Episode 33: 【Idle Talk】 May the souls of the great men rest.
Several days passed since the day of the fierce fight against the Spiritual Beast at the rock salt mine.
Yamato was seriously injured, but thanks to resting, he was now able to move around.
“I wonder if there has been any particular incident in the mine?”
Since he was now able to properly move, he went to the mine to check up on the state of it.
Although the Spiritual Beast had been finally defeated, this was a place that hadn’t been touched by people’s hands for a very long time.
So, before the full-scale operation began, he wanted to make one final confirmation with his own eyes, and look for any potential danger that remained.
“I believe the mine will be ready to be used after a few repairs.”
There was no major damage dealt to the equipment inside the mine. That being the case, it was highly likely that the facilities would be able to be used after some minor repairs.
This was due to the foundation work by the Mountain Clan People was properly made.
They always did a fitting job not cutting any corner, that was the way of the Mountain Clan.
“Firstly, we’ll be mining rock salt for the use in the village. And after that…”
He began thinking about the future of the rock salt mine.
After all, this was one of the best rock salt reserves in the continent.
And since Yamato wanted to keep its existence secret, it was necessary to carefully handle the salt mined in the future.
The reason for that was because ‘salt’ was essential for human survival.
Even throughout the history of Earth, salt always occupied an important position in politics and economics, especially in the ancient times. Salt merchants amassed considerable wealth, some even gaining a title in the nobility thanks to that.
There were also many rulers who took control of the salt away from regional lords, turning it into a monopoly, enriching themselves.
In any case, Yamato wanted to avoid a similar scenario, therefore he wanted to pay close attention to the handling of salt in the future.
“First, we need to arrange the mining and refining methods.”
The salt directly dug out had a lot of impurities mixed in, so it was not very suitable for human consumption.
In order to turn it into an edible commodity, the knowledge of the Mountain Clan was needed.
While considering how to handle the salt, he went inside to check on the safety of the mine.
“Well then, the last part is the bottom…”
As Yamato finished checking the safety in the mine, he headed for the final place.
The mining site at the bottom of the mine. This was the place where they had the deadly battle against the Spiritual Beast a few days ago.
Going down the gradual slope, he reached the bottom.
“Oh, you’re here, Jii-san.”
He spoke to the person already at that bottom layer.
“So you came too, huh? Kid…”
It was Gaton, the old man from the Mountain Clan.
Without a torch, and only with the light moss in his surroundings, there he stood quietly in the dim-lit cave.
“It’s not good to be just standing in such a dark place, Jii-san.”
“Hmph, the Mountain Clan people can see good enough even in this darkness.”
“That, I can tell.”
Walking closer, Yamato stood next to Gaton, and turning his head, he followed his line of sight.
At the blacksmith’s feet, Gaton was staring at a black ‘something’ with narrowed eyes.
“Is this the corpse of the Spiritual Beast?”
“Yeah… or more like, what’s left of it…”
Gaton looked at the corpse of what once was the ferocious Spiritual Beast they had beaten a few days ago. After Yamato had finally delivered the killing blow, he along with the others left, leaving the corpse in this place.
“When a Spiritual Beast dies, its body turns into dust after its soul left the body, becoming again one with the land…”
Unlike ordinary animals, Spiritual Beasts left behind no blood nor bones after they died.
When their core was destroyed, after a short time they simply turned into dust, scattering along the winds and disappearing without leaving a trace. And together with it, the souls of the creatures it killed while alive.
“Do any of your friends or family are in this dust?”
“Yeah… they were all good people. One was the best miner I’ve known, the other was a blacksmith…”
A hundred years ago, the village of the Mountain Clan People who lived next to this mine was destroyed and its inhabitants slaughtered when the Spiritual Beast descended upon them.
Some people barely escaped similarly to Gaton, but most of the families were eaten, with their souls devoured by the Spiritual Beast.
“This past hundred years… I hated this Spiritual Beast, I loathed it, despised it. I was never able to let go of it, to leave it in the past…”
Almost in a murmur, Gaton continued talking.
A hundred years ago, I felt ashamed of surviving all by myself, I felt ashamed of the me who left my family and friends behind.
Even after being saved and taken care by the Village of Urd, that flame of grudge never vanished.
The very existence of ‘Spiritual Beasts’ in the continent was like natural disasters, brought forth by the world itself. And the doom and destruction that came with them couldn’t be avoided.
Therefore, I tried to discard the anger of losing my family.
So, with my will broken and with no place to go, I just kept on striking the iron, over and over and over again, for nearly one hundred years in my workshop.
Unexpectedly, the opportunity came for me to acquire the title of Master Grand Blacksmith.
But, even with that, this old heart of mine did not heal.
“It was at that time when you… a ‘Lost one’ appeared…”
The mysterious young man named Yamato, bringing wisdom that would save the village of Urd. With new technology and courage, he really solved the village’s problems.
With a weapon in hand, he defeated ferocious beasts with skills that were too fast for the eye to observe.
He also carried mysterious tools and weapons.
“Those weird mechanical devices… even me who has trained in metal crafting for over a century had never seen something similar before. I honestly was very shocked…”
“Ah, you talking about that time?”
Somewhere in my heart I hoped…『Maybe if it’s this person, could he do something about that Spiritual Beast? 』.
However, I did not want to use someone to exact revenge in my stead.
“It was never my intention for you to risk your live for this selfish me…”
“So that’s why you hesitated at the end? And why you decided to toss ‘that’ to me.”
After listening to Gaton’s story, Yamato pulled out the single-edged sword he had attached to his waist. It was the sword that Gaton had handed to him during the last struggle against the Spiritual Beast.
It was thanks to this sword that he was able to defend against the tentacles and approach the Spiritual Beast, barely defeating it.
“That’s just a ‘sword of grudges’ that I made to defeat the Spiritual Beast. It’s not something noble like a sword to protect lives…”
Gaton felt deeply regretful.
The ‘God of Iron and Fire’ who loved dearly the Mountain Clan People had given them a strict command of 『Never strike the iron with personal feelings of hatred』.
And Gaton had broken that vow.
Based on Yamato’s ‘Japanese survival knife’, a fruit of the apex of contemporary Japanese craftsmen, he decided to create a new sword.
The following seven days and nights before the battle against the Spiritual Beast, he put his body and soul into mixing his treasured alloys with the survival knife. The result was this cursed sword, in which Gaton had poured his hundred years of grudges.
Gaton story continued.
“But I… I couldn’t handle the sword to you when I saw you. I was at loss… I regretted my foolish behavior while crafting it.”
“So, you did worry about my equipment.”
He talked about the last check before Yamato entered the cave a few days ago. That time, Gaton was nagging him about his light gear.
That was likely the time when he felt conflicted over whether he should hand Yamato the sword or not. That seemed to be the reason for the strange situation.
“Forgive me, kid… no, forgive me, Yamato. Due to my own selfishness, I placed you and the rest of the village in danger…”
With a choked-up voice, Gaton apologized.
A stubborn and inflexible Mountain Clan person was admitting his own mistake.
“Don’t worry about it, Jii-san. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“What!? But, what I did…”
“After all, its thanks to you that me and the rest of the villagers are alive. Let’s leave it at that.”
Yamato’s words carried no lies.
He couldn’t even begin to imagine what life would be like in the village if it wasn’t for this old blacksmith.
The tools he created greatly improved the living in the village, and the weapons he made allowed them to secure furs and meat to survive the cold and harsh winter.
It was also thanks to Gaton that the crossbow squad was able to protect the village from the cruel bandits.
And now, it was all thanks to the sword made by Gaton that they could secure salt from the mine after getting rid of that monster.
“Not sure of this counts as ‘compensation’. But I’ll give this to you, Jii-san.”
While Gaton was lost for words, Yamato handed to him a bowl-like cup.
Then poured a clear amber liquid from a small bottle he brought from the village.
“The village chief’s most treasured and hidden liquor. I ‘borrowed’ a bit.”
“Drinking now out of all times…?”
“It’s an offering.”
He then went on to explain to Gaton.
In his home country, there was the custom of ‘dedicating an offering to those who had passed away’. And this liquor and the cup were for that purpose.
“You’re surprisingly nice to this old man…”
“Here, I’ll accompany you.”
Pouring liquor into his cup too, they moved their eyes towards the pile of dust that once was the Spiritual Beast.
“So that the souls of those Mountain Clan warriors may find rest… cheers.”
There was no need for a long goodbye.
He and Gaton raised the cup in silence, towards nobody in particular.
Offering a mourn towards the souls of those great men.
TLN: The sword, Gaton calls it maken, which could be either magic sword or cursed sword, but since he is regretful of the feelings he poured into it while making it I went with cursed sword.