Lino had a rather impressed expression on his face as he slowly climbed the tall tower. Though it lacked proper floors, ever so often there would be platforms which led to smaller rooms, or even open spaces stacked to roof with books. The tower was of a strange make, and after inspecting it closely, Lino realized that the black stone used in its construction was actually [Dried Blood Stone], a Level 60 stone that is made when an ordinary stone undergoes a baptism of blood over the course of dozens of years, making it rather rare. His idea to join hands with the Major now seemed even more appropriate; one could only guess the depths of the influence and purchasing power one would have to have in order to buy so many of these stones.
As per instructions, he went straight to the top floor, where a single, simple door awaited him. He paused for a moment, though, his heart skipping a beat; beyond that door, he felt an overwhelming aura, akin to an ocean whereas he was but a small fish in it. Strong! He exclaimed inwardly, taking in a deep breath. The person beyond the doors was definitely the strongest one Lino had ever met in person, by a large margin at that. He approached slowly and knocked, whereupon a melodic voice quickly replied “Come in.” Huh? A woman? Lino was slightly shocked, but entered slowly nonetheless. The room was rather simple, only having a table and a chair pair with a bookshelf beyond, and a window on each side, looking down on the entire city. At the table sat a thirty-something woman, one Lino immediately categorized as beautiful beyond words. Her gentle and sharp features intermingled in a perfect symphony, one that seemingly shouldn’t be possible. Nonetheless, he quickly recovered and immediately checked her out with the Blood Spirit, only to be left sighing bitterly.
[Name: Ava ???]
[Level: 201 - Peak Early Illumine Realm]
Besides the name and her realm, he was unable to perceive anything else. However, even that little was enough to let him know the rumors were actually true. She was well above everyone else in this city, and that was even when nearly eighty percent of aura was drawn back into her soul, probably as to not terrify everyone else. She smiled faintly, seemingly unaware that her realm was seen through.
“This mirror,” she was the first one to break the silence, picking up the mirror from the table. “Is quite interesting. You said you were the one who crafted it?” aside from Lino, even Major was rather startled inside her heart; not only was the boy in front of her seemingly not even eighteen yet, she was unable to see through him, as though he was just a normal mortal. Just a massive blur, without a single speck of information to be gleamed. Aside from that, if he truly crafted the mirror at a such young age, it would make him even more talented than those freaks with Inborn Flames from Sacred and Immortal Grounds.
“Aye, aye,” Lino said. “Though, now I wish I had put in a bit more effort. It surely looks rueful when compared to your beauty.” regardless of the fact that the woman could kill him with a single finger, Lino still couldn’t help but flirt. He immediately cursed at himself inwardly, promising he’d kill the habit lest it killed him in the future.
“Ha ha, quite charming. But, you are too young for me,” the woman seemed to not have taken it to heart, merely laughing. “Perhaps if I was fifty years younger, you’d stand a chance.”
“Eh, never say never,” seeing that she was rather easy-going, Lino still pressed on. “You must have liked my mirror, seeing as you invited me in.”
“Indeed I did,” the woman nodded, smiling faintly. “Here, you can have it back.” she suddenly offered the mirror back, surprising Lino.
“Eh? Why? Didn’t you say you liked it? Even if you don’t, it’s a gift. Just throw it out if you don’t like it that much.” Lino’s words startled the woman, causing her eyebrows to twitch. Throw it out? Did this kid really craft this? Does he not know he could put this on the market and literally every Sect in the valley would start an outright war over it?
“You don’t seem to realize the value of this mirror.” she said.
“Eh, I do,” Lino said. “It’s worthless to individuals, and could be Sect’s artifact if used well enough. Doesn’t mean it’s still not a gift.” in reality, Lino always had a general idea of how much worth were the items he crafted. However, crafting the mirror really didn’t take much effort on his part, which was why he wasn’t that hurt over gifting it over. “Don’t worry about it. You can count it as both the gift and me reaching out a hand of partnership.”
“Partnership?” the woman arched her brows, seeming interested.
“Indeed,” Lino got tired of standing and took out a chair from the void world, settling on the other side of the table. The woman nearly burst out in laughter; who the hell carries a chair with them? “To be humble, I’m probably the most talented blacksmith you’ll ever meet in your life.”
“That’s not being humble.” the woman smiled, seeming more and more interested in the strange boy in front of her.
“Oh, did I say humble? I meant honest.”
“... pfft.” she couldn’t hold it back any longer and burst out in a short bout of laughter before calming down. “Alright, I’ll bite. What do you want?”
“The world!” Lino exclaimed. “But, that’s for the future. For the time being, I want to open up a shop in the city and sell my crafts.”
“Oh?” the woman immediately gleamed through most of Lino’s plan, and found herself rather impressed with the boy’s thinking ability. “What did you have in mind?”
“It’s rather simple, actually,” Lino said. “You’ll provide me a shop, protection and someone to sell my wares. I’ll provide you with 10% of all profits, and you’ll have priority on all items I craft.”
“My side seems to be losing a bit too much, don’t you think?”
“What if I promise all items I sell with at least be of Rare rank?” Lino threw out a bigger fish.
“...” the woman sucked in a cold breath; if anyone understood the rarity of good, quality items in the world, it was her. Usually, people would be lucky to walk around with a piece or two of [Enchanted] or [Uncommon] gear. Anything beyond that relied on luck too much. Even those high sons of Kings and Queens would be lucky to have a single [Epic] item. And, from the boy’s words, it seemed that [Rare] would simply be the lowest quality.
“What’s your long term plan?” the woman didn’t think for a second she was being cheated; it wasn’t only because, even if she was, she could easily do something about it, but because boy’s eyes revealed nothing but honesty and truth, and even her instinct told her so.
“I come from a very poor place,” Lino said. “Where I didn’t dare sell my wares because I’d have to sell them for loafs of bread. Within three months, I want to expand to the point even people from First-tier Sects will be rushing over to buy my items. There is, however, a catch.”
“I will not sell them either for money or for Qi Stones of any quality,” Lino’s words seemed to shock a woman for a moment. “I’ll only sell them for resources. Plants, ores, leather, metals... anything that can be used in crafting, really, in addition to core items for setting up formations, arrays, as well as high-tier Scrolls for Talismans. I’d like it if I paid 10% of proceedings in either gold or Qi Stones, but if it’s impossible, I’ll settle for resources.”
“...” Lino knew that his ambition was simply too much, and he knew one mirror alone was hardly enough to convince the woman. So, he took out another one of his creations, the pair of daggers he’d crafted for Aeala but decided to leave gifting them for later, once she’s a bit stronger. Handing them over, he rather enjoyed woman’s shocked expression; daggers were of [Epic] grade, Level 72, and almost impossible to find anywhere to be bought.
“... what’s the highest grade and level you can craft?” the woman immediately asked as she began planning out the whole process in her head; this young lad in front of her wasn’t simply a talented blacksmith, he’s a treasure trove if handled properly.
“Unfortunately, my Flames are quite low-level,” Lino said, seeming apprehensive. “If I pour my all, I can craft at maximum Level 100 [Epic] grade items. However, those will be exclusive rarities.”
“... I want to extend the deal.” the woman said, suddenly surprising Lino.
“Do tell.” he added with some interest.
“I’ll provide you with Level 85 Flame - [Burning Heart Flame]. Though it’s not the strongest of its rank, it’s among the top 10 at the very least. If I gift you that, can you craft a [Legendary] grade staff that’s at least Level 150?” Lino was slightly shocked; Level 85 Flame was inching too close to the Void Realm of Flames, the breaking point. The difference between the Void Realm Flames and those beneath was like the difference between heaven and earth; even Lino himself only knew a bit about them thanks to Eggor’s guidance.
“...” Lino fell into a deep thought for a moment; aside from the Flame, he was also limited by his own cultivation and the amount of Qi he possessed. He usually liked crafting items in one ago after preparations, but crafting what the woman wanted in one go was simply impossible. He’d probably have to spend two-three months to craft it, and even then he wasn’t certain of the success. “I can at most promise a [Legendary] grade Level 130 staff. However, depending on the resources and plans, I am 80% confident in being able to craft growing-type [Unique] staff. It’s your choice.”
The woman’s breathing quickened; she’d been lacking a good weapon for quite a while now, not only because she was much stronger than people in her surroundings, but because there simply weren’t that many talented blacksmiths around. Most are either groomed by Sects and Clans or are absorbed the moment they showcase some talent. They are treated like treasures by every large power, as one Grandmaster Blacksmith can increase the Clan’s and Sect’s strength by nearly five times in just a few years, to say nothing of those monsters that had gone beyond, Like Void Blacksmiths and Sacred Blacksmiths. If she could establish relationship with the boy early on, she would never be put in such an awkward position as now, using a Level 80 [Rare] grade staff as a Illumine Realm cultivator.
“Deal.” she said without even a hint of hesitation. “How long before you can craft it?”
“I can’t exactly dedicate all my time to crafting it, as I need to supply my future shop,” Lino smiled sheepishly. “But, in two months, at most two and a half, it will be yours. Of course, as not not arouse the beauty’s suspicion, I’d prefer if my smithy was inside this compound. Besides, those outside are utter shit. Can you believe I spent like 5 hours crafting that crappy mirror?! Good god, no wonder you seem so thirsty for a weapon. I bet the most people in her can craft are forks and spoons.” the woman seemed to have heard something too mind-shattering thrown in there, such as him crafting a [Legendary] tier weapon in two months and crafting that mirror in five hours, but she simply chose to believe she misheard. She didn’t dare believe it. However, she was rather pleased Lino himself offered to stay in the compound, as she felt slightly awkward having to ask him. “Anyway, I’ll deliver first batch of items in two weeks, and rather than shop-style, I’d like you to hold an auction first as to draw in attention. There will be at least one [Epic] grade item thrown in there. But, uhm, I’m kind of short on resources. I have around 10,000 low-grade Qi Stones. Can I exchange them for something?”
“... pfft.” the woman burst out laughing yet again, shaking her head. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Ava,” she said, smiling. “I have a feeling you and I will become good friends, Lino.”
“I won’t give up, you know?”
“I already have a husband. And three kids. One of them is even older than you.”
“... well, now that’s just cruel.”