Part 4: Chapter IV: The Lonely Road and Village
Well Escha, we're done with our first assignment. What do you want to do now? We've got about three months until the next big assignment.
How about we go to the Old Highway? I've never been there myself, but there used to be a big town there, with trains and all sorts of machines that could deliver materials to and from Colseit, but it was abandoned when the air trade became easier than the land trade. It's possible there's still a lot of materials we could use there!
Hm, that's a good idea. A lot of our additional assignments have to do with the Old Highway. And, that sounds really interesting. Awin should really like going there, too. Sounds good to me. It would also be a good idea for you to learn how to fight more and do more syntheses. Let's get started.
More Crafts will really help! Hey, where's Logy?
It's a chitty confirming our operational stipend.
I see... So that's how we receive our expenses, huh?
Yeah. As long as we remember to apply for funding, we'll receive it right away.
Right! But... When we're out on long expeditions, I'm afraid we might forget to pick up our money.
When that happens, they'll hold on to the cash for us. There's no need to worry about losing it.
Oh, that's good. We'll always be able to get our expense money sooner or later?
Right. Once it's divided up, let's double-check the details and make sure we receive our payment.
Gotcha...and if we spend too much, we'll be in real trouble until our next payment, right?
The report looks really detailed...I've identified various categories we'll be paid under. The column on the right side of the page is the summary of everything we've done, and how much we'll be paid for the month.
Hmm...so, if we do more outside of town, and we Synthesize more, the more we'll get paid?
Well, yes, but don't forget to do assignments and increase R&D's rating. The more we do, the more we get paid. Just keep that in mind for the future.
I'll be keeping all the reports in here, so if you want to check at any time, they'll all be right here after I receive the money and report from Marion.
Sounds good! Shall we go see Solle? Marion said she had some reports she gave to Solle and needed him to review some spending documents.
Sweets and homunculi
Heh, excuse me. I was taking a little break. ...Do you mind doing this while I eat?
This guy really seems to like his snacks... It's not a probem. Sorry for catching you at a bad time.
*munch* For starters, please tell Marion that I've received her application. However, also let her know that for requests like this, she needs to give me more time.
Okay... Those snacks look delicious.
Oh, they are, but you can't have any.
Aww... I just wanted a little bite.
It's kind of surprising that you'd have snacks like those, Solle.
My brain doesn't function if I don't get these, which is why I make a lot of them on weekends.
You mean, they're hand-made? Wow... They look really high-quality.
Yes, it's something of a hobby of mine. Perhaps you'd like to join me sometime?
Really? That would be amazing! I look forward to it.
Huuuuh? That's so mean...
Hm... But if you insist, I suppose we could exchange terms. The truth is, the number of requests we get from citizens is overwhelming the staff we have.
Hm... It sounds like it's a lot of work just assigning the tasks.
Yes. That's exactly why I want the two of you to take care of the easy ones before I filter them through.
So... In other words, you want to give us more work?
Think of it as you helping me out. Of course, I won't force you to. Nonetheless, I'm sure it certainly won't hurt your department rating. And I'll even share my snacks.
Ratings aside, our only reward from you is snacks...? This sounds like a child's chore to me.
Now, now. I'm not saying I'll give YOU any snacks. This is just how I pay people in Provisions, you know?
This is...their pay? Isn't that...?
And, since this is their currency, you two will now be able to give them simple requests directly.
So that's why...I need to Escha what Solle even does after this... I see... So we can ask them to do things other than resupplying our items. I'd say that's worth it.
AND it will help with our ratings! We'll do it! Please let us!
Ah, but the homunculi have their hands with a large order, and I can't send any your way. But, the moment their hands are free, I'll let you know, and I'll give your orders priority.
It's a shame we can't use them right away, but I understand... We'll try it when we have the time.
Wait a second... I just realized that if we us all the snacks paying them, I won't get any!
Maybe I should hold on to the snacks. Escha has some...weird priorities...
Well, you're more than welcome to eat it yourself, but then you can't give it to the homunculi.
Awwww... When you say it like that, it makes it sound like it's a waste to eat it.
We should get back to work... Escha, do you want to check out the jobs Solle is offering?
Looks like pretty easy jobs so far... I've heard Poision Squirrels, Heavy Skins, and Green Spirits live on the Old Highway, so should probably take those jobs, since we're going there anyway.
Yeah, good idea. So, while we won't get money, we will get snacks, and apparently we need those to keep the homunculi working on our requests. It would be a good idea to do as many jobs as we can so we can get a lot of sweets for when the homunculi are done with their special order. Plus, every request we do will increase our department rating by just a little bit, and there's always a chance some of Marion's additional assignments will have to do with requests from Solle. Of course, our assignments take priority. That about sums it up, I think.
So Escha, I'm just curious: what does Solle do in Provisions?
Hm, the way I heard Marion tell it, Solle is responsible for managing all the funding for Colseit's different departments. Before any of the departments can get any money, they have to submit funding requests through Solle, who passes them on to Mr. Grumman, who gets the money and passes the money back through Solle to the departments. Solle is really strict, and won't pass on anything that's not perfect. One time Marion passed along some funding reports, and Solle tossed them all in the trash. I still wonder why he did that, since Marion's reports are usually fine. I've never asked her why...
I see. So Mr. Grumman gets the money from Central, and he has to give the money to the departments so they can do their work. It's an efficient system to keep everyone happy, and to keep Central well aware of what's happening even out here in Colseit. Escha, I'm going to start getting ready. Do you want to join me?
No, I think I'm going to go talk to Clone a little. I started this job a month ago, and I haven't really got a chance to talk with her privately about it. I'll be along soon!
Okay, see you then.
It's pretty busy, but it's fun, too! Everyone I work with is so kind to me! What about you, Clone? I was helping you with the apple orchard before, but...
No, there haven't been any problems at all. In fact, I think our efficiency has increased slightly. Before, we would have to trim all the branches you damaged, and clean up your messes in the tool shed. Now, we can use that time towards our principal work, which improved our overall output.
Ugh... I... I see... That makes it sound like I was in the way...
That being said, there are of course times where I wish we had an extra hand. I find myself asking for you without realizing that you're not here anymore.
Ahaha, me too. Sometimes I just feel like calling out to you for help while I'm working.
My oh my, habits are interesting things. Once engrained, they are very hard to forget.
We were always together before, so being on my own, now...is actually quite difficult and strange.
It was your decision to suddenly go work for the government branch. You gave us no warning at all. I assumed you were going to continue working for the orchard, so I was most surprised.
Hmm... Well, it's not that I don't like this work here, but... I though tit would be better to use the alchemy Mom taught me to help as many people as I possibly can.
Milia never seems to concern herself with such practices, so it is strange to hear you say that. Using alchemy for the sake of others... I think your purpose is virtuous.
Nevertheless, I will say you are still far from being of any use to anyone else.
I-I-I-I know that! You don't have to worry...!
Are you sure? Both you and Milia would say you listen, only to ignore my advice moments later. If you keep up this behavior, I think I will be dissatisfied with our current arrangement. Perhaps we should arrange some time for you to train and study more, once you're done with your work...?
U-Umm... I'm actually kind of busy with my work right now, so that might be a little difficult...
My oh my, that's a shame. I thought I might be able to take care of you. It has been a while...
Clone can be really hard on me, but she really is like my mother, you know. She always wants to look after me, but I always wanted to do something great with alchemy. It's the only thing I really have to remind me of my mother...she stayed up late in the night telling me about formulas, stories of past alchemists, and I would always fall asleep when she started telling me about mixtures and chemicals... They're precious memories...
Did you have a good talk with Clone?
Oh...Oh yeah! She's always scolding me, but she really does want to get better at my job. Of course, Clone never leaves Colseit, so she can't help me outside town. That's why I'm relying on you, Logy!
Of course. I'm here to do whatever I can to make sure this job is a success.
To get to the old train tracks, we need to pass through the northern road. This is a long road that originally led right into Colseit, but it's been long abandoned.
Did she...? I don't recall anything specific...
I think it was something about being as detailed as we can on our investigations.
More detail, huh? What exactly does that entail?
I don't think we have to think about it that hard... Just do whatever we can on our missions. We'll need to be cautious when investigating monsters, though. We could get an unexpected surprise.
Y-Yes, I'll be careful. Or rather... I hope we never have to fight one.
She wasn't forcing us to do things we can't do, so if we're unsure, we can put other assignments first.
Yeah. Let's just keep trying to think of new things we can do!
At any rate, we just need to be more proactive about getting things done. I bet we'll get used to it.
Music: Dreadful Space
As time passes, there's no telling what can happen. Before we leave an area, we should thoroughly investigate it. You can never tell what will happen before it does, though...
I really need to ask Logy how he does that with his sword... He can throw it at an enemy, then it flies back and he can catch it! How does he do that?!
Escha...there's something here. I'm sure we can find something hidden here...
Wow, you're right! Look on top of that train!
It's a Colseit Fiber! You may not know it, Logy, but Colseit is famous for its clothes. The fibers made in Colseit are sent all over the world. Maybe you've even seen them in Central. A strong fiber like this can definitely be used to make good clothes in the future. We should hold onto it.
Yeah, good idea. ...I guess the people in Colseit are very resourceful...
This looks like a checkpoint of some kind...
You're right. Anyone traveling on the roads through this place had to pass through here. Central City was managing the roads, I think, until they stopped working on it in favor of the airship trade. I like flying a lot more than walking, that's for sure.
Escha, be very careful with Heavy Skins. Their claws can easily tear through even the strongest shirts, and while they don't have much stamina, they are definitely harder than the Hamsters we've been fighting so far. You can use me or Awin to protect you from the enemy attacks, and use Crafts to damage them a lot more than your staff can. Just stay calm, and you can do it.
Logy, let's make sure we find all the materials we can! Keep your eyes open really hard now, because I want to find some rare materials. I can smell them!
Okay... (Escha is strange, but she does have good instincts. There's definitely better materials here than what we've found so far.)
It's been a long time since this road was really used very much, but you can definitely see that there used to be a lot of people living here. I'm sure we can find some great stuff here at least.
She's right... Escha, come check this out. I found an old document inside one of the barrels.
What? Oh, it's about an accident during an airship construction. Hm...airships are usually only constructed in Central. Logy, do you know about this?
Ergh...! Uh...yeah, I've heard about this before. It was a pretty famous disaster, where they had to close down a lot of the research facilities and a lot of people ended up with pretty serious burns. Come on, let's just keep going for now.
(Logy got really scared when he saw that. I wonder why?)
Escha, after we finish our investigation here, why don't we head back? The Basket is getting pretty full, and I want to get started on our first real report of our activities outside of town. Plus, we've got a lot of valuable information about this area, and I'm sure Marion would want to know what we've been doing since we completed our assignment.
Aw, but we've come this far. Come on, I only want to find a couple more areas: the end of the train tracks, and an old campsite nearby. We might find some even better materials.
Okay, okay. Couldn't hurt to keep looking around, I suppose. Just remember we don't have a lot of Crafts left. If we get in trouble, remember we can always run away.
See? I was right. It's always worth doing a little more than you might want to, especially when it comes to alchemy! There's all kinds of ores around here.
Is there an old ore vein nearby? That could explain a lot about this area.
Oh...oh yeah! That's a big reason why no one lives in this town anymore...monsters started showing up, and they couldn't find more ore in the mines near here. No one knows why the monsters started showing up, though.
I'm sure Awin likes this kind of stuff. It's just amazing how quickly the village around here dried up. Colseit was lucky... I can't imagine how many other towns and areas around here have had the same thing happen to them. Could this be...
Logy, why are you just standing there? Let's go!
Wow. Escha, I'm impressed. You've gotten a lot better at anticipating when enemies would attack. I'm sure Marion would be happy to know that you'll be safer on the road with the skills you've already built up. Like I said, you just have to get used to how monsters behave, and when you need to attack them. But for now, let's go back. I've got a lot to write about this adventure.
Are you going out? Maybe I'll take a break, too...
Would you like to go with me, Logy? It will be a nice change of pace.
That's true. All right, I'll go shopping with you, Escha.
Katla's selection wasn't terrible, but did you see all of those silly necklaces she has?
I didn't think think they were silly! They looked really-
Heeeey, you guys. Have a minute?
Oh, Wilbell. Do you need something?
I was just thinking about before... You don't believe that I'm a magician, do you? Especially you, Logy. You don't seem to understand at all.
Of course I don't. You'd have to be crazy to believe something like that. I can understand why you would want to believe in things like magic, but you should act your age.
Ugh! Condescending much? All right... I don't normally show people, but I'm going to make a special exception for you guys.
You're really going to show us your magic!? I've never seen it before.
You believed her, but she's never demonstrated it... So, what are you going to do?
Let's see... I know, go gather some flammable paper and other stuff I can burn around here.
Why do we have to-
Just go bring some! Hurry up.
We really don't have time for this, but as long as it proves to Escha this girl can't do magic, I guess we have time.
Um, is this okay, Wilbell?
Yeah, that's good. All right, here I go... There!
It really did...how did she do that? Can't be magic, but I don't see anything she might be using... Remarkable... Did you use some sort of tool to do this?
It's a basic fire spell, like I've been saying. It's easier to employ a spirit, but I didn't want you to say I was using a pet or something. I gather heat from the surrounding air, and release it all in one spot. Easy for someone like me.
I see... Well, I did just witness fire appearing from nowhere. So, this is magic...
Um... The magic was amazing and all, but maybe you should put the fire out now.
Oh, right. Okay, stop! ...What the? Wait up... Weird. Oh, that's why!
Hey, if you don't get this fire out soon, it's going to be dangerous.
The fire already spread out of where I cast it, so I can't control it anymore. Sorry.
Wait, so what do we do about the fire?
Whaaaat!? You can't put it out with magic?
...I'm not good at water magic yet!
Ugh, fine, I'll get some water.
Please hurry, Logy!
Yes... It was amazing...
Good, yes, we get it. Just don't do any more magic for a while, please.
Well, I guess she was telling the truth, but she's really clumsy... I hope she's not planning on using magic in town anymore.
Yeah, I have to agree... Logy, I'm going to get started on alchemy. I can see from the paper Marion gave us that we have to buy a book called Newlywed from Nio. Can you take care of that while I'm working?
Sure, I'll be right back. After I get back, I'm going to start working on my report.
I didn't want to start a conversation with her, since I was in a little bit of a hurry, but once she has her eyes on you, you just can't get away... She asked me to tell her what I think of her selection. I'm an honest person, so there's only one thing I could say... Man... You always have the strangest selection here...
You think so? I always take the eccentricity of my wares quite seriously.
Eccentricity...? Why don't you try carrying items you know will sell?
Oh, come now! It's my family motto to carry the merchandise that you can't get anywhere else! We cherish clients who have unique needs that they just can't fill anywhere else.
It's not a terrible idea, honestly, but her problem is that's ALL she's carrying. If she had more useful stuff, I'm sure she'd have more business. Do you have enough clients? I can't imagine that you can sustain a business on niche sales alone.
Of course I can... I've got one such customer standing right in front of me, don't I?
I...guess I can't really deny that.
Maybe you're right, though... As you can see, the store isn't doing as well as it could be... Not to mention I don't have the money to rent space on the main street. I can't do this alone...
Speaking of being alone, how do you manage to run your shop all by yourself?
Ah, well, my parents find and gather the items, and I take care of the shop.
I see... So everything that you have for sale in the store here...
It's mostly stuff my parents bring back from their travels. I can see the need for more "normal" items. But, you know how the crops aren't doing so well, and there are fewer and fewer farms?
Yeah, it's been a big story in Central for a long time. Reports of crop failures and deserts eating up once-pristine farm land have been all over the news for a few years now. It's a big part of the reason of the heavy reliance on alchemy to make vast quantities of staple foods, but I just wonder how long they can keep going with that... I suppose you have a point. Colseit has an amazing apple orchard, but in Central City, farming's impossible.
Right, and people from Central City buy up all the produce and general day-to-day goods... There's really no way for a small shop on the frontier like us to acquire the stock we need.
I-I see... When I lived in Central City, I thought having such variety available was a convenience.
My parents used to have a general store, too... But they had to close it down for that very reason. But I won't give up! I'm going to make this store prosper!
You must have it pretty rough, too. Well, I don't know what to tell you, but hang in there.
They're individually hand-crafted by artisans. You will never find one like it anywhere!
Um... It just looks like you took a piece of junk and put it on a string.
Ugh! You're pretty sharp, unlike Escha. How'd you see right through my trick?
I think whoever buys that deserves it. But if you try tricking me again, I'll stop shopping here.
Th-That would be really bad! P-Please take it as, um...customer appreciation! Thank you!
She may have a bad situation, but she's definitely trickier than I'd like... I'll have to be extra careful around her.
I'm taking a break from Synthesis. This part doesn't need me to stir, so I just have to wait for the next step. Why don't we go talk to Nio?
Sure. I was just on my way there anyway.
More than an herbalist
You sure seem happy.
Are you helping the apple orchard with their work again?
Yes, they don't have enough people to help. And I'm staying there for free, so it's the least I can do. Also, growing something yourself like this feels very rewarding.
I know how you feel. It's a happy feeling when you harvest apples that you've cared for all season.
What do you do normally, Nio? When you're not traveling, do you have some sort of occupation?
Hmm... Well, I'm always selling medicine to make money.
Making and selling medicine is your specialty, right, Nio?
Yes. It's not hard when I can find the right herbs nearby, and I'm glad to help so many people.
I see. It must be convenient to have such a special skill.
Sometimes it's hard to sell medicine, though, so I also help at various shops. I still keep some in reserve for when I need to resume my journey.
You're planning that far ahead...? It sounds like you're on a difficult journey.
So why did you decide to stay in this town? Aren't there other places you could have gone?
Oh, that story. That drew my attention, too, when I was reading reports.
Yes, it's very suspicious! There are many ruins, but that one site in particular seems special...
Hahaha, maybe you're more of a scholar than an herbalist, Nio!
Yeah, maybe. But that's why I decided to stay in this town, while I gather more information.
That sure is an interesting hobby...
Um, I can't explain it all that well... Does it really seem strange to you?
No, I think it's good. It's interesting. If you do figure anything out, let us know.
It's actually my dream to someday go to the Unexplored Ruins! I'll support your research!
Thank you! I'll do my best. If you find anything interesting in your own investigations, let me know.
Anything interesting... I wonder what we'll find...
"Suspicious"... That's a good way to put it.
What do you mean?
Think about it. Ruins suspended in the sky, a lot of debris and turbulence surrounding it, and nobody knows anything about what's inside there. I've lived in Central my entire life, and I've never even heard about ruins in the sky. There has to be a reason why the ruins are near Colseit, and it's almost as if someone put the ruins there so no one could reach it.
Heeeey, yeah...you're right!
We need to pay extra special attention to any information about the Ruins, though... I'm still unsure how we'll get there. Before I leave Colseit, I want to go there.
It's my life-long dream! I know we'll go there!
(There's also these mysterious orchards. The area surrounding Colseit is mostly desert and deserted towns, yet these orchards are flourishing. I don't want to bring it up to Escha, but there has to be something special about these orchards...)
"Newlywed", huh? The recipes might not be much, but these are still the basics. Besides, this is an important part of our assignments for this quarter. Escha, I'll go on ahead back to the workshop. I need to get started on my report. It may take me a while to finish, because it's my first one.
Okay, I'll catch up as soon as I can!
Wow, we've done so much already...and all of the nine squares in the center are filled in! I'm sure that means we'll find out what the squares outside all mean when I turn in a progress report to Marion!
Actually, I haven't gotten a chance to see what Katla is selling yet... Maybe I should do that on the way back.
Hm? What is it?
Hmm... It's pretty rare, though, so I'm still contemplating whether or not I can part with it...
Aw, that's a shame. Well, in that case, I'll be going now.
Whoa, hang on! Back that caravan up! You're not supposed to just back down like that! The thought's supposed to grow in your mind, like a virus, until you have to say, "Oh, can I see it?"[/i]
What does "virus" mean...? Oh, right. Okay, then... Oh, can I see it?
Well, if you want to see it that badly, I suppose you give me no choice... Behold! This is the accessory that's all the rage right now in Central City: the Ruin Pendant.
Wow, it's got an interesting shape... I guess this is what's trendy in the big cities?
Ohhhh, yeah! Exactly! And I got my hands on the latest one from the city! This isn't any ordinary crap from the ruins... This was specially created from precious inheritance.
I see... It must be pretty rare, right? Probably really expensive, too...
"Dear friend"? I don't know her that well... Maybe she's trying to talk me into buying it.
What do you say? Don't you just WANT to have it?
No...? I think I'll be okay without it.
B-But it's all the rage! You're still not interested!?
Oh, I'm sorry... I mean, it's nice, but I don't think that kind of stuff looks good on me.
C'mon, Ms. Escha... You should think a little more about being stylish, you know?
W-Well, but... I don't want to spend lots of money on things like that. It seems like such a waste... And, it's not good to spend money on things I really don't want. I'd never be able to save up that way.
Ugh... Okay, that's true... But how am I supposed to run a business if everyone felt that way? Dang! I guess my patter isn't good enough. I swear, I was so close to sealing that deal...
Now, now... I'm sure you'll find someone who will buy it, if you keep trying different people.
Hmm... Really? Well, I guess I'll just keep on trying until it sells...
She seems...insincere? I'm sure Logy wouldn't like it if I spent a lot of our money, and we have to manage our expenses until the next stipend. Still, though, she seems nice, and very enthusiastic about being a merchant. I sure hope she's successful.