Ascendance of a Bookworm - Volume 7, Chapter 2: The Child That Was Abandoned
Volume 7, Chapter 2: The Child That Was Abandoned
This chapter is updated by Unboxbee.com
After all the celebration in the plaza was over, everyone resumed their daily work. I would be returning back to the temple today too. Damuel and Fran fetched me from my house, but we made a stop at the Gilberta Company first. I wanted to thank them for their gifts and to show off to Benno that Kamil was cute. And if possible, I wanted to resume our discussion about the plans for printing.
“He’s so tiny as a newborn. He gets so red and wrinkly whenever he cries, he’s so cute. I never would have thought that my baby brother would be this cute,” I indulged in remembering how cute he was. I told Benno the same thing I did for Lutz, Fran and Damuel when walking here.
Benno just cringed and massaged his temples.
“I get it. I’ve been hearing this nonsense from Otto everyday. Just start talking about your plans for printing already.”
“Wait, what? Has Corinna given birth? I didn’t hear of this! When did she give birth?!” My eyes grew with surprise at this news.
Benno frowned in response.
“Did I not tell you? Well, I might have forgotten to because you were stuck in the temple for so long. Otto has been fawning over his kid so much that I thought that your dad, Lutz or Leon would have told you about it,” Benno explained and looked at Lutz who shrugged.
“Leon told me that we shouldn’t be going around talking about your private matters, that’s why I didn’t tell her.”
“Hm, you’re right, I guess. Well, I did meet Myne a couple of times after the baby was born, but… it probably slipped my mind because we were so busy. We had to finish the letter blocks and then there was the visit by the blue priests,” Benno reminisced with a tired look. He was drowning with a heavy workload, so he probably didn’t have the time to announce that Corinna had given birth. .
“Well, I might as well say it now. The baby arrived right before winter ended. She’s called Renate and she will be the heir to the Giberta Company, so treat her well, yeah.” Benno said all this in such a nonchalant way that I was baffled. He was acting the complete opposite of Dad right now.
“You don’t look excited about this, Benno. Weren’t you desperate for a successor?”
“I am, but Otto can be excited in my stead. He’s surely going to blindly spoil her, so I need to be strict with her or the Gilberta Company won’t hold when she inherits it,” Benno smirked, but I had my suspicions that he was going to spoil her too even after all that talk.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I feel like you’re going to spoil her as much as Otto.”
“Watch what you say,” Benno shot me a glare but I ignored it.
“Corinna will raise Renate into a fine lady. She’ll become a capable businesswoman who can keep a poker face when securing a good business deal.”
Corinna might have a sweet demeanor, but there were a couple of occasions where she pulled out valuable information from me without my awareness. If this happened with Benno, he would berate me for being so gullible and for trusting others too blindly, but Corinna didn’t do any of that. She would just try to take as much information with me with a gentle smile. Freida was the complete opposite when it came to business, she was very blunt with her words that it was slightly annoying. Corinna got everything she wanted to know by chatting.
She’s much scarier than Freida when it comes to business-related things.
Frankly, Benno was the nicest merchant I have met so far. Perhaps training me as his apprentice had brought out his sense of duty to look after me, so he would subconsciously act nicer around me.
“I practically raised Corrina myself, you do realise that right?”
“Well, the Gilberta Company has a long and bright future then.”
“That’s obvious,” Benno was pleased with my comment and continued, “Speaking of business, you mentioned that you have some news for the printing business?”
“The High Priest said that I needed to postpone using the new printing presses for now. If we are too hasty with printing, we might risk clashing with some nobles. And we have no way of winning against them now?”
“…So nobles might get involved? Well then, it’s best for us to pay heed to his advice.”
Benno was aggressive when it came to fighting for profits, but he was definitely not going to risk fighting with nobles. I felt relieved that he felt that way, so I continued to tell him what else the High Priest had told me.
“Lots of nobles copy books, so we can’t make thick and wordy books for adults (Ria says: I couldn’t really understand what the author was trying to say here.) The High Priest said that it was ok to make children books. So anyways, I’ll be going all out with making children’s books for the next few years.”
Benno frowned at this, “Going all out… ? Well then, I would like to hear your plans for this.”
I nodded and explained to him my plans for the workshop.
“I’ll be upfront with this, I want to make coloured ink to colour the pictures. After that, I want to make some wax stencils that will speed up stencil printing. We need to step on it if we want to get everything done in time.”
“What are you preparing for?” Benno asked and I responded with a proud grin.
“I will need to make books for Kamil at different ages. I will be working my hardest for him, so it would be great if you could find me a wax workshop.”
“Have you received the High Priest’s permission for this?” Benno had an exasperated and doubtful look on his face. I wasn’t that impulsive to start things before asking Benno and the High Priest because they would always nag at me to report and ask them for permission before doing anything first.
“The High Priest said that the books for children won’t incite any hard feelings from the nobles, to be honest, he was the one who suggested colouring the pictures. He said something along the lines of ‘It’s such a waste to see Wilma’s art in black and white only, art needed colour, etcetera, etcetera…”
“I will be happy to help you as long as you have received permission. I will arrange a time for you to meet a foreman as soon as possible.”
That was all I had to discuss with Benno. Now that I had found a possible craftsman from a wax workshop, I left the Gilberta Company in high spirits.
“Good morning. I’m back.”
“Welcome back, Sister Myne.”
I was greeted by Delia and Rosina in my chambers, they proceeded to assist me into my blue robes while I told them more about Kamil.
“My little brother was just born. He’s called Kamil. He is so tiny and gets all red and wrinkly whenever he cries. He’s just so cute.”
“Sister Myne, the way you describe him doesn’t sound cute,” Rosina chuckled at me. It was true that Kamil looked really cute when he got all wrinkly, but I just wasn’t good with my words.
“Sister Myne, I don’t think it really matters to us if your brother is cute or not. Why do you wish to tell us about him?” Delia tilted her head in confusion.
“I want more people to know about him. I was told that it is important for people to remember when he was born.”
After all my talk about how cute Kamil was, it was time for me to head to my harspiel practice. But it didn’t take long for Rosina’s class to get interrupted by a knock on the door downstairs. Shortly after, Fran had made his way upstairs.
“Pardon my intrusion, Sister Myne. Wilma would like to seek an audience with you.” he announced, sounding slightly anxious.
“Please let her in,” I replied.
If Wilma had come all the way here, it must mean that something important had happened in the orphanage.
Delia helped me keep away my haspiel and I sat by the table to welcome Wilma. She came upstairs carrying a baby that was bigger than Kamil. Wilma and Fran gave me a troubled look.
“Wilma, whose baby is that?” I asked.
I had stayed in the temple for quite some time, but I hadn’t heard of any of the gray shrine maidens getting pregnant. It was common for blue priests to send their pregnant attendants back to the orphanage, so this baby definitely wasn’t from here.
“The baby was abandoned. He was left with one of the guards…”
Wilma explained that one of the patrolling guards at the lower city’s gate was approached by a lady out of the blue. She pushed a bundle of cloth into his arms, claiming she wanted to present an offering to the gods. It wasn’t unusual for people to offer gifts or donations to the gods, so the guard accepted it without any suspicion.
“It was only when the guard opened up the bundle that he realised there was a baby inside.”
It was part of the guards’ protocol to check the contents of an offering before passing it to the temple.
“She wanted to give her child to the gods…?”
Parents who were unable to kill or raise their child would usually turn to the orphanage as a last resort, hoping that the gods will look after the kid. This baby was bigger than Kamil and he could move around his head, but he was too young to walk by himself. ‘I was indignant at how a mother could so carelessly abandon their child.
“Since you are the director of the orphanage, I decided to bring him here first. What should we do about him?”
The orphanage needed the director’s permission before they could take in a new child, but since this was my first time handling this, I was unsure what I needed to do.
“Apologies, but I am unclear on such matters. I have not done this before since I first stepped into the position of the direction. It seems I have to consult the High Priest. Fran, would you help send a request for an emergency meeting on my behalf?”
“Certainly,” Fran bowed and turned around.
This was probably his run into such a situation because he left the room frantically. While all this was happening, the baby was still sleeping soundly in Wilma’s arms, completely ignorant of our worries.
“This baby is such a deep sleeper,” I said. His small and sleeping look reminded me of Kamil, and that made me smile.
This baby is cute, but my Kamil is the best. Absolutely.
“We are fine now because he is still asleep, but I do not know what I should do when he wakes. We do not have any gray shrine maidens who have children. What shall we do about the baby’s milk…” Wilma was at a loss.
Whenever a baby was brought into the temple, they lived in the basement and the post-natal or still pregnant gray shrine maidens would feed them. They would practically take in their children as their own. But with all the pregnant shrine maidens gone, we no longer had anyone in the basement to share their knowledge with us.
The rest of the shrine maidens and apprentices were girls who had never offered flowers before. They have been living in the orphanage for their entire lives, so they didn’t have any parents to teach them about pregnancy, childbirth or child care. In other words, no one knew how to look after a baby.
“Do you perhaps know how to look after a baby, Sister Myne?”
“I know that you can swap out breastmilk with goat milk. If I’m not wrong, goat milk is much better than using cow milk. It will be a slow process, but we can feed the baby with a spoon,” I said.
I reiterated everything I read from a fictional book set in the medieval times, but Wilma looked as though she had been enlightened. Her eyes glistened with awe and respect.
“Thank you so much, Sister Myne. I will go get some right now.:
“Remember to prepare some clean cloth for diapers and clothes for the baby too,” I told her what we did for Kamil.
“We still have some old cloth from the babies we used to raise. We should be fine with what we have for now.”
Some time later, Fran returned from the High Priest’s chambers and I asked him to bring over some goat milk. All of a sudden, the baby woke up and started crying.
“He’s probably hungry, I think,” I said.
Wilma slowly brought a spoonful of milk to the baby’s mouth. He was initially resistant to it because he realised that Wilma wasn’t his mother, but he eventually succumbed to his hunger and started sipping on the milk.
Everyone let out a sigh of relief at this. At least we knew that the baby wouldn’t die of starvation for now.
The third bell rang and the baby flinched in surprise, but he didn’t cry because he was too occupied with satisfying his hunger.
“Fran, we will head over to the High Priest’s right now. Sir Damiel, please look after me.”
We all sped our way down to the High Priest’s chambers. My sisterly-instincts were screaming at me now that Kamil had been born, I wanted to make sure that baby could live here comfortably as soon as possible.
“High Priest, I have an important matter to discuss with you.”
I informed the High Priest about the baby that was abandoned and seeked advice for him on what I needed to do.
“Why don’t you go about it the way it has always been done?”
“That is why I am here, we do not have any experienced gray shrine maidens in caring for babies in the orphanage anymore,” I explained and the High Priest flashed a look of surprise.
“Yes, I see. But we cannot ask for the impossible right now. There are wet nurses… Unfortunately, I do not know how to care for children.”
“So we can hire a wet nurse?” I asked with glee in my eyes.
It would be much easier on us if we had one, but sadly, the High Priest shook his head.
“…Where would you find one willing to enter the orphanage?”
“That’s going to be difficult.’
The High Priest was probably giving his input as a noble. But likewise, it was difficult to find anyone in the lower city who was willing to enter the orphanage because the place was frowned upon. Mum might help out, but she needed time to recover first. I wasn’t going to ask her to help out with her current state.
Least to say, it was nearly impossible to get a wet nurse to help out. I could only ask my attendants to look after the baby. It was going to be a gruelling task for everyone but we did not have any other alternative right now.
“What should his name be? The mother didn’t indicate his name anywhere on his clothes.”
“Do as you like. As long as he does not have the same name as another orphan, anything will be fine.”
We finished up our talk and I quickly returned to my chambers. The baby was giggling, satisfied with how it had been fed and changed into a new set of diapers.
“We will take turns to look after him. It will be too hard on Wilma to look after him alone.”
The situation wouldn’t have been this bad if we still had some mothers or pregnant ones in the basement, but now we had to make do with the current gray shrine maidens. They had no experience in carrying babies and there was no one to seek advice from. I wasn’t going to leave Wilma alone in caring for the baby when she had no one else to rely on. Anyone in that situation would be utterly drained of energy.
“He will go hungry in the night too. So we will need someone to be on night duty, and someone else needs to wake up earlier to take over.”
In the end, we decided that Wilma would take the day shift and look after him in the orphanage, and the rest of my attendants would take turns looking after him in my chambers at night. Rosina was a night-owl, so she took the midnight shift while Fran would sleep earlier to take over. After that, Delia would look after him until it was Wilma’s turn again.
“Hey! Why must I look after him too?!” Delia fumed.
She was fine with listening to orders from her master, but she wasn’t willing to care for an abandoned baby everyday. I could understand where she was coming from, but the baby needed our constant care if we wanted him to survive.
I peeked at Delia from the corner of my eyes.
Maybe I could say something to convince her otherwise? Something that will make her happy to care for him.
I ruminated for a while before a sudden idea struck me. Delia looked jealous the other time when I talked about my family. She was probably keen on having her very own.
“Delia, you are responsible for looking after him. Don’t forget, you are his big sister.”
“Huh? Big sister?” Delia was stumped and looked back at the baby and me.
“You are too young to be his mother, so of course you are his sister, right Delia? Care for him like you would for your family. Afterall, you are a family.”
“A…family?” she stressed those words, still shocked by the meaning of that to her.
“I just became a big sister the other day, and you are one too now, Delia. Who do you think will be the better sister?”
“Of course, it will be me!” Delia declared with lots of confidence and puffed up her chest. Now it seemed like she was going to give her all for the baby, she looked like she would be a good sister.
Deep down, Delia was a forthright and a hardworking person who would put her best into everything she did. My other attendants were happy to see Delia this excited. With someone as diligent as Delia went all out in looking after the baby, caring for him would be much easier for Fran and Rosina.
“Well then, let’s give him a name. He cannot have the same name as someone else in the orphanage, so it’s up to us to decide one for him. Any suggestions?”
“I want to give him a similar name to mine. Something a family would do,” Delia spoke as she continued looking at the baby in Wilma’s arms avidly.
Maybe that will make her like him more.
I tried to think of a name that similar to “Delia”.
“Something like ‘Delia’… What do you think about ‘Deta’ or ‘Dirk’?”
“Deta… or Dirk… I like ‘Dirk’ better!” Delia chirped with a happy blush.
“Hello Dirk, I’m your big sister,” she greeted Dirk and stretched out to pat his head. He gave an awkward grin when she did so.
“Sister Myne, did you see that?! He’s smiling!”
“…That’s amazing Delia. Kamil always cries whenever I carry him,” I replied, a little jealous that Delia was already a better-like older sister than me.
I was very determined to win more big sister points, so I would rush to look after Kamil whenever I got home, but with Mum and Tuuli around, I could barely help out. What made it worse was that I couldn’t grasp the technique of changing his diapers. Whenever I tried to help out, Kamil would pee out and that was havoc.
“Oh, the orphanage is looking after an abandoned baby? It must be tough since you don’t have an experienced lady to help out,” Mum said while breastfeeding Kamil.
“Mum, is there any other way for me to help?”
“Taking power naps in the day will make it easier on them to feed him at night. First off, you can try making sure those looking after the baby get more sleep in the day.”
She was giving us advice based on her experience and wisdom, so there were no protests on my part.
“Alright, I’ll get better at changing Dirk’s and Kamil’s diapers so that everyone can get more sleep.”
“That would be great. But frankly, I’m not expecting much from you,” Mum gave a cheeky smile.
When I turned to the temple on the following day, I saw that Fran and Rosina looked extremely sleep-deprived. It must have been hard for them to alter their sleeping schedule and wake up to feed Dirk in the middle of the night. They definitely needed naps.
“Fran, Rosina, please take a bell-long nap after having your breakfast. You need more time to rest now that you are going to wake up at night.”
“As per orders, thank you Sister Myne,” Fran and Rosina gave their thanks.
It was already tough on mothers to raise children, so I can’t imagine it will be any easier for anyone else to look after a baby that had appeared in the orphanage out of the blue.
“Anyways, Sister Myne, there’s something off about Dirk,” Delia looked at Dirk with lots of concern in her gaze. But he seemed perfectly fine to me, he was just snoozing away.
“This morning, Dirk started crying and we couldn’t pacify him because we hadn’t prepared the milk. His head started heating up and some bubbles appeared on his cheeks. He went back to normal when he got his milk though. Anyways, we have no clue what’s wrong with him,” Fran explained to me whatever he saw. I was confused because he looked perfectly fine to me now.
“We’ll have to make him a little hungry and cry. It’s tough for me to make a judgement without seeing it in person. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone here to tell us if this is normal among babies.”
We waited for Dirk to start crying from hunger. And just as told, he started burning up as his wails got louder.
“Look, Sister Myne, he’s burning up.”
I placed my palm onto his forehead but was jolted away by what felt like a volt of electricity. Dirk started crying harder when that happened.
“Sister Myne, his cheeks are bubbling again.”
“Delia, quick, give him his milk.”
“Yes. Here’s your milk Dirk,” Delia slowly lifted a spoonful of milk into his mouth.
Dirk stopped crying when he felt the milk in his mouth. He started taking small sips, and his cheeks and fever quickly settled down. I didn’t feel that spark of energy again when I touched him.
“Fran, send a request for a meeting with the High Priest now. It is an urgent one,” I ordered seriously.
He rushed out of the chamber while Delia looked at me with trepidation, “Sister Myne, what’s going on?”
“I am not too sure about this, and I do not want to make it worse for you by making wild guesses,” I looked down and shook my head.
I prayed that whatever I was thinking was wrong, but it was unlikely. Dirk had the Devouring. What was more devastating was that his mana was strong enough to kill him.
Delia narrowed her eyes in worry upon hearing the uncertainty in my voice, and she hugged Dirk closer to her body