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Before leaving for battle, Richard went about checking his equipment as always. He didn’t need much anymore, his two divine swords and the legendary Twin of Destiny enough to tide him through all his battles, and as far as runes went his were almost unparalleled in Norland.
However, that didn’t mean there weren’t deficiencies for him to shore up. Mana Armament was still at grade 4, which translated to a sky saint’s energy levels at best. While he currently had the skill of a legendary warrior, his close range attacks relied far more on brute force and speed than energy combat. His mana was quickly crystallising, to the point that every level up would come with a minor transformation of his body, but he just couldn’t sustain close-ranged combat as well as someone like Tannan.
Even though Mana Armament couldn’t give him a legendary ability, he could use his magic to close that gap with a warrior. That was why he could sell the grade 4 rune for such a high price in Norland; the sheer amount of versatility it added to one’s arsenal couldn’t be underestimated. However, now that he had surpassed Lawrence in pure skill at runecrafting, he could confirm that the small gaps in the grade 5 version were actually deadly flaws. He had tried repeatedly to find ways to fix these flaws, but it had been to no avail.
Every saint runemaster took a different path to reach the pinnacle of their field. Lawrence himself might have been able to finish his grade 5 version of Mana Armament one day, but Richard couldn’t follow the exact same path. He would have to explore things on his own.
Thankfully, he had been fortunate enough to see two grade 6 runes; the Deepblue Aria and Midren’s battle edition. Although the latter was considered less than a proper grade 6, that was only because the material requirements were reduced in consideration of Norland’s standards.
Wait… materials! There were two reasons grade 6 runes were so powerful: laws, and materials! His eyes started sparkling as he pulled on the design for Mana Armament once more, going through the list of materials it used. Indeed, Lawrence’s version only cost a few million gold’s worth of materials to make, unlike Midren’s battle edition which had taken such powerful items as an astral beast’s soul crystal, the hearts of a valley lord and primordial giant, and two drops of godsblood.
He’d always been suspicious of just what the Deepblue Aria was made of, but right now he suddenly understood how he could get around his failures with Mana Armament quickly. He had spent a lot of effort on the arrays that composed it, but he’d never thought of using more powerful materials. No matter how skilled at battle a child was, they still couldn’t swing a hammer that weighed in the tonnes.
And right now, he did have a number of powerful materials he could use. The divine bodies of both Runai and the Highland Wargod were available to him, and only one of them was relatively new. There was also the font of origin energy underneath the Genesis, something that would be able to fuse these bodies into a core that reached the level of an astral beast. With it on hand, he could expand his current grade 4 design and empower it instead of trying to get the broken grade 5 design to work.
With this divine core, Mana Armament would have the capacity to convert legendary mana to energy. This would be a peak grade 5 rune, somewhat similar in power to the battle edition of Midren. Of course Lawrence had failed; he had tried designing something as difficult as a grade 6 rune!
He immediately summoned a grand mage and alchemist he had recruited recently, sketching down a few array blueprints for them to prepare. The mage’s eyes went wide as he received the first one, and the alchemist actually yelped. They could tell immediately that this was a chance to forge a divine core.
The principles behind forging a divine core weren’t very complicated and could be accomplished by a few grand mages. However, the value of the core was in the base materials; one needed a true deity for even the lowest grade of body! In fact, only one core formed from greater gods had ever appeared in Norland, a result of a number of epic beings ganging up on one of the plane’s strongest deities. The Founding Empress of the Millennial Empire had used that core to form what was only the third item in the plane that surpassed divinity: the Orb of Guidance.
Both the mage and alchemist were immensely excited by the prospects of crafting a divine core. A single experience like this would enhance their reputations greatly, and even otherwise interacting with divinity was effectively interacting with laws; they stood a lot to gain. The two masters of different fields looked at each other, hardly able to contain their shock and awe.
Richard had a divine body! This meant he had killed a god!
Even on a secondary plane, killing a true deity was anything but easy. It took a deep understanding of laws to even be able to fight in a divine kingdom, forget actually eliminating its master. Their gazes on Richard filled with even more respect than before.
“Send me a message once the arrays are up, I’ll send the divine body and origin water to you. I hope to get the core in a week.”
The old elven alchemist bowed deeply, “You will be given absolute perfection.”
Once the two left, Richard started looking at his list of materials as he upgraded Mana Armament’s components one by one in his mind. His combat ability would skyrocket once he succeeded in this, giving him true legendary battle might at any range and allowing him to survive all sorts of dangers.
This rune would be a key to his exploration of the Forest Plane. Defeating a tree of life on his own was one thing, but that would be near impossible if the Jadeleaf Tribe’s legends got wind of his presence and moved to intercept. He needed a tree heart to save his life, but there were none on the market right now.
As he looked through the list of materials, he quickly found that one important piece was missing: divine gold. This was a type of pure black gold soaked in divinity for a long enough time to greatly enhance its mana carrying capacities, making it a perfect material for grade 5 mage runes. The Church of Glory was the only organisation that sold this material in Norland, and with a very low output the price was always high. One also needed to be on good terms with them to get a hold of this at all.
Richard certainly wasn’t on good terms with the Church as a whole, but he clearly remembered that he had gotten a batch of divine gold from Saint Martin that should have been in his warehouse months ago at this point. It was a total of a hundred grams, enough to craft five runes, but even that much had cost three million after Martin’s assistance.
Had anything happened to the divine gold, it wouldn’t be possible to get more easily. There was a limit to how much the Church of Glory produced at a time, and all of it was already divided between a number of organisations. Even worse, Mana Armament was a rune that absolutely needed this material; there could be no substitute!
Just how had such an important material gotten lost without him even being informed about it?!
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