THEORY OF THE CRAFT (III)
Though the spacious smithy exuded glamour and grace of the many-a-busy soul, there was also something rather strange and dubious about it as, ever so often, everyone would glance toward the far-end wall, slanting their eyes momentarily before returning to their work. The reason being that, just a few minutes ago, Lord Lyonel, Master Eggor and Master Primul ran through a vortex while Lady Valkyria chased after them, screaming.
The scene left everyone in the smithy befuddled for a few minutes, yet also extremely excited right after. It would seem that the trio had robbed the entire fortress of its most precious materials because they wanted to craft something, much to Lady Val’s anger and frustration. She stood in front of the vortex for a good minute, fuming, before angrily walking back through the smithy, cursing them out.
Even if many inside the smithy lamented the loss of the most precious materials, some of which are actually above Level 50,000, they were equally, if not more, excited over the end-product as two of the best smiths in the fortress, as well as Primul, a newcomer who seemed to know every array that there ever was and more, were combining their talents to craft something grand – a weapon for Lady Alison, which is the sole reason it seemed that Lady Val didn’t storm into the dimensional pocket and beat them black and blue before taking back the materials.
Meanwhile, inside the dimensional pocket, Lino, Eggor and Primul were standing around a massive table laden with items that would all, even individually, give them jitters, to say nothing of nearly a hundred of them at the same time.
“… did-did you know we had such a massive collection?” Lino mumbled absentmindedly.
“Like hell I did,” Eggor replied in a low growl. “How in the hell…”
“That’s the stalk of a [Void Fruit], right?” Primul mumbled. “That’s a freaking stalk of a goddamn [Void Fruit]…”
“I mean,” Lino said, carefully picking up one of the items. “I knew Titus had donated some materials, and that our shops have collected quite a few, but I thought they were at best some semi-rare materials, you know? Fuck, aren’t we wasting too much by shoving them all into a single weapon?!! I could craft myself an entire fucking unmatched arsenal with this shit!”
“What happened to exploration and research?” Eggor asked, though somewhat swayed himself.
“—ugh, fuck me and my curious mind,” Lino grumbled, shaking his head. “Fine, whatever. If not the strongest, we’ll probably have the most expensive weapon ever created in the history of the world. We can show it to others and cause them to die of a heart attack.”
“—not gonna lie,” Primul mumbled. “My heart is bleeding right now…”
“… alright, wake up,” Lino took a deep breath and slapped them lightly across the backs of their heads, jolting them awake. “Just think of it as giving a cute, kind girl a birthday present.”
“Yeah, because that makes it better.”
“God, you’re a bona fide moron.” Eggor rolled his eyes, though also recovered from the lament. “But, fine. Let’s get at it. I’ll have to use [Thundering Flames] to melt most of the ores, so I’ll need your help to control them. Meanwhile, Primul can slowly extract them and do his best not to melt alive.”
“Oi, you just said something really dangerous there,” Lino quickly spoke out, narrowing his eyes. “What do you mean melt alive?”
“He means that the flames are probably so hot they’ll melt my skin off since, you know, I’m a mortal and all,” Primul chimed in. “How the hell do you expect me to extract the metal from the ores then?!”
“Alright, new plan – Lino will help me control the flame and extract the metals.”
“Vy can do it," Lino said, pointing at the silent creature looking through the items on the table with faint interest. "As a matter of fact, can't you just melt them all and extract metals within seconds?"
“Yeah,” Vy nodded. “But I ain’t gonna.”
“The hell you won’t,” Lino snapped. “You do nothing – fuckin’ nothing! You don’t fight with me, you don’t help me, you don’t give me shit – you’re not a fucking pet, you’re a pest I’m stuck with!”
“Oi, screw you lad! What do you mean I don’t help you?! I help you all the time!”
“Name one time!”
“—remember that time you were fighting the Descent and I told you ‘You can do it ba—Lino!’”
“Oh, suck it! Either you help us with this, or… or…”
“… or what?”
“—or I’ll summon back Non and let him into the pocket with you.”
“Alright, so all these ores, right?” Vy quickly changed the tune, picking up all the ores on the table much to Eggor’s and Primul’s shock.
“… uh… who’s Non?” Eggor asked Lino.
“My dog.” Lino replied, shrugging his shoulders.
“… a Dragon… is afraid of a dog?” Primul mused, smirking.
“Fuck you!! That’s not a dog!!” Vy screamed out. “I fear no dog!! But… that thing… that thing fuckin’ terrifies me!!”
“…” Primul and Eggor went silent immediately, withdrawing, while Lino merely cracked a faint grin before shuddering. Indeed… that thing was no dog, most certainly.
While Vy busied himself with the ores and trying to wipe the horrifying images Lino had showed him from his mind, Primul and Eggor withdrew to their desks, former continuing to write down the arrays and the latter finishing up the design. Lino busied himself with sorting the rest of the materials and processing a few that merely required basic extraction or shedding, or were binding components.
The makeshift smithy fell into the sullen silence, only whirls of flame echoing out from Vy, and occasional frustrated groan from Eggor who repeatedly crumpled pieces of paper and threw them aside.
After sorting through the materials, Lino walked over to him and glanced at the parchment – at its center, a well-detailed drawing of a sword stood out, surrounded by the breakdown of its components, where certain materials would go, how would he bind the variety of metals into one, which binders would he use, and a plethora of other things that caused Lino’s mind to start spinning.
Though he also drew detailed designs, he never paid much attention to anything past the basic concept – he almost always decided to wing it when it came to binding, the number of materials, and virtually everything past the general design and usage.
"—what's the hold-up?" Lino asked, pulling out a chair and sitting next to him. Eggor glanced at him and sighed, pushing the parchment in front of Lino.
"No matter which quantity I choose, based on my calculations, the blade of the sword would actually be severely weak, especially in terms of a direct clash. Using your [Dragon Slayer] as a measure, if you struck at this design three times in a row with all your strength, you'd actually break it."
“… why?” Lino frowned, looking through. “Even if it’s on the lighter side unlike the Slayer, it shouldn’t be that weak. Is there a contradiction in the materials that you can’t reconcile? If so, why not just ask Primul for an array for it?”
"Array would merely be a temporary patch as it's not used to exemplify the strength, but rather shorten up the weakness," Eggor explained. “The problem is that I can’t locate the error. Nothing on the surface seems to clash, and even a deeper look tells me, well, nothing, since I haven’t used most of these materials before, and certainly not together.”
“… you’re worrying too much,” Lino chuckled faintly, slapping his back. “Draw up the general design, locations for array pathways, and just the general notion of the materials.”
“… wait.” Eggor frowned, grabbing Lino’s arm and holding him back. “Is that how you craft items?”
“… m-maybe…?” Lino mumbled meekly under Eggor’s darkened gaze.
“… we’ll have a long talk after we’re done with this.”
“I’d rather not though.”
“It’s not your choice, boy.”
“Yes, pops. Whatever you say.”
“Go help Primul with arrays,” Eggor said. "For some ungodly reason, you seem to be talented in blending them together."
“… yes.” Lino nodded meekly and quickly darted over to Primul who barely held himself back from bursting into laughter. “Shut up. That bastard terrorized me when I was young, and now I’ve got all sorts of phobias of him.”
“Hey, I didn’t say anything.” Primul said, helplessly shrugging.
“… oh shut up,” Lino grumbled, rolling his eyes. “How go the arrays?”
“I’m almost done with jotting them all,” Primul said, pointing at the massive stack of papers on the other end of the desk, causing Lino to nearly choke on his saliva. “I’m having some trouble remembering a few of the Masterwork-tier ones, but other than that it’s fine.”
“… uh, quick question. How many arrays did you jot down?”
“A few thousand, I think.”
“Goddammit,” Lino sighed in defeat, plummeting his head against the table. “How can I ever build up my confidence if I keep surrounding myself with people who are clearly about a billion times smarter and more talented than me?!”
“… you can’t?”
“Yeah, yeah, shut it.” sighing once more, he sat up and reached his hand out. “Hand me a stack of the Distinguished-tier ones. I’ll slowly start going through them and blending. After you’re done jotting them all, go through the Perfect ones and do the same.”
“… don’t be so hard on yourself,” Primul said with an encouraging smile. “You’re barely in your forties yet you can already work with Distinguished-tier arrays. Why compare yourself to current me? I’m old. Like really old. I’ve had a lot of time to remember them.”
“… it’s simple,” Lino smiled faintly, taking the stacks and putting them in front of him. “If you want to succeed in something, find the best one in the field and make it your goal to surpass him no matter what. If I settle on the ‘oh I’m good enough for how long I’ve been at it’, I’ll inevitably grow content, which generally marks the end of the progression. Don’t worry about me. If anything, I enjoy the challenge.”
“… oh to be preached the truths of life by a child… how far down have I fallen?” Primul exclaimed flamboyantly, causing Lino to laugh.
“If you don’t try harder, you’ll fall even further. I’m coming for your ass, old man.”
“… don’t you already have a wife? What? Ass is off the limits for her?”
“Oh, look who finally picked up a sense of humor,” Lino fired back. “I thought it died alongside your looks.”
“… work through your stacks and shut up.”