Chapter 30: I Wonder how Many Logos were Last Minute Scribbles on the Back of a Napkin
The apprentices and junior apprentices have been silently listening to me and Jetsom talking about the “fabled” Craftsman’s Trance. Looks like they didn’t think they could intrude in this particular conversation.
“Um, by the way, I was wondering…”
To break the silence, I try asking something that I’d been wondering about.
“Helward-san is a Master Bladesmith, so I was expecting some, but there aren’t any Dwarves in the forge, either as apprentices or otherwise.”
Everyone made sounds, like they were tired of hearing that.
Did I say something wrong?
Jetsom smiles wryly and explains.
“It’s true that Dwarven blades are exceptional pieces of work. They far surpass anything we make here in magic technologies, but that’s all.”
To think that I’d hear the words “magic technologies.” I am finding that this world, more and more, is advanced in its own way compared to our world. But, what’s up with that? So the Dwarves’ blades are better after all. Or, actually …
“So Dwarf blades are completely different entities from normal blades, is that it?”
Jetsom nods in response to my question, then asks
“An exceptional blade that surpasses any other – how many people do you think can use something like that?”
“Ah … I see.”
Because we’re all blade fanatics here, I instinctively understand. The Dwarves’ swords are magnificent but, in game terms, they’d be on the scale of Legendary or Mythical items. How many players can use weapons of that grade if they’re more than few levels under level-cap? Or unless they have a strength or magic stat over 50% of maximum? (Or if they don’t cash.)
The swords of the Dwarves. Uumu … I want to see one.
“So then, Helward’s swords are different – no, then they’re made differently?”
In short, the Dwarves use fancy magic on their swords, and so you have to use fancy magic to use their swords. Fundamentally, Helward’s swords, no, not just Helward’s swords, it might be a regional difference too. The magic swords of Nyl City are all made in a different manner. One that lets just about anyone use them.
“Ah, indeed. The magic of Helward’s swords isn’t from magic technology, which is what most think of when they hear ‘magic sword.’ This is a mining city, and we specialize in smelting the best of magic ores. Using the best of basic forging abilities to make the best swords from magic ores; we are able to produce high quality swords with some magic without enchantments, circuits, or imbuement’s.”
… So … cool.
What high school boy who’s played fantasy MMOs and VRMMOs (though dragged into it by Masaki) or read light novels (though they were pushed onto me by Masaki) doesn’t dream of magic swords? This is a whole other world in sword making! Ah, I’m almost drooling.
“In the realm of magic ores, there’s no race that excels better than Kobolds.”
Jetsom says this smugly. Erm… what’s a Kobold again? Aren’t they lizard-like humanoids? No wait, dog-like? Or were they goblins? Fairies?
I feel like the answer is “all-of-the-above” – that is, if you were talking about fantasy races from my world.
I wonder how it is in this world.
“So … Helward-san is a Kobold?”
“Half. Nars is also half Kobold.”
Oh? He doesn’t look all that different from a middle-aged human … Ah, wait. His ears stick out and are kind of pointy, though in a different way from Elf ears, and his eyebrows are thin and whispy, like an ancient Chinese hermit’s, fluttering off to the side. And his skin is … rather than pale, it’s more gray than flesh-colored.
Um… How does this work again?
If you would, please, Analyze-sensei!
NAME: Nars Heavyhand
TYPE: Half Kobold – Male – 1,045 Moons (conversion: 87 Years)
ANALYSIS: An apprentice of the Master Bladesmith, Helward. His expertise lies in magic ores and smelting.
ATTEMPTING RACE ANALYSIS
NAME: Half Kobold
TYPE: Race – Medium Magic Affinity
ANALYSIS: Born from a human and a Kobold. A bipedal shaped race born from a Fae and an Elemental. Attributes include life-spans of about 2400 Moons (conversion: 200 Years), ashen skin, fae-like ears, and the ability to see in the dark.
RARITY: Nyl City Locale: Common][Orelia: Rare
LORE: A hybrid race close between both Fae and Human, they are sensitive to mana flow through mineral and metal deposits in the earth, though to a lesser degree than that of full-blooded Kobolds. Many half Kobolds live among humans, intent on refinement of metals, tools, and mining methods.
I’m getting the hang of using Analyze-sensei slowly. It’s frustrating that I have to go through the basic analysis when I only want the Race Analysis, but I discovered that after the basic analysis, I can choose whichever of the three Analyses I want. This way I can minimize privacy invasion while using Analyze-sensei to help me along. With Pelma-san, not understanding how to use it, I triggered the full analysis.
Though I force-closed it in the end.
So a Kobold is obsessed with natural ores, but a half Kobold usually turns to industrializing or refining them; something like that? I’ll have to find a pure-blood Kobold to be absolutely sure, but that sounds alright for now.
While I’m thinking that, Nars chuckles quietly and says
“Well, as magic swords they can only do small things when you put magic power in, like reinforcing the blade or making it lighter. Even the most impressive things are just channeling raw energy through it to damage a Barrier. It does nothing to embue an element into the magic.”
“No, what’s with that? It’s properly a magic weapon just like that, isn’t it?”
Oops, my inside voice came out and I ended up retorting. The other apprentices laugh at that.
“That’s right, that’s right, they are proper magic swords.”
“Magic swords anyone can use! That’s Nyl City’s swords!”
“Swords that shoot fire balls or split or whatever, what use are they if they just devour your magic power?”
Uh … I want to see a sword that can shoot fire balls, but at that point isn’t it just a ranged weapon? Well, if it devours your magic power, I guess it’s a last-chance type gimmick.
But for some reason I’m glad to have started my journey into magic swords in a forge that prefers fundamental traits than flashy traits. Here I can learn to hone my senses with the birth of a sword, from the ore. If I become satisfied with that, traveling around to various places and learning their methods of creating magic swords … yeah.
Instead of an adventurer, a wandering swordsmith always looking for another way to forge a sword; that sounds fun too, right?
First, though, we have to finish forging the 25 swords. The Afternoon Watch bells have rung while we were chatting, so it’s time to get back to it.
Alright, I wonder how far I can pursue damascus steel …
I finish up half an hour before the Returning Watch bells. The third sword took me a bit longer. After I found out about how the Mana Forger trait worked, I got a little ambitious. Aah, no good. I should try to keep all the swords more or less the same quality …
The results for today:
3 blades forged by me, 3 blades that still have to be heat-treated by Jetsom, plus Jetsom’s 8 blades from before and the 1 I made yesterday.
15(ish) out of 25 blades, and 6 days left, huh?
Ossan and his senior apprentice, the older man Jeptha, managed to fit 6 of the previously made blades with guards and hilts. That was fast.
Jetsom’s goal is to forge many blades, then heat-treat them all at the same time.
At the rate we’re going … we can get this done in 3 or 4 days. Actually, if we were REALLY pressed for time, I have confidence I can forge a decent sword in an hour, but where’s the pride in something done so half-assed?
“What is it, Ossan?”
I cross into the woodworking area where Ossan is still working on the handles. Amazing. He churns them out 1 every half hour. In between business calls.
Because Ossan and Jeptha make the grip, guard, and pommel for all the swords while Jetsom and I are only focused on the blades, I try to make the tangs of my blades all about the same so it will be easier for them.
That’s simple enough for me to do as long as I have a clear picture of the tang in my head, thanks to mana forging.
In contrast to us out in the heat of the forge, who smell of charcoal and metal, Ossan smells of wood and leather.
“Jou-chan, you’ve put something on the tang, but no one will be able to see it there. You’ll need to put a mark on the blade to differentiate it from Helward’s mark.”
The reason Ossan said “something” is because I have the strange (for this world) “純” engraved on the handle. It probably looks like scribbles instead of a proper mark to them.
But, iyaa … It’s not my full name, but how embarrassing to have it pointed out. So I’m imitating the masters of Japan who inscribe their names and dedications on the sword’s tang, ok? … I mean, it’s like that, right? Like if you write a story, even if you’re an amateur or don’t intend to get it published, you’ll still think of separating chapters into volumes and naming the volume titles like a professional would.
… AAAH HOW EMBARRASSING.
I manage to keep a straight face.
“That’s right, I forgot.”
Uuuum… It will be hard to chisel it in after it’s been heat treated. The poor chisel. Working on hardened steel will dull it quick. I wonder if half of it will be left after all the times I’ll have to resharpen it.
There’s a silence. Ossan’s been holding out one of my blades expectantly.
It’s a little awkward.
“Could it be that you don’t emblazon your marks with magic in your hometown?”
Ah … of course. Magic.
It’s not difficult to do, but I still have Ossan teach me how to emblazon a mark with magic. The image to make it work is similar to using a hot brand to burn a design into a piece of wood, but on a mana-level and on any material.
Sorry, it’s magic. That’s the best explanation I can give.
But hey, this is amazing! It won’t wear or rub off, leaving the mark pristine for as long as the sword isn’t destroyed, and there’s no potential for weakening the sword with a bad engraving job.
Umu … now that I know how to do it, what kind of mark should I emblazon onto the swords?
… Actually, there’s no need to think about it. I’ve already decided last night.
The mark is …
A simple sakura mon, an emblem in the Japanese style.
Any Japanese who sees it will recognize it. It’s a symbol that says, there is a Japanese person here, for any Japanese or Japanophile to notice and investigate.
I affix, er, emblazon, the mon to the 4 blades I forged, directly below where Ossan shows me the crossguard ends.
Wow. The blade I had made yesterday has already been fitted with a leather-wrapped grip, pommel, and crossguard. It’s not a katana, but it’s my first completed blade. A double-edged broadsword.
I can’t suppress the shiver of excitement that runs through me when I see the sword, completely finished.
“Oooh? How unusual. You’re not even trying to hide that you’re a female smith with this mark, huh?”
Ossan is looking over my blades with a satisfied expression.
What does he mean by that?
“Ah, I mean, since a lot of tough guys think swords forged by women aren’t good, the female smiths I’ve met try to use more gender-neutral marks. But you’re using a rather girly flower, huh?”
Oi. Apologize to the people’s national flower of Japan.
Uuun… should I have chosen the Imperial chrysanthemum motif instead? Ah, but it’s not as globally recognizable. The Japanese flag in motif would be a rectangle with a dot in the middle; no, it might be easily mistaken for just some weird mark. What else do foreigners think of when they think of Japan? Samurai? Ninja? Should I have done a shuriken as the mark? No, that’s super weird. And dumb.
I sigh and explain the sakura.
“This flower is a symbol of nationalism and the bravery of soldiers in my home country. The meaning of the flower is the appreciation of impermanence; that is, things that will die or fade away are all the more beautiful because they don’t last. It is also associated with the acceptance of destiny and death.”
Ossan and Jeptha look it over again.
“I see, I see. So those who see Jou-chan’s mark as their opponent should be prepared to accept their death, and the one who wields it should wield it with the conviction to take life.”
“It’s a deep meaning, one full of the smith’s pride, ne.”
Er … that wasn’t my intention. …Well, whatever, that’s fine too.
“Uh, yeah … anyway, with this they’re ok now, right?”
“Yup. Jou-chan, the crossguard and pommel are fine, right? Well, since we were told it’s for a military consignment, they all have to be the same.”
The pommel is a simple knob up top, and the guard is a simple straight guard. The handle has a few cords embedded under the leather for grip. A simple design indeed.
“It’s fine, isn’t it? The simple-is-best policy works well with this type of broadsword.”
“It’s going to be quite the shipment of swords. Look forward to it!”
This is how 3 days passed.
In the mornings I’d wake up at the Farmer’s Watch bell and do some exercises and training.
Then I’d head to the Forge at the Morning Watch bell, stopping at the food stalls to pick up breakfast and lunch while getting to know the food stall ladies and the labour force, and then at dusk I’d head back to The Queen Mary’s, stopping at the food stalls for dinner and exchanging pleasantries with the food stall ladies and the adventurers just out from the Labyrinth.
Afterwards I’d keep watch, sometimes inside the shop, sometimes on the roof, at The Queen Mary’s for unsavory characters until the Late Night Watch.
Learning new things as I wanted, meeting new people as I wanted; it was a fulfilling lifestyle that I wasn’t able to experience back in Japan.
It’s been 12 days since Masaki and I were at the VRMMO store, creating my character.
[MANA FORGER]: (Emblazon) – A method using mana to affix a design to a material. Even if magic is used to erase the magic signature, without physically destroying the surface the design is on, it is not possible to remove it.
A/N: Interesting fact: Japan doesn’t actually have a national flower. The sakura (Japanese cherry blossom) and kiku (chrysanthemum) are the two main contenders, though the Japanese appreciation for sakura has more or less pushed it to be the unofficial national flower. (Also its use in wartime propaganda, but well…)