Once he left the cave, Lith flew at low altitude all the time. He had to retrieve Solus before leaving and way, even if Xedros was still watching at him via his arrays, the Wyvern wouldn’t notice the pebble jumping into the Wyrmling’s hand.
As soon as their mind link was restored, Solus jotted down everything Lith remembered about the overlapping arrays and their runes. Lith had focused on keeping a clear picture of them on his way back so the details were still clear in his memories.
Only when she was done her task did he share with Solus all of his memories about the meeting with Xedros.
‘So the Lord of the Kellar region is a genius Warden, a Light Master, and he even has absolute control over his Origin Flames. Too bad his character is all over the place. If he wasn’t so untrustworthy, he would make a perfect mentor once we’re done with Faluel.’
Lith envied Solus being able to have a conversation with him while she reviewed her notes about the runes and studied the piece of the ingot in their possession at the same time.
‘First, I don’t plan on being an apprentice all my life. Second, I wouldn’t trust him even if he had welcomed me with a hot pie. People like Faluel are an exception, everyone else just would try and use me as a means for their ends.’ Lith thought.
‘I’m certain that Xedros would have refused to teach me tier five offensive light magic, just like Manohar did. Divulging an ability that powerful also means losing your monopoly over it. It’s the reason why the Kingdom is so secretive about Royal Forgemasters and the Council about the secret of Awakening.’
‘Then why did he teach you about Origin Flames?’ Solus asked.
‘Because Faluel asked him to and because I didn’t leave him much choice. He needed my help not to remain crippled for years. Also, he just gave me a few crumbs. Xedros knew that I couldn’t extort knowledge from him. His body and mana core were weakened, but his protective arrays were all at full power and aimed at me.
‘Not to mention that even if I succeeded, it would have destroyed my relationship with the beasts’ Council and with Faluel. He knew that I need their support to protect my family from the human Awakened that are out for my blood.’ Lith replied.
‘What a cunning son of a gun!’ Solus couldn’t believe that Lith had managed to squeeze so much out of an unwinnable scenario.
While Solus was still cursing the Wyvern’s name, Lith wore his cloaking rings and Warped away from the Golden Crown mountain to lose any tail Xedros might have had put on him.
Only after several Blinks and Warps in random direction did Lith feel safe enough to reach the nearest mana geyser and rise his tower.
He wasn’t supposed to reach Zantia before the following day and he meant to use all the time he could to study the ingot and put Xedros’s teachings to the test.
He started by comparing the purified Orichalcum with that in his possession.
The purified ore was denser, harder, and capable of sustaining a much greater amount of mana before showing signs of stress compared to its just smelted counterpart.
“Despite the fact that Xedros was no blacksmith or Forgemaster, the Origin Flames affected both the metal’s physical and mystical properties. It’s great news since it means that I don’t need to understand how the Flames interact with physical matter, but only how to make them seep inside their target.”
Lith used Invigoration on both ingots, studying their internal structure as if they were his patients. To his eyes, the effect of the Origin Flames was akin to what happened to his body after every breakthrough.
The main difference was that the weak parts had been straight out destroyed rather than broken down and infused with mana before being regenerated. Aside from that, the final result was identical.
The metal refinement hadn’t just removed the weak parts so much as those that compromised its integral structure, like those that made the Orichalcum brittle or offered resistance to the mana flow.
“How can you be so sure that Xedros isn’t at least a blacksmith?” Solus asked.
“He had no knowledge about Body Sculpting hence he can’t shapeshift. A Wyvern’s forearms cannot use tools and you can’t practice anything for hours by only using spirit magic.” Lith replied, before focusing on their latest prize.
“The most amazing thing is that, after being purified, not only is the world energy now evenly spread throughout the metal, but it also builds up from time to time, forming a pseudo core-like energy mass.
“When such natural pseudo core dissipates, the energy it releases tempers the metal. With every cycle, the Orichalcum ingot improves both its physical and mystical abilities.”
“It explains why Zolgrish the Lich granted to his Adamant Forges shapeshifting abilities.” Solus said.
“Being able to alter the shape of the purified metal before the Forgemastering process allows him and us as well to study how different forms alter the energy flow. That way we can Bond the mana crystals only once we find the perfect shape instead of blindly following blueprints.
“It should enhance the mana capacity and exponentially increase the quality of the final product. However, it’s not all fun and games. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I think you’ve missed a critical point.
“After every cycle, the built-up mana tempers the metal and improves its properties, but at the same time, the process brings the Orichalcum closer to its destruction. Too much tempering breaks even the most powerful blade.
“Otherwise Xedros would have already purified all the ingots in his possession and sold the oldest ones at a higher price. Instead, he kept them in their smelted state that has no expiration date.”
Lith cursed once he realized that Solus was right. It was only a matter of time before the Orichalcum became so hard to be so brittle that it would be useless as a crafting material.
“To think that treacherous son of a lizzie wanted 10,000 gold coins for the ingot! The only silver lining of this con of a trade is that I learned that purification is the last step before Forgemastering. Only giving the metal a stable pseudo core can stabilize its condition.
“Sadly, I don’t have a single ring worth crafting.”
Lith and Solus spent the hours before dinner on a rocky and desolate plateau, trying to put into practice Xedros’s teachings about Origin Flames. To not waste precious materials, Lith Warped the tower to a mana geyser that fit his bill and only used small stones as study subjects.
Origin Flames couldn’t be practiced inside the tower because everything inside of it was part of Solus’s body and failing to control the Flames could bring her harm. Lith had no idea how to produce small wisps of fire like the Wyvern had shown him, so most of the pebbles he breathed upon just evaporated.
The “luckiest” ones were liquified, yet they didn’t show any sign of refinement.
“I know you hate hearing it from me, but you need to rest.” Solus said once all the small stone near the mana geyser were gone. “Do you remember how the overuse of Origin Flames during the fight with the Odi almost crippled your life force?”