Chapter 29: This is the Most Use I’ve made of My Materials Classes Lately; Sorry, Professors.
It looks like I wasn’t late.
Because watches aren’t common at all, when people say a time to meet it usually means, “When you hear the xxxx Watch bells ring, come over.”
So … you’ll usually end up waiting for people? Nothing has a ‘set’ time? There’s nothing keeping people from just being lazy then, right?
This is probably the biggest culture shock I’ve had so far.
Or like, the forge guys are shocked that our culture has something like strict meeting times.
They’re saying, “But … isn’t it impossible for everyone to show up right at the same time?” and “You mean, people have things planned down to the minute? Isn’t that too much?” and things like that.
They said that no one would dare to not rush over right away, since they would probably get fired or lose other people’s trust in them. In that case, it wouldn’t be surprising for them not to be able to make a living and end up as beggars … or slaves.
Hm… this would definitely not work in Japan. I can just imagine a few of my classmates’ ridiculous excuses for being late in the back of my head. They would definitely show up hours late, like at the next Watch bells.
What I want to try today is damascus steel. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can make true Damascus steel, since I’m not to be forging blades from the first refinement this time, and true Damascus steel is more of a chemical reaction than a technique.
What I want to make is the pattern-welded steel that’s known as damascus steel. By taking different pieces of steel and iron and force welding them together, and repeating it while folding the hot steel over and over, a beautiful pattern will appear on the blade. And, more importantly, a blade of different variations of softness and hardness would be made.
Why must a blade be hard? So you can sharpen an edge on it.
Why must a blade be soft? So it won’t shatter when you strike something with it.
With folded steels, instead of finding a perfect balance which compromises both the hardness and the softness, you take the best of both and force them together, making bands of steels in the metal. A Master Bladesmith back in the other world can forge a blade with more than 300 layers.
… Ah, once again, I seem to have been in a trance. It must be that Craftsman’s Trance thing. I stare dazedly at the new blade in my hand.
Fumu. Splendid. If the fuller is polished to let the pattern shine through, and with the two edges on both sides bordering it, how beautiful it will be.
By the way, this is the second blade I’ve forged today. According to the clock in the corner, which is operated by weights instead of water (probably because of the heat), it’s over an hour past the Mid-day Watch.
I totally didn’t hear the bells.
Craftsman’s Trance is impressive, and a little scary.
As I look over, I see the other apprentices at their lunch breaks.
Ossan is … nowhere to be seen. He’s kind of like the business side of things, so I guess he’s out for now doing those kinds of things.
The business side of things is something I’d like to say “No thank you” to.
“Are you done here too? Everyone else is breaking for lunch now.”
Jetsom says that as he comes up from behind me. It looks like he went into the back room to wash his face and hands. His face is red from the heat.
I bet mine is too. I only notice the heat now, though.
“Yeah, just give me a sec.”
I wipe the sweat from my forehead and push back the stray hairs roughly. Ah… I feel like I got soot all over my face.
Jetsom tries not to laugh as he says,
“You can wash up in the back.”
Ahahah… hey, this unkempt look is proof of my hard work! Well, it’s not hygenic to be dirty while eating though.
There’s just a sink-like pedestal in the back, with a water stone attached like a faucet. No soap, but I have one in Inventory so that’s no big deal.
I retie my hair back too. Hm… what will I do if the elastic in the hair-tie wears out? Fumu… I’ll deal with it when it happens.
Oya? My hair’s almost long enough to be all tied back in a ponytail. It’s really too long; I should get it cut … ah, I guess I’m a girl now so it won’t matter.
The random thoughts flood through my head rapidly, like they were making up for the time when I wasn’t thinking about anything in a trance. Thinking those strange thoughts, I shake my hands and face dry, not bothering with my towel, and go over to join the others for lunch.
“Is this the usual lunch time?”
I ask as I sat down next to them.
“Ah, well, however fast you finish your work, you have time for lunch until the Afternoon Watch bells.”
Eh? That means… we’d get 2 hours for lunchtime today?! That’s a really long time. Is it efficient?
So I think, but … I guess if they get their work done, they would all just be lazing around until lunch anyway.
Jetsom smiles at me.
“But well, Jun-san, you’re pretty impressive. You seem to have halved your time for forging since yesterday.”
“Ah… yeah. Um, just Jun is fine.”
It’s weird to be called “-san” by someone older than me, who’s also my smith-ing senpai.
Jetsom’s right, though. Yesterday it took me 4 hours to forge my first sword. Today, in 4 hours, there are 2 blades sitting next to the anvil I was using.
“But wow, it’s pretty amazing to watch someone who can mana forge!”
Pieta says, as I take out my lunch.
Mm, the cup of tea is still hot, and not spilt.
I have some interest in the subject, so I ask, “Is it rare to be able to mana forge?”
Whatever mana forging is.
Jetsom responds, saying,
“The only other person in all of Nyl City who can mana forge is Master Helward.”
Hoe~ so this Mana Forger thing is a trait with high demand but low fulfillment.
Jetsom gives a look towards Pieta and the other junior apprentice, Forin, and says,
“By the way, being a true Mana Forger is different from just having the trait. The trait Mana Forger has a bunch of skills that lets you use mana to reinforce your forging abilities, but it’s hard to skillfully use them while also focusing on your forging. So even if you two get that trait in the future, you’d best not think of yourselves as having mastered mana forging.”
Kulir, the college-aged looking guy who made the heavy, but decent-ish sword, laughs at Jetsom’s reprimand to the two younger junior apprentices, adding,
“Actually, there are a lot of people that can’t make swords worth their abilities when they try to use skills from the Mana Forger trait. The ones who try to say they can mana forge just because they have the trait Mana Forger are nicknamed ‘False Forgers.’”
Heh … I quickly ask,
“Um… so are you saying that even if you can use the Mana Forger skills, it’s difficult to use them well?”
I really just want to ask it directly, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to say, “How does mana forging work? I don’t actually know despite being 1 of only 2 people you know who can use it, teehee.”
Jetsom sighs, then continues to explain.
“Actually, I have the Mana Forger trait too, but it’s impossible for me to use when I’m actually at the anvil. I can only use Metal Reinforcement skillfully if I’m sitting still and concentrating hard.”
“What does Metal Reinforcement do?”
Lucky! The youngest apprentice, Forin, asked this. I’ve been wondering about this too.
“It’s the same Metal Reinforcement people use in combat. It uses mana to manipulate the hardness versus brittleness of the blade.”
“People can use it in combat?”
I ask, hoping it won’t sound foolish.
“By simply casting it like you would any other spell, if you cast it on your weapon you can strengthen your blade against shattering until the spell wears off. But when you use it for forging…”
Jetsom grimaces and falls silent.
No, please tell me. How does it work while you’re forging?
“How is it different?”
Nice! Good job Forin.
Jetsom shakes himself, as if coming awake and gives Forin a wry smile as he replies.
“When the usual person casts Metal Reinforcement, all they want is a stronger-than-usual weapon, and that’s all they’ll get. Only someone exceptionally skilled can adjust the degree of durability added, as well as how long it will last. Above THAT level is the Mana Forger. Able to adjust Metal Reinforcement, Keen Edge, and Mana Imprint at will, they can maintain it and use it to adjust and shape the blade. Then they use their forging abilities to change the blade to the enchantments they’ve used.”
Umuu … Let me think on this. If someone just casts Metal Reinforcement it’s a low-hassle spell buffed onto the sword for a short while. It’s a buff that makes it more durable, but it won’t make the sword unbreakable; it’s just harder to break. But how much harder? Without knowing that, it’s only a minimally useful buff.
But what does it do exactly… a light bulb suddenly went off in my head.
Could Metal Reinforcement be manipulating the microstructure? That is, we’re now talking about manipulation on the molecular level.
This isn’t something most people will think of, I admit, but back in Japan, if you were interested in steel and iron you’d stumble on it.
The first thing you’ll find out is that steel is just iron with a certain range of percentage of carbon in it. (0.12%- 2.0% to be exact, not that I memorized it or anything. …Ugh, I can’t deny it anymore. I was a sword otaku in the other world, dammit!)
You can say that steel is iron with the ideal amount of carbon. See, iron with no carbon is extremely soft, but iron with too much carbon is hard to the point of being extremely brittle. Steel is the range that lies in the perfect balance of hardness to softness.
There are other alloys of steel, like adding chromium to make stainless steel, but when people talk about steel, it’s usually concerning carbon-iron alloys. … Ahem, I’m getting sidetracked.
Anyway, the reason for why adding carbon will influence the metal’s basic traits is because of how the carbon and iron atoms arrange themselves. The molecular structure.
The second thing you’ll find out about steel is what blade-smiths worry about most.
The heat treating.
When heat-treating a blade, it’s usually heated to above 800ºC (1472ºF) and then cooled at varying rates. When heated to this point, it changes the molecular bonds between the carbon and iron and shifts them into a different structure.
Letting the metal cool will reform the bonds, however …
If you let it slowly cool to room temperature, the metal will form large, uniform “grains.” Since the strong parts of the grains are the edges, if all the grains are the same size and large, and they’re all lying in the same direction, the resulting metal will be soft.
If, instead of letting it slowly cool, you force it to cool down immediately, the grains will be smaller, won’t all be the same size, and nor will they be lined up properly. Basically, by immediately cooling it you’re forcing the grains to stay in whatever shape and orientation they can manage in the quick cool-down. Because of this irregular structure, the metal will be hard.
This is just the basic explanation. There are way more things with heat-treating, like how long you keep it heated or changing the rate you cool it, that will change the shape and positions of the grain, but if I get on that topic I’ll just go on about it forever.
The reason heat treating takes a long time is because you have to maintain a constant rate of heating and cooling. There aren’t any shortcuts – well, there wasn’t any in the other world.
In THIS world… let’s say Metal Reinforcement and Keen Edge changes the molecular and grain structure of metal with magic. Then, with normal forging abilities and a little bit of magic circulating through your materials and equipment with Mana Imprint, if you shape the blade so that it will hold onto the changes you made with Metal Reinforcement and Keen Edge after they wear off …
Though I don’t think anyone in the forge would be able to understand me if I had to explain it, I completely get it now.
Like this there’s no need for long heat-treatments, and the time it would take to forge it is greatly reduced.
Separately, the Mana Forger skills are … well, kind of a load of nothing. System Explanation-san (maybe) didn’t mistake anything there. They’re skills that are only worth something if the user is skillful.
“… What’s with that, it sounds hard.”
Is it really that hard to do? The theory sounds simple enough.
Kulir snorts at Forin.
“I don’t think you understand how hard it is to do, Forin, if that’s all you’re saying. True Mana Forgers don’t just cast Metal Reinforcement and Keen Edge once and then forge. Supposedly, they’ll cast it in multiple stages, and sometimes maintain casting the skill for extremely long periods WHILE forging. Get it? They don’t actually enchant the blade with the skill, but suspend it in the middle of casting.”
“Uwaaah, is that even possible?!”
Forin makes a face of disbelief, but … ah, so that’s how it was.
Even though I can’t remember exactly what I was doing in my Craftsman’s Trance, now that they mention it, there were times when I remember holding my magic power within the blade, while at the same time circulating magic power through my hammer, the blade, and back.
Er… why do I get the feeling that Lor would be very angry with me if he about heard this?
“Heh, just sending out magic without activating a spell or exploding things is impressive in itself. I mean, Jun-san, do you get how crazy the things you can do are? Not only can you send out your magic power like pure mana, you can even control it. Not only can you control it, you can even make it do really detailed things!”
Oh, I’m being addressed personally now.
Kulir says all that and sighs enviously, though he grins at me.
Heh… really …
“It looks like she doesn’t understand after all. Jun-sa – er, Jun, the ability you’ve shown so far isn’t just rare, or special. It’s like seeing some legendary Master Bladesmith come back to life. That’s how amazing your mana forging is.”
It’s not like I don’t understand it. I’m just trying to wrap my head around it.
Hm … yeah, now that I think about it, along with Mana Forger, I have another trait called Mana Manipulator.
This must be the trait that has been letting me perform magic as if it was nothing. If I can imagine it, I can do it; if I can picture the process to make fine blades, I can make them. With that trait, switching between all of the Mana Forger skills at the appropriate time is as easy as thinking.
Without knowing how mana forging works, all I needed to know is what I want to make, and my mana control abilities will leech the knowledge I accumulated in order to make it happen?
The 10 years of image-training back in Japan became powerful weapons in this world.
From the depths of my heart, I feel gratitude towards Grandfather for his efforts that I had engraved onto my mind.
“They say the proof of becoming a true Mana Forger is having the Craftsman’s Trance skill.”
Jetsom speaks up suddenly.
The Craftsman’s Trance skill huh …
As I let out my voice, Jetsom’s ears twitch towards me.
“So you have it afterall, huh? It’s very envious. I can’t help but wonder if your mana forging is even better than Master Helward’s.”
Jetsom says this a little bitterly, but just a little. I don’t blame him for it. If someone came out of nowhere and could do what you wanted to be able to, it would be hard to swallow. He’s honest about it, at least.
“Is the skill hard to get?”
“There are more people with the Mana Forger trait without the Craftsman’s Trance skill than there are with the Craftsman’s Trance skill. It’s a skill that’s almost impossible to learn.”
Ehh… Come to think of it, I can accumulate skills under traits after I first got the trait. So just because you have a trait, it doesn’t mean you get the skills associated right away. And with Mana Forger, you’re considered a False Forger until you get the Craftsman’s Trance skill … is that how it is?
“Umm … did Helward-san not want to teach the Craftsman’s Trance to you?”
I’m really hesitant to ask Jetsom this, but at the same time I feel like I can’t just leave him like this. And it doesn’t sound like that frivolous(tentative) man would refuse to teach it to his second-in-command at the forge.
“It seems like it’s not that easy to teach. He tries, saying things like, ‘Aim for the position of #1 Bladesmith!’ or ‘It’s this feeling when you’re trying your hardest!’ or ‘You just have to be obsessed with smithing!’”
The frivolous(tentative) still stands. Or like, what the hell is that? That kind of advice would make anyone, not just Jetsom, feel bitter about not being able to use the Craftsman’s Trance.
Urgh … but it really is a hard thing to describe how to do… I wonder how to even begin to explain it.
I think for a moment.
“Rather than saying it’s an obsession with smithing, at least for me, it’s more like it’s an obsession with blades. Er … sorry, that’s not much more helpful, is it?”
Jetsom laughs lightly.
“At least you’re not saying it with a Guts! pose or a thumbs up with a wink, so you sound more reputable.”
Aah, he really is holding a grudge over it; that is, a grudge against Helward-san. I really have to meet this man someday.
But for Jetsom’s sake, let’s think harder.
“The problem is, when you’re forging, er, I guess you could say when you enter the trance, you aren’t thinking much of anything. All I can remember clearly is only about the blade I’m forging. What I want it to be, and how it needs to change to get there. Techniques, time, sweat, or tiredness; none of that enters your mind. All I can think about is how the metal will become the blade. Sorry, that’s all I can really think of to explain.”
Actually, now that I’ve said it, it kind of sounds like a swordsmith’s version of enlightenment. Exactly how am I supposed to explain THAT?
Jetsom has grown silent, but his ears are *piko piko* twitching as he thinks.
“So it truly is a frame of mind thing.”
He says that at last, along with a deep sigh. He seems less tense though, like he’s become determined.