Ascendance of a Bookworm – 045
This is the season where it’s absurdly difficult to get out of bed in the morning . While I hide under the sheets, grumbling about how cold it is, my father, who’s already almost done getting ready for work, calls out to me .
“Maine, are you feeling alright today?”
“Hmm? No worse than usual? What’s up, Daddy?”
I wonder if he saw me squirming around under the covers and guessed that I’d come down with something? I abruptly hop out of bed, earning a worried frown from my father .
“Otto wants to meet with you to discuss this winter’s work, so he asked me if you’d come to the gate when the weather was clear and you’re feeling all right . ”
“Oh! I don’t have a fever today, and I don’t have anything arranged with Mister Benno either, so I’ll go to the gate today . ”
The gates open at the second bell, so when it draws near, I wave goodbye to my father as he heads off to work . Then, quickly, I change my clothes, right there on top of the bed .
“Mommy, Tory . I’m gonna go to the gate today . ”
“Oh yeah,” says Tory . “There’s not that much stuff left in the forest to gather anymore . Mom, it’s better for Maine to stop going to the forest now, right?”
“You’re absolutely right,” replies my mother . “If she gets a fever and faints again she’d be in big trouble, so it’s for the best that she doesn’t go to the forest with just the other kids anymore . ”
Lately, the weather has gotten very chilly, and the season where it’s easiest to catch a cold has come around . Lately, there are more and more days where even I can recognize that my physical condition isn’t particularly good . If I keep pushing hard, I’ll only be a burden to everyone around me, so I should take care of myself and stay out of the forest .
“Hey, Maine!” calls Lutz as I head down the stairs carrying only my tote bag . “You going to the gate today?”
In order to make sure I don’t catch a cold, I’ve been dressed in a ton of layers of clothing . Unlike me, the other children look comparatively nimble, since being bundled up like I am makes it rather difficult to move . There isn’t very much time left before the snow starts to fall, so today’s the last spurt of activity towards gathering firewood .
I walk along with the other children as they head towards the gates . Lately, I’ve been able to walk fast enough that I don’t get separated from the rest of the children anymore . Every time I try to push a little harder, though, Lutz shoots me down with a stern warning .
“Right, so we’ll stop by here on our way back, so wait here, okay?”
“Okay! Good luck with your gathering, Lutz!”
I wave farewell from the gates as the others continue on towards the forest . I don’t see my father anywhere, but I find one of the younger gatekeepers I’ve made acquaintances with and have him let me into the night duty room .
“Mister Otto, are you here? It’s Maine!”
As I open the door and step inside, I see that the shelves along the walls are packed full of thin wooden boards for the budget estimations .
“Hey, Maine! Thanks for coming out . ”
“Hello, Mister Otto, it’s been a while . ”
After we exchange crisp salutes, he ushers me to the chair closest to the fire . It’s a little on the tall side, so I have to halfway climb up onto it, but once I’m settled, I pull my slate and slate pencils out of my bag .
“How often do you think you’ll be able to make it out here this winter?” he asks .
“Ummm, I talked it over with my father, but we decided that I could come on days when I’m feeling well, the snow isn’t too bad to walk in, and my father is working either the morning or day shift . ”
First of all, there aren’t very many days during the winter where I’m feeling very well . Since I’m at least a little bit stronger this year than last, I really hope that the number of times I catch a cold and wind up stuck in bed are both rare and brief, but I have no way to really predict how often it will actually be .
Next is the weather . There aren’t very many days during the winter where there isn’t a snowstorm, either . On sparklingly clear days, there’s nothing to worry about . My father says there’s nothing to worry about on days when the snowfall is light, but once it actually starts drifting from the sky I think he’ll stop me .
And, finally, my father will be on the night shift for basically a third of the winter in total .
“Most likely,” I continue, “I’ll barely need two hands to count the number of days I’ll be able to come out here, I think . ”
“…Well, I’d guessed as much, but really, you only helped me out for one day last year and it was still a huge help, so I’ve really got my hopes up for this year, too . I’ll be very glad for your help no matter how often you can come . ”
It’s a good thing that I’ll be able to earn a bunch of slate pencils by just doing calculation work . Since this year I’ll be helping with Lutz’s education, we’ll need a lot more slate pencils than I did last year, so I plan on working as hard as I can .
“Ah! When I’m working on the estimations, you’ll be providing the slate pencils I’m using, not me, right?”
“Heh… hahaha! Well, aren’t you thinking like a merchant now? Of course the slate pencils are part of the cost . Don’t worry about it, just calculate . ”
After I suddenly remembered the question I needed to ask, Otto’s eyes went round for a moment before he burst into laughter . I may be getting laughed at, but at least now I can do my work without any doubts . I roll up my sleeves a little so that I won’t accidentally rub out any numbers, then pick up my slate pencil .
“All set,” I say .
“Right, here’s today’s work . ”
Otto brings over an enormous pile of wooden boards and drops them on the table with a clatter . These are the tallies of the furnishings and equipment used by the higher-ups at their duty station . It seems like Otto is in charge of doing the accounting for this entire post . Hanging his head, he tells me that he’d brought this on himself by pointing out a mistake in one of his superiors’ calculations .
I start working on totaling up the sums, triple-checking my work to make sure that I don’t make any mistakes, either .
“Otto, you here?! Come out, it’s an emergency!”
A soldier bursts into the room, looking frantic . Otto quickly jots a line down on his sheet to mark his place, then dashes out of the room, telling me over his shoulder not to let anyone touch his calculator .
It seems that, for some reason, the entire guard contingent at the gate has been called to action . From the corridor on the other side of the door, I can hear the rush of countless footsteps, amplified to a roar by echoes off the stone pavement . In this enormous commotion, there’s nobody outside that I could ask what’s happening right now .
I’ve been to the gate countless times to help out, but this is the first time I’ve seen it be this ridiculously noisy . Left all by myself in this room, I feel thick, cold anxiety slowly oozing into my heart .
Is it… okay, for me to be here?
I take a deep breath, trying to steady my nerves . As I look around the empty room I’ve been left alone in, I suddenly feel the lurch of vertigo . My fever, refusing to overlook even the tiniest lapse in my concentration, suddenly thrashes about within me, as if it’s pointing out the weakness in my heart . Recalling my life’s irritations, I send my will through my body, forcing the fever back into the depths of my heart, imagining screwing a lid shut on it so tightly that it cannot escape .
“…Whoof, I’m tired . ”
After struggling so hard against the devouring, my anxiety about what’s happening outside has dramatically decreased . I sit back down to resume my calculations, but Otto immediately comes back into the room . He quickly finishes up the calculations he’d finished thus far, and starts tidying up his share of the paperwork .
“It looks like a bunch of tronbay has appeared in the forest . The kids came running for help, so more than half of the gate guard headed out to deal with it . I’ve got to go stand by the gate, but, Maine, can you stay here and keep working? Also, if any letters of introduction show up, I’ll direct them here, so please take care of them for me . ”
“Right, understood . ”
With the cause of the disturbance identified, I feel a little bit better, and I get back to tackling the remaining work . Now that I think about it, Lutz had mentioned that tronbay started coming around in the fall . I wonder, maybe we can get some tronbay for ourselves .
Hm? Although, it looks like the soldiers will be participating as well, so maybe it’s grown too much by now, to the point that we won’t be able to use it for paper? I wonder…
Last time, it was possible for the children to cut it down by themselves, so I turn back to my calculations, thinking that it’s not something anybody should be quite so worried about . After a while, though, I once again hear the clamor of people talking though the closed door .
“Maine,” says Otto, “Lutz has come back . He says he has something he wants to discuss with you and would like for you to return home with him . What do you think?”
“If he cut down any tronbay, I think that’s what he’ll want to talk with me about, so I’ll go home . I’ve finished the calculations from here to here . ”
“Thanks, Maine, you’re a great help . ”
By the gate, I can see soldiers and children alike milling about, seeming to have just returned from the forest and carrying bundles of raw tronbay . As I scan the crowd, looking for Lutz, my father rushes up to me, a chunk of wood as big as I am hoisted up on his shoulder .
“Maine! Look at the size of this tronbay that your daddy cut down!”
“Whooa, that’s big! Is that gonna be firewood?”
“No, tronbay doesn’t burn very easily, so we won’t do that . I’m going to make furniture out of it instead . When there’s big house fires, things made of tronbay sometimes don’t burn up, so it’s used for making things you put your valuables in . ”
“…Huh, I didn’t know that . That’s really cool!”
As expected of such a mysterious plant . To not burn up, even in a huge fire… that’s not even wood, anymore!
As I let out an astonished breath at this new surprise, I notice Lutz standing behind my father, beckoning me closer .
“What’s up, Lutz?” I ask .
“Heh, Lutz,” says my father, looking down at the basket on Lutz’s back, “were those skinny sticks all you could manage to cut down?”
He puffs out his chest pridefully, like he’s just won a competition . I’d really like him to stop competing against children . It’s embarrassing . I let out a long, exasperated sigh, but I can see a lot of the other soldiers and children nearby comparing the size of the trees and branches they cut down, since it’s so difficult to cut down once it matures .
“There’s not really any use for thin branches like that,” says one .
Since tronbay hard to burn, you can’t use sticks like that as firewood, and such young, soft wood couldn’t hold back the heat of a blaze, so it can’t be used as furniture, either .
“These sticks are uuuuseless!” says another child . Out of the corner of my eye, I see him angrily chuck the pile of slender branches he was caring to the ground with a clatter .
“Ah, those are perfect for me,” I say .
Even if that child doesn’t need them, they’re perfect materials for making high-grade paper . It would be an enormous waste to throw away such slender, soft wood .
“You really don’t need them?” I ask .
Suddenly noticing how many people were staring at him, the boy runs off, shouting at me over his shoulder . As I gather up the pile of sticks he discarded, other children come up to me, offering me similarly slender tronbay cuttings out of their own baskets .
“Hey, take these too . All I’d get if I brought these home is my dad mad at me . ”
“I’ll give these to you . I don’t need them . ”
Shortly, a huge quantity of sticks has been piled up around me .
“Lutz, I’ve… got a lot of wood here . ”
“…Yep . ”
Lutz and I set to neatly organizing the pile of branches into neat stacks, then cramming Lutz’s basket as full as it can get . My father, dumbfounded by this turn of events, looks back and forth between me, Lutz, and the overstuffed basket, a troubled scowl on his face .
“…Hey, Maine . What are you going to do with all that?”
“We use young, soft wood to use, so this is good . Lutz, let’s go?”
I turn my back on my father and walk away . Lutz follows, scratching his head, looking a little troubled himself .
“When I was cutting the tronbay down, I was thinking we could use it as raw materials too, but… we have to actually use it within like five to seven days, right, otherwise it doesn’t work?”
“Yeah, that’s right, what’s wrong?”
“…What do we do now? I really don’t want to go stand in the river during this season, and we don’t have enough extra firewood to steam this stuff for over a bell… do we give up?”
I’m well aware that in this season, even if you were to go to the forest, you wouldn’t find very much in the way of firewood, but I’m also certain that if we let all this tronbay go to waste for such a reason, Benno would be so indignant that his eyes might pop out of his skull .
“…I understand what you’re saying, but maybe we should go talk to Mister Benno first?”
“Yeah, I guess he’d get real mad if we just threw it away on our own . ” He lets out a long sigh . “Man… I reeeally don’t want to go stand in the river when it’s this cold out . ”
We plod our way towards Benno’s shop, but, as one might expect, the watchman outside tells Lutz that he can’t let him in looking like he just came back from gathering sticks in the forest, so he’ll have to stay outside . At the watchman’s call, Mark comes out from within the store and escorts me inside . A customer is just leaving Benno’s office when I enter the store . As we pass each other, he looks down at me, notes my mismatched appearance, and snorts disdainfully .
I really should order those clothes sooner rather than later . I don’t want to lessen the dignity of Benno’s shop just by being here . I need to keep saving as much money as I can .
Benno looks mildly surprised when I’m shown into his office .
“What is it? We didn’t have a meeting scheduled today, right?”
“We didn’t have anything schedule, no, but I needed to talk to you… to be frank, tronbay showed up in the forest today . ”
As soon as the words leave my mouth, Benno stands up so suddenly that his chair clunks behind him . He leans forward excitedly across his desk .
“Did you say tronbay?! Did you cut it down?!”
“Yes, sir, we were able to get quite a lot of it . It’s just, well…”
“What is it?”
“Making it into paper is… hard . ”
He frowns dubiously at me, not seeming to understand . I open my mouth to reply, guessing that he’s absolutely about to get angry .
“Ummm, well, we, we need to steam the wood for a bell’s worth of time, which we don’t have enough firewood for, and then we…”
I was about to say that we couldn’t soak it in the river like we need to, but before I could finish listing all of our reasons, Benno impatiently cut me off, yelling in a voice like the crash of thunder .
“You can buy firewood literally any time of the year! You can’t possibly have thought of comparing it to tronbay, which is exceedingly rare! And don’t even try to tell me that you can’t do that cost/benefit math!”
“…That’s what I thought you were going to say . Since I’d like to buy firewood, may I ask Mister Mark to take me to the lumberyard?”
Since there is no way that anyone could possibly mistake me for a child who has already had her baptism, if I were to walk up to a store and ask for some firewood they’d probably just look at me suspiciously and shoo me away .
“Waiting outside, sir . We came here immediately after he returned from the forest, so he’s not really presentable enough to enter the shop…”
As I speak, Benno rings the small bell on his desk, summoning Mark .
“Mark, please go ask Lutz if Maine is okay to walk to the lumberyard today . ”
“Certainly, sir . ”
“Maine, write up your order form here,” he says, tapping on the desk .
I shake my head . “Ummm, since all I had planned to do today was go to the gate, I don’t have any of my ordering forms with me . ”
“…I have some here . ”
Benno produces a thin wooden board and some ink, and I start writing out my order there on the spot .
“Mister Benno, I just want enough firewood to burn for one bell’s worth of time; what should I write?”
“Just write it like that . I’ll probably be able to sell off any surplus . ” “Yes, sir,” I reply .
As I write, Mark returns with Lutz’s answers .
“It seems that it would be better for Maine to not do any more walking than she has already . When you’ve finished writing up the order, he and I will head for the lumberyard ourselves . ”
“Thank you very much,” I reply .
After I hand him the finished order form and see him off, Benno hands me a stack of several wooden sheets .
“Read these when you have some time . ”
On these wooden sheets is more knowledge that could be called common knowledge for merchants: information about how contracts work . I hum happily to myself, overjoyed to be reading, but as I continue to skim, questions start steadily popping up inside my head .
“Mister Benno, will this firewood purchase be treated as part of the initial investment?”
Benno soundlessly turns to fix his gaze directly on me, giving no answer .
“Also, I’ve been thinking that this was kind of strange, but the other day when we delivered the prototype you said that that was the end of what you’d call initial investment, right? But, unless I’m mistaken, didn’t the magical contract state that it would last until our baptismal ceremonies? Are you not planning on covering the cost of the larger paper frame as part of the initial investment?”
If I had to think about why Benno would specifically have me read about contracts, the only thing that comes to mind is the subject of our contract magic .
“…Tch, you noticed?”
“Why would you try to cheat me?!”
“I wasn’t really trying to cheat you . That was a test, to see whether or not you two could remember the contents of a contract you’ve signed . I wanted to see how you’d respond if you caught your partner in violation of the contract . Since you hadn’t said anything, I was wondering if you’d forgotten . ”
He snorts dismissively, drumming his fingers on the top of his desk as he stares fixedly at me . After a brief moment of speechlessness, I lock eyes with him seriously .
“When you said that the initial investments were finished after we’d completed our prototypes, I though to myself, ‘oh, I guess that’s what it was’ . I never thought that you would try to cheat us, Mister Benno, and since the contract magic burned up the original written copy I had no way to check the terms for myself . ”
He snorts again, his lips creeping up into a sneer .
“If the original contract got burned,” he replies, shrugging, “then you should have either written down a copy elsewhere or completely memorized it . You’re too naive . ”
“…I’ll keep that in mind, sir . ”
He’s not at all wrong . If you don’t get a copy of a contract, then it’s your job to either copy it down somewhere yourself or commit it to memory . I was just foolishly leaning on the fact that I was told the penalties for breaking a magical contract were severe .
“Now that you’ve pointed that out, then, yeah, I’ll pay for the rest of the initial purchase . ”
“You say you’ll pay for it now, but don’t we have a contract that says you needed to pay for it anyway? Wouldn’t that have been a breach of contract?”
I frown at him, lips pursed tightly together . Benno, however, smiles triumphantly, looking at me with a face full of joy .
“If I’d said that I wouldn’t, that would have been a violation . This one was your fault for not doing more research . If you asked me for something, I’d pay for it and, since I paid, there wouldn’t be a violation . If you’re going to be a merchant, you have to remember these things . ”
“…Urgh…” His smirk grows only smugger when he sees how vexed I am . “If you’d read through all that information on contracts and still hadn’t noticed, I was planning on taking advantage of it even harder,” he laughs .
Since Benno so kindly gave me a hint so that I’d realize what was happening, I’m going to be optimistic about this and look at it as him trying to give me valuable training towards being a merchant… but vexing things are still so vexing .
Determined not to be fooled again, I go over the sheets again, paying much closer attention this time . When I’m in the middle, though, Benno suddenly stops working and calls out to me .
“Ah, that’s right . Maine, can you accelerate the schedule on your winter handiwork?”
“My family’s already done with preparing for the winter, more-or-less, so I think that it might be possible, if we needed to?”
The amount of time it takes for my family to complete our winter preparations is largely determined by my father’s work schedule . Although every soldier at the gate needs to prepare for the winter, there’s no way that they can all simultaneously take leave of their posts to go do so, so they take turns taking days off in order to spread the workload . Last year, my father’s days off were very late in the season, so we were only just barely able to get things finished in time for the first snowfall, but this year we’ve finished with comparatively plenty of time to spare .
“Do you think you could make about, say, ten or twenty hairpins of different colors? The guild master’s granddaughter has been bragging about hers, so I’ve had a lot of enquiries about them . …Including several that I can not turn down . ”
“I thought Frieda wanted to stand out by having the only one at the winter baptismal ceremony? Wouldn’t doing this make hers less special?”
I tilt my head doubtfully to the side . Is it really okay to do this when the entire reason we overcharged her so much was because it was going to be special, I wonder?
Benno’s eyes falter, just the tiniest bit . “…Hers are going to be the only ones that match her perfectly . The rest of them are going to be off the shelf, so that’ll make hers just stand out even more . There’s no problem . ”
“If there’s no problem, then that’s fine with me, but if you need these to be finished in a hurry, are you willing to pay for expedited service?”
He seems momentarily dumbfounded that I just demanded extra money from him . I smile sweetly back .
“Whenever and wherever you can take money, take it, it’s something to be taken,” I recite . “Right? I’m studying under you, Mister Benno, trying to be a merchant like you are . ”
I chuckle to myself as Benno makes an unreasonably disgusted expression, his entire face pulling taut .
“Ten medium copper coins per hairpin . That’s double what it was before, so there’s no problems there, right?”
“That simply won’t do . I must ask for either eleven or thirteen medium copper coins, if you would . I must consider the share of the profit that Lutz and I have previously agreed on with respect to the differences between the flower and the pin portions . If I don’t, it would be very inconvenient for me . ”
We had previously told our families that the flower portions were worth two coins and the pins were worth one . Since Lutz and I are to split the remaining coin evenly, having an odd number of coins left to split would be, honestly, a bother .
“Can’t be helped . Eleven it is . You’re getting good at this,” he says, ruefully .
“I am quite humbly delighted to be praised for such a small thing, sir . ”
“…Really, where did you learn to talk like that?” he murmurs, halfway between amazed and amused, and shrugs his shoulders .
“Ah, also,” I say, “I’d like one coin per hairpin I have to make right now . I’d prefer if this was prepayment, but if you need to take it out of my savings, that would be fine, too…”
“Alright, I don’t mind paying you in advance, but what’s this for?”
“To weave a spell of urgency,” I reply .
If I need to make ten of these before the snow starts to fall, then I need to enlist the cooperation of Tory and my mother and, in order to do that, I need to give them some motivation . My mother, in particular, has been doing winter handiwork for many years now, and knows just how large the payment I’m promising for each of these is, compared to other things she’s done . So, she has some doubts, somewhere: either we’re being deceived somehow, or even if we do make these we won’t get paid . If I can actually give them money for each of these they make, money that they can use right now for additional provisions, then not only can I earn their trust, but I can also boost their motivation as well .
A knock comes at the door, and Mark reenters the room .
“I’ve returned,” he says . “The firewood you ordered will arrive here by the time the gates close . Someone from the shop will deliver it to you tomorrow morning . ”
“Thank you very much,” I reply .
“Now then, it’s very cold outside, so please take care . ”
After Mark ushers me out of the shop, I see Lutz standing to the side, the basket on his back conspicuously empty . It seems that on the way to the lumberyard they stopped by the warehouse so that he could deposit the tronbay there . Ah, of course, no wonder that he wouldn’t have wanted to bring me along .
We walk slowly home, through streets that rapidly darken as the sun grows dim behind the horizon . It really is cold, so I want to hurry home as quickly as possible, but if I run as fast as my instincts tell me, it’s absolutely certain that I’ll get sick again .
As we plod onwards, I discuss with Lutz the plan for accelerating the schedule on our winter handiwork, telling him about how I secured an expedited delivery fee and my plans for getting my family to help so we can make it on time . Lutz nods once, then scrunches his eyebrows in concern .
“So, I’m not worried so much about what’s going to happen if I can’t get my family to help and I have to do everything by myself . It’s the tronbay I’m worried about . ”
I tilt my head to the side concernedly . Lutz lets out a huge sigh, his shoulders drooping .
“…Hey, Maine . You’ve been told you can’t go to the forest anymore, so is there actually any way we can still prepare the tronbay? Am I really going to have to do it all by myself?”
“This time I think we can do it all in front of the warehouse, so I can help you there . Although, we’d have to be outside for at least a bell, so I don’t know what my family would say about that…”
There’s no way I can actually leave the town’s gates, but if we’re talking about doing something like going to Benno’s shop, the trip itself isn’t particularly difficult . The exposure to the cold, however, is the difficult part . If I’m outside for a long period of time, the chances of me getting sick are strikingly high .
“The warehouse… you mean we don’t have to go to the river?!”
His eyes have gone very round with shock . However, even if you think about it, asking him to carry the pot, the steamer, and the firewood to the forest all by himself would be completely unreasonable .
“Before, we were getting both our raw materials and the firewood out in the forest, so it was more efficient for us to do our work out there too, but this time, we already have the tronbay and the firewood here in the workshop, right? We don’t specifically need to go out to the forest for this, so we’d be overdoing it if we dragged everything all the way out there . ”
“Ah, really? I was going to have to lug all of that stuff…”
It seems like he was so worried about the fact that he was going to have to work alone that he hadn’t even thought about the sheer quantity of stuff he was going to have to carry out to the forest .
“We won’t have river water to immediately dunk the wood into after it’s steamed, but the reason we do that is so that we can expose it to cold water in order to make it easier to peel the bark off . The water in the well should be more than cold enough this time of year . We’ll need to draw water from the well several times in order to make sure that the water we’re soaking the wood in doesn’t get lukewarm, but that’s way easier than going to the forest, right?”
However, Lutz’s face grows even more gloomy . There’s no way I could have allayed all his concerns in at once .
“That’s… easier, but… what about after that? How are we going to preserve the bark?”
“If we could get all the way to preserving the white bark, that would be great, but it’s not like it’s impossible to preserve the black bark either . It might make stripping it off a little more difficult later, but in this weather me going to the forest is dangerous, and you even thinking about going into the river is suicidal, so let’s stop there . ”
With the final cause of his worries dispelled, Lutz looks ahead, face shining . He broadens his gait just a little bit as we walk, constantly repeating things like “oh man, I’m so happy, this is a huge relief” .
When we get home, I’m going to need to ask Tory and my mother for help with the handiwork… and then we’re steaming the wood tomorrow, huh…?
As I continue to plan out what I need to do after this, my thoughts begin to drift gradually off course, perhaps because I’m really hungry .
…And now that we have a steamer, I really want to eat some piping hot steamed sweet potato, ooh, or some fluffy buttery mashed potatoes . We don’t have any sweet potato equivalent, but I’m pretty sure I can get a tuber around here that’s enough like a potato . I’ll get the potatoes, and Lutz can get the butter, so tomorrow we can have mashed potatoes, right? Aaah, that’ll be so good! Mashed potatoes are great for warming up both your body and your soul . Yep, that’s settled .
At some point, while I’m lost in my imagination, we arrive at the water well in front of our houses . Lutz stops walking and turns to look at me .
“Maine, I’ll go get the warehouse key from the shop, and then when the firewood arrives I’ll come and get you . Wait at home until then, okay?”
“Got it . Remember to get the butter, too!”
I give him a huge wave, then disappear into my building . As I climb the stairs, I can hear Lutz’s stunned voice echo in through the windows .
“Eh? What?! Butter?! What butter?! What do we need butter for?!”
Huh? Did I not tell him? Oops .