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Chapter 1

A Peaceful, Slow Life

Mayor Tornado and the higher-ups of the Adventurers Guild had gathered in a room at the Zoltan Assembly.

The last of the stalker demons that fled had been hunted down. After many ups and downs, the Devil’s Blessing incident that had caused such a fuss in Zoltan had finally been resolved.

Bui was the one who had slain the demons. He was a swordsman of unknown origin since he had yet to register with the Adventurers Guild. In fact, he was to be the topic of discussion at today’s meeting.

“If we believe his statement—which does not currently have any corroboration—he is a wandering noble. However, as the fourth son of his house, he has no inheritance.”

“The Maoduester family? Aren’t they an aristocratic clan from the Flamberge Kingdom? I thought the demon lord’s army had destroyed that country.”

“It’s not like a noble house disappears simply because their homeland falls. The first wife of the Maoduester family is the daughter of an aristocrat from the Kingdom of Veronia. Apparently, they have been staying there.”

“I see. And where did that information come from?”

“Bui’s statement.”

“So we’re back to the question of how much of it is true.”

“Does it really matter? Even if Bui was on the run after committing a murder somewhere, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth,” Tornado admitted.

Some of the Adventurers Guild leadership furrowed a brow at that, but no one openly objected.

“As a special exception, we’ll acknowledge Bui as a C-rank adventurer. If he forms a party and successfully deals with the blade sharks disrupting the fishing grounds to the south, then we’ll grant his group B-rank status. After that, he’ll have Zoltan’s blessing. There aren’t any objections.”

The gathered committee had approached Rit about coming back, but in the end, she’d turned them down with no room for rebuttal. High-ranking adventurers were a rarity out in the frontier. Master Mistorm, the former mayor of Zoltan, was one, but she was long retired. Another, Moen, was the captain of the guard, and he was still quite busy dealing with the cleanup from all the trouble the Devil’s Blessing caused. There was little alternative than to have Bui take Albert’s place as the town’s B-rank adventurer.

Goran, one of the leaders at the Adventurers Guild who was in line to become mayor after Tornado, was a little bit unreliable, and Tornado was determined to leave a solid footing for Zoltan when his term was up. Master Mistorm had been a brilliant mage, but she hadn’t even risen to the level of mediocre when it came to her mayoral responsibilities.

A politician resolving conflicts themselves via combat was the worst possible plan. That sort of strategy wasn’t a permanent solution. Master Mistorm had retired, after all. In Tornado’s mind, a mayor’s role was to establish a system that could smoothly deal with problems without requiring constant intervention from Zoltan’s leaders.

“So according to plan, then?”

“Yes, there’s no way he would fail against the likes of those blade sharks. Take care of the B-rank approval once he returns. I intend to sell it to the people as the birth of a new hero at the memorial services for the victims of the Devil’s Blessing,” Mayor Tornado instructed.

In the end, all the meeting had accomplished was deciding to prop up Bui as Zoltan’s new B-rank adventurer.

If the enigmatic young nobleman intended to stick around in Zoltan, he might well become mayor himself someday. Undoubtedly, he was the sort of champion that Zoltan could rely on going forward.

The fields and pastures on the outskirts of Zoltan stretched far into the horizon.

At this time of year, the farmers in northern Zoltan ventured past the two-meter-tall ramparts—really just simple stone walls—that encircled the settlement to gather feed for livestock over the winter. There were already some people from the working-class part of town collecting food for their animals, too.

Because the work offered the chance for a little profit on the side, some D-rank and lower adventurers were participating in the chore as well. While not common, monsters could show up in the fields, so it was handy to have battle-ready people around. Any adventurer who volunteered was welcomed, and there was no established maximum on participants.

The remuneration wasn’t much, but because the farmers would share some of their vegetables, wheat, or other foodstuffs, the task was popular among the poorer adventurers and those for whom adventuring was a secondary job. Admittedly, even medicinal herb gathering was more profitable. This job was safer, however. If you got hurt, there were plenty of people around who could carry you back to town. Simple, non-life-threatening work was appealing.

All the gathered grass was to be stored in barns on the north side of Zoltan. Come winter, it would be processed into hay and sold at a fair price.

“Feels like the cold’s already on its way.”

The sky was beautiful and clear, and the temperature was just a little bit cool.

I was wearing a coat over my usual shirt. Clutching a bundle of cheese and potatoes I had received from a farmer in exchange for some medicine in my right hand, I made my way back home. The farmer had even been kind enough to throw in some chestnuts.

“This is still warm compared to Loggervia,” Rit replied as she stuck her hand into my coat pocket. She wrapped her fingers around mine in an attempt to shake the chill from hers.

“I thought it was still warm?”

“Comparatively. It’s still winter.”

Perhaps a little embarrassed, Rit raised the bandanna around her neck just a little bit to cover her mouth.

Squeezing her hand back, I caught a glimpse of her breaking into a smile behind her kerchief. It was so cute I couldn’t help but smirk.

“Look at that grin,” Rit teased.

It hardly seemed fair that she could tease me when she was doing the same thing, but I kept quiet.

We got back to the shop before noon, still a bit early for lunch.

Rit pulled the three ten-liter bottles of milk we had gotten from another farmer out of her item box with its extra-dimensional storage.

You might think we could have put the bag I was carrying in the item box, too, but while the item box recognized a bottle of milk as a singular item, it didn’t acknowledge a bag of potatoes as such. Each spud would be stowed separately. Taking them out would require removing each potato and each piece of cheese one by one. You also had to memorize what every individual vegetable looked like when you dropped it in, which was pretty annoying. If a bushel could just be carried in a regular bag, that was generally quicker.

“If we don’t use all this milk soon, it’ll spoil.”

“Maybe take one to the market and exchange it for something else?”

“Yeah, I’ll be right back, then.”

“Can I come, too?”

“Of course.”

Now, if both Rit and I were continually popping out, it raised the question of who would tend the shop. If only we had someone else to hold down the fort. But fall was drawing to a close, and the two of us wanted to go for a stroll. What were we supposed to do?

If Gonz heard me making excuses like that, he’d probably have a good laugh. Thankfully, there was no one here but Rit and me, and I intended to make the most of our quiet life.

I grabbed a bag of bronze commons before Rit and I headed back out.

Zoltan’s summer listlessness was nowhere to be found at the market anymore. Shopkeepers were bundled up, and they were all aggressively calling for customers. They were doing everything they could to unload their inventories.

“So what shall we get?”

At markets in Avalon, it was possible to make purchases with cash, but there was also a lot of bartering. A bronze common, worth one-hundredth of a payril, was often used as a proxy for haggling. In some farming villages, this wound up making the less valuable coins the main currency in circulation instead of the more precious silver payril.

Such was the case at Dr. Newman’s clinic a while back. An elderly lady had settled her fee with some commons and a bit of meat. That sort of practice was regular all over the continent.

From what I’d heard, the dark continent had continued down the path to developing a currency-based economy. Unlike here, where self-cast coins were mixed in among the official money, they only used bronze coins that bore an official seal.

Before the war, there were countries in Avalon that had imported currency from the dark continent to use as their national money because the dark continent’s coins had a stable value and were of a higher quality.

If you were ever going to go to the dark continent, it was a good idea to exchange your currency in one of those nations.

The price of dairy was a bit high in Zoltan. Cows were better suited to slightly cooler climates, so milk cost about twenty percent more than in Central. Typically, ten liters ran you about five payril, but it cost six in Zoltan, which would cover about six days’ worth of living expenses. Thus, instead of trading the entire bottle of milk all in one place, we would probably end up bartering off portions of it for ingredients from a few shops. The other option was to trade it all away for something expensive that Rit and I otherwise wouldn’t usually indulge in.

While dairy was pricey in Zoltan, beef was cheaper than average. A farmer had mentioned that the climate here was better suited for raising beef cattle, but the price for meat wasn’t much lower than in Central. If you were lucky, you could get it for around five percent less—roughly 4.5 payril per kilogram. Something about that didn’t feel right to me.

“It’s starting to be about time for stews, isn’t it?” Rit mentioned.

“A stew, huh? What do you think about getting some sausage for a pot-au-feu?” I proposed.

“Would it be okay to just get some beef for it? I like stewed beef!”

“That would be good. Maybe some onions, cabbage, turnips, and leeks for vegetables? A marinated fish for an appetizer. And some fried chicken to go along with the hot pot. We can put some pasta in to finish things off when the hot pot is ready, too. I’ll get some yogurt and fruit for dessert.”

“Ooooh, that sounds amazing! But is that really okay? It’s not like this is a special occasion or anything.” Rit looked a little bit unsure, though her eyes were gleaming at my proposed menu.

I just brushed it off with a smile. It was too embarrassing to admit that I’d gotten so enthusiastic because Rit had asked for a specific dish.

“It’s ready.”


I placed the pot on the stand set up on top of the table in the living room. Then I put a single piece of charcoal in the burner and lit it up. It wasn’t an especially powerful flame, but the pot was already plenty heated, so the charcoal’s addition caused it to start bubbling.

“Shall we, then?”


There was hardly anything left of the marinated fish we had eaten while preparing the hot pot. I was a little worried it was a bit too much as an appetizer, but with the hot pot sitting in front of us, it became clear that my concerns had been unfounded. Neither Rit nor I slowed down in the slightest as we partook of the stew.

We had fun chatting as we kept picking away at the hot pot.

“These chicken meatballs are delicious.”

“They really are. That old guy at the butcher’s shop recommended them so highly that I had to give them a try. He was right. They go well with the beef. I’ll have to remember to thank him later.”

When we finished, we added the pasta and let it simmer. Combining the noodles with broth that had absorbed all of the ingredients’ flavors was fantastic. For dessert, we had yogurt with grapes and sliced bananas mixed in.

Rit, who loved sweet things, seemed to be in heaven as she ate. It almost made me want to share my portion with her.

But— Well, I ended up eating my dessert myself. I mean, I liked sweet things, too.

“Thanks for the meal!”

When, at last, our feast was complete, Rit had a broad, satisfied smile. The mere sight of it was enough to make me glad that I’d prepared such an extravagant meal.

In the afternoon, we were back to working in the store. I left the counter to Rit and went into the workshop to prepare antidotes using gray starfish grass.

The Devil’s Blessing’s production base was gone, but there was no telling whether the authorities had found all the existing stock yet. Treatments for withdrawal were still ongoing, too. There was going to be a demand for a curative that helped manage those symptoms.

“They’re probably going to need to start mass-producing Cure Poison potions, aren’t they?”

Magic interpreted the effects of medication overdose as a toxin, so by using Cure Poison, it was possible to instantly heal the physical ailments of prolonged use and overdose. It couldn’t do anything about the psychological effects of addiction, however. The larger issue was that Cure Poison potions were quite expensive, costing around three hundred payril each. So only wealthy adventurers, merchants, or aristocrats could get their hands on them.

“It would be nice if an herb-based concoction could provide a more affordable option,” I muttered to myself.

Unfortunately, the antidotes I could make using plants were only capable of mitigating the symptoms slightly.

A Cure Poison potion was a magic mixture made by infusing a spell into a tincture. I couldn’t use magic, so I couldn’t make it.

I could use my multiplying potion to turn one Cure Poison brew into five and sell them at a lower price, but…

“If there was only someone I could trust to keep a secret and had enough influence to get it out into circulation…”

Most of the people I knew in Zoltan were working-class folks. I didn’t have any particularly powerful connections.

“Well, if that route’s no good, then there’s no need to worry about it,” I decided.

It wasn’t like people were going to die without a Cure Poison potion.

The only problem was that the holy church had judged the act of using Devil’s Blessing as blasphemy. So, while the organization would typically have taken the lead in providing for those in need, they were currently refraining from rendering any assistance.

In order to care for someone who was suffering from withdrawal symptoms, the person needed a partner to nurse them until the medicine was entirely out of their system. There were several clinics in Zoltan, but there was not very much capacity for inpatient care. By and large, the clinics just healed the people who stopped in, and any stays were for very short spells, followed by home care.

“Either way, it’s too big of a problem for me to tackle myself.”

There were all sorts of things to consider, and it wasn’t the kind of issue that was going to have an easy resolution.

All I could give was my best as an apothecary.

That evening, when I was mostly done with the preparations, I headed out to the shop to see how things were going. There I saw Rit smiling at me from the counter.

It looked like business had been good today.

“Because of the riot in Southmarsh, we’ve sold a lot of ‘just in case’ sorts of medicines, like the hemostatics. Also, the guards bought quite a lot of the hangover cures. And we managed to clear out a few cure potions, too.”

We’d paid some local adventurers to help with making those cure potions. Rit and I had spent a flat thirteen payril for the concoctions. While a time-consuming task for a fledgling adventurer, it was a popular job regardless, as it was an easy source of good income. All it took was casting some magic.

“Oh, that’s amazing. This might be our most profitable day in a long while.”

“It’s definitely in our top two. And we were only open in the afternoon today. Also, apparently, every clinic in town is running low on medicine, so expect some orders soon.”

Rit handed me a memo with today’s transaction records scribbled on it. I skimmed it quickly. We had definitely done an impressive amount of business.

“In that case, I should prepare a bit more medicine for tomorrow. I guess I’ll have to work a little bit longer today.”

“It might be a good idea to keep the store open today until customers stop coming, too,” Rit suggested.

“That would mean a bit of overtime work for you. Do you mind?”

“Not at all! I think we’ve been attracting some new customers recently, so let’s show them the high quality that Red & Rit’s Apothecary has to offer.”

“Quality,” huh? I was a tiny bit uneasy for my work to be the subject of such high praise, but I did pride myself on not selling medicines that had been mis-prepared. And we hadn’t ever had any complaints from customers.

I had no chance trying to compete on price with a shop run by someone with a blessing that could make curatives using Intermediate Preparation or a person who could use spells to make magic potions. Still, not every customer was looking for such high-class items.

“This cold medicine, please!” a small, half-elf girl chirped as she handed over ten commons.

It was a medicine that used ginger to increase the body’s metabolism. Unlike a drug made using a skill, it did not immediately take effect, but slower-acting compounds had their uses, too.

“Be careful not to drop it,” Rit cautioned with a smile as she handed over the requested item.

“Thank you! My mom caught a cold and was feeling really bad!”

“I’m sure she’ll feel better soon.”

The little girl politely nodded and then left the store with a spring in her step.

I’m Tisse. I used to be an assassin, but now I’m more like an airship pilot.

The Hero and I are currently headed toward Zoltan in a flying vessel left behind by the previous demon lord who had been resting deep within some desert ruins. The Hero was searching for an alchemist capable of creating something called Devil’s Blessing, a drug she learned about after interrogating a demon.

The demon had spread the medicine all around Zoltan, so there was no doubt that there was someone capable of making Devil’s Blessing there. Moments ago, lights from Zoltan homes had become visible in the distance.

Night fell, and I landed the airship near a forest a ways off from the road so I could rest.

“We will arrive tomorrow.”

I had unfurled a map and was explaining the route we would take.


The Hero quietly listened as I spoke while gesturing to the map.

Occasionally, she would look at me, and her cheek would twitch a little. It startled me and made me wonder if I had done something that upset her. However, whenever it happened, Mister Crawly Wawly would tap my shoulder with his leg, as if to say “There, there,” and cheer me up.

He’s right. I can do this! Eeep?! She twitched again! She’s looking straight at me! It’s okay. Stay calm. Stay calm…

“Land here tomorrow,” the Hero instructed as she pointed at the map.

It was a point near a mountain about a day’s walk from Zoltan.

“Are you sure? Zoltan is a bit of a long way off from there.”

“The airship draws attention. I want to hide the fact that I’m the Hero while in Zoltan. You should treat me as just a normal traveler, too.”

What?! Nowaynowaynowaynowaynoway!

I mean, leaving the airship far away was fine, and walking that far was okay, too! But there was no way the Hero could pass as an average person!

Just standing next to her got me so nervous that I was like a cold sweat waterfall! My back was soaked! I had to wash my underwear every night from the sweat!

Someone with such an overwhelming “I’m the strongest around” sort of aura like hers could only be either the Hero or the demon lord! Not that I’d ever met the demon lord, though.

“I see,” I finally managed. “It might be a bit presumptuous of me to bring this up, but you don’t seem to be particularly familiar with normal travel…”

“That’s correct. Everywhere I’ve visited, it’s always been as the Hero. That’s why I would like your help to cover for me if I make any mistakes while trying to pass as a regular traveler.”

Are you serious?

“I’m not sure I’m fit to be your guide here. I am but a lowly assassin.”

“That’s beside the point. Just a moment ago, you were willing to point out my lack of familiarity with normal excursions.”

Wait—that got me high marks? Anyone could have pointed that much out.

Getting into an argument with the Hero was frightening in its own way, so I had no choice but to concede. It was an assassin’s job to respond as capably as possible to her employer’s requests, after all.

At least I had been trained on blending into crowds, and as for the Hero…well, that was going to be hopeless. Still, I couldn’t say that to her. I was content to nod and live to see another day.

Surviving hardship was crucial in my line of work.

“All right, those are the plans for tomorrow, then. You can rest now. I’ll keep watch.” And with that, the Hero went out on the deck.

My name is Tisse. I used to be an assassin and an airship pilot, but now my duty is to support the Hero as she disguises herself as an inconspicuous traveler. I could never have imagined this situation back when I was an assassin.

Seriously, I literally couldn’t have conceived of something so crazy.

That night, while I was washing my sweat-soaked underwear, I sensed that the Hero was up and walking around. My ears perked up.

“…No one.”

She almost sounded dejected. “No one?” I mean, yeah, we were the only two on the airship, so of course no one else was around. I wondered what she was doing. Mister Crawly Wawly tilted his head as if to say he didn’t know, either.

Zoltan had a subtropical climate, but on days when the winds blew down from the big mountain range that ran along the eastern border—the Wall at the End of the World—it felt quite a bit colder.

As Rit and I were getting ready to open the shop that morning, she shivered when the wind blew in.

“Should I close the window? It’s a cold one today.”

“Yes, please do.”

Apparently, the winter in Zoltan was even chilly for Rit, raised in the northern country of Loggervia.

I closed the wooden window and then lit a lamp to keep the room from being too dark. The faint scent of the burning oil and the lantern’s dim light filled the shop.

“Okay, let’s do our best today, too.”

“You bet.”

Rit and I high-fived, and then I flipped the sign on the front door to OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

As I turned to go back into the shop, a frigid wind whistled as it surged by.

“Whew, that’s cold. But being able to go into your home when you’re chilly is bliss.”

Trudging on and on to continue a journey that had to persist no matter what. Enduring an icy wind coursing over the vast plains with just a cloak and without any trees around to take refuge behind. The armor encasing your body freezes over. Your ears, fingers, and every other extremity aches and burns. And amid all that, being stalked from afar by starved monsters eyeing a rare prey that would attack at a moment’s notice if you showed even the slightest opening.

Unlike when that had been my daily life, now, if it was cold outside, I could just go back into my cozy home, and Rit would wrap my blue hands in hers to warm them up.


Rit flashed an embarrassed smile as she held my hands. I smiled, too, feeling my own face getting a little bit red as I did so.

These were happy days.

This slow and easy life of ours had admittedly dulled our danger senses, however.

“Heeey! Let me in to warm up a bit…!” Gonz called as he barged in.

Rit and I were a split second too slow in reacting to the half-elf carpenter. Seeing our hands together as we looked into each other’s eyes like that, Gonz looked surprised for a moment, and then his mouth cracked into a grin.

We frantically pulled away from each other, and Rit blushed as she announced, “I’m going to go organize the storage room!” before beating a quick retreat.

“My bad, my bad. Didn’t mean to ruin the moment. But you did have the open sign out on the door.”

“Yeah, I guess so…”

“What’s there to be so embarrassed about anyway? The whole neighborhood already knows you two are lovey-dovey. You’re pretty much always at it. Ain’t it a bit late to be getting flustered now?”

“Huh? Are we really that lovey-dovey?” I wondered aloud.

“Huh?” Gonz’s eyes went wide, as if he couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. And then he heaved a big sigh.

“I mean, yeah, pretty much everyone agrees you two are the most stupidly in-love couple in all of Zoltan.”

Ugh, does everyone really think of us like that?

Truthfully, I had been restraining myself. Honestly, I would have liked to have been even more intimate with Rit.

“Well, whatever. So what did you want?” Though not in the smoothest way, I shifted the topic of conversation.

“Nothing in particular. Just what you said back at the shop’s opening. ‘Feel free to stop by for some tea’ and all. I could use some warm tea.”

“All right, I’ll get right on that, so watch the shop a bit for me.”

“Leave it to me.”

I headed to the kitchen, chuckling to myself as Gonz stood behind the counter in his work clothes, pointlessly swinging his arm.

I prepared the tea with practiced ease, placing three cups with white steam rising out of them onto a tray and heading back out to the store. No customers had stopped by.

Rit had come back before me, having already regained her composure. She was sitting at the counter.

“Ahhh, that hits the spot.” Gonz groaned with satisfaction.

“Whoa now, you’ve still got work to do, don’t you?” I chided.

“Yeah, but my work’s outside. It gets rough this time of year.”

“Isn’t the summer heat worse?”

“Sure, but winter’s bad enough in its own right! It’s a different kind of difficult!”

The two of us laughed as Gonz stressed the point. Still, I could understand what he was saying. Winter and summer were both pretty harsh.

“It’s the fingertips in particular.”

Gonz rubbed his slender, pale, un-carpenter-like digits together. An accident had left him with a broken finger years ago, but elves possessed a tenacious sort of life force. The snapped bone had healed on its own without leaving so much as a scar.

I liked Rit’s hands more, however, with their calluses and blemishes from all her fights and training. They were all the more endearing because you could see everything she had gone through to get here.

“Oy. Why’d you suddenly grab your lady’s hand?”

“Ah, it just sort of happened.”

Gonz shrugged, looking more and more exasperated. Rit was blushing as she hid a grin behind her bandanna. She was looking cuter and cuter.

“All right already. I get it. Thanks for the tea. If I stay any longer, I’m going to vomit pure sugar, so I should be on my way.”

“Okay. Don’t hurt yourself out there.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Gonz finished off the remaining tea in one gulp, put his gloves back on, and ventured into the chilly air.

“Gonz looked cold,” Rit remarked.

“It must be hard working outside on a day like this.”

Still sipping our tea, Rit and I were filled with a sort of detached respect as we watched our friend soldier off to resume construction on a house.

Winter was not just someone else’s problem as far as Red & Rit’s Apothecary was concerned.

“Not a single customer.”

No one came by today.

I was resting my chin on my hand, absentmindedly passing the time.

“I made some coffee, so let’s take a little break,” Rit said.

A short reprieve was probably fine. It wasn’t like we were going to get busy out of nowhere suddenly. My shoulders slumped a bit as I headed over to Rit. Seeing that, she smiled wryly.

“It’s just one day without any patrons. You don’t have to get so down about it.”

Yesterday had been one of our best business days ever. I’d prepared lots of medicines in excited preparation for that trend to continue, but the store was so empty I could hear crickets.

“Selling all those drugs yesterday means that everyone’s got what they need for now. There’s an ebb and flow to it,” Rit said soothingly.

“Maybe, but still…”

Typically, there were lots of people picking up medicinal cookies before work, but today we hadn’t sold one—they were all still sitting in their basket. They had been based on a recipe I had for preserved food, so they didn’t have to be disposed of after a single day, but it was depressing seeing things I had made lying around there like that.

“I would have thought it would get a bit warmer in the afternoon,” Rit remarked as she opened the window a little, letting a cold wind blow through the shop. “But yeah, with it this cold, Zoltanis aren’t going to be in a hurry to go walking around outside.”

One of the mottos around here was “It’ll wait till tomorrow.” Whether it was hot, cold, or rainy, any day that it was annoying to do something, people would take care of the bare minimum and procrastinate on the other stuff.

I’d gotten used to that Zoltan way of things, and it’s not as though I despised it, but…

“When it gets even colder, customers are going to be fewer and farther between,” I sighed.

Rit patted my head to console me.

Having someone you love do that for you was comforting. It was great when you were feeling down.

“You just need to have some kind of product that will draw them in because of the chill,” Rit reasoned.

“There are magic potions that grant cold resistance, but those are expensive at five hundred payril a bottle, and they only last a minute, so they won’t be any good for us.”

The concoction was more for surviving intense, conjured frost that would kill you instantly. There weren’t any potions for enduring an entire winter’s day.

The reason was that it was challenging to maintain magic for an extended period. With a Preparation skill, you could make medicines with longer-lasting effects like inner fire tablets that raised your body temperature or the dunce wonder pill that decreased intelligence. However, they were for emergencies only and had deleterious effects on the body when taken regularly.

“Yeah, this is a tough one to solve.”

Rit shifted up a gear from patting my head to pulling it to rest on her shoulder and rubbing from the back of my head to my neck as she struggled to come up with a solution.

“If only common skills were enough to make a Loggervian heater.”


Oh yeah…

I had totally forgotten about those.

Loggervian heaters were a device created in the Duchy of Loggervia. They used iron powder, saline water, a fine powder of charcoal from Loggervian cedar, and some breadcrumbs. One could use an Intermediate Alchemy skill to combine those reagents into a packet that gave off heat.

Initially, they had been a national secret and distributed only to their soldiers, but during the upheaval the goblin king caused fifty years ago, Loggervia had shared the preparation method with its neighbors. In the cold north, the use of Loggervian heaters to keep soldiers warm led to a marked increase in morale and an improved ability to sustain combat.

At present, the little tools were quite widespread among the northern regions of Avalon. Still, despite their convenience and the cheap ingredients needed to craft them, they weren’t something that everyone used. The biggest reason for this was that they started giving off warmth as soon as they were assembled. That meant they needed to be given to the user immediately. Intermediate Alchemy was required to craft Loggervian heaters, making it difficult for travelers to get their hands on the items.

“They would be perfect for an apothecary to sell in the morning,” I said.

“They need Intermediate Alchemy, though, right? That’s what I heard at a store in Loggervia, at least,” Rit replied.

“Heh-heh-heh… The truth is I discovered a different recipe during my travels.”

“This is an old Loggervian national secret we’re talking about here.” Rit looked shocked as she tousled my hair.

Even among alchemists, not many people investigated how exactly alchemy skills functioned. That was because such research demanded proper know-how instead of relying on a skill, and it was challenging to gain that knowledge. But because I had looked into ways to lessen the impulses of Ruti’s blessing, I had learned in detail how exactly those skills functioned. My old efforts were still paying off.

I never did find any way to lessen the impulses of a blessing with as many powerful immunities and resistances as the Hero, though, which was what I had been looking for.

“For Loggervian heaters, apparently what the Intermediate Alchemy skill actually does is interact with the iron powder and charcoal. The rest of it can be done with Elementary Alchemy or no skill at all. The warming effect comes from the iron powder oxidizing. Everything else in the recipe is just to facilitate that process.”

Loggervia was known for its iron production, supported by the abundance of high-quality lumber it boasted. An alchemist who was native to the region and well versed in reactions involving iron had discovered the formula for the heaters.

“Which means that all you need to do is make the iron powder rust extremely quickly. In which case, if you use the extract of a rust-eating mushroom, the process should be even more efficient. And if you use iron powder, a diluted solution of the mushroom extract, and bread crumbs, then Loggervian heaters can be made with common skills.”

The party’s travels through cold lands had been so much more comfortable after I’d discovered that recipe.

“I don’t really know much about Alchemy skills, but isn’t that kind of insanely amazing…?” Rit asked.

When I’d told the Hero’s party about my discovery way back when, they had responded with blank stares. Not only were they all strong and sturdy, but their minds focused more on things that were useful in combat. It was a journey to defeat the demon lord, so I could hardly blame them. The party likely could have endured any climate if they’d just put their mind to it.

It may not have felt like much of an achievement in the past, but Rit complimenting me for my discovery now made me elated.

“So…how about that?” I asked hesitantly.

“How about what?” Rit replied, confused.

“Is there going to be a problem if we start selling these? I don’t want a multiplying potion issue on our hands.”

Rit hugged me tight and pressed her forehead to mine with a laugh. “This will be okay. This is sure to let everyone know just how amazing you are.”


“Seriously, though…my Red is really something,” Rit said happily, then flashed a dazzling smile.

This time, she didn’t cover her mouth with her bandanna, letting her happiness show.

“It’s because you’re always there for me,” I answered as I hugged Rit back.

I got the blacksmith Mogrim to give me some iron powder and put together some samples. Leaving the store to Rit, I headed to where Gonz was working.

“Hey, Gonz.”

“Oh, that you, Red? Pretty rare to see you out and about.”

Today Gonz was building a new warehouse for a clothing shop. The support pillars were already up, and he was working on the walls. His long half-elf ears were red, affected even more than most by the winter cold. He had a wool scarf wrapped around his neck, but in general, he was wearing lighter clothes that wouldn’t get in the way of his work.

“It’s a cold one today,” Gonz observed as he pulled off his leather work gloves and put his hands on his ears to warm them up. His nose and head had turned a cherry color, too, and he looked like he was suffering.

“I brought a sample for you to try out.”

“A sample?”

“Yeah, it’s for cold days like today. It’s a heater.”

I pulled one of the heaters in a pouch out of my basket and passed it over to Gonz.

“Whoa, that’s pretty warm.” Gonz looked to be enjoying it as he held it against his fingers and ears.

“I was thinking about trying to sell them. They should stay warm for somewhere around fifteen hours.”

“Seriously? I would definitely want one!”

Gonz had already snatched up the Loggervian heater I’d offered him, claiming it for himself, which caused me to chuckle a little.

“What do you got there?”

Tanta’s father, Mido, and some other craftspeople stopped working and crowded around.

“I made a bunch, so there’s enough for everyone.”

I passed the heaters to the laborers one after another.

“Oooh, that’s warm.”

“I really hate the cold.”

“Damn, this is nice.”

The response was excellent. I made certain to explain the general warnings for use, so they didn’t burn themselves or anything.

“And these should still be warm in the evening, so if you don’t mind, could you spread the word about them at the tavern when you go home?”

“But there ain’t no way this won’t cost an arm and a leg, right?” a half-orc craftsman joked.

Grinning, I responded, “For the low, low price of just a single quarter payril, you get one of these and five coppers change.”

“The price o’ two whiskeys, eh? I can just write it off as the cost of the drinks I’d normally get to warm up!”

“But you’re still gonna drink, right? Don’t go hurting yourself working while you’re drunk.”

“If I do, I’ll be countin’ on you for some good drugs.”

“If you get yourself hurt for such a stupid reason, I’ll be sure to charge you through the nose for the medicine.”

The crafters all burst out laughing.

When people warmed up, their moods melted with them. The crafters seemed to be in high spirits as they went back to work.

I left them to their duties and went off to visit Stormthunder at his furniture shop, the various delivery people, Dr. Newman and his nurse, Eleanora, out doing house calls, the dwarf Grihardr repairing a pot by the fireside, the high elf Oparara pulling her food cart, and many others.

My last stop was Mogrim’s place. I wanted to give him a heater as thanks and to talk about buying iron powder from him going forward. He just looked amused, but his wife, Mink, who watched the storefront, was interested.

With luck, everyone I gave a sample to would be telling their friends and neighbors about the Loggervian heaters.

“That should be perfect as far as advertisements go.”

It wasn’t until after I’d finished distributing the pouches that I realized it had already gotten dark. The work had taken a lot longer than I had expected.

Since winter was so short here, I had thought heaters wouldn’t be in that high a demand, but everyone seemed really interested. I certainly wasn’t ungrateful for the response, but everywhere I went, people wanted to know more about them and when they’d be available to purchase. Some even tried to put in preorders for tomorrow.

“Ugh, so cold.”

A cold night breeze blew past as I was walking along a tree-lined path. The moon was gradually growing brighter as the sun sank farther. Several enthusiastic stars were already glimmering.

My white breath melted into the air as the last ray of daylight waned in the sky.


Someone called out to me. It was a bright, clear voice that was music to my ears. Looking around, I saw Rit waving.

“Why are you out here?”

“I had a feeling you’d be back soon, so I came out to meet you,” Rit admitted with a bashful expression.

Maybe it was only the cold, but her cheeks were tinged with crimson.

It had taken longer than I had expected, but apparently, Rit had foreseen exactly when I’d be back. She knew her stuff when it came to things like this.


Rit looked at my face and made an expression like she noticed something.

And then she took her gloves off.


She put both of her hands on my cheeks. They were still warm from being in her gloves and felt great. It was as though they were gradually melting away the cold that had seeped into me.

“Your face is getting red. How is it? Warm?”

“Yeah…thank you.”

Rit’s hands were nice, of course, but I could feel just as much heat welling up inside of me. My heart may have started beating a bit faster, too.


As I immersed myself in the comfort of Rit’s tenderness, she caught my attention with a soft exclamation.

“The sky!”


Rit looked pleased about something as she looked into the air.

Turning my head upward again, I saw small white flakes fluttering down from the dark, starry night sky. I had been thinking how cold it all was, but I would never have guessed it would snow.

“This is pretty rare for Zoltan. I guess it got carried in by the winds from the Wall at the End of the World.”

“It’s the first time I’ve seen snow since coming here. I thought I’d had enough of it back in Loggervia, but seeing it like this, it looks lovely!”

“Yeah. It’s not going to pile up here, either, so we can watch it fall without having to worry about dealing with it later.”

Rit’s homeland—the Duchy of Loggervia—was far to the north. Come winter, and it was bathed in uniform whiteness no matter where you looked. You wouldn’t find piles and piles of snow like that in Zoltan, but had Rit ever been able to see it fluttering gently down like this in Loggervia?

I gently pulled her closer.

“Shall we go watch it fall for a bit?” I proposed.

“Are you sure? It’s pretty cold.”

“True. I don’t have any heaters left, either.”

I had intended to make enough to have some leftover, but the reviews were surprisingly good, and when I was at the tavern explaining the product, a bunch of nearby patrons who had never come to our shop before had gathered around.

While great for business, it had left me without any Loggervian heaters for myself. That’s why I’d been so chilly when Rit found me.

“Heh-heh-heh,” Rit said, breaking into a big grin. “The truth is… Ta-daa.”

Rit pretentiously pulled one of the heaters out from her cleavage with a flourish.

“I thought it would be a good idea to have one to show off in case any customers happened to stop by, so I set one aside.”

“Oooh, great thinking.”

But now there were two of us and only one heater. The numbers didn’t add up.

“I’m still okay, so you warm yourself up,” Rit said as she put the pouch into my hand. “I’m from Loggervia; this level of cold is nothing special.”

“No way. I couldn’t bear to see you freeze while I’m comfortable.”


I rejected her suggestion, of course. But I knew full well how stubborn Rit could be at times like this. At this rate, it would end with neither of us using the heater, which would be a waste, too. Hrmph… After thinking about it a bit, I took Rit’s hand with the heater still in my palm and started walking.

“Let’s go for a little stroll.”


Rit followed my lead as I pushed forward, turning off onto a path that led into the trees. Walking down the narrow route with the fallen leaves underfoot, we came to a little clearing.

“I’m sure no one will bother us here at this time of night.”

“Huh? Uh? Is something going to happen? Are you going to do something?”

Rit suddenly flushed crimson and started fidgeting. She was glancing over at me as she hid her mouth behind the red bandanna around her neck.

Huh? W-wait, I didn’t mean it that way…

“Ah, ummm, pardon me.”


I undid the buttons on my cloak and then pulled Rit close enough that it would cover both of us. The heater was right between us as we locked eyes. This way, the warmth would protect us from the cold winter night.

“This way, neither of us will freeze.”


Rit turned the color of a beet as she hastily looked away, and then she glanced back at my face as her hands wavered before she finally wrapped them around my back and embraced me.

“…Your body is so warm,” Rit said as her eyes narrowed.

Rit’s cute face was right in front of me, and just a little bit of snow had gotten tangled in her pretty blond hair. I caught a whiff of a pleasant scent.

Rit’s chest had gotten a bit sweaty in her coat, and I could feel it press against my own as she hugged me closer.

Rit was blushing as she looked up at me, her expression filled with pure, straightforward affection. After calming down a bit, she looked at the sky.

“Seeing it like this… The snow really is gorgeous.”

Her words caused something to tingle on the back of my neck, but my eyes stayed locked on her face.

“What is it? All you’ve done is look at me… You see it all the time, right? What about the snow?”

“But I’ll never get to see you in the snow at this moment again… I was captivated by it.”

Oh no, I didn’t mean to say what I was thinking out loud. What am I doing? I could feel my cheeks burning.

“S-sorry for saying such a weird thing.” I frantically tried to make an excuse for myself as Rit listened in openmouthed surprise. I really thought I’d screwed up.

“Eh-heh… Eh-heh-heh…” As I started to fidget, Rit broke into a happy grin. “I’m the one who was caught off guard there, so why are you the one turning so red?” Rit’s cheeks were bright scarlet, and she was grinning as she teased me in a tone that was light and playful, like she was floating on sunshine.

“I didn’t mean to surprise you… I was just embarrassed because my thoughts slipped out.”

“Aren’t you a bashful one.”

Instead of replying, I pressed my forehead against Rit’s.

As the snow fell from the night sky, we held each other close beneath a single coat. Our heads were pressed together as we giggled. There were no signs of anyone else nearby.

“It’s just the two of us.”

Rit was thinking the same thing that I was. It made me want to laugh. It felt so lovely I couldn’t stand it. I kissed her softly.

I focused all five of my senses on Rit as my heart swelled like it was about to burst.

Our lips broke apart as we shared a bashful smile and then looked at the sky.

“The snow is pretty.”


We were huddled together under a single jacket, warmed by a solitary heater, watching the snow fall under the cold night sky. This kind of quiet life was excellent.

“After this, I’m sure everyone will want to come buy a heater tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I imagine so.”

“I’m sure sales will be much better tomorrow,” Rit said as she smiled at me.

Seeing that grin suddenly made me realize why I’d wanted to do something about the lack of customers. It was because I had wanted to be able to share happy moments like this one alongside Rit.

Worrying with her, making something as a team, and then either celebrating or feeling dejected together. I just wanted the time with her.

“There’s no telling whether customers will actually come tomorrow, though.”

“Really? I think they will.”

“Thanks. I was able to give it my all today because you believed in me.”

Rit tilted her head slightly as she looked up at me. She squeezed her arms tight around me again, pulling closer. “Don’t push yourself too hard. I’m happy just being able to watch the snow with you.” She blushed and broke into a loose smile. I couldn’t help but grin.

“Right, enjoying myself with you isn’t something I have try at.”

“Exactly. You’ve already done so much. So for my sake, try not to overreach.”

In the grand scheme of things, if I could be together with Rit like this, then that was enough. Rit would stay with me regardless of what I achieved.

“It truly is warm like this.”

“Yeah… It really is…”

Night fell as we stood there. Moonlight cast a pale glow on the snow that danced as it fluttered to the ground.

The two of us shared a quiet night looking at the sky.

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