Dungeons of the Abyss and the Unchosen Heroes
It turned out that the item Auguste had ordered from Tobias was a wand, one made from the miller's bran, byproducts from the grinding of wheat, obtained from the nearby wheat mills.
The original design was thought up by Joseph, the middle-aged mystic in the late Conrad's party. After Auguste brought up the topic of a wheat-based catalyst and the idea of using the Abyssal arts for culinary purposes. The topic seemed to interest him enough to include the design in his letter to Tobias. When Tobias confirmed that he might be able to create it according to Joseph's description, Auguste made the order for the item. Ordinarily, it should not be possible with the equipment at the time, but with the applications of the mystic arts and a bit of ingenuity from Tobias, he somehow made it work. If Auguste hadn't caught him slacking off so often, he might have appreciated the man a bit more.
When Auguste presented the wand to Morganna, she had a look of confusion about her. It was unprecedented for someone that was not a witch to present another with a catalyst and for it to have been made by a mystic only made it all the more unusual. Admittedly, she had some reservations in accepting it. Putting the witches' rivalry with the mystics aside, Morganna had her own pride, desiring to produce catalyst by her own hands going forward, the ashen staff being the last that would come from others. Still, while she wouldn't admit it out loud, the wand came at the right time, as Morganna was already feeling her limits and was agonizing about her lack of alternatives when it came to spells. Not to mention, as much as she disliked it, a catalyst made with the mystic arts was something never seen before and might very well be worth studying.
As bran had been part of the wheat since the beginning to the moment it was ground down to a fine powder, the creation of wheat and flour was the expected and intended effect of the catalyst, however, as Morganna went about testing it out, she discovered additional information within the memories of Ether. They were the memories of the mill grinding down on the grains and of the pressure created by the mystic arts to craft the catalyst. With these unexpected memories, Morganna felt like she might enough to form a second new spell.
The next morning, by Auguste's suggestion, they covered the vegetables in flour and deep-fried them in a pot of oil. Both the flour and oil were of course, products of magic. While Morganna wasn't exactly pleased that the first practical application of her new catalyst was for something so mundane, she certainly had no complaints when she got to taste the end result.
After breakfast, Auguste and Gladiolus bid their party farewell and made their way out of town. They had plans to be away for the next couple of days or so to hunt in the hills. If all goes well, they would have a surplus of supplies for when they set off to their next destination. Originally, Gladiolus had planned to go alone, but when Auguste asked to be taught archery, Gladiolus figured that he could teach him a thing or two about hunting as well and invited Auguste along.
"So, what brought this on?" Gladiolus struck up a conversation as they rode out of town on a donkey-drawn wagon of a farmer returning from the market.
"What? The archery thing? I just figured that we could change up the formation a little. I feel like we might do better with you at the frontlines."
"I see. However, there's a reason I took to the rear. After all, if I'm up in the front, you'd all just rely on me too much. Remember, I am the party's Guide. I won't be with you forever and when I'm gone, you'll have to be able to do things without me."
"Is that what the hunting trip for?"
"It takes a long time to master the bow, so rather than focus on mastering just one thing, I figured that it might be more helpful to have you learn a couple more things that could be more easily picked up."
"I wouldn't count on that. My master had, on more than one occasion, called me a witless blockhead," Auguste announced with mock pride.
Gladiolus chuckled at the self-mockery.
"Worry not, there's plenty of time. If not these two days, then for the days to come I'll keep hammering all that I know into you, till the day I leave you."
"My master said something along the lines too, then she pulled out and actual hammer and started swinging."
Gladiolus laughed again.
"I suppose I now know who to thank for our swordsman's fine reflexes."
"She certainly did beat it into me as she promised. Those were the days."
Auguste let out a soft sigh as he reminisced about his past, unsure whether he missed it or not.
By the time the sun hung upon its zenith, Auguste and Gladiolus had arrived at the hills some distances from the farmlands. This shall be where they spend the next two days, hunting and foraging.
"What will we be onto first?"
"First, let us see if we can't craft you a bow."
"Right here, right now?"
"A simple one, it shouldn't take much. And as we search for materials, we might as well forage for dinner along the way."
"You make it all sound so easy."
"The hills may yield rich bounties or those who know where to look. Come, follow along."
As they made their way deeper into the hills, Gladiolus began pointing out herbs, plants, berries, and fungi that would be edible in this region as he picked them up and tossed them into a basket. When Auguste complained that he wouldn't be able to remember it all, Gladiolus laughed and apologized, opting to go slower. Eventually, Gladiolus found a small tree that caught his eyes and proceeded to cut it down with the axe they brought along with them. This was to be the main body of the bow. Then, from another tree, he broke open the outer bark and stripped the fibers from the inner layer. They shall be made into the bowstring.
Eventually, as they spent the day scouring the hills, the sun began dipping into the horizon, signaling the coming of night.
Sitting by the campfire and munching on the herbs and berries they've gathered during the day, Auguste watched Gladiolus putting on the finishing touches on the bow. He couldn't have imagined it when Gladiolus was carving it down, but by this point, it looked more or less like a proper bow, albeit a little crude.
"It's surprisingly simple to make," Auguste commented.
"It takes some practice to be able to make it properly, but it terms of simplicity, I'd say the only thing simpler is a plain old spear."
Upon receiving the bow from Gladiolus, Auguste proceeded to pull on the string to get a feel for it. It felt good, though with this being the first time he had handled a bow, he wasn't quite sure what's supposed to be good and what's supposed to be bad.
"I'm surprised we found enough food too."
"Like I said, there are plenty of bounties for those who know where to look. Once you know, you may live in just about any land where there is a forest."
"Live anywhere, huh. That sounds kind of nice, to be honest."
"Does it not? To wander and go wherever you please."
"I'd be kind of lonely though, with just me by myself."
"That is the downside, I suppose."
Gladiolus fell silent and looked towards the stars. What he was looking for, Auguste did not know. Moments like this reminded him of how little he knew of the elven male before him. At the same time, however, he never quite felt like asking. After all, Auguste didn't like to talk about himself either and there were some parts of him that he preferred to keep from the others. He assumed the others were the same.
"The truth was, I was worried about you," Gladiolus suddenly said.
"Huh? What's there to be worried about?"
"How should I put it..." Gladiolus furrowed his brow. For once, he seemed to be at a loss for words. "Elaine wants to have her own land and I presume that Finn would follow her. Morganna seeks the knowledge and further mastery of her magic. Henrietta is, well, Henrietta. She'll go wherever she wants and I get the feeling that she'll be fine wherever she goes. However, Auguste, you're the only one I feel has nowhere to go."
"What's that supposed to mean," said Auguste, slightly offended.
"I meant exactly what I said. From where I'm looking, you always seem so restless, always trying to get somewhere but at the same time not getting anywhere. Of course, that's just how I saw it. Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps I just projected a bit of myself onto you without realizing it. Either way, I'll be teaching you as much as I can before the time comes. If you wish, that is."
"Well, you haven't led us down the wrong way before. If you think you're up to teaching a dimwit like me, then I don't see a reason to decline."
Auguste forced a smile, trying to brush off what was said to him, trying to not let it stick to his mind. That being said, his attempts ended up being futile and the words stuck to him for the rest of the night.
End of Chapter 43