Rydr stepped up to the blue and red portal, taking one last look around the cavern he'd been trapped in. There was no way of knowing how long the Titan spent cooped up inside the subspace, but he was almost sad to see it go.
The cavern was peaceful, with a clear goal that needed to be accomplished. Even though it was extraordinarily frustrating and challenging, Rydr enjoyed every moment of it.
Besides the professional skills awarded to Rydr and the change in his [Third Eye] into the [Aetheric Eye], there were innumerable skills learned during the Trail. The way Rydr held the hammers changed radically by the end of the Trial, experimenting with different grips on every hammer.
Strength, precision, and intent were all absolute must's for Rydr to pass the Trial. Now that it was over, the giant was finally forced to start tackling the issues he'd put off.
*I need to handle Grotto's emergency before I can dedicate myself to smithing. However, what I need is down in the mines. If I can get back to the entrance, we originally jumped down...*
Rydr shook his head to dispel the thoughts. He was getting ahead of himself in his plans.
*First things, first. It's time to meet up with the other two and find out the extent of Grotto's situation.*
Resolved as to his next steps, Rydr stepped into the glowing portal and vanished. Inside the cavern, all the hammers and tables slowly rose from the ground once more, awaiting the next Trial.
Rydr appeared on the opposite side of his boulder of ore, the same side the portal originally appeared on. Across the workroom, Lynn was in the middle of opening the door to leave when a light flashed behind the elf.
As Rydr stood there, he casually leaned down and put the huge piece of ore back into his [Inventory].
Lynn's ears twitched on the other side of the room as he turned around to face Rydr fully.
"How long was I gone for?" Rydr immediately asked. He was intensely curious, seeing that Lynn had moved from where he drop-kicked Rydr into the portal.
"Around twenty seconds," Lynn muttered, almost to himself but loud enough for Rydr to hear.
Rydr grunted, "Huh, it felt like I was in there for a week." The giant reached up to scratch the back of his head as he summoned his messages' menu. The Titan quickly fired off a message to Urginok, asking the tank where he was at the moment.
While Rydr was busy, Lynn slowly closed the door to the workroom as he walked over to the giant.
"Are you sure it felt like a week in there?" Lynn questioned the Titan because when the elf originally took the Trial, he was stuck in the cavern for months.
It wasn't that Lynn was a dunce, far from it. Smithing, even Aetheric Smithing, was far outside the normal wheelhouse for an elf's skills. His people normally grew their weapons and armor over many years, guiding an Ironwood's growth.
Lynn sighed and said, "It took me several months to increase [Metal Spirit]'s mastery level high enough to challenge the giant hammer."
Rydr performed a doubletake as he spun to face the elf, "You increased what now, to do the what now?"
Lynn stared at the giant, deadpan, "[Metal Spirit]? The Aetheric skill used to attune your own Aether to that of another object to influence it? You do have it, don't you?"
Rydr stared right back, "Yes, but it was given to me for completing the Aether Smith Trial."
Lynn frowned, shaking his head, "For completing it? Then how did you complete the Trial?"
Rydr lifted his arms like they were wrapped around the giant hammer, "I just..." He made a vague swing and throwing motion with his body, then pantomimed, running and catching the giant hammer.
For several moments, Lynn was left speechless before he began to rub the bridge of his nose.
"I...I should have gone with you."
"You think?" Rydr huffed at the elf, annoyed that he had apparently done the whole Trial incorrectly.
The enormous diver checked his messages to see if Urginok responded yet, but he hadn't. Since Rydr was still avoiding Izor, he decided to kill some time while he waited.
"What is [Metal Spirit], anyway?" Rydr questioned. He had yet to open the skill descriptions for his new abilities.
However, Rydr wanted to hear the explanation straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. In his opinion, no textbook definition could ever compare to the wisdom of a skilled professional.
[Metal Spirit] wasn't the only skill Rydr received for completing the Trial, but he was in no rush to demand all the answers. More often than not, a professional would teach their student how that person wished they were taught.
*Master's wisdom. You have to love it when you have access to it.*
Lynn scratched his head for a moment before he stuck his hand out. Several meters away, an unworked ingot lept from its pile and flew into the elf's hand.
"Basically, it's that." Lynn levitated the ingot back and forth between his palms a few times to demonstrate.
"I take back everything nice I just thought about you." Rydr's consternation forced him to blurt out his thought.
Rydr shook his head, "Don't worry about it. Why don't you start from the beginning? What is Aether?"
Lynn nodded, "Aether is an expression of the world's metaphysical juncture with mana, the fusion of both the real and ethereal."
Rydr nodded, shook his head, and nodded again, "So, what does Aether have to do with smithing?"
"Once an Aether Smith, that is you or I, have learned to attune our own Aether with the subject we are working with; we can mold it directly." Lynn walked over to an anvil and picked up a hammer, immediately striking the raw ingot.
Rydr activated [Aetheric Eye] to watch what the elf was trying to do.
As the ingot lit up with Aether lines, Rydr saw two things. The first was that metal, unlike the other objects the Trial forced upon Rydr, had much more evenly placed Aetheric lines. The metal positively glowed with laced, slightly haphazard Aether.
The second thing Rydr witnessed was what happened inside the metal. Just as when Rydr struck an object, the lines of Aether vibrated like a guitar string.
However, instead of the vibrations slowly dissipating, they rebounded inside the metal. Before Rydr's enchanted eyes, a nimbus of red Aether formed between Lynn and the metal ingot.
This new Aether, pouring out of Lynn himself, surrounded the ingot and began to change. That was when Rydr noticed the color of the Aether coming out of Lynn was a different hue of red compared to the ingot's Aether.
However, under Rydr's watchful gaze, the nimbus of energy began to change color, morphing to match that of the metal. Once the transformation was complete, the Aether sunk into the metal and "glued" itself to the vibrating Aetheric lines.
Rydr's natural vision revealed a depression slowly deepening into the ingot. At the same time, the energized Aetheric lines began to settle down until they stopped completely.
Lynn picked the ingot up from the anvil and handed the piece of metal to Rydr.
As Rydr turned the piece over, examing it, Lynn explained more, "The ability allows us to manipulate-"
"The internal stress plains of any object! Thus, an Aether Smith can shape the metal greatly with each hammer strike, maybe even to the point where we can create space inside an object like blowing glass." Rydr couldn't help his excitement and interrupted the elf.
*Theoretically, I could make anything I can imagine.*
"How do we attune our own Aether to the same wavelength as our subject?" Rydr was full of questions now that he realized the limitless potential of the profession.
Lynn smiled and began to answer Rydr's questions.
Originally, Rydr thought Lynn was too abrasive to teach him correctly, but it turned out not to be the case. When it came down to it, Lynn was a massive geek about his own profession.
Sometime during Lynn's lesson, the elf resorted to attuning his own Aether to Rydr's. Without the elven smith's aid, Rydr would have floundered in the initial steps. The elf's tutelage allowed Rydr to sense his own Aether finally.
However, Rydr quickly understood the trick to it. As it turned out, the Titan's guess about attuning to a specific wavelength was a perfect description of the ability.
It required the giant to agitate or slow down his Aether. Unlike when Rydr extended his senses into the ambient mana, the giant didn't reach outside himself but deeper inside.
The attunement process felt more like a breathing technique used to control Rydr's heart rate, except on a spiritual level.
By the end of the lesson, Rydr was able to attune to an ingot enough to "call" to its Aether, slightly nudging the metal piece towards himself.
At that point, Lynn assured Rydr that the only way to improve the ability was to practice.
Rydr eventually asked about his second skill, [Aetheric Smithing].
"I think I've got a grasp on [Metal Spirit], but what is [Aetheric Smithing]?" Rydr felt no harm in continuing the lesson since he was still waiting for Urginok's reply.
Lynn smiled as he answered, sitting on a stool in the workroom, "[Aetheric Smithing] is the original ability, with [Metal Spirit] as an offshoot of the main ability."
This time for his demonstration, the elf retrieved a thin rapier from his wall of weapons.
"[Inspect] it," Lynn told him.
Rydr did as he was told and looked at the item's stats.
[Uncommon Wind-Borne Rapier Level 10]
-When swung, the rapier cuts through the air with no sound or resistance.-
o 20 Strength
o 40 Dexterity
o +100 Damage
o +10 Dexterity
· Weight: .5kg.
· Durability: 150/150
· Soul-Bound Item
As he read through the item's parameters, the giant found a few interesting things. The addition of the "Soul-Bound" modifier was a first for the diver to encounter.
What interested Rydr more was the actual description of the item. The Titan was tempted to ask Lynn for the answer, but he was determined to figure it out for himself.
*How would direct manipulation of an object's Aether affect the weapon? What would make it special? The profession already allows for absurd physical modification of the item...*
"Oh, I get it." Rydr handed the weapon back to Lynn while he thought about his answer.
"You said that Aether is the junction of matter and mana, right?" Rydr already knew the answer, but he was thinking out loud.
Lynn nodded, waiting patiently.
*The juncture of matter and mana...*
"Special materials. You seemed most enthusiastic about the Magi-Steel Ore earlier because it's more malleable than normal iron, right?" Rydr had no way of knowing that for sure, but the Titan was certain he'd figured out Lynn's excitement.
Rydr nodded to himself as he puzzled out loud, "An Aether Smith is able to not only manipulate an object's form but also impress- enchant?- an intrinsic quality into the metal. That's why the rapier's description is altered. You gave the weapon some innate qualities of wind mana, speed, and silence."
The Titan took a deep breath after his long-winded answer, looking expectantly at the elven smith.
Lynn began to clap slowly as the elf shook his head ruefully, "You know, it's not fair. I had to figure all this out on my own, and even after understanding [Metal Spirit], it took me a while to grasp what [Aetheric Smithing] was really for."
The smith envied Rydr's insight, even though the elf knew he helped significantly. Not many people would take something that seemed so physically oriented and instantly jump to a conclusion at the opposite end of the spectrum.
It just so happened that Rydr's insight was correct this time.
Rydr's personal approach to the scientific method was to work inwards towards a theory, eliminating other possibilities along the way. To the Titan, his due process was to jump to the opposite extreme and examine what happened.
The methodology caused Rydr's classmates to avoid partnering with him, which the giant was happy with.
Rydr was about to ask more questions when a chime sounded in his head. A quick thought summoned the messages' menu, where Rydr saw that Urginok sent him a message.
[Urginok: Hey, man, sorry for going quiet. I'm in the blacksmith shop now. Where are you?]
Shorter than any of Urginok's previous messages, Rydr realized he was making the tank wait on him. Neither Rydr nor Lynn heard the shop's bell when the tank came inside. The pair were too absorbed in the impromptu lesson.
Excited to catch up with his party member and learn more about Grotto's status, Rydr hurriedly made his goodbyes to Lynn.
"Go clean up your mess, caswa. The shop will still be here unless you fail." Lynn gave the giant a side-eyed glance.
"Caswa?" Rydr questioned, opening the workroom's door.
Lynn grunted, "Saproling, or student, in elvish."
"Is there something I should be calling you?" Rydr's pride wasn't so great that he would disregard his teacher's culture. After the Gene Wars, it was possible to earn a living by becoming "Living History."
Many of Apostle's students were sponsored by the government or individual patrons. On top of their regular studies, these people practiced and maintained their family arts, whatever they might be.
The career path was encouraged by the government to preserve more of humanity's skills and history after so much of the population was wiped out.
It was the same focus on human history that drove clients into the welcoming arms of speech therapists. A person's accent was a very public method of revealing one's heritage to the world.
Lynn grunted again, "Casa-ta. It means 'ancient wood' in my tongue. Your people would say 'master' or something similar."
Rydr grinned and bowed slightly, "Thank you for the opportunity and the lesson, casa-ta."
Lynn flinched and shooed Rydr, turning to face away from him, "Your pronunciation is terrible. Go away." Despite the elf's gruff words, the tips of his ears were turning pink.
The Titan chuckled and left the room to find Urginok.
Thank you so much for reading my latest chapter! As always, if you see a typo anywhere, let me know, and I will fix it ASAP~
Once I've caught up and exceeded my ******* quota for the early-access chapters, I will soon start to publish my second web novel! Alternatively, I might focus on [Frontier Online] and try to increase the public release rate~
[Frontier Online] Discord Server is online! https://discord.gg/5sqwPeJrYf