“How did you know?” Beye’s voice sounded from behind Richard.
“We spent ten days together,” Richard forced his smile further, “I remember your scent.”
It was unclear just when Beye had arrived, but his body was left paralysed the moment she revealed her presence. Her murderous aura had basically nailed him to the chair, leaving him so immobile he couldn’t even turn his head. “Impossible!” she responded, “Even those of Daxdus who have a powerful sense of smell cannot sense me.”
“Yes, you really have become one with the Land of Dusk. But you’re also the only one I know personally who goes there so often.”
Beye withdrew her killing intent, allowing him to move once more. However, the ability to pin him down so easily further heightened her image in his heart. She suddenly grabbed him by the forearms, studying the Lifesbane runes on his skin closely. It took many minutes before she could tear herself away, turning back to the scar-ridden wall and examining the slashes for another length of time.
Richard watched from his seat as Beye’s shoulders began to shake, his own mind immediately turning chaotic. How could she be so shaken from a mere rune? Wasn’t she a master of emotions, unwavering in the worst of situations? There had to be a story behind this.
“It really is Lifesbane, and even stronger than I ever imagined…” she said softly as she turned around, stretching out her palm.
Richard had already pulled out the enchanted box with the rune inside. However, he watched with horror as she took it out immediately and scratched up her own right forearm on the spot. Without using the normal salves that would ease the process, she directly jabbed the rune into her bleeding arm and fused it with her energy.
“One set isn’t enough, I need at least four!” her voice was full of yearning.
Richard could only wave his hands, “I don’t have the materials.” Three Lifesbane runes would take him more than ten million gold, a number that even he couldn’t afford. He still wasn’t able to guarantee production like he could for most other runes; his success rate was only 30%.
Beye frowned, “Go buy some then. I don’t have gold or magic crystals, but I can pay you in offerings. I only need to know one thing, how fast can you craft them?”
Richard sighed; for her to be willing to pay him in offerings meant she was desperate. “If I start fresh right now, I’ll need about ten million gold in raw materials and about a month and a half of time. If I were pulled into battle, the time will obviously increase. But if you can wait for half a year so I reach level 17, the costs will drop to about six million. The time will drop to a month as well.”
Beye’s brows perked up as she nodded softly, “Six months for an entire level? Her Excellency really did give you the full extent of her meditation techniques. You also need to be well-suited to meditation… Anyway, six million for three…”
She flashed a rare smile, “An old man who was the only one who could craft these runes asked me for fifteen million per rune. Even then he eventually failed. Why are you giving me a base price, don’t you plan to make any profits off me? Or are you underestimating someone who’s survived the battlefields of despair for a long time?”
She paused for a moment, suddenly growing thoughtful before continuing, “Something’s wrong, even as a base cost that’s much lower than it should be… But you should know that. Why aren’t you trying to fleece me?”
Richard pondered the question seriously for a moment, “I… didn’t really think of the idea. If you want a reason, it’s because you’re the one who gave me this blueprint. I don’t think some of my time and effort for that is a bad trade. Besides, I’m still improving my skills when I try difficult runes like this.”
“Sigh. Are you really smart or just really stupid?”
Richard smiled calmly, “I’m almost twenty, definitely not stupid.”
Beye lifted her right arm slightly, the Lifesbane rune flashing as her hand shot for his hair. Richard barely managed to sense the danger, but try as he might he couldn’t get away in time. His hair was tousled up as though hit by a small hurricane, left completely erect.
Seeing him rather annoyed, Beye smiled again. However, she immediately went back to her usual cool self, “There are a few other runes like Lifesbane, extremely powerful but just as complicated. Nobody outside of saint runemasters has any skill to speak of with them, so the blueprints are circulated far and wide. Lifesbane is one such rune, me giving you the blueprint is no big deal. There are others like Sun’s Embrace, Kiss of Death, Crimson Inferno, Momentary Paradise, and so on. Keep an eye out for them, they shouldn’t be hard to acquire.”
Richard slowly fixed his hair, the calm smile returning to his face, “Whatever it is, you’re the one who gave me this rune. That’s worth something.”
Beye matched Richard’s clear gaze for a moment before raising her hands, “If you want to play dumb, that’s your choice. You’ll get the offerings in a bit, craft the runes as fast as you can. I don’t want to wait!”
“Alright then, how should I find you when I’m done?”
“The capital of the Unsetting Sun. I took you there once, you should be able to get there yourself this time. Go find the old pervert once you’re there, he can find me.”
“Umm…” Richard had some reservations about travelling to the Land of Dusk. The battlefields of despair were places where even saints could die.
Beye’s thin, almost invisible brows arched up, “Why, are you scared?”
Richard gently caressed the destiny crystal in his pocket, feeling his confidence rise, “Okay then, I’ll… find you.” With his previous experience, he was at least confident in escaping most enemies. Besides, his biggest weakness of lacking damage had been fixed ever since he unlocked the portion of his truename. The destruction breath would be fatal to most enemies.
Beye nodded and said, “Okay, sit back and watch for a moment. This is how you use this rune.”
Her hand flashed for a moment and his elven sword jumped into it. A dark green light burst forth from the blade as it vanished from view, bright flashes interrupting the moonlight. The entire process went through in complete silence, but Richard’s body stiffened as he sat rooted to his chair in awe of the entire process.
In the few moments it took for the green light to fade away, a new row of characters now dominated the scarred wall: Lifesbane. Beye’s cuts had been many times faster than his own, but each one was perfectly even. This was how best to use this rune, to maintain complete control.
“This thing isn’t bad,” Beye tossed the elven sword back to him, “Anyway, I’m leaving. I’ll take care of that eyesore of a traitor for you on my way out.”
“What? No! She chose to be honest with me, and I told her she was forgiven.”
Beye frowned, “You are interested in such a weakling?”
“I’m not, but…” he scratched his head, unable to explain further. However, there was no need to either. Beye had jumped out of the window, disappearing into the night.
As Beye returned to Richard’s room just before morning with a large chest of offerings, she saw him silently examining her strokes on the wall. She placed the box down like it was a feather, escaping his notice as she quietly disappeared once more.
She didn’t notice that she was smiling for the third time that night, more than she had all year.
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