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"A bargain? What could we bargain for?" Benson muttered when he heard his student's question.

"That rock is huge and cost the blacksmith Woodward a lot. There must be things he's interested in that we could use to get a small part of the rock." Vicente said.

It would be better if he and his master had the complete piece of rock Henry had bought. That would give them enough material to make mistakes when adjusting the robotic armor. If they only got a small amount of the rock, they would be limited and probably wouldn't be able to use it until they had developed everything they could develop.

But it was better to have a small amount of something as good as this rock than nothing at all!

Benson thought for a moment, trying to consider what he had and what Henry might be interested in.

"There aren't many things I have that this guy would like to have. He's richer than me and has better contacts. On the other hand, he doesn't agree with my views and doesn't believe that my theories can be proven. He certainly wouldn't give me anything that would allow me to prove myself... That leaves only you." Benson looked at Vicente and pointed with a finger at the young man.

"Me?" Vicente exclaimed in surprise.

"Your talent for the forge is very high. I think that I could only get Henry interested enough to consider a deal with us by involving you in some kind of wager." Benson explained, thinking of something subtly different than Vicente.

After a moment of silence, he asked his student. "Vice, how's your progress at the forge? How would you do if you had to create a 2nd-grade artifact without using your magical form?"

Vicente thought about it and said. "I think I can make something between 75% and 80% efficient. But I've had a lot of problems lately that have prevented me from training as much as I could.

I'm also studying many theories behind robotic armor, so now that I have more time, I could improve that efficiency level in a few days.

Why? What exactly do you have in mind?"

Benson said. "What do you think about a little competition, Vicente? I know you don't want to participate in the big forge events so as not to waste your time, but I think the only way we can get part of that mineral is if you agree to compete a little."

"Oh?"

"I will meet with Henry later today and get him to agree to a bet with me. This bet will involve the best student of his and mine in Millfall at the moment. The two of you will compete with your forging skills to determine a winner.

If you win, we'll get a share of the rock in Henry's hands. If you lose..." Benson paused, wondering what Henry would ask of them. "Well, if you lose, I think the old man will try to use you in some kind of competition between the blacksmith associations of Scott Province. That would be the only thing he could want from us."

This year's annual Scott Province Forging Tournament was scheduled to take place over the next few days in a town in the central part of the province. The group of competitors from the Millfall Blacksmiths' Association had already been selected and would leave for that city in less than four days. But if Vicente showed up now, Benson was sure that Henry would be interested in having this young prodigy on his team.

This annual tournament gave prizes not only to the competing blacksmiths but also to the units of the Blacksmiths' Association that did well, giving them more resources and access to rare and hard-to-find materials in that area of the continent.

This was an important event for the blacksmiths of the local council of elders, of which Henry was the leader.

Vicente knew about this competition, as Lukas had already told him he would participate in this year's tournament. He would leave with the association group at the end of the week and be out of town for the next 20 days.

He thought carefully about the risk of joining that group and said. "I'll have less than four days to practice. I don't know how much I can improve in that time, but I'll do my best. You can go ahead with the wager. I'll wait for your notification about the competition match."

Benson smiled when he heard Vicente agree to his suggestion. "I will try to meet Henry and make this bet. I'll see if I can make it on the eve of his group's game. Then, I will go home and practice. If he accepts this bet, he won't give us much time to prepare."

Vicente nodded to his master before saying goodbye, leaving the estate to take care of some business before going to the forge.

...

After leaving Benson's estate, Vicente was soon in front of Nova's house, where he saw a carriage with two Mages standing in front of it.

When Vicente saw Nova leaving her house with Myra and Max, he realized they were already returning to Dryhaven.

"Leaving already? Why don't you stay in town a few more days?" Vicente asked as he walked up to them.

Seeing the young man with the black hair, Myra and Max looked at Vicente and sighed.

She said. "Unfortunately, we have failed in our mission. Now, we must return to Dryhaven and get on with our business. We have missed a great opportunity here."

Max nodded in agreement and remained silent, feeling bad about losing the tuna brain they so desperately wanted but also not knowing if it had been all for bad.

Like it or not, they hadn't gotten anything at the auction yesterday, and maybe that was the only reason they hadn't had to face dangerous people the night before.

Viscount Symons was much stronger than them, but he had been greedy and had bought more things than he could keep.

Even though they were both sad about not getting their desired item, they had also thought several times that morning about what would have happened if they had won this fight.

"It's time to go home," Max muttered.

"But it's good to see you before we go, Vicente." Myra approached him to kiss him goodbye.

As she leaned her face close to his, she said softly. "Take good care of my little sister. She's growing up in the army, but there are always dangerous possibilities."

Vicente smiled at Myra as he saw Nova behind her, watching them

intently.

He squeezed Max's hand and said. "Since you're leaving, I wish you a bon voyage. But don't be so discouraged about the Colored Tuna Brain. Viscount Symons fell last night, and now it is with someone connected with his murder.

What do you think will happen to the tuna brain? I think there's a good chance that it and other items from the previous auction will appear on the black market in the next few weeks.

So keep an eye on the black market. There may still be a chance for you to get that brain."