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Ascendance of a Bookworm Chapter 157

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Chapter 157. Chapter 125 Ready for Winter Translator: Rebeka

I hoped I could finish the stinky work before the Blue-robed priests came back. The next day, Lutz said he wanted to make cheese as well as gelatin and candles.

Our family bought milk from herdsmen, but we only made cottage cheese with vinegar, and Lutz's family kept eggs and milk and turned them into cheese.

“Cheese is easy to keep, so it's a good idea to have some for the orphanage.”

“… I don't quite understand, but if only there would be more food in the winter.”

Lutz and Gil discussed these things as they worked. I had to practice the Fespeil until the third bell, so by the time I got to the workshop it was almost the fourth. As I walked around the workshop with Fran, I saw the gray-robed priests and the apprentices working together on different a.s.signments. I seldom visited the workshop at this time, so now I felt very fresh.

“Lutz, Gil, how are things?”

“It's all going well. The pig skins are being processed here, the candles are being made there, and now the priests are melting the tallow and filtering out the mince. The so-called salting out hasn't been done yet.”

The pot in front of Lutz and Gil was full of lime water, and the pig skins were soaking in it. It looked like they were just been soaking in, so there was no sign of expansion at the moment. In the direction Lutz was pointing, three gray-robed priests were filtering melted tallow.

“Let's soak the pig skins for a while. Salting out is a little troublesome, but it will reduce the smell and improve the quality of the oil. Come on, everybody.”

Lutz's family never salted out, and mine tried it at my suggestion, but only officially adopted it when they found out that the smell had really faded. Salting out was not common here. Part of the reason, I thought, was that I lived in a slum, and while salt was not as expensive as other spices, it was still hard to afford.

“Two herbs, Dyenb and Rumoza, can be added to melted wax to get rid of the stench. But you mustn't add Gajeli and Sarukoleyle, they'll only get stinker.”

Lutz snickered when I told him about ways to reduce the stench of making candles.

“Ah, are these examples of your failures?”

“Alas… failure is the mother of success. After several failures, success is sure to follow.”

“Oh… I see. Master Maine is marvelous.”

Gil's eyes sparkled as I spoke, and he nodded his head cunningly in agreement with what I said. He was so honest and lovely. I hoped he could just grow up like this.

“By the way, Master Maine, what is salting out? Is it difficult?”

“It's just a few more steps. It's troublesome, but not difficult. All we need to do is pour the brine into the tallow, simmer for a while, and then remove the residue. As it cools, the tallow separates into the oil that floats on top and the brine that sinks below. When the oil has set to white, pour away the brine, leaving the oil on top.”

I explained the steps briefly, and Gil nodded his head as he listened. Lutz listened too, but all of a sudden he blinked.

“Maine, don't you save some of it for the soap?”

“The Grace of G.o.d includes soap, so it can all be used for candles.”

My family made soap every spring, so we always saved some of the oil. But the temple would provide soap as part of the Grace of G.o.d. The priests and priestesses had to keep their clothes and bodies clean, so soap was provided in abundance. Although from the orphanage's point of view, we wanted ingredients more than soap, the priests and priestesses' priorities were different from ours.

“Ah, Gil, there must be a lot of mince in the cloth we used to filter the tallow. It will be good to add to tonight's soup. Please tell the gray-robed priests about it.”

Gil nodded vigorously and ran to the priests who were filtering the tallow. The priests unrolled the filter cloth and looked at it carefully. Then they shouted happily, “There is meat on it!”

“Well, meat is important, after all.”

Lutz and I looked at each other and smiled. Then I looked around the workshop and saw that in addition to making gelatins and candles, there were also gray-robed priests and apprentices using presses to extract oil from the fruit. This oil could be used not only as lamp oil, but also for cooking. I hoped to extract as much as possible, but unfortunately, the orphanage usually only made soup.

The usual protagonist, the paper, was now stacked in the corner. By the wall I saw half-finished paper, still wet, and white and black bark hanging out to dry. Finally, my eyes rested on the paper that had been made and piled up.

“Lutz, how much paper does the workshop have now?”

Lutz followed my gaze and narrowed his eyes.

“We just printed the picture books a while ago, so it should be under 300 now. I won't know the exact number until those half-finished ones are finished. Do you need paper?”

“Well, I'm going to reprint the Children's Edition of the Scripture. But I don't want to waste paper templates, so I'd like to print a lot in one go, so there's a huge demand for paper… How much paper can we make if we start now?”

As for pigments, I had ordered linseed oil from Benno, and there was still plenty of soot left. So right now, the most urgent need was paper.

“Although tuckahoe is not suitable for firewood, the bark is beginning to harden in this season. I will ask the wood shop. If all the bark in the workshop were made into paper, there would be about 750 pieces.”

“Really? Please make as much paper as you can.”

“Leave it to me.”

When Lutz took the job, I stopped worrying about paper.

“If you have time, Maine, would you like to see how the cheese is made?”

I nodded to Lutz's suggestion and moved with Fran to the ground floor of the girls' dormitory.

“Is the cheese made in the girls' dormitory?”

In my opinion, it was not acceptable for a pot cooked with ashes and bark to be used for making food, but here, many people a.s.sumed that it was ok to wash the pot after cooking something other than food. It would not affect the taste of the food, but I didn't want to.

“It's done!”

“Let's put this in the sun next.”

When we arrived at the girls' dormitory, we found children airing fruits and mushrooms picked from the forest and gray-robed priestesses working hard to make cheese and soup. The fruit and honey were bubbling in the pot, and a delicious jam was about to be born. The air was thick with sweet smells, and compared with the stinking boys' dormitory, it was a paradise of sweets and cakes.

“But even after all this soup, it was all gone by noon.”

“I hope the Harvest Festival will be over soon. It's tiring to have to cook so many times a day.”

During the Harvest Festival, when the Grace of G.o.d was much less, the priestesses who in charge of the soup were kept busy and needed to make nearly twice as much soup as usual. They were either pouting as they cut or grinning as they stirred the soup. Seeing how they looked, I couldn't help laughing.

“Ah, Master Maine!”

Seeing me coming, the children stopped their work in a hurry, crossed their hands and bowed to me. Heard me say, “Get back to work, everyone.” They resumed their work in a very stiff motion, completely different from the way they had been when they had not noticed me.

… Ah, they were all scared of me.

Because I had to go to the workshop a lot to discuss things with Lutz and to check on new projects, the priests who worked there would not be nervous about seeing me now. But I had never made an appearance at the girls' dormitory at this hour, and I could tell they were all shaking with nervousness.

“Lutz told me you were making cheese, so I just came by to look around. Is everything all right?”

“We are heating the milk.”

The priestess gave a stiff smile as she slowly stirred the milk in the pot with a large wooden spatula. Lutz looked into the pot and nodded slightly.

“Keep heating until the milk starts to bubble.”

Probably able to calculate the time after looking at the situation, Lutz muttered, “That should be fine,” then called out to the children airing the fruit.

“Hey, children, I'm going back to the Company. I'll have things delivered in batches. Please go to the workshop and wait.”

The children answered in unison, stopping to air the fruit and starting to prepare the baskets.

“Maine, I think you should go back to your room. Everyone is nervous with you around.”

“Well, I see. Then, please keep an eye on it.”

Seeing that all the work was going well, I returned to the Dean's Office with great satisfaction. In this case, we should be able to get everything done before the blue-robed priests and priestesses came back. With the exception of stinky work, everything else was less urgent.

As well as preparing three meals as usual, the kitchen was busy today with the marinating and oil sealing of large quant.i.ties of pork that had been sliced and not yet smoked the day before. I watched the frantic kitchen as I made my way up to the first floor. Delia was practicing her writing against the Children's Edition of the Scripture, and Rosina was handling the tasks a.s.signed to her by Fran.

“Shall we go on making paper templates then?”

I tried to get to work too, but Fran smiled and handed me a board.

“No, Master Maine, you may as well revise your prayers as your paper templates. You must expect a request from the Order at any moment.”

The Order must be a.s.sembled from a group of aristocrats, so no mistake, not even the slightest one, should be made in receiving a request from it. Fran was clearly more worried about the request from the Order than winter preparations for the orphanage.

“… when will the Order make its request?”

“There is no specific time, but normally before winter they would make one or two requests, so it might not be long.”

“Well…”

By convention, the trainee priests and priestesses would never be present at ceremonies, as no one would wish to have an important ceremony performed by an immature trainee. Therefore, I never attended the baptisms, the coming-of-age ceremonies, and star-union ceremonies at the temple as a blue-robed priestess. The Order's members were mostly men, and too much contact with them by the priestesses could lead to gossip, so requests from the Order were always addressed by the grown-up blue-robed priests. Now, however, the number of competent priests was obviously not enough, and it was me who was the least fit to take on the task.

“But, Fran, I don't quite understand. The Head Priest has a lot of magic, doesn't he?”

Besides me, surely there was another who was fit for it — the Head Priest.

“On such occasions, he must prioritize the duties of an aristocrat over those of a priest.”

Not only was the temple undernumbered, so was the Order. Knights who performed well were promoted to the centre, just like the priests and priestesses of the temple. As a result, the Order was forced to recruit aristocrats whose magic was not strong enough to pa.s.s. In such a case, it was possible that the Head Priest, as an old school aristocrat who had graduated from the Aristocrats Academy, would come to the aid of the Order, and would therefore require me to perform the ritual of the Order as a priestess. This was what Fran told me in private.

… I was finally able to do something like a priestess, but my first task was a request from the Order. Wasn't that a bit too much of a burden?

As I recited the prayer through a cold sweat, Fran looked up as if he thought of something.

“Is your ceremonial dress ready, Master Maine?”

“The fitting is over, and the formal work is under way, so it should be done before long.”

Corinna had said that if she was in good health it would take about four days, and even if she was not, it should take less than ten days. When I told Fran that, he was relieved.

“Please bring it to the temple as soon as possible, so that when requested, you may set out immediately.”

Then Fran joined me in reciting the prayers, and presently Gil returned with a wooden box, which seemed to have been delivered by the Gilberta Company.

“Fran, can you give me a hand? There are some big packages out there.”

“I see. Delia and Rosina, please open this box first. Master Maine, please stay here and continue reciting.”

At Gil's call, Fran stood up and went downstairs, and Rosina and Delia followed him.

“Wow! The blankets are here!”

From downstairs came a loud cry of excitement from Delia. She liked to decorate rooms best.

“That way, the Dean's Office will be ready for the winter, too. I'll change the decorations immediately…”

“Delia, lunch is coming soon. You can start after lunch.”

Rosina checked the impetuous Delia. So we decided to change the decorations this afternoon.

“Now, Master Maine, go to the workshop with Gil.”

Just after lunch, Delia ushered me out of the room, all smiles. The Head Priest was away at the Harvest Festival, so I could not enter the library, even with Fran. I could neither go to the library nor stay in the Dean's Office, so I had no choice but to go to the workshop. Delia said I couldn't take Fran, a scarce labour force, and in the end, I was piteously escorted to the workshop by Gil.

“Lutz said this morning that the pig skins were quite swollen, and would like you to see them. Master Maine, come with me to the workshop.”

Probably the others had not finished their meal, so there was not a single person in the workshop. Since no one would stop me, I ventured to take a closer look at the pot.

“… huh? Maine, what are you doing here?”

While I was looking at the pig skins in the pot, Lutz suddenly came back. I guessed he have had lunch at the Company and reported to Benno about his work for the day. As soon as he walked in the door, he saw me who wasn't supposed to be here, so his eyes widened in surprise. My position prevented me from doing anything myself, and it was a rarity for me to come to the workshop several times a day.

“The Company has brought in all that carpet stuff, so Delia is having a good time changing the decorations… She threw me out because I was in the way.”

“Oh, that's just right. My master wants me to tell you that the ceremonial dress is ready and that you can go to Mrs. Corinna when you have time. Since you can't stay in your room, do you want to go to Mrs. Corinna now? I'll pick you up when you leave.”

I nodded at Lutz's suggestion. It was autumn now, and the weather was getting colder every day. I would catch a fever sooner or later if I stayed out like this. If there was a place to hide, I'd better get there quickly.

“Good. Then I will take Rosina to Mrs. Corinna. When you come to fetch me, remember to bring Fran with you. I can't let Rosina come back alone.”

“I see.”

“Lutz, please wash the pig skins. I will bring Master Maine back to the temple.”

When Gil and I returned to the Dean's Office, Delia was moving the large furniture. Seeing us come in, she bellowed, “This is a mess that is not to be seen by the master, so you are not to come in until I have finished cleaning!”

“I have heard that the ceremonial dress is ready, so I'm going to see it and then go straight home. At least let me change my clothes. And Rosina, will you come with me to Mrs. Corinna?”

“At your command.”

Rosina went to change her clothes for the outing. “I'll have the room ready by tomorrow.” Said Delia, beaming as she dressed me quickly.

“Fran, Lutz will call you before he returns to the Company. Please go with him. We can't let Rosina go back to the temple alone after dark.”

“At your command, Master Maine. Be careful. I look forward to your early return.”

With Fran's eyes on us, Rosina and I walked down the main road, where the sun was still warm but the wind was already cold. She looked exceptionally beautiful in her new rouge dress. Fran had been shuttling me between the Gilberta Company and my house, and Gil went to the forest from time to time, but Rosina, unlike them, had little opportunity to go outside. She frowned at the smell of the street, but at the same time looked around curiously, making me think she was lovely.

“If only Wilma could come out and walk around, she would be able to draw more things…”

“Maybe in the near future, Wilma will want to go out, too. In the old days, when she was making soup on the ground floor, she would hide away in fear when the gray-robed priests came to help carry the water. But now she even has the courage to give them instructions.”

Now that Wilma was in charge of the orphanage, she must be stronger than ever. After listening to Rosina's report, I could feel that little by little, Wilma was changing.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Mark. I heard that Mr. Benno wanted me, and I came here as soon as I could.”

“My master is on business. I will speak directly to Mrs. Corinna. Please wait here.”

As I sat down under Mark's invitation, Rosina stood quietly behind me. An apprentice followed Mark's instructions and brought me tea. I took a sip of it and let out a long breath.

“This way, Master Maine.”

Rosina was here today, and I was Corinna's guest, so Mark rarely addressed me as “Master”. We went up the back stairs to the second floor.

“Mrs. Corinna, Master Maine is here.”

“Maine, welcome.”

When Mark knocked at the door, Corinna came out to meet us with a soft smile. She seemed surprised when her eyes fell on Rosina.

“Is your attendant with you today? Shall I call you Master Maine then?”

“I don't really care, but please call me ‘Master' for Rosina's feeling.”

“Ah, then, Master Maine, please come in.”

We followed Corinna into the anteroom, where my ceremonial dress hung directly in front of the entrance.

“Wow!”

The ceremonial dress was placed where the sun s.h.i.+ned, so water ripples and embroidered flowers stood out. Against the light, the cloth glowed with a gorgeous sheen, as if it had real water flowing over it. I was dumbfounded at the stunning beauty.

“… it's so beautiful.”

Rosina's admiration brought me to my senses.

“Mrs. Corinna, this is a marvelous dress. Thank you very much.”

“I'm the one who should say thank you.”

With a smile, and holding her enlarged belly, Corinna removed the ceremonial dress with a very careful movement.

“Please try it on. I am sorry, but I am a little clumsy now, so may I ask you to help Master Maine to change?”

“Yes, of course.”

Rosina took the dress from Corinna and put it on for me. As a high attendant who had served a n.o.ble daughter, Rosina dressed me in a fluid and graceful manner. The main color of the dress was blue, and most of the embroidery was of the same color, but silver thread was used on the cuffs and hem, and gold one on the chest. The pattern embroidered in gold thread was the emblem of Maine Workshop, which perfectly decorated the empty s.p.a.ce.

I stood at attention nervously, feeling as if I had put on a coming-of-age kimono with long sleeves. I must be dignified and elegant. On no account should I get my clothes dirty. I couldn't get these thoughts out of my head.

“The belt is here.”

“Underage trainee blue-robed priests and priestesses must wear a white belt with silver embroidery. When they become adults, silver embroidery will be replaced by gold embroidery. These embroideries are prayers in the Scripture.” Corinna explained.

“Excuse me, why is the cloth of this ceremonial dress so thick?”


Rosina adjusted my belt and looked up at Corinna. Corinna, still smiling attractively, explained to her the special technique used in the dress.

“By folding and st.i.tching the cloth like this, you can adjust the length of the dress according to the height… I actually did it according to Master Maine's request. It's very rare, but the ceremonial dress is not widely worn, so it makes sense.”

“…Master Maine always surprises me.”

After hearing that this was not Corinna's original craft, but my proposal, Rosina sighed with understanding. After getting dressed for me, Rosina stood up and checked from all angles, then nodded vigorously.

“The dress is excellent, Master Maine. The flowers look so lifelike in your movements. I am sure the eyes will follow you in spite of themselves.”

Because of the new technique used in the ceremonial dress, Corinna seemed unsure of how it would work. She was relieved to hear that Rosina, who had served Lady Christine, had given such a high evaluation.

My ceremonial dress was ready and my room was rearranged. The food and candles had been processed, and the wood had been moved into the bas.e.m.e.nt. The gelatin had been placed in an airy s.p.a.ce, and the workshop had made lots of paper and ink for subsequent picture books. All kinds of tools had been bought. In this way, the orphanage's winter preparations were finally completed.

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