Most blacksmiths, while not all, tend to have a prickly personality.
This is because the job of a blacksmith itself is very arduous, but also because it is a profession where mistakes cannot be made in any part of the production process.
Items made in the forge involve working with iron and fire, so even a small mistake can lead to various problems.
Not only can there be accidents, large and small, but an item that has been worked on for a long time can become unusable due to a single mistake.
Therefore, blacksmiths generally have a prickly nature, and this was also true for the blacksmith who came from Sertoa and is now employed as a leader in the Lartania forge.
He sighed discreetly while looking at the Lord of Lartania, who entered the forge with a displeased expression, surveying the surroundings.
Ralph had already guessed why Kim Hyunwoo had stopped by the forge.
‘It must be about the production volume.’
Ralph began to imagine what the Lord, who was looking around the forge, would say next.
The first thing likely to be said would definitely be a criticism about production volume directed at Ralph.
After Ralph starts pointing out the issues with the low production volume, the Lord will likely propose a nonsensical solution.
Then, the administrative staff who follow the Lord around might applaud, and the Lord will be pleased as if he has done something great, which was the behavior Ralph had observed from Lords in the past.
Therefore, Ralph was seriously considering what to say to the Lord in front of him.
The forge was currently short-staffed.
Although there were definitely good materials, whose origin was unknown, there was a dire shortage of blacksmiths to work with the iron.
Thus, although Ralph was clearly aware of the problem, he was choosing his words because whatever he said, the response from the Lord was predictable.
After all, even if he detailed the current issues of the forge to the Lord in front of him, the likely response would be nonsensical suggestions like, ‘No manpower? Then just add more people from the territory.’
Working with iron to produce weapons or armor in this manner was a task only somewhat skilled blacksmiths could do.
Inserting residents with no experience would be meaningless.
However, Lords who not only looked down on the profession of blacksmithing but also regarded it as some form of menial labor casually made such remarks in front of Ralph.
Ralph disliked hearing those words.
Of course, he was fully aware that the Lord was in the position of an employer, and leaving the forge he had opened with his own money, he recognized that being able to work here was somewhat fortunate for him, who otherwise had nothing.
Even if he had been somewhat successful, it was clear there would have been no place for him to work outside of Lartania, as other places already had blacksmiths established.
However, having pride in his profession as a blacksmith, he wanted to avoid being belittled to his face, even if he was an employee.
The first words from the Lord’s mouth were quite different from what Ralph had expected.
“I said it’s impressive. All the equipment in the forge is properly managed, and the efficiency shown by just about ten people must be because the blacksmiths are working hard.”
The Lord, who was seriously looking around and muttering, soon started to speak as if in admiration after looking around.
“That, it looks like the equipment was placed arbitrarily to increase production. Indeed, operating in such a way has its advantages since everyone can work together. However, it would increase the difficulty – considering the production volume, the skills must be exceptional.”
“The smelting process also seems to have had a lot of effort put into it, are you using a mixture of powdered flux and clay? Indeed, doing it this way can produce iron of a higher purity.”
“And the quenching process-”
As each word flowed from the Lord’s mouth, Ralph’s mouth hung open, and his irritated gaze filled with surprise and astonishment.
The reason was that everything the Lord said was true, not just superficial.
Therefore, Ralph found himself asking a question without realizing it.
“By any chance, have you worked with iron before, My Lord?”
At that, Kim Hyunwoo showed his hands, free of calluses, and said,
“That’s unlikely, I’m not cut out to be a blacksmith. After all, blacksmithing requires endurance, physical strength, and perseverance, doesn’t it?”
“I lack the perseverance for blacksmithing,” Kim Hyunwoo said briefly, prompting Ralph to ask further.
“But how do you know so much about working with iron?”
“Am I not the Lord? I should know how hard the people working for me are working. And also have the discernment to see how diligently they are working.”
At the Lord’s words, Ralph unwittingly stared at him with a blank expression.
Thinking about it, he had rarely been acknowledged for his work as a blacksmith.
Although he was certainly a skilled blacksmith, he was not the master craftsman sought after by the Lords of all territories.
Thus, receiving recognition from a high-ranking individual for the first time in decades.
“I look forward to your continued good work.”
‘This Lord, he’s different.’
Ralph faintly realized that the Lord of Lartania was different from any he had seen before.
Recently, Elena has been repeating a routine that accumulates quite a bit of fatigue throughout her day.
Waking up in the morning to train, eating lunch and then training, and training after dinner – her days are not much different from five years ago when she desperately trained to shine on her own.
Thinking back, this meant that Elena always had fatigue and irritation on her face five years ago.
The insane amount of training brought fatigue, and the lack of improvement despite such efforts led to negative thoughts.
However, despite spending as much, if not more, time training as she did five years ago, Elena’s face now bore a smile instead of fatigue and irritation.
The reason was that Elena herself felt that she was growing.
Unlike five years ago, when she felt like she was floundering in a swamp, she was now growing rapidly, a fact she herself could feel.
After the Lord did something for her, the awkwardness of her hand axe improved noticeably with more practice.
The hand axe she wielded became precise enough to hit targets accurately in any situation.
Furthermore, her movements became more agile and flexible day by day.
Movements that were previously impossible became possible, and her body, which was neither stiff nor particularly flexible, could now perform some level of acrobatics, giving Elena a sense of achievement.
The sense of accomplishment from her own growth and the confidence that she was taking another step forward.
This made each day enjoyable for Elena recently.
For her, who had not received any rewards despite her efforts, the fact that her efforts were now being rewarded was sweeter than any fruit.
Furthermore, for this reason, Elena truly felt grateful to the Lord.
‘It must be because the Lord did something for me.’
Elena thought of her Lord.
The one who recruited her, once called a failed hero, a week ago and awakened talents she herself was unaware of.
Indeed, as the Lord had said, she had a talent for the hand axe.
But at the same time, Elena knew.
That such unbelievable growth day by day couldn’t just be due to having talent.
…Of course, Kim Hyunwoo did nothing beyond giving Elena a potion to boost her skill on the first day to increase her confidence.
Thus, Elena’s daily growth was indeed due to her ‘innate’ talent, but unaware of this, she sincerely felt grateful to the Lord.
After all, without him, Elena would never have had such an experience in her lifetime.
‘Once I become stronger, I must repay this kindness.’
Elena smiled softly, thinking of the Lord who had recruited her and continued to allow her to train.
Soon, in a tavern she visited for a simple meal due to the absence of a restaurant nearby-
“The Lord is a very fascinating person.”
Elena, seeing Ralph talk about the Lord inside the tavern, wore a surprised expression.
The reason was that Elena knew about Ralph to some extent.
‘Master Craftsman Ralph.’
As she knew, Ralph was a well-regarded blacksmith from the Sertoa territory.
It was fair to say that no better blacksmith existed in the territories near Sertoa.
Even compared to the masters of the Norba Kingdom, aside from their signature techniques, his skills were not much different from theirs.
For this reason, adventurers, heroes, and mercenaries active in the nearby territories would wait more than half a year to purchase weapons he made.
The weapon Elena had used before was also made by him.
However, she was surprised not because she saw Ralph, but because of what he said.
As far as she knew, Ralph had a strong sense of pride in his profession and was not one to easily acknowledge or praise someone as a blacksmith.
Moreover, in Sertoa, it was well-known that he would criticize the Lord in taverns almost daily, and she had heard Ralph speaking ill of the Lord before.
“…I don’t know how it was made, but that blue flame is also useful.”
Therefore, seeing Ralph seemingly acknowledging the Lord instead of criticizing him, she couldn’t help but wear a surprised expression.
‘The Lord is truly versatile.’
Following Ralph’s words, Elena expressed her admiration for the Lord, who had received the blacksmith’s acknowledgment.
As Kim Hyunwoo responded to Loria, who was looking at the information window with satisfaction, she continued.
Kim Hyunwoo shrugged at Loria’s words.
‘I honestly didn’t think it would increase this much.’
Kim Hyunwoo praised the blacksmiths to the point of dryness because he knew efficiency varied with the blacksmiths’ morale.
‘Who would have thought that my experience of running around the forge to make a great sword for a hero in Arteil without spending cash would come in handy here…’
Kim Hyunwoo, who played the forge minigame thousands of times to make cash items demanded by heroes without spending money, was able to praise the blacksmiths with that knowledge.
Thanks to the descriptions that appeared all day during the thousands of minigame attempts, he was able to increase efficiency by praising the blacksmiths for even the most minor details.
However, one thing was puzzling.
‘It seemed like he wasn’t that pleased.’
Kim Hyunwoo had seen Ralph’s stats when he visited the forge.
‘Currently, he hasn’t fully developed, but if he grows, he has the talent to become at least a master, and if nurtured well, even surpass having a signature to become a true master.’
A true master refers to a blacksmith with the talent to create weapons of greater value than those farmed in Labyrinths.
Such blacksmiths were rare.
Even Kim Hyunwoo was surprised when he first saw Ralph’s stats.
‘Originally, blacksmiths came in randomly, so I didn’t pay much attention.’
Like a 500 consecutive gacha blowout, Kim Hyunwoo, who had no expectations due to his generally bad luck, felt as if he had struck it rich upon seeing Ralph.
In any case, the point was that despite Ralph’s reaction not being very noticeable, and assuming that the efficiency wouldn’t increase much because he was well-regarded by those around him, the efficiency turned out to be higher than expected.
Feeling puzzled, Kim Hyunwoo soon shrugged.
After all, as long as the efficiency was high, he had no complaints.
‘I’ll gradually help Ralph grow, and with this level of efficiency, we should be able to start in earnest in about two weeks, including what we’ve already produced.’
He looked forward to the Labyrinth expedition happening in two weeks.
And so, two weeks passed.
The day of the Labyrinth expedition arrived.
And at the moment when Kim Hyunwoo was about to seriously tackle the first layer.
“It’s okay, it will be okay… because it’s still, still just one person. Still-”
The Absolute Ruler of Darkness was muttering to herself alone.
“I too, just one more… if I gather just one more, then I can go.”
“Just a little more-”
“…I can, go.”
With gloomy eyes.
“Just, a bit more.”
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