Cale looked toward the stiff alchemist and started to speak.
“May I come in?”
The alchemist opened and closed his mouth a few times before verifying that nobody else was around and then moving to the side.
“Come, haaaa, come in for now.”
Cale immediately walked in. He was walking with a relaxed pace, as if he was going into his own living room.
He then walked over to a chair with a broken back and sat down.
He could see alchemy tools that have not been sanitized properly as he looked around.
Alchemy in this world was similar to alchemy on Earth.
It was used to make gold. However, the methods of doing so were different.
The alchemists of the Western continent sought to use natural elements to create gold. Specifically, they tried to use water, wind, earth, wood, and fire. These five natural elements were the main elements used to attempt to create gold.
These five elements were intertwined with mana as well.
Cale looked toward the table with broken corners in front of him. There was a round bowl sitting there.
“There is only cold water in the house. I do not know what kind of priest-nim you are, but please drink this cold water and then get on your way!”
The alchemist filled the bowl with cold water and pushed it toward Cale. Cale did not even look at the bowl.
His gaze was focused on the alcohol bottles in the room amongst the alchemy tools.
“What are you looking at? Aigoo, just what?!”
The middle-aged alchemist saw that Cale’s gaze was on the alcohol bottles and kicked them to one side.
Clang, clang, clang!
The alcohol bottles made loud noises as they ran into the alchemy tools. The mess made the middle-aged man start to frown. He heard the priest’s voice at that time.
“Alcoholic fake alchemist. Makes poison and small bombs for underworld organizations to use when they fight against each other.”
Alchemists were unable to make bombs that were as strong as magic bombs, however, they were able to borrow the power of nature in order to create small bombs.
However, compared to magic bombs that had a 100 percent rate of success, their success rate depended on whether the power of nature could release mana or not.
That was why it could be said that the timed magic bomb they found in Maple Castle was amazing.
The tired and drunk man’s gaze turned toward the priest.
The two of them made eye contact.
“I heard that you would make anything as long as you got paid. Am I wrong?”
Cale did not know the man’s name yet. There were only a few things he knew about him.
This man was someone who had not appeared in the first five volumes of, ‘The Birth of a Hero,’ and Billos had only brought a small amount of information about him.
‘He is said to have been acting in this fake alchemist role for approximately 10 years. The underworld organizations think he is fake because his poisons and small bombs are only made properly half the time.’
A fake alchemist with a 50 percent chance of success. That made Cale let out a snort.
‘It means that he knows how to make 50 percent of the real thing.’
That was enough.
What Cale wanted was someone with basic alchemy skills and something else. This middle-aged man had that something else.
It was said that nobody knew his name.
However, he had many nicknames.
“So, are you saying that you want to pay me to do a job? A priest wants to hire me?”
“That is the case.”
The alchemist picked up a bottle of alcohol on the floor. He opened the bottle and started to chug. He then wiped the alcohol off the side of his lips with the back of his hand as he started to speak.
“I’ve never seen such a crazy priest!”
The middle-aged man turned his gaze to the priest who seemed to be responding to his statement. He then flinched as his body started to shake.
Cale put a small bottle on top of the table. It was full of a black liquid.
Cale could see the alchemist’s hands shaking. The alchemist turned his gaze away from the small bottle and looked toward the priest.
However, the priest was not looking at the alchemist’s face but his left wrist. There was no hand there.
“This liquid seems to black like your left wrist, alchemist-nim.”
The round left wrist was dyed black. It looked like the remains of being charred by fire.
“T, this. This is from when I was poisoned as a child.”
The alchemist quickly covered his wrist with his sleeve. Cale continued to look at the left sleeve as he gently started to speak.
“It looks like you chose to amputate your hand rather than healing it when you realized how serious the poison was.”
Cale remembered what Billos had told him.
‘He always complains of pain as he buys alcohol.’
The middle-aged man avoided Cale’s gaze.
“That is none of your concern, priest-nim!”
“Hmm, I heard that your body turns black when you are poisoned by dead mana.”
The people who use dead mana look like they have black spiderwebs all over their body. The ones who are poisoned by dead mana slowly become dyed black as they die.
Any human affected by dead mana, including necromancers, suffer intense pain throughout their lives.
“Just how serious of a poison was it that it is black? I also heard that you suffer from pain every day?”
The alchemist started to think.
He could not allow this to continue.
He could not let everything be ruined because of this priest who suddenly showed up. The alchemist stopped avoiding the priest’s gaze and turned his head back. At that moment, the priest with blue eyes that were looking at him started to speak.
“15 years ago…”
The alchemist was finding it difficult to breathe.
“15 years ago, the Alchemists’ Bell Tower said that they wanted to contribute to the Empire and took in some orphans and children from the slums. They taught them and made them do menial chores. I think they said the age range was between 5 and 15?”
15 years ago. It was a decent amount of time.
“The citizens of the Empire sent tributes to the Alchemists’ Bell Tower that they had considered to be terrible and now, the personal disciple of the Tower Head, is a child from the slums.”
Some orphans and slum children had shown different levels of success.
“Then the Alchemists’ Bell Tower announced that they had sent the remaining children to the Alchemy Towers across the Empire.”
People had believed them because successful children from the slums had delivered the news.
Cale smiled while looking at the pale middle-aged man.
“However, they stopped doing that shit about 10 years ago.”
Cale was calling that praised action, ‘shit.’
Cale threw a few pages of paper onto the table.
“This was because 10 years ago was when they started to conspire with the Empire’s royal family in order to kidnap the citizens and use them for experiments.
Cale tapped on the documents that described this situation as he continued to speak.
“They no longer needed the children that they could kill without worrying about any consequences.”
Cale was no longer speaking formally. Although they were both sitting down, Cale was looking at the man as if he was looking down at him. The pale middle-aged man barely managed to get a few words out.
However, Cale was not someone who would stop just like that. He continued to speak to this pitiful man.
“And you appeared in these slums 10 years ago.”
This middle-aged man was supposedly not a part of the capital’s Alchemists’ Bell Tower.
There were a couple other Alchemy Towers across the Empire.
If it was 10 years ago, this man would have been young as well.
That was the reason Cale focused on this man after listening to Billos’s report.
This man’s 10 years and the 10 years described in the information given to him by the Saint. They seemed to be related.
Cale observed the alchemist who seemed to be feeling both sorrow and fear as he continued to speak.
“I hear that the people of the slums, especially the children, like you and call you ahjussi or even uncle?”
There were many nicknames used to address this person, as nobody knew his name.
That was why Cale had come looking for him.
“I heard that you spend the remainder of your money after you buy your alcohol to buy food for the children.”
The children of the slums like this alcoholic alchemist. It was because he always gave them food and healed their injuries.
Cale asked the man with the shaking pupils.
“Who are you?”
Who was this person that was acting like a fake alchemist and had amputated his own hand because it was poisoned by dead mana?
“I, I, I-”
The middle-aged man could not respond properly. Chaos, concern, and fear. The man who was full of those emotions, as well as some others, was severely shaking.
Cale started to speak again.
“The Bell Tower has developed a dead mana bomb.”
The alchemist’s shaking body stopped shaking for a moment. However, his eyes were still shaking as if he could not believe it.
“I’m sure that it was thanks to the children who died 15 years ago, as well as the people who were used as guinea pigs for the last 10 years.”
The middle-aged man let out a noise that was either a cry or a moan and covered his face.
He was a beginner alchemist who had run away after finding out the truth 10 years ago. The now middle-aged man felt suffocating fear fill his body.
It was the fear coming from guilt.
At that moment, the man who felt like he was drowning in a swamp of fear could hear the priest’s voice.
“I plan to destroy the Alchemists’ Bell Tower.”
He heard the priest say one other word.
Definitely destroy it.
That sentence roared like thunder through the fear. The man who had curled up moved his right hand away from his face and looked toward the priest.
The priest had a scary expression on his face. This indifferent gaze that showed neither happiness, anger, nor support was scary. The priest started to speak again.
“I will ask you one more time. Who are you?”
Cale looked down at the curled-up man.
He was a bad but good person.
Although his skills were so-so, he was someone with a conscience and a sense of guilt and responsibility.
He was someone who knew how to regret. He was someone with his own sense of morals.
Cale had determined that a church alone would make it difficult when he re-established the Church of the Sun God in the Empire.
That meant that he needed another source of power as well.
That was why Cale had thought about the Whipper Kingdom’s Civil War.
He thought about the mages in hiding who were not a part of the Magic Tower. They had rebelled against the Magic Tower and gone into hiding.
He was certain that there would be alchemists in the same situation, even if there were only a few.
He needed to draw them out to the surface.
He also needed someone to serve as their leader.
This leader figure was the one Cale was trying to put to work.
Raon’s voice could be heard in Cale’s mind.
– Human, did this alcoholic experiment on those poor children 15 years ago as well?
Cale had no way of knowing. They were all pretty much the same to him.
He heard the middle-aged man’s voice at that time.
“R, Rei Stecker. That is my name.”
Rei Stecker. A beginner alchemist with so-so skills who had been at the Empire’s Southern Alchemy Tower as a trainee for just one month. He had said his name for the first time in 11 years.
His memories from 11 years ago seemed to pour into him as soon as he said his name.
“One month. They put me, a trainee, in charge of the children of the slums for one month. They told me that the children were from the capital. I did not know anything as I looked after them and I-”
He had become close to them.
“Then I saw an experiment one month later. During that experiment-”
Rei’s shoulders flinched. The skinny middle-aged man’s body seemed as if it would fall.
He had held the hand of the child he was the closest with. He wanted to save the child. The child’s fingernails had scratched the back of his hand at that time and Rei had been poisoned by the dead mana.
The Southern Alchemy Tower tried to get rid of him. He had cut off his own wrist and started to run. He ran like a mad man. They stopped chasing him 1 year later, as if they assumed that he had died.
“I saw what those bastards were doing during that experiment.”
“Rei Stecker, I did not come here to listen to your story.”
Rei looked toward the priest.
“I came to hire you. I heard that you do anything as long as you get paid?”
Those words calmed Rei Stecker down. He then looked toward the bottle of dead mana on the table. He also saw the documents with the Bell Tower’s secrets.
The priest in front of him was being serious.
“I will give you as much money as you want. Will you follow me regardless of what my conditions are?”
Rei Stecker asked in a shaking voice after hearing the priest’s question.
“… You plan to destroy the Bell Tower?”
Rei jumped up.
He then walked over to a corner of the room and lifted up a wooden plank. There was a box underneath it.
Rei opened the bottle and took out a glass jar.
He placed the jar on top of the table.
There was a black hand inside of the jar. A hand that would not rot.
There was a small scratch on the back of that hand.
Rei Stecker could not throw away the hand that had held onto the child.
Cale could see that guilt and anger was burning in Rei’s eyes.
Cale started to speak.
“Wait for me. I will return with a contract.”
“I do not need money. Please help me resolve my guilt.”
Cale stopped for a moment before getting up. He looked toward Rei, who was looking at him intently, and started to speak.
“If that is what you want in return, that is what we will do.”
Although Cale looked calm, Rei started to frown. The corners of his lips were shaking.
Cale said one last thing to him before he left the shabby house.
“Drink the cold water and return to your senses. I don’t care much for alcoholics.”
Cale left after saying that and the door closed behind him.
Rei Stecker looked at the door for a while before lifting up the bowl of cold water and drinking all of the water inside.
He put the bowl back down on the table and started to speak.
“Now I feel refreshed.”
He had not felt this way for 11 years.
* * *
The first day of the investigation.
Crown prince Alberu looked at the Church of the Sun God’s Vatican and whispered to Cale.
“There is a secret table in a secret room?”
Their extremely friendly-looking position made the guards, secretaries, and servants curious, but none of that was Cale’s issue. Cale sincerely responded to Alberu’s question.
“Yes, your highness. Apparently, it is a pile of treasure.”
Alberu grunted and hid his smile.
Cale watched Alberu and recalled what the Saint, Jack, had told him.
‘…I’m not sure if they managed to find the Condemnation of the Sun.’
The Condemnation of the Sun.
The name alone was amazing enough for the Saint to wield as he fought against the enemies and gathered the believers.