Atelier Tanaka Chapter 9
Beginner Alchemist pt.1
(If I’d wanted to become a doctor, what would I have done? After a consultation with a high school teacher, I’d have gone to a university and studied at a medical facility. I’d take classes from professors. So what should I do to become an alchemist?)
. . .
“You should go to the school in town.”
“I see. Where is it?”
“Ummm, you know, go over there, then go that way, then go this way again.”
I gave the little girl a few copper coins for her help.
(These directions are always so vague. Am I really going to find anything from that? I wouldn’t believe it if this system hadn’t always worked so far.)
She walked away energetically while smiling and humming.
(Ah, she’s cute.)
I watched her walk away and disappear into a crowd, and noticed I was smiling too. I followed her directions, going over there, then that way, then this way again.
(I never expected there to be a school in the town. Looking back, I miss being in college. In high school I had cram school and homework at night. Then I had entrance exams to get into a university. After I graduated, I was working long hours as a salaryman. I don’t know if I learned much in college, but isn’t that fine? College was like the summer vacation of life.)
I somehow ended up at the school, feeling like someone in their 30s who was finally entering medical school.
The solemn building in front of me looked like a cross between Buckingham Palace and a castle.
I walked through the large plaza in front, and went inside. Wandering around for about 10 minutes, I finally found a place like a ticket counter with a receptionist. Like most of the inside, it was made of marble. The woman there had a solemn, fixed expression. She was pretty, with long blonde hair and charming big eyes, and she was wearing tightly fitted clothes.
“Are you a new student?”
“We are one of the top schools of both this country and our allies, so it’s understandable that you want to study here. But you should understand that with the entry fee, the class fees, and various other expenses, a certain amount of money is necessary.”
(I knew that much. Even the maintenance on this building must cost a lot.)
“How much is it?”
“The entrance fee is 10 gold. Taking a class for a term is 5 gold. With various other fees, studying here for a year typically costs 50 gold.”
“Eh, 50 gold? Seriously?”
(That’s even more expensive than universities in Japan!)
“As such, there are few commoners here, and they sold their property in order to pay for their education. Most of the students are nobles.”
“Is that so…”
“I’m very sorry that your long travels have ended with this.”
(Oh, she thinks I travelled here from another country to study.)
(That crazy magic noble said he’d give me 50 gold next month, which is just enough. How convenient. But I’m not spending enough money to buy a house on classes for nobles that might not even help, and I’m not going to count on getting money from him. Maybe I’ll just have to learn on my own.)
“Is there a different sort of school that I could go to?”
“Any institution of comparable quality to ours will have strict entry requirements. However, with a smaller local school or some sort of education cooperative, walk-in admission may be possible.”
(She has an impressive ability to be polite and rude at the same time. Oh well, I should just leave.)
I turned and started walking towards the exit.
(Actually, why was I asking her? I should just use thelittle girl information network.)
As I was thinking about that, someone came around the corner and called out to me.
“Ho? Why is someone like you in a place like this?”
I remembered that boldly arrogant voice.
“No, why are you here?”
“Why am I here? Because I teach here, of course! Are you a student here?”
(Suddenly, I don’t feel bad about not being able to afford this place. Thanks.)
“No, I just decided not to enter. It’s too expensive.”
“It certainly is difficult for someone poor to enter. That’s exactly why this school is known internationally for its high class and nobility!”
“Oh yes, mixing poor and rich people together would cause all kinds of problems.”
He started nodding.
(No, I don’t really want to be your friend…)
The receptionist cut in, sounding slightly hysteric.
He looked towards her, and his tone turned cold.
“Um, is he your acquaintance, Fouren-sama?”
“Why else would I be talking to him?”
“Sorry for interrupting!”
She started bowing to him.
(So this is the standard noble-commoner relationship.)
“You, what’s your name?”
She was shaking, and looked like someone in a TV drama that had just been sentenced to death.
“Hey, hurry up.”
I started thinking about how I could intervene.
“Stopping him here was the correct decision. I’ll see about getting you a promotion next month.”
“No, of course not! Thank you very much, sir!”
“I’ll provide the money. Enter this school.”
“That’s really, too much, I couldn’t, and I might be so busy with classes that I couldn’t come to your mansion…”
“Don’t make me repeat myself.”
The receptionist was still trembling.
“She will register you. I have a class now, so I’ll be going.”
(If I get more confident with my magic, is my personality going to become like that…? No, it definitely won’t.)
“Then, this, here is the paperwork.”
It happened to be at the start of a new term when I was admitted to the school.
The receptionist led me around to various places, where I was given thing after thing after thing. Talking to her, I learned that many of the students came from other allied countries, and that all the students lived in the school dorms.
(Living in the dorms here? No, I don’t think so.)
Asking about the dorms, I found out that each student got a private room with a school-provided maid.
(How should I handle this? Simply not using the room they give me seems like the best option.)
Eventually, I’d collected everything, and the receptionist headed back towards her desk. I looked up where the alchemy classes were held in a guide booklet, and started walking that way.
(Walking here from my house takes a bit over an hour. Going back and forth every day would be too much. If only I had a bicycle, that wouldn’t be a problem. Oh, a bicycle might actually be possible. I should remember that.)
After a while, I reached a long hallway with several classrooms that seemed to be dedicated to alchemy. It seemed to be the time between classes when I arrived, with students going in and out.
(Can I just go into one, then? Eh, it’s probably fine. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s probably just a lecture. One or two extra people won’t stand out.)
The classroom was made of shiny marble, with inset patterns and letters made of glass and stones. It looked unnecessarily expensive. There were rows of wooden desks with fine craftsmanship and carved details, all facing towards the front. I sat down at a desk, as did most of the other students.
With the fancy desks, the marble building, and the noble students, it really felt like a fantasy school, even if the same thing could have been done in Japan.
The other students were all staring at me.
They were all young, mostly in their teens with a couple in their early 20s, and they all had fancy clothes. I stuck out like a sore thumb. My instincts about classes from my college days had betrayed me.
“…hello, nice to meet you.”
I gave a group of them a nod.
(I should have sat closer to the exit.)
They started talking quietly to each other.
“Who’s that old guy?”
“And how old is he?”
“He’s not a teacher?”
“He’s sitting down at a desk.”
“What country is he from? His nose is too small.”
“His skin is all yellow, like a lizardman.”
“His face is so flat, too.”
(I have a bad feeling about this.)
The students kept talking like that until the teacher arrived, then they suddenly stopped. I wanted to just leave and go home, but the class was starting.
The students were still occasionally glancing at me. I tried to ignore them.
“I am the teacher for the second-year alchemy class, Lydia Nannuzzi.”
I wrote down her name in a notebook I’d received.
“Let’s get started immediately.”
Lydia started talking.
“Perapera pera peraperapera pera peraperapera perapera perapera. Perapera pera peraperapera pera pera perapera. Perapera peraperapera peraperaperapera pera perapera perapera pera.”
(She talks too fast! I can’t understand what she’s saying at all.)
I tried to write down some of what she was saying in the notebook, feeling like I was in the middle of a test I hadn’t studied for.
(This all seems new to me, so there must be some good information in here.)
It was several minutes later when I realized something.
(This is only part of the information in the book I read! She’s just confusing!)
My hopes for learning alchemy at the school were deflating.
(Maybe I need to find a more advanced alchemy class…?)
“These ingredients can only be found in the southern wetlands. However, there are lizardmen and powerful monsters there, so alchemists join parties of adventurers to collect them.”
(Lizardmen, huh? Didn’t someone say I looked like one, earlier?)
I had been serious when the class started, but I was starting to get sleepy. Having returned to the college life that I’d missed and yearned for, I just wanted to go home and sleep.
“Does anyone here know what’s necessary to raise the level of a mid-grade potion?”
At the university I’d gone to, grades were only based on exams. Students didn’t want to get involved, so when a professor asked the class a question, nobody would answer unless the professor asked a specific student to. During the class, I got to experience that unique kind of awkward silence a couple times.
By the time the class ended, I was leaning towards going home instead of attending more classes.
Walking through the corridors, I encountered a certain blonde loli.
“…hey, wait, why are you here?”
Ester was dressed in a Middles Ages nobility sort of way, with colorful clothes and a cloak.
“Ah, well, as of today I’m a student here.”
“Hmmmmmm? At your age?”
(You don’t have to put it like that. I hope you get treated that way when you get to be my age.)
“And why are you here?”
“I’m also a student here, obviously.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Were you a noble, then?”
“There’s no way that someone could pay the entrance fee here from one job as an adventurer.”
“I just happened to have a personal connection that got me admitted.”
“The board of directors here doesn’t allow that sort of thing, though.”
Her high-tension side of the conversation was drawing looks from passing students.
“Don’t worry about it. And weren’t you an adventurer too?”
“Don’t compare me to you! I’m an adventurer, but before that I’m a noble!”
“Ah, is that so.”
(I knew she had rich parents. Low-level adventurers don’t normally travel in nice carriages like that.)
“Well then, I have to get to class, so I’ll be going.”
I made a smooth escape from Ester by going to another alchemy class instead of going home.
After the second alchemy class I went to ended, classes were mostly over for the day, and I started walking home.
It had been over 10 years since I’d been in college, and I’d always thought of that time fondly. But unlike then, I had no friends my age there with me.
(It’s just not the same without a friend here. And the material in those classes was…questionable. At the school’s pace, getting to the elixir of youth would take more than a lifetime. I think the students there only take alchemy classes so they can keep up with conversations at dinner parties with other nobles.)
I hadn’t learned anything useful that wasn’t in the book I’d read at home, and I hadn’t seen a workshop for actually practicing alchemy.
(For now, I’ll just forget about the dorms and head home. I should try studying from the books there, instead. I don’t think I’ll be going to those classes again, at least not for a while.)
When I got back to my house, there were two soldiers standing in front of it, each holding a spear in one hand. They were taking turns knocking on the door loudly, “Kon kon, kon kon, kon kon.”
(Why are they here? Is this about my jailbreak after I was arrested?!)
I heard them talking to each other between knocks.
“Do you think he’s out, or just pretending to be?”
“I don’t know, but we should keep trying. We’ll get yelled at if we go back too soon with no results.”
(I know my appearance is unusual here, but at the time, staying here and hoping they focused on that woman who was getting executed was my only choice. I could have died if I’d tried walking to another town.)
(Of course, I could have died in that forest, too. That did work out, but treating this like a RPG where I only needed to follow appropriate-looking quests was a huge mistake. I do have a status screen and skill points, which is very game-like, but I seem to be the only one with them, and I still don’t know what they really mean.)
(I had been hoping that they didn’t care about me. I have different clothes, and a rank as an adventurer, and I bought a house, and I think I lost some weight, so I was hoping I didn’t seem like the same person. Maybe that was naive.)
(I still have enough money to get a carriage to another town. I could probably stay at that village with the orcs for a few days, and maybe even earn some money there.)
(No, I shouldn’t assume that’s why those soldiers are here. Maybe they’re here about my fight with that noble. Wait, that might actually be worse. But I can’t bring myself to just abandon my house now! I’ll talk to the soldiers, and if I really, absolutely, definitely have to, I’ll hit them with fireballs and leave town.)
“Hello, was there some incident with my house?”
“You’re the owner here?”
“Yes, although I just moved in recently.”
“We’re here for the tax collection.”
“The sales tax, land tax, and interest. The taxes on this property haven’t been payed for 7 years, so the total amount is 150 gold.”
Needing to pay some kind of tax was completely unexpected.
“Um, 150 gold, that’s more than the property is worth!”
“People kept moving in and out here, so the taxes built up. I understand your complaint, but this is the system in our country. If you own a house, it’s your obligation to pay taxes on it.”
“If there were taxes due on it, why didn’t you collect them from the people I bought this house from?”
“That’s because property owned by nobles is exempt from those taxes.”
“But I have to pay any back taxes if I buy it?”
“Right, the nobles wanted to discourage property going from nobles to commoners.”
I felt like I’d been hit in the head with a hammer. This somehow seemed even worse than if they had actually come to arrest me.
(I let my guard down because it was fantasy! Argh, I never thought that I’d get manipulated like that! Taxes?! Fantasy doesn’t need taxes!)
“Payment is due by the end of the month. If you’re late, your house will be seized.”
“What, the end of the month?!”
“It sounds like you were tricked by the real estate agent. People coming here from other countries seem to get taken by frauds more often. You should learn from this and do things properly in the future.”
In my mind, I saw the smiling face of the real estate agent, and heard the voice of the bald guy from the guild telling me, “Don’t get taken by some scam artist.”
(He got me. I was completely fooled. No wonder it was cheap!)
“We’ll come again at the end of the month. Get the money together by then.”
After that, I stood outside for a couple minutes, just staring at my house.
The first thing I did was buy a calendar at a nearby store.
I put it up on a wall and glared at it. 25 days remained until the end of the month.
(The tax payment doesn’t match the building’s value. I remember that real estate agent telling me that most of the buildings in this area were 50 to 100 gold. If that’s right, then if I payed the full amount, it would be enough to buy 2 houses here. Letting my house get seized would be the logical option. But I can’t just give up on it! It’s my house!)
(But there’s no way I can realistically get 150 gold in a month. That’s 15 high orcs worth of gold! I couldn’t do that. For that matter, I don’t know where I’d find them.)
(Should I try to borrow it from that magic noble? On the one hand, he definitely has the money, but on the other hand, no.)
(From now on, I’m not going to blindly trust someone again like I did with that real estate agent.)
I went down to the first floor, and looked at the bookshelves.
(Maybe there’s something described in here that I can sell.)
Reading through books in the atelier randomly, I noticed something.
Most of them were written by hand, probably by the same person, and probably in the same building I was living in.
Reading on, I realized their goal. They had been trying to cure a certain disease.
(They must not have made it in time.)
The handwriting towards the end of some of the books grew more and more erratic.
In the last entry I saw, a complicated process was described with a mixture of joy and sadness. At the end, there was a note: “I have identified the necessary materials for the medicine. But there is no way I can get the liver of a red dragon.”
(…a dragon? I somehow thought dragons would exist here. Red dragons must be strong. If it says “red dragon” then that must mean there are other colors too, like blue or yellow.)
The disease the author had was called “Alvecchio’s Disease.”
It gradually caused muscles to stop working, until eventually afflicted people died from not being able to breathe. The mortality rate was 100%, with humans dying within 6 months of contracting it, and elves dying within 3 years.
It apparently had a magical component, like a curse, so recovery magic would only treat the symptoms, and the worse the disease got the faster the symptoms would return.
(This author was actually an amazing person. If I can, I’d like to finish their work and make this medicine someday. But right now, I have other problems.)
Feeling sentimental, I looked out a window, and it was dark out. At some point, the magic lighting in the first floor had come on, so I hadn’t even noticed.
(Was that automatic? I don’t remember it turning on by itself before. Maybe I turned it on and forgot about it because I was focused on reading.)
I decided to go get dinner.
I went to a small nearby restaurant, and ordered some food and drinks.
As I was eating, two adventurer-looking men in their 20s were talking near me.
“Seriously?! 1000 gold for one medicine?”
“It’s true, it just arrived today.”
“Still, Alvecchio’s Disease? I don’t think it matters how much you pay, nobody even knows what causes it.”
“Come on, you know you’re thinking about what you could do with 1000 gold.”
“Of course I am. The king is notorious for being stingy, but I guess it’s a different matter when it comes to the life of his only daughter.”
(Alvecchio’s Disease. They definitely said Alvecchio’s Disease! It’s a quest! It’s a special event!)
I got up from my seat.
(Didn’t I take down one of the country’s top magicians easily? And I took down a high orc by myself, too.)
I went over to their table.
“Hey, you two.”
“Eh? What is it, geezer?”
“I’d like to hear a little more about what you were discussing.”
“Who are you? Is he someone you know?”
“I don’t know him.”
“Hey miss, a round of drinks for this table, on me.”
Apparently the king had a sick daughter. He’d hired the best doctors, but only learned the name of her disease, which was diagnosed by a certain magic noble.
A few days ago, he had finally offered a reward to anyone who could cure his daughter.
(I’ll just have to make that medicine, then.)
All but one of the ingredients were either in the atelier’s supplies or available in the town. The problem was the liver of a red dragon, the same thing that had stopped the author of those books.
I decided to go for a red dragon.
Thinking about it, I was filled with determination.
(I’m going to need more firepower.)