not mind at all. Her arms were wrapped around his neck, clinging firmly, as though stating that she did not want to separate from him again.

“Hey, you…”

Magdala de Nemure 07 BW 16.jpg

Kusla tried prying her off while lying down, but was unable to do so due to the poison and the overnight work. Perhaps he could not do so even if he had all the vigor in the world. Thus, he brought his hand to her back, patting on it.

“I turned lead into gold.”

Hearing this, Fenesis’ beast ears shook greatly.

Kusla’s eyes were grazed by her ears, and he could not help but grin.

“This restless alchemist now looks like this.”

Weyland leaned forward to look at Kusla’s face, a hand cupping an unwilling Irine.

“You want to try?”

Kusla’s words had Irine shoving aside Weyland’s face with both hands, and the latter guffawed.

“You’re really embarrassed, Irine~.”

“I’m not, fool! ”

Kusla grinned, and sighed lethargically.

“Got to pay back the name of ‘interest’.”

“Hm? So is this Magdala~?”

Weyland’s answer had Fenesis’ ears twitching again.

She slowly lifted her face, the tears and snort contorting her face heavily.

“That’s a funny face.”

Kusla chuckled. Fenesis wiped herself on his shoulder, but did not clean her face completely.

Nevertheless, there was another meaning to Kusla’s smile.

“Maybe that’s what I mean, or maybe not.”

“Goodness gracious. You still have another place you want to go to?”

Instead, the issue itself was mostly unsolved. Since the Pope had announced the expulsion of the Knights from the Church, this was merely a trivial matter of the grave issue on hand.

Despite that, Kusla was not referring to that. There was another meaning to it.

“Yes. There’s another place to go to.”

“So, just to ask, where~?”

Fenesis lifted her head from Kusla’s chest, sniveling as she gave him a skeptical look. Her eyes were practically begging, please, do not go elsewhere.

Kusla patted Fenesis’ head to get her to relax, and continued,

“Abbas.”

“Hah~?”

“The destroyed one.”

Weyland, and even Fenesis who had her head patted, were stunned.

“You’re still looking for miracles?”

Irine said, looking dumbfounded.

Kusla wiped Fenesis’ eyelids with his thumb, and exerted all his strength to stand.

If he fell asleep, surely he would be able to enjoy a blissful time. However, as an alchemist, Kusla could not sleep until he arrived at Magdala.

“The legend of the whites remains unsolved.”

“Huh? Say, Kusla, what makes you think the method to fly is in Abbas~?”

“No, not that. It’s about the fire herb, or the elixir. There’s still something strange about them.”

Weyland immediately retorted,

“What do you mean~?”

“I never realized it, but I suddenly thought of it after calming down.”

The town became ash in a single night. The fire back then could be seen two peaks away, and burned for three days and night. Someone saw that, and wondered if the Whites were smelting some unique metal.

That seemed to be the gist of the story, and with the fire herb or elixir on hand, it might be possible to recreate it.

But in any case, the experiment had to be recreated completely, lest they were bound down by the details, led to the devil’s dead end.

“Think about it. How many sun fragments and elixirs are needed to burn the city completely in fire?”

“…Hm?”

Weyland frowned and pondered, “Hm…~”

“We need an unbelievable lot. The elixir looks impressive, but it doesn’t last long. It’s true that applying it on the wooden ground will turn everything into a sea of fire when lit, but if what Phil said isn’t hyperbole, the quantity needed will be unbelievably massive.”

It was said old Abbas was thoroughly scorched to a crater, which remained till this day.

It probably was impossible to do so without stacking fire herbs and elixirs as tall as an actual mountain.

How many sun fragments would be required instead? What about the amount of dirt required to make them? How big should the hole containing that dirt be?

“And we don’t know why the Whites vanished after burning Abbas to the ground.”

If they torched Abbas in a sea of fire in revenge for the past acts, logically, given their outstanding technology, they should have set up a grand empire.

However, it did not end up this way, and their whereabouts remained unknown.

There was something suspicious. Even after discovering the fire herb and elixir, they could not successfully replicate the event.

“Well…this…~”

It seemed Weyland had something to say, but was unable to convey it completely.

And it was for such moments that alchemists had an appropriate countermeasure.

“So I want to see it for myself. Maybe there are some secrets there.”

Weyland groaned, and asked,

“What if there isn’t~?”

Kusla looked at Weyland, embracing Fenesis again.

“I’ll tease the cat then.”

Fenesis immediately twisted her body in protest, trying to escape Kusla’s arm.

Weyland guffawed, and Irine was dumbfounded.

“So what do you intend to do?”

The blacksmith and the old friend of an alchemist showed different expressions. Nevertheless, they responded similarly.

“We made it all the way here. No reason not to continue accompanying you.”

“I’m coming along too!”

The door was shoved aside, and Phil barged in, yelling.

While the road towards Magdala remained distant, it did not seem too narrow for one person alone to pass through.

The moment the commander was murdered by the spies, the Knights forces were like sheep who left their shepherd. The Pope then proclaimed them as heretics, and they were at the border of Latria, which they had thoroughly devastated. They required the protection of the alchemists performing miracles, the descendent of the White, and the divine-like blacksmith who assisted in the completion of the technology.

Also, the spies had already fluffed Fenesis as the legendary angel. At this point, Fenesis and the soldiers who knew of what happened at Nilberk harbored exceeding expectations of Kusla.

It was as though Kusla had somehow fed a hungry puppy.

The soldiers yearning for the next instruction were gathered at the merchant warehouse, but grew impatient after Kusla and Weyland saved the two princesses.

Kusla remembered that when he announced they were headed to the destroyed Abbas to unravel the angel’s mystery and Phil barged in. When he opened his eyes again, he found an unfamiliar ceiling.

Naturally, his limbs were not tied up, and he had nothing stuffed into his mouth. It seemed he was brought to a certain room, for the poison had not left him completely, and the fatigue he had gained from working all night. He was sleeping on a soft, fluffy bed filled with cotton, and the wood continued to burn in the furnace at a corner of the room.

Compared to the fire, he found the bed to be stuffy, and immediately learned of the reason.

Fenesis fell asleep while embracing Kusla, who then blew into her ear. While she felt itchy, she seemed to have no urge to wake up. He brought his nose to her ear, teased her a little, and as he found it stupid, he went to sleep again. He fell into a deep sleep, nary a dream.

And after sufficient rest over the night, they began preparation and cleaning up, especially with regards to dealing with the Knights in the town.

Kusla and the others had no intention of leading a horde of soldiers around, but the soldiers were heavily involved with them, and they could not leave the soldiers be.

Luckily, while Latria remained a dangerous presence, she was not some sworn enemy with a vengeance. The soldiers merely joined the Knights for money, honor and survival, and Latria was merely the enemy. Furthermore, Abbas remained on the edge of Latria’s north, and Latria was in no position to set their defenses here. Thus, her forces would not arrive immediately.

For these reasons, as long as the remaining soldiers would not raise a commotion, it should be fine for them to remain until the uproar subsided. Luckily, there were a few merchant guilds around, and they were not lacking in food. The forces themselves had sufficient food to easily survive the winter, which was a factor why Poldorof was willing to assist.

After much discussion, Kusla finally appeared before the soldiers, and through Fenesis’ mouth, the words were conveyed.

They were to execute a necessary ritual to regain the lost ultimate art. Everyone else was to defend the devil’s belly in this city, for it was to be the starting point of all miracles, the place of the angel’s embrace.

While Poldorof was still annoyed by them, the Knights would maintain military discipline as Fenesis had commanded them, and would not be bandits.

And also, if the Knights so happened to disband, the intent was to assign them under Phil.

“Well, no matter the Knights win or lose, the trade routes to the far lands will become more active once the war end. We need to hire guards…”

Phil was looking disheartened, not because there would be issues hiring ex-Knights, but that the arrangements were cumbersome to him.

“I am a book merchant. I’m wondering if I can write a new book, I don’t have the time to waste on this …”

He muttered, seemingly to himself.

Once they ordered the soldiers and placated them for the time being, they had no reason to remain in the town.

Kusla suggested to depart for the destroyed Abbas, only for Fenesis to fervently object.

“What are you saying? Look at your condition now?”

So outspoken she was that Kusla assumed his face would have been punched. However, he did not say that because he could not resist the urge. The Pope had announced the expulsion of the Knights, and this information would surely have reached Alzen and the others at the seaside base Nilberk. At this point, the messengers must have been terrified, hurrying here.

But if they responded, they would be involved in the war again. He wanted to depart before Alzen’s orders came.

They had assumed two of the three angel myths were solved, and all that was left was the flight in the sky. However, they never expected a new one to appear. The fire herb and the elixir were insufficient in blowing up an entire town, and it was perplexing how there was no news of the angel’s fate, the whereabouts.

At this point, they could not leave the mystery as it was, and they had no time to involve themselves in the war. They had to depart for the old Abbas, and investigate what exactly happened there.

“I agree with Kusla~.”

“But…”

Fenesis remained teary and worried towards Kusla, and Irine said to her,

“Well, he just can’t die.”

Fenesis, obviously only worried about Kusla’s physical state, gave a rare refute at Irine, but the latter was the head of the blacksmiths once before after all.

“Also, we have little Ul taking care here. You won’t try to sneeze at least, right?”

She beamed, turning towards Kusla.

Clearly she intended for him to give leeway.

“…Y-yes. I will obey.”

Irine then whispered to a worried Fenesis, words everyone could hear.

“You got his guarantee. Now train him into a weakling until he can’t eat without you around.”

Fenesis stared back blankly at Irine, and immediately held her hand firmly.

Are you not instilling something strange in her? Kusla scowled, but at this point, he could not correct himself, for Fenesis would not have agreed.

But once Kusla looked into the serious, utterly ridiculous eyes or Fenesis, he found himself grinning.

What was this smile all about? Even he could not help but the shocked, but on a second thought, it was most probably a situation of matters resolving themselves. Surely, surely, it was not something he was looking forward to.

And so, Kusla and the others prepared the carriage, piling the grains as high as a hill, and even moved in the experimental equipment from Poldorof, before heading down to old Abbas with Phil leading the way. Due to the political turmoil, a few exceptionally quiet, seemingly trustworthy soldiers were added as escorts. The others remained as they were, lined before the walls, watching them leave until the very end.

A whimsical bunch there are, so Kusla thought with conflicted feelings as he watched them from the carriage. He then noticed Fenesis next to him observing this scene, her eyes yet drifting afar.

Of course, it was not because she was reluctant to separate from these soldiers.

Kusla’s hands was pressing down on Fenesis’ head, bringing her into his clutches, whispering,

“I once learned to accept the goodwill of others.”

For her, leaving a town was often the result of persecution, and such might be the same fate befallen upon the angels in the Abbas’ legends.

The soldiers had presumptuously assumed Fenesis and Kusla were on intimate terms. It was a tale of two sides of the same coin, as compared to those short-sighted stereotypes and those who persecute.

Due to the many conflicted feelings, Fenesis could not accept their sendoff no matter how honest she tried to be.

Her body shriveled in Kusla’s arms, as though she had swallowed something hard. Finally, she slowly turned towards Kusla, and showed a smile.

“Can I interpret these words as your determination to confess?”

You will not be angry even though my care may depress you? She beamed happily. Though some of it was down to her forcing herself to respond to his comfort, Fenesis was a lot smarter and stronger anymore.

Kusla could only shrug with a blank look. At this point, due to her strict requirements, he was wrapped in thick clothing, swollen like a bear.

“Well, I am an alchemist.”

Fenesis chuckled as she tilted her head heartily, as though retorting, is that so?

As an alchemist, any problem could only be solved through experimentation. Fenesis the alchemist’s apprentice pecked at Kusla’s cheek.

Kusla could only shrug reluctantly, and followed her. He stared blankly into the clear skies, and though it remained grey, it was a cool, refreshing spring, the sun shining bright.

Having taken his meal, Kusla was overwhelmed with the urge to nap, and closed his eyes unwillingly. So he thought, since he had once fallen asleep while listening to a lullaby, thus there should be many more miracles in this world, and nothing would ever surprise him again. Through this perspective, he was filled with utmost anticipation, looking forward to whatever discoveries there would be in the destroyed Abbas.

So Kusla thought as he let out a soft sigh, putting aside his title as the Restless Alchemist for the time being.



Afterword[edit]

A publication after a long year. Sorry to keep you waiting. I actually planned to release the volume earlier, but I had some troubles in the draft of the sister work ‘A girl sleeps in the ocean of magdala’ and another series ‘World End Economica’, and this ended up delayed…There is an important change in plot development, and we’re at a climax. I am confident this should be the most alchemist-like volume, that everyone can enjoy,

…But the more I wrote, the more I realized…Fenesis might have become stronger, or Kusla began weaker. I couldn’t help but think back to the initial plan, a dark romance involving a cold-hearted protagonist teasing a suffering pretty girl (with beast ears). It’s common for characters to change on their own, and this occurrence really left me with quite an impression. For example, whenever I thought about writing, I never thought Kusla would be so clingy to Fenesis. This time, I wrote scenes even Kusla would be amazed by his own uselessness. Normies explode! Maybe of all the works I wrote thus far, Kusla might be the one who annoys me most…well, I do find it a joy to write thought. I hope the readers can enjoy it to.

Also, the alchemy theme in this story involves oxides. Actually, I wanted to experiment before writing! The chemistry equations are valid, but how potent are they? I couldn’t understand the experiment videos uploaded onto the internet. There’s also something like, a note in the textbooks stating that when the purity’s high, oxygen won’t react with metals, but how much is the purity? Another example is that the books never mentioned the kind of stinging stench from the oxides. Really, I had to groan. Also, just a thought I have, but when observing the original material to the final compound, is there a drastic improvement to the experiment methods, or that the methods refined through experiment? Did they do that knowing the answers, and so on? Sometimes I wonder if there are future humans or aliens teaching us technology, and my heart raced. Or maybe there are lots and lots of people challenging various methods, and those left behind are the successful ones, which gave this feeling, I guess? The mysterious technology of really ancient empires is an old-school topic, but at this moment, I do feel some surrealism in it.

The truth to the legend shall be revealed next volume! It shouldn’t be too long later. Please look forward to it!

Isuna Hasekura.




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