Characters in this chapter
- Flynn & Carey Rhona: Sisters, Cohen’s childhood friends, and future wives.
- Moya, Jack, Marfa, Wilder: Homeless boys, Cohen’s childhood friends till then.
- Manta: Dwarf, who was caught by hunters and rescued by Cohen.
Flynn was coloring my hair with care, while Carey was toying a pair of blue crystal lenses. Jack and Wilder were stuffing games in a backpack.
“Boss, take this.” Jack put his wallet in my pack.
“Isn’t that your life-saving?” I asked.
“Well, it’s yours. Money’s dying if it weren’t for use.”
“OK, I’ll have some on the journey, you then keep the rest.”
“Stop talking, or I’ll dye your face…” Flynn will be a great wife.
My two mean professors kicked me out after a bunch of briefings and advice on practicing. I pulled my hood and stepped on the way.
I dressed as a mage intern who travels and gains experience with fake eye and hair color. There weren’t any trouble all the way except for sore legs and sagging coin bag.
Then I arrived at dwarf’s grassy and burning territory.
The dwarf’s land was a vast valley by the Dark Forest. Scattered villages saw smokes coming out of the short chimneys, which reminded me of lunch.
“Bo…boss!?” Manta swallowed hard what’s in his throat with rounded eyes, “What brought you here?”
“My legs.” I grabbed his meat and started devouring, “How are you?”
“Not bad.” Manta filled a cup of water, “You are alone and what’s wrong with your hair?”
I filled him in of what happened during the year while eating, and of course, my purpose here.
“Dwarf makes the best weapon!” Manta gave his chest-beating guarantee, “You’ll not be disappointed.”
“Don’t get cocky yet.” I had a big swallow of water to wash down the food, “My demand is special-special, burp…”
“Well, the past year certainly didn’t alter your way of eating.” Manta laughed, and his palm bounced on my shoulder, “Let’s go meet the Grandmaster, he’s our best.”
Manta and I walked side by side to a lake deep into the valley and stopped at a group of dwarf houses. This place must be where the Grandmaster worked.
“By the way, Manta.” As we smiled back at other dwarfs who greeted us, I asked, “Do all dwarfs have a short fuse?”
“That’s a typical stereotype.” Manta glanced at me and said.
Manta has gotten noticeably stronger but unnoticeably taller. He continued and explained, “We dwarfs look things very straightforwardly. For us, it’s either something’s right or wrong, there isn’t a third option. All things are valued per se rather than abstractly. We’d better off have a fight than wasting time arguing.”
“Impressive, in a year,” I smiled and commented, “You’ve learned a lot of new words.”
We walked into the largest house among the small. Manta started showing me all kinds of weapons.
I took time going through a big pile of dazzling metal and grew ever so disappointed.
“It’s either too heavy, too long, short or light…” I commented and said, “Take me to the Grandmaster, I wanna talk with him!”
“No problem, here.”
A mist of hotness and moist greeted me as I entered a wooden door. There were sounds of hammers banging all around, Manta yelled at a top-naked villager.
“MASTER!” Manta pointed at me, “THIS IS MY BOSS, HE WANTS TO SEE YOU!”
The Grandmaster kept on his work smashing a hammer on a piece of metal without even turning back and giving me a look.
“What’s your problem? Say it!”
I walked by and noticed a dwarf with a black-dotted sweaty face and explosive muscle, who was indeed a very typical dwarf.
“I need a weapon.” I said.
“Outside, there are plenty.” He still paid no attention, “Choice it’s your call.”
“I said,” I spoke louder this time, “I need a weapon!”
“Those are not weapons. Those are tools!”
“DANG,” The master dropped his hammer and finally threw me a serious notice, “Let’s talk outside!”
I followed and exited the house when suddenly the Master turned back. Before I could say anything, a massive dwarf fist was already flying towards me.
I had to admit, I have seriously considered about a peaceful talk. However, the current situation didn’t give me that. By looking at this arm I knew it wouldn’t be a joke hit, and Manta seemed not intent to stop him.
“Are you done!” It was the seventh time I smashed the Grandmaster on the ground. My height and bizarre martial arts had given me the edge, “You won’t win!”
He probably realized that and seized to pounce again.
“YOU TELL ME!” The master puffed and blew, “Why are those tools?”
“So this was what pissed you off!” I found myself a spot and sat down, “I thought those were your way of saying hello.”
“Sure.” I said, “What is a weapon? A weapon should be something that’s able to maximize its user’s ability.”
“These things here will do!”
“Maybe to others, for me, the ones you have are only capable of leveling my attack damage to a certain degree, which is far less than maximum.”
“What do you want!?”
“I want you to forge a decent weapon for me! It may not necessarily be a thing as you have forged before.”
“If you have one in mind then I can make it!” The master said severely, “But if you wanna fool me by giving me shitty things then you called the wrong person!”
“Why on earth would I do that?” I squatted and started to draw with a tree branch.
“Long handle, should be a bi-handler… but the blade is only about two inches… the head… en? A sword like this, or it’s a one-bladed sword? The Master gazed over as I drew while saying his thoughts.
“That’s it!” I looked at my sketch, “It’s one-bladed.”
“Your design doesn’t make sense!”
“With a single blade, you can thicken the other side, which makes it capable of fighting against heavier swords. And it is comparably light in the meantime. Either to attack or to shield, it could mean more flexibility and less strength consumption.
“What’s that line over there?”
“What the hell is that?”
“The sword itself doesn’t have a wide blade, thus when stabbing into the enemy’s body, there won’t be an extended cut. So I need a fuller to make my opponent bleeds faster. And precisely because of this fuller, makes it easier to draw back.”
“What do you want to forge it with?”
“I’m thinking about something flexible and robust.”
“Flexible?” The Master seemed to have accepted my suggestion judging from his careful attitude, “I do have some black steel left but sure not enough!”
“How much do you have?” Manta cut in, “Can you mixed it with other metals?”
“You tell me!” The master yelled, “It’s black steel for god sake! How am I supposed to mix it with other metal?”
“Why not?” Manta unwillingly continued.
“Man, I knew you are stupid! Two kinds of metal have different properties, which means the temperatures to melt and freeze are different too. Even the mixture freezes, it’s size will change, you dumbass!”
“You are the Grandmaster.” I stopped Manta from getting stupider, “Can you tell me where to mine this thing?”
“Boss, don’t say you wanna do it yourself!” Manta said, “It’s extra hard!”
“Cut the crap and lead your way!”
“This is it.” Manta pointed at a large white stone, “Black steel is in this.”
“Shit!” I watched as a dwarf mined and went gravely disheartened. The white stone was so hard that even a full strike left only a tiny dot on it.
“You see.” Manta spoke gloomily, “God knows how long we are gonna have enough steel.”
One of the dwarfs has finally opened one of the stones, and a few pieces of black ore fell over.
“Is this black steel?” I picked one and asked.
“Yeah.” Manta said, “But you still need forging to get the real black steel!”
I examined carefully of the broken stone and gazed at the edge. Suddenly, a simple idea came to mind!
“Manta, I’ve got an idea!”
I asked the dwarfs to fill a bunch of ground holes with cold water. Manta asked, “Boss, are you entirely sure this will work?”
“Don’t worry. I’m never wrong!”
With my instructions, the dwarfs put a fire under the white stones, and when they were burning red, I told them to push the rocks into the cold water. Then a puff of steam popped, they cracked!
“HAHAHAHAHA!” Manta burst out with laughters, “I’m impressed! Boss!”
“This is what you call impressive?” I stroke his head, “Think big, man! Now hurry, we’ll find the Master once we’ve got enough stones!”