LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Lino came to an abrupt halt, causing Felix to crash into his back. The latter grunted for a moment as he backed off, almost ready to scream. He paused, however, when his eyes landed on Lino’s expression. It was an expression of... pure joy, Felix realized. Completely real, completely grounded, heartfelt joy that Felix had never seen Lino express since the day the two met.
Lucky also cast a curious glance at the suddenly frozen Lino, but she quickly understood as the rhythmic sounds of clashing metal reached her. Her lips curled up into a faint smile as she saw that shine in his eyes. If there’s one thing that can rekindle that dead soul, she mused, it would be hammering a bunch of metal and stones in a dark, smelly room.
“... e-eh? M-master, where are you going?” Felix realized that Lino suddenly began walking left whereas Freya and the man headed straight.
“Eh? Right over there.” Lino pointed randomly toward the direction he was facing.
“What about Freya?!” Felix asked, pulling Lino’s sleeve back.
“What about her?”
“Didn’t you promise to protect her?”
“She’s gonna be fine.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Sigh... what a worrywart,” Lino rolled his eyes at Felix before turning toward Freya and the man who’ve yet to leave his shouting distance. “Hey, the odd anomaly of the tribe!!” Felix could swear he’d seen the man nearly stumble over his own toes as he came to a halt and slowly turned around, his eyebrows twitching. “If anything happens to her, I’ll wipe out your entire tribe. Good? Good. We’re cool! See ya’ around!” without sparing them another glance, Lino resumed his journey, leaving Felix to stand there, frozen in place, as heartless wind began carrying a strange, almost mockery tune.
“Don’t worry about it,” Lucky slapped him back into reality as she also turned to follow Lino. “If he’s confident enough to leave her alone, nothing will happen to her.”
“... h-how are you so certain?!” Felix mumbled as he stumbled to follow Lucky and Lino.
“... I just do.” she said in a rather mellow tone accompanied by a tinge of melancholy and even sadness. Felix knew better than to pry any further so he simply followed along.
The streets were paved with strange, greenish-gray stones, wide enough for two horse carriages to pass one another easily. On both ends buildings rose like cards, spilling into each other in an endlessly circulatory motion. Though Lino and Lucky completely ignored the string of strange gazes from the people, Felix wasn’t as thick-skinned. Anywhere else, the people staring at them would be the ones sticking out like sore thumbs in the crowd, yet here, it was Felix that stuck out like one. That revelation somehow rubbed him the wrong way.
Lino skillfully weaved through the crowds for nearly fifteen minutes before coming to a halt in front of a somewhat simple-looking building. It was made out of similarly greenish-gray stone as the street and was two stories tall, decked in simplistic designs which made it hardly worth a notice amidst the sea of of the similar-looking buildings.
The only thing which made it stick out from the masses was a sign hanging slightly over the street, rectangular in shape and made out of some dark wood. The sign bore no letters, but had a simple engraving of a thin hammer across its surface.
“Eh? A... smithy?” Felix mumbled as he glanced at the building. “Right... Master did say he knows a thing or two about blacksmithing.”
Lino paused merely for a moment before going through the front door, with Felix and Lucky following shortly after. Insides weren’t all that different from what Felix expected to see; the waiting room was quite compact, with only a small, wooden bench in the corner, a counter, and a few items hanging on the shelves. The exception to the dryness was a woman standing behind the counter. She appeared to be in her mid-teens, and much like all other members of the tribe, she sported a pair of crimson eyes and the crimson hair, with hers having been cut somewhat short.
When the trio entered, she was slouched over the counter, seemingly taking a nap. It was only when Lino walked up to the counter and gently knocked against the wood that the girl was startled open, a faint trace of drool at the corner of her lips.
“A-ah, customer, I’m so sorry, please forgive me, I’ll---eh, who the fuck are you people?”
“Wow, what a shift in personality!” Lino exclaimed seeing the girl twist from being apologetic and flustered to outright frigid. “Respect!”
“... you’re outsiders. Shoo. We don’t serve outsiders.” the girl dismissed them quickly and slouched over the counter, seemingly ready to take another nap.
“What do you mean I’m an outsider?” Lino appeared genuinely hurt as he dragged the girl up and over the counter, holding her by her collar and pressing his forehead against hers. “I’ll have you know that if I wasn’t a proper gentlemen, I’d have already made you a couple of little brothers and sisters, little kid!” Lucky and Felix, unwilling to be the part of whatever was transpiring, went to the corner and sat onto the bench, appearing exhausted.
“Pu! A beggar-looking shit like you? In your dreams!!” the girl replied just as viciously, but despite her struggle seemed incapable of tearing herself away from him.
“Haii, you really have no respect for your elders! Maybe I should spank some sense into you?”
“I dare you!!”
“What’s the ruckus? Are you giving a customer trouble again, Sena?” a gruff voice beckoned from behind the counter as a rather large, topless figure appeared. “Eh? What are you doing with Sena? Are you looking for trouble you ba--ba---”
“It’s bastard!! Call him a bastard!!” the girl called Sena exclaimed angrily as the voice behind her turned quite.
“A blacksmith?” the gruff voice once again echoed whereupon Lino casually let Sena go as she rolled back and fell over the counter, groaning in pain.
“Aye.” Lino nodded as the strange flicker emerged in his eyes, as did the figure from the shadows. It was a man nearly a whole head taller than Lino, with shoulders broader than mother nature should ever allow and, much like Eggor, with muscles stacked atop the muscles. The man extended his arm over the counter as though challenging Lino to a round of arm-wrestling which the latter accepted. The two grabbed at each other firmly as veins bulged over their arms, and the poor, wooden counter beneath their elbows cracked and creaked.
“Firm hands,” the man spoke out as his lips stretched into a massive grin. “Scarred, blistered, yet unbending. Texture of metal spanning the skin, muscles as though defined by gods, stance of a true, master smith. Kid. I want you to marry my daughter.”
“I only wanted to borrow your smithy for a while,” Lino replied. “But I don’t mind checking out what you’re offering, old man.”
“She’s quite delicate,” the man said. “Completely unlike the stone you’re used to. It’s more like when working with glass.”
“Ay, glass is delicate, but it is also beautiful.”
“It is indeed beautiful. Especially [Hywogard Glass].”
“Maybe, but it pales in comparison with [Tyvoin Glass].”
“Ha ha ha, young lad, you sure know your glasses.”
“Almost as well as I know the wine in them.”
“Come, let’s drink.”
“Let’s drink, old man.”
It wasn’t just Sena who stared at the scene with utter befuddlement, it was also Felix and Lucky who would have most-likely collapsed onto the floor had they not been sitting already. The two of them hugged over their shoulders and left the smithy in laughter, crossing the street and entering the pub as though they’ve been the best friends for hundreds of years. While the smithy suddenly turned silent and awkward, the atmosphere between the two of them was anything but.
“Ha ha, what a surprise!” the two sat in the corner, barely discernible from dozens of other patrons currently drinking in broad daylight. “For an outsider to be as outstanding blacksmith as you are... ha ha, looks like my goddamned old man was wrong!” he raised the massive cup and clashed it against Lino’s whereupon both downed it all in one go.
“I’m surprised as well, old man,” Lino said. “To think I’d come across a treasure here. I thought I’d only see a whole platoon of women unwilling to sleep with me.”
“Ha ha ha, don’t worry, there’s plenty of that as well. What’s your name young lad?”
“Lino. Yours old man?”
“The fuck’s with that name?”
“Are you really the one to say anything about it?!”
“Fair point,” Lino nodded. “Anyway, Chwek--can I just call you Feck--alright, alright, stop with the death stare. Anyway, Chwek, how long have you been a blacksmith?”
“Ay, it’s been twenty-nine tides, young lad!”
“Two ‘undred and eighty years.”
“Ho ho, you’re really dedicated to it! I respect that!” Lino said as the waitress came about and filled their cups yet again.
“Of course! Once you fall in love with the hammer, it’s like you marry a dead woman! Even if you divorce her, would anything be any different?!”
“I have so many questions...”
“Pah, screw questions! Drink! Drink!”
“Ay! Ay!” the two quickly became quite a sensation as they had drank over fifteen cups of a fairly strong, local ale, and were neither passed out nor outright dead. Though they have become quite drunk.
“S-so, why did you come to, to my smithy?” Chwek asked, trying - unsuccessfully - to lift his head off the table.
“W-wanted to craft somethin’...”
“Ay... I can do that...”
“I know... you’re a blacksmith...”
“Ha ha, yeah, I am, ha ha ha...”
“Ha ha ha... will you lend me your smithy?”
“Uh... wait... I’m sure I had a reason...” Lino mumbled.
“To craft something?”
“Ay, that’s it!! Ha ha, old man, you’re really smart!!”
“Ha ha ha, yup, after all I’ve almost finished three grades of school!”
“Ha ha, I know!”