Book 8, Chapter 119

Divine Runemaster

The most dazzling item in the list given to the participants was the battle edition of Midren. News had already spread about this divine rune set that cost a mind-boggling number of points. This one competition certainly wouldn’t award anywhere near enough to get even a piece, but one could always not spend and join the battlefield for more. It was rumoured that two pieces had already been sold, and that at least one of each rune would have been offered in a year’s time. It was possible to assemble the entire set, showcasing Midren’s splendour in battle!

Richard’s battle recordings had already been sent to all the powerful families in Norland. The six-winged radiance of Midren, the divine sword dancing like the wind, the aggressive power the moment the dragon was slain… it could all stir the emotions of anyone with even a drop of hot blood within them. Most young hearts were set on fire by the sight.

This was the reason for the near-deadly end to the final battle. Kirk was someone with his own dreams, the nephew of a powerful duke but only a middling officer in the army of the Sacred Tree Empire. He didn’t need anything urgently, unlike the second and third place competitors who wanted the rune sets immediately, but he was eyeing some good legendary equipment. Specifically, he was interested in a shield that could deflect spells that possessed about the power of a grade 8 fireball, and a powerful thunder-attribute sword.

Handing over the badge that signified the points, Richard smiled, “Do you know what you want to get?”

Under Richard’s gaze, Kirk immediately tensed up. In reality, the two weren’t far apart in age, but he couldn’t even bring himself to be jealous of the Archeron’s might. The disparity between them was far too great for envy to make sense.

“I’m torn between the Spellbouncing Shield and the Thunderflash Sword, Your Grace,” he said honestly. 

Richard raised a brow, “Hmm? I don’t think either of those really suits you… Let me think, there’s a grade 4 rune I made recently that can help control nature. I think it suits you well.”

“Nature? Thank you, Your Grace, I’ll consider it.” Kirk didn’t agree immediately. Even facing a legendary mage with near-epic might, he still insisted on his own judgement. However, Richard wasn’t offended. Laughing it off, he walked to the runner-up; he had already given his advice, and the rest depended on the winner’s luck. Controlling nature was only a supplementary ability that improved one’s ability to navigate various environments, but the rune was specifically scaled down from Kingsteel so it had some degree of control over metals as well. Even though it couldn’t manipulate an opponent’s weapons and equipment, it could boost one’s own. For someone focused on a balance between offence and defence, this was the most direct way to increase his battle capabilities.

That being said, he understood the young man’s choice. While Kirk was technically from a strong family, he didn’t have much backing in his own branch. A piece of legendary equipment could be passed down and used by generations, whereas runes could only serve their master effectively. Restoring a dead man’s runes for someone else was an expensive task, and that still needed a successor with significant power.

At the same time, Richard understood that the confluence of events that brought him to his current position was vanishingly rare, normally taking hundreds of years to recur. Even if the family had the wealth to get the rune restored, few would be able to do it with the same or similar quality. The rune would definitely deteriorate generation by generation.

In the end, this was a choice between safety and ambition. Choosing equipment not particularly suited to oneself would be a hope placed on one’s descendants, while the rune would be confidence in his own ability to bring his family to new heights. Kirk could choose either; Richard had just seen a shadow of something he had once been in the man.

With the prizes handed out, many people were in high spirits. Even those who didn’t win had performed quite well, assuring them of the future of Norland. This was a more general feeling that many shared; while Norland had limited lands, there were countless other planes. No matter which family’s crest was on the flags planted elsewhere, the flags were Norland’s all the same.

A sumptuous feast was served at dinner, paired with aged fine wine. It clearly displayed the taste and generosity of the Archerons.

Indeed, taste. The biggest difference between upstarts and hegemons was in the details, and Richard had hired the best masters in all of Norland. No expenses had been spared in decoration and food, with even a piece of paper being placed in perfect position. Even though his overall standards had still matched other powerful families when he first took over, but there would have been many things to criticise. The same dishes would have been paired with sub-par cutlery, drinks, or even served by waiters with a lack of etiquette. As for Gaton’s time, the Archerons had lived off the philosophy of ‘just enough'. Gaton would much rather put more meat in the bowls of his soldiers than spend money treating nobles to feasts.

Richard’s path was the complete opposite. He was basically never short on money, swimming in gold all the way from his first accomplishments as a runemaster to the reward point system at which point he was beginning to rival entire countries on his own. He basically had an endless gold mine, and he was using it to prove that upstarts could rival ancient families if they broke out enough.

His daughter Fiora was naturally one of the stars in this dinner. She didn’t look anything like a newborn, staring at all the attendees with wide-eyed curiosity, and the dark red currents in the depths of her eyes didn’t escape the attention of many. The very fact that she was so mature already showed how strong her bloodline was; just like a baby dragon, she possessed great intelligence at birth. Her name was pronounced similarly in Common as in divine tongue, and meant something akin to the Ruler of Flames.

The nobles and powerhouses crowded around Richard, showering him with compliments of various kinds. Under his urging, she also displayed her ability to control abyssal flames and stirred up the crowd. Many dukes immediately found excuses to talk to him alone, formally proposing an alliance through marriage. He could choose any groom they wanted from their families once she came of age, and they promised many other things on top of that. For a period of time, Richard wore a dazzling smile on his face. The proposals were one thing, but he could tell that at least some of these well-wishes were genuine.

……

After a few hours of conversation, Richard handed a yawning Fiora to a cleric so she could be put to bed. What followed was the last major event that he had planned, the rune convention.

It was already past midnight, but nobody showed any signs of fatigue. The hall was quickly filled up, and with all the familiarity of a master presenter Richard walked on stage and started explaining his runes in detail.

“…. And these are the Crimson Wings, the last part of the set…” It took him roughly an hour to give a cursory explanation of all ten components of Midren’s battle edition, and the crowd had been dead silent the entire time. They stared at the components and noted down every detail, the more experienced amongst them even able to roughly understand how the various parts interacted to form a rune set that went beyond the ordinary saint rune. This convention was destined to go down in history, and they would be its witnesses.

Silence reigned for a few minutes even after Richard finished, at which point a duke sighed softly, “This is simply divine.”

From that moment on, Richard had exceeded all the saint runemasters in Norland’s history, becoming its first divine runemaster.

He clapped his hands, ending the projection before moving on to the next rune, “Next, I will showcase a rune that both has history and yet is completely new. Its power has reached the pinnacle of grade 5, and its usefulness surpasses all saint runes. The only limitation is that it is limited to mages.”

Two legendary mages in the audience gasped in surprise, looking at each other as they understood just what was about to be unveiled. Their hearts started thumping with anticipation.

Richard paused, allowing that understanding to ripple through the crowd before he continued, “This is the capstone of Saint Lawrence’s career, the true Mana Armament. Although there is a bit of energy lost, it can convert a legendary mage’s mana into internal energy. With this on hand, the greatest problem for us mages is that we need to train in swords as well.”

The rare attempt at humour produced no laughs from the crowd. Everyone just stared at the rune on display, excited murmurs breaking out amongst the audience. Mages and their friends were naturally overjoyed, while those who had magical enemies went stiff. This was a rune that would destroy the already-delicate balance of the two main types of combatants. While mages already overpowered warriors in many situations before, now there wouldn’t even be any hope.

Richard himself was a very good example. He could beat most people with swordplay alone, having been famous for being a close combat mage well before he was even a legend. Even if one could doubt Midren, the lesser versions of Mana Armament had already proved their worth in the market.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA