“So, here we are…is this the right place?”
Shin looked at the storefront, then checked the map again. The surrounding buildings matched the characteristics marked in the map. What puzzled Shin was that he couldn’t find any sign indicating the building was a shop.
“The door’s open, so let’s try going inside.”
“Yeah, you’re right. If it’s not here, we’ll just start looking again.”
Shin put a hand on the door handle and peered inside. The map was right after all: he could see all sorts of weapons displayed inside. Once they entered, they saw another row of weapons lined up along the wall, which they had not been able to see from the doorstep.
These included longswords, twin swords, long and short spears, bows, and axes. The swords and spears were all Legend grade, the bows and axes Unique grade. A quick glance around the store revealed that the weapons, other than the ones lined along the walls, were all of Normal grade, with some Rare ones here and there.
“Looks like this is the place. I don’t see any clerks though.”
Each weapon had a price tag next to it, so Shin was sure they were for sale. The absence of a clerk was probably justified by the anti-theft skill attached to the store. If someone tried to grab a weapon and run, they would be prevented from taking it outside.
“Excuse me! Is anyone there?”
“Yes, please wait a moment!”
Shin called towards the back of the counter and a reply came back right away. Soon, a man in his twenties, wearing overalls and with a towel wrapped around his head came out.
“I apologize for the wait. Did you have an appointment?”
“No, I heard that this is the best workshop in town, so I wanted to have my weapons repaired.”
It wouldn’t be right to just barge in and demand to see their work, so Shin planned to pick a half-used weapon from his item box, ask them to repair it, then see what level of skill they had.
“Who recommended this store? If you have a letter of introduction, I would like to see it.”
The young man was very polite. Shin pictured such workshops as places where people didn’t care that much about manners, so he was a bit surprised. From the young man’s physique, Shin figured he was the blacksmith or an apprentice.
“I heard it from the staff of hotel Morgana. I haven’t asked for his name though.”
Shin didn’t have a letter of introduction, so he just said that he heard about the workshop from the hotel staff. He had just asked about weapon stores to a passing clerk, so he didn’t know the name.
“Morgana, I see. We are a bit busy at the moment, so it might take some time, is that alright with you?”
“How long would that be?”
“We would be able to start tomorrow afternoon. It appears that lately the monsters’ turf around town changed: the new monsters that appear are much more powerful than before.”
The young man explained that because of this, requests to repair weapons and for new equipment increased exponentially, so at present they lacked manpower. Shin asked if this sort of thing happened often, but the young man replied that that was not the case.
In that world too there were areas where powerful monsters spawned, but Erkunt was not one of them. Sometimes there were reports of mass monster migrations, a possibility which was being currently investigated.
“Our boss is a blacksmith skilled enough to have donated a prized sword to the king, but even so, there is a limit to what he can do. At present, we only accept orders from clients who can wait.”
“Is that so. I didn’t know about that monster business. Time is not an issue for me, so please.”
“Understood. Can you let me check the status of the equipment? Please place it on the counter.”
The extent gear could be repaired naturally depended on how damaged it was. Sometimes there were clients who presented items beyond repair, so blacksmiths always checked the item in need of repair before deciding whether to accept the job or not.
Shin and Schnee did not seem to be carrying any weapons, but the young man acted as if they did. He had probably guessed that they had weapons in item card form.
Shin had no intention to keep him guessing, so he took out an item card and materialized it. The young man did not bat an eye at the process. Once he checked the weapon, however, he quickly lost his cool.
The young man let out a surprised mumble. As expected of an artisan, he understood right away what kind of weapon Shin had materialized.
What Shin had placed on the counter were a long spear and a short sword.
The spear was the lower Unique grade 『Hollow Spear』, the short sword the lower Rare grade 『Azoth』.
『Hollow Spear』 had a chance of inflicting paralysis if the opponent’s STR was lower than the user; 『Azoth』 slightly increased the user’s magic power.
Both had been used during the training with Lecus and the others, enough to require repairs.
“Not the slightest imbalance in magic power distribution, and not even one impurity? What the…”
“Can I count on you, then?”
“Please excuse me, I need to call the boss. Could you please wait a moment?”
The young man had probably concluded that the job was too much for him. He went behind the counter and was about to enter the corridor in the back, when he noticed something and stopped.
“Oh? Is there something wrong, boss?”
“I just felt a bizarre presence. You were coming to call me, right? The reason is…you, right?”
A man in his fifties appeared from the corridor. He was shorter than the young man, but his arms were twice as thick as the young man’s arms.
Based on his experience, Shin guessed that he was a Dwarf. Maybe he was in a bad mood, because his expression was nothing short of fierce.
“Never seen your face around here. I’m Vulcan, the owner of this workshop. So, what happened?”
“It’s about these, I can’t really decide by myself.”
“Really? *You* can’t?”
Vulcan looked at the young man with an amused expression.
The fierce-looking man, wearing an outfit suited to the boss of a pack of mountain bandits, looked like a boy who had found a new toy. The sharp glint in his eyes showed that he was gauging what kind of person he was dealing with.
“…I see, now I know why you were flustered.”
Vulcan took the 『Hollow Spear』 from the young man’s hands, looked at it for a while, then spoke. He did not add anything else and proceeded to check 『Azoth』.
He examined the blade and decorations for several minutes, then placed it back on the counter.
“You want us to perform maintenance on these?”
“Well, yes, is there a problem?”
Vulcan’s serious expression made Shin wonder if there was anything off with the weapons. Vulcan did not answer immediately, looking intently at Shin instead.
“Aren’t you better suited to take care of these?”
Shin instinctively flinched because of the unexpected question. He had come all the way to a smithy, it would be normal to think that he couldn’t repair them himself. Vulcan, however, asked again, with absolute confidence.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to do here, but you’re a blacksmith, aren’t you?”
Shin was at a loss for words, but Vulcan’s tone was completely positive. Nothing about Shin’s appearance was supposed to suggest that he was a blacksmith.
“You look like you don’t know how I can tell. Well, if you examine me you’ll find out right away, but I can tell if the person before me is a blacksmith.
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty well known in the business. There are plenty of types that pretend to be normal people or adventurers to get close to me and steal my techniques. Thanks to that, I guess my eyes got good at spotting them, the people like you who come up here hiding their job.”
“That’s, well, impressive.”
“Spare the compliments. So, what did you come here for anyway?”
“…I wanted to see how skilled this town’s blacksmiths were. I wanted to know if there were techniques I didn’t know, but I didn’t plan to steal anything.”
Shin realized that it would be useless to try to pull the wool over Vulcan’s eyes, so he stated his purpose with total honesty.
Techniques were always the fruit of long processes of trial and error. Shin had decided that he would never try to steal such a thing. He could tell a number of things from looking at the finished product, but couldn’t steal a technique with just that. He had planned to negotiate to achieve that, if possible.
“Who the hell are you, anyway?”
“Like you said, I’m a blacksmith. It’s just that I’m not familiar with recent smithing techniques, so I wanted to ask about it.”
Vulcan seemed to be slightly confused, and Shin started to feel doubtful too. Trying to test their skill had been a bad approach, maybe, so he started to feel concerned.
“Recent smithing techniques, huh. You talk like a long-living species.”
“Do you think so?”
“The lady over there is an Elf, but you’re just a Human, right? You look just a bit over 20. Even if you were holed up in a smithy since you were a brat, you couldn’t have a presence of fire this strong, nor smell like iron like this, you…you can even forge Legend, no, Mythology grade weapons, can’t you?”
“Grandpa!? What are you saying!?”
The young man couldn’t help reacting to Vulcan’s question. He was his grandson, apparently.
“Did your trained eyes tell you that too?”
“No, this is a special skill of mine. Blacksmiths gain a particular presence from the furnace and materials they use. The stronger their furnace, the stronger fire presence they have. If they use high grade or rare materials, they smell different than iron or steel. Of course, without sufficient skill no one can have that presence or smell. Yours is a lot stronger, much more powerful than even the chief I used to work for. Makes me almost doubt my instincts.”
Sweat streamed down Vulcan’s cheeks, but it wasn’t because of the heat coming from the furnace room.
“I must say that I’m really surprised. How did you acquire such a skill?”
“This is just what my senses tell me. I’m proud to say that it never failed me, though. So, what do you say? Not that I want to force you to talk.”
“No, I was the one that tested you after all. It is true that my skills are something that shouldn’t be revealed openly, I think. But that’s only what my master told me, I really don’t know about modern techniques. My master was from the old generation…how can I say it, he was something like a hermit.”
It would be troublesome to reveal that he was a High Human, so Shin explained that he had learned his skills under a master. His companion, Schnee, was from a long-living species, so it was a bit more convincing.
“I see, a long-living master from the old generation…they probably knew heaps of lost techniques we have no idea of. If you were his disciple, well I guess that explains it all.”
Vulcan didn’t seem fully convinced, but since he had just made it up, Shin laughed sheepishly, acting as if he couldn’t say anymore.
“…fine, I’ll show you how I forge. But in exchange, you’ll do the same too, deal?”
“Grand—I mean boss! Is this really okay!? I know that your senses are sharp, but you’ve just met this man!”
The young man had listened quietly to Vulcan and Shin’s conversation, but finally interrupted. Things had been proceeding really quickly, so Shin was also wondering if it was really all right, a suspicion that turned out to be correct.
“It’s all right, Vaal. It frustrates me to no end to say this, but the skills this man learned make mine look like child’s play. Don’t tell me that you haven’t realized it after looking at those weapons.”
Vulcan clearly stated that looking at a weapon was enough to learn of the skills of its creator. The young man, Vaal, had no objections about that point, but was perplexed about the situation.
“Well, we plan to stay in town for a while, so you don’t have to decide right away…”
“Can’t do that. With the union as it is now, even if they see these weapons, not all of them will understand what I said. They’re always boasting that their mission is to improve Dwarf techniques and technology, but there are always the types that get lost in faction quarreling. I don’t want those in the way.”
Dwarves too had their own circumstances.
Shin remembered that the union was an organization for the sharing of techniques and technology, created by Dwarves instead of forming a country. Dwarves were normally solely focused on improving creation-type skills, but in an organization, authority and position always came into play.
“But boss, if you show your skills without permission, we might be in trouble.”
“Just shut up and we’ll be fine.”
“No way!? You want to make me into an accomplice??”
If it was for the sake of learning new techniques, Vulcan didn’t give a hoot about the union’s rules. It seemed like he thought that Shin would not cause trouble, but as a union member, it was a problem nonetheless.
“You say that, but you want to see too, don’t you? How a man that can forge weapons like these actually tempers the iron?”
Vaal looked away, very clearly conflicted because of Vulcan’s question. He still glared at the very eager Vulcan, but he actually shared the same desire.
“So what are you going to do? This sort of chance won’t come twice, you know?”
Vaal grimaced, as if fighting against something. Vulcan kept pressing on, grinning widely. Shin, on the other hand, stepped away from them.
“…okay. Today he…er…”
“The name’s Shin.”
“Thank you very much. Today, Mr. Shin never came here. Let’s put it like that.”
Vaal finally surrendered. Between unknown techniques and the union’s rules, the curiosity towards the unknown won.
“Is this okay?”
“Yes. As boss said before, he was assistant to the Dwarves’ chief before. If he says that this was an exchange of techniques aimed to improve Dwarven technology, things will be settled somehow. Fortunately, you too are a blacksmith, Mr. Shin, so it wouldn’t be strange for such an exchange to be held.”
Vaal looked a bit concerned still, but Shin was very eager to see Vulcan’s skills, so he pretended not to notice.
After Vaal agreed, things proceeded even quicker. Vulcan would show his technique first, then it would be Shin’s turn.
“It may be too late to ask, but is this really fine? It seems like you agreed so fast…”
Vaal talked to Schnee, who was smiling behind Shin. He was involved too, so he felt a bit uncomfortable.
He had frozen for a moment when he saw Schnee, but thinking that she had to be connected to Shin, he didn’t get strange ideas about her.
“When Shin seeks new techniques, it’s always for our sake. I have nothing to say.”
“Is, is that so.”
Schnee’s reply radiated trust. It couldn’t be helped that Vaal felt a little envious.
“Sorry, Schnee. Please wait a bit.”
“I know that it’s like a sickness you have. I’ll wait, don’t worry.”
Shin apologized profusely, but Schnee simply looked at him as if she was thinking “he just can’t help it”. She sat down on a chair Vaal took out for her, opened a book with a blue cover and put on glasses with a red rim. The book, 『Book Maker』, automatically searched for the story that the holder desired and displayed it; the glasses, an item called『The Eyes』, were a support accessory.
“Schnee with glasses…not bad.”
Shin let this comment slip when he saw Schnee take out items to pass the time. Just putting on a pair of glasses gave the wearer an intellectual atmosphere; it was a mystery. Another reason was probably that Schnee usually did not wear glasses.
“Stop being silly and get this over with quickly!”
Schnee pushed Shin in the corridor to the furnace room, to hide her blushing face. When the blacksmiths disappeared in the shadows of the corridor, she said to herself “maybe changing my look once in a while would be nice…” as she tried to cool down her flushed cheeks, unaware that Shin heard that all too well.