ARMED AND PROUD
Hushed sounds of the crunched leaves faintly melded into the sounds of the wind, only sign that any life persisted over them. Within the shadows of the overarching trees and grass half a meters tall, a figure slithered about like a snake, weaving through the small gaps and ensuring he made no sound on his way over.
Lino’s face was plastered against a rather wet earth, his already dirtied face completely unrecognizable, his clothes beyond filthy. He wasn’t sneaking around to steal something or to take a monster by surprise. He was forced to crawl on all four as close to the ground as possible in order to find one of the herbs that he needed for crafting.
The herb’s name was [Soil’s Ailments] and it was less than a centimeter tall, it exuded no life force or Qi outwardly - which meant it was impossible to locate it through the Divine Sense - and the only way to find it was to plaster your face as close to the ground as possible and look for it.
Even the Writ was unable to pinpoint its exact location, only being able to give Lino an estimate as to where he could find it. The problem was that that estimate covered roughly three squared miles of surface, which Lino had to claw through on all fours without losing concentration even for a second lest he missed the herb.
It has been a while since he got down and dirty in work but it still felt quite familiar. His current position especially reminded him of one summer during his orphanage days where he used to crawl for hours searching for worms to eat under the blistering sun of a dry season.
He didn’t mind it all that much as he didn’t hold himself to the same standard most cultivators did. Pride, dignity and such held little value to him if he was unable to get what he wanted with them. Though he did regret a bit not asking for Felix and Lucky to join him as that would speed the process up considerably.
Six hours hours later a rather loud and joyful scream bellowed out of the grassland prairie whereupon a figure emerged from the mass of swaying grass like a fish dove out of the water. One of his arms was stretched out toward the sky, his features completely covered in dirt and mud.
However, admist those was a widely stretched smile showing off two rows of white teeth in addition to jet-black eyes which stared at that stretched arm with pride. After all, inside the clamped hand was the herb he searched for for so long - the [Soil’s Ailments]. Its shape was reminiscent of clovers though yellow in color instead of green, and it gave off a rather pleasant, aromatic scent.
From fear of dropping it accidentally, Lino quickly shoved it into the void world and wiped what he believed to be sweat off his forehead. Sun had already began sinking beneath the horizon whilst casting last few rays of light over the land, quickly prompting Lino to find a place to rest and sleep at.
He decided upon a rather old, oak tree the size of a three-story building, climbing up roughly three meters off the ground and lying down gracefully onto a rather thick branch. It wouldn’t be right to say he was exhausted as, after all, he was a cultivator, but he did feel an odd sense of tiredness. It seemed as though for the first time in a while he wouldn’t need to force himself asleep.
Dawn came quickly as Lino woke up and stretched out, yawning lightly. There was a bitter expression on his face as he scratched his nose; he was having a rather pleasant dream which involved this and that which was unfortunately cut short by the sun’s first rays blasting directly into his face.
Regardless, regret wasn’t something he would dwell on for too long; he only had one last material to find -- [Crying Stone] -- and he would be set to begin his preparations for facing a wall he shouldn’t be able to climb over. Unlike the [Soil’s Ailments], the [Crying Stone] didn’t need him to crawl like a dog for hours. It wasn’t even hidden all that well, as it was simply a stone that had been refined through rain for ages. While not spectacularly rare, it did take a while to be made as creating it artificially was impossible.
After picking it up, he found a secluded cave halfway up the mountain which was only a short valley away from the entrance to the Dimensional Pocket, and took out all materials he gathered - twenty-eight in total. There were all sorts of weird-looking things lined up in front of him, from a baby-faced piece of bark to the fist-sized marble weighing over sixty tons.
While he didn’t have a full-scale smithy, he did have almost all necessary tools for crafting inside his void world which he ‘borrowed’ from Chwek. He took all those he figured he’d need out and slowly began spacing them out, designating four spots in total which would be used separately for different actions.
If his main push when it came to fighting and cultivation was that silent madness that he inherited, then his main push when it came to crafting was the madness of his own ilk. Once he put his mind to crafting something, the rest of the world would silently vanish as all sounds would cease to exist and all things beyond those he needed for crafting would turn into distant blurs.
The first thing he chose to craft was a sword. He had some experience in crafting them because of the brief time he spent supplying Ava’s shop, and he already had general idea as to what sort of a design he wanted.
He quickly whipped out a pen and paper and began slowly drawing. As he relied quite a bit on speed he settled on a mid-sized sword, roughly 1,2 meters long, no thinner than three fingers. As he didn’t really have a style of fighting per se, he decided to go with a double-edge and a hilt that could be used for parrying in the worst case scenario.
After drawing up the initial draft, he went on to refine it a bit further but without many changes. There was hardly anything complex about the sword itself; the blade was flat, slightly dented in a straight line through center, with simple engravings that were there to mask the passageways of inscribed arrays.
The hilt was symmetrical and flat with slight upper curvatures at the edges and the rapier-inspired hand-guard at the center, though not quite as large. Altogether, though, the sword -- at least from the design -- didn’t seem all that powerful, but Lino didn’t care all that much. Once he’d gotten the abundance of resources, he’d craft the truly flamboyant items that would scream ‘look at me!’.
He didn’t delay the crafting after the finishing touches of the design. He immediately began melting the ore in the makeshift furnace, cooling it into a rough shape before heating it up again and beginning to hammer it into a shape of the blade.
The sound of the hammer blasting against the heated metal was quite pleasant to Lino’s ears, especially so once he got his rhythm adjusted. It almost seemed like a strange melody of a song, the hammering.
He didn’t spend too much time on the details of the blade, instead immediately grinding down several herbs and melting them into a pot of strange-looking, silver liquid before dousing the entire blade with it. The steel sizzled and seemingly cried out as billows of smoke arose from its edges. The previously somewhat smooth surface of the blade immediately gained grainy texture, though not much changed visually.
Lino quickly picked up a chisel and began carving out the patterns carefully as sweat already began accumulating on his forehead. After he was done with the patterns, he took out a random piece of cloth and tied it over his forehead before moving onto crafting the hilt.
Because of its somewhat full shape, the hilt was more complicated to craft. Not only did it have more details than the blade, it also had curves which he couldn’t produce simply by hammering. While it was easy to bend the heated metal through various clamps, adjusting it to just the right angle -- and making it symmetrical -- was quite a hassle.
The same process -- but perhaps even slightly more complex -- had to take place after he came to the central guard. Rather than the standard half-spherical shape of the guard, Lino settled on a shape reminiscent more of an umbrella, wider at the edges.
Before crafting the handle, he chose to connect the hilt and the blade in case he made a mistake somewhere. Luckily, though, the process went smoothly, especially so after he injected additional connector, natural oil which almost welded two parts together.
Satisfied, he moved onto the handle which was the easiest part. Despite that, though, as he’d already spent almost six hours of extreme concentration crafting, he was quite exhausted mentally despite his Qi reserves barely having been touched. It was definitely different than crafting alongside other people who could temporarily relieve you in case you got tired.
Nonetheless, he crafted the handle relatively quickly and wrapped it into a simple piece of a deer’s processed leather before joining it with the rest of the sword. He heated the blade up once again and began striking at the edges, thinning them out even further before applying some finishing touches and dousing the sword once again into the water.
As the smoke billowed, Lino visualized the arrays he’d planned for the sword before slowly beginning to inscribe them through the blade’s surface. He also attached one to the central guard of the hilt as well as the bottom of the handle itself. In total, he inscribed 7 arrays, five of which were of <Intermediate> grade which took him twice as long as the crafting itself - twelve hours in total.
Though he was still fine in terms of Qi reserves by the time he was done, he was mentally drained. After all, it’s been ten years since the last time he exerted his mind so much without any rest. While he was crafting Felix’s weapon, Chwek and Sena were present to help along, greatly reducing the burden on him. This time around, however, he was entirely alone.
Still, he didn’t pay much attention to the surging headache and instead picked up the sword and swung it around a few times to get a feel for it. There truly was no better weapon than the one he can craft for himself. After all, Lino adjusted nearly everything to his own liking, paying almost no attention to the fact he may want to sell the sword sometime in the future.
The handle fit his hand perfectly, the central hilt of the guard loomed over the top of his fist like a true guardian, the sword was just the right weight and length... it all fit as though it was an extension of his own arm.
[Lunar Beheader -- Unique Epic]
Magic Damage: 2180-4600
+100% Damage to ‘Light’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Life’ Arts
+20% ‘Light’ Damage
+15% ‘Fire’ Damage
+5% ‘Life’ Damage
25% of Physical Damage converted to Holy Damage
+200% Resistance to Dark-affiliated Arts
+200% to body’s base Vitality Regeneration
Special Effect  -- Each time enemy’s blood is drawn, inflict a ‘Holy Blessing’ upon the foe, lowering their resistance to Holy-related Arts by 2%. Stacks up to 15 times.
Special Effect  -- Each attack has 15% chance of unleashing one of the three blasts: ‘Baptism of Flames’, ‘Baptism of Light’, ‘Baptism of Life’.
Special Effect  -- Parrying an attack with the hilt reflects 200% damage as ‘Fire’ damage
Note: A unique Masterpiece of a now experienced smith, made with specific idea and desire in mind as a counter to all-things-dark.
Lino suddenly reached up and scratched his nose, coughing lowly. A strange feeling inside of him swelled which converted into a voice screaming ‘why isn’t there anyone around so I can show off!!’. He quickly suppressed it though, but still couldn’t help letting a prideful grin emerge on his face.
After all, the weapon was absolutely stacked with stats through the roof. Even if they were specifically concentrated, there’s still probably nobody on the entire Western Continent with the budget to buy it. While falling slightly short over pure strength when compared with Felix’s weapon, whenever Lino went against anyone who practiced dark-related Arts, he would become the bane of their existence merely through this weapon alone.
Still, he didn’t have a lot of time to gloat. There was still one more item to craft and he didn’t want to delay it for too long. Before lying down to rest for a while, he decided to quickly scramble a draft design for it. He settled on the necklace as the accessory’s form and unlike with the sword he decided to go the ‘flamboyant’ route with it.
He decided upon the circular base shape, stacked above with a thin, metallic cross with an embedded gem at the center and the strange engravings of mind-related matters within the four open slots between the cross and the disc. After tinkering with it a bit, he also decided to engrave the golden halo into the central gem that would shimmer with light each time he would come near any powerful monster or person who practiced mental-type Cultivation Method.
He nodded in satisfaction after finishing up and quickly plummeted onto the ground with sounds of snoring emerging shortly after. He didn’t sleep for long, around five hours, but woke up rested and ready.
Unlike the sword, there wasn’t much crafting when it came to the accessories; most of it lied within the minute details and chiseling and array-inscription. The process altogether took roughly two hours and it was only so because Lino paid extra attention to the engravings and the arrays which ran through the cross, the gem as well as the base disc.
In the end, the necklace indeed turned quite flamboyant; the disc itself was crimson in color with the cross over it shining in startling silver with the gem at its center being amethyst-colored in addition to the engraved, golden halo. It stuck out like a sore thumb against his tattered clothes but he didn’t care all that much.
[Spirit Bulwark - Epic]
Magical Defense: +400%
+20% to ‘Divine Sense’ strength
+100% to ‘Spirit Resilience’
Special Effect  -- Wearer’s ‘Divine Sense’ is undetectable unless the difference in Levels is too large (250)
Special Effect  -- All Dead Spirits will be naturally wary of the Wearer and won’t approach him unless provoked
Special Effect [Eye of the Phantom] -- The Wearer gains Mid-tier Ethereal Grade Art -- Eye of the Phantom. The Art can be extrapolated from the Necklace for the permanent ownership.
Note: An artistic marvel, the necklace was crafted from a variety of resonating materials, creating nigh-perfect stand against that of Spirit.
“Eh?” Lino exclaimed softly after he read through the third special effect. Even without it the necklace turned out better than he expected, with this new addition being merely icing on the cake. “Wait, I can learn it directly?”
“Yes.” the Writ replied quickly after.
“Didn’t you say I won’t be able to learn any ‘outsider’s’ Martial Arts?”
“You can’t,” the Writ said. “But this isn’t the ‘outsider’s’ Martial Art. It’s one of your own make.”
“... right-the-hell-on!!” he quickly checked out the Art and, without a second thought, extrapolated it from the necklace and inherited it directly.
[Eye of the Phantom -- (Mid) Ethereal Grade]
By infusing Qi into one’s eyes, see into another spectrum of reality. Obtains the ability to see through the invisibility-related arts, stealth-related arts, illusion-related arts and hallucination-related arts. Any art beneath this one’s grade can be seen through.
Consume one of the following to upgrade the Art’s grade: ‘Heart of the Harpy’
‘Heart of the Daemon’
‘Soul of the Dullahan’
‘Essence of the Wendigo’
‘Eye of the Pesta’