Chapter 32 – The Resumption of Smithing
Ah, so cold, so cold.
Once Eiji looked up at the sky, it was covered with gray.
Not letting a single ray of light go through, the gray sky was blended with white things that fluttered. These were the falling snow.
Staring at the sky from the entrance, Eiji felt reluctant about whether or not he should go. Tanya put an outer garment on him.
It was a fur coat that she had previously made.
The coat, which was furnished with the skin of a fox, provided him with a fluffy touch and a certain warmth.
– Today’s much colder than usual, isn’t it?
– Please take care so that the workshop doesn’t turn chilly.
– That’s fine, because I always burn fire.
– That’s right.
– Tanya-san, you too, please properly kindle the fire so as not to get frozen.
– I’ll be fine. Didn’t you make this hand warmer for me? So it will properly warm me up.
The basic material for the hand warmer was iron powder.
Eiji made it by putting the iron scraps from his work into a cotton bag.
– Well, I’m off.
– Despite doing the parting kiss everyday… I’m still not used, you see. It’s embarrassing.
– Your embarrassed face, it’s refreshing to look at it once again.
– Thank you for the treat.
Giving out a miserable voice, Tanya kissed him timidly with an expression that was red just like a heated piece of iron.
The path leading to his workshop, which was not used by many people, was slightly covered up by the snow.
Despite hearing the delightful sound of crunching each time he stepped on the snow, somehow, Eiji’s heart didn’t feel moved. Was it perhaps due to him becoming an adult without the heart of a child?
On his way from home to the workshop, Eiji frequently rubbed his hands together while warming them up with his breath.
The blowing wind was chilly; nevertheless, his heart was warm.
Two week had passed since the festival of abundant harvest– Regarding what happened after the festival, Eiji didn’t want to remember. Simply, it was truly bothersome for him.
Considering his homeland, where he had been, today would be one of the most special days in his workshop.
Once he reached the workplace and opened the wooden door, Eiji clapped his hands in prayer, which was unusual for him, and entered inside.
The arrival of winter is different depending on each year; nevertheless, it is around 20th day of the twelve month.
It felt as though today was be the first day of the new year for him to resume smithing, after two weeks of absence.
Because this day was an important one for him, he wouldn’t fret about wasting firewood and charcoal for this particular day.
Without restraining Eiji kindled the fire.
He swept the floor called tataki, which he would tread upon.
There were different things lying in thick masses on the floor inside the workshop, among which were: ashes, iron sands, iron oxide that is generated during striking, and minuscule amounts of slag. Once all of this mixed together, the soil created a black gloss little by little.
Back when Eiji was still in Japan, farmers would usually come to his household and request this soil.
A soil that included various materials would contain a small quantity of nutrient, and therefore was considered favorable for growing foodstuff.
He would laugh at how his father thought of such an unexpected thing as a priceless treasure.
Since Eiji was now using this in the backyard of his household, he still didn’t know what result it will yield in their life.
Once he slowed down his sweeping, the presence of another person was felt.
The person’s shadow, which was one size smaller than his, was that of his disciple, Pietro.
– Good morning!
– Oh, good morning.
– I apologize for making you do the preparations.
– It’s good practice, so that’s fine. Rather than that, guess I told you before, but you ought to pay respect properly.
Eiji intended to tell Pietro about the customs that are present in a workshop as well.
Despite there being cultural differences from where he had lived, Eiji thought he should tell Pietro about spiritual aspects of smithing since he was already teaching him the skills.
It wasn’t an emphasis on spiritualism; however, proverbs and way of thinking were also parts of the skills, to which one should live accordingly.
Eiji also took his lessons from these unusual things when he was a disciple; nevertheless, it was mainly thanks to him daily polishing his skills that he became a full-fledged blacksmith.
Then again, thanks to him being told about that every day, Eiji gained a new awareness.
– Hm? What’s the matter?
– When you pay respect, what god should you pray to?
– Ah… that’s right.
So I’ve to explain to this point? – he wondered.
There are several gods in whom blacksmiths believe.
However, apart from gods, like the god of the cooking stove, Kanayago god, and Inari god that were worshiped depending on the region, there were people, who would just visit a local shrine.
Everyone in Eiji’s family worshipped Kanayago god.
The god that is also known by other name – kanayamabikoamenomahitotsunomikoto – is considered to be the one who governs the pair of bellows, which is the cornerstone among all the blacksmith’s tools.
The main temple of the god is located in the Shimane prefecture. According to the legend, once the god stopped in front of the treetop of a big Japanese Judas tree, he noticed a pair of bellow stuck in between.
At the time of the special event named the Festival of Bellows, the god would be worshiped by Shinto priests.
– Listen. It’s hard to explain, but hear me carefully.
– The name of our workshop’s god is kanayamabikoamenomahitotsunomikoto.
– Kanayamabiko, amenoma….hitotsu, mikoto.
– That’s right. If you have no god whom you worship, then please pray to this god so that we can produce things skillfully, and so that there’s no fire incident.
– Master, it feels as though I will bite my tongue.
– Try to say it quickly.
– kanayamabikoame—!! …awwwie. Master, can you say it?
– Alright, then let’s pray silently.
– That’s mean! Master too, please say it!
Because the workplace is where fire is usually dealt with, there tends to be lots of fire incidents.
No matter how much attention one would pay to extinguishing a fire, the sparks would scatter whimsically on their own.
Therefore, you would request a god to protect you from the fire.
Looking at the earnestly praying Pietro, Eiji waited for him to finish while feeling glad as his mentor.
– I’m done.
– Righto. Then let’s begin striking.
– First, insert the charcoal like usual.
Pietro divided the charcoal in small portions.
Using a Nata singlehandedly, he divided the charcoal and created 2 cm small chips.
If possible, charcoal made from pine trees and chestnuts were good as well.
Thanks to that, using a pair of bellows to regulate the temperature will become easier, and it will be simple to heat up deliberately using a low temperature.
In the first place, there were charcoal chips in stock; however, accumulating a regular amount of them was a good practice.
What’s more, this was a good training for hammer swinging.
Actions such as accurately swinging down to where you were aiming and understanding where to hit were also useful for hammer swinging.
Being praised by his father, who would rarely do so, for having a good brain made Eiji a little bit proud.
Judging from the situation, Pietro wasn’t bad; nevertheless, he wasn’t particularly fast.
– Master, I’m done preparing the charcoal.
– Alright, next light the fire.
– Ah, wait a moment.
– Don’t use the flints like you would usually.
– Eh? Then how am I going to light the fire?
Eiji halted Pietro, who was about to prepare fire by using flints.
Despite using the same method of preparing fire, this day was different.
Hearing that he shouldn’t use the flints, Pietro made a curious expression.
– We are going to strike the iron.
– Y, yes. We always strike a heated iron.
– That’s not what I mean; we are going to strike this iron as it is.
Eiji held a slender iron pole.
Once Eiji explained to him to put it on the anvil and strike, Pietro made a more and more curious face.
Well, even if I tell him, it will be hard for him to understand. – he thought.
Was Eiji too frank with his explanation? Pietro made a flustered face, which was rare for him. He looked a little bit afraid.
If he was an obstinate type of master, Eiji would probably have raised his hand against the disciple; however, he wasn’t keen on resorting to Spartan education.
If he were to choose whether to do so or not, he might have given Pietro a toffy or a candy stick as well.
– Iron has a mysterious property.
– Whenever you strike the iron, its property will become balanced and it will seemingly hold a magnetic force. Another way for the iron itself to hold the heat is by adding external force, such as striking and bending.
When one folds and twist a wire, it will become naturally hot to the extent of becoming unable to hold it.
The same phenomenon will be created when striking with a hammer.
Starting a fire by generating heat is a customary way in a blacksmith’s workshop since the ancient times.
– Well, it’s not like you will understand from just listening. So as for you to see it…
Eiji began to strike the iron pole on the anvil.
The heat began to transfer through his hand that was holding it.
The place which he was holding directly was probably turning very hot.
Once he mixed together dried straw ashes, smoke eventually rose and the fire was kindled.
– It’s real!
– Still doubting in what I said?
– No, I believed in Master. There’s no way Master would lie.
– Hey, enlarge the fire using these straw ashes.
Hehehe – Pietro laughed, causing Eiji to be taken aback while thinking that he indeed is an optimistic guy.
Because the atmosphere was really cheerful, he couldn’t bring himself to scold him.
This guy has a peculiar personality, indeed – thought Eiji.
Pietro was rather a rare type of worker.
The fire transferred from the straw ashes to the tree bark, and eventually grew bigger on the charcoal.
Once the watermill started to make the pair of bellows works, the charcoal inside the furnace burned red.
Translator and reference notes:
: Japanese type of entryway, also known as Genkan. More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genkan
: Japanese shinto god: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inari_%C5%8Ckami
: or kanayamabiko amenomahitotsu no mikoto, which is lit. Kanayamabiko The one-eyed lord of the heaven(needs to be confirmed though). For more info about Kanayamibiko: http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=89