With a sizzle, the power running through the iron bracer proved to be too much. After dancing with sparks of electricity for a second, the entirety of it split in half with a sharp crack.
Randidly grimly looked down at the sparking remnants on the wooden table. “Seriously, fuck this.”
It gave him a certain grim satisfaction to take the metal piece outside of the cabin and drop the remnants into a fire pit. Then he opened an Eruption of the Blasing Leyline below the metal and melted all of it to the point that there was mostly just a puddle remaining.
For good measure, he used his Frigid Ash, Extinguishing Storm to cool the molten metal back down, crushed it into a ball, and threw it as far as Randidly could manage off the nearby hill to the thick forest below. He considered screaming then, but it seemed slightly childish.
So he just glared for almost a minute.
Feeling much better, Randidly returned to the small living quarters he had made for himself to the Northeast of Donnyton and considered the details of creating a growing Engraving within the heavy leather-bound book he had received from the Willow Tree Spear Style. Not only was the reality of creating such an engraving more difficult than he had expected, but it also was an incredible time sink.
Randidly released a breath. Then, in spite of his barely controlled fury, he began to work again.
Of course, he failed once more within ten minutes. Randidly knew rationally that half of the problem was precisely his own piss poor attitude, but he couldn’t help but be frustrated by the monotony and relative ease with which the base portion of the growing engraving was made. It was deceptively designed to relax the creator into making a mistake.
This time Randidly had Acri chop the remnant bits to little pieces. He was about to start again on another attempt, but this time he forcefully stopped himself. This wasn’t going anywhere. He hadn’t even gained a Skill Level in the last few attempts. Sighing, he stood and left his basic shelter. Hopefully, the fresh air would do a lot to take the edge off of his temper.
The level of difficulty, if not the specific cause, had been expected. Yet somehow it got under his skin. Randidly carefully reflected on the past few hours as he approached and sat under an old oak tree. What he hadn’t expected was how… particular the requirements for the growing Engraving were. Because the problem was not one specificity and skill, but of consistency.
The base pattern for the growing Engraving had to be exactly the same through the entirety of the pattern across the equipment. Randidly believed he had understood this. But he hadn’t truly understood how difficult it was to warp the pattern to fit the item.
For example, it was quite easy for Randidly to create the base pattern on a flat sheet of metal. Rather time-consuming, but very doable. However, if that sheet of metal was bent into a ring, the entire pattern had to be subtly twisted in order for it to fit on its new medium. Otherwise, the pattern not only wouldn’t match but it wouldn’t join cleanly with itself on the other side of the material.
It was a weird sort of mental muscle that involved three-dimensional space and fidelity to reality that Randidly couldn’t quite manage currently.
Which made Randidly realize the real power and frustrating quality of the process: it took experience with variables beyond even the normal ones by a fair margin. His Mana Engraving Skill was quite high, all things considered, but this was even beyond that. He was mentally sore in ways that he hadn’t understood were possible.
Breathing out through his nose, Randidly leaned his head against the pitted tree bark behind him. After speaking with Sam about his armor, he had bid farewell and found a place outside of the city to gather himself before he met with everyone else. With a message to Donny, Randidly set up a date in a few days time to greet the leaders of Donnyton, and some special talents they wanted him to meet.
In addition, Randidly had planned to suggest the Squads duel against him at that time. But he really wanted some time to begin setting the groundwork for his metal arm before he did that. This growing engraving was a part of that.
Although Randidly had a nagging feeling that he should head to the Southeast as soon as possible, Neveah was much more willing to communicate once he finished the tasks that she had set to him. According to her, another portal had opened to a foreign world full of monsters in the wake of a Danger Zone being completed. She had her hands rather full keeping the lid tight over the pot.
Apparently, the population density in this new world was quite a bit higher.
However, Neveah claimed all she was doing was eliminating those that wandered through the portal to keep word from spreading; therefore Randidly’s presence would make it easier but not solve the problem. So he didn’t necessarily need to drop everything to head down to assist.
So he had time. So he practiced. He aimed to improve.
Ultimately, Randidly had come to one conclusion: he likely would need to upgrade his mechanical arm multiple times as he improved with it. He originally hoped that the could create something with a powerful growth aspect now, and allow it to grow into something capable for the future. But it seemed that it was unreasonable to expect such an aspect to be easily produced. Instead…
Randidly’s expression turned stormy as he thought about the broken bracers.
To distract himself, Randidly walked down the hill into the Production District. His riders he left at his hut, willing them to do whatever amused them in the surrounding area. Below, he ran into a problem; he had planned on purchasing more materials, but the people here didn’t want to barter. They required cash.
So a vexed Randidly considered all the ways he could make cash relatively quickly.
The easiest way was to find one of Randidly’s old friends who basically controlled the economy of Donnyton. No doubt they would be able to fund him. But that struck him as profoundly unsatisfactory, and would not set the tone right for some of the planning talks he wished to have about how Donnyton should be governed in the future.
Instead, Randidly made a call to his Head of Operations at Erickson Steel.
“Ah, you're, back.” Tatiana said. Randidly could hear the smile in her voice. “It’s been almost six months, you know. Several people have tried to buy us up. You are lucky most of the core employees like you; otherwise you would have come back to find yourself muscled out of the business.”
That made Randidly grin. “Muscling me out, huh. Who?”
“Ricky Stain, of all people. He made quite a bit of money acting as a trader between the Orchard and the Monster city. Probably wanted to get back at you, too, for ruining his party.” Tatiana said.
After listening to a status report of the company and offering a few solutions, Randidly cut to the chase. “Look, I’m in Donnyton currently; is there any way you can send some of my assets to me here to use? Quickly.”
“Assets?: Tatiana seemed amused. “You told me to reinvest your cut into the facilities and research for the company. That’s what I did. Plus, you didn’t want to be paid a wage if you weren’t going to be around. Very admirable, that. Probably why the employees like you. But anyway, you don’t have any assets to speak of.”
Randidly blinked. “What? I own the company that makes the best steel in the world. I talked to Sam not four hours ago, and he was full of praises for it. And he was sure to grumble about the price.”
“Yea, there is profit. And that was reinvested. Maybe check back next quarter? Perhaps your investment portfolio will have a better rate then.”
Randidly felt vexed, but he knew he had to let this run its course. He had been gone for quite some time, and he didn’t doubt that Tatiana was being honest about the takeover. It couldn’t have been easy to stand firm when the amount of time Randidly had been gone slowly continued to grow. This teasing was a small revenge. Small enough that he didn’t mind it.
“Tatiana,” Randidly finally said.
“Yes, Mr. Ghosthound?” She replied impishly. The smirk was clear in her tone.
“There isn’t anything you can do?”
“Well, I suppose I could move some things around…” Through the phone receiver, Randidly could hear the sound of Tatiana typing on a keyboard. Likely counting up petty cash stores. “There should be an Erickson Steel distribution center there, right? I’ll make a few calls. Man in charge is named Nick, he will give you enough to manage until I can ship you some hard currency. Will you be in Donnyton long?”
“At least a week,” Randidly said, unsure of how long he would actually be in the town. “And Tatiana? Thanks.”
“No problem. I’m glad you are back, Randidly. Don’t be a stranger.” The phone line went dead.
Very soon, Randidly had his cash. Several stops into shops later, Randidly’s expression was even worse than when he had left his work area for a distraction. Without thinking, Randidly had paid the quoted price for materials at the first location he went to. When he proceeded to the next and saw he had given almost double the market price for very barebones equipment he had wanted to experiment with, Randidly was furious.
He had half a mind to rush back and demand a refund, but Randidly hoped he hadn’t grown that petty. Instead, he just secretly memorized the name and promised himself to never, ever shop from such an individual ever again.
And so he returned to his hut, his ring filled with base equipments to attempt the growth engraving. After splashing water on his face, Randidly got to it.
It really was soothing, in a very monotonous, horrible way. It was the careful and considered drawing of a shape onto an armor. The only important bit for this portion was making sure the entire thing was completely symmetrical. Not only in shape and size, but also in the depth of Mana engraved into each portion.
The latter mistakes wouldn’t ruin it now but would become a dangerous liability when the Skill hidden within began to grow.
Randidly tsk’d with dissatisfaction as he leaned back from his most recent attempt. This one too was a failure, although not to the degree that it would smoke and split when filled with energy like some of the others. But as Randidly stared fixedly at the minute flaws in the pattern, he had a strange epiphany.
By drawing this pattern… I’m adding a dimension to the item that the Skill can inhabit. The reason it has to be so uniform, self-contained, and specific is because… what you are essentially doing is creating a world for the growing Skill Engraving to live in.
That gave Randidly pause. Because sometimes, the right image was all you needed. And Randidly knew a thing or two about creating a world from scratch.