“Mmm… Books are very expensive you know. I don’t think you will find any around here. You must go to the capital if you want any.”
How disappointing. Right… I guess they didn’t have any printing technology here yet, unlike modern Japan. Books were probably hand-written then. Well, there was nothing I could do. Should I go? To the capital.
“Though, there is an old man in this town who loves books.”
“Yes, but he is a strange one.”
She says and chuckles. I would tolerate any crazy old man or woman at this point. Bring it on.
“So, how can I meet this person?”
“Leave it to me. I shall write a letter for you.”
Good old Maris. She was so well connected. I thanked her and then returned to my room prepare to go out again. When I finished and went downstairs, she had finished writing the letter and handed it to me. She also gave me a map.
“Here you go. Now, run along!”
“Thank you, Mrs. Maris. See you later.”
I bowed and left the inn behind me. Now, what kind of person would he be?
□ □ □ □
“What’s this? Who are you? What do you want?”
“Yes, uh, I heard that you like to collect books. There is something that I wish to search for, but I don’t have the connections. And so I asked Maris, the innkeeper of the inn I’m staying at, and she sent me to you.”
“Ahh, a friend of Maris, eh? And what is your name?”
“I’m Asagi Kamiyashiro.”
“Asagi, huh. It is a good name.”
That was our first exchange.
The old man that Maris had introduced me to, was called Macbel, and he was incredibly old. His hair was completely white and his curved back was supported by a walking stick that he held. Other than that, though, he was quite healthy looking.
His house was on the outskirts of the town. It was close to the walls and was a clumsily built, large building in an open area. He lived alone here. Well, he did have several servants, including the person who had shown me to the waiting room. I also saw a few when I was being shown to his library and we greeted each other.
The room was dark, with curtains drawn in order to protect the books.
“This is where I store them. Please be careful when handling them.”
“Yes, of course. Thank you.”
I entered the room as Macbel opened the door and I immediately became speechless. I was kind of awestruck. There was an incredible amount of books lined up in front of me. I look back at Macbel in surprise and he burst into laughter as if he could no longer hold it back.
“Hahakaka! You should see yourself! Are you surprised? Eh?”
“…I have no words. I did not expect this many books.”
He was in a good mood. But why did this old man have so many books? Was he just rich or something?
“Hehe, I know what you are thinking. You are wondering why an old man like me has so many books, aren’t you? Well, it is money. And connections. I was the former librarian at the royal palace. After I retired, I bought as many transcripted books as I could at a cheap price.”
I was sure that even those books must have been expensive at such an age. But I suppose money and his position as librarian had allowed him to create such a collection as this. It made sense.
“I’ve retired from public life now, but even so, I am formerly from a marquis family. It was not hard to borrow some money.”
Oh, so he was a person of status. My sudden awkwardness must be a remnant of the part-timer in me, who worked for minimum wage.
“Hakaka! There is no need to be polite! I am nothing but an old wizened man with a fondness for books. And it is not as if I was the Marquis. I preferred books over politics. I forced my way into the position of librarian.”
I really didn’t know anything about marquis families or status, other than that they were important people. His story seemed a little unlikely to me, but it must be true if that’s what he says.
“Well, I’m sure you’re more interested in books than my boring story. There is nothing in this world that should be prioritized over books.”
Apparently, he really liked books. Well, best not keep him waiting then. Let’s cut to the chase.
“I want to learn about enchanting.”
“Enchanting, hmm. That is a most interesting subject you are interested in. In that case…”
I followed the old man as he began to move. I wondered if he did have anything that would tell me something. With a small hope in my chest, I followed after him in the dim-lit room.
Translator’s note: I changed ‘gift’ into ‘enchantment’ from chapter 26:
“Ah, do not act like that. One becomes very wise when they reach my level. I do not understand the mechanics of it, but I can do something called enchanting.”
“Yes. Beowulf’s enchantment. Be grateful for it. Use it. And when we meet again, we will fight without reserve.”