Lino silently observed from the side as Jack and Edward worked together to craft an armor set made from [Refined Titanium Steel]. As he rarely had the opportunity to witness those better than himself craft, Lino tried to embed each and every movement and strike into his mind to study it later. Though he had no idea as to why they were putting so much into crafting a single item, that didn’t mean he would stupidly interrupt them midway through the session and endanger the entire process.
He sat in the corner and drank in silence, his eyes working beyond their capacity to imprint every movement they could follow. As the material was different from what Lino usually worked with, Jack and Edward used additional set of tools often referred to as ‘carvers’; as the [Refined Titanium Steel] was difficult to work with even when heated, a special set of tools was required that was also built out of the same material, most-often consisting of curved knives, spiked hammers and hinged chisels.
As it was the entire set, Lino watched the two work for three days without a second of rest. He came to realize that he lacked profusely when it came to endurance and stamina compared to the truly amazing sort. After the whole three days, the set was finally completed, consisting of a chest plate, pauldrons, leggings, arm-guards, a helmet and boots. Each piece exuded a particular, silver sheen and appeared rather majestic with golden linings running through their edges.
Both Jack and Edward collapsed into the chairs, panting and sweating profusely, as Lino approached slowly and inspected the pieces. He didn’t take a look at the stats as it was considered extremely rude to do so without the crafter’s explicit permission. However, even without looking directly at the stats, he could still gauge approximately the value of the armor set -- and it was definitely priceless. There was most-likely nobody who could afford it on the auction save for perhaps the true top masters of the entire Continent, which included the Emperor himself and those Sect Masters.
“What do you think?” Jack was the first to recover, walking over toward Lino and asking with a proud grin.
“It’s amazing...” Lino mumbled. “So precise... smooth... fitting... and all done so quickly. I’ve still much to learn.”
“Ha ha ha,” Jack laughed with a slight flush, patting Lino’s back. “You’ve got good eyes on you, Lino. However, even for us this is extremely difficult. Just one part of it all was to abstain from crafting for at least two months prior to this one.”
“Eh? You do this often?” Lino glanced at him, slightly confused.
“Hm,” Jack nodded. “Annually, actually.”
“For the festival?” Lino guessed.
“No,” Jack shook his head. “The festival is reserved solely for the young and up-and-coming smiths. What would the two old farts like Ed and I be doing there?”
“Then what’s it for?” Lino asked.
“It’s a gift. Annual gift to the Emperor.”
“...” Lino’s heart suddenly stirred as a massive feeling of jealousy overwhelmed him. Just for a second there, he wanted to overthrow the Emperor and take the throne himself. “Lucky bastard.” he mumbled faintly though just loud enough for Jack to hear him. The latter, however, sternly decided to ignore what he heard; people were hanged for far less... should someone learn that this youth called the Emperor Himself a bastard... Jack couldn’t imagine the consequences. “Ah, does that mean you’ll be going to the Capital for the festival?” Lino inquired.
“Of course.” Jack nodded. “Both Ed and I will go. Usually it’s just one of us, but as we finally have an item to present during the festival, we figured we may as well go and not be embarrassed anymore.”
“... right.” Lino said, smiling faintly. “Want an advice?”
“While there,” Lino said. “Look for a plot of land -- any, anywhere -- and buy it regardless of cost with smithy residing there in mind.”
“Eh?” Jack exclaimed, looking at Lino with clear confusion in his eyes.
“Trust me on this, alright?”
“... I’ll see what I can do.” seeing Lino’s seriousness, Jack nodded heavily. As the youth was mostly a carefree type -- and as Jack had never seen him as serious before -- he realized the reason behind it all must involve something much greater than what he imagined.
“Good.” Lino nodded, smiling lightly. “Anyway, when will you two start traveling?”
“Tomorrow morning,” Jack said. “As this little town doesn’t have the Teleportation Array to the Capital, we’ll have to go to the nearest, border-city further east before using the array there to arrive at the Capital.”
“Is it okay if a couple of my Disciples and I join you?” Lino asked.
“W-what? You have Disciples? No, right. I mean, you are quite skillful--”
“They’re not blacksmiths.” Lino rolled his eyes at Jack who grew even more confused. “What are you looking at me like that for? I’m quite strong, actually. Strong enough to accept a couple of Disciples of my own.”
“So it’s cool, then?”
“... it is.”
“Great! I’ll meet you in front of the smithy before dawn?”
“See ya’ then!”
Lino strolled out briskly, leaving the confused Jack behind to brood over what Lino meant. The latter, however, didn’t put much thought into it. He first intended to use the hippogryph to travel around as he did so far, but if there was quicker and better alternative, he wouldn’t reject it.
All things considered, it would be better to start putting his plan into action sooner rather than later. Time is the greatest hole-buster in the planning; the more of it passes, the greater chances of various variables rising in place of still facts. For instance, if a single more Legion of the Hell’s forces appeared, Lino would have to scrap majority of his general plans and start from scratch, which is something he desperately wanted to avoid.
For the most part of his life, whether before he met Ella and Eggor or after, he remained mostly alone when it came to planning itself, only ever becoming a part of small groups. He had never planned even a small-scale skirmish involving a couple of hundred folk, let alone anything on a much, much grander scale.
His first plan of action was actually to meet with the Emperor of the Titan Empire which is why he wanted to speed to the Capital. Regardless of everything else, the Titan Empire was the geographically largest power on the entire continent, subordinating the most people comparatively speaking to the other powers. Establishing the contact with the Emperor would also allow him to use communication channels of the Empire which would be far quicker than establishing his own.
In addition, he wagered he could also supplement his current knowledge with more up-to-date one as shifts tend to occur daily, and the information he currently possessed would only serve him properly so long as he’d mainly use it as a reference more so than a de facto source of everything.
Returning to the ranch just outside the town, he saw both Felix and Lucky practicing atop a makeshift platform. Lucky had already managed to reach Soul Realm, while Felix was merely a slight push away from reaching Illumine Realm. While their progress was quite staggering, Lino mused, he then recalled Ella and her monstrous rise from being at Mythic Realm all the way to being a Level 899 Ineffable. Every time he thought back to it he couldn’t help but shudder; he ever secretly suspected at times that she was also a Bearer, but realizing it made no sense, his sanity-saving excuses would quickly crumble.
Displacing the depressing thoughts, Lino recalled something and reached for the Dimensional Pouch currently holding two beasts -- the hippogryph Grim and the dog with the name Non being settled on. Calling out the latter, Lino’s mood immediately soured when he saw the tongue-lashing, drooling monstrosity of perversion that appeared before his eyes.
“Woof~woof!!” the silver-eyed husky barked immediately, bearing his teeth at Lino, clearly displeased with being kept inside the pouch for so long.
“Shut up, you goddamned piece of shit,” Lino trounced the dog with a swift kick which lifted his mood up somewhat. “I have a job for you.”
“What do you mean why do you have to listen to me? ‘Cause if you don’t I’ll crush your regressive brain into mush and make me a nice soup of it.”
“That’s more like it,” Lino grinned. “I want you go south,” Lino continued as he tied a piece of parchment around the husky’s neck. “Find the Skies of the Wayfarers Sect somewhere over there and Lady Ava in it and then hand her the parchment. If you do well I might feed you something good.”
“Yeah, yeah, you can do whatever you want on your way over there, just don’t delay too much. She’s probably already pissed at me... again...”
“Woof, woof wooooof!” the silver husky wiggled his tail for a moment and nodded before bolting off into the distance. Neither Lucky nor Felix noticed him, and Lino began to feel truly strange over the whole ordeal. After all, even Valkyria failed to notice the dog.
“Are you curious as to why he can hide so well?”
“And look who comes out of the woodworks like a fattened troll...”
“... what does that mean?”
“Nothing,” Lino shook his head. “So, why?”
“It’s for the same reason he can’t hide from you.” the Writ replied.
“... oh, wow. That explains so much. Geez, thanks old man. Whatever in the god-fucking-hell would I ever do without you?!”
“... he has a sliver of Prime Qi.” the Writ had already gotten used to Lino’s explosions, making it easy to ignore them.
“It’s a distilled version of Chaotic Qi.”
“I’ve no idea where down the line of evolution did he pick it up,” the Writ continued. “But even that sliver is enough for him to evade almost everyone’s Divine Sense. The reason you can easily find him is because... well... you get it.”
“... hmm--no, wait a second!” Lino exclaimed as he felt a sudden headache besiege him, forcing him to rub his temple. “You’re saying he has a sliver of Prime Qi?”
“And that the Prime Qi is like a child-like version of Chaotic Qi?”
“Hm, something like that.”
“What?” the Writ asked, seeing Lino’s rather ugly expression.
“D-don’t tell me... that... that dog is technically your descendant?”
“... n-no...” for the first time since Lino had gotten the Writ, he felt a brief fluctuation of a strong emotion and a considerable crack in that robotic voice. On one end, he was proud of his accomplishment; on another, he realized he won’t be having any sleep for a little while longer...