Ch002-Hellos and Goodbyes
The moment the needle entered his finger, Ciege was gone. Pulled out of his body, and very smoothly shoved into an abandoned corner of Sylver’s mind, and given just enough energy to continue to exist.
Sylver on the other hand was now lying on the floor, blood, bile, and more blood, pouring out of his mouth, his left arm completely dislocated, and his whole body screaming out in pain.
He felt the hobgoblin wrap its fat hand around his wrist and moved the minuscule pool of mana he had into his arm. Uncoiling the pool, like one would a thread, he sent a slither of mana through his hand, through the hobgoblin's arm, and up into its core. In a split second, he had it perfectly secured and yanked at it.
The hobgoblin paused, as it felt something missing inside itself and grabbed at its chest to try and fix it. It looked down at its fat hands and bulging stomach, as both were very rapidly decreasing in size, and drying up. It barely felt its body hit the ground, as the last remaining piece of its life was removed.
[Hobgoblin (None) Defeated!]
[Skill unavailable. Requirements not met]
[??? ??? Cured!]
Sylver stood his body up, and let the hobgoblin’s energy spread out through his body. He first fixed his lung, then the poisoned arrow in his shoulder, and lastly returned his skin to its regular unburned state. He watched with relief as the health bar started to tick back up. It was the only reason Ciege made it this far inside, he just had enough raw strength and resistances to tank his way through the poison and swords.
The goblin shaman watched on in wonder, as his brother was reduced to a pile of dried up meat, and he couldn’t take his eyes away from the human standing in front of him.
Its hair was now turning ashy and pale, mirroring the shamans remaining specks of fluff. Its body stood straighter than before, hands at its side, constantly twitching and moving around. But most noticeable were the eyes. Completely black, as if he were staring into a never-ending void. Activating [Mana Perception] the goblin shaman saw something it couldn’t believe. The human in front of it raised its hand to its chest and pushed something into its heart.
The previously unstable mana, running rampant through the human’s body, was now steadily circling the area it had just touched. The shaman watched as the mana condensed, and just short of solidified itself around the human’s bones and muscles. While the quantity was extremely low, this level of control was something the shaman hadn’t considered possible.
“I can’t believe I’m actually alive!” Sylver shouted, using his free hand to push his dislocated one back in place. It went inside with a wet sounding crunch and continued to crackle as he waved it around. The pain was eye watering, but Sylver barely felt it thanks to Ciege’s high pain tolerance. Yeva had stopped screaming at some point and was now laying on the table, unconscious.
“Wut are you?” The goblin shaman asked. He was staring into Sylver’s eyes, and couldn’t see any whites.
“Ciege. Apprentice blacksmith.” Sylver said, bowing ever so slightly. “Will you let her go? I can kill you painlessly if you do. Because otherwise, I’m going to make it hurt..” Sylver said, still waving his arm around in a circle and not even looking at the shaman. The health he had stolen from the hobgoblin was already used up, but thankfully there was enough to give him relief from the pain.
The goblin shaman tapped its long needle-like sword against its teeth.
“Ok. But mak it quick.” The goblin shaman said. It reached up and started to undo one of the straps holding Yeva down. It kept glancing over at Sylver, but only got a toothy grin in return.
Hobbling over to the legs and pretending to start on the straps, the goblin shaman spat out a lightning-fast incantation, and sent a torrent of sparks at Sylver.
The goblin was temporarily blinded, too afraid to look away, in case the human managed to dodge it. But he could see the human’s feet hadn’t moved an inch, and the flames had struck true.
When its eyes regained their sight, the goblin shaman expected to see a charred corpse or nothing at all. Instead, it saw the human, standing perfectly fine. In his hand was the corpse of the shaman’s brother, now glowing red and the dried flesh reduced to nothing.
“Good effort. Lightning at close range. Brilliant combination. Most wouldn’t expect it, given how much of a backlash you would get if you missed and had it bounce around and hit you. However, I recommend being a little less obvious about moving your mana around, if you ever attempt it in the future.” Sylver said, discarding the scorched corpse, and wiping the ash on his hand on his shirt.
“Yu will let me go?” The goblin shaman asked, scratching its face with the blunt side of its knife.
Sylver laughed at this, the sound bouncing off the walls of the cave, and walked up to the defenseless shaman. Lighting is great, but one of the most expensive magic there is. Most consider it too inefficient to even bother with, truth be told. The shaman didn’t have enough for a ball of light right now.
The goblin shaman smiled in return, a toothy grin of an old man, with the expression of a child getting caught eating sweats it shouldn’t have.
“Oh god no. Just a bad habit from playing around with my apprentices. You kidnapped and tortured a woman. Two women. And then tried to kill me. Either one of those is enough for me to kill you. Not to mention, I already made you an offer, and you rejected it.” Sylver said, poking the goblin in the chest.
Where his finger had touched the goblin, a tiny black spot appeared. The goblin looked down at it and touched it, before falling to the floor and convulsing with pain. It screamed so loudly, Sylver had to kill it prematurely, to save Ciege’s hearing.
[Skill unavailable. Requirements not met]
[Goblin (Mage) defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 20 or more levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]
[Blacksmith’s Apprentice] has reached level 16!
[Notice: Due to the presence of [???? ????], complete reset available.]
[Do you accept?]
He moved the reset option out of the way for now. His understanding of this thing was far too vague right now, to start making decisions.
Checking her vitals, he was relieved she was perfectly fine. A few cuts here and there, but nothing major.
Picking up scraps of clothing lying around, he fused them into a makeshift blanket and covered Yeva with it. Gently lifting the surprisingly heavy woman over his shoulder, he made his way out of the cave.
In the next room, there was a hobgoblin, who had managed to place its insides back into its stomach, and fell victim to the classic bolt of pure energy, to the face, technique.
[Hobgoblin (Warrior) defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 or more levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]
That’s going to get annoying, pretty quick. Hard to believe people live their whole lives with a screen in front of their faces. But it does make killing them, a little more fun. Sylver thought as he pressed further out of the cave.
The goblin archer nearly got him in the head, missing by a small margin. As it fiddled around with its next arrow, it too fell victim to the classic bolt of pure energy to the face scheme. Sylver’s consciousness was still a little hazy, it’s not every day you get to possess a body and have to immediately start fighting. Thankfully he had enough control over the measly tea cup of mana Ciege had, that these simple attacks weren’t an issue.
[Hobgoblin (Warrior) defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 or more levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]
As he walked through the dark cave, he couldn’t help but marvel at the steel-like muscles, and the well-maintained physique. His only complaint was that Ciege’s body’s mana conductivity was too low for Sylver’s preferences. Luckily, there are several ways to increase it. It’s simply a matter of gathering all the necessary ingredients and performing a few rituals.
Seeing sunlight for the first time in who knows how long, Sylver simply stopped walking and basked in the warm light for a few moments. God damn did it feel good to be alive again.
Watching the events unfold from the corner of the creature’s mind, Ciege couldn’t help but wonder if this was the right thing to do. It had kept its word and saved Yeva, but from here he saw it for what it was.
“Right or wrong, you don’t get a lot of say in the matter. You made a deal, and now you have to keep it.” Sylver said, speaking into the dark void.
“So now what?” Ciege asked, surprised by the hollow way his voice sounded.
“Good question. I need some time to think things through. Because quite honestly there’s still too much I don’t know. So now you’re going to carry Yeva to the temple and let her injuries heal. And then you’ve got 2 weeks to say your goodbyes, and get all your business sorted.” Sylver said, moving Yeva a little to the side to carry her more comfortably.
“2 weeks? I don’t understand.” Ciege asked, floating around the place and unable to get a solid footing anywhere.
“I’ll need some time to go through your memories. And 2 weeks should be just long enough. You are free to do whatever you want, as long as you don’t harm your body, or tell anyone about me. If you try to leave a note about me or even try to pass along a coded message, I’ll know, and I will kill whoever you told. Even Yeva.” Sylver said, his tone so relaxed when talking about murdering the people Ciege had known his entire life, that Ciege struggled to keep the worry out of his voice.
“I won’t tell anyone. But I’m going to spend the time with Yeva.” Ciege said, his form solidifying slightly.
“Good man. But if I were you, I wouldn’t let her get too attached. It’s not just that I’m unlikely to return here, but also the fact that she might hear news about me in the future and get the wrong idea. But it’s your body, and your time to do with whatever you want. I’ll give you your privacy, but I’ll say it again, if you tell anyone about me, I’ll know and I’ll kill them.” Sylver said, his voice filled with ice.
“I got it. I don’t even know what I would tell them.” Ciege said.
“Good. And don’t try to manipulate any mana, you’ll cripple yourself. I overexerted your channels, so anything more will start to damage them permanently,” Sylver said, handing over the reins to Ciege and walking off into a metaphorical corner.
“I won’t. And… thank you. For saving her I mean. Thank you.” Ciege said, bowing to the creature inside his mind.
His consciousness was forced back into its mortal shell. Holding Yeva over his shoulder, Ciege carefully lowered her to carry her in his arms. She looked so terrified, and tired, but even covered in blood she was beautiful.
He made his way to the temple while switching between looking at Yeva, and at the sunrise. Now that he knew he didn’t have that many left, every single flower, every cloud, every branch, bush, and tree, looked so indescribably amazing, that he had to hold back tears at the sight of them.
The temple, which had ignored his pleading to come with him to rescue her, accepted Yeva without any question. The head priest gave a big speech about how much of a miracle it is that he made it back alive, and how it was only through god’s grace that Yeva got to live at all.
Once he was done healing her, and she was starting to wake up, Ciege punched the old man in the face, and kept punching him until he was pulled away by the junior priests. All of them were his friends and neighbors, until not long ago, and now they were all just bastards that had refused to help him.
Helping Yeva up off the altar, he walked away with her, to the sound of the head priest throwing a tantrum.
Yeva’s house was built on top of the leather processing shop. Her father ran it, and her mother worked as a tailor nearby. With levels in both classes, Yeva was working towards becoming a [Reinforced Tailor]. A relatively rare class, that allowed the user to craft clothing like items, with the defense and durability comparable to high-quality leather armor.
Her father looked beyond surprised to see her alive and well but silently continued to work. After all, even he had abandoned her. The same was true for every other man and woman in the shop, who were all in the level 50 area, but did not feel the risk was worth it. On some level Ciege understood and accepted this. Higher level or not, in an actual fight a bunch of tailors, stood no chance against goblins. Ciege was simply lucky that his profession provided him with enough perks and skills, that he could fight at least a little.
Instead, a young man, who was until recently level 13, had gone in and done the impossible.
Walking up the stairs, Yeva was already fully awake by that point. She let go of Ciege’s arm, and ran up ahead of him, slamming the door closed before he got a chance to say anything. He could hear her crying from behind the door, and simply turned around.
Walking back down he walked past her father, who looked like he had aged 20 years since the morning he had begged him to come with him to save her. “Ciege, you have to understand. I have a wife, and another daughter on the way I couldn’t-”
“It’s fine. She’s alive and well, that’s all that matters. If you’ll excuse me.” Ciege replied, trying to push his way through the man.
“Where are you going to go? You can’t finish your apprenticeship without your father so how will you-“
“I’ll figure something out. Now please get the fuck out of my way.” Ciege answered coldly and used a skill to shove the old man out of his way.
Walking away, Ciege thought about exactly what he should do now. Go back to his empty house? Go talk to his ‘friends’ who all refused to come with him? Visit the tavern and try his hand at drinking himself to death again? It all seemed so unbelievably pointless he couldn’t decide which would be the least tiring.
With only 14 days left to live, there was both so much, and so little he wanted to do, it was heartbreaking. In the end, he returned to his now empty house/shop and started to clean the whole place.
After bringing the forge back up to an acceptable heat, he went on to reorganize all the tools and sort them out. He picked out one hammer from all the others and set it aside. The rest were cleaned, oiled, and maintained, and returned to their spot on the wall covered in tools. The tools of a blacksmith were different from any others. Each unique job required a unique tool to help make it.
Over the years these specialized tools would start to build up until one day one of them got to be used again. And then the son would be using the tool his father, or grandfather had made, and do the job faster and better than any new blacksmith. It was part of the requirements for Ciege to inherit his father’s rare class. And now it was all gone.
Using the sound of the loud grindstone as cover, Ciege cried and sobbed to his heart's content.
Looking through Ciege’s memories, Sylver was greatly disappointed. He was hoping to see him bullying those weaker than him, being cruel to animals, or at the very least secretly harboring hatred for everyone he had ever met. Something that would make him feel better about what he was doing.
Instead, he got to see a child who had only two dreams since the day he started to have memories. Start a family. And take over as the town’s main blacksmith. Imaginings of swords, axes, and hammers, littered every crevice of his young memory, imposing themselves onto everything he did.
He had a plan in mind, since day 1. Work under his father, and inherit his rare class. Surpass the man, and pass on his improved class onto his son. On top of that, he wanted to have a family. A really big and happy one, 4 boys and 2 girls.
He did well at school, practiced his letters and numbers diligently, and did his absolute best at whatever he tried. An exemplary child, who even went as far as to help others when he could.
At the age of 12, his system kicked in. Somewhat earlier than what was usual. But it was mainly due to him getting the [Blacksmith’s Apprentice] class by accident. He assigned his attribute points evenly, skipping out only on intelligence and wisdom. Training his body, he gained many perks and skills that helped boost his constitution, strength, and dexterity, allowing him to craft better tools and weapons. And would later give him a shot to save Yeva.
At the age of 13, he understood how exactly you would go about starting a family, due to a drunken rant from a friend of his father’s. With that knowledge, his goals formed into a much more detailed and solid shape. He didn’t just want a family, and to take over the family business. He wanted a family with the dark-haired girl next door, and to become a blacksmith his children would be proud of.
At the age of 15, he succeeded in getting Yeva to dance with him, during the fire festival. The way the light caught her dark hair, and brought a sparkle to her eye, stood out more than anything else he had seen until now. Every conversation they had from this moment on, every time he saw her walking around, every time that he walked through a particular path in the forest, he would think of this moment.
At the age of 16, he lost his mother. From the way the memories started to become fuzzy and jagged, Sylver recognized this as drinking and trying to repress everything. One thing that changed more than anything was Ciege’s understanding of his father. He was no longer a living god, able to brush off death like a layer of sawdust, no longer was he the titan that could work the hardest steels and raise the heaviest hammers.
Now he was just a mortal man who never got over the death of his wife.
At the age of 18, Ciege unofficially took over the family business. His father continued to work, but it was never as high of quality as it used to be. But with no other choice but to finish his apprenticeship and inherit his father’s class, Ciege stuck around and made things work.
At the age of 19, Ciege the blacksmith’s son, lost his father, his future, and the love of his life, all in a couple of days. He got one of those back, but at the cost of another.