The Polyglot’s Rune—Chapter 8: First Blood
“Soul runes are the essence of the soul, and for regular people, the soul and body are separate. When one starts to tread the path to becoming a Runist, the soul and body fuse together, causing the body to be able to grow stronger and more durable. A person’s lifespan will even be extended!”
He leaned towards me, his sweet fragrance touching my senses. My heart beat faster, and I wanted to move away, but I could not bring myself to do so.
He said, “When a soul rune is powerful, the soul displays extraordinary talent and growth, causing the person to quickly improve their skill in the way of runes. When the soul and body fuse, the body will easily become stronger, quicker, and tougher than one fused with a weak soul. It is directly related to talent and potential.”
He spread his arms out wide. “The Apprentice rank is reached when the body and soul first start to fuse. Only ten percent of people can accomplish this, but when someone succeeds, their body no longer needs nutrients for sustenance. Instead, the soul directly feeds and supplies it with everything it needs. At that point, you can even start training your soul through meditation!
“A Novice gains the ability to activate their soul rune and can live for 50 more years.” Vaughn’s smile turned smug. “I, at the age of 16, reached Novice with minimal training. I am an unprecedented genius!
“My mother was an Adept by the age of 30. She was a genius too. My younger brother reached Adept this year at the age of 15.” Vaughn poked my forehead and leaned closer to my face. He was indescribably happy whenever he bragged.
Still smiling, he said, “You need to grow stronger. You’re falling behind, and don’t you want to at least become a Doyen? No one ever disrespects a Doyen!”
I leaned closer to Vaughn, and our heads almost touched. With a wry smile I said, “Didn’t you say you became a Novice at 16 and your brother became an Adept at 15?”
He pulled back. Face red, the egotist stammered.
“I-I had to train in secret.” He touched his two index fingers together in embarrassment. “My brother could train everyday, and he had the best teachers. If I indulged in that kind of treatment, I would be an Adept.”
“Then why didn’t you?” I asked.
Vaughn’s smile disappeared. “My black core and soul rune handicaps me in battle, so I was never allowed to train.”
I raised one of my brows. “Shouldn’t they have at least let you try? By becoming stronger, you can live longer and train others as a teacher if you can’t fight. Having you waste away is completely useless to them.”
A longing filled his eyes, but Vaughn refused to speak. Something prevented him as though the answer was too shameful to say.
“Never mind,” I said, rubbing his head. “How do I fuse my body and soul together?”
“Meditate and clear your mind. Then, try to feel deep inside yourself. Eventually you will enter your inner soul. That place is different for everybody, so I can’t explain it to you. However, I do know that your soul rune will be hidden somewhere in your inner soul. Find it and–”
His eyes narrowed. He faced the door and quietly stood up.
“What is–” I tried to ask, but Vaughn silenced me with a sharp hush.
Standing up, he touched the door with his right hand and, using a great deal of force, pushed it open.
A tall, young man stumbled back. His hard eyes contained an overbearing arrogance, and at his side he wore a soiled dagger fastened down by the sash around his white robe.
Vaughn tried to grab him, but the man, quickly swatting the hand away, snorted at the egotist in disdain. With a faint smile, the eavesdropper began fleeing at great speed.
The egotist stared wide-eyed and, falling for the provocation, chased after him.
“Vaughn!” I yelled, trying to stop the boy, but it was too late.
Curses! He’s so irresponsible, falling for such a simple ploy.
I looked out from under the doorway. The egotist was nowhere to be seen, so I reentered the shack.
“Now what do I do?” I asked, scratching my head. I wanted to know how to become an Apprentice, and the more I thought about it, the more interested I became in learning magic.
My soul rune is powerful, and by the sound of it, I might be talented in magic.
I smiled as I dreamed of being an almighty wizard—robe waving in the wind, curing plagues, rescuing damsels in distress….
Knock! Knock! The sound pulled me from my fantasies.
Vaughn came back sooner than I expected.
I opened the door for him, but someone grabbed my wrist with shocking speed. Giving a quick yank, he pulled me from the safety of my shack and tossed me onto the floor.
“Well, that was easy,” he said before slamming the door shut.
I looked up, and a group of people had me surrounded. All but one wore white robes; the seventh wore green.
Behind me was the man, robed in white, who had pulled me from the shack. He had a decent build and was somewhat handsome, but something about his arrogant demeanor made him extremely unlikable.
Being the leader, he spoke first. “You are going to pay for what your cloaked friend did. He dared to kill two of us this morning, and let me tell you this, we make the rules here in District 20. Burke, Clurke, what do you two want to do with him?”
“Let me go?” I said.
“Shut up!” He viciously spat at me. “No one told you to speak.”
The man turned to face the two stout brothers at my left. They looked almost identical if not for the various scars that marked up their faces and hands. Simultaneously, they popped their knuckles.
“Let’s break his legs!” they said with a laugh.
“That won’t be fun,” said the yellow-eyed man who reminded me of a viper. He was very lanky, and within his long, bony hands he held a wooden rod.
A wicked smile grew on his face and killing intent shone in his yellow eyes. “It’s better if he was helplessly beaten first, so we can see him try to struggle away in pain. Then, we can slowly break his legs.”
The girl to my right scoffed at them, unable to hold anyone in respect but the leader. Oily sweat dripped down her face and rolls of fat unfashionably spilled out from under her white robe. As she stole glances at the man behind me, her eyes glittered with admiration and lust.
Covered in grime, the small boy who stood next to her frowned in jealousy at her constant ogling of the leader. Although he looked to be around thirteen, he flashed the girl a lecherous grin inappropriate for his age.
I wanted to smack him for his vulgarity.
“Let’s skin him and hang his carcass up on the wall,” the boy said, trying to attract the girl’s attention. “Wouldn’t you like that Apprentice Missy?”
I snorted at him, but as if to reprimand me, the yellow-eyed man struck my shoulder with his weapon. I fell helplessly onto the ground.
They all chortled at me except for the seventh person, the Novice robed in green.
He, unaffected by their actions, sat lazily on the roof of my shack. He looked to be about my age and had the blackest eyes I had ever seen. They reflected his boredom and contained a tint of sadness.
A muddy-colored soul rune floated around him like a cloud of yarn. By his left shoulder, a glob of red strands grasped onto his rune’s muddy threads. The two colors were in conflict, and I had a strange feeling that something might be seriously wrong with his soul rune.
The young man, showing an expression of complete boredom, let out a light yawn before reaching into his bag. He methodically took out a blue carrot and started nibbling on it, ignoring the group’s laughter.
The lanky man struck me again—harder this time. My shoulder throbbed in pain, and I inwardly laughed at my idiocy.
Why had I opened the door?
Validating my foolishness, I felt a strange sense of security. Instincts told me that my assailants were harmless; only the mysterious Novice in green posed a threat.
Whack! I was struck again, and again, and again…
I curled up into a ball. It made me feel worthless and pathetic, but in the recesses of my mind, I heard whispers. They grew louder and louder.
Those who cannot see my worth are nothing more than ants beneath my feet.
The words filled me with endless pride. I may be horrible at everything, but I knew that I was still a person, a living being deserving of respect.
“Damn it; this guy is like a rock,” my attacker groaned, hands bleeding. “He just takes the pain and doesn’t cry out.”
“Let us try!” I heard the twins say in unison. “We’ll kick him!”
“You two are so vulgar, trying to dirty your shoes like that.” The girl’s slobbery voice rang out. “Ollie, pass me the weapon.”
She used it to viciously poke at my ribs. Her strength surprised me; it seemed so inhuman for such a small, albeit heavy, girl to strike so hard. With each hit, she insulted Vaughn as though he was the root of all evil in the world.
Her shrieks fueled my hate and made my blood boil. They could insult me, but I would not allow them to insult Vaughn. He was my new little brother!
Something snapped. I felt the soul rune inside of me expand throughout my body, and as I became angrier, it began to rotate. A thin, red mist soon covered my skin, and rage clouded my vision.
I grabbed the wooden rod with my right hand, easily pulling it away from the girl. She was weaker than I thought.
With my free hand I clutched onto her greasy hair, causing her to shriek in pain. I yanked with all my might and flung her onto the ground.
The girl’s palms scraped the floor and started bleeding, but before she could stand up, I struck her with the weapon in my hand.
I heard her ribs crack.
The men yelled, but I could not understand their words.
My mind was too clouded to think properly.
With all my strength, I thrust the rod straight down into the girl’s chest. It pierced through her fat and ribs, causing her to gurgle and choke on her own blood. After the span of a few breaths, she stopped moving.
Enraged, the perverted boy jumped onto my back. He struck me with his fists.
“@#$! %@#!” the boy yelled, but his wails meant nothing to me.
I grabbed onto his neck and threw him onto the ground. With a fluid motion, I slammed the rod at his head. There was a “pop,” and the boy went limp; his blood stained the ground. His skull had been cracked open.
I felt a wave of excitement, but also fear, jolt through my body. It shook me from my trance.
The leader threw a punch at my head. To stunned to do anything, I let it hit the side of my face.
There was a loud bang, but I barely sensed any pain. It felt nothing more than a slap to the cheek.
The leader gasped as his eyes dilated.
“You’re just like your friend!” He said, looking at the two dead bodies. His face darkened, and he felt dread for attacking me.
Quickly, the two brothers and lanky man began to flee. For some reason they feared me.
“You three!” the man howled at the ones who abandoned him. He flashed me a deathly glare as he too ran away. “I’ll deal with you later!”
Once silence filled the area, I looked at my hands as my breathing hastened. I trembled.
What did I do?! This isn’t me! I shook my head. This isn’t me!
A half-eaten, blue carrot fell to the ground.
I quickly raised my head. The green-robed young man was standing on the roof. I had forgotten about him.
Our eyes met, and his black pupils suddenly dilated with surprise. He muttered, “That soul rune…what is it?”
Before I responded, he looked down at the spoiled carrot and sighed. Paying no more heed to me, he shook his head in pity as though his snack had met a horrible demise.
The Novice sighed again, trying to stress its importance. It must have broke his heart.
He lazily reached into his bag and pulled out another blue carrot that was identical to the previous. He took a small bite. With a satisfied nod he jumped down from the roof and vanished from my sight.
I glanced at the corpses one more time before I entered my shack. I thought I would be relieved in the safety of its enclosure, but my breath went shallow. The walls strangled me for my sins; my hands grew heavy with the burden of death.
The blood—I need to wash away the blood.
I frantically jabbed at the rune in my left sleeve, but no matter how many times the light washed over me, I felt the red liquid crawling beneath my skin. It drove me crazy.
Exhausted, I touched the runefor a final time, but no light escaped it.
I weakly looked up, seeing the disdainfully opened door. With trembling limbs I slowly inched my way to it. My stomach lurched and I stumbled a few times, but I somehow managed to close it with trembling hands.
Weak and pale, I returned to collapse on my pillow. My body shivered as though possessed by an evil spirit.
The excitement of killing the girl had shaken the very recesses of my soul.
Is this the taste of revenge and the reason for Vaughn’s desire for vengeance?
I weakly shook my head, trying to find a better answer.
“Survival of the strong and the weeding of the weak,” Vaughn had said, but as I thought about it, I realized something.
The words, “Revenge, for anyone with strength, is everything,” contained another meaning…
If you cannot enact revenge, why would anyone fear killing those dear to you? It was not about making someone suffer, but about protecting those you love—the only thing that truly mattered.
It may sound twisted, but it was this world’s iron rule: either leech from the strong or be strong enough to survive.