“Gently,” Dallion said as molten iron was poured into a mold.
For the achievements the furies had managed to accomplish, their forging equipment was beyond pitiful. In fact, it could pretty much be said that they didn’t have a forge at all. When he and Jiroh had come up with a plan to extract metal from ore, he thought they were thinking out of the box. In another world, that probably was true. Here, though, all furies did the same. Once gathered, thunder furies melted the metal, then using air currents, modified it in the shape they wished. Things such as forges were exotic, to say the least. Nothing but fruit was consumed, and cooking was done solely with warm air currents or steam.
Given that they had the ability to control weather pretty much, Dallion would have suggested using lens-furnaces, but for that they had to have glass, which was even more difficult to achieve.
Step by step, he thought. For the moment, he would be content with making a few basic tools, starting with an anvil.
“This is a lot of iron,” the thunder fury said. From his perspective, it must have seemed as if Dallion was making a throne of solid gold. “Are you sure you want to mix it with smoke?”
“That’s the only way.”
How did I get myself involved in this? He asked.
Strictly speaking, he was far from a master forger. Despite being awakened, Dallion heavily relied on so many instruments he took for granted. Individually, he could create each of them. However, creating them all at the same time proved a challenge. Even so, there was something fascinating about the way furies worked metal.
Olm increased the strength of lightning he was emitting, wrapping around the molten white ingot. Every drop that came from it was taken by a scorching hot air current and gently poured into the mold Dallion had made using clay, sand, and wax. While it did, several streams of smoke were also mixed in, coming from a nearby log fire.
Observing from a safe distance, Dallion was extremely glad for all the pain and training Euryale had put him through. Back in Nerosal, he had expressed doubts whether he needed to know all that stuff before getting to the actual shaping. If anything, now he wished she had taught him even more. Even with his combinations of awakened skills, getting metal of a certain purity was more than a bit difficult; not to mention that without echoes, he didn’t have any do overs.
“Is everyone keeping up?” Dallion asked, wiping the sweat off his face.
“For the moment,” the thunder fury replied, finishing with the last iron ingot. Strong doubt was emanating from him, along with a hint of fear. That was all well and good, but Dallion would have preferred to know a bit more details.
“Well, it’s time for a break.”
Olm stared at him, as if Dallion had broken some taboo.
“It needs to cool down gently,” Dallion explained. “It must stay in the mold for at least an hour or two before it’s broken. Don’t you shape clouds the same way?”
“No,” the fury replied laconically. If Dallion had hoped to get any information on the topic, he wasn’t getting it. It seemed that Katka was right—they were being treated as potential enemies.
“Will Ji be joining us? Or do you intend to keep us apart?”
“There’s nothing your friend can offer,” Olm insisted. “I have the same skills she does, and we can’t let you attempt anything. If what you’re offering holds up, the library alliance will be all too glad to—"
“Can’t you just make her vow not to help me escape?”
“Vows are spoken to be broken. And that’s not the only issue. You aren’t the only ones being assessed. Some of my superiors are assessing her potential. She has been with you for three years and seven months, after all. Before she disappeared, she was nothing more than a third-rate farmer. Now she’s a thunder fury with vastly superior skills and attitude to match.”
One didn’t have to be a mind reader to tell that Olm despised her, not to mention that he felt personally threatened. The short exchange of lightning a day ago had shown to all that the two were evenly matched. If so, that meant Olm’s position could suddenly end up being threatened.
“Is it alright if I join my friend?” Dallion asked. “The one from my world.”
“Go ahead.” Olm gestured. “There’s nowhere you could go.”
As far as threats went, that one wasn’t too bad, although after a while in the wilderness Dallion had heard a lot worse. Counting to five, he left the chamber of the mountain, heading towards the one Katka was kept in.
One would think that having no guards was a good thing, but in practice, it only created a sense of isolation. As the fury had said, there was no chance of escape. Without magic, jumping out of a mile high mountain in the middle of nowhere wasn’t a good approach.
When Dallion got to her, the mage was busy reading over twenty books, all floating above the theater platform. Unlike Dallion, she hadn’t been openly monitored, and instead was surrounded by a vast assortment of food and drink. Despite that, she had barely touched any of it.
“How’s it going?” the mage asked, constantly moving the cloud threads around with her left hand.
“Slow,” Dallion replied. “I’m teaching them to make an anvil. Any luck on your part?”
“A bit. There were a few interesting bits among all the trash. An account of the early life of the goddess Minfalin patron of wisdom. She has been touted as the great enlightener that taught furies how to capture cloud creatures and build cities out of cloud. Apparently, before that, they were at the mercy of nature, living like nomads on clouds that could disappear at any moment, metaphorically speaking.” Katka closed a ball of fluff and pulled it away. The moment she did, it broke down and a new one emerged in its place. “Originally, the good goddess was nothing but a traveling storyteller, moving from tribe to tribe. At one point, she had a dream in which she spoke to the ‘Mother of Sunrise’ and was taken to a far away land, where everything was different.”
This wasn’t much to go on, but it did sound like a conversation with a Moon.
“According to the text, the goddess went to sleep one morning in the middle of the tribe and was gone the next morning despite none of the guards noticing anything. She returned a decade later, ‘unchanged physically but with great wisdom and brought many changes to the world.’ Poetic embellishment aside, I think that describes the process pretty well.”
“That still doesn’t say how she got moved there.” For that matter, Dallion had no idea how he himself had been transported to the awakened world. The only thing he knew for certain was that it had coincided with his doppelganger awakening; that’s why he had memories that had never been. Since he was taken out of the world in an unexpected fashion, however, the way to go back had to be different.
“Nothing so far.” Once again, there the sensation of lies emanated from the mage. “It’s a start, though. We know that it’s happened, we just need to be persistent and fast. How long do you think you can keep them occupied?”
“A few weeks, maybe more,” Dallion replied.
“It should be enough.”
“Dal…” Katka gave him an annoyed look. “If we don’t find a way by then, it would no longer matter.”
The discussion went onto more trivial matters, after which Dallion finally went back to the forging chamber. Work resumed.
The slab of metal had turned out adequate. Dallion had the thunder fury use air currents to shape it up a bit, after which he proceeded with making the head of a hammer. That process was considerably quicker, though Dallion still refused to use them with some vague excuse that they had to remain a day unused. That seemed to satisfy Olm, and more importantly his superiors, so Dallion was taken back to Jiroh’s house. The following day, the process continued.
Each morning, a team of furies would come to take Dallion and Katka to the secret forging facility, while Jiroh was sent to one library or another. From what she had shared, while officially her goal was to select the books for Katka to read, in reality, she was undergoing a long interview process. It seemed that Olm’s fears were well founded.
By the end of the first week, Dallion had pretty much helped create most of the basics of a proper forge. Fury lightning remained the main driving force, though fire was also starting to be used, mostly for the carbon. The resulting metal was of a much lower quality as anywhere else, but compared to what Flora had produced in the past, it was a veritable industrial revolution.
All that was good and well, but Dallion seemed no closer to finding a way back to the awakened world. What was worse, the orange patches on his skin were spreading.
Every night Dallion tried to have a conversation with Dararr, and each night the Moon refused to appear in his dreams. Whatever he was trying to do, he had to do alone.
“Put this on.” Olm tossed Dallion a crude ring mail shirt. It was outright scary how fast the furies had learned the basics of forging, especially since they had no prior knowledge.
“Some kind of reward?” Dallion asked. Spending time in this world, he too had started looking at metal as some sort of valuable commodity.
“The library alliance has been exclusively working on this for a while. It’ll allow you to interact with clouds.”
Sea iron? Dallion wondered. Concentrating, he could feel faint traces of the metal, as if someone had made an allow between it and iron. The result could be described as a waste, though with dark undertones. There was no way that the local inhabitants could have achieved this by accident. Someone had to have told them of the metal’s properties.
“You’ll be covered with static clouds so your actions can be copied and displayed in the theater.”
Dallion tried not to smile. They were putting him in the local equivalent of a VR suit. The notion was utterly fascinating, but also terrifying—it suggested that Dallion’s usefulness was coming to an end. The moment they stored all his actual actions, there was little more he could offer. The only ace up his sleeve was the fact that he had a way of finding metal ore deposits. If they ever found that such an ability couldn’t be taught, the library alliance was going to drop him. In a best-case scenario, Dallion was going to be cut off from their resources and information.
“Cool. Anything I need to do?”
“Limit sudden movements as much as you can. That’s it.”
The weight of the chainmail felt almost welcome in this world where most things had no weight. Dallion spent a few moments moving around in order to get used to the limitations. The thunder fury waited patiently nearby.
“Ready to be wrapped,” Dallion said.
Olm didn’t laugh. If anything, the more he had gotten to know Dallion, the more serious he had become. One could only suspect that it had something to do with Jiroh rising up the ranks pretty fast. For one thing, she had already been granted enough money to buy her own place in a cloud city, and even one for her family as well.
Clouds move about, covering every inch of the metal shirt. Strangely enough, they also covered Dallion’s feet, knees, and gauntlets.
“Anything particular you want me to make?” Dallion asked.
“A gear,” the thunder fury said.
“Okay.” That was a rather peculiar choice, and once more not something a fury would have thought of on their own.
The moment Dallion grabbed the hammer, a slight electric zap passed through his entire body. When the fury had said that those were static clouds, he had meant in terms of electric charge. It wasn’t painful or particularly uncomfortable, but would need some getting used to.
Dallion, a distant voice said in his mind. Dallion, can you hear me, dear boy?
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