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Ch010-Testing Your Might

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“I thought you would be smaller.” The woman said.

“Believe it or not, but with a party name of ‘Pixies’ I thought the same of you.” Sylver responded.

The woman in front of him was easily 2 heads taller than he was. Ciege wasn’t a short guy, by any measure, but this woman was just that tall. She wore chainmail armor that covered her entire body, with reinforced metallic plates around her chest and back, and a thick looking helmet under her arm.

“Tall joke, how original.” The woman said, almost under her breath. “Anyway. What can you do? Shera was a little vague on your skills and magic.” She asked.

“If I can get a hold of something, I can kill most things in a few seconds. I’ve got a shade with me, who’s pretty good with a sword. I can heal myself, to an extent, but I can’t heal others. I’ve got a few ranged spells, but they’re awfully expensive, so I would rather keep them as a last resort. Illusion, both visual and auditory, and other than that, I’m not too bad with a dagger.” Sylver explained.

“How did you kill 5 giants then? I find it hard to believe they let you get close enough to touch them.” The woman asked, looking back at having her name called, but returning her attention to Sylver.

“I had my shade cut them with an infected weapon. Waited for it to weaken them, and my shade and I killed them while they were barely alive from the infection.” Sylver explained.

“Can you do that for our weapons too?”

“I’d need a dead body, or flesh of some kind. I can do it without it, but it would eat up most of my mana, but it’s too slow to be used in most situations anyway. It only worked then because they weren’t going anywhere, and they didn’t have a way to heal it. Humans have potions, or more likely a healer. Not to mention a resistance and armor to protect their skin.” Sylver explained, shrugging his shoulders.

He kept his face neutral, to at least appear professional, but on the inside was quite glad this woman was considering the tactical advantage of his abilities. It meant she was pragmatic enough to ignore whatever she had heard regarding necromancers.

Finally, the man calling her over was too loud, and the woman had to go see what he wanted.

Walking over to the two remaining members of the Pixie party, Sylver introduced himself.

One was a very tall but slender woman, with dark green hair, deep blue eyes, and wearing a green and white robe. In her hand was a staff that looked to have been a knotted tree branch, and at her side was a short sword.

The other was a normal sized woman, or Sylver’s height at least, wrapped from head to toe in dark wraps, that almost made her look like a mummy. Across her stomach was a dark leather pouch, with zippers making up almost the entirety of its left and right side.

“I’m Edna, druid, and this is Essa, rogue. And the muscle-bound giant you spoke to a moment earlier, is my sister Henra, warrior.” The equally giant, green haired woman said.

“Nice to meet you. My name is Sylver, necromancer.” Sylver said, extending out his hand. They shook hands, and he repeated his repertoire of abilities to her.

“What kind of illusions are we talking about?” Edna asked, leaning on her staff.

“I can be quite creative with them, but I mostly use them to make copies of myself, to confuse people. I can make illusionary fire, and smoke, and other flashy and dangerous looking things, but it’s quite draining to use for a long time. Anything bigger in volume than about 20 cubic meters, I can only keep around for a few seconds. I can also do auditory illusions, but mostly explosions, or taunts, to further the confusion. I use them more for distractions, than proper illusions.” Sylver explained. The whole caravan was packing up now and they were walking towards the front.

“How can you use illusions, if you’re a necromancer?” Edna asked. She sat on the right side, and Essa sat on the left. Since they were talking anyway, Sylver sat next to Edna.

“I figured out how to work with light and sound through experimentation. After practicing with it for a while, I used it in a fight and got the skill for it as a result.” Sylver explained. It was actually true. Granted he had learned how to manipulate light and sound, back when he was an apprentice, but he only got the skill now.

“What about him?” Edna asked, gesturing at Tom. He was covered up fairly tightly, with only his black soulless eyes being visible.

“He’s the shade I was talking about. You can stab him, burn him, do whatever you want, as long as I have the mana, I can bring him back. It’s actually why I’m coming along with you on this quest. I need more bodies to make proper shades out of.” Sylver said, making himself comfortable on the sack of rice he was using as a seat.

“Right. Shera did mention that. How much time do you need to make one?” Edna asked, placing her laying her staff down on her knees.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll make them into zombies to follow along, and work on making proper shades when we settle down to rest. It depends on the body, but probably a few minutes each. An hour tops, if it’s particularly challenging.” Sylver said.

“So, we are going to have zombies following behind us?” Essa asked, speaking for the first time. Her voice sounded surprisingly low pitched, considering how feminine she looked.

“I can have them go ahead of us, but without me nearby, they might get killed by whatever they come across.”

“What do you mean? You don’t have direct control over them?” Edna asked, with a hint of fear in her voice.

“Not over instantly raised zombies. To make a proper shade, like Tom here, I need to carefully carve out a proper spell framework into them. I can control them when they’re within hearing distance, but their default is to not fight back, since I can’t make them distinguish between a child walking through the forest, and a deadly bear or bandit.” Sylver explained.

The caravan started to move with a jolt, and a few people were running around checking to see if everything was settled down and that there were no issues. All 4 carts were fine, and they started to move.

After a few minutes, Essa got off her bag of wheat, and disappeared in thin air.

“I was wondering how you handled this. Essa does reconnaissance, so you have time to prepare for ambushes, you handle crowd control and low-level enemies, and Henra handles anything too powerful for you.” Sylver said after a while. He got a small smile from Edna as a response.

“Good guess. But I’m mainly here for support, Henra and Essa are the ones who handle combat. I just heal, and try to keep everyone from dying. Worked pretty well so far, if I do say so myself. Not to say I can’t fight, just that there’s rarely a need for it.” Edna said, adding the last part quickly.

For a while Sylver and Edna just sat in silence, watching the carts pulled by horses behind them, and being jostled by the uneven road.

“Do you want to play Karnoffel?” Sylver asked, pulling a deck of cards out of his bag.

“Oh no, I can’t. I get too competitive, and I always win.” Edna said, dismissing the idea with a wave of her hand.

“What a lovely coincidence! Me too.” Sylver responded, shuffling the deck, and somehow pulling out 4 kings, before shuffling them back into the deck and pulling out 4 aces.

This seemed to have caught Edna’s attention, as she looked around and lowered a board onto a barrel to act as a table.

“Want to make it interesting?” She asked, turning the cards over in her hands, and looking for any markings. She didn’t find any.

“A silver per hand?” Sylver asked, watching her count the cards to make sure none were missing.

“Sure! You can pay me back later, I don’t mind.” Edna said, giving Sylver the cards back. He just smiled at her as he shuffled, and reshuffled them, already hiding all four aces in his sleeve.

Handing out the cards, he was amazed to find that Edna had one of them, and won the hand using one of his kings.

Pretending to scratch his eye, he looked at the cards in his sleeve, and found all of them to be low. It was Edna’s turn to be the dealer now, so he handed her the full deck, cards in his sleeve included.

The next hand was the same thing. And the one after that. And 3 more hands afterwards.

But once he finally figured out how she was cheating, the game started to get weird. First Sylver won, 6 hands in a row. Then they both played the same card. Then, card’s that were at the bottom of the pile, found their way into their hands somehow.

Finally, Edna started to play cards that looked to be one card initially, but changed suits and rank without either of them noticing. Sylver was surprised at how much effort it took to match the cheating woman. He was almost having to dip into his mana reserves, instead of just using the generated excess.

Edna in turn, started to gently glow, waves of green moving through her body, and illuminating the dim carriages interior. Even a few of the cracks in her staff started to light up.

Sylver in turn became surrounded by more and more darkness. The shadows around him became longer and deeper, and the man sitting next to him began to produce more and more black smoke, as Sylver’s eyes went from their just barely glossy black, to a completely empty void.

The current score was tied. What the overall score was, and how many hands were played though, neither of them seemed to know. Or care for that matter. Despite the serious and scrunched up look on both of their faces, both people were enjoying themselves immensely.

Edna, because she was finally playing against someone who could outplay her. And Sylver because he was finally playing against someone who cheated in a way he could comprehend, and wasn’t just fucking with his senses.

“There’s an ambush in a few minutes.” Essa said, flinching when Edna’s glowing green eyes, and Sylver’s dark ones locked in on her. In a moment the tense atmosphere disappeared completely. If Tom could breath, he would be letting out a breath he had been holding in.

“How many?” Edna asked, shaking her hands, and dispersing the green glow they had accumulated.

“I’m not certain. But they prepared a pitfall, so it’s most likely a team.” Essa said. She disappeared again, and Edna moved the board out of the way, so they could get out of the cart. Tom liquified and disappeared into Sylver’s shadow.

“So how do we do this? You’ll get damaged if you get caught in any of my healing or support spells.” Edna asked, as they jumped onto the ground and walked alongside the front cart. Henra was already walking ahead, her two-handed sword drawn.

“I’m going to run headfirst into their midst, and take out as many as I can. Henra and Essa handle whoever I miss.” Sylver said, drawing one of his daggers.

“Are you joking?” Edna asked, stopping momentarily, before having to jog to catch up.

“They won’t be expecting it, and I’ll have Tom to back me up. Plus, with Henra and Essa being seen as bigger threats, they’ll leave me to be dealt with by the weakest members. I hate being vague about thing’s, but my unique class will protect me in the absolute worst-case scenario.” Sylver explained, as Essa joined Henra and was walking alongside her.

Worst case scenario, I have to run away and hide behind Essa and Hera. Best case scenario I kill everyone, and get all the xp. With the whole ‘you will not die thing’ I’m honestly kind of curious how that would translate if I get damaged too much. But just in case, I’ll do my best not to get hurt.

Edna was silent for a while, simply walking a little quicker to reach the rest of her party walking in front of the carriage.

“You’ll have to tell Shera I argued with you over this, alright?” Edna said as they were 10 steps behind the rogue and the warrior.

“Of course. I’ll even say you tried to physically stop me from going.” Sylver responded. He looked around but couldn’t see anyone anywhere, despite the fact that his soul sense was lighting up like fireworks.

A man came out from the left side of the tree line and made a small bow.

“Greetings! I am called Haklang Eldorian, leader of the crimson raiders. I have come to negotiate your road toll!” The man said. He was covered in shoddy looking red leather armor, with a contrastingly expensive, and sharp looking rapier at his side. He wore a wide and long hat that had a wonderful red feather sticking out of it.

[Fencer - ??]

“Just to be perfectly clear, if we choose not to pay the road toll, you will attempt to take it by force?” Henra shouted.

Behind them the caravan had stopped, and everyone excluding the adventurers were hiding inside right now.

“From women as beautiful as yourself, I’m willing to lower the price! In exchange for making yourselves available to my men and I!” The man shouted back. His smile was weirdly friendly, as if he truly saw this as an acceptable deal.

“Counter offer! Drop your sword, and I promise not to give your soul over to our necromancer friend here!” Henra shouted, gesturing at Sylver with a free hand. She got a ‘what the fuck’ look from everyone behind her, excluding Sylver. He simply smiled at the man she was negotiating with.

The fencer’s smile disappeared entirely, as his hand immediately went for his sword. On either side of the road, hushed whispers could be heard, amidst the rustling. He made direct eye contact with Sylver, but looked away almost instantly.

He stood still, hand on his rapier’s pommel, holding it with such pressure that his knuckles had turned white. Finally, he stood straighter and appeared relaxed.

“In that case, we are waiving the fee. My men and I have no wish to become underlings to an abomination. Fare the well!” The man said, bowing with a flourish of his hat and walking stiffly towards the left tree line.

The three women near Sylver breathed a short sigh of relief.

“That’s fine. I’ve already marked your soul, and the souls of your men, I’ll come back in a few days’ time to hunt down and kill and enslave all of you.” Sylver shouted loudly, to the fencer and the people hiding in the bushes.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Henra whispered under her breath, her voice full of anger and panic, “He’s letting us go!”

“I don’t like knowing there’s a bunch of scum prowling through the forest, stealing money from people, and offering… what he offered. Would you prefer to face them now, when we are ready and out in the open, or later when everyone is asleep and they get a chance to take a hostage?” Sylver whispered back. Plus, I need the bodies, and I was looking forward to a fight.

He could see Henra’s face twist into a small fit of rage for a moment, before cooling down and coming to a decision.

Henra didn’t say anything in response, but took her hand off Sylver’s arm and walked to stand in the middle of Essa and Edna, leaving Sylver at the forefront of the group.

By the time Sylver looked back at the fencer, he already had people standing behind him.

“It appears your party doesn’t share your noble concern, necromancer. If you swear on your name to forget you ever saw us, I’ll allow you all to leave unmolested!” The fencer said.

4 archers, 2 one handed swordsmen, and a rogue. Plus, the leader. It’s fine, I can handle them.

Trying to use identify on the other’s, told him that they were all at least 10 levels higher than him.

Walking forwards, towards the leader and his men, Sylver heard a noise behind himself and looked back at the sound, seeing a dome-like shield forming around the caravan.

“I respect your attempts to solve this with the mere threat of violence. But as you are about to learn, that only works when you have the power to carry it out.” Sylver said. Activating Deathly Aura he was now being surrounded by a silk like black smoke.

Sylver’s shadow on the floor, expanded and stretched, until it was a barely recognizable blob. His clothes appeared to darken, and even the dagger in his hand looked to have stretched out slightly. In the place of a man, now stood a dark silhouette of one.

The fencer narrowed his eyes, before disappearing into a cloud of movement. His thin blade, making a whistling sound as it cut through the air, as he stabbed it through the dark figure’s head. The blade went in without any resistance, a result of countless days of practice, and having a level 9 fencing skill. The fencer briefly allowed himself a smile, before realizing that the blade was coming out the back of the head, and he’s yet to feel any bone.

His skill, that prevented him from being instantly killed once a day, activated and in very slowed down time, he moved out of the way of the dagger traveling upwards for his throat. In the few seconds of distorted and slowed down time, the fencer saw that there was a barely visible overlapping figure, one crouched near the floor, trying to stab at him with a dagger, and another standing upright, and with a sword piercing its head.

When time resumed to its normal pace, the fencer twisted, pulled out, and lowered his blade, stabbing at the crouching figure’s head, and the upright standing one’s stomach. The crouching figure tried to block it with its dagger, but thanks to a skill the fencer easily flicked the dagger away, but lost too much momentum. The rapier’s tip entered into the shoulder of the crouching figure, and the fencer was relieved that he finally felt the smooth unmistakable resistance of cutting through flesh.

Pushing the rapier deeper, he tried to twist it, to shred as much of the crouching figures insides as possible. He was so focused on this, that he was far too late to do anything about the ironclad grip around his wrist.

Sylver crushed the fencer’s wrist, pulling the fencer closer. The fencer prepared to tug, punch, and kick at the crouching figure, to get it to release its grasp and pull away, but was punched in the face, by the upright standing one. The crouching figure, yanked hard, while the standing one continued to pummel his face.

The fencer felt his very life being drained out of his body, as he fell down into the darkness.

[Haklang (Fencer) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 20, levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

[Necromancer] has reached level 12!
+5AP

The remainder of the crimson’s raiders watched on in horror, as their leader managed to pierce the head of the smoke clouded figure, and then was punched in the face by it, before falling down into the dark smoke. All occurring in mere seconds, with some of the motions too fast for a few of the lower leveled members to follow.

Rising from the cloud of darkness, a man with a sword sticking out of his shoulder, pulled it out in the dead silence, and flicked the blade, spraying blood all over the floor.

His stance was different now, as he approached the group. One of the archer’s was the first to react and fired an arrow at the figure, watching it hit it dead on, but not getting any reaction. She fired another, and another, and was quickly joined by the other archers, sending a volley of multicolored arrows at the target.

Most of the arrows landed true, and pierced the target with a dry crunch, before dropping down onto the floor. The rest missed by a small margin, and flew behind the black figure.

The pain Sylver had felt was excruciating. He had had his arm dislocated and nearly torn off, but it never hurt anywhere near as bad as this cut just did. Coughing up blood, and swallowing it down, he realized that his right lung was fucked. The health he had drained from the fencer, was nowhere near enough to heal a wound of this caliber. The fucker skimped on putting anything into constitution.

The arrows kept coming, and coming, way past the amount any reasonable quiver could hold. With the cloud of darkness breaking up their line of sight, more than half of their shots just straight up missed. Sylver’s knees buckled under him for a moment, before he forced his body to get back up and keep moving.

The two swordsmen came at him from either side, the archers purposely focusing their shots at Sylver’s torso to not hit the swordsmen. Sylver managed to block the swordsman’s swipe from the left, and with a twist and professional flourish, flicked the blade out of his grip. Stabbing the man through the stomach through the gap in his armor, and shoving the rapier upwards and sideways, he felt the moment the rapier reached, and cut open, the swordsman’s heart.

Throwing the dead body at the archers, he bought himself a few seconds, and stabbed the swordsman Tom was holding in place, through the neck. Tom let go of the dead man’s hand, holding a sword that had gone through Tom’s torso, and pulled the sword out, to use himself.

The arrows started to fire again, but this time Sylver was protected, both by the body of Tom, and by the dead body of the lightly armored swordsman that Tom was holding in front of himself.

When the archers were within range, Sylver gestured at them with his free hand, and a black liquid exploded out of it, coating all 4 archers with it. It sizzled on their clothes like acid, passing through the small gaps in their armor and onto their skin. They collectively screamed, as blood red smoke rose up from their bodies, floating and curling into a bright red mist above them. In only a few seconds they were all on the floor, twitching lifelessly.

Sylver was smiling, ear to ear, as he felt the knife entering his back.

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