DAR Vol. 3 Chapter 9 Part 6

At the same time, Grandpa Gry looked at its surroundings. Its expression was very pleased. The gryphon was in the underground space under Roa’s house, the space Grandpa Gry built to pass the time.

<And with this, the underground lake is complete too. Let us test whether it is possible to use earth magic to connect the underground magic currents here…>

What Grandpa Gry was looking at was a large body of water, indeed large enough to be called an underground lake. The space it was in was also very large, resembling a massive cave. The ceiling was so high and wide Grandpa Gry could fly freely without obstruction.

Both the lake and the cave were artificial, a creation of Grandpa Gry’s earth magic. The ceiling, walls, and floor were reinforced with the soil removed to create the space, compressed and hardened into rock. The lake’s water was gathered from underground rivers, so it would not increase or decrease.

<Hmm, should I raise some fish here too? I should go look for some worth eating.>

This was the 8th floor of the underground space Grandpa Gry created. It was already far beyond the scope of an “underground room”.

<What shall I create next? I have to finish making corridors, but it’s not stimulating after all…maybe a river of lava in the 9th floor?>

Grandpa Gry flashed a nasty grin and focused on the next project. The “I suddenly surprised a person and made them lose consciousness. I regret what I did. I’m sorry.” board still hung from his neck.

The reason why Grandpa Gry went down underground was to avoid being seen by anyone. Another reason was to continue building the underground space, but more than that, it was able to escape people seeing the shameful board and laughing.

It heard that the noisy woman (Cornelia) would visit in the morning and would loathe for her to see it, so it fled underground right after breakfast. The board could not be taken off until afternoon: the gryphon begrudgingly accepted the promise with Roa, but did not want to be laughed at.

<Maybe I could enlarge the stockroom above…the barrels of holy water are increasing after all. That brat and his experiments, there’s more and more every day…>

The underground space had been initially built to store the mithril brought back from the Aldon forest and the holy water. After that, all the products of Roa’s experiments that couldn’t be kept outside were stored underground. He also started conducting some experiments in the first floor underground.

Only Roa, the servant beasts, Nostalgia, Coralde and a select few of his subordinates knew of the existence of the underground space. Among them only Roa, the servant beasts and Coralde ever entered it.

Coralde knew up to the deepest position, the 5th floor. Roa only knew up to the last storeroom floor, the 3rd. Up to that floor, the size was still within common sense. The others probably thought it was the size of a normal underground storeroom.

The total size already exceeded the Coralde company’s whole estate, extending as far as under nearby cities. The sale of land only involved the surface, however, so there were no legal ramifications to worry about. The right to own underground land did not exist.

The reason was that the government and lords kept the laws ambiguous so that they would not have annoyances to deal with when building underground waterways or other facilities. After all, the few people capable of building large-scale underground facilities were all employed in government institutions. And even in that case it would involve the cooperation of several spellcasters.

No one imagined that someone could create something so large by themselves, as Grandpa Gry did. The knowledge that building anything underground would not incur in any legal problems came from Coralde:for whatever reason, the merchant had openly encouraged Grandpa Gry’s building activities.

<Alright, time to work!>

Unbeknownst to the town’s citizens, the underground labyrinth built half for fun continued expanding…

𑁋

Kristoff needed some time before he could regain his composure, but Roa and Nostalgia’s three managed to arrive in town at more or less the scheduled time.

The magic wolf twins also came with them: Nostalgia members were enough for security, but the twins stuck to Roa’s side and wouldn’t give up. Both Roa and the twins were excited to go to town for the first time in a while.

For the occasion, the twins sported collars around their necks: they looked like “Subjugation Collars” even in the eyes of experts, but in reality they were something different. They were “Collars Extremely Similar to Subjugation Collars, but Actually Aren’t”.

Grandpa Gry hated the Adventurers’ Guild Subjugation Collars, but it requested Coralde to make these, in exchange for building underground storerooms for the company.

Subjugation Collars continuously cast mental manipulation magic, in order to keep magic beasts under control. They didn’t work on Grandpa Gry and the twins from the start, so they never experienced their effects, but the gryphon still disliked having to wear the symbol of subjugation.

Not wearing them around Roa’s house, however, would create all sorts of troubles. In that case, they just needed to wear something similar in looks. Grandpa Gry then requested Coralde to make collars that would be “suitable for them”.

Roa had no idea how much they cost, nor did Grandpa Gry care about it, but each of them was worth about one hundred gold coins. It was enough to build a moderately large villa in that town. Three of them together were worth more than Roa’s house, located in the first-rate lot in the Coralde company estate.

Grandpa Gry built the underground storerooms as payment, so there were no problems, but if Roa had to pay he would have refused outright, and Grandpa Gry would have been scolded to boot.

The reason why the collars were so expensive was that they were not simply very similar-looking to Subjugation Collars, but that Grandpa Gry specified very valuable materials to make them and also requested for them to be equipped with magic tool-like functions. Grandpa Gry had the new collars equipped with functions that assisted the casting of magic spells.

The price also included the craftsman’s work commission, as they were not actually illegal, but dangerously close to being so.

“Here? Really?”

The question came from Cornelia. Nostalgia’s three were looking at the entrance of a workshop that seemed in shambles. It looked like it would collapse at any moment and was surrounded by rusted artifacts of unknown use.

The area was a special one within the town’s industrial district.

The workshops of creators who presented most problems in terms of noise and risks of fire were gathered here. The area was close to the city walls and was also surrounded by another set of walls with soundproof and fireproof qualities. It was structured as not to let any accident affect neighboring districts.

“If we go a bit further it’s the slums, right? He sure lives in a dangerous place.”

Kristoff looked around. Being a scout, he had memorized the city’s geography.

“Apparently, if you don’t belong to a guild this is the only place they let you have. The blacksmith is pretty tough and often visits the slums’ orphanage, so he’s fine with it.”

“Oh yeah, you did say that he doesn’t belong to a guild.”

Not belonging to a guild meant that it was hard to be trusted, something especially important in the industrial district. Without joining a guild, it was impossible to buy good plots of land. Having found a place available was rare in itself.

“He might be tough, but he’s still a blacksmith, right? Isn’t it dangerous?”

“Well….I think he’s stronger than an average adventurer, though? I’ve seen him throw out adventurers and knights out of the workshop a lot of times.”

“Knights??”

Nostalgia’s three reacted at the same time. Unlike adventurers, knights were not to be opposed. Throwing them out of a shop would be enough to be branded a criminal.

“Is that okay…?”

“I don’t really know how, but it looks like it is. The knights didn’t come because of some trouble, they barged in the workshop because they wanted their swords fixed, apparently.”

“Knights going to a blacksmith outside the guild to get their weapons tempered? Isn’t that weird?”

In a country where guilds were generally regarded to be above all, it was difficult to think that those working for the government would request work from such a person. Roa cocked his head in response to Cornelia’s questions.

“I think it’s because he’s really good, but….I don’t really know, honestly. I heard that a member of the brass is a fan of his, so he gets exceptional treatment, but I don’t know if it’s true.”

“He’s that good, yet he won’t join the guild?”

“His personality is kind of problematic…”

Roa looked far into the distance. Looking at his eyes, Cornelia felt uneasy, though it was too late. 

A master craftsman so skilled that even the knights demanded his services, but so strange that even the Creators’ Guild, a gathering of unique individuals, viewed him as problematic.

Cornelia started thinking that their predictions could be wrong. This blacksmith was strange enough for Roa, definitely not a normal person, to call them strange, after all.

“The house’s exterior side is like that since he bought it from a retiring blacksmith, you know?”

Roa suddenly changed the topic, almost as if there was something he didn’t want to say.

“He could still fix it, though…”

“We’re still close to the slums, though. Looking like this helps in not attracting unwanted attention.”

“If you put it that way, I guess…?”

Roa answered Cornelia’s question and opened the door and with a sound of creaking iron, or maybe wood, something charred black fell from the roof. Roa, followed by Nostalgia’s three and the magic wolf twins, avoided it and entered the workshop.

Inside the workshop, or what was more like the ruins of one, it was very dark: the only light filtered in from gaps in the roof. There were all sorts of mysterious contraptions lying about, with weapons and armor covering the space between them.

Nostalgia’s three looked at them carefully to try to verify how skilled the blacksmith actually was, but they looked like nothing but trash, made by a craftsman of minimal skill.

“Apparently, the gear scattered around here is meant to trick the eyes of intruders.”

Roa realized that Nostalgia’s three were looking around all over, so he explained. They wondered if it was necessary to go to such lengths to not be targeted by thieves and robbers. Roa proceeded through the wrecks and reached another door.

This time the door was of extremely high quality, in stark contrast with the “ruins” it was in, a metal door covered in decorations. Roa knocked on it using the equipped door knocker and a pleasant metal sound resounded.

“Hello, it’s me, Roa! Is Mr. Bruno around?”

A female voice’s “Yes!” was heard from inside and the door opened. A young girl with black hair and slightly slanted eyes appeared.

“Hello! Long time no see, senior disciple!”

She seemed to be in her early teens. Her face was dirty with soot and the overalls she wore were quite plain, but she was unmistakably pretty.

“Er, it’s been a while. Don’t call me senior disciple, please.”

“Ah! It’s the senior disciple!”

Another young girl appeared. She looked the same age as the first and also had black hair and slanted eyes.

“….I said I’m not the senior disciple…”

“It has been a while, senior disciple, sir.”

One more black-haired slant-eyed girl appeared. She had to be about 10 years old.

“Come on in, senior disciple.”

Yet another girl with black hair and slanted eyes. The newest one appeared to be twelve or thirteen years old. Roa’s group entered the room and found another woman inside, with the same black hair and slanted eyes as the girls. She seemed to be in her early twenties.

“Oh, Roa…no, I mean, junior disciple! Today…you have people with you, I see. Try not to cause a ruckus, okay?”

“Even you, miss Sofia…? Please don’t call me junior disciple too…I’ve already told them not to fight, so…”

“If we don’t treat you as a disciple, the master will be angry, you know it. Amy, would you kindly go call the master?”

“Yes!”

The girl tasked with calling the master hurriedly vanished in the back of the room. Next to the woman called Sofia, there was another little girl with black hair and slanted eyes, around 10 years old, who looked at Roa’s group without saying anything.

The room was spacious and very clean. It was bright too, possibly thanks to light provided by magic tools. Differently from the corridor they passed to reach it, it appeared to have been completely rebuilt.

“Bow-wow!”

The magic wolf twins leaped towards the back of the room, as if chasing after the girl that went looking for the master. Not Roa nor the black-haired slant-eyed girls showed any signs of stopping them, as if it was something completely natural.

“…..”

Nostalgia’s three were quite confused.

The young girls appearing one after the other were probably sisters, but even in that case, something was off. They were all very pretty, with black hair and slanted eyes, but their points in common ended here. Their facial features and skin color were all slightly different from one another.

Maybe the mother or father are different? But…

Nostalgia’s three tried making sense of the situation. Even if they were all sisters, would it be possible for all of them to be disciples? Blacksmithing was a very harsh profession even for men. To choose women, girls in their early teens at that, all sisters, as disciples…was something very hard to wrap one’s mind around.

“Dear sirs…sirs?”

“Yes!”

The oldest black-haired slant-eyed disciple, Sofia, brought them back to reality.

“Am I correct in assuming that you came to have your weapons crafted?”

“Yes…”

“As I’m sure my junior disciple already told you, our master is a very unique person. Simply put, he’s not normal. He’s an outrageous outlaw. He doesn’t test people, he’s disrespectful from the core. Thus I would advise you to give up on requesting weapons to him and to pick up one of the prototypes we made, which you’ll see lying around here.”

Nostalgia’s three looked around: too focused on the black-haired, slant-eyed crowd, they had not noticed it before. Weapons and armor were scattered haphazardly here and there; one glance was enough to know that they were all made by greatly skilled craftsmen. 

According to Sofia’s words, they were all prototypes made by them, the disciples.

“That…”

If the disciples were this skilled, how incredible was the master? Such a question popped in Cornelia’s head, but then she recalled a weapon she had recently seen: Roa’s new knife. It was indeed of much higher quality than the weapons in the room.

“In the case of someone as strong as you, sirs, it is possible that our master will agree to craft weapons or armor for you. In exchange, however, you will be forced to endure a very unpleasant experience. Our master is certainly skilled, but he’s also certainly mad. What do you say?”

Sofia had a faint smile on her lips. Looking at her insulting her master so normally, Nostalgia’s three were even more confused. What kind of master could make his disciples talk like that? All they heard were insults.

No matter what Roa said, they didn’t take it too seriously, thinking that all craftsmen were a little weird. It was too late now, but their heads were full of doubts.

“Hey, Roa…what kind of person is he, anyway?”

Once again, Cornelia asked Roa the question she had asked him so many times before. Every time she did, Roa acted like it was difficult to answer and never replied clearly.

“Well…his personality is kind of like Grandpa Gry.”

“…..”

That was enough to let Cornelia understand everything. She would have liked it much more if Roa said so first.

“Boss, stay still. We have to tie you.”

“Sorry, boss.”

“Hey!! What the!?”

Dietrich will definitely start a fight. Cornelia and Kristoff were positive of this, so they quietly tied him up and even put a mouth gag to keep him quiet.

“My, this Grandpa Gry person resembles our master? He too must be the lowest of lowlives then. Poor thing.”

Sofia’s eyes narrowed as she spewed more poison. Rather than the master himself, the person labeling him a lowlife so casually was starting to become scarier in the eyes of Nostalgia’s three. She was a very “unique” artisan too after all.

“My junior disciple is often well-liked by such types after all. Like that rotten merchant, for example. You sirs, though…two of you seem normal, but the one you tied up gives out the same smell, I think.”

“….hahaha…”

Cornelia and Kristoff were relieved that Sofia’s sharp tongue spared them, but could only emit a dry laugh after it struck down Dietrich. The latter was firmly tied and gagged, so he had no way to react. Although unwillingly, he had accepted being tied up.

He too wanted to see this rumored blacksmith for himself, but he was not completely confident that he wouldn’t start a fight.

“Hey, Mr. Coralde is a good person!”

Roa’s rebuttal did not mention Grandpa Gry or Dietrich. It looked like he was defending Coralde, but since his name came out immediately after hearing the words “rotten merchant”, it was like he half admitted it. Roa didn’t seem to notice as much though.

“Oh my, but that merchant is the same type as our master, you know? He buys our creations at the most disgusting prices, not low enough that we can refuse, but not high enough that we can call it a profit. Then he lavishes money and rewards on the artisans he employs, to show how better it is to work for him. Simply disgusting.”

Roa thought that it was all natural for a merchant and an employer to do. He didn’t force anyone to suffer losses and prioritized the craftsmen he employed, which was wonderful in Roa’s eyes. It was also true that he would be a horrible opponent for artisans that wanted to create freely and their creations to be valued highly.

“That baldie is nothing but scum!! He dared snatch away my disciple!!”

A rough voice boomed in the room and Nostalgia’s three shuddered. Roa and the black-haired slant-eyed ladies were probably used to it, as they just looked in the voice’s direction.

“Long time no see, Mr. Bruno. I apologize for sending a request via letter last time.”

Roa bowed to the source of the voice. A very intimidating man with a long beard appeared from the back of the room. He was probably in the middle of work, as his forehead was beaded with sweat, stopped by the towel wrapped around it. He was probably working in front of the furnace, as he had tied the upper part of his overalls around his waist and was naked from the waist up.

Then, on his shoulders…

“Woof!”

“Woof!”

The magic wolf twins were riding, just like shoulder pads. They were apparently enjoying the shake as the man walked, just like kids riding a toy.

“That’s nothing! I understood the reason why you couldn’t go out. Those townspeople are the idiots, getting so scared of a gryphon and causing trouble for my disciple!!”

The man laughed loudly, exposing his beast-like canine teeth. He was about as tall as Kristoff, but he was thick and stocky everywhere, so he gave the impression of a bear. He was thick, but not fat: his thickness all came from muscles. Even his bulging stomach looked hard.

“You got thrown out of that party and quit being an adventurer, right!? So why did you go to the baldie? You should have come crying to me, your master!!”

The intimidating bearded man was the workshop’s master, Bruno.

“I said I’m not your disciple…and I’m still an adventurer anyway!”

Roa’s mood was unusually foul. He was indeed still an adventurer: even if he had been banished from the party and could not take requests on his own, as long as his certification remained, he was still an adventurer.

He knew that if he couldn’t take requests he would have to quit one day, but Roa did not want to give up on that. Bruno probably noticed his intentions, so he laughed, amused.

“Sorry, sorry. I heard you belong to the Creators’ Guild now, though?”

“That’s….I do, but…”

Roa had been half tricked by Coralde in joining the Creators’ Guild: this was also true.

“You’re already on *our* side then. Don’t do things half-assed! Throw away your lingering regrets or whatever and become my disciple already. I’ll teach you all I know and if you want to learn stuff other than blacksmithing, I’ll find you an expert! You can read all the alchemy books you want too. You’ll become able to craft magic tools too. Come on, go and cut all ties with that baldie!”

“But I can’t do that…”

Roa felt indebted to Coralde, so he naturally was not on board, but seemed a bit conflicted. For someone as hungry for knowledge as he was, it was a very attractive offer.

“Isn’t this for the best? Stay with the merchant and you’ll become as deceitful as he is!”

Bruno then grabbed Roa’s shoulders and dragged him so close they almost hugged. He went easy on him, of course, but the sudden weight on Roa’s shoulders made it look like his height suddenly decreased.

“You two boys agree, right?”

“Woof?”

“Woof?”

The wolf twins, still positioned on Bruno’s shoulders, shook their heads.

“Whaaat!? You two disagree? Does the baldie feed you with stuff that good? You got bought?”

“Bow-wow!!!!”

“Bow-wow!!!!”

“You didn’t? So what’s the problem?”

Cornelia was surprised to see that Bruno seemed to be speaking normally with the twins. She had seen Roa talk with them a number of times, but it was rare to see other people do the same. They had become friendly with Dietrich, but they just treated him as a toy.

“I’m the one preparing their meals! We bought a house so you don’t want to leave it, right?”

“Woof!”

“Woof!”

“You bought a house? You’re in debt with the baldie? Did he lock you down with debts? Did you do something in exchange for lending you money? That damn bald pervert..!!!”

“Er….”

Roa started looking troubled then Bruno’s buttocks were struck by a powerful kick. It looked strong enough to make even a martial artist stagger and was delivered by a steel-toed boot, but Bruno did not show any signs of pain and looked at the kicker, Sofia, with a concerned expression.

“Master, you’re troubling Roa. I suggest you stop.”

“Oh! Did I?”

Bruno looked happy for some reason, loosened his grip on Roa’s shoulders and let him go.

“Anyway, what did you come for today? I see you’ve got some strange fellows with you?”

Bruno had been talking to Roa only since he arrived, but he noticed the presence of Nostalgia’s three. They didn’t appreciate how he addressed them, but they heard from Roa that he was similar to Grandpa Gry, so they just furrowed their brows a little.

“They’re from the adventurer party Nostalgia and they’ve helped me a lot recently. The leader, Dietrich, is the one tied down there. The other two are Kristoff and Cornelia.”

After Roa’s introduction, Bruno finally looked at Nostalgia’s three. He stared at them from head to toe, as if to see how much they were worth.

“Pleased to meet you.”

Kristoff and Cornelia endured Bruno’s leering gaze and managed to greet him. Dietrich, being gagged, was naturally silent. Even if he wanted to talk, he couldn’t.

“He is the blacksmith…”

“Hmm, so these are the fools who caused that ruckus with the Adventurers’ Guild.”

Roa was about to introduce Bruno, but was interrupted by the latter’s mumble.

“Eh?”

Kristoff and Cornelia couldn’t help reacting with surprise. It was true that Nostalgia had caused trouble within the Adventurers’ Guild: before they left with Roa on the gathering expedition, Dietrich had caused a commotion in a tavern affiliated with the guild. Dietrich, in a drunken stupor, started punching the adventurers in the tavern and quickly knocked them all out.

They had compensated all damages they caused, of course: because of that they ran out of funds and accepted Roa’s escort mission to the Aldon forest, so the incident was also the trigger that let them meet with Roa.

The incident was rather shameful for the guild, so all present were silenced: it was difficult to believe that the rumors might have reached a blacksmith’s ears. They expected that the news might leak to an extent, but for an acquaintance of Roa’s to know was the worst-case scenario.

Kristoff and Cornelia blushed out of shame.

“The worm dumbass here got violent, right? It’s got to be him, he looks dumb enough. So you’re the two that stopped him.”

“…yes, it was all this worm dumbass’ doing…”

Dietrich’s tied state made him sort of resemble a worm, hence the appellative. It was the truth, so Cornelia had no choice but to nod. She expected Bruno to say something about the fact that Dietrich was tied up, but he did not seem to care.

“So you bandwagoned with my precious disciple because you want my weapons, I bet? I don’t like fools and I don’t make weapons for fools.”

“Haah…”

There was no objection they could make.

“However.”

Nostalgia’s members seemed to have given up, but Bruno’s white eyes flashed from deep inside his beard in a grin.

“My disciple acted with disrespect to the young lady, I hear. So I can make you a warhammer, with some conditions.”

“….eh? I am happy, but…I don’t recall Roa ever disrespecting me…and why a warhammer? With conditions..?”

Cornelia, addressed as young lady, was confused. If Bruno meant what happened in the Aldon forest, it concerned the whole party. She couldn’t understand why she would be the only one to receive a weapon.

“My disciple adjusted your armor, didn’t he?”

“…yes, he did, but…how can you…?”

“Just looking at your body is enough to tell, missy.”

Cornelia naturally remembered that Cornelia adjusted her armor before they entered the forest: it was the first thing that triggered her interest in Bruno, the blacksmith who taught Roa how to.

“….I didn’t do it properly?”

The question came from Roa. He looked at Bruno, inquiringly.

“You did it too properly. The imbalance had caused a burden on her body, so if you fix it completely all of a sudden, it’ll add even more burden. You’ve got to do things gradually in cases like that. If you find a bent branch and try to straighten it all the way at once it’s gonna break, right? Same thing.”

“Ooh…I see….”

Roa confronted the information with what he knew and was convinced. If a tree grew in a bent shape, it would snap if you tried bending in the opposite direction all at once. You would need to use supporting sticks or branches to fix it gradually over the course of weeks or even months.

It was probably the same for the human body too. It was necessary to adjust it gradually towards the correct position, without drastic fixes.

“Well, it looks like the young lady overcame the burden and is all fine now, though. Good thing her physique is tough. Be more careful next time!”

“Yes….”

Bruno’s rough hand rubbed the slightly saddened Roa’s cheek.

“But master, have you ever taught him that?”

The question came from Sofia.

“It wasn’t necessary until now, so no! I didn’t!”

Bruno answered plainly. The only armors Roa adjusted until then belonged to Crack of Dawn. Roa had continued to adjust them for a long time, so it was not necessary for him to know how to adjust armors arranged in faulty ways.

“It’s your fault then, master. And you blamed a disciple with it…a true lowlife, as expected.”

“I know that!! That’s why I said I would make them a weapon, with some conditions!!”

Bruno howled back at Sofia, but despite being called a lowlife he looked like he was having fun.

“Ehm, what would the conditions be?”

Kristoff asked because, based on what the conditions were, they might have to reject the offer. He stepped forward, hiding Cornelia behind him. Bruno’s “young lady” made it clear that he looked at her not as an adventurer, but as a woman. Some such men set conditions of sexual nature when they saw women. Kristoff had seen many of such men, so he was wary.

….wary of the man tied in the work-like form next to him.

Bruno answered with a lower tone.

“Let me see…I’d like my disciple to call me “master”….”

“Eh?”

Kristoff expected the conditions to be aimed at Cornelia, so he didn’t know how to reply. Everyone looked at Roa: the “disciple” Bruno meant was surely him.

“…no matter what I do for him, he won’t agree to call me master, can you believe that? It’s high time you do!”

“But I can’t even do proper blacksmithing work…I would cause you trouble…”

“Because you can’t swing the hammer properly? That’s got nothing to do with it! YOU made a magic tool to use instead of the hammer! Thanks to that the little ones could stop being helpers and became disciples too!”

“Mr. Bruno, you made it, don’t you remember?”

“But it was your idea!”

“We were just talking a little…”

Nostalgia’s three were then convinced. Roa went and did it here too. As usual, his poor opinion of himself did not let him accept the extent of what he did.

Blacksmithing generally involved heating metal and beating into shape with a hammer over an anvil. It was harsh work, definitely not suitable for anyone. Simply beating metal with a hammer for a long time was not too difficult, but it had to be done quickly and precisely, in front of a furnace hot enough to melt metal.

Bruno’s intimidating bear-like body was not for show: it was necessary for blacksmith work. Roa’s small physique was not fit, so he thought he couldn’t do it. Roa, however, apparently created a magic tool to remove such a physical burden.

“How many times do I have to tell you that you made it!?”

“That magic tool simply used the same principles as a watermill’s pounder, anyone could come up with it when they see a watermill…”

“I don’t care!!!”

Even if a watermill was not a rare sight, not many knew what actually happened inside, and even fewer knew of the actual structure and its mechanisms. It was used by farmers and built by wood craftsmen: both professions had little to no ties with blacksmiths.

Nostalgia’s members did not have a clear idea of what a watermill’s pounder did either. There were many ways of using watermills, but the most common in that country was to use it to thresh wheat and other grains, to remove their stems and husks.

A large mortar pounded on grains put into a container to remove both stems and husks.

The mechanism itself was extremely simple: a stick extends from the axis of the rotating watermill wheel, which drags and lifts the pounder as it spins: when the hook is removed, the pounder drops back down. In other words, it changes the rotational movement into an up-down movement.

Based on this mechanism, Roa invented a magic tool to swing the hammer automatically.

“Anyway!! I’m saying that if you just call me master I’ll make a warhammer for the missy here!! Just accept it and call me!!”

“But….”

“Nngh…one time, just one time is enough! That much is fine, isn’t it? Fine, I’ll make an assassin knife for the playboy-looking guy too! How’s that?”

When Kristoff heard the words “assassin knife” he shuddered as if he was shocked, but only for an instant, so no one noticed.

“Why a warhammer and an assassin knife?”

Cornelia expressed her honest question again. They had not requested for specific weapons yet, and Cornelia wanted to request a sword instead. Because of the Aldon forest events, it was true that she wanted a warhammer too, but its priority was lower. If she couldn’t have a sword she would have liked a knife next, the warhammer only came after these two choices.

“What? You too want to choose your weapon, missy? Pretty selfish of ya.”

“Yes?”

Cornelia didn’t understand what Bruno meant.

“Our master looks at the user’s physique and decides what weapon or armor to craft. The user’s physique and build let him guess their job, so he can tell what weapon can be the most effective and useful, while giving the least burden. I assure you it is better to use the weapon recommended by our master, it is definitely the weapon that fits you the best.”

Sofia complemented Bruno’s words. Cornelia was thus convinced about how her weapon was decided.

She was convinced, yes, but she couldn’t accept it. She had trained extensively with the sword, so she felt all her training was being disregarded. She had fought with warhammers before, but it was just a sub-weapon, definitely not the one she was most proficient with.

If I can’t choose myself, then I don’t need to have it made…thus Cornelia started thinking. It was a matter of pride: as a warrior, she couldn’t accept that her weapon was chosen by the blacksmith.

“Is it possible to ask you to craft something else?”

“I don’t want to.”

Bruno answered immediately. Sofia then complemented his words again.

“A man like our master, who lacks respect in personalities, is never going to care for others’ opinions…the only exceptions are very few people in the whole country. Not even the king managed to have his way. That’s why he was kicked out of the guild, though.”

“Haah….”

If he really refused the king’s orders, he was lucky to have been simply banned from the guild. It was almost incredible that he wasn’t executed.

“Well, one of those people is right here with us, though…someone who made our master craft a knife with just a letter.”

Sofia sighed and gave a side look at Roa.

“If you want our master to listen to you, you have to show your ability somehow. He’s like an animal, so if he recognizes your strength he’ll get attached to you like that, see?”

Bruno had probably already lost interest in Cornelia, as he was back to shout-negotiating with Roa to be called master at least once. He did indeed look just like an animal that tried to please its master in order to receive their favorite treat.

“By ability, you mean…”

“Anything works. Fighting ability, intellect, courage, beauty, anything. He’s rather difficult, though. In your case…why not try using your beauty?”

Cornelia raised her eyebrows, a smile frozen on her lips. She visited the workshop to have a weapon forged: to be told to use her looks not her abilities as adventurer or warrior, was naturally insulting.

“I am an adventurer!”

“But you won’t be able to lift a finger against our master, I’m afraid. He’s a lowlife, but a stupidly strong one. Someone on your level is…”

“Whaat?”

“Not even the leader of the knights can make our master forge the weapon he wants.”

In other words, not even the leader of the knights was a threat to him. It wasn’t clear if winning was a condition, but at the very least not even the leader of the knights was strong enough for Bruno to recognize his ability.

“….he’s that strong…?”

“Yes, indeed he is, that is why I recommend you to use something else. He likes long black hair, so why don’t you try dying them first? He also likes women with character rough enough to kick him, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for you. Having more slanted eyes would have been better, but…”

Nostalgia’s three then realized something nasty: all the girls in the workshop corresponded to Bruno’s preferred looks.

“….pervert.” 

Cornelia’s thoughts escaped her lips. Sofia nodded vigorously.

“Exactly. He picks up orphans he liked and takes them in as helpers or disciples. He’s a lowlife and a pervert. But he provides food, clothing, and shelter and never lifts a finger on us, you can be sure about that. I’ve tried seducing him many times, and yet…..no, never mind that.”

“Haah…”

Even if his motives were impure, he took in orphans, so he couldn’t be a bad person, maybe, perhaps. Cornelia tried to convince herself.

“Aaaggh!! Dammit!! Alright then, I’ll make you another knife!! How’s that!?!”

Bruno suddenly roared again: the negotiations weren’t faring well. Bruno’s fixation on that one word was strong, but Roa’s stubbornness in not wanting to say it was very strong too.

Cornelia didn’t accept the situation either: more than weapons, what warriors relied on upon their lives, one word from Roa was being treated with more importance.

“A kitchen knife! What about a kitchen knife? Something that can cut any kind of meat with no effort and requires little to no maintenance! Come on…just once…!”

“Er….”

Roa’s resolute expression showed some hesitation. Even if they were still blades, knives and other kitchen utensils were considered items that only apprentices or blacksmiths not skilled enough to make weapons practiced on. It was very rare for first-class craftsmen to make them.

Thinking that he could receive something like that, Roa’s heart wavered. Finally finding a gap to strike, Bruno grinned a white-toothed smile.

“A warhammer for missy, an assassin knife for the playboy guy, a kitchen knife for you! It’s decided! Right? Right?”

“Hmm…”

“Ehm, sorry, but I don’t need it anymore.”

“Me neither, I guess…”

Just as the negotiations were about to be completed, Cornelia and Kristoff interjected. They were ready to endure a certain level of disrespect if it meant receiving weapons of high quality. If they were challenged to a fight, requested to offer something of theirs or to prove their strength, they might have thought about it.

Instead, they couldn’t even choose which weapon to receive, were ignored as warriors and the weapons they would bet their lives depended on one simple word from Roa: they couldn’t endure something like that.

“What!? What are you saying now!? You came because you want me to craft your weapons, right!?”

Bruno shouted. The magic wolf twins shook and trembled along with his shoulders.

“Not after being treated like this…”

“That’s right…I apologize for the unpleasant experience.”

For some reason, Roa apologized. He felt responsible for not being able to stop Bruno and let the conversation drift off in such a direction. If it was Grandpa Gry, Roa could have threatened him to fix the conversation’s course, but he couldn’t handle Bruno like that.

Their relationship was unique, but Bruno was not an equal to him, he was someone Roa respected as a superior.

“Hey now, wait just a damn minute! Don’t just end things on your own! This is the important part where my disciple calls me master!! As long as he does it once, then I can go all out and do everything I can to turn him into a real disciple!! Don’t ruin my plans!!”

“…so that’s what you were thinking about…”

Just calling Bruno “master” once wouldn’t be enough for Roa to become his actual disciple, no matter how “all out” Bruno went. Not as long as Roa didn’t accept it. Roa, however, felt something scary: Bruno could use methods Roa did not imagine.

“You’re a sorry sight, master. Well, your looks are sorry enough already, so I suppose you are acting the part. Roa will start hating you if you keep it up, though.”

“Gh….”

Sofia smiled amused, looking at Bruno’s pitiful figure.

“If you still wish to struggle, though, why not offer to craft a weapon to Mr. worm over there instead of the other two?”

Sofia pointed at the tied and gagged Dietrich, who looked at her and Bruno with anger. His eyes were bloodshot, his arms swollen and reddened because of his efforts to get free from the ropes. He would never allow his comrades to be insulted like that, after all.

Roa looked at him and felt relieved: tying him up had been the right choice indeed.

“I said I don’t like idiots. If I have to make a weapon for him…oh yeah, let me smash his disgusting sword first. I’ll use it as material for a new weapon.”

“Gwwooooagghhh!!”

Dietrich reacted violently to Bruno’s words. The ropes tying him emitted painful sounds. He had been angry for a while, but he was restraining himself out of respect for Kristoff and Cornelia’s wishes to have new weapons. Now that they had chosen their pride over the weapons, however, he had no reason to hold back. His precious sword had also been insulted, so his anger had reached his peak.

With a snap, the ropes broke. At the same time, Dietrich started towards Bruno to punch him. But the next instant he was lying on the floor.

𑁋

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