“Is this the place?”
“That’s what the other adventurers said… I guess they were right about it being a defence-oriented smithy…”
Lily and Iris stood outside a modest store, with a beige facade made of bricks and a display window showcasing all sorts of weapons, armor, and shields. Especially shields. There was, without a doubt, a ridiculous number of shields on display, far outnumbering the other items. Raising an eyebrow, she took a few steps back to see the shop’s sign again. “Jeanne & Jeremiah Smithy” was painted in large block letters across a large, varnished wooden panel which sat aboe the entrance of the shop. In the centre, under its name, was a cutely drawn picture of an anvil, and to each side were two overlapping shields.
After they had reached an agreement on getting armor for Lily, Iris had gone to ask around for good smithies while Lily rested up and recovered her strength. Apparently, this particular smithy specialised in defensive equipment, and sold it at reasonable prices, so Iris had decided on this shop.
Gingerly, Lily opened the door and stepped into the smithy, greeted by row upon row of shields. Throughout the entire shop, shelves stacked with varying shields proliferated. Along the walls, shields hung from hooks, suspended over boxes filled with armor and weapons. As the door opened, a bell was rung, and a young man behind the counter – somewhere in his late thirties – looked up, seeing the two girls entering the shop. He stood up straight and smiled, his almost perfectly white teeth complementing his neat black hair.
“Hello, ladies. I’m Jeremiah, owner of this shop. How can I help you today?”
As Lily strode closer to the counter, she started paying attention to more details. Jeremiah wore a set of brown overalls with various tools in the pockets, and wore a sleeveless shirt which accentuated the toned muscles of a forgeworker. Behind the counter was a door leading into another room, where the sound of a hammer striking an anvil rang out, an apprentice, perhaps.
Next to the door, where a smith would normally display his greatest, proudest works, was a shield hanging on the wall. A large, ornate, kite shield with a rounded surface that glistened like a jewel. Its surface seemed to move, with colours shifting around, creating an ephemeral sheen that was contantly changing. Along its sides, framing its mysterious centre, was a vivid golden trim, decorated with countless jewels and precious stones. It was to this beautiful shield that Lily’s eyes were drawn.
Jeremiah noticed Lily staring at the shield and let loose a friendly chuckle, running one hand slowly and delicately across the rounded surface.
“Ah, You’ve got a good eye. This here’s Jeanne. Isn’t she lovely? And she’s my wife, so she’s definitely not sale. So? What are you looking for, miss? A dagger? A rapier? Perhaps a sturdy buckler?”
Lily’s curiosity gave way to confusion, then to curiosity again, as she refocused her attention on Jeremiah. This was the first she had heard of a man claiming a piece of equipment to be his spouse. It was…strange, to say the least. Then again, she was shopping for armor with a girl made of metal who looked fourteen. She had no right to criticise other people’s choices in companionship.
“Ah, yes. I’m looking for body armor.”
Jeremiah looked Lily up and down, rubbing his chin between his thumb and forefinger.
“Looking at your build… you’re not a vanguard. Probably a speed-oriented fighter with light weapons?”
Lily nodded at Jeremiah’s accurate assessment.
“Yes, that’s correct. I’m looking for something that will offer some basic protection without hindering my movement too much.”
“I see… light armor then… may I ask what weapons you use? The armor shape will be different depending on whether you use one- or two-handed weapons.”
Lily thought for a while. It would be rather difficult for her to explain her wires…
“I’m a fist fighter.”
Jeremiah raised an eyebrow in surprise.
“A fist fighter? That’s rare… and with that build? Probably some magic thing going on, I suppose… All right, hold on.”
With that, Jeremiah left Lily at the counter as he went rummaging around in a box in the side of the shop. Lily could not help but feel that it would have been more efficient to display the multiple-component items like armor on the shelves, with shields in the boxes, but Jeremiah’s love of shields was plainly evident, so Lily held her tongue.
Several minutes later, Jeremiah returned with a set of light armor, placing it on the counter.
“Here, try this set on. It should be just what you’re looking for.”
Lily completely ignored the arm and leg guards, picking up the central piece and looking it over. It was a leather vest, with laces for tightening at the side, complemented by a light breastplate made of some alloy. She struck her knuckle against the plate lightly and was rewarded with a satisfying clang sound, the sound of metal hitting metal. She looked over it closely, and was pleased to find no damage done to the plate. This would serve. She slipped on the vest and laced it up, then took a few steps back and experimentally did a backflip. She did feel a bit of additional weight, but it was not significant enough to affect her movement. She smiled at Jeremiah.
“This is perfect. We’ll take it.”
“And the arm and leg guards?”
“Don’t need them.”
Jeremiah glanced at Lily skeptically, then shrugged and kept the guards behind the counter.
“Alright, if you say so. That plate’s been forged with a special method that Jeanne and I created, so it’ll repel most blades. Won’t do much against things like a zweihander or a mace though, so be careful around those.”
Lily resisted the urge to ask how a shield could create a forging method, and took out her coin purse. Noticing this, Jeremiah opened up a drawer along the counter.
“Ah, that’ll be 6000 Pars.”
Lily mentally winced at the price, but from what she could tell based on the general price levels of inns and food, that was a fair price for armor. She opened up the string pouch and placed 6 gold Par coins on the counter, which Jeremiah promptly gathered up and deposited in the drawer.
“Alright then, thank you for your patronage. Please come again, miss.”
As Jeremiah cheerfully waved them off, Lily and Iris turned to leave. While they had their backs turned, they heard a familiar voice from beyond the door behind the counter.
Turning around, Lily saw the little girl with black, blue and white hair from the other day exiting the room, carrying a tower shield over her shoulder which was easily longer than she was tall. The moment her grey eyes met with Lily’s, she dropped the shield and hunched over, clutching at her chest. Jeremiah quickly stooped down and put a hand on her back.
“Tate! What’s wrong!?”
Jeremiah looked around wildly, then traced Tate’s gaze, settling his own grey eyes on Lily. Face contorting with rage, he rapidly reached behind the counter and grabbed a battleaxe, leaping at her with the battleaxe high overhead.
As Lily, with a tinge of regret, prepared to send her wires to restrain and decapitate him, Tate, somehow moving faster than Lily could track, appeared in front of Lily, holding up one hand. When she did, Jeremiah’s leap was halted midair, and he seemed to bounce off some kind of invisible barrier, flying across the counter, colliding with Jeanne, causing both of them to fall to the ground. As Jeremiah got up, groaning, leaving the axe on the floor, he looked at Tate with confusion.
“Tate? Honey? Wasn’t she the one hurting you?”
Tate, who was standing between Lily and Jeremiah, was breathing heavily. Sweat beaded her brow, and she seemed ready to collapse at any moment. Struggling, she managed to get out a response.
“No! Well, yes, but… You can’t hurt her! I- I-”
Tate tilted her head and glared at Lily with angry eyes, her left hand all the while clutching her chest. Then she turned back to Jeremiah.
“I belong to her now!”
A short period of silence reigned as Lily and Jeremiah both did nothing but blink at the girl’s sudden, absurd proclamation. Then, a male and female voice sounded at the same time.