The reason why Eiji lives in the dwarven village was to become their disciple.

“Please teach me blacksmithing skills”

Those were the first words he said when he arrived at the mining village.
To make a sword, you need a blacksmith.
When it comes to blacksmithing, dwarves are the best.

There is no race that is better than dwarves at hammering minerals or making tools and weapons.

That is why Eiji wanted to visit the dwarves and absorb their skills as his own.
All for his own ultimate goal.

His wish was granted, and Eiji started from doing dirty work as a blacksmith apprentice.
He did not ask for any special treatment.
The first workplace he was given to work was in a mine, a place completely unrelated to learning blacksmithing, but he still worked nonetheless.
He was not discouraged.

With determined effort, a way will open.
For he already experienced it once.

*    *   *

“…… A collapse accident.
But no one die?”
“Yes, father”

At the dinner table, the incident at the mine was conveyed to the boss, Dardol.
As the supervisor of the mine area, it was Gyariko’s duty to report the accident.

Dardol, who is in charge of the entire mining village, acts like a village chief and also like a factory manager.
He divides the mining village into smaller areas and entrusts each area to his own sons and daughters.
He was probably preparing to select the next boss from among them, and Gyariko, as the daughter of the boss, also had been entrusted to be in-charge of the mine area and was in the process of testing her leadership skills.

“The damage was contained to a relatively small area and there were no fatalities, so I postponed the reports.
The predicted loss of efficiency due to the partial blockage of the tunnel section is……”
“That’s not the problem here”

The boss, Dardol interrupts the report from his daughter.

His beard, which is the thickest among all the dwarves working in the village, swayed quietly.

“The important thing is whether the miners are safe or not.
Every job in the mines is dangerous.
That is why those in charge of the mines must put the lives of those who work there first”
“Yes……”
“The supervisor who thinks in terms of efficiency and profit can easily let the dwarves who work in the mines die.
It is as if the supervisor is killing them.
Don’t be such supervisor, Gyariko”
“Yes, father……!”

Even, Gyariko, who despite being a woman leads the ruffians in the tunnel area, becomes quiet and meek just like a borrowed cat in front of her father, the boss, Dordol.

The dwarfs worker who sat at the dining table, were also in awe at the boss after seeing their exchange.

“Well, anyway.
It’s been a rough day, but good work.
Everyone, eat and drink well tonight as well, and get ready for work tomorrow.
And don’t forget to groom your beards too”

This is the dining table for the workers in the tunnel area, but depending on the day, the boss also visits other areas, such as the iron manufacture area and the smithy area, to eat meals with the workers.

He did this in order to have direct contact with the workers, to hear about what is happening at the site, and to get a detailed understanding of what is happening at his mine.

Even so, it is said that among the many areas, he often shows up at the dining table in the tunnel areas.

The reason is……

“Eiji”
“Y-Yes?”

Eiji sits at the end of the dining table as a lowly member of the tunnel area, and Durdol sits at the head of the table as the boss, it is truly a relationship between the table tops and ends.
Naturally, when the two of them talk, their voices reach all the dwarves in between them.

“I heard you were very active at the time of the collapse accident.
I heard that because of you, there were no fatalities”
“No, no!……  Why are you going into such detail?”
“I’m glad I hired you.
Unlike you humans, many dwarves are stupid even though their muscles are packed.
It’s a relief to have someone like you at the front that can make judgments on the spot”

Durdle said that and stroked his beard, which is the thickest in the village.

“Well, I leave it to you if something happen from now on.
I’m counting on you”

……….

And so, the table fell into silent.
At any rate, the boss of the village himself had expressed his expectations for his underlings.
It was unexpected, and for some people it was unpleasant.

“Umm…… boss.
Can I ask something?”

A young dwarf sitting in the middle of the table raised his hand.

“What is it?”
“Boss, why do you pay so much attention to Eiji? No, in the first place, hiring a human race in the dwarven mining village is……!”

It is not unheard of, but it is very rare.

“It is true that the human race is average and can do anything”
“As the dwarves specific skills, only humans can learn some blacksmithing skills that other races cannot learn”
“But in the end, it is only to certain extent”

Hmm…… Dardol was thinking while still caressing his thick beard.

“I’m indebted to the human race”
“?”
“That’s why I’m not going to refuse a favor from the humans.
I have to repay the favor they have done to me”

The dwarves were puzzled by his sudden confession.

“…… So, that’s why you couldn’t refuse Eiji’s request to be an apprentice?”
“Well, that’s it”

The dwarves at the table were in an uproar, as if they had never heard of this before.
The dwarves at the table were not convinced that their boss owed a debt of gratitude to the human race because of their own tribal nationalism.

“Well, to be exact, it was Gyariko, who owes a debt of gratitide, not me”
“Father!?”

His daughter, Gyariko, was puzzled by the sudden mention of her name.

“It’s been, like, five years now? Back then, she was round and cute like a baby tanuki, and not as cheeky as she is now”

“Eh? What? You’re going to start talking about it in earnest!?”

Ignoring his daughter, who did not seem to want him to talk too much, Dardol continued his story.

“At that time, I had not yet discovered this mine, and I was leading my family to search for an ore vein.
We would go from mountain to mountain, looking for buried riches to get rich quickly”
“Umm…… please stop.
You really don’t have anything to tell, right?”
“The journey to find the ore vein is a family trip.
I took my wife, sons and daughters with me.
Of course, I bring Gyariko here too”

He patted Gyariko who sat next to him on the shoulder.

“Then, we had a problem.
She, who was a little girl, got separated from the group and got lost”

Getting lost in the deep mountains is a disaster.
It was extremely difficult for a small child to survive.
Moreover, when Gyariko was just a little girl, she was in a greater danger.

“A monster came out”
“Are you serious!?”

Before long, the miner dwarves were drawn into the story.
The main characters of the tale, Gyariko, and for some reason Eiji also turned his head away from the story, looking uncomfortable.

“In the deep mountains, if a lone kid is spotted by a monster, she won’t survive even by some chance.
As long as there is no hero that has been given a holy weapon by god”
“Then, what happened? Did the young lady got eaten by the monster?”
“You idiot.
Then who is the cute young lady here? It will become such a talk.
Gyariko was saved.
She was saved by a guy who wasn’t supposed to be in that place”
“A hero……”

Gyariko murmured.
She sounded embarrassed.

“The human race hero……”

Five years ago, a monster was about to attack the young Gyariko.
It was a human hero with a holy sword who stopped it just before that happened.

“It was not entirely coincidental.
The human hero was chasing the monster from the beginning.
He caught up with the monster when it was about to attack Gyariko”

“Because that is the duty of the hero”
“But, the duty of the hero is to protect his own race.
The human hero protects the human race and has no reason to protect a dwarf young girl”

However, the human hero who appeared at that time was different.
Holding Gyariko, who was unable to move due to fear, he wielded his holy sword with only one arm and engaged the monster in a fierce battle.

“When I heard the commotion and rushed to the scene, I found my daughter, whom I had been searching for with bloodshot eyes, the human race was holding her, and the corpse of the monster that had been cut in half.
I was so worried and relieved at the same time that I thought my beard was going to fall off”

Dordol was talking about that time nostalgically.
Among them, Gyariko just looks down in embarrassment.
And for some reason, Eiji, as well.

“That’s why I owe a debt of gratitude to the human race for saving my daughter’s life that I cannot repay.
In order to repay even a small part of that, if I can’t even listen to an erratic request, that means the dwarves has die out”

In other words, the human Eiji wants to apprentice himself to a dwarf and learn blacksmithing skills.
He would have his wish granted.

“Let me tell you though”

Gyariko got up from her chair and turned to Eiji.

“I don’t feel indebted to all humans just because I was saved by them.
The human who saved me and you are two different things, Eiji”
“Y-Yes……!”

Eiji scratched the back of his head with an indescribable expression.

“On the contrary, I don’t agree that another human should benefit from the favor of the one who helped me.
I will evaluate you fairly as a supervisor, and if you cut corners even a little bit, I will kick you out, so keep that in mind!”
“Hey, Gyariko.
Do you really not realized……?”
“Eh? What?”

Boss Dardol sighed as his daughter tilted her head.

“Oh dear! What an ungrateful lad.
Even though I sent you to the Dwarf capital to study, you still came back as a fool”
“Eh? What!? What do you mean, father!?”

And so the dwarves’ dinner passed peacefully.

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