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The Runesmith - Chapter 455

Published at 11th of June 2024 12:19:58 PM


Chapter 455

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I would like to officially inform all my readers that I have started writing a new story called Heavy Metal [ A Monster Evolution LitRPG ] You can probably figure out what it's about from the title and hope you give it a try. If you like Runesmith, then I think that you will enjoy it as well. There aren't that many chapters out yet but I hope you all follow it for later and if you are inclined to, give a nice rating :D 

“Hey stranger, fancy a treat?”

“No thanks.”

Roland turned his head away from a grinning man missing half his teeth. In his hands, he had some valuables that were probably stolen. To make things worse he smelled of narcotics, something that also existed in this world. A plethora of them existed, some resembling white powder, while others took the form of sparkling liquids or even crystals.

“Don’t be like that, I’ve got some good fairy dust, my friend. Or do you perhaps prefer something stronger?”

“...”

Roland didn’t reply. Instead, he removed himself from the alleyway he had ducked into. Just like when he took an airship, people seemed to follow him around. After leaving the mansion, he had been followed by someone, but eventually lost them during his trip through the city. Luck wasn't on his side though, as he ended up in what looked like the slums.

After he navigated the narrow, winding streets of the slums, Roland couldn't help but feel a sense of unease. The atmosphere was thick with desperation, and the air was heavy with the stench of decay and filth. Shady figures lurked in the shadows, eyeing him as if they wanted to cause him harm. However, thanks to his bulky frame and armor, they seem unwilling to initiate a proper confrontation.

‘This is bad, could Albrook turn to this if we ignore the gambling and pleasure district?’

It was disconcerting to witness such a place in a supposedly well-run territory. It seemed the older Valerian brother had chosen to turn a blind eye to the seedy elements within the city. Perhaps those managing the place were lazy or had been bought off by the criminal underworld. Whatever the case, it was evident that Aldbourne had its fair share of problems.

This situation reminded him of the small criminal council forming within Albrook. They had been stopped before things got out of hand and were now even collaborating with the current leader of the thief guild. In a sense, they had an agreement, but his city didn’t leave so many people out on the streets. There were cleaner ways of running gambling dens and red-light districts than what he was witnessing here.

Something like this wasn’t anything new to him as it seemed to happen in almost all cities. With a settlement's growth, the wealth distribution tended to favor the top percentile. It flowed toward the rich merchants, store owners, and nobility while leaving others struggling to make ends meet. The gap between the wealthy and the impoverished continued to widen as finding jobs became increasingly harder.

In this world, entities similar to charities were practically nonexistent due to limited resources. While churches occasionally offered some food, like everyone else, their coffers were limited. The nobility, possessing both power and wealth, hoarded it out of fear. Their focus lay in training new soldiers and striking deals that would directly benefit them, rather than investing in the well-being of the common people.

‘I shouldn’t linger for too long here. I have two options, either I join another merchant caravan or head out on my own.’

Dragnis Island, where he found himself, lacked a proper train connecting most of the cities. The density of monsters outside the settlements was higher, making solo travel quite dangerous. Even seasoned adventurers preferred to journey with a caravan, knowing there was safety in numbers. Monsters outside dungeons behaved differently from those created by dungeon cores. They wouldn’t just mindlessly attack everyone to risk their lives and usually avoided well-lit gatherings with a lot of people.

‘But they probably won’t let me travel with them unless I reveal my adventurer card…’

Things would become problematic if his enemies were made aware of his travelels here. Emmerson was still alive, as were other Knight Commanders. Even the knights from the Baskerville family had attempted to attack him, so maintaining a low profile was crucial. It wouldn’t be surprising if these individuals acted similarly upon discovering his presence at their doorstep.

‘Going out alone might be dangerous but I should be able to avoid monsters and flying is an option too now, but I might have to wait until it’s dark. The gate guards will want to see some identification…’

Roland had gained entrance into the city thanks to the merchants he had saved. The guards recognized them and allowed the carriage to pass without hindrance. However, leaving the city would likely prove more difficult. Although he had shaken off his previous pursuers, he was certain they remained keenly interested in his true identity. They appeared to be embroiled in some form of power struggle and perhaps suspected he had been hired to rescue the young girl.

“Hey, didn’t I tell you to get that coin ready by today?”

“What do you mean, we returned all of it.”

“Did you forget about the interest? That’s why I dislike dealing with little brats. If you can’t pay off your loan now, then I'm sure we can arrange something… Your friend there isn’t that bad, we can use her.”

“No! We gave you everything back!”

His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of a loud conversation. Roland had surrounded himself with a concealment spell that masked his presence, but he couldn't help but overhear the heated exchange between some individuals. It seemed to be a dispute over money, and one of them mentioned something about using someone as collateral. While normally he would have just ignored it, but the lenders sounded rather young which peeked his interest.

Roland was on his way through an alleyway and the sounds were coming from one of the decrepit buildings on the way. He was able to peek through some gaps in a boarded-up window and inside he saw three adult men confronting a group of children. The one that he heard shouting was a boy who didn’t seem much older than twelve. Behind him was a girl who seemed slightly younger and another boy of similar age.

On the other side stood a smug-looking man who reminded him of a rat. Behind him were two burly men who resembled bandits. It was painfully clear that these kids were in trouble. They had likely become involved in one of the oldest scams: taking a loan. Now these loan sharks would keep trying to fleece them for more money, and their eyes were seemingly set on the young girl. It was obvious what their intentions were, and the children’s fate seemed to be sealed.

‘...’

Roland was reminded once more of the brutality of this world. People were often judged by the classes they were born into, and the three youths he encountered were simple farmers with no land to cultivate. Farmlands were scarce around this city, which prioritized commerce over agriculture. To make a living, these children would likely need to venture outside to a different area. However, with no money and monsters lurking everywhere, such a journey would likely end in tragedy.

‘They look like orphans, no caravan would probably take them without compensation… There is also no adventurer guild here so they wouldn’t be able to hire any adventurers either.’

This place was not near any dungeon, which was the biggest reason why he saw mostly mercenaries everywhere. Adventurers simply used this as a hub to pass through to Albrook or other cities in this territory that had access to a dungeon. Just like Arthur, Theodore Valerian was initially given a city close to a different dungeon, and that’s where his base of operations was situated.

Something like this wasn’t anything new; people were always taken advantage of. In the past, Roland usually ignored such things as he needed to watch out for his own well-being. In his earlier years, he found himself in situations where he had to rely solely on himself, yet he harbored no illusions of superiority over others. He acknowledged that his advantageous position came largely from lucky circumstances. It was a pure circumstance that he arrived from a different world with skills that enabled him to survive.

Things were different now though, Roland had achieved a certain amount of power and the unfolding situation was making his blood boil. However, if he intervened in this situation it needed to be done with some thought. Unwanted attention was something that he didn’t want and even if he helped these children, their problems would probably not vanish but just be postponed.

‘It would be better if I didn’t use any obvious magic… and take out the lookout first…’

He found himself in an alleyway and it led out to one of the streets. Someone that looked like a criminal was standing right at the end and was probably part of the trio that was trying to scam the children. Thus, after scanning the entire area for other potential threats he started moving. His presence had not been noticed yet, so sneaking up behind this lone man wasn’t difficult.

“Huh?”

Before the individual could raise the alarm to his companions, he suddenly collapsed to the ground. Roland swiftly triggered a basic sleeping spell, effectively incapacitating the low-level thug. Quickly, he dragged the unconscious figure back into the alleyway, concealing him under a pile of trash where he would remain undisturbed for several hours. With the threat neutralized, there was no one to watch the alleyway and the lone door leading into the building.

‘Time to leave an impression…’

He activated some runes to produce a momentary sound barrier around most of the building. With it in place, he was free to kick the door down and stride with confidence into the dimly lit room. The loan sharks and the children all turned their attention toward the sudden flying door that collided with a wall. The three adults wore expressions ranging from surprise to outrage, while the children appeared startled by the unknown arrival of a third party.

“What the? Who the hell are you?”

“I don’t know who could I be?”

Roland altered his voice as always and slowly approached the three men. He didn’t need to introduce himself, it was obvious that many criminals existed within the city. There was probably a lot of infighting or people trying to establish dominance over one another. To them, he would just be someone from a rival crime family or a rogue mercenary looking to cause trouble.

As he approached the three the children started moving to the side, towards a certain location of this old building. The adults swiftly drew their daggers, brandishing them menacingly at the approaching figure. They assumed his intentions and wasted no time in launching an assault. However, the vast difference in levels and equipment became glaringly evident, and the first assailant found himself hurtling through the air after receiving an open palm smack to the face.

“W-wait…”

What ensued wasn’t much of a fight, as Roland only needed one hit to knock out each man. The man who looked like a rat attempted to say something, but he found himself on the ground with foam leaving his mouth quite quickly. Within moments, the room fell silent, with only the heavy breathing of the children lingering. They huddled up near a wall but did not try to escape, and he knew why. His gaze traveled to the opposite direction where a concealed latch was barely sticking out.

‘There are another two down there, probably younger than these three here…’

With the help of his mapping device, he was able to discern that there were people concealed under the house. The three in the room were clearly trying to divert his attention from them, as he could hear their heartbeats quicken the moment he glanced in the direction of the hiding spot. Fortunately for them, he had not come to capture any children and intended to simply act as if he were there solely for the bandit-like individuals.

“Don’t worry, I’m not interested in some brats nor the two that are down there.”

He tried to reassure them while speaking calmly, but they were clearly on edge. Though apprehensive about his presence, they seemed to realize that he was not there to hurt them. It made no sense that someone who could handle the three thugs so easily would want anything from them. Roland moved slowly, so as not to startle them any more than he already had, and instead focused on the passed-out trio. They had some money on them, which seemed to be enough for the next part of his plan.

“W-what is this?”

“It’s money.”

“But… why would you give it to us?”

“I’m just a good-hearted person.”

The twelve-year-old youth looked at him funnily as he didn’t really trust in those words. However, Roland didn’t care as he opened the secret room that another two children were hiding in. It was another boy and a girl that seemed to be under ten, both of them were clutching their hands together out of fright. To not scare them he took a step back to give him space before he began to talk.

“You don’t have to be afraid, as I’ve said, you’re of no interest of me… but I’ll need to use that space…”

The two children were terrified at his massive size and strange apparel but with some help from their older friends, they climbed out from the cellar they were hiding in. He needed to stash the three men somewhere and it looked like a perfect place. Even if the man outside returned, he wouldn’t be able to find them after he used some concealment runes. They would fade eventually but it would give the children time to decide their fate.

The children watched in a mixture of confusion and awe as Roland effortlessly carried the unconscious men into the concealed cellar. As he was tucking them away he began to speak and hoped that these kids would take his advice to heart.

“Even if these men disappear, your problems won’t. You're left with two choices: either accept the money and attempt to settle your debts with them, or entrust it to one of the traveling merchants. They might offer you passage within their caravan; I've heard rumors that the city of Albrook is in need of skilled farmers..."

The kids didn’t respond as they were bewildered by his actions which didn’t make much sense to them.

“Why are you doing this?”

Asked the oldest as he finally gathered the courage to speak after Roland had trapped the three thugs in the cellar and locked them inside.

"Do I need a reason to lend a hand to a few brats? Simply take the coin and make your decision: depart or remain. Although, I would strongly advise you to leave. Putting your trust in these thieves would be ill-advised..."

Roland couldn’t make the decision for them, and he also didn’t have the full picture. Perhaps he was being nosy, and they would be fine, but to him, it seemed like leaving for Albrook was a better idea. The city he was creating would certainly not tolerate such things, and he would make sure of that.

The children nodded silently, their expressions still guarded but tinged with gratitude. They had been saved by a mysterious stranger who had appeared out of nowhere and dispatched their tormentors with ease. It was a surreal experience, one they would likely remember for the rest of their lives.

With a final nod to the children, Roland turned and strode out of the room, leaving the building behind. The men he left were under a strong spell and would be out for a few days. It would give these kids some time to organize their thoughts and the focus of those criminals would probably fall on him instead.

‘I’m becoming quite the hero…’

He chuckled to himself as he was far from one. A real hero would have probably taken the children under his wing and traveled with them. Instead, he was still focused on himself and returning home where his true responsibilities were. He didn't delude himself into believing he could fix this harsh world, but it had become harder to ignore certain things when he knew he had the power to force change.

‘Now then, I should lay low until nightfall and then go…I should also tell Elodia about my whereabouts…’

With things cleared up, he decided to keep himself hidden. He entered the merchant district where there were many more people and just blended with the crowd. Luckily, with so many varied races, his size and strange apparel didn’t attract much attention. After finding a quiet area, he decided to contact his wife with the help of his armor. Once he had informed her about his circumstances, it would be time to wait and then leave. With some luck, in a day or two, he would be back to eating homemade meals and creating a runic prosthesis.





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