HEAVEN-CAST ARMOR SET (II)
Sounds of the bellowing flames echoed in the midst of constant shouts, with the harmony of the hammers’ strokes against the steel mingling in as a backdrop to the orchestral symphony. It has been nearly five days since the group had begun crafting the armor set, yet they were barely halfway through the entire process.
Lino had slept in total for four hours over the past few days, only ever resting long enough for a drink or two. Most had long since collapsed, requiring a good night’s rest to continue, but Lino hardly paid any heed; once again he had submerged himself in the delirium of the soundless, faceless, empty world of ecstasy. He’d leave it only occasionally to investigate how others were doing, but even that was only for a few moments at most.
His clothes had dried themselves on him dozen times over, the cloth he wrapped around his forehead having been exchanged at least a few tens of times in total. However, even with all the inconveniences constantly nagging at him, a grand smirk had barely left his face. His eyebrows jumped around like children, eyes glistening in an eerily lustful glint, the ears perking up and down in the rhythm of hammer’s strokes... others had long since realized he looked quite a lot like the not-to-be-named visitors of the certain not-to-be-named places.
He wasn’t alone in feeling so, though; even Edward and Jack, both seasoned blacksmiths, were acting quite a bit like children themselves. After all, it has been a long time since either had indulged in such a complex and long-lasting job that their somewhat buried love for the crafts had been rekindled. Even Sarah, as tempered as she was, couldn’t help but indulge herself in the atmosphere of pure joy, having barely slept herself over the past four days.
Materials strewn across the room slowly began to dwindle while what were previously seemingly random bits and pieces began slowly taking a more discernible shape. Windows had long since been flushed open as the stuffy air became unbearable even for Lino, and rations had to be renewed twice over by now.
Yet, not a single one of those who worked on the set voiced out their complaints; for all the difficult work they had to do, they came to realize that they were a part of something much greater than what they’d initially anticipated. Even without that to comfort them, they were able to see how truly talented craft; those interested in jewelry and intricate details observed Sarah during their breaks, while those interested in molding hunks of metal into an amazing design observed Jack and Edward.
On the other hand, those interested in the Arrays quickly found their home as well as they watched Lino engrave one Array after another, all done so through speed they believed impossible. His hand etched about freely, seemingly unrestrained, and he looked more like he was painting with a brush onto the canvas rather than inlaying a complex set of Arrays one over another. What shocked them perhaps even more was that Lino hadn’t chosen to inscribe a single Basic Array; all were at least Intermediate, while a good deal of them was also Advanced.
All seemed miraculously drawn into the ambiance and the mood, their fatigued bodies seemingly recovering with each passing second. Only few, however, managed to dig a bit deeper beneath the surface of things, realizing that the whole process was far more amazing than what they thought at first.
Lino, mostly in concert with Jack, worked as the Leader of the team; what this usually entailed was that he would be the one to confirm each piece, set the pace for others to follow, and give out commands whenever he saw fit. However, Lino went well beyond that; rather than setting the pace, he artificially inflated and deflated it depending on everyone’s fatigue levels, speeding through the easier parts and slowing down when it came down to detailed work. In addition, he seemed perfectly aware of every single detail inside the room and everyone’s individual progress, constantly adjusting everyone’s tasks so they don’t suddenly have to wait for others to finish theirs before continuing.
Furthermore, he did all this while crafting the whole breastplate individually as well as inscribing every single Array required within every other piece. Jack, on the other hand, played a supportive-Leader of sorts role, as he’d pick up Lino’s tasks if the latter was dealing with intricate process himself and couldn’t spare even iota of attention to the rest.
The chemistry and understanding between the two almost resembled that of two veteran smiths who had worked together for decades, but Jack knew far better than the rest. Even he was merely following Lino’s pace, dragged into that cauldron of insanity, occasionally forced to take a peek at its insurmountable depths. Just picking up Lino’s job for half an hour was enough to entirely exhaust his mental capacity, and he himself couldn’t help but stare in shock and awe at the grinning youngster doused in sweat.
“... he... he’s a tad bit insane, isn’t it?” Edward suddenly asked, wiping away sweat off his forehead.
“Tell me about it...” Jack sighed, deciding to take a brief break as well.
“... I get a bit terrified when I think of him a couple of dozen years into the future,” Edward shuddered. “Won’t he have created an array of mass-extinction weapons by then?”
“Who knows?” Jack mumbled. “I guess we can count ourselves as lucky having met him this early on. Otherwise... just a chance to glance at him working would probably be a miracle in and of itself...”
“How far along are you?” Edward asked.
“Almost done with the piece. You?”
“Same. If we keep this pace... we can probably finish within four-five days, right?”
“Hmm...” Jack thought for a moment. “I don’t know. If he can keep inlaying arrays as quickly as he is at the moment, then probably.”
“... oh, right. There was also that.” Edward sighed in dismay. “Forget us, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone inscribing arrays that quickly before... even just the Basic Arrays.”
“Yeah... it’s a bit insane...” Jack said dismissively, though his mind was in a complete contrast to his words.
Similar conversations streaked through small groups that had formed over the past five days, though Lino himself was completely unaware. He was, after all, far too immersed in the creation, barely stopping himself from drooling over what the possible end-result might turn into.
He was also quite surprised with Jack’s, Ed’s and Sarah’s assistants, as all of them were rather skilled. Of all the pieces that they brought to him for inspection, he only ever had one slightly fixed while the rest were almost as good as he would have created them himself, if not even better. It was also thanks to this that he begun dreaming of the end-creation, as his previous estimates were well off the mark it seemed.
Days quickly slithered by, and another five days had passed within the blink of an eye. Lino was currently sitting on a chair, panting as though he’d just ran a cross-country marathon without a break, his entire self doused in sweat as though he’d just taken a bath. Yet, even so, his eyes shined in extreme excitement and pride as he watched the assembled pieces on the rack in front of his eyes.
Save for him, only Sarah and Jack were awake, the rest having fallen asleep a good couple of hours ago when Lino began inscribing the last arrays and doing the finishing touches. Both Jack and Sarah seemed to have aged at least a few years, with bags beneath their eyes protruding further than their cheeks. However, just like Lino, their body’s state hardly diminished their emotional rampage. Both their gazes were fierce and glowing, their lips curled up in a smile full of pride.
“We really did it...” Jack exclaimed with a sigh, his voice terribly coarse. “I can’t believe we finished it within just ten days...”
“... yeah, thinking back... we were a bit insane,” Lino replied, sighing himself. “I don’t know what’s gotten into me back then...”
“A bit insane? Screw you! Give me back my youth!” Sarah exclaimed.
“Yeah, I wasn’t the one who stole it though,” Lino replied. “Ask your husband for that. And your kids.”
“Fifty is still young! You made me feel two hundred years older!” Sarah persisted.
“... wow, the lies people tell themselves just to feel a bit better about the approaching coffins and funeral songs...”
“Oh, go to hell...”
“Alright you two, I know we’re all a bit cranky, but there’s no reason to ruin this moment because of some squabble, right?” Jack quickly interrupted the things from escalating any further.
“... yeah, I suppose.” Sarah said.
“Yeah,” Lino nodded absentmindedly. “Uh... can... can one of you check its stats?”
“Huh?” Sarah and Jack exclaimed at the same time, glancing at him dubiously.
“W-what?” Lino shuddered. “I... you know... I’m just slightly, not even that much, just a tidy-tiny-bitty terrified.”
“Oh, yeah, judge me now. Go to hell!”
“Doesn’t matter who checks them,” Jack said. “They’re already set in stone.”
“Oh god, that hurt...”
“I don’t know, it just did.” Lino said. “Alright, whatever. Let’s see if it’s the creation of gods or just another dud in the brick wall.”