Book 2 Chapter 40: A Request (Part 3)
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Brand new suits of armor gleamed under the lightstones. Like mannequins, they were all neatly arranged on stands throughout the large store. The sound of a hammer against metal echoed whenever a door at the back was opened by one of the workers.

“It’s beautiful.” Jon gazed at his reflection on a smooth black breastplate spotted with purple specks. He practically drooled over it. “I think I might be in love.”

“You know there are women for that, right?” Deon asked by his side. “They can even wear the armor if that’s the sort of thing you like. I’m not judging.”

Jon pretended he didn’t hear it, instead admiring the rest of the armor on the stand. Underneath the breastplate, three black lames overlapped one another to protect the waist while still offering some mobility. The armor over the shoulders, elbows, hands, knees, and feet followed the same design. Of course, this did mean they weren’t as resistant as a single solid plate but, if he hoped to be moving inside the armor at all, then that was a needed compromise. “How much did it cost?”

“Other than the steel clasps holding it all together, it is made entirely out of triotium,” said the store owner, a man with sharp eyes and dressed in fine linen. “My smiths began working on it as soon as we received lord du Bocage’s request. As for the cost—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Deon cut the man off with a dismissive wave of the hand. “I did ask them not to include flutings or embellishments of any kind, though. Such things take longer to complete, and you probably wouldn’t appreciate it anyway.”

Jon agreed. At best, such things were too ostentatious for his taste. At worst, they compromised the armor’s effectiveness. Raised ridges made it harder for an enemy sword to glance off, and large flanges could be grabbed and pulled. Besides, an armor’s beauty comes from its build quality and how practical it was. And this one was certainly beautiful.

With the reverence one has for such fine craftsmanship, his fingertips touched the metal. The prints it left on the smooth surface sullied the otherwise perfectly polished plate. He couldn’t contain himself, though. This was made for him, with his exact measurements in mind. Despite having never put it on, he knew it would fit him like a glove.

Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be able to use it until the tourney came. “And the other one?”

“It’s in the back, by the forge,” said the store owner. “At first I thought there might have been some mistake. After all, this isn’t the sort of request we tend to receive. Still, my lord confirmed the request, and so I ordered it made as well.” He walked towards the back of the store and knocked on the door.

A man in a leather apron opened it, his face and hands dirty from soot. He carried a gray breastplate which he unceremoniously dropped on the center of the store before going back for the other pieces of armor. 

The breastplate’s surface was rough and uneven. Its plate thickness was way beyond what was reasonable, more akin to a bunch of poorly made ingots placed side-by-side. The same could be said for the other pieces. While the first armor was a work of meticulous simplicity, this one could only be described as poorly made and marginally above a hunk of metal. 

“In accordance with the specifications, it is similar in weight to the first armor,” said the store owner, his lips curled in disdain. Not surprising as a material of such low quality had no place in a real fight. “To make up for the lower density, we had to make it much thicker than usual.”

The complete armor offered protection for the thighs and shins, forearms and upper arms, torso, and head. In short, it covered only the parts that moved little. Crafting armor for the joints took more effort, after all, so it’d require mail underneath it all.

Jon bent down to take hold of the helmet — if one could even call it that. It resembled a large iron cylinder hollowed out with one large hole at the bottom for the head to enter, and a single slit at the side for vision. It even lacked the padding on the inside.

Given a good sword, Jon wagered he could stab through the thick metal. While he wished he could use the triotium armor, there was still the problem of being indebted to the academy. If he was seen prancing around in an expensive suit of armor, the headmaster might order it confiscated to pay for his debt.

It would be another story if Deon decided to lend Jon a suit of armor for the sole purpose of disputing the tourney. As for why Deon, an Archmage, would buy an armor that prevented him from casting spells, that was a mystery that concerned only the foreign nobleman.

So Jon planned on using the iron armor to train in preparation for the tourney. He doubted the headmaster would order it confiscated given how worthless it was. If he did, it would look more like pettiness than a genuine attempt of reimbursing the academy.

Coins clinked together as Deon produced a blue pouch from his robes and handed it to the store owner. “Have them both delivered to the academy. Red dormitory, room 409.”

“Certainly, my lord.”

The transaction completed, they both walked out into the wide streets. There were no vendor stands nor yelling peddlers in this part of the city. Rich merchants walked up and down in expensive-looking silks. Nobles rode their horses or carriages accompanied by the occasional slave on foot, a rare sight outside the mines and plantations where they were the majority.

Jon wore the distinctive academy robes. Without it, he wondered if he might be taken for another slave following after their master. Almost certainly so.

The two stopped by another store, this one smaller than the previous and built entirely out of red bricks. Colorful spices were piled in perfect cones throughout the place. The strong smell hit them before they even set foot inside. Nevil, Bella, and Aeron waited inside, the first two engrossed in a conversation with a woman at the counter.

“Did you get the armor?” Aeron asked as soon as they entered.

Jon nodded. “Should be delivered before the end of the day.”

“So you’ll have a good chance of doing well at the competition. The question is if it’ll be good enough to ask for that boon you want.”

It will have to be, Jon thought.

“I’m still amazed you’d go through all this trouble for a chance of advancing when the solution is so obvious,” Deon commented.

“What?”

“I mean, day and night you work yourself to the bone just to become an Archmage. You’re even willing to risk your life for it. Seems to me you’re not enjoying life enough and that’s why the breakthrough hasn’t happened yet. If you rested every once in a while then you would be bound to improve.”

Jon took a moment to think of a response that didn’t involve some sort of insult. Deon had helped him a lot. He deserved at least this much. “So let me see if I understand. Training every single day for months on end failed to lead me to a breakthrough. So your proposed solution is that I train less and this will make me improve more?”

“When you say it like that it sounds stupid.”

Jon disagreed. It sounded stupid because it was stupid.

“The problem is that you’re clogged up. The poison has solidified and blocked your entire circulation. It’s quite a common affliction among men, leading to irritable mood, difficulty to concentrate, and in the worst-case scenario, one might explode and die. Aeron had the same problem, and I led him down a path of salvation, so fret not for there’s still hope. Follow my lead and you will soon explode in a good way.”

Jon rolled his eyes. He could understand someone going to a house of pleasure, but why this obsession to get others involved? Did Deon hope to set up some orgy in the future? Jon knew the lecherous foreigner enough that the possibility couldn’t be discarded.

“Seriously, why do you always try this when you know it’s not going to work?” Aeron asked. “And with Jon, of all people. Try to vary it a little, at least.”

“I would, but the only other person I could invite is Nevil, and that’s...” Deon trailed off for a moment as his eyes focused not on Nevil, but on Bella standing by his side. The two stood with their backs to the trio as they continued talking to the store owner who was in the process of packaging their order. “She already scared me before when she was just a Mage. Now that she has the power to actually kill me, I’m not taking any chances.”

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