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Kahari spent a few hours shopping and browsing. The windfall he’d gotten from his parents vault let him update his equipment fairly well. What was left of his old equipment was going to get set aside and sent back to Seras, along with a bit of money to help rebuild. It wasn’t much, but it was something he could do in the here and now. Now stored inside of his Bag was a new sword, the old one was still chipped. Alongside it was more armor to go with the breastplate and arm guards he currently wore. Some greaves, gauntlets, and a helmet. None of them were fancy or magical, but they were new and fitted properly, so that was something. He also had a bow that he’d start practicing with. More for practicality than anything else, on the road one needed to be ready for anything. That included hunting for food, and a ranged weapon that wouldn’t ruin the meat was a necessity.

He’d stocked up on some supplies, mostly stuff for training around Ixul. The Forest to the south made up the majority of the Voston Wilds, and aside from a few uniques running around, was pretty much all F class monsters. Instead they’d be heading east into the Voston Hills and the area around the Voston Pass. It was still mostly F class monsters, but a few Es and the occasional D could be found in the foothills leading up the mountains. The undisputed Alpha of the area was a Red Wyvern, a C4 Wyvern that had escaped from a monster tamer a few decades back. It mostly left travelers alone, and liked to eat the dangerous insects that roamed the mountains, like the Soldier Wasps. Glacier Ants showed up occasionally just before Winter, but rarely did they get big enough to block the entire pass. Hives like the one Chara helped clear cropped up every decade or so, but they had stepped up patrols just in case it was a shift in the ecology that’d have them becoming more common.

Kahari moved into the Association building, being stopped only at the gate to the back to check his badge. Once he was let through, he headed down to his room. He wanted to change clothes before the next item on the agenda. Once in his room, he dug through his meager possessions and found the clothes he’d been wearing the day everything had gone to hell. The burns and holes had all been patched by his inexpert hand. The clothes looked ragged and old, but he didn’t mind. They were a reminder of everything he had on his shoulders. With them he grabbed a smith’s apron he had grabbed while shopping. The Association offered forges for rent, and with them, most of the tools he’d need. There was just one he wouldn’t be borrowing. From out of his travelling pack, he pulled the hammer that had once belonged to his father. It was a familiar weight in his hand now, he’d used it to fight plenty of times. Now though, now he was going to use it for what it was made to do. It was a simple looking thing, sturdy wood and a metal head. Definitely wasn’t normal wood or iron, and emblazoned on the handle was an arcane sigil. He didn’t know what it meant, or what the enchantment did, but the hammer had a purpose. He could feel it, the hammer itself seemed to hunger for the heat of the forge, for the feel of metal on metal.

He was more than willing to give into it’s desires. He folded the apron over one arm and held the hammer in his hand as he made his way up to the crafters level. It was another pocket dimension, but this one seemed local, not interconnected like the arena or shops. There was a big desk with an ogre man sitting behind it at the top of the elevator. His feet were propped on the heavy wooden desk, a book in hand and glasses perched on his nose. He looked up as Kahari stepped out of the elevator. One glance at his badge and equipment told him all he needed to know. He held up a crystal.

“Badge please.”

Kahari held out his badge, and the man passed the crystal over it. He glanced at the back of it and nodded.

“First three hours each month are free. It’ll be one silver Crown per additional hour. If your time runs up while inside, your account will auto deduct, and a twenty-five percent markup, or twenty five Crowns for that hour, will be applied.”

“And if I don’t use all the time I pay for?”

“You can either stock it for later use, or get a refund here at the desk. If I’m not here, you can come back later.”

Kahari nodded and dug forty-five coins out and handed them over. It took a week to make a longsword, and while he wasn’t making anything quite that big, he wasn’t sure how much time this would take, so he started at two days.

“Just to be safe.”

“Much appreciated, your badge will open room three. If there are any problems with the equipment, touch the red crystal on the wall. Have a nice day.”

The man picked his book back up, kicked his feet up on the table, and went back to waiting as Kahari passed by. The rooms were all marked very clearly as one, two, three, and so on. He stopped at three and raised his badge to the crystal next to the door. It beeped and he heard a heavy lock click open. Pushing into the room, he looked around. It was well equipped. There was a smelter in the corner, pipe leading to the ceiling. Several anvils of different sizes, a wall of tools, a forge, and pretty much all the equipment he could ever need. There was some stuff missing that you’d need for rarer materials, but that was bound to be in one of the more expensive, higher ranked rooms.

Kahari put the hammer down on the anvil whose size was the same as the one back home. He put on his apron and began selecting the tools he’d need. He laid them out in the locations he’d need them most. With that out of the way, he inspected both the forge and smelter. There was a selection of coal and charcoal of various types, as well as a way to just magically power the forge. He selected his materials and laid them out. He had already had the Silverwood hafts carved and sized for him, but the real gem for him to work with was the Orb Weaver Chitin and Silk. The hafts he placed on a table in the corner of the room, far from the heat of the fire till he needed them.

He inspected the smelter and consulted the materials guide book he’d purchased. Most F rank materials could be worked at temperatures that were needed for steel. There were exceptions, Solar Steel for instance needed to be hotter, and some bones needed less. He knew the guide was incomplete, he had heard of a few that weren’t listed, but it helped fill the gap in his knowledge here. He used the crystal to get both smelter and forge up to the temperatures he needed. To work with Orb Weaver Chiten, you needed one bar melted down in the smelter, and worked into another set of equal weight in the forge. Kinda like layering steel, but had a more exact weight ratio. Almost literally one to one or the resulting material was too brittle and stiff to be useful for his purposes. It took a few minutes for both to heat up, while that was going on he reread the instructions on the chitin. He only had so much material, and he didn’t want to waste it.

Looking at the glowing flames of the smelter, he steadied the shaking of his hands. Fear? Excitement? He wasn’t entirely sure, but his heart was heavy as he remembered working alongside his father at the forge. Pushing the bittersweet memories away, he put the first chunk of Chitin into the smelter. It’d take some time to get to the temperature he needed. As he waited he started warming the second piece of Chitin. It didn’t have to melt down like the first, but it needed to be heated evenly and ready to accept the purified Chitin from the smelter. It was strange, working Chitin as if it was metal, but it was the way of things. At the very least, it was only if you were intending to forge it that it acted like this, otherwise it acted differently for someone trying to carve it. He couldn’t understand what that was about, but it wasn’t his place to question the way the gods had put this world together.

Once it was ready, he emptied the smelter, pouring the molten Chitin into a mold. It hardened and cooled rapidly, far faster than steel. Once it was safe to remove from the mold, Kahari took a pair of tongs and moved it carefully to the forge with the first chunk. Once the bar and chunk were at equal temperatures, he removed them both from the forge and got to work on the anvil. He started by folding them over each other. Seven folds was the minimum recommended, he decided to take it one further to eight. While the number of folds was in the ballpark of what he was used to, just over a thousand layers was quite different to how he had been shown to work steel. Once they were good and ready, taking several reheatings to get there, he started twisting them. He wasn’t exactly sure why, during the flow of everything he just seemed to know that he needed to twist it. He wasn’t sure if it was the Chitin, the Hammer, the Gods, or just some random thought that prompted him to do it, but he did.

Once he felt it had been twisted enough and he had flattened it out one last time, Kahari turned his attention to actually shaping the thing. He let the hammer and his heart guide him. Hammer rose and fell, a dull ringing sound coming out of the block of Chitin laying before him. Back into the flames it went, he waited, then back to the anvil. The process repeated until he had the shape his hand guided him to. One, two, three more hits, and it was ready. Moving to the oil prepared to quench it, he stopped for just a moment. Taking a deep breath, he submerged the Chitin in an oil prepared from Orb Weaver venom. Any magical oil would do, but it felt right to use the venom as well. Once he found a leather he wanted to wrap it with, it’d be treated with the venom, same as the silk and hafts he had prepared. He wasn’t sure why, but his heart had guided him in each decision. No one had raised an eyebrow at these requests, so he figured it wasn’t that unheard of.

He removed the blade from the oil, and admired it in the light. The Chitin had taken on a blue-grey color, and the light played over it without a sheen. What caught his eye the most was that rather than ripples of color from one end of the blade to the other, the pattern was more subtle. At least, at the edge of the blade, the distinct dark lines of the folds met along the core of the blade, forming heart shaped patterns, the bottom point of one of the hearts matching up perfectly with the tip of the blade. He’d originally planned on a spear head, but as he had worked and used far more Chitin than he had needed, it had slowly shaped into something different. He had seen a few around before, but now he had made one himself. He held the blade of a Glaive before him, still carefully gripped in the tongs. The blade was just about 19in (48cm) long, broader at where it’d attach to the shaft with a single edged blade, leading to a point along a slight curve.

Once it was cool enough to hold in his hand, he inspected it more closely. He wasn’t sure how to gauge the quality of the material itself, being his first time working with anything magical, let alone something that wasn’t actually metal. What he could judge was that there were no cracks or warping of the material, no wave in the blade with a straight spine. Careful testing with his hands and he found it was surprisingly light and springy, but a quick test with an iron file didn’t even marr the blade. Retrieving the rest of the pieces, he started assembling the Glaive. He selected a haft, this one was 7ft (2m) long, the longest of the ones he had prepared. He affixed it to the haft, a socket-shaft configuration unlike the tangs of the similar Naginata. He used the treated silk to make sure everything was wrapped tightly after using a pin made from leftover material to affix the blade even more tightly. The Silverwood seemed to shimmer as the weapon was made whole, well, mostly whole. It still needed a leather wrap on the handle for Kahari to be satisfied, but it was usable now. With a smile, he placed the finished piece on the table, and went to go turn off the forges.

He found his limbs weak, his legs felt like they were made from jelly. Eyes wide, he glanced at his status and found his SP drained completely. Additionally he was ‘Dehydrated - Minor’ ‘Sleep Deprived - Minor” and ‘Exhausted’. He gathered his things and stumbled out of the door, new weapon gripped loosely in his hand. As he made his way back to the front desk, a woman with a single cyclopean eye was behind the desk. She was just as big as the Ogre man, and when she looked up from some wood she was idly carving, and saw Kahari, she just waved him over. She scanned his badge and glanced at his timer.

“That was cutting it close, ten more minutes and you’d be out of time. We’ll store that time for you, now go get some rest.”

She chided him almost like a concerned but practiced mother, if Kahari had to guess, other crafters often did similar things.

“And if you’re using a stamina enhancing tool again, make sure you have some food and water or it’ll stop working. Now shoo!”

She waved him off and into the elevator. As it dinged down to his floor, he found a worried Bedora, Nissa, and Chara talking in front of his door with hushed tones. Well, hushed for Bedora and Nissa, normal for Chara.

“Uh-”

“There you are! We were worried about you!”

Bedora spotted him first and moved up to him before trapping him in a massive hug.

“Next time you plan on disappearing like that, tell us! You were missing for two days!”

“Can’t...breathe…”

Kahari gasped out before Bedora let him go, feet falling back to the floor. He almost fell over in the process. Bracing on the wall, Nissa looked sour as Chara approached, a worried look clear even in the shadows of her hood.

“Where were you?!”

I thought someone took you.

“I uhh...making this.”

He held out the Glaive for them to inspect. He was pale and shaky, but after some food and sleep, he’d be alright. Bedora took it and held it in her hands. She tested it’s balance, inspected both blade and haft and nodded.

“Okay, something like this needs a name. It’s well made.”

“Probably has a good enchantment capacity.”

Nissa offered her own thoughts as Kahari furrowed his brow. A name? He hadn’t even thought of one. He looked at the weapon for a moment before one sprang to mind. He tested it in his head first, before nodding.

“What about...Heartseeker?”

“Heartseeker? Uhh...I think it works alright. It’s up to you though, it’s your weapon.”

That’s right, it was his weapon. A weapon all his own. Not borrowed, looted, or from some old armory. A weapon of his own hands, for his hands. He took Heartseeker back, gazing at the weapon before Bedora pushed him to his room.

“Drink some water then sleep. You’ve got three days to rest before we head east. Use them, and get to know your new weapon there.”

“Yes ma-”

Don’t yes ma’m me!

Her voice was unusually stern and Kahari just nodded, before stumbling his way into his room. He drained a jug of water, put Heartseeker on a table, and dropped face first into his bed. He was quickly overtaken by darkness, and for once, his sleep was undisturbed by visions, nightmares, or memories of lives gone.

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