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If a craftsman wants to do good work, he must first sharpen his tools.
Though that specific saying is unknown to Auvalire, she expresses a similar sentiment through another.
The only path to success is a solid foundation.
Restoring the castle to a normal state of operations is the greatest problem before them; a necessity, regardless of Julian's future plans.
Manpower, capital, a means to produce income - all these were sorely lacking. After a basic review, Auvalire forms the same opinion as Julian's.
"The only purpose for this castle is warfare."
The girl stares at the tattered map before her with mild resignation.
"It's as you say - this place has no qualifications for transportation or commerce."
Julian nods, simultaneously glancing at the empty teacup by Auvalire's side. Following her rebirth and reclamation of a new body, this former princess had gone to great lengths to take advantage of her newfound alimentary ability. Though she'd already gone through sixteen cups of tea, there was no sign of satiation. For the upper cla.s.s, tea-tasting is characterized as a leisurely pastime. The princess was certainly displaying her good upbringing in that regard; her actions are graceful and measured, her as long as one ignores her consumption of an entire pot within a half-hour.
Auvalire's body was woven out of magic, and thus did not follow the same digestive process as a human's; there was no cause for the concern that the n.o.blewoman would unexpectedly overstuff herself. Any food that enters her body is directly converted, becoming an identical part to the arcane fabric. However, that aside … shouldn't one exercise moderation in all things?
"We need manpower, and, in addition to that, considerable financial support as well."
Auvalire raises her head, lightly reaching out. Elegantly, softly, she pours herself yet another cup of tea.
This is the seventeenth.
"If you have a private stash or treasury, I think the problem wouldn't be hard to solve."
Julian takes the teapot from Auvalire's side.
The girl blinks, not responding to her partner's obvious jest. Truthfully, she knows very little about the young man before her. Though Julian had introduced himself as the scion of a n.o.ble house in decline - a claim corroborated by various pther events - Auvalire nevertheless holds the belief that the answer is not quite so simple. Holding the prior event as an example, even the palace wizards from Auvalire's memory did not have the ability to perform magic strong enough to actualize a soul, but Julian hadn't only exhibited ability, but ease also. Though Auvalire is not a wizard herself, any normal person can surmise how unimaginable a task it is to give form to a formless soul. Even the Church of the Holy Grace had never done such a thing - resurrection was the highest miracle in their texts, but Julian had accomplished something even greater.
As Julian has himself said, he is no wizard. Auvalire hadn't discovered a single magic-related thing in the entire castle - no diagrams, no robes, no spellbooks or homunculi or anything else she'd seen the palace wizards have.
She has intrinsic doubts about his knightly claim as well. Knights were supposed to be quite n.o.ble, and if the youth before her really was a knight, then he should have long entered the inner circles of the royal family, rather than being left to his own devices in the middle of nowhere. Moreover, from Julian's description, the major aristocrats were treating him as someone short-lived and disposable; none of these things accorded to the status of a knight.
However, he'd spoken with such plainness, with no pride or pomp … it is difficult for Auvalire to picture him as an ordinary youth, full of daydreams. A youth with knightly delusions spoke with pretense and admiration, but Julian's tone was soft, warm, faint enough to sound like a statement of mere fact.
Could he be ...
Auvalire shakes her head, dispelling her strange and incredible judgment. She voices a suggestion.
"My liege, why do you not give bodies to those wandering spirits? Given how faithful they are to your commands, I think doing that would solve at least a portion of our human resource issues."
"Though they too possess great reservoirs of magic, it's not quite insufficient to create a body."
Julian shrugs; he'd already considered the suggestion far earlier.
"I think you haven't discovered the vastness of your own strength, Miss Auvalire. Your current reservoirs of magic matches even a great archmage - something that my wandering spirits cannot say the same for. Even if I created cores for them, a complete body could not follow. But, you're not entirely wrong; I have no intention of abandoning them. I plan to give them form when we have collected … sufficient materials. As you said, we're in dire need of their aid, especially now."
Auvalire looks at Julian in confusion. What could have compelled the youth to use a word like that? Is he like an alchemist, and can fas.h.i.+on the unexpected out of bizarre materials? Her curiosity about his real ident.i.ty grows. A wizard, a knight, an alchemist - he is unlike any of these things, but the knowledge he exhibits far surpa.s.ses what a typical heir should be privy to. Even Auvalire herself finds it difficult to keep up with his thoughts sometimes. She hadn't failed to notice his comparison of her to an archmage … as the pinnacles of magical achievement, archmages often either resided in solitude or occupied high positions in various kingdoms. As a "ruined n.o.bleman", Julian was unlikely to have met one even under fortuitous circ.u.mstances, much less be qualified to comment about them.
Who is this youth, really?
"It should be about time."
Julian is unconcerned with Auvalire's puzzlement. He extracts a silver watch from his coat pockets (perhaps the only valuable he can be said to still carry), and peers at the time closely before standing up.
"Let's see how many come to answer our initial call."
Perhaps it was to leave a good impression on the new lord, perhaps there were other considerations; but whatever the case, a delegate from Sunset Town arrived on the afternoon of the third day with the promised taxation. A group of people answering the call for employment came with it, the first of their kind.
The situation is a little better than Julian had thought.
Aside from the drivers responsible for carrying in food, there are four people here willing to work for him. Julian stands at the door, carefully examining the quartet in front of him.
The one on the right is an older woman of almost fifty. Her build is stocky and her shoulders broad, and she wears clothes that are a little worn, but otherwise neat. Her hands are full of calluses, and her messy, graying hair is held in place by a white cloth. Her skin retains none of its original womanly smoothness - it is quite rough, in fact. She introduces herself as Martha Ben. Julian recalls hearing that name from the old mayor. Her family has had a decades-old tradition of working for the inhabitants of the castle, and she has no intention of letting that fall by the wayside.
Beside the matronly woman is a middle-aged man in the prime of his life. Dressed in garments fas.h.i.+oned out of animal skins, he holds a large, heavy axe in his hand. He had come to apply for lumber and carpentry work. A castle as large as this has many places in which wood would be useful, and it is a task that both Julian and Auvalire are hard-pressed to do.
The next man is a hunchback. He was here to answer the commission of a gardener. He has a weathered appearance, the wrinkles on his face bunched tightly together; the combination of that, in addition to the curvature of his back, is a little disconcerting to look at.
It is a… different… style of recruitment for Auvalire to experience. As a princess that had quite the reputation among the commoners, she was no stranger to visiting their places of residence in the past. Thus, she is familiar with the marked difference between them and those who worked on her own estate. In her memory, maids were supposed to carry a serious, earnest expression, and do their duties with full sincerity and hard work while maintaining a certain level of respect for their masters - a stark difference from this middle-aged woman, who was smiling with a candidness at her liege that even she felt shameful about. The carpenter is rather difficult for her to accommodate as well; dressed in only a few beast skins, he wears too little for comfort, and his chest, arm, and legs are all bared. Auvalire's gaze lingers on him only a fraction of a second before forcibly departing elsewhere. Thankfully, the hood on her black cloak hides the majority of her countenance, safely concealing the rosiness of indiscretion.
As for that hunchback - by the Holy Grace, Auvalire is absolutely sure that she hadn't seen anyone as ugly as him before even in the slums of the capital. He has a face that is like a ball of wrinkled paper, crumpled and twisted with extreme force, and pockmarks accentuate the roughness of his skin. His facial features aren't even in the correct places!
The last person to answer the call is a tiny girl.
She is twelve or thirteen, but her under-developed, malnourished body is indicative of an appearance that's closer to ten or younger. A head of long, brown hair and a few freckles serve as accessories to her appearance. Her large eyes are filled with curiosity, fear, and unease. Unlike the other three, the girl doesn't seem like she knew what to do. Her only words - spoken between trembling lips - are that she hopes to find some work in the castle, and anything is fine.
"Do you really plan to hire these people, sir?"
Now that their positions are established, Auvalire pays sufficient attention to changing her terms of address. She is a natural at adaptation, and quickly puts down her former pride as a princess in order to serve the young man before her wholeheartedly. Though she is unfamiliar with his capabilities or background, that only cements her belief that he is unlike the typical aristocratic scion. Having lived as a member of royalty in days past, she feels that she has a degree of mastery over the art of reading people. After all, quickly and accurately gauging the tendencies and nature of others without much ceremony was a required skill back then. The fact that she isn't able to see completely through him, in light of that, is more than enough for her to trust him.
Still, that doesn't reduce the slight sensation of discomfort she is feeling now...
Hey, I'm alive! I died over Christmas and was busy translating other things, so this is a bit on the back burner now. After a lot of deliberation, though, I decided I didn't want to just throw this book into the trash. I'll try to do at least one a week but don't expect miracles! If you actually care about reading this story, you should poke me on Discord about it, hmm?
Trying out better scene-setting with verb tenses. Experimental. Let me know what you think (if you think anything at all, I s'pose).