Del-Razen's Point of View:
"What do you think, Master?" I hear Aaliyah's voice next to me.
I pretend to wake up and slowly open one of my eyes. In her hands are two ingots that are 1'' x 1'' x 4''. Both of the ingots are steel mixed with pieces of chameleon spider carapace.
"I think I improved the ratio a little bit better." Her smile is so bright I'm forced to close my eye again momentarily as she shows off her achievement. "This one has a better magic conductivity, with a better flex and strength ratio compared to my old mixture. I dropped the carapace concentration by half a percent to 17.5%. It should make an even better arrow shaft now."
I pretend I can tell the difference in the alloys and nod along with her presentation. I give a fake yawn to hide my true feelings. "Does that mean you're done experimenting for the day?" I ask in a relaxed tone.
"Not yet. I think I'll try one more mixture, this time with 17.75% carapace." I watch her walk over to our work station, placing her ingots off to the side and scribbling her findings down on a piece of parchment.
She cocks her head to the side to see if I'm watching her, so I close my eye and pretend that I'm not watching her.
Ever since I made that engraving pen for her, she's been trying to make the best magic conductive steel she can without using mithril.
Secretly watching her work, a whole host of emotions run through my mind.
The amount of pride I feel towards my disciple can't be conveyed with words. Of course, that pride only makes the envy I feel towards her hurt me more. Is this what masters are supposed to feel towards their students?
Master… if someone told me a decade ago, I would have someone address me as master; I would have thrown my hammer at them.
When I took Aaliyah on as an apprentice, I was sure she would quit after the first day in that mine. If I knew what kind of person she was back then, I would have known that never was truly an option.
Raising such a talented person is a blessing and a curse at the same time. My greatest fear is the day she realizes she doesn't need me anymore.
I've slowly faded myself into the background as she's continued to rapidly improve to try and keep that day from coming. I'm quickly running out of things to teach her.
Almost every question she asks me these days is almost impossible for me to answer. I may have years of experience on her, but she's quickly catching up to me at a monstrous pace.
A talent like hers deserves to be nurtured by someone like one of the grandmasters back in Truset. A stripped dwarf who ran away from home doesn't have the right to be called master by someone like that.
Here she is, optimizing alloys all on her own. I have to pretend I know the difference in the metals she's showing me. Without the ability to sense magic, I'm slowly becoming obsolete. I can still craft better weapons than her with the help of my skills, but at the rate she's improving, I don't know how much longer that will last.
That child is a monster in every sense of the word. People don't earn as many skills as quickly as she does, and her skills level at an incredible rate that anyone else would say is impossible. It took me three weeks working with metal to earn the first level of blacksmithing. She got the skill after I had her make her first nail!
Her parents might not realize how ridiculous she is, with humans hoarding information as they do, but it's understandable for me to see. She excels at everything she does.
If she chose to pursue a magic profession, I'm sure she would have a star right now. If she wanted to be a knight, she would be serving under one of Olebert's generals. She could be an apprentice under the owner of Silver Herd instead of trading with one of their traveling merchants if she wanted to.
But she chose a profession in blacksmithing.
I don't know why she earns skills so easily, but I know they won't stop leveling anytime soon. She pushes each of her skills to the limits each time she uses them and continues to make items someone of her skill level shouldn't be able to make.
She asked me how to level her Hammer Skills skill, and it only took me, showing her a few niche techniques and a few days of practice for her to pass level 50. Even with the help of someone who has more experienced than you, passing skill tests should take months or even sometimes years, not 72 hours.
Thanks to her ridiculous mana skills, she's able to not only craft easier but tell if her work is flawed in a way I've never heard of before.
And her willingness to try new ideas has her continually expanding her knowledge. From the moment she made that sword, she called a katana; I knew she was getting close to the limit of my teaching ability.
Two weeks ago, when she called me out on never making an engraving pen before, I thought that was the point she was going to decide to leave my tutelage.
I've already taught her everything I know about the metals I've worked with and how to work them properly. Everything I've taught her recently has been a theory I learned as a lad in Truset. Because of my inability to use magic, I was never taught advanced techniques or was allowed to practice with magical ingredients. The only other time I've worked with mithril was after I first left Truset and tried to make magic items for humans.
I quickly realized I was only wasting the mithril with my skills.
At the beginning of her apprenticeship, I may have told Aaliyah that I wouldn't share Stone Kin secrets to dissuade her, but it's not like I ever had anything groundbreaking to reveal. The sad fact was, I was allowed to leave so easily because I didn't know anything that the human nobles didn't already know.
I lightly sigh to myself and sneak another peek at Aaliyah. She's using small wooden measuring cups she carved for herself earlier in the month. I had to help her estimate their sizes accurately, but that's the only thing I could contribute.
I can estimate the composition of basic alloys, but changing around the structure by .005% is beyond my ability. With Aaliyah's skills, she can accurately judge the structural differences between different metals. Aaliyah told me she noticed the mining helmet I lent her had an incredibly small amount of mithril mixed with the steel to help it hold the enchantment. I wasn't even aware of that.
She doesn't even have engraving ink, yet she already knows more about enchantments than I do. Since she figured out metals need a strong magical internal structure, she's been using her spare time to experiment like she is now.
She already figured out a way to improve our standard steel's magic conductivity by changing our steel formula to 98% iron and 2% chameleon spider carapace. I can't see any difference with the steel, but she says it conducts mana 23% better without compromising its strength.
I thought she would finally have to challenge herself when it came to learning enchanting, but she's picking it up at the same speed she's learned everything else I've taught her.
I have to admit; I cried on the inside a little when she explained how she decoded the runes she found inside the mining helmet. She even carved the enchantment on a piece of wood in its entirety for me to see. Aaliyah told me she hadn't gotten the enchanting skill yet, but I know as soon as she gets the ink she needs, she'll quickly gain levels in it.
Once she gets her hands on some engraving ink, I'm sure she'll be able to make better weapons than anything I'm capable of.
Before this time next year, she'll be almost as good a blacksmith as I am. The only thing she needs is everyday experience with crafting different items.
I need to tell her I can't teach her anything else, but I can't muster up the courage to say it. Watching her grow is the only thing in my life that I'm grateful for.
I see her turning her head in my direction again, so I shut my eyes and pretend to be resting. I hear her footsteps through the snow on the ground as she nears me. "How are you able to sleep so much? I have a decently high level, and I don't feel tired as much as you do."
It's because you work yourself to death every day that you don't have a problem sleeping. I complain in my head. "What do you need?" I ask without opening my eyes.
"I need your help with leveling one of my skills." Tarrow's forge, another one!
"Which blacksmithing skill is it?" I grumble as I sit up to keep up appearances, but I make sure to give her the attention she deserves.
"It isn't one of my blacksmithing skills…" She visibly hesitates. "…It's my tier 5 skill."
It takes everything I have not to visibly react to her request. I've only gained two skills since I took Aalyiah on as an apprentice Teaching and Acting. I've found my self using the latter more than the former.
I give her a stern look. "I don't know what you think I can help you with? Tier 5 skills are too personal for you to get help from someone else to level them." Not that someone of my caliber has any real knowledge about tier 5 skills.
She looks down nervously and fiddles with her hands. "It isn't that I need you to teach me anything about the skill," she says.
"Then, why do you need me?" I question her.
"Well, I've been trying to pass the level 30 test by myself, but no matter what I try, the skill won't improve. I spent a long time meditating on it last night, and I think it's because I need to try using it on other people." She shyly looks up at me.
I'm reminded of what she told me her tier 5 skill was. It had something to do with sensing souls. A skill that would put her on any kingdoms watchlist.
I remember panicking when she first told me about it. I can't believe she trusted me with that kind of information.
I can't help but have a nervous look on my face. "That means you want to look at my…." I can't say it out loud.
"Only if it's ok with you!" She waves her hands in a panicked gesture. "If you don't want me to do it, I can wait until our next hunt and try it on a chameleon spider instead."
"If you can use it on animals, then why do I need to be your first test subject? Why not try it out on some bugs first?" I offer her a quick solution.
"I tried that this morning on a fly. It didn't work; I think it's too small." She says with a disappointed look.
Part of me wants to help my disciple with the one thing I can still do, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid of her skill.
I study Aaliyah's face while I debate if I should agree or not. It's subtle, but I can see a trace of resolve in her expression. That look only comes out when she tries to butter me up.
"I went to master because you're the strongest person I know. I can feel safe knowing master is helping me." She puts on a fake look of desperation.
I bet she thinks I don't recognize her little scheme, but I've been on to her since she first used Charm on me when we meet. Not to say her argument doesn't stroke the flames of my ego.
"Is it going to take long? You still need to keep an eye on your crucible." I look at the forge, making it seem like I'm going to decline.
"It shouldn't take long and most likely won't hurt you." She looks at me with begging eyes.
If only she knew how little I'm able to say no to her.
"Double check the forge really quick, then let's get this over with." I make it appear like I barely agreed to her request. I can't do much for my apprentice, but I'll still try to help her with anything she asks of me.
She gives me a hug and a smile before she runs over to the forge adding enough fuel to the fire to keep it hot while she leaves it unattended. Unbeknownst to her, I use the time she's away to settle the anxiety I feel bubbling up inside.
After she has fire ready, she runs back over to me and takes up a position on the bench closest to my own. The seven feet between us must not affect her skill all that much.
"Last chance to back out, master?" She gives me a playful look. Don't tempt me, girl!
"By the way, if I pass out, don't freak out." She reminds me. It’s sad how little that bothers me anymore; my stupid apprentice has knocked herself out so many times it doesn't even come as a surprise to me anymore.
"I know, just get to it." I urge her to get it over with before I change my mind.
"All right, here I go." Her eyes widen, and she stares intently at me.
Is something supposed to happen? I was waiting for beams of light to shoot from her eyes or something amazing like that. I just stare back at my apprentice, waiting for something to happen.
The seconds tick by slowly, with the two of us looking at each other. I start to relax a little, but Aaliyah only looks like she's concentrating harder as time passes.
I'm about to ask her if she wants to try again later when I get the sudden sensation that multiple people are looking at me. I flinch and look around our clearing but find no signs of intruders. I look back at Aaliyah and almost stumble off my bench when I look into her eyes.
It feels like her eyes are physically holding me in place and slowly drilling into me. The longer I hold her gaze, the worse the feeling becomes.
"Almost there." I hear her mumble. What is she trying to do!?
A sudden sensation of fear washes over my body. Every hair I have stands on end as I feel like Aaliyah is looking at something sacred inside of me.
I push off of my bench and launch myself backward, trying to avoid her gaze. The unnerving feeling vanishes as I move out of her line of sight but is quickly replaced with an overwhelming sense of fear. Every part of my body is screaming at me to run away from her!
I debate whether or not to follow my instincts until I watch Aaliyah fall off her bench, holding her head with both of her hands and screaming through her teeth.
I suppress the desire to run away and instead move next to my spasming apprentice. The shield she usually envelops herself with is gone leaving her shivering in winters cold winds.
I scoop her up in my arms and rush her into my hut.
Her screams slowly fade as I set her on my bed and wrap her in every blanket I can get my hands on. But no matter how many blankets I wrap around her, she continues to shiver. I move over to my fireplace and start to get a fire going when I hear her stutter slowly behind me.
"I-M…F-I-N-E… J-U-S-T… N-E-E-D… M-I-N-U-T-E." She slowly tells me.
I release a breath I didn't know I was holding in and watch my struggling student as she recovers.
"F-O-R-G-E." She points to my front door.
I can't help but sigh. Even when you can't move or speak properly, you worry about your work. I make sure the blankets are tightly wrapped around my student before leaving my hut and attending to the forge.
While I pump the bellows and add some more coals to the fire, I shiver when I think back on Aaliyah's gaze at the end. It might have been hard for her to use, but she managed to make someone over 30 levels higher than her want to flee with everything I had.
"Such a monster," I whisper to the flames.
Aaliyah's Point of View:
I can't focus on anything with this pounding going on inside my head. If that didn't level Mental Resistance and Sense Soul, I don't know what will. I complain to myself.
I can't stop shaking because of the image seared inside my mind. Mental Resistance is fighting it, but it's taking forever. Usually, when I look at the core of my soul, I'm knocked unconscious and brought inside it, but when I looked at the center of master's soul, I was assaulted by the eyes immediately.
It happened in the span of a second, but I can't forget the image I saw. Instead of the two eyes that usually repel me from my own soul, a third eye appeared and helped the other two shield me from master's soul.
I've gotten much more used to being kicked out of my own soul, but to have it happen when I'm in the real world is more painful than anything I've ever felt before. The pain isn't physical; it's more like every thought I try to form becomes scattered by the eyes that remained seared into my mind. The forceful scattering of my thoughts feels like someone is scrambling my brain. I could barely say a handful of words to master in my curet condition.
I constantly try to focus on the memory of seeing master's soul from before the eyes attacked me. I need to ask master what he felt when I looked at the colorless wisps surrounding his soul. He started looking around, trying to find something, after I was able to focus on the wisps surrounding his soul. After seeing the outer parts of master's soul, I was able to confirm the wisps are the accumulation of experience and skills.
It was hard to decipher his soul wisps, but I noticed two things. Master has more of the energy surrounding his soul than I do because his level is higher than mine, and though I couldn't decipher any of his individual skills, I noticed master had less of them than I do.
The most important thing I saw before I was rejected by the eyes was that the core of his soul is smaller than my own. I don't know why, but my soul was almost three times the size of his by comparison.
If I continue to level Sense Soul, I'll probably be able to see someone's status page. The outer parts of master's soul weren't hard for me to look at, and it was only when I tried to look at the core of his soul that I was met with the backlash.
Thinking about the backlash, the pain in my head is finally fading away. Was the pain worse because of that third eye? I'm used to seeing the first two, but that third one felt different. I try to hold on to the memory of the third eye as the mental image fades away.
Once the image completely disappears, I can only remember a vague sense of the third eye. My shivering eventually stops, and I regain control over my body. The first thing I do is stand up and clean myself with magic before I reactivate Mana Skin.
"Ahyt ls weem appiss!"
Clean, and with my skill reengaged, I open up master's front door and walk over to the forge.
Master notices my approach and turns toward me. When our eyes meet, he flinches and lowers his gaze away from me. Oh, gods! What did I do? Master always taught me it was a sign of respect for Stone Kin to look each other in the eyes, and now he refuses to meet mine!
"You feeling better?" He asks me, refocusing his attention on the forge, avoiding my gaze.
"Yeah, I'm feeling a lot better now. How long was I resting in your cottage?" I ask from behind him.
"An hour, maybe two. Your skill has some strong effects." He responds in a hollow voice, refusing to look at me.
"What happened when I used my skill?" I hesitantly ask master.
Master's voice shakes a little as he tells me. "At first, nothing. Then it felt like I was being surrounded by people staring at me, and in the end, it felt like you ripped open my chest and looked inside at something I never knew existed. I… felt violated and scared. If you didn't collapse when you did, I might have run away."
My skill did all of that! "I'm sorry, master. I didn't know my skill would do that." I sincerely apologize to master's back. No wonder he doesn't want to look at me.
"There's no need for you to apologize. It was my own decision to help you."
"You say that, but you're scared to look at me." Master flinches at my comment.
Slowly, he turns around and meets my gaze. I can tell he's struggling, but he refuses to look away. "I just need some time to recover, that's all. Or do you think your master is that weak?" I shake my head no, but I still feel bad for asking for master's help.
His expression tightens. "Listen good, Aaliyah. Until you decide you no longer need me as your teacher, I will always help you to the best of my abilities. I'll admit your skill had some effects I wasn't ready for, but you are my student. Even if you need help to continue practicing your skill, I'll always offer you a hand. Just give me some time to recover, ok?" He actually manages to give me a small smile.
"Thank you, Master Del-Razen. I wouldn't be where I am today without your help." I give master my biggest smile and turn away from him. I could see he was struggling to maintain eye contact.
I move to the farthest bench away from master and sink into a meditative state.
I pull up my status page, checking on the changes to my skill levels.
LV: 62 Experience: 411,020/ 481,032
Status Points: 0
Meditation (LV78), Running (LV73), Blacksmithing (LV61), Axe Skills (LV55), Hammer Skills (LV52), Cleaning (LV50), Chanting (LV47), Mining (LV47), Drawing (LV42), Cooking (LV37), Trading (LV37), Dagger Skills (LV31), Acting (LV30), Wood Carving (LV27), Sword Skills(LV25), Sewing (LV24), Pugilist Skills (LV4), Spear Skills (LV2)
Sense Mana (LV78), Double Step (LV58), Charm (LV50), Measurement (LV43), Axe Arts (LV36), Hammer Arts (LV36), Writing (LV32), Intimidating Shout (LV31), Mathematics (LV30), Increase price (LV16), Lower Price (LV15), Dagger Arts (LV12), Sword Arts (LV8), Marching (LV5), Gourmet (LV2), Shout of Valor (LV1)
Expel Mana (LV58), Mana Manipulation (LV52), Double Strike (LV33), Precise Strike (LV33), Weighted Strike (LV23), Flash Step (LV16)
Inject mana (LV46), Mana Skin (LV46), Mental Resistance (LV42), Extract Mana (LV24), Magic Blacksmithing (LV17)
Sense Soul (LV31)
Increased Skill Levels
Meditation (LV78) 3,900exp
Running (LV73) 3,650exp
Blacksmithing (LV60-61) 6,050exp
Hammer Skills (LV51-52) 5,150exp
Chanting (LV47) 2,350exp
Mining (LV47) 2,350exp
Drawing (LV40-42) 6,150exp
Sword Skills (LV25) 1,250exp
Wood Carving (LV24-27) 5,100exp
Double Step (LV58) 5,800exp
Measurement (LV42-43) 8,500exp
Expel Mana (LV58) 8,700exp
Mana Manipulation (LV52) 7,800exp
Double Strike (LV32-33) 9,750exp
Precise Strike (LV31-33) 14,400exp
Weighted Strike (LV21-23) 9,900exp
Flash Step (LV16) 2,400exp
Inject mana (LV46) 11,500exp
Mana Skin (LV46) 11,500exp
Mental Resistance (LV41-42) 20,750exp
Extract Mana (LV23-24) 11,750exp
Magic Blacksmithing (LV17) 4,250exp
Sense Soul (LV31) 15,500exp
Skill Experience: 172,400exp
Crafting Experience: 56,741exp
Fighting Experience: 4,699exp
Total experience Gained: 233,840exp
It's shocking to see how much experience I got for leveling Sense Soul, but I'm still a ways off from my next level. Going over my skills that leveled up, I can see how I've shifted my focus over the last two weeks. My running and sword training skills have fallen to the side in favor of increasing my crafting skills.
I've been practicing carving runes into our firewood every night and spending almost all my extra time here at the forge. I've made 54 spears, 26 for Kervin, and my measuring cups to improve my arrow shaft composition.
Then there are the levels I just gained. That head-splitting attack raised Mental Resistance by two whole levels! I managed to get Sense Soul to level 31, but I don't know how I'm supposed to train it from here. If what master said was true, then I'll have to pass another test once the skill reaches level 40. Plus, after how master reacted to my skill, it's not like I can just use it randomly on people to practice it.
Master said the worst part of my skill was when I tried to look at the central part of his soul. If I avoid the center of people's souls, then maybe I can practice the skill by judging what level people are. I can say it's a simple observation skill or intimidation skill if I have to.
I could also try using it on a chameleon spider, but that won't give me much of a chance to use it.
I'm afraid to say it out loud, but it looks like the chameleon spiders are spreading out. We only had to slay one these past few weeks, and it wasn't even that close to the village. The hunters rarely go out these days other than to do perimeter checks, and they haven't seen any close to the village. The spiders have chased almost all of the local game away, leaving us reliant on Kervin's meat deliveries.
Many of the villagers are happy the spiders are leaving, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Camden has sent word to the surrounding villages that the spiders might be coming their way, but he hasn't received a reply yet.
With the spiders leaving, I'll also have to ration out the carapace I use for my work. We have plenty stocked away, but it isn't an endless resource. Now that I can't sell the extra parts of the spiders to Kervin, I need to make more spears, or I won't be able to afford the supplies I need.
I need the extra capital to discuss with him obtaining the herbs I need to practice engraving, and that's not even including the mithril.
Donating half the spears I make to the village hurts my profits, but I still believe the village needs to be prepared for the future. I've donated over 50 spears so far, and It has gotten to the point Camden has commissioned Salus to make a village armory. The spears need a big building, so Salus needs to wait for spring before he can make a strong foundation.
I think he's just waiting for brother to come back to help him.
"Aaliyah!" I suddenly hear my name being called from the path towards the village.
Del notices it too, and we both watch Braddon emerge from the trees, waving his hand at me. He quickly closes the distance between us.
"Chameleon spider?" I ask.
"No, nothing like that. My father sent me to give you this letter that just arrived for you." He shows me a piece of parchment.
"Is it from Richard and Sandra?" I excitedly ask and motion for him to hand the letter cover to me.
"Nope, not them. They only send letters through Kervin and never by carrier falcon." He hands me the letter.
"Carrier falcon, like the bird your father raises to communicate with the surrounding villages?" I ask as I take the parchment.
"My father wishes he had a carrier falcon. The bird my father uses is a trained forest thresher, it's big enough to carry a few messages small distances but nothing like a carrier falcon. Think of a bird five feet tall with a seventeen-foot wingspan."
"That's a big bird. Is it still here, I would like to see it?" I ask.
"Sorry, it flew away once we removed the message from it," Braddon tells me.
Master who's standing next to me decides to explain further. "Carrier falcons are magic beasts bred to deliver small packages at incredible speeds. The bigger the bird, the faster it flies. It costs a lot of coin to hire one, and based on his description of its size, I'd say whoever sent you that letter paid over 5 gold for it to be delivered to you fast."
"5 gold to deliver a letter!" Now I'm really curious as to who would send me something like this.
I unravel the parchment and skip past the delivery information noted at the top.
This is Kervin, writing to you from Teeburn. I sold your weapons, and people were impressed by your work. Though the spears were appreciated, I was approached by someone who wished to buy some arrows made from you. I'll still purchase any spears you've made, but please switch to making arrows before I return.
I was asked for the best arrows you could make, so quality, not quantity, is needed. If this letter reached you on time, then I'll be back to your village in precisely two weeks with the goods you ordered. A lot of gold is riding on this deal, so I know you'll do your best.
He shelled out gold just to tell me to make him some arrows before he returns! How much gold are we talking to get this kind of treatment?
Master reads the letter next to me and frowns. "You need to be careful, Aaliyah," Master warns me.
"What do you mean, master?"
"If I had to guess, he pissed someone off. Maybe scammed someone he shouldn't have. If he's willing to shell out the gold to have this message delivered to you in under a day, something has to be wrong. Next time you see him, you should be careful." Master warns me one last time before he walks back to the forge.
"This is why I asked father if I could deliver the message." I turn back to Braddon. "It's always something interesting with you." He stands there laughing.
This would be an excellent time to practice using Sense Soul on someone without warning.
I activate my skill and look at the wisps surrounding Braddon's soul. He immediately stops laughing and draws his bow scanning the clearing's edge. He seems more panicked the longer I look at his soul.
He's young but one of the best hunters in the village. Comparing the amount of experience around his soul, his level should be in the high 40's, maybe even 49.
His eyes meet mine, and I deactivate my skill. I smile at him, and he pales a little bit. "Sorry, practicing a new skill. Works best on people who are laughing at me." I give him a Cheshire grin.
"That's an oddly specific skill you've got there. I'll have to watch out for it." He gives me a quick wave goodbye and moves for the safety of the tree line.
I was right, as long as I don't try to look directly at someone's soul, I won't be attacked by the eyes. And it seems like the person I'm using Sense Soul on won't be affected as severely as master was, though it does seem like I finally managed to intimidate Braddon.
From the corner of my eye, I see master looking at me from the forge. When I turn towards him, he waves me over.
Is he mad that I used the skill so soon on someone else?
I reach his side in time to watch him remove the crucible from the forge. He sets the hot ceramic off to the side and turns to me with a severe look. "You used your skill on him?"
I shyly nod in confirmation. I try to come up with an excuse. "I thought I could control it better without hurting the person I used it on. It worked, by the way."
Master nods his head, "I understand." I wasn't expecting that, I was ready for him to judge me.
"I know you won't use your skills to purposely hurt others, you're not that kind of a person. I have to give you a warning and some advice as your teacher. Skills like yours are considered dangerous by a lot of people. Remember when I told you about sacrificial skills? It's the same thing. If the true nature of your skill is revealed, it could put you in danger. If you decide to practice your skill, I recommend you ask for help from either your parents or myself. And especially make sure people can't see you when you're using it. The way you look at people when you use your skill is a dead giveaway." He's telling me to practice it secretly.
I nod in understanding before smiling at him. "Thank you, master."
"You shouldn't take this so lightly." He berates me because of my smile.
"I'm not taking anything lightly," I correct him. "I was just thinking about how lucky I am to have you as my master." His serious scowl fades away quickly.
"If I didn't have you as my master, I would have done something stupid years ago, and a noble would've come and snatched me up in a heartbeat. I've never left the village before, and yet you're able to teach me about the outside world. Mother taught me how to interact with merchants, but she had a pretty sheltered life before she met dad. And don't get me started on father, I love him to death, but if it isn't trees or mother, he can't help me when I have questions. Take that carrier falcon, for example, not even Camden's son knew how much it was to hire one." I start to tear up a little bit.
"Why are you crying?" He asks, bewildered.
"It's just, I felt like you've been distancing yourself from me even more than usual these last two weeks. And the way you looked at me after I used my skill on you. It felt like you were about to fire me from being your apprentice. I don't want to lose my apprenticeship. Master Del."
I watch Del awkwardly scratch the back of his head. "You say that now," Master Del says with a complicated look on his face.
"Does that mean you don't want me to be your apprentice anymore?" I tentatively ask.
"No," he quickly answers. "I still wish to be your teacher. It's just I don't know what else I can teach you."
"What, are you talking about? You're still teaching me loads of things. What makes you think you don't have anything else to teach me?"
"I've already taught you everything I know about blacksmithing. The only thing left for you to do is to continue practicing. I can't teach you to work with metals I was never allowed to touch or how you're supposed to find magical metals in the wild. I've been answering all your recent questions with answers I've only read in books and taught as a child. I have no real experience with everything you're trying to do." Master tells me while looking dejected.
"And you think you haven't helped me learn how to work with mithril? What about the basics of enchanting, if you and mother hadn't helped me figure out the basics I wouldn't have figured out as much as I already have."
Master shakes his head in denial. "It might have taken you longer, but you would've figured it out on your own. The only questions I've been able to fully answer are the things I've learned traveling Olebert. You'll soon realize I can't answer any more of your questions and that it's time for you to find a better teacher."
"Ok, it's a deal!" I cheerfully reply, drawing a questioning look form master. "You should know me by now, I always have questions to ask. Tell you what, you can kick me out of my apprenticeship once I stop asking you questions, alright?"
Master looks at me with a surprised look. He straightens his back once he realizes I have no intention of going anywhere. He finally looks me in the eye without any of the fear or doubt that was previously there. "If you insist that stubbornly, what kind of master would I be if I threw my best student out?"
"I'm your only student." We share a laugh together at the horrible joke.
Master looks over at the crucible he removed earlier and then looks back to me. "Why don't you show me your latest alloy? It should be cool enough by now."
"I would like that," I reply. "You can help me bounce around some ideas on how to improve my arrows tomorrow. They need to be good enough; I can charge Kervin for the rushed job."
Both smiling, we get back to work as master and apprentice.