Contract Magic and Workshop Registration
“The contract is ready, Master Benno . ”
“Alright . ”
Mark has finished the necessary arrangements for the contract magic . A piece of parchment, sized for a magical contract, has been spread out on the table, and set next to it is a special inkwell, the design of which I recognize from before . Benno dips his pen into the inkwell, then smoothly begins to write the contract . Just like I remember, the ink isn’t black, but a vivid blue . When it’s ready, I take a look over the finished contract .
The right of sale for all goods produced by Maïne’s Workshop is exclusively granted to Lutz .
Establishing a proxy requires the acknowledgement of Maïne, Lutz, and Benno, and must be registered with the merchants’ guild .
“What is this sentence for?” I ask, pointing at the contract .
Benno raises his eyebrows . “Insurance . If the contract’s just between kids, then we’ll see people who think that they can intimidate you two with violence or kidnapping in order to tear it up . Dragging me and the guild into it will give you a little bit more protection against that kind of fraud . When you make contracts like this, try to find a trustworthy ally that you can use as a third party on the contract . You should remember that . ”
“…Thank you very much,” I reply .
He’s already going to the trouble of setting up a magical contract . I didn’t think he’d put himself in a position to get dragged into it too . I take the pen that Mark offers me, and sign my name at the bottom . Lutz signs his name next, followed by Benno, who seals his signature with his blood .
“Lutz, could you…?” I ask .
I squeeze my eyes tightly shut, and Lutz pricks my finger with his knife . As my bright red blood starts spreading across my fingertip, I press it firmly on top of my signature . Just like before, the instant my blood touches the parchment, it’s absorbed, and the blue ink of my signature turns black . Then, just like before, once everyone has signed and sealed the contract, the ink shines dazzlingly . The parchment seems to burn away, as if the ink had ignited it, and as the holes spread across the contract it disappears into nothingness .
As the glittering embers wink out, Benno lets out a long, slow sigh .
“For now, this gives us a good justification to make sure you two can meet, supposedly to sell goods, even if you get taken to the nobles’ quarter . Maïne, now it’s up to you to think of ways to make sure that doesn’t happen . ”
“I’ll do my best,” I say, clenching my fist .
Despite my show of confidence, Benno, Lutz, and Mark all give me extremely concerned looks .
“Unfortunately, this’ll only work on people who actually think your goods have value . ”
“If you’re up against someone who literally only cares about your mana, then they could just declare that you don’t need to do any sort of buying or selling of goods at all . …Luckily, I don’t think any of the nobility around here are rich enough to be able to just ignore a large source of potential income that they don’t even have to put any effort into . Also, this bears repeating: the magic of this contract only works within the walls of this town . Be careful . ”
“Yes, sir,” I say .
After that, we write out copies of the contract on ordinary parchment . These will be used to notify the merchants’ guild, and although they won’t have any binding power over the nobility, if something were to happen in another town, these can be used to show that a contract already exists .
“Let’s take care of the formalities today . We’ll head to the merchants’ guild now, to register Maïne’s Workshop as a workshop and get you instated as its head . Once we do that, you won’t have any troubles buying and selling goods . Also, if you demonstrate that you have alternatives besides going to the temple, as well as the ability to earn money on your own, you’ll be able to be a little more stubborn when negotiating . ”
“Yes, sir,” I say .
The merchants’ guild is on my way home, so if I can drop by there and take care of all of these formalities, then that’ll give me a little peace of mind . Benno tells Lutz to go get ready to leave immediately, and Lutz rushes upstairs to his storeroom to get changed .
I look up at Benno . “How do you make sure negotiations turn out well?” I ask .
“Good question . …First, always keep in mind what the absolute best outcome you could imagine would be . Then, use that to figure out what you need your opponent to give you . In return, you need to understand what you have to offer, and then figure out what they need . ”
Listening to Benno, I try to imagine what I really want out of this . My goal is to be able to enter and browser the library . To make that happen, I’d like to join the temple, albeit not as a gray-robed priestess who would be expected to perform physical labor . What I can offer to them is mana and money and, if Benno’s information is correct, mana and money is what they need .
We should be able to work something out, right?
“…Ah, that reminds me,” I say, “the temple master said that it’s not okay for someone to join the temple if they’re already members of another guild . He said that he would talk with the guild master about that, but I wonder how that turned out? I wonder if I’ll be able to register?”
When I suddenly recall what the temple master had told me, Benno sternly chops me on the head .
“Oi, Maïne . Stop passing off your work onto others . Actually put in the time to make sure you’re securing your advantage . You have no idea what kind of ridiculous conditions might get put on you, do you?”
“You’re right . To be honest, I hadn’t thought that the chalice was a magical tool and that I might wind up being able to live a long life, so I was really just thinking that I had about a half of a year left . I see now that I was being careless . ”
Now that I’ve found a way to prolong my life, though, and since I’ve found a library, I’m significantly more determined than I was before .
“Don’t let that determination go to waste . Use your head . ”
“I’ll be careful . ”
Lutz runs back down the stairs . Based on how hard he’s panting, he must really have been rushing . I look up at the seven story building and can’t help but be impressed at his speed . If I were to run all the way up and down those stairs, I know I’d immediately collapse .
“Alright, let’s go . ”
Benno grabs me by my sides and, as if this was his expectation all along, picks me up . Since Otto had told me that my walking speed was almost unbearably slow for a grown man to keep pace with, lately I’ve just been letting myself be carried without complaining at all . Resisting would be pointless; it would only just tire me out .
“If nobody at the temple is allowed to be in any guilds, then that means that you’ll be the only person at the temple able to deal with the merchants’ guild . If you can’t push past their objections by saying you’re already registered, then just dazzle them with money until they approve of your workshop . ”
Benno seems to want to waste no time whatsoever, so as we walk towards the merchants’ guild he lays out countermeasures and negotiation strategies, one after another . I really want to be taking notes but, regrettably, I can’t . I keep my eyes fixed on him, hoping to force as many brain cells as possible into operation to try to retain just a little more of this flood of information .
“I said this before, but there’s a high probability that since there’s fewer blue priests, there won’t be as much work for the orphans to do, and there won’t be as many donations coming in . Lay out all sorts of nice-sounding reasons, like, ‘I want to help the orphans find a better path’, or ‘I want to give them work to do’, or ‘I want to make their lives better’ . That’ll help you get approval for your workshop . The temple should be well aware of the fact that no matter what they do, they’ll need money to do it . ”
“Yes, sir,” I say .
“Incidentally, make them guarantee that you’ll have labor . Say things like ‘I’ll put them to work’, or ‘I won’t have anyone to look after my health so I won’t be able to do much on my own’, or whatever . Come up with ten or twenty different ways to say that single fact . Keep in mind that Lutz is already working at my shop, you won’t have him for half the week . ”
“Ahh, I see…”
He lays out individual, concrete, easy-to-understand plans . I nod along, sorting them out in my head . Say pretty things to secure my ability to run a workshop, and exaggerate my weakness to secure a labor force . Certainly, even if I do have a workshop, I won’t be able to do everything by myself .
“If people start understanding that these kids are able to put in honest work at a workshop despite being orphans, then there’s a possibility that other workshops are going to be willing to take in orphans as well . If new products show up on the market, and people hear that those were made by orphans, then people might start to change their minds . That’s entirely dependent on your own skill . ”
“Understood . I’ll do my best . ”
I’m a little moved by how Benno seems to not just be thinking about me, but about the orphans as well . He sighs, though, shaking his head .
“Hah… there’s got to be limits to how easily you get swept up in things, right? Don’t just take on every problem you come across . Decide what your priorities are . ”
I blink, surprised at how quickly Benno’s opinion seemed to have changed, and he raises an eyebrow at me . It seems that this was some sort of test .
“Until you’ve determined what your own position in the temple is going to be, you need to put your own interests above those of the orphans . Rather, think of how you can use those orphans and make them into your supporters . This isn’t particularly nice to say out loud, but there’s a lot more people worried about what might happen to you than people caring about those orphans, after all . ”
“…I see . ”
As I nod in comprehension, we arrive at the merchants’ guild . The door creaks as Lutz opens it for us, and Benno frowns a bit .
“If you’re making something new, or if something’s giving you trouble, or if you need something, come talk to me . It’ll cost you, of course, but I’ll do whatever I can to help . ”
“Thank you very much, Mister Benno . That means a lot to me . ”
Since it’s almost evening, the second floor of the guildhall is nearly empty, and we’re able to pass through it quickly to head up to the counter on the third floor . I return my temporary guild card, and hand over all of the forms that Benno had prepared before my baptism to complete processing . The paperwork is thoroughly filled out, designating Benno’s shop as the establishment I’ll be trading with, and Lutz’s name specified as the point of contact with whom I will be negotiating .
“Oh my, if it isn’t Maïne! What might you be here for?”
Freida’s light-pink pigtails sway as she descends the staircase, perhaps coming from the guild master’s office . She notices me as I towards the bookshelf in the meeting area, then rushes over to see me .
“Since your baptismal ceremony is complete, I thought you might come here to handle your registration, but I haven’t heard any news of you! I was worried that you might have collapsed in the middle of the ceremony . ”
“Heh heh, good guess . I really did collapse during the ceremony . I’m finally better now . ”
I chuckle, ashamedly, finding Freida’s accurate prediction just a little bit funny . She shoots a glare at Lutz, who is looking at a map spread out on the table .
“Lutz was there with you, but you still collapsed?”
“Oh, it wasn’t Lutz’s fault at all . Really, it was my fault this time . ”
I first collapsed because I couldn’t contain my laughter, and then collapsed again after getting far too excited over having found a library, so this was absolutely all my fault . I feel so bad about making her worry that I want to prostrate myself in apology .
“Hey, Maïne . They’re calling for you,” says Lutz .
It seems that while I was talking with Freida they finished getting my new guild card ready . Freida goes behind the counter to get back to work, and I approach the counter to get an explanation . They tell me that the information from my previous card has been transferred over to the new one, but I’ll need a new blood seal on this one . Hearing this causes my breath to catch in my throat .
“Just do it, Maïne,” says Lutz .
I surrender my hand to be pricked by the needle, and when the blood runs over my thumb I press it against the card . With a flash of light, registration is complete . It’s a simple process, but a painful one . After I pay the registration fee of five small silver coins, the differences between my temporary card and my new workshop head’s card are explained to me . Freida lurks close by, looking like she has some objection to make .
“Oh my, ‘Maïne’s Workshop’? You decided against joining Mister Benno’s shop as an apprentice merchant, is it?”
“I gave up on that, since it looked like a physically demanding job . ”
“Ah, perhaps Maïne’s Workshop could sell its goods wholesale to my shop, then?”
Freida immediately gets a sharp gleam in her eyes . Confronted by her suddenly merchant-like expression, I glance away a little .
“Ahhh, I’m sorry . Maïne’s Worshop is going to be selling its goods through Lutz, to Mister Benno’s shop . ”
“…Lutz again, I see . ”
She frowns in dissatisfaction, lips tapering to a point, but what’s done is already done . I’ve already given her monopoly rights on pound cake, so I’d really like for her to give up on this .
“I already gave you pound cake, didn’t I? How’s that coming along? Does it look like you’ll be able to sell it?”
“Yes, Ilse is in quite high spirits as she’s been experimenting with flavors . It seems like she might want to hear your opinion on it before we put it up for sale . You absolutely must come taste it . How about tomorrow?”
I want to eat it, but . Sweet things are the perfect thing to eat when you’re tired, but . Until my negotiations with the temple have concluded, I don’t have the luxury of being able to head over to her place to sample her cake .
“I appreciate the invitation, but I already have plans for tomorrow . ”
“Then, the next day, perhaps? If she can, perhaps your sister would like to join us . If she comes along, then Lutz wouldn’t need to come too, right?”
She tries to dazzle me with a mention of Tuuli so that she can get Lutz excluded . Lutz glares at her, making a face that looks like he’s going to snap at her any minute . Come to think of it, she let Tuuli ride in the carriage last time, forcing us to leave Lutz behind, didn’t she .
“Freida, don’t say mean things like that . Wouldn’t it wind up tasting better if everyone tried it? If Ilse is doing flavor research, then there’s going to be several different things to try, you know?”
“That’s true, but…” she says, pouting in dissatisfaction .
I start to describe the details of how a taste-testing might work, hoping to switch Freida’s thoughts from her emotions to a more mercantile mindset .
“If you want to judge how close your product is to being ready to sell, as well as its potential sales, you should have as many people as you can taste it and get their feedback, I think . Kids and adults are going to want different kinds of flavors, and men and women are going to want different ones too . ”
“…Many people? How should I be serving it? Even if I were to throw a tea party, inviting a lot of people would be quite difficult . ”
Freida’s eyes are very merchant-like now . Unfortunately, even though all I had wanted to do was make sure Lutz could come as well, this seems to have turned into a tea party to which a lot of people might be invited . I want her to acknowledge Lutz’s invitation, so I keep piling on more suggestions .
“It doesn’t have to be a tea party, does it? You could have various flavors of pound cake cut into bite-sized pieces, and then have everyone try them and ask them which they thought was the best . It’s more like a food-sampling party, so Lutz could—”
“What a wonderful idea!”
Before I can finish my sentence, Freida claps her hands, her eyes shining . She looks excited, even positively merry . Her expression is full of joy and happiness, but I can pretty distinctly see that she’s barely even paying attention to me anymore .
“When I’ve settled on a date and time for the sampling party, I’ll be sure to send you an invitation . Of course, Lutz, to you as well . Ah! I’m going to be so busy! Well, Maïne, Lutz, farewell for now . ”
Freida, looking like she wants to immediately turn the ideas in her head into reality, turns around and runs back up the stairs . If I had to guess, she’s probably going to consult with the guild master . I honestly have no idea what she’s thinking or how wildly she’s going to be rampaging, but since her good mood made her feel like inviting Lutz along, I guess this was a success . I watch Freida as she leaves, thinking to myself how nice it will be to sample different kinds of cake after my negotiations are finished .
Lutz sighs . “The two of you are really alike, you know?”
Benno chuckles in agreement .
By the time we successfully get through all of the formalities of registration and leave the merchants’ guild, it’s almost dark, despite the long summer days . Even the central plaza, which had been bustling when we arrived, has emptied out considerably, with few people coming and going . As we walk home, I watch the long shadows that we cast before us . I feel Lutz squeeze my hand a little tighter than normal .
“What’s wrong?” I say .
I stop walking and look up at him . When he looks back down at me, his face is twisted into a complicated expression, somewhere between being angry and being on the verge of tears . He grumbles quietly, almost to himself, the words falling into the shadows .
“…Maïne, are you really going to the temple?”
“Yeah, probably . If what Mister Benno says is true, then I don’t think they’d let me get away . That’s what he was predicting, right?”
His lips tighten for a moment, then he looks at me with unease .
“Can you really do those negotiations?”
The shadows grow darker as the sun continues to set . In the deepening gloom, I can see that he’s even more uneasy, looking like he’s about to cry . I can feel that he’s been gradually squeezing my hand a little bit tighter, bit by bit . Hoping to ease his anxiety, even just a little bit, I smile brilliantly back at him .
“Well, I’ve never negotiated with a nobleman before, so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out . But, if that chalice really is a magical tool, then that’ll help keep my devouring in check, so going to the temple will be good for me, I think, and I want to go there to read books, too! But, no matter how I think about it I can’t see myself being a gray-robed priestess, so it’ll really depend on how the negotiations go . I’m going to try my hardest to make sure I can make my living conditions better, if even a little bit . ”
For an instant, Lutz almost looks like he’s in pain . He casts his eyes downward, and starts walking again . We continue on together, in silence, for a little while . Lutz lifts his head, pretending like he’s paying attention to where the sound of wagon wheels is coming from, but he’s making an expression like he’s swallowing down something that he really wants to say . As we keep quietly walking forward, I grow more and more curious .
“Hey, Lutz . If you’ve got something to say, you can say it, you know? I’ll listen . ”
Lutz stops walking . He opens his mouth a bit, changes his mind, and thinks about it a little while, then looks away, frowning .
“…I don’t want to . It’s pretty uncool . ”
“Alright, got it . ”
No matter how curious I am, it’s probably best if I respect his boyish instincts to be cool . I nod, and we keep walking .
Again, we walk in silence . The sound of footsteps on cobblestone echo through the streets as people rush home, and from the various windows we pass I can hear the tumult of evening activities, but around just the two of us, everything seems so quiet . Perhaps the sun has finally set, or perhaps we’ve been swallowed up in the long shadows of the buildings, but our footsteps fall in darkness .
“…You said we were going to make paper together, and books too, and then sell them, though . You lied . ”
Lutz mutters this as a wagon rides past us, perhaps hoping that his voice would be lost in the clattering of the wheels, but I hear him perfectly . His words, which he had wanted to say as our circumstances were constantly changing but couldn’t, strike home .
“I’m sorry, Lutz . ”
“It’s not something you need to apologize for . I know I wasn’t strong enough to do anything . What Master Benno said is right, so I want to work with you however I can to make sure you don’t have to go through anything too dangerous . ”
He stops speaking, but I can hear him grinding his teeth .
“…But, it still hurts . You said we were going to start a bookstore together…”
“Yeah, you’re right . But, I’ve been thinking that since I want to read books, I have to make them . So even if I go to the temple, it’s not like I’m going to stop making books, you know? Rather, if I’m going to be living longer, that means I’m going to have to try harder, right? If I don’t get more books, I’m not actually fulfilling my dream, you know?”
Lutz raises his head . His face is still screwed up like he’s trying not to cry, but he tries to smile at me, shrugging his shoulders .
“Your dream of surrounding yourself with books and just spending all your time reading them?”
“Yeah, that one . You want to become a merchant, right? Become a merchant and get to go see all sorts of places, wasn’t it? I’ve got dreams, too . ”
When I say that we should keep working hard towards our dreams, Lutz looks even more like he’s about to start crying . Even in the twilight, I can clearly see that the tears in his eyes are on the verge of overflowing .
“I want to help you with your dream . …But, I’ve been trying so hard because you were there with me . I wanted us to work hard together at Master Benno’s shop . I wanted to do so many more things together with you . ”
He hugs me tightly, burying his face in my shoulder . I can hear him desperately try to hold back his sobs .
“It’s okay,” I say . “We can still do that, even if I join the temple . I’m absolutely going to make books, after all . ”
“No! That’s not it . I don’t want you to make them with someone else and just sell them with me, I want to make them together with you!”
Lutz had been keeping his unhappiness dammed up, but now that dam is bursting . He shakes his head like a child throwing a tantrum, and my own chest starts feeling tight as tears well up in my own eyes . I hug him too, patting him gently on the back .
“Nothing’s changed from before, you know? We decided already . Whatever I think up, you’ll make, right? When I’m going to make something, before I talk to Mister Benno, before I talk to anyone, I’m going to come talk to you first and ask if you want to help . ”
“Even though I can’t do anything?”
He raises his head, looking surprised . I wipe some of the tears from his cheeks, giving him a small smile .
“If you can’t do anything, then where does that leave me? Is there actually anything I can do? Besides, I don’t know what to do, or what even can be done; there’s really nobody I can work with to figure out if I can actually make something except for you, right? If you weren’t here, I’d be in big trouble . ”
“…That’s not right, though . I mean, people know that the things you make are valuable, so everyone’s going to want to help you . ”
Lutz looks away, frowning disinterestedly, rubbing his face to hide his tears as if he was ashamed that he’d just been crying . Perhaps because getting all of those things off of his chest left him feeling refreshed, or perhaps because he’s trying to shake off his embarrassment, he rolls his shoulders and shakes out his arms .
“Nuh-uh,” I say, “even if someone else tried to make them, then things wouldn’t go so well, and I’d just wind up having to call for you anyway . So, I’m not just thinking that you’re going to be my middleman . Really, honestly, will you help me with my projects?”
When I shrug my shoulders, Lutz finally smiles . He grabs me tightly by the hand, and walks forward through the quickly darkening streets, a brilliant smile on his face .
“Everything’ll be just fine . I’ll make your stuff for you . ”