Chapter 232 - Convalescence (2)

“I said it once, and I’ll say it again. This is stupid. I’m going to check up on the kids.”

Everyone stares at Selis, who has done nothing but pace around since she regained full control of her faculties. “Look,” she continues, obviously exasperated by everyone’s lack of ability to understand. “Ferah is bound to have annoyed half of them. Flor surely has stolen something again, while Kosie is probably lost in the desert, counting her six billionth grain of sand, not aware of, or even seeing, the desert mutant that’s about to eat her.”

Every single conscious person stares at Selis. Even the two dragons that managed to wake up, Keeneff and Ka-Gaar, are looking at the flustered girl.

“And Corl must have managed to find some way to injure himself. There’s no way that little masochist can go a single day without losing a limb. And of course, Willa is right behind him, steering him away from the worst stuff while furthering her own agenda. The conniving little pointy-eared…” Selis stops pacing again. She also hides her fingers behind her body, suddenly pretending like she wasn’t anxiously biting her nails. “Screw all of you! Teach is doing fine, and I can beat him up later. I’m leaving!”

Selis stomps off, followed by every single pair of eyes that is not completely focussed on smithing.

I don’t even dare to look at the girl as she leaves. I have to keep my full attention on the most evil, the purest of blacks, the most despicable of all things that ever was, is, and will be - namely this shitty little hammer. I have no idea why, but the moment I started hammering with it, it stopped trying to kill everything. From the first time I lifted it into the air with the purpose of using it to shape metal, it seemed sated.

And the worst thing is, I have no idea whether or not that was pure coincidence. Stopping with the hammering now will have one of two results. One, everything will be fine. The hammer was simply sated, had taken in enough qi the moment I started bashing my sword with it. Two, and this one seems more likely to me, the moment I stop, it will continue killing everything and everyone.

Either way, it’s been half a day since I started hammering, and I haven’t dared to stop since. I think it’s been half a day, anyway. I’m not sure how long it’s been, as Database is still gone. Its body, Tree’s moon, is still lying on top of Tree’s lands, just off to the side. That also goes for the toxic moon, which isn’t doing Tree’s ecosystem any favours by melting large stretches of land. At least, I once again think so. I haven’t dared to look up from my hammer work.

I just know that those two small celestial bodies are a problem, as that’s what Tree is constantly whining about. It keeps bugging me about the many stretches of land crushed beneath Database’s white body, or the massive tally of trees, plants, animals, and mushrooms reduced to goop by the toxic moon. Rhea has also been bugging me about a lot of stuff. My students are only now ceasing with the continuous stream of insults and banal questions they have been hurling at me. And those two dragons only added fuel to the fire of insulting me. And yet, I haven’t even dared to entertain the thought of responding to them, afraid that even the barest slip of my smithing fury will let the greed of the hammer return.

And actually, I’m totally fine with them spewing vitriol at me. I more than deserve some of it for messing up and saddling them with part of the chaotic aftermath, after all. The Flight are entirely correct, I totally forcefully conscripted them into a survival game from hell. Tess and Ket are also correct in that it would have been pathetically easy to prevent their overlapping teleports to their respective towns. Yes, yes, I can only nod along as my sins are laid bare.

The only thing that I cannot stand in my current situation comes from a much fluffier corner, though. Lola - probably woken from a combination of rising qi levels and my loud hammering - is staring at my sword. If I ever doubted the existence of the link between her and my door-sized slab of metal I use as a weapon, I no longer do so. She is totally ignoring the massive blasts of superheated air and fire that explodes from the sword when I hammer its fiery side. She is entirely unphased by the shards of ice that spontaneously emerge when I work on the ice-cold side. Instead, she just sits there, staring at the blade with her little annoyingly cute and beady eyes.

And here she comes again. I grit my teeth, the small hope that I could get this one past her quickly wilting. I started hammering without much of a plan, to be honest. Only when I was a couple of dozen hammer strikes into reforging my sword did it cross my mind to work towards improving the thing. Originally built for the sole purpose of chopping, pre-cooking, and freezing large and tasty beast hordes, I never really thought this hunk of metal would serve any other purpose.

Yet the hammer wasn’t content with just letting me hammer away randomly. No, it basically forced me to start working towards some form of a goal. I felt its dissatisfaction when I randomly struck the sword on the anvil, and it forcefully encouraged me to employ traditional smithing techniques to improve the blade.

And Lola caught wind of it, and now the little shit is interfering. I’ve been working on the handle for the past hour, trying to force the straight smooth piece of round metal into a more ergonomic shape. I was planning on hammering in a complex weave pattern, to simulate wire wrappings for added grip. I’m nearly done with the first wave, so to say, the rough shape of interwoven threads already roughed out. I’m carefully hammering out the last series of delicate decorations, and Lola must have smelled that I’m nearly done. The pattern I create now, I will have to repeat across the entire handle.

I feel like crying as Lola carefully extends her paw. The little animal has never been good at fine control, so why is she capable of such delicate work all of a sudden? I watch on with tears in my eyes as the distinctly neutral wire pattern twists into new shapes. Lola’s horn shines brightly with blue and orange as she uses it to carve cute little leaf patterns. One engraved fibre bundle warps into a series of round hearts, while cartoon paw prints form another band of adorable texture.

I then spend the next couple of hours repeating the same kid-friendly pattern over the entire handle. Each time I even think about changing it back into something manly, Lola hops closer and starts forming her horn threateningly.

For over ten hours now, I’ve been forced to engrave cute little leaf patterns, adorable bunny prints, and girly iconography all over the sword. As if the two cartoonish bunny heads weren’t enough. As if the super cute little bunny paw at the pommel of my blade wasn’t hard enough to hide already!

“Rhea! Please take Lola away from here! I can’t stand this any longer, please, I beg you!” Once again futilely begging the dragoness, I resume imploring her with tear-filled eyes.

“No! That row of hearts is way too sweet. Lola, be a dear and incorporate some dragon scales in there, maybe some cute fangs?”

Lola and Rhea then have a small staring contest. I don’t know who wins until a while later. By this time, I’m done with the handle, which now looks like it could fit into a small little girls bedroom. I hammer listlessly on the pommel, hoping for something better than cute bunny ears or a cartoonish snout. A lovely dragon head forms under my blows, Lola manipulating her energy at levels even I would have trouble with while helping me shape the metal.

“Aww, that’s adorable. Thanks, you little fluff ball! Look, it’s me, in dragon form!”

“Please don’t encourage her!” I beg.

“Hey Lola, how about some adorable daggers? Look, this could be cute.” I look up briefly and see Tess holding a black pattern between her fingers. Stumpy daggers interlock in a thickly lined pattern, and I can just see Lola eyeing my blade for where it would be best placed.

And the worst thing is, my fullblade is undoubtedly getting a lot stronger. I’d placed all its atoms in the most optimal of metallic crystalline patterns. Every single shard of alloy and structural piece of reinforcement is designed for structural strength and material efficiency.

And yet, somehow, with every hammer blow I bring down on the thing, its aura grows slightly stronger. What used to be a solid hunk of metal interwoven with silver and mana stone is now a lot thinner. The mana crystals are slowly but surely interweaving through the metal, the edge between alloy and energetic medium fading slowly.

It’s shrunken down to an ordinary blade thickness at this point, while it retained all of its weight. The qi inside it flows smoother with each hammer blow, an organic quality improving the mechanical efficiency it was previously operating with.

And yet, I can’t really be happy about it. Half the blade is now covered in a bunny print that would look childish on a five-year-old girl. The tapered edge has a fur and leaf pattern that just screams to be coloured in with crayon by some enthusiastic three years old. The handle is now an intricate weave of hearts, bunnies, paws, and more absolutely adorable stuff.

I really thought that the four bunny head prints and the paw pommel was bad at first. Please come back, my innocent opinion from back then, please save me from this hello-kitty-level murder weapon!

More tears drop from my eyes, quenching parts of the sword that have grown too hot under my constant hammering.

“He seems really sad,” comments Vox.

“It kind of hurts, looking at this…” Tess says hesitatingly.

“That all of our combined efforts hurt him less than his own pet rabbit?” asks Ket.

“Yeah, this is awesome, but demeaning on a whole different level. Revenge is supposed to be sweet. I’m just feeling uncomfortable seeing him in this state.”

My tears continue to flow as each hurtful sentence spewed from my students’ mouth stabs another cute little dagger into my heart.

“Ket, let’s go. Re-Haan, please make teleporting free for us. No need to waste points on that now.”

“Ah, sure. Every one of the foundation realm, you just need a one time fee,” comes Rhea’s leisurely voice. I can hear the fact that she’s relaxing in a lounge chair while sipping on some drink.

“That works. Come Ket. I wanna see how that iron-loving mayor Elbogar is doing.”

“Let’s visit the northern town after. I’m curious how you managed all those useless noble factions. Teach, we’ll be back to discuss Nexus later.”

I sense Ket and Tess walk towards Tree, where they disappear with a soft pop of displaced air.

“I…” comes Angeta’s voice, “I’ve got to go and check whether or not those lazy primitives let any of those disgusting beasts through. Also, Re-Haan, your order will be taking a while longer, sorry about that.”

“It’s fine. Unforeseen circumstances and all that. Can you try to create a new fabric for this chair? It’s getting worn out.”

“Ooh, this is nicely made. It folds! Yeah, sure. I’ll get some people on this. Bye,” is the last thing I hear Angeta say before she also vanishes with a whoosh.

One by one, my students all abandon me, leaving me alone with a rabbit that's way too focussed on ruining a sword it’ll never wield anyway, an enabling sadistic dragon, and some more unconscious people.

I swear I saw Bassik, Rityn, Ares, Rodrick, and a few more hanging around. But then again, I also saw a couple of those students faint from being in the mere proximity of the qi sucking hammer. My theory is proven correct a while later, as I hear the colourful married couple of braincore and eyecore bickering about where to go first. They also leave, but not before spitting in my direction.

“So, Re-Haan. You will tell your senior who came up with this plan of kidnapping the entire Flight.” A rough voice that I don’t recognise sounds out.

“Hey, hairy dude. Wanna fight?” That’s Bord. Why hasn’t that fat-ass left yet?

“Who's that, Tooth Bord?” comes a female voice I also don’t recognise.

“No, you insignificant fat human. I do not want-” A sudden beat down shuts the shouting person up. Fighting sounds come from the side, and I once again curse this hammer for demanding my full attention.

“Now that the younger generation is playing, Re-Haan, how about we talk some serious business,” says the older sounding dragon.

“I’m not calling you ancestor anymore, Ka-Gaar.”

I hear the frustrated grinding of teeth from over here, you know. Of course, this ancient fossil of a dragon is going to mind that Rhea doesn’t want to honour him anymore, just because he hatched earlier.

Wait, do dragons come from eggs? Did Rhea hatch from an egg? Will she lay eggs? I try to banish the thoughts, and suddenly see that I’ve been hammering a nice decorative series of cracking cartoon eggs along the blade. Now the hammer is psychologically torturing me? Lola looks between the egg decorations, my face, and Rhea for a few moments. She then seems to nod before continuing her little nap.

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