Book 5, Chapter 45

New Normal

“You want to learn runecrafting?” Richard laughed. If any random warrior could learn the craft, then runemasters wouldn’t be so rare.

The boy instantly blushed, “Sorry… I… just wanted to ask.”

“Alright kid, let’s have a look. Just maybe you do.” Richard first cast a few detection spells on the boy’s body before examining his hands. However, he eventually shook his head with a light sigh.

Surprisingly, the boy wasn’t even fazed. He wasn’t gifted in magic in the first place, which was why he had chosen to be a warrior instead of a mage. His father was also a well-known legendary being; there was no way that any such hidden talents would have remained unearthed until now.

As Richard fell back to ignoring the youth and started to drink again, two burly men approached Richard’s porch. They bowed to him with a smile, “Master Richard, we brought a crate of good wine for you.”

Richard took a single look at them before raising a brow, “Oh, you got my runes.”

“Indeed, my Lord! Ever since Saint Lawrence met his accident, we have rarely seen such powerful runes in the Unsetting Sun. These saved our lives yesterday!” the one on the left said emotionally.

“I see,” Richard nodded before opening one of the bottles and sniffing it. The wine smelled mellow and rich, far better than he had expected. A smile crawled up his face as he took a small sip, calling out to the two, “Come, let’s share a few cups!”

The two men were instantly delighted, sitting right down on the floor. Without any other dishes to go with the wine, they just ate some dried skaven meat on the side. It wasn’t every day that one got a chance to drink with a runemaster; building a good rapport with Richard could give them even more powerful runes in the future. And even if that wasn’t a possibility, Richard had indirectly saved their lives yesterday.

Only when they started chatting about their lives did the two reveal something about their standard. Their tone remained casual even at the mention of the most ferocious fighters of Daxdus or Norland, as though they were talking about any other ordinary matters. Moreover, the very fact that they were the first to be granted his runes showed that they had status, talent, or both.

At some point, the boy grew excited and asked if he could drink as well. Richard casually threw him a bottle, but the moment he tried to take a gulp he started choking once more; the wine from the two burly men was very strong. The two men smiled at each other when he claimed he was level 17 again, but didn’t make any comments. Even if they didn’t particularly care that this boy had the Tamuc badge, the battlefields of despair had a strange way of teaching people to live in the moment without caring about such minor slights as a white lie about one’s level.

The youth slowly relaxed as well, starting to share some interesting stories from the Tamuc Dukedom and even joking about his father.

……

A dignified man of powerful build was stood on the balcony of a distant tower. His 2.5-metre height made him look like a veritable pillar himself, and the tens of little brown pigtails for his beard that were blowing in the wind did nothing to diminish his image. The gemstones, metal rings, animal teeth, and other such trinkets braided into his beard clanged against each other in the wind as he focused his eyes on the four men drinking in a circle.

Normally, a few kilometres of distance was still close enough for alarm bells to be going off in Richard’s head. However, neither he nor the two other men were aware that they were being spied upon.

“Richard looks like a good guy,” Duke Tamuc said to a middle-aged man beside him, the same cunning-looking person that Richard had once met.

“He isn’t bad, but I cannot say I know him either. I don’t understand why a royal runemaster is risking his life in a battlefield of despair; even you and I could lose our lives here to one mistake.”

“He should have his reasons, he just isn’t saying them out loud. At least my son likes him; the twerp shouldn’t be wandering around the city without an adult anymore. I was getting worried…”

“Mm. Now, go tend to your business. Rundstedt and I are keeping guard, nothing should go wrong. With that said, I think Richard has good potential. It might be smart to involve him.”

Duke Tamuc hesitated for a moment before shaking his head, “Not now, he’s still too young. We can consider it after he shows real ability.”

The middle-aged man frowned, “You know better than anyone what a great runemaster will bring to the plan.”

“Yes, but loyalty comes first and foremost. We cannot afford any betrayal.”

The middle-aged man sighed and nodded before disappearing back into the tower.

……

Covered in the crimson light from the sky, the City of the Unsetting Sun had no day nor night. One could only tell the passage of time from the ringing of a magical bell in the Church of the Eternal Dragon.

By three rings since they started, Richard finally felt drunk. The boy had fallen asleep long ago, while the two men had reddened faces as well. In such occasions, nobody used their energy or mana to resist the tipsiness.

Seeing Richard starting to become groggy, the two men took their leave. A few guards appeared out of nowhere and pulled the youth away as well. Having exhausted the new supply, there was no alcohol to drink nor people to talk to; only loneliness remained.

An armoured woman whose face was hidden by a leather mask slowly approached the house from one end of the street. Richard cast a single glance at her before ignoring her completely, going back into his house and closing the door. The woman stopped in her approach, a look of astonishment rising up on her face. However, she eventually walked up to the door, hearing the light snoring from within. Hesitating for a short while, she eventually took out a piece of paper and a pen before quickly writing a letter. Signing it and leaving her own address behind, she placed it on the porch before turning to leave.

Two more people had walked over in the meanwhile. Seeing the woman’s actions, they loitered around Richard’s place for a while before leaving their own letters and going away.

……

It took till the next evening for Richard to come out and see the three letters on the stone ledge. Reading through them one by one, he found them all to be similar pleas for a certain special type of rune. The writers all hoped Richard would consider crafting this type of rune, and promised to pay above market price alongside their eternal gratitude.

Nobody knew exactly what sort of runes Richard would start making now. The procedure would be for him to sell to the city first and the Marshal to then distribute it to whoever need it, charging an affordable commission in the meanwhile, but one could still ask Richard to make specific types of runes that they needed. He could still sell through the city, but they would also give him some extra on the side.

Richard’s takeaways from the letters were entirely different. His runecrafting was famous throughout the Sacred Alliance, and now that he was here word was starting to spread through the City of the Unsetting Sun as well. Anyone even daring to request runes from him was an expert amongst this gathering of experts, so their requests also granted insight into just what kind of requirements one had in the Land of Dusk.

He pondered over the letters for a long time before walking into the large courtyard behind his house, picking out a rock and placing it at the centre of the hall. He then took out a plain dagger made of lafite and focused his mind, slowly lifting it before carving down in one swift stroke. The ordinary-looking strike removed a large chunk of the rock in an instant.

Focusing himself, he continuously carved through the rock while varying his pace and force. Sometimes the dagger cut off more than five kilograms in one stroke, and other times it barely left a mark. His mana was constantly flowing into his runes in varying amounts, transforming each ordinary stroke greatly. Every strike was an attempt to blend his mana, energy, and bloodlines to maximise their powers.

An hour later, his entire body was drenched with sweat while his fingertips trembled. The rock had been turned into a sculpture of a skaven, vividly capturing the viciousness of the creature in the finest of details. Richard examined his work carefully before smiling in satisfaction. His unending practice had improved his ability once more. Although the change wasn’t massive, it was profoundly significant for someone so close to the level of a grand mage.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: YJH

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA