Book 5, Chapter 44

Maturity

Closer inspection through a specially-crafted dwarven magnifying glass revealed that the two runes from Richard were not Lifesbanes. Although both had a similar effect of increasing attack speed and adding various effects to the damage, Richard’s version required fully manual activation for each strike and was not a stacking rune. It wasn’t nearly as powerful, but by extension it also needed much less carrying capacity.

Lawrence immediately understood that Richard now fully understood the essence of the Lifesbane design, and was capable of deriving a new rune out of it. This creation wasn’t as aggressive as the original, and thus not as valuable, but it was much easier and cheaper to produce. For the average powerhouse who wasn’t fully equipped yet, this was an absolute blessing.

As he continued to study the rune, Lawrence grew enamoured by just the lines Richard had drawn. If one looked at the rune as a work of art, this piece would take on an entirely different meaning, of a vigorous power that was forcefully repressed, as though the helpless roar of an injured beast.

It took a long while for him to bring himself to look away, heaving a long sigh.

……

Ten days later, Richard appeared at the gates of the Unsetting Sun once more. Once again, he passed out somewhere near the gate, and the saints guarding the place immediately carried him to Lawrence.

Just as before, he woke up on the steel table. His injuries weren’t as bad as the last time, but they were much greater in number. A deep cut on his face was already exposing bone. Lawrence tended to it all in silence, and Richard said nothing either. The only sounds in the gloomy tent came from the occasional clang of Lawrence’s tools. The stench of blood grew stronger at first, but then it slowly faded away.

Lawrence finally put his bloody scalpel away and started to wipe his sweat with a dirty towel, motioning that Richard could stand up. Richard immediately looked all over his body, finding numerous large wounds now held together by stitches. It made him look rather like a stitched monster.

He tried to move around a bit, but the pain from the wounds caused him to gasp.

“What, now you know pain?” Lawrence asked with an icy voice.

“Eh…” Richard slowly stretched, “Still bearable.”

Lawrence absolutely had anaesthetics on hand to relieve Richard of the pain, but he refused to use them. Seeing Richard start to control his movements, he just groaned, “Behave yourself next time, don’t risk your life out there for nothing! You think we need another powerhouse here? This place has its means to survive, the last thing we want is for a young runemaster to be risking his life.”

Richard smiled at the rebuke, “I’m almost a grand mage now.”

“ALMOST A GRAND MAGE?! EVEN PROPER GRAND MAGES WON’T DARE TO MESS AROUND LIKE YOU DO! DO YOU WANT TO DIE THAT BAD?!” Lawrence finally exploded, spitting all over Richard’s face.

Richard casually lifted his robes to wipe off the saliva, “I can definitely come back alive.”

“ARGH… Sigh. Nobody outside of Marshal Rundstedt can claim that in this city” Lawrence said coldly.

Richard continued to put on his clothes and smiled, “Then that makes me a second one.”

Overcome by rage, Lawrence just roared and shoved Richard out. He could already see what would come next, but he could not stop it.

……

Just as expected, even before a week had passed Richard brought two more enchanted boxes over each with two runes within. After that, he left the city once more. Lawrence sighed, just evaluating the runes and selling them to the city before ordering plenty of materials for Richard to work with. Categorising and processing them as necessary, he had them all stored in the small house Richard had taken over. Afterwards, he returned to his little store and messy life once more, awaiting Richard’s return. The only times his eyes came to life were when he was treating patients.

This time, Richard was out for an exceptionally long time. When he finally returned, he managed to both walk through the gates by himself and also brought back a big sack of loot. However, blood dripped down his clothes as he walked and he swayed harder and harder with every step. When he finally reached the clinic and kicked the door open, he just fell to the ground.

“WHICH BASTARD JUST SMASHED MY DOOR?!” Lawrence roared from within, but when he rushed out he just saw Richard lying on the floor with nobody else nearby. It took him a moment to realise what that meant, but then he just huffed and gently placed him on the surgical table, “You’ve actually improved, huh? You can even crawl here yourself now. Then why do you still get injured if you think you’re so good?!”

“... Ugh… I’m not… good enough, apparently,” Richard said groggily, barely awake.

This time he was completely calm and collected, casually chatting with Lawrence as the ice-cold tools dug around his insides. It took less than an hour for the surgery to complete, after which the former saint runemaster started examining Richard’s loot.

“Not bad, kid! You killed all of these?” Lawrence said with praise.

Richard nodded and let Lawrence keep all the loot to sell. This time he didn’t rush to meditate or craft, instead pulling out a few boxes of strong liquor and beginning to drink on his porch.

“May I have a few drinks with you?” a soft young voice spoke up at some point. Richard looked up in surprise, seeing a skinny youth standing by his side. He pointed across at another chair.

The boy barely caught the two bottles of liquor that had been thrown over, awkwardly taking a sip before instantly starting to choke. “Ugh, this sucks!” he complained as his face turned red.

Richard just smiled softly, continuing to drink at his own pace. At this point, his only requirement with alcohol was the strength and not the taste.

“Master Richard, I heard you are a great runemaster?” the boy asked with curiosity and admiration.

Richard grunted an affirmative, “What are you doing here, kid?”

The boy sat up straight, saying with pride, “I’m no kid! I’m already 18 years old and level 17!”

Richard’s eyes briefly lit up, “16 years old, and only level 15. That disguise of yours is useless, and without an adult protecting you you’d die in a day. Don’t think that necklace will actually hide anything.”

The boy was dumbstruck for a moment, and then he grew dispirited, “S-sorry, Sir. I am the son of Duke Tamuc. Father brought me here as an adulthood ceremony.”

Richard nodded to the almost-reverent youth, starting to stroke his beard out of habit. However, instead of stubble his hand touched thick, hard hair and long sideburns. For a moment he was confused, but quickly realised that he had forgotten to groom himself during the entire trip. He shook his head for a second, causing a small ponytail to shake.

The tiniest shred of attention that he had placed on the boy vanished entirely as he took out Carnage in sword form, using it as a mirror. Staring back at him was a man in the prime of his life who cared naught for grooming, hints of his youth only poking through at the corner of his eyes. He just threw the sword to the side and took another sip of liquor.

The youth didn’t seem to mind being ignored, only looking at Richard with more intense admiration. However, he fidgeted around for a few minutes before eventually asking the question on his mind, “Master Richard, do you think I have the potential to learn runecrafting?”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: YJH

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA