As people waited for the reset timer in the Tutorial stage, a few visitors appeared.
“This is one hell of a mess.” A man in a blue robe spoke in an irritated tone as he looked at the ruined buildings. The retinue behind him stood with stiff expressions. The situation was more serious than what they’d expected from the report. Not only was everyone killed, everything they had built, collected, and achieved in secrecy had also turned to dust overnight. Even the stone they’d spent years making had disappeared without a trace. It was virtually impossible to conduct a proper investigation.
“Bild, you dumbass.”
“I should have known when he started becoming so greedy. What the fuck did he do to make things end up like this?”
“And here I was thinking Lord Leonte was only a step away from becoming one of the Martial Gods. Goddamn it!”
The followers clenched their teeth, cussing at the missing Bild. However, at the same time, they had to be extremely cautious.
"Find it at all costs, even if it means digging up the ruins or searching the whole Tutorial!"
The followers bowed their heads and quickly dispersed. The man then looked back at the ruins with blazing eyes and gnashed his teeth. "At such a crucial time like this…”
His name was Leonte, one of the five leaders of the Cheonghwado and formerly a member of Arthia.
* * *
"Can you teach me blacksmithing?" Yeon-woo asked after Henova recovered.
Henova’s eyebrows wriggled once again. "You…!”
"I’m not joking. I really want to learn the basics of blacksmithing," Yeon-woo said in a serious tone.
Realizing that Yeon-woo was sincere, Henova gently put down the hammer he was holding and picked up a pipe he had placed at his feet, putting it in his mouth.
'Oh, right. He’s a heavy smoker.'
At Yeon-woo’s calm stare, Henova puffed out a cloud of white smoke. "Why do you want to learn it?"
"There's something I want to repair."
"Repair? Repair what?"
"I'm sorry, but I can't show you." Yeon-woo fiddled with the watch in his pocket. It was already in bad shape when he received it, and he wanted to open it up and fix it as much as possible to see if there was something he’d missed or perhaps a clue that had been hidden inside.
Besides that, the watch held precious memories of him and his brother. He wanted to restore it to its original state, but since it was a magical artifact, he didn’t dare touch the devices inside. Henova might be able to repair it since he wasn’t only good at blacksmithing, but also alchemy and magical engineering. But Yeon-woo didn't want to show the pocket watch to Henova since he didn’t quite trust Henova just yet.
Considering how close he’d been to his brother, Henova would immediately recognize the watch, and although Yeon-woo could tell that the dwarf was a good man, it didn’t mean that he could be trusted. ‘And above all, I want to fix it myself.'
It was the item his younger brother had left behind, and he wanted to take care of it himself. It might be pointless stubbornness, but it was a promise Yeon-woo had made to himself.
"OK then." Henova puffed out smoke and nodded nonchalantly. Yeon-woo hadn't expected this reaction.
"I thought you would get angry at me."
"Why would I?"
"Because I’m asking you to teach me skills without even giving a proper explanation. I know I’m being unreasonable."
Henova raised the corner of his lips in a sneer as if he found something interesting. "So, you do know you’re being an asshole?"
Yeon-woo was speechless.
Henova puffed again. "Don’t say it if you don't want to. I don't care either. Players leaving their home world to climb up the Tower all have a story to tell. Just grab any random passerby and ask them to talk about their lives. You could probably write an entire book with the answer."
Henova finished with a laugh as something flickered in his eyes. Yeon-woo realized it was remorse. "I bet you're no different. Especially with a mask like that! You’re just advertising to everyone that you have lots of secrets.” With a chuckle, Henova drew on the pipe one last time and put it back on the ground. It was his first genuine laugh since meeting Yeon-woo, and his eyes now contained emotions other than irritation and wariness.
Henova picked up the hammer again. "I don't have time to give you a proper lesson because of your artifact, but I'll teach you the basics, and you’ll just have to watch and learn the rest."
"Hmph! You think I care? I’m only doing this because I’ve got nothing else to do."
Yeon-woo pretended he didn’t see Hanova's slightly red ears. Despite his seeming coldness, Henova was a self-conscious dwarf.
* * *
Although he’d said that he would only let Yeon-woo watch and learn, Henova began to nag him as soon as he picked up the hammer. He kicked Yeon-woo’s foot when Yeon-woo didn’t use the bellows correctly and threatened him with a hammer when Yeon-woo dropped the correct posture.
Because Henova kept looking over his shoulder so much, Yeon-woo hadn’t even done much hammering after a few hours. However, it was probably for the best. Everything in the smithy was dangerous. Some of the items were hot, some were pointy, and some were both. One single mistake could lead to serious injuries.
And even though he was someone who wouldn’t bat an eye at most injuries, Yeon-woo had to build a good foundation to prevent accidents, especially since the tools were all dwarven. This was the reason why Henova wouldn’t leave Yeon-woo alone, but his attention meant that Yeon-woo was acquiring the basics at a rapid pace.
Bang! Bang! Henova finally returned to his work after Yeon-woo started hammering with the proper posture. “Guess he’s not stupid.” Henova puffed his pipe to calm his excited mind, but the eyes he kept fixed on Yeon-woo began to curve as he watched Yeon-woo hammer a red-hot piece of metal.
Beginners usually made typical mistakes like hammering with the wrong amount of strength or soldering metal incorrectly. However, Yeon-woo hammered the correct parts with the right amount of strength, adjusting his force automatically as though he were already a skilled blacksmith.
It was an incredible feat. Henova had lived more than 300 years with a hammer in his hand, and he’d spent the last 100 years in the Tower, where people from various universes and dimensions gathered. He’d met all kinds of people with different levels of skill, from master blacksmiths to amateurs.
There had been those with talent but no knowledge of basics, and he’d even had an apprentice who’d started off with confidence but ended up leaving in frustration because of the hard work. None came close to learning as fast as this kid. He didn’t seem to have any knowledge at all when he started, but he learned and adapted every time Henova pointed out his mistakes. In a short time, he was moving and working like an ordinary blacksmith. It was the first time Henova had ever seen anyone learn so fast. ‘Or, is it the second time?’
‘Hey, pops! Can you teach me how to use this hammer? I’ve always wanted to learn how to make weapons and armor! Please teach me…please!’ The voice of a person that did not belong to this world anymore popped into Henova’s mind, and a wistful memory of a kid hammering fiercely in front of the furnace seemed to overlap with his view of the one currently working in front of him. Henova shook his head, sneering at himself. ‘I’m getting old and thinking about nonsense.’ After shaking away the memories, he threw his pipe at Yeon-woo, who happened to make a mistake at that very moment. "You idiot! I told you that’s not the right angle!" Once again, Henova began to nag Yeon-woo.
* * *
Yeon-woo was on his way back to the inn, walking on a serene street illuminated by the moon. 'It’s been about half a month since I arrived here.' The path that he’d once only seen in the diary and used to be so foreign to him already became a part of Yeon-woo’s daily routine. ‘He is a fun dwarf.’
The inn, the cafe, and Henova’s smithy were the only places Yeon-woo had gone to for the past few days. He was learning blacksmithing not just to fix the pocket watch, but also to understand his brother’s former life. Everything was interesting and enjoyable, especially the time he spent with Henova, who was simple-minded enough to fall for any trick Yeon-woo pulled on him.
He was also so soft-hearted that he would frequently check on Yeon-woo to see if he encountered any problems while learning to smith. It made Yeon-woo feel a little guilty for teasing him, and he was beginning to understand why his brother had considered him a father figure. He had felt the same warmth and care during the time he’d spent with Henova.
‘I thought you had lost everything, but I'm happy to know you still had someone by your side.' Yeon-woo had learned to never fully trust in anyone, and no matter how truthful someone was, Yeon-woo always kept a part of himself wary. But even with his cold eyes, he could see that Henova would never be able to stab anyone in the back. He couldn’t have betrayed his brother.
That was why Yeon-woo decided to not reveal his identity in the end. He didn’t want to drag Henova into his revenge. It was enough to get to know Henova and feel relief that his brother hadn’t been alone and friendless in the Tower. 'As soon as Gyges’ Eyes is complete, I will completely disappear from the smithy.'
He had almost finished learning the basics of blacksmithing and had also memorized some of the forging techniques by watching Henova. It would be fine if he practiced somewhere else.
A chilly night breeze blew across the street, and Yeon-woo looked at the moon hanging in the night sky as he ran a hand through his hair. Just as he had hoped, he was finally in the Tower, and he had achieved some of the things he planned to do. He had managed to peer into Jeong-woo’s life and met the person his brother had been close to. Now, he had only one goal left: ‘Climb the Tower and face the enemy.’
Of course, that would require a long preparation. No matter how strong Yeon-woo had been in the Tutorial, his enemies were still ahead of him. The enemies he had to slay were high rankers, and they only stayed in the upper floors because the Outer District and lower levels of the Tower—where all the dregs of society lived—were beneath them. It was likely that they hadn’t even heard of Yeon-woo.
Yeon-woo had to get stronger as quickly as possible so he could at least stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them and hold them accountable for his brother’s death. But he still had a long way to go until he could reach that point. ‘That’s why I need Gyges’ Eyes.’ The artifact which Henova was crafting floated in his mind, but of course, it wasn’t the only thing he needed. Above all, his own skills were the most important. 'In the Tutorial, I was lucky enough to gain more things than I expected. I need to focus on mastering them and making them my own.'
Yeon-woo was already practicing his skills and using the items he earned in the Tutorial during his spare time. But just as he was checking on his skills, five men appeared from around a corner and stood in his way.
‘What is this?’ Yeon-woo frowned as they circled him. He wondered if they were the same people who’d tailed him when he first entered the Outer District.
"White mask and red leather armor. It’s him, the stupid idiot who ignored our warnings and keeps going to Henova’s smithy," the one in front of Yeon-woo said in an annoyed tone.Previous Chapter Next Chapter