When Coralde entered the staff cafeteria for a late breakfast, he found his employees engaged in conversation.
The cafeteria had been built to provide lunch for the trading company’s employees.
In this country, people would usually go out to eat lunch, but Coralde’s trading company was so large that it would take a considerable amount of time, so he decided to go ahead and build a cafeteria inside the company.
The food served was usually stew, which could be prepared in large quantities at the same time, paired with soup and bread. The ingredients were also used in the company’s transactions, so the meal was served at the very low price of two 10 cent coins, to the employees’ joy. The average meal cost about five 10 cents coins.
In the beginning the cafeteria only served lunch, but then started to serve the leftovers as dinner for unmarried employees who lived in the company dormitory and those who stayed at work until late at night. Dinner eventually became an official service, and, at present, all three meals were served in the cafeteria.
In the company, being overworked was jokingly referred to as “Eating all three meals in the cafeteria”, but no one actually disliked the cafeteria: it was a joke born from affection.
As proof, the cafeteria was almost full every morning for breakfast.
Intrigued, Coralde approached a group of chatting employees huddling together. Other employees noticed him and greeted him with a small bow, but the huddled employees were too focused on their conversation to notice his arrival.
“….do you mean that the smell comes from a kind of alcohol?”
“It could be. I can’t say anything without testing it first, though.”
Coralde heard the voice and understood that the person he was looking for was in that group. He peeked inside the huddle and, as expected, found Roa. He heard someone whisper “he looks like a turtle…”, but pretended not to hear.
Coralde’s turtle-like stretching shiny baldness was then noticed by Roa.
“Good morning, Mr. Coralde!”
The other employees then noticed their boss too and hurriedly greeted him.
Coralde often had his meals brought to his office, so he seldom appeared in the cafeteria. The employees moved away to make room for him, curious about this rare occurrence.
“Did something happen, Roa?”
Coralde was concerned about the bustling atmosphere, worried that a commotion broke out between the newcomer Roa and the employees, but was relieved to see that everyone had enthusiastic expressions on their faces. He had finally managed to have Roa in his company: he would hate to have to let him go because of a squabble.
“That’s…oh, so he’s the person master Coralde personally hired, now I understand.”
The man that was talking with Roa nodded in understanding, then started explaining about the situation.
It all started from a conversation he was having with some colleagues over breakfast. The man was an aromatic oil craftsman, hired by the company.
Aromatic oils were made by extracting the essence from strongly aromatic plants, fruits, flowers etc, then immersing it into oils to pass on the scent. Rich people would use them on their hair or skin or for beauty purposes, but there were also other uses.
Adventurers used them to repel insects when entering magic beast forests and they were also used in church rituals: aromatic oils were very expensive but also the target of varied demand.
The craftsman used heavy stones to press the materials and extract their essence, then dipping them in oil to let the scent penetrate. He found the whole process long and extenuating, however, so he was thinking of creating a different method.
He had thus reached the idea of simply boiling the materials in a pot of water, so he tried it with a basketful of flowers. The flowers started giving out a nice scent while being boiled, so the man excitedly thought he had succeeded, but all he could create was colored water with a pleasant scent and a bunch of discolored flowers…
He was talking with his colleagues, hoping to get a laugh out of the whole thing, when Roa, who was sitting next to them, nodded to himself.
“…..that might work out through distillation…”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I happened to overhear what you said, I didn’t mean to bother you.”
“No, not that, what do you mean that it might work out?”
“Well, ehm…have you ever heard the “Tale of the Nasty Drunkard?””
“The Tale of the Nasty Drunkard?”
Roa then started narrating the story.
In a certain village a very strong drinker. He could drink copious amounts of alcohol and was very slow to get drunk. Thinking of a way to get drunk more quickly, he thought that boiling liquor in a pot could make the water evaporate and make the drink stronger, so he tried it.
The boiling liquor gave a very nice smell, so he kept boiling it, humming a happy tune. When the pot’s contents decreased to about half, he tasted them, expecting to find very strong liquor, but the liquid inside had terrible taste: the liquor had evaporated.
The story didn’t end there, though. The man was disappointed because of the bad taste, but happened to notice that a wall next to the pot was cracked and leaked. He picked up a few drops with a finger and smelled it, finding the scent of alcohol. He licked his finger and noticed that it was a very strong liquor like he had never drunk before.
The man started furiously licking the wall, which before he realized it turned sparkly clean.
“This story is about how the process of “distillation”, used to create strong alcohol, was discovered. Distillation means making alcohol evaporates first, then cooling down the vapors formed to make strong liquor. In the story, the evaporated alcohol cooled down on the stone wall and formed a strong liquor, right? Don’t you think that it’s pretty similar to your story?”
The man realized what Roa meant and reacted loudly, so people gathered around the aromatic oil craftsman and started discussing the matter together. That was the reason why Coralde found so many people huddled around Roa when he entered the cafeteria.
“Oh…my, oh my! I see!!”
If it was possible to gather strong aroma essence through distillation, a fantastic product could be created!
Coralde’s trader spirit was about to make him go into a frenzy, but he kept himself in check, as he couldn’t show such a side of himself to his employees, and somehow succeeded in keeping his cool.
Coralde, incidentally, knew the “Tale of the Nasty Drunkard”: it was a classic story used to explain how people discovered distillation. When he first heard of it, he thought it was a well-made story. He wasn’t sure that he could have ever connected it to the craftsman’s story of boiling flowers. He thought of distillation as a method to create liquor, and nothing more.
“…would you like to experiment with distillation?”
Coralde asked the aromatic oil craftsman, who had explained the situation.
“Yes! Of course! But…”
“Oh, there’s no need to worry. I’ll make sure you are free of your current tasks. Can you prepare a document with the details of the experiment and the materials needed? I’ll make sure you have the budget too.”
The man’s smile was as bright as the sun. He probably understood that a chance of success had just fallen onto his lap.
“Thank you very much!”
The man bowed to Roa, so deeply that his head was about to touch the ground. Roa was utterly confused, it could be said it was the first time he was ever thanked like that, so he simply watched, his mouth wide open.
“Hehe…Roa, this is all thanks to you, you know?”
“What…? But we were just talking…”
Roa still couldn’t understand why he was being thanked.
“Just talking, again, hmm… it was a very valuable chat, though. Roa, you are still influenced by the adventurer’s way of thinking, because of all the time you spent in that party. An adventurer would probably think nothing of what we just talked about, I suppose. Maybe they would even berate you for talking about something unrelated to their work. It is different for us, though.”
“Is that so…”
“You might not understand now, but you will one day. Oh yes, when his experiment succeeds and a recipe is created, I’ll make sure you are rewarded properly as the inventor.”
“Eh?! Just because I talked about it!?”
Roa was very surprised by the sudden mention of a reward, but Coralde just showed a kind smile in response.
“Your conversations…or I should say, way of thinking, is worth paying for, that’s what I mean. You are not in the adventurer’s world anymore, where strength means everything…”
Coralde’s words were kind; however, Roa’s expression was tinged with loneliness.
After the cafeteria event concluded, Roa and Coralde went to the latter’s office.
“The adventurers’ guild contacted me this morning: it looks like they found an escort party for the request.”
That was the reason why Coralde unusually visited the company cafeteria.
Upon hearing those words, Roa’s expression stiffened a bit. He agreed to make a request to go gather materials with an escort, but he still felt uneasy about how things would go with the adventurers acting as escort.
An All-Rounder like him to be escorted by rank A adventurers was comparable to nobles escorting a small-town merchant.
Coralde noticed his somber expression and laughed wryly, as Roa reacted exactly as he expected.
“Actually, since you are preoccupied about being an All-Rounder, I had this prepared for you.”
Coralde then took out a palm-sized piece of metal, equipped with a clasp. It was square-shaped and shone like silver, with characters engraved on its surface.
“What is that?”
“This is proof of belonging to the creator’s guild. And it’s yours.”
“Eh? …I mean, why? Eh!?”
Roa couldn’t understand what Coralde meant and was completely confused. The reason was simple: something like that was not supposed to happen.
“I wanted to surprise you, my boy. I apologize for acting without your permission, but I acquired your information from the adventurers’ guild. You were surprised? Yes?”
Roa was too shocked for words: all he managed to mutter were “eh?” or “wha?”, failing to form proper words. Coralde, on the other hand, looked as giddy as a kid who safely performed a prank.
There was a reason why Roa was so surprised.
The Creators’ guild badge was not something easy to obtain, unlike the adventurers’ guild, which only required registration at the counter.
The Creators’ guild was an organization of craftsmen who could create items with consistent quality. To have its badge…in other words, to be a registered member of the Creators’ guild meant to be recognized as a full-fledged creator and to possess the related amount of skill.
Because of that, it was necessary to receive a recommendation from two other people: one to guarantee the aspiring member’s skills and one to guarantee the quality of their creations.
In this world, the master-disciple system was very common.
The person who guaranteed the aspiring member’s skills was in most cases their master. The person who guaranteed the quality of the creations was limited to merchants belonging to rank B or above of the Merchants’ guild, who was also known for their appraisal skills.
Creators who wanted to join the guild first became disciples of artisans who already belonged to the guild, then sought connections with merchants who could guarantee the quality of their creations, while working under their master.
“The recommendations were provided by me and an alchemist that works for this company.”
Roa was staring at the Creators’ guild badge, but he was so flabbergasted that he couldn’t actually see anything.
The front of the cubic badge showed an engraving of the “hammer & pincers”, the Creators’ guild symbol; the other sides showed Roa’s name, the name of the alchemist who vouched for him and Coralde’s name.
It was very rare for the owner of a large trading company to vouch for anyone: having such a strong backup would grant a series of advantages, but Roa was currently not in a condition to think about such things.
“The creator’s style says to attach the badge to your belt: I heard that many attach it on the back, so it doesn’t get in the way when you work.”
Each guild’s badge had a different shape.
The Adventurers’ guild badge was a plate, which was often tied to a string or chain and carried as a necklace, so it wouldn’t be lost during fighting: most adventurers kept it tucked under their shirts.
The Merchants’ guild badge was card-shaped and was mainly kept in the owner’s breast pocket. It was said to symbolize protection against being stabbed in the heart…or so merchants said, ironically referring to the fact that their job often garnered resentment from others.
Roa was still completely frozen in place, unable to pick up any of the words coming out of Coralde’s grinning lips.
“Anyways, from now on you are a creator Roa! Let us go meet the adventurers who will escort you!”
Utterly satisfied by his successful surprise, Coralde flashed a glint from his hairless dome.
…the “prank”, however, was not meant to simply surprise Roa.
It was undeniable that Coralde enjoyed pulling this little trick on the boy, but his true objective was to exploit the confusion to have him accept the Creators’ guild badge.
Even if Coralde said “let’s go register you to the Creators’ guild”, Roa would have surely strongly refused.
Alchemists were an extremely rare breed, so having the skill to create magic potions was enough to become one, with no need to study under a master, but nevertheless Roa did not consider himself an alchemist.
Roa’s skills as creator and the quality of his creations, however, were real and proven.
His abilities exceeded the alchemists hired by Coralde’s company and his creations had equally high quality.
Even if Coralde tried to convince him with these arguments, however, Roa would feel guilty to those who had alchemy as their main profession.
The reason was that for someone without a master like Roa to join the Creators’ guild, unorthodox methods would be necessary. Furthermore, something else the current Roa would have no way to know was that the Creators’ guild, unlike the Adventurers’, required a considerable fee to register.
Coralde easily imagined that had he mentioned that fact too, Roa would feel even more intimidated and would have fled the opportunity even more.
Coralde’s plan was to complete the registration in secret, surprise Roa so much that he couldn’t be able to process what happened and make him take the badge in the meanwhile.
Roa was always putting himself down, saying that he was just an All-Rounder. Coralde acted on the plan also to make him have some confidence, by forceful means if necessary.
He also thought to use the fact that Roa would possess badges from two guilds, the Adventurers’ guild and Creators’ guild, as an unusual merit that would attract attention.
…it could be interesting to spread a nickname like “Roa the Double”. But that would mean that his membership in the Adventurers’ guild would stay, which is difficult, hmm…
Coralde continued his machinations in his head, still smiling, completely unnoticed by the panicking Roa.