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CHAPTER 33

Q'VIL'S LAST STAND (III)

Lino soon came to realize just how immensely strong <Empyrean Writ> was. Since Q’vil started fighting against the trio, he’d used a total of eleven different elements – something that Lino thought completely impossible. Though he had different Primal Spirits as well, he always thought they simply enhanced the body in one way or another, but he was wrong.

Q’vil’s feet flashed in crimson lightning as he blurred left and right, evading a heaving, two-miles long cleave of a golden axe. Meanwhile, his entire body was surrounded by fuming flames while earth beneath continuously spat sharp, metallic spikes at him. In addition, before him stood Edgar IV, bearer of the <Immortal Writ>. Much like its name suggests, he was nigh impossible to kill, and even Q’vil couldn’t find a way. Edgar IV used variety of weapons to restrain his movements, but Q’vil paid little heed to it. While lightning soiled his feet, his two fists burned alight, shimmering in blinding gold. Slashing his spear sideways, he clashed against the incoming axe while blowing its bearer – Yvel, Bearer of <Elysian Writ> - backwards for miles on end. Control of his spear was immaculate, Lino realized; he firmly believed that <Empyrean Writ’s> fighting style revolved around domination and overlapping momentum, but Q’vil proved him wrong. Each of his slashes had precise purpose, each stab refined to the point of perfection; he was dancing. He was dancing a dance that Lino could barely follow. Wherever he went, arcing trail of crimson lightning followed, creating a beautiful painting when mixed with flames surrounding him. Occasionally, Q’vil’s black hair would temporarily become ghastly white as space surrounding him would break, expelling whatever was thrown at him.

As Yvel was trying to regain his footing in the distance, Gyel approached from Q’vil’s back. He had long since abandoned his arrogance; Q’vil was much, much stronger than either of the three individuals. Rather, they were barely restraining him as it is.

“… Ash’ka.” Gyel mumbled. He was Bearer of <Canorous Writ> - Writ of the Spoken Word. As the sound of his voice got swallowed up by the world, a towering black hole appeared above him. It was wholly circular, with radius of over ten kilometers. It bloated out the sky and swallowed all the light as it pressed heavily against Q’vil, trying to swallow him up.

Q’vil slowly turned and faced the gigantic mass of abyss, his expression solemn. His robes and hair fluttered crazily in the wind, but he remained rooted on the spot, firmly grasping his spear – Kh’vela. It was gifted to him by Emperor Yomir five years ago, and it was his dearest treasure. Forged from the <Bones of Ephemeral Dragon> and infused with <Blood Essence of the Void Dragon>, the spear was an unmatched weapon ever since its creation. He slowly lifted it up and pointed its three-headed tip toward the black hole. His muscles bulged quickly as veins began wriggling like worms around his skin. Crimson lightning soon enveloped his whole being rather than just his feet as his skin tore in several places, beginning to bleed. With a heaven-shaking roar, he heaved his head upward as he erupted forth, shattering the earth beneath his feet into smithereens, forging a nearly kilometer long and twice as deep fissure. His speed broke all the laws Lino believed existed; it tore directly through the space as he appeared on the ‘other side’ of the black hole. Behind him, everything collapsed. Laws of space and time ceased to exist. As though glass, cracks spread throughout the black hole and it slowly shattered into shards which evaporated like water beneath the blazing sun.

Q’vil landed some ways off, blasting off a massive crater beneath his feet. His robes were soaked whole in crimson red and he was panting heavily. However, he quickly steadied himself as he spun sideways, hoisting the spear with both of his hands and smashing against the golden trails of light. As he blasted it off into nothingness, he felt pure, inviting energy suffuse through the tips of his fingers. Chuckling bitterly, he shook his arms and extinguished the strange, uncomfortable energy before turning back toward the trio which regrouped. Behind them, massive army had already reformed; bows were nocked; arrows were loosened; whole of the sky was blanketed in hellish inferno. Q’vil’s heart thumped heavily. Not because it was a dangerous situation, but because it was a beautiful sight. The world-renowned Skyhaven’s Infernal Shower. It reaped countless lives since its inception until now, yet Q’vil still considered it among the top five most beautiful sights he’d ever seen in his life.

“… little dragon,” he spoke in a calm, even voice, as though completely healthy and in peak condition. “Your fate is to fight,” he added as he grasped the spear’s shaft tightly, taking a deep breath and lowering his stance slightly. His feet released golden sparks as they caught ablaze a moment later. “Your fate is to struggle,” he suddenly blasted upward into the sky, leaving beneath his feet inferno which was spreading outwardly in a ring-like fashion, consuming everything in its wake. Within a blink he reached and surpassed the hail of arrows, emerging beyond the clouds, high up in the sky. “But, such is the fate of all those who are born. You come to me bearing questions, but I scarcely have the answers, little dragon. My third lesson to you…” Lino’s heart shook heavily; though he knew that all these events had already happened, though he knew that Q’vil has been dead for a long, long time, he felt incomparable pain assail his heart. Had he corporeal body, he didn’t doubt he’d suddenly start crying. “Is very simple, little dragon.” Q’vil suddenly smiled; his lips curled beneath the veil into a harmonious, tranquil smile. A smile which could vanquish generational hatred. A smile which could quell even the most furious hearts. “Every decision you made and will make in your life… is your own. Whether good or bad, proper or evil, righteous or devious… it doesn’t matter. We’re all broken shards, spanning earth and sky to find scattered pieces of ourselves in hopes of one day becoming whole. All of us only do the best we can with the life we are given. I chose to become my King’s blade. Another chose to become world’s protector. Another to be eternal vagabond. Another to become World’s Monarch. However different our paths are, our hearts unite us all under the same banner. My third lesson…” his voice softened as he slowly stopped rising up and began falling. “Little dragon, regrets are for weak hearts. Let it burn like the golden sun and let it seep into every orifice of your being… but never fall. Don’t look back. Keep moving forward. The three lessons… you must be thinking how contradicting they are, no?” Q’vil chuckled lightly as he slowly began gaining speed. “First is to be a dominator… second is to do whatever your heart wants… and third is to keep moving forward. Be who you are, little dragon. Do unto others what you will. But… never forget that for all that you do, there will be a reply. This is where I bid you a goodbye, little dragon,” Q’vil said while Lino tried screaming insensately. “I was an Empyrean who mantled my King’s shadow. My blade was His blade. My heart was His heart. My life was His life. His death… is my death.” by now, Q’vil had already fallen beneath the clouds and was heading not toward the battlefield, but toward the rundown capital. “Farewell, little dragon. Make of your life a legend, and of yourself a person your heart truly desires.”

There was no longer Great Dragon Empire. Where its capital stood was now a flatland spanning endlessly. At the very heart, embedded in the earth like an eternal monument, was a strangely shaped spear. For many eons to come, endless heroes would venture here in hopes of pulling the spear out, but, none have succeeded. The spear remained stoic and immovable, fulfilling its lifelong purpose of being a storyteller, last remnant of a long-passed myth of a young man who flew to the sun and descended coated in lustrous gold, forever vanishing from the world.

Lino heavily shook as he opened his eyes forcibly. He was back in the forge, lying flat on the cold, stone floor. His heart was a complete mess, his thoughts in utter disarray, and he found himself incapable of moving even an inch. He kept replying everything he just witnessed, carefully making sure to embed every single word Q’vil spoke to him as though it was a religious scripture. He had always thought of those who unconditionally gave their loyalty and lives to other people as fools. They would swear off their souls to another and bend their knees and swing their swords by theirs’ bidding. But, he could no longer think that way. Even if he himself was not someone who would give his heart unconditionally to another, he realized that the fault lay with him. To brave a storm for another… he thought of it as a heroic act.

“…” he grunted lowly as he supported himself off the floor and sat back onto the chair.

[… Analyzing…]

The familiar, monotone voice echoed out inside his head, startling him. This was the first time he heard it while being conscious.

[Analysis complete. Bearer received Q’vil’s approval.]

[………]

[…Requirements to receive <Q’vil’s Empyrean Mantra>: Reach Eximious Realm; Travel to Kh’vela’s Plains]

Lino listened on carefully, but the voice disappeared completely afterwards. He chuckled bitterly and shook his head; forget reaching Eximious Realm, he didn’t even know just how far up it was exactly. Add that to the other requirement; who knows how long he’d take to even learn where are Kh’vela’s Plains, let alone reaching them. For the time being, he stuffed the sudden quest to the back of his mind and turned his attention back onto the cape-cloak mixture while a satisfied glint flashed past his eyes. Picking it up, he carefully ran his fingers around the slightly coarse surface before checking its stats.

[Cleft Shadow – Epic]

Level: 55

Defense: 38

+8 Agility

10% to Flexibility

Special effect[1] – Cape Form: increases traveling speed by 10%. Lessens Stamina consumption by 20%.

Special effect[2] – Cloak Form: increases Stealth by 60%; 120% at night. Negates environmental hazards.

Special effect[2] – Infusing Qi into the Cloak turns the wearer completely invisible to all forms of senses – Divine included – for 60 seconds. Can be used once every hour.

Special effect[3] – Either Form: Infusing Qi directly into the [Fire Core] gives explosive boost of speed to the wearer. Depending on the infused amount, speed is increased by 50/80/120/150/300% for 5 seconds. Note: increased speed by 300% has a chance of heavily damaging [Cleft Shadow].

Note: Utility-oriented dual-form cape designed for evading perception and fleeing. Above average.

Lino’s lips curled up in a satisfied smile; everything turned out the way he planned, and he even got the basic bonus of the Cape Form as a side present. The cloak was practically made for sneaking around, but he’d still have to be careful. According to his estimates, as long as someone’s around Mid Purity Realm, they would be able to discern him through Divine Sense even when he turns completely invisible. Nonetheless, this was the best he could craft for the time being. With it, he also rose his Blacksmithing to Level 56, roughly halfway through to becoming a Grandmaster Blacksmith.

All blacksmiths were generally layered through general ranks of Beginner, Adept, Master, Grandmaster, Exalted, Mystic etc., but that was hardly the only and foolproof measure of their ability. For instance, Lino was a Level 56 Master Blacksmith, but he’d be generally worse than some truly experienced Level 39 Adept Blacksmiths because he lacked knowledge, practice and, most of all, specialty. For instance, if someone who specialized in crafting leather-woven armor – especially auxiliary pieces like the coat and the cloak – were to craft [Cleft Shadow], they’d not only add more basic stats, but also increase the numbers of special effects by at least 40%. Besides that, there was also quality of the blueprint, knowledge about how to work with materials, perfect combination of arrays, etc. – generally, much like how millions of stats relating to Strength are condensed in a single number, blacksmiths were hardly judged by their Level and mastery, but rather by their actual creations.

Lino didn’t grow complacent; while, perhaps, he may be among the best blacksmiths in the Umbra Kingdom, that was only when he struck gold. One has to know that, on average, most blacksmiths in Bridge Village craft 2-3 decent items daily, and procure a rarity once a week or so. Meanwhile, Lino lacks that consistency, and his rare crafts are, well, truly rare. He knew he had a long way to go which is why he didn’t stay in the state of delirium for too long. As there was only less than two months to go until the Annual Festival, he immediately went back to his room and took out [Celestial Rod].

[Celestial RodUnique]

Level: 8

Damage: 21-24

Magic Damage: 8-12

Defense: 8

Magic Defense: 3

Durability: 23

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.

Durability had dropped from 80 down to 23 after repeated usage, which required repairing, but Lino didn’t pay attention to it for the time being. His mind slowly began spinning over how to modify it. As his first ever proper creation, he planned to take [Celestial Rod] to much greater heights. For starters, he decided to entirely try and discard the Third Form. He planned on crafting personalized shield in the near future, and Rod’s Third Form would simply lower its durability unnecessarily if used. He also planned on modifying the Second Form, but not by the large margin. As he was truly satisfied with the First Form – the Magic Darts – he decided to keep it as it had proved capable of incredible things. As he lay down the handle-looking object to the side, he took out the pen and paper before starting to scribble his draft designs.

His first focus was replacing the Third Form; he had no plans for the time being to add additional form as that would require too many materials, so he focused entirely on replacing the Third Form and increasing the overall strength of the ‘weapon’. He had several ideas as a replacement, but he quickly drove that number down to two:

His first idea was to introduce an isolated conduit within the blade and infuse it with two arrays - <Amplification Array> and <Insulation Array>. In addition to those two, he’d also have to inscribe another one on the backend of the handle, most-likely Advanced <Link Array>. His idea was rather simple: he’d infuse his Tri-Spirit Flame directly into the <Link Array>, which would connect to the Rod’s inner workings, running directly through the isolated conduit and connecting with <Amplification Array> while <Insulation Array> would be used to regulate heat. The end product would come from the other side of the Rod where a cone-shaped blast of flame would be released. Even further modifications were possible – timing it to be just a single short burst, or prolonged spitfire, or even changing shapes, radius, ability to track targets etc. However, this option was rather complicated; for it alone he’d have to inscribe three arrays – one of which was Advanced while even the Basic Arrays were inching dangerously close to being Advanced in addition to chambering an entirely isolated area within the small handle.

Second idea, on the other hand, was much simpler; instead of creating an entirely isolated area running through the whole handle, he’d only have to create a small ‘storage’ space somewhere and fill it with water. He’d then drill a hole atop the Rod’s surface and connect it directly to the storage. At the tip of the drill-point, he’d inscribe <Spread Array> and it would be done! The idea was to create a primitive version of a smokescreen, which would in turn even increase the effects of his [Cleft Shadow]. However, the drawbacks were obvious; he’d have to manually refill the storage with water each time it was used, and it can only ever be used just once before running out. In addition, future modifications weren’t as prominent or as numerous, as not even Intermediate Arrays could cover up deficiencies of the fundamental craft.

Lino couldn’t decide for the time being; the second option would increase his survival for the trip to the Capital considerably, but it was still just a short-term gain which he’d definitely have to replace in the future, much like the current Third Form. Whereas the first option was a long-term investment. If he were to procure his idea now, the form would at best be used as a temporary distraction and couldn’t really harm any cultivator worth a salt, but had much greater potential for the future developments. It would also be one of the ways Lino could attack externally, as he was simply unable to externalize Qi like other cultivators.

He leaned back in the chair and sighed, exasperated. Just recently, he couldn’t procure a single inspirational idea, yet now he had two and he couldn’t decide which one to use. If he was confident enough in being able to inscribe <Spread Array> in addition to other three arrays within the ‘flamethrower’, he’d choose it in a heartbeat, but there was simply no way he could do it. However, even if he was able to do it, he didn’t have any materials that would be capable of actually enduring Qi being processed directly through four arrays. By the time Tri-Spirit Flame would reach the other end, the whole Rod would explode, probably taking Lino alongside itself to the bitter afterlife. Aah, let’s just go for the long-term benefits, he decided after a while. I’ve already got the cape for the immediate problems…

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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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