The two men approached Nagahei’s forge at the beginning of the day. Mura confessed that he had not seen his mentor in the last five years, as the older smith had ceased talking with him when he discovered the truth behind Mura’s weapon. They looked in the windows, seeing no-one but hoping that Nagahei would arrive early and they would be able to talk with him.
The shop owner arrived, glaring angrily at the pair as he approached.
“You two have some nerve. I thought my lack of contact would have made it obvious I want nothing more to do with you.”
Mura stepped forward, his cloak brushing along the paving. “I understand the mistake I have made, but I come to you seeking your help.”
The older smith looked at Mura, seeing his scarred features and a humble look in his eyes. “Very well. Come in quickly, before my apprentices arrive.”
They moved through the office area, which Mura realised had been set up exactly as Nagahei had arranged his Kyoto forge. The trio moved into the forge area, and stood to the side of the door.
Nagahei looked to both men. “I have heard what has happened with your weapons.” He looked directly at Mura. “What I knew would occur has happened with your weapons, my wayward apprentice.”
Mura lowered his head. “All I wanted was to be recognised as the greatest smith of my time.”
The older smith looked at him with a look that bordered on pity. “As do we all, Mura. But bringing the magic arts into the process has never ended well. I attempted it, and the person I respected the most died by my weapon. I buried those scrolls as far back in my stores as I could, when I should have burned them.”
Mune addressed Nagahei. “I do not understand how my weapons have not caused the same situation as Mura’s.”
The old man looked at Mune. “The emotion you channelled into your weapons must have been pure enough to not be corruptible. I believe you are the first smith to successfully do so.”
“Are you saying that the only successful weapons were the ones that had negative emotion channelled into them?”
Nagahei nodded. “Negative emotion is much easier to channel than positive emotion. Very few people are ever able to experience pure positivity their entire lives. You come to terms with the events of your life on your way to happiness, but the memories of the bad will always remain.”
Mura looked to his mentor. “Is there any way to stop the negative emotion seeping into a weapon wielder?”
The older smith thought for a moment. “I do not believe so. I am certain that such weapons must be destroyed.”
The scarred man looked up. “The other swords I would happily destroy, but Sutaraito? I cannot do that.”
“I am sorry, Mura. If you do not, you may be responsible for the death of whoever wields it.”
Mura’s eyes widened. “Is it possible that Hidetoyo died because of Sutaraito?”
Nagahei’s hand flew to his mouth. “I did not consider that. It is possible, but if it was true, Yasugawa would be feeling the same effects. The anger in the weapon, it would cause the wielder to have to draw blood with it once he unsheathed it. It was never revealed how Hidetoyo died, so we may never know.”
Mura looked to his friend. “We must find a way to get Sutaraito back from Yasugawa. If I do not do so, his life could be in jeopardy.”
Mune gave him a stunned look. “How do you propose we do that? Gain an audience with him, and explain that one of his swords is cursed and we want to take it back? He would cut you down where you stood.”
“There does not seem to be any other way. If it is true that my weapon is a curse on him, my honour would request that I accept the punishment he sees fit.”
“There has to be another way. We must read the scrolls again. There may be a piece of information we missed.”
Nagahei interrupted their panicked discussion. “Those scrolls have caused enough trouble. Do not let them cause you more pain and suffering.”
The two looked to him, and Mura spoke. “I do not want to destroy Sutaraito unless I am forced to. The weapon may be my legacy, and if it was melted down for no reason, I would be lost to the ages.”
The old man gave Mura a hard look. “That is the price you may have to pay because of your actions. You can hope that the weapons you forged prior to using the knowledge of the scrolls are of a high enough quality that they stand the test of time.”
“They are high quality, but such is the norm of any smith forging blades in Kyoto. My mentor would not have taught me to forge an unworthy blade.”
Nagahei gave Mura a small nod for the respect shown. “Then have faith in your abilities. I taught you well, and you were a good student. I hope you find a way to solve this problem. If you will excuse me, I need to get started on my forging for the day. Yasugawa has requested a ceremonial blade for his upcoming title endowment, and the quality expected will be extremely hard to meet.”
Mune and Mura thanked Nagahei for his time, before moving back into the busy streets of Edo. They moved towards Mura’s shop, seeing a handful of angry people banging on his door. Some had Mura’s weapons, making the pair consider Nagahei’s warning of the lust for blood they would be channelling into their wielders.
Mune quickly grabbed his friend, turned and walked away from the crowd. “We do not want to risk being attacked by a mob. We best go back to your place, and read the scrolls to see what we can find. There may be hope of salvaging Sutaraito yet.”
– X –