Chapter 13: The Poor Mage
EndlessFantasy Translation EndlessFantasy Translation
"Will you let me go if I play along in this boring game of yours?"
God knows where Ciri had gotten her courage to spout such provocative words to the demon before her.
However, Ciri's character was like that, and she would never bow to anyone.
In any case, her life was already in Joshua's hands, and the worst that could happen to her was death... Ugh, that seemed really bad.
The problem was, Ciri had actually tried to get along with Joshua in a respectful manner. Like those noble b*tches who may have looked all prim and proper on the outside but schemed to seduce someone all day long behind closed doors, Ciri could muster about a tenth of their characteristics. She had planned to do so in exchange for her life, but she soon found that she could not do it at all.
The reason was that she could not detect any threatening or oppressive aura from Joshua... Also absent was his contempt for humans or the casual disdain a master had for his servants.
That resulted in Ciri running her mouth when she spoke to Joshua, exposing her true nature.
"Yes, I will let you go once the shoot is completed."
Joshua understood the concept of sticks and carrots, of course. If he gave Ciri a tiny hope, then she would work hard for it.
"And let me correct you a little. What we are doing next is called filming a movie. It is not a game."
"A demon saving villagers sounds very much like something one does to pass time."
That was actually Ciri mumbling to herself, but she deliberately did not control her tone. It seemed that she wanted Joshua to hear it.
Ciri had seen enough of such bored aristocrats. She thought that all of these pompous fools should be tossed into the wilderness for a lesson in survival and experience what it was like to feed on tree barks as well as fruits. That would make them understand how precious time was.
Wait... as she thought of that, Ciri suddenly remembered that she had not eaten for almost a day.
The hunger within her belly made her give up on arguing with Joshua as she started to rummage through a small satchel underneath her robes.
Ciri found nothing to eat aside from a bunch of useless drawings and pencils in it.
No, there was still half of a dried bark at the bottom of the satchel!
Ciri's excitement was no less than Geralt, the Witcher's excitement when he found a good Gwent player. She pulled out the tree bark, and just before she could bite into it, she noticed that Joshua was looking at her funny.
"What's wrong? Never seen the bark of a cocoa tree? This tree is a delicacy in the human world... Yes... I mean it."
Ciri simply could not go on as she reached that part. The fact that others could now see she was so poor she had no money to eat made her feel ashamed.
"What I wanted to ask was did you draw this?"
Joshua was holding a piece of paper that had fallen out of Ciri's satchel when she was rummaging through it.
It was a sketch of a landscape, with a stream, a grove, a simple grill, and a small bonfire. The black and white tones perfectly captured the scene of a campfire under the night sky.
"Where did you get that! Ah, no, give it back!"
Ciri suddenly realized that it had fallen out of her own satchel, and she immediately stepped forward to try and grab the drawing away from Joshua.
Unfortunately, being a mage, her growling hunger debuff doomed her chances of getting the drawing back from Joshua.
Not only did she not manage to grab it, but in her agitation, she rushed forward too quickly. She lost her balance and was about to fall flat on her face.
Joshua had taken into account what little chest the girl had and the probability of it disappearing altogether with the fall. So, he still politely held his hand out and grabbed Ciri by the waist to break her fall.
It was only a loose touch, but Ciri shuddered all over and immediately took a few steps back.
That was the first time a man had touched such a sensitive part of her body! But before she could even ponder upon the matter, she noticed that the dried tree bark she was holding earlier was now on the ground!
She quickly ran over to Joshua's side to pick up the bark and patted it a few times.
There should not be any problems! Ciri had heard a great archmage say that "food dropped on the ground is still fit for consumption if picked up within three seconds".
Joshua squatted down and looked at Ciri. He had begun to sympathize with the poor mage.
How poor was she to be chewing on dried tree barks?
"If you're the one who drew this, I might consider giving you some meat to eat," Joshua said as he placed the sketch before her.
It could have been just her, but the moment Joshua said he would give her some meat to eat, Ciri's eyes suddenly lit up, and her initial reluctance totally disappeared.
"That's right. I drew it."
Based on Ciri's expression, Joshua realized that he should not have promised her freedom earlier and should have instead told her that she would have meat every day if she followed him.
"You can sketch?"
In the beginning, Joshua had intended to release her after the filming and let her return to her home.
However, the drawing in his hand proved that Ciri would be valuable to keep around.
"Sketch? What is that? I just drew it using the magic circle's charcoal pencil. I caught a few fishes in the stream there, and I drew it... just because I had some inspiration."
Ciri thought about it carefully before she explained.
For a wandering mage apprentice who was not that rich, the demands for spellcasting supplies were enough to drive her into poverty.
That kind of life allowed Ciri to hone various skills like using Lightning Bolts to catch fish and use Smog to smoke out bunnies.
The only other specialty she had was her ability to draw a little.
"You learned all of this yourself?"
"If I did not learn them. Who would have taught me? Those painting materials used by the court painters could feed me for twenty-five years. For them to teach me, I think even with fifty years worth of food money I would still not be able to pay them."
"Very well. Perhaps I could formally employ you then, Ciri."
Joshua never expected the mage to be such an excellent artist.
Sketching was easy to learn but difficult to master, and Ciri's drawing was undoubtedly within the realm of exquisite.
Sketching was the basis of art. Perhaps geniuses may have been able to skip this stage, but Joshua himself spent ten years learning how to sketch and five to paint.
Considering that Joshua planned to develop games in the future, he would not ignore any artistic talent that came his way.
"Employ me?" Ugh... did you not say that you would release me after the filming?" Ciri asked as she bit into the tree bark.
She did not seem to believe in Joshua's promises to her, including the part about "giving her meat to eat".
The so-called employment shtick had to be akin to slavery!
"Whether you want to accept it or not is up to you. But I think the price I am offering may be up your alley."
"I can guarantee you food for the rest of your life."
In order to expand his cultural invasion business in the future, he would definitely need a large number of talents at his disposal. While Joshua had not formulated the specifics of the employment, that sentence alone was enough to impress Ciri.