Ascendance of a Bookworm (LN) - Volume 3.3 - Chapter Ep

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“Is this another one of Rozemyne’s recipes? The taste is different from the ones we ate during Spring Prayer,” Eckhart remarked, eating the sweets known as “cookies” that were being served at Ferdinand’s estate. 

“It seems that they lacked the proper cooking utensils on the road. Not to mention that these are flavored with tea leaves,” Ferdinand replied. He had taken a liking to tea cookies, so whenever Rozemyne had her chef make cookies in the temple, she had extra made just for him. 

“She forced quite a few sweets into my hands when I said that I would be meeting Karstedt in my estate,” Ferdinand continued. “Rozemyne’s sweets all come in a variety of flavors, allowing her to make them to suit the tastes of whomever she is meeting with. According to her, this pound cake was baked with wine-soaked fruit, which is Karstedt’s preference. I eat it at times myself, as it is low on sweetness and strong on wine.” 

Eckhart found it a little strange being told facts about his father’s preferences that even he didn’t know. Rozemyne had been a commoner with the Devouring until only recently, when she was baptized as his sister. Shortly after, she was adopted by the archduke and archduchess to bring Ehrenfest wealth in the form of mana and developments in the printing industry. 

“Rozemyne was raised in the temple and has thus met with Father only a small number of times,” Eckhart said, following the cover story that Karstedt was her birth father. “And yet, she knows his tastes so well. I cannot understand it.” 

“It is simple, really—Rozemyne is selling her sweet recipes to Elvira for use at tea parties, where much information is shared. According to her, it is only natural to research the preferences of your customers so that you might sell them what they wish to buy. This is much more the attitude of a merchant, but learning the partialities of those one wishes to negotiate with is a skill that even nobles must learn. She uses all means of manipulation to sell me expensive recipes as well,” Ferdinand said casually. 

Not everyone would understand what he truly meant since he had phrased it so dryly, but he was actually saying that Rozemyne had a talent for exploiting people’s preferences in negotiations. Eckhart had known Ferdinand for a long time and knew exactly how harsh he was, so this statement came across as exceedingly high praise. 

“I truly did not anticipate you entrusting all of our meals across Spring Prayer to Rozemyne’s personal chef, Lord Ferdinand—unique recipes or not.” 

“I did not entrust all of them to her. I offered to have my chefs help in order to lessen the burden on hers, but she refused, saying that it was clearly a plot to learn her recipes for free. Having no other choice, I settled for merely providing the ingredients,” Ferdinand said in a dissatisfied tone, taking a bite out of a cookie. But he had missed Eckhart’s point entirely. 

“...Rather, I am surprised by the fact that you were not at all suspicious of poison.” 

In all but the most extraordinary of circumstances, nobles did not allow their chefs to mingle for fear of their food being poisoned. Ferdinand was a cautious man, and he more than anyone was always circumspect in this regard. And yet, he trusted Rozemyne—so much so that it was hard to believe he was acting his usual self. She had certainly eaten first to demonstrate the lack of poison, but never had Eckhart ever dreamed that Ferdinand would proceed to eat as well without first having his attendants do further poison tests. 

The same could be said for the cookies they were eating right now; that he accepted them after she had forced them into his hands, knowing that he would be serving them to a guest and would thus have to try them first himself as the taste taster, was something Ferdinand never would have done in the past. It was unthinkable. 

“I am somewhat unsettled, since I do not understand what leads you to trust her so much, Lord Ferdinand.” 

It had taken Eckhart a very long time to earn Ferdinand’s trust, so he was a little jealous seeing how quickly Rozemyne had won him over. What made her so trustworthy? What was it that made them so different? Eckhart had pondered these questions all throughout Spring Prayer, but he had found no answers. 

Rozemyne appeared to be nothing but a burden on Ferdinand, be it the situation in Hasse, her ill constitution, or all the problems that had occurred while they were gathering ingredients. And yet, despite him grimacing and complaining each time she caused problems, Ferdinand actually seemed to be enjoying himself. He regularly took the time to check up on her, almost as if observing the growth of a precious plant, and freely gave her expensive potions. While this might have seemed normal considering his position as her guardian, anyone who knew Ferdinand would be absolutely shocked. At the very least, he wasn’t behaving anything like the man Eckhart knew. 

“Why do I trust Rozemyne, hm...? First and foremost, because she was raised in the temple and lacks the deceptive proclivities of a purebred noble. But there are many other things I have seen with my own two eyes. I cannot speak of them here, but suffice to say, I was quite thoroughly convinced.” 

When Ferdinand said that she was “raised in the temple,” he did so with the understanding that Eckhart knew the truth. In other words, he was saying that he trusted Rozemyne because she had grown up a commoner rather than a noble. Eckhart saw this as enough of a difference between him and Rozemyne to satisfyingly answer the questions that had plagued him. 

“Lord Ferdinand, the honorable Lord Karstedt has arrived,” Lasfam announced as he brought Karstedt into the room. 

Since getting married and moving out, Eckhart rarely ever returned to his family home unless summoned, making this the first time he had seen his father outside of the Knight’s Order in quite a while. 

Karstedt exchanged greetings with Ferdinand, took the seat offered to him, and then looked at his son. “Eckhart, you once again have my thanks for your help,” he said, referring to him having taken guard duty during Spring Prayer. 

“Think nothing of it. I am simply glad to have been given the opportunity to work with Lord Ferdinand again. Please continue to send any such assignments my way.” 

These words came from the heart. Eckhart had been relieved of duty when Ferdinand entered the temple, meaning he could no longer follow him. The only time he was allowed to accompany Ferdinand—albeit in reduced capacity—was when he returned to the castle on official business, but even then he had been instructed to step down when Veronica, the archduke’s mother, was present. 

Ferdinand could come to the castle more openly now that Veronica had been arrested and he was one of Rozemyne’s guardians, though he was only allowed access for Rozemyne-related reasons. Eckhart was simply glad to have opportunities to accompany Ferdinand, so much so that he was even willing to join in religious services such as Spring Prayer under the guise of protecting his little sister for his worried father’s sake. 

Ferdinand took out two sound-blocking magic tools and set them down on the table. “Hold these, if you will.” 

Rozemyne’s ingredient gathering was being done in secrecy; it was something only to be discussed with the use of magic tools, even when in Ferdinand’s estate. 

“So,” Karstedt began, “was Rozemyne as successful this season as she was in the winter?” 

“Indeed. It was a terrible experience for us, but the gathering itself was an enormous success.” 

Ferdinand described the unpleasant and rather mysterious events that had unfolded on the Night of Flutrane to Karstedt. There was the talfrosch extermination carried out the day before, Rozemyne’s highbeast being kidnapped in the dead of night, a mana barrier that would not allow men to pass through, shining balls of mana floating beneath the red moonlight, Rozemyne’s song offering causing the raireins to grow, the gathering of the nectar, and the mysterious power that had faded along with the morning sun. 

Eckhart spoke about how they had seen the leaf shrink beneath Rozemyne’s feet as she stared at the sky, and how Ferdinand had rushed forward on his highbeast to rescue her before she hit the ground. 

Ferdinand grimaced and said that, in retrospect, there had been no need for him to rush so much when rescuing her. He hardly sounded like the same Ferdinand that had balked at the shrinking leaves, pounded his mana against the thinning barrier over and over again until it shattered, and then blasted into the sky on his highbeast at maximum speed. 

As Eckhart blinked in surprise, Ferdinand took a sip of tea with his brow deeply furrowed. “Falling into the spring would not have harmed Rozemyne in the slightest; she fell into it the day prior while we were hunting the talfroschs and emerged unscathed,” he said with a displeased look. “Do you recall how she had said the water was mysteriously comfortable and breathable? She wouldn’t have died from falling into it. The spring would have protected her.” 

That was enough for Eckhart to put the pieces together. He was feeling uncomfortable about having yelled at Rozemyne to use her highbeast when, ultimately, she hadn’t needed to. 

“We don’t know whether the spring would have protected her from a fall that high, Lord Ferdinand. I still believe that catching her was the best course of action,” Eckhart said. 

At that, Karstedt crossed his arms with a difficult frown on his face. “That is... abnormal. I’ve never heard of anything like it.” 

“Indeed. It was a night that cannot be explained by conventional wisdom. Furthermore, there is the nectar harvested from the raireins that Rozemyne grew with her mana. It has many unexpected properties for its kind. First of all...” 

From there, Ferdinand began to expound on the harvested nectar in great detail. What they had gathered on the Night of Flutrane apparently differed considerably from the nectar that Justus had gathered on another day. 

“The nectar’s mana capacity is completely abnormal, likely due to the enormous quantity of mana that gathered around the spring’s raireins on that night. Not only does it have considerably more mana than the nectar that Justus brought us, its Water purity is spectacular—I can hardly even sense any other elements within it.” 

On top of all that, despite the common understanding that materials dyed with another’s mana were usable only by them, Ferdinand had found himself able to overwrite and dye the rairein nectar that Rozemyne had produced. He made sure to emphasize this fact, excitement creeping into his voice as he made it clear that this was a discovery that could potentially overthrow the established knowledge taught in the Royal Academy. 

But while Ferdinand was something of a researcher, Karstedt was a knight through and through. In other words, he wasn’t particularly interested. He nodded along with the explanation, but his apathy was becoming increasingly clear. 

Like father, like son... Eckhart thought to himself. He had refrained from saying anything since he enjoyed seeing Ferdinand so enthusiastic, but he wasn’t interested in this kind of research either. 

Justus, on the other hand, would have most likely been on the edge of his seat. 

“I am exceedingly curious to discover whether the nectar is special due to it having been gathered on the Night of Flutrane, or due to Rozemyne’s mana. I would also like to do further research into the Night of Flutrane’s effects on the Goddesses’ Bath, but not only does the barrier prevent men from entering, the mana there seems to have a psychological influence on those it comes into contact with,” Ferdinand said regretfully, coming to the sad conclusion that this endeavor would be unreasonably challenging to complete. 

Realizing that this was a good stopping point for the current conversation, Karstedt looked at Eckhart, who nodded in response. Their silent communication was a success—they both wanted the subject changed. 

“I see,” Karstedt said before quickly moving on. “I think this every time you give one of your reports, but it’s one surprise after another when it comes to Rozemyne’s gatherings. I was especially surprised to see her use Leidenschaft’s spear as a weapon during the schnesturm hunt. I know that the Knight’s Order has no weapons suitable for someone with her mana capacity, but I never would have thought that one of the temple’s decorations could be used in such a manner. And I certainly never expected it to contain such devastating power,” he mused, stroking his mustache. 

Naturally, the fact that Rozemyne could give the entire Knight’s Order a blessing from Angriff, the God of War, was an astounding feat in itself. But Eckhart had already received her blessing enough times that Leidenschaft’s spear left a much bigger impression on him. The schnesturm had been raging in the midst of a blizzard so intense that it appeared as a wall of solid white, and following the Order’s simultaneous attack to weaken the beast, a single streak of blue light had shot down from the sky and destroyed it in one fell swoop. 

“I, too, found myself enraptured by that shining blue spear. Did you know that the temple’s divine instrument could withstand being used in battle like that, Lord Ferdinand?” 

“The temple of each duchy has a set of magic tools called the divine instruments, and I found ancient records that detailed them being used for practical purposes. Magic tools can be used by anyone who dyes them with their mana, and since Rozemyne cannot use a schtappe, I thought the spear would serve as a perfect weapon for her,” Ferdinand explained. This was probably something that only an avid book reader like him would know; he delved into all sorts of works that no normal person would. 

Karstedt nodded, just as impressed as Eckhart was. 

“But while you may interpret its performance during the schnesturm battle as a sign that the spear is a powerful weapon, the divine instruments are certainly not convenient to wield. You cannot use them as your own weapon without filling them to the brim with a staggering amount of mana, and due to this tremendous requirement, they best serve as single-use weapons. They cannot even be compared to the personal weapons one can form with their schtappes.” 

Ferdinand casually identified the spear as a weapon that required a ton of mana to use, which was his roundabout way of saying that Rozemyne had a staggering quantity of mana. She was a commoner with the Devouring who had managed to survive until her baptism, and yet she possessed that much. Her very existence was abnormal. 

“Speaking of which, I heard that Rozemyne was engaging in some... cutthroat business in the castle to pay for the schnesturm’s feystone. What happened to her budget?” Karstedt asked. 

Rozemyne regularly moved between the castle and the temple, but as she generally spent more time in the latter, Ferdinand was tasked with managing her budget. The funds needed to pay the Knight’s Order had already been accounted for in that regard, and yet Rozemyne had been working to make her own money. 

“Rozemyne has gotten it into her head that whenever she needs money, she must earn it herself. She doesn’t even consider any alternatives. When she brought on new retainers, I informed her that Sylvester and you would cover the costs, but you can see how much good that did.” 

When Ferdinand told her that her dads would pay for the retainers, Rozemyne immediately endeavored to earn money to pay them back. Eckhart concluded that his little sister’s very weird grasp on how money worked was due to her having been raised a commoner. 

“She seems quite determined to earn money for herself, to the extent that she is absolutely adamant about being financially self-sufficient. Perhaps she simply has a fondness for earning money. As of now, I have decided to leave her be; her actions stimulate Ehrenfest’s economy and encourage movement within the political factions. That said, I do find it necessary to intervene when she sells unauthorized images bearing someone else’s likeness.” 

“Ah... Those,” Karstedt said with a wry smile. 

They were of course referring to three particular illustrations, of which Elvira, Justus, and Eckhart each owned a complete set. Both Elvira and Eckhart had been bemoaning that no more pictures of this kind would ever be released from that splendid artist. 

“Going forward, I believe she is dedicating herself to book production rather than illustrations. She has always had her sights set on books, and they will sell more among the noble children than illustrations ever would,” Ferdinand said with audible relief. But his expression soon turned into a grimace, and he began tapping his temples. 

“Is something the matter, Lord Ferdinand?” 

“I fear for the future. There are only so many children to buy books as study materials, and once a single book has been purchased, it can be shared among siblings. More children will undoubtedly be born in the future, but her sales base will not be growing very quickly. Either she will shift to inventing new products, or she will pull off some ridiculous scheme to increase existing sales... Whatever the case, she will do something problematic without fail.” 

“And what might she do, exactly?” 

“If I knew, there would be no cause for concern. It is near impossible to predict what ideas her deranged mind will produce,” Ferdinand said, searching his memories of Rozemyne’s past words and actions for clues of any sort. “She mentioned something about having asked her Gutenbergs to improve the printing press, but what else? Something about wanting to experiment further with paper... Which reminds me—she had a meeting with Giebe Illgner during the winter and intends to visit his province within the next few years according to a report from Rihyarda. Could that be it? Will the inevitable disaster occur in Illgner?” 

Talk about having a good memory, Eckhart thought to himself, as impressed as always. But Karstedt shook his head. 

“You should worry about the summer gathering before that. Something unexpected has occurred during each gathering attempt so far, and I doubt things will go any differently in the summer. Have you decided on whether you’ll be going to Mount Lohenberg or Mount Ballschmiede?” 

Ferdinand grimaced, his brow tightly knitted. “Mount Ballschmiede would be the safer choice, but only Mount Lohenberg has an ingredient that will match the quality of what we have gathered so far. I intend to acquire riesefalke eggs.” 

...Mount Lohenberg, hm? 

Riesefalkes were gigantic white feybeasts of the flying variety, known as the birds that calmed Leidenschaft the God of Fire’s wrath. They were fairly strong, and stealing their eggs had to be done quickly. Would Rozemyne be able to manage it with her clumsy movements? They would need to move quickly and spare as many Lohenberg feybeasts as possible, or else Leidenschaft’s wrath would explode. In the past, Justus had put them all in great danger by stealing too many eggs, forcing Ferdinand to use several valuable feystones to save all of their lives. 

In any case, there was one thing that Eckhart knew for certain: the summer gathering would not end peacefully. 

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