Book 6, Chapter 35

Monopoly

“I brought you something good,” Richard wisely diverted the topic, placing two hourglasses before Lawrence.

The old man’s face flashed with a myriad of emotions, first gratitude and then helplessness. He looked at the hourglasses for several minutes before raising his head once more, “You must have given up a lot of offerings for these things.”

“Oh? Not that much. They seemed rarer than before, but there was still a fair number.” Richard suddenly felt something was amiss, remembering the sheer number of hourglasses that had spawned in his very first offering. Now, despite the number of offerings far exceeding what he’d sacrificed then, he had barely been given the same amount. The old dragon had given him an abundance of sub-legendary gear, enough to equip each of his followers, but these hourglasses that he wanted the most didn’t appear nearly as much.

Lawrence looked at him and sighed, “These should be worth five years in total? Tch, they’ll only give me two more years at best, and in the future even that won’t happen.”

“Why?” Richard frowned.

“Or no powerhouses would ever die. Gods fall and entire planes are destroyed, how could mere mortals last forever? There’s not much of a difference between dying now and in two years.”

“You never told me about this,” Richard’s brows locked together.

“Sigh. Even if I did, you’d still do what you had to until you hit the wall. You should have realised the blessings of time are growing less abundant.”

“No worries. Two years are still two good years. I’ll definitely get more offerings by then, I’ve even gathered so many just on the way!” Richard chuckled, tossing his sack onto the ground. Within were multiple intermediate offerings and many black crystals.

“It looks like you’ve gotten better, you bastard,” Lawrence praised with a shake of his head.

Richard just smiled in response, taking off his shirt to reveal his chiselled body, “I have another present for you.”

“What? NO! I’m an old man, I don’t have those tastes!” Lawrence suddenly screamed, starting to back away.

Richard’s expression froze for a moment, his mana almost dissipating. It took all of his effort to refrain from slapping the old pervert unconscious, but after a while he just shook his head and activated Mana Armament. Sparks flew all over as a few orbs of lightning started revolving around his body, the inscribed lines barely lighting up on his skin.

“My Mana Armament!” Lawrence immediately jumped up, his mouth opening wider and wider as he examined the rune in detail, “No… No! It’s different from my design! Damn it, so much energy, how can you withstand it… Wait, you’ve even changed the core array? It’s more complicated now too! Wait…

“Isn’t it grade 5 rune now?”

“No, it’s a tiny bit away,” Richard replied.

“A bit? You damned rascal, I really want to strangle you!” Lawrence stomped his feet, but one could tell from the tone that he was proud more than anything else.

Richard withdrew his mana and smiled bitterly, “Its capacity requirement is close to grade 5, though. I wanted to enhance the Lifesbanes on my body, but it seems like I can’t do that now. If only I had Manaforge instead of Manacycle… Tch.”

Lawrence shook his head, “Stop dreaming, kid. Manacycle is already good enough, don’t even dream about Manaforge. As far as I know, that ability is restricted to certain bloodlines and is the ability that is awakened when certain races reach adulthood. It’s also far more powerful than the other two legendary mage abilities, it’s just that there aren’t many mages who can compare.”

“That can’t be right. Manaforge sounds like the most useless of the three, what’s the point of a standard increase in mana if you can kill enemies using less?” Richard rebuked.

Lawrence snorted, “Let’s say we’re both fighting each other. I have 10,000 men versus you’re 3,000. How are you going to win?”

“But my troops are more powerful individually!” Richard rebuked again.

“Are they?” Lawrence snickered, “Any being that can awaken Manaforge already has exceptional control of their mana. The power of their spells is amazing as well. How are you going to be better than them?”

“Really?” Richard still found it rather difficult to believe.

“You’re doubting me now? Kid, if you meet anyone with Manaforge don’t ever get into a battle with them. These beings only get stronger once they reach the legendary realm, growing far beyond most others at their level.”

These words made him recall Sharon’s own splendour before she was even a grand mage, and she was someone who had Manaforge as well. Unable to retort, he just nodded his head.

“Alright, give me a copy of the design and wait a bit. Let me see if there’s anything I can improve.”

Richard passed a blueprint he had already prepared, “I’m planning to stay here for a week.”

Lawrence took the blueprint and stared at it for a few minutes before sighing in disappointment, “This would have been difficult even back in my prime. Don’t have too much hope, I’ll only be making some minor changes.”

“That’s enough,” Richard smiled. When a rune approached grade 5, even minor changes were extremely complicated.

Lawrence turned around, “Right, I have to remind you about something. Now that you can craft grade 4 runes, there aren’t many people left in Norland who can surpass you. You need to make a rune that will spread your reputation far and wide, one that others can remember you by. Just power is not enough.”

“What?” Richard was confused.

“Yes, you still have to add special effects. Lights, sound, whatever it is, it should be flamboyant! This is why all runemasters are known as great artists!”

“Light and sound?” Richard still couldn’t understand, “What’s the point?”

“What’s the most famous grade 5 rune of all time?”

“Heaven’s Armour?”

“Do you think Heaven’s Armour would be more powerful than a grade 5 Lifesbane?”

“Umm… No?”

“Exactly. Why, then is it famous?”

“Isn’t it because Saint Peter was enlightened by the deity he served, thus coming upon the design for the rune?”

“Bullshit! You think the puny gods of Norland can actually think up a grade 5 rune design themselves? You think they would choose that old baldy who wanted nothing but gold and power even if they could? Heaven’s Armous is memorable because of the wings of light it creates when it’s activated. Those things are absolutely useless in battle, but damn are they cool! That’s why the rune is the most famous of them all!”

“Just because it’s pretty?” Richard couldn’t bring himself to believe that.

“Exactly! The aesthetics determine just how much your rune can sell for. Don’t underestimate them, you can even double your price if you do it right!” Lawrence pointed at Richard’s chest, “Take the Mana Armament. The lightning balls circling around you are amazing too, but there’s plenty of room for changes. Add more balls, make them larger, have them circle in a set pattern to seem more menacing. You can even have them explode when your defences are broken; it’ll mean nothing against an enemy that actually has the power to beat you, but it’ll seem amazing on stage. You can also change the colour of the lightning, even customising it for your clients. Red, purple… Maybe pink for some women of high society. These are all areas you can improve!”

“Uhh… Uhh… Were these the minor changes you talked about? I thought you were improving the output or something…”

Lawrence’s nose flared, ”These changes are extremely important! They determine how well your rune would sell!”

“BUT I’M NOT EVEN SELLING THEM! LIFESBANE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH TO MAKE MONEY OFF!”

BUT OTHERS CAN CREATE LIFESBANE TOO! YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE WITH MANA ARMAMENT, AND YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN REPAIR IT!

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo