< Episode 4. The World's 1% (2) >
Jae Hwan reined in the somber memories bubbling up to the surface of his mind. There was something he needed to ask a Nightmare, but things had unfortunately turned out differently. Jae Hwan opened his mouth again.
“Then who is the best craftsmen among those here.”
“That would be vice head Meikal-nim……"
The apprentice looked up and down Jae Hwan's body. Jae Hwan also took a look at himself. He had forgotten that he was currently dressed like a beggar.
“The cost for employing Meikal-nim is extremely high. On top of that, he would need the materials……"
“I've brought the necessary materials."
The term 'material' when used in the smithy usually referred to a gaksu's horns. Metals such as steel and silver would be refined as well, but typically speaking, of the raw materials that could be found in the《Illusion Tree》, none were as good as the horns of a gaksu. It was because none of the metals were as light and durable as the horns.
"……are you saying that you've brought horns with you?”
The apprentice asked with a skeptical voice.
The minimum requirement for the products crafted in〈Twilight's Shadow〉was the horn from a Two-Horned Gaksu.
Weapons forged from the horn of a One-Horned Gaksu were designated as entry level weapons used by Non-Adapters and 1st Order Adapters, so naturally speaking, they belonged to a beginner's lineup and were not used to forge items from personal requests. Thinking about it, 〈Twilight's Shadow〉was a high-end workshop that catered to the richer and stronger residents of Gorgon Fortress.
“We won't work on any project that doesn't use a Two-Horned Gaksu's horn or higher as the material. Why don't you look through the entry level sheaths and choose one from there? Since they were made by our〈Twilight's Shadow〉, their quality will absolutely not disappoint even if they are at entry level……"
Jae Hwan shook his head. The apprentice's face turned bright red, but as he opened his mouth to say something, Jae Hwan spoke up first.
"When you say a Two-Horned Gaksu, you're referring to a monster with two horns, right?”
“……yes, that's correct.”
Jae Hwan calmly fished out the horns that were in his dimensional bag. They were the horns he had obtained after fighting and killing a large wolf some time ago.
The apprentice received the horns, but after staring at them for a moment, his arms began to uncontrollably shake.
'T-this, what the hell kind of gaksu did these horns come from?!'
Although he was an apprentice, he was still a full fledged craftsman that had been working at〈Twilight's Shadow〉for quite a long time, but he had never seen such horns before. The horn's black luster, hardness, and thickness were all characteristics that fascinated the eye.
“S-such a large and incredible thing……"
The young craftsman suddenly realized something. This wasn't something that could be decided on his own.
He needed to find the vice head immediately.
The craftsman's head that was frantically looking around suddenly stopped.
There were around a dozen or so craftsmen gathered around the center furnace.
“Ah, the vice head is finishing something over there……!"
Before the craftsman could continue any further, Jae Hwan began heading towards the center. Mino let out a sigh, and along with the apprentice, hastily followed after Jae Hwan.
〈Twilight's Shadow〉's vice head ‘Artisan of Dawn’ Meikal.
There were very few people in Gorgon Fortress that didn't know of Meikal.
It was because he was the only human to have received the「Apprentice」class.
It was something that only Nightmare craftsdemons had received until now.
Although it was the lowest title of「Apprentice」in the artisan class, it was a huge event that proved that those of other races could be recognized as Producers.
"Huhu, looks like I've gotten old."
However, it had already been a few decades since that had happened.
Meikal had recently started to see his own limitations.
He recalled a story that he had heard from a Nightmare the first time he had received the title of apprentice.
—Blame the race you were born into. It's impossible to rise above「Apprentice」with a human's body.
Earlier on, he had refused to believe those words. The young Meikal had thought that all he needed was time. He was enthusiastic. Although he was born into a disadvantaged race, he could overcome it through sheer effort.
He practiced when the Nightmares slept if it meant he could practice tempering and tanning just one more time, and when the other Nightmares relaxed and messed around, he intently studied more metallurgy.
It was all with the belief that he could someday become a「Renowned」or a「Master」.
Meikal's efforts did not go unnoticed, and he was given the nickname 'Artisan of Dawn'. It was a nickname given to him by those who admired his hardworking figure while everyone was still sleeping well past dawn.
However, the Artisan of Dawn entered his twilight years and he began to realize the truth of the world.
No matter how hard you work, there are some things in this world that cannot be overcome.
"Looks like I'm unable to do something like this now."
Meikal muttered to himself as he stared at the horn before his eyes. It was the horn of a Four-Horned Gaksu entrusted to Meikal by the vice head of the「Limitless Sect」of the ten sects in《Chaos》. It was a request to craft a sword, and the process had reached the final stages. The problem was the most recent workmanship.
‘Make a gem holder in the middle of the hilt.'
It was not an easy task to create a holder out of a touch material like the horn of a Four-Horned Gaksu. No, rather, the horn was something that was difficult to even break.
Though difficult, he could make a blade by shaving down the horn with a certain knowhow, but to make a gem holder…….
Nightmare's exclusive skill,「Process」.
It was a skill the Nightmares had given him when he reached the maximum rank available to him after immeasurable effort,「Apprentice」. It wouldn't be easy to fashion a holder out of the horn even after using that skill.
It may have been possible if he were younger.
Meikal removed his hand from the horn. If he wanted to continue working, he needed to get as much rest as he could. The surrounding craftsmen all rushed to him.
“Master, can I try it once?”
"Can I also……"
It was good to be young.
“You punks, with your skills you don't stand a chance!"
Meikal already knew that none of the other craftsmen here would ever surpass himself. It was something that was simply impossible in this world. Humans would never surpass the Nightmares in the field of crafting.
The hearts of the youths here, however, warmed Meikal's old heart. The young must expend all they have while they're still young. All he could do was encourage the flames in their hearts.
"Good, if there's anyone here who can dig a hole into the horn, then whoever it may be will be vice head of 〈Twilight's Shadow〉for the day!"
He was maintaining the illusion that they could do anything as long as they tried hard enough. Looking at them, Meikal was reminded of his old self.
“OOOH! Are you serious?!"
“If it's like that, then let me have a go at it!"
All of the young craftsmen jumped from their seats.
Of course, nobody could succeed. Even the artisans who knew how to control their spirit power couldn't scratch the surface of the Four-Horned Gaksu's horn. The Four-Horned Gaksu's horn was just that kind of material.
At that moment, someone spoke up.
"Let me give it a go."
Who is this? It was the face of a newcomer.
Meikal who was fanning his face with his hand to dispel the heat coming from the central furnace built a displeased expression on his face.
"Customer-nim, you shouldn't do such a thing there!”
Holding something in his arms, a good looking young man trotted behind him came into sight. It was the same young craftsman that had received Jae Hwan at the entrance a short while ago. Meikal asked him a question.
"Neiven, who is this person? Also, what are you cradling in your arm?"
The young man named Neiven didn't know how to explain. He alternated his gaze between the horn in his arms and Jae Hwan, but Neiven's face grew increasingly more complicated. Jae Hwan spoke up.
"All I need to do is poke a hole through this horn, right?"
Interest sparked in Meikal's eyes. He was dressed like a beggar, but his spirit was like that of a first class craftsman.
‘Looks like it's a young craftsman journeying across Chaos.'
Meikal waved away the threatening atmosphere created by the surrounding craftsmen and spoke up.
“Give it a go.”
He didn't know where this young man had rolled in from, but his bearing was impressive. More than anything, this young man's reckless courage in the midst of all the other novice craftsmen of〈Twilight's Shadow〉was praiseworthy.
But, recklessness was only recklessness.
One's prestige and authority wasn't something acquired overnight. It was something that would never die, that was prestige. It was the same for〈Twilight's Shadow〉, it was a symbol of authority. Meikal was considering whether or not he should display the prestige of〈Twilight's Shadow〉.
But then Meikal's expression took a drastic turn.
The man had no anvil or hammer and only used his finger tip to drill a hole into the hilt made from the Four-Horned Gaksu.
An act of insanity. It would have taken hundreds of fingers to break through it.
He had heard that there were high ranking Nightmares that were capable of altering a gaksu's horn without any tools, but he had never heard of a human being able to do so.
'He was able to do it so easily, what about all I've done until now……'
With a loud, thunderous noise, it exploded into dust.
It was like all of〈Twilight's Shadow〉had collapsed. The sound was loud enough to shake the floor that the workshop was built on.
Meikal's mind had gone blank.
That sound, it was like every effort he had made throughout his entire life had been shattered.
After some time, the dust that had filled the air slowly began to settle.
There was a hole that extended even into the anvil that was under the horn, the diameter of the whole being the width of a finger. It was so deep that the end couldn't be seen.
Everyone in the workshop couldn't believe their eyes.
"If it's like this it's fine right?"
The man in question was calmly standing at his spot. His finger was pointed at the sky, the hilt rotating around his finger as the man calmly stood there.
Watching the sword swing round and round, Meikal's world also spun round and round until he came back to his senses. Although dizzy, Meikal successfully asked Jae Hwan a question.
"……who the hell are you?"
Getting tired of hearing that question, Jae Hwan replied back.
Hearing that, Meikal's expression slightly improved.
For someone of such skill, it was highly likely that his master was a famous and renowned person.
“Vice head? What workshop are you from?"
Jae Hwan answered in an indifferent voice.
Hearing that, some of the surrounding craftsmen glared at him.
"This punk he...? Are you fucking around!"
Jae Hwan spoke up without flinching.
“You promised earlier, didn't you?"
Promise? Everyone in the studio was confused.
Then all of a sudden, the same scene appeared in everyone's heads.
‘Good, if there's anyone here who can dig a hole into the horn, then whoever it may be will be vice head of 〈Twilight's Shadow〉for the day!’
Vice head Meikal's expression stiffened.
Jae Hwan talked again.
"I am the vice head of〈Twilight's Shadow〉for the rest of the day."
But in the next second. The Four-Horned Gaksu's horn that was spinning around Jae Hwan's fing suddenly made a light snapping noise as its body became riddled in cracks.
What in the world?
Meikal's expression paled.
The horn of the Four-Horned Gaksu entrusted to Meikal by the vice head of the「Limitless Sect」scattered into the air. Jae Hwan frowned and couldn't help but mumble to himself.
"Ah shit, it was just a light thrust as well."