Lino’s life had quickly become composed of two things: running and doing chores during the day and reading before falling asleep like a dying stone. The latter he somehow even handled as he had some interest in the theory behind blacksmithing, but the former sucked the soul out of his little, shriveled up body. It wouldn’t be bad if the chores were, well, chores. However, his understanding of the word and Ella’s and Eggor’s differed greatly. Throughout the past week, he was forced to carry over two tons of stone bricks from one end of the village to the other, carry shields three times his size to the army’s deposit, dig a hole nearly ten meters deep using a nearly broken shovel, and he was clearly barely hanging on. However, one positive out of everything was that his belly was finally always full. Even if he had a task to do, Ella and Eggor always demanded he stops whatever it was that he was doing and come and eat when it was either breakfast, lunch, dinner, or some casual breaks in-between.
It was because of their clear support and encouragement that he was able to handle bone-breaking tasks. He looked toward the night so much he thought he was becoming a vampire during one of his deliriums when he nearly fainted due to exhaustion. Still, the six thick books that Eggor had given him were truly interesting. Although he merely looked at the titles of the five, just reading the first one had expanded his knowledge greatly: <The Beginnings of Blacksmithing>. From the first ever records that were found so far, reaching all the way back to the New World Era, to this very day, almost all general knowledge was squeezed in.
For instance, according to some of the oldest records, New World Era had no proper blacksmithing tools. Rather, people used either stones or their own bare hands to hold and craft the simplest of tools. This shocked him greatly, as he could barely lift a damn stone, let alone do anything with it. In addition, the book was split in the general chapters which marked the start of a new era in blacksmithing. For instance, second chapter was titled the Era of Flames, because it marked the moment people discovered different types and levels of flames.
Lino had already finished it and was actually reading it for the second time because he wanted to clearly remember the most important points. His memory was rather good, but he didn’t put much importance to it. What good, after all, could the good memory do to him if he couldn’t even craft the simplest of weapons?
As he stared at the closed, thick book, he had a solemn expression. I was really blind before… he thought for a moment as he sighed, putting the book away and picking up the second one: <Blacksmithing Tools Through Time>. It was the shortest of the books, barely two hundred pages, as it was mostly just sketches with minor descriptions and stories behind the inventions. Before he went to sleep, he skimmed over it twice and remembered most of the tools from the past, and all of the tools from the past five hundred years, as most were still in use.
Then, he landed on the soft pillow and immediately fell asleep. It was a dreamless sleep and when he woke up in the morning he felt rested, although his muscles still ached. Although it was better than at the very start when he felt like all his bones were broken, he still groaned lightly as he got up on his feet and walked downstairs into the kitchen. As per the norm, Ella was preparing breakfast while Eggor was carrying two large buckets of water that he filled from the nearby well. Lino sat down and casually swiped a couple of loafs of bread and wolfed them down.
“Hey!!” Eggor saw it and exclaimed. “You can’t do that!! Where are your manners?”
“What do you mean manners?” Lino lazily asked as he swiped another one and ate it. “There’s food on the table. Is it there to test these so-called manners or is it there to be eaten, huh?” Eggor gritted his teeth but let it go. He had finally grown slightly resilient to Lino’s unabashed personality, but not by a lot.
“Did you sleep well?” Ella asked gently, smiling at the young boy.
“Hm,” Lino nodded. “Of course I’ll sleep well. One of these days, I may even fall asleep forever with how you guys are screwing my body.”
“He he, don’t get discouraged,” Ella said, patting his head gently. “We’re pushing you because we believe in you. You feel it yourself, don’t you? That you already have more strength than when you first came to us.”
“…humph.” even if he didn’t want to admit it, Lino had to; after all, it was true. When he first arrived, he couldn’t even lift a 10kg stone properly without exerting all his strength, yet he could now rather easily carry 30kgs one without breaking a sweat for hours. The problem is that, whenever he got accustomed to one weight, these two bastards would increase it again.
“How’s the progress with the books?” Eggor asked as he also walked into the kitchen and sat down.
“I finished first two,” Lino said, sighing lightly. “Blacksmithing truly has a whole lot more history to it than I thought.”
“…eh?” Eggor’s two eyes bulged out like eggs and even the usually calm Ella had a slightly shocked expression. “Don’t crap on my intelligence brat. There’s no way you finished the two books. Did you just look at each page for a second and ‘finished’ it that way?” Eggor snickered coldly; although the second book was merely 200 pages, the first one was nearly 2000, ten times the amount. Even Ella, one of the smartest people Eggor had ever met, would need at least two weeks to properly read it without using any powers.
“Eh? Why would I need to lie about something so retarded?” Lino scoffed right back. “It’s just 2000 or so pages. I’d be a retard if it took me more than a week to read them.” Eggor gnashed his teeth but held it in, taking a deep breath.
“Oh? Is that so?” he said as a cold glint flashed past his eyes. “Can I test you, then?”
“Sure.” Lino said casually, waiting for breakfast.
“What was the most prosperous era of blacksmithing?”
“Hmm… although the book says that it was Magic Weapon Era, I think Flame Era is more suited for the title,” Lino said after a short thought. “Although Magic Weapons truly revolutionized the capabilities, Flame Era revolutionized the entire conduction of blacksmithing. It opened up an entirely new path, and it became a bridge between primitive ways of the old, and ever-evolving ways of the new.” although Eggor’s expression remained calm, his knees began shaking lightly. This fucking brat!! He even figured that one out?!! Most idiots still believe that book, yet he saw through it after a casual read!!
“Ha ha, amazing!!” Ella, on the other hand, didn’t try to hide her joy. “It is indeed as you said. Without a doubt, Flame Era is definitely the most important era of blacksmithing. Hmm… let me also test you. Name and describe three most important lost tools.”
“… oh, going for the heavy ones, huh? Let me think…” Lino said as he began scouring through his memories and conclusions from the past week. “Hmm… Circular Wheel, Radiant Cutter and Empyrean Soul, the latter being the most important. Circular Wheel, according to the legend, could imbue even the most ordinary sword with unimaginable magical properties given the proper materials, of course. Radiant Cutter, on the other hand, could cut and shape any material in the world with such precision that nothing else could even come close to replicating it. I’m surprised, though, that not many agree that Empyrean Soul is even that important. The scripture allows one to internalize any type of flame and then either evolve it or combine it or even replace it. How’s that not the most amazing thing ever?”
“… fuck!!” Eggor exclaimed, unable to hold it in anymore. Although Lino was used to this old guy yelling a lot, it wasn’t often that he cursed, especially in front of Ella. “What is your damned brain made of?!! How can someone so retarded be so smart?!! Aaah, heaven’s so unfair!!”
“Oi! Who are you calling retarded, you tenth-grade blacksmith?! Do you want me to truly sweep your wife away with my celestial charms?!” Lino retorted right back.
“Alright, alright you two, calm down,” Ella immediately mediated the situation; even she felt helpless inside. If her parents and Master knew that her sole duty was to make sure that two blockheads don’t kill each other, what would they think of her? Would they cry, laugh or kill themselves out of shame? “It seems you have really impressive memory and comprehension, Lino. Even I’m surprised!”
“Tsk, what use is it?” Lino clicked his tongue, looking away. “It won’t help me in any way when it comes to blacksmithing.”
“Aii, youths and their ignorance,” Eggor said, sighing. “What? Do you really think that crafting is all about hammering onto the melting stone and praying for the best? Best blacksmiths are no worse than scholars, you brat. We have to remember as many ingredients as possible, what’s their use, which can combine, which contradict the others, then the tools, the different ways, and let’s not even get started with unique designs. Given some time, everyone can learn to hammer and build enough endurance to last. It’s the lack of knowledge that stiffens blacksmith’s growth more so than anything else. Even if you have an amazing, creative idea for a weapon or armor, what use is it if you can’t properly calculate which ingredients to use, how to combine them, the best way to draw the design, the best technique to craft it so you don’t leave behind any flaws… theory is half the blacksmith’s fortune. It is a dividing line between ordinary blacksmiths who merely copy other people’s designs, and extraordinary ones who keep pushing themselves further in attempts to break through a new line and create mythical items.”
“…wow, even I have to bow down,” Lino said, slightly shocked. “Your bullshitting skills are almost as good as mine!”
After finishing up the breakfast, Lino returned to the usual routine of doing a short marathon around the village. Short according to Eggor, that is, as the entire run took up roughly 40 kilometers, which was anything but short. At a halfway point, he finally stopped and sat down on a side-street bench while taking the gourd of water strapped to his belt and downing half its contents in one go. He began suspecting that Ella and Eggor were putting something into his food, because the rate of his body’s improvement was truly insane. Just then, he heard strange clamor and chatter coming from his right; turning his head down the dirt-pavement, he saw a group of five youths surrounding the sixth one; the first five were dressed rather ordinarily, and looked much like all other kids in the village. The youth in the center, though, was wearing lavish, silver armor and was currently holding a great sword nearly two meters long and four fingers wide. Lino’s eyes bulged for a moment – not at the beauty or creativity of the design, but rather on the fact that no human should be able to wield that sword.
Although everything in the world has stats, whenever a certain item attains an owner, unless the latter decides to publicize it, it’s usually impossible to see the stats of something. Seeing that the youth was proudly displaying his sword, Lino walked over and joined the five youths; the silver-clad one’s expression grew even more arrogant. He had short, golden hair and fair, green eyes. He was rather handsome and well-built, causing no small amount of envy to rise inside Lino’s heart. I bet this bastard can eat meat every day!!
Taking a deep breath to calm down, he glanced at the sword and inspected the stats, causing his eyebrows to twitch.
[Great Kinslayer – Uncommon]
Special effect: Upon accumulating strong enough of a momentum, can cause a mini earthquake upon impact with the ground.
Note: Due to the weapon’s sheer weight, only the strongest and bravest can wield it.
No wonder he’s displaying it proudly! My ass!! Lino cursed inwardly; even if he knew almost nothing about blacksmithing, he knew this sword was terrible. Its damage values didn’t at all correspond with its sheer size, and it’s ‘special effect’ was a mockery. The note was clearly hand-ordered by this proud youth, and whoever crafted this sword was pretty brilliant for not putting their name anywhere near this thing.
After glancing at the sword a few more times, he broke off from the circle and went his merry way. He slowly began to understand what Eggor meant; in the past few years, he’s been seeing more and more weapons like that popping up. Gold-adorned swords that would break if you spat on them, armors made of coarse leather but painted over in silver and gold and then adorned with gems… crafts which lack any form of practical value. By the time anyone began swinging that gigantic sword, they would be killed fifty times over.
The rest of the day proceeded as per usual; after finishing his run, he helped Ella and Eggor with some ‘chores’ of theirs, and after eating dinner, he went back up to his room with a determined expression. If idiots like whoever crafted that crap can be blacksmiths, then holy shit I can too!! Ignoring the first two books he’d already read, he took all remaining four, determined to burn through the night to read them.
The third book he picked up was titled <Legendary Blacksmiths and Their Creations>. The further Lino read, the more awed and depressed he became. Armors, weapons, tools… all better than the last. As he came across a small, blacksmith hammer, his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as he began drooling.
[Empyrean Hammer – Ancient]
Special effect: Can break apart any material with ease.
Special effect: Increases crafting speed by 1000%.
Special effect: Items crafted with the help of this hammer have 100% chance of gaining at least 2 additional effects.
Note: Great Blacksmith Kal’eh spent nine fortnights in the depths of the Fernol Volcano to craft this masterful hammer. Since eons past, no better one has seen the dawn of day.
Lino had to wipe his eyes a few times to confirm that he wasn’t seeing things. After all, it was absolutely insane. Most of the hammers he’d seen in his life would increase crafting speed by 2% at most, and were able to break apart only a specific number of materials, with almost no other benefits. What’s worse, they all had very specific level requirements. Yet, this thing had none. In theory, even a baby could use it and craft something amazing by just randomly smacking around stuff for a few days.
“… according to this,” Lino muttered as he read the description of the hammer. “The hammer’s been lost for the past 600 years. Its last owner never had a Disciple, so after passing away, the hammer was never found. Tsk… where the hell is this Enyal Empire? I need to sprint there and haul this bitch back here.”
After the hammer, Lino had encountered numerous swords, axes, shields, helmets, chest plates, and various items and tools of all usages that left him flabbergasted. The book truly broadened his horizons; not only that, but it also proved just how weak he, and everyone else in this village, truly was. The highest level item that Lino had encountered in the entirety of the village was Ella’s kitchen knife. Just how sad and depressing was that? It was the last item in the book that truly sealed the deal, a small, one and a half meters long sword with a very simple, almost mundane design. However, its stats were anything but.
[Heartseeker – Unique]
Magic Damage: 6024-11039
Special effect: Completely ignores all armor, regardless of grade or material.
Special effect: Cannot be destroyed
Special effect: Sword has innate sentience. It will always adjust aim toward the heart if a strike is dodged or a miss.
Special effect: Bound. Can only ever have one owner; upon owner’s death, the weapon loses all its power and turns into an ordinary sword.
Special effect: Every strike has a chance to cut through the fabric of space, immediately arriving at the designated location.
Special effect: Due to the innate sentience, the sword will automatically defend against enemy strikes.
Note: Crafted by a mysterious, wandering blacksmith, for his Immortal Queen.
Lino barely even paid attention to the numbers; they were simply insane. One single strike was enough to mow down roughly ten thousand grown men, to say nothing else. Everything else also screamed top-tier. Will I ever be able to craft something like this? He sighed, very much doubting it.
After all, even if he was an idiot when it came to blacksmithing, he still had a general idea when it came to Levels. Everything in the world was classified by Levels, from the smallest speck of sand to even a human. In the same vein, Levels were self-contained; even if a speck of sand was Level 100, it didn’t mean that it could actually kill a human with ease, it just meant that, within the specks of sand, its rarity was quite high.
On the other hand, weapons were directly linked to people; after all, they were created with sole purpose to be wielded by them. An average Level of a human across the entire Umbra Kingdom was 15, which lacked an entire zero to come even close to that sword. A few years ago, during the First Prince’s Crowning, he heard chatter that Prince had managed to reach Level 50 – which was enough to put him into the top 10 experts of the entire Kingdom. And, to add salt to the wound, it was far easier for people to level than it was for a blacksmith to craft higher level weapons.
Chuckling bitterly, he let go of the book and moved onto the next three: <Contemporary Blacksmithing>, which mostly spoke of the current methods, tools, and state of the blacksmithing; <Basics of Blacksmithing>, which dissected every method into details, usage of every tool, and plethora of other things in regards to beginner’s ways; lastly, there was the thickest book of them all: <List of Basic Ingredients and Their Sketches>.
As per the name of the book, it listed out all ingredients within the level range of 1-20, accompanied by sketches. This included basic ores, some more special stones, woods, herbs, gems and such, as well as some slightly rarer ingredients which could complement the basic ones the best. Naturally, Lino was unable to remember the whole book in one night; even if he had memory that was ten times better, the book before him had over 10,000 pages, listing over 60,000 ingredients. Even he didn’t have thick enough of a face to pretend he could do it. Still, he persisted throughout the whole night and managed to precisely memorize roughly tenth of the book. It was a beginning. He knew he was far behind in terms of knowledge, but that didn’t mean he would take shortcuts and make light of the opportunity he was given. At the very least, unlike a few weeks ago, he saw the light at the end of the tunnel. He saw his future, and in it, he was no longer a starved corpse lying on the side of the street, being ignored by young and old alike.