-Event's prior.


The day had started like any other day for Hephaestus lately: Stressful and busy.

There had not been a single day's peace since the dungeon break that ruined Babel tower and numerous buildings around the Dungeon's entrance.

As a Smithing Familia focused on trade and logistics in the arms business, much of the focus had shifted into infrastructure projects. Ore was smelted into ingots which were then streamlined straight into steel support columns or used in make-shift soup kitchens to prop up tents. Other uses were for pots and pans, and utensils.

Hephaestus digressed.

Back then it was still manageable.

Things only got worse for Hephaestus after Iris's banquet.

She'd sent Tsubaki as a representative of the Hephaestus Familia, but the entire Familia dynamic changed when Tsubaki returned.

Hephaestus didn't say anything, but she was damn conscious of the hushed whispers that constantly followed her within her own house. The way her Familia member's eyes filled with gossip and speculation directed at her caused no small amount of frustration.

No one dared bring the matter up to her face and share.

Even Tsubaki was acting differently, scoffing every time Hephaestus lamented about her love life.

Worse, Tsubaki made it feel like it was Hephaestus's fault.

All that happened on that fateful night after Iris's banquet was that Tsubaki confronted Hephaestus.

"-Is there something you have to say to me, or maybe 'forgot' to say to me?"

"...What are you on about, Tsubaki?"

"-A man you were seeing? A secret rendezvous behind our backs?"

"S-Stop! You're going to make me cry!"

"-Have you ever been intimate in the past?"

"Tsubaki! Enough!"

"-I see. Perhaps we weren't as close as I thought to share such a secret, but it's understandable…"

Hephaestus's mouth twitched just thinking about the look of disappointment on Tsubaki's face.

Tsubaki should have known how abysmal Hephaestus's love life was. She'd been trying to get a boyfriend for years with no luck. Most suitors were fine before they grew curious and were repelled by the deformity of her eye.

Hephaestus bit the nail of her thumb.

A part of her couldn't pretend to be indifferent anymore. Not since what she saw in the Grand Quest recruitment campaign.

Achilles and Heracles were one thing, but Hephaestus couldn't take her eyes off of the one with the red hair a shade so similar to her own.

What she saw, what she felt-

That's it. No more.

She was going down a rabbit hole where she had no idea it would lead.

She wouldn't allow this to affect her work and mental state. She was better than that as a God of Blacksmiths.

"Oof." Hephaestus grunted, clutching at her nose and growling. "Who in the divine fire would be moving so fast in a cro-"

Hephaestus blinked at the woman with the bluest shade of hair.

"Sorry, sorry!"

Picking herself up onto her feet, Hephaestus grumbled that she'd chosen the wrong day to venture out into town for supplies when she had Familia who could do that for her.

She'd just wanted to clear her head, not have it aching.

"Thetis," Hephaestus said, grumbling while giving the Goddess in front of her the stink eye. "I know it's been a while, but really?"

"Sorry!" Thetis bowed her head, carefully keeping a basket held in both hands. She had chosen to fall on herself rather than let the basket's contents be spilled or rattled out.

Considering the image Hephaestus had of Thetis in their Upper World neighborhood, her actions were jarring from the regal lady of water rumoured to be one of the prettiest Nymphs.

To be honest, Hephaestus was jealous of Thetis's beauty even now. She'd be able to find any suitor with just a couple words…it wasn't fair.

"What's the rush?" Hephaestus eventually got out.

A soft smile graced Thetis's mouth, her lips curling upward before she dusted herself off.

"I was on my way to bring lunch to my son." Thetis said, checking the contents of her basket before sighing in relief. Everything inside was hand made, reflecting a level of affection that didn't lose out even to the other version of herself in another world.

Hephaestus's face twitched at the word 'son,' but as if Thetis had never noticed, she continued.

"I think he's been avoiding me recently, and can you believe it?" Thetis crossed her arms and huffed. "Peleus thinks it's because I embarrass him in public or that I put too much effort into propositioning the Amazons to join in the Black Dragon Raid."

Thetis scowled, but all Hephaestus could picture was Thetis clinging to Achilles at all times. No wonder the boy wanted space.

"R-Right," Hephaestus shook her head to rid her of the image before refocusing.

She was not used to this new Thetis.

"Oh, and I have to thank you for doing such a splendid job on my son's armor and shield." Thetis suddenly changed the subject and clasped Hephaestus's hands in her own. The gratitude was genuine. "The workmanship is brilliant, and everything carries your specific flair in metallurgy to even recreate a legend within a shield! My son tells me it's saved him from numerous pickles- ahem, I mean tough situations."

Hephaestus froze while staring into Thetis's eyes.

Again. It was that again.

What was worse was that Hephaestus couldn't even deny it as she recognized her own craftsmanship. No craftsman worth his weight in salt would be unable to recognize his own work.

What Thetis was saying now was part of the reason Hephaestus had been constantly stressed.

"Stop. Stop right there." Hephaestus raised a hand and carefully pried her hands out of Thetis's grasp. "Look Thetis, I don't remember ever making that armor and shield. So, save your gratitude for another time."

Hephaestus noted something peculiar about Thetis at her admission.

Thetis froze, a flicker of potent animosity crossing her eyes. Hephaestus hastily made sure Thetis didn't have a knife on her from how murderous she'd appeared.

Thetis's smiling expression was gone, replaced with something closer to blank.

"You too, huh?" Thetis muttered under her breath.

Confused, Hephaestus pursed her lips.

"What is that supposed to mean?" She asked.

"Listen…" Thetis drew Hephaestus in close and began discreetly sharing everything she knew on the topic.

Inevitably, Hephaestus's thoughts grew even more complicated and jumbled. Just as she couldn't deny that her hands were involved in the crafting of Achilles's armour and shield, she couldn't deny that what Thetis had told her was bullshit either.

Left dazed, Thetis returned to delivering lunch to Achilles while Hephaestus had to digest everything she'd heard.

In the end, Hephaestus was smart enough to know that dwelling on issues through speculation would get her no where.

She needed to see things for herself.

Preferably, face to face. Fortunately, she knew just who to go to in order to facilitate the meeting by any means.

Hephaestus found her target manning a croquette stand.

Said target, froze as soon as Hephaestus came in view, steam wafting from a croquette she was still holding in her hands.

"Hestia." Hephaestus greeted with all seriousness, cornering Hestia so she couldn't run by threatening to tear down the croquette stall.

"H-Hephy!" Hestia stammered, twiddling her thumbs.

"I'm calling that favor." Hephaestus said, daring Hestia to make an excuse to refuse. "I want a meeting with the red haired one. The one called Shirou."

"T-That's," Hestia's eyes darted back and forth. She couldn't just boss Shirou especially because Bell was being trained by Heracles and the others. "…Uhm-uck!"

Hephaestus jabbed a finger onto Hestia's forehead.

"No, is not an answer."

The echo of hammering steel reverberated.

Sparks shone and illuminated the area of impact as molten steel was being shaped and formed through a repeated process of heating, hammering, and quenching.

Welf wiped off the beads of sweat forming on his brow and wetting through his bandana. Processing before him was likely the best sword that he'd ever made. Everything he was doing now was done without reservation regardless of his personal feelings.

There was no way Welf could allow Hephaestus to be fooled or swayed by public opinion or speculation just because of recent developments in Orario.



Yet contrary to Welf's desires, the gazes of his own Familia were not focused on him.


A shudder travelled down Welf's back as he resisted the urge to glance across form him where he knew his competitor was forging steel. By looking, he could reassure himself, but at the same time, it could do the opposite and make him lose heart.

If he wanted to stay true to the blade he was forming in front of him, then he could not allow himself to be distracted.

Ironically, Shirou was the same.

All of Shirou's attention was focused on the creation of the weapon in his forge that he filtered all else out.

This level of concentration was the prerequisite of any High Smith, but Shirou was a step further beyond. With one eye closed, he more accurately followed through with the techniques and actions of the blacksmith he was emulating and assimilating with other smithing techniques he'd come across in life.

-To create a barrow of swords all deemed useless, yet striving for a singular steel that surpasses all.

Tendrils of magic energy flickered from his palms, super heating the metal in his grip.

That sword was still beyond reach, but the skills of the bladesmith were not.

Through the divine handling and sills of the God Hephaestus, and the technique of Senji, there was no forge Shirou could not be proficient in.

Just as Welf was creating his greatest work, Shirou was striving to do the same.

However, what Shirou could never have had accounted for was the change in his demeanor and character as he created his weapon.


His expression cooled and grew indifferent.


His eyes glazed over with single-minded focus.


He was the very picture of a legendary blacksmith.

While the form and character could draw admiration from those spectating, Hephaestus was struck with a different feeling that caused her breaths to choke up.

With each strike of the hammer, the magical concentration in the air grew denser and denser.

This was normally the step in which Hephaestus or the members of her Familia would activate their Falna and imbue their weapon with divine properties. From elemental damage, to durability, or flexibility, everything was the decision of the forger.

The energy that rose up in tandem with Shirou's forging was not Falna, but a primordial flame no different from the one Hephaestus and other blacksmith Gods used.

Hephaestus winced, a hand placing itself over her covered eye.

'That fire…'

Pursing her lips, Hephaestus glared at the curses she could see writhing within.

Again, it was just like the malformity she'd once saw.

And that was why she found herself subconsciously approaching.

No one else other than Hephaestus should have had such a deformity that it invoked resonance. The only way was to pass it down, but Gods were not able to procreate in the lower world.

Thetis's image came to Hephaestus's mind, and she balled her hands into fists.

Competition or not, the agitation was causing Hephaestus to move.

Tsubaki was the first to notice Hephaestus step into the competition stage. At first, she was outraged that someone would dare interfere with the competition, but her mouth shut firmly when she confirmed it was Hephaestus herself.

The others could barely raise their voices, the entire area growing silent aside from Welf and Shirou continuing to hammer.

It was against the honour of the practice to be doing this, but Hephaestus was no longer thinking about that.

The flames were calling to her, the deformity in her eye throbbed.

Yet more than anything, she was acting on the chance that Shirou truly was her boy, and that someone had messed with her memories like Thetis had insisted.

In that case, she couldn't continue to watch even if a terrifying weapon was created.

Hephaestus herself could admit to losing herself in the forging process, but this was different.

Shirou's sense of self was fading as he forged.


To be more accurate, it was like he was regressing back to what made him who he was at the beginning.

To create something beyond the realm of a human was to discard what made one human.

For Shirou it was possible as he'd already lost everything once.

The feeling Hephaestus could sense from Shirou was that of a tool, a weapon neither human or God, and it frightened her in a way only a latent potential maternal instinct could.

Like a moth to a flame, Hephaestus drew near and pulled Shirou into a hug before he could finish his forging.

Hephaestus had single-handedly put an end to this impromptu competition.

However, direct contact inadvertently enabled the scrying nature of her Divine Sense.

The veil of mystery began to unravel layer by layer starting from the origin.

His body was made out of swords.

…Hephaestus saw a world engulfed in cursed flames.

Fire was his blood.

A choked breath escaped her lips, a numbing pain resonating from her covered eye.

Glass was his heart.

This, this wasn't-

Forging weapons upon thousands of blades.

Stop. Stop.

She could see it.

He was born in ash and fire, tempered and hardened through blood and conflict.

And at the very core of his being was an unwavering imperfection no different from Hephaestus's own.



Ortlinde remained on standby in Orario, keeping note of the shadows that followed her but not giving them much mind as they weren't deemed a threat.

How could they be when Ortlinde knew them well?

The only difference was that she couldn't understand what they were thinking due to a difference in commonalities.

Besides, it meant little in the long run as the daughters born from the fragments of a distant being and molded by Lord Odin.

"Greetings Lady Freya, Loki." Ortlinde said flatly.

It wasn't their first meeting, but even now, the same incomprehensible sensation remained within Loki from the moment she laid eyes on Ortlinde.

Loki frowned while Freya's expression grew blank.

A White Titan.

They could not understand it, so while their Familia trained with Heracles and Achilles, they did their own investigating.


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