Randidly smiled softly as Helen conjured her image in front of the camera. The thick waves of the Tides of Blood Domain appeared. Although she will do what I ask, it’s very likely that she has no idea what is going on. Although I explained that we are being observed, it really seems like nothing on Tellus prepared her for a live stream…
After a few seconds, Helen turned back to Randidly. The choppy crimson currents faded away. “Is this enough? These shits are too weak to get anything out of further exposure.”
Sighing, Randidly wondered briefly if there was a production team that could bleep out Helen’s dismissive comments about the three best forgers in Erickson Steel. Still, it wasn’t like Randidly didn’t think Helen was right; it was clear that the images that these three were exposed to left them bewildered rather than enlightened. Further exposure might even be enough to inflict some mental damage on them.
And part of the point of this exercise was helping these three forge even more successfully than they had in the past.
Randidly was asking a lot of them by throwing out so much information in a very short span of time. But he had to be quick. And it wasn’t like being mysterious and gradual with this information would aid them later. It was only awkward now because this was their first experience with images. But breaking through all of these firsts right at the onset would make their further development even more explosive and smooth.
“Finished?” Randidly finally said as he smiled at the three forgers torn between looking at Helen with shock and peering down at their own refined ore carefully. Although he couldn’t tell for sure from this distance, his instinct was that any further and the damage to the ore would be rather substantial. Plus, this had dragged on for long enough already.
Guilty, the three nodded and used titanium tongs to remove the metal from the vat of his blood. Then Randidly guided them over to the tray of shattered bones. Casually, Randidly removed five scoops and brought them over toward a furnace area.
The man who responded flexibility raised his hand with a question. “These bones… I can tell that they are from a powerful beast, but shouldn’t we be more discerning with what sort of traits we introduce into the alloy? Now that all the different corpses are mixed up, won’t we get an unpredictable result?”
“Theoretically, yes,” Randidly responded as he set his materials down on a work table next to his furnace. Then he considered the three forgers. “It would be better to be able to get the bones of monsters that exemplify the images you wish to imbue in your metal. That way the final result accomplishes your desired goal. But let me ask you… how well do you truly know the traits of monsters?”
The man blinked.
Shrugging, Randidly said. “You extrapolate based on what you’ve seen, yes? But isn’t there much more to a monster’s information than the way it fought before it died? You can study the tensile strength of its corpse’s materials, but that misses a lot.”
Randidly rapped loudly against the wooden worktable next to the furnace. “Take this table. Can I sufficiently describe the tree it originated from by looking at a pile of the harvested wood? Of course not. I miss its height, the way it flowers, the shape of the leaves, the radius of its roots. And although those traits aren’t very important in making a table, it is very important to be aware of those concerns while crafting an image.”
Taking a few seconds for each individual, Randidly studied the expressions on the forger’s faces. “I know that this is difficult to understand right now. But believe me when I saw you will realize by the end how important this is. We are crafting an image. Images, symbols, and stories are an implicit part of the System.
“Classes shape you. Paths shape you. For the lucky ones, Soulskills also shape you.” Then Randidly focused on the man who had asked the question. “If you could perfectly know which monster was the most creative, the most willing to keep a flexible lifestyle, then yes, your point is correct. But that knowledge is hard and time-consuming. So instead…”
For good measure, touched each of his nuggets a second time, reinforcing the image. “We will be refining these nuggets three times. Ideally, the image acts as a magnet and a beacon; it draws the qualities that most closely matches its own deeper into its structure. The stronger the image, the stronger the attraction. That way, when we place the metal back in the weakening liquid, the traits not associated with be toward the exterior; those portions will be damaged and pulled away, leaving only the harmonious bits.”
Rather casually, Randidly threw the five nuggets and five handfuls of bones into the furnace. He didn’t even bother to turn it on. While the three others watched with wide eyes, Randidly conjured Ignition Essence and gathered his materials into five groupings. Emerald flames gathered around the piles of materials in tight clusters. Immediately, the high heat of the Ignition Essence caused the materials to crack and warp.
Randidly glanced up at the five with not a little amusement. “If you just keep watching, you’ll be left behind.”
After a few seconds of blank shock, the three jumped to work. They rapidly turned on their respective furnaces and began to melt the materials down. As they did so, Randidly’s focus turned back toward his own metals. As the different materials liquefied, he made sure he held a clear image for all five of the different groupings.
It was quite difficult, but Randidly gritted his teeth and managed it. Once everything was melted, Influence of the Molten Core was used to conjure strange bits of gravity and thoroughly mix the materials into a cohesive whole. The blending continued for several minutes while Randidly thoroughly monitored the progress.
The waiting for his ‘assistants’ to finish their own tasks was difficult, but Randidly calmly kept himself from getting impatient. Time after time, he used those waiting moments to stress the importance of image and did his best to make sure he showed how capable images could be.
Over time, the expression on the assistant’s faces turned from confusion to simple workman-like frowns. Likely less about the use of images and more about the fact that Randidly’s speed in smelting metal was almost one half of theirs, and it was clear that he was waiting around quite frequently so that distance didn’t grow to something impossible.
His casual efficiency completely surpassed their prideful attempts to keep up with him. This while he was taking the time to instruct all three of them in the finer points of each’s image.
Carefully, they took the newly mixed metal alloy and dunked it in Randidly’s processed red blood in order for it to cool and strengthen. Then after a few minutes, they removed the gleaming hunks of metal and physically hammered the metal.
There wasn’t really a goal to the hammering but to add pressure to the process. The base structure of all metal was based upon uniformity. Even Randidly didn’t have enough Perception and Control to make sure that it was perfectly uniform with just his Influence of the Molten Core. By hammering the nascent metal, those defects in structure would be revealed and could thereafter be addressed.
Then the metals would go back into the weakening solution, allowing the flaws to be thoroughly destroyed. Afterward, the process repeated itself two more times.
Finally, Randidly calmly watched as his sweating assistants were hammering out their final ingots. It had taken almost two hours, and that was only because Randidly had streamlined the learning process for these three.
It was clear, however, that they were nearing the end of their physical endurance; they had been struggling with too many things for too long. Generally, Randidly didn’t use hammering as the way to find the stress points. But he was glad that he had for this demonstration.
Randidly grinned. Good. When the body is tired, the mind is free to imagine.
“Finished?” Randidly asked casually. During the last rotation through the process, Randidly hadn’t bothered to wait for these three. As such, he had finished his five hammered ingots almost a half hour ago and had simply studied the three. Very carefully, however, so as not to interfere with any images that had been lucky enough to force into the metal.
Not that Randidly had high expectations for them. But this would be the ultimate test.
At Randidly’s question, the three assistants looked at each other. Then they nodded. Without saying anything else, Randidly swept up the twenty ingots that the different groups had produced. Despite his extremely low expectations, he was surprised to see that the three varieties from the assistants looked rather different from each other. And amongst the same type, there was a high degree of uniformity.
They aren’t the best just for show. Randidly thought.
The man hurried over, handing Randidly an ingot prepared beforehand. Randidly held it up. “I’ll be personally testing these for you all. It isn’t the most scientific method, but I just want to demonstrate the general strength provided. And also… the pieces will be left in this room for anyone to inspect. In case you doubt my impartiality. I’ll start… with this, Erickson Steel’s high-performance alloy. Our best seller.”
Randidly tossed the ingot lightly up into the air. Then Acri blurred into motion.
Several bits of metal clanged onto the floor.
“Five slashes,” Randidly announced. “Due to the relatively poor resistance to cutting attacks, I could complete five full slashes through the material while it was in the air. So… who wants to volunteer their ingots to go next?”