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Ch003-Time Flies

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*Ciege
Ciege woke up with an awful pain in his neck. In the past when he had fallen asleep at the forge, he would wake up with a pillow and blanket. At first, it was his mother, and later on his father. But now he was alone. A lot of the time when he woke up, he would be covered in sweat, and shrug the woolen thing off him, annoyed at being treated like a child.

But now that there was nobody left to place it, he missed that tiny piece of wool. The forge had been cleaned to the point it was shining. He had added his father’s name onto the giant metal chimney, and while he was at it, added his own. The chimney had a long list of names going all the way up to the ceiling, and still had plenty of space at the bottom, that would now remain eternally unused.

With the razor he used for shaving, he cut his hair, until it was barely a finger’s width in length, and threw the cut-offs into the forge. A smile crept onto his face as he remembered the 2 seconds of relief, that he wouldn’t have to pay the temple a copper for his dead father. His body was burned in the forge, as was his father before him, and his father before him.

The forge was built an unknown time ago. From its proximity to the river, and where the center used to be, his family could boast to be one of the earliest settlers in this area. Traces of his family’s brand could be found on some of the oldest tools in the city. Even the great brass bell the temple uses has a tiny marking made by one of his predecessors.

I wonder what my grandfather would think. Giving up my life and legacy, all for a woman. But on the other hand, it was all gone the moment dad died. At least this way I got something out of it.

 

*Sylver

Digging deeper through Ciege’s memories Sylver uncovered a few things. The first was that he was thankfully still on Eira. Or at least a world that was similar enough to Eira that he couldn’t find any concrete distinction. Where he was exactly, was a different question. He had never been this far west, and only had vague memories from Nyx’s travels and sketches to use as a reference. But one of the mountain ranges was distinct enough, that he was certain it was the same one. How far into the future on Eira, was an entirely different question. Comparing stars would be best. If he had bothered looking at them before he died. Or even knew what to look for.

The next question that came to mind was what the fuck was up with all these screens? People spoke about it like it was normal. Like being able to increase your strength or speed, without any training was completely reasonable. They even had it as part of their learning curriculum. And weirder still was that it didn’t feel like magic. Even something so advanced that he wouldn’t be able to comprehend it, would still feel like magic. But he felt nothing.

Another big question was what the fuck the needle was, and how the fuck his soul was attached to it. Not even inside of it, but attached somehow. Even touching it directly, he wasn’t certain his soul was inside it. In fact his soul was in Ciege, and yet the needle felt as if it was inside of it. It wasn’t a phylactery, it was something else entirely. And once again it didn’t feel like magic.

Another question was, how the fuck was he still alive? Fallen Dawn was perfect. There was no wiggle room for him to survive and there would be nothing left after the fire. A fluke? His mind giving him a peaceful vision of some world it came up with to calm him down? Some sort of crossover with the traitor’s chronomancy? Something else entirely? Even with all of those, he still shouldn’t be alive.

But putting how he got here on hold, there was a final question he had been afraid of asking.

Now what?

 

*Ciege

“I can’t explain it. I’m going to be leaving soon, and I want you to forget about me. I love you more than life itself, but I can’t be with you,” Ciege said.

His image in the mirror looked exactly like his fathers had, on the first morning after his mother’s death. He didn’t look like a man who had woken up from being asleep, but a man simply waiting to go to sleep again. He had grown used to the grey hair by now and barely noticed it.

“I had to get help from someone, and now I have no choice but to go with him,” Ciege said.

“I’m sorry Yeva, I only realized it last night, but I’m attracted to men,” Ciege said, smiling despite himself at the imagined shock on Yeva’s face. There was a kind of grim humor about this whole situation, that Ciege couldn’t help but laugh at it.

“I’ve decided to become an adventurer and there’s nothing you can do to stop me,” Ciege said, puffing out his chest, with false bravado. “After fighting those goblins, I can’t go back to being a blacksmith, when I know just how fun killing is.” Ciege continued, flexing his muscles, and now trying to find the least idiotic explanation.

“I accidentally unlocked a unique class, and now I must go out into the world and use it,” Ciege said, his face brightening at this.

“I’ve been given a gift by the gods, and I have to go and use it.”

“The gods have recognized my bravery for risking my life, and now it’s up to me to go and help the world.”

“Montu himself came to me in a dream and told me I must go and fight for humanity’s sake.”

“The great god Montu has delivered a message unto me, that I must leave everything behind and go and fight for humanity’s sake,” Ciege repeated.

For a solid 10 minutes, he did nothing but stare at himself in the mirror, and repeat the phrase until he got it down perfectly. By the end of it, he almost believed it himself.

He knew exactly what to say, exactly how to say it, and exactly when and where to do it. But as with most things in his life, things never went according to plan.

When he opened the front door and saw Yeva standing there, his neatly laid out lies fell into a jumbled mess and he was at a complete loss of what to say.

*Sylver

Sorting through Ciege’s memories did not take as long as he had thought it would. But he kept to himself and very rarely glanced through Ciege’s eyes to see what he was up to. Thankfully patience was one of the few gifts of growing old. And the fact that he would feel like utter shit if he cut the kids 2 weeks short.

Right now, Ciege was holding Yeva, and crying on her shoulder. Whatever words they were exchanging right now, Sylver didn’t care enough to listen. The kid wasn’t stupid, and from going through his memories he got to see that he always kept his word. He even got a perk for it.

Sylver felt awful about the situation. Ciege was a good kid, dealt a very bad hand. He was principled, honorable, and brave to the point Sylver felt envious of him. If circumstances were different, Sylver would have gladly left the kid alone and let him grow up and become a very fine man.

But Sylver didn’t know what else he could do. His selfish desire to have a body and be alive again won out over whatever sympathy he had for the kid. And sharing wasn’t an option, since at some point his soul would start overpowering and diluting Ciege’s. Which in his eyes would be a worse outcome, than simply killing him and sending his soul off.

There was only one solution to this.

*

Sylver had very little to do but sit around and wait. So, he decided to go through Ciege’s memories again. Only on the 4th replay, of a very minor memory, did he catch it. The tiniest, and almost perfect alteration to Ciege’s memory. A figure, in a pure white robe, who managed to erase every trace of herself from Ciege’s mind, and only a mirror in the corner of his vision caught her.

What was even more confusing, was the way she was altering his memory. Erasing memories, is challenging in it of itself, but altering them permanently like this? For more than a few minutes? The required precision and raw amount of mana could only be achieved for a tier 7 mage, at least!

So, what the fuck could a 7th tiered mage, want with a blacksmith? Granted Ciege’s father held a rare crafting class. But it wasn’t anything that amazing. Certainly not enough to attract the attention of a tier 7 mage.

What’s more, she came to their house every year. Sylver couldn’t see her, of course, his talent with mind magic was 3rd tier at best. He had a defense to prevent getting his memories altered, but fixing the memories of others, just wasn’t in his repertoire. At best he could wipe a few days from people’s minds, but it was crude and about as accurate as hitting someone on the head with a hammer until they forgot.

What Sylver was getting at, was that someone with this kind of ability, wouldn’t be doing something like this for the fun of it. But that’s really what it seemed like. Nothing changed in the house, Ciege’s father didn’t act any differently, there were no new and unexplained orders, and more worrying was that no one in the town realized the alteration either.

So, either the woman was using some sort of large-scale mind alteration spell, which would bump her up to 9th tier, or she knew the people well enough to alter Ciege’s mind in a way that didn’t make him or anyone around him notice what was going on.

Either way, it was suspicious beyond words and extremely confusing.

Was this woman the one who had put him in the needle? Sylver wasn’t’ even sure how to categorize his current existence, let alone what school of magic this would fall under. Necromancy was certainly part of it. Soul manipulation on this level wouldn’t be possible without being in the 10th tier. But condensing it into the size of a needle? Even Nyx couldn’t do something like that. He wasn’t even certain if anyone could do that.

It could be an aftereffect from the spell… Hypothetically, if a piece of my soul burned quickly enough, it could reform itself. But that still doesn’t explain the needle. I would be a specter if that were the case. And that would come with memory loss, but I don’t have even a single gap in mine.

Sylver recreated the spell in his mind, and looked through every piece of framework, but couldn’t find anything to explain this effect. The spell used his soul as a catalyst, so perhaps it… He didn’t even know what this was to try and start guessing at it.

He spent a while comparing the altered memories in Ciege’s head and still couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. He considered that it could just be a big coincidence the woman comes around every year, for a completely unrelated reason, and Sylver is just finding a pattern when there isn’t one.

But random chance just didn’t sit right with him. Nothing in the world is truly random.

Checking in on Ciege, he found the man had not wasted any time, and was now enjoying one of the benefits of saving a damsel in distress. Letting the man have his fun, Sylver diverted his attention elsewhere.

 

*Ciege

The two weeks were up. There was nothing else to say or do. Yeva had guessed at some point that something was up, but between his want to not lie to her, and his desire not to get her killed, he couldn’t say anything.

Despite all that, Ciege had had an amazing two weeks. The purest of blisses, that can only come from knowing exactly what the future has in store for you. Which in this case was nothing. It was almost lucky that his father had died earlier. Because now all the orders were cancelled, and he had already started settling debts. Before yeva got kidnapped.

Getting all his affairs in order, took a shockingly tiny amount of time.

It took a few days. Almost a week to be more honest. But he had come to accept what he had done, as the right thing. A very tiny part of him, the survival instinct that he had had to suppress to no end to enter that cave full of death, was the only thing that was causing him worry. He considered his choice correct. Even if it was foolish, selfish, and possibly apocalyptic.

The thing in the needle, never told him what it was planning to do. And truthfully Ciege was past the point of caring anyway. There was nothing he could do about it anyway. And if he was being even more honest, as long as the needle didn’t kill Yeva, Ciege didn’t care what happened to his town, and the rest of the world for that matter.

Thankfully Yeva occupied most of his time, so he didn’t sit around wallowing in pity for very long. There’s a certain peace that comes along when you can literally count your heart beats until your death. And as his time was nearing its end Ciege came to the conclusion that it was a worthy trade. Whatever happens, happens. He did the best he could. No one could ask more of him.

He organized it so Yeva would be getting the shop and house. It was worthless to him now, and he didn’t want the temple to get it in case the needle ended up killing his body at some point. He was all smiles, kisses and hugs, as he sent Yeva away. Just a normal day, nothing special happening. Soon he would leave the village, and never return. Or his body would at least.

As the sun was going down, he felt it. Something pulled him away and out, so gently, that he didn’t even notice when he was already back inside the dark abyss, that he recognized as his, or the things, mind.

“So, this is it?” Ciege asked, watching the ghost take over his body, and walk back into the shop.

“Well for now at least. I’ll need to gather some things to make it, but I’ll have a new body for you in about a year.” Sylver replied.

There was a very long pause, during which Sylver adjusted himself into the body, so he could start getting used to it quicker.

“Wait… What? I thought you were going to kill me?” Ciege said, his form unraveling on account of the confusion.

“I said I would take your life. I never said I would kill you. You’re a good man. And I’m a strong believer in helping good people.” Sylver replied. He got up and walked through the shop collecting all the tools he would need.

“I don’t understand. How is that different than killing me?” Ciege asked, watching through Sylver’s eyes as he collected the first hammer Ciege had made, along with a carving knife.

“I think you misunderstood me. You’re done. As Ciege the human blacksmith. But you can start over as something else. I’ll make you a new body, and put your soul into it, and after that, you are free to do as you wish. I don’t like taking a life unless it’s with a purpose, and making a soulless meat suit, isn’t even all that difficult.” Sylver explained. Ciege watched as he somehow cut through the metal handle, using a knife meant for wood.

“I’m not understanding what you're trying to say.” Ciege said, his voice steady, but careful.

“Well, look. I can’t give up this body, because honestly, it’s quite rare that the compatibility is high enough for me to possess it permanently. I would offer to return it to you, once I find something more suitable, but I can’t stress enough how rare it is to find a soul that’s similar enough to my own, for me to do this. So, I’m going to put your soul into this hammer, give it to Yeva, and in a year or so, come back and build you a new body. After that, I’ll put your soul into the body, and you can do whatever you want from there.” Sylver said. The hammer in his hands was starting to gently glow a pale yellow.

“But… Why? I’ve got nothing else to offer you, and there’s nothing Yeva has that you would want.” Ciege asked, floating around the thing.

“I don’t need a reason to help someone. And I’ll say it again you’re a good man. I probably know you better than you know yourself by this point, so I say that with certainty. I wasn’t planning on doing this, but it wouldn’t sit right with me otherwise. And I’m getting a second pass at life because of you. So I’d like to start my new life off, with a good deed. Even if it takes me a while to do it.” Sylver said, running his fingers over the hammer and picking at a bad joint with one of his nails.

“So, I just sit around in this hammer for a year, and then I get a new body? And I can marry Yeva and have children, and start over as a blacksmith?” Ciege asked, the realization creeping in on him, and his voice growing more and more hopeful.

“It will feel like a second to you. Without a point of reference, you won’t feel the flow of time. So, after I put you in here, you’ll either wake up in a brand-new body, or you’ll disappear. The alternative is sticking around with me, but sooner or later, our souls will start to interact with one another. And no offense, but mine is incomparably stronger than yours. It wouldn’t even be a case of merging; it would just get decimated by mine.” Sylver said. Cutting the framework into the hammer was relatively easy. The metal quality was excellent, and even with Ciege’s limit mana pool, he had more than enough for this.

“You said I could disappear?” Ciege asked, watching his own hands cutting a pattern into the first hammer he had ever forged.

“Worst case scenario. If I die, if the hammer breaks, if something happens to my magic, in any of these cases, you’re gone. But you wouldn’t even know it. This isn’t sitting around bleeding to death, this would be more like an instant decapitation. The spell on the hammer is binary, it either works or doesn’t. If it stops working, your soul gets out into the world and dissipates. If you had a bit more essence, you could turn into a ghost. But worst-case scenario, you died for love. Which is one of the only things worth dying for.” Sylver explained as he gently melted the hammer into a straighter shape.

“I’m extremely biased of course. I gave up everything to protect the people I love. There was this guy and he was going to get to my apprentices… It’s a long story. Are you ready Ciege? Once I put you in, you’re either waking up in a new body, or you are gone. I could give you a few more weeks with Yeva if you prefer, but you’ll deteriorate past the point of repair in under a month. I’m not willing to die so you get to live, so I hope you understand.” Sylver explained. He finished working on the hammer and was now inspecting the carved-up tool.

“I understand. I died inside that cave to the goblins anyway. You saved Yeva, and now you’re even giving me a chance at life. I… Could you not tell her about this?” Ciege asked. There was a strange serene calmness in his voice. Sylver couldn’t tell if this was shock, or something else.

“Why not? Ah. You’re worried she will spend the rest of her life waiting for you, only for me to have died and for you never to return. And you’d rather she moves on and be happy with someone else than live alone and miserable waiting for you.” Sylver summarized.

“If it makes you feel any better, I was damn near immortal when I was alive. It wasn’t actual immortality, given that I died, but fuck me if it wasn’t close. If he didn’t go for my only weakness, I would have killed him with the snap of my fingers. I could have brought Aether back, I could have saved everyone!” Sylver said, his voice tensing up with anger.

Calming himself down, he returned to his normal tone. “Anyway. What I’m getting at, is you shouldn’t worry too much. I’m careful, experienced, and I’ve got magic on my side. Not to mention, I don’t want to die a second time.” Sylver concluded.

Ciege floated around trying to think of something to say.“Good luck,” Ciege said. Possibly his last words.

The process was both simple and painless. And in just a few minutes of effort, Sylver was completely alone again. In his hands was a small hammer, glowing a gentle yellow. And as he had hoped the spell was a success and that hammer locked itself up.

All that was left was to get enough power to create the body and find the 3 main components to build it properly. And not to die in the process.

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KingKennit

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