Book 1, Chapter 60


Things returned to normalcy the day after the competition for Richard, except for one thing. This was the day he had to bid farewell to Mountainsea.

Several months of daily interaction had already deeply imprinted this girl into his heart. The day she was to leave, he accompanied her to the foot of the Everwinter Mountains as was tradition in mountain villages like Rooseland.

It was only when she was at the crossroads heading east that Mountainsea finally stopped in her tracks. Steelrock and the rest of the barbarians continued to drive the carriages ahead, only stopping a few hundred metres away to give the two some space alone.

“I’m leaving now; don’t miss me too much,” she finally spoke up for the first time in the journey.

“Don’t worry, I’ve always been able to control myself.” The conversation was awkward between the boy and girl, a byproduct of months of intimate contact.

“Why don’t you come with me, and be my man? We’ve already lived together for a few months— just one year and I’ll be able to make a decision. Don’t worry, I feel like I won’t throw you into the sea when the time comes.” Mountainsea tried to persuade Richard once again.

“No!” Richard firmly rejected, just as he always had. It was not an answer that required much thought, since every day in the past three months he had to reject her in the same way several times.

Mountainsea frowned. This was the only thing she had picked up from Sharon after spending tens of millions of coins in tuition fees.

“Richard… What could you even do if I carry you away right now?” The threat immediately silenced him. It was both real and effective— even if he could produce runes now his defensive abilities were lackluster when faced with Mountainsea. That was how Mountainsea got her daily ‘gifts.’

He eventually replied with a forced laugh, “I know you think I suit you, but you’ll eventually be able to find someone more to your tastes.”

Mountainsea shook her head vigorously. “Even if there are, I wouldn’t be interested anymore. Come with me! The power of our sacred totems is much greater than your magic runes; you can study them for life!”

Richard laughed helplessly; he had answered the same question numerous times beyond count, yet all he could do was to shake his head resolutely every time. He had long given Mountainsea his answer. “I cannot leave with you, there are other matters that require my attention. You can pull me away by force, but you will never be able to get my consent.”

This time, Mountainsea fell silent as well, staring at Richard for a while. All of a sudden, Richard realised that there seemed to be something unclear in the pupil of her eye.

After a long pause, Mountainsea raised her hand to untie the string of animal ivory attached to her braid and placed it in his palm. The tooth in the middle was particularly large, with some holes carved on it. It looked to be a whistle.

“For you. Remember to keep it with you all the time, and don’t lose it,” she told him.

Richard looked back from the ivory to Mountainsea, and it suddenly seemed heavier in his hand. After some thought, he decided to wear it as a bracelet on his left wrist.

Seeing his actions, Mountainsea let out a tiny smile. “I know you Norland men all want to be stronger than your wives. If you want to dominate me according to Norland tradition, though… I can’t see it happening at all. But that’s okay; I’ll wait for that day to come.

“Remember, blow into that whistle in the middle and I’ll know, no matter where I am. If your life is in immediate danger one day, and you’re about to be killed, I’ll come and avenge you. If you decide you want to become my man, then just blow on the whistle as you step into mainland Klandor. I’ll join you for the ultimate duel.”

Richard was completely at a loss for words. The only thing he felt was the ivory being as hot as fire, burning him so hard he almost couldn’t catch his breath.

Mountainsea suddenly let loose a smile as bright as the sun, saying with a laugh, “If you fall down to my beating, I’ll directly throw you into the sea!”

Mountainsea’s laughter filled the air without a hint of pretense. Still, Richard grew even more solemn as the atmosphere relaxed.

“Now then, time for a present!” The girl approached Richard, rendering him practically helpless. He gave up on any resistance, but he didn’t expect Mountainsea’s actions.

She didn’t go in for a passionate ‘kiss,’ instead giving him a long, deep hug.

“I’m off!” Mountainsea turned around right as she finished, taking large strides towards the barbarians’ carriages in the distance. Her steps were heavy but firm; every single one making her look like a prehistoric giant that left everyone trembling in fear.

Speechless, all Richard could do was wave. And although Mountainsea didn’t even turn around, she lifted her right hand and waved hard, as though there were eyes at the back of her head. Her shadow stretched towards him with the rising sun, almost as though she didn’t go away at all…

The sun shone brightly above Floe Bay as usual the day after, the blue crescent moon faintly discernible on the horizon. The winds had turned chilly, and bits and pieces of ice started to float on the surface of the sea. There were fewer ships entering and leaving the harbour today, displacing less water as well. The ships that couldn’t withstand iceberg impacts were almost gone, but the business in the harbour wasn’t much different from usual. The number of ships able to plow through the ice had multiplied greatly ever since the midsummer festival.

To Richard the day was a brand new start, but just as much it was a continuation of the past. This day forth he could focus completely on exploring the world of runecrafting, but there wasn’t much change to the actual rhythm of his life. His activities, tallied once a month in great chronological detail, still left the grey dwarf gasping for air trying to catch up.

As winter arrived, Richard finally made the first complete magic rune in his life. It was a standard Elementary Agility rune, the one he’d first made a breakthrough in. From the selection and processing of the material, to the production of usable components, every step in the creation of this rune slot was made by Richard alone, with no help from anyone else. Normal runemasters usually made use of ready-to-use processed materials to save time, but Richard started from scratch, all the way at the beginning where he cut the pelt.

The rune had taken two whole weeks to make, and by the end of it Richard had grown able to memorise the entire procedure by heart. Completing all the steps, he realised his understanding of runecrafting had been elevated once more.

This was a high-quality rune, able to improve agility by 41%. The magic formation this time was stable, expanding its range of use greatly. If it was slotted onto an armoured warhorse again, the horse wouldn’t die to a lack of energy.

Any rune had three basic sections to it— a controller, a mana supply, and the main magic unit itself. Most grade 1 and 2 runes relied primarily on absorbing energy from attached magic crystals, or using the life force or mana of its host itself. The first rune he’d tried to make had problems in the mana supply, leading to an excessive absorption of life force without anything to keep it in check. This led to the horse running about wildly, dying from exhaustion. Naturally, he would never commit such a mistake.

He’d redrawn the same formation he’d used then. Although there weren’t any new things in the design, the pure precision of the rune this time was so terrifying it was nearly only possible in theory. Anyone who actually had an idea of the craft would likely break out in cold sweat if they saw this rune because of how closely it resembled the base draft.

The precision of the rune was so high that even Richard himself was not confident of making another copy again. Only after a long time, once his skill had increased significantly, would he be confident in stabilising at such a level of accuracy.

Honestly, Richard did not really understand the significance of his work, and only treated it as a practice piece from the get go. Thus, he did not pay much attention to it after completion, and just threw it directly to Blackgold for thirty thousand gold coins. On Norland, most standard elementary agility runes were priced between a hundred thousand to a hundred and fifty thousand coins. Just like he’d decided to long ago, Blackgold had ended up offering 20-30% of the market value.

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