The second day I messaged Alice that I won’t be going to school because of a project I’ll have to start with my uncle, telling her not to worry nor to come to my place.
[I understand. If you need anything, please don’t shy away from asking for my help. I’ll do anything I can for you.]
I read her message and just wrote back a [Thank you] then closed, getting back to work.
“You finally have someone that cares for you. Are you willing to cast them aside?”
Seeing me start working in the morning rather than go to school, Uncle asked me with his usual rough voice while drinking from his wine bottle. Hearing this, I glanced back at him then continued on working while saying plainly,
“I won’t cast her aside. I just need some time for myself. That trip was a bit too much for me.”
“Damn. You really turned into a loner.”
“I learned from you.”
He sneered amused then went to change. After coming back, he started digging a hole and put inside of it some kind of sand and dried clay, throwing in there a bucket of water.
“What are you doing?”
I looked surprised and asked unsurely, then he answered plainly while his hands didn’t stop moving.
“I’m making casts for the armor. I have to make multiple pieces after all.”
“Casting? But doesn’t that lower the quality of the metal?”
I asked surprised while looking at my uncle doing something new for the first time in a while.
I always knew that hammering the metal into shape can purify and turn the metal to be much denser, making it stronger as well. The fact that my uncle, who is a perfectionist, wants to use casting for crafting, made me look at him rather weirdly. Feeling my stare, he grinned then answered back,
“Brat, you really think that after casting the piece of armor, I would simply leave it as it is?”
“When I’ll make a chest piece, I’ll be sure to cast three of them, then hammer them together into one resilient and sturdy chest plate. I ain’t making no metallic rooftop tiles, you brat.”
Thinking about this possibility, the Japanese Samurai sword, the Katana suddenly appeared in my mind. That one was made after the same concept of having more layers of metal one on top of the other, then manually hammer it then give it the desired shape. However, unlike the western swords, that type of sword would appear to be both resilient and easily bent at the same time, the sword not breaking even at the impact with a sturdier object.
Even though it’s only three layers, if uncle would be able to actually do such a thing, then whoever would wear that armor would surely not have to fear even the impact of a war-hammer or battle-axe.
I nodded my head rather impressed, and then I grabbed a huge roll of 1.5mm steel wire.
“How big should the rings be?”
“Try around 0.8 or 0.7cm. If it’s too small, then you can go for bigger as well.”
“I’ll need more tries?!”
“Trial and error mah boe~! Now get to workin’!”
I sighed annoyed and after getting a drill, I took a wooden bar as thick as a pen, then placed the wire through a hole the stick had on one side. Afterward, I connected the wooden bar to the drill and started it. The wire slowly but surely spiraled on the bar, creating a perfect string for as long as around half a meter. I then took off the string from the bar and started to cut from one side ring after ring by using a bolt-cutter, the process being repeatable and monotonous. After around 15 minutes, I was able to completely cut the rings. When I was finally done with the cutting, I took two pliers and started uniting the ends of the rings so they would be perfectly closed, the finished rings being then placed on another rod.
F******. Persistent. Steel rings!💢
The difficulty of bending hundreds of little steel rings really made my hands feel a new type of pain. When I finally filled the little rod with the rings, I took an open ring and placed it through one ring on one side. After that, I took another one and placed it through the first one that already had a ring on it together with the next one, of course, the rings being then closed at the end.
One hour, two hours, three hours, five hours! A good amount of time passed and I was barely able to do a piece of chainmail that was no larger than my palm.
“My f****** back!”
I got up from my chair at the table and felt how my neck and back were already killing me, wondering if I could really finish the chainmail in time.
-CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!-
Meanwhile, my uncle was hammering the pieces of armor he created like crazy, knowing that after he finishes, he’ll have to quickly help me so we can actually end this full set of armor in two months. The crazy amount of sparks made even me frown, thinking that uncle’s stomach and chest must be screaming from the temperature.
Stupid bastard! Taking such a ridiculous command and we’re supposed to finish it in two months! I swear, if we don’t charge them for more, then I won’t sleep well at night.
I grumped annoyed under my beard and got up to prepare some food, only for later to continue again and stop again when it was time to eat once more then go sleep.
The next day at school I was dead-tired as my back, fingers, and neck were killing me.
“Leon? Are you alright?”
“I’m good. Just-… Ugh… the new project it’s just ridiculous…”
I was sleeping in class and could barely focus, but at least I was able to relax for a while longer. I also felt bad that I was unable to do anything lover-like with Alice like going on dates or things like that, thinking that the moment I get home I’ll try to work hard enough so to at least gain one free day for that.
“You don’t really need to force yourself like that. Is not like I’ll be leaving to some far-away place, right?”
Because we had to keep our relationship a secret, I told her all of this through messages. But it seems that what I said made her feel like talking to me directly, her eyes shining elated. She appeared quite pleased by the fact that I was thinking about her so much.
“Hmm… Well, what I can promise you for sure is that I’ll be able to finish until Christmas.”
“Are we going somewhere on Christmas?!”
She exclaimed gladdened and I smiled calmly. Bellow the bench I touched her hand and answered,
“If there is a place you want to visit especially, then feel free to tell me.”
“Hm~ then how about…”
After listening to her request, the moment I reached home I had to search for the keys to my old house, then buy more cleaning tools as I had to clean the whole place. Thankfully, the place was just as I left it, only dust and a few spiders being the only differences.
“She wants to spend Christmas in my old place? Why? Rather, only us? And the whole night?! I must’ve misunderstood something…”
After remembering her request of going to my old house and have some fun there, I was still in a state of confusion. At first, I thought she was joking, only to see that she was dead-serious.
Well, whatever the reason, it won’t happen until two months from now. We are barely in October.
Thinking such, I did just some basic cleaning to have an easier time when I’ll visit it again two months later before Christmas when I’ll clean this place again.
After making sure that everything was fine, I left back to my uncle’s place and started working on the chainmail again.
One day, four days, a week, two weeks. Time passed by without anything new happening until someone I didn’t expect to meet again appeared before me.
“Yo~ Leon! Long time no see, buddy!”
“Since when were we buddies?”
Another guy to whom I crafted a knife in the past appeared before me with a fake friendly behavior, annoying me from hello.
“Aw~ come on. No need to be like that~.”
He reached out and I was more than happy to let him touch my shoulder. However, the next moment he retreats his hand, his face turning pale,
“Ah. Almost forgot about your toys.”
“If you got nothing worth money to say, then beat it. I got work to do.”
I went past him and he quickly dodged as I wanted to brush past him, knowing already that if he touched me, a few cuts would magically appear on his body. He frowned annoyed then he cut down to the case,
“Alright, you f****** orphan. You really piss me off.”
“Say what you wanna. You’re not worth my time.”
“What if I got a deal for you?”
As I wanted to just walk away, his last words attracted my attention and I immediately turned his way interested. Seeing this, his face darkened annoyed, spitting on the ground in disgust,
“You money-hungry bastard… After school, come to Beta Park. There is someone who’s interested in your goods.”
“Unlike you fake bitches, I have to work my worth every day. Of course I’m hungry for money… Alright, I’ll be there.”
After class I then met up with him again, but just before we could leave the school-gates, Alice appeared before us, throwing glances at the guy beside me.
“Tzup beauty? Can’t take your eyes off me?”
“Where are you guys going?”
“Oh my~ so eager to know me?”
As Alice tried to chat with me, the guy kept on interrupting her, reaching out for her. She looked at me irritated and then I nodded once without care. Seeing my signal, Alice instantly smashed the guy to the ground with an over-the-shoulder throw.
“Ghak! Y-you bitch-“
“I’d suggest you lie down. You’re not her match. You, or other 10 like you.”
I squatted down beside his head and smiled amused, his face turning red from rage. Alice glanced fiercely at him once, making him feel pressured, and then she turned to me with a serious face,
“You… are you doing more of those shady businesses?”
“You said you’re already busy. Why are you accepting such requests?”
“I’m just curious.”
I then grabbed the punk by the collar and easily lifted him with one arm, making him stare baffled at me after putting him back on his legs with ease.
“Move it. And you, better don’t get too familiar with me.”
I signaled to the punk with a cynical smile, then turned to Alice and spoke out just like when we first met, making her aware that we better not be too friendly in front of these bastards.
She said nothing as she just looked at my departing silhouette with a pained gaze. Although she knew why I didn’t want to associate with her near those punks, my behavior still seemed to have hurt her, sighing once then shaking her head as to not mind it anymore.
As we continued on forward, we reached a park and after a bit, more thugs and punks started surrounding us. I didn’t even flinch as this wasn’t the first time I had to go in the middle of a squad of delinquents. The guy beside me smiled eerily and whispered with a laugh at me.
“You’re dead, orphan.”
“Oh, spare me the lame lines. You all say that.”
I smiled amused at him and he snorted annoyed then went to his group. From the whole group, one of them walked forward with a cigar in his mouth, a rather arrogant glare in his eyes, his legs spread as if to show some kind of dominance.
“Oy, are you the orphan blacksmith?”
“I keep on getting more titles, don’t I?”
“I asked you a question.”
He spat out his cigar then walked closer and closer to me, trying to intimidate me. I simply kept my smile on my face and chuckled amused after he reached right to my face,
“The price won’t go down even if you kiss me, tough guy.”
“You really know no fear.”
He chuckled amused then threw a punch the next moment right to my face, landing it in full.
He… He didn’t flinch at all?
He looked at me baffled then he felt a shudder down his spine after seeing my sharp burning gaze on him.
“Ptew… For that, you’ll be charged 50% more, then 20% bonus because you punch like a girl.”
“…I suppose you don’t know who you’re dealing-“
“Enough of your b*******, moron.”
I interrupted him annoyed then grabbed him by the collar and slammed him to the floor with one arm. I pointed at him and explained while pissed off, annoyed that I was wasting my time with these bastards,
“Listen here, you punks. I came here for business, not to listen to some spoiled kids’ cry for free toys. Grow up you s***-heads! Nothing is free! You want something from me?! Then f****** pay up! Don’t waste my time!”
“Y-you mad bastard! On him!”
The leader shouted annoyed, then the guys around quickly rushed my way.
I quickly ran out of the encirclement then turned to the first two that appeared before me. One punched while the second kicked out. I easily guarded the punch, injuring his fist with my blades, as for the kick, I blocked it then quickly grabbed his ankle, twisting it and incapacitating him. Next, some dude appeared with an iron bat raised above his head. Already annoyed at this, I took off my bag then used it to protect myself from the bat. I kicked the guy with the bat away from me then opened my bag annoyed and took out two blades that had no handle, forcing me to use them carefully so to not cut my fingers.
Another two appeared and I instantly went for the offensive, getting closer to the one in front and cutting his face multiple times.
“H-he cut his face!”
The guy with the bat that I injured quickly retreated while touching his face, bloodstains covering it now after he smeared the blood. Although the cuts were small, the blood oozing out was more than enough to scare everyone present. I smirked while breathing heavily and said loudly,
“I said it before and I’ll repeat myself, if you want something from me, then you gotta pay the price. Be it in money or blood.”
“You mad f*****.”
“He’s just one! Go!”
The leader appeared from between the crowd and took the bat from the one screaming, rushing my way. Unable to evade it, I had to use both arms to block, feeling both arms numbed from the impact.
“Get that, you f*****!”
“Bastard, don’t provoke me!”
Furious, I threw one of the blades from my hands and punched out with a karate punch right into his solar plexus, sending the bastard flying backward for a small distance, cutting his breath short.