The First Blow
Yet to turn eighteen, and with the red dragon bloodline, drawing a complete rune would be the most important step in Steven’s lifetime as a runemaster. Once a rune crossed 10% completion it was just a matter of time before he finished it. Even if he’d be stuck with elementary runes, he would definitely become a runemaster in the future.
Steven was still young, and definitely did not lack time. He’d assumed that this piece he’d spent most of the month toiling on, spending more than a million of the Solam Family’s gold coins to gather and process, would completely blow Professor Fayr away. However, the response had only been lukewarm.
Had this work been handed to Saint Klaus, he would sing the greatest of praises and compliments for it. On the other hand, Fayr had remained indifferent and cold. It was like the grand mage had poured water from Floe Bay on Steven’s burning heart.
Who was Luce? Steven knew that Luce was Grandmaster Fayr’s student, someone who was 31 years old. He was a level 13 mage with no special bloodline, only average for his age. The work he’d laboured over for a month had been tossed to a piece of mediocre trash?
If Fayr himself acted like this, it was easy to imagine how a legendary mage like Her Excellency would act. Steven suddenly felt his heart turn cold, thinking of the dwindling income every month and feeling at a loss. Was it really so difficult to obtain the legendary mage’s delight? What had gone wrong? Not considering Richard, even that piece of trash Randolph used to get a great amount before.
Steven didn’t prize money, but he wanted the recognition and teachings of the legendary mage. What Sharon’s Delight showed was her attitude; if he couldn’t even obtain that, how would he have the qualifications to become a legendary runemaster?
It had been around half a year since he had come to the Deepblue. In this time, Steven had not been slacking off. He would make ample preparations for each meeting with the legendary mage, all with the intent to show her his most perfect side. Some of these meetings were placed in his schedule, while the chance encounters were created by using manpower and physical resources. The time he spent on learning magic and training was a lot greater than before, and the speed at which his mana grew was proof of his hard work. He’d done everything he should’ve, and also gone beyond what was required of him. For example he’d done his utmost to deal with Richard, his largest competitor who’d been earmarked as a future saint runemaster. Unfortunately Richard seemed to be walled in like a rock, leaving Steven with no way to get to him.
In all situations, Steven would maintain the best manners and elegance as was becoming of the child of a great noble family. Even though there were times he wanted to punch someone’s nose or tear one’s clothes off, he knew the social construct of the Deepblue extremely well. He understood how everything worked and knew the temper, habits and likes of all the important people. He’d even succeeded in getting a group of friends, isolating his enemies. However, there was something a little off about the last point, because Richard had always been alone.
However, after putting in the most effort he ever had in his life, Steven had also gained the greatest disappointment in his life. Grandmaster Fayr’s nonchalance had completely woken him up. The Deepblue was a tremendous and matchless monster, and he’d thought that he knew it well. However, he hadn’t even seen its full appearance yet.. In a place where so many grand mages gathered, a 17 year old dragon warlock was nothing, even though he called himself a genius. There was no lack of people like him here.
One of Fayr’s students was still in the lab, cleaning up the area. Seeing Steven’s pale and blank look, he suddenly felt some pity. Besides, he’d obtained quite a number of little gifts from Steven. While not particularly rare, they represented Steven’s thoughtfulness. For someone from a noble family like Steven, this was very rare.
He greeted Steven, looked to the left and right to check that nobody was around, and then whispered, “Professor is very busy today. Richard gave him a rune this morning, and he spent the entire morning testing its effects. His schedule is completely messed up.”
While the student’s voice was gentle, the words were like thunder to Steven’s ears, to the point that he found himself almost unable to stand steadily.
“Richard? Rune? What rune? How complete was it?” Steven asked with a last trace of hope. His voice was hoarse, and purposefully unkempt hair grew completely dishevelled. A few strands on went damp with sweat, sticking firmly to his forehead.
However, he knew full well that any testable rune was far more complete than just 20%.However, he knew full well that a rune that could be tested meant that no matter how terrible it was, it still surpassed his 20% by a huge amount.
The student gazed at Steven with sympathy, pointing at the carcass of the armoured horse in the distance that was being towed away by some strong men. “It’s Elementary Agility, and the completeness... that doesn’t actually matter. See that armoured horse? The rune has already been made into a rune slot. The experiment was a success, which means that this rune slot only needs a bit of tidying up and it’ll be done.”
While he’d already prepared to hear this, the answer still surpassed Steven’s expectations. The rune had already been made into a rune slot, and the experiment had been a success? This was the second barrier on the path of becoming a runemaster, and that was placing a rune on the body of a particular being. However, Richard had easily passed this barrier. Steven knew the significance of this very well. If one used the loosest of standards, Richard could now be considered a runemaster!
This information smashed Steven’s bottom line. While there was still a long way to go till Richard could truly be a runemaster who could create rune knights, what was worse was that he had much more time than he did! Richard was only 12, and even if one were to say he was a year older than that, he would still only be 13!
Everything suddenly turned dark in front of Steven’s eyes. All his hopes for the future, his glamour, his honour... it seemed to disappear in an instant. The huge investment his family had placed on him now only seemed cold and heavy. Steven had borne witness to Randolph’s plight, and even jeered at the boy before, but soon enough it could be him in that position.
Steven grabbed at the student’s hand, and because he’d used too much strength, his fingernails sunk deeply into the other’s flesh. With a hoarse voice he pressed on, “Are you sure it’s Richard? Richard Archeron? That little guy who isn’t even thirteen yet?”
The student silently tore Steven’s hand away. He could understand how Steven was feeling now and how he had lost his calm. Little Richard had given everyone a tremendous shock, to the point that even the grand mage Fayr could not keep his calm, much less Steven.
The habits of the legendary mage had long since become an open secret, which was why students in the same field would always compete and even trample on each other. Each improvement from Richard meant Delight from the big boss for all the mentors who had taught him. However, this was a huge blow to the rest of her students. With Richard’s current achievement being so dazzling, the student couldn’t even bear to imagine how great the blow to Steven was. To be honest, there was nothing to imagine. Just the lost look on the face of this dragon warlock who had never lost his calm before was proof enough.
Steven was in no hurry to see what he had received, and just took out a little crystal bottle which he handed to the student as thanks. This was a potent mana potion, and although it was a small bottle it would fetch at least 500 coins on the market.
This gift was extremely pleasing, and it was merely thanks for revealing this piece of news. With how intelligent Steven was, he would definitely be giving a lot more in the future in exchange for what he’d just handed over. The student kept the little crystal bottle well, the cool, smooth and exquisite feeling from the bottle leaving him unwilling to move his fingers away.
This was a day with great harvests for him: he’d witnessed the birth of a miracle, and obtained a ‘little gift’ that was extremely pricey. There would even be more on the way! His mood only grew better, there was nothing more he could expect. Before stepping foot into the teleportation formation, the student could not help but look up at Floe Bay’s skies, thinking that the weather that day was splendid.
Steven also looked up, but all that filled his sky was grey clouds. It was the omen of an incoming blizzard...
Only Steven and Minnie were left on the large viewing platform of the lab. Minnie was stood by the formation, and only when the strong men cleared the armoured horse from the arena did she take a few steps closer to the railings to look attentively. She hadn’t drawn close for Steven’s conversations with either Fayr or his students.
“This shitty weather!” Steven cursed, unable to hold himself back. The beginning of spring was extremely cold in Floe Bay, and the chilly wind blew on his sweat-soaked clothes to make him feel like he’d fallen into an icy hole. He opened his palm and looked at what the student had given him, his expression even worse than before.
This was a half-charred animal hide, obviously taken from a subspecies of some lizard. It was at least four grades worse than the blazing earth dragon he’d used, 1/1500th of the total price. The smart youth immediately understood the meaning of this: Richard’s formation had been drawn on something that barely met the standards.
Everyone knew that the better the material, the higher the success and efficiency of the magic formation. The half-charred fragment seemed incomparably heavy in Steven’s hands, difficult to even hold. There had always been a disparity between him and Richard in his mind, but because of this half-charred fragment, the distance had gotten even wider.
Yet another gust of chilly wind blew, and Steven’s expression paled. He suddenly felt that he hated this place, this stupid weather, the stupid things, the stupid people! The only thing that he was satisfied with was that grand mage Fayr had acted appropriately while speaking to him in front of his students, and had not gone too far.
But what was the point? He’d already lost in general. What was the point of winning at trivial things then?
Steven waived his arms and signalled for Minnie to walk towards the teleportation formation, wanting to leave this place as soon as possible. Minnie suddenly asked nonchalantly, “What did he give you just now?”
Steven’s body stiffened, and he gritted out, “A good piece of hide!”
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