This part is also translated by Pryun with some touching up by me :)
Rondo of the Transient Sword: Part 21
Based on length and shape, it was a One Handed Long Sword.
However, it was different from the Anneal Blade on my back, being slightly shorter and wider. Although I was not sure because of the darkness and distance, with its large knuckle guard it's probably a «Stout Brand» sword. It was a Straight Sword that fell into the Broad Sword subcategory, and was a weapon that focused on the power of a blow. As to its rarity, it's slightly higher than a Wind Fleuret.
"…… That's a good enough target for switching."
Next to me, Asuna whispered quickly. Though I was slightly surprised that she could see the sword at a glance, I gave a curt nod.
"Ah. Now what's left is to see whether it is maintaining or strengthening……"
There was a distance of twenty metres between the smith shop, in the northwest corner of the square, and us, looking down from the southwest corner. Although search skill reduced the loss in detail, conversation at a normal volume was still hard to catch.
"That member of Lind's group...do you know his name?"
Asuna thought for a while before answering my question.
"If I remembered it right, he is Shivata-san."
"V-Va? Isn't it Shibata?"
"Because the spelling is S-h-i-v-a-t-a. Isn't it va?"
"……In that case, it is va."
While both of us bit our lower lips in anticipation, Nezuha and Shivata seemed to have reached a settlement in their negotiations, and the «Stout Brand» in its sheath was handed over to the blacksmith.
This is it. We, looking from beside a window in a position nearly invisible from the square, stared hard at the blacksmith's hand. Inevitably, not just our shoulders, but our hair was in contact with each other, but the pride fencer seems to have accepted the situation for now.
If it was for durability restoration
m a i n t e n a n c e, Nezuha would have immediately brought the sword to the small rotating whetstone beside the anvil. However, he turned his back to the client, and his right hand reached for one of the leather bag arranged on the carpet. Inside that, I'm afraid, contains a stock of raw materials meant for the task. In other words――
"…… It's strengthening!"
I called out softly, and Asuna nodded, whispering.
"His left hand, my eyes won't leave his left hand!"
There was no need to say that. My sight that was attracted to his moving right hand already fixed onto his left hand eagerly.
The broadsword received from Shivata remained in its sheath, loosely hanging from Nezuha's hand. The position and angle of his arms were not unnatural at all. Directly underneath the sword, all the ready-for-sale swords were crammed tightly, but they were impossible to be used for swapping. This was because they were all weapons made of low-cost iron, of which there wasn't even any rare weapon of a similar class, let alone «Stout Brand». Asides from that, «Placing the weapon onto the carpet and pick up the one next to it» would be too conspicuous an act. It would have been impossible for both Asuna and I, two people, to miss the act if it happened to the Wind Fleuret last night.
Nezuha's left hand held the broadsword steadily, while his right hand was busily and continuously hammering. Certain items from the contents of the leather bag were put inside the forge next to the anvil. In a short moment, the materials became red hot, and soon melted into one lump ―― although that process was not seen but inferred by me. Anyway, this was the highlight of the strengthening process. From the small furnace, red light of the «Weight» strengthening factor flashed brightly. At the very next moment the light dimmed, progressing to the standby status……
At that instant, my entire body tensed up slightly.
When the red light flashed brightly, I felt something strange with Nezuha's left hand. The same thing must have been felt by Asuna, whose shoulder beside mine trembled slightly.
"Just now……" "The sword……"
We muttered at the same time while maintaining our eyes. But nothing else could be said. Despite the flashy light effect occurring for merely half a second, the essential scene was missed.
I grinded my teeth, but we can only continue watching the scene, where the blacksmith lifted the «Stout Brand» up carefully. Even if that «Something» happened, this sword, and the one Shivata initially handed looked exactly the same to our eyes.
With his right hand firmly grasping the handle, the sword was slowly pulled out. The thick and wide blade was placed into the furnace filled with red light. For a few seconds, the entire blade was glowing. After that, it was moved on top of the anvil, and he started hammering it with the smith hammer in his right hand. Clunk, clunk, the clear sound resonated. Five times. Eight times. And finally…… Ten times.
Although we had expected it, Asuna and I couldn't help but diverted our eyes when the faintly glowing «Stout Brand»'s blade shattered into pieces and faded into thin air.
Asuna, overlooking the now tranquil square by the window, murmured.
The meaning was clear although she left out the object—— whether or not we should run after and reveal the presence of fraud to Shivata, who had suppressed his rage and sadness through impressive self control, and walked away from Nezuha without a single complaint.
If it was within an hour from the swap, he would be able to use the «All Items Objectify» command to get his precious sword back. Emotionally, even I want to do so. Naturally however, after Shivata know about the fraud, he wouldn't just stop at getting back his sword. He would definitely return to the square, and I couldn't imagine how far he would go with his condemnation and accusation on Nezuha.
Of course, the actions of Blacksmith Nezuha were completely evil. As such, a reasonable punishment would be unavoidable. However, in this world without GM as a judge, who could determine the limit of «Reasonable»?
Moreover, despite being in the crafter class, Nezuha often leaves the Inner Area. Suppose, by chance, when he went out of the area, someone carried out a «punishment» that can be used by any player. And suppose, the punishment went too far beyond the limit…
Revealing everything to Shivata here will be equal to providing the trigger for Aincrad's first PK incident. And because she understood that, Asuna asked me "What should we do", but even I couldn't give an immediate reply……
Bound by frustration and hesitance, I caught the peaceful sounds of the bell. It was eight in the evening.
At the same time, the continuous hammering sounds from the square below ceased. With Asuna by my side, looking below us, I could see that Nezuha started to close his shop. The furnace fire was extinguished, the tools and materials were put aside, and the sign was folded up. The figure of the blacksmith, laying all those items onto the carpet, seemed exceedingly tiny.
"……Why did Nezuha…… did «Legend Braves» think of performing this Strengthening scam…… no, actually performing it, I wonder..."
At my muttering, Asuna tilted her head.
"I mean, even if they manage to think of a trick, isn't there a huge difference between the corresponding hurdles of«Possible through the system» and «Actually performing it»? SAO isn't just a normal net game, it is a death game that takes life away. Working to scam the weapons of others is clearly a crime. If they were exposed, I can't imagine what would happen to them at that time……"
"Even so, what if... they had also, more or less, overcame that hurdle?"
"Looking aside from ethics, the real problem left is, if they are discovered, it would endanger their lives, right? Then, before being revealed, if they became much stronger than everyone in this world, wouldn't it also allow them to avoid this danger? Even if they met their adversaries outside, they are strong enough to turn the tables. The six…… no, five «Legend Braves» are probably aiming for a situation like that."
As soon as Asuna's words pierced into my consciousness, my avatar's skin felt goosebumps.
"O-oi, please stop it. If a group that doesn't mind to be evil, become so powerful that even the strongest front liners can't defeat them...aren't they going to be…"
My throat narrowed as I struggled to force the words out, from which came a hoarse voice even I myself can't recognise.
" ―― Aren't they going to become the rulers of the world?"