While the Head Priest gave his greetings next to me, I observed the small magic tool in my hand. The magic tool prevents eavesdropping by only allowing designated people to hear the speaker’s voice. In today’s meeting it will be used to make sure that my voice can only be heard by the Head Priest.
In short, the Head Priest’s wants me to stay silent and avoid saying anything unnecessary.
When I complained that I want to back up Lutz I was told, “I have to learn the intentions and motives of the related parties in detail. If an outsider interjects, it will only lead to confusion. Especially as you are Lutz’ ally and therefore biased. Your comments would only be bothersome.”
His rebuke was so direct that I nearly replied “What happened to your usual roundabout way of speaking?”
The condition for me to attend today’s meeting was that I hold the magic tool, so all I can do is sit still like a doll. To my irritation, Benno and Mark agreed with the Head Priest’s opinion.
The chairs are arranged around a square table in the middle of the room. The Head Priest and I take the seats furthest from the door. Lutz sits across from us with Benno and Mark sitting on the right and Lutz’ parents on the left side.
After the greetings and simple introductions, the Head Priest plainly states Lutz’ case. As the Head Priest directly asked Lutz about it, other incidents at his home even I didn’t know about were revealed.
“… These are Lutz’ grievances. Is everything correct, Lutz?”
Lutz nods to the Head Priest as he answers, and watches his parents for a reaction.
I silently root for Lutz with all my might.
Tightly grasping his slightly trembling fists, Lutz says,
“No matter how hard I work, I can’t get their approval. My wishes are completely rejected by dad…” (Lutz)
“Don’t be so naive!”
Lutz’ father, Uncle Dido, roars at Lutz, tightly grasping his knees.
The abrupt yell made me jump in my seat. Usually he gives instructions to the workers and thus he’s probably accustomed to speaking in such a loud voice. Startled, my heart freezes at his deep loud voice that seems to not only reverberate through the Head Priest’s room, but also the noble’s area.
Scary! I got really frightened! That’s bad for my heart!
However, it looks like it wasn’t just me who had their heart frozen. The faces of everyone present stiffen and they all look at Uncle Dido simultaneously.
I have often experienced Benno’s wrath, but it’s remarkably different in volume and intensity to that of Uncle Dido who’s always raising his voice outside.
“Worked hard? Can’t get our approval? Don’t say such naive things.”
He suddenly hunches forward with a grim expression, turning his face towards Lutz. He glares at Lutz with fierce uncompromising expression. Even though there isn’t anger in his words, his deep, gruff voice is terrifying even when heard from the sidelines.
Lutz, pale from being yelled at in front of everyone, has his teeth clenched desperately, looking like he’s about to burst into tears. I grit my teeth as well, unable to even call out to him. The Head Priest stands up from his place beside me.
In sharp contrast to Uncle Dido’s throaty, loud voice, he calmly asks in a firm, low voice,
“Dido, you told him to not be naive, but what do you mean by that? Explain yourself.”
“What? Me telling him to not be naive? Isn’t it obvious from what he’s saying?”
Uncle Dido folds his arms and tilts his head incomprehensibly. He visibly parses the comment repeatedly in his head.
“You said “Don’t be naive” to Lutz who’s claiming in frustration that he can’t get any recognition although he’s doing his best, but I’m not able to grasp how he’s acting naively. Is it because the common sense of the lower city and the craftsmen is estranged? Explain it to me in a way that I can understand.”
“Oh, so you don’t understand? … Explain, explain… how annoying.”
He can’t just shut down the discussion by asking “Why don’t you understand?”, like he could if it were just Lutz rather than a noble. He probably does his work with the same short, gruff demeanor. Uncle Dido frowns and pauses, looking for the right words.
“It’s a job he took while fighting us. Obviously he has to work hard. The season hasn’t even changed since his baptismal ceremony, is there even anything to acknowledge? The one who idiotically jumped into a job without having a single backer was my stupid son there. Even if he tries till he coughs blood, he doesn’t even know if he can continue this job into adulthood…you get it now?
“Yes, I believe I understand. From your perspective, Lutz’s actions may indeed appear to be naive. Lutz, were you able to understand as well?”
Lutz swallows down his words after hearing what Uncle Dido had to say, grits his teeth with a mortified expression, and casts his eyes down. On the other hand, Uncle Dido looks relieved that the Head Priest understands his stance.
Even though this was originally a meeting to make use of the Head Priest’s social status as a noble, when I listen properly to the details, I realise that Uncle Dido has some good points. It’s just that I didn’t know as I only listened to what Lutz was saying.
“Lutz, you have no objection? May I take this to mean that you acknowledge Dido’s opinion as correct?”
At the Head Priest’s gentle urging, Lutz slowly lifts his head to gaze at his parents.
“I’m not saying that I want them to recognise my accomplishments. It would be… It would be fine if they at least approved of me becoming a merchant apprentice, no!?”
“… I did tell you to have it your way though, didn’t I?”
As if he doesn’t understand, Uncle Dido squints, deepening his forehead wrinkles. But, after roughly scratching his head, he quickly raises his chin and looks at Lutz. The long held stubbornness has vanished from his gaze.
“My way… eh? That means…?”
Lutz tilts his head to the side in confusion, and Aunt Karla explains with a sigh.
“It means that your father has accepted it in his own way.”
“Wai-, mum!? If you knew, why didn’t you tell me!?”
“It’s the first time I’ve heard these words as well. There’s no way I could possibly have known before.”
Aunt Karla shakes her head and shrugs her shoulders. It seems the lack of communication between child and parent as well as between siblings, also afflicts the married couple. “How am I supposed to know if you don’t tell me…,” Lutz hangs his head crestfallen as if he had lost all strength, and I agree with Lutz’ opinion.
Now that I think about it, Lutz would often keep his thoughts to himself at home, it seems it runs in the family.
“Dido, does this mean you accept Lutz working as merchant apprentice?”
Due to the Head Priest’s question, Uncle Dido nods with an annoyed expression as if telling the Head Priest to not ask him about each and every single thing.
“It doesn’t mean I like merchants, and I don’t get why he wants to be one, but if he still wants it despite no matter what we say, it’s fine so long as he goes at it with guts. He can be a live-in apprentice or whatever else. But, taking refuge at the orphanage to escape, there’s no way that I’ll acknowledge that.”
With a disapproving air of finality, Uncle Dido straightens again and crosses his arms. I reflexively shout “Uncle, it’s not like that! It’s all because of me! It’s not because of Lutz not having the courage to continue this lifestyle or anything like that!”, but nothing elicits a reaction from anyone in the room.
When I glance back at the Head Priest, who should be the only person who can hear me, I see the magic tool dangling uselessly from his wrist. It appears he never had any intention of listening to my voice from the very start. How cruel.
“Taking refuge in the orphanage, that was Maine…”
Lutz, who had begun the same protest as I did, cuts himself off quickly and snaps his mouth shut. Pursing his lips, he suddenly raises his head defiantly and glares at Uncle.
“If that’s the case, why aren’t you giving me permission to go outside the city for work!?”
The direct cause for Lutz leaving his home this time was due to him being unable to get permission to go outside the city. For Lutz, who became a merchant apprentice with the goal of leaving the city, that was the most difficult to accept, but even that is cut down with a brief rebuttal.
“You’d understand if you bothered to think about it for a second, wouldn’t you?!”
Uncle Dido shouts, but Lutz ran away from home because he clearly doesn’t understand. The Head Priest calms them down with a “Now, now” and interrupts the conversation once again.
“Tell us the reason since we don’t understand.”
Uncle lets out a weary groan. Frowning and muttering under his breath that he’s bad at this kind of thing, he explains,
“Lutz becoming a merchant apprentice and him leaving the city are two totally different things, aren’t they? It’s dangerous outside the city. There’s vicious animals, and also thieves. You don’t take a child out there.”
“He’s right! It’s far too dangerous!”
I’m taken aback by their words. Since I never left the city except for going to the nearby forest, I never actually experienced it myself, but it seems outside the city is full of dangers.
In this place it’s natural for just the children to leave through the gate and go collecting things in the forest. Given that they left in the same manner all over the city, I didn’t think that the outside would be a dangerous place that causes normal parents to object.
Besides, at least according to Lutz’ stories, there are troubadours and peddlers in this city, and travellers are freely coming and going at the inns located in the direction of the eastern gate. Therefore, although one might say that it’s difficult to travel, I thought it was just because travelling was inconvenient since travellers use horses and carriages, or walk.
On top of that, since Benno, the adult closest to me, has said that he has set up a workshop in a different city and is the very example of someone going outside the city and coming back, I didn’t get the impression that it’s very dangerous.
… I guess I still don’t get the common sense around here at all.
Although it’s been close to two years now, there are so many things I don’t know. Seeing me sigh beside him, the Head Priest frowns slightly and tilts his head to the side.
“It’s not like I’m saying that it’s completely safe, but Benno’s workshop can be reached in a half day with a carriage after leaving the eastern gate. It would be different if it was by foot, but there’s no need to worry if it’s with a carriage, is there?”
“It’s unnecessary,” Uncle Dido immediately rebuffs.
Lutz’ face flushes, flaring in anger, and he glares at uncle, screaming,
“I said that it was for work, didn’t I??!?”
“Calm down, Lutz. Dido, what do you mean when you say that it’s unnecessary?”
The Head Priest restrains Lutz with a hand and prompts Uncle Dido to explain himself. Even Uncle expected this question from the Head Priest. He turns to look towards Benno and Mark.
“Because that man there said he wants to take Lutz out because he built a workshop outside the city.”
“What about it?”
“Now you listen here, are you telling me that that’s necessary, in any field, for an apprentice? Moreover one who only has a three-year Dalua contract?”
If you put it into Japanese terms, a Dalua apprentice is like a contracted apprentice who works for three years. They’re mostly contracted to do simple tasks, while they learn the basics. Even if they are later recruited to a new store or workshop after it is built, they are never involved in the actual construction or contracting of branch stores. Because I knew that it had been Lutz’ dream to go outside the city, I thought that it was great for his dream to come true. However, if you consider it normally, this isn’t the work of a Dalua. It’s the work of Dapla and heirs. It’s not a work Lutz should be doing.
Uncle Dido’s belief that there’s no need to make the dangerous trip outside the city for the sake of unnecessary work makes sense.
The Head Priest and I together turn our looks at Benno, who sighs lightly and looks at Uncle Dido.
”That’s why I requested the privilege of talking to you the other day. After careful consideration of Lutz’s abilities and the future of the store, I would like to train Lutz as my heir. Involving him in the establishment of the workshop outside the city is a part of this. It’s also why I wish to adopt him”
“Humph, that’s out of the question.”
Uncle Dido flatly brushes Benno’s request aside. He looks back at the Head Priest and mutters, “Do I have to give a reason for this as well?”
The Head Priest answers “Of course,” and Benno, who was turned down, nods while staring at Uncle Dido.
“If there’s a reason, I’d like to ask for it by all means. I say this with all due respect, but you, who has likely never traded before, won’t be able to become Lutz’ backer. The adoption should be an agreement that should turn into an advantage, not only for the store, but also for Lutz.”
At Benno’s breakdown of the situation, Uncle Dido slightly lowers his eyes for a moment and then looks at Benno firmly in the eyes.
“You, you don’t have any children, do you?”
“… That’s why I have decided on Lutz as my heir?”
“Is the fact that I have no children a reason to turn me down?” Benno frowns doubtfully. From the start, Benno intended to adopt an heir as he has no children.
However, Uncle Dido replies with “That’s not what I mean”, before breathing out slowly.
“Like you said, I can’t become Lutz’ backer and I’m glad you value Lutz’ abilities.”
His gaze wandering as he looks for the right words, Uncle Dido alternated between looking at Benno and Lutz.
“You are probably a great storekeeper and a capable merchant. You’re also obviously kind and generous since you put up with all this trouble from Lutz. But you wouldn’t become his parent.”
It’s not like he cursed at Benno or gave him an unfair assessment. And yet, he still say that it’s no good. I don’t understand what “But you wouldn’t become his parent.” means.
“What do you mean when you say that Benno wouldn’t become his parent? Explain it. Are you saying that there are some unsavory rumors about him?”
Uncle Dido groans at the Head Priest’s question. “It would be easier if there were bad rumors about him,” he sighs, and looks directly at Benno.
“No matter how great your work reputation might be, you won’t be able to become a parent because the biggest reason to adopt him is to raise the store’s profits. Being a parent isn’t about profit. Or am I wrong?”
His eyes widening slightly, obviously taken aback, Benno smiles bitterly.
“I see. It’s just as you say. Certainly for me the store’s profit takes the highest priority.”
He wanted to adopt Lutz because securing him would be best for Benno and for the store. Of course he likely took Lutz’ character and ability into account, but since he would be an heir for the sake of having him succeed the store, the profit would be the highest priority.
It’s a justified approach for a merchant, but it means that Benno can’t say a word in his own defense when he’s accused of not having the attitude of a parent.
“I understand the reason why you rejected the adoption now. But, I truly value Lutz’ future prospects highly. Would I be able to get your consent if it wasn’t an adoption but a Dapla contract?”
If Dalua are part-timers and contract employees, Dapla are treated like inexperienced management candidates who will be entrusted with the store. The securities, salary and work details will also change completely.
“Isn’t that way too fast?”
“What do you mean when you call it fast?”
At the Head Priest’s interjection, Uncle Dido shrugs his shoulders, not even trying to hide his annoyance.
“You usually consider whether to offer a Dapla contract or not after having observed the work of a Dalua contractor for several years. The season hasn’t even changed yet since his baptismal ceremony and the start of his apprenticeship. ”
Hearing Uncle Dido’s objection, Benno raises his eyebrows in surprise.
“The season hasn’t yet changed since his baptismal ceremony, but Lutz has been working for me for around a year now, though?”
“Is that so?”
“Indeed. You are probably aware that each added apprentice becomes a burden for a store, right? At first I didn’t plan to take in Lutz, to whom I have neither any relation nor any debt of gratitude. For his trial period, I gave him a task that would be impossible to achieve right away. Yet, Lutz delivered results that went beyond my expectations.”
Uncle Dido listens to Benno as if he’s hearing about this for the first time.
If my memory serves, Uncle said that it’s fine for him to become a paper craftsman at that time. I wonder, did he maybe not ask why we were producing paper? Or did Lutz not tell him?
“Lutz hasn’t been raised in a merchant family, and yet he puts great efforts toward covering his shortcomings and also possesses fortitude. I want to have him nearby so he can observe before taking him outside. That has to happen as fast as possible if I’m to train him seriously. After all Lutz lacks the basics, even though I value his endeavours.”
After saying that, Uncle Dido glances back and sees the Head Priest about to stand up, and adds by himself,
“… No matter how much I want to help him, my backing is useless to a merchant. If you think he’ll end up managing the store at some point, that contract will probably help him. ”
“Let’s head to the trade guild and finish the formalities at once then.”
Marks adds with a smile, causing Uncle Dido to grimace while looking very reluctant.
“This is the reason why merchants…”
The word gently escapes Lutz’ mouth.
Well aware of the meaning behind his father’s cut-off words, Lutz is probably overcome with emotion after experiencing the full force of the love directed at him. His tears glisten as they drop from those jade eyes that resemble Uncle Dido’s so much. Aunt Karla sobs quietly as well, but Uncle Dido, caught in-between them, averts his eyes from both of them uncomfortably and scratches his head. As he was not one to willingly discuss these things, he seemed to be embarrassed and emotional.
Uncle Dido suddenly yells, his face red, though it’s hard to tell if it’s due to emotion or because he’s heavily sunburned.
“… Dido, he won’t understand with just that.”
The Head Priest points out with a sigh. Uncle looks at a loss for words for a moment, before quickly shouting
“You got this many people involved because of your reckless behaviour and selfish misunderstanding. Apologize with all your heart!”
Uncle Dido’s words pierce my heart. The one who got this many people involved is not Lutz, but rather me.
My voice still doesn’t reach anyone, but I apologize together with Lutz. Lutz’ parents watch Lutz, but the Head Priest’s, Benno’s and Mark’s gazes are turned my way.
“Hey, we are going back, stupid son!”
Once Lutz rushes over, Uncle Dido’s fist lands on Lutz’ head with a thump. Even while wiping away his tears and saying “Ouch” after being hit, Lutz looks happy as he stands next to Uncle.
“My words were apparently lacking as well. … Umm, you were a big help.”
After Uncle Dido says that to the Head Priest with an awkward expression, he turns around and leaves the room. Aunt Karla takes Lutz’ hand and walks out with him.
Master, we should also go to the trade guild.”
“Head Priest, I’m truly thankful for today. We were able to find a satisfactory conclusion thanks to your timely assistance.”
After an unnecessarily long speech, Benno finally excuses himself. He’s probably chasing after Lutz and his parents to finalise the Dapla contract at the trade guild.
Once Benno and Mark leave the room, only the Head Priest and I are left in the room. Grey-robed priests start to come and go in order to put away the chairs and such.
“Make sure to always get a full account on all viewpoints. Listening to only one side will distort your way of understanding.”
Seeing me nod and soundlessly reply, the Head Priest grasps the magic tool still hanging from his wrist.
“It’s a good thing for that family to not break apart, right?”
When I blink up at him after hearing that sudden remark, the Head Priest elaborates, “You said it yourself, didn’t you?” Still appearing fairly stoic, he frowns as if he’s slightly displeased.
“Having Lutz reconcile with his family so that he goes back home was the best possible outcome for you, right?”
Due to the Head Priest’s words, I recall Lutz’ delighted, tear-stained face. That image of a Lutz crying tears of joy as he goes home with Uncle and Aunty after the all the misunderstandings he’s endured this whole time, makes my eyes burn with tears as well.
“Yeah, it’s wonderful… really wonderful…”
It’s not like there wasn’t any affection between parent and child, but things just kept snowballing due to the lack of communication. It’s great that Lutz was able to return to his family.
“Stop crying. … Doesn’t this look as if I made you cry?”
He glances at the grey-robed priests, who are silently watching the situation as they wait, and reveals a bitter expression.
“These are tears of happiness, so it’s fine.”
“Good grief, you are…”
Seeing me try to wipe my tears with the sleeve of my blue robe, the Head Priest lends me a handkerchief with a very uncomfortable expression.
From the name embroidered on the handkerchief, I learned that the Head Priest’s name is Ferdinand.
Thanks for reading Infinite Novel Translation’s translation of Ascendance of a Bookworm so far. This chapter marks the end of volume 4, or arc 2 – volume 1, of the series. In accordance with my previous announcement, the fan translation on this site stops here in support of the English publisher who licensed the story.
I’d like to thank ApoWo, bAdy2bro, Endless and Terrin for their support as editors over the few chapters that were released on this blog. Good work and thanks for your effort, guys!