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136 Ironfel

 "I refuse!"

***

Ironfelt is a gray dwarf who had just earned the title of Craftmaster-to be precise, he had only cleared the trials of the Magma City Craftsmen Guild yesterday.

Being a craftsman who had been stuck at Golden Crest for over thirty years, it was not his first-time taking part in the Craftsmen Guild's Craftmaster Hammering Trial. Still, he could not progress beyond Golden Crest until yesterday no thanks to the difficulty of the assessment's questions and his limit in terms of talent.

And yet, the Craftmaster Hammering Trials was surprisingly easy yesterday, and felt more or less the same as the exam questions he had when he rose from Silver Crest to Golden Crest.

He had found it curious at first, but his boorish and open-minded dwarven nature stopped him from delving on it. In fact, he was joyfully downing ale as he celebrated with his family for the whole night as hard as he could.

Even before his intoxication faded and his head ached terribly in his hangover, two members of the Craftsmen Guild had arrived and stuffed a very elegantly decorated letter into his hand.

[Dear Mister Slag:]

[In accordance to the divine oracle that His Holiness the Grand Craftmaster received from Stoff, we are pleased to inform you that you have been chosen as a representative of the Craftsmen Guild.]

[As such, you shall head to the Frogpeople's Village, situated at the Warty Tidal Flats of Gray Fjord, within the domain of the Silver Eagle Duchy and the Valla Empire. There, you shall take the post of resident Craftmaster to aid our allies, the Church of the God of Games.]

[Please pack up and leave Magma City before today, and make haste for the designated location.]

[Yours Sincerely, Furnacewatch of the Craftsmen Guild]

The content of the letter left Ironfelt frowning as he lisped. "Y-you people are looking for a Craftmaster. W-what does that has to do with a Gold Crest like m-me?"

The two dwarves said nothing and merely stared at Ironfelt's chest.

Ironfelt looked down as well. There, the black scarf embroidered with a golden hammer was glimmering dazzling over his chest.

"Oh sh*t." Ironfelt was immediately halfway sober as memories of yesterday returned to his muddleheaded brain.

No wonder the promotion trials were so easy yesterday.

No wonder Ironspade who had ties with people in the Craftsmen Guild did not join the trials yesterday.

Every single one of you was prepared to throw me out so that I become your scapegoat!

After all, for most members of the Craftsmen Guild, staying in Magma City and near the heat from lava to forge various items was far more comfortable then heading to human or other humanoid settlements to do the same work.

As such, the gray dwarves would never leave their residence unless they needed to accomplish something major.

Such as a divine oracle.

"You tricked me, Ironspade! Ironspadeee-!"

***

Nonetheless, complaining wouldn't help now that things have come to this. All Ironfelt could do was follow the Guild's Arrangement.

It was the first time he left Magma City as a 123-year-old youth. His parents could not help shedding tears of worry-Ironfelt himself was anxious, too, but he tried his best to keep up a mature act, calming them and determinedly leave Magma City.

Still, he went on a trip to the Guild before he left to ask the Furnacewatcher how long his 'residency' was supposed to last.

"Probably over twenty years. As you well know, humans are volatile creatures with short lifespan. You'll be back before you know it." The Furnacewatcher assured Ironfelt even as he lowered Magma City's drawbridge. "Just think of it as walking a pet."

"My Toothy is much more adorable than humans." Ironfelt straightened his messy beard so that it won't catch any cinders even as he grumbled. "Not to mention that it would sh*t out some good iron ingots after I feed it iron ores. Can humans and their tiny anuses do that!?"

"Heh. I didn't take you for a rich kid. Not every family could afford rearing Steeleaters, can they?" The Furnacewatcher replied in amazement. "I've seen one when I went on a journey over the surface too, but food is rare up there, and the poor fellow had to gnaw bamboo..."

"You visited the surface too, sir?"

Ironfelt stared in surprise at the exasperatingly slow Furnacewatcher.

"But of course. I used to be an adventurer like you, until I took an arrow in the knee." The Furnacewatcher sighed, and gestured to Ironfelt where he should be going. "To head to the Norht, walk until the end of Ore Tunnel Seven and then turn left, the portal there would send you near your destination. Activation requires twenty grams of Illum Crystals with 80% purity, and according to the star readers it is now the moon of the Slime, and there would be a lot of them mating in the ore craters. You best be careful..."

"It's just Slime. The 'Ironfelt's Amazing Magma Warhammer' I'm holding here isn't just for looks!" Ironfelt confidently brandished the hammer he forged, seemingly not giving a damn about the so-called Slimes.

"You have a weird naming sense, kid..." The Furnacewatcher who took an arrow in the knee studied Ironfelt's imposing look and thought that he really didn't have to worry about him.

According to the Craftsmen Guild's inspector Ironpan Idling, the Slime seemed to prefer attacking female creatures. If the Guild did not consider that the Slimes bred through mitosis, they would have assumed that the Slimes were looking for breeding ground.

From certain perspectives, Magma City counted as a subterranean city, and heading to the surface meant going through the fix tunnels connected to certain places that were dozens of miles long... or portals.

It was fortunate that while dwarves were average in magic, they were quite proficient when it came to portals. Coupled with the mass production of Illum Crystals that were the energy source for portals in subterranean cities, portals saw practical and common use amongst dwarves earlier than the humans and elves who researched magic on the surface. Now, it had became the standard transportation, spread throughout most of the dwarven nations.

***

"We finally made it back to Gray Fjord..." Jom was feebly walking through the dense forest. He could taste faint scent of the tides now, and the cold here chills the bone compared to other places. Even if Players could adjust their sense of pain, their limbs would still be stiff and unresponsive in the cold weather.

"Wouldn't the event be over when we finally arrive at the frogfolk village?" Terry was following him and biting a piece off his wheat cracker, and then throwing it to their big hound Pikes

"The last Rotten Bones event lasted seven days. It's just three days since this one started, so it shouldn't be over yet..." Jom guessed.

Suddenly, Pikes had straightened its ears and started barking at the right side of the duo.

"Jom, it's a Slime! A big one!" Terry yelled excitedly.

"Don't care. The event is most important now." Jom looked even more feeble now.

"But..." Terry scratched his head then. "It looks like a dwarf is drowning inside the Slime..."

Jom: ???