Ascendance of a Bookworm

 
 
 

Ascendance of a Bookworm Chapter 64


Contract with Freida

It’s raining today. There’s no doubt about it, it’s raining today.

The patter of heavy raindrops hitting the wooden shutters of the kitchen window causes my shoulders to slump as I sit there, eating my breakfast. Just like Freida had been laughing about, and just like Benno had been growling about, it is definitely raining. There’s no helping it, then! Since it’s already been determined that I’m going to have to go to Freida’s house, at the very least I’m going to try my best to get at least a little bit of good information out of her.

Lutz will be there too, so everything will be fine.

I take a hard hunk of millet bread, soak it in some of last night’s leftover soup, and chew soggily on it. I use the last of my bread to wipe off my plate, then, having finished breakfast, start looking around the room. I let out a long sigh.

“I want to bring some sort of present, but we really don’t have anything here that I could bring to that house, do we…”

Freida’s house is already full of the kinds of things the nobility keep in their houses. There’s nothing here that I could possibly give to a girl who already has everything.

Tuuli gulps down some water, then looks at me, head tilted to the side.

“What about some ‘simple shampoo’? She was really happy when you brought her some last time, right?”
“Hmm… it’s gone on the market already, so Benno told me that if I was going to keep making some for myself, then I can’t be giving it away as much as I want.”
“Oh, I see. And it’s raining, too, so you can’t pick any flowers or anything like that… yeah, that’s kind of a problem.”

Tuuli uses a little bit of water from the water jug to wash off her plate as she talks to me. When she finishes rinsing it, she starts hurrying to get ready to head off for work. Our mother has already left, and our father is currently fast asleep after coming home late from the night shift. I start washing my own plate as well, trying to keep my voice down.

“If only we could have decided this a few days in advance. Then I could have gone to the forest on a sunny day and picked some fruit to take with me…”

Benno’s been so accommodating towards Lutz. He’s been so accommodating towards me as well, helping me set up Maïne’s Workshop so that I can keep thinking up new product ideas. Lately, I’ve been really trying to avoid doing anything that will make him angry. Sure, I’ve carelessly let slip a few secrets while chatting, and sure I’ve fallen prey to my own desires and just kind of arbitrarily made a few things, but none of that was intentional. There’s no way that I actually wanted him to be angry at me. So, if I want to avoid his wrath, rinsham is out. Anything at all to do with paper is out. If I bring a new dessert recipe, then both Freida and Ilse would be happy, I think, but Benno would absolutely get angry, so that’s out, too.

Well, now that I’m not going to be his apprentice, it really is entirely my own business who I give my sweets recipes to, I think, but it would still be more trouble than it’s worth.

As I hum thoughtfully to myself, a loud knock comes from the kitchen door. Tuuli, looking just about ready for work and having just finished putting on a thick cape that has been treated with oil and wax to ward off the rain, heads towards the door.

“Hello, who’s there?” she says.

Ah, I guess Lutz is a little early today, I think to myself, as I put away my clean plate. Suddenly, Tuuli’s startled voice rips through the kitchen.

“Freida?! Why are you…?!”

As soon as I hear those entirely unexpected words, I snap my head around to see Frieda standing outside our front door, accompanied by an attendant. Despite the rain, she is dressed as magnificently as ever, and her attendant wears a tidy uniform. They clash horribly with the impoverished backdrop of my home, emphasizing just how poor my family really is.

“I have been so excited ever since I woke up that I just couldn’t stand it, so I’ve come to pick Maïne up,” she says, smiling sweetly.

I hear an undercurrent of “did you think I’d let you escape?” buried in those words, and a shiver runs down my spine. I want to look away and pretend not to have seen any of this, but I can’t just flee and leave Tuuli behind.

“Whoa,” says Tuuli, smiling as she waves me over, “you must have been really excited to come all this way in this kind of rain!”

Tuuli, you’re an angel. Don’t lose any of that purity.

“Ah, but it is exactly because of the rain that I have come! I couldn’t possibly ask frail Maïne to walk outside in weather like this. I have a carriage waiting for us on the main road.”

It seems she thought I might have refused to come because I didn’t want to catch a cold in the rain. I can’t help but be a little impressed with her level of preparation.

“Whoa,” says Tuuli, an innocent envy showing on her face, “a carriage?! Wow, Maïne, luckyyy!”

Freida looks over at Tuuli, noticing that she’s carrying her things for work.

“Oh my,” she says, slightly tilting her head to the side, “but are you not leaving for work, perhaps?”
“That’s right,” replies Tuuli, a twinge of regret in her voice. “I’ve got to get going soon.”

Frieda glances away momentarily as if thinking about something, then suddenly claps her hands together, a meaningful smile floating across her face.

“Well, if that’s the case, perhaps we can drop you off along the way.”
“What?! Really?! I can ride the carriage too?!”

Tuuli’s face lights up immediately. A carriage is the kind of thing that poor people like us would ordinarily never get to ride on. I understand her excitement perfectly. It looks like I don’t have any choice but to get ready to go immediately.

“Tuuli, I’ve got to go get Lutz,” I say.
“Ah, that’s right! I’ll go run and get him.”
“Oh,” says Freida, “but, if Lutz comes along, then you won’t have anywhere to sit…”

Tuuli sets down her bags and starts to dart out the door when Freida apologetically stops her. At this point, whenever I go out, Lutz comes along with me as my minder. But, if Lutz comes with us, then Tuuli won’t be able to ride in the carriage, and will have to back out.

“Huh? Um? …Then, I… can’t go?”

Her brief glimmer of home turns to despair. She hangs her head, looking like she’s on the verge of tears. As I frantically try to figure out what to say to comfort her, Freida smoothly steps in. She takes Tuuli’s hand and then, and then, gives her a gentle smile.

“Tuuli, today, Maïne is my responsibility. I’ll take care of picking her up and dropping her off. I can promise you that I will take extra care to make sure she does not fall ill. So, why don’t you ride along with us?”
“…Maïne,” says Tuuli, “if you’re riding in the carriage, then you won’t get tired, and you won’t get soaked in the rain, you know? So it’ll be fine if Lutz doesn’t go with you today, won’t it?”

Like hell it’ll be fine!!

That’s what I want to say, but I can’t win against Tuuli’s pleading stare. There’s no way I can tell her to go walk to work because I’d be in trouble without Lutz there with me. Even just seeing how happy she looked to be able to ride in a carriage gets in the way of that idea. I don’t want to go to Freida’s house by myself, but I just can’t turn her down.

“…Yeah, it’ll be fine, Tuuli. You should come with us!”
“Thanks, Maïne. I’ll go and tell Lutz, so you get ready.”

Tuuli, in high spirits, runs off toward’s Lutz’s house, a spring in her step. The sound of her footsteps quickly recedes into the distance, leaving only the tapping of the rain against the shutters. I glare fixedly at Freida, who just used my sister against me to get Lutz excluded.

“Freida…”
“Your sister seems quite happy, does she not?”
“You’re right. …Haahhh, I guess I don’t have a choice. I’m the one that didn’t tell her no, after all.”

I was the one who wasn’t able to toss Tuuli aside, so I can’t really blame Freida any more than this. I get my tote bag ready, thinking to myself how angry Lutz and Benno are going to be with me for acting without thinking again.

“Sorry,” I say, “but I wasn’t able to get a gift ready for you.”
“Oh my, but today you’re giving me a day of your time, are you not? Having the opportunity to speak with you is more than enough.”

She laughs airily, looking the very picture of a girl who’s delighted to be able to play with her friend, but I know very well that Freida is no ordinary, innocent little girl.

“Maïne,” says Tuuli, “I told Auntie Karla about us. C'mon, let’s go! I’m gonna be late.”

Tuuli’s smiling face and bouncing gait immediately disperses the gloomy atmosphere hanging between me and Frieda.

“Well then, shall we?”

We shut the door and head outside. Here, rain gear tends to consist of a thick mantle and a wide-brimmed hat. Of course, this isn’t able to protect perfectly against it, so it gradually gets soaked through if the rain is heavy or you need to be outdoors for too long. Today, though, we’re only going as far as the main street, through narrow alleyways, so I don’t have to worry about getting drenched.

“Quickly now, get on.”

I hurriedly board the carriage waiting for us at the main road, taking off my hat and mantle and setting them next to me. Freida’s attendant sits outside, next to the driver, leaving just the three of us inside the carriage.

“Whoa,” says Tuuli, “is this what a carriage looks like on the inside?”
“Come, Tuuli, sit!” says Freida. “Would bringing you to the central plaza work for you?”
“Yeah, the place I’m going is on the craftsmen’s road but it’s really close to the plaza.”

Freida urges Tuuli to sit as she looks gleefully around the carriage. I sit between the two of them. This carriage looks like it was built to seat two adults, but it fits three children just fine, with a little room to spare. When the carriage starts to move, it shakes and sways just as much as I remember, but unlike the time I’d ridden with Benno and the guild master, I’m sitting in a proper seat, so I don’t think I’m about to be flung into the air.

“It’s almost time for the baptismal ceremonies, is it not? Maïne, what will you be wearing, perhaps?”
“Oh, she’s going to be wearing my hand-me-downs,” says Tuuli, “but we’ve altered it so much that it doesn’t look like a hand-me-down anymore. It looks really extravagant!”

Tuuli’s chest swells with pride as she answers Freida’s question for me. During the winter, Tuuli helped our mother with the alterations from time to time, so there’s a few more decorations on the dress then there were before.

“…Extravagant?”
“I can’t really describe it, but I think it’s got kind of a different feel to it. Mom worked really hard on it, so it’s very cute!”

It’s likely that Freida, having just seen the condition of our house, is having trouble imagining what “extravagant” would look like for us. She has an expression of wonder on her face, but we’re really not lying. Plus, there’s a big difference between what people around here usually think “alterations” means and what I did, so it’s difficult to explain.

“Your clothing is really fluffy and amazing, too, Freida!” says Tuuli. “I want to try wearing something like that someday…”
“Why, thank you very much. So, did you perhaps make yourself a new hairpin?”

Freida, happy to hear Tuuli’s compliment, turns the subject towards hairpins. Apart from the one I’d made for Freida, every hairpin so far has been differently-colored variations on the same design. However, it seems like she can’t imagine that me making a hairpin for myself that looks exactly like all of the other ones out there, and is curious about what that might be.

“Oh, it’s a gift for her,” says Tuuli, “so I worked really hard on making it. It’s got three big flowers, like the ones we made for you.”
“Then, Maïne’s hairpin will match mine, perhaps?”

Freida looks at me, a little doubtfully, her head tilted to one side. Tuuli seems like she can’t really figure out how to properly explain it, so she tugs on my sleeve, looking troubled.

“Well, they’re white, and they sway, so even though the big flower are the same, they don’t really match. Right, Maïne?”
“We used unbleached thread, so they’re more of a cream color, although from a distance they look white. We’ve added some smaller flowers as well, but there’s still a few more differences between yours and mine. You should look forward to seeing it! Right, Tuuli?”
“Yeah, if we tell you all about it now, then you’ll have nothing to look forward to.”

Tuuli covers her mouth, hiding an impish grin. Freida looks like she’s been caught up in it, grinning too.

“Well, then I really am looking forward to it! I’ll be watching for you outside.”

As we talk about the baptismal ceremonies, a row of workshops, where Tuuli works, comes into view around a corner. The carriage comes to a halt, and Tuuli puts on her mantle and hat. She grabs her bag full of tools, then shoots me a brief worried glance.

“Do not worry,” says Freida. “I will look after her the very best I can.”
“Tuuli,” I say, “good luck at work today!”
“Thanks for letting me ride in your carriage, Freida. Maïne, I’m off, but don’t cause any trouble!”

She gives us a big wave, then takes off running towards the workshop. We wave goodbye, and the carriage starts clattering forward once again.


“Welcome, Maïne. Glad you could make it. I baked some pound cake today, and I’d love to hear what you think of it.”

When we arrive at Freida’s house, Ilse the cook is waiting for us. We’re led to the parlor, where tea and pound cake has been set out for us. I take a bite and immediately start to melt. The moist batter has been baked to a perfect shade of golden brown, and, perhaps because Ilse has adjusted for the oven’s peculiarities, the cake itself is much more delicious than it was last time.

“Delicious~… This is way tastier than it was before! You did an excellent job tweaking the recipe.”
“I’m happy to hear you say that! I’m curious, can you think of anything to make it even better?”
“Improvement? …Ummm, I think it’s delicious enough already, though?”

I take another bite of cake, savor its sweet flavor, and ponder for a moment. I know that she could plate it extravagantly when she serves it, or she could change the flavor by adding dried fruits or grated citrus peel, but I also know that just telling her this might be the kind of information provision that would get Benno mad at me.

Hmmm, if I do something, Benno will probably get mad, and this really is delicious even if it’s so simple, so there wouldn’t be any problems at all if I were to just stay quiet, but I really do want to help this extremely eager chef to improve her work.

“Well, it’s not an improvement, exactly, but… how about I tell you about it in exchange for a bag of sugar?”

I recall seeing a bag in the kitchen that looked like it contained about one kilogram of sugar. When I ask for that, Ilse looks over at Freida, who actually has the right to decide.

“A bag of sugar… would it be okay to give it to her, Miss Freida?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Alright, I have the young lady’s permission, so! Tell me!”

The sheer ravenous force behind Ilse’s curiosity makes me squeak in momentary fright, but then I open my mouth to speak.

“If you grate ferigine peel and add it to the batter, that’ll change both the smell and the taste, and it’ll still be delicious. You could add other things, too, and those will change the flavor as well. As for what exactly to put in and exactly how much, please do some experimentation on your own. I’ll tell you this as a bonus, too: if you’re going to bring this out to serve to nobles, then you could thoroughly whip heavy cream and make a fringe around the edge of the cake, then decorate it with fruit to make it look really extravagant.”
“Hm?! I’m going to try that!”

Ilse gasps, then immediately stands up and leaves the room. Suddenly left behind, Freida and I blink a few times, then smile wryly.

“My apologies, Maïne, for showing you, my guest, such a sight. Ilse is usually so calm and composed, but as soon as she sees a new recipe…”
“It’s good to be eager to learn. If she tries her hardest, then just that will increase the number of tasty things out there, won’t it?”

A zeal for studying is something to be admired. I think that spreading tasty things throughout the world would be a very happy thing, so I definitely want to try experimenting with a lot of different things to try to create new kinds of sweetness.

“Come to think of it,” I say, around a big mouthful of pound cake, “why are you apprenticing at the merchants’ guild? Aren’t you going to be opening a shop in the nobles’ quarter? Can you really be an apprentice if you’re not going to actually be an employee?”

It’s already been arranged for Freida to go live with the nobility when she grows up, so I hadn’t even considered that she’d be apprenticing at the merchants’ guild.

Freida takes a sip of her tea. “It’s something I asked my grandfather for. It’s so that I can both study and make connections for when I’ll be living in the nobles’ quarter. When I open my shop, I’ll be doing so all by myself. I can’t go about thinking that it actually is a job that one person can do on her own, so I need to make as many personal connections as I can.”
“All by yourself? You won’t, uh, have any attendants, like Jutte?”
“Nobody but myself will be allowed to stay in the nobles’ quarter. Although, when I go there, my partner will have prepared some attendants for me, so it is not like I’ll be living entirely on my own.”

Even still, I can’t imagine that any attendants she’ll have in the nobles’ quarter will be at all familiar with economics or business management. Having a young woman who has just barely entered adulthood suddenly stripped of her allies and made to open a shop by her self… isn’t that a little too harsh? Can’t they let her have even one person to consult with?

“One person definitely cannot run an entire shop by herself,” she continues. “My family will be allowed in and out of the nobles’ quarter to deliver supplies and the like. They won’t be by my side the entire time, but it’ll be reassuring, will it not?”
“…I guess so.”

I can’t imagine that it’ll actually be that reassuring, but I can see that Freida is fighting hard for her own destiny, looking straight ahead down her path. I can’t really say anything besides to agree with her. The very grown-up way of thinking and speaking that she’s learned are her weapons and armor. She must keep determinedly polishing them so that she can survive in the unknown world that waits for her.

“So, in order to make sure that I am able to handle whatever might occur after I establish my shop, I’m apprenticing with the guild and helping out at my family’s shop.”
“You’re amazing, Freida. I can tell that you’re putting a ton of thought into all these things that’ll be happening so far in the future.”

When I say that, she immediately gets a very stern expression on her face. She looks at me very seriously, then after a moment of silence, opens her mouth to speak.

“There’s something I’d like to ask you as well. May I?”
“Sure, go ahead.”

Ahh, here it comes, the main question, I think. It’s pretty obvious what she’s about to ask me. I smile, urging her on.

“What in the world are you thinking? Maïne, by all rights, should you not have extracted yourself from Benno’s employ and come to work with us? I’ve been waiting for you to do this. If you’re seeking connections, then coming here would…”

If I were seeking any connections with the nobility, then it would be much better for me to rely on Freida and the guild master than on Benno. This is something Otto pointed out to me as well. I think anyone would realize this. Working at a shop that already has a deep connection with the nobility would of course better my chances of finding a favorable solution, even if only a little. Freida made her offer with a self-confidence that’s grounded in her family’s history and influence. Now, her tone of voice is just a little fiery, and a hint of an unspoken impatience is showing through in her eyes.

“Summer is just around the corner, yet you haven’t made any move at all. Have you truly given any thought to what we discussed? If you’re not given to a noble as soon as possible, then the way things are going, you’ll…”

Freida’s complaint is based on her concern for me, since I have the same devouring disease that she does. Even if I am brought to a noble, it’s not a guarantee that I’ll be able to immediately form a contract. I actually feel a little self-conscious over how much she’s worrying about me, if her feeling that this needs to be quickly rushed through is being amplified by her overbearing nature.

I chuckle, returning Freida’s even stare.

“You know, Freida. After thinking about it a lot, I decided that I want to be with my family, even if it means wasting away.”
“…Huh?”

Freida freezes up, her eyes wide and mouth open. Her lips tremble, just a little, and she weakly mutters, “I can’t believe it…”

“I’ve halfway given up already. Since Tuuli started crying, I told her that I’d keep looking for some way to survive somehow, but there’s no other way to live with the devouring except to make a contract with a noble, is there?”

I’m sure that the guild leader, in order to save his granddaughter, would have used every scrap of his influence, his money, his connections, and every other useful thing he had to frantically search for every solution he could. He would have bought some time by gathering up magical tools in order to keep searching for any better method than making a contract. Not finding anything, he must have given up on his search and turned towards finding a noble who would grant a contract with the most favorable conditions, thinking that that was the only way forward. The answer is obvious.

“…I don’t know of any.”
“Honestly, I’ve been wondering if I might be able to find another magical tool somewhere that I could use, but I don’t think I want to make a contract with a noble. There’s no substitute for magical tools if I want to do something about the devouring, is there?”
“If I knew of anything, I’d already be using it.”

She gives me an irritated glare, and I shrug my shoulders.

“I know, right? So, the question I wanted to ask you today is if it’s possible at all to buy magical tools from someone who isn’t a noble? Or maybe, could I make magical tools on my own, or something… that’s not possible, is it?”

I was thinking that if I couldn’t find any magical tools then I should try making some myself, but, unfortunately, none of the books I’d read as Urano contained any methods for creating magical tools. These concepts did exist in fantasy novels and games, but I don’t think that I can use any of those as reference material. Also, there’s no workshop here in the city that produces magical tools.

“You need mana in order to make magical tools, and since only the nobility have mana, they’re the only ones who can make them. So, the only people who know the methods for making magical tools are behind those castle walls.”
“Alright. …I’d been thinking that if I knew how to make them then I could just do it myself, but I guess it really is impossible.”

If only mana-possessing nobles could make them, then any workshop for making them would be on the other side of those tall ramparts. I’d been hoping that if I could just learn the manufacturing methods, then I could use all of my funds to make something happen, but I guess I really was just being naïve, after all.

“…I hadn’t even considered making my own,” says Freida.
“That’s because you’re from a rich family,” I say, giggling. “In my world, if I decide that I want something, then if I don’t make it myself I won’t ever get it, so the very first thing I thought of was whether or not I could figure out how to make it myself… you know.”

Rinsham, paper, soot pencils, and chopsticks were all things that I needed, so I was driven to make them myself, as much as I was able.

“Is your family that important to you?” she asks, quietly. “You’re not scared of being swallowed up by the fever?”
“Umm, how do I put this. I don’t want to die, but I’m not really scared of it, I don’t think.”

I’ve already died once. Being able to live out Maïne’s life is just a bonus granted to me by God. I finally managed to make my life actually fun to live, but that opinion hasn’t fundamentally changed.

“…I don’t have any books right now, so my family is the only important thing I have. I’m not choosing to die, I’m choosing to be with my family. That’s all.”
“Books?”
“Yeah. I’ve actually saved up quite a bit of money, so I wonder if I could buy one, maybe?”

I tilt my head, pondering, while Freida gives me a worried smile.

“If books are what you’re after, then shouldn’t you go to the nobles’ quarter after all? There should be many there, should there not?”
“Aaah, if a contract said that I could read books as much as I wanted, then I’d probably sign it on the spot, but do you really think a nobleman that would keep me around as a pet would let a poor commoner like me read something so valuable?”
“The more I think about your living conditions, the more difficult they seem.”

From a noble’s perspective, I’m just a commoner from a city with a low literacy rate. Even though I know how to read, it still wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for them not to want me to touch any of the expensive, precious books that they themselves own. If I were to read them on my own, then they’d surely get mad. Plus, to a certain extent, I know myself. If there’s a book in front of me, there’s a good chance that I’ll lose all sense of reason. I can easily imagine myself leaping at a book and provoking someone’s wrath.

“…So, I’ve been thinking that, until I die, I want to try to set up some way to mass-produce books, but this seems really hard. When I think about how short my lifespan is thanks to the devouring, I get halfway to just giving up. I’m causing so much trouble for my family, so right now I want to earn as much money as I can so that I can leave it behind for them when I’m gone.”

As I light-heartedly joke about this, Freida’s light brown eyes suddenly flash with light.

“Then, perhaps you’d like to sell me the rights to your pound cake recipe?”

I look at Freida, whose eyes definitely have that merchant’s gleam now, and hum thoughtfully to myself. A pound cake is a very basic kind of sweet, but perhaps a time-limited monopoly might not be a big problem. Permanently giving her all the rights, like I did with Benno and the rinsham, would be problematic. It would undoubtedly get in the way of developing and spreading new sweets.

“…If I were to ask for five small gold coins for the right to monopolize sales on pound cake for one year, how would that sound?”
“I’d take that offer, of course.”

She didn’t even hesitate for a moment.

“…What do you mean, 'of course’? Did I make it too cheap?”
“Yes, that’s right. The rights to monopolize sales on a completely unprecedented new good, like pound cake or plant-based paper, could easily be worth more than a large gold coin.”
“A large gold coin…”

Once again, it seems like Benno might have conned me into selling him all of my information for dirt cheap.

“Would you like to raise the price?”
“Nah, that’s fine. It’s only for a year, after all. I’ll sell you monopoly rights for five small gold coins.”

I’m not comfortable with raising a price after I already made my offer, so I shake my head.

“Well then, let’s write up a contract.”
“Huh? You mean, a magical contract?!”

Did this just get real scary? Am I going to have to see blood again and put innocent bystanders at risk? I start trembling uncontrollably, but Freida just lets out an amazed sigh.

“…Maïne. Contract magic is not something that you can use so easily. It’s something that you use when your opponent has both overwhelming magical and political power, putting you at an enormous disadvantage, and you need to use an extremely expensive magical tool in order to secure your profits. In our case, a regular contract written on formal contract parchment would be sufficient, would it not?”
“I guess you’re right.”

Since my first ever contract was a magical one, I guess my intuition might have been a little skewed. However, if what Freida is saying is correct, then why would Benno use a magical contract with Lutz and I, who possess neither magical nor political power? This is a mystery.

“Nevertheless, how do you know about magical contracts, since they’re so rarely used?”
“…Mister Benno will get mad if I tell you, so it’s a secret.”
“Oh my, you’re learning, aren’t you!”

She giggles to herself as she reaches for a bell on a nearby table. When she rings it, Jutte slips into the room, making barely a sound.

“Please get a written contract ready for us,” says Freida.

On the parchment that Jutte prepares for us, Freida uses a feather pen to outline the terms of our contract. Compared to the wooden pen that I bought, her quill certainly does look impressive, but I wonder if it’s just my imagination that it looks hard to use? To Freida, who is an apprentice at the merchant’s guild, this is ordinary, everyday work. For me, having been here for a while, this is something I’m at least familiar with. After we go over the contract to make sure there’s no discrepancies, we touch our guild cards together to finalize the deal.

“Why did you decide on a year?” asks Freida.
“After a year, everyone will know that your shop is where pound cake was invented, won’t they? Also, by then, I think sugar will have spread around to more people, so I’m trying to leave some room for new entries into the market.”
“New entries?”
“If the recipe is announced, then the number of competitors will multiply, and we’ll quickly start seeing new kinds of sweets, won’t we? Delicious sweets make people happy, so if there’s a lot of different people making them, and they start spreading everywhere, then I think that’ll be a good thing.”
“Hah, you really don’t care at all about your own profits, Maïne. Being a merchant doesn’t suit you.”

Freida and I sign our names at the bottom of the contract parchment. With that, the contract between me and Freida to guarantee her monopoly rights for a year is complete.

“But, well, me announcing the recipe in a year does require that I’m actually around then, doesn’t it? If I’m not, then I’ll leave that job to you.”
“Hmph! I put my own profits above all else. If you want that recipe announced, then you’d better still be here next year to announce it yourself!”

She huffs, turning her head away. She looks like she might be on the verge of tears.