Chapter 5-1 : Prologue
Due to the snow that had continued to fall for several days, Yok Village became quiet. Even during the day, there were only a few people who came out of their houses.
This is my first winter in this village.
The sound of cuckoo birds and the cold air made me want to sit on my chair and stare at the white view of the village from the window for the entire day.
However, as a full-fledged alchemist and a business person, I can’t just waste my time like that.
「Guys… I think I need to start making money…」(Sarasa)
Iris-san, Kate-san, Lorea-chan, and I are currently having tea at the dining table in the kitchen.
We have been doing this for the past few days. Just chilling while having tea all day because there’s not much we can do in the winter since most of the Collectors in this village are taking a break.
After listening to what I said, Iris-san nodded a few times as if she understood what I felt.
「Store Owner-dono, you finally decided to face reality, I see. I’ve been trying not to think about my debt lately, so I understand.」(Iris)
「Well, we need to look ahead to the future. We can’t just sit here doing nothing but drink tea and eat all day. But… the number of Collectors who work in this season is way lower than I expected…」(Sarasa)
「Iris and I haven’t gone to the forest these past few days either… Considering the risk of working in the winter, most Collectors choose not to go to the forest.」(Kate)
「If we work now, we won’t have to compete with other Collectors, but still…」(Iris)
Gathering materials in the Great Sea of Trees during the winter is extremely difficult and quite dangerous.
Of course, the cold wind and snow are the main obstacles, but the change of scenery due to the snow that keeps piling up may cause you to get lost in the forest.
It’s quite risky but as Iris-san said, if you work in the winter, you won’t have to compete with other Collectors.
For the Collectors who know how to safely explore the forest during winter, it might be a good opportunity to earn money, but for amateurs who are not used to working in winter, it might be the same as suicide.
「Sarasa-san… is our store in trouble…?」(Lorea)
Lorea-chan asked me worriedly but I answered her with a smile to calm her.
「Don’t worry, we’re not going to go bankrupt or anything… It’s just… Now that I don’t have much money, I can no longer do my research and make progress on the Encyclopedia of Alchemy.」(Sarasa)
I spent a lot of money and materials to rescue Iris-san and the others.
Now, I don’t have many materials left in my warehouse and there are only useless artifacts and potions that no one wants to buy in my store.
Fortunately, most of the Collectors who are not working are still staying in Diral-san’s inn, so I still make a little bit of money from that.
*/TL : In case you forgot, Sarasa became Diral’s investor when Diral wanted to expand her inn (ch 2-33), so Sarasa still gets money from Diral every month.
However, it’s not enough to buy expensive alchemy materials.
After all, the materials required to make artifacts listed in volume 5 and 6 are not cheap.
「Ah, I just remembered. I need to pay tax in the spring… I have to think about it too…」(Sarasa)
The alchemists in this country have to document the income and the operating expenses of their stores for one year and submit it to the government along with the tax every year.
I moved to this village and opened my store at the beginning of the spring, so when winter ends, I have to create the document, calculate the tax, and prepare the money to pay for it.
「Sarasa-san, are you sure our store is going to be okay?」(Lorea)
「It’s gonna be fine. Our only expenditures are your salary and our food expenses, so it’s not a big deal, I guess.」(Sarasa)
I fully paid for this house, so I don’t need to pay rent or anything.
The only employee I have is Lorea-chan, and her salary for one year is nothing compared to the cost of the materials I have bought so far.
However, Lorea-chan lowered her gaze and started to think.
It seems that she’s still thinking that I pay her too well.
「Umm… Sarasa-san, I think you should reduce my salary.」(Lorea)
Yup. I was right.
「Nope. No can do. We’ve talked about this several times, but Lorea-chan, I won’t reduce your salary no matter what. You deserve to be paid that much.」(Sarasa)
I understand why she’s persistent about it but I have to firmly reject her idea.
「Also, I won’t reduce our food expenses either because I don’t want to sacrifice Lorea-chan’s delicious homemade cooking.」(Sarasa)
「「Agreed!」」(Iris & Kate)
Iris-san and Kate-san agreed with me without thinking even for a second.
We all love Lorea-chan’s homemade cooking after all.
「Then, Sarasa-san, what’s your plan?」(Lorea)
「At first, I was thinking of taking a break from alchemy and doing something else for a while, but… Hmm… Perhaps I should go gather alchemy materials myself.」(Sarasa)
The number of Collectors who visited my store in the past few days is… zero.
Yes. No one came to sell materials or buy potions or artifacts for almost a week.
No one will come anyway, so I think going to the forest and gathering materials myself is a good idea.
「Hold on, Store Owner-san, we can do that for you. You don’t have much money right now because of us.」(Kate)
「Kate’s right. Let us do something for you!」(Iris)
I knew they would say that. They never disappoint my expectations.
「If you want to help me, that would be great. Going to the forest in winter is risky but I think we’ll be able to manage that.」(Sarasa)
「That’s right! We’re not amateurs! …Are we?」(Iris)
「Umm, I’m not sure, but… We defeated a Salamander once, so…」(Kate)
「Haha… Don’t worry. It will stop snowing soon, so I think we’ll be fine.」(Sarasa)
I don’t want to waste any more time chilling in the kitchen, drinking tea and eating while waiting for customers who never come.
「By the way, what kind of materials can we collect in this season?」(Iris)
「Hmm… There are not many materials that can be collected in winter, but… Hold on a sec.」(Sarasa)
I put my teacup on the table and went to my workshop to get the alchemy material encyclopedia.
I returned to the kitchen and opened the encyclopedia in the center of the table so that everyone could see the content.
「Let’s see what materials we can collect around this area during winter… Hmm…」(Sarasa)
I’m flipping through the pages, looking for the perfect materials to collect.
Iris-san and Kate-san leaned their bodies forward, looking at the pages with me.
「Moving around in the snowy forest is quite difficult so plant-based materials are easier to collect than materials from monsters, but it’s not easy to find the valuable ones.」(Sarasa)
「As Collectors, I think we should aim for something valuable even if we had to fight monsters!」(Iris)
「But we’re still not used to moving in the snowy forest. I don’t think it will be that simple even with Store Owner-san around. Forget about valuable materials for now. I think we should start with the ones that are easy to collect.」(Kate)
「Kate-san’s right. Winter is long. We should take our time before we’re ready for a more difficult challenge. I think the perfect material for starters isー」(Sarasa)
While I was still flipping through the pages, suddenly, the doorbell of the store rang.
「Eh? A customer? It’s been a while.」(Sarasa)
「Ho~ It seems that there’s a Collector who’s more diligent than us in this village.」(Iris)
「Diligent? Iris, we haven’t even been working for days…」(Kate)
「Aah~! Finally, a customer came! I wonder if they want to sell materials or buy something~ I will go check on them~!」(Lorea)
Lorea-chan left the kitchen and headed for the store area with a smile on her face.
She looked so happy to be able to work as a clerk after a while.
However, when she returned to the kitchen, her face looked somewhat pale.
「What’s wrong? Was that a customer?」(Sarasa)
「No… We have a… suspicious guest…」(Lorea)
「Suspicious guest…? Is that Nord-san?」(Sarasa)
「No… Nord-san was indeed suspicious, but this one is more suspicious than him.」(Lorea)
「More suspicious than Nord-san, huh…?」(Sarasa)
I wonder who they are…
Ugh… Honestly, I don’t wanna deal with a troublesome person like Nord-san anymore, but as the owner of this store, I have no choice but to see them…
「When I saw them, I somehow could tell that they were not an ordinary person, so I told them to wait in the drawing room.」(Lorea)
Are they an important person or a person of authority…?
「Alright, I’ll go see them.」(Sarasa)
「Store Owner-dono, hold on.」(Iris)
「We’re going with you.」(Kate)
When I was about to leave the kitchen, Iris-san and Kate-san stood up from their seats.
They seemed to be worried about me.
「Alright, thanks. Lorea-chan, I don’t think customers will come but can you wait for us at the counter?」(Sarasa)
「Okay. Please, be careful.」(Lorea)
Lorea-chan sent off the three of us, who left the kitchen and headed for the drawing room, with a worried face.