The next day, I left the city and headed for the outskirts.
With the letter of introduction from Dimon in my chest pocket, I headed to the location of the person I was going to show it to.
The place I was heading to was the home of a certain swordsmith.
Apparently, he was an oddball with a craftsman’s temperament, and it seemed that he had been living in the middle of nowhere for many years, not in the city, continuing to make swords.
And I was heading there to obtain a good sword from that swordsmith.
After an hour of walking after leaving the city, I arrived at the foot of the mountain I was aiming for, and then I had to walk up the mountain for another hour.
And finally, I came to the place that looked like it.
About halfway up the mountain, there was a house that was built in such a way that it was concealed, out of sight from the outside.
The house felt completely handmade, and a quick glance would tell you that it had been expanded and remodeled many times from the base of the house.
I headed to that house, stood in front of the door, and knocked on it.
Knock knock, knock knock.
No matter how many times I knocked, there was no response.
“Err… Balkan-san, are you there, Balkan-san”
I kept knocking on the door while calling out the name I heard from Dimon.
Finally, after about a minute of knocking, the door opened to the inside with a creaking noise.
Then a man appeared.
He was a solidly built middle-aged man, who gave a truly hard-to-please feel.
“You’re Balkan-san, right?”
“Who are you, kid”
“I’m named Yuuto Mouskouri. And here’s a letter of introduction”
I took out the letter of introduction from Dimon from my chest pocket and handed it to Balkan.
Balkan took it.
He looked at the sealing wax on the other side, “Hmph,” and snorted.
Then he went straight back inside.
He didn’t close the door, so I guess I can come in, I judged, then followed him into the house.
The house was a one-room type, with a vague border between the entrance and the room.
There were racks in the bleak room, with all kinds of swords placed on them.
At the back, there was a stool. And near the stool, there was something that looked like a furnace and all kinds of tools.
Balkan sat down at the stool and looked up at me.
“So, what do you want?”
“Shouldn’t you take a look inside the letter of introduction?”
“This thing,” Balkan said, and tossed the letter of introduction into the furnace.
The letter instantly blazed up and then burned out.
“Not gonna have the important stuff written anyway. Speak it yourself, kid”
“I suppose so. It is simple, I want a nice sword”
“Do you need a reason to want a good tool?”
Balkan’s brows twitched.
“…Hmpf, just take whatever you see fit from around there”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m indebted to him. Take ten of them if you want”
Looks like there’s something between Balkan and Dimon.
Well, that doesn’t matter.
If he says he’ll give it, then I’ll gratefully take it.
“Then I’ll have a look”
I turned around and picked up the swords that were displayed on the racks one after another, pulling them out.
Oh, I see.
It seems the skill “Flowing Longsword Mastery” only works on longswords.
Even when I pull out a so-called “katana” like thing, the blade doesn’t glow. And the way on how to use it like I just know how when holding it doesn’t come up.
In that case, the number of choices are reduced to about half at this stage.
I ignored the katana, and tried to pull out only swords one after another.
I pulled it out, and tried to swing them.
Yeah, it’s different.
First, no matter which sword, it’s different from ceremonial sword.
They cut better than the ceremonial sword at my waist, and I felt they’re distinctly easier to handle.
The difference in the sensation is so distinct to feel. It’s like comparing a hundred-yen knife to a knife that costs several thousand yen.
I suppose this is also the effect of “Flowing Longsword Mastery, I thought.
And there are slight differences even though they’re all Balkan’s longswords.
For this one — it’s very hard to liken it to something.
Anyway I feel differences.
I pulled out all the swords in the house and swung them.
After comparing them all, I chose one sword.
“Then, can I take this?”
“…Why did you choose that?”
“Because this is the best sword,” I replied immediately.
After comparing the swings of all the swords in the house, I clearly felt that the one I was currently holding was the best.
It was a sensation-like thing, but a clear one.
I got the confidence that I could get it right a hundred or two hundred times in a row if I was allowed to do a rating check of celebrities but on swords.
I clearly answered Balkan with that confidence.
“Why do you think so?”
“Yeah, why. You must have a reason for stating it to that extent”
I pulled out that sword again and gave it a test swing.
This one is really the best.
I looked for words in my head so that I could explain why it was the best.
“The sound, I guess”
“This one has the best sound when I swung it”
Balkan fixedly stared at me.
He stared at me with a blank expression.
He was staring at me with too much of a blank expression on his face, which was making me feel like my answer just now might be a wrong answer that he wasn’t pleased with.
“…Wait a bit”
Then Balkan got up from the stool.
He walked past me without saying a word and went out of the house.
“I should just wait… Right?”
I’m confused but, well, he told me to wait, and looks like he got something so… Let’s wait a bit.
I waited while fiddling with the sword I had chosen.
A few minutes later, Balkan came back.
There was a sword in his hand.
Then Balkan held it out to me.
“So, what’s this?”
“A special one, try give it a swing”
I see, so that’s it.
I glanced at the sword I was holding now, the one I had chosen.
The one I chose with “Flowing Longsword Mastery” is definitely the best sword of all the swords in the house.
It’s probably one that Balkan himself deems as his best work.
So he took a liking to me for pinpointing it and brought out the special one he had been hiding, huh.
While thinking, this kind of craftsman is common, isn’t it, I placed the sword I had chosen back on a nearby rack and took the sword from Balkan.
What Balkan brought was a splendid workmanship that set it apart clearly from the swords in the house.
Then I unsheathed and swung it.
I tried to give the sword a quick swing, which drew a pink afterglow.
I tilted my head.
I swung it some more, and stared at the splendid workmanship.
Not good, this one.
I don’t know why Balkan handed this to me, but it’s not good.
I sheathed the sword and threw it back to Balkan.
“I’ll give that back”
“This one is the better sword. I’ll take this one”
I picked up the sword that I had chosen earlier, which I placed back on the rack for a moment.
Balkan held the splendid sword.
Immediately after I thought that he had been staring at me for a while, “Fu, fufu, FUHAHAHA!,” he suddenly looked at the ceiling and made a three-stages laugh.
“Why’re you suddenly laughing like that”
“Looks like you really got a good eye”
“…You tested me, huh”
“Yeah, you choose the right one without being misled by my words and actions. It seems your insight is in the right place”
I was dumbfounded.
That’s how you’re testing me, huh.
You’re a very ill-natured old man, you know that?
“Kid, your name?”
Getting more and more dumbfounded, I sighed, “It’s Yuuto Mouskouri. I told you my name earlier,” while answering him.
“I see. Yuuto”
“Can you wait three days?”
“I’ll forge a sword for you”
“A sword for me?”
“That’s certainly the best in my collection, but it’s not made for anyone in mind. I’ll forge one for you if I got all night”
“You mean a personal sword, huh”
I thought about it for a moment, and then made a slight smile.
I have no reason to refuse.
Balkan gave a happy smile on his face, something I couldn’t have imagined when we first met.
After three days, I came to Balkan’s place again.
And I knocked on the door.
“Oh, come in!,” Balkan answered it in a welcoming voice, completely the opposite of last time.
When I opened the door and got inside, I found Balkan with dark circles under his eyes, but his eyes themselves were blazing bright.
“You came just in time. It’s done,” Balkan said, and laid out three swords on the desk.
“Three?,” I asked and tilted my head when I saw it.
“It’s a swordsmith’s superstition. When you forge a sword for someone, forge three at once. And then the one who receives it will break the other two to pieces with the one that got chosen. Like that is how you see it truly completed”
What an interesting ritual.
One by one, I picked up the sword, pulled it out, and compared them with swings.
“Amazing, there’s almost no differences”
“You really do have good eyes, Yuuto. That’s right, all three of them, I forged it with everything I’ve got in me right now. It’s workmanship that pushed me to the limits”
I nodded, agreeing to him.
If I were to take what Balkan said and put it into my own sense, it would be workmanship with one of them scoring a 100 out of a 100, and the other two scoring 99.
I’m thankful he did it for me that seriously.
“Then I’ll take this one,” I said, and took the sword that scored 100 points.
“Alright, break the other two to pieces with that”
I nodded, drew the sword, and unleashed it.
I swung down the sword, which made a pink afterglow due to Mastery, towards the remaining two.
The moment I broke the two swords to pieces, light overflowed from them and was absorbed by the hundred-point sword.
After taking it in, the light emitted by the sword became much stronger.
Balkan tilted his head. Apparently, Balkan wasn’t able to see it.
However, I somehow understood it.
“The one who started this ritual”
“Surely, he must’ve had a skill,” I said.
And to my conjecture, “You sure know a lot, huh,” Balkan simply approved it.
I made a light smile.
I stared at the sword I was holding.
Looks like I got myself a much better sword than I first thought I would have.