After we leave Benno’s room, Lutz and I are led out of the shop by Mark and towards a warehouse near the south gates . It seems like the south gates are where a lot of craftsmen work, so there are a lot of warehouses in this part of the town . Also, there are a lot more water wells around here than in the residential districts, since craftsmen likely use a lot of water in their work .
The warehouse that Mark leads us to has a well right next to it . It’s not a particularly large space; at a glance, it looks to be about three by three and a half meters wide . 1 It looks like it was originally used for workers to store raw materials in, with rough wooden shelves nailed onto the walls . The inside has been roughly swept out, so while it’s still a little dusty it doesn’t seem like we’ll need to do any thorough cleaning . As I look around, I notice that both a pot and a bag full of something have already been left in a corner .
“When the items you order arrive at the shop, we’ll send an employee to bring them here . Yesterday, they brought the pot and the ash you ordered; they are in the corner there . Today, the large tub and the stone weight will be arriving . Please be here when they arrive . ”
As I look at the black pot that Mark is pointing at, my heart fills with gratitude for Benno’s assistance . A pot, something that Lutz and I could absolutely never have gotten on our own, is here .
“Whoa, a pot!!” I exclaim . “Lutz! Can you carry this?”
“Yeah, if it’s this size . I could also strap it to my back, instead . ”
“Well, let’s measure it! We need to figure out how big the steamer’s going to be . ”
I have a set of ordering materials, that I borrowed from Benno’s shop, in my tote bag . As I rush to take out the measuring tape, Lutz casually takes it from my hands .
“…Sure, let’s measure it, but let’s calm down a little first . If you get too excited, you’ll get sick again . ”
Mark smiles wryly as he watches our exchange .
“If there’s no problems with this warehouse, then I’ll be returning to the shop today . Tomorrow morning, I plan to go to the lumberyard, so please make absolutely sure you’ve finished measuring and ordering everything you’ll need by then . …Hmm, I’ll leave the shop at the third bell, so I think I should arrive at the central plaza shortly after that . ”
“Yes, understood!” I say . “Thank you very much for everything so far . ”
Next, he takes out a set of chains and a key, a serious expression on his face .
“I’ll leave this key with you for now . This is the key to this warehouse . When you close up here, please make very sure you don’t forget this . Then, after you’ve locked up, you need to bring this key back to the shop . Lutz, it’s alright for you to do this by yourself . All right?”
“Yes,” I reply .
After handing the heavy key to Lutz, Mark turns smoothly on his heel, then exits the warehouse .
“Lutz, shall we get started?”
This warehouse doesn’t seem to have been used very recently, so it has neither chairs nor any boxes we might sit on . This isn’t the kind of place we can really take a break .
“How about we bring in the stuff we have already? The frame we made, the bamboo, the nails…”
“Yeah, that sounds good . The things we definitely have to do today are figuring out the size of the steamer, and then the size of the wood we’re going to use, right? I want to go over what I’ve got down on these orders so far to make sure I’m not forgetting any more lumber we need… after that, we could start on making bamboo strips?”
“If we’re cutting and shaving bamboo like that, we’ll need some tools for that too . ”
I write down a list of the things we need to do today on my slate, then prop it up against the wall of the warehouse . This way, I think we won’t forget anything .
Lutz and I start heading home to get our things and bring them back to the warehouse . I’m completely unfamiliar with the part of town we’re in, so I’m very lost, but Lutz seems to know exactly where we are as he casually leads us through twisting, narrow alleyways . This warehouse is supposed to be close to the south gate and to my home, but where are we? As the question bounces around in my head, we turn a corner and arrive home . It’s very close, much to my relief, since it’ll be easy on my stamina .
“Okay,” I say, “I’ll go up and get everything in a basket and bring it back down here . ”
“Got it . ”
All I’ve got at my house is the nails . Since Lutz’s family works in the construction and woodworking industries, it’s very likely that if we’d left the bag of nails there, it’s likely that someone in his family would have thought it was their own bag and taken them off . Similarly, if we left the frame or the bamboo we’ve collected at my place, they’d probably be mistaken for firewood again and burned up, so we left those at Lutz’s .
I put the bag of nails and my knife into the basket . As an afterthought, I grab a dust rag and a broom, too . Since we don’t have anything to use as a chair, at the very least, I want to sweep out part of the floor and lay down a cloth so that we have someplace to sit .
When I head back downstairs, Lutz is already waiting for me, with all sorts of wooden things sticking out of his basket .
“Lutz, what’s that?”
“Oh, this is something Ralph messed up making the other day . I thought we could maybe use it as a chair for now . ”
“Heh heh, I also brought some things so we can sit down . ”
We head back to the warehouse, put the bag of nails on a shelf, and set the bamboo in a corner . I take out the tape measure, and the two of us measure the pot’s dimensions and decide on the size of the steamer that we’ll use, then write down on my slate the size of the wood that we’ll be steaming .
“This look okay?”
“Yeah . ”
There’s a lot of wood that we need to request from the lumberyard . We need the components for the steamer, the heavy stick we’ll use to beat the extracted fibers, the large, flat board we’ll need for the paper bed, another flat, but relatively thin board we can stick the paper to as it dries, the bamboo that we’ll need to make bamboo strips, and, of course, the wood we’ll be making the actual paper out of .
While I double-check to make sure I have everything written down on the order form, I start wondering about what sort of characteristics we want in our wood . Do we want a hard or a soft wood, an old or a young wood?
“Alright,” says Lutz, “let’s do the bamboo strips . ”
“Sure . Can you make them small enough?”
“Hmm, last time they were still pretty big . I wonder how we can make thinner ones?”
Under Lutz’s direction, we start work on making the bamboo strips . It’s relatively straightforward to make the rough cuts with single, powerful strokes, but paring them down to something more slender looks like it’s a much slower, painstaking process .
“Let me try, too . If it’s fine work, I think I can do it . ”
I take out my own knife, select a slender piece of bamboo, and try to cut it down . Halfway through, though, it suddenly snaps in two . There’s not enough length left on either side for us to be able to use it without it rattling around .
“This is really hard,” I say .
“Yeah, it really is,” says Lutz .
I look at the few, rattly strips we’ve complete, then at the frame we have to fill, judging how much we’ll need to fill it .
I really want to leave this work to people who can actually do it . The two of us have neither enough time nor skill .
As we continue to work, a call come from outside . “I’ve brought your goods!”
An employee from Benno’s shop has arrived, carrying a large tub and a stone weight that’s light enough for Lutz to lift . I have him put them in the corner, next to the pot .
“Maine,” says Lutz, “our delivery came, so let’s call it quits for today . ”
As Benno’s employee leaves to head back to the shop, Lutz starts tidying up his tools . Since it’s only just about noontime, though, I still think I have plenty of stamina to keep working .
“I can keep going, you know?”
“…Tomorrow looks pretty difficult, so you should get some rest today . Hey, didn’t you say you needed to do the cooking today?”
“Oh, that’s right . ”
My turn to cook came around while I was stuck in bed, so Tory covered for me . So, today, it’s my turn .
“Also,” he continues, “since I’m going to the lumberyard tomorrow, I have to make sure I get all of my stuff done first . ”
“I need to make sure I get my share of tomorrow’s chores done today . So, Maine, go home . I’ll go run the key back to the shop after that . ”
“Got it . ”
I nod in agreement, painfully aware of how much of a burden I am, then start putting everything back in order .
The next day, shortly after the third bell rings, we meet Mark in the central plaza, then head towards the lumberyard . It seems like Benno’s shop is the busiest between when it opens just before the second bell and when the merchants start calming down at around the third bell .
Since Lutz is here with us today, I don’t collapse on the way there, and we make it to the lumberyard safely . Logs are gathered in piles here or leaned against the walls, a scene not entirely unlike something I’ve seen in Japan . However, since everything that would usually be done via machine is instead done by hand, there’s a huge number of very well-muscled buff dudes wandering around, yelling at each other as they haul wood around and cut it down to size . It’s a very lively scene . Almost excessively lively, to the point where I’m a little bit scared .
“Ahh,” says Mark, “Foreman, it’s been a while . ”
“Oh! Mark, huh? That Benno kid’s doing pretty well, isn’t he?”
“Ah, yes . He’s doing quite well . For today’s business, though, these two are looking for some wood…”
The foreman sports a bristly mustache, peppered with gray, and a shiny bald head . He comes out to greet Mark, who tells him about our search .
“The little girl and the kid, huh? What the heck kinda wood do you need?”
His burly muscles don’t match his age at all . As he stares down at me, my breath catches in my throat with a squeak .
“Umm, I’m looking for wood so that I can make a steamer…”
“Huuuh? What kind of wood’s that?”
He repeats his question, a dubious expression on his face, leaving me at a total loss for words . I’m pretty sure that Lutz and Mark understand what I’ve been referring to when I talk about steamers, but I wonder if the foreman doesn’t actually know about them? Or, maybe, do I have to actually tell him the specific kinds of wood that I need?
“Ummm, I need something that keeps its shape even when there’s a lot of water vapor… ah, no, when there’s a lot of steam; a hard, dried wood . Could you please tell me what kinds of wood like that you have?”
“Hoh? A hard, dried wood, hm . I think I have an idea of what you might need . ”
The foreman nods to himself, then lists off the names of three different kinds of wood .
“We’ve got zwan, turaka, and pedithry . What’ll it be?”
“What will it be, you ask… Lutz, do you know?”
Even though he’s listed off some potential candidates, I have no idea at all what any of those are . I look over my shoulder at Lutz for help .
“Hmm? Zwan’s the easiest to work with, right?”
“Well then,” says Mark, “let’s go with zwan, then . You’ve decided on the sizes you’ll need, correct?”
“Yes!” I say, pulling the order forms from my tote bag . Mark looks them over, double checking to make sure there’s no errors .
“Hmm,” he says, “there are no problems here . So, foreman, please cut zwan to the dimensions listed here, then deliver it to the shop . ”
He glances over the order form, then hands it to a nearby young buff dude .
“Um,” I say, “next I need a thick board and a stand to put it on, also out of a wood that won’t warp when it’s wet . ”
“I can sell you the wood, but if you want it put together into a stand you’re gonna need to do it yourself or find a furniture maker . You want these in zwan, too?”
“Yes, please,” I say with a big nod, handing him the order form for the thick board . He huffs as he looks it over, then I pull out another form to hand to him .
“This sure is a lot,” he says .
“I’ve still got more,” I reply . “This is for two boards, which need to be able to get wet, and also need to be thin . ”
“How thin?” he says, with a frown . “If you cut wood too thin, it’ll start bending when you put any weight on it, y’know?”
I hum tonelessly, digging through my memories . When the image of the board that we’ll be sticking the paper onto pops into my mind, I clap my hands together in inspiration, then take out my slate from its bag . The slate pencil clacks against the surface as I draw a diagram .
“Ummm, it’s going to be set in a frame and reinforced from the back like this, so something thick enough that it won’t bend when that happens . I’m worried about the weight; I know I’m not going to be able to lift, it, but if Lutz can’t…”
“I’d be a failure of a man if I couldn’t lift something that big,” interjects Lutz .
There’s no way that Lutz could even begin to compare himself to that brawny foreman . A little anxious, I turn to face him, but before I can open my mouth he’s already wearing an unpleasant frown .
“I’m a man,” he says, “so it’s all right . ”
If Lutz talks too big now, he’s going to wind up paying for it later, but if I say anything now, I’ll only be wounding his masculine pride, so I let it slide .
“Next,” I say, “we’ll need a squared timber out of a hard wood, like a club, or like the rod you use when you’re beating your laundry . This also needs to be a size and weight that Lutz can carry and swing around . ”
“This sounds completely different than a laundry rod, though? What are you hitting?”
Those were the two things that came to mind when I was thinking of things that you use to hit other things, but it seems that since a club is a weapon and a laundry rod is something mothers hit their washing with, the materials must be very different .
“Wood fibers,” I reply . “We’ll be boiling them until they’re limp, then beating them until they’re soft like cotton . ”
“What’re you making, again?”
I cross my fingers in front of my mouth, making an X . “Sorry, but I can’t tell you . ”
The foreman huffs again . “Getting the hardness and the weight balanced’ll be important, huh . If we’re gonna get this right, what kind of surface are you going to be doing this on? Stone? Wood? There’s more variables on top of that, too, yeah?”
All of my blood rushes to my head . I had completely forgotten that we’d need some sort of chopping block built that we could beat the fibers on top of .
“…I, I didn’t think about that . R, r, right, we need a block for that too! Can we order those as a set, please? I can write out the order right now!”
“Yeah, if you wanted to do it as a set you could add that to the order here, but… little girl, you’re going to write it?”
“Yes, I will…?”
My head pounds with the realization of my thoughtless mistake . Trying desperately to recover somehow, I immediately take out the measuring tape, the ink, and the pen from the order-writing set, then I add to the form the dimensions of the chopping block, underneath the description of the stick itself .
“Mister,” I say to the foreman, “will this do?”
“Yeah, that’ll do . Is that your entire order?”
“No, next is… um, is there a kind of wood that has really long, tough fibers? If possible, we’re looking for wood with sticky fibers, but if you can’t then it’s okay as long as they can stick together well enough and we can get a lot of them from the wood . I heard that year-old wood is the best for this; after the second year the fibers get too hard and brittle so they get really hard to work with . So, we’re looking for a young, soft wood . ”
As I list out the characteristics of the wood that would be easiest to use in paper, the foreman’s reaction isn’t very good . He tugs on his mustache in thought, frowning .
“Hmmm . Wood that young isn’t very useful, so we don’t actually carry anything like that . ”
It seems that this lumberyard doesn’t deal in year-old woods unless they get a special order for it .
“Um, then, if you have any idea what kinds of wood might have those traits, could you please at least give us a list of them? We don’t know exactly what kind of wood we’ll be using, so we can gather the small quantities we need ourselves to test . When we find out what we do need, though, can we order it through you?”
“I can’t say until I know how much you’re ordering . If it’s too little, it’s hard for me to make any money . ”
“I understand . …Lutz, could you please find out about the names of these trees and where we can find them? I don’t think I could tell them apart, myself . ”
It looks like we’re going to have to gather our raw materials ourselves after all, at least to start . Once we get our prototype finished we’ll have figured out what kind of wood we’re going to want to use, so then when we start mass production we’ll be able to place an order for it .
Lutz goes off with one of the young buff dudes to learn about the different kinds of wood and how to distinguish them . Meanwhile, I take out a bamboo strip to show the foreman and ask some questions .
“Ah, that’s right,” I say, “We need bamboo strips like this; do you have bamboo here?”
“Not that much, but yeah, we do,” he says, pointing towards one of the many piles of lumber . There, I see the familiar shapes of bamboo poles stacked up .
“Could you make these bamboo strips here?”
“Fine work like that is a craftsman’s job . Ask a craftsman . ”
“A craftsman, okay . Thank you very much . Um, that’s everything in my order for today . ”
“Alright,” he says, looking over the stack of order forms . “When it’s all done, you want it sent to Benno’s shop, right?”
All of the order forms I handed him are being placed in Benno’s name . Since we have a contract saying that he’ll provide the initial material investment in exchange for my simple shampoo, it seems that Benno’s the one doing all of the actual ordering . It seems that the formality of having Benno purchase and receive the goods, then have them delivered to us is important to the way the contract magic works .
“Yes, please . Thank you very much for your assistance . ”
The foreman heads back off to his duties . As I wait for Lutz to come back, I stick my hand into my tote bag and feel around, making sure I didn’t accidentally forget to turn a form in . All I have left are the order for the stand, which I need to find a furniture maker for, and the order for the bamboo strips, which I need to find a craftsman for .
Hmmm, what should we do about the stand for the paper bed? To be honest, a stand like that doesn’t seem like the kind of thing I need to expressly go to a furniture maker in order to get .
“…Mister Mark,” I say, “Do you have any wooden boxes at the shop that we could use for a table? I think it would be wasteful to ask a furniture maker to make a custom one . ”
“Ah, I understand . I’ll make to find some for you . How many do you need?”
“We’re going to need two that are the same size so that we can put a board on top of them . I’d be really happy if we could get two or three more, but the size of those doesn’t really matter . ”
Mark readily agrees, since this will be far cheaper than ordering something custom from a furniture maker . When Lutz comes back, Mark says that it’s time to split up for the day .
“Perhaps we should go to the craftsman’s workshop another day . I’d be unable to get in contact with one today, so shall we part ways here?”
“Alright,” I say . “Thank you very much . ”
The next day, we head to the forest to gather firewood . While we’re at it, I try to figure out if there was any trees out here that might work for making paper, but since Lutz is ultimately far more knowledgable about this than I am, I basically just foist the entire task off onto him . I mean, every single tree I see looks just like every other tree to me! Sure, there’s differences in the color and texture of their bark, but there’s so many different variations, I can’t actually remember any at all .
Then, when we stop by the shop to borrow the warehouse key so that we can store what we’ve found, Mark informs us that he was able to get in contact with a craftsman who could help us .
Mister Mark, you’re amazing at your job . Such a quick worker .
Thanks to Mark, five days after our visit to the lumberyard, we’re able to meet with a craftsman . As usual, we meet in the central plaza around the third bell, then head towards our destination . It seems that since this craftsman’s workshop gets a lot of traffic from other workers, it’s located near the south gates .
Unlike the foreman at the lumberyard, this craftsman is, if I had to describe him, a rather slender man . He has the muscles he needs to do his job, but the rest of his physique is the embodiment of minimizing unnecessary things . His ashen hair reaches down to his back, loosely tied into a ponytail so that it doesn’t get in the way of his work .
“What’s the job?”
He scans me up and down with his sharp eyes, the picture of the neurotic artisan . I reflexively cling to Mark’s pant leg .
“I’d like thin bamboo strips like this,” I say, pulling one of the ones we’ve already made out of my tote bag and handing it to him . “I asked at the lumberyard if they could make it, but the foreman said I should go see a craftsman…”
He turns the imprecisely cut strip over in his hands, his mouth pursed .
“Do you need it to be wavy like this?”
“I tried to make it as straight as possible…”
“Hm, if I account for your lack of skill, it’s clear what you’re looking for . Got it . Those are the ingredients?”
The craftsman points at the bamboo that Lutz has in a basket on his back, which we retrieved from the warehouse on our way here . We take it out of the basket and stack it up for him .
“That all you need?”
“Um! I’m hoping that you could make a ‘bamboo mat’, do you think you can?”
I draw a diagram on my slate, then use the one bamboo strip I have as a prop as I try to explain what I’m looking for . Despite my crude explanation, it seems that the craftsman somehow manages to capture the image of what I’m looking for .
“That’s going to be a real pain to make, but I can’t say I can’t make it . ”
“But, I can’t make that work if I don’t have a strong enough thread . Go get me some of that before you place the order . ”
He flicks his hands at us as he talks, shooing us away . However, there’s no way I can let myself be driven out like this . After all, I have literally zero idea as to what kind of thread is going to be tough enough to work .
“Umm, I’m sorry, but I don’t really know what thread is strong enough for you . Would you be able to help me look, please?”
“I’m free to head to the thread wholesaler right now, so I can, sure . ”
I lift my fist enthusiastically to the sky . I’m quite happy that this disagreeable-looking craftsman suddenly said something so cooperative .
“Oi, Maine,” scolds Lutz from behind me, grabbing me by the top of the head . Pouting, I spin around to face him . He glares at me, his green eyes narrowed in irritation .
“Don’t be so rash . You’re the first one who’s gonna pay for that, you know . ”
“It seems that today she would like to be carried in my arms today as well, doesn’t it?” says Mark .
“Eek?!” I say .
I don’t know if he clearly remembers how much I hated having been carried all the way home last time; his pleasant smile shows no indication either way as he approaches me . As I cautiously back up, the craftsman, sounding irritated, speaks up .
“Are we going or not? Pick one!”
“We’re going, of course,” says Mark . “Maine said so after all . Right?”
Mark captures me, lifts me up in his arms, and hauls me off to the thread wholesaler . Since we don’t have to worry about watching my walking pace, there’s a big difference in our speed . I’m quietly surprised that, even though I’m being held in his arms, it’s a remarkably smooth ride . I let out a dissatisfied sigh, my face near his shoulder .
I’d planned to keep forging on, but I just wound up being a bother again…
Since the thread wholesaler is along the workers’ streets, it’s not actually very far away . Even still, as someone who’s mentally an adult, being carried in someone’s arms like this makes me want to flee far, far away . When we arrive at the wholesaler, he finally lets me down, letting me walk on my own two feet while in the store .
“Whoa, there’s so much thread here!”
“Yep,” mutters the craftsman, “because it’s a wholesaler . For thread . ”
Despite his quip, I’m still amazed by the spectacle of the huge quantity of thread that’s gathered here . In this city, the stalls in the town market don’t carry anything more than what they can reasonably sell to individual customers, and the shops on the first floor of buildings along the main streets have limited amounts of merchandise on display, just enough for samples, to minimize the damage that a robber or a burglar might cause . It’s very rare to see so much of a commodity crammed into a space like this .
“Which of these are the tough ones?” I ask .
In Japan, the thread we use to when making bamboo keta mats is spun from raw silk . Here, I don’t know if silkworms, let alone silk, actually exist, so I don’t know how to pick a strong enough string .
“Silk from a spinne would be the strongest, especially any harvested during their breeding season in the fall . However, it’s expensive, yeah?”
I glance at Mark questioningly, and he returns my glance . I’m not the one actually in charge of the money . Mark is, as he’s been entrusted with the final say over the contents of Benno’s purse .
“Spinne silk would be fine, but it shouldn’t be necessary to be particular about it being from the fall, is it?”
“…Yeah, you’re right, but is spinne silk really okay?”
“Yes, it would be . ”
It seems like spinne silk is a very highly-priced item . The craftsman slowly, gingerly takes down a spool from a shelf full of the most expensive, highest quality goods . Startled, I exchange another glance with Mark .
“However,” he says, “if there are complaints about the final product, I will not forgive your mistakes . I trust that you’ll finish this task to perfection . ”
Mark briefly looks over the order form that I’ve retrieved from my tote bag, then hands it and my sample bamboo stick to the craftsman with a broad smile .
“I leave this in your capable hands . ”
“…Yeah . ”
Two postcard-sized mats to fit the paper frames . With that, all of the orders for our tools have been successfully placed, without any trouble at all . I breathe a sigh of relief .
After that, I wind up playing house-sitter at the warehouse for a while, watching as the goods we ordered start to arrive . As that happens, Lutz and I work to build our tools using the parts that have reached us already .
All the while, we routinely head into the forest to do our gathering, and although we make sure to help around the house enough that we won’t get scolded by our families, we steadily gather our raw materials .
We don’t yet know if we’re going to use edil fruit or the bodily fluids from a slamo bug as a substitute for sunset hibiscus sap, so we start by trying edil fruits . It seems that in the autumn, when winter preparations begin, the sticky juice from an edil fruit is commonly spread along window frames, which are then stuffed with cloth to seal the windows off from drafts . As such, in just a little while, the number of fruits available at the town market is going to start decreasing, and the price is probably going to start going up, too . So, since it seems like we won’t be able to use edil fruit, we’re going to need to use slamo bug juice .
Also, when it came time to go shopping for edil fruit, I was once again laid out with a fever, so Lutz went to meet Mark by himself . I heard from Lutz that he was finally able to get some valuable experience from working with Mark, so I briefly wondered if I’ve been butting in a little too much .
By the time all of our raw ingredients have been collected, my health has recovered, and we are finally able to start working on making the paper itself, a month and a half has passed since our very first meeting with Benno .
Translator’s notes for this chapter:
1 . The original measurement is given as “6 tatami mats” . Tatami mats are a kind of woven floor, built to standardized panel sizes, and rooms are generally sized by the number of panels you could fit into the room . A standard layout for a 6-tatami room is about 2 . 75 x 3 . 65 meters; I’ve rounded to the nearest half-meter to preserve the roughness of the measurement .