Book 2, Chapter 101

Discovery

Richard jumped off his warhorse, making his way to the body of the black knight. He kicked the half-decomposed guards away and kneeled down, turning him to show his face.

The man’s boorish face resembled that of a barbarian, still stuck in the scowl he’d had before his death. His hair was cut neatly like a soldier, unlike the unkempt style of most of the powerhouses of this plane. He was mostly human, but certain characteristics made it evident that he had the blood of other races in him as well. Be it strength, endurance, or energy, it was evident he was top notch.

Precision and Richard’s own artistic intuition was sending him some very strange information. This mixture of bloodlines actually maximised the man’s potential, and the process itself could be considered perfect. It made him think back to records in the Deepblue of a way to craft a mixed-blood race. This fellow in front of him seemed to be the fruit of such methods.

The marks of the battle made it obvious that he was around level 15, but be it his armour or his weaponry they were all standard issue. The rest of the battlefield also indicated that he was no more than an ordinary knight in his team. What kind of team was made of level 15 knights?

Even in Norland such a team would be an elite force of a powerful family, second only to rune knight platoons.

Richard stood up and waved his hands, motioning for ten desert people to come over. He wanted them to strip the black knight of all his weapons, and take his armour off as well. A dark and gloomy aura was constantly radiated by the corpse, making even the fearless desert people show signs of fright. Their hands were trembling as they took the weapons away.

Once three of them got the heavy breastplate off, another took a machete and cut open his flaxen clothing to expose the knight’s chest.

Richard suddenly lost his breath.

On the greening chest was the lifelike tattoo of a bear’s head. The bottom part of the head went quite deep, with a complicated magic array inscribed on it. This array was extremely familiar to Richard, he could draw it with his eyes closed.

It was a rune!

Richard was certain that nothing even vaguely similar to runes existed on Faelor. Even if someone successfully drew a magic array on someone’s body, this was rare and only performed on powerhouses. Only those of a high level here had the carrying capacity for runes. The mages of Faelor didn’t even know of the concept, unaware of how to calculate the carrying capacity for a rune.

These seemingly basic magic principles had been established in Norland for a long time. They were drafted by more than ten legendary mages, who had spent centuries slowly perfecting the craft.

Richard didn’t need any kind of test to conclude that the rune on this corpse wasn’t from this plane, and he was also 90% sure that it came from Norland. This was a standard rune on Norland— elementary defense. It would reduce the damage its wearer took by roughly 10%. Even if other planes also had runecrafting heritage, it wasn’t possible for them to replicate a rune in such detail.

Flowsand stood up as well, extremely astonished by the sight of the rune.

The filth and smell of the corpse had long slipped Richard’s mind. He snatched the machete from the warrior, cutting up all of the knight’s undershirt. Sure enough, he saw a standard strength rune on each arm.

His expression turned ugly, “A bearguard knight of the Schumpeters…” His subconscious occupied, the words coming from his mouth were actually in Norlandic— a language he hadn’t used in a long time.

Flowsand was puzzled, “They look similar, but how can you be sure? Many knight troops use bears as their trademark.”

Richard pointed to the corpse’s arms and chest, “Two strength runes and one defense rune, this is a standard issue set for the bearguard knights.”

“Ph…” Flowsand still had some doubts.

“This knight has special breeding. He has the blood of giants, barbarians, and direbears in him. This breeding can only be found in Schumpeter warriors. I’m sure this is a bearguard knight!”

Looking at the knight’s corpse on the floor, a shadow flashed past Flowsand’s face.

Rune knights differed based on the rune sets they used, but the threshold to form a rune knight was very high. This made many noble houses vie for the creation of ‘rune knight-like’ knights, those that had three or four runes. Although these groups couldn’t match up to true rune knights at all, the lower threshold meant far more of them could be made. This allowed a family to quickly raise its powers, using elementary or grade 2 runes alone.

And thus, many powerful families had accumulated forces that were unique to them, the bearguard knights of the Schumpeters being one of these. The strength of the Schumpeters did not lie in their runes, instead in the careful breeding of their bearguard knights. The knights were gifted with immense strength and endurance, benefiting greatly from the runes they were given. Alongside their specially bred magic horses, the bearguard knights were known for unparalleled strength in their charges.

As a saint runemaster in the making, Richard naturally had a deep understanding of the existing rune combinations, even this simple yet unique combination used by the bearguard knights. Every bearguard knight was around level 15, and even though they couldn’t compare to true rune knights who were level 16 or above the Schumpeters had less than 30 rune knights but close to 200 in the bearguard. If the entire groups were pit against each other, there would hardly be any difference.

Flowsand frowned, “Why would a bearguard knight appear here?”

Richard’s eyes narrowed, "If it’s the Schumpeters, it can’t be anything good. If they sent bearguard knights over, they should be aware of the coordinates and strength limit of this plane.”

“EVERYONE STAY PUT!” Richard roared, “NOBODY IS TO MOVE!”

Once that was done, Richard brought Gangdor, Waterflower, and the trolls along on an inspection of the aftermath. A lot of time having passed, the traces of the battle were unclear. They had also arrived in a large crowd earlier, with many horses amongst them. It would be difficult to tell what happened before.

However, Tiramisu discovered a hoofprint a few hundred metres away. Judging from the positions of the corpses and broken carriages, this seemed to be where the knights had attacked from.

Richard went around the location once, calculating that there were roughly seventy bearguard knights. Furthermore, at the front of the formation were several claw marks, looking like the print of a large beast that was about ten metres long.

“Do you know who did this?” Richard pointed at the giant claw marks.

Flowsand shook her head, “I spend most of my time cooped up in the church. I rarely met outsiders.”

Richard frowned. Whoever it was, leading the bearguard knights was no simple task. However, he had limited understanding of the nobility of Norland, and wasn’t able to tell who it was based on the few claw marks. Just like the Archeron death camps, every other family had its own secret source of power. Richard had spent too little time in Faust, and he’d spent most of that time reading up on interplanar battles. He didn’t have the time to read up on the hierarchy of the Schumpeters.

Having circled the location thrice, Richard returned to the dead knight, deep in thought. “It’s no coincidence that Schumpeters are in this plane. It’s likely that they’re here for us.”

Having said that, Richard looked at Flowsand with meaning, “The great Dragon of Eternity and Light collected such a generous sacrifice from me. Why didn’t he tell me when he changed the plane I was going to, and that other families would be coming here as well?”

Flowsand spread out her hands, “The turbulent time flow has nothing to do with the Eternal Dragon. As for the other families, you need to know that the old dragon is a cunning and greedy cheat. Never take its promises to heart.”

Listening to this evaluation, Richard’s eyebrows twitched uncontrollably. However, he did not interrupt her so she continued, “What’s important is this: what are we going to do now?”

“What else can we do?” A dark shadow flashed across Richard’s face, and he spoke in an icy tone, “We find a way to kill them! Give me a knife!”

A desert warrior who was nearby handed Richard a knife, and he kneeled over by the side of the corpse and proceeded to use it to cut the three runes out. He then placed them in a box.

“What is this for?” Flowsand asked, unsure of Richard’s use for them.

Richard waved the box in his hand, “If I make a few alterations this rune can still be used, even if its performance degrades a little. It should still be alright to just sell it to someone else in Faelor.”

Having said that, Richard hopped on his horse and asked for his army to gather up. He had the desert warriors who were familiar with the land clean all traces of the battlefield, taking them along the direction of the bearguard knights’ trail. This would be the easiest way to avoid being found.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA