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CHAPTER 4

A QUEER BASTARD

In a flash, five full months had passed since Lino had fallen under Eggor’s tutelage. The village wasn’t much different than it was five months ago; it still bustled with noise from dawn until midnight, with nearly ten thousand people living all sorts of lives. In a distant corner, near a shabby alley, a wooden, even shabbier-looking house, stood in silence. It looked no different than anything surrounding it – rather, it fit perfectly into this rather poor part of the village.

In the backend of the house, in a room full of gray shine, two figures were standing next to each other; one was a middle-aged man with burly and muscular body, towering to nearly two meters in height. He wore a bandana over his head as to protect his eyes from the sweat, and was currently topless, revealing his chiseled body.

Next to him, nearly thirty centimeters shorter, was a slightly slender youth. However, were someone to compare Lino of today to the one from five months ago, they’d hardly be able to connect the two. He had grown a full head taller, and his bone-and-skin appearance was replaced with subtle, yet well-defined muscles. His shoulders had grown broader, and his back was straightened like a bow’s string. While his youthful face could not be hidden, it appeared more mature as his eyes gave off a rather vague feeling. The black hair hung in a crane-like fashion on the back of his head; much like Eggor, he was also topless. However, his muscles paled in comparison to the former’s. The two were currently staring at the seven items; all seven were ores, and were almost identical in appearance. They were roughly head-sized, and were dark gray in hue.

“… ugh, come on you damn brat,” Eggor grunted. “You’ve been staring for over five minutes. Do you know or don’t you?”

“… oh, wait, I was supposed to say it out loud?” Lino said as though he was suddenly startled out of deep thought. “You damn bastard!! Here I was growing incredibly confused because you weren’t saying anything!”

“Ha?! You’re pinning this on me, you bastard?!” Eggor replied in kind. “Why the hell wouldn’t you say it out loud?!! What kind of a shitty brain do you have to even think you weren’t supposed to say it out loud?!”

“Ha, what shitty brain you old, rotten goat?!” Lino exclaimed back as the two were practically pinning their foreheads together with veins bulging out. “Both you and that wife you don’t deserve were praising this head of mine so much I’d swear you were thinking of beheading me and stealing my brain!”

“Pu!” Eggor spat out. “Who the hell would want that shitty head of yours?! I’d rather die thousand deaths than have your thoughts for even a second!”

While the two yelled at each other, the room’s door creaked open for a moment but neither caught it. Ella looked at the two and sighed while a warm smile surfaced on her lips. Without saying anything, she left a plateful of food at the entrance of the room before carefully closing the doors and retreating back in silence.

“Enough, enough,” Eggor shook his head as he felt headache surge. “Dabbling with tongue against you is like throwing eggs against stone. Aah, brat, you’ll be the end of me. So, which one is real?”

“The third one from the left,” Lino said calmly as he picked up the head-sized chunk of ore. “It’s pretty obvious.”

“Oh? How so?”

“It has deeper luster,” Lino explained. “Also, it left the deepest dent of all five chunks beneath. In addition, [Rowen Ore] has distinct smell, and only this chunk was emitting it.”

“Oh, not bad, not bad,” Eggor nodded in approval. “You’ve grown accustomed to most of the ores. Not bad.”

“Hai, does that mean you’ll finally let me craft something?!” Lino suddenly asked as his eyes beamed like stars. Looking at the pair of innocent eyes, Eggor felt a shiver run up his spine; This brat can change so much on a whim!! It’s scary!! He’s worse than Ella!!

“Khm, ye, I think you’re finally read.” Eggor said as he quickly stabilized himself. “However, I’ll only let you use the furnace and anvil. You’ll have to procure the ingredients – I’ll give you a gold coin. You’ll also have to come up with whatever you want to craft. Deal?”

“Hell yeah!!” Lino exclaimed as he suddenly wrapped his arms around Eggor’s belly as he was too short to properly hug him. However, he quickly realized his arms had barely reached Eggor’s back. “Damn dude, it’s no wonder you and Ella have no kids. That poor woman would probably have her bones broken in a second in bed.” Plop! Following a powerful slap, Lino felt stars dance around his head as his body fell onto the ground like a wooden pole. However, he quickly stabilized himself and popped back onto his feet, sneering. “Ha ha old man, I’ve grown resilient to your punches! It seems you no longer have power over me.”

“…” Eggor stared blankly at the youth in front of him, unable to utter a word. He dug into his pocket and took a single gold coin, throwing it at Lino before simply walking out of the room, expressionless.

Lino caught the coin and excitedly left the house, heading over to the open market. After five months, he was finally allowed to craft something! However, he wasn’t angry that he had to wait so long, regardless of what he may have said. After all, it wasn’t as though he was doing nothing in the past few months; he had long ago memorized the contents of the six books, and had completely re-forged his body. Even lifting an 80kg stone was no longer an issue for him, which hardly seemed to be the case when one took a look at his body.

The open market was built at a western part of the village, past the structural commerce area. While commerce area had shops that were regulated by the Kingdom itself and put under tax, the free market was exactly that – anyone and their mother could come and buy and sell whatever they wanted. While rich generally went to the commerce area to do their business, most folk in the village stuck to the free market.

As with any other day, the market was bustling; through the nearly half-a-mile long street, dozens of stalls were set up with nearly hundred men and women shouting out. The street itself was lined up with countless people as everyone looked around, bargained, bought and sold, or even started cursing. Lino used to come here before, and was even swindled a few times for ‘heavenly items’. However, his eyes had grown under the tutelage of Eggor. Even if he had never seen a material before in his life, he’d be able to see whether it was of good or bad quality after a short inspection.

The free market was generally divided into three parts: food and such, already crafted items and oddities, and lastly ores, herbs, and other raw ingredients. Quickly blowing past the first two, Lino arrived at the third part. It was not as busy as the prior two, but he still quickly counted roughly forty people talking with the stalls’ owners and bargaining over the prices. With a quick glance across the stalls, Lino spotted a nearby one selling a few types of ores before moving over. Noticing him, the stall’s owner put on a happy smile as a strange glint flashed through his eyes.

“Ah, young brother,” the stall owner spoke with a gentle tone. “I see you have the eyes of the Dragon! This humble one only sells the best of the best, without doubt! You won’t find better even in the commerce area, that much I promise!”

“… is that so?” Lino asked as he smiled faintly, inspecting the ores; there were in total twenty-two chunks of ore laid before him and he had quickly come to a very simple conclusion regarding them all: they were shit. Rather, even shit was probably better than them.

“Of course, of course, I wouldn’t dare lie to the young brother. I guarantee the quality!” the owner laughed as his narrow eyes inspected the youth in front of him; he had already concluded that the youth was a fool who could hardly tell grass from dirt.

“Then, if I was to build a crap-tin with this, do you think it would hold?” Lino asked, smiling coldly.

“Eh?”

“The only thing worth more than dirt here is a single piece of ore that’s Level 1. Aii, I understand that you’ve suffered greatly while trying to dig up all of this from the cans of rich sons and daughters, but you can’t go around claiming they are heavenly treasures. While I agree there are some weird people who’d pay a hefty sum to sniff a dong of a pretty lady, I’m afraid I take no part in such convictions.” Lino’s words had completely stunned the stall’s owner to the point the latter wasn’t even able to reply properly. How was this inexperienced youth?!! He had a tongue sharper than his own mother’s!!

“Y-young brother, calm your tongue,” the owner’s smile disappeared as he recovered, looking coldly at Lino. “Lest it never speaks again.”

“… hai, old brother, at least learn to properly talk before trying to threaten someone,” Lino said casually. “Aah, no wonder you’re selling dongs as though they were pieces of gold. You truly believe these things here hold some worth!”

“Y-you!!” the owner exclaimed while pointing a finger at Lino, his slightly chubby face completely red with fury and anger. “Off with you!! Leave before I spank your bottom!! Humph, you dare speak nonsense to me?! Humph!”

“…” Lino merely smiled coldly at him before departing. Although he felt the owner’s stare at his back, he didn’t turn and instead headed over to a nearby stall which already had a few customers. The owner was, surprisingly, a woman in her early thirties. Although she was by no means a beauty, she had a refined air about her; her hair was short and black, almost man’s in cut, and her tanned skin exemplified her defined muscles only further. Seeing Lino approach, she glanced at him and smiled lightly, signaling him to look at her wares before returning to her other customers.

Glancing over the ingredients on display, Lino nodded faintly; unless she demands too high of a price, he could buy everything he needs here. After all, he didn’t need a lot of materials, and not many types either, at most 2-3. Unlike the other owner’s stall, hers was much fuller, with nearly a hundred items on clear display. Lino was shocked to find some pieces of Level 15 ore, which caused him to draw in a cold breath. She isn’t simple… he thought. Just as his thought finished, the woman turned to him as it was finally his turn.

“Did you see anything you like?” the woman asked, smiling lightly.

“… aii, big sister, don’t joke around,” Lino smiled back. “Forget what you’re selling, you alone made this trip worth it.”

“Ha ha,” the woman laughed lightly, not taking Lino’s words to heart. “You certainly know how to treat a lady. But, flattery won’t get you much with me. Today, I’m not a lady, but businesswoman!”

“… eh, can’t blame a kid for trying,” Lino said, still smiling. “How much for two pieces of [Durable Ore], a piece of [Ginger Stalk] and a single [Level 1 Magic Core]?”

“Oh? Are you planning on crafting a sword?” the woman asked, arching her brows slightly.

“… uh, yeah, something like that.” Lino replied vaguely.

“Heh, then this sister won’t be stingy with you. Two pieces of ore would cost you 40 silver, a single stalk 15 silver and core 50 silver. How’s that?”

“… hai, just because you cut down the cost of core, doesn’t mean you can sell a single stalk of weed that grows in my grandma’s backyard for 15 silver, sister.” Lino said, smiling bitterly.

“Ha ha, so I wasn’t wrong, you truly do have a discernable eye,” the woman said. “My name’s Tanya. What’s yours?”

“You can call me Lino.” Lino said simply.

“How about this, Lino,” the woman suddenly said. “You can have all your materials for free, but whatever you craft, I want it. What do you say? Of course, I’ll pay the standard service fee.”

“… either you have the eye of a prophet that can see into the future,” Lino said, looking at her strangely. “Or you’re a naïve idiot. Which one is it?”

“We’ll know soon enough, won’t we?” Tanya smiled queerly before packing up ores, stalk and the core and giving it to Lino, free of charge as promised.

“… see you soon, Tanya.”

“See you soon!”

Lino grabbed the materials and quickly ran back home, unable to hide excitement from his face. He didn’t care much if he was unable to craft anything from these materials; he’d simply take five silver pieces from his own bank and pay the costs anyway.

Seeing him return so quickly, Eggor’s face grew darker. Was the kid swindled again?! Dammit!! However, he could only sigh. Lino quickly entered the house and, without even greeting Ella and Eggor, bolted toward the backside. Eggor followed shortly behind in silence, and soon the two were standing next to the anvil, where four items in total were displayed.

“Oh? You weren’t swindled? These are all genuine items.” Eggor said with a slight trace of surprise.

“What do you mean I wasn’t swindled?!! Why do you sound so surprised?!” Lino barked immediately. “Humph, I was simply humoring those bastards before. How could anything get past my heavenly eyes?”

“Fine, fine, fine, my bad. Interesting choice,” Eggor said as he scrutinized the items yet again. “However, wouldn’t it be better if the core was with an attribute?”

“… you want me to buy an attribute core with a shitty 1 gold piece?” Lino glared at him. “Dude, get out of the house more. You’ve truly grown senile.”

“… khm,” as though he finally realized that he misspoke, Eggor simply ignored it as he continued. “So, what do you plan on crafting? If you just wanted to craft a simple sword, two pieces of ore would have been enough. With stalk, you could probably create a bendable longsword. What’s the magic core for, though?” Eggor suddenly glanced at Lino; this kid’s brain was simply weird, and no matter how much Eggor tried to see through it, he was unable. “What queer crap are you planning on crafting, brat?”

“He he,” Lino smiled as he licked his lips. “It will blow you away!”

“… you’re not creating a bomb, are you?! Don’t make puns while planning to commit murder, you bastard!!”

“What bomb?! Fuck, I’ll give you my granddaughters if you can use these four items to make a bomb!”

“Fuck! Who wants your granddaughters, you bastard?! By the time you find a woman who will actually put up with you, I’d have turned in my grave ten million times!”

“Humph, what do you mean?! That woman is already in the next room! Just you wait, she’s already under my spell!”

“… aii, just don’t blow up my workshop, lest you want me to blow you up.” Eggor said as he moved to the corner and began observing the process.

“Just you wait!! Ha ha, by the time I’m done with this, even heavens will shake! Ha ha ha!” Eggor stared intently at the still shaking back of the youth, a strange glint flashing in his eyes. …I have over two thousand years of experience with crafting… yet why do I feel as though even if I wracked my brain for ten lifetimes, I wouldn’t be able to figure out what this bastard will make? Sighing lightly, he spoke no more as he continued watching Lino.

The youth picked up two ores as he walked over and lit up wood in the furnace, while the golden flames began blazing. They were the most basic, Level 5 flames, and were most-commonly used for mass-produced weapons and armors of the Kingdom. He carelessly threw both ores into the flame as though he was throwing wood itself, causing Eggor's face to contort slightly. Lino then walked over to the anvil and picked up the stalk of grass, inspecting it for a moment, before snapping it in two; he then took a nearby screw and the magic core, piercing needle-sized hole in the core and quickly plugging it with half the stalk. Eggor observed his actions carefully, and each one of them caused his heart to stir with absolute anger. HE’S JUST RUINING THE MATERIALS!! However, he still said nothing.

Looking at the magic core, Lino nodded satisfyingly before putting it on the table next to the anvil. He glanced over at the flames and saw that the ores were just about to melt; he quickly picked up a sturdy bucket which could endure molten lava and walked over to the furnace. He began pouring the melted ore into the bucket, his actions appearing natural, as though he had done it a thousand times before. Half a minute later, the bucket was half-full as all of melted ore was placed into it. Wiping sweat off his forehead, Lino sighed in relief before hurrying over to a corner table which was reinforced with sturdy alloy. He poured out the entirety of the bucket on the table directly, causing it to sizzle and break the silence. Then, various tools and techniques that Eggor imparted on him, he began condensing the scattered ore into a shape, bit by bit. After he was done, he raced over to the anvil and picked the half-stalk of [Ginger Stalk] and raced back to the melted ore, dropping the stalk directly into it. Unsurprisingly, the stalk burned the moment it touched the surface of the melted ore, its energy quickly swallowed up.

He played around a bit with the shape before drilling a fist-sized hole at its center in a spherical fashion, clearly planning to put the magical core directly into it. Without hesitation, he raced back to the table where the core was at and picked it up, hurrying back and dropping it in the spherical opening. However, the core didn’t melt; rather, its purple luster suddenly diminished as the entire core became gray. The stalk that was pierced into it withered at the speed visible to the naked eye, soon turning into ash. Nodding with a beaming smile, Lino sighed in relief yet again. He then waited for a moment before he used two clamps and carried over the strangely-shaped object to the large barrel of water. After carefully inspecting the water’s temperature, making sure it was appropriate, he dipped the strangely-shaped object into the barrel Steam bellowed out in droves as sizzling sounds echoed out. He shook the object a few times and pulled it out only after a few minutes. He then walked back to the furnace and began heating up some of its corners. As the silver luster grew reddened, he hurriedly pulled it out and walked back to the anvil. Picking up a hammer, he began hammering and reshaping the object further, while also reinforcing it indirectly.

Eggor stared from the distance, but he was still unable to discern the object’s exact shape. His brows were already furrowed; if any other blacksmith were to see Lino’s procedure, they’d no doubt vomit blood before passing out. None of it made any sense. He melted both ores at the same times directly, in their entirety, he then pierced the magic core, letting its energy seep out, before plugging it with half-a-stalk of a basic herb. Then he shoved the entire magic core directly into the object, and rather than letting its energy seep out into the object itself, he actually reinforced the core’s outer shell and kept the energy in.

It took almost two hours before Lino’s expression finally loosened up and he breathed deeply. Realizing that the crafting was completed, even Eggor wiped a few droplets of sweat from his brow before carefully walking over, afraid of what he might see. However, when he saw the object, he nearly passed out, even with countless years of experience. On the anvil, there appeared to be a handle of a sword… without the blade. It was cone-shaped, its color somewhere between deep gray and light brown, like beast’s skin, and there was a slight bulge at the very center of the object on two sides. What the hell is that?!! Is that a weapon?! Hell no!!

“… aah, done at last, ha ha,” Lino, of course, burst out in jubilant laughter. This was the first thing he’d crafted in his entire life. Naturally, he was beyond happy. He picked up the strange handle and played around with it. The object’s name was already given mentally, but Lino didn’t bother checking its stats; after all, he didn’t care. Whatever he created would naturally be heavenly treasure. “Look, old man! Ha ha, I’ve created a Divine Weapon on my first try, ha ha!” corners of Eggor’s eyes twitched before swiping the handle from Lino’s hands, immediately checking its stats. After going over them, he actually stumbled and fell backwards on his butt, his expression somewhere between being utterly confounded and absolutely terrorized.

[Celestial RodUnique]

Level: 8

Damage: 21-24

Magic Damage: 8-12

Defense: 8

Magic Defense: 3

Durability: 80

Special Effect: Three-pronged weapon.

Special Effect: First Form – can fire Magic Darts from the small hole at the tip. Magic Darts must be crafted separately, and 10 can at most be stored at the same time.

Special Effect: Second Form – can be turned into a two-meter long spear, which can further be extended by consuming energy from the Magic Core. Energy must be replenished separately. Maximum elongation is 100 meters.

Special Effect: Third Form – encases the outer exterior in firm alloy, with chance to reflect both physical and magical attacks. Each time an attack is blocked, Durability is consumed. Must be restored separately.

Special Effect: Due to the uniqueness of the design, the weapon can be enhanced further as well as re-forged, increasing stats as well as the number of forms.

Note: Created by a complete novice. However, the craftsmanship is above average, and unique design allows it to stand above other weapons of the same level.

Eggor still remained shocked as he reexamined the stats. Even just going off its base, weapon stats, it was definitely above average, as only Level 10 weapons were able to inch close to 25 damage. However, there was also Magic Damage, Defense, as well as Magic Defense, and even Durability, something only shields were supposed to have. Even if it was only that, the weapon could easily be sold for hundreds of gold coins, but there were also four Special Effects, something only Legendary Blacksmiths were able to imbue into such low-leveled weapons. While all the effects simply revolved around the weapon’s strange forms, it didn’t diminish the fact that there were four of them. Fuck, this brat was actually right!! If it’s properly groomed, this weird crap can actually become Ethereal-ranked weapon, or even Divine Artifact!!

Eggor wasn’t shocked about multiple forms of the weapon as much, because those already existed, and not even in small number. However, absolutely none were of [Unique] qualification, meaning that they were stuck on the same level they were crafted at. And, due to the sheer number of resources required to craft high-level multi-form weapons, almost no one was willing to do it. Evolving a piece of weaponry, on the other hand, was much cheaper than crafting it anew. And, perhaps the greatest shock of all, was that this was the first thing this brat has ever crafted. What a queer bastard… Eggor thought as his eyes switched over to Lino who was actually sitting on a chair, his head firmly planted on the table, sleeping soundly with a large smile on his face.

He quickly left the workshop and found Ella sitting in the kitchen, mixing flour to make bread. When he showed her the ‘weapon’, much like him, she nearly fainted from surprise. After reexamining the small, seemingly ordinary piece of nothing, the two sighed and sat down.

“Looks like… you’ve really discovered a great treasure this time around, Ella.” Eggor said, his eyes flashing with complex expression.

“Heh, what are you saying? Isn’t this the result of your great tutelage?” Ella teased back.

“… he’s progressing much faster than I thought,” Eggor said after short silence, sighing. “With this speed, he may even be able to participate in the annual Kingdom’s competition.”

“Even if he’s gifted in blacksmithing, he’s still a kid, Eggor,” Ella said, her expression somewhat solemn. “One with no experience of battle, at that. In addition, he’s yet to even reach Level 10. He stands absolutely no chance if he catches someone’s eye.”

“… well, you know, you could always—“

“Absolutely not!” Ella interrupted.

“Oi, you forced him on me, and now you’re trying to avoid the responsibility?!” Eggor cried out.

“Well, you know, it’s not like I thought he would improve so quickly.” Ella said, still reluctant.

“Aii, I know that you promised you’d never take a disciple again, but the only vow that you absolutely must never break is the one you made on our wedding day,” Eggor said. “As for the rest? Eh, you know.”

“… is it me, or are you actually growing jealous of that kid?” Ella suddenly curled her lips up in smile; her usual, average-looking face suddenly beamed strangely, as though it attained beauty beyond compare. However, it was only a flash, and it quickly vanished.

“Humph, preposterous! Why-why would I be jealous of a brat who’s yet to grow hair?! Humph!” Eggor snorted, looking away. “So, it’s settled then. From tomorrow on, instead of sleeping, he’ll be training with you.”

“Oi, I never agreed to anything!!”

“I’ll go to the market and find us a nice piece of pork,” Eggor said, getting up and ignoring Ella’s pleading face. “We ought to celebrate that brat’s luck. Humph, getting two Immortals as his Masters. Humph, even those rich Sect brats aren’t this lucky. Humph.”

“…” Ella’s eyes flashed with warmth as she watched the broad back leave the house. She smiled gently and glanced toward the workshop’s door before moving her eyes back on the ordinary handle. “Is he the lucky one… or are we?” she mumbled before her eyes dimmed slightly, as though she was lost to distant thoughts and memories.

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beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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