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Indeed, Richard’s destination was the legendary city of Faust.
There was a certain kind of magic to time. When Richard had left the Blackrose Castle five years ago, entering Faust was but a thought in the mind of the daring lunatic called Gaton. Now? The Archerons were already an official member of the city.
The bards of the Sacred Alliance always spoke of the exciting experiences of the many families that tried to enter Faust. These families prepared meticulously for over a hundred years, and even then they still needed well-recognised heroes to lead them as they tore down various barriers on a journey of blood and fire with their very lives on the line to step foot into Faust and settle down there. Every family currently in Faust had such an epic behind it.
But Gaton had changed everything. He compressed a hundred years of preparation into a mere three, and changed what would be a magnificent ballad into a zealous aria.
Richard was currently fifteen years of age, and could now be considered a true runemaster. Although Gaton seemed indifferent to this on the outside, he had long sent Mordred to bring the boy to Faust. He had plans for his son’s future, and the arrival of Mordred in the Deepblue signified that he was thoroughly aware of Richard’s progress. On the other hand, Richard had come to know more about his father in the past years, growing levels past his confused former self.
Gaton setting the place of their meeting to Faust wasn’t as simplistic as it seemed. Entering the city of legends was only the beginning; every family there had only been given a ticket to participate in the game of power and authority within the city. A long path awaited them if they wished for their voice to be heard at the highest echelons of Norland.
Any new clan that successfully entered Faust would be discriminated against and ambushed for the next ten years or so. Even though the same skirmishes occurred between established families as well, it was at least in secret ways that wouldn’t affect their reputation. This was why many successful families had a handful of influential allies within the city of legends, to help them through the challenging phase that came after they were severely wounded during their entry.
In the past 400 years, 53 families and clans had embarked on a journey to Faust, with only 21 succeeding. And yet, the number of clans actually within Faust still remained at a constant 14. Richard wasn’t sure if his father had any allies, but there were certainly more enemies than one could count. The situation the Archerons faced when they first entered Faust could be described as mass abhorrence; everyone they met or passed was an enemy. Two years had passed since then, and in theory the Archerons should have been in their most difficult phase but Gaton surprisingly managed to send his best knight—who extravagantly brought along two rune knights—to escort Richard. This was proof that he had already steadied his status in Faust.
And to Richard, this news was both good and bad.
The first day after they left the Deepblue, they set out even before the sun rose and only stopped advancing when dusk fell. The only meal they had was some bites of rations, along with some cold water that they’d carried on the spare horse. A ten-hour journey had taken them over 300 kilometres away from the Deepblue, with the resting site Mordred had prepared beforehand nearby.
It was a small, unknown town, but rather prosperous due to the road that connected them to the neighbouring empire. There were less than 100 families in the town, but it strangely had six inns which was clearly the main source of their income.
Riding a horse gets fairly tiring after long periods of time. When the horses walked onto the firm and even ground of the town, Richard showed signs of exhaustion on his face. Yet he remained alert, and seemed to have energy left over. The armoured warhorse was a beast meant for short bursts of power, but this day-long trek didn’t seem to faze it either as its steps were still steady and it looked rather spirited.
Mordred and the two rune knights looked the same as they did in the morning, apart from some dirt and dust that had settled on them. They were physically trained to be able to run at their highest speed whenever a situation called for it, so this journey was a piece of cake for them. But the two rune knights now looked at Richard with a newfound admiration, and Mordred praised him, “That’s a pretty good horse there, Richard. And you too!”
They all knew Richard was only a level 8 mage, technically supposed to be quite frail. Mages weren’t exactly weak with their bodies, still considerably stronger than regular humans, but they couldn’t compare to warriors. Even if a mage’s body also grew stronger with level Richard was only level 8 at the moment, his limited mana making it difficult to sustain magic like Bull’s Strength and Agility of the Breeze that would increase his energy. It was unlikely for him to have harnessed additional strength through magic.
Because of time and other reasons, half of their day’s journey had been off the main road, going through a shortcut filled with hills and streams. The road was extremely bumpy, so Richard was supposed to be worn out without any enhancing magic. The fact that he was showing this level of energy even now implied that his body was much stronger than peers of his level.
One of Mordred’s intentions in this trip was to strengthen Richard’s physique and willpower on top of his combat ability, but it seemed like the original 300 kilometres he’d planned for a day had underestimated the boy. It wasn’t all that strange for Richard to be so strong, after all the care and nurture of the legendary mage left all of the Deepblue’s mages as strong as bears, but how did his horse have such endurance?
Mordred took another look at it and something caught his eye. “Richard, you added a rune to this horse?”
“Yes. It’s an elementary rune that can reduce energy consumption and increase regeneration. It’s called Vitality.”
“Vitality? I don’t think I’ve heard of it?” Mordred asked in confusion. As a high-levelled rune knight, although he did not know how to make runes his knowledge of them was comparable to that of an ordinary runemaster.
“It isn’t a standard rune, instead something I designed after some reading on both magic and divine spells.” Richard drew up the sleeve of his right arm and revealed a complicated yet graceful motif on his bicep, “Look, I gave myself one too. This allows me to regenerate faster.”
“Why not something that can increase your fighting strength, like those that can enhance your attacks with magic?” Mordred furrowed his brows.
“That’s for the future,” Richard answered, “Vitality gives me more time and energy to learn and practise magic, which will grow my power more in the long run. I’ll consider runes that increase my combat abilities when my body can handle more rune slots in the future.”
Mordred stroked his needle-like beard and laughed, “You don’t behave like a fifteen-year-old, do you?”