Chapter 23 – The Past
It was a broad back.
The sound of the blazing flame could be heard together with the other sounds of metal being hit and the scorching iron, generating vapor the second it gets in touch with water.
Apart from the sounds, it was normal for Eiji to grow up while watching that person’s back during hot and cold days, as well as during glad and sad days.
His father was a rather uncommunicative person.
He would probably talk about stuffs, such as iron and flame, even longer than his son.
Therefore, since Eiji became able to exchange his opinion with his father through his face-to-face conversations, the time when he was on a long session break from his university studies was the one enjoyable for him.
– I am going to tell you how to handle iron.
– Is it fine with you?
– I keep my promises, so consider it as a gift for your university admission. However, I don’t plan to go easy on you just because you’re my son.
That was the time when Eiji received his entry to the university.
Because he was occupied with his move to Osaka, as well as the university entry preparations, finding spare time was quite troublesome. Nevertheless, this was the kind of teaching which he desired from his heart.
Eiji nodded without hesitation.
– All right, come in.
– I’ve often watched father’s back from the room, and thought all the time that someday I’d succeed you.
– If you intend to run just because I am too harsh on you, I won’t care.
– That’s fine. Please treat me well.
As he bowed down his head, his father scratched the tip of his nose.
Eichi’s face turned slightly red from being shy.
Once Eiji stood inside his father’s workshop, he was filled with great astonishment while making new discoveries.
Just how long does it take, and how many procedures does it require, to make a single item? This you cannot know, unless you put it into practice.
Eichi took 3 sheet of irons from the shelf, which Eiji was unable to distinguish.
– These are raw steel materials used for smithing – Yasuki hagane’s blue and white steel, and this one is yellow steel.
– How do they differ?
– The blue steel has a good edge retention, while the white steel is used for easy grinding. They differ in the ratio of chrome and tungsten.
– The yellow steel?
– It’s a material designed for use for common people, not for craftsmen.
– How do you distinguish them?
– You can understand by the way their sparks scatter when placed on a grinder.
– Which one is the best to deal with?
– It is determined by how you use them and your skills. The materials too are important, but, the best way you can influence them is through striking methods and by how you regulate the fire. They are also classified into grades 1 and 2, on which the amount of carbon depends, each of them varying in quenching, tempering, and temperature. You better remember that. A good artisan needs not only good skills, but also a brain.
Placing it on a grinder. The different amount of sparks. And then, will the flying sparks scatter like a blooming flower? Even the way they scatter is different for each when finished. These are important pieces of information.
During works, such as repairing, being able to distinguish the steel material through its spark, as well as adjusting the amount of fire, is a crucial knowledge.
The teaching from his father was harsh.
He reprimanded Eiji whenever he would overlook the slightest detail.
At the same time, however, his father would praise him for being a person who grows properly with no flaws.
Perhaps the reason why Eiji was able to survive until his enrollment, without having any complaints, was not solely thanks to his perseverance.
– I’m back.
– You have already returned? Haven’t you just begun to commute?
– But it’s summer break.
– How about your tests?
– I finished them, so I was able to come back.
Since then, Eiji would return to his home whenever there was a summer break.
The more he learned about the iron, the more he couldn’t understand.
It was just like a skilled actress, wearing various expressions one after another; having the glamour, but at the same time, being hard to please.
Eiji could understand the feelings of his father who used to hammer iron.
And even things that were related to his father.
Until now, Eiji had been only watching his father’s private life, but once he learns to handle the metal hammer, he will be able to understand his father’s thoughts from different angles beyond any words.
Even though Eichi was teaching, he would still carry out his client’s daily requests.
His working life was unexpectedly busy, despite there being a scarce number of blacksmith workshops.
– Before, I used to only have customers from the neighborhood, but recently, there seems to be novices buying as well.
– That’s unexpected. Were they ordering using the internet?
– Most of the ordered items were covered by that. As expected, it must have been due to the convenient use of a single item. At first, only our kitchen knives were purchased, but once they noticed its ease of use, they would tell their relatives and friends. Therefore, people who continued to buy kept appearing.
– Heh? Since we don’t buy kitchen knives in a home center, we don’t seem to understand that feeling.
– If we ever buy a kitchen knife from a home center, I shall resign from my business.
– That would probably be the biggest shock.
– Other than that, I was thinking about launching local developed products as an alternative. However, were I to do so, I wouldn’t have any spare time.
– It would be nice, wouldn’t it?
– Therefore, you need to hasten yourself and get used to this so that you can become content even with making a single grindstone.
– Got it.
Eichi knew about everything that his son wanted to know, thus, he would certainly answer Eiji’s questions when asked.
It was probably for the sake of him becoming decisive when striking the iron.
One day, Eiji became eager to know more about ancient Japanese tamahagane.
Because he heard that it was used in Japanese swords, he wanted to try it; however, till now, he hadn’t tried talking with his father about tamahagane, not even once.
Does he not have any fond memories of it?
Naturally, the time he asks about it, he would use a careful manner of speaking.
– How about tamahagane?
-…It’s a fine thing, I think. It doesn’t break easily, despite being a tender type of steel. Its sharpness also has a nice edge retention. What’s more, when making it, you can enjoy its characteristic side.
– It’s incredible, isn’t it?
– Furthermore, you can fold it back with ease, which is really nice. It’s not as demanding as yasuki hagane when it comes to quenching, tempering, and maintaining the right temperature, thus, you can try it out after just several process repetitions.
Eichi answered his question with a little bit of excitement.
Was it because he was knowledgeable about the charm of tamahagane? That sort of reaction was quite unexpected from him.
– Then why won’t you use it? Isn’t it sold?
– We can’t get our hands on it, basically, because it’s only sold among swordsmiths.
– But when I checked on the internet, I found a place making it in our vicinity.
– Listen more to what your father says, won’t you? However, it’s impossible for me to do it alone.
– It should be fine even if we check it out?
– ….If it’s necessary, you can buy using our name. They would probably be willing to listen to your talk.
– Is that fine?!
– It should be useful for your observation study. We can try it out however much you want.
In the end it was decided that Eiji would observe and study the tamahagane being processed.
He could finally witness the sight of forging, and feel keenly the magnitude of his boss’s capacity.
Later on, Eiji would return home whenever he had a break from his studies and continue to polish his skills while being scolded by his father.
Three years after graduating, Eiji could finally attain full manhood.
Including the day he was enrolled into university, it took him 7 years.
Nevertheless, despite him becoming an adult, the same couldn’t be said about his skills, which still weren’t top-notched.
So as to overcome his father, Eiji continued exercising his ingenuity.
This is… That’s right, I am―
The moment Eiji saw the lined objects on the table, he could understand quickly their purposes.
They were also the proof that Eiji had no connection with anyone in Siena, that he was a sudden person, wandering alone in a strange country.
These were his belongings. All of them were items impossible to recreate with this place current technology.
The clothes made from thinly colored fabric, which Eiji was pleased with.
His navy blue pair of jeans with a damage pattern, as well as his smartphone, radiating with beautiful lights.
In addition to that, there were his self-winding arm watch, which he received as a gift for his enrollment, and the leather made wallet.
Each of these objects was neatly lined up.
Apart from their shape, each of them was intact and functioning.
His cellphone wasn’t working; nevertheless, once he rotates the spring in his arm watch, it will show the time in the same way.
– The first time I saw you, you were dressed much more different. Because we couldn’t leave a suspicious person like that, we temporary took away your belongings. Of course, we intended to return them back to you, once you learned about your origin.
However, Eiji didn’t know about his origin until now, which was due to him losing his memory.
Judging from the conversation, it was logical. Nevertheless, he understood he possessed the talent to make items with his skillful fingers, despite him not being familiar with field work, which Eiji was allowed to do.
– It had been decided that we would be looking after you, even if it meant letting you stay in the village. We thought that it was fine to apologize and return your belongings after you quickly retrieve your memories. Still, once Franko acknowledged you, we couldn’t leave you alone. So, were you able to recollect your memories?
– Yes. My memories are returning back, just like priming a pump.
Minakata Eiji – that was Eiji’s real identity.
His family located in Moritake city in Wakayama prefecture has a long tradition of smithing, which has continued for 8 generations.
It appeared that long time ago they were a family of swordsmiths; however, it changed with the introduction of haitourei edict that forced them to switch over plain smithing.
In order to succeed his father, Eiji moved to the public university in Osaka.
Such were his memories, which became clear as he understood.
Nevertheless, he couldn’t recollect what had happened to him before he woke up in Siena village.
Why did he arrive at Siena? That cause remained unclear to him.
The last moment which stuck in Eiji’s mind was him boarding a plane, heading toward a certain workshop located in Germany for an observation study.
– I see… It feels as though I can’t comprehend what you’re saying. So that heavy iron soared through the sky, just like a bird, and there was another big land stretching over on the other side of water….? Had I not seen these mysterious items, I would have thought you’re out of your mind. Tanya can you understand anything?
– Not at all. Is that a machine? The world overflowing with multiple amazing things which Eiji-san made, I cannot imagine it. But I can understand it’s a world, where no one is troubled by the lack of food, and it’s wonderful, isn’t it?
– Do you know the reason why this happened?
– No, that part wouldn’t clear up, not even a little.
Eiji couldn’t comprehend the most essential part.
His heart felt somewhere depressed.
Siena village was a comfortable place to live in; however, as long it’s not his hometown, where he had lived and grown up, the environment felt different to him.
There’s no way for Eiji to abandon his beloved wife, still, his attachment to his hometown was strong.
It would be nice if both things could go smoothly… – he thought.
His wishes regarding both of them were equally big, to the extent that he would desire for impossible things like this to happen.
– Well, since it’s an important matter to you, it’s better if you consider them slowly. Besides that, there’s one more issue. Now that you’ve retrieved your memories, what do you plan to do from now on?
– What I plan to do, you mean?
– If you intend to remain in this village, I shall welcome you as usual. Contrary to that, were you to set out from this place, I’ll have you pay an equivalent value for the aid which we gave you.
– Grandmother! Do you really believe that letting Eiji-san go would solve the problem?
– That’s not what I mean. Since he is the beloved man of my granddaughter, I deeply wish for him to remain. I was able to encourage him to stay because he had lost his memory, but now that he’s regained them, it’s up to him to decide.
Hearing the tribal chief’s words, Tanya objected as she threw her doubt with full force at her.
Despite that, the words coming from the tribal chief were calm and emotionless.
– I’m against that. After all, he promised me!
– Eiji. You should decide at your own convenience.
– But, I shall give you an advice. I don’t think you will be able to return to the place from where you came from. Therefore, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to live this way in the village after making a wife.
Eiji’s answer was already decided.
He intended to remain here and have a child together with Tanya, as well as make his effort as the blacksmith, in order to make this village prosper.
But for some reason he couldn’t say it straight away.
Why is that, what’s the matter? – he thought. Was it because he didn’t think so that he was hesitating?
Seeing how Eiji couldn’t express himself, the atmosphere inside the room froze.
Tanya’s heart was pounding within her chest while her eyes began to fill with tears.
It was a painful sight; nevertheless, Eiji couldn’t utter that single important word. It was as though he inherited that trait of being a poor talker from his father.
At the same time, someone was knocking the door.
– Who’s there?
– Tribal chief, it’s me Bernard.
– What business might you have? We are in the middle of the important talk.
– I heard that Eiji was here, so I wanted to convey some words to him.
– Well, fine… you may enter
As the door opened, Bernard entered in.
His trousers were stained with soil, which would indicate he was in the middle of field work.
Once he eyed Eiji, he smiled pleasantly.
– Because you were out on your trade trip, I couldn’t convey what I wanted, but, you probably remember about telling me the seed sowing method before.
– Yes, from that time I wasn’t able to make you the sowing tool, but…
– It’s not regarding that. Since when I was told about that sowing method, buds began to grow rapidly, so I wanted to thank you no matter what – Thank you. Thanks to you, I can finally cultivate spacious fields and use the remaining part for eating.
Ah, so it was because of that?
The people here were able to enjoy their life because of what he had left to them.
Eiji suddenly felt real.
Because it was something he knew, he would also watch people being pleased.
Eiji knew that the things which he made one by one would become useful.
Nevertheless, to be appreciated this much by using a bit of knowledge, it made Eiji happy.
That feeling was something that Eiji hadn’t feel as strong until now.
If he were to return to the place once be belonged, he could probably enjoy making many things.
However, it wouldn’t give him the sense of being needed as much as it does here.
This was the place, in which Eiji was able to make the best of him by being here.
– Tribal chief, Tanya-san, please listen to me.
– Let’s hear it.
– I am staying in this village. I’ve decided to become this village’s strength, so as to make it flourish, even if it’s just a little.
– I see…
Seeing the tribal chief nodding with satisfaction, together with Tanya who felt deep joy, Eiji was convinced that this was the right decision,
– I… wonder whether I’m not interrupting.
– That’s not true. You came just the right moment. I too am greatly thankful for that. From now one, please treat me well.
– Oh, me too, please treat me well.(broken accent)
Bernard probably didn’t know what was happening.
As well as what was he doing while raising his hand cheerfully saying ‘please treat me well.’
However, there was no doubt that his words gently spread Eiji’s wings.
Like that, Minakata Eiji — Eiji swore to become once again the member of this village.
This would later become the big turning point for the village.
Translator and reference notes:
: special type of steel produced by Hitachi, for more details: http://japan-blades.com/how-to
Also here’s some more info regarding grade 1 and 2 matter, which later appears in the text: http://www.britishblades.com/forums/showthread.php?158555-Hitachi-Yasuki-white-steel/page2
If you can grasp those technical terms, you should be able to understand, unlike me <.<
And here how the paper steel looks more or less I believe: http://www.workshopheaven.com/tools/Hitachi-Yasuki-White-Paper-Steel-No2.html
: Type of steel made from iron sand or black sand: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamahagane
: And here’s some history lesson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hait%C5%8Drei_Edict