I keep my ears open while hammering. Sure, the blows of the little superheavy hammer are getting rather deafening, but my cultivation base is quickly refilling. It’s not being sucked dry constantly now. Protecting my ears in short bursts is a rather easy feat. Rhea and the old dragon Ka-Gaar are having a rather interesting discussion, and the ancient fossil of a transformed humanoid continues talking while I listen.
“The only thing I can say is that the training speed sped up immensely when we were shown the limits of our power. That still does not excuse the fact that you broke the contract.”
“What contract?” replies Rhea.
“I have not seen my weekly portion of booze. The only reason I even signed the thing is because of the delicious brew that came from the barrel. What I remember from the contract, and from what you said, is that there would be a weekly ration of this godly drink.”
“So you’re not angry that we kidnapped you? You only want the alcohol? No complaining about us dumping you all in your humanoid forms in the middle of a jungle?”
It’s silent for a while, and I’ve finished the egg decorations by the time Ka-Gaar replies. Deciding I might as well try, I start working on laying script in large font over the entire thing. Maybe I can cover it in formations, text, runes, and other iconography to such an extent the super cute background becomes unrecognisable?
“The Flight as it used to be isn’t going to survive. I knew that the moment you and those students fought us on the slopes of Flight Mountain and won. And your attempt at forcing us through control on the north pole was also not the solution. An admirable attempt, but one born out of foolishness and brashness.”
The hammer still isn’t satisfied with the work I’ve done so far, though. I feel like its complaining about having faulty stock to deal with. If I interpret the bloody hammer correctly, it really wants to flatten the sword into a large lump to make Damascus steel.
“Don’t tell me that you’re okay with being tricked like this?”
“Tricked? Wasn’t there a mutually agreeable exchange of goods?” The true surprise in the old dragon’s voice makes me look at the chatting pair briefly. The hammer immediately starts pulling on my qi, so I quickly continue hammering.
“You truly believe that a bit of alcohol is sufficient payment for what comes down to a forced draft?”
“I feel like saying yes wouldn’t be the brightest idea, from how you are looking at me. That expression means disbelief, right? Humanoid faces are so hard to read.”
“Yes, oh mighty Ancestor Ka-Gaar. My face is currently in a state of disbelief.”
“And that must be sarcasm! Hah, I am learning quickly, yes?”
Having changed my mind, I do my best to ignore the rather stupid sounding discussion happening off to the side as I keep hammering. Rhea continues to talk with Keeneff and Ka-Gaar, but I quickly lose interest as the conversation derails into analysing the contract the dragons signed. Bord also leaves, but not before talking with Lola for a bit. That conversation was even dumber than Rhea’s talk, so I don’t even bother listening.
No, I just keep hammering. To my horror, I see that the rather cool and fetching text I’ve been plastering on top of the cute designs is suddenly filled with flowers. The English word `KILL` is a lot less threatening with such a rounded and girly font. The bright blue and orange blossoms don’t help either.
Dejected that my plan backfired, I decide to give up and just go where the hammer and rabbit want me to take this sword. I lose myself in a smithing haze, not really caring about how the blade will look. Instead, I focus on form and function, trying to forget colour entirely. The original reason for creating this thing was to chop large animals. I still want to do that, but in order to make it a viable weapon in other situations, it will need to be more versatile.
So far, I’ve flattened the blade significantly, giving its previous geometric and rigid straightness some curves here and there. Its end is no longer a ruler sharpened on three sides, as I’ve hammered it into a sharp point. The fire inside the blade itself is more than sufficient to heat it up, but I feel like that isn’t even needed at this point. I’m guessing that the kinetic energy I’m pounding into the thing would be enough to keep its temperature high. I’ve kept the two spikes that act like handguards, as they do a lot to bring its centre of weight more towards the handle. I just curved them out a bit, giving my hands more room.
It’s starting to look more like a sword instead of a two by four someone sharpened. I feel like that should make me happy, but it’s tough to ignore the obnoxious decorations. It’s still as heavy as it was before, though. I know on a deep level that metal is as incompressible as it gets, but somehow this hammer doesn’t agree with that rule of nature. The edge now looks like it’s continually cutting space apart. The previous edge just looked honed to perfection. The newly curved cutting surfaces seem a little more than just sharp, and I haven’t even sharpened it yet. The constant flow of blue and orange power running along either side might have something to do with that, though.
All in all, I’m pretty sure that I’m crafting a masterpiece on more than one level. The formations, no matter how they look, contain powerful truths in them. Lola is not just messing with me, I’m pretty sure, but is also helping by imparting her instinctual knowledge of cutting and kicking into the thing.
Tree is still represented, the large silver inlay now constantly glowing golden, its detailed representation carved in bas-relief.
Just when I lose myself into admiring the detailed manner in which the large piece of leaf-covered plywood is represented, I notice a flaw. The line connecting steel and silver runs through a certain part of the sword too strongly, creating a potential weakness which can cause it to snap. Suddenly, the hammer descends, smashing into the beautiful piece of ornate silverwork. My heart once again cries out as even the last piece of the sword that I’m still proud of is hammered into oblivion.
Strangely, the somatic link with Tree doesn’t snap. It takes me a full hour of hammering before the weakness is gone, and the hammer lets me work on restoring Tree’s mangled image again. Then Lola stops by and starts adding cute stylistic swirls and oversized leaves to Tree’s image. It keeps glowing golden, meaning that Tree doesn’t mind it is represented in such a way. “Tree, you traitor!” I shout with snot running out of my nose. “I’m doing this for you, and you’re going along with this blasphemy? I’m saving your life here! How dare yooouuuu!”
“Is he okay?” I vaguely hear one of the dragons ask.
“Yeah. Drew can be a massive drama queen sometimes,” replies Rhea.
“I’m NOT!” I dramatically shout in response. “THIS IS WORTH CRYING OVER!” I keep yelling while snot dribbles down my face, the mental exhaustion of sitting inside Tree for a month, running around while having everything I built up over the last year get destroyed around me, and finally being forced to ruin my sword even further isn’t allowing me to keep a clear head.
I might’ve cried some more, I might’ve complained some more, but that’s not really important. All I know is that I need to keep hammering and that my sword can be better. Lola keeps bothering me now and then, but her useful additions stop pretty quickly. After a while, all she seems to want to do is to add more pictures of herself to the sword, so I start kicking at the irritating fluffball every time she comes near.
The world around me - Tree’s dimension - also changes, but I don’t really notice at first. I only see that stuff has changed by the time the sun goes down. And the sun usually never goes down in this place, as managing the orbit of Database, the toxic moon, and Tree itself is already tough enough without including orbiting suns.
I only notice stuff changing by proxy, mainly through overhearing the occasional comment of the people still milling around. Slowly but surely, the clearing around Tree empties of spectators. There is a surge of activity at some point, accompanied by distinctly draconic smelling auras. Things calm down even further as many of these auras leave. I just keep hammering at my sword.
An unknown time later, I come to. Looking around, I see that I’m surrounded by a true inferno of ice and fire. Blue spikes crystalise amidst bright orange flames. I blearily look around, not really registering a lot at this point, but determined to figure out whether or not everyone is fine.
Lola is the first being I see. She’s hanging in the air, her eyes closed, her horn jutting from her forehead and fading into the chaos of orange and blue around me. The ground is covered with shards of stone, most of it ground to sand and dust, and I recognise the last remnants of my castle. I snatch the rabbit from the air and watch with muted interest as the ice and fire slowly dies down.
The fading blue and orange shows me a relatively unchanged sight. I’m still located beneath Tree’s branches, who seems to be doing rather well, all things considered. Instead of the muted golden glow it showed as I ran around with the hammer, its lustrous aura is now shining like a second sun. Or a third sun, I should say. I freeze my sword to my back, put the hammer on my tattered belt, hold Lola with one arm, and shield my eyes from the dual suns with my other hand. Two balls of light, one tinted blue, the other a rich orange-yellow, shine down on me. Instead of the random collection of smaller suns, there seems to be only two now.
Database’s moon is not visible anywhere in the sky, and neither is the purple ball of toxic mud. I scratch my head with my free hand as I look around. Rubbing my face, I notice that my beard is all out of shape, my neck covered in a thin layer of stubble. I blink once again, trying to clear the fog in my mind. I start walking into a random direction as I cover a single finger with sharp qi intent. Trimming my face on autopilot, I look around. The first thing I notice is that I see relatively little.
The grounds around Tree used to be perfectly flat. I used to be able to see very far into the horizon. The everpresent hot and cold mountains that used to tower above the treeline are no longer there, and I can see that the trees at the end of the clearing are pointing away from me. Blinking some more, I try to resolve the sheer spatial dissonance I’m experiencing.
I then decide I need some distance, and gently lift off with but a small application of my Will. I quickly soar upwards, steering myself away from Tree at a ninety-degree angle to the suns high above. Looking down, the small collection of my student’s houses comes entirely into view. My suspicion that Tree is now a sphere is quickly confirmed as I see a certain volcano emerge from over the rounded horizon. Speeding up, I notice the air thin as I gain some distance and perspective on Tree. I idly rub a certain rabbit’s head, no longer even caring about the fact that I most certainly spoiled the little shit beyond saving at this point.
The golden giant is no longer sticking up from a pancake but is instead firmly rooted inside a small planet. It looks rather comical, the massive tree looking seriously oversized. The two mountains sticking up on either side of the sphere, at a straight angle from Tree, look similarly comically large. I spot a purple spot right in the middle of the ice-covered mountain and the volcano, and looking at it closer shows me a mountain ridged basin. Tree must have placed the toxic moon in its own little barrier, hemming in the poison and acid through geological features.
Waiting for the entire planetoid to rotate slowly, I see that on the opposite side of the toxic swamp is a large desert. A sizable river interspersed with small inland seas meanders across the tiny planet’s equator. The area opposite of Tree looks barren to me, just white and empty rock of no discernable biome.
All in all, I have no idea what just happened. “Tree? What?”
“Hey, Drew. You back among the living?”
I turn and face Re-Haan.
“Wow, you look like shit. Maybe living is too strong a term, huh?”
I touch my face and feel sizable bags under my eyes along with hollow cheeks, yet again. “I just need to eat and sleep, I think. What happened?”
“It’s been just a week, though. Not a month like last time. Also, your sword looks amazing.”
Only now remembering the heavy item I’ve stuck to my back, I put the quietly snoozing Lola on my shoulder and grab the blade. At first glance, it looks to be a generic mystical treasure weapon. The slight glow, mysterious patterns, and elegant curves combine with the mysterious aura it radiates, making it quite the sight. Surely, many a young master or ancient expert would pay many spirit stones to get their hands on such a treasure.
But then I take a closer look, and what seems to be mystical rune script, is actually a collection of cute doodles. The ferocious dragon carved on the pommel is really a disproportionate and adorable representation of Rhea’s draconic form. The intricate handle is part hearts, part rounded scales, and part cartoon characters. Everything is inlaid in varying dark shades of black, silver, blue, and orange.
I give it a test swing, and it lights up like a Christmas tree, leaving bright trails of blue and orange in its wake. To my horror, I actually see small glyphs and symbols scatter from the fading light it leaves behind. A whole array of super cute and adorable symbols, characters, and drawings fades into nothingness as the vicious slash of sword light disappears into nothing.
“Look,” I say to Rhea, trying to put some gravitas in my voice. “The bunny, dragon, and leaf prints, those I can understand. But how in all the hells did you get chibi versions of all my students, including you, in there?” I shake the sword, only to see more lovably deformed characters float through the air.
Rhea is grinning like the cat who got all the cream in the world. “Cute, no? Selis is actually a great artist, and those kids of hers also provided a lot of good material.”
With trepidation in my heart, I lift the thing above my head. Aiming at the void, I swing it with all my might. A destructive arc of terrifying sharpness and annihilating might leaves an adorable rainbow of lights and hearts in its way. “What the fuck…”
Rhea is laughing her ass off at this point. For the amount of qi I put into the weapon, that was a terrifying slash. The fact that it’s still going, even a kilometre out, only makes it worse. With a grim look on my face, I put the sword in my ring. This is basically a near-immortal grade artifact at this point; it’s appearance notwithstanding. “Right, this just means that I’ve got a trump card. A pity that I will have to exterminate everyone that will ever see me use it.”
Rhea’s giggles peter out as she hears the grim determination in my voice. Ten seconds of dark silence later, I can’t hold it anymore and start giggling myself.Previous Chapter Next Chapter