Translation by me and touch up by Pryun :)
I said, bluntly, while passing the sheathed sword over. Nezuha looked up at me in astonishment.
His astonishment wasn't because of my appearance, but because of the rugged Great Helm that concealed all of my face. This type of helmet only had thin eye slits. Although it provided a great amount of defence, it severely limited the field of view. At a glance, I looked like a Tank in an average guild, but no player ever equips this in the city area.
I, Kirito, am a lightly armoured, speed-typed player. Equipping this Great Helm, is not for boosting my defence at all, but obviously to disguise myself. As Nezuha had seen me three days ago when I visited to strengthen the Wind Fleuret with Asuna, I'm certain that he would recognize me as "that guy at that time" if the usual Bandana was used as the only disguise.
Therefore, I was dressed in this style. Of course, the coordinator Asuna said these calm words to me. It would be odd if it was only the helmet, but if I wore the full attire, people would think that I'm «A Person with This Hobby».
Thus, now, not only did I wear the Great Helm, I had the thick Plate Mail equipped, and even had a door-like Tower Shield. As all of these were cheap goods from an NPC store, their weight was just within the limit, but I may develop claustrophobia if I remained in this suffocating suit for more than half a day.
As I silently thanked the heavily-armoured Tanks in the boss raiding missions from the depths of my heart, I waited for the frightened Nezuha to get my sword―― which was actually a legitimately rare weapon, Anneal Blade.
"Let me see its properties."
I did not say anything, so after muttering so, the blacksmith tapped on the sword's handle. As he peeked at the window that appeared, he suddenly raised his furrowed eyebrows.
"Anneal +6……two more tries remaining…huh. And it has… S 3, D 3. This is a really nice sword…"
As he talked, his gentle smiling face confirmed my perception of him, once again, was right. That is, this blacksmith isn't really a bad person.
However, within a second, Nezuha's smile of admiration disappeared without a trace. What replaced it was a face which seemed as if he was bearing with a lot of pain.
He lowered his head, and forced out a soft voice from his tight mouth,
"...............What type of strengthening are you looking for?"
December 11th, Sunday, just before 8pm in the evening.
The bone-chillingly cold East Square of Taran Village was already shrouded by the coat of night, and no other players or NPCs could be seen. The only people remaining were the Blacksmith Nezuha, who was about to close his shop, and me, his mysterious customer. In the vicinity of the square, Asuna should be observing us from one of the rooms, but due to the heavy metallic equipment I had on, I couldn't sense her gaze.
The defeat of the first floor's boss and the activation of the teleport gate to the second floor's main city area was done last Sunday, and just one week has passed since that eventful day. The incident Asuna and I encountered in the eastern square of Ulbus occurred three days ago, while Nezuha's trick for the Strengthening Fraud was identified here in Taran Village two days ago.
A more accurate way to phrase it would actually be 'firmly believe that the trick is identified', and in order to be certain, we stayed here for two days. This was because I had to acquire and practice the «skill» that was used by Nezuha to swap the weapons.
Of course, if the main premise of Nezuha accepting my Strengthening request was not met, then nothing else could be done. Seeing that my full disguise worked, I secretly patted my chest and swiftly answered the Blacksmith's question.
"Speed please. I will also pay for the price of the materials, so please use materials for a 90% success rate. "
Though Nezuha should have heard my voice three nights ago, the Great Helm that fully covered my face may have brought about a strong voice changing effect, so he didn't recognise me as the one that accompanied the fencer who requested the strengthening of Wind Fleuret.
"...... Understood. The costs for the materials with a 90% success rate... and the handling fee, comes to a total of 2700 Cor... "
Nezuha replied in a taut tone, and I did my best to reply "That will be alright" in a tone as flat as I could possibly manage.
In truth, my heart under the sturdy breastplate was beating wildly, and the gauntlet padding was also soaked in cold sweat. If all of my investigations was wrong since the start -- Nezuha is not a Strengthening frauder at all, and the «weapon destruction» was actually an added penalty to strengthening failure, then in a few minutes, my beloved Anneal Blade +6 may shatter and disappear without a trace.
No, such thing will not happen. After all, Asuna's supposedly shattered Wind Fleuret returned after we used the «all item objectify» command. Even in the worst case, where the hypothesis regarding the trick is wrong, I should be able to use the same command to get my sword back.
Thus, what I needed to do was just to observe every single action, and press the icon at the right timing. That's all.
I gestured my left hand and opened my menu window, then switched to the trade tab and paid the amount Nezuha requested. Normally at this point most players would close the window, but I returned to the main window and left it there instead. Fortunately, Nezuha didn't suspect my actions.
"……2700 Cor, payment received."
After answering gently, the petite Nezuha walked behind the portable furnace. Moving naturally, he suspended my sword that was held in his left hand to a position a few centimeters above the myriad of goods.
It begins now.
I consciously focused my eyes, which were distracted by the operating portable furnace in the previous session, onto Nezuha's left hand. Although the tiny eye slits on the Great Helmet severely limited my field of view, thanks to this, I will no longer be distracted by the portable furnace.
Nezuha had probably finished throwing the strengthening materials from the shelves into the furnace, as a radiant green light blended into the top-right of my vision. If I gazed directly into the furnace at that moment, I would definitely be dazzled on the spot.
At that instant - -
Nezuha quickly extended his left index finger, and lightly touched a location between the gap of two swords on the carpet.
Although it was just a moment, the Anneal Blade in his hand had definitely flickered once.
By this point, the swapping has probably been completed. What a brilliant and ingenious trick. No one was likely to notice this, even when being watched by hundreds of people in the middle of the day.
I sighed inside the rugged helmet, similar to when Nezuha checked out the properties of the sword. But I didn't say anything, and merely continued to silently witness the strengthening process.
When green light burst forth like liquid from the furnace, Nezuha picked up the sword with his left hand and pulled it out with his right hand. The blade reflected the colour of the special black steel of the Anneal Blade, but it shined duller than the one in my memory.
This was because, the sword currently held in Nezuha's hand, was not the +6 which I handed over to him ――but the +0 end product that was purchased from the three horned Ryufior-shi. This was just a conjecture, but I was probably right.
The blacksmith placed the sword into the furnace, and the sword was instantly shrouded in radiant green light. After that, it was placed on the anvil next to the furnace, and the blacksmith started pounding it with his hammer. The clear clanging sound has not changed at all from that time, when Asuna's Fleuret was being strengthened.
At that time, I told Nezuha, who broke the Fleuret and offered to fully refund the labour fee, that "It's alright, you already swung your hammer with all you had, so I do not need that. The number of hits among the player blacksmiths is the same, but there are those who don't do it seriously......"
However, the reason his hammering sounded so full of emotion was not because he had been praying hard for the strengthening's success. He was definitely expressing his condolences within his heart. To the swords that were intentionally destroyed for the sake of a successful fraud.
End products, which had their strengthening attempts completely used up, will be destroyed if there was an attempt to strengthen them. I learnt this from Argo the Rat the night before yesterday. And now, right before my eyes, this very phenomenon was about to occur again.
......Eight times, nine times, ten times.
The last strike produced an exceptionally loud clank.
The transient sword on the anvil shattered and vanished.
Nezuha trembled and slightly shrunk himself. As he put down the hammer in his right hand, the sheath held in his left hand, which was an extension of the sword, also disappeared.
Nezuha lowered his head deeply and turned towards me. He inhaled deeply, his face started to distort, and he was going to cry out "Sorry!" with a trembling voice ――but just before that, I calmly stopped him,
"No, there is no need for an apology."
Right in front of the eyes of the stunned blacksmith, I started clicking orderly on the still displayed equipment figure. The huge, ski-boot-like greaves, the lower portion of the Platemail, gauntlets, upper portion of the Platemail...the metal armour I had used as camouflage disappeared one by one.
As the Great Helm disappeared, I flicked the hair on my forehead and took a sharp breath. Finally, I equipped the Coat of Midnight, and its hem fluttered wildly.
Nezuha's narrow eyes widened in an instant.
"…………Y-you…..you are…………at that time…………"
"Ah, sorry, I disguised myself and fooled you. But if you saw my face, I don't think you would have undertaken my request. "
Though I said those words in the calmest tone that I could manage, Nezuha's face had been filled with astonishment and fear as he listened to me. He probably realised it too. That I had already arrived at the conclusion of the existence of the «Strengthening Fraud», and have understood its logic as well.
While still looking at the petrified blacksmith, I pressed a certain icon at the lower portion of the menu window that was still open in front of me ――the weapon skill mod activation button, with my left index finger.
Shua! As the suppressed sound effect resounded, a sword appeared in my right hand. A heavy, single handed long sword inside its black, leather sheath. The sword that accompanied me and fought with me, shortly after the start of the death game, my Anneal Blade +6.
Nezuha's face was greatly strained.
While still looking at his tragic expression, I said,
"Who would've thought that the «Quick Change» mod was mastered in such a short time frame... moreover by a blacksmith... Also, you must have hidden the menu window, which is necessary for the activation, in between the Carpet and the goods...this idea is also amazing. The guy who thought up this trick is truly a genius..."
As I continued my speech, Nezuha's shoulder gradually fell, and shortly after his head sank deeply as well.