Lives are a currency, and Noah Vines is rich.
Reincarnated into the body of a poisoned magic school professor, Noah is given more than just a second chance at life. Every time he dies, his body reforms. With infinite variations of runic magic to discover and with death as a painful soul wound rather than a final end, Noah finally has a chance to wander the lands of the living once again.
And this time, he plans to get strong enough to make sure that he never has to wait around in the afterlife again.
As of writing this, I’ve read all 125 published chapters.
I read Return of the Runebound Professor over the weekend in practically one super long sitting. Much of the story so far concerns the magical academy our MC is isekai’d into, and he takes over the body of a disliked barely-a-noble that was equal parts creepy, shady, and lazy. Our MC, a music professor, is actually none of these things, which is obviously a Good Thing.
Somehow our MC stumbled through the first few chapters despite knowing literally nothing about the world, his students, his lineage, her colleagues, or his magic, and puts in the hard yards to try and catch up. The mechanics of coming back straight away after dying give some of the fights the same feel as you might expect from a time-loop story, in that the MC isn’t afraid to get hit and learn so that when he comes back next time he’s better prepared.
This isn’t exactly a LitRPG, and there’s no system, but the magic system is still fairly hard. People have runes in their soul which embody concepts, like a Lesser Wind Rune, or a Greater Wind Rune. This wind rune, you guessed it, is what allows Noah to launch wind blades and teach dirty monkeys the meaning of ‘sharp’. Once you have a full set of seven, you can combine them into a higher-rank rune, and bam, that’s the big power -evel jump you can do. So a Rank 3 person has combined seven Rank 2 runes into a Rank 3 rune, which they were able to collect obviously after combining seven Rank 1 runes into a Rank 2 rune.
I got a big confused (and still am a little bit) over the mechanics, especially some early phrasing over rune capacity and filling. A lot of the time when Actus writes about a rune filling up (ie when you absorb not-XP from slain monsters), I believe this is talking about its maximum capacity increasing. The energy in the rune that the MC can use is separate from how “full” the rune is, though I swear the same terminology about full/empty is used to refer both to the current energy available in a rune and its current state of maximum capacity out of its idealised maximum capacity.
But apart from this confusion, it’s simple to follow. The MC has a cheat code here, in that he can break runes apart while others can’t. So if he doesn’t find the perfect combination of a base seven runes to get something that works nice, he can revert his change, roll back that commit, and try a different permutation.
In terms of characters, we’ve got our impatient MC, Noah. Moxie, his professor colleague. And Isabel and Todd, his two blacklisted noble students. Their backstory does come up, but you’ll have to wait for a good while until after they’ve left the academy for the first time. And then there’s Lee, who is my favourite. But I can’t talk about Lee really, because I’m keeping this spoiler free.
The world is fairly limited in scope at first, as the serial focuses on the Academy and the Scorched Plains filled with monkeys outside it. And, amusingly, the last chapter available as I write this is an interlude chapter that contains a bunch of world-building that is setting up the wider plot for the next arcs. I’d love to get some more context and depth to the world which isn’t explained overtly to the MC, and I’m guessing this will happen soon.
The advancement is also picking up quickly in chapters 110+. It takes Noah a while to figure out how everything works, but now he’s got a plan and is burning through the runes and trying out fun combinations. I’m curious to see both where he takes his skill set (rune set?) and how his students develop their powers too.
If you’re a fan of other magic school books (Mark of the Fool, etc), or of time-loop-like mechanics, you’ll enjoy this one.