A/N: I just want you all to know that these chapters will be long. This chapter is over 4,000 words. If you like long chapters great. If not, I'm sorry. If you decide to read it I hope you enjoy it.
Yuin stared into the fire of the furnace as his father sharpened a recent order behind him; an ax to gather wood for the coming winter. It was going to be a long one, he could tell. They seemed to get longer every year. He got up from his seat and approached his father. "Is there anything else for me to do? I've polished all the orders, swept the store and thrown out the rats from traps. Can I go out now?"
The scraping of iron ceased and the show of sparks ended abruptly as Ruek lifted the ax from his wheel. "You can go but take this to your mother before you go. It's the medicine I meant to bring to the house before coming to the shop. Give it to her then you can go do what you want for a few hours. I want you back at the shop before sunset, alright?"
Yuin nodded and took the small pouch given to him. He went outside to the front of the shop and ascended the stairs to the right of the doors. They used to live in a separate home but when his father was at the shop it took too long for him to return home if something happened with his sister, Aela, so he built an extension beside the shop.
"I'm home," Yuin called out before opening the door. No response. He peeked inside first. No one occupied the front so he went inside and closed the door behind himself.
"We are in the back Yuin," his mother called back.
Yuin went to the back room and joined his mother, Yaum, beside Aela's bed. A small table set for tea sat between them. He handed her the pouch and kissed his sister's forehead. "I'm going to take a walk around town and go to buy that bag I saw in the tailor's window," he said. "We could deliver items with it if they are small enough to fit inside and take requests too. That could bring even more business to the shop."
Yaum nodded as she mixed a drop of the medicine into a cup of steaming tea. "If they have not come to us for work then maybe they do not need our service."
"Or maybe customers do not want to walk all the way to the north end of the town to get service," he replied. "That bag could change so many things for us. Do you know what we could do with all the money this could bring in? We could afford more medicine for Aela. I think we are almost out now."
"We have enough medicine for the rest of the month, Yuin," their mother said with a sigh. "Do not waste your money on something we cannot use. Get something useful like a scarf or gloves. It will be winter before you know it and that bag is not going to keep you warm."
She helped Aela sit up to drink the tea. Yuin looked away as the sheets fell from her frail frame. She took the cup but Yaum had to hold it from the bottom to make sure she did not drop it. Yuin stood and walked toward the door. "Do you need anything mother?" he asked, not looking back.
"I would like some fabric to make a new dress for your sister," she said. "Can you bring back some nice material?"
He stopped outside the door and sighed, "I am glad to see you are feeling a little better today Aela."
He walked away without waiting for her response. Aela looked to her mother. "Is faxi okay? He seemed upset, although... He always seems upset when he comes to my room."
Yaum made her finish the tea then put the cup on the table. "Yuin is just fine dear, do not worry about him. He just wants to see you get better."
Aela laid back down, her body unable to stay upright for long without her head spinning.
The town was as busy as ever, especially in the square. The more well dressed inhabited this side of town and Yuin stuck out in his ash dusted working clothes. The only thing he was concerned with was the tailor's shop. Orders were placed there but there were some items sitting up for sell to keep money coming in between orders. There was a leather bag that sat in the window and it was big enough to carry an ax and anything else he could think of to put in it at the moment. He pushed the shop's door open.
"Gamshi, how may I serve you today?" the woman standing behind a desk greeted him. Yuin took the bag from the window and brought it right up to the woman. "Are you buying this for your mother? I'm sure she will love it."
Yuin took out a few polished ipen for his purchase and put it on the counter. "Actually, it is for my use. I am going to use it for my father's shop. We are blacksmiths." The woman nodded but didn't say anything as she took his ipen. "Do you have dress material?" Yuin asks. "That is for my mom."
The woman nodded and goes to her back room behind a curtain. She returned with her arms full of beautiful material. All of it was soft to the touch with natural patterns from flowers to birds to simple patchwork. "Shi-yi po wei ipen," she said.
Yuin looked through the fabric. He didn't have enough for more than two yards of fabric if it was five ipen each and he wasn't sure how big of a dress his mother was planning on making. He picked out two yards of fabric with a pattern he thought would look nice on Aela. After folding them away into his bag, Yuin thanked the shop owner and stepped back out into the busy streets.
Outside, he ignored the glances he got. It was not that odd to see a boy with a bag. Messenger boys ran around with bags all the time to deliver their letters. Then again their appearance was probably cleaner than his ash dusted presentation. It didn't bother him though. Everyone who saw him knew what his family did for a living.
Yuin made his way to the market. It was a large open building where vendors lined up on either side and a path was made to traverse from one side to the other. It was a decent short cut to the other side of the town. He was in search of something to put with dinner.
As he looked over a selection of vegetables, a noticeably well dressed woman approached the stand with a woman holding a basket standing behind her. A sweet, floral scent wafted up from her elegant jjiwan. The cuffs resembled a flower with one stopping just below her elbow and another with a lace hem reaching her wrist. The scarf wrapped around her delicate neck looked like real fur.
Yuin knew she was watching him but didn't say anything until she asked rather absently, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, "You are the blacksmith's son, are you not? I heard of that little shop of yours. Your father is supposed to be the best when it comes to mending broken tools."
"There are other blacksmith's in town," he said, making sure to avoid eye contact.
"You are Yuin Henyl, son of Ruek Henyl the blacksmith who is husband to Yaum Henyl who is the mother of your sister, Aela Henyl."
Yuin hid his unease by examining a head of leafy greens, turning it over in his hands.
"My name is...Nimo Gunjji. I just wanted to ask if your father would take a job for me. Actually, it is my husband that needs something repaired."
Yuin swallowed hard at the mention of her name. Nimo Gunjji. He turned to her and lowered his head. "I-I could come pick it up now, Gunjji-yau."
She seemed to think on the offer a moment. "I must warn you that my husband is not very tolerant of children."
"I will wait outside. Please, allow me to serve you."
"Come with me."
Yuin followed her and the accompanying woman up to a rickshaw where she was helped into the seat then her lady servant and he got in alongside her. It was a little tight of squeeze and he was feeling all the more self conscious with his dirtied pants pressed against the soft fabric of the lady servant's jjiwan. It felt like the longest ride he had ever taken and, to be fair, it was his first time in a rickshaw.
He was sharing a seat with one of the wealthiest women in town. The Gunjji were known to be very good with money. Man or woman, one was lucky to be born into the family, not to mention marrying into the lineage. Yuin just had to make a good impression on Gunjji-yau and maybe they could finally be able to afford visits from a doctor for Aela.
Gunjji watched the boy from the corner of her eye. He was staring straight ahead, stiff as a board. A small smile came to her lips. The noise from the market fell further away until they came to a large home separated from the others by a tall wooden fence. The rickshaw puller helped the ladies from the seat and they proceeded inside.
As Gunjji approached the fence it was opened by two men on the other side. The fence came up to Yuin's neck as he passed into the perimeter. Gunjji stopped to greet a servant girl who bowed as she approached. "Gamshi. Welcome back Gunjji-yau. Shall I tell the Master we have a guest?"
"Yes, Melïn." She turned to Yuin and asked him to stay there. She would send Melïn to come get him once she spoke with her husband. For the time being, the greeters from earlier would keep an eye on him until then.
Inside, Gunjji found her husband sitting in his study with a pile of books beside him. He closed the book and stood when she entered the room. "Nomi, did you find him? Will he do it?"
"I found his son, Yuin Henyl," she said as she walked into the room. "He says he will deliver what you need fixed to his father."
He stood and clasped his hands together. "Well, get him inside quickly so he can be back to this father quickly! Meet me in the practice room."
She returned outside to get Yuin. Left alone, Gunjji went to his practice room and closed the doors behind himself. He looked over the back wall where blades, axes, and armor were on display for his eyes and whomever he deemed worthy of entering this room. He walked up to a case in the back that lay on the floor, wrapped up in an old scroll. He knelt next to it and gently pressed his finger against the wrappings. "You will be whole once again..."
The sound of the doors sliding open brought him back to his feet. He smoothed the wrinkles from his robe and turned to face his guest. Yuin entered beside Gunjji. "Welcome, Henyl-dao. What I need repaired is something very precious to my family. It is a weapon that has been used to defend the Gunjji wealth for many generations. It was broken in the last battle and I would like it to be repaired so that we can display it in this room. I understand that he is no longer a sword smith but I will have no one else touch this blade but your father."
He retrieved the case and brought it to Yuin as if he held a delicate piece of glass in his hands. "It comes in two pieces that can be put together to form a staff. I trust that he will be able to take good care of this."
Yuin nodded and held out his hands to accept the case. He tried not move as the case was lowered into his hands. "But I must have your word that no one will touch this except your father. This is an important family heirloom and I do not want it fooled around with," Master Gunjji said as he looked into Yuin's eyes. He still held onto the case though it sat in Yuin's hands now. "No one but your father must touch this item, do you understand boy?"
"Qiso, yes sir," he said quickly, nodding just as much.
Master Gunjji relinquished the case and turned his back to Yuin. "Go quickly now. Your parents must be wondering where you are by now. I will give you a week to have the staff back to me."
"Qiso," he said again, bowing until Gunjji-yau put a hand on his shoulder.
She walked him back to the rickshaw to see him off. She paid the rickshaw puller in gold ipen for the ride there and back. The ride back was silent and all too loud. He couldn't hear the noise from the busy town but his mind was racing with thoughts as he stared at the case he held in his hands. The paper it was wrapped in was covered in old writings but it didn't seem dusty.
In his hands he probably held the single most important piece of work his father would ever do. If they did a good job with this, they could look forward to getting more jobs from nobles. They would be making a lot more money. "This is it," he whispered. "This will end all of our problems." He wiped away the tears before they started to fall and as soon they reached the market again Yuin jumped out of the rickshaw and ran all the way back to the shop.
"What is this?" his father asked when Yuin came rushing into the shop and placed the case on his work table.
"This is the answer to all of our problems," Yuin said through heavy breaths.
Ruek went to the table and looked the case over. The wrappings kept it from being opened. He looked to his son who stood grinning from across the table. "Where did you get this?"
"From Gunjji-phe himself," he answered proudly. "It's a family heirloom."
"Gunjji-phe? How in the world-"
"I met Gunjji-yau in the market while shopping for mother and she said Gunjji-phe had something he wanted repaired so I went to get it myself. He said for no one to touch it but you."
His father stared at him for a long time, whether it was shock or anger, wasn't clear. With a short pull his father ripped the wrapping from around the case and sat it aside. He unlocked the simple mechanisms and slowly opened it. A cloud of dust blew out into the air, drawing coughs from their throats. Yuin waved away some of it then went to open a window.
When he returned to the table the case sat open, brandishing two pieces of a silver staff. His father took off one of his gloves and wiped his hand on his pant before reaching into the case and running his fingers over the cold silver body. Yuin leaned onto the table towards it, mostly to keep his hands occupied so he would not touch it absently. He had given Gunjji-phe his word.
His father suddenly closed the case and put it on the back wall with other waiting orders. "You had no business going there and taking an order without my consent. I have too much work to do here as it is and I will not neglect my loyal customers for a single noble. It will be a while before I can get to their piece, maybe days."
"They have given us a week," Yuin spoke up excitedly. "There is plenty of time to get everything done and I can help you! If we do well then maybe we can afford that doctor for Aela so she can actually start to get better."
Yuin moved around the table as he talked until he stood in front of his father. He put his hand on top of his son's head and sighed. "I am not against what you did because it was wrong, I am glad you were able to take the opportunity when it showed itself, but it was not safe for you to go to that side of town alone. Promise me will not go back there alone again."
"I promise. Now can we get started? The sooner we start-"
"Yes, yes, I know but we can start tomorrow. I have had a long day. Clean up the shop and make sure everything has been put away correctly before coming up to dinner."
Yuin turned and picked up his mallet from the table. For a moment he thought he had seen something in his father's eyes just then. He shook the thought away and continued to pick up around the room. Things were going to be different from now on, he just had to believe it.
Gamshi (gah-m-shee): general greeting; hello
Qiso (kee-so): yes; okay; confirmation
jjiwan (gee-wahn): traditional attire for men and women characterized by long sleeves and flowing skirt/pant legs
faxi (fa-shee): older brother
-yau (ya-oo): female noble honorific
-dao (dah-oh): general term of respect for acquaintances/first meetings
-phe (feh): male noble honorific
ipen (ee-peh-n): currency, coin money
shi (shee): counting number ten
wei (weh-ee): counting number five
yi (yee): counter for yards
po (poh): shows relationship of subj. to verb