BACK TO THE ROOTS
Hannah was currently staring entranced, leaned against the palms of her hands, listening to the music the hammered metals made and the visual showcase of beautiful sparks flashing briefly into the existence before flaring out in the temporary glory. Her eyes would occasionally glaze over the reddish metal onto the topless figure covered in sweat, where she’d have to hold back quite a bit from expressing her inner demons.
The moment the two flew away with Grim from the group, Lino headed to the Palace’s smithy and locked the two of them inside, all the way cackling like a madman. Immediately after, he whipped out a storm of materials that even left Hannah completely flabbergasted, but he didn’t explain anything, immediately entering his-very-own crazed state of mind when it came to crafting.
He didn’t tell her what he was crafting, why he was doing it, or even why right then and there, just told her to sit down and ‘enjoy the show’ -- and she truly did. Every bit of it, the smallest of movements, the craziest of grins, the most maniacal glints in the pair of jet-black eyes... but it was halfway through that she realized something was different. The crazed-levels were a bit... more intense than usual.
His movements seemed even more sporadic and free than usual, his expressions even livelier, the occasional laughter even more livid. From the get-go she realized he was crafting something odd, but could never quite wrap her head around what it was; the centerpiece object seemed rather small to be any form of the bladed weapon, too thick to be a shooting-type weapon, and too thin to be any form of a defense measure.
It was small enough to be comfortably held in one’s hand, similar to weapon’s handle, even perfectly matching its width. She almost suspected he was simply too into crafting a sword’s handle that he forgot to craft the rest of the weapon, but quickly shook the thought away as no matter how crazed he got, he always had perfect command over everything he was doing during the crafting sessions.
Lino was currently experiencing the sort of joy only a few smiths ever get to -- the sheer quantity and quality of materials that the old man had ‘gifted’ him surpassed even his wildest dreams. The stockpile easily added up to the mansion-sized hill in his void world, and he theorized it would be enough to last him for years to come, as huge amount of them were completely unusable by him at the moment due to Level discrepancy. He’d even received three pieces of myth-level materials, [Primordial Dragon’s Heart], [Primal Spirit’s Echo] and [Prime’s Ashes], all three being at least Level 6000 materials that he was most-likely decades away from being able to use.
For the longest while he had been dreaming about crafting something he’d already crafted before, something he’d very much like to own again -- his very first creation, at that -- [Celestial Rod]. With the abundance of materials, he finally decided to go for it, experiencing the euphoria he hadn’t in a while in the process; he almost felt as though he was back to being just a young teenage boy crafting his very own item for the first time, with the levels of purely innocent excitement overwhelming him.
He settled upon the same design as over ten years ago, just upgrading the arrays and overall work-flow of the item to make it more refined. Prior to crafting he imagined at the very least ending up with the [Unique]-tier item again, but as he began immersing himself into the process, such thoughts disappeared from his mind. He merely wished to see the end product be the best it can, so he poured every bit of himself into the process -- he’d long since forgotten there was Hannah watching him, had long since forgotten where he was, what time it was, and even who he himself was. There was only one thing within his vision, the handle-shaped and sized weapon.
After crafting the general shape, he immediately began inlaying arrays, settling on the risky combinations he himself had come up by combining, modifying, augmenting, removing and adding lines. As the surface he had to work with was small, most smiths would suggest he went line by line, but he didn’t even think about it, immediately diving into the inlaying as though he was drawing a rough sketch on the canvas.
His index finger traced left and right and in swirls and diagonal lines time and again, sparks shining off as brightly as fireflies, drawing spirals around his entire body like threads of fate.
Hannah’s lips gaped as she witnessed something she had never witnessed before in her life -- world’s elements, all of their own volition, gathered around Lino, growing corporeal, shifting and dancing around him as they adjoined into the surging Elemental Spirits. She’d even spotted a few members of Fae curiously glancing over Lino’s shoulder, their bodies shimmering in faint cyan.
Colors mingled within the otherwise dark room, prettier than any fireworks she’d ever seen; each thread traced through the air individually, wrapping about his tall and broad shoulders, streaking into nothingness. Red, blue, yellow, green, silver, white... colors beyond description’s range formed a whirl of sorts around him, eventually all twirling around and piercing his body. Underneath the blasting light of it all conjured through reality Hannah couldn’t understand, he remained the same; smiling, joyful, heated, as though the world around him was as silent and as dull as ever.
Threads soon broke into starlight sprinkling around him like snow before vanishing without a trace, one by one, till none were left. The room once again shifted to dull-colored, dimly-lit one. However, Hannah was yet to come to her senses.
Lino, on the other hand, realized something immediately upon inlaying the last line of his array system. He sensed a faint heartbeat, felt the small rod in his hand tremble, and heard a faint whine trace into his mind directly. This had only occurred once before, a long time ago, when he crafted his very first [Soul Armor]. Then and there, he realized, he’d somehow managed to craft a [Soul Weapon].
The short rod repeatedly trembled as the heartbeat quickened and whines grew louder. Lino grasped at it tightly and it calmed, cradled warmly within his fingers. His lips curled up into a bright, warm smile as his heart was momentarily overwhelmed by a surge of emotions.
“... y-you... you done?” Hannah’s strange stuttering voice brought him back to reality as he lifted his head up and looked over. Her eyes were like saucers, whole body leaned forward yet seemingly frozen in that position from being too fearful to move an inch forward.
“... yeah?” he replied, looking at her strangely. “What’s wrong?”
“W-what’s wrong?! Did... did you not see it?” she asked hysterically.
“The colors!” she exclaimed. “S-so... so many fucking colors...”
“What are you talking about?” Lino frowned. “Be honest with me: did you think you’d grow bored so you popped a few strange pills beforehand?”
“... I’ll pop your fucking brain out.” Hannah groaned. “So you really didn’t see them?”
“...” Lino’s blank stare confirmed that he, indeed, didn’t see them, Hannah realized.
“Whatever. Show me what you crafted.” she gave up in the end as she simply lacked the means to properly describe what she’d seen.
“Oh! Right! I should warn you, though,” Lino said, handing her the rod. “You might get flooded after seeing it, but I’m too exhausted to take responsibility for it, so you might love yourself for a while to take care of it.”
“... yeah, dream on---” Lino merely glanced down for a moment and shook his head.
“It’s a curse,” he lamented. “How am I expected to live so? Is it a punishment for being too handsome? Too witty? Too charming? Ayy... world is so unkind. So unkind...”
Meanwhile, Hannah was looking over the stats of the ‘weapon’, quickly realizing that the colors she’d seen were the least of her surprises today. Of all the things this little piece could be, it was a [Soul Weapon]. Disregarding the slightly strange name, she suddenly spoke out against her will, through sheer instinct alone.
“I want it.”
“Eh?” Lino turned around, surprised, and saw her infatuated expression.
“I--I’m sorry,” she quickly came to her senses, giving the rod back to him. “Of course I don’t want it. Don’t worry about it.”
“... don’t you already have monopoly over the best rod in the world?”
“... yeah, I set you up for that one. My bad.”
“Here,” he merely grinned faintly before throwing it back at her. “It was high-time I crafted something for you.”
“E-eh? But what about you?!” she questioned quickly.
“While it is nice to have an arsenal of items,” he said. “The main reason I craft things... is to craft them, not to use them. Besides, you’re holding my rod. And every time you hold it, you’ll be reminded of my other rod. It’s my way of ensuring you never dump me for some other rod.”
“Well, so long as you don’t dump me for some other watermelons.” Hannah chuckled faintly, walking over and kissing him.
“Oh, honey. It’s so sweet you think you’ve got watermelons.” Lino grinned faintly as he caressed her hair while she groaned lowly.
“... whatever. I’ll be the bigger woman--I dare you to make a joke-- and just say... thank you. And I love you.”
“... I love you too.” Lino said. “Hey, I just realized something! I just, literally, gave you a piece of my Soul!! If that ain’t the most romantic thing you’ve ever lived through in my life, then I don’t know what is!”
“... aaaaand he ruins it.”
“But no, seriously, think about it. You know how many poems out there have one or other iteration of ‘I give you my soul, so hold it tenderly’ or some shit, but I literally gave you my soul, and you’re literally holding it tenderly! We’re living out a poem, Hannah! We’re living out a fucking poem! Goddamn, I wonder if some jackass in the future will make a story about us, just to show the world how romantic I am. Hmm, I can already see the title: Hero Lino -- and this really cute chick that follows him around. Or-or...” as Lino went on with another one of his long-winded monologues, Hannah smiled gently seeing his excited expression, once again lowering her gaze and going over the rod’s stats which still made her shudder from the core of her being.
[Celestial Rod -- <Soul Weapon>]
Magic Damage: Intelligence+Wisdom*40
Special Effect: Four-pronged item
Special Effect: <First Form -- Dragon’s Breath> - injecting Qi into the bottom array sends out a cone-shaped breath of fire from the top, dealing Magic Damage*10 to everyone damaged by it, melting any armor beneath Level 900(+)
Special Effect: <Second Form -- Vaulting Heavens> - injecting Qi directly into the rod elongates it upward to 6,000 meters; injecting Will instead of Qi makes it possible to change the elongated shape at will; has penetrative effect; deals 50% of overall damage (Damage+Magic Damage)
Special Effect: <Third Form -- Elemental Darts> - injecting Qi through the conduits manifests corporeal dart(s) that wielder can aim and fire at will; darts attain the element of Qi used to create them and retain all effects of the said element; can fire 200,000 in succession before needing a cooling period; damage is determined by the element in question and wielder’s affinity with it
Special Effect: <Fourth Form -- Immortal Shield> -- injecting Qi repeatedly into the rod through all four openings will expand it vertically into a gigantic, half-spherical shield in front of the wielder; the shield’s strength is determined by the amount of Qi injected and the shield retains the properties of the element; shield cannot be broken so long as it’s supplemented by Qi; requires a considerable recharge time after usage
Special Effect: <Soul Weapon> -- grows alongside the user, but occasionally requires additional refining to cross specific thresholds
Special Effect: <Soul Weapon> -- cannot be destroyed unless the Soul within the weapon is wiped out entirely
Note: A Divine Creation infused with crafter’s very essence, giving birth to a Soul; unmatched in prowess of multi-functional weapons, it has the potential to be recorded within the Weaponry Records and permanently leave its trace in the world for all eternity.