Lino was back at the massive, beautiful palace, this time accompanied only by Ion lad who saw him sneaking out and followed him despite Lino’s growls and subtle ‘go aways’, which Ion chose to ignore. This time around they were not stopped at the gates, but were allowed to enter immediately, escorted to the meeting room by the same girl, Idya. When they arrived, the room was empty, the balcony flung open as Lino walked out, the view taking his breath away briefly.

The massive city stretched on beneath him, blending into the vast plains down south, and grand mountains up north. It was truly a sight for the sore eyes, as even Ion lost himself temporarily in it.

“... if you work hard enough,” Lino jolted him back to reality. “One day, this could all be yours.”

“Y-you jest, Master,” Ion chuckled bitterly, scratching his nose. “I’ve no use for this; I’d much rather serve under you.”

“So you prefer men?” Lino glanced at him, cracking a smile. “I would have never guessed.”

“Prefer men? W-what, no! No! Why would you say that?!”

“And to think you’d be the taker and not the giver... tsk, tsk, tsk... you really can’t judge a man by his bravado no more.” Lino sighed, seemingly lamenting over something. “They all could swing either way in the end, huh.”

“... you’re being mean again, Master.” Ion swallowed a mouthful of saliva to calm himself down before speaking. “Didn’t Lady Hannah warn you of it?”

“What? Are you going to tell on me? Tsk, tsk, no wonder you prefer to take it. You’ve got no balls to give.”

"... aah," Ion sighed. "You do realize, Master, that I'm a whole lot less embarrassed about being told I like men than you are afraid of Lady Hannah?"

“Afraid?” Lino cracked a smile, winking at him. “It’s a natural order of things to be afraid of your significant other. Whether that be true or not is irrelevant.”

“... so you’re not afraid of Lady Hannah?” Ion questioned innocently.

“Oh, god no, I’m terrified of that crazy gal,” Lino shuddered. “I can never tell what’s going on inside that pretty head of hers. So, be a man, and stop saying you’ll tell on me.”

“But that’s the only way to get you to stop...”

“Why would you want me to stop? I’m just strengthening your skin! You’re gonna need it out there!”

“... aah, whatever helps you sleep at night...”

“Well, it certainly isn’t this,” Lino shrugged. “If that’s what you’re saying.”

“What is it, then?”

“Lots and lots of booze...”

“... M-master, please stop destroying your image...”

“Short of fucking a dog, I see no way I’d ever destroy my image.”

“... why a dog?” Ion asked, strangely intrigued.

“Because everybody loves dogs. They’re adorable, funny, loyal to their bones, and because I love Non more than I love half of you lot.”

“Where is Non, by the way? I heard you and Lady Hannah talk about him often, but I’ve never seen him.”

"... I'm too terrified to check," Lino suddenly shuddered, as though swept by a cold current. "The last time I did... I'd seen things, Ion... things so terrible, so impossible, it has warped my mind too much I'd changed as a person..."

“M-master?! A-are you okay?! What’s wrong?! Is it a soul attack?!”

“Forgive my tardiness,” Titus’ voice brought Lino back to reality as he wiped the sweat off of his forehead; if it was just dogs, he’d live with it... but, it was everything. Dogs, cats, sheep, bulls, griffins, rhinos, buffalo, hell, there was even one turtle stuffed in there... “I hope you haven’t waited too long.”

"N-no," Lino recovered somewhat, taking a deep breath as he turned around and walked back into the room, followed shortly after by Ion. "I understand that Your Highness is a busy man; I am just happy you were willing to see me on such short notice."

“Ah, but of course,” Titus smiled. “Apologies, but Lady Freya isn’t feeling too well so she is unable to meet you -- but she sends her greetings.”

“And I hope she will get well soon.”

“As do I. Why have you requested to see me? Are the materials I’ve sent over not enough?” Titus asked as he sat down and poured the three a cup of tea each.

“Oh, no, they were just enough,” Lino smiled cheekily, certainly unwilling to say that over eighty percent of what the Prince had sent over went straight into Lino’s pockets rather than the item. “I’ve simply come to hand over the item to its rightful owner.”

“What item? W-wait, you don’... you don’t mean the item?!” Titus exclaimed in shock at Lino’s implications. “B-but... but... it’s been... it’s been just a few days...”

“... yap, it was,” Lino certainly wasn’t going to tell another soul about the [Anvil of Creation] -- save for perhaps Hannah as he told her almost everything -- so he simply decided to let Titus whirl away at potential theories. “I think you will be like it.” Lino took out a rather breathtaking ring from the void world and placed it on the table in front of Titus.

The latter stared at the ring at the moment, having realized the second that the ring left the void space, that it indeed was a Continental-tier item. He couldn't wrap his head around how this simple-looking blacksmith in front of him had managed to do it. One idea was that he simply had an item prepared, but Titus quickly scoffed at it, seeing as he could sense dozens of materials he'd sent over present in the ring. Besides, newly crafted items always had a different aura than the older ones... and he'd seen enough items in his lifetime to, without a shred of doubt, conclude it was indeed a recently crafted one.

With trembling hands, he reached over and picked it up, still not looking at its stats. What surprised him, however, was that he had to exert over half his physical strength to lift it up. With a curious eye, he glanced at the calm smith as he wondered just how strong this mysterious man is -- after all, he put the ring down so casually to the point Titus would first believe it was entirely weightless rather than it weighed as much as a massive boulder.

“... it’s a technique of mine,” Lino cracked a smile as he took a sip of the tea, replying the Titus’ questioning gaze. “It ensures that not only the ring is nigh-impossible to destroy, but that it’s also capable of transferring far more energy far quicker than it otherwise could do.”

“-oh,” Titus mumbled absentmindedly, fiddling around with the ring. “I’ve, uh, I’ve never quite heard of that technique, I don’t think...”

“I doubt you would have, seeing as I created it.” Lino winked casually as he turned toward Ion. “Let’s go lad. If you need anything, Your Highness, you know where to find me. My young ones will be joining this year’s tournament, so if nothing comes up until then, I hope you will save me decent seats.”

“N-no, of course. Forgive me.”

“No problem. No, no, you don’t have to escort us,” Lino shook his head as he saw Titus getting up slowly. “I hope you enjoy using the ring as much I did crafting it. Until next time, Your Highness.”

“Until next time...” Titus mumbled as he watched Lino and Ion depart. The moment the two left the room, he immediately focused on the ring and inspected its stats.

[Ring of Creation -- Continental Unique]

Level: 11,000

Requirements: Titular Fiend, Bloodbound

+800% to ALL speed-related stats

10% chance to temporarily double the above stat during a battle

10% chance to create a shielding barrier preventing a non-life-threatening attack during a battle

100% chance to block a single life-threatening attack at will every 30 seconds

Special Effect [Creator’s Void] -- the ring has two separate void dimensions; one is exclusively used for storage of items, while other is used for storage of Qi and Elements. Due to innate properties, the latter can store even conflicting Qi States and Elements, and even manifested Laws.

Special Effect [Birth] -- the wielder, through Will, can activate the ring at any given time; by conjuring an image inside their heads, the ring will replicate it and use the energy stored inside its second storage to manifest it into reality. All attack-type creations gain 10,000% of wielder's accumulated base damage stat, attaining other properties (and bonus damage) based on the chosen Qi State or Element or Law. All shielding-type creations will ALWASY block the first attack, and attain additional effects based on the chose Qi State or Element or Law. All utility creations receive a 5000% boost to their main stat (speed, flexibility, length, etc.), attaining additional properties based on the chosen Qi State or Element or Law.

Special Effect [Creator] -- temporarily unleash the full capacity of the ring, entombing yourself in a perpetual shield that cannot be broken for the next 30 seconds. During that time, the ring's creation speed is increased by a hundredfold, and it ceases to have limits. Instead of using the stored energy, it uses Qi, Elements, and Laws present in the world around it, manipulating it to its will. The effect of a Creator lasts for 60 seconds, after which it necessitates a 7 day cooling period before being able to be used again.

Note, inscribed by the Smith: May you create your dreams at will, Your Highness, and live them out in the full; show this to no one, not even those closest to you. You know why.

Titus stared at the ring in his hand with gaping lips, his expression of shock far exceeding one of joy. After he read over the ending note, he quickly stored the ring away and wiped the sweat off his forehead; why shouldn't he show it off to his friends and family? Because the ring of this ilk shouldn't theoretically be possible... and even if possible, it certainly isn't allowed. There is only ever one Creator in the world, and it's the Mother. That is why only the ‘heathens' had even chosen to use ‘Creator' in their titles. Usually, they are shunned by the rest of the society merely because of the name... Titus wondered what would happen to him if he had a tool that allowed him to actually become a Creator, albeit temporarily.

He once again thought back to the smith, breaking out into cold sweat once more. If he was willing to give away something of this make... what does he actually have in his pockets? Then, an even more dangerous thought crossed his mind -- how did he know that giving Titus such ring would cause the latter not to report him?

"C-could it... no... no..." he mumbled as his eyes turned into saucers. The only person who would perhaps have absolutely no need for a ring like this, besides Gaia, was her opposite... the scourge of the world, the original Creator... the Empyrean.


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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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