Episode 103. A Patron’s Responsibilities (2)

Aria Eisen repeatedly gathered and released clumps of dirt, like a child playing with Play-Doh. Her appearance as she constantly muttered unidentifiable spells under her breath and kneaded the soil was so bizarre that Seon-Hyeok could not bear to look. He felt like he was staring at a crazy person.

Even though he wanted to step forth and say something, Seon-Hyeok just watched the mage be engrossed in her work.

After a while, the clump of mud assumed a humanoid form.

Its head was too large, and the lengths of its limbs were all different. The clay doll crafted by Aria Eisen was horribly unattractive and hideous.

“Hm?”

Seon-Hyeok realized that Aria Eisen’s incantations had stopped as he looked at the results of her work. Likewise, the mage’s hands had stopped their busy movements.

Blink. Blink.

When he turned his head, he saw Aria Eisen looking at him, still squatting down on the ground.

“Hm.”

He was momentarily at a loss. 

Should I apologize for entering without authorization? Or maybe reprimand her for ignoring her lord’s call?

“Look.”

Before he could reach a decision, Aria Eisen suddenly lifted up the mud doll from the ground.

“It’s a low-tier arbeiter. It’s a prototype.”

Had she grown attached to it after working on it the entire day? 

Seon-Hyeok could not help but sigh as she introduced the doll and even gave it a name.

“Sir Eisen.”

He was fully aware that mages were rare and eccentric, but now that he thought about it, there was no benefit to having her around. He tried to keep a straight face as he called her name.

“Do you think I came all the way here to get a doll like this…”

Seon-Hyeok was determined to break her habit, but he could not even finish his words and made a ridiculous expression.

Click. Click.

The mud doll perched on Aria Eisen’s palm began to awkwardly move its limbs.

“What is this…”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes grew wide as he wordlessly stared at the little mud doll moving on its own, and the mage slowly put the arbeiter down.

Tap. Tap.

As if trying to show off its strength, the small doll grabbed the leg of a chair and lifted it up. However, perhaps because of the significant difference in size, the doll’s arms were unable to bear the weight of the chair and fell off.

“This is just a prototype. If you give me the materials and time, I can make one even larger than a human.”

Aria Eisen wiped her mud-covered palms on her dirtied robes and rose from her spot. Her usually hazy eyes twinkled.

At this moment, Seon-Hyeok’s mind raced. Lifting the chair was undeniably the arbeiter’s attempt to show off its purpose.

“You said that arbeiter is low-tier. Does that mean there are mid and high-tier ones as well?”

Aria Eisen nodded without hesitation.

Seon-Hyeok stepped forward at her curt and disrespectful response towards her lord.

“I will inform Sir Montaigne. Give him the list of necessary materials.”

The mage’s typically disagreeable expression filled with warmth like a spring breeze. At the same time, Seon-Hyeok saw the arbeiter wandering around the laboratory despite missing its arms, and he smiled.

“I’ll take this.”

Aria Eisen seemed to have lost interest in the already ruined arbeiter, and she fiddled around with a new clump of dirt. Seeing this, Seon-Hyeok quietly left the laboratory.

“Isn’t this amazing?”

He was certain. If he could utilize these arbeiters well, the possibilities were endless.

When Seon-Hyeok showed Antoine Montaigne the arbeiter, the administrator, after previously treating the mage as deadweight, quickly changed his attitude. The old scholar knew better than anyone that the territory was lacking in able workers, and he immediately began to plan large-scale projects to make use of the earthen creations.

“We must hasten the development of flood-control projects and irrigation facilities that we put off due to the lack of manpower. At the moment, our territory is too vulnerable to natural disasters such as droughts and floods. At the same time, we need to work on the estate, build roads…”

Despite his old age, Antoine Montaigne’s eyes shone with motivation. As the old scholar was entrusted with the management of Rheinperle, Seon-Hyeok quickly gave him full authority over these plans, and Antoine Montaigne quickly headed towards Aria Eisen’s laboratory to confirm the necessary materials.

Left alone in the office, Seon-Hyeok gave a satisfied expression.

Through his time with the royal examiner, Einst Jeneger, Seon-Hyeok had learned how well-educated mages were. As such, he had always hoped there would one day be a proper mage in his territory. Einst himself was knowledgeable, but his actual magical ability was unexceptional.

This had probably been the catalyst for bringing the unsocial and eccentric Aria Eisen to Rheinperle. Bringing her back had truly been a stroke of luck.

Though the Rheinperle mine was now operating properly and the land’s finances became more stable, there were a number of infrastructure projects that he had not even been able to dream about. Seon-Hyeok could finally see these becoming reality.

However, this process did not prove to be easy. Arbeiter creation, even low-tier ones, was a field that required significant magical skill, and Aria Eisen had gone through a long period of trial and error to successfully produce a single prototype. The resources spent during this process were so enormous that he wondered whether it’d be better to simply hire another laborer.

Any average, rural lord would have gone bankrupt, unable to shoulder this incredible financial burden. However, Seon-Hyeok was able to endure the financial drain because his silver and iron mines had begun to produce tangible monetary gains. The rewards he received from the royal family likewise lessened the burden.

“My lord. I wonder whether this kind of investment is worth it.”

Antoine Montaigne had fully backed Aria Eisen for a while, but he had since cooled off on his support and voiced his concerns.

“Let’s consider this an investment for the future and trust her a bit longer.”

Seon-Hyeok soothed the elderly scholar.

This world was largely disinterested in the development of science and technology. It was a world of magic and transcendental forces, and as such, the people had endured for all these years by passing on any necessary tasks to these superhuman beings.

These predispositions were true even of the wise scholar, and he suggested that it would be more efficient to make use of Aria Eisen during times of need.

“What use is it to call on a mage who doesn’t answer my summons?”

However, Seon-Hyeok had recently come to realize how difficult mages were to deal with. It was better to spend the financial resources to produce arbeiters and use them for construction projects, rather than to try and persuade the capricious mage to help herself.

He had always held the old scholar’s opinions in high regard, but he remained adamant on this matter. Not long after, his stubbornness showed its rewards, as news arrived regarding the completion of the promised arbeiter.

“Oh. Hm.”

His first impression of the completed arbeiter was abject disappointment. Its rickety form was no different from that of the prototype – the only difference was its increased size. Seon-Hyeok could not help but feel discouraged.

However, this disappointment disappeared once he saw the arbeiter in motion.

“Oh!”

Seon-Hyeok exclaimed at the sight of the arbeiter easily lifting a massive piece of wood that would ordinarily require ten people to move.

“It’s complete, but there’s still room for improvement. If I’m able to better balance its body and use stronger materials, I can create an arbeiter capable of building a castle by itself.”

Aria Eisen was naturally quiet and spoke only when necessary, but even she could not hide her excitement while giving a demonstration.

“That much?”

Of course, Aria Eisen was ignorant of the world, and her boasts might be unrealistic, but it demonstrated her confidence in these constructs. She spoke at length about how excellent arbeiters were as workers, and how they never got tired until the end of their lifespan.

However, she omitted the most important information – information about the arbeiters’ life expectancy.

“So how long can they work?”

Seon-Hyeok asked, unable to hold back his curiosity. Aria Eisen confidently responded.

“Three days.”

“Three days?”

His smile disappeared.

All those resources went into producing an arbeiter that only lasts three days?

“Sir Montaigne. How much does it cost to produce one arbeiter?”

“At least 70 gold.”

This estimate even took into consideration the trial and error required for Aria Eisen’s first attempt. Seon-Hyeok was taken aback. The amount spent on this worker that lasted all of three days was enough to maintain two skilled cavalry riders.

“In that case, if the arbeiter is put to work for three days and nights without rest, how much labor do we get out of it?”

“It’s like having ten people work in shifts, so in total, it would be the equivalent of employing twenty workers for three days. Of course, if we then consider that the arbeiter doesn’t get tired and other potential circumstances, it might be closer to having forty or fifty men.”

“And how much would they cost?”

“Assuming they’re experienced workers, approximately 1 gold and 20 silvers.”

At this point, even Aria Eisen looked nervously at her lord after boasting of her arbeiters. She lacked social skills and was single-minded in her pursuits, but she was not a fool. It was easy to understand what the lord was trying to say.

“With improvements, the arbeiters’ life expectancy can be increased by up to three times its current length. In addition, they don’t have to be discarded after use. With a little bit of additional resources, they can be brought back to life and put to work once again.”

“That ‘little resource’ is approximately one gold.”

Seon-Hyeok sighed upon hearing Montaigne’s words.

“So you’re saying that if we want to make a profit, until they’ve been upgraded, we’ll have to recycle them hundreds of times.”

He had invested in her with high expectations, so considering the sorry state of the current results, all he could think about was trying to recoup some of the costs.

“So you won’t be funding me anymore?”

Seon-Hyeok grew angry. Even in this situation, Aria Eisen brazenly cared only about her research funds.

“You’ve spent nearly 1,000 gold to date, and this is all you have to show for it. You’re worried about funding?”

The situation would not have been so dire if he had just listened to Antoine Montaigne when the scholar first tried to dissuade his patronage of the mage. Seon-Hyeok berated himself – he must have deluded himself with fantasies about mages.

“I can make things better!”

“You’re just going to ask for more research funding.”

Money, money, and even more money. Mages were truly money drains. Seon-Hyeok almost admired how the royal family was able to patiently support hundreds of these financial black holes.

“Go back to your laboratory for now. I’ll consider the situation for a few days before making a decision.”

He started to get a headache. He was beginning to realize why scientists in the other world were treated so poorly, and why they were constantly pressured to find funding. Groundbreaking results were only possible through long and hard work, and in his opinion, he himself lacked the patience and resources to see the projects through.

“Well, I’ll take the arbeiter for now.”

Aria Eisen had tried to sneak away with the arbeiter, but was now on the verge of tears. Seon-Hyeok wanted to berate her even more for her impudence. Instead, he just waved her off angrily.

“… everything would be fine if I had that.”

Aria Eisen muttered something under her breath as she backed away. Seon-Hyeok immediately called her back.

“Say that again.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

The mage looked dispirited, as though aware of how financially reckless her research had been. Looking at her, Seon-Hyeok realized that mages only pretended to be tactless, but, in reality, were just as smart, if not smarter, than everyone else.

It’s not that they’re tactless. They just don’t care.

“No. I’m not trying to reprimand you. I just want to know what you said.”

Her attitude was not important right now.

“Hm.”

Aria Eisen did not respond hastily. She thought that her lord was trying to find fault with her.

“So, repeat what you just said. What is it that you needed?”

Pressed once again, the mage, looking resigned to her fate, responded indifferently.

“I said everything would be fine if I had spirits.”

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