Rune Master

 

To Learn the Runes

 

Daisuke loved rain. It washed the dirt and sweat from his soccer practice off of his clothes – and himself – and it cooled down his flushed skin. His hair drooped into his eyes and clung to his face, but he didn’t care. Lifting his head, he closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and let the rain fall wherever.

It was early July, and rain showers were usually pretty rare. The afternoon had even begun as a bright and sunny one. Daisuke’s summer soccer league had just begun that week – it was their third practice. The sudden rainfall had come as a surprise, though in the brown-eyed athlete’s opinion, it was a welcome one. Rain felt pretty nice after a hard practice. Just one of the many things that had gone right for him that day.

Like when Kari showed up at the practice… Daisuke brought his head back down so he could see the sidewalk in front of him, and smiled to himself. Hikari Yagami was one of his best friends and his not-so-secret crush. Truthfully, she hadn’t ever shown that kind of interest in him, but they would both be starting their tenth grade year in the fall, and he had hopes that she’d agree to be his date for the Junior Prom. The only thing standing in his way was the chance that Takeru would ask her before him.

I’ve got just as much chance with her as TE does, he reminded himself, not letting the tall blond weaken his self-confidence. Takeru Takaishi had already been good friends with Hikari before Daisuke had met her, and something about their close friendship made him extremely jealous. Granted, Takeru was a friend – he was really too nice to be an enemy – but Daisuke still harbored some hostile feelings toward him. Hikari was still single and up for grabs, and he for one intended to fight for her.

"Excuse me, young man?"

Daisuke looked up, startled out of thoughts of Hikari. A tall, brown-haired man stood in front of him, one hand still braced on his shoulder and the other holding an umbrella. "Could you possibly tell me how to get to Odaiba Public Soccer Field?" he asked, then smiled a little. "I’m supposed to meet my son there, but I seem to have forgotten his directions."

"Sure. It’s just down this street and you turn right where the lights are." Daisuke pointed back the way he’d come. "You can’t miss it."

"Thank you very much." The man smiled and dug into his pocket, presenting Daisuke with a couple of bills. "For your trouble," he explained, then winked and gestured to the side. "Maybe you could buy something in there."

"But – " Daisuke tried to form a protest, turning to look where the man had indicated. ‘Thompson’s Used Books’. A book store? He turned back to question the stranger, but the man had already left. Weird.

With a slight shrug, Daisuke turned and looked at the store again. It was an ordinary sort of place, probably just one of so many shops he passed on the way from the soccer field to his apartment. For some reason, though, now that it had been brought to his attention, Daisuke felt strangely drawn to it – like he actually wanted to go in and buy something.

Hey, I’d never let a strange feeling pass me by. Without a second thought, the red-haired soccer player pushed open the door and walked into the store.

The place was dimly lit. Daisuke paused for a moment, taking in this new atmosphere. There were books on shelves, books piled on tables, books stacked in pyramids on the floor, and books on turn-table racks. The lights were obviously running low; they let off a soft humming noise that indicated what a small amount of brightness was left in them. Kinda like me in math class, Daisuke thought, and grinned.

"Don’t stand there and drip all over the floor, young man!" a sharp female voice told him. Daisuke looked up, and caught sight of a faintly pretty woman sitting behind a counter at one side of the store. "Either come in or go out; don’t hover around in between."

"Uhh… Sorry ’bout that." Daisuke hurried into the store, absently looking at the books on the shelves. "I’m just looking around – if that’s okay," he added, wondering if she was going to get mad at him for being rude.

She waved a hand. "Perfectly. Look away." Her phone rang then, and she turned her attention away from him.

Feeling slightly relieved, Daisuke looked back to the books. There were all kinds of them – big ones, thin ones, some with brightly colored covers, some sporting flashy, shimmery-printed titles, and some just plain. He barely glanced over them, uninterested. Books weren’t his thing. He wasn’t even all that sure why he was hanging around in a book store in the first place. Usually he only read comic books and adventure novels.

Well, there’s something, he told himself stubbornly. ’Cause why would I come in if there wasn’t? That made sense. At least, to Daisuke it made sense. He was looking for something.

What that something was, he didn’t have a clue.

A dull, rust-colored book caught his eye for a moment, and Daisuke stopped wandering through the store. The print, in faded black letters on the book’s spine, read: To Learn the Runes.

Daisuke frowned at it, scratching his head in confusion. What the heck are runes? He pulled the book out to get a look at the cover. Oh. Well, there was his answer; the front sported a clearly printed black symbol, with one slightly curved line, and several other squiggles around it.

It looked… kinda cool.

Without his consciously willing it, Daisuke had started moving toward the counter, still holding the book with the weird symbol on it in his hands. "I’ll take this," he blurted out, thrusting the book out in front of him, toward the woman.

She glanced at the cover, then back up at him. "Learning the Runes, are you?" she asked him, smiling faintly. There was something in her eyes that made him a little uncomfortable.

"Uhh… Yeah, kinda." He rubbed the back of his neck nervously, as she ran the book through, took the bills that the stranger had given him, and returned the change. "I dunno. Maybe, I guess."

"Well, I imagine you’ll find out when you start reading," she answered, quite seriously, and handed him the book back.

"Uh huh. Thanks." Daisuke took the book and headed straight for the exit. He really didn’t feel like hanging around that store any more. That lady kinda gives me the creeps!

Tucking the book under his shirt to keep it dry, he made a dash through the rain toward his apartment building. For some reason, he was anxious to get home and have the rune book all to himself.

~~~~~~

"Mom?" Daisuke let the door slam behind him. The apartment lights were out. "Dad?" No one answered his voice. "Jun?" His sister’s name came out less enthusiastically. Still no answer. "Huh. Guess no one’s home."

He could go through the rune book without any kind of interruptions.

Sweet! Daisuke kicked off his shoes and turned automatically into the kitchen. He was always hungry after soccer practice. I’ll just get me some snacks and then… He grinned to himself, feeling excited for no reason at all.

There was a note on the refrigerator door. Daisuke’s parents always left any notes that were for him on the refrigerator, because that way he’d be sure to find them. He skimmed through it, then shrugged and opened the fridge. Well, duh, no one’s here! It was nice to know he’d have a few hours to himself, though.

With a plate full of snacks in one hand, a drink in the other, and the book he’d just bought under his arm, Daisuke moved his party-for-one into the small, slightly messy room he called his. And now for the feature presentation! He set the plate and glass down on his bedside table, flopped down on the bed, and opened the book.

The inside of the cover sported the same symbol that had been on the front. Daisuke smiled and traced his finger along the design. Cool! It was really awesome-looking. He was too interested in the rest to just sit and stare at it, though. Tearing his eyes from the image, he turned the page.

At the top of the next page, there was another symbol, with different lines than the first. It looked strangely inviting. Beneath that, there was something written in English. Daisuke was a little disappointed; he’d thought for a moment that the whole book was nothing but pictures of runes.

What he read next made him forget that disappointment altogether.

‘Greetings to a new and potentially promising Rune Master’ (it read)

‘This message is written assuming the bearer of this book has no idea what the Runes are, or what they are used for. In the case that the reader happens to have this information already, it is advised that they skip ahead to page two.’

Daisuke shrugged. Guess I’d better keep reading.

‘The Runes are a series of symbols, each with a meaning that can be turned into an actual action when used properly. One can only use the Runs for such a purpose after first completing Ritual (see page two for details).

Daisuke blinked. Okaaaay. That makes sense… sorta… well, maybe not at all. Wonder if I should go see page two or just keep reading. He decided on option two and turned back to the book.

‘In exchange for the ability given by Ritual, the potential Rune Master must agree to take on such tasks as defender of innocents, peacekeeper, or attacker, should the situation arise where it would be necessary.’

That, Daisuke understood. Hey, cool! He read further, eagerly.

‘The potential to become a Rune Master does not manifest in every creature. The reader should consider this when making the choice of whether to complete Ritual. In finding this book, he or she can be certain that said potential is present, and that becoming a Rune Master is an option available to him or her.’

Daisuke liked how that sounded. Mom always said I had potential…

‘However, such a choice does not come without a price. Since the job, once chosen, is a life-long commitment, the choice should not, in any case, be taken lightly. Young Rune-users who lack the proper devotion may, in serious cases, find that they also lack the means to survive the Trial period. DO NOT TAKE THIS WARNING LIGHTLY!’

Daisuke frowned at the unoffending page, feeling as if the intended seriousness of the words was sinking in through his skin and getting to him, somehow. A chill went down his spine. Am I supposed to take this for real? He blinked again, then read on, not knowing what else to do.

‘If the reader feels capable of handling the risks, a few steps must be taken in order to become a Rune Master. Ritual, as described on page two, must be completed first and foremost. The candidate will then find a listing for his or herself in this manual, stating rank and availability. New Rune Masters will always be listed as Initiate, with TRIAL PENDING as availability. The next step in becoming a full Rune Master is the Trial, which introduces young Run – "

Daisuke slammed the book shut, not sure if he should be laughing or just plain confused. So, is this a joke or a game…? He stared down at the book in his hands, thinking fast. Well…It wouldn’t really hurt to read more… He opened it again.

‘introduces young Rune Masters to the perils and difficulties of said job. The Initiate then becomes a Novice, and is available for any tasks that may require his or her attention. In more difficult situations, a Rune Master may find it necessary to bond with an Element Adept (see page 23) in what most often results in permanent partnership (see page 25).’

"This is like trying to study History or something," Daisuke muttered, feeling a bit sulky. At the same time, though, the words were stirring at his sense of adventure. The idea of ‘defender of innocents’ sounded so cool… It was sure to impress Kari, too!

‘Should the reader choose to accept the terms described, he or she should move on to page two.’

Daisuke turned the page without even thinking about it.

‘Ritual

‘An introductory use of Runes designed to grant full access to Rune Magic and all other fore-mentioned. The reader is instructed to trace the outlines of given Runes onto the ground in front, back, and to the sides of his or herself on the ground, using only the forefinger of the writing hand. The reader then simply stands in the center of the Runes and repeats out loud the following phrase.’

The red-haired boy looked at the words. Seems simple enough. Well… If it didn’t work, he still wouldn’t lose anything, right? And if it did… "Then I’m a hero! And everyone knows girls always go for heroes. Kari’ll be all over me!"

Decision made, Daisuke hooked his legs over the edge of the bed and stood, holding the book. "Hmm… Let’s see. We put this one here…" He carefully bent and copied the first symbol onto the carpet, fingers tracing in the pattern of lines. "And then this one here…" He turned and traced the second rune. "This one there… and… that one there. Done!" He straightened and faced forward, where he’d put the first symbol. "Okay! Now we’re getting somewhere!"

He looked back down at the book, feeling an odd little thrill going down his spine. If this works… It was more than just Kari, he admitted to himself. More than being a hero. There was adventure out there, excitement, and he was going to be a part of it. If it really was for real, he would never be able to stand being left out.

With those thoughts in mind, Daisuke started to read.

"I swear to always protect," he began, and felt the words strike a deep chord inside himself. "I swear to be true to the powers I serve, and to myself. I swear to always work in the name of justice, to act according to what’s best for everyone, for good. I will never use this power for evil, or with evil intentions. I swear to the powers, and to myself, that I am prepared, now and always, to devote myself to the Runes – though never to alert any who do not have these abilities to the fact that I myself do. I swear to be true. I swear my loyalty. I swear myself. And" – Daisuke found that the words were heavy in his mouth, almost, like liquid – "I take into myself the Rune magic."

Nothing happened.

Daisuke looked around expectantly. I did what it said. Where’s the magic stuff? He slumped back onto the bed, disappointed. "Guess they really got me with that stupid joke. I really thought it was real for a second. Hah!"

He thumbed open the book and turned to page three.

‘Welcome to the world of Rune Magic!

‘It’s not necessary to worry about the fact that the effects were not immediate. Magic takes patience and practice, and not everything will take effect right before your eyes.’

It won’t? Daisuke made a face. Why not?

‘First of all, it is important for you to familiarize yourself with the Rune on this book’s cover. That Rune is your personal symbol, and you will likely use it often.’

Forgetting his disappointment, Daisuke put his hand on the page and flipped to the cover. Too cool! That’s mine? He grinned happily, admiring the symbol for a moment, then turned back to the page he’d been reading.

‘In a short time, you will be given a Trial to introduce you to the powers you’ve just taken on. The Trial is dangerous, and not to be taken lightly. Keep in mind that whatever it is will be for the good of those around you. Trials are not pre-arranged. Young Rune Masters are set to solve problems that arise, most often caused by powers of darkness. How well they deal with said problems will determine their level. After successfully completing your Trial, you will be advanced to Novice level. Future assignments may advance you further. (see page fifty-four for your listing and page ten for the levels of Rune Master) Good luck, Daisuke.’

Daisuke caught his breath in a sharp gasp that nearly choked him. Quickly, he flipped through until he found page fifty-four. Sure enough, there in between two other listings of Rune Master names, was his: ‘Motomiya, Daisuke – Initiate – TRIAL PENDING’

Slowly, Daisuke closed the book. "I’m going to be one of those Rune people." He blinked several times, and it sank in. I’m going to be a Rune person.

Leaping off the bed and knocking the book to the ground, he let out a whoop and spun around in a circle, thrusting a fist into the air. "All right! Hero stadium, here I come! Adventure’s out there waiting for me! Yes!"

 

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