The next day Erwin finds himself at the foot of a large one-story house at the outskirts of town. The building was completely made of smoothstone making it look like a small castle rather than a person's home, it must of cost a fortune. The surrounding vegetation is completely dead, or more accurately it had been burned to a crisp it seems like 15-meter radius of the house is scorched.
"AAAAAAAA," Erwin hears a deep voiced shriek coupled with an explosion coming from the back of the house. He runs around the perimeter of the house, to be greeted by a muscular man in his early forties. Even though he is young his hair is completely white and the end of his beard is noticeably singed at the tip with a small fire at the end, he also has a look on his face as if someone had just started a birthday party when it was so obviously not his birthday.
"oye, boyo, over here," he begins waving at Erwin with a smile on his face. All Erwin can do is look back staring at the small fire at the end of his new master's beard. Alphonse notes this and realizes the small pilot light at the end of his beard.
"oh, well would ya look at that," he says while laughing and smothering the flame with his hands, "nice t' meet ya, I'm Alphonse, but most call me Al."
"I'm Erwin," the lower class in this world didn't have family names. Erwin didn't want to give the impression of superiority, so he omits his last name.
"Well don't be so stiff boyo, we're family now," Erwin relaxes his shoulders this was the first time he met someone so genuine in this world. Many of the soldiers, servants, and peasants just treat him like a hero it makes it difficult to have anything close to a conversation. The two of them sit next to an anvil while sipping a cold wine, Erwin doesn’t drink that much but it he likes the sweet taste. "Now then how well do ya know your own skills, let's see you make a steel broadsword."
Erwin is handed a lump of pig iron and Al points towards a forge, equipment, and raw material. All right this shouldn't be too hard. First create an iron ingot, then iron plus coal equals steel, mold that into a length of metal about 5 cm wide and 50 cm long, after that I'll have to add a fuller as well as sharpen the edges of the blade. Erwin was quite good at chemistry in school and understood weaponry because of his time spent on video games, so creating a steel broadsword from iron, in theory, should be easy.
From his own tests, he understood the limitations of his own transmutation skill, he can use it continuously for about an hour without reenchanting, it's also easier to transmute a metal in liquid form so a smelter is necessary. Only non-living things can be transmuted, yet certain items counted like wool, cotton, tanned leather and the such can be transmuted.
Within 90 minutes, Erwin finishes his sword and takes pride in the luster it creates. This is the first time Erwin has created something from scratch; the feeling of being able to take pride in one’s own work is new to him. He smiles at the blade at goes to inform Al on his progress. To Erwin's surprise Al has finished every drop of the large bottle of wine and has abruptly fallen asleep. Erwin wonders Should I wake him up? or would that be rude? Is it ruder to not wake him up? I'm just gonna wake him up.
"Al, I'm done with the sword," Erwin says reaching his hand down at the slumped man. The moment Erwin touches Al's shoulder the man jumps up with the alertness of young boy. His eyes open as if he had never been asleep at all.
"Ah, yes let's take a look see at this blade of yours," Al picks up Erwin’s broadsword and thinks hmm maybe this kid has more potential than I gave him credit for. Al has been a blacksmith for many decades now and has held hundreds nay thousands of weapons in his hand. At a single glance, he can tell the quality of weapon, and therefore the quality of smith who made it. He would have guessed that a blade of this quality would be made by a blacksmith's apprentice with a at least a year’s worth of training under his belt. Al mumbles the traits of the sword to Erwin as if he was hypnotized by the blade.
"The pig iron had most of the impurities taken out during the smelting process, the carbon percentage is within three percent of the optimal amount, the blades balance is almost perfect it seems the addition of the fuller moved the center of gravity by several millimeters only dropping the quality slightly. No jewels embezzled into the hilt, you’d be surprised at the number of apprentices place gaudy additions to the sword as if it would increase its sharpness. Boy, come look at this." Al takes out a magnifying glass and holds it up to the edge of the blade. Erwin peers through.
"So, what do you see?" Al asks with a wry smile on his face.
"Small lacerations at the edge, with a larger laceration appearing abruptly, as well small trenches at the edge of the blade" Erwin attempts to identify any problems the blade may have but he couldn't see any glaring issues. All he can do is give a confused look.
"These small trenches are a telltale sign that ya transmuted the edge of the blade instead of sharpening it with a whetstone," Al explains.
Erwin wonders silently Why would I need to sharpen manually when I can just transmute it?
"I'm sure your wondering why would I need to sharpen it manually when I can just transmute it," Al answers knowing exactly what his young pupil is thinking, "ya see these trenches at the edge of the blade have a tendency to become larger as the blade is used, with the eventuality bein' that the blade will completely shatter. Since transmutation lacks the precision to completely get rid of these trenches we smiths use whetstones to sharpen the edges. Also, the leather grip should be coated in a varnish. In its current state, the oils of the body would slowly cause it to deteriorate. The use of a catalyst when creating the steel would have also reduced the time to make the sword but we'll have plenty of time to discuss that."
The mistakes that Erwin made where that of a rookie, so much so that they couldn't really even be considered mistakes more like unrepeatable happenings. The fact that these were the only mistakes for someone first sword impressed Alphonse, what this child lacked in numerical stats he more than made up for in ingenuity and a steady hand. Al quickly taught Erwin the proper method to sharpen a blade, as well as how to apply varnish to tanned leather.
He also went into a rather complicated discussion on how catalysts work for transmutation. Erwin already understood most of it from just hearing the word catalyst, in his world a catalyst is something used to speed up a reaction and isn't used up in the reaction itself. It works much of the same way in this world, while transmuting to substances together add a catalyst to the mixture to speed up its fusion. For example, if he had added Nitrogen from the air into the iron carbon reaction he could have shaved off 20 minutes from his smiting time. Erwin found the information useful from a logical perspective, however what really amazed him was the knowledge that he could transmute substances from the air itself. He had never made the connection itself but it makes complete sense the air is filled with non-living matter why wouldn't he be able to process it through transmutation.
Much of Al and Erwin's conversation, for the next month, follow this pattern. Where Al would teach Erwin a concept and he would use the lecture to make three other assumptions. For example, days in to their master student relationship, Al teaches Erwin how to identify different metal by their texture, luster, mailability, and melting points. Many of these metals Erwin has heard of before like steel, titanium, and silver. However, some metals were completely new to Erwin Orichalcum, pyronite, and cryonite are completely new concepts to him. Orichalcum is a heavy metal that gets stronger when mana is added to it commonly used in armor, Pyronite is a metal that produces a flame when heated its uses include torches, bonfires, as well as beacons, cryonite is a metal the creates a chill when mana is applied commonly used as refrigeration in people's cellars. Erwin guesses that the periodic table in this world is must be the same as my world, so the molecules must be what's different. What is it that makes them different though? is the existence of magic?
"Are magic ores the product of metal reactions with the addition of mana? If I used mana to break the bonds of the alloy would I be able to get its reactionary material" Al is surprised by Erwin's question and even more excited by Erwin's actions.
After asking the question, he almost immediately begins to work on a small amount of orichalcum. After several hours of tests, and some helpful hints from his master, Erwin turns orichalcum into its composite materials of silver and titanium and use them to once more create orichalcum. Of course, learning magical synthesis and how to derive reactant material is only a natural part a blacksmith's education, but most learn them months into their training to have a student naturally come to a conclusion and successfully attempt it in practice in few days of training is unheard of.
Al's methodology of teaching would also be called by many as peculiar. Even though their solima slates clearly stated blacksmith, Al didn't consider that the limitation of the transmutation skill. He taught Erwin it's application in potion crafting. How it could be used to transmute nonliving matter from premroot and hiemleaf to create both health and mana elixirs respectively. Transmutation also had applications in tailoring, where it could be used to craft cotton, wool, and silk into durable clothing. Al also had multiple experimental workshops where he would test potions, armor sets, and magical weapons. These at many times would end in explosions that left both Al and Erwin with mild burns but the burns were not permanent and the information gathered is.
Erwin was also taught the theological values as well local flora and fauna. The two had lectures on the political standings of the world how the human countries were made up of a central monarch, devised up of several high lords and their smaller bannerman. There was also an in-depth lecture on this world's bestiary. Erwin memorized hundreds of monsters some predators, some prey, others could even be domesticated and yet this was only a small pool of monsters that mad up the greater ecology of this world. Erwin was given taught how to characterize a monster’s nature and attack. Some tactics where simple, if it has long claws it will it will attempt to scratch you, yet others where trickier like how to estimate a monster’s weight from the depth of its footprints. Through much effort and some shear talent he was able to slowly master these skills in theory, yet had no real-world experience. According to Al these lessons where only half complete.
For Erwin, the month he spent with his master was filled with intrigue, discovery, and an entire world he had never experienced before. He quickly had forgotten his status as a hero, his terrible stats, and even his classmates that were off fighting monsters who knows where. If it was up to him he would have spent the rest of his time in this world with Al tinkering away in that workshop, but unfortunately for him the world had a different plan.