By the time Richard landed in the Deepblue, only one of the three griffins that had set off was left. Even this one, the most powerful of the lot, had been pushing itself to the limit to cover the last ten kilometres. The moment it reached the platform, it fell down on its stomach and threw up a bloody froth. It had been drained completely.

Richard flipped off the creature’s back, movements still light and agile. However, the moment he touched the ground his legs went weak, an unusual flush rising on his face.

Two mages were stationed at the landing pad, sent by Blackgold to wait for his arrival. Few mages of the Deepblue did not know of Richard Archeron, Her Excellency’s greatest pride who had become a royal runemaster before he was even eighteen. This was a student worthy of his master.

The two were surprised to see Richard collapse, immediately helping him up. A cursory examination told them he was only exhausted from the long journey, however, so they felt relieved.

A short while later, he was in a meeting. Outside of Blackgold and Fayr, both of whom he was quite familiar with, almost all of the other grand mages of the Deepblue were present as well. After all, his request was not something the grey dwarf could approve alone. Knowing that Richard had travelled the thousands of kilometres to make it here in a single day, however, and that he had even exhausted three powerful griffins, everyone was touched.

He insisted on taking a look at Sharon, even if she was deep asleep. The legendary mage was currently in her most vulnerable state; were it anyone else, the grand mages definitely wouldn’t allow them to approach Sharon’s sections of the tower. However, everyone present knew that Richard was the special one, someone who Her Excellency had been wishing for all these years. They eventually agreed to let him give it a try himself.

Everything within the upper regions of the tower was currently managed by Sharon’s elven puppets. Not even the grand mages were allowed into her residence, and these puppets who looked no different from real elves held unimaginable intelligence and power. The tower itself was filled with chaotic space, so a rash intruder without a guide would only be courting death.

The chaotic space wasn’t actually an intentional trap. Sharon just had so many things to store that she kept opening up extradimensional spaces to throw them in. These spaces obviously weren’t as stable as semiplanes, so they eventually started to release spatial energy in waves. These undulations were nothing to Sharon herself, but to others they were the most terrifying of blades. It wasn’t Sharon these grand mages were worried about; it was Richard himself.

However, he remained adamant on giving it a try. Without any better choice, Blackgold and Fayr brought him to the large door to the legendary mage’s personal region. These towering steel gates were incomparably familiar to Richard, the rich ochre colour and openwork patterns filled with a primal beauty.

The mithril spell formation carved onto these gates was rarely ever activated, the legendary mage herself never used this entrance. However, space suddenly fluctuated as Richard approached, a tall elf dressed in enchanted silver armour stepping out of thin air. He held a giant two-handed hammer in his hands, a rare weapon for his race but appearing natural for his figure. No mage would be willing to take a strike from this weapon.

“Her Excellency is in seclusion,” a cold voice rang out, “No one is to enter.”

Richard took a step forward, saying in a deep voice, “My name is Richard, Richard Archeron. I am a student of Her Excellency; I wish to see my Master.”

The elf looked up, revealing a pair of amber eyes. He scanned over Richard for a long time before saying abruptly, “You may enter, come with me.”

The gates to the region slowly opened as the elf placed both hands behind his back, having some drow Richard to the large hall and spiral staircase that led all the way up. A magic puppet slowly pushed the heavy gates shut behind them, leaving Blackgold and Fayr outside.

Finally, he was stood in Sharon’s personal quarters once more. He remembered this place clearly, still carrying the radiant trauma it had left behind. Everything was still the same as it had been that day; time had not left any traces behind.

The abyssal ice crystals that made the dome up above still emanated that uneven blue lustre, making every item within look dreamy. The bright, clean floor was akin to a mirror reflecting the starry sky up above. The Everwinter Mountains outside the window were lofty and mysterious as ever.

The drow girls who brought Richard here stayed behind at the door. “Her Excellency is within,” one of them said in his hear, “There is no need to worry about time. You can stay as long as you wish.”

Richard looked in the direction she was pointing, finding a crystal platform covered in shades of blue light. The legendary mage was resting atop the table, her little face peaceful in her deep sleep. In a stark contrast from the crystal surface, her skin seemed so soft that it would crumble with a hard press.

Who could have predicted that these would be the circumstances in which he would see his master once more? Richard didn’t head over immediately, remaining rooted in place for an unknown period of time. Every step he took towards the crystal platform was incomparably difficult, but he eventually made it there. He bent over slightly, staring at the little face that could make anyone fall head over heels as a million thoughts flashed across his mind.

Sharon’s blonde hair was scattered loosely around her, like a shower of gold flowing across the crystal table while emitting starlight. However, as Richard drew closer, a strand of her hair suddenly moved.

Having heard that his master had been injured to the point of having to enter hibernation, Richard’s mind had gone completely blank. The only driving force in his thoughts was to rush to see her as soon as he could. Now that he truly was here, looking her in the face, he found himself at a loss for what to do.

He didn’t even know how injured she was. Detection spells were useless on a legendary mage, and an invisible force was shrouding his blessing of truth. As far as his perception went, this was just a sleeping girl without the unstoppable aura of a legendary mage.

Why did she go fight the gods of Faelor? They were fucking GODS, damn it! At the thought of the many names in Kellac’s Book of the Gods, something within Richard trembled. He reached a shaking hand forward, wanting to caress Sharon’s face.

At this moment, that strand of golden hair on Sharon’s forehead suddenly straightened up. It coiled itself up like the head of a snake, as though it was glaring at him! Richard stared at the strand, but it continued to straighten up. The tip even shook slightly, as if establishing its might.

Just a strand of her hair, was Richard’s first thought, but in the next moment he remembered that it was Sharon’s hair. Still, despite his reservations, his hand still reached for that small face. Just as he was about to touch her skin, however, the strand seemed to lose its temper and pierce into his hand like lightning.

The intense pain caused Richard to frown, brows locking together, but he didn’t retract his hand. He instead continued to reach until the tip of his fingers lightly touched her skin, the warm blood surging out of the wound dripping down the edges of his palm to bloom on her snow-white skin.

The strand twitched, unwillingly retracting itself. It even rubbed hard on his wound as though wiping something away, but it continued standing tall as thought to establish its might.

Richard drew his hand back on his own, if for no other reason than to avoid staining Sharon’s golden hair. He sat down at the edge of the platform, silently watching his master in deep sleep. His right hand was placed on his thigh, allowing the blood to seep into his robes and dry slowly.

She had done so much for him, given him so much without him even knowing. Without her, there would be no new royal runemaster, no potential saint runemaster. And now, she had fought for him and fallen deep asleep.

Sharon in her sleep was like a guiltless young girl, impossibly far from her status as a legendary mage. That was the only way for him to disregard the gulf between them and sit beside her, recalling that dreamy night of destiny. Regardless of how much he wished it, he could not remain so unaffected this close to her when she was awake. The waking Sharon was a tempest, strength as deep as the abyss; even the most egotistical of mortals would be ashamed in her presence.

Even now, saying he wanted to do something for her was like a joke.

And yet, as memories suppressed deep within his mind bubbled to the surface, Richard felt a mountain weighing down on his heart. It was a feeling very similar to the moment he had successfully returned to Norland for the first time, only to find out that Gaton was lost in another plane. This was a feeling of wanting to do something for her, a sense of responsibility.

He raised his right hand once more, wiping off the bloodstains on the legendary mage’s face. “Sleep well,” he whispered, “I’ll help you protect the Deepblue in your absence.”

Having said this, he stood up and prepared to leave.

The strand of golden hair on her head was still watching him vigilantly, feeling like something bad was about to happen.

It wasn’t wrong. Richard reached out like lightning, grabbing the strand and viciously rubbing it a few times. He even pulled on it for a while before letting it go.

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