The Polyglot’s Rune—Chapter 7: The Pointless Goal
My eyes shot open, and a massive entanglement of brown, intangible threads filled my vision. They distorted the space around them, causing the air to fluctuate in a blur of colors. The threads inched closer to me, but I could not move.
As they came closer, they touched my forehead and started forcing their way into my mind.
My head felt like it was splitting apart, and the pain dulled my senses. Beads of sweat formed on my skin and dripped down my face. I started gasping for air.
Drilling further into my forehead, the threads pulsed with unforeseen strength. With a light popping sound, they broke through and entered.
The pain vanished, but my senses blurred and my vision blackened. Drowsiness wrapped me in its soft embrace…
Something pulled at me; my eyes shot open!
Around me was a black night sky that stretched on for eternity. There was no ground below me nor a moon above me. No life, no wind, no sound. Only white stars sparkled, wishing to tell me their story.
In the distance, a hole appeared and the brown threads emerged from within it. Squeezing their way through, they expanded into a net that wished to smother me.
I recognized what it was; it was a rune of some sort. If a normal rune only contained the meaning of a single word, then this monstrosity formed a book.
The rune crept closer and closer…. It wanted me to bend to its will.
A profound sense of danger swelled in my heart, but I was powerless. I tried to yell, but no voice escaped me.
A white light exploded into existence, forming a spherical net around me. Each thread of light pulsed with power and dignity, containing the will of the sparkling stars.
With unwavering courage, the sphere expanded and slammed against the brown rune. Power fluctuated and sparks flashed, threatening to destroy the tranquility of the night sky.
The brown rune with a sinister glow pushed against the white light, forcing it to wield.
In response, countless white wisps emerged to form runic words. They twisted into being, each containing a profound knowledge. Their meaning eluded me, but I sensed their essence.
It was me, Kaiden.
I reached out to the white light with my thoughts, causing it to hum. I felt unprecedented clarity.
The stars in the night sky shot towards the white net, fusing together, and the sphere grew brighter. It expanded out, pushing away the intruder.
The brown rune could do nothing to stop it.
With one last pulse the light destroyed the rune, shredding it into nothingness….
Calmness pervaded the region, and the white net unwound. Its strands moved like soft, flowing water and gathered in front of me, forming a fist-sized ball.
I could clearly see that the white light was actually my soul rune, and sensing my gaze, it shyly compressed into a pure white teardrop.
I poked it, whereupon it shot to the space between my eyebrows with flashing speed and entered my skull.
The sparkling stars returned to the endless night sky. There was a tugging sensation…
I slowly opened my eyes. My breath was shallow and sweat drenched my forehead, but I was relieved to see the dirty walls of my shack.
Next to me Vaughn laid unconscious. I gently placed my hand on his shoulder and tried to shake him awake. Frowning, I pressed two fingers against his neck to check his pulse.
Normal, and he is still breathing. I sighed with relief and retracted my hand.
Vaughn stirred slightly and slowly opened his eyes. He looked around with confusion, but he quickly remembered where we were.
“I can’t believe I fell asleep,” he said, letting out a light yawn. He stretched out his arms, nearly smacking me in the face. I swear he did it on purpose.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he said, sitting up.
I smiled—nothing seemed wrong with him.
“We need to leave,” I said, wiping away a drop of sweat. “It should be our first and foremost goal. This place is too dangerous.”
He gracefully brushed back a short lock of hair. “You always say that: when you first met me, when we came here, and right now. I think we should stay for three obvious reasons. First, you’re pathetically weak; second, we have nowhere to go; and third, they’ll kill us if we try to leave. Never underestimate the Cowzer Sect.
“Staying here has its benefits. We can easily gather information about the mercenary guild called The Blood Wolf and hide innocently within the Appenhund borders. Then, you can train to become a skilled Runist of the Cowzer Sect—if you don’t die, that is. Afterwards, we can leave and destroy The Blood Wolf.”
“The Blood Wolf,” I said. The name reminded me of the emblem on the ax the mercenary wielded. Wait a second…
I frowned, looking deep into Vaughn’s violet eyes. “Is this for revenge?”
I never understood the point of revenge in movies. It just fuels more hate and violence. If I was the main character, I would disappear and make a new life for myself.
He vehemently nodded, not shamed at all for wanting something so pitiful. “Of course. Nothing is as sweet as revenge.”
“Or as pointless,” I added. Ever since I first met him, I could tell that his thinking was as straightforward and plain as an ox. “Give up. You need to be sly to get your revenge. With your simple attitude, you’ll fail.”
“What?! No!” He overreacted to my words. Determination filled his eyes as he refused to back down. “I will have my revenge. It’s not pointless! You don’t understand; you’re not from this world. Revenge, for anyone with strength, is everything.
“That man caused my mother’s death…and her lover’s. I was left with nothing, absolutely nothing. At the tender age of eight, I had to take care of my younger brother while I was forced to live out a life determined by my father. What I wanted to do had no meaning.”
Tears gathered in the boy’s violet eyes; he abruptly wiped them away. “I’m so sick of it all! Only when my mother was alive did I feel that I could live my own life. That man took it all away. One day, I’ll have my revenge, but…”
He buried his head between his two hands. The tears kept pouring, but his voice still contained resoluteness. “I need your help. I can’t do it with my black core. I told you before that people with black cores can only use some runes, but it’s worse than it sounds.
“Out of thousands of common stone runes, I could only activate one. Through sheer luck I discovered another rune that I could use, but for the other three, I could only activate them because I inherited them from my mother. All five are not meant for fighting. I can’t do it alone. I can’t!”
Surprised by his sudden outburst, I gently rubbed his back, trying to comfort him. I never imagined that this egotist would ever ask for my, the useless person’s, help. I could not truly understand his pain, but I felt it and it pulled at my heartstrings.
Vaughn continued with soft sobs. “My soul rune is pointless. It’s more of a curse than a blessing. Without activating it, it still makes people feel attracted and drawn towards me. Do you understand what that means?”
Looking into my eyes, Vaughn shook his head. His gaze was empty—lonely and sad. “Do they truly like me? No, it’s a bunch of lies. Everyone loves me, but at the same time, no one does, and they never will. They never can.”
He lifted his head and tried to steady his breath. “You’re different. My mother always said that for every rune, there is a person who is immune to it. Are you?” he said, eyes puffy and red yet filled with hope.
I stopped rubbing his back, sighing lightly.
“Somewhat. It doesn’t make me like you, but it prevents me from hating you. When we first met, I should have been disgusted by you.”
Vaughn relaxed a bit, not feeling offended by my last few words. Actually, he seemed a little happy.
“Will you help me get revenge?” he asked, biting down his pride.
A person should not waste away his life in hate.
I wanted to discourage him, but I saw the determination in his eyes. I knew that nothing I said would stop him, so I relented with a sigh, but not before questioning him.
“After you have your revenge, what will you do? Will you be able to continue living the life you built up for yourself, or will it vanish with the completion of your goal?”
Before letting him answer, I said, “You can’t change what has already happened. Don’t chase after empty dreams. Whether it be returning to a place you can’t return to or enacting revenge, it’s all pointless. You should just give up and live the life you have now.”
His expression turned sour, and he closed his eyes, trying to hold back a second outburst of tears.
I rubbed the top of his head the same way my dad used to do for me. I smiled. “That being said, helping you with your frivolous goal is completely different.”
Vaughn’s eyes went wide, and he looked up at me. He saw me as a shining light, all signs of sadness washed away. Wearing an egotistical smile, he asked, “You’ll help me?”
Seeing his new expression, I felt like I was played.
“Yeah, but you should teach me about this world before I change my mind. I need to get something from this deal.”
I paused and, with a teasing smile, continued. “Just promise me that no matter what you give up for revenge, you will not toss me away. Got it?”
“Yes!” He nodded his head with vigor.
Raising an eyebrow, I asked, “Who’s Vaughn?”
His face paled. It looked more unsightly than before, and his red eyes did him no good.
“Fine. I’ll leave it be,” I said. It can’t be that important. If it is, he’ll tell me.
Frowning, the boy looked away and said, “He’s someone I look up to, so I took his name.”
He always turns away when he lies to me….
Ignoring it, I quickly changed the subject in fear of an awkward silence.
“What do you know about the Cowzer Sect? Tell me everything about the common knowledge of your world including locations, organizations, geography, and runes. Wait, no. I won’t remember anything if you tell me it all at once.”
Vaughn laughed at me, completely forgetting about the previous matter. He started telling me about the social structure and how it revolved around runes. He sounded so passionate about the subject as though he had studied it for years.
“In this world, everything is dominated by the kingdoms, sects, and guilds who posses the most strength in runes. Power is best achieved by bringing together powerful individuals because the strength of soul runes is likely to depend on one’s parents. They call this someone’s bloodline.
“The four main kingdoms of the continent of Haven include Appenhund in Haven’s northeast extending south to the Crystal Mountains, Beecivet to the east and including the Royal Geysers, Gnudeer to the southwest, and Hartebeest beyond the Crystal Mountains.”
His eyes gleamed with excitement and pride as he spoke, especially when he mentioned Beecivet. It was strange, considering that I knew he was from Gnudeer. His expression quickly dropped as he continued; something made his voice fill with disgust.
“Each kingdom is ruled by a royal family who possesses an extremely pure bloodline. It’s so powerful that people call its wielders blue bloods. The kingdoms, which have their own schools to train Runists, encourage students who have strong soul runes to marry each other. Those who don’t make the cut must either choose to leave or to never marry anyone with a higher rank.
“Sects are much like schools, but instead of fostering bloodlines by controlling marrying prospects, they follow the motto, ‘Survival of the strong and the weeding of the weak.’ Anyone is allowed to kill anyone else.”
Sighing, he brushed his hair to the side again. “The Cowzer Sect is notorious for being extremely fierce and bloody. I hear that they pit their inner disciples of their top five districts against each other. It will be hard for you to survive.”
A strange glimmer of admiration filled his eyes as he continued, “Matriarch Ruby is especially violent. She’s fierce and strong, and although she is the weakest of Cowzer’s eight Grandmasters, she does whatever she wants. Her looks are plain, but her charisma is admirable.”
“Vaughn,” I interrupted him. “We met her. She was the middle-aged woman.”
“What middle-aged woman?” he asked. Confusion danced on his face. “She’s like 500 years old, but looks young and in the prime of life.”
“The one who found us.” I cocked my head. People live that long here? And, you think Ruby looks young? She reminds me of my mom…
He returned a blank look, stating that I was crazy.
I slowly started explaining more. “The one who rode on the giant magical beast that looked like a cow, two men were with her, she hugged you…do you remember?”
Vaughn shook his head and continued giving me a funny look.
“None of that happened,” he said. “I was with you the whole time. We warped to a nearby place, and at the time, my arm was severely bleeding. I tried to cast a rune to heal it, but I failed due to exhaustion. As I lost more blood, my consciousness started fading in and out.
“Worried, you carried me on your back to what you thought was the closest village. It ended up being the Cowzer Sect—I don’t know what you were thinking, but you found someone to help me. Afterwards, he tossed us into this shack.”
“That’s not what happened,” I said. Why doesn’t he remember? “Did you hit your head?”
“You’re crazy,” he said.
“Then–” I hesitated for a moment, “do you remember seeing a brown rune?”
He scoffed, believing I was crazy. “Brown runes don’t exist. There are only white, green, blue, purple, and orange runes in existence. Don’t ask about your crimson colored rune strokes; they’re a mystery to the world.”
“But what if they do exist? Imagine a humongous rune with brown, pulsing threads invading your mind.”
Vaughn crossed his arms and laughed. “You know nothing. Only soul runes are massive, but yours should be colored white, the same color as your core. Once you officially reach the rank of Apprentice, you’ll be able to see it.”
A strange smile covered his face; it contained a hint of mischief as though he knew something he should not.
“That reminds me,” he said. “You still don’t know why everyone places so much importance on powerful soul runes. Do you want to know why?”