༺ Latifundium (2) ༻
As previously stated, it was a magic crop cultivation plant, a shared possession of Count Gemini and Duke Keter.
To be more exact, the magical crops weren’t grown on the Spirit Mountain itself. Rather, they were cultivated in ‘latifundium,’ inside a valley formed by the convergence of the U-shaped hillsides of the mountain.
To grow the magical crops, magical water that had been turned into mist must be used. The previously mentioned valley had the best shape to contain the mist for this purpose.
That was the reason why the latifundium was located in the Spirit Mountain.
Siwoo couldn’t help but exclaim in admiration.
He had been hearing about how magnificent the view would be, but he never expected that even the entrance to the place was this magnificent.
Whenever one was thinking about a valley, they would think of a place filled with rock, but the sight in front of him wasn’t like that at all.
The entrance of the valley, which appeared to be 100 meters wide, was densely packed with impressive looking trees.
“Amazing, isn’t it? It’s the off-season, so other administrators aren’t here. This is the only time we can look around the place leisurely like this.”
Odile had a proud expression on her face, as if she was showing off her golden calf at home.
One couldn’t fault her for having such a smug look, though.
“You’ll be even more amazed when you take a look around inside.”
As the road became uneven and bumpy, the three of them parked the carriage and began to walk together.
As they entered the woods, it became more difficult to see the top of the trees surrounding them, even when they tried to tilt their heads upward.
Each of the towering trees that filled the latifundium had existed for hundreds of years.
There were even several world trees mixed among them.
“What do you mean by off-season?”
“Although the Spirit Mountain is located in an area rich with magical energy, cultivating too many magical crops can deplete them quickly. After 6 years of cultivation, we have to leave the soil alone for a year. We can’t use chemical fertilizers on it during this period.”
Despite the time being midday, the valley was as dark as night. They walked through the darkness, accompanied by Odette’s kind explanation.
The reason for the darkness was because of the combination of the steep cliffs surrounding both sides of the valley and the trees’ thick branches. Both of them formed a dense canopy that completely blocked the sunlight.
Odette and Odile quickly made three to four decorative lights, as they were seemingly pretty familiar with this situation, and eagerly led the way.
Siwoo, who was looking around, followed them while carrying a lunch basket.
He felt like he was visiting a big cave due to how dark and damp the atmosphere around him was. It reminded him of the time in the past when he had gone to a cave on a school trip.
Then, about 30 meters ahead of them.
Siwoo and his companions were greeted by a curtain of vines that hung from a high point down to the ground.
It was obvious that the plan was artificially created.
The vines were stretched out in a straight line, covering the valley like a theater curtain.
“Beyond here is the main cultivation area. This is the curtain we put up to contain the mist we used to water the magic crops.”
“Mr. Assistant, stick close to us. I only have one pass.”
Siwoo clung to Odette’s side as she led him by the hand. She seemed to have become noticeably happier than before.
Odile rolled up her sleeves, revealing a wooden rosary.
The faint light from the rosary shone on the vines and the layers of vines lifted like dominoes, allowing them to pass through.
The faint light from the rosary shone on the vines, and the layers upon layers of vines lifted like dominoes, allowing them to enter.
As Siwoo walked through the forest, he could immediately understand why Spirit Mountain was praised to high heavens for its beauty.
To summarize, it was like a fairy forest.
The dreamlike scenery and atmosphere gave one the illusion that fairies lived there.
A narrow stream flowed through the large forest path.
The forest, its air filled with misty haze, produced an environment that invigorates one’s breathing. Gigantic trees stood erect everywhere like sturdy pillars that supported the latifundium.
“Mr. Asisstant, I can fit my fist into your mouth.”
“When we first came here, we were as stunned as you are now.”
The twin sisters’ laughter was barely audible to Siwoo.
He was too captivated by the scenery around him.
There were large glass jars, containing various colored light-emitting liquids, hung from the branches like fruits.
The colorful lights on the branch were akin to a scene from a lantern festival that had been photographed and preserved exactly as it was.
Thanks to the lights, even though they were walking in the middle of the valley, they could see their surroundings with ease.
If one were to look at it closely, there was a hose, extending from each of the glass jars, stretching toward the roots of the tree like a tentacle.
“It’s a kind of nutritional supplement. We injected various reagents into the tree to create a suitable environment to cultivate the magical crops. Those reagents also serve as lamps since they emit bright lights.”
“Then, what about that?”
Siwoo pointed at sparks that resembled fireflies, they rose from the ground and quickly vanished into the air.
They resembled will-o’-the-wisp in a way, except that they moved at a sluggish pace.
“The mana concentration in this location is remarkably high. That leads to the natural occurrences of mana reflections.”
“Wow. It’s amazing.”
It was the kind of landscape that would never tire the eyes.
Although it was unlikely that anyone would purposely design the place with aesthetic beauty in mind, one could still feel reverence toward both nature and magic in this place.
“I’m glad that I decided to follow you. It was the first time I’ve ever been in such an amazing place.”
“Is that so?”
“Mr. Assistant, if there’s anything you want to know, feel free to ask.”
Odette was spinning around Siwoo cheerfully, along with Odile who wore a proud face.
As they appeared less distant than before, Siwoo felt a sense of closeness to them.
“We can’t rest here, so let’s move to the production management building. Follow me and watch your step. It’s damp all year around, so the ground is slippery.”
Odile leaped off the tree roots where she was standing before.
The magnificence of the towering trees was reflected in their exposed roots that covered the ground. They were almost as large as a truck, which surprised Siwoo a little.
They walked along a path beside the river, surrounded by trees.
The mist seemed to be created by the magical water from the river. Regardless of which part of it was touched by the lights, its surface glimmered.
The temperature itself was quite chilly.
Meanwhile the humidity was so high to the point that one could easily mistake the place as a tropical rainforest if they were to judge based on that.
“Mr. Assistant, do you know anything about magical crops?”
“No, I’m afraid not. I’m mostly ignorant about alchemy in general as I didn’t have enough time to study it.”
“So, you’ve only been studying about spell-casting and magic circles? Those are boring though…”
“Well, I had to focus on making choices and concentrating on them.”
“In that case, I’d appreciate it if you could explain it to me.”
And so, Odile began unraveling her worldview on how to cultivate magical crops.
“Plants that can be cultivated through magical mutation are quite limited.”
“Normally, we grow a large number of moss or mushrooms. They are easy to develop and nurture.”
As Siwoo looked around, he noticed that most of the things attached to the trees and rocks were either moss or mushrooms.
Their shapes were so peculiar that it caught his eyes.
There was a variant of moss with a subtle pinkish tint on them and mushrooms that emitted bright light, reminding him of a fluorescent stand.
“Is that a button mushroom?”
Siwoo asked, pointing to one particularly tasty-looking mushroom.
On the tree trunk, mushrooms that looked just like button mushrooms often found in a grilled pork belly restaurant were clustered together.
“Want to try eating it? Eek!”
Odile promptly slapped Odette’s bum with all her might.
“You’ll get us into big trouble!”
“C-C’mon, I was kidding!”
“Don’t ever eat those. Most magical crops are harmful to eat raw. If you want to use them as ingredients, you’d need to detoxify them for at least a few days. Sometimes you even need a few years.”
The scenery around him, as well as the various crops that were grown there intrigued Siwoo.
Seeing things that he had only ever seen in books, depicted in text and illustrations with his own eyes gave him the impression that he was in a completely different world.
“That’s called ‘Red Root Moss.’ It has strong nullification properties and is often used as a neutralizer.”
“What about that one?”
“That’s a ‘White Cap Mushroom.’ One of the few mushrooms that can be eaten raw. It’s beneficial for the cerebral cortex and could accelerate the speed of your thinking and calculation.”
“It’s similar to overclocking.”
“Yes. But Lady Gemini warned us not to touch that mushroom. While it can enhance our ability, ultimately the effect is only temporary.”
“Moreover, the higher rank you are, the less effective it becomes.”
Odile and Odette gave Siwoo a lesson about the various crops without taking a break.
He felt like being with two beautiful guides in a botanical garden.
As they went deeper into the forest, the river gradually narrowed and the mist’s thickness decreased to the point where it resembled steam more than anything.
Odile and Odette bounced over the stepping stones as they led the way. Meanwhile, Siwoo carefully crossed over to the other side while carrying a basket.
As they climbed up a steep mossy hill, a fairly wide plain appeared.
The saps that had been dangling from the branches were now plugged into the earth alongside their bottles.
Lavender, lime green, and light pink.
Something like a swarm of light-colored mist was wafting up in an undulating motion.
“This is where we grow root crops. Have you heard of Mandrake?”
“The one that screams when you pull it out?”
Odette laughed brightly at Siwoo’s silly reaction.
“There used to be a lot of thieves who would steal it, so the witches put hallucination spells all over the field. It was a popular plant for making hallucinogens and aphrodisiacs.”
“That’s screwed up.”
“We’re almost there. Let’s rest for a bit.”
The place was supposed to be a fallow land, but Siwoo didn’t see anyone around.
It made him feel like he monopolized this beautiful scenery.
Feeling like he had an entire amusement park to himself, Siwoo’s heart was racing in excitement.
Finally, they arrived at a giant oak tree that looked just like the other trees around it.
The only distinguishing part of the tree was a treehouse hanging in the middle of the tree, just like the one he had seen in Border Town before.
Except that this treehouse was placed much higher than the one in Border Town.
“This is the production management building.”
They climbed the spiral staircase that surrounded the tree and entered the management building.
The height of the stairs appeared more perilous than what Siwoo had seen from below, making him feel dizzy.
It made him wonder if witches had a particular fondness for heights as treehouses were just as popular in Gehenna.
“So, what will we do here?”
“Just enjoying the pretty scenery outside while sipping tea and chatting.”
Siwoo’s legs were shaking as they arrived at the treehouse.
Compared to its size, the place was quite barren.
Like Amelia’s research lab, it was filled with papers and documents. The only place available for them to sit on was a lone sofa in the center of the room.
However, the view outside the window was spectacular.
When he was ascending the stairs, he wondered why they had built this treehouse so high up.
But as soon as he looked outside, he understood.
One could see the entirety of the latifundium from this place.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Odile slipped in beside Siwoo as he sat idly, lost in thought.
A mysterious feeling of relief gnawed at his heart.
It was silly of him to think of it like this, but he felt like he was sitting with his beautiful partner in a fancy hotel room while admiring the nighttime scenery.
“I’m glad you like it, Mr. Assistant. I was worried that my sister dragged you here against your will, you know?”
Not wanting to be outdone by her sister, Odette slipped into the opposite side.
Siwoo gave out a wry smile and backed down a little.
To him, Odile and Odette were both difficult to handle.
Especially when they were together like this.
“Shall we open the basket?”
“I was just thinking about eating something.”
“Wait a second. I prepared something special for today.”
While they opened the basket on the table in front of the sofa, Odile rummaged through the cabinet in the corner of the room and returned with a large bottle.
The bottle she held was almost half of her height.
When Siwoo saw Odile’s mischievous expression, he could tell that it was a wine bottle.
“When did you hide that, Sis?”
“Last time, I told Mr. Assistant that I would let him try Mendel Hill’s Red Wine.”
“You remembered that from a long time ago?”
“I’m not the type to forget my promise.”
Despite feeling somewhat uneasy, Siwoo found himself unable to resist the temptation.
The idea of drinking while admiring such a beautiful landscape felt appealing to him.
Odette, who was mischievously drinking the secretly stashed wine at that time, suddenly looked up with surprise.
Her gaze was fixed on a corner outside the window.
“You didn’t see that thing that just passed by the trees outside, Sis?”
“It was black and big. It just skimmed through the gap between the branches…”
Siwoo and Odile leaned closer to the window, trying to see the place Odette was pointing at, but…
There was nothing there.
Only the glimmering magic droplets, hanging from the thickly wooded branches could be seen.
“Are you sure there’s something there?”
“Stop playing around and eat your sandwiches.”
“I’m not playing around!”
“Who else could be here aside from us?”
“Fair point, but…I wasn’t lying when I said I saw something…”
“Maybe you were just seeing things. You didn’t sleep well last night, didn’t you? That’s probably the cause. Anyway, forget about it and eat.”
Odile managed to convince Odette who continuously peeked outside the window.
With that, the real picnic began.
Lads we bottled Odile’s name. It’s supposed to be Odile instead of Odil. A reference to “Story of Swan Lake.” It will be Odile from now on.
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