Though Lino had already gathered enough resources to last him for a while, he still decided to stay as originally planned for three months. He had to, after all, craft Ava’s weapon as well as supply his own shop with more ‘exotic’ stuff for others to waste their rare stuff on.
After Skydevil Linger left that night, he hadn’t come back; perhaps he was disappointed with Lino, or simply had better things to do, but the young boy put it at the back of his mind and devoted himself entirely to crafting and cultivating. Specifically, Linger’s words that he was far too weak for the upcoming war startled him.
In the end, despite his battle prowess, he wasn’t the lone person who can skip levels to fight. Rather, it was quite ordinary thing; so long as someone has better Martial Art, better weapon, armor or some other item, it would be strange if they didn’t skip levels to win a fight.
Thanks to Ava’s extensive library, he had better understanding of levels themselves by now; like every other stat, they are arbitrary sum of ‘average’ progress, but unlike other stats, one’s greatest asset takes a large portion of that sum. For instance, Lino’s physical prowess itself is the only reason he isn’t Level 20 and is nearing triple digits instead.
This, in turn, made him realize that leveling for others is actually easier than for body cultivators; if it wasn’t for Writs’ boosts, Lino could have never reached the level he did so quickly. Usually, body cultivators take decades to cross a single realm, even when just starting, to say nothing of when they reach higher realms.
Because of such level discrepancy, cultivators instead use the system of realms to represent major crossings where one’s power takes a large leap. However, it is still not a good indicator of cultivator’s overall strength. In the end, only a fight can showcase that properly.
Out of the items that he crafted for the shop, he also took some into his own personal storage. Naturally, he only took the accidental ‘best’, as to not empower people he might come in conflict with later on. Currently, he was oddly staring at one such product - a pair of gloves who, through pure, sheer luck, became the second part of his own [Soul Set].
[Bisected Defender’s Armguards - Unique]
Arm speed: -5%
Unique: Linked to [Soul Armor]; stats increased by 20%.
Unique: Growth-type piece; so long as the centerpiece of the set grows, so will this item.
Special Effect: Infusing Qi into the item increases Arm and Hand Speed by 500% for 3 seconds; can be repeatedly used; for each consecutive use, -25% Strength for 20 minutes (stacks).
Special Effect: Immune to any fire below Level 80. Can instead be used to reinforce the item.
Note: Part of the [Soul Set], it is among the best of its level, with great future potential growth.
Lino sighed at his own awesomeness and lamented over how many people struggled their entire lives to create something they can proudly display to the world only for him to strut along and create one on accident.
“I must have been too engrossed into it and added two or three extra arrays,” Lino stroked his chin as he mumbled, swiftly putting the armor away. “Tsk, tsk, who needs to save the world when I can just buy it when I sell my awesome creations?”
His lovely self-indulged dream was interrupted by a faint sound of approaching footsteps. Lino looked sideways and saw Ava slowly walking in; she still wore simple clothes, which were still unable to hide her stunning looks. Lino truly felt it a shame she was married. Not because of his moral line, but because she was actually faithful to her husband.
“Yo, what’s a fair maiden doing in this stink hole?” Lino asked, smiling. He seemed completely ignorant of the fact that his torso was bare, and instead even flexed his muscles slightly to show off.
“Aren’t you going to cover yourself up?” Ava asked, her eyes dancing here and there, unsure as to where to look at.
“Things that ought to be covered are covered,” Lino said. “Things that ought to be displayed are displayed. Anyway, want some mead? Or ale? Or wine? I’ve gotten some really expensive stuff as bribes.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Lino said. “I took the bribes, but I didn’t fulfill the promises that came along with them. I’m an upright man, after all!”
“... sigh,” she was truly unable to properly understand this youth; he’s been staying here for two months, yet, day after day, he managed to find a way or two to leave her tongue-tied. “How’s my staff coming along?” she asked.
“It should be done in about two weeks at most,” Lino said. “Can I make a joke here?”
“No, I don’t want your staff.”
“... dammit. It’s not fun when you guys don’t get flustered,” Lino sighed. “Besides, that wasn’t the joke.”
“What’s the joke then?”
“For your staff to be crafted I had to employ tons of staff to help me!”
“Screw you, it was funny!”
“I’ll be in my office if you need me...”
“Why’d I need you when you don’t appreciate my humor?!” Lino barked though Ava had already left. “Humph, what’s with that blank look? I’ll have you know my humor and charm will one day conquer the Heavenly Maidens and Muses and have those Devil Succubi crawling out of their hellholes to beg me for a touch. Humph...”
While trying to reaffirm his slightly hurt ego, he turned around and walked into the deeper part of the smithy where the Ava’s staff was being ‘made’. In truth, he made it about a month ago, but he was too lazy to leave since he couldn’t get enough of the riches.
Over the past two months, he’d accumulated nearly a million of mid-quality Qi Stones, tens of thousands of herbs, ores and such materials, hundreds of high-quality Scrolls and Parchments, and had even gotten his hands on some Martial Arts. Though they were very, very low level compared to stuff Writ gave out, Lino still studied them.
After all, one can only truly learn properly if they begin from the start; Lino had jumped the natural barriers of cultivation which made it difficult for him to truly comprehend the arts Writ gave him. He lacked proper foundation, which is exactly what he was doing at the moment. Though his level hadn’t gone up by a lot, he felt he was nearly twice as strong as he used to be simply because of the previously foggy areas having been illuminated with knowledge.
He slowly went further back and took a quick bath before dressing up in his usual, commoner-looking clothes. He then sat down and opened a bottle of random wine he’d gotten as a bribe, slowly drinking it in swift gulps. His eyes were glued to the staff resting in the opposite corner, a visible glimpse of greed in them.
The staff was roughly 2 meters long, with thin shaft. Both ends were oval protrusions, inscribed with 4 arrays each. The staff danced between being golden and light-brown in color, seemingly never settling for either. Though it appeared somewhat ordinary, just thinking back to those stats, Lino was forced to suck in a cold breath. Doing something in a day and in a month is really a major difference...
He realized that the reason blacksmiths usually took so long to craft something wasn’t because they were bad, but because the end product was much better. Numerous times by now he was tempted to just keep the staff to himself and craft another one entirely for Ava. In the end, though, he chose not to. He’d realized Ava’s background was much bigger than what the surface showed; having a friend that high up is certainly never a bad thing.
Putting down the bottle of wine, he got up and walked over toward the staff, picking it up yet again. He stroked it gently, as though it was his kid, while a faint smile surfaced on his face.
[Sealing Heavens - Unique Legendary]
Magic Damage: ???
Special Effect [Bone Breaker] - regardless of cultivation difference, coming in direct contact with bones will result in them breaking
Special Effect [Seal] - staff has restricting effect on the opponent; so long as the difference in cultivation is within 2 large realms, opponent’s stats are decreased by 10%
Unique Effect: Souls of high-level cultivators (600+) can be stored within the staff, increasing its stats.
Note: An astonishing masterpiece created by a young, up-and-coming blacksmith that could rival the best of Ancient Creations in its design and practicality.
Though not quite on the level of [Heartseeker] that Eggor crafted as a curious youth - especially because it was an ‘ordinary’ weapon and not a [Soul Item] - Lino couldn’t help but feel pride surge from within every orifice of his body. It wasn’t just a legendary-tiered item! It was an Unique legendary-tiered item! It meant that, across the world, there was none quite like it!
Usually, creation of Unique items didn’t necessarily entail that there was no such item elsewhere; it only meant that item’s uniqueness was deemed enough to be awarded that particular tag. However, if there’s tier adjacent to the Unique tag, then it meant exactly that: that there’s no similar item in the entire world, including the fabled Holy Continent!
He always felt it true that he had some talent in crafting, but he largely doubted this is the result merely of his talent; it’s mostly due to that old guy’s guidance, Lino admitted - however reluctantly. The old guy taught him with care and precision, allowing him to lay firm and proper foundation before even being allowed to craft a single piece.
It also had little to do with the philosophy Lino took from the old man; he no longer necessarily lusted for luster. When he was crafting items for his shop and was forced to hold back, he felt cramped, almost constipated. All throughout there was a nagging feeling that he had to suppress with all his strength - feeling that was telling him he wasn’t injecting his heart and soul into the item.
He almost felt as though he was betraying the core ideology of who he was, causing him to feel uncomfortable. In the end, though, he had to; if he poured every ounce of himself into every item he crafted, Lino doubted Ava would simply allow him to leave. Which is also why he decided not to personally present her with the staff - rather than just leave it for her and bolt as far as he could.
She was no saint, Lino knew that firmly; nobody in cultivation world was a saint. The idea that dominated them all was self-sufficiency, followed by loyalty to their origins. If Lino could create one such staff, who’s to say he couldn’t craft two or even tens throughout the years? That sort of possibility would leave even the heaven-licking goodies drooling and wondering how to kidnap him, let alone someone who’s not all that morally upright already.
“Two weeks...” Lino mumbled as he put the staff down. “Nah, I should stay just a week longer. They should be nearing the end of their preparations as well. We can launch the campaign a bit earlier. Hm, yeah, let’s do that...” after confirming his plans, Lino felt a heavy stone weigh off his chest as he slumped back into the chair and quickly feel into a soundless sleep, resting his tired body.