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Ch008-The Calm

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After only half an hour at the tailor, Sylver said fuck it and left everything up to the woman. She had his measurements, and he didn’t particularly care what his regular clothing was going to be. Because of Ciege’s stupid muscles, he would have to wait for a week for her to alter some of the outfits to fit him. For now, he had a very comfortable white shirt and dark grey trousers.

Excluding armor and work clothes, white, black, and brown were the most common colors. Wearing anything bright or flashy was reserved for the nobles, or merchants, or similar professions, and frankly, Sylver didn’t like standing out like that. There was also the fact that frills were popular, and he would rather die a second time than ever wear those again.

Getting an entire wardrobe made for him, cost only 4 gold and 11 silver. Of course, armor, and robes for enchanting, would be a whole lot more expensive, but this was his civilian outfit so to speak. The kind he would be wearing when out in the city, or just relaxing. He made the mistake of not asking the price, before buying everything, but since he could afford it, it didn’t matter.

For shoes, he bought 3 identical pairs, as well as a couple of unfinished pieces, that he would alter himself and return to the cobbler to finish for him.

For Tom, he bought a better fitting cloak, some gloves, and a mask to completely hide the man. The mask was a white plain-faced one, with a T engraved near the left eye. Without an inch of skin visible, the shade now looked like a regular human being. If you ignored the tiny wisps of black smoke coming out from the eyeholes every now and then. Dark bandages were wrapped underneath the clothing, so in the rare moments when the wind blew things upwards, no one would see any of his black and yellow skin underneath. Thankfully the clothing assimilated perfectly fine, and Tom kept them, even when hiding in Sylver’s shadow.

He got the same reaction out of everyone when he told them where to send the items once they were finished. Ron seemed to have a strange reputation. Not bad, but strange. But when asked, no one would tell Sylver anything regarding it.

Either way, he was now 8 gold coins lighter and had used up all the silver he had gotten from the chest in the giant’s den. But now he had all the basic necessities covered.

A few other purchases added up to be a little under a gold coin, mostly items for traveling or camping, as well as a few miscellaneous ingredients, he would need for spells. He kept them all in a small pouch and hid it inside of his shirt.

In the end, Sylver was left with a single gold coin and 51 silver coins. Now that his funding was once again limited by what he could earn, he would have to be a little more careful with his money.

*

The room Ron had given him was surprisingly large. In fact, it was illogically so. Focusing on the floor revealed his suspicions to be true.

“I’ve got to ask. Why is a room expanded using spatial magic, being sold only for 2 silver a day? The sheer amount of mana you would need to keep this working is mind-boggling.” Sylver asked.

“Perks. Lots and lots and lots of perks. I’m almost level 200, and I’ve got a unique class that lets me do stuff like this. As to why I’m selling such a luxurious and expensive room for so cheap, it’s mostly because I get more out of you being here than any amount of money I could earn selling it at a proper price. I once had it appraised for the sake of curiosity, and something like this could easily go for 70 to 80 silver a night. Even more, if you take the protection I provide into account,” Ron explained. His voice was different now, a lot smoother than when Sylver met him last night.

“But I’m guessing the negative energy thing, kind of limits your clientele.” Sylver wondered out loud. Walking around the room he was further surprised by how well made and expensive everything was.

“It came with a certain perk I couldn’t not take. I felt it was an acceptable limitation. I can do some pretty miraculous things, but in exchange, I’m limited to the few people and creatures who can handle intense negative energy. But it’s well worth it.” Ron said. He walked over to one of the walls that looked like it should have a window and tapped it with his hand. A small square of the wall lowered and revealed a small chest inside.

“Why not just give room to people who need it and buy them a ring of resistance or something?” Sylver asked, following after him to see the chest.

“First thing I tried. The system is extremely picky when deciding if someone is or isn’t a ‘guest’. 2 silver is the lowest I can go, to have a person register as a guest. I give rooms for free sometimes, to those who need them, but people don’t tend to live very long if they’re weak or poor and live on negative energy. I heard some nutjob started a small necropolis, way off to the east, but it’s hard to tell if it’s really true. With how many honey pots I’ve seen, it’s hard to believe anything you hear anymore.” Ron said. He tapped his fingers on the chest, and Sylver got to watch as the marvel of magical engineering sprung to life. Following Ron’s instructions, Sylver placed his hand on top of the chest and saw that it had registered his mana.

“Did you make this?” Sylver asked, staring at the simple-looking chest with awe and disbelief.

“I did. You can’t take it outside. This whole building is filled with things like this. Sadly, they completely break down the second you get them outside. The same is true for me, in a sense. As long as I’m in here, I am unkillable. The inn itself is equally indestructible. You could drop a meteor on it, and it wouldn’t so much as dent.” Ron said.

“I’ve got to ask… Why? As in, why bother with all of this? Surely there are easier ways to increase your level.” Sylver asked, putting an effort to keep the astonishment from his voice, but failing quite badly.

Ron in turn answered without a hint of contempt. “I like running an inn. I’m doing what I love, what more can I ask for? I meet interesting people, there’s always something to do, and I get to be functionally immortal. I’m almost 300 years old if you can believe it.” Ron said, demonstrating how to bring the wall up or down.

“And it’s not like I can’t leave. I sometimes do. The outside world is great and all, but I’ve got all I could possibly need here. I have to have things delivered sometimes, but it’s not an issue.” Ron said. Having gotten used to his voice somewhat Sylver could tell there was something he wasn’t saying.

“I see. You wouldn’t happen to have some sort of underground workshop, would you? Somewhere a person could do whatever they wanted, without any prying eyes?” Sylver asked.

“Of course not. An unregistered workshop? Do you have any idea how illegal that would be? It would cost at least… 30 gold a month. If I had one.” Ron said, crossing his arms over his chest, and tapping his fingers as he spoke. Because of the armor, every tap was a hollow metallic click.

“Then speaking purely hypothetically. Would this hypothetical unregistered workshop have a basic arcane workbench? As well as a few spools of gold thread, a mixing urn, a tempering sand bath, and an alchemical grinder?” Sylver said, looking at the chest along with Ron.

“Hypothetically speaking? If this workshop did exist, getting all that gear into it would cost another 90 gold.” Ron said, his armor making a strange crackling noise.

“That’s a lot of hypothetical gold. If you were given this hypothetical gold in full, how long would it take to gather everything?” Sylver asked.

“Hypothetically? About a week. I would need to get in contact with the Cord for the tempering sand bath and alchemical grinder. Hypothetically speaking of course.”

“It’s all purely hypothetical Ron.”

“Then after that, they would insist on meeting with the person who is able to use an alchemical grinder and tempering sand bath. Possibly offer him work in exchange for their services. They are somewhat picky with who they give something so potentially dangerous. Hypothetically speaking of course.” Ron said, watching the wall go up and down, as Sylver practiced using it.

“If you were in such a hypothetical situation, how would you react to it?” Ron asked, his helmet moving towards Sylver slightly.

“Purely hypothetically?”

“Yes, hypothetically.”

“I would give them a list of things I would like to be found for me, and offer quite a number of services in return. And most likely gold, if they find my services not up to par. Hypothetically speaking. Given that the Cord is a completely fictional organization, that doesn’t exist, and never has, of course.” Sylver said.

The two stood in silence for a while, staring at the rising and falling wall.

Ron broke the silence by laughing. Or making a noise that was very similar to laughing. It sounded like at least 4 people were laughing out of sync simultaneously.

“You probably noticed this already, but this room is heavily warded. In fact, every room is. We can speak freely here. And not just in hypotheticals.” Ron said. He sat down on one of the chairs, and Sylver sat down on the bed.

“I’ve got to ask, but why exactly is it that you’re so trusting towards me? I’m self-aware enough to know I don't scream friendly and trustworthy.” Sylver asked.

“Why not? You didn’t even flinch when you saw me, you’ve been nothing but polite and trusting. You even gave me your bag without any threats or warnings. But most of all, I had a good feeling about you. And the Cord is always looking for new members, they’re more than willing to permit me a few mistakes. Out of forty-three recruitment attempts, I’ve only gotten it wrong twice.” Ron said, proudly. Sylver decided not to ask what happened when he got it wrong.

“I actually don’t want to join them. I’m a simple adventurer. I’m here to go on quests, help people when I can, and most importantly enjoy myself. Getting stuck maneuvering local underground politics, would get way too much in the way of that.” Sylver said.

“Right…” Ron said, in a tone that made it clear that he wasn’t buying this bullshit but would be pretending he did, just to keep the conversation going. “That’s fine too. But in that case, you’ll have to meet with Raba, but she’s good with secrets.” Ron said.

“Raba?” Sylver asked.

“She’s how people like you, who want to use their services but don’t want to properly join, get access to the Cord. Like a middleman. Or middlewoman in this case. I can introduce you to her tonight if you want.” Ron said.

Suddenly remembering the time, Sylver got off the bed and went through his new bag of clothes. “I’ll have to ask for you to wait a while before doing anything. I don’t have the funds right now, and I’m not really in a rush. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.”

“Not a problem, I just thought you should know,” Ron said.

Ron left after that, and Sylver got to work cleaning himself properly. The system used for the water was a little daunting initially, but he quickly got the hang of it. It used pictures to describe what each button would do, and currently, he was standing under warm rain and scrubbing himself clean.

He was quite sad to see the tiny scars Ciege’s fight with the goblins had resulted in, but at the same time thought they gave the body some character. Looking at his well-toned muscles, few would think he was a magic user and not a warrior.

It might actually be a good idea to go with that. Get people ready for a physical assault, and then surprise them with magic. I wonder how long the muscles will stay like this, without Ciege’s daily exercise?

Getting dressed in more proper clothing, Sylver left his room to Tom to organize and gave the shade instructions to hide in the bed’s shadow when he was done. Typically, Sylver would never leave without a bodyguard, or a small army, in his shadow. But given how he’s just going on a date, and to an extent unkillable, he felt safe leaving Tom in his room. Plus it would keep him too alert if he felt Tom constantly moving around in there. Not to mention he’s no longer the arch necromancer of the Ibis, so there aren’t any reasons for anyone to send assassins after him, anymore. Even so, he hid a small dagger in his sleeve, just to be on the safe side.

Despite not having a face, Ron seemed to be grinning at Sylver, as he half ran out of the inn and out into the street.

*

Finding the red tower was quite easy. It was the tower that was red. Or red and white, if he had to be precise. It went up in a spiral, one-layer red, and the other white.

Thankfully he seemed to be a little early, as the woman was nowhere to be seen. As the last ray of light disappeared, he saw her off in the distance, running at an impressive speed towards him.

“Sorry! Hope you didn’t wait long.” The woman said, panting slightly but catching her breath quite quickly.

“I just got here myself. I realize it’s a bit late to ask, but what’s your name?”

“Lekelga. But my friends call me Leke. Have you eaten?” Leke asked. She was dressed in a very thin shirt, with overly long sleeves. Blue trousers, that we went up quite high on her stomach with a dark leather belt. Her hair was braided into a bun but looked to be almost glowing in the artificial light emitted from the magical lamps.

“I’m starving actually,” Sylver said. She walked up to him and grabbed his hand, and pulled him forwards.

“Then I know just the place!” Leke said.

*

Leke’s ‘just the place’ turned out to not be an option. Due to the fact that the owner was a follower of Ra, and vehemently screamed and shouted until Sylver was out of his restaurant. To her credit, Leke almost beat the shit out of the man and had to be stopped by Sylver. He was tempted to let her go, just to see what would happen, but given how he was a well-muscled man, enhanced by magic, and had trouble keeping her at bay, he was afraid she would make good on her threats.

Thankfully it seemed like this was an anomaly, more than the norm. The next best place was a small restaurant, built on top of a mountain edge. The floor was made of some sort of reinforced glass, and looking down you could see quite a lot of the city underneath.

“Of all things, why necromancer? You look more like a warrior, or a fighter or something.” Leke asked after they had sat down and ordered. Sylver wasn’t quite sure how the topic of conversation reached here.

“It’s a long story. The short version is, my master was a necromancer, and I followed after her. There was a lot of specialized training and physical training was part of it, hence” Sylver gestured at his body that Ciege had meticulously trained. “She died a while ago. So, I came here, and now I’m an adventurer doing my best.” Sylver said. It was partially true. Excluding the fact that this happened in a whole another life, on the other side of the world, and possibly thousands of years ago. Trying to figure out how far into the future he was, using books and historic texts, turned out to be a waste of time.

His knowledge of history was limited to a much more easter area, then where he was now. And unsurprisingly the books and texts here, all focused on the west. Which he didn’t know anywhere near well enough to make any deductions from.

“That explains why your level is so low,” Leke said.

And why I’m missing knowledge that everyone should know. It’s a great explanation to cover my ass, in the future.

“What about you? How’d you end up working as a…”

“Custom’s official. At least that’s the name they give me on paper. In reality, I’m there to make sure no criminals or creatures in disguise get through. The whole sphere thing was basically just a distraction, while I let my skill work. It doesn’t take a lot to fool it, but it’s made to be easy to manipulate. And it’s very rare that a person has a skill or a perk, to hide his information from me, and the necessary knowledge to fool the sphere, without tripping any of its traps. From the day I’ve started they’ve only had 2 cases of someone making it past me. And both of those involved me being taken hostage. So it doesn’t really count.” Leke said.

“What does your skill do?” Sylver asked, looking down at the city below his feet.

“You’ve got the appraisal skill, right? Well, mine is about a hundred times more powerful. If you had any evil intentions or were hiding something, I would be able to see it. It’s very boring work, most of the time, but on the bright side, sometimes you meet someone incredibly interesting.” Leke said, reaching out with her hands to hold Sylver’s.

“Interesting how?” Sylver asked, watching her turn his hand over and look at his palm. It wouldn’t exactly make the city turn against him if they knew he was somewhat undead. But having people know he had an instant kill spot in his chest, wouldn’t really be the best idea. Hiding the needle is a possibility, but the thought of having it stolen terrified him. It was exactly why he had made his phylactery a giant metal pillar, that even he couldn’t destroy. Although the traitor broke it into two, with a single swipe of that fucking sword.

Thankfully he schooled his face back into calmness before Leke noticed.

“Did you ever notice your life line is split into two? There’s a tiny break here, right in the middle. You’ll have two very long lives.” Leke said, tracing her finger down the line. “And your head line is so deep and long, I’m not surprised you became a magic-user. Your heart line on the other hand is pretty torn up. Expect a mixture of incredibly long and incredible short relationships. A few even seem to be in both of your lives.” Leke said, showing Sylver the crease in his palm she was talking about.

She rubbed her fingers into Sylver’s hand for a while, looking for something.

“You don’t have a fate line? I’ve never seen someone without a fate line.” Leke said.

“So? What does that mean?” Sylver asked, genuinely curious.

“It means that the gods have no plans for you. You have no fate so to speak.” Leke said, still trying to rub his palm to make the hidden fate line appear.

“Or it means that the way my skin is scored to allow easier folding just doesn’t have that particular score,” Sylver said. Leke frowned a little but regained her smile quite quickly.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the same way, the gods can’t help you, they can’t hinder you either.” Leke said, almost to herself.

“Is this some sort of clairvoyance skill, or superstition?” Sylver asked, being careful not to sound insulting.

“It’s not a skill. But that doesn’t make it any less real. But I’ve already had this argument a hundred times, so I don’t wish to repeat it. You’ll see, once you die and come back, you’ll believe in palm reading too.” Leke looked confused for a moment. “Actually, with the necromancer thing, that’s a really strong possibility. Can you die and come back?” She asked, quite seriously.

Well, I have died once already.

“I’m honestly not very eager to find out. I’m having a great time being alive, and dying is very low on my todo list.” Sylver said, pulling his hands back.

*

Leke was almost suspiciously open about her past. The fact that she was done with a second bottle of wine by this point, might have had something to do with it. Surprisingly enough, this was her first time going on a date with a stranger like this. On top of palm reading she also reads tea leaves, and the day Sylver arrived, she saw a four-leaf clover in her cup.

She was born and raised in a small village Sylver wouldn’t have heard of, got the overpowered appraisal skill from an early age, and tried to become a merchant using it. She failed spectacularly and spent 4 years working for the city of Arda to pay back her debt. But after 4 years, she had grown accustomed to living here, and simply carried on working.

Her hobbies included reading, painting, and studying magic, even if she didn’t have the talent for it. She could see mana with her skill, but not in a way that she could learn to manipulate it.

At her request, Sylver produced a few tiny illusions, turning their table full of delicious meats and vegetables, into a battlefield, between two armies. It was good practice to animate so many illusions, as he even got a notice from the system that his proficiency with visual illusions increased to 29, by the end of it. He turned the demonstration into a game loosely similar to chess. Both sides had a monarch, in Leke’s case a queen, and using their limited and equal army, they had to kill the opposing side’s monarch.

A few of the other customers, and most of the wait staff, watched the battle intensely. Some of the drunk men nearby, even cheering when it had reached its climax. Leke’s army had won, of course, due to the fact that he felt it was the polite thing to do. Her long golden-haired queen managed to land a killing blow on Sylver’s grey-haired king. Considering how much mental effort it took to animate everything, he almost lost to her without trying.

*

After Leke insisted on paying for the meal, given that the alcohol she had drunk made up over ¾ ‘s of the price, the two went to see the singing fountains. It may have been Ciege’s built up resistance to alcohol from years of drinking from an early age, or just the fact that it wasn’t reaching Sylver’s mind properly, but despite drinking quite a bit, he barely felt a buzz.

As the name suggested, the singing fountains were fountains that sang. Water exited through holes at a specific speed and volume and made a noise. A great deal of holes of various sizes, getting water moved through them at a calculated time, created the effect of someone singing a song. The water jumped out of the bronze art piece, sometimes crossing streams and using the sound of water hitting hollow rocks as a drum beat.

At first, it sounded like random noises, but once Leke started to sing along, he could hear the words in the water. The song was about a man who spent his life searching for ‘the key to immortal life’. And the many times he nearly died trying to find it. It ended with him finding the key, but the song wasn’t clear if he had used it. Sylver had a tough time understanding all the poetic symbolism but enjoyed the melody quite a lot.

The fountain stopped for a minute. The pipes groaned loudly as they moved into a new position, and a new song started. In contrast to the previous, this one was supposed to be a tragedy. A man spends his life trying to find his way home, but by the time he does, he’s changed so much he’s no longer welcome. Following that was a much simpler ballad, about a brave knight on a quest to save his kingdom.

Time passed for a while, with Sylver sitting on the bench, Leke holding his hand, and just enjoying the scene and the company. The peaceful atmosphere brought thoughts to the surface that Sylver had purposely been keeping down. He’d had plenty of time to cry and lament over his loss while he was inside the needle. And he refused to let them ruin such a wonderful night.

*

“Are you sure?” Sylver asked, watching Leke fiddling with the lock.

“Of course, I’m sure. Both of them coincidentally have something to do tonight.” Leke said, her hands shaking from nerves rather than alcohol at this point. She had used the word coincidentally 14 times on the way to her house. From how coincidentally close it is, to how coincidentally she had a beautiful painting to show to Sylver. Given how much he enjoyed the singing fountains.

After she dropped the key for the third time, Sylver walked up to the door, and it miraculously opened, even without the use of a key. A small metallic lock was no match for an arch necromancer.

“See, no one’s home,” Leke said, walking inside. She had heard that Sylver was staying at a place where she would literally die if she tried to spend the night. Hence both of her roommates ‘coincidentally’ were staying at their friend’s houses. But in his defense, he wasn’t expecting the night to progress so far. And while he was curious how Leke even knew where he was staying, he decided now wasn’t the time to ask.

“What? Do you need an invitation to come inside or something?” Leke said, throwing her shoes off into the corner.

“You’re thinking of vampires,” Sylver said, walking in and looking around the house. His leather shoes looked comically large compared to the small slippers covering the floor.

“The painting is upstairs. In my room.” Leke said with a grin, walking up the stairs.

Leke’s room had a bunch of scented candles lit, all over the place, giving the small room a very soft glow. Sylver was surprised that there was an actual painting upstairs. That had a wild moving waterfall on it, using ambient mana and a small circuit inside the frame to animate it.

His surprise was temporary, as when he turned around from looking at it, Leke was already undressed.

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