Part 27: Chapter XXIII: The Enigmatic Place and Voice
The Elixir is almost done!
I did it! I made an Elixir!
Huh? Oh, sorry...yeah, that looks great.
You've been really quiet lately Logy. Is anything wrong?
No, there's nothing really wrong, I'm just thinking about the team from Central.
Oh... What about them?
Remember when I said that Central likes to decide things first and plan for them later? I'm thinking this may be one of those situations.
You mean, the people from Central might not come?
Well, between the dreadnaught, the ruins we've surveyed, and the advances in alchemy we've accomplished since I came here, they will eventually come. But for a team from Central to come this far out on such short notice, maybe they won't have enough time to make it.
Anyway, it's not really worth worrying about. We'll know soon enough. I'm going to go to Duke's to get something to eat. Want to join me?
Music: Working People Ragtime
Hold your horses, missy! I'll be just a second!
Duke's tavern seems a little more lively than usual.
Hey, wasn't that Linca's voice...?
Huh? Was it? I didn't notice...
No, that was definitely Linca. Let's go take a look. If she's drinking, it could be trouble for the entire town.
Logyyyyyyy! Wait for me!
Hey, you only just noticed this now? My bar's the best in the entire region.
Yeah, I totally agree. This is just fantastic! Well, I'd be fine anywhere, s'long as there's somethin' to drink. Hahahaha!
Are you actually giving some thought to the flavor? Take your time with this one.
...You certainly seem to be in a good mood, Linca.
No, and I can't drink... Wait. Linca, didn't you say that you don't drink?
Pft! In this rough world, sometimes the bottle's your only friend. It's a shame not to enjoy it. It's always there if you need it. Good ol' Al would never betray me.
I've never heard you talk like this, Linca. You're like an entirely different person.
That's because I'm Linca, but I'm not Linca. Hahaha!
It's no use, she's not making any sense.
Ugh, she reeks of alcohol. Exactly how much have you had to drink?
Huh? I don't know, I lost count.
Linca, you've got to stop. If you drink too much, you'll cause trouble for the other people here.
I guess I can't help it... I'll hold off for today, and drink again another time.
Please do. And don't push yourself.
All right, miss. You go home and get some sleep!
I don't have a home. Guess I'll just wander around for a while.
Are you all right? I could escort you.
Nah, nah nah nah nah. You're in the Development Division, right? Good luck with your work.
...That was a side of Linca I wasn't expecting to see.
Yeah. She didn't seem like Linca at all...
Well, it was a good meal, but I just couldn't stop thinking about Linca. Why would she drink?
Um...maybe she's sad about Marion? And she must have been drinking a lot, her eyes were really bloodshot.
I hope it won't be a problem for Marion. Speaking of Marion, do you want to tell her about Linca while we're here?
Hmm...I don't think so. I'm sure Marion will scold Linca when she sees her again.
Hmm... Anyway, we're all done with this assignment, and we've got two weeks to go until it's over.
Well, as long as we're outside, we might as well gather as many materials as we can. I'm still surprised how much stuff we can find in the dragon's nest. How long has it been building this nest?
Dragons can be really weird. A metal-eating dragons, dragons that breathe fire and poision, and all kinds of colors... How much do we really know about them?
Well, they're pretty rare, and not very often seen...
Oh, Logy! I was reading about the Dunkelheit, and I wanted to try something in the Southern Ruins. Can we head there after we go back to Colseit?
Sure. I don't have anything i need to do before the next assignment starts.
I knew it!
Knew what? How did you find a Dunkelheit here?
Well, since we found the last Dunkelheit in ancient ruins, I was thinking maybe we could find more in other ruins. The only ruins with nature around Colseit other than the Lab of Eternity is the Southern Ruins. Thinking like, I used the Plant Nutrients to increase the potency of the soil, and thought if we got lucky we could find a Dunkelheit!
That's...amazing, Escha. I'm curious, though, why did you think that the Dunkelheit only grow near ruins?
Ehehe... Well, it was kind of a lucky guess. Nio has been doing some exploring with Wilbell, and apparently that's where she found her Dunkelheit, so the only connection between where she found her Dunkelheit and where we found ours was ruins.
Still, though, that's impressive. Maybe the Dunkelheit were a lot more common in the past, but the weakening soil caused them to become much rarer. If that's the case, then they could have done cultivation experiments near the ruins...
Anyway, I don't think we'll find anymore Dunkelheit around here for a while, so I think we should probably turn in our final report to Marion.
I've been wondering... I know this is an official meeting, but we always end up chatting randomly...
You're right. I think there's more chit-chat and less official reporting going on here, don't you?
Th-That's not true! I'm always holding serious meetings here.
Are you sure? Why don't we make this one really quick so we can get back to work?
I think he has a point. Let's take care of business first, this time.
...You're right. I do suppose that there is a bit of idle talk every now and then. B-But these meetings are the only time I get to talk to you! It's one of the highlights of my day!
O-Oh, is that what it is? I thought we were slacking off when we talked like that. Never mind, then.
No, I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to.
Once I get back to my desk, it's like I'm handcuffed! Let me strech my wings while I'm out here!
So these meetings are you free time...?
Ahaha... You should find another way of getting some fresh air every once in a while, Miss Marion.
Well, all right... Let's see how you did last period.
What do you think those ruins really were... They felt really strange...
With the area being as dangerous as it is, I'm not certain when the real investigation can start... But what you provided is a fine preliminary look. It's possible they might name the ruins after us!
That would be amazing. That kind of recognition makes investigating places like that worthwhile.
Let's keep this up and go search for other ruins that no one's seen before!
Well, I'm going to give you your assignment for this period now.
After this one, the people from Central City are finally going to come here...
We'll need to make a lot of preparations for them here... I'm afraid we'll be kept busy with it. know we're doing their dirty work, so I got approval for us to focus only on preparations for now.
I see... So our main task won't be extremely difficult.
Let's take this opportunity to do things we normally wouldn't be able to!
That's fine by me, as long as you remember your primary assignment. My job's on the line, got it? I listed everything you'd need in the memo here. Please gather and make all of these items. We've also arranged for a homunculus to be kept on standby for your needs.
Okay! Let's get this period's assignment over with really quick!
I guess this is going to be our last assignment, Logy...
Yeah, looks like it... But look how much we've accomplished while we've worked together, Escha. I don't know how things are going to change when the team from Central gets here, if it does, but it's been a lot of fun working with you and everyone from Colseit.
Hah, yeah, even Reyfer.
Logy, thank you so much! It's been great working with you, too!
So the other two assignments we need to complete are using our Double Draw more and bringing...50 items out into the field!? Are they out of their minds? Can we even do that?
Well, we have enough room in our portable container to do it...but only if we bring the smallest alchemy items we have...and even then we'll have to use all of our space.
(Central is such a pain...) Escha, while you're getting the materials needed for the synthesis, I'm going to go change into my normal clothes. I get the feeling Marion doesn't like me wearing silly animal parts to official meetings...
Oh, too bad... Clone should have your clothes back at the house.
Oh, no, I brought them here.
Oh, okay then. I'll step out for a few minutes. C'mon, we'll go get some things from Katla.
Hah, I wonder if you and I are looking at the same sunset right now...
Harry, you look a little down.
Oh, you two... No, I was just thinking of something from some time ago. Would you care to hear about it?
If that's all you want, we'll happily listen.
Thank you. You see, I was a company manager back in my homeland. In a town full of travelers and shops, I knew that people wished to see rare and exciting things. In order to satisfy their wishes, I used my own funds to hold a tournament to show off new things.
That sounds like a lot of fun. Almost like a festival.
I passed myself off as a rare item collector, and I would win the contest every year.
...Even though it was your own tournament?
Yes, that's why I had to hide my identity. However, a challenger to my title appeared a few years ago.
She bested all my rarest and most prized items, and became the new champion.
So she was able to beat you... Was she some famous scholar?
I could have accepted it if she was! No. The infuriating thing was that she was a simple herbalist. She beat me, badly and repeatedly. Then she left for a far-off land before I could challenge her again.
Is that so... I can see why that would leave you with some regrets.
Regrets, yes... Now that she's gone, winning the tournament feels empty, not a thing to be proud of. That's why I decided to leave my company to a successor, and wander the world.
So that's why you became an adventurer... Those are some very strange circumstances.
Heh. You'll understand my words some day, when you yourself hit a wall in this world. Anyway, I can't stand around like this. I need to prepare for my next adventure!
...He's a wealthy man, right? He could make a lot more money in the business world.
But that's so romantic! He's thinking about that girl, even now.
Was that really the point of his story? It's go to be something different...
Looks like Lucille is making more and more friends among the homunculi...
Huh? What's going on here?
Wait a sec, you didn't see the fliers? "Duke's 4th Chowdown Showdown!" I'm trying to get participants. Whaddya say?
Ooooh, an eating competition? That sounds really fun.
Right!? I got a great bargain on a lot of food, so I can finally hold another contest!
..If you keep having events like this, you'll never turn this bar into a place women will want to go.
(I'm surprised Logy remembers that... That was years ago...)
Well, what's done is done. I guess I'll just have to live with owning a hangout for burly men.
*Sigh* So, what exactly do we need to do to win?
Free food... That would really come in handy.
And, of course, only the winner gets the prize. Not only that, but the loser has to wash the dishes on a full stomach. It's gonna be rough!
I really don't want to think about what'll happen if I lose... I don't think I'll participate, anyway.
What are you talking about!? You made me explain all that, and you're not even gonna take part!?
No, well... I'm not that good at eating fast, anyway.
Huuuuh!? But we won't get another chance like this... Why don't we give it a shot!?
Hahahaha, that's ad, man. You kids are still young, so why not live it up!? I'll have the regulars take care of your cover charge, so don't worry about that. C'mon, take the shot!
It's amazing that there's no cover charge... Aren't the regulars going to participate?
Yeaaaaaaah, welllllll... All of thse guys already tried in one of the previous Chowdown Showdowns. They're willing to cover anyone's entry fees out of respect and awe for the challengers' courage.
That sounds even worse...! How much do we have to eat?
M-Maybe I'll give it a shot, Mr. Duke... Can I join the competition?
Whoa, that's flattering, but...I think it would be really difficult for you, Escha.
I-I see... I really wanted to try...
...Okay, okay, I get it. I just have to participate, right? Fine.
That's the spirit! I'll holler when I have enough people competing. Don't you dare run away on me!
Logy... Please do your best in my stead! We're gonna get those free meal tickets!
...I'll do what I can.
Hmm...all this talk of food is making me hungry. Do you want anything to eat, Logy?
No...I'm going to step out for a bit. Have something to eat, and I'll meet you outside, Escha.
Ugh, that's horrendous. I need something... Something much more appropriate!
Hm? What's up?
You're a man capable of putting sentences together, yes? Would you say that is a correct statement?
...What...? I don't know who told you that, but I'm probably better at it than Escha.
I actually have a huge favor, which I must ask you...
Don't tell me you need my help with your work? I don't think there's much I can do for you there.
You must pardon me. But there is no one else upon whom I can rely.
I'm not going to take responsibility for what happens, but I'll certainly hear you out.
The truth is... I want to write a love letter!
A love letter!? You mean... To an actual person?
I have an idea of what I want to say, but when I put pen to paper, I cannot find the proper words. I've never written anything of this nature, so I'm having something of a difficult time... Does the phrase "I am witnessing" sound too cheap? Perhaps a flower comparison would be more admirable?
W-Wait a second... What are you going on about? Besides, who's the girl, anyway?
Eh!? I-I can't answer that!
If you don't tell me, I can't help you as effectively. I won't tell a soul; you have my word.
(Oh brother...) ...Her, of all people. Of course. Well, if we're talking about Katla, I think you're better off giving her a present.
I've considered that, but I just don't know what women like in the way of gifts.
You don't know what women like in the way of love letters, either. At any rate, I think comparing her to a flower and all that...is really not necessary.
Are you certain? I don't want the letter to be disappointing, either...
I think it might be better to tell her straight out. Katla probably only reads the first three lines anyway. Why don't you just write "I really like you"?
However, this i something that I must overcome myself. So, perhaps it was for the better.
...I was being serious. Was I that far off? Boy, that kid's hard to read. Why does everyone keep asking me things like this? Oh, looks like Escha isn't done yet. Oh! Nio! I sent those documents about the Unexplored Ruins to her. Maybe she's found out something.
I saw it mentioned in a lot of the documents I was issued before I came here. It's a priority site.
Hmm... I'd like to take a look at those documents.
Don't get your hopes up. Pretty much all they said is that the ruins exist. I really didn't think they were good materials. I'm sure the people who wrote them didn't care at all.
Really... That's a shame. I thought Central City was where people kept all the information in one place.
I think this town is likely to have more details about the ruins than Central City. I know they gather information from a lot of regions, but there isn't much about ruins nobody's gone to.
Yes, that's the difficult part. I've been doing lots of research, but there's just nothing useful... Although, I have started to find a few things...
Oh, did you discover something new?
Yes. I found some ancient texts, and tried deciphering them.
So you can read the ancient language as well. What was written in them?
There was extremely important research going on at this facility. But one day, it left...
..."Left"? The facility just took off? That doesn't make any sense.
Exactly. But there aren't any ruins that large in this area.
A large, round facility... No, I can't think of anything.
I thought not... But I've seen that name in records before, as well. Perhaps it's referring to the Unexplored Ruins.
I see... Well, it's better than having no leads whatsoever. I'll check if Central City has any records of this "Geosis" facility. There might be a connection.
That would be a big help! All right, time to decipher more of this ancient text!
Haha, that's the spirit. I need to get to work, too... Even Escha should be done by now.
Oh, hello Logy! Where were you?
Oh, first I ran into Micie outside the bar, and then went to Nio's house to talk a little bit about the Unexplored Ruins... Escha, have you ever heard the name "Geosis" before?
"Geosis"? What's that?
I don't know, but Nio was telling me about some ancient documents she found that mentioned a facility called "Geosis" that was performing very important research until it "took off" a long time ago. The description of the facility matched the description of the Unexplored Ruins, so I thought there might be a connection.
Hm...I've never heard the name, but that sounds really interesting. That means that...
Someone had to have made the facility fly into the sky. How did they do that?
Ugh... You remember that? You sure are tenacious when it comes to food...
Hey, what are you talking about? You told us to look forward to it!
Well, I did make a promise, so I tested it until I came up with something...
Which means... You did make it!
W-Well, yeah... But there's a small problem, so I shouldn't use it.
What... Why's that?
After so much boasting, you really shouldn't be holding back. Oh... Maybe it just didn't turn out very well? If that's true, then you can always...
Never! Fine, I'll show you. Once you taste a magician's sweets, you'll never let anything else into your mouth!
Is it really that good? Well, please make some, then!
A-All right. Here I go...
You really did it.
How's that!? ...These are magic sweets... You should try them...
Since you offered... Thank you! Oh... Oh my gosh! It's so delicious! I've never tasted anything like this! Logy, try some!
Hmm... I'm surprised. I've never tasted this mysterious flavor before. This is great!
O-Of course it is...so, what do you think? Each magician has her own unique flavor, after all...
Um, why do you seem so out of breath?
Well... Magic takes...a lot of energy... I had to make two at once... Whew! I feel weak, and I'm really hungry...
Is there anything you can do anything about that?
There really isn't. It's not difficult this way, but... Making them normally would be much easier. I thought making sweets with magic ought to be easy, but this really isn't any use...
Ahaha... So you should just make them normally, then. They're so delicious, though. I'm sure anyone would be happy with this.
Yeah, but I want to be a great magician, not a snack-maker. I'm just wasting my time with this.
Really? It seems like a waste not to...
...I can hear that voice again.
(Who are you? ...Where are you?)
Nio, why do you look so serious? Are you looking for someone?
Oh... You didn't hear a voice?
No... What kind of voice was it?
Um, I don't really know... It sounded like a girl talking in her sleep...
I haven't heard anything like that. What about you, Logy?
I haven't heard it, either. Wait... Maybe I did a little earlier.
Really!? Did you understand what she was saying? It was hard to hear.
S-Sorry. I definitely think I wasn't hearing the same thing you were, Nio. Never mind.
If you heard anything, tell me, please! Even the littlest thing!
If it means that much to her, Logy, we should probably help her out.
No, it's just, if you really insist...
Whaaaaat!? No, don't talk about that! It's so embarrassing!
I said it wasn't the same thing! I thought she was asking about girls sleep-talking, and I let it slip!
O-Oh... I thought someone besides me could have heard it.
Ugh...so you heard a girl's voice in the apple orchard, Nio?
Yes. I've been hearing her since I first came here. I've been hearing her more often lately... She seems to be in pan, like she's calling out for someone, always...
I really don't know. Have you tried talking to anyone about it before?
No, this is the first time I've mentioned it to someone. I thought I was just hearing things. But, lately I've started to believe that there's definitely someone talking to me! This isn't the first time I've heard something like this. I can't explain it, but please believe me!
It's okay, Nio, we aren't doubting you. I don't know what's going on, but if you say you hear something, then it must be true.
Really? You believe me?
You're not someone who tells strange lies like that, Nio. We trust you.
Thank you so much! I'm glad I could finally tell someone about it. To be honest, part of the reason I stayed in Colseit is because I want to know why I'm hearing this voice. I've been searching this whole time, but I still don't know where it's coming from...
Ahaha. If you were that worried, you should ahve talked to us about it sooner.
A voice that only Nio can hear... I wonder if it's because she grew up in a different country?
I was reviewing some old records. They were very old, so it took me a long time to access them.
Does that mean you were able to remember something about the past?
Yes. Perhaps reading that nostalgic book caused it, but I suddenly became curious about the past.
Nostalgic? Do you mean that picture book?
Yes, that was definitely the trigger.
I see. So who was that friend?
I do not know. However, a very long time has passed since then. I am sure my friend has long forgotten our promise.
There's no way! If she was so important to you, she never would have forgotten!
Thank you, Escha. However, that is enough. Since the promise was not fulfilled, I could not continue the story past that point.
...You could always start now. Just write an ending. Anything, just give it a happy end.
I am an automaton. I am capable of storing and reproducing information but cannot create new things. The fact that humans are able to start and end their own stories is a wonderful thing indeed!
...Is that really true?
We automata are happiest when helping humans accomplish this.
...Okay. Thank you, Clone.
I wonder. Was I really able to create something by myself? ...I am sure she would have known the answer.
Clone can say some pretty mysterious things every now and then.
Hm...you're right. I wonder who her friend is...she's never said anything about a friend from long ago to me.
I guess we'll never know...
Well, this should be enough for the team coming from Central. The Item Clone trait, though is really powerful. It can turn a normal item into a recurring item, but it takes a little longer to prepare it. Maybe I should make more so we can use that trait later...
That should be enough.
It okay... We have lots. I call Solle. Wait here.
Whew... That was actually a little exhausting.
Well, in terms of sheer numbers, it was rough. Good work, Escha.
Thank you for your hard work. I heard your preparations are done. We'll take over from here.
Yes! Thank you very much.
Well, I'm sure the R&D Division will be very busy next year, but please keep up the good work.
Really busy...? Is there something else coming up?
Oh, Marion didn't tell you? You're going to be babysitting the people from Central City. Or so I heard... The R&D Division here has been taking on their own missions, but you'll be more limited next year.
Oh no... Do we have to do that?
Well, regardless, someone's going to have to do it. Though, I suppose Marion is most displeased by this. We need to make the appropriate preparations on our end too, so it's going to get really busy here.
Looks like we're all in the same boat, then.
Now, if you'll excuse me. Please give Miss Marion my regards, as well.
Yeah, we'd better do everything we can while we still have the time.
Still, though...I can't say I'm too happy about this.
I know...I joined R&D so I could use my alchemy knowledge to help people. If people from Central will be doing everything...
I'm sure we'll still have use, but it won't be like before...
This will let us work together a lot better! And a lot of really powerful traits, too!
She sure bounces back fast... Well, we still have plenty of time until the homunculi finish making all the items we need to complete the 50 item request.
I can't understand the 50 items, but the Double Draw is incredible. If we master this, Escha, we could completely change how to fight with alchemy in the future.
Music: Alchemist Escha's Case File
Hm. Did anything stand out to you? Anything at all...?
No, not really...
I see. You may leave.
Huh!? Y-You mean YOU were actually nervous?
Huh!? How long have you been standing there!? Sorry, I didn't notice you.
We've been here for a little while. But I'm surprised that even you get nervous in front of the manager.
He's always been very intimidating. I worry that he'll yell at me over the slightest transgression. That's why I always try to get in and out of his office as quickly as possible.
Hmm, so you guys go way back, then?
Since before I was born. I mean, he is my father, after all.
Wha--! You mean the two of you are related?
Didn't I mention that?
No, that's the first time I've heard that. You two don't look anything alike, though.
Really...? Wow, that actually makes a lot of sense. No wonder the two of you look so similar.
How do the two of us look similar, exactly?
Well, certain facial features... And both of you work really really hard.
Is that so...? I cannot seem to agree with that. He's been very strict with me since I was a child, so I'm always thinking about working efficiently. Make a mistake, and the lightning never fails to strike. That is truly a life of terror...
So that's why you're really strict when it comes to work, too?
To be honest, he's an amazing person. Sure, he's a little strict, but his title speaks for itself. I feel like he's a kind of wall that I'll never overcome.
To have your father also be your superior... That would make it difficult to get work done.
B-But, you could be the next Branch Manager, too, Mr. Solle. Please do your best! I'll be cheering you on!
That's exactly what I dont' want. My achievements would constantly be compared to his. Ah... It's so stressful. I"ve been trying not to think of this for quite some time.
Ooh... I'm sorry. I didn't know you were bothered by it.
If you have time to apologize, then please get back to work. Didn't you need to speak with me?
O-Oh, right... Yeah, we had something wanted to ask you...
I guess it's really difficult to have a very high-up dad...
Can I help you? For some reason, I don't think there's much I can do to help in your work, Miss Threia.
I don't need that kind of help. There's just something I've been meaning to ask you. You've worked with Marion in the past, right? Do you happen to know of any weaknesses of hers? I've got a really tough proposal I want to get through, but I doubt she'll listen to me.
I see... Well, if such a thing exists, I'd love to know about it myself. Marion is scary when she's angry, very strict, and is actually very adept in combat. So, I would be hard-pressed to come up with any weaknesses she might have...
True, she may seem out of it at times, but she's capable of just about anything she puts her mind to.
I'm telling you, as long as you're organized and can explain yourself clearly, Solle's not that hard to work with.
Hm? What are you two talking about? You look so serious.
Ah, might as well ask... Do you two happen to know if Marion has any weaknesses?
Huh? Well, this is really sudden...
Come now, this helps you, too. If we all know her weak point, then there's nothing to fear from her. If we succeed, then the R&D Division can do as they please! Are you interested?
U-Umm, there really isn't anything I would go that far to do...
I don't think she's the kind of person who would easily let us get away with that.
Linca just told me as much. She may look a little unreliable, but she doesn't have any openings.
F-From behind...? What the heck were you trying to do?
Maybe there are certain foods or animals that she can't stand...like bugs!
Marion, weak against bugs? No, that's too stereotypical for her.
What else... Oh, yeah, whenever she gets more work, she screams bloody murder.
I think that's just harassment.
Besides, if we increase her workload, she'll just dump it on us, since we're her underlings.
Okay, maybe that's not such a good idea.
When I try to picture Miss Marion, the only thing I can see her doing is paperwork...
Uh, I'd say that the moment you start looking for a way to manipulate her, you're being cruel.
Hmm... Marion, you are a formidable foe after all...
How many people can it take to find a crack in Marion's armor? Heh...what the heck is going on here?