Chapter 901: Jorfaic Collbrande

Tsubaki’s father, Jorfaic Collbrande, had been born into the Collbrande Main Family sixty-seven years in the past. He had been the second son of the Patriarch’s brother and, after several years of internal competition over who would be the next head of the family, Jorfaic ultimately failed in his endeavors. His cousin, the son of the Patriarch, had been able to become a [Master Smith] at the age of thirty-two, confirming his place as his father’s successor. As for Jorfaic, even though he was also highly skilled and well on his way to becoming a [Master Smith], he had been moved into the Branch Family to remove him from contention. His older brother, Edwin, had been good friends with the Patriarch’s son, Dulgurim, forcing Jorfaic to sacrifice his career as a [Blacksmith] in order to become a Merchant.

Dissatisfied with the lot he had been given, Jorfaic ended up ‘betraying’ the Collbrande Family by stealing away the valuables and sinking one of their small merchant vessels. He then vanished, seeking asylum within Orario before taking up his hammer once again. Jorfaic was determined to become a [Master Smith] so that, when he did return to the Iron Hills one day, he would be able to show his brother and cousin how foolish they were. They had tried to suppress his growth by forcing him into the position of a Merchant but, once he obtained the title of [Master Smith], they would be seen as fools within Dwarven society while Jorfaic was free to open his own Workshop.

The Matriarch wasn’t entirely sure what happened while Jorfaic was within Orario, but Vahn knew the man had sought out other capable blacksmiths before finally meeting Tsubaki’s mother, Sakuya. Not only did she have techniques that were significantly different from the Dwarves, especially when it came to forging weapons, but she was already a [Master Smith] at the time. The two entered into a relationship after a few years had passed before Sakuya ended up becoming pregnant with Tsubaki…

This was where things became tragic for all parties involved as, shortly after learning of Sakuya’s pregnancy, Jorfaic’s mentality had undergone certain changes, allowing him to finally break into the coveted [Master Smith] rank at the startling age of twenty-nine. Upon realizing his dream, Jorfaic had immediately wanted to return to the Iron Hills to show the Collbrande Main Family how foolish they had been to try and make him into a Merchant. With his achievement, he was one of the youngest [Master Smith]s in the entire History of the Iron Hills, beating out the son of the Patriarch a full three years while his older brother was behind by nearly ten…

Once the story had gotten to this point, Vahn’s expression had turned icy as he asked, “What happened to Jorfaic after he returned…?” By now, he had already started to glean some insight into things, especially with how the Matriarch claimed Jorfaic to have been exiled. Matching his expectations, the elderly woman showed a mournful expression as she said, “Jorfaic did indeed return to the Iron Hills, but it wasn’t in triumph…because he had stolen wealth, sunk a merchant vessel, and compromised an entire caravan…he had been exiled from the family. He had also been blacklisted and labeled as a criminal by the Elder Council, barred from entering into the Iron Hills as a citizen…”

Vahn’s expression hardened even more upon hearing this as he once again repeated, “What happened to him…?” At this point, the room had become incredibly tense as everyone present hung their heads when the Matriarch answered, “The only fate for criminal exiles within the Iron Hills is to become slaves. If we hadn’t exiled Jorfaic, he could have ruined the entire family…” Because they would have been held accountable for Jorfaic’s criminal acts, the Collbrande Main Family had very quickly cut ties with their kin. This was a very common occurrence when there were any hiccups or accidents with the merchant caravan, as it was considered borderline treason to compromise the ‘lifeblood’ of the Iron Hills to such an extent.

Though he already knew the answer, Vahn still asked, “Is he alive…?” in a solemn tone. Just by the Matriarch’s expression alone, Vahn understood the truth of the matter. Even so, he still listened as she explained, “Jorfaic refused to become a criminal slave and pay off his debts, even though it wouldn’t have taken that long with his capabilities as a [Master Smith]. The Stormwright clan had offered him terms that would have allowed Jorfaic to earn his freedom after ten years…however, regardless of the terms, Jorfaic adamantly refused. In his attempt to escape, Jorfaic injured several members of the Stormwright Family and was subsequently executed for his crimes…”

Upon hearing this, Vahn was unable to resist allowing his domain to release a subtle pressure, as a strong desire to wreak havoc amongst the Stormwright clan emerged in him. However, he also understood that Jorfaic had indeed broken laws which, at the time, were beyond his means to do anything about. As the member of a Lesser Noble house, it was impossible that Jorfaic hadn’t been aware of the laws he had broken. That meant there was more to the situation while, at the same time, his justification for causing havoc at the Stormwright residence was without any basis. He would essentially be throwing a tantrum, even though it was an irrefutable truth that Jorfaic had broken the laws and had to be held accountable…

Trying to piece together the whole story, Vahn asked, “Do you know why Jorfaic was so against becoming a slave to pay for his crimes…?” Vahn already had a guess as to the reason, making it no surprise when the Matriarch looked towards the side, nodding her head towards the middle-aged Dwarf standing next to the Patriarch. The burly man swallowed audibly with a troubled expression on his face as he said, “I had the chance to meet with my brother when he was imprisoned. He argued that he could pay back all of his debts after returning to Orario, even if he had to pay double the amount owed. At the time, he wouldn’t explain why returning to Orario was so important, so it was seen as an attempt for him to escape responsibility once again…”

Even without the man explaining further, Vahn was able to deduce why Jorfaic had wanted to return, especially with how hesitant Edwin seemed to be about speaking on the matter. Tsubaki had become very famous as both a [Master Smith] and the Captain of the Hephaestus Familia. Even if they hadn’t known about her existence at first, the various merchant caravans that traded with the Hephaestus Familia obviously would have spread the word upon their return.

Vahn suspected that Jorfaic wanted to return for Tsubaki’s birth, likely after severing ties with the Collbrande Family directly. It was considered a pox of sorts, having a child with another race, but it was obvious that Jorfaic hadn’t been a conventional Dwarf in the least. He had fallen in love with a human woman who had greater skills than himself, even siring a child with her and becoming inspired enough to become a [Master Smith]. It was his desire to protect Tsubaki and Sakyua, who could have been pressured unfairly by the Iron Hills, that compelled him to remain silent when questioned…

To confirm part of his suspicions, Vahn asked, “Did you receive letters for Jorfaic around twenty years ago…?” This time, the atmosphere in the room became so tense that it felt like you would be able to cut through the air with a knife and leave a visible trail. For several long seconds, nobody answered Vahn’s question, causing the tension to increase further until the Matriarch finally explained, “After confirming the letters had been delivered…they were burned as an offering to Jorfaic’s unmarked grave…I’m sorry…” As criminals were not allowed to be buried with honors, most were simply tossed into mass graves or burned to ashes within a furnace. Jorfaic had been a small exception, as he had obtained the rank of [Master Smith], so his body was laid to rest with an unmarked gravestone on the edge of the Collbrande Family Estate…

Knowing that Tsubaki had paid exorbitant fees, during a period of her life when she was suffering the most, only for her letters to be burned away…made Vahn feel incredibly empty on the inside. Since the letters had been addressed to a dead man, it would have been exceptionally rude for anyone to actually read the contents but, the fact nobody had even bothered to send a return letter explaining the situation, causing Tsubaki to continue spending a small fortune to deliver more letters, showed just how greedy the Dwarves could be. Part of him wanted to punish these people for lacking the basic decency to provide any kind of closure to a girl that had been suffering greatly…even though this was a matter from more than twenty years ago…

After taking in a long breath, Vahn exhaled a sigh as he stated plainly, “Tsubaki is one of my most important people…you know, we even have a daughter together now. I had wanted to bring her some form of closure by finding out what happened to her father, a man she had spent thirty-nine years believing had abandoned her. Even when she was caring for her sick mother, desperately trying to contact her father, she had become an even greater victim because of the practices of your corrupt and wicked merchants…I don’t know what to tell her about this event, as it feels like anything I say would only bring her greater pain…”

Vahn knew it was possible to have ties closer than family, even with people that had no blood relation to you. At the same time, it was possible to have direct kin who felt extremely distant, to the point that they would even backstab you if it meant they would receive benefits. He didn’t want Tsubaki or Sakuya to have any relation to these kinds of people, even if they may one day grow beyond their current status and become kind and capable people in the future. Though it should be Tsubaki’s decision to make, Vahn’s expression turned icy as he said, “I feel an indignant rage, yet have no way to deal with it without causing a tragedy…from now on, the Collbrande Family no longer exists. You will change your name and bury this matter entirely…if I ever find out any of your family tries to use your loose relationship with Tsubaki to gain any form of benefits, I will fix my mistake by making you disappear myself…!”

Once the Iron Hills became a more open country, it was very likely that Tsubaki would one day venture to the homeland of her father and seek answers. Even if he lied to her and said he was unable to find out any information, there was no way he would be able to genuinely fool her. As much as he tried to hide his thoughts, Vahn was terrible at lying to the people that were close to him, especially women like Tsubaki. This meant he would have to tell her the truth at some point, as she deserved to know that her father had cared for her enough to stake his life just trying to return to them. One day, she may even forgive the Collbrande Family for what they had done, but that was something in the far future, for both of them…

As prideful as they may be, not even the Patriarch of the Collbrande Family was willing to stand against Vahn on this issue. He knew they had erred a great deal in how they handled the situation and, given Vahn’s power and authority, he had more than enough of both to completely bury his entire family. Dulgurim had even made an internal decision to properly mark Jorfaic’s grave and entomb the area properly, just in case Tsubaki or Vahn returned here one day. They didn’t have the right to seek any benefits from either of them but, depending on the choices his family made in the future, things weren’t entirely irreconcilable. As small a connection as it may be, they still had familial ties with Vahn and Tsubaki, meaning it was possible their family could flourish in the future if they changed their ways. (A/N: Remember, these are people that have lived like 80+ years only thinking about benefits. It is impossible that they wouldn’t be considering how best to make use of such a situation…)

Vahn spent a few minutes discussing matters with the Patriarch of the former Collbrande family, including the steps they would take to change their status and reputation in the future. Since they had two [Master Smith]s, it wouldn’t be hard for them to uproot their Workshop and businesses before moving into another Undercity after changing their names. Dwarves rarely had interaction with people outside of their social and business circles, and now was a good time to move since the entire Iron Hills was in chaos. A lot of people would likely be moving about in the next few years while those families with Master Artisans would likely rise to even greater prominence in the aftermath…

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After their discussion had come to an end, Vahn wanted to see Jorfaic’s grave so he could pay respects to his would-be father-in-law. Though he and Tsubaki had never truly married, they had gone through the ceremony that would have made her into his Mistress. In accordance with her’s and Sakuya’s culture, Vahn wanted to pay his respects properly. Thus, for the better part of an hour, Vahn washed Jorfaic’s grave before bowing low to it, praying he had found solace and happiness in his future incarnation. If possible, Vahn prayed that he and Sakuya could reunite at some point, finding peace and love in each other’s company once again…

Once had finished paying respects, Vahn raised his head and, without turning around, asked, “Did you need something from me, Matriarch…?” The old woman had been watching him for over a half-hour, silently standing at the side without making any sounds to interrupt his display of respect. Now, upon hearing Vahn’s words, she moved forward with slow steps, carrying a wrapped cloth in her arms as she said, “You have every reason to be dissatisfied with us, Vahn, there is nothing I can do to remedy that. Please, take this with you…it is the item that Jorfaic had forged to become a [Master Smith]. It does not belong here in this place any longer…”

Within the wrapped cloth, which seemed to be comprised of fine red silk, there was a relatively plain katana. However, as simple as its appearance was at a glance, Vahn was able to feel a strange sense of ‘pride’ and ‘elegance’ radiating from the sheathed blade. Upon receiving it from the Matriarch, Vahn unsheathed the blade, finding an immaculate silvery-white blade that was the obvious result of a [Master Smith]s cumulative efforts. Even the untrained eye would be able to see the amount of effort that had gone into the production of this single blade, so sharp that simply looking at it gave the sense that you were going to be cut…

With a small nod, Vahn resheathed the blade and placed it into his Inventory, pausing when he saw the name that was listed through the interface. His nose felt a little sour and, even though he had never met Sakuya and Jorfaic himself, Vahn felt an urge to tear up. Reading the name and description of the katana made Vahn’s heart feel like it was twisting in his chest and, though he had already paid his respects once, Vahn felt compelled to do so a second time…

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[Sakuya-no-Tsubaki](A/N: Last Night’s Camelia Flower)

Rank: S

P.Atk: 1800

M.Atk: 0

Abilities: Parent’s Hope(S), Impeccable Edge(S), Durandal(A), Auto-Repair(A)

A sword produced by a budding Mastersmith during a bout of inspiration, allowing him to produce a miracle in the form of a masterpiece. This blade contains the passion and intent of its creator, bestowing it with the unique ability to greatly increase its user’s potential. After going unused for forty years, the effect of this blade has only increased, carrying the sincere hope that its intended user may cut through all obstacles in order to obtain happiness.

Restriction: Tsubaki Collbrande

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(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘A Man Who Would Not Be Suppressed’,’The Failure of a Family…’,’A Hope That Transcends Death…’)

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