The Runesmith
Chapter 276: Time to spill the beans?

“Halt! Identify yourself.”

“It’s me, Wayland.”

“The Runesmith? What are you doing outside of the wall, didn’t you hear the city bell?”

“I was a bit busy… can you open the gate? The city Lord wants to speak with me.”

Roland had arrived at Albrook, the usual road that was filled with merchants and adventurers was emptied out and the large gates were closed. The first thing he noticed when getting closer was the piles of white bones everywhere. There were no soldiers patrolling outside which could have been due to his direct message to Arthur about the existence of tier 3 monsters outside.

It looked like some people had been working on these bones as they were getting piled up in several locations. The monster materials could still be used so it was understandable to take this in to pay for the damages that the city sustained. The walls and the main gate were riddled with claw marks from the sharp skeletal fingers. They had cleary tried to scale the walls but had been unsuccessful.

‘The turrets need a bit of servicing.’

These defensive structures that fired off concentrated mana bolts had an expiration date. They were enough to contend with a few hours of continued assault but if it started taking days or weeks they would become too damaged to function. This could of course be alleviated by building them with better materials or having a runesmith nearby to repair the damaged runic traces. This would probably fall to him but before he began this job he needed to visit the Lord.

“Open the gate!”

The guard went away for a moment to ask for permission and another one shouted to grant him passage. The gate here consisted of two slabs of metal that resembled a door. When opening he could hear the massive construction creaking which probably meant that the hinges needed some more grease.

They left him enough room to slip through it before shutting them instantly. Everyone was clearly on high alert and when he was on the inside all eyes were on him. Above him there were actual soldiers prepared to dump magical bombs onto his head. In his world, they used hot oil or something similar. In a world filled with magical traps, they could just throw down some magical scrolls instead.

‘They turned on the divine scanner.’

When walking through he felt the flow of divine mana in this place. He was the one that made these items but even though they gave off holy energies they would not be concentrated enough to kill a tier 2 skeleton. These were only enough to affect tiny creatures like the abyssal worms but for more powerful undead some more juice would be needed.

At the end of the road, there was a massive iron gate that needed to be hoisted up. The sharp bolts it was made of dug into the earth and would be the last part of the defense. The spaces between this gate were great for poking spears through but this approach would be less effective against skeletal monsters. Instead, it would be more worthwhile to have a priest cast some kind of spell to take care of them, perhaps dumping copious amounts of holy water on them could also do the trick.

“Wayland, the Lord will see you now.”

When on the other side he was greeted by one of the knights that the city lord arrived with. Normally they came together but this time around only Sir Gareth greeted him. The other one could have been either at Arthur’s side or perhaps he was giving orders to the soldiers. This city was a bit understaffed and this man had probably gone through the knight academy just like his brother did. He must have been part of some lesser family if he was delegated to the 5th son with no actual power.

He noticed quickly that they weren’t going to the mansion but toward the main guard tower. This one was situated on the other end of the city in the southwest corner. The construction of this one had been finished first while the three others that made up the four corners of Albrook haven’t quite been done.

The northern gate was the one that he usually went through and the one that he arrived through today. On the sides were two large towers and the walls stretched out to them and towards the south. Albrook didn’t have any natural defenses like large mountains or large bodies of water. It had to be sealed up from all sides by large walls and guard towers.

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These weren’t just meant as lookouts, there was enough space in them for some of the guards to live in and one of them was a designated prison for some special prisoners. Then another one had a whole armory that had not yet been assembled. This was the southeastern one where he also visited to deliver some of his goods. Probably if he didn’t have his own workshop then this would be his place of employment after signing up with Arthur Valerian.

Further south past the gate was Arthurs's mansion which was in the process of being walled up from all sides. In the future, it would be turned into a proper castle or perhaps a full-fledged fortress where the lord could reside. For the time being it was actually better for him to seek shelter in the guard tower that had better defenses.

‘They really did clean out the place, the roads are all empty.’

While going through the streets he could see people peeking out from their windows to look at what was happening. Most of the people there were either city guards or adventurers. The former were probably forcefully conscripted by the noble. Closing down the city like this wouldn’t allow them to just leave. While they wouldn’t be directly forced to defend the citizens they could be given demerits by the guild if they were of silver rank and up.

Though normally giving a hefty reward was enough to interest the adventurers in the city defense. They were all going against monsters and not an enemy kingdom, This was what the guild was made for and it would look bad on them if their guild members just fled at a point like this.

‘I bet they are forming parties to take back the dungeon but first, they’ll wait for the backup to arrive from the main city. The big question here is, how long will that take?’

What they didn’t know was what the Lich was up to. The dungeon break had happened but it went against the old records. What usually happened was a burst of monsters with no end to them. The monsters spread out in all directions and attacked everything they saw, they didn’t just send a forward force and then go back to their dungeon.

This was indeed a unique occurrence that needed more looking into and he kind of knew why this actually happened. On the surface, it looked like a dungeon break but it wasn’t one. Instead, one monster had become sentient and was quickly building up an army. The sooner they descended into the dungeon the better. The more they waited the more skeletal monsters would be created.

‘But if that Lich stays in the dungeon then it’s better to wait for the platinum ranks instead, as long as the city can defend itself it will be better to wait it out.’

He was not sure what to do, there were a few ways of taking care of this situation but they would need a large force and the help of the guild master to lead them. Roland would probably need to join the early combatants as his magical canon and array of spells were capable of killing the tier 3 monsters. But only with a component frontline fighter would he have enough time for his spells to charge up.

“Please follow me.”

After nodding he finally arrived at the guard tower. He had never been to this place that had been built from scratch. It was a bit over thirty meters tall and had winding stairs that led to the guard captain's quarters. From the outside, a person could see tinted windows on the top floor and that area was where he was going.

During his walk, he also arrived at the middle floor which connected with a large wall. Each other tower could be traveled on foot when following the walls and had an iron gate that could be lowered to block the path as well. When he arrived on the top floor there was a small ladder that led to a lookout spot and another closed door that had Arthur’s other knight guarding it.

‘I guess this is it…’

The buildup of butterflies in his stomach was starting to bother him but with the help of his stress resistance skill, it was manageable. The man that could decide his life was there, perhaps coming clean about the Lich wasn’t the best idea. It was likely that everyone would point their fingers at him even if it was a random chance that the Lich was able to get over to the other dungeon. He was partially responsible for the whole debacle, if the reigning city lord decided that all the responsibility lay on his shoulders, then getting thrown in prison or to the gallows would be his fate.

“Excuse me.”

“Welcome Mr. Wayland, please take a seat.”

The knight that was standing at the door opened it for him and on the inside, he saw the usual Maid and noble combo. Just as usual the two guard knights retreated to the outside while he was left alone with the city lord. From his point of view, this was somewhat of a risky maneuver. Roland was wearing his side armor with magical runic capabilities. He had left his weapons outside but a fast runic spell could incinerate the entire room quite fast.

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It was clear that they would not try to capture him considering that there wasn’t enough manpower available. That was the case or either the guild master was waiting somewhere to jump him but it didn’t seem so. The windows on the sides were potential escape routes as he did have some spells that could cushion him from a thirty-meter fall.

After getting his escape route in a place he decided to take a seat in front of the city lord. There didn’t seem to be any traps or anti-magic devices that could hinder him in any way. Arthur was probably incapable of procuring such a pricey treasure but perhaps he was overthinking things.

“Troubling times we live in, don’t you think so as well, Mr. Wayland?”

“I guess?”

“Who could have expected a Lich to suddenly appear in the dungeon and cause a dungeon break.”

The moment he sat down Arthur asked him a question that he answered. It was indeed quite the peculiar mess, even though he was the one that unearthed the other dungeon that the Lich escaped was not something that should have happened. Even now he was unable to comprehend how this had happened, it didn’t make sense after seeing it or the other tier 3 monsters not being able to get to his side of the dungeon.

Then after months of grinding it finally happened without any gradual buildup at all. If he had at least seen or noticed some clues that the monster could potentially get out, he would have stopped himself from using that spot for leveling up. After working for twenty hours a day he kind of put himself in a trance. Getting his tier 3 class and enough money to support his workshop was the only thing that he thought and perhaps the reason that all of this happened.

“I…”

Roland wanted to speak about what had truly happened but he stopped himself from speaking. At first, he wanted to lie or at least deflect the allegations but perhaps there was another way. Arthur as of this day had been very helpful to his cause. The problem with the union was cleared up by him, and so was the drama with the orphanage. He had been given more by this noble than by others and he didn’t want to be ungrateful.

“Mary, could you bring Mr. Wayland some tea, think he seems to be a bit parched.”

“Of course, Lord Arthur.”

“I mean, the special tea…”

Mary went over to the neatly placed cart with refreshments that was here for some reason but was told to fetch something else by Arthur. The woman’s gaze met with the lord’s and it seemed that he was trying to get a point across. Soon she just nodded and made her way out of the office.

‘She never left me alone with him before, what are they up to?’

This was a strange turn of events. He had known almost from day one that Mary was some kind of trained bodyguard. There was no one incident where she didn’t keep an eye out for him. Then if she was missing he would see the two guards there instead. There was not an occasion where he was left alone with the young man before, Arthur was up to something. Was he trying to keep something from the maid while speaking to him? But why.

“Wayland, that’s an interesting name but it isn’t your real name, now is it?”

“What do you mean, my Lord…”

His heart skipped a beat as after Mary removed herself Arthur dropped a bomb on him. Was he aware of his true name and that he was part of the Arden household? In the world of nobles, the two wouldn’t be that far apart but Roland would be below on the social ladder. He still came from a Baron house while the other was from a Duke one.

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“You don’t need to call me that, or perhaps you do if you came from a lesser knight house? Perhaps a fallen aristocrat that lost their war of succession?”

“I don’t really know what you are trying to imply here…”

“Please, we both know that you are not a commoner, the way you conduct yourself isn’t very common.”

Arthur smiled at the little pun that he made while Roland continued to just get more nervous. What was this person trying to do, did he know about his father, or was this about something else? Even if he knew everything, what was the point of all this? It wasn’t as if a noble couldn’t moonlight as a Runesmith.

“Wayland if that is your name, I think you might be misunderstanding my intentions, I do not wish to corner you with anything or delve into your let's say… unique circumstances. The mine that you withheld information about isn’t a problem nor are the secret tunnels but if you want me to protect you, then you have to tell me the truth.”

It seemed that word about the secret mine had reached Arthur’s ears just as Roland expected. The information he received was probably through the dwarven union to which Wedamir ratted him out. Perhaps it was before he managed to save them from the Lich but it didn’t really matter. If he held his mouth shut then perhaps he could sweep it under the rug just as he intended.

“... you and I aren’t that different, I understand why you might be doing this…”

‘What is this guy talking about…’

The conversation started moving in a strange direction. It was as if Arthur wanted to become buddies with him and bond over being fallen nobles or bastards. Perhaps he misunderstood his entire situation as Roland didn’t really see himself as an aristocrat and actually didn’t want to have anything to do with them. His mannerisms were somewhat ingrained into him by the body he occupied and another five years of looking at proper nobles.

“Okay… please stop… and you can tell that maid that I know that she is behind that window…”

“Uh…”

Roland had enough of this, the whole conversation was unexpected and Arthur had gotten the wrong idea about him. Then there was Mary that after going out had probably used the ladder outside to sneak over to one of the tinted windows. There she waited probably to burst in if her lord needed help.

“Haha…Mary… I told you that it wouldn’t work, just come in.”

Arthur called out while weakly laughing like a kid that was caught doing a prank. The maid managed to open the window rather quickly and contorted her body in an interesting way to get in.

Though this charade played out, Roland didn’t really feel angry. If he was against any normal noble then he would have probably been carried off into a prison cell for questioning. This was actually more what he had expected but there was no shouting, only a bad attempt of convincing him to talk.

“My Lord.”

Mary bowed before Arthur as an apology. For some reason, Roland believed that this might have been the Maid’s idea and that Arthur actually wanted to have a more heartfelt conversation. Roland’s true age was almost double Arthur’s, perhaps the young man was actually trying to find a kindred spirit but he couldn’t dismiss the reverse. However, if he was planning to throw them into prison then perhaps meeting at the prison tower would have been a better idea.

Now he had to choose, what should he say? Arthur already knew about the mine which he expected. Should he stick to the premade script and deny most of his involvement or was there another option waiting for him? Could telling more of the truth to this young man be a better choice? If he was truly looking for proper allies then he could become one where keeping secrets wouldn’t be needed…

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