Chapter 31: Small Fry Antagonists are a Pain to Write for, and it’s not Like He’ll Show Up Again … That Better not have been a Flag
After the first 2 days passed, we had met the quota of forged swords so I was done. Though strictly speaking, I had finished my part; Jetsom still had to heat treat the 5 blades he had forged at the same time I had been forging, and Ossan was still fitting crossguards and curing leather and stuff.
I take advantage of that time to start learning how to make hilts. It’s mesmerizing to watch Ossan and Jephtha making the metal bits. For Jephtha’s training (and for fun), Ossan had Jephtha show me how they make intricate basket hilts, like the kind you see on western rapiers.
After heating metal in a pan over charcoal, not so that it’s molten but so that it’s pliable, strictly using magic to manipulate the metal, they twist it into intricate designs; this is totally cheating. Though it looks more impressive than mana forging, it’s actually easier since you aren’t really caring as much about the metal’s structure.
Well, apparently it’s still pretty hard for the layman.
“Haha, this is where we can’t hope to match the Dwarves’ work. When a Master Dwarf filigree craftsman works, he can spin it so fine and delicate that the result looks like metal lace.”
Ah, so this skill is often used to make filigree then. The way Ossan and Jephtha use it, there’s little need for such fine, delicate threads of metal, though.
I decide to leave off experimenting with it for now, but when I get the opportunity to make that mirror for The Queen Mary’s girls … un, I want to try my hand at making something spectacular. Maybe I’ll make one for the entryway where the customers enter.
A mirror for men to check their appearances before they leave is probably more necessary than other people realize. While I hope there’s no one who goes there while cheating on their wives … urgh. I have conflicting feelings about it, but in the end I have decided to be on the girls’ side.
Anyway, I am far more interested in watching how Ossan makes the handle for the swords. I haven’t taken as much care in learning about grip making, and wood and leather is something I’m less familiar with, so I take the opportunity to ask Ossan a ton of questions.
I think I asked so many that I might have slowed his work down…
The last day of the 3 days that passed, though I didn’t have to come to the forge, I came anyway to watch them work, to learn more about grip and hilt making, and to learn more of the local language.
The local language, called Lorwian, is apparently the “universal language” here. Though all the countries have their own languages, Lorwian is the one that is used the most between countries, and is the language of the Unaffiliateds. Lucky!
Lorwian’s letters are so close to the alphabet, it’s not really funny. It’s to a point that Translate-sama actually translates the first of the Lorwian letters as ‘A’ and the second as ‘B’, etc, when they’re used in ranking things, just like in English. Or maybe that’s a reflection on how much English is used in Japanese?
Lorwian’s letters aren’t EXACTLY like the alphabet, but thanks to my excellent memory (that I’ve had since the other world) I don’t have much of a problem learning them. The problem is … vocabulary, after all. I can sound written words out, slowly, but I simply don’t know what they mean.
Whenever any of the apprentices are free I’ll talk with them, having them repeat sentences slowly while I write them down with the translations.
They’re really interested in the Japanese writing, saying,
“Aren’t these too intricate? How does anyone get any writing done?”
Of course they’re talking about the kanji.
Hm … it’s still impossible for me to read or speak Lorwian well, so I’m still relying heavily on Translate-sama. Keep it up, me.
The 4th day after my first day working at the forge, and the 4th day after I learned all about mana forging, I’m back at the forge.
Well, strictly speaking, I’m back with the forge personnel. We’re outside the Guild, at the moment.
“… Is it ok to hand the swords over early?”
“Haha, of course. Everyone’s happy to get things earlier than they expect, right?”
Though Ossan laughs like it’s common sense, in Japan being early can be as big of a problem as being late, you know? There are all sorts of stories how people tried to get things done early, only to screw themselves since the other party wasn’t ready for them.
Well, we’re talking about a world where people don’t have perfect meeting times, and where watches and phones aren’t used, so I guess this sort of deadline is a “finish by this day” type of scheduling.
The forge personnel I’m with is actually just Ossan and Jetsom. The large rack of swords has been wrapped in cloth, being pulled by Jetsom in a cart, with me pushing from behind.
Jetsom looks a bit gloomy.
As we wait for Guild personnel to come and admit us through a side door, I ask,
“Um … is everything ok, Jetsom?”
“Ah, yeah. It just seems like this time the commission is going to be a bit troublesome.”
Wasn’t it already troublesome?
“What do you mean?”
“Most of the time the Guild won’t entertain commissioners that insist on meeting the commission-takers, but this time the commissioner is insisting that he sees the smiths who made the blades. So this commission is most likely going to be kind of a pain.”
Jetsom isn’t bothering to hide the look on his face that says he doesn’t want to be here.
“Eh… then why did you guys take something so bothersome? Or like, why did the Guild let it pass?”
Ossan laughs in response to my questions.
“Ahahaha, well I guess you can say we’re being taken advantage of in a bad situation?”
No, what’s with that questioning tone? Or like, aren’t you being pretty relaxed for being taken advantage of?
“… I get there’s been random thugs showing up, but is the forge really in such a bad situation?”
Jetsom and Ossan exchange glances.
“I guess we haven’t explained it well before, huh? Actually, those thugs are certainly annoying, but in the long run they won’t do much to close down the forge.”
“Jou-chan understands that Nyl Labyrinth is a mining city, right? All the smiths, weaponsmiths or regular metalsmiths, are also smelters. Though Helward’s forge is well-known for its swords, there’s actually a greater demand for our smelted magic ores. That is to say …”
“Aah… I think I get it. You guys smelt the best quality and some of the rarer metals? So, like, the best supplier of metals in the city?”
I had been getting that feeling these past few days. They hadn’t been taking any orders for swords, though I did think it could just be because the Master of the forge was missing, but even so the blast furnaces had been running every day. Even if you wanted to make a surplus of steel, isn’t that a bit much?
“Exactly. Wee~ll now, with Helward gone though, we can’t smelt Stone Iron or Scale Steel so the groups we originally supplied it to are getting behind on THEIR work, and then the groups we DIDN’T supply it to are hoping to hinder our sales and reputation enough that we’d be desperate to supply to THEM when we get tight for money …”
Hiring thugs to harass them into making business negotiations … are they grade school boys who have a crush on a girl or something?
“Well, anyway, the Guild and Helward himself limits us on who we can sell our ores to, so in order not to ruin the delicate balance amongst the metal artisans, it’s best to keep the Guild on our side. And, well, there’s someone who is unfortunately important in the Guild who likes to take advantage of this type of thing.”
“Hah … so it’s most likely a political maneuver after all …”
Jetsom shakes his head in annoyance as his ears droop a little.
“Um … exactly … what were the contents of this commission?”
Perhaps I should have asked this before I got involved. Too late, but I still want to know before I go any further.
“25 masterworked steel swords in 2 weeks, and a presentation of the smiths at the transaction, at 150,000 ecrue each sword.”
To Ossan’s reply, I, unable to believe it, ask,
“… Just to be sure, masterworked means …”
“Yeah, you’re not mistaking it. They wanted 25 swords on the grade of a sword made by a master, at a rate of 1 sword every 6 hours, for a price that is half the going cost – on the low side.”
I am literally speechless. There is no response I can make. Seriously?
Ossan shrugs carelessly.
“No one else was taking it, so an unfortunately important Guild personnel came and made the request. The commissioner is probably someone who doesn’t know the price of swords and, since they aren’t requesting magic swords they must have thought steel swords, even masterworked, are trivial both in price and labor.”
“No, that’s not on the scale of being mistaken! That kind of thinking is like a rich man who’s never gone out into the world before. What’s with that impossible play?”
I retort instinctively.
There’s little wonder no one took the commission. Even if there were other Master Bladesmiths in the city, which there might be, who would want their swords used by someone who doesn’t understand what they have? The commissioner is either a fool, or trying to insult all the smiths in this city.
“Welcome, Gustav-san. The Noble-sama hasn’t arrived yet, so if you could, please wait in the waiting room.”
A tall woman with glasses and a stern look greeted us as we entered the Guild.
Ossan grins at her.
Ah, a Noble-sama. I’m definitely influenced by the locals, but just hearing that we’re dealing with a Noble-sama makes me feel unpleasant.
In the waiting room, Ossan starts, as if remembering something.
“That’s right, Jou-chan. If you can help it, try not to say anything or make any unpleasant movements. We’ve got kind of a tough opponent.”
“…It won’t be good if I upset the Noble-sama?”
That type of thing makes me unhappy, you know? I hate people who push their own statuses on others.
“Ah, well, there’s that too, but I meant the Guild member who’s in charge of this entire situation is a bit hard to deal with.”
“Uwah, Dobin’s participating himself? This should be good.”
Jetsom’s face brightens a little bit.
“This Dobin is …?”
“Dobin is a hardcore merchant, that’s what Dobin is. Basically, he permitted such a ridiculous commission for his own reasons, and now he’s going to be orchestrating some sort of scheme. Whatever happens, Dobin’s trying to provoke it to happen, so we should just try not to say too much and let it happen. I’m just telling you because Jou-chan can get kind of hot-headed.”
That … I can’t 100% say that it’s not true.
My thoughts must be written on my face, because Ossan and Jetsom laugh, though their laughs are tinged with a bit of tension.
I was expecting a thin, sleazy looking merchant, maybe with a moustache and wiry spectacles and gaunt hands, but Dobin was NOT what I expected in the slightest.
The small meeting room had two couches facing each other with a low table between. At the head of the table was a chair.
When we were finally permitted to enter the small meeting room, wheeling in the 25 swords on the sword rack, I saw
A person who looked like an adult man with a child’s stature.
While he wasn’t rotund, he wasn’t thin either. He had a full head of brown hair and no facial hair. But naturally, the most noticeable thing was that he was extremely short, about the height of an 8-year-old child.
This is the sly businessman, the halfling Dobin.
He gives a brief nod at Ossan, then lets his gaze wander towards Jetsom, then over to the swords, and then…
When he sees me, his eyes widen.
Ah, was I not expected?
Well, other than widening his eyes, the halfling Dobin barely changes his face. He turns to the other people in the room, who were behind him.
Seated there, on the couch opposite to us, was a young-ish man. His hair is slicked back, and he had numerous glittering things adorning his outfit. His clothes shimmered in the light as he moved thanks to the metallic embroidery, and rings and bangles covered his hands.
He looks super out of place in this mining Labyrinth city. Like a costumed performer, though other than the shiny things his clothes were pretty neutrally colored.
Behind the man seated on the couch stood 3 retainer-like people.
“Baronet Mucle-sama, as you have requested, these are the smiths who have accepted your commission, as well as the commission of 25 swords.”
The halfling addresses the man seated on the couch with respectful tones. He shoots Ossan a sharp glance, and Ossan and Jetsom move the sword rack off the cart and remove its coverings.
“Bring one to me.”
Uwaaah… just from the Noble-sama’s tone of voice, I can tell this is going to be a pain. He commands one of his retainers or servants or whatever, with a snobby tone and a dismissive look.
People in charge of commissions at the Guild, I definitely would have preferred to just hand over the swords without meeting the commissioner.
After the servant hands him the sword, the Noble-sama gives it a careless glance.
Can you check the swords while sitting on the couch like that? I mean, maybe you don’t have to take a stance, but you can’t really swing a sword while sitting, you know? And if you’re testing out a sword, is it possible to get a feel for it if you don’t even swing it once?
Noble-sama looks down his nose at the blade, then hands it back to his servant. He crosses his legs, clasping his hands and placing them on his knee.
“So, can I take it that the man over there forged these swords?”
Oooi! That’s it?! He barely looked at it! At least check the mark! According to what I’ve heard, Noble-samas should be worried about branding and stuff, right? He’s totally dismissing our work! Or like, this man totally doesn’t know anything about swords, huh?
Anyway, the Noble-sama was looking at Ossan when he said “the man over there.”
Somehow I’m getting a bad feeling.
Instead of answering, Dobin glances over at Ossan, and Ossan answers instead.
“I’m afraid Sir Baronet is mistaken. The two smiths are the ones over here.”
Aah… as expected, Sir Noble-sama’s face has grows dark as Ossan points in the direction of Jetsom and me. I’m not sure anyone was expecting a different result. Or like, there was no way this template wasn’t going to be happening, huh?
This is such an annoying situation!
The Noble-sama gives a sniff, then waves his arm dismissingly.
“I see, there’s no point to considering these, then.”
Dobin’s eyes widen.
“Sir Baronet, at least allow me to call an appraiser in for you-“
“There’s no use with that, right? There’s no use for any swords forged by a beast and a woman!”
Hey! A sword by a woman is … well, whatever, I’m getting used to the idea that guys are turned off of using swords forged by a woman, so with a prejudiced bastard like this it was bound to come up, but Jetsom’s as good as a Master Bladesmith, you know!? And like, with me I’m a completely unknown entity, but Jetsom’s well-established in this city, so what you just said is a major insult!
When I first held one of his swords, my heart skipped a beat, you know? It’s impossible for me to keep quiet when you insult someone whose work I recognized!
Just when I’m about to say something, Jetsom quietly nudges my foot with his foot.
Ah … I keep my mouth shut.
I don’t know what’s going on, but is it really worth going through this annoyance? I wonder if it’s ok to just take it out on Dobin if this entire thing goes south after this meeting.
That Dobin is emitting a weak aura as he slumps his shoulders and hangs his head, but he coughs and simply says,
“I see, I’m sorry that we are unable to meet your requirements. If that’s the case, than we will refund half of your commission posting fee as promised.”
Dobin removes a small case attached to his waistcoat by a chain and opens it. A small, clear orb is nestled within, and he speaks into it.
“Minerva, please remove the commission of Noble-sama, Sir Baronet Mucle…”
“Hold on, just a second!”
The Noble-sama interrupts Dobin quickly.
“There was the option of reinstating the commission without an additional fee if the Guild fails their part! Don’t tell me, you chose a shoddy smith in order to pocket our fee!”
Well, I mean, the Noble-sama is sneering at Dobin, looking all proud of himself for figuring it out, but … aré? Doesn’t something seem off? That kind of thinking just seems a bit too petty for all the work that went into this situation … at least from our side, anyway.
Suddenly, a cold chill shoots through the air.
Dobin tilts his head at the Noble-sama, then gives the picture-perfect business smile. It’s a terrifying smile that can barely conceal its malicious aura.
“Ah, but you see, if the best forge in the city is unable to satisfy your tastes, then I’m afraid our city will be unable to meet your commission.”
“… Best, forge …?”
“Ah yes, since these people are Master Helward’s people.”
The chill has gotten so strong, I wonder if the temperature has actually dropped in the room.
[MANA FORGER]: (Material Manipulation) – A method to shape a material that is normally shaped by hand exclusively through manipulation of the mana channeled within.