Third tier already.
Shayma never thought that she’d make it to third tier before her mom. Sienne had always seemed absurdly competent, and really still did. Even if Shayma technically was going to out-level her mother she didn’t have anywhere near the sheer practical experience that came with years of adventuring. It was only due to Blue’s gifts that she was advancing so quickly, and she knew she wasn’t anywhere near as practiced with all her Skills as someone her level really should be.
That didn’t make it any less exciting. It did amuse her that it wasn’t the fight against the dragons that put her over the top, but showing off to Emperor Wright. Somehow that seemed only appropriate, though. Her Class wasn’t purely for combat, but rather for leading other people around by the nose.
The Core Recall pulled her back to the beach house in the southern part of the Caldera, where Blue kept his Companion-specialized Core. She always used it for leveling, usually at the end of the day so she could sleep on the upgrades, though she was well aware that her situation was unique, and the sleep wasn’t exactly necessary. Blue’s core readjusted her at the time, which was an odd but thrilling sensation as she felt everything shift and improve.
This time when she let Blue’s core level her, the feeling was far more intense. Her second tier transition was like five levels all at once, but this was something far greater. She could feel her Skills shifting around, some of the strain from having so many of them easing as they connected to each other. While she could pull up her own Status with [Abstract Mana Shaping], her access to Blue’s Status meant she could directly see his feedback for her tier-up.
Shayma Ell Class evolves to [Trickster Imperatrix]. 2 trait points awarded.
[Seeker (Greater)] and [Luck] merge to [Quest]: Choose a goal, and you will find guidance on your path toward it.
[Liminality], [Dungeon Weaponry], [Phantom Presence] and [Awareness] merge to [Domain of the Trickster]: Within your domain, reality is your plaything. You can create illusions with physical form, project dungeon weapons and abilities, and alter the apparent nature of people or things. Even when not in use, your perception within this domain is total. Rank set to 1.
[Combat Shapeshifting], [Lesser Shapeshifting], [Eidolon Body], and [Body Reinforcement] merge to [Form of Thought, Shape of Will]: You can change your shape as you wish. Your mana naturally infuses your body to make it stronger, but with further expenditure you can significantly increase your physical capacity. This Skill aids in quickly learning combat abilities in any shape. Rank set to 1.
[Dungeon Smithing], [Alchemy], and [Weaving] combine to [Dungeon Crafting]: Hard work leads to good work. Allows for use of all dungeon crafting stations. Aids in learning crafting techniques and improves integration of experience held in dungeon crafting areas. Rank set to 1.
[Phantasmal Path] upgrades to [Wake of the Phantasmal]: You can walk beside the world in the realm of the phantasmal. You can teleport short distances, or travel very quickly close to reality. If you travel deep into the realm of the phantasmal, you may cross vast distances at the cost of being imprecise about where you emerge. You may create a Wake anywhere within your [Domain of the Trickster] that allows anyone to follow the path you take for some length of time. Rank set to 1.
[Legerdemain] upgrades to [Phantom Form]: Your reach exceeds your grasp; your step exceeds your stride. Your ability to touch and manipulate extends outward from your entire body for a short distance. Rank set to 1.
[Phantom Pocket] upgrades to [Pocket Space]: You have access to a small space tied to you. If you wish, you may create a temporary opening to this space. Rank set to 1.
No wonder she felt so much less strained, if more than half her Skills and Abilities had settled in and merged with each other. It was a shame [Mana Manipulation], [Abstract Mana Shaping], and [Wisdom] hadn’t evolved, but that might happen yet, and she had to admit she didn’t use pure mana abilities too extensively.
The new [Domain of the Trickster] was the most profound of the Skill shifts, the feedback reminding her a bit of when Blue had fed her some of his perception, though vastly reduced in scope. She had perhaps a twenty-foot sphere where her senses found everything, whether she was looking at it or not, though of course she could see and hear beyond that in the usual way.
She stretched her illusions out through the sphere, finding them to be incredibly easy to create. An illusion of herself picked up an empty glass from her bedside table and tossed it to her. She tossed it back. Then she altered the glass to look like a ball, a duck, a miniature Core, feeling how the illusion masked the reality even when the illusion was far smaller than the original. Shayma turned it back to a duck and let it fly around the room, then stopped the illusion and caught the glass as it fell.
“Damn, that’s impressive,” Blue said.
“Yeah!” She replied, flipping out a hand and opening a Wake in front of her. She could feel the hole into the Phantasmal, though it looked more like a flickering haze that only hinted at the nature of the Phantasmal realm. Then she teleported normally, feeling how she could link that up with the wake — or not, depending. Shielding her own Status was the same as before, but that same trick of anti-divination now worked in that entire sphere, which would probably give Cheya fits when she found out. She could even make One-Eye-Green look like a humankin to a sigil stone, though what fake Status she’d give the Scalemind she didn’t know.
Shayma moved onto the shifting. [Form of Thought, Shape of Will] was a name to be expected from a fourth-tier Skill instead of third, but obviously the Blue-given class had already broken a number of rules so she wasn’t surprised. Transforming her hands and feet was quicker and easier than before, and it seemed to resonate with her illusionary Domain. If nothing else, she could use that interaction to convince her clothes not to rip when she changed.
From the ordinary, limited shapeshifting of before she moved onto the full-body shifting. She’d discussed it with Ansae before, so as long as she kept to lower-mana changes she was certain enough about the process. First she reformed herself to Keri, then Annit, then shook her head and changed back to herself. Becoming other people just felt wrong, both because she was in the body of someone she knew and because it felt like a fake shell rather than a true shapeshift. Deciding to be more adventurous, she reshaped herself into a Scalemind, a Scythe Sister, though she decided on a fox-colored red for her scale colorings rather than dark green.
Strangely, her mind prickled, the exact same way it did when she wore the telepathy circlet. It took her a moment really bring herself to believe the obvious — she was a Scalemind, so naturally she had, to some extent, their intrinsic mind magic. Not that there was anyone around, and unpracticed as she was it would probably be a bad idea to try it, considering how powerful that magic could be. Once again she reverted, and the prickle faded, so at least she knew it was intrinsic to the form and not a sudden and permanent addition. That was fascinating and made the Scythe Sister form quite powerful, but Shayma was glad that she could always shift back and have hand.
“You’re just completely absurd now,” Blue told her with obvious pride. “If I had to guess I’d say your Skills are at least a tier ahead.”
“Oh yes, these are amazingly powerful.” Shayma stretched, feeling energetic and refreshed. “Maybe I should try sparring with Iniri. See what my fresh third-tier versus her fresh fourth-tier is like.”
“That would be neat, if it’s safe anyway,” Blue said, though he did sound worried for her. “It will probably have to wait until after the summit, unless you want to show off to everyone.”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She waved her hand dismissively. Sometimes Blue’s absolute political deafness was astounding, but that was why he consulted with them. “Actually, I think I’d like to go try these out for real. I’m sure Keri and Annit would appreciate being rescued from having to deal with her family. They seem nice enough, but they press.”
“Sure, it looks like everyone is mostly haggling with each other over new tariff percentage points anyway. And Wright is watching his lion run around like a giant winged kitten.” Shayma snorted. Wright had not been what she was expecting from an emperor. For some reason she’d been thinking he’d be more like Vok Nal, but as yet she hadn’t run into any ruler quite as domineering.
“Sounds like we can spare a few hours in the Underneath,” she said, and pulled on the teleport Blue had linked to her. Sure enough, she found Annit and Keri being imposed upon by the Esox component of the Nivir delegation, though they were at least diplomatic enough not to be pushing Keri directly to try and take up Tekaomi’s role. Instead, they were discussing this and that thing about her home in Nivir, which Shayma thought was rather more cruel than just pestering her directly.
“I need to borrow these two for a while,” Shayma broke in, and Annit gave her a grateful look. Bertram Esox gave them a startled nod and she took that for enough permission to pull her friends out of the summit and back to their house. Blue had moved it into the Caldera, still in the middle of nowhere but there was some discussion of simply moving into the Village.
“Whew,” Keri said. “I had forgotten how smothering mom and dad were! I know they haven’t seen me for years, but still.”
“I hadn’t,” Annit said, without any rancor. “What did you need us for?”
“Oh, I thought I’d just free you up and we could take a break to do some adventuring down in the Underneath,” Shayma told them, then couldn’t help an enormous grin. “I reached third tier! I want to try everything out!”
“Here I knew you when you were level one,” Annit said, half-grouchy and half-admiring.
“We’ll get you two to the third tier soon enough,” Shayma assured them. Even with the Depletion hindering her growth Annit was doing fairly well with her new weapon. It helped that she had Shayma to tinker with it, and at this point it was something she could fire faster than her old blowgun and with more force, though it wasn’t as good as it might be if she could conjure the ice directly.
“I’d much rather work on that than deal with the Esox,” Annit said with relief, heading into the house to change into her adventuring gear.
“Me too,” Keri confessed to Shayma before following after. They were back out in short order, properly geared and with Annit looking considerably more cheerful. Shayma used Blue’s teleports again, this time to get them all down to where the Scalemind had set up their pseudo-village.
When she’d first arrived, they hadn’t set up anything more elaborate than firepits, and sometimes not even those, preferring the natural cave and a couple of underground streams. Since One-Eye-Green, Dreams-Ahead, and Cuts-Like-Cold had started visiting the Village, there had been a few changes as some of the more enterprising Scythe Sisters had tried carving blocks of stone out of the walls. There’d been a lot more of that since the last time she visited, and she pursed her lips looking them over.
「Hey, Taelah? I think we might need to send some people down to show the Scalemind how to build things properly.」 She looked around at the big cavern Blue had made for them and shrugged. “Blue, I think you’ll need to give the Scalemind a quarry and a forest,” she said aloud. He certainly could have just made houses for them but relying on a dungeon to do things for them seemed at odds with their goal. Blue could make walls and furniture before he started bending things severely, so the simple furnishings found in Great Dungeons were likely provided to the monsters, and the idea was to move as far away from that as possible.
“Oooh, good point,” Blue said. “Or maybe I should expand downward and see if I can’t get some Underneath wood types. I know they exist.”
「Certainly! I’ll see who’s interested. Now that we’ve gotten used to those three, I expect people will be more amenable to helping out. After the summit, though, we have enough work for now.」 Taelah replied, slightly behind Blue. She was probably juggling some Elder work or maybe just scrubbing dishes. For all that she didn’t go adventuring, Taelah was far busier than Shayma ever was.
「Thanks!」 Shayma sent back, then walked forward to meet One-Eye-Green as the Scalemind ran up to them.
“Hello!” One-Eye-Green chirped cheerfully. “How are things going in the Above!” It wasn’t really a question, since despite the circlet that she was wearing One-Eye-Green still picked up surface thoughts and would have known if any of them were in a bad mood. “Oh no! Keri is unhappy why?”
“Hello, Greenie!” Keri said, and got a hug from One-Eye-Green. “Just family issues, that’s all.”
“We came down here to do some quick adventuring,” Annit said, checking over her bowgun. “Shayma there tiered up.”
“Oooh? What can you do now?” One-Eye-Green asked. She knew about Classes and Skills as much as any Adventurer did, even if she didn’t have any herself.
“How about this?” Shayma said, using her Domain to make One-Eye-Green look like a fox-kin while shifting herself into a Scythe Sister. The prickle returned, only this time with all the Scalemind around it was far more intense. The quiet cavern suddenly became full of raucous chatter and shouting, even more intensely then when she had worn the telepathy circlet.
“Oh!” One-Eye-Green said. “I’m a soft thing!” She reached up and petted her own ears, making Keri giggle. Annit lifted her eyebrows at Scalemind-Shayma.
“So full shapeshifting now?”
“Among other things.” She actually had to shift back to answer, since the Scythe Sister mouth was not capable of some of the sounds of speech. Since One-Eye-Green seemed amused to be a fox-kin, even in illusion, Shayma left that on for the moment. Within the Domain it was simple enough.
“Follow me.” She said, and stepped into the Phantasmal Realm, this time leaving behind a Wake rather than grabbing her companions to haul them through. It was probably something she should have explained but she was just so eager to show off that she didn’t think it through.
Fortunately, she didn’t have to go back and tell them, since her three adventuring companions stepped through the Wake and into the Phantasmal with little more than a few seconds’ pause. In the Phantasmal Realm, the Wake was obvious, a clear path through the otherwise hazy forms that composed the Realm. She beckoned them onward, heading downward to the lowway beneath Blue’s territory.
It was an immense tunnel, partly worked and partly natural, with rough walls and ceiling but a paved floor, cut from large blocks of what Shayma thought was dungeon stone. There wasn’t any illumination in that part of the lowway, all the normal sources of Underneath illumination stripped bare by the Scalemind and other scavengers. She flooded her Domain with sourceless light, revealing enormous swaths of bare stone and a number of black openings where passageways went down into the depths.
“Where were we?” She asked One-Eye-Green. Since they were being proper adventurers, their primary goal was surveying unexplored tunnels and dealing with any mindless creatures. The Scalemind were so attuned to their mind magic that they did not have much tracking or surveillance experience dealing with things like animate plants. Or even things like pockets of bad air, which was something Annit could spot from hundreds of yards away.
“Tunnel Seventeen!” One-Eye-Green said, so they all turned to the odd side of the low-way and even a hundred feet away Shayma could read the scratches beside each of the openings. They trooped over to the tunnel in question, which dropped sharply downward and looked like it had been bored by a stonewyrm rather than cut by more intelligent inhabitants. Annit pulled a coil of rope and a piton from her pack and tossed them to Shayma, who hammered them into place at the top of the tunnel.
“I’m planning on this being backup,” she said, as everyone took ahold of the rope. One-Eye-Green had to be especially careful, even if it was supposed to be tough enough to stand up to her claws. “My illusion abilities are even better now, so…” She waved at the tunnel and conjured a steep staircase within her Domain. “Everyone should be able to walk on that.”
“That does make things easier,” Annit admitted, but they all still kept ahold of the rope as they descended. Shayma didn’t dim the light of her Domain until natural illumination from one of the innumerable pocket caverns that dotted the Underneath began to filter into the tunnel, some hundred or so yards away from the entrance. Most of the light came from creeping vines with red and orange leaves that crawled across the ceiling until they vanished into some hanging moss fifty yards off, but there was also a green glimstone half-swallowed by a near-spherical bush of some sort not more than three feet from the entrance.
The bush hissed at them.
Keri’s magic shield flicked up before Shayma could mention the thorns, blocking the sudden rattle of nasty-looking projectiles from the bush. Annit fired her bowgun a moment later, her ice-tipped bolt cutting straight through black leaves and blue branches to detonate inside the foliage. The ice effectively shredded the bush and One-Eye-Green took a few quick steps forward and hauled it out of the ground, ripping the glimstone from the bush with brutal ferocity. Then she dropped the still weakly writhing plant and came back with the glimstone, looking happy.
“I hate those,” Keri said.
“Can’t even eat them,” One-Eye-Green agreed, offering the glimstone to Shayma. She opened a portal to her new [Pocket Space], which looked rather like one of Blue’s portals and One-Eye-Green peered into it before tossing the stone inside at Shayma’s instruction. Even at first level, it was a larger space than her old [Phantom Pocket]. They moved carefully into the cavern, Annit in the lead and listening carefully for any potential threats. Small lizards and insects scurred away into the spongy undergrowth of mushrooms and dark bushes and ferns. The cavern floor dropped away further as they moved forward, giving enough space for small Underneath saplings to sprout, some from the ceiling and some from the floor. Dark red leaves reacted to the sound of their movement, folding in on themselves to create a hard armor over the trees as they passed.
“Burning ahead,” Annit said suddenly, and they slowed down, Keri’s magic altering slightly to deal with potential burn injuries. There were plenty of fire and volcanic Affinity things in the Underneath, and it wasn’t even entirely unusual to run across a pocket of molten stone or boiling mud. Equally likely was some frozen lake or ice-crusted column, not in this case.
The source came into Shayma’s Domain before any of them could see it, a trail of fire Affinity slime winding through a burrow cut beneath the rock. She illuminated it for them, superimposing it on the ground so they could avoid walking directly above something that might have been weakened by a creature passing through.
“Heat-gorger,” One-Eye-Green said suddenly. The number of Underneath creatures the Scalemind knew was almost endless, to the point where it was almost useless. At least, it was for One-Eye-Green, who didn’t quite know what to expect in which part of the Underneath. But she was pretty good at identifying them when they appeared, or sometimes even before they appeared. “They like hot, don’t like cold.”
“Excellent.” Annit grinned widely as she hefted her bowgun. The heat-gorger itself came into view a few moments later, a nightmarish cross of slug and spider in dark red tones that was literally taking bites out of a flame rising from a vent at the far end of the cavern. The fire Affinity plants around it were already starting to wither. It didn’t deign to notice them as they arrived, probably because they weren’t nearly as hot as the actual fire.
They exchanged hand signals and Shayma drifted forward alongside One-Eye-Green. The slug-spider didn’t look like it had much of a mind, but if it had enough of one for One-Eye-Green she’d try and hold it still for an initial shot from Annit, at which point things would go as they went. A quick identification rune with [Abstract Mana Shaping] showed the beast was level 54 — high enough to be worth it for their level of party.
One-Eye-Green waved a clawed hand and the heat-gorger froze mid-chew. Annit’s bowgun chuffed and spat a bolt that caught the thing in its neck, resulting in a scream at a volume that made Shayma damp it down inside her Domain just to keep it from bursting their eardrums. It turned with surprising speed and launched itself at them, but Shayma was already moving. She teleported just above the heat-gorger and dropped, shifting herself to be mostly [Cultivated Steel] and landing on the thing’s back with all the weight of a Shayma-sized block of metal.
It screamed again as it squished unpleasantly beneath her, to no greater effect than before, while Annit’s bowgun continued to puff as she sank ice-tipped bolts into the thing. Then it exploded, or it seemed like that for a moment, a blast of liquid fire bursting out of its body and swamping everything and everyone nearby. Annit cursed, and One-Eye-Green made a sort of squeaking noise.
Shayma herself was unbothered, since [Form of Thought, Shape of Will] meant that she could render herself fireproof at will, but her companions weren’t so lucky. With Keri’s healing there wouldn’t be any permanent damage except to their clothes, but there was no need to worry about that when Shayma had the tools to deal with it. She flickered them insubstantial, since they were both inside her Domain, and let them jump away from the pools of burning fluid. Keri’s mana shield had pushed it away from her own feet, so she alone had no issue.
After that, between shifting her arms to poleaxes and Annit’s bolts, it didn’t take long to down it. One-Eye-Green couldn’t get in much actual damage, but she concentrated on keeping the heat-gorger from using its fire splash thing again, which more or less eliminated any real threat from it. On the other hand, it didn’t seem to have a brain or anything particularly vulnerable under the squishy hide so they had to put a lot of holes in it before it finally went still.
“I’m going to need better tools if we want to harvest something like this,” Annit said, frowning at the corpse, which seemed to be slowly dissolving into the burning liquid. It would melt Annit’s knives, or at least ruin them, and even Shayma didn’t carry a container that would properly contain the blood or whatever it was.
“I’ll make you a new set of tools from some of Blue’s stuff the next time I’m free,” Shayma agreed. So far the tunnels they’d delved into had more earth-oriented or at least solid creatures, and Annit was missing out on an awful lot of Class experience by not properly harvesting the corpse. Then a thought occurred to her and she grinned widely. “In fact, I think I have an even better idea.”
An hour later and several unsalvageable corpses later, even though Shayma did try her best with shifted limbs, they decided to just go make the new dismantling tools and be done with it. Or rather, wait for Shayma to convince Wright to make dismantling tools. She had thought it was a fantastic solution, but Annit was somewhat less sanguine.
“He’s the Emperor of Ir. I can’t believe you want to waste his time on knives and guthooks,” Annit muttered.
“Honestly I can’t think of a better thing to make. Most of the important stuff I need forged I’m going to use firmament for anyway, so there’s no point in asking him. Besides, I can’t think of another single small thing that would be as useful.” Shayma grinned at Blue’s argument and shook her head at Annit.
“Even Blue thinks it’s a good idea. Wright might have offered to do some smithing work for me but he’s hardly going to make some impossible weapon from a few minutes of work. That’s Blue’s job.” She grinned and Blue laughed in her ear.
“Keri, Greenie, did you want to go with Shayma or stay with me while she deals with the nobility?” Annit said, then frowned. “Actually, it might be dangerous for One-Eye-Green, since Wright could probably accidentally breathe on her and kill her.”
“I don’t want meet someone like that!” One-Eye-Green said fervently. Shayma thought she could probably warn Wright, but it wasn’t worth the risk. Keri had looked undecided but when One-Eye-Green looked actually upset Keri gave the Scalemind a hug.
“We’ll stay at the Village and catch up with you later,” she said.
“Great,” Shayma said, and put her hand against the wall of the cavern. “Could you transport them back, Blue?”
“Sure thing,” he said, and a few moments later they vanished. A few moments after that, Blue recalled her to the beach house so she could use his teleport fields to return to the summit. “I’m really interested in seeing Wright craft,” he added. “If he’s a fifth tier blacksmith it’s got to be awesome to watch.”
When she appeared on the marble floor of the summit area, Wright was leaning on one of the balconies, watching Voigtsten fly around over the void. The winged lion was just a speck in the distance as Shayma stepped up next to Wright.
“You might want to make sure he doesn’t stray too far. There are a number of dragons in the middle of the Caldera,” she told him. They were a very, very long way away, but there was no telling how far and how fast a magical beast like Voigtsten might fly.
“Oh, he knows better,” Wright assured her. “He won’t go much further than that.”
“Do you have time to see Blue’s Phantasmal Field and do a bit of smithing now?”
“I always have time to do a bit of smithing.” Wright grinned. “Lead the way.”
Only Garus stuck with Wright as she waved them over to the teleport area, pulling them over to the Smithery area. It was still fairly simple, basically a large box room with polished stone walls and filled with Blue’s Metallurgy stuff as well as more normal smithy and forging stations. The Phantasmal box, for lack of a better term, was a relatively new addition next to the anvil, but that wasn’t what caught Wright’s attention.
“I’ve never seen anything like these!” Wright said, running his fingers along the Alloy Crystal before peering at the Infusion Crystal. “I can tell they’re meant for metals but even [The Crucible] is having a hard time identifying them.”
“Nor will you see them anywhere else,” Shayma said, not bothering to explain what they were. She could use them, but Wright could not, and he’d have to stick to using the ingots already on the shelves and the more mundane forge and anvil. The emperor took her proclamation in stride and looked around, then bounded over to the wall that stored all the metals.
“What is this!?” Wright said, holding up a tiny cylinder. The spare [Firmament].
“Oops,” said Blue.
“Something that is not for sale,” Shayma said firmly, suppressing a little thread of panic. She’d actually forgotten that her Smithery held all of the more esoteric stuff.
“Damn.” Wright said, putting it back before his eyes latched on the Ingot of Promise, which he picked up and actually hugged. “How did you…? I guess when you’re a Power you find all kinds of things over the centuries.” That made Shayma relax a little. If Wright accepted that Powers just had these things sometimes, that helped, though it was amusing that he thought Blue had been around for a long time. Certainly not an impression that they would correct.
Wright mostly seemed excited about the rarities that Ansae had traded Blue, probably because he’d seen all the Affinity metals and gems before, and Garus leaned against the wall rolling his eyes so hard it was nearly audible. Fortunately, there weren’t any of the other supermaterials lying around the Smithery, so most of the materials were far more believable. By the time he made it over to the forge and anvil he’d seen everything Shayma had stocked.
“I’m actually surprised it’s so simple,” Wright said. “I expected something like my personal anvil, with all the enchanting and runes and mana feeds.”
“Oof. Yeah, I need to upgrade that for you. I’m sure there’s a lot I can do.” She could tell Blue was mortified by the gentle criticism, but she’d already thought of the issue and had a ready answer.
“That is my workstation, and I only just started learning smithing.” She told him. “I have some advantages, of course, but I haven’t had time for any significant projects. Blue plans to create something more elaborate eventually.”
“Ah, that does make sense. Best to start with the basics.” Wright nodded and turned to the Phantasmal box, peering at it curiously. “How does this work?”
“It lets you see the mana independent of the physical form,” Shayma told him. “Why don’t you try it? My friend needs new tools for dismantling things from the Underneath, like fire and water and glacial Affinity beasts. I hope the metal selection here will be enough for that.”
“Really?” Wright sounded almost incredulous as he turned to look at her. “Most people I agree to smith for want legendary weapons or armor. Or even royal regalia.”
“Neither Blue nor I are most people.” Shayma found putting on the air of mystery to be fun, especially when she wasn’t even lying.
“Why on earth did you get Trickster experience for that?” Blue muttered in her ear, and she grinned. Not only was playing the trickster fun, but with Blue telling her exactly when she got experience it helped a lot with leveling up. Less so with Skill use, but she was already cheating pretty flagrantly.
“Hmm, well, what Affinity does your friend use?” Wright asked, walking over to the shelf of materials and surveying it with a critical eye.
“Wind, for now, but she’s working toward Storm.” Shayma told him, and he nodded.
“Very well, let’s see what we have to work with.” Wright reached out and started grabbing ingots, flipping them over his shoulder where they landed without sound or bounce on the stone edge of the forge. He chose three each of Steelwoven Pyroclasm, Steelwoven Frost, and Mana Iron, as well as selecting a log of Crystallized Tayantan Wood and a selection of magical milky quartz and chalcedony, for wind and storm Affinities, respectively. Those went on the workbench next to the forge while he arranged the ingots within the forge itself.
Shayma watched in awe as he turned the Crystallized Tayantan Wood into handles with his belt knife, even though that clearly wasn’t part of smithing. The knife itself was clearly no ordinary blade, shining as it did with kinetic and metal Affinity mana, and it took less than a minute for Wright to cut the handles. It didn’t take much longer for him to cut the gems, rolling them between his palms to polish them from rough to gleaming in a matter of seconds before faceting them with his thumbs. She really hoped Blue was getting all this into the room’s knowledge because it was astoundingly impressive.
She was watching with her eyes, but she also used the perception of her Domain to focus on his work. Wright poked at the ingots a few times, then finally pulled them out to start work on them, hefting his hammer and bringing it down. Not only did the metal instantly flatten on the anvil, there was a flash of light and runes printed themselves on it. He repeated the process with all three ingots, and then began layering the three types of metal together.
It wasn’t just simple folding. There were patterns in the metal he was making, something more than the runes that flashed into the metal with each blow of his hammer. The layered metal got chopped into a number of smaller pieces, and he quickly began shaping them into the actual tools. More tools, in fact, than Annit had carried before and ones Shayma hadn’t seen before. As they took shape, however, she could see exactly what they were meant for.
He set some of them by the forge as he took one of the naked blades over to the Phantasmal box. It only took a word from her for him to understand how he needed to slide the blade in and then examine it closely. Then he blinked.
“Oh, this would make detail work easier.” He lifted his hammer again and brought it down, but with tiny, delicate motions rather than the powerful swings of earlier. She couldn’t tell exactly what he was adjusting, but he grunted and straightened after a few more taps. “This,” he said, pointing at the Phantasmal box, “is worth almost as much as the rest of your trade goods. Are you sure there’s no way I can get one?”
“No, but I might be willing to set up a place for him here as part of a trade deal.”
“Unfortunately, such things must remain here with Blue. That doesn’t mean he’s not willing to provide access to such whenever you are here, given sufficient incentive.” She had to work to keep the awe at his work out of her voice. He’d been working less than twenty minutes, and had casually created a toolset of superlative quality and with obviously deep knowledge of exactly how they were used.
“Bit far to travel on a whim,” Wright grumbled. “But I might take you up on that.”
“You know transportation isn’t an issue for Blue and I,” Shayma said. “Though obviously I have many demands on my time.”
“You know, Wright’s actually been a really good guy, he might be a good candidate for finally making a Gate. We’ll see. Don’t want to raise that just yet.”
“True. We’ll have to see what we can work out later.” He sighed, then shrugged and continued forging, quenching the metal in Blue’s chilled oil barrel. In short order he was attaching handles to blades, fixing them in place by manipulating the metal directly, and finishing up with a simple patterned inlay made from some Adamant Stone.
“That was amazing,” Shayma said, completely honestly.
“That is damn fine work. I’m pretty sure it’s got some nanoscale patterning in it,” Blue added.
“I had good materials to work with!” Wright said cheerfully. “What’s your friend’s name? These ought to last your friend into fifth tier at the very least,” he added, waving his hand at the tools laid out on the worktable. “Should be able to deal with most anything you could run into.”
“Her name is Annit,” Shayma said, taking a step forward and conjuring an identification rune.
[Annit’s Harvesting Tools]
Will consume mana to self-repair.
Highly resistant to heat, cold, and corrosion.
Significantly increases wielder’s resistance to heat, cold, and corrosion.
Significantly increases wielder’s senses and perception when harvesting.
Significantly increases all harvesting Skills.
Synergy bonus for wind Affinity: Improves wielder’s speed when using harvesting Skills.
Synergy bonus for storm Affinity: Improves wielder’s speed and strength when using harvesting Skills.
While they weren’t as absurd as Blue’s Artifacts, in some ways they were even more impressive. Those were a lot of bonuses, and they were all strong. Given how quickly he’d made those, she couldn’t imagine how many sets of absurd weaponry and armor the Emperor of Ir could make if he really set his mind to it. She was glad that Wright seemed to be on their side.