Chapter 23: In Shounen Manga They Say “Our Adventure has just Begun” Right at the End; Well this isn’t a Shounen Manga.
When forging steel, there’s a certain temperature the steel needs to be in order to be malleable enough to draw into various shapes. But heat it too much and it’s too soft. Experienced smiths know the perfect color the metal has to be to achieve that state.
I’m not an experienced smith, but I’ve seen it time and time again, so after the steel heats past the red glow and before it gets to the yellow glow I pull it out of the fire to forge it.
The problem begins from here. The right shape, the right size, the right balance; just because I can appraise a sword doesn’t mean I know how to shape a sword to reach that ideal state. This is what experience is needed for. Just watching from the sidelines won’t mean much.
Pulling every last bit of knowledge I can gather in my brain, soon I can’t see anything else other than the fire, the steel, and the hammer.
Eh. How much time has passed?
I was forging the entire time, but only when I plunge the blade into water to quench it am I aware of what’s going on. Did I temper it in the fire properly?
I feel pretty dazed. I can vaguely recall drawing the blade, tapering it, and all the various things I had to do, but it feels like it was a distant memory. Blinking a few times, I suddenly remember …
There in the water trough is the first sword I’ve forged.
Pulling it out, despite needing to be ground down still, the naked blade of my first sword glints in the light of the forge.
“Whoa, you’re done already?!”
WHAT THE-! I almost drop the sword. Pieta has stuck his head over my shoulder out of nowhere. You almost gave me a heart attack, damn you! Or like, you’re way too close!
Ah… all the apprentices are kind of gathered over here. When did that happen?
“Wow, it took you almost no time at all. It was what, 4 hours? Even heat treating it was done quicker than usual.”
Kulir looks really impressed.
… No, heat-treating should have taken a really long time, no compromises. I remember thinking it was well done when I decided to quench it in the water, but now I’m having doubts.
I don’t really like all the attention I’m getting. I haven’t taken a good look at the result myself, what’s with the crowd?
Though strangely, I have some confidence in the blade. Even though it’s my first time.
Can’t be helped.
I hold it up to finally look at it.
A double-edged straight blade with a simple taper. Shorter than a longsword, designed after the Western style broadsword. Extraordinarily orthodox for a Western sword, and yet…
A hush goes through the forge for a split second.
Nonono, there’s no way. This is the first time ever that I’ve held a hammer in my hand. How could I have made such a sword?
The only thing I’ve done back in my world was watch and handle swords of all types. Aside from watching Grandfather, I did help sort out a small museum’s cataloguing and got permission to study their weapons a lot, and I watched all sorts of videos of sword smithing over and over, even the amateur y○tube foreign sword makers … was I a sword otaku?
What a shocking revelation. I’m a bit in despair.
B-but anyway, disregarding all that, no where was there any chance for me to pick up the practical skills to be able to produce this sword. Just knowledge and no experience can’t produce this result. It’s like saying you watched and read everything there is about soccer without training or playing before and making it into the J-League.
Suddenly it hits me.
Ignoring the awed voices of the apprentices, I activate Magic Sensory and stare at the newly forged sword. My heart sinks as soon as I see the traces of magic all over the blade, all over the anvil, and all over the hammer.
That’s what magic is, huh? I can make whatever image I have in my head come true with it. Without any experience in the forge, with only the images and knowledge I had from years of obsessive study, I can make this sword. Just like that?
It’s actually kind of a dark feeling.
The talent that people spend decades nurturing, that Grandfather spent years and years trying but failing to grasp, I have managed it with a cheat called magic.
It makes me feel bitter.
It’s disappointing; it’s too disappointing. I … for what was I waiting for, for what was I hoping for all this time? It’s not like I was looking forward to “following in Grandfather’s footsteps” or something by spending my life mastering the forge, but somehow … this kind of result is depressing.
Pieta and Forin look confused. Is my disappointment showing on my face?
No, it has to be showing. This situation is the worst.
“Hahaha, as expected, a Master Bladesmith isn’t satisfied with just this much, right? Well, that’s all you’ll get out of normal steel. Sorry, we don’t have any enchanted ores made up.”
Kulir slaps my back so hard that I almost topple over.
Please don’t do that. I’m in a miserable state right now. This entire day up through now has been a roller coaster of emotions; in the morning there were things that made me angry enough to snap, and now I’m feeling like I’ve lost all the goals I had in my life. I just want to curl up and go to sleep … Wait, what did he just say?
“Yeah … well, that’s why Helward-sama’s gone into the Labyrinth. For materials for enchanted ores. Ah … the hunt must not be going well for him right now since he’s been gone so long.”
“Actually, since it’s Helward-sama, don’t you think he’s just going, ‘I have to find something interesting,’ so even if he found Rock Serpents or Cavalier Beetles, he’s just ignoring them!”
The apprentices all laugh loudly.
Huh? Sorry, with the way things were going I was expecting Orichalcum or Mithril, but … those material names sound suspiciously animal-like.
“What … do you do with those things?”
Eh. Is that supposed to be common sense or something?
“Um, well, monster minerals are used to help make better metals…”
“Hard parts like the shells or scales can add magic effects to ore… Didn’t you have magic blades where you grew up?”
“Sorry, my hometown was dedicated to mastering the secrets of steel.”
Which is just a really cool way of saying I have never seen a magic blade in my life. Forget magic blades, there wasn’t even any magic in that world.
“Huh… well it’s not like there isn’t a need for steel swords, but I’d think every swordsmith wants to make magic alloys.”
Hahaha… no comment.
One of the older apprentices, the one who made the two pretty good swords, Nars, explains a little further.
“Steel and iron don’t hold or channel magic well, so adding certain monster minerals helps that process. Also, some monster minerals will form strong alloys at lighter weights, and various things like that. Like … ah, did you register at the Guild? The Guild Card is an example of a magic metal alloy.”
I pull out the Guild Card. The dark gray plastic-like card that can’t be plastic … It’s light, slightly flexible, but has a subtly beautiful sheen like metal.
“Is that why these things are so dang expensive?”
The Guild Card replacement fee was 20,000 ecrue after all. ($200)
“Mm, yeah. It’s around 0.90 silver alloyed with copper, germanium, black batrachite , and Jewel Bug wings.”
… I get that silver with copper and germanium is sterling silver, but Jewel Bug wings? And what is batrachite? This all sounds more like a witch’s brew than a metal alloy. Or like, this is supposed to be sterling silver?!
I’m starting to understand the ridiculous price, but I still don’t have any idea about the how or why.
Before Nars can begin to explain we’re all interrupted with a *kohon kohon* cough from behind us.
Gustav and another guy are standing there. Well, they’re leaning against the wall watching us. From the reactions of the apprentices, looks like I wasn’t the only one who didn’t notice them. How long were they watching?
“So Jetsom, what’d you think?”
Gustav grins and gives a nod in my direction.
! So this is Jetsom. He gives Gustav a side-glance as he pushes off from the wall and approaches myself and the cluster of apprentices.
“I got it, but I wonder what Master Helward would say … no, there’s probably no trouble there.”
I almost miss what they’re saying. Because Jetsom’s tail and ears are distracting. Up until now the beastkin I’ve seen in town have been ferocious-looking animal types, but this is the first time I’ve seen one with traits like a domestic pet. A tail with a moderate length, slightly curved and the fur feathered silkily down it, and floppy dog ears on the sides of his head. Is he a golden retriever?
On top of that, he’s young! There’s no way he’s too much older than me. Kuu … he’s so young and has such good skills. Ah, by the way, I don’t count. Sure, I just made THIS blade, but it’s not comparable. As usual, I’ve cheated with magic. From the looks of the apprentices, even in this world smithing takes years to master, so obviously a young swordsmith is something to be impressed with, right?
I’m not sure what I was expecting to see when I met Jetsom, but this probably wasn’t it.
“Can I see the blade?”
He holds his hand out.
Erm… this is kind of a lot of pressure. Even the apprentices have gone silent. I hand over my first blade to be appraised by a guy who has probably spent his entire life in the forge.
A trained eye and experienced hands … I can say that any doubts to this Jetsom being the smith of those swords are dispelled as I watch him handle the blade. This man is definitely the only reason this forge can continue with the Master Bladesmith missing.
He lets out a small breath, then turns to Gustav.
“To think this is just steel. This isn’t just at the level of being able to supplement our forge until Helward-san returns, Gustav. It’s at the degree that people will ask for it by request.”
Heh, that good? … I’m very sorry. It’s a cheat.
“Really, to use Mana Forging at such a young age is completely enviable.”
? Jetsom muttered something beneath his breath that I didn’t quite catch. He sighs, then gives me a lopsided smile.
“With this kind of quality, I have no complaints about you helping us finish the shipment. Ah, it would probably be better if you put your own mark on them though, since we didn’t get the official ok from Master Helward. We’ll just have to say this was a collaboration. Well, with swords like this there shouldn’t be any complaints.”
Hm? Hang on a second. What’s this?
“Cho- Wait, time out, time out. What are you talking about?”
Jetsom seems equally confused.
We both turn to Gustav.
“Iyaaaaa, well, it would be awkward to ask her to help if you didn’t agree Jou-chan’s skills were good enough, right?”
At Gustav’s reply Jetsom sighs, but he doesn’t seem to be all that surprised. He turns back to me with a serious face.
“Basically, we have 7 days to finish the order of 25 swords, so you’d be helping us greatly if we could hire you.”
… Sorry. My brain just stopped working.
A week for 17 swords? Dondake?!
That’s impossible, you know!
“Gustav-san, Jetsom-san, when was this decided?!”
“Why didn’t we hear about this situation?!”
The apprentices all raise their voices in a panic.
I can’t blame them. If forged normally, a sword takes 2-5 days, you know? Just heat-treating it takes 2 days. Ah, I guess I finished it all in 4 hours. Though I’m not sure how.
Anyway, 7 days for 17 swords isn’t as nice as forgetting about your high school finals until the night before. This is like suddenly remembering you have a college entrance exam in 30 minutes!
Gustav grins with a careless shrug. Oi, it seems like Helward-san is a pretty carefree guy, but Gustav, you’re no different! This old man … I’m calling you Ossan now.
“We have no choice. We need the support of Guild by being their number 1 supplier to go to right now, and unfortunately we’re in a tight spot because of it. Master Helward has disappeared for 3 months, and we are 3 months past due for several magic swords for highly influential people.”
I feel like there’s some tension behind Ossan’s words.
I see. The situation might be more dire than the apprentices are led to believe. Ossan and Jetsom are carrying the burden by themselves. I think if they fail to make this shipment there will be some big problems.
I’m not so boorish as to demand the details, though.
“So you see, we’re in a bit of a bind. Jou-chan looked like a pro when you were appraising the swords in that merchant’s shop, so I thought, ‘Well, what if,” and brought you here to see if your skills are real. Since you passed the first step of recognizing the best swords, naturally I had high hopes for your forging abilities.”
Ah… it kind of feels like I was set up. Did he already know the results of the swords he had me appraise? This was all a test? My head’s swimming a bit. That was a huge risk for Ossan to take; in fact, I had never touched a hammer before today.
“I see. Ossan, is this what you were planning from the beginning?”
I sigh and look at him kind of tiredly.
“Hahaha! Well I got a better deal than I thought! The time limit doesn’t seem as deadly as before, since you’re a Mana Forger. Ah … well, there is one problem.”
Not only I, but Jetsom and the other apprentices all tilt our heads to one side in confusion.
“Regarding the pay …”
Jetsom understands now.
“That’s right, we’re only charging them for 50% of the price… we won’t be able to pay you for what the swords are worth.”
There really is a lot more going on with this 25 sword shipment than I first thought.
“But I’m using your materials and your tools, so I shouldn’t be paid full price anyway.”
That’s my honest opinion.
“No, within the price of a sword, the talent of the smith is worth more than the materials, you know? At the cheapest, it should be a 70% cut of the value of the sword for you.”
Jetsom raises an eyebrow as he said that. How am I supposed to know this kind of thing?
And well, you guys can say that and all, but that’s a problem, right? If you pay me 70% of the full price, but only sell them for 50% … I’m not the only one who sees the problem, right?
I think a moment.
“Actually … I’m ok with a 30-70 split of whatever the swords go for. Ah, me getting the 30 I mean.”
“Hah?! Hey, don’t you get what your swords could go for?”
“I mean, you guys can’t help it, right? Anyway, instead of money, I’m more interested in magic swords and stuff. My country didn’t deal in those, see, so I have no knowledge of it at all. If you guys teach me about that stuff, won’t that make up the price? And … well, I’d really like the opportunity to forge my own sword. As an adventurer, as long as I have a sword, I can make money, right? So this can be considered a prior investment.”
There was silence. Did I say something weird?
“I get the appeal of using a sword you forged yourself, but even if you only made 5 swords, at the standard rate you’d make enough money to buy a magic sword with skills. Even though this forge deals in those types of swords, without Master Helward it’s impossible to make magic ores capable of holding enchantments.”
… I have no clue what you just said, Jetsom-san. Magic swords can have or not have skills? What’s with the “enchantments”? Anyway…
“It’s not like I’m stubbornly wanting to only use swords I made myself or anything like that. It’s … a little complicated. The swordsmanship of my country is very different. I’ve looked, but every sword I’ve found would handle poorly in my sword-style. It doesn’t seem like I can find a sword like those things that were called national treasures in my country.”
If it sounds like I’m kind of bragging about the katana, well… I am.
Ah, there really are only craftsmen here. I can see the gleam of interest in everyone’s eyes. Jetsom’s ears are slightly perked up as if to say, “What type of sword, what type of sword!”
After a bit, Ossan frowns slightly.
“So Jou-chan, you’re saying that unless you forge it yourself, there’s no chance for you to find a sword that can match your abilities?”
“I’m saying that it’s impossible for me to buy the type of sword I’m most used to. Using a sword I can’t handle well would be risking my life every time I get into a fight. Getting the opportunity to fix that problem is priceless for me.”
“The ores won’t be anything more than steel.”
“There’s no problem. I said it before, but my country specialized in plain steel swords.”
Or like, I wouldn’t know what to do with your beetle ores right away anyway.
“Hm… I see. We’re in a tight spot so we’ll agree to these ridiculous terms… but Jou-chan, you’ll get ripped off some day if you always act like that.”
Ossan is saying something, but I’m only half listening as he confirms the deal. It’s all I can do to hide my excitement.
Honestly, I think it’s too much in my favor. Knowledge is priceless; this way I can learn about the strange alloys and how magic weapons are made. I’m going to learn about this world’s forges AND get paid. Isn’t that a great deal?
And soon I will forge my own katana.
Grandfather, I’ve almost reached the pinnacle you’ve been aiming for all this time by a cheat, but it looks like there’s a long way to go to the top in this world. I’ll run down the path of magic swords.
[Mana Forger]: Details to be revealed later. Jun needs to learn to check (Status) more often …
A/N: … Even I’m getting worried with Jun’s lax opinions about money. Will this girl be okay?