Jake was sure Arnold was just joking when he asked Jake to make bombs, especially with the deadpan delivery. It turns out the man was earnest, as he scurried over and picked up a box of tennis ball-sized metal orbs.
He also spotted something on the table he recognized. It was a sword with pink-purple lines running through it, and on closer inspection, it indeed was one of the many swords he had experimented on and had transmuted with Arcane Conductivity.
While he did remember handing some over to Miranda and Lillian for them to maybe break them down for parts again or find some other use, he hadn’t known Arnold picked one up. Several, actually, as he saw a few more scattered across many different worktables. One could say a lot about Arnold, but organized sure wasn’t one of them.
Arnold walked up to Jake with the box of metal balls as he spoke. ”I will need you to infuse that destructive type of mana you used to create the swords into these balls to-”
”Now, why would I do that?” Jake asked, raising an eyebrow. Miranda had told him that Arnold needed his help with something and had something he wanted to show Jake, which was why he decided to go. Yet the first response he got was to immediately be told to work without any context.
”Oh,” Arnold just said, looking confused. ”These orbs are made to more easily absorb and integrate any mana affinity and store it till it is released in the form of an explosion, and of all the mana affinities I have seen, the one in the swords seem to carry the most destructive potential.”
”No, I mean, what’s in it for me?” Jake clarified, now also looking a bit confused.
”… You can keep some?”
The man scratched his head after putting the box down, clearly not prepared for that question. Jake reckoned the guy had gotten used to just having the things he asked for, and he struck Jake as quite the one-track mind kind of guy. A bit like himself, actually.
It made sense in some ways, as Arnold clearly was one of the most influential people in the Fort, and he had even surpassed Phillip in levels. Not by a little either, as the man was now in the D-grade. Something Jake hadn’t seen coming.
[Human – lvl 101]
”Fine, I’ll look at it, but I want something else too. Any idea where I can get a good sword or dagger?” Jake answered, only agreeing because he did want to try and mess with the balls a bit.
”Hm, I can make you one?” Arnold said, scratching his head again as he scurried off to one of the shelves and took down a case as he explained.
”Energy-based weapons seem to be the most efficient against most entities, but I have found that sometimes you do need a tool more suited for close combat and dealing with enemies with tough defenses, so I have worked on blades that can be attached.”
He opened the case, and inside, Jake saw three approximately 60 centimeters long blades, each black as night and looking incredibly thin. Jake used Identify on the first one and was surprised at the result.
[Carbon Fiber Nanoblade (Uncommon)] – An ultrathin Nanoblade made out of Carbon Fiber, making it both incredibly durable and sharp. The blade itself can cut most materials effortlessly but has little to no effectiveness against magical wards or defenses. Due to the materials used, enchanting this blade is incredibly difficult.
Requirements: lvl 80+ in any humanoid race
The rarity itself was surprising but even more so was that these were just the blades, not the entire weapons. Jake knew from experience that if a good handle were made, it would be possible to make a rare sword… making him realize that Arnold was actually pretty damn talented. If him being D-grade wasn’t enough. He couldn’t help but ask as he stood there:
”Say, have you been blessed by a god yet?”
”Hmm?” he exclaimed, tilting his head. ”Ah, yes, I got one when I evolved my profession last time. Quite frightening those gods, not at all something I want to repeat any time soon.”
”So, it’s a new thing?” Jake inquired.
”56 days. I did not bother with that perfect evolution thing; I cannot see any value in delaying my work for a few more stats. I did not have any immediate field tests planned, so waiting for my class to evolve simply wasn’t worth it,” he explained. Quite reasonably, in Jake’s opinion.
Arnold clearly cared far more about his profession than his class, even if his class was also at a relatively high level. Jake also realized that Arnold had evolved his profession before Jake had evolved himself, making him feel a bit weird. Though, let’s be fair, he could have evolved his class way before anyone on Earth if he didn’t care about alchemy.
”I see,” Jake answered with a nod. ”If you can make a weapon using these blades, I am sure we can figure something out.”
”Shouldn’t be an issue, I have some handles already, but I will need to modify them a bit. They weren’t made for human hands.”
”Were you trying to make sword-wielding robots?” Jake couldn’t help but a bit jokingly.
”Naturally,” he answered with the same somber deadpan expression. ”Sword-wielding robots are awesome.”
Jake just nodded slowly, having severe issues determining if Arnold was joking or not… because, by all accounts, he looked serious.
”Alright, deal. So, I just need to infuse these orbs with my arcane-affinity and make them into bombs?”
”Arcane-affinity? Not the name I would have given it. But yes, that destructive variant, and please inject it till the pin is fully inserted into the orb and then stop,” he explained, showing Jake a small pin with a ring on the end. This is 100% just a grenade.
”Got it,” he answered as the two of them split up and got to work. Was it an entirely fair trade that Jake would get a weapon for infusing some orbs with mana? Probably not, but Arnold seemed perfectly fine with it.
Jake went over to a table with the box, took one of the orbs up, and observed it.
[Aluabsorbant Metal Sphere (Common)] – A sphere made of a composite metal by an extremely talented craftsman. Due to the materials used, this sphere has incredibly high conductivity and can effortlessly absorb and store most types of mana affinities. Once the orb has absorbed enough mana, the trigger pin will be fully inserted. Pulling the pin will release all the stored mana at once after a slight delay. (Charge: 0%)
He didn’t hesitate to begin inserting his destructive arcane mana into the first one. He didn’t use Touch of the Malefic Viper as he didn’t aim to transmute it and knew doing so would likely ruin the orb or make it Quasi-Soulbound like everything else. Arnold only needed the mana, nothing more.
After half a minute, he was amazed to see that the metal sphere kept absorbing mana. He was already a thousand deep. A minute later, he frowned as he had now infused three thousand mana and was afraid something would go wrong if he kept going. Just as he considered stopping, he heard a click as the pin was now fully inserted.
Jake held up the orb that just looked like a near-perfect round sphere with the pin sticking out the top. It had a bit of a purple tinge now, but otherwise, it looked the same as before. The description had only changed the Charge meter from 0% to 100%.
3800 mana was what it took to charge a single orb. Jake saw dozens of orbs in the box and knew he had a task ahead of him as he got to work - Arnold tinkering in the background.
Jake once more stepped through the plains, a smile on his lips as he thought about the loot. He had hoped for a rare-rarity blade, but that hadn’t happened. It wasn’t all bad, though, as the weapon was a lot better than before.
[Nanoblade Sword (Uncommon)] – The blade is an ultrathin Nanoblade made out of Carbon Fiber, making it both incredibly durable and sharp. The blade itself can cut most materials effortlessly but has little to no effectiveness against magical wards or defenses. The blade itself has little to no mana conductivity. Infusing mana into the handle will automatically coat the blade’s edge in mana. Enchantment: Modelled Coating
Requirements: lvl 100+ in any humanoid race
Now, the description hadn’t changed much, but what had changed was the level requirement. The blade was now officially a D-grade weapon, and Arnold had said he gave it one final round of tempering before it was put together. The handle had the same enchant as the one the man had wanted for his robots, so it wasn’t that useful to Jake as he already knew how to coat his weapons in mana. He could see it being effective for a robot, though.
Jake was interested in Arnold’s class and profession but didn’t stay back to ask him about details. He didn’t ask what god blessed him either; Arnold just said it was one related to making machines.
He had also gotten 10 of the orbs, only on the promise that he would share their effectiveness when he got back. Jake had spent nearly an entire day at the man’s place infusing them, and only getting 10 did sting a bit. Oh, and it wasn’t like he took a lot either, as it turned out that Arnold didn’t just have one box but six. Yes, Jake went through a lot of mana potions.
The 130 kilometers back to Haven from the Fort were crossed even more swiftly on his return trip. He could take several steps a second easily, though he couldn’t make running steps; it was closer to powerwalking. It took quite a bit of concentration to use the skill consecutively like that. Also, he didn’t exactly make himself go faster by putting his hands behind his back and trying to look like a mysterious old master either. The skill required one to ”walk” when making consecutive steps, though there was some leeway in what exactly counts as walking.
He made it back in less than twenty minutes. Jake could have gone faster for sure, but he found it more important to further improve his familiarity with One Step Mile after reaching D-grade.
Jake took flight when he got close and flew over the city directly to his valley. There, everything looked just as usual, making Jake a bit surprised as Hank should have started doing stuff by now, but as he got closer, his sphere picked up that there were indeed things happening below the lodge.
Hank and four other men were down there and what he saw was just damn weird.
One of the men touched the ground, and a deep hole already being made got deeper before large parts were dragged upwards, and another of the man waved his hand and directed hundreds of kilos if not tons of soil and stone into a weird-looking cross between a bag and a trashcan.
Jake considered if he should go talk to them. Usually, he would avoid it… but he decided not to act as antisocial as he normally would but check in on the construction.
He entered the cellar with a smile – one no one could see as he wore his mask – and greeted them.
”Hello there, how’re things going?” he asked in a casual tone, trying to be friendly.
All the men, including Hank, turned around, and a few of them yelped when they saw him. Hank didn’t heed it but answered:
”Swimmingly, we are already over a hundred meters down now, and based on our estimates, we can begin forming the cave after thirty more.”
”That is a bit further down than expected,” Jake admitted as he frowned. ”Will the Pylon be able to reach down that far?”
”I had Miranda check it, and there are no issues. In fact, the cavern with the dungeon is already under the influence of the Pylon. The aura it gives off is blocked by solid objects such as soil, but it can enter through that when there is an opening. It doesn’t go as far up or down as sideways, but Miranda said that is largely due to her own actions. She has chosen to focus all her energy on encompassing the Fort as soon as possible. It’s a waste they’re not getting the Pylon bonuses right now, and Miranda isn’t getting anything either from their presence,” Hank answered as he explained.
”Hm, thanks for the update,” Jake answered and took out a small bag of potions. ”Take these and keep up the good work. I am going dungeon diving now.”
”Alright, be careful. Hopefully, things will be mostly done by the time you return, depending on how long you take.”
”No worries if it isn’t, I am not in that much of a rush,” Jake said, waving it off. ”Oh, final thing. Saw the time tree up there? It would be best if you stationed someone close by to keep an eye on it and pick any banana that ripens and eat it right away. 3 agility per banana eaten. Do make sure it is someone who needs the stats, though.
”Sure?” Hank answered, a bit confused.
”Bananas don’t grow on trees?” another worker mumbled, Jake completely ignoring him.
With that done, Jake didn’t have anything more on his bucket list as he went down the cave and into the once-a-biodome cavern.
He jumped down the hole and onto the platform as the message appeared:
Dungeon: Undergrowth of the Deepdwellers
Requirements to enter: D-grade
Requirements to enter met
WARNING: Only 5 challengers are allowed per party attempting the dungeon.
Jake only briefly considered that much of the bonus information and warnings in the tutorial days were gone. Well, it was a tutorial, wasn’t it?
Without further ado, he accepted and was swept away to his first dungeon since the tutorial.
With a *whoosh!* she did a *whishar!*, and the bad beast was cut into pieces by her awesome blades of wind. They weren’t as good as dads, but they were still super-duper strong. Mom didn’t do wind as good as her and dad, but she did big beams that went *BOOM!*, and she made big monsters appear to beat the bad guys. That was also pretty cool.
Sylphie was flying through the forest as she fought the bad guys. They looked a bit like Uncle but had a lot more hair and tails, and they kept jumping around between the trees using their tails or throwing stuff. She wondered how Uncle would look with a tail… she didn’t like it. A bit more hair would be okay, though, especially on the head. Hair was a lot fluffier than feathers.
”Scree!” she heard from the side as mom flew over and told her to follow them further into the forest. Sylphie wasn’t allowed to beat the bad guys with three tails. Only mom and dad could fight those, so she would just blow away the other ones. Beating those wasn’t that hard, even if they were a bit higher level. They were just weak, and her super winds were super strong, and the stupid beasts were too slow ever to hit her when they threw stuff, and their silly heavy-thing didn’t work against her Green Shield. Green Shield was super great.
Dad had also told her that Uncle had already been in the area before and killed the boss of the bad guys. Dad kept saying that Uncle was super strong, but Sylphie wasn’t sure. Uncle only ever sat on his butt and played with his weird pot, so how could he be super strong? Only his smelly pot was really strong. Maybe he threw the smelly pot at the bad guy boss?
Sylphie did feel that Uncle was a bit strong himself, but compared to mom and dad? Nah, mom and dad were super much stronger. But it was okay because Sylphie could always protect Uncle so he could play with his smelly pot as much as he wanted!
Sylphie was super kind like that.