And thus Erica and her band of bandits broke into Uncle Oswald’s workshop. What mysteries do you think they will discover in there?
Note: A memory refresher. The Festival Factions were the crazy Aurelian alchemists who murdered Tir and his friends when they arrived at Aurelia. Since then, they have been in-exile in Karkinos, the southern continent. They are much more technologically advanced due to their lack of moral restraints.
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And thus, the ransacking of my uncle Oswald Bort’s workshop began.
The first step was to divide responsibilities among ourselves according to the types of materials stored in this room.
“We will prepare a list of my uncle’s possessions, and if you find anything suspicious, immediately investigate it in detail.”
My brother appointed Harold to be in charge of the stored materials.
It was an appropriate decision.
No matter how you look at it, he was the best suited for the task.
Next objects of investigation were the envelops stacked in the bookshelves.
A large number of papers, drafts, and memos were unraveled when I opened them.
Analyzing these documents would require an alchemist with some knowledge of my uncle’s research.
As such, my brother and I took on that role.
Then there was a book from the shelf with golden letterings on a deep blue cover.
Apart from the dates, everything else in the book were written in cipher.
Moreover, it was a unique cipher, and the entries of different years were written using different ciphers.
It was probably my uncle’s diary.
I wonder, did he have too much free time?
Or was it some kind of countermeasure against vampires?
No, in all likelihood, it was probably just his hobby from being an incurable perfectionist.
“This … it looks like it will take months no matter how anyone handles it. It would probably be better to bring it home with us.”
When my brother muttered so while holding his head, Beatrice suddenly raised her hand.
“Um, I am learning cryptanalysis from my aunt’s textbooks. I am used to it since messages for interference from the past are often in codes … I think I can handle this in about four or five hours with the help of artificial spirits.”
Before I knew it, Beatrice had already activated four artificial spirits.
I see, that would be fast.
Thank goodness for Dolores Wynt’s education cheat.
With that, Beatrice was put in charge of the encrypted diary.
The last item of investigation remaining, the clothing boxes, was left for Chloe to deal with.
“There are so many different outfits! There is a wizard’s robe, an outfit of a monastic knight, and a uniform of Lindis … oh! There are even clothes of different sizes mixed in?”
Chloe tilted her head in confusion as she lifted a large garment.
“Perhaps those were for his friend. I also have some of Elric’s clothes and a spare pair of glasses in my bag. But it is surprising that my uncle had such a close friend.”
My brother also tilted his head in wonder.
Since this is a category most intricately connected to daily life, we might be able to discover my uncle’s hidden friendships.
“Well then, I guess it would be better to measure the sizes properly and note them down. Alright, I will do my best!”
“I don’t think you will find anything like a skeletal corpse, but still be careful, Chloe-kun.”
This is about my uncle whose own corpse was found as bones inside a bag.
I can’t say with certainty that similar situations would not recur.
“Ahahaha, in that case I will also have to find the identity of the corpse, so that is going to be a lot of work!”
Chloe replied with a cheerful laugh.
Time to get to work.
Harold displayed a terrifying degree of concentration and was completely immersed in his investigation.
“Wow, this is amazing! I need this, oh my, I have never seen anything like it before!”
It’s a little scary how excited he gets, even though I have known him since our childhood.
But, I suppose it can’t be helped knowing so many rare materials exist in the northern continent.
It should be like a huge assortment of treats for Harold the alchemist.
I split a stack of papers with my brother and started going through them one-by-one.
“Well, it’s nice to see Harold-kun enjoying himself … ”
My brother enviously looked at Harold and muttered.
“Oniisama, we still have these waiting for us.”
“Ugh, yes, that’s right. Even so, the writing is so messy … it is going to be a real pain, isn’t it?”
“That it certainly will.”
Although the content seem to have some structure to it, the writing style was very free-spirited, with many notes jotted down just as they came to mind.
Most of the notes were fragmentary or consisted of wild flights of fancy.
It would have been easier to understand if there were at least some citations or evidence to support the claims.
After shuffling around for a long time in this manner, I finally came across an interesting essay that caught my attention.
That is the stage immediately prior to the completion of the philosopher’s stone.
No one should have been able to achieve even that level of transmutation.
“Oniisama, this is an essay on Nigred by our uncle, do you know anything about it?”
“No, it’s the first time I am hearing about it. It is probably about the theory of creating the philosopher’s stone, but I wonder why he chose Nigred as the main subject of research?”
I spent some time searching and reading reports about Nigred.
The speculation about Nigred led to the creation of the artificial life form Zaratan, which was created for Aurelia’s ultimate goal of successfully transmuting gold.
Uncle almost accurately grasped what happened between our ancestors and the said artificial life form.
Amidst the speculations about Nigred, there were some worrisome reports that caught my eye.
It was about soulless children being born on the Aurelian immigrant ship.
There was a hypothesis that in response to that, the artificial life form was rearranged as a system for soul circulation.
And another artificial life form was created as an interactive interface for him in the form of a human being, an individual capable of interbreeding with humans—
It is difficult to determine whether these hypotheses are just fantasies or not.
And while my uncle judged the survival of the artificial life form created for the purpose of gold transmutation to be hopeless, he was aware of the eternal nature of its soul.
『What is the matter?』
“No, it’s nothing.”
I was suddenly staring at Tirnanog.
He is probably what my uncle referred to as ‘Nigred’.
I continued to read further.
—If it is possible to incorporate even one human soul into the Nigred, a philosopher’s stone will be created.
I was reminded of Liber Monstrorum’s first scenario.
Zaratan, who had absorbed Ann’s soul, was able to transmute all things into gold.
You were correct, Uncle Oswald.
—In regards to Nigred, which does not contain the essence of human soul, fusion with one human soul would make it possible to transmute Aqua Vitae, the Water of Life.
Aqua Vitae, the Water of Life.
A miraculous elixir that transcends aging and can cure all sorts of illnesses and injuries.
My first impression of the man was that of an absurdly wealthy alchemist with a penchant for splurging.
My next impression of him was that of a dreamer who writes delusional manuscripts.
And now, as I read his theses, he seems to have transformed into an adventurer who took many flights of fancy to abruptly arrive at the truth.
My uncle must have been a problematic child, but I can see that he was also a twisted genius too good to be left alone.
The manuscript on Nigred had nothing to do with the Mad King, but was about the root of the Aurelia family.
I think he has arrived at the correct answer regarding the philosopher’s stone, but he is still delusional about the roots of the Aurelia family.
“It was very interesting, but … ”
I read it all the way through, but has nothing to do with this case.
I have inadvertently wasted my time.
“How did it go, Erica?”
“It had nothing to do with the Aaru hypothesis or the Mad King, oniisama.”
I briefly summarized the essay I had read and told my brother.
“Hmm, Aqua Vitae, the Water of Life.”
“I thought it was just a fable, but it seems to be real.”
“Or rather, the Nigred in that theory is—”
My brother glanced at Tirnanog as if to say, ‘it’s him, isn’t it?’
“Speaking of which, it also appeared in what I had been reading, the Aqua Vitae.”
“Huh … but you were looking for the Aaru hypothesis, were you not?”
“I found this scribbled note in a manuscript riddled with derailments upon derailments from its original argument.”
I looked at the manuscript my brother handed to me.
—What do you suppose will happen if we give Aqua Vitae, the Water of Life, to a vampire known as the manifestation of ‘underworld’?
—Although the Aqua Vitae cannot resurrect the dead, it can restore the soul and flesh of a living being.
—Then wouldn’t all the souls trapped inside be resurrected!?
The note was written with excited strokes.
I could almost tell what my uncle had done.
“So the worst-case scenario I can think of is this … Oswald Bort had somehow obtained the Nigred by stealing or some clandestine links with the Festival Faction, and fused a human soul with it to transmute Aqua Vitae, the Water of Life. Then to test his theory, he came across Cain, the Mad King, by conspiring secretly with vampires, and used the Aqua Vitae on him to restore the trapped souls.”
“Oniisama … ”
My brother smiled with a disturbed expression.
As expected, even my brother found this disturbing.
Robbery, liaison with the Festival Faction, transmutation using human soul and conspiring with vampires are all too ethically out of bounds.
“Erica, Sir Eduard!”
At that moment, Harold called us out with a puzzled expression on his face.
“There was a hidden drawer, and it had a really fun puzzle-like mechanism, so I quickly disassembled it and found this. Um, I feel like I have seen this before, but … ”
Harold handed us a small vial.
There was just a small amount of black liquid inside.
Ah … since it is that Harold, he was able to disassemble it in such a short time.
I am certain something like this was very strictly locked away.
“The color and texture are the same as yours, aren’t they Mister … ? Why is it here?”
『Hmm, the same as mine you say? … Fumu, this is definitely a part of me. 』
Tirnanog moved his finger with a snap and the liquid inside the vial wriggled accordingly.
When I looked at him, my brother laughed and said, “I suppose there is no choice but to tell you.”
“It must be a fragment of his body from his time as the Zaratan, murdered when he came to Aurelia.”
“Whoa … why would something so scary be in a place like this … ?”
Harold freaked out an almost dropped the vial.
“Nigred, is what we call it, but it’s probably—”
At that moment, Beatrice’ s shout resounded.
“AH, erm, um, I am sorry!”
The eyes of everyone in the room fell on her.
“Inside the diary, I found this entry — after defeating the alchemists from the Festival Faction, I rummaged through their belongings and obtained the Nigred.”
So it wasn’t robbery or collusion with the Festival Faction, huh.
I feel a little relieved.
But a fight against someone from the Festival Faction would be no cakewalk.
“And he decided to use his own life to refine the Nigred and transmute Aqua Vitae.”
I am glad he didn’t use innocent people for transmutation—wait, no, no, no, no, no!
Why are you using your own life to transmute … ?
I have never heard of a transmutation suicide before!
“Ugh … erm, he must have really been having fun.”
My brother, who could pick up a lot from my expression, soothingly stroked my back.
“Also, I am very sorry to have to say this but, there were three entries that suggested interferences from the Wynt family. I believe this interference is why Sir Oswald was able to deduce the Mad King’s location.”
Beatrice looked pale.
“Does it say anything about who was the Mad King?”
“No, it doesn’t describe the identity of the individual, only that he was found.”
When I asked, Beatrice answered such.
“In other words, what actually happened most likely is that Oswald stole the Nigred from the alchemists of the Festival Faction, used his own soul to transmute it into the Aqua Vitae, identified the Mad King Cain with the involvement of the Wynt family, and attempted to use the Water of Life on him.”
My brother offered a nonchalant explanation with a troubled expression.
“I see, if that is the reasoning, then I am convinced … wait, no, what is this about transmuting using one’s own soul!?”
Harold panicked at the gravity of the situation.
I explained as simply as I could to Harold, Beatrice, and Chloe about Nigred, which I had just read about.
“So, he used a lethal weapon against the enemy. To defeat his enemy, he risked his own life.”
Chloe seemed to understand it as a really beautiful heroic tale.
But I suppose it wasn’t anything like a noble purpose of defeating humanity’s enemy, but purely out of curiosity…
Those of Lucanrant die for pride and honor.
Those of Ignitia die for love and faith.
Those of Aurelia die for curiosity.
And those of Hafan choose to live, even if smeared with disgrace.
Come to think of it, although the character of the people from the four nations are jokingly referred to in this way, my uncle’s death was indeed completely out of curiosity.
“But how did he use that elixir on the Mad King after using his own soul to transmute it?”
Beatrice asked with curiosity.
I would like to know that as well.
“Maybe he asked his friend to do it? There are a lot of these oversized clothes here.”
Chloe held up an outfit that was slightly larger than the usual outfits my uncle used to use.
My uncle’s friend who had a larger build than him.
Did Uncle entrust him with the trial?
“He must have been a brave person … to have attempted to kill the Mad King with an elixir transmuted from his friend’s soul.”
Beatrice said so with admiration.
I feel sorry for my uncle’s friend who had to accept such a troublesome request.
It could not have been an easy task to bear the role of having to use Aqua Vitae refined from his friend’s soul and use it on the Mad King, right?
“Ah~ I can definitely imagine what mister Oswald Bort must have said at that moment when he made that request to his friend … ”
Harold stared at me with a suspicious expression.
Ugh, did I ever make such a terrible request to Harold?
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Troubling friends seems to run in the blood of the Bort family. We got to learn about the truth of Aurelia. It is very likely Tir and his friend, who was killed, are both the artificial life forms mentioned in the hypothesis. While Tir is responsible for soul circulation, his friend was the interactive interface in human form. That would make it understandable why they were both killed when the Festival Faction wanted to get the philosopher’s stone.
Also, we finally get to know how the Mad King was nearly killed, by a single crazy alchemist. Who do you think Oswald Bort’s friend is?