Two days had gone by since Lino had made a compromise with the Devils -- at least a compromise of sorts. Though he indeed had intention of fulfilling it so long as they did, it didn’t mean he’d also hold back where he fought. There was only one thing left for him to do before departing north -- craft his own armor. Over the past two days he’d exploited every connection he’d made, spent every Qi Stone he had and even custom-crafted additional few pieces of equipment exclusively for materials in return just so he would have enough.

Today he had assembled the full squad -- Edward, Jack, Sarah and all their assistants currently living nearby for the total of 15 people. They rented one of the best smithies in the entire City, rivaling even those in the Noble’s District, so even with the massive numbers it wasn’t crowded. Even before beginning the crafting process there were still quite a few things to take care of.

Designating specific tasks to specific people, explaining to everyone the designs, ensuring everyone had enough room to work in freedom, accounting for possible failures, recounting the materials... everyone presently within the smithy knew very well that this wouldn’t be a job completed in hours -- but in days, possibly even in weeks. Creating a whole set of armor required eight items: helmet, breastplate, pauldrons, armguards, leggings, graves, a belt and even the cape.

Though Lino would very much like to create Soul Armor, he knew it was impossible; the entire set of the Soul Armor would take anywhere between a few decades to a few centuries to create, and as he was in a pinch with time, he had to make a compromise. In the end, however, he knew that his designs still lacked something, though he couldn’t just yet say what, which meant that they were flawed, lowering the chances of creating a Soul Armor piece even more.

He set aside the thoughts of it for a time being and calmed his mind as all the preparations were complete. Edward, Jack and Lino were tasked with crafting helmet, leggings and breastplate respectively, with Lino and Jack in addition being responsible for inlaying all the arrays. Sarah was tasked with creating a belt, while the rest of the pieces were split between everyone, with Edward, Jack and Lino mostly being responsible for the mainframe of the piece as well as the finishing touches.

Lino cast a quick glance at the array of materials lying around the tables, even he feeling some pain over having to use them soon. [Night-cast Steel], [Dead Dragon’s Bone], [Tendons of the Phoenix], [Crimsoned Stalks], [Northern Dark Ingots]... each and every piece was at least Level 150, and most were extremely rare. Even Jack and Edward dipped into their reserves again and pulled some pieces Lino couldn’t find on the market. He was now eight custom-crafted pieces in-debt with them.

Soon the sounds of the roaring flames and the beatings of the hammers quelled over the silence as everyone began doing their jobs. Lino, Edward and Jack worked with their own furnaces, while others shared remaining four in the room. Lino repeatedly glanced at the designs as he slowly began melting down the steel and shaping it up into a breastplate.

Lino set upon crafting the armor set on the lighter side, avoiding full plate despite the fact that due to his body’s strength he could most-likely have used it without any issue. However, as he wished to avoid it being cumbersome, he settled on a mixture of steel and leather. He even set aside a small grain of the Divine Stone that Valkyria gave him to embed into the breastplate, truly going all out with the set.

For the first time, too, he paid a bit more attention to the looks themselves; though he hadn’t gone full-on flamboyant, he did decide on dyeing the armor in slightly more attractive colors in addition to having a few specular gems embedded here and there to give the armor even more grandeur. This was especially the case with pauldrons that he designed rather extravagantly considering both ended with spiked tips for absolutely no reason other than to look slightly cooler than they otherwise would.

“... the tips are done!”

“I’ve refined the leather!”

“Here’s the conductor!”

“Throw me those clamps!”

Lino, aside from crafting the piece, also paid attention to everything else going around him; it’s not as though he didn’t trust others to do their tasks properly, but more so that it was in his veins to always be in control over the entire room when crafting. He almost subconsciously always took the role of the leader, adjusting his own pace to the rest and pointing out whatever needed pointing.

“Jack, make the thigh area slightly wider,” Lino said as he glanced at Jack’s process “And hollow out the ends as it falls to the knees. It’ll make it easier to link it with the greaves.”

“Won’t there be too much wiggle-room then?” Jack asked.

“It’s alright, I’ll inlay the array to make it stationary.”

“Alright, leave it to me!”

“Sarah, how goes the belt?”

“Do you really need all these pouches?” Sarah asked back, frowning.

“What’s the problem?”

“It’s not exactly a problem... it’s just that the belt’s durability will decrease for each additional pouch I attach.”

“Alright, cut them down to four, two on each side. Ah, and also make sure there’s a hole for the scabbard on each end as well.”


Carefully overseeing the situation and realizing that everything was going according to the plan, Lino took a deep breath and focused back onto the breastplate. The top parts of the piece were cast out of steel with leather inside, crafted entirely in one piece. At the center was a amnesty gem within which the small grain of the Divine Stone resided. The breastplate stretched over to the shoulders, connecting with the pauldrons through the leather belt. The lower ends were a mixture of the [Night-cast Steel] and the [Tendons of the Phoenix], the latter making the former extremely flexible but also less durable.

To make the piece more attractive, Lino carved out a pair of wings over the top part, inlaying them with a faintly golden color; though it served no practical purpose, it looked incredibly cool -- at least in Lino’s eyes -- against the dark - almost entirely black - color of the armor. The theme of the whole set relied mainly on a few colors: black, which most main parts were dyed in, golden which was used for the highlights and sunset orange which mostly came from the embedded gems.

Hours quickly piled on as did tiredness in everyone’s eyes, so Lino decided to take a break with everyone. It was simply impossible to finish everything in one sitting even if everyone here had Lino’s stamina, as even he wasn’t even a whole quarter done with his piece to say nothing of others. The fifteen of them gathered around in the center of the room as Lino took out some refreshments -- mostly booze and beef jerky -- from his void world and put them on the table.

“How can you not be as tired as the rest of us?!” Sarah asked Lino as she began pecking at the piece of the beef jerky while dousing her dry throat in ale. “Why do you look like you’re still able to run a marathon around the entire Empire?”

“What you really want to ask me is whether I have the same stamina in bed, huh?” Lino asked cheekily, grinning. As Jack and Edward were somewhat ‘used to’ his usual behavior they merely sighed, while others nearby who heard him nearly choked on whatever they were drinking or eating. Sarah was notorious around the City as someone who nobody should mess with, so they expected a severe beating to commence. Except it didn’t.

“... damn, it’s unfair. No one as good-lookin’ as you should be as smooth with the ladies.” Sarah sighed dejectedly, having her intentions exposed.

“Eeeh... I don’t think I’m that handsome...” Lino faked humbleness as he felt his ego being stroked.

“Hm, you’re not that handsome in traditional sense, I guess,” Sarah said seriously, causing that inflated ego of his crash even quicker. “It’s, I dunno... the way you carry yourself, you know? That look in your eyes that tells me you’re stripping me naked even now. The fact that you have muscles that seemed chiseled for the sore eyes, yet are still as strong as any other. Oh, and that cheeky grin! Good god, I can’t imagine how many girls had to change their underwear seeing it...”

“... wow, even I nearly blushed there.” Lino exclaimed genuinely. “Are you into me or aren’t you, woman?”

“Of course I am! But more like, you know, the hunk I dream about when my husband’s away for a while, you know?”

“... yeah... yeah...” Lino mumbled, fighting back the tears.

“Ha ha, don’t be so dejected,” Sarah punched his back playfully, laughing. “I’m sure there are tons of girls out there ready to pick up my slack, you know? Eh, what about Jenny here?” she suddenly pulled a shy-looking girl from the side and shoved her next to Lino. The girl cried out as her cheeks flushed in cherry red. “Just last night she was telling me that she might be unable to concentrate if she worked in a station just next to yours!”

“L-l-lady Sarah!!” Lino glanced at the girl called Jenny with a faint interest; she appeared to be in her early twenties, hardly having a look of a seasoned blacksmith. Her skin was still quaintly fair if not slightly tanned, her cheeks puffed like hamsters as she pouted, body sleek with only a faint traces of muscles here and there.

“You’re quite cute.” he spoke out after his quick assessment, smiling. “How about you and I go drinking when all this is done, away from all these sweaty men?”

“You’re one of us, goddammit!!” the rest were quick to point out.

“Shut up! Unlike yours, my sweat is juicy and sweet!”

“Like all hell!”

“Wait, Jenny, didn’t you get back together with Brock?” Edward suddenly asked.

“Humph, I caught him fooling around with that whore Jessica!” Jenny exclaimed, her previous bashfulness nowhere to be found, only scorn visible in her expression. “That bitch, just because she has slightly larger tits, thinks she can go around and flaunt them and every guy will just kneel in front of her and suck them dry! I swear, I’ll fucking crucify that whore when I get the chance!!”

“Heh, hear that Lino?” one of the men exclaimed with a sneer. “You’d just be a revenge-bone in the end.”

“So?” Lino glanced at him nonchalantly. “What’s wrong with that?”

“... y-you really have no self-respect, do you?”

“Hmm... let’s see... self-respect versus someone as adorable as Jenny...” Lino said, smiling as he wrapped one of his arms around Jenny, bringing her into his embrace. Her scornful and angry expression quickly vanished as her cheeks once again got blasted red. “Tell me, oh the self-respecting one, which to choose? Huuuuh...”

“... go to hell.”

“However, if you want to make him jealous,” Lino said, stroking his chin in contemplation. “It should be somewhere where I can walk around almost entirely naked. So he can see that even dreamy hunks like me are interested in a cute rabbit like you.”





“What? Too much?” Lino grinned sheepishly.

“No!!” Jenny exclaimed with a dreamy look in her eyes. “You’re exactly right! We should go at it right in front of his house!”




“Damn, I think I might just steal you for myself!” Lino exclaimed after a short shock.

“Khm, alright, alright, everyone’s had enough fun for now...” Jack exclaimed, worrying over just how sane exactly Lino is. “Let’s get back to work.”

“Ay, ay, back to work...”

“How beautiful it is to be so young...”

“He looks like an old man perving on a young girl... humph...”

“Oh my, isn’t someone jealous~~”

“Suck it!”

“I bet you would love that!” Ah... Lino thought as he got up as well, returning to his station. I have weird friends... he thought so without realizing exactly why, which all of them would be willing to point out should he ever voice out his thoughts.


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About the author


Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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