Book 5, Chapter 18

The Lance Of Broken Stars

Amidst a flurry of emotions from the people involved, Rosie’s rune convention finally came to an end. Richard’s auction started right after, but it didn’t last nearly as long. A legendary mage from southwest of the Sacred Tree Empire acquired the custom set for five million gold and eight times the material cost. This translated into something around ten to twelve million gold, far exceeding the price of most grade 2 sets. It was an affirmation of his talent.

Several people who hadn’t managed to bid were annoyed, asking for him to offer more items up for auction like new sets, but they were quickly rebuffed by the royal family. The auction only ended on schedule after Richard promised them that he would hold another auction in half a year for several custom rune designs.

Outside of earning him a fortune, this auction solidified his status in all of Norland. He could now charge no less than grand runemasters who could craft grade 4 runes, and this was based purely on his ability with customised designs.

……

When he returned home, Richard first had to politely reject the envoys from various powerful families with invitations to dinners before he met up with the buyer.

This mage’s dark skin was full of scars and corrosion. He was quite large and sturdy, but he dressed in a tight leather suit similar to what fishermen by the sea wore; one of the only differences were the sharktooth daggers at his waist.

“My name is Nezha,” he introduced himself, “I come from the Prydain Isles in the Waers Ocean. In our language, Prydain means ‘The Land of Eternal Sunshine.’ Our citizens make a living off the sea, and I spend half of my time a year there as well.

“This should work as the payment for the rune set,” Nezha took out a box and placed it in front of Richard.

Richard paused for a moment as he took the box, able to sense the smell of the sea from the legendary mage’s body. That smell intensified as he opened the box, a foul odour of fish attacking his nostrils. A bestial cry rang out within the room as a devilish aura enveloped him. Richard looked in to find a pearl-like crystal the size of a fish, its surface constantly steaming. He could sense the power behind it, but he still looked to Nezha for further explanation.

“This is the essence of a legendary dragon turtle. For some reason it floated up from the depths of the sea and came on shore, and a number of powerful saints alongside thousands of soldiers and a dozen warships were destroyed before I manage to kill it. This is a top-tier offering, and because it still has a fragment of the original soul it can be used as the core of some special enchantments.”

“Hmm…” Richard raised a brow, “That seems worth more than what you offered.”

Nezha smiled softly, “It’s fine, I have high standards for rune sets.”

“About that… My fields of expertise lay in harnessing the power of fire and stars, I’m afraid that clashes with the sea. On top of that, a set is heavily dependant on the rune slots and capacity of its target; I cannot make any guarantees.”

“All I want is for you to have tried your best,” Nezha pushed the box closer to Richard.

Richard finally nodded, “It just so happens that I was looking for an offering. Okay, so who is it that needs the rune and when can I meet them?”

“You can see him right now.” Nezha pulled an antique silver bottle from his breast pocket and silently recited an incantation. Mana started to flow like a tide as it rushed through the hall, creating a strong gale that sent Nezha’s hair dancing in the wind. The greying black hair braids suddenly seemed to gain their own soul, moving in all directions of their own accord.

Richard’s eyes immediately lit aglow as he activated Analytic to see if this was an illusion. However, the braids suddenly warped into venomous snakes right before his eyes, causing him to gasp in shock. When Nezha opened his eyes once more, the pupils were gold and vertical, the same kind as commonly seen in reptiles!

Richard felt a sharp pain in his eyes as bestial roars filled his very soul. His consciousness scattered in a scant moment, but the beast attacking it didn’t seem satisfied as it leapt to consume his very soul! However, moments before the claws reached his sea of consciousness a wave of crimson lava suddenly flowed out from within and submerged the creature. An earth-shattering cry rang out as the image completely faded away.

……

“…chard? Richard! RICHARD!” Repeated shouts finally broke Richard out of his daze, but when he opened his eyes all he could see was a blur. Blinking stung hard, and as he tried to look around his eyes started throbbing with pain. It was then that a cool energy landed on his body, a type of mana that seemed to be pure elemental water that washed away the pain.

He recovered his vision just in time to see Nezha’s fingers curling back from a spell discharge. Io and Nyra started pouring spells onto him right after, but by then he had already healed. 

Nezha’s face was filled with shock, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t think you’d be able to see through my illusion, it should take someone approaching legendary might to do that.”

Looking at his dazed face, Nezha suddenly shrunk in size and build. He, or as it turned out she, put a blue cap over her hair, “… I owe you an explanation. I normally don’t meet people in my true form; my snake hair acts independently and can hurt the soul of any creature in sight. Still, you actually managed to fight back and even hurt it gravely; it makes me even more confident in you.”

The memory of those ten snakes left him with goosebumps, but Richard nodded in understanding. He had been healed, and the information that Nezha was not completely human was a secret in its own right. He quickly assumed she was somehow related to gorgons.

It was only then that everyone noticed a burly young man next to Nezha, naked above the waist and quite sturdily built. He had deep blue hair that seemed to be made of waves, and similarly coloured eyes that were filled with fear at Richard’s face.

Richard stood up and circled the youth many times, shooting out fiery beams of light from his eyes that caused the young man to shudder as he repressed the urge to attack. Nezha had to constantly stroke his hair, releasing bouts of water with every stroke, to calm him down.

When Richard was finally done, he just paced around the room for a few minutes before raising his head in incredulity, “Your Excellency Nezha… I made it clear that the rune set was meant for a human… Or even someone half human, at least.”

Apprehension flashed across Nezha’s face, “I know, but… This boy is very human-like, no?”

“Sigh. Your Excellency, he only looks human. Even lizardmen are more closely related to humans than he is. Forgive me, but foreign races are not in my area of expertise.”

“Is there really no hope? I can pay you more! I have other things you might be interested in!” Nezha took out a sharkskin pouch from her waist, gritting before placing it before Richard.

However, Richard did not touch the pouch and instead looked her right in the eye, “… I need to know your motives. What do you want for him?”

“I just want him to be stronger! Even if it’s just a little bit, that’s okay! I thought about this quite a bit, and runes should be the fastest way to enhance his capabilities.”

Richard sighed once more, starting to rap the table as he murmured to himself. The air grew thick with gloominess, almost stifling Nezha as she constantly shifted between nervousness and excitement. On the other hand, the youth was looking at Richard’s followers who were watching him like a hawk, especially Flowsand and her guardians who felt extremely threatening. His eyes constantly darted towards Zangru as well.

Eventually, Richard looked up once more. “Okay, I’ll try, but—”

“I only need an elementary set— no, even a few grade 2 runes for the child should be enough!”

Richard didn’t respond right away, instead waving the youth over. The child cautiously took a step forward, but he refused to go any closer. Richard cast a probing spell and fell into thought for a few moments, turning back towards Nezha, “I have a few ideas now, we could try them out. It can still be a set, but unlike before I can’t guarantee it’ll be stronger than the Guide of Secrets.”

“Ah, yes. The Guide of Secrets. It was the reason I came to your auction in the first place, it really impressed me with its creativ— wait, what did you say?” Even the legendary mage took a moment to actually process his words.

“It will still be a grade 2 set, I just can’t guarantee its power. I’ll try to add one or two grade 3 runes, but even so, it might not measure up. The Guide of Secrets was something that I crafted with great purpose, and I don’t have enough experience with crafting runes for other races right now to equal it.”

“That… That…” Nezha did not know what to say at this point. It was all she could do to stuff the pouch into Richard’s hands amidst her surprise. However, Richard firmly refused the extra payment and gave it back to her, leaving her feeling completely unable to express her gratitude.

He had a room arranged for Nezha in the castle, telling her she would get a design by the evening. What he managed to come up with was the Lance of Broken Stars, a six-rune set that was balanced in its boosts. It had two set abilities, Water Shield, and the eponymous Lance of Broken Stars. One was defensive and the other offensive, making it flexible, but there was nothing exactly special about it.

Of course, Nezha thought otherwise. She remained just as elated as before, immediately approving the design upon first glance.

Richard told her that she could collect the set in seven days before buying the materials and heading to Faelor to begin crafting it. He wasn’t quite satisfied with the design, but given the circumstances, it was the best he could do. Any more and he would need in-depth research that included anatomical analysis of several samples of the target species performed by grand mages over numerous years.

Seven Norland days later, Nezha took the Lance of Broken Stars and left silently. At that time, Richard didn’t understand just how much of a stir this event would cause.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA