So far the tone of each volume has been set by the intensity of the volume covers. So when I initially saw the dark colors of this volume cover I was worried it was going to be a particularly dark volume. And sure, there’s some dark moments and story beats in this volume but I think this cover is more an indicator of the wintery, christmas atmosphere that this volume has. On that note, let’s jump into it, shall we?
Chise sneaks away from the house to go and meet up with Alice. Alice had sent her a message and she wanted to get out of the house. They took the bus and train to the big city and met up with Alic. Obviously, Elias realized she was going away and sent something after her to keep an eye on her. Later on he reveals that the charm would also allow him to keep tabs to an extent. They meet up and Alice reveals that she asked her to come to shop for Christmas gifts for Renfred. They’re both outcasts in their own way and even though alchemists and mages don’t normally match well, they seem to be getting along alright. They talk for a while over dinner about what they should get someone. They even get some advice from the centaur mailman that we saw earlier. What’s the most interesting thing about these chapters is Alice’s backstory that we now get.
Chise and Alice run into some hoodlums who recognize Alice from her past as a junkie. Apparently Alice’s parents were both highly addicted to drugs and got Alice addicted too. When Alice’s parents died from drug overdose Alice was already too deep into this life. As luck would have it, she had some magical abilities and Renfred found her and picked her up. He gave her some disgusting potions to slowly help fix her addiction. Eventually he taught her to read, and after she accidentally opened a book that turned into a monster, we finally learn how Renfred lost his eye. This is the moment where Alice softened up a lot more.
It’s an interesting parallel to Chise’s backstory and I’m sure the author did so on purpose. Both these apprentices came from a difficult background, abandoned by their family. Both of them were then picked up by a kind powerful person and helped out. It’s a two sided coin though. On one hand both women absolutely benefited from the situation and were lucky to get into a more loving household. On the other hand, the only reason they were so lucky was because of their latent abilities. Make no mistake, for both Renfred and Elias it was a lot more of a business transaction and a lot less of random kindness. So what do I think about their relationships at this point? All is well because it ended up well? There are many other junkies or miserable young children who were completely abandoned just like Alice and Chise, but neither Renfred nor Elias did anything for these people. They only picked out the downtrodden ones that were of use to them.
I think this is a topic I’ll revisit later, since I’m sure it will come up again, but I think it’s interesting food for thought.
They end up buying something for their respective masters and Chise goes back to learn that Elias was well aware where she went. They exchange gifts and Chise is surprised that she herself gets a bunch of gifts as well. It’s her best Christmas, which is both happy and sad at the same time.
I believe that the arc after this was in the anime as well since it’s very familiar. Chise is approached by Stella, a young girl who is chasing after her brother. Her brother suddenly went missing and her parents and everyone don’t even remember his existence. It turns out her brother, Ethan, has been taken away by someone called The Ashen One. Elias, Ruth and Chise confront this person, who claims that Stella didn’t want Ethan anymore, so she had no right to complain. They then propose a game in which Elias and Ethan are locked away and hidden, with Chise and Stella having to look for them. Chise uses the pelt that almost tricked her earlier on in the story, if you guys can remember that. She finds them without much issue, and Ethan and Stella make up.
The next chapter has Stella visit Chise and Elias to bring the snacks she promised them. They talk for a little bit and it ends with Elias experiencing jealousy and leaving the house. Chise follows him using the pelt once more and brings him back.
All things considered, I really enjoyed this volume. Maybe it’s because I’ve been going through stuff lately, but I felt quite emotional while reading it. I teared up here and there as well. How about you? Did you enjoy this volume as well? Please let me know your opinion down below, and I hope to see you here again next week.