The Hero Returns

Chapter 31



Chapter 31: Chapter 31


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Countless items were required to create Balmung. It was impossible to gather all the items needed to make only the shaft now. Balmung was the highest-grade weapon created to capture Fafnir, after sacrificing countless awakeners.


<>


Su-hyeun hailed a taxi and traveled towards Yangpyeong.


It took him an hour’s ride to reach the remote forest. Su-hyeun walked along the forest path, where there were little street lights, and not a single local resident could be seen.


It was 4 PM in the afternoon. Although it was still quite early, it was getting dark in the forest. As he was in the woods and it was winter, it was a given for the sun to start setting early.


<>


Su-hyeun’s footsteps hastened. Soon after, a standalone house with a small yard came into Su-hyeun’s sight.


Clank, clank—


The sound of iron could be heard through the door that was left slightly ajar. He had found the right place.


As he carefully opened the door to the house, Su-hyeun spoke. “Is there anyone in?”


Clank, clank—


The sound of iron did not stop, nor was there any reply. Su-hyeun spoke in a louder voice this time. “Is there anyone in?”


Clank—


The sound of iron stopped momentarily. Su-hyeun stood at the door, waiting. Soon after, a middle-aged man donned in thick cloth walked out from the back of the house.


“What is it? You’re making so much noise!” He had a shaggy beard, burning red face, and questionably raised eyes. It was a face Su-hyeun hadn’t seen for a long while.


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Craftsman Kim Dae Ho.


He was famous for his many talents, including iron smelting, weapon creation, and jewelry crafting. He was now holed up in the mountains, after taking a massive interest in ether stones and the awakeners’ weapons.


<>


The weapon, Balmung, that Su-hyeun had was also crafted by him.


Act 5


The year was 2032.


There were lots of people gathered around him. Amongst them were high-ranking awakeners, and even some amateurs were present as well.


They were all here to just guard one man. It was top secret that this large number of people was called to gather by the edge halfway up the Yangpyeong mountain.


Just for one man. No, they were all here just to guard the one and only item.


Clank, clank—


The sound of iron could still be heard coming from the door. When would that sound stop?


Sung-in pushed the door open and said, “Uncle, it’s me.”


The sound of iron had continued for quite some time before, but now it stopped immediately, and the owner even came out to greet his visitor.


“You’re here?”


Not knowing how long he had been sitting for, Kim Dae-ho walked out, hitting the back of his waist. He scanned Sung-in from top to bottom and asked, “You seemed to have made some achievement?”


“How did you know about it?”


“It’s all over the news, kiddo. Are you crazy? You’re still so young, yet going to all those dangerous places trying to get yourself killed?”


“Well, it’s my job to do so.”


“What sane person would be so hardworking and go around looking for all these places? Don’t care about others, but take care of yourself first.”


“Things never go as how I wish.” Sung-in laughed lightly. If things had gone his way, he would have already done it.


It was a topic that he hadn’t hoped to talk about. Every time it was the same result, a problem that had no answers to it. Sung-in changed the subject.


“What about the item I asked about the last time?”


“It’s all done now. Here.”


Kim Dae-ho pulled out the sword that was on his back and passed it to Su-hyeun. As he had it on him so carelessly, Su-hyeun had not realized that it was the exact item that he had asked for.


“This…”


“I named it Balmung.”


Balmung. It was the name of the sword used by the hero Siegfried.


“What do you think? It’s awesome, right?” As if satisfied with his own creation, Kim Dae-ho grinned so wide that his yellow teeth showed.


Sung-in looked at the sword closely. At that moment, his expression had stiffened.


“What did you add into the sword?” Did he think that Su-hyeun wouldn’t be able to find out?


Kim Dae-ho, who had a smiling face on, shook his head. “Ah, this kid. Can’t you just shut up and take it?”


“Uncle, could you have…”


It wasn’t only the highest-grade ether stone that was put into the sword. There was also the item which Kim Dae-ho had cherished in his whole life, saying that he would make a masterpiece out of it. It was thanks to that item that Balmung was a masterpiece.


But…


“I can’t accept this.”


He wasn’t happy at all.


“How can I accept this? Uncle, uncle, why did you…”


“Sung-in,” Kim Dae-ho said in an attentive tone that was never heard from his mouth. It made Su-hyeun wonder if such a warm tone could actually be heard from his husky voice.


The flustered Sung-in kept quiet. Strangely enough, Sung-in’s mouth was tightly shut.


“Everyone in the world calls you a hero. You know that, too, right?”


“…Yes.”


“Don’t live like that.”


“What?”


“Your expression. Did you know that as you progress, it becomes darker? Why on earth would you go around carrying the people’s expectations, hopes, and everything else?”


“That’s because…” Sung-in could not answer.


It was a question that he could not find an answer to. Although he had thought about it countless times a day, he could only arrive at one conclusion.


It was because he had no other choice.


If it weren’t him, if he hadn’t done it, if he hadn’t existed…


After a long string of assumptions, his body eventually reacted first. And the result was an exhausted body and mind. But it would happen all over again.


“Well, up until now, it was just my grumbles. I know it, too. No matter what I say, you would never step out of your stubbornness,” said Kim Dae-ho.


“…I’m sorry.”


“You asked earlier, right? Why.”


“Yes.”


“Because it’s unfair.”


Just what about it was unfair?


He needed more details. Sung-in stared blankly at Kim Dae-ho.


Kim Dae-ho took over the sword in Sung-in’s hands once more. He slid the sword back into the sword shaft where the word “Balmung” was engraved on it.


“Everyone in the world has never done anything for you, and yet hope for your assistance. What else is there in this world that’s this selfish?”


“Is that being unfair?”


“Otherwise?”


“But that’s…”


“You’re saying it’s your choice?”


Kim Dae-ho had already known what answer Sung-in was going to give. It was obvious. It was something that Sung-in and Kim Dae-ho had talked about not long ago. Kim Dae-ho hated it the most when people called Sung-in a hero.


“Yes, I know. That it was your choice.”


Sung-in didn’t respond.


“So that’s why I want to take a stand in this unfair relationship, too.”


The unbalanced relationship that Kim Dae-ho was referring to had meant the vertical, one-sided relationship of unconditional giving. Kim Dae-ho grinned as he handed over the sword with its shaft engraved with the word “Balmung.”


“When the whole world is waiting for your assistance, there should at least be someone who could be of help to you. Don’t you agree?”


The craftsman, Kim Dae-ho.


When Su-hyeun first got to know of Kim Dae-ho, it was also at this place. Hearing that Kim Dae-ho had taken an interest in weapons used by awakeners and started making them in 2018, Su-hyeun had thought that he could be found there. A smile naturally crept onto his face. There weren’t many times where he smiled, but when he saw Kim Dae-ho, a smile came to him.


“Uncle, I’m here.”


It was a place that he often came to whenever he had tough times. But now, Kim Dae-ho could not recall who he was.


<>


He was already well over his sixties. However, Su-hyeun had last remembered Kim Dae-ho to be an elderly man with grey hair and a hunchback. He looked much younger now compared to back then.


Su-hyeun was glad to see him. He clasped his hand and spoke. “Nice to meet you. I’m Kim Su-hyeun.”


“Kim Su-hyeun? But what brought you here?”


Kim Dae-ho, who was working on his equipment until a while ago, showed an irritated look on his face. What other reasons would there be for him to be holed up in a mountain like this? It was for him to not get disturbed.


But Su-hyeun, who had already accepted his feelings, was undeterred by it.


“I heard that you have been creating weapons for awakeners.”


“Who said that? Which blabbermouth…”


It looked like he was going to get furious right there and then. He seemed to have thought that someone had exposed his location. Su-hyeun spoke in a calm voice while Kim Dae-ho was jumping around in anger.


“I have a favor to ask of you.”


“Get lost, kid! I don’t do just any weapon!”


“It’s not just any weapon.”


“Ah, whatever, I’m not doing it…”


Kim Dae-ho’s eyes widened in surprise. The stone that was the size of a fist was held in Su-hyeun’s hand. He spotted the highest-grade ether stone.


“Could this be…”


“It’s an ether stone.”


“Is this for real?” He gave a flabbergasted and astonished look also filled with joy and anticipation. It was the exact reaction of the Kim Dae-ho he knew.


When others saw an ether stone, they would have a greedy expression on their faces because they saw it as money, but it was different for Kim Dae-ho.


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The greed shown on his face was not materialistic. It was out of curiosity and anticipation. It was the aspiration that had made Ki Dae-ho a craftsman. He was, indeed, a true blue craftsman.


“Yes, it’s the real deal.”


“I’ve never seen such a huge ether stone. Never…”


“Wouldn’t you recognize it, though?”


Kim Dae-ho nodded slightly at Su-hyeun’s question.


Ever since the ether stones were discovered, he was a craftsman who realized that the ether stones could be used to make items and had continuously made them. He sold items when he had insufficient funds and used those funds to purchase ether stones and other materials. Then he would continue to make equipment and items again. He had dealt with ether stones more than anyone else in the world. Thus, there was no excuse for him to not be able to differentiate between an ordinary stone and an ether stone.


“Where exactly did you get this from?” It finally seemed that he wanted to talk.


“Is the source of it important?”


“Not really.” Kim Dae-ho grinned widely. It looked as if he was really enjoying it.


His reaction was as expected. The origin of the ether stone was never important to him. What was most important was that an ether stone of this size had appeared in front of him.


“Right. What do you want?”


“I want a sword.”


“A sword?”


“Yes. I hope you could make me a killer sword.”


In this era, no one else in this world had better weapon crafting skills than Kim Dae-ho. To Su-hyeun’s knowledge, Kim Dae-ho would still be the only renowned craftsman even in the distant future. It was up to the point where the equipment and items created by him were traded at premium price points in the future.


“If so, you’ve come to the right place.” Kim Dae-ho kept smiling and spoke with confidence.


“I don’t need any payment. Since you’ve brought such a precious item, it’ll be free.”


“You’re quite straightforward.”


“Let’s set up a contract. As for the guarantor…”


“I don’t need it.”


Su-hyeun shook his head at Kim Dae-ho, who was anxious to get started on the production.


Kim Dae-ho, who was in a hurry to create the contract, stopped and turned his head around.


“What?”


“I don’t need the contact, Uncle.”



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