Chapter 179 – Remnants of a Dream
As for the Slaine Magic Artificer Guild, there was no one else in the Royal Magicians Order who had worked there.
According to registered information, it was a medium-sized guild in the countryside.
It had grown significantly during the past three years, due to selling magic tools that were significantly cheaper than other guilds.
However, things did not last, as they ran out of funds and had to halt all operations shortly after he had left.
(It will be difficult to gather any more information from within the palace. It would be best if I could talk with people who worked there. But considering the work Luke put me in charge of, I don’t have time for that.)
As I organized the archive and court records in the grand library, I started to have an idea of what Luke was searching for.
After all, I had known him for a long time.
(Someone very influential within noble society is acting as an enemy of the kingdom.)
I didn’t know if it was actually true.
However, it seemed like Luke was moving while expecting the absolute worst.
(Even Ms. Leticia is helping him.)
I recalled the mountain of documents on the office desk.
He was stoic and usually did not like to rely on others. And so he normally would not have asked someone for help.
Also, Luke had been increasing the amount of magic combat training in the 7th unit’s schedule.
(It is possible that we will be heading into a dangerous location. And so I must help with raising the ability of the new recruits.)
Safety was a priority, and so I focused on training that would allow them to protect themselves. But at the same time, there was also a mountain of work that I needed to check and organize.
(I cannot spend too much time on this. The Miles problem must be resolved as quickly as possible.)
After deciding this, I approached Miles before the day’s work ended.
“Hey, Miles. There is something that I need to talk to you about. Do you have any time after work?”
“I don’t want to go anywhere with you. And so I won’t.”
“Tha-that’s very blunt…”
I was more impressed than offended.
I suppose this was just how kids were these days.
Even though he was only a year younger than me.
Also, I was raised in the countryside, so I would have different values compared to someone like him, who was raised in the city.
(Still, I expected this much. He had less passion for his job than anyone, and so he would not be so eager to talk about it. And so I have prepared a trump card.)
I smiled with confidence as I said to him,
“Hey, Miles. If you do come with me…I shall treat you to some very marbled steak.”
It was the best thing that I could come up with.
I had lost all of my money betting on the Sixty Seconds of Blood, but had managed to save up a little since then.
With the overwhelmingly appealing promise of expensive meat in front of him, Miles would surely yield.
I was very confident indeed. Miles thought about it for a second and replied.
“I am not interested. I don’t like to eat.”
There were people in this world who could resist such a temptation.
I had not expected this result at all, and just stood there, stunned. Usually, most people would have jumped at the chance to get a bite to eat with a superior.
Of course, you could use your free time however you liked. It was wrong to force people.
(I will just have to talk to him at work then.)
It was just as I was trying to rethink my strategy.
“What did you want to talk to me about?”
I turned around.
Miles was staring at me.
“You wanted to tell me something, didn’t you?”
“Yes. I wanted to ask about your time at the Magic Artificer Guild.”
Even now, it felt as if those words held some kind of meaning to him.
“But if you don’t want to go, that is fine. You should use your time wisely. There is no need to forcefully change your schedule.”
I said, so he did not feel any pressure. He was silent for a moment, and then answered.
“I will go.”
I could not believe my ears.
He repeated it.
“I’ll go with you.”
Twenty minutes later, Miles and I were facing each other as we sat at a table in a steakhouse.
This place had fond memories for me, as it was the first place that Mr. Gawain took me to when I joined the order.
Normally, I would never go to such a place with my own money. And so that day was special, and a great memory.
If only I could do the same one day for a subordinate. That was what I had thought.
(Ah, though, it would look like favoritism if I only brought Miles. I will have to bring the others to maintain balance. But…eight people…)
I would not have any money left.
This must be how Mr. Gawain felt when he went into debt.
(It sure is hard, being a superior.)
Still, I shook my head and smiled.
“Eat as much as you like.”
While it was from the heart, I also would not mind if he was a little modest.
And then…Miles chose the most expensive thing on the menu.
(The complete lack of modesty… Kids these days…!)
Not reading the room and choosing the most expensive thing for yourself without hesitation.
(What a scary person.)
I felt something that could not be measured as I called the waiter and placed the order.
The red wine arrived first.
I swirled it in my glass, enjoyed the scent, and then carried it to my mouth.
With eyes closed, I tasted it carefully.
(I don’t get it…)
Wine had such a fancy and wonderful association in my mind, and so I had tried it repeatedly. However, I still could not understand what the appeal was.
It was bitter and not very good. There were other drinks that tasted better.
What if everyone thought the same, and they were just pretending in order to look sophisticated?
Or maybe I just wasn’t used to the taste yet, and it would improve if I kept trying.
(I shall drink a little more then.)
As I faced my wine with a conflicted expression, Miles said,
“So why did you bring me out here?”
“Because I wanted to talk to you. After all, we both worked at a Magic Artificer Guild. We must have a lot in common. Similar complaints and troubles…”
“I see. Well, I also wanted to talk to you, Ms. Noelle.”
That was surprising.
“Yes. As you went from working there to being a Royal Magician, you are rather famous within that industry. In fact, that was one of the reasons I decided to take the entrance exam.”
(Huh. He was capable of paying me a compliment after all!)
It was hard to suppress a smile.
“And you were from a guild in the countryside. There are rumors that working conditions were terrible.”
“Indeed, it was difficult in many ways. Though, perhaps it was not that different from other guilds.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well… To be precise…”
And so we talked about the working environment at the Magic Artificer Guilds.
How I had done over four hundred hours of overtime work a month. How I could not return home in order to take a bath.
How I was sore due to having to sleep on the floor.
If it is uncomfortable to sleep, you will wake after just a few hours, and will be able to work longer.
I had only managed to get through it by using acceleration magic.
“Th-that sounds like hell…”
“It was very hard. Though, I can look back on it more positively now. Even though I think that no amount of money would ever make me do it again.”
“I think that everyone would agree.”
“The worst thing of all, was that my work was never acknowledged. They continued to call me ‘worthless’ and insult me for being a commoner. Those words hurt every time. And I started to feel depressed, thinking that I had no talent.”
“That’s hard to believe now.”
“Yes. It makes me really appreciate what I have now. I couldn’t be more happy.”
I smiled as I thought of all my fellow magicians.
They had treated me so well, and so now it was my turn.
I had to do my best to be like them.
“What about you, Miles?”
He did not answer.
It was like he was not sure if he should talk about it or not.
And then the waiter brought us our steaks.
The sounds of meat sizzling on the hot iron plates.
“Well, let’s eat first.”
I said, realizing that it must be difficult for him to talk about it.
“You can tell me when the time feels right for you.”
I said as I cut out a piece of the steak and brought it to my mouth.
It was so rich and juicy.
Miles also ate silently.
The sounds of the meat echoed.
“It was terrible.”
He finally said, as if muttering to himself.
It took me a second to realize that he was continuing our conversation.
“Terrible people making terrible things. Standards and quality were a mess, and everyone only thought about money. We were forced to make products without the necessary materials. I thought it was wrong, and so I spoke to the guild chief. Told them they were breaking the law for their own gain. After that, they started to bully me.”
“The chief was the one leading the corruption. And he said that if I told anyone, he would ensure that I could not work in that industry. But being a Magic Artificer was my dream, and so I couldn’t quit. And since I did not wish to be beaten, I continued to follow their orders. Eventually, I started to hate myself, and the work was no longer fun for me. Before I knew it, I had become like them, only thinking about money. Only a few lucky people in this world can really do what they love. The average person has to work in order to survive. Do you know what that is like?”
Miles looked like he was angry.
The remnants of a dream that was torn away were still there.
He must have had high hopes, being able to do a job that was his dream.
Sometimes, things didn’t go well in the beginning. You may struggle.
However, if you persevere, and overcome it, then one day…
Such hopes had let him down.
The world had been much dirtier than he realized. More messed up.
“I only joined the Royal Magians Order for the money. And so I’m only going to do what work I have to do in order to live. After all, money is the only thing that matters. I will not change, no matter what you do. You were lucky, that’s all. But not everyone loves their job like you do. And I hate you.”
His hostility was very clear.
I supposed that there were a lot of different feelings behind it.
Anger, jealousy, hatred.
But I knew. I knew those feelings too.
‘I can’t help but compare. And so I can’t be happy for you as sincerely as I should. I’m sorry. It’s terrible.’
That day when I reunited with Luke.
I had been beaten down by all of the unfairness of life.
So Miles was like how I was on that day.
“That must have been hard… Painful…”
My eyes welled with tears.
“But you were not at fault. I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.”
“No. As I said, I don’t like you.”
Miles looked a little puzzled.
I wiped my tears.
“Still, I support the way you think. And you do not have to change. Though, the way you work now is not enough. I need you to do just a little bit better. And the rest is fine.”
“I want you to just listen to your heart and do what you want. But not everything has to be as it is now. Sometimes, it could be good to go back to the person you were as a student. I think that you know how fun it can be to be invested in something. You are good now, but you were good back then as well. This is just a personal request, and you can ignore it if you want.”
“Regardless of what you choose, I will support you. And I will be watching, with high hopes.”
I had no idea if my words reached him.
The following day, Miles seemed the exact same as usual. Perhaps he just found me an annoying and troublesome superior.
Still, I decided to watch him more carefully from then on.
A week later, Misha was checking the archived translators when she said,
“Huh? What? Really?”
She looked confused.
“What is it?”
“No, uh. I was just checking the ones that Miles was in charge of. You know, since he always cuts corners, you have to make corrections all of the time.”
“Yes. Though, some of it is because he’s still new and not used to it.”
“But this time, there were hardly any mistakes. Or maybe I’m just tired. Noelle, I think you better check it to—why are you smiling?”
“No. Well, I was just thinking…this is what ‘raising someone’ feels like.”
I covered the smile that cracked on my face as I looked at the translations he had worked on.