When they left Mock’s Fishing and Boat Tools, Claude had incurred a debt of one silver thale and three riyas.
Each figure had cost two sunars, the same as a mutton biscuit, so four cost eight sunars. The silver flower hairpin was much more expensive. Which was to be expected considering it was made of pure silver instead of being just silver-plated copper. Wakri demanded five riyas, which was still a fair price.
Which left the cookbook. Wakri said he’d found it by his father’s bed. It was one of the things the man had left him. He didn’t understand why his father kept it so jealously, it was apparent it was an antique of some kind.
It was just a cookbook, but Wakri was intent on getting a high price for it, two silver thales it cost Claude in the end.
Trade was doing really well under Stellin X and prices were generally stable. A normal household normally had an income of six sunars a day. Six bucks was enough for a family of six or seven to live without concern for covering all their necessary expenses. A common laborer earned one or two thales a month — one to two hundred bucks.
Claude’s father was Whitestag’s chief secretary, but his salary wasn’t that high. He only earned three thales a month. Benefits, allowances, and subsidies included, he made at most five thales. His investments and properties multiplied his effective income a couple of times, however.
Claude’s elder brother earned two thales as Sir Fux’s personal secretary. While it wasn’t a high salary, he did side jobs through his employer’s contacts earned him quite a bit more on busy months.
It helped that Sir Fux wasn’t stingy. He always made sure his subordinates enjoyed some of the benefits his position afforded him. As such, Arbeit’s salary eclipsed even his father’s from time to time. He never contributed any of it to the household, however. He remained the same leech he’d been as a child. He didn’t even pay the head tax demanded of him as a peasant. He left it to his father instead.
Though the two thales Wakri charged for the book wasn’t excessive, it was still only a cookbook. Some books sold in the town’s bookstores were six to seven decades old and even they cost only slightly more than a thale.
Eriksson, Borkal, and Welikro felt the book wasn’t worth it. They quickly tried to persuade Claude against buying it. It would be better to buy an exquisite notebook to copy the recipes, but Claude wouldn’t budge.
Claude couldn’t explain why he absolutely had to buy the book. He knew the leather book wasn’t a simple antique. Two thales wasn’t excessive at all. It was quite cheap, actually. Very cheap. It would be his life’s regret if he didn’t get the book.
None of this, however, could be aired to his companions.
He finally understood how limiting not having money truly was. His efforts had been focused on fitting in so far, he hadn’t thought of money even once. He was just a 16-year-old schoolboy, after all. Opportunities for earning was few and far in between to say the least.
He only had two riyas, and only because his father gave them to him that morning and the four sunars his mother had slipped him. He could afford the figurines and the hairpin, the book was beyond his wealth.
Borkal had quite the sum on him, in contrast. He’d been given the four’s fees for the equitation classes and was acting as their unofficial treasurer. They had already paid the school for the two horses and the tuition fee they paid on Welikro’s behalf. They only had a single thale left.
That said, it was already reserved for their adventure on Egret. They had just bought a bunch of things. Even if they included Welikro’s eight riyas he got from the pelts, they could only raise at most one thale and two or three riyas amongst them.
He was dead set on getting the book, however. How could he not learn the secrets of magic after transmigrating to a world with it? Even if the mere mention of it made people pale, so what? It would not stimey his curiosity.
That was especially so given how his mental power was different from other people. Like the webnovels he had once read, he was someone filled with talent for magic. He was a magic genius. Perhaps this was the key to a protagonist life! His ultimate cheat!
The book was the first opportunity he got to touch magic. No matter what, he had to get it, even if it meant murder or arson.
Claude simulated countless attempts at sneaking into the shop and burn it down in an instant. He considered his decent physical ability and his tall lanky build. After guessing their relative strength, however, he grit his teeth and made up his mind.
“Please lend me all the money you have,” he said sincerely, “I want to buy it. Please don’t ask me why, I don’t really know. I just have to have it. Boa, Eyke, please bargain for me. As for the money I borrow, I’ll pay it back in three days, okay?”
What a joke. Murdering and committing arson just for the sake of a cookbook. Even his father had said the jetty slum was one of the most dangerous places in town. For Wakri to operate such a huge shop in this place meant he had his ways of dealing with unwelcome visitors. This was a shop that had been run for three generations. It wasn’t something just anyone could cross. Putting aside barging in to rob it during midnight, he wouldn’t even stand a chance of getting away. He might become one of the many missing townspeople instead.
His friends were true, however. They didn’t hesitate at his request and handed over their money. They also haggled with the proprietor for nearly a quarter of an hour before settling on a thale and several sunars.
Claude used his remaining money to buy the hairpin and four pirate figurines. Borkal and the rest also bought a lot of other stuff, such as gunpowder, bullets, sulphur and lime powder, stuff they needed for the trip. They also bought some other tools like ropes or grappling hooks that cost around four riyas in total. In the end, the four of them combined only had about two sunars left, just enough for a mutton biscuit.
Eriksson sudden spoke when the four were enjoying the mutton biscuit together.
“Ah, we have to get back to school!”
They had forgotten that there was still the afternoon session to attend.
After they rushed over the rear wall of the school, they put the things they bought in their classrooms only to be caught by their homeroom teacher. That was because they were having physical classes and they should either be at the gym or out in the fields instead of in the classroom. So, it was quite eye-catching for the four to enter it.
<i>The four cretins must have forgotten the time when they were out messing around.</i> Their instructor, Weckham stared at them. He knew well that they had left through the rear wall.
If they had returned before recess ended, he would’ve pretended to not notice. But they only got back after the next period finished. It was a blatant disrespect of the schools rules.
He punished them on the spot out.
“Your four! Go to the fields and run laps! Don’t stop until the class is over! Don’t slack off! I have my eyes on you!”
The four had no choice but to run around the fields for 20 minutes. Though they wanted to run slower, Weckham would shout at them the moment they did so. By the time the school bell rang, the four were completely covered in sweat and felt like collapsing where they stood. The 20-minute break gave them just enough time to catch their breath before they started on swordsmanship.
Claude had trouble focusing, however, and was almost struck on the forehead by Welikro’s wooden sword. Though nothing had broken, Welikro was horribly startled. Claude’s mind perpetually wandered to the cookbook. He couldn’t wait to rush back home and shut himself in his room.
After enduring three grueling classes, he was held up by Borkal because the four had to bring the things they had bought back to their secret base. That Friday when their break would finally start, they would move their stuff to Old Sunny’s boat. They could then go to Egret.
The secret base was hidden on the lake’s west bank, not far away from the jetty slums. However, the slums were for public use while Claude and the others’ secret base was near Eriksson’s family’s private jetty where the fishing boat, Shark of Red Sea, was docked.
There was a house built from stones and logs on the jetty and it was used as a storeroom and a place where sailors could rest temporarily. Within it was one small room which Claude and the others claimed as their secret base. As the young master of Shark of Red Sea, nobody dared to object to Eriksson’s use of that room. Even his father Captain Altroni ignored it after a futile attempt at reprimanding him.
The distance to Eriksson’s house near their private jetty was quite far. The carriage ride would normally cost each person five fennies, which was around 50 cents, and the four of them combined cost two sunars.
But given that they were dead broke, they had to rely on their own two feet.
They arrived at their destination half an hour later and Borkal collapsed on the only single bed in the room. The harsh exercises during the physical classes in the afternoon and their long walk had drained him of his energy.
Welikro still seemed rather energetic and he left for the lake with a small wooden bucket and a fishing rod.
Claude on the other hand was incredibly anxious and wanted to deal with everything before rushing home, only for him to be stopped by Eriksson. “Where are you going? Your father is receiving some guests tonight, and my father has also joined in. Your house will be really chaotic right now, so it’s best you don’t join in.
“I already told the guard, Uncle Peg, to get us some metal racks and coal. I’ll go back home to get some food. The four of us will have barbeque here tonight. Didn’t you see that Wero has gone fishing? We’ll be counting on you later.”