Book 1, Chapter 16
Life in the Deepblue was nerve-wracking, but also systematic. Time continued to pass without Richard noticing it, the boy remaining unchanged. However, he continued to receive more and more unexpected income as the months went by, most of it under Sharon’s Delight. Richard didn’t understand why he was getting it, but he could practically feel the weight of all that gold at the end of every month. Even a grand mage would go bankrupt if they spent like that.
Though Sharon seemed to be appreciating him every month, Richard only managed to break even. His spending had only gone up to unimaginable heights, almost growing to be endless. This was partially due to the change in his timetable as of late, where formerly infrequent lessons had been extended in his schedule. Unlike philosophy, politics, or alchemy, sometimes he was the only one in these classes, definitely not a good sign.
A professor commanded a certain amount of remuneration for every class they held, and this fee was normally split across all the students attending the lesson. If one were the only student in a class, they would have to bear the full cost of that class, which was an ever-growing expense.
Richard noticed the attention he’d been getting ever since the first time he’d been given money under Sharon’s Delight. There were often people pointing fingers and whispering about him as they passed by. His perception wasn’t strong enough to know just what they were talking about, but the newfound attention made him feel increasingly uncomfortable.
Sharon couldn’t keep the secret in for more than a week. She spilled the beans to her inner circle, and they in turn spread it out through theirs. The legendary mage’s newest disciple was a runemaster in the making!
It took only two months for the entirety of the Deepblue to learn of the situation. Sharon’s predictions always held true despite the future being ever-changing, and she’d predicted the birth of a new runemaster. People still doubted it, but they were smart enough to not say anything. Only the stupid were honest about such things, and other people would long since have eliminated those idiots for some of Sharon’s Delight.
By this point, there was only one person who didn’t know about the future runemaster, and that was clearly Richard himself. Of course he wasn’t clueless to the changes— the increase of lessons related to spell formations like math, geometry, practical art, and art appreciation— and there was also the fact that he was the only student now in some classes that had started off with others beside him as well. However, the only thing that worried him was the ever-increasing lesson costs, and not what the actual reason for the changes was.
Richard’s timetable had been changed again as of late. He’d experienced an exponential increase in drawing lessons, the foundational subject being sketching. This was a new domain for him, but still every piece of work he handed in only netted a dumbfounded lesson from the level 15 artist-mage that was teaching him. The robotic precision of the sketches surprised the once-renowned artist: Where was the charm?
Sketching was art, not just a simple recreation of reality. Was it still art if there was basically no difference from the actual object? It frustrated the man to see Richard’s works, and they were like giant stones that smashed against his chest to crush his original beliefs and understanding of art itself. How could he possibly be so precise?
And yet he couldn’t reprimand Richard even once. Although the sketches didn’t fit with his conventional thinking, was not any extreme—in this case, the precision— an art unto itself? As a mage himself, the man knew well— even if Richard didn’t have a flair for the arts, this unerring accuracy made him an unrivalled talent as a mage; especially as a runemaster.
There was no need for him to make any unnecessary comments despite his passion, because he too could not overlook Sharon’s Delight. Coin was a foundational requirement for art as well. And if he ruined a future runemaster just because of his personal taste for the arts, what awaited him may instead be Sharon’s Rage. The mysophobe shuddered at the thought; he’d rather just be killed by the dwarves.
Richard had less time to stress over his bills now. He had homework to complete in the evening— an average of a drawing, two to five magic formation breakdowns and a mountain’s worth of planar geometry every night. And yet, even ignoring the difficulty of the homework, the stationery too was a considerable expense. First, he needed a large number of magic papers to write on: constellation papers, moonscar papers, abyssal nightmare paper, and the like. He also needed all sorts of inks from regular dark ink to Lorskar Hell Ink. The one thing everything had in common was how expensive it all was, and the longer the name the more pricey it generally was.
And because planar geometry involved 3D compositions, he had to use a magical projector to finish his assignments. Richard had already lost count of the number of magic crystals that had used up; it was a common thing now for fully loaded boxes to be emptied by the time he was done.
Richard didn’t know what he would’ve done without the continued joy of the legendary mage. His best case right now was maintaining a balance, and even then his time wasn’t managed well. He still had meditation and magic practice outside of the lessons, and the time given to them had been compressed to an absolute minimum. His growth would be affected if he cut down any further. Richard only paced himself to the average student instead of people like Minnie, but even then he had to rely on the 500 coin mana potions every day to maintain a basic rate of progress. That was another 15,000 coins down the drain.
The only thing he could do anymore was cut down on his sleep, but he was a growing boy. He was being provided with curated meals, the flesh and blood of various rare mythical beasts, and the blood essence that they condensed in his body only increased his growth when he was asleep. Thankfully there were tons of meditation techniques in the Deepblue that could be used in sleep, and although they had limited effects they were better than nothing.
And thus Richard’s biggest problem right now: He had too many things to do, and too little time to do it. He faced the mathematical problem of how to allocate time and resources to maximise the effects of every part of his school life, and the complexity of this problem only increased as time went by. Richard ended up spending four days sorting this all out, categorising it and specifying some essentials. This only spoke to the boy’s intellect— he’d taken those few days to compute the best way to distribute resources and time, finally solving the question that had been hounding him. The four days were well spent, his gift of Precision told him that the new plan saved far more than the four days he’d lost in coming up with it.
At this point Richard realised he was living like a homunculus, but that didn’t bother him. His world was already a digital one, so it didn’t matter if he grew more robotic. And that was how he welcomed his first spring in the Deepblue, as a perfect robot with a jam-packed schedule.
On the morning of his eleventh birthday, Richard stood before his mirror to stare at his reflection; what looked back at him was a young man.
Kids from the mountains were normally a little larger than normal. With all the special meals he’d been eating lately, Richard was already half a head taller than others his age. He looked 13 or 14 years old, his childlike features fading into maturity. His eyes had already grown so deep that people could mistake him for an adult. Perhaps it was because of the many misfortunes he’d experienced, or maybe it was because of his Archeron bloodline.
He also already had defined muscles along his jaw, crescent eyes, thick luscious brows, and a straight tall nose. These were features of superior royal elves. Richard was never one who cared about looks, but all those art lessons made him aware of his good looks.
Oops, Precision corrected him, rare looks.
So what? Little Richard didn’t care all that much. The six intensive months in the Deepblue had deeply influenced his mindset: beautiful things only served as accessories, decorations. Just like how accomplished men took beautiful women as trophies. Of course, he’d learnt by now that pretty men were even rarer than trophy wives.
Nonetheless, Richard had turned 11 years old now. Children from the mountains matured quickly, and 12-year-olds having families were not unheard of. Elena had summed up his year for every birthday so far, telling him what to take away from the year. But now?
The only thing Richard saw on his eleventh birthday was a reflection in a mirror. The only thing on his mind? The raging flames from his memories…