769. Breaking Out
769. Breaking Out
Magic forging turned out to be a lot easier than Dallion expected. He himself had considered the possibility on a few occasions, though ultimately chose not to pursue it due to the impossibility of executing it. That was the real trick. The first part involved stretching his magic threads through the hammer while shaping the metal. Following the dozens of silver and purple markers took a bit of getting used to. Dallion had to make sure that the correct thickness and intensity of the threads was met before he could even start. Then came the complicated bit. Each time the hammer made contact, Dallion had to twist the ends of the magic thread to form a spell. That had to be done by threads alone since the hammer had also to follow the standing forging instructions. And, of course, if one strike failed, it ruined the entire process.
“I need a break,” Dallion said after purple sparks burned through the chunk of metal he was hammering.
It had been three days since he had started learning, and while his progress was deemed extraordinary, there was still a bit to be desired. At least now he was close to reaching the desired shape.
“The first one is the most difficult,” Harp said. “After that, it’s all a matter of practice.”
“And that’s just one part of magic forging?”
“Yes. It all depends on what you want to achieve.”
“Can I use this method to create shapeshifting buildings?” he asked.
“Yes, but I don’t know how. I’m not an architect.”
It wasn’t a stretch to assume that the whole concept of magically expanding and transforming space might have been based on this method. At Dallion’s current magic level, he was able to see some of the threads that went into the spell, though definitely not enough to provide clues regarding the process.
“Is there anyone who could make such weapons today?”
“Yes,” Harp replied, to his great surprise. “But not at the Academy.”
“Not at the Academy? What do you mean?”
“You’ve rested enough. try to complete it this time.”
Taking the hint, Dallion summoned another ingot. Fifty instances sent magic threads through the hammer, striking the piece of metal at just the right angle. As it did, a spell was imprinted on the metal surface. It wasn’t a complicated spell, it didn’t have any protection whatsoever. At the same time, it was a partial spell. As Harp had explained, this was different from the standard illusion spells that were commonly used to change appearances in the real world. Rather, it was an iterative spell containing thousands of instructions that reacted to the owner’s instructions. In many ways, it was the same as computer coding. Back on Earth, Dallion had given it a go, back when he fancied himself the next indie game prodigy. Like most of his attempts at fame, that had ended up in failure. Coding was hard and required a lot of thought—things that required a high mind trait.
Magic patterns flashed on the red-hot metal before they were covered by the next. Out of Dallion’s fifty instances between ten and thirty would mess up, forcing a new split. As time passed, the number gradually increased. The ten became twenty, then thirty. Dallion doubled the amount, but even so after an hour, out of a hundred, only about five would get things right; it wasn’t just a matter of the thread patterns being executed well; they had to connect with the previous ones, forming a magical circuit chain of sorts.
“I’d forgotten how much effort this took,” Dallion muttered. He had gotten the shape more or less right. It was crude beyond mention. Harp had told him multiple times that the initial form wasn’t of importance when it came to shapeshifting weapons, but all his forging experience told him otherwise, forcing him to craft something remotely usable.
“Magic erases effort,” the nymph said. “And through it the desire for progress.”
“You could have fooled me.” Dallion smirked.
Just a few dozen more
, he told himself. It was at this point that he usually messed up. Concentrating, he stretched the limit of his instances to a hundred and fifty. The number of successful cases remained at five.
Keeping track of the patterns strained his eyes. The entire body of the knife was covered with them, and still each next spell had to be applied in exactly the right place.
Five strikes remained. Dallion’s temples were pulsing. Each of his instances was using magic layer vision, increasing the pain.
Four. Three. Two.
Don’t mess up now,
A hundred and forty-eight instances missed the final hammering, causing the magic threads in the metal to spark out. In the remaining two, though, the hammer hit its target.
FORGOTTEN ART RESTORED
(+2 Mind, +2 Perception, +2 Reaction, +2 Body, +2 Magic)
You have rediscovered one of the forgotten arts. Don’t abuse it too much or you’ll be the one forgotten.
A blue rectangle emerged. A rush of euphoria went through Dallion’s body—something he had been missing lately. Ever since the magic trait had effectively blocked his leveling up, he had felt something lacking. Initial magic successes and the achievements that came with them had acted as a replacement of sorts, but even that had been months ago. Now, bursts of joy were few and far between. Maybe that was why mages were constantly annoyed, resorting to other means of finding thrills in life.
“I thought you couldn’t increase magic through achievements,” Dallion said, noticing the final part of the reward.
“I’ve taught you the first step,” the harpsisword said, ignoring his question. “I’ll teach you the rest later.”
“I’m ready now,” Dallion insisted.
A smile appeared on the nymph’s face.
“You sound so much like what you used to be,” she said, a note of regret echoing in her words. “But you’re unable to continue. When you’re able to create a shapeshifting item without combat splitting, then—”
“Boss!” The aetherfish popped into existence inches from Dallion’s face. “You’re in danger! They’re attacking!”
“What? Who?” Dallion instinctively summoned his harpsisword. The human form of Harp vanished, as the weapon appeared in his free hand.
“I don’t know! They’re moving through time!”
Dallion had no idea what that meant, but he didn’t intend to find out. Leaving his realm, he quickly returned to the real world. Everything had been just as he remembered it… with one major exception. Three figures were running towards him with weapons drawn.
How did they get here?
Dallion burst into a hundred instances. There was no time to equip the armadil shield. Instead, he grabbed the harpsisword while casting a flight spell with his left hand.
“Ruby, cut them!” he shouted.
Before the wind slashes could start, two dozen black chains shot out from the frontmost attacker, flying in the direction of Dallion.
Dallion thought, the fingers of his left hand moving to cast multiple aether shields one after the other.
The barriers proved incapable of blocking the attack, shattering one after the other. Thankfully, then managed to slow it down just enough for Dallion to escape using his flight spell.
It was never a pleasant experience being on the defensive, especially against such opponents. Despite their form, these weren’t the common variety of cultist creations Dallion had dealt with back in Nerosal. These were fully formed chainlings. No wonder they had been able to approach while Dallion had been in his awakened realm.
Infusing his weapon with spark, Dallion quickly cast a new set of spells. His left hand moved so fast that it created afterimages of twenty fingers in the process. Spheres of magic appeared around all of his items—both those on him and on the ground—shooting up high in the sky.
, Dallion said. He didn’t want to risk the chainlings consuming them.
More chains shot towards him, like clusters of tendrils.
Spinning in the air, Dallion twisted to evade them, slashing several as they darted past. Thrusting up, he then did a line attack aimed at the creatures.
The ground trembled beneath the force of the blow. Unfortunately, all of the attackers’ reactions proved just as fast, avoiding the line of destruction.
It was only then that the shardfly’s wind attacks emerged, pouring down on the furthest of the three figures.
“Don’t!” Dallion cast a protective orb around Ruby, then darted him away from the battlefield. Despite its will, the small creature wasn’t a match for them. This was between him and the changelings.
Didn’t think there’d be monsters in the empire
, Dallion said to himself.
With armies on all sides filling the general area, it was insanity for a creature to think it could survive. Suddenly, a thought hit him stronger than a wall of bricks. What if this wasn’t accidental? From what he rememberd from the former chief of his village, his grandfather had created chainlings to be used in the War of Inheritance. Would there be a reason for the Azure Federation not to do the same?
Concentrating, Dallion tried to see the skills and traits of the trio. His aether vision allowed him to see their rectangles, but they weren’t what he expected.
Species: WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW?
Class: WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW?
Health: WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW?
Traits: WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW?
Skills: WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW?
Weakness: WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW?
White letters glowed on a pitch back rectangle.
They aren’t anything much
, a voice said in Dallion’s mind—one he hadn’t heard in a long time.
You just need to concentrate and take them on one at a time.
I didn’t think you’d ever need me again, but it seems you’ve become confused.
“In what way?” Twenty of Dallion’s instances darted down at the chainlings, engaging in melee combat. From this distance, his attacks were impossible to evade, but the same could be said for theirs.
Just because they look like humans doesn’t mean they are,
the voice continued.
Or ever were.
“Voice, what do you mean?” Dallion asked, splitting in fifty new instances.
This time, there was no reply. Dallions till had no idea what the voice was or where it came from. At one point, he believed it to belong to the Moons, but after having enough interactions with them, he was starting to have his doubts. The Moons always made a point to be noticed. Even when they were inclined to provide advice, it was unlikely they’d do so from the shadows. Although… there was one possibility.
, Dallion thought.
The Blue Moon was unlike all the rest. Considered the most powerful Moon, and the one that had gifted awakening itself, it didn’t meddle as openly as all the rest. The only time Dallion had even seen it was within the memory fragments of a fury mage. Could it be that the Moon was secretly helping him despite everything?
Launching a series of line attacks, Dallion released magic threads from every pore of his body, covering himself in a protective layer of magic. No sooner had he done so than black blades shot out from one of the chainlings. At this distance they were easy to evade, but they also proved that the creatures were adapting to Dallion’s way of fighting. Rather, it was more appropriate to say that they were scouting his skills. Initially, they had taken the simplest approach: tendrils and simple melee attacks. Seeing that those were inefficient, they were resorting to ranged attacks. It was only a matter of time before they started using their actual unique skills.
Always hide your skills
, Dallion thought. The same advice had been given to him by everyone from Nil to March herself. Even awakened children knew that. Despite his recklessness, Dallion had tried to abide by that principle, getting better at it with time. However, after all that time, he could see a fatal flaw. Hiding one’s skills shifted the focus of development, making people content with what they had learned, even complacent. Maybe it worked for the beings of this world, but for Dallion, it was a burden. After years in this world, and millennia in the realms, he had acquired all but one set of skills, but was afraid of using them, keeping them hidden as if they were valuable treasures.
“You were wrong.” He cast a spell to summon his aura sword. Magic threads extended from his hand through the fine blade till they reached its tip.
From now on, he intended to use all his skills all at once. Then, when the world learned of his new abilities, he was going to invent new ones.
A note from Lise Eclaire
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