The Power to Change The World
Spring arrived once more, and Richard was about to turn thirteen. Of course, the boy did not know that this spring would hold a special meaning for him.
As controllers of war, it wasn’t truly important for runemasters to kill with their own hands. This was especially true for someone at Richard’s level. However, every night he spent in that little tavern in the outer regions gave Richard a newfound understanding of magic formations, dimensions, or his other homework. What had originally been a bunch of static numbers now connected, everything affecting everything else not just in the moment, in that place, but elsewhere and other times as well.
The fireball spell formation was a simple example. Its instant attack was the same whether it was used in a desert or a forest, but over three to five years the formation would increase the fire elements in a desert. Oases would shift several kilometres away, perhaps drying out further as well. On the other hand, a large formation would burn many trees away in a forest, reducing the density and variety of the greenery. However, once the trees burned to ashes the wind would spread their seeds elsewhere. The soil would recover over time, growing fertile once more.
Such long-term effects were useless in a single battle, but over a prolonged war that lasted more than a century these things could affect the development of societies and entire races. It gave Richard a proper understanding of what runemasters were, of what they did and why they were called controllers of war. However, even he himself was in disbelief of such a thing. Such thoughts could be coincidental, but pure logic told him it was more probable that excessive fatigue was causing him to hallucinate.
One certain night, he found himself unable to sleep. All his experiences from childhood till date suddenly surged to the front of his mind, and the huge amount of knowledge he’d gained in the Deepblue merged and linked to answer many questions he’d had in the past. Inspiration surged like a spring, while his heart began to pound quickly.
He suddenly sat up and charged into his laboratory, preparing over a hundred items in one go. He spread the hide of a high-level beast out, taking a few magic pens with special mithril tips to begin carving a magic formation.
The night silently passed, but the rays of magic never faded, causing one to lose track of time. Switching through twenty two different types of magic pens, damaging six, and using no less than 200 different types of magic ingredients, he finally managed to draw a complete magic formation. The square hide turned extremely rigid, and the rays of light from the formation itself circulated around it. As long as Richard pushed his mana inside, the spell formation would activate automatically to increase his innate agility.
Once he saw this hide, Richard himself couldn’t believe his eyes. This was the result of his entire night passing like a dream, and if one ignored the material issues and small flaws it had it would garner another name in the outside world.
This was a rune! Although only the most basic of runes, Elementary Agility, it was a rune nonetheless!
He may have learnt all the theory and the foundational subjects systematically over the past years, but Richard had yet to start on making runes. Although this rune had a lot of room for improvement, and was almost useless, it was a substantial improvement for him personally! Once a mage could cast a spell of a certain grade it wouldn’t be hard for them to learn other spells of that grade, and the same was true of runemasters and runes!
Holding this crude rune, Richard’s mind was filled with all sorts of thoughts. His hard work, his conjectures, the suffering… it all came to mind. All that time of being unwilling to waste a single moment, working hard bit by bit, had finally come to fruition. The pain and fervour that he’d hidden deep in his veins had pushed him to success.
If one wished to find the source of his motivation now, it could be seen easily with three words: success follows accumulation.
All sorts of feelings welled up in his mind, but Richard only allowed himself three minutes to dwell on them. He knew full well that everything in the Deepblue was built up high in the clouds, where his dreams could be destroyed in an instant.
The massive fees, the great amount of materials he needed to use, the mana potions he drank like water everyday, and this residence that was so huge he felt uneasy living in it… It was all built on Sharon’s Delight. Put bluntly, Richard’s life depended on the legendary mage’s moods. Before his talent gave way to true power, he was just like a painting on the wall, something that could only be admired not used.
A proverb had made it down the annals of history: there was no free lunch in the world. This lunch that came from a legendary mage, so rich and ridiculous, how could it possibly be free?
Naya’s reaction had told Richard that the father of his, who he hated to the core, was definitely someone well-known on the continent. He’d also learnt that people feared Gaton Archeron far more than they liked him. That background gave him some conjectures as to the source of Sharon’s Delight. Of course his own hard work was a part of everything, but Gaton’s influence had a hand in it as well.
Richard knew full well that everything he owned, including the money he was planning to use to help Erin get through her tough situation, had actually come from his father; the man who he was once curious about, but was now unwilling to even recall. However, he could not just reject all this. It was impossible to continue down the path of magic without a great amount of wealth to support him. WIth how stubborn he was, he would definitely return all the money he had gotten from Gaton with interest before he could fulfil his mother’s wishes and never see his father again.
Or perhaps one day the father and son would meet again, on the battlefield in another plane. After all, the world was filled with inconceivable events.
However, Richard had learned a lot from his philosophy classes. Even if he was set on returning everything in the future, with interest, would that mean he could use Gaton’s gold as he wished now? Many would perhaps have no qualms with this, but he could not do so. Deep within his blood was an instinctual pride that came from both his parents, and this pride told him he couldn’t cheat himself so shamelessly.
Now, however, this rune was a turning point. This thin piece of hide was proof that he could create standard runes quite soon, and developing from Elementary Agility into other basic runes. Even as someone who was used to living in the Deepblue the price of the most elementary runes had astonished him in the past, and now he could make money by crafting and selling them. That would make for a sizeable amount of money, even if it couldn’t compare to how much Sharon was giving him in recent months.
Of course Richard wasn’t so stupid as to reject that money now that he had the means to earn some himself. The extra gold would give him more ingredients, allow him to train quicker, and granted him even more freedom.
‘If…’ Just as this word popped up in his mind, Richard forced it down. However, he knew full well what he truly wanted to ask. If he had the ability to craft runes before, would he have been able to save Erin?
This was a young and innocent question, but instinct gave the boy a brutal, practical answer. Nothing would change. What had happened had happened, and time could not flow backwards.
As Richard studied the world of Deepblue more closely, he garnered a better understanding of the laws of the place. He was gaining greater and greater clarity about the expressions behind people’s faces, growing able to see things that were once obscured by numerous veils.
Time lost was simple, but this world was complicated.
The sun leapt out of the icebergs at the boundaries of Floe Bay, rising up into the sky. A bright sunshine shot through the window and diluted the rune’s magic light, causing Richard’s fatigued eyes to sting. He rubbed them for a bit before he stowed the rune away, leaving his residence quickly in search of grand mage Fayr who taught him magic formations. He wished to determine the next step in his studies.
Fayr definitely lived up to his title as a grand mage. He was level 19, with profound knowledge and innovative theses in the philosophy of magic coming about with fair, genuine ways. Currently his professor in magic formations, he would also teach him to craft runes one day.
Runecrafting touched on a great many things, requiring a lot of knowledge, but there was no specific path to it. A thousand years of research had separated runes into seven grades, with the first four being considered standard. Elementary runecrafting didn’t qualify one to be called a runemaster, the title only going to those who could craft runes at grade 2 and above. Great runemasters could craft grade 3 and 4 runes, while anyone who could make grade 5 runes was considered a saint runemaster. As for grades 6 and 7, those runes were only conjecture as of now.
It was still rather early in the day, and few were out and about in the Deepblue. Richard controlled his heart that was thumping with joy, walking hastily away from the teleportation formation to stand at the entrance to Sharon’s personal region in the upper layers.
Two giant copper gates guarded the entrance, but they were open be it night or day. There was a magic puppet on each side, and one directed its ruby eye at Richard as it shot out a crimson ray of light. The emblem at the corner of his magic robes immediately lit up in response, and the puppet immediately returned to position as the light in its eye dimmed.
The upper layers of the Deepblue were reserved for the legendary mage, while the layers just beneath were allocated to a few greatly qualified grand mages in a display of Her Excellency’s generosity, trust, and fondness. The daily lives of seventeen grand mages revolved around this area that had five full levels of the tower, and Fayr was one of those mages.
By the time Richard was allowed into Professor Fayr’s personal region, the man had just completed his morning meditation.
The grand mage wore his robes before he came out, emanating a dense elemental aura. With his affinity for the elements, the sheer concentration of mana around Fayr far exceeded that in ordinary space. Just listening to the Professor speak would result in long-lasting benefits in terms of mana building, but Fayr only released this elemental aura in two cases: either he’d just completed his meditation, or he was teaching his most important student.
A tiny trace of approval flashed in Fayr’s eyes when he saw Richard, hard to discern. He pointed at a chair nearby and gestured for Richard to take a seat, grabbing a mana potion and taking a few sips himself.
Richard did not sit, however. He instead produced the beast hide with the rune on it, handing it over to the grand mage, “This is something I was inspired to write last night, Professor. Please have a look.”
The intricate and compact patterns alone made it obvious to Fayr that this was a superior formation. Fayr flashed a rare smile as he took the hid. Just as he was about to praise Richard, however, his expression suddenly changed. He took a few more looks, and couldn’t help but begin to tremble.
The grand mage suddenly stood up in a hurry, knocking the half-empty potion in the process with his sleeve. The bottle fell to the ground, wasting a lot of the 2000 gold coins it was worth as it shattered with a crash.
The usually frugal Fayr suddenly didn’t care for the potion anymore. He glanced at Richard, his eyes shining with mana as the elements entered chaos around him. He’d practically caused an elemental storm indoors!
He asked sternly, “You said you did this last night? Do you know what this is?”
The berserk elemental storm caused Richard to feel suffocated, making it difficult to stand in place. Still he answered calmly, “It’s a basic buff-type rune, Elementary Agility. It’s only somewhat complete.”
It was only now that Fayr realised he had lost control over himself. The mage slowly retracted the elemental force he’d scattered everywhere, looking at the beast hide in his hands before he spoke slowly, “Only somewhat? Ha, indeed, as a rune it can only barely meet the standards, but few people in history could make a rune that meets the standards before the age of thirteen! I trust you aren’t lying, but this just doesn’t make sense. Your lessons haven’t converged yet… There should be some other factors that allowed you to gain this sudden enlightenment, giving you a comprehensive understanding of the various systems of magic. If you don’t mind, could you tell me of any special situations you’ve been in lately? It will be useful for your future development.”
Grandmaster Fayr was someone worthy of respect, and Richard felt no negative emotions from him. Besides, the most important thing in this complicated and dangerous world of magic was to have a wise guide. Richard summarised everything he’d experienced outside of class over the last year, although he hid the part that had to do with Erin. He didn’t even hide his studying with Naya.
Having heard all that, Fayr’s eyebrows twitched. He wanted to stand up by instinct, but he controlled himself and leaned against the back of his chair before lifting his hand and indicating for Richard to stop. He then gazed up at the ceiling, deep in thought.
He spoke again a moment later, “So it’s him. I never thought that the Blade of Calamity was in the Deepblue. He’s called Naya now? That’s his real name, something he almost never used. His teachings should be one of the prime reasons you could break the walls between the different subjects; after all killing and creation are two sides of a coin. Both need knowledge in various areas.”
Richard hesitated, and then asked, “Can I still continue studying with him?”
Grandmaster Fayr sighed for a while, and then answered, “By the looks of it now, yes. The Blade of Calamity— no, he’s Naya now— was once someone quite influential in the underworld. He nearly turned killing into an art, so at the very least he should be able to teach you for the next few years. However, I’m curious. Why did you suddenly get the idea to learn the art of killing?”
“To create a more powerful rune knight, I need to know the most efficient ways to kill.”
Richard’s answer caused Fayr to give him a long look. However, the old grand mage eventually shook his head, “That isn’t your real reason, I can see it in your eyes… Forget it, I shouldn’t be interfering. But know this: this is the Deepblue, and everything here belongs to Her Excellency. If anything troubles you, you can approach either me or Sharon herself.
“The Deepblue is also a world of mages, and secular power cannot extend all the way here. If the disputes you find yourself affect too much of the outside world, then you can tell your father. The Archeron Family’s power has caused many people fear, and Marquess Gaton himself has begun to establish himself in Faust, the capital of legends. That means he has enough power to be at the peak of the secular world.”
Richard’s gaze shifted away. It took a while for him to speak, “I do not want to borrow Marquess Gaton’s strength.”
Aged wisdom allowed Fayr to find Richard’s little secret in his addressal of the man. However, this didn’t surprise him; everyone who carried the Archeron name was a strong character. Of course there were other families like that in Norland, such as Saint Peter’s descendants and Wisma, Agarest, Solam, Julius and the like.
Fayr nodded and spoke in a low voice, “I actually have one more doubt… The art of killing far exceeds the limits of this domain, which was what allowed you to see the possibilities. However, to merge all 46 of the fundamental runic subjects isn’t something even a genius can do. That needs diligence and wisdom; true wisdom, mind you, not intelligence. You, Richard, aren’t the most outstanding in the Deepblue in terms of your wisdom. I thought you’d only be able to craft runes of your own once you turned fifteen, but you’ve done it at twelve. That doesn’t make sense…”
Even as he asked this, Fayr knew there was no answer to this question. The fact was that Richard had taken the most important step for all runemasters, and since he met the requirements the reasoning didn’t matter.
Having studied magic philosophy intensely, Fayr knew there was a reason behind this. If he couldn’t find one right now, it only meant that he didn’t see it yet, not that one didn’t exist. Norland had far too many secrets, and the numerous universes with their innumerable planes could never be completely explored. It wouldn’t be absurd if some bored god suddenly gave Richard complete knowledge of runecrafting out of nowhere. Even Saint Peter, who crafted holy equipment, revealed before his death that most of his inspiration had come from the gods.
Fayr stood up, stowing the rune away, “Nevermind, let’s not waste time on trivial issues. Whatever the reason is much of your breakthrough can be attributed to luck, but luck only becomes a greater factor of your strength the further you get.”
Pausing for a while, the grand mage Fayr spoke profoundly, “Richard, perhaps you still have no idea about how lucky you are. This is an open secret, so there’s no need for me to keep it from you: Her Excellency has a habit of having only one apprentice in every domain, so as to continue passing on her knowledge. Her students are dazzling pearls on the crown of magic, and that is especially true for runemasters.”
“So…?” Richard suddenly understood the malice that came from Steven and Minnie, as well as the reason for Randolph’s plot to kill him despite them having nothing to do with each other before that.
“From what I know Steven was interested in becoming a runemaster, and he seems very resolute. However, you’re already ahead of him with the most decisive step. That’s the reason I told you how to take care of disputes that cannot be resolved. Remember to take care of yourself as well.”
Richard could tell what Fayr was implying, but he remained in disbelief, “But this is the Deepblue!”
Grandmaster Fayr chuckled, “No matter how powerful the law is, it can only control the rational people.”
This caused Richard to bow his head in contemplation. He eventually seemed to understanding the meaning of the words, nodding to Fayr.
The old mage had packed everything up by then, and some students he had summoned had hurried over, “Now, come with me, lucky boy, and I’ll show you how runemasters create miracles. I’m sure seeing this will give you a greater understanding of the world of runemasters than half-true sayings and old legends.”
An hour later, Richard and Fayr were seated within a magic laboratory situated outside the Deepblue. The place was giant and open-air, allowing the testing of large-scale magic or even legendary spells. It was normally also used as an arena for beast fights, to test new magic beasts or fresh summons.
A violent, armoured warhorse was brought into the lab arena under Richard’s gaze. This was a type of magic beast local to the Deepblue, much larger than ordinary warhorses with a layer of scales as hard as steel covering its back. The beast was untamable, its metallic hooves able to crush a polar bear’s skull while its speed and jump height could compare to maers deer. All these factors summed up to give it few natural predators.
The most valuable part of the armoured warhorse was the metallic scales on its back. They were stronger than the strongest metals in production, but still as light as feathers. On top of that they took easily to magic, not requiring too much of a complicated process to attach runes to.
In order to prevent these tyrannical magical beasts from suddenly going berserk, they had to pass through a very long, dark and narrow pathway. The moment the armoured horse entered the laboratory, the open space that suddenly appeared before it caused it to pause. This was a huge area with a circumference of over a thousand metres, with all sorts of terrain on it. After so many experiments, the dense mana remnants and the many bloodstains from magic beasts over the years caused it to grow guarded.
The moment the warhorse paused, Richard saw that a portion of the scales on its chest had been removed. The elementary agility rune had been placed there instead, and this obviously wasn’t just a simple embedding. The beast hide had been trimmed and processed, planted on the corresponding spot with meticulous care.
The armoured warhorse’s snorts grew rougher, and the rune at its chest began to flicker. This was a sign that the rune had absorbed the beast’s mana, beginning to activate.
Stimulated by powerful bloodlust, the horse went completely berserk! It got up on two legs and released a long neigh, beginning to charge like lightning once its hooves touched the ground. It looked like it wanted to jump over two piles of logs in its way, breaking through the border fences to regain its freedom.
Just as the armoured horse jumped into the air, the rune suddenly emanated dazzling light. The horse showed astounding ability as one leap took it astoundingly far, crossing the first pile but then smashing it into the second. This jump alone was half a fold of increased jump distance!
Wood shavings flew everywhere, and the heavy logs were sent rolling by the impact. A log that was half a metre long was the one to bear the brunt of the impact, almost being torn in half!
The warhorse grew dizzy with the impact, its head spinning as it couldn’t determine its location. It started charging in all directions, the rune on its chest glowing as it further increased its speed.
However, this evidently surpassed the limits of the horse’s control. It sometimes ran too far, or sometimes it misjudged the distance and crashed into the fence. Sometimes it just jumped too high or too far, causing it to lose its balance mid-air and fall face-down.
Dull thuds sounded everywhere, and pieces of wood, mud, and stone fell everywhere. The gigantic body of the warhorse practically turned into a black phantom as it darted around at unimaginable speeds, smashing right into the obstacles with its body. With its body weight and speed, the horse itself had become a terrifying weapon, the slightest of impacts causing terrifying damage.
Watching the armoured horse speeding around the lab like lightning, Richard could only gape. He was quite familiar with this often-seen beast, but he’d never thought it could reach such speeds. Seeing the terrifying power of the horse after it sped up… This was like a whole new species!
Was this the power of a runemaster?
Little Richard suddenly found his mouth going dry. He felt like he was a baby who had grabbed a metal sword, wanting to use it as a toy, but only found out after brandishing it that this sword had the power to destroy anything he saw.