Mune was woken by the spring sunlight flooding into his residence. He was grateful for the earlier rising of the sun that came with spring, as the orders for his weapons were being placed faster than he could forge them. As he ate his morning meal and got dressed, he began to wonder if his fame was a blessing or a curse. When everyone knows you and wants your goods, he thought to himself, the weight of their expectations begin to wear you down.
He left his house and walked to the forge district. The larger stream of income had allowed him to buy any residence he desired, yet he had bought a large place on the basis of how close it was to his forge. The easy travel to and from work was a benefit he appreciated, as it allowed him more time to ensure the craftsmanship on his weapons was as ideal as possible.
Reaching his forge, he unlocked the front door and entered the office area. The room had always been attractively decorated due to Mune being the preferred weapons supplier to Hidetoyo, but the income from the engraved swords had changed this. With the gold trim on the edges of the desk, statues of famous warriors created to scale, and the exquisite detailing on the silk cushions, the room turned it into an indulgence for one’s eyes.
As he had expected, he was the first to arrive. He had installed a back door to the forge, allowing the apprentices to get to their workstations without being caught in the swarms of customers who would descend on the shop. He checked each of the forges that his apprentices used, ensuring that everything was in perfect working order. As he reached his own in the centre of the large room, he took in the large and deeply detailed wardrobe. Opening it, he looked at the dozen or so weapons he had created using the knowledge he had gained from Mura.
The thought of his friend, who had disappeared without a trace, saddened him. He began to feel some guilt for his success, knowing that it was his Mura’s trust in him regarding the scrolls that had allowed him to take the artistry of his craft to a revered level. He may have given him the scrolls out of frustration at his own failings, but he had not stopped Mune in making his own attempts. He could only imagine what Mura was doing now.
After he assessed each weapon and placed them back, he thought to himself that none of them were the equal of his first effort. They were all some of the strongest blades that had ever been forged, but the immaculate finish of his initial sword had never again been met. He thought that it would please Hidetoyo to know he had the greatest weapon in the whole land.
He had two hours to himself before the apprentices all came in to the forge, each greeting Mune with a reverent bow. Where they had always seen him as a benevolent teacher of the craft, it seemed now that they believed him touched by the gods. He was always appreciative of being shown respect, as long as he believed it was earned fairly. That he earned it at the expense of his friend always sat uncomfortably with him.
Putting aside his work for a moment, he walked the forge room floor and spoke with each of his ten apprentices. Taking an interest in their work and development had come naturally to him, as his army days had taught him that all teams were as strong as its weakest link. Knowing the jealousy that some could have of their abilities and knowledge, Mune had always ensured that new techniques or small items of knowledge was shared amongst all of them. His forge was to be a united front at all times, and that his customers be certain of the finest weapons no matter which apprentice forged it.
As was expected, many people came to the forge’s office as Mune opened after midday. For the most part, they were army delegates who had been sent to collect weapons at the behest of their leaders. The well-off and noble also visited regularly, demanding that Mune accept their requests and that any price would be accepted. He had increased the price regularly, but it never seemed enough to stop the demand by any meaningful degree.
As his customers arrived to receive their orders, Mune retrieved the goods and passed them over the counter. The others in line would watch the person leave with thinly veiled envy, believing it was one of the mystical Mune blades. He took a small measure of pride in the way customers would handle their weapons when he handed them over, taking them as if the gods had granted them the most wonderful gift they could imagine. Reverence of the weapon was acceptable, but reverence of its maker was not.
The number of people collecting their goods decreased as the afternoon wore on. The messengers arrived to deliver the mail towards the end of each day, giving Mune a chance to rest form his day of forging weapons and socialising with customers. He sorted through the letters, many of them the expected requests from far-away nobles. As he added those letters to his bulging orders box, he looked to the next letter on the desk. The lack of detail made it stand out amongst the others, with no intricate emblems or drawings.
He looked to the wax seal, which also was non-descript. He broke it, and unfolded the letter to assess its contents. Mune read the words with great joy. The best possible news had arrived in the most humble of packages.
It was a letter from Mura, advising him that he had gone to Edo to see his former mentor Nagahei. The time he had spent there had helped him refocus on his craft after the years of constant failure, and that Nagahei had explained to him some unknown details of the scrolls. An unexpected event had occurred that he did not explain in great detail, but it had led to Mura successfully creating the weapon that had eluded him for so long. The pride in his friend lit up Mune’s face.
The letter went on to state that Yasugawa had commissioned Nagahei to create some weapons for Hidetoyo to assess. The former Eastern Daimyo had requested that his master consider weapons forged in Edo, as he believed the focus on training and development he had encouraged in his new lands was finally bearing reward. There would be a formal meeting held at Hidetoyo’s castle in Osaka, with selected smiths from Kyoto and Edo presenting their goods for inspection. Nagahei had been invited, and a request to allow Mura to present his own new creation was granted.
Putting the letter to the side, Mune finished sorting the remaining letters. True to the words in Mura’s letter, a message from Osaka Castle requested Mune to visit and present the best examples of his works for assessment. He promptly wrote a letter of acceptance.
As the sun set, the apprentices farewelled Mune as they departed. Giving the office and forge areas a quick inspection, he locked up his shop for the night. With the good news from his friend, he decided to eat out tonight after dropping off his letter to Osaka Castle at the South Gate’s postal office.
He would finally see his friend again.
– X –