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Chapter 6: Katana

Katana

... It was a small village.

But in the past few years, it had begun to grow larger.

Population-wise, its mere three hundred had swelled to four hundred. But even so, it's not like it had a specialty product or anything. That small village was suddenly gained better prospects.

In the past, when the village youth came of age, they'd journey out to the larger cities or Beim, but that had stopped happening in the last few years.

More than that, some of the youths that had gone out were even beginning to return.

In the village, the young men took up weapons to defeat the surrounding monsters for the magic stones, and materials.

Peddlers dropped by it frequently to buy off these spoils of war.

And today as well, a single peddler dropped by the village.

"Whew, for you to even prepare a place for me to stay... it really is a big help you're able to periodically obtain this many magic stones."

The peddler who'd arrived the previous evening stayed a night before buying stones and materials in the village, and selling off his own merchandise.

Once more, this venture had generated a nice profit, and the peddler looked delighted.

"Well that's good. Come again soon. The young'uns are out hunting monsters at the moment, so we might be able to gather them relatively quickly."

A village that had become more profitable than it had been a few years ago. And at present, the man who was the talk of the town was a middle-aged former adventurer who had come back from Beim.

He was a man the peddler had never even heard rumor of, but when he returned to his homeland, that village had become prosperous.

He had surely taught the young lads how to fight and slay monsters.

The peddler believed so, and held no doubt at the fact.

"Then that's a life-saver. If you're defeating the monsters in the area, it makes my travels all the safer, after all."

The former adventurer man struggled a bit with his enunciation.

"... Right. Well, go back with care."

The peddler finished his business, and decided to leave. He carefully loaded his wagon with the drops he's purchased, and planned to set out alongside another group headed for the city.

The ones travelling from village to city were a group of youths.

They weren't leaving the village itself; it seems they were going out to buy food supplies.

Seeing them, the peddler thought.

(I heard their payments of magic stones and materials have lowered the tax, but are they concentrating on it so much they have to look elsewhere for food? I don't think the feudal lord would permit it, but...)

Recently, a number of young men walked the town with their weapons. They gave off the impression that they ventured out to find and defeat monsters.

The peddler.

(It couldn't be that... no, really doubt it. If he's a former adventurer, then surely he knows the dread of a Labyrinth.)

Could it be the village was hiding a Labyrinth without reporting it? Is that where their profit came from? He thought.

But there were many towns and villages who had fallen to ruin from such an act. With a former-adventurer among them, he didn't think the village would move in such a direction.

And if there really was a Labyrinth, they should be reaping even more magic stones and materials. A village that did something so foolish would surely sell stones and materials in large quantities, and cast suspicion upon itself.

While they were earning a fixed amount, it's not like they were especially profitable or anything.

On top of that, it's not like there weren't any villages like this one out there. Villages that couldn't help but fight large numbers of monsters regularly. There were even villages out there that paid their taxes in magic stones.

It varied greatly by country and lord, but such villages often had to pay a higher tax than others. The weapons they held, and the village produce wouldn't amount to enough. So they hunted.

But pressure from other sides would also be tight. If a war broke out, those sorts of villages were often demanded to send out manpower.

And the peddler was sure the village was one inclined in such a way...

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... When the peddler had left, the former adventurer [Burani] called together the village youths.

Not at the plaza, but a space in the corner of the village. Atmosphere-wise, it definitely didn't look like a place for a pleasant talk.

And in truth, the talk they carried out was of dangerous contents.

Burani spoke to the young folk who worked under him.

"Oy. You're making sure to fight the monsters around the village too, right? If you just keep going into the cave, they'll be suspicious that the surrounding monster numbers aren't going down."

The villagers from their late teens to twenties nodded a number of times. Burani had worked as an adventurer in Beim, and they saw him as a man of valor.

"Boss, we're properly monster slaying around the village like we agreed on. But if we go in the Labyrinth, won't we able to get much more than we can around there? Why don't we do that?"

There, Burani spoke quite fed-up.

"Idiot. That'll just make people suspicious. Small profits, long term as our policy. I'm sure I already told you we'll be taking our time milking the Labyrinth. If it looks like we'll be found out, make it, 'oh, we just found a labyrinth'. Or otherwise, take it down, and be done with it. Until then, we'll save up bit by bit."

The man called Burani. A former adventurer he may be, but in his party he was a baggage carrier, and none too skilled an adventurer at that.

But sad as it may be, he was no fool. He was a little crafty of a man. But at the same time, he wasn't very clever. His head could turn a bit, and he had just a bit of a good grasp on the essentials. That was Burani.

But the man himself thought he was considerably clever.

While no one would take him seriously in Beim, it was different when he returned home. It it was only the monsters around the village, he could easily take them on.

And deceiving the elders who never went out was also an easy task.

For better or worse, for the youths who had left the village and found success, this little village wasn't very captivating a place to return.

So there weren't any adventurers besides him who had come back.

And because of that, there were many villagers to jump onto his words. There were villagers who opposed, of course, but once their lifestyles had turned abundant, they had changed their hands.

(That's right. Just like this, I'll become famous in the village, and I'll be an object of admiration for the rest of my life. I'll get a wife soon enough. And I'll live a better life than any of those stuck-up adventurers who made a fool of me in Beim.)

A little crafty, and living revered as a warrior, Burani was living his second life in this village.

Oblivious to how foolish a life it was...

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"I refuse."

With a stiff white beard, and a body that had only grown sturdier with age, the dwarf craftsman caused me to make quite a troubled face.

I could hear the sound of pounding metal around, as a number of dwarves were busily carrying out their work.

He was the craftsman Vera had introduced, and a capable talent who could work on almost all forms of rare metal.

But when I tried asking at his workplace, and had only spoken a little, he cut it short.

Vera, who had come with me, looked just as troubled.

"Letarta, I'd like to make this request as well."

There, the craftsman [Letarta] took a huff of his pipe.

"Yes, it's a request from the young lady. I'd like to hear it out, but it's not happening. That Fidel whelp came by, you see. He said I definitely couldn't lend a hand. I've know the kid a long time. And the one who helped me out was your great grandfather, you know? I think I've more than worked off my debt at this point."

The stubborn-looking old man looked at me with lazy eyes. And seeing the sabre hung at my waste, he shook his head.

"Bro, unlike that whelp, I don't really care whether or not you're worthy of the young lady. But listen here, if you're that skilled, you should properly choose out your weapons."

It seems he had determined I had a level of skill. And he could instantly see through the fact that my current sabre was just a cheap mass-produced one.

He was definitely competent.

But stubborn.

"Can't you do something about it? It's a metal no one has ever worked before. So I wanted to make the request to you, a leading craftsmen, even in Beim."

There, the old man laughed.

"Well it looks like this old codgers got quite a high evaluation. I'm happy they're looking at my skill, and I agree that it's an appealing proposal. But no."

Vera sounded a little angry.

"Why!? If it's because of father, you don't have to care about him. He's just pouting a bit right now, and trying to make Lyle's life difficult."

Hearing that old Letarta laughed. And spoke as if to admonish Vera.

"Then you'd best get him out of it. I'm sorry, but I'm actually quite busy right now. By the way... my current job is fixing up your ship."

Vera dropped her shoulders, apologized, and stood at a stalemate. It didn't look like negotiations would get any further. The only thing I could think of way trying to persuade Vera's father Fidel-san.

Old Letarta, who smiled as he looked at Vera, took a glance at me.

"Well, I'll at least show your boyfriend my merchandise. I've got weapons much better than what he's got at his waist. So work hard, and persuade that whelp."

A man even Vera couldn't persuade. There was no doubt he was a famous talent of Beim. Even in the dwarven race with its abundance of blacksmiths, he was skilled enough to raise his name.

I wanted his assistance by all means.

There...

"Dad, there's a customer at the store. Seems they want to see sabres."

When a dwarf woman came into the workshop, Letarta-san made a stiff face.

"You... I said anyone could man the desk, couldn't I? Now look here, just have the grandson deal with it. This sort of thing's a good experience."

There, the dwarf woman slapped his shoulder.

"Oh shut it! That very grandchild is troubled, so go and help out, is what I'm trying to say! You're saying you won't listen to your precious daughter's son's request!?"

Perhaps flustered by his daughter's rage, Letarta-san cleared his throat, and stood.

"I-I understand. Good grief... where did I go wrong in raising her. Sorry, young lady. I have to see a customer. Look through my wares all you want. I'll throw in a discount."

Old Letarta left the workshop with his daughter, while we left out back, circled around, and entered the store-front part of the building.

It was surrounded by other blacksmitheries, but the biggest building around was old Letarta's shop.

He did take on large jobs, but like this, he made crafts of his own, and sold them as well.

With numerous pupils, his successor, the son-in-law shop manager, and a grandson in training... The store was managed by three generations.

When we entered through the front door, old Letarta, who'd looked grumpy before called out in a loud voice.

"Oh that's no good! Then I'll have to prepare a splendid sabre for your beloved. It isn't a bad idea to buy mass-produced ones enmasse, but when it really comes down to it, you'll need a reliable weapon!"

He was delightedly dealing with a customer. And looking at the counter, I saw the backs of two I have become quite accustomed to.

One with a side-ponytail, and light brown hair.

The other with golden twintails, and a maid uniform.

"What are they doing?"

When I said that, Vera...

"Isn't his attitude a bit too different from before? He looks really, really delighted, doesn't he? He's being even more compliant than when he was dealing with me, isn't he?"

As Vera looked a little dissatisfied, I offered her a smile as I went to meet up with Novem.

"Weren't you going shopping today?"

Both Novem and Monica turned around. And both off them looked a little surprised as they looked at me.

Monica explained the events that had led up to now.

"No, we just happened to run into one another here. Normally, I'd never go shopping with the vixen even if it killed me, but... ah, orders are a different story, you know. I, Monica, am resolved to take the initiative and carry out my Chicken Dickwad's orders no matter how detestable they may be!"

I didn't care about that part, so I looked at Novem. There, she gave a gentle smile.

"I thought to use this opportunity to get you a new sabre, Lyle-sama. Using nothing but mass-produced ones creates quite an expenditure, and more than that, I have my daily feelings of gratitude to you."

What a good kid. Shannon should just drink down the grime boiled off the bottom of her nails.

But Novem gave an awkward smile.

"Um, it's just... Monica-san said that instead of a sabre, we should get you a Katana."

"A what?"

When I tilted my head, Monica worked herself up.

"Yes! As I thought, a katana suits you! Yamato's soul! A warrior's soul! No, was it a samurai's soul? Well, that stuff doesn't really matter! I'm sure you'll love it!"

(Who the hell is Yamato? Samurai? Does she mean knight?)

But I didn't know of the weapon called a katana. To ask what sort of weapon it was, I turned to old Letarta.

"No, your guess is as good as mine. From her explanation, I get that it's something like a sabre. But you see... if you ask me to make it, it's not like I couldn't but I don't want to sell something incomplete. Please think that it will take some time. More than that, and I'll be frank, there's a problem with it as a weapon."

Hearing about a problem, Vera spoke.

"What? Is its reach too short? Lyle, go make the gun your main. If you use it as a Magic Tool, you'll get quite an output."

And I'm troubled because I can't do that. But from the Jewel, the Seventh agreed.

[As expected of Vera! That's right, the gun is the weapon that will change the world! Lyle, choose the gun. The sabre is a relic of the past.]

I've been swinging that sabre for years and years, you know...

Old Letarta opened his mouth.

"It's like a sabre. It's a weapon that can thrust and cut, but in that case, endurance will be a problem. What's more, it's even slimmer than a sabre, she says. To be blunt, even most rare metal will be too fragile for that design. It'll break much too easily. Unless you have some higher-quality rare metal, I can't say it could be used as a weapon at all. And this all begs a question of why."

Hearing that, Monica.

"But you can say the same for a sabre, can you not? Now Chicken Dickhead! Take up a katana! It's alright! The blade's a bit different, but it's pretty much the same as a sabre!"

I didn't know why talks were going this way, and I looked around somewhat bothered.

But when I looked at Novem, old Letarta...

"And wait, you guys were acquaintances? I guess there really are coincidences like this in life. 'Kay then, got it. While I'm at it. I'll take the young lady's request as well. I'm feeling a bit more motivated."

On his words, Vera looked surprised.

"... Eh?"

Novem looked at us, and inferred what had happened, before giving her thanks to old Letarta.

"Thank you very much."

"Oh, don't mind it! Besides, that whelp's request was a personal one. He's no right to complain if I prioritize another one over his."

Novem had always had a tendency to be liked by demi-humans.

(Is this also the goddess's... no, the evil god's grace? Well, whatever.)

I rejoiced over the fact I had managed to secure a craftsman, while Vera...

"... What's this feeling. I can't accept it. When even I was no good, he accepted it at once with Novem."

She looked quite unsatisfied.