William found his mother cooking in the kitchen, as expected. He walked up to her, carrying the bell peppers. “You should add these to the stew.”
“Add what, Josef?” she was still chopping the things on the tray in front of her, and hadn’t yet turned to look.
“Fresh bell peppers.” William held them up toward her, waiting to see her reaction.
“That would be nice, wouldn’t it?” she stopped chopping and turned towards him, since he was obviously holding something up. “What’s… this?”
William grinned, “Fresh bell peppers. Like I said.”
She just stood there blinking for a few moments, before taking one in her hand. She felt its texture, and sniffed it. “It… certainly does seem to be so. May I cut it?”
“If you don’t cut it, how are you going to add it to the stew?”
She turned back to the cutting board, and chopped it in half lengthwise. Inside, it was similarly fresh, as expected. She shook her head. “It’s not just a very nice carving?” She turned back to William. “Where did you get this?”
“It came from our farm, of course, at harvest. I just… preserved it.”
“I… see. May I ask how?” His mother had learned that William didn’t seem to lie about what he could do or had done. When he’d said he was studying magic, he meant it. Thus, she was willing to give him a chance to explain properly, even in such an unbelievable situation. Of course, there was also hard to deny evidence in front of her, but it could have just come from a different region, where they had weather to grow almost year round. It was still a bit too fresh for that, though it was the simplest explanation.
William brought her to an old shack he had taken over. It had been a tool shed, but they had gotten a bigger one, in a better location. Anselma knew he went in there, but on the occasions she had looked in on him she’d only seen piles of junk. There were still piles of what looked like junk around, but there was also a box. She remembered seeing it, but had assumed it was filled with more strange things. It was this very box that her son approached, waving her over. “Take the lid off.”
The lid fit tightly, but with a proper tug it came free. Instead of the expected musty air, cold air came out. The air around was already cool because of the season, but inside the box was much colder. Inside, she saw a few dozen fruits and vegetables. It wasn’t anything near as much as they had in their cellar, but these were different ones, and they were fresh. Close enough, anyway. “How is this possible?”
“Magic.” William shrugged. He pointed to the corners where the formation pieces mostly made from metals and cheap gemstones were located. “These create a magic field that keeps food fresh… though cold and keeping away mold.” He didn’t mention bacteria, because it was too complicated to explain, especially if he wasn’t asked. “It can preserve things for more than a season.” He reached in and pulled out a squash, which was looking a bit old. “Not much more than that, though.” William had thoughts on why that would be, but he wasn’t sure yet.
“This is… fascinating.” William saw his mother was thinking about something. Probably not how it worked- she didn’t have the learning necessary for that- but instead how it could be used. She wasn’t unintelligent, so he knew she could think of the applications for the farm almost immediately. “How long does the magic itself last?”
“It should last almost indefinitely, as long as it doesn’t get damaged.” William paused, remembering something. “As long as there’s mana, anyway. As you can see, it takes up most of the mana in the room just for this box. I can make more, and probably bigger ones, but they can’t be too close together or they might have problems.” If the ability to keep away bacteria and fungi failed, the duration of its effectiveness would shorten to weeks instead of months. “In the summer, it won’t work as well, unless we get better insulation.”
“You can make more things like this?”
“Of course… I just need money for more materials.” He grinned and raised his eyebrows. “Seriously though, it could be pretty expensive on a large scale. This took most of the money I’ve gotten for the last couple years.” His parents hadn’t given him all that much money, though they weren’t stingy. Still, a few dozen vegetables was basically nothing on the scale of a whole farm. “There might be some problems as it gets bigger that I don’t know about, but if you had a bigger version of this you could save a part of everything for the next season, and make a bit more profit on that portion.” William walked over and dug behind a pile of stuff, eventually pulling out a sheet of parchment. “Here are some numbers I came up with.”
William would have liked to say that there would be massive profits from his plan, enough so that his parents could pay for his attendance to the wizard’s academy in Ducson, but that was neither realistic nor necessary. The first year, they might or might not even make a profit, with the expenses of allocating a building and the materials to set up a larger magical formation. After that, though, there would be reasonable profits to be gained, since most of the expenses were up front. It would likely only be a few percent of the total yields of the farm, but that could change depending on how much people desired out-of-season fruits and vegetables.
His mother looked over his plan, carefully scrutinizing it. “Hmm. If these numbers are correct, specifically the prices to set this up, we could perhaps turn a decent profit. In a half dozen years, we could probably afford to send you to that school you want to go to. The only problem is how long they’ll last.”
“A long time. Almost indefinitely, with proper maintenance.”
“I see. And who will be doing the maintenance?”
“I… will teach Stefan how to do it. Or you and father, if you have the time.”
Anselma smiled. “I’ll talk to your father about this. I can’t promise that we’ll try it, nor can I promise we’ll be able to send you to Ducson even if this works… but I do know how much you want to go to an academy, and promise that you will be able to go… eventually.”