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Ch029-Straight Down The Middle

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*Edmund

“Are you fucking serious?” Edmund asked, taking the offered glass of wine.

“What? I’m not going to fight him in his own home. All his research is in there, it might get destroyed if I fight in there. Plus, why would I ever fight something where it’s strongest when I can just goad it out?” Sylver countered.

“No I mean… Why do you even want it, he’s a godman child-murdering lich.” Edmund asked, accepting the plate of fresh bread and meat and heating it up himself.

“Doesn’t make whatever he learned from killing those children any less useful. And the research is already done, it would be a waste and disrespectful to the dead children to just ignore it and pretend it never existed. Knowledge should be used. That’s how you respect those sacrificed to gain it.” Sylver explained, holding his own metal plate over Edmunds’s glowing red hot hand to heat it up.

“I’ll be honest Syl, that’s a little fucked up, even for you. Can’t you just… I don’t know, burn it down? Make his work worthless?” Edmund asked, moving his hands around as he tried to find the right words to explain himself.

“Why? As I said, they’re already dead. Probably tortured and eaten or made into flesh stones or something. If I burn his work down, it won’t make them any less dead, or help their parents in any way, it’ll just deprive me and the world of whatever he learned. What if he figured out how to cure something? What if he’s got a better way of preserving food? A new method to create sentient weapons, you really never know with these things. Liches start in one place and you never know where they end up.” Sylver explained, watching the small device on the blanket start to make a sound.

“But won’t it bother you? Knowing that every time you use whatever you learn from this, that it’s been made on the backs of dead kids?” Edmund asked, carefully melting the cheese on top of their pieces of bread.

“Maybe for a few years, but I’ll get over it. I didn’t hear you complaining when all the priests stopped moving. Or when I pieced you back together using their organs, that by all rights, your body should have rejected. Where’d you think I learned to do that?” Sylver asked.

“Adema?” Edmund guessed.

“Partially. The rest is from this god awful tribe I found in the east. Their belief was that gods only see the worst of humanity, and to get noticed they committed unbelievable depravities on their fellow man. I say god awful, and I mean that in the literal sense. Their name translates to ‘god is awful’. Just… I can’t even describe it to you. But one thing they did figure out was how the nerves, muscles, and mana channels intersect. And how if you tweak them just right you can freeze a person up, or cause unbelievable pain. And do you know how they learned about blood types?” Sylver asked, biting into his perfectly toasted sandwich.

“Some extremely fucked up method?”

“By taste. As stupid as it sounds, you can apparently sort of taste the difference. A liver from man A goes perfectly well with a kidney from man B, but not from man C. I never actually confirmed it myself, but it sent Adema and I in the right direction to figure it out.” Sylver continued, as Edmund looked down at his sandwich as if he were going to be sick.

“Why am I friends with you again?” Edmund asked, closing his eyes and moaning lightly as he tasted the best thing he’d eaten in this incarnation.

“Because you don’t get along with any of the other immortals in your age group, and I’m the only one who can survive being near you for an extended period of time. And you owe me so much money, you can’t afford to not be my friend.” Sylver added grinning at the man sitting next to him.

“True. Is that him?” Edmund asked, gesturing at the giant swarm of darkness heading towards them.

“Nah. Just a warmup. Rook, you good to go?” Sylver asked, speaking into his shadow.

An anorexically thin man stepped out of it, rubbing his hands together as if trying to warm himself.

Sylver gestured at the oncoming swarm with his sandwich. “There’s a relay hidden somewhere in the middle. You can use Bishop’s troops if you need them. Get a few samples for me while you’re at it.” Sylver said, as his shadow further expanded and hundreds upon hundreds of tiny hunched over humanoid figures flew out of it.

The anorexically thin man sprouted paper-thin wings, and gently glided off towards the swarm.



*Sylver - Present Day

Sylver appeared right on top of a giant hole. He looked down, and even with his enhanced sight couldn’t see the end of it. He looked around, as he continued to float in mid-air, and saw an old man with a neat short black beard, a completely white robe, and a staff that was far too long for him.

Sylver whispered something, barely loud enough for himself to hear, and clutched at his throat. The old man cocked his head at this, and with a wave of his hand, Sylver floated towards him. The magic that was keeping him afloat, intensified, and wrapped itself around his body, leaving only his head free.

Sylver looked the old man in the eye, as he continued to whisper, and the old man brought him closer and closer to himself.

“Speak up! I can’t hear a damn thing!” The old man shouted.

Sylver continued to cough and whisper, until he was almost touching the old man’s ear.

“Please don’t kill me,” Sylver whispered weakly.

“How did you cancel my magic?” The old man asked.

“The Tulips showed me how,” Sylver whispered, pinning the whole thing on the 2nd largest gang, that were allegedly cannibals for the fun of it.

“Tulips eh… I was going to offer you a place under me, but I don’t need such naive idiots. Next time make sure that...”

As he looked away into his robe to pull out the lead collar, Sylver leaned forward, ever so slightly, and bit the old man’s ear off. He pulled hard, ripping it off his head, the magic around him was released, and Sylver swung from the left, pushing his fist into the old man’s face.

A wave of a pure force sent Sylver flying, and then falling down into the hole. He managed to throw one ball of dark fire at the old man, before losing sight of him.

Sylver immediately moved himself to the side, to try and grab hold of the wall, but found it unbelievably flat and slippery, and even with all the mana he could muster, he couldn’t get a hold of it.

He continued to fall, the vertical tunnel gradually moving, until Sylver ever so gently started to slide on it, rather than free falling. The gentle but steep curve of the tunnel meant that he was constantly in motion, the smooth rock underneath him glistening with slime and other slippery liquids.

The tiny amount of light the entrance had provided, gradually decreased, until Sylver was sliding down the tunnel in complete and total darkness. Only his perk [Eyes Of The Royal Tiger] letting him continue to see his surroundings. Not that there was much to see.

It was a tunnel. That’s it. The ceiling was the same as the floor, as were the walls. Everything was slimy, slippery, and without a single bump for him to grab or stop himself with. If he had more mana, he could have made an ice pillar to stop the fall. If the tunnel was a little bigger he could have used Will to fly back.

Sylver tried to have Will spread his wings as hard as he could to stop his sliding, but it didn’t work, the walls were too slippery and Will didn’t have enough strength to overcome that. Other ideas came to mind, using explosions, using daggers, decaying it, jumping on summoned shades, making small ice spikes, using earth manipulation on it, nothing worked.

He just continued to slide and slide. Just sliding down an oily tunnel, in complete darkness. He sat at the ready for the old man to follow after him, but even after a solid hour of sliding, he never came.

Sylver just continued to go further and further down.

With not much else to do, he took the old man’s ear out of his pocket, got a scalpel from the tool roll Fen held for him, and started to very carefully work on it, as he continued to slide down to wherever this tunnel ended up.

Considering he could feel and smell, an updraft, he knew for certain that this didn’t just end with a dead end.

*

The ear was done quite quickly. Even though Sylver made extra care not to rush, and took his time, there was only so much room to draw a curse onto the thing. Sylver used a chain from a golden amulet, to tie the ear to the back of his forearm, and hid it under his sleeve.

Sylver continued to slide, neither speeding up nor slowing down, and was considering taking a short nap, when his body was slammed against the cage walls.

Hundreds of pale bald heads turned to look at him. Everywhere he looked, through the white bars, were small, crooked, and completely hairless goblins. Each with matching pale white weapons, that Sylver recognized as human bone made.

There was a 5 second moment of complete and total silence, as Sylver and the goblins just stared at one another. Then the one closest to Sylver stabbed through the bars with its spear, and nearly got him in the stomach. Sylver grabbed the spear and pulled it out of the creature’s hand, jumping up the stone slide using the bars, and using the sharp end of the spear to stab at the bars, and kept himself up and away from them using it.

Goblins quickly ran up to the cage behind which Sylver was hiding, but immediately found their arms getting chopped off and broken. From behind them, other figures appeared and cut their backs and legs, kicking and pummeling them when there were too many to swing a sword around properly.

[Hobgoblin (Dark-Warrior) Defeated!]

[Goblin (Dark-Rogue) Defeated!]

[Goblin (Dark-Warrior) Defeated!]

Messages started to pile on, as more and more goblins fell, never to get up again. Their blunt weapons made from teeth and sharpened bones, were no match for Sylver’s shade’s custom made swords and daggers.

Salgok’s fine work sliced through their defenses and heads as if they were made of paper, and Sylver made himself comfortable, while he waited for them to finish.

*

[Hobgoblin (Dark-Warrior) Defeated!]

[Necromancer] has reached level 26!]
+5AP

[1 perk available for [Necromancer]]

[Goblin (Dark-Warrior) Defeated!]

[Goblin (Dark-None) Defeated!]

Sylver could both see and hear the glee in the remaining goblins, as Fen was finally stabbed hard enough to break and burst like the others. The remaining 20 or so hobgoblins were the best of the best, or at least the ones who managed to survive the longest. They quite literally stood on a mountain of corpses, as they walked towards Sylver.

They were all covered in the blood of their brothers, and seemed indescribably happy about being the only ones left. With their greedy eyes locked on Sylver, they didn’t notice the black and yellow figures reforming behind them.

Half were killed by an arrow to the back of the neck. Another 2 died from Reg stabbing them through the lungs. And the remaining 8 had wire wrapped around their necks and forced to the ground until they stopped struggling.

Fen found the crude lock holding Sylver inside the bone cage, and broke him out. Sylver slid down the rest of the way and walked over to the unconscious goblins.

[Goblin (Dark-Warrior) – 25]

[Goblin (Dark-Rogue) – 24]

Alright… this Dark prefix thing is new. An environmental-based class? Some sort of evolution since they’re all basically blind? Wouldn’t it be Dark-Goblin in that case?

Sylver drained the life out of the 8 survivors and stretched his sore muscles from having to sit on the spear for so long.

[Draining Touch (I) Proficiency increased to 91%!]

Considering how many levels he went up just from letting all his shades do all the work, it appeared to be one of those positive experience modifiers.

Then again, it could just be the sheer number of goblins. Or that I was outnumbered hundreds to one. Or that I didn’t use any magic, technically speaking. I’ll ask the necromancer when I get back.

Still stretching Sylver walked around the area and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The biggest question on his mind right now was: Where the fuck is Nautis?

And that frankly took up the majority of his thoughts, as he searched through the weird village, breaking down tiny doors to see what was inside, kicking over buckets full of teeth and finger bones, looking inside clay jugs, and finding weird green gems inside of them.

Sylver stood in the middle of the village, looking around, waiting, listening, and couldn’t believe it. Had the Nautis really just let him go like that? Was he such a nonthreat that these pale goblins were enough to take care of him? Or was Nautis that much of a coward that he disappeared and let Sylver keep his ear. He never got a notification for killing him, so he was most likely still alive. Sylver had no idea if his fireball had connected or not.

And another thought came to him that upset him just as much. What if the Nautis didn’t believe him? Was there anything tying him to Katia that would lead him there? If Nautis just fucked off, that would be the best.

Novva will handle it. Sylver thought with a relaxed smile. Sylver knew a man who would keep his word when he saw one. Almost felt it even.

Further inside the village were more and more pots, filled to the brim with maggots and various other insects. Weird drawings and symbols littered the leather dividers they used in place of walls when they didn’t use dried clay. The floor was the same slippery smooth surface as the tunnel Sylver had come from, minus the fact that it was covered with finely cracked bones and worked as an asphalte like cover.

Sylver walked through the darkness, sending his shades out to scout the area out for him, and following the faint draft to the exit.

At some point mid-walk, he remembered he had leveled up a little and looked at his status. The constant dinging noise had annoyed him so much he didn’t want to even think about the system.

Total Level: 29
[Koschei-3]
[Necromancer-26]

CON: 25
DEX: 1
STR: 1
INT: 80
WIS: 34
AP: 45

Health: 644/250
Stamina: 410/125
MP: 1693/800

Health Regen: 3.75/M
Stamina Regen: 1.88/M
MP Regen: 27.2/M

There wasn’t really a whole lot to think about. Other than the fact that [Koschei] hadn’t gained a single level maybe. With the 45 available points, Sylver dropped 20 into intelligence to get his MP up to 1000, and dropped the other 25 into wisdom to get it to 100 too, as soon as possible.

CON: 25
DEX: 1
STR: 1
INT: 100
WIS: 59
AP: 0

Health: 634/250
Stamina: 397/125
MP: 1622/1000

Health Regen: 3.75/M
Stamina Regen: 1.88/M
MP Regen: 59.00/M

Now I’ll be at full MP in just 17 minutes. I’ve almost got 1 MP per second actually…

Next, he needed to choose a perk for getting to level 20 in [Necromancer].

Grasping Lurch.
Death’s Favor.
Vehement Screech
Sturdy Bones.
Blissful Resonance.
Kiss of Death.
Coiling Embrace

Some were the same from when he went past level 10. But about half were new ones. The new ones were about as bad as the ones they replaced, offering a 10% boost in this specific area, in exchange for a 20% decrease in another. Sylver searched through every single one, looking for anything useful. He was focused on something either movement-related, or something to increase his mana capacity or conductivity. If he could get some sort of low-grade shadow walk variant, he could hypothetically make his way back up the tunnel.

After failing to find anything that would let him fly, or do anything particularly useful, he settled on the one that seemed like a good investment for the future.

[Perk: Tools Of The Shade]
-Any creature under the caster’s command, will have the ability to form whatever tool it needs to perform its task.
*May not work on non-humanoid creatures.
*Will not create weapons.
*Will not create armor.
*Will not create projectiles.
*Will not create complex tools.
*Tools will degrade if held by any, other than a creature under the caster’s command, or the caster.
*Durability and effectiveness are dependent on the skills of the castor.

Great. So now if I need them to dig a hole, they’ll all have shovels. I’ll need to see what exactly it deems a weapon, but that’s for later.

Sylver kicked over a goblin that didn’t look too badly banged up and inspected its body. Among being completely blind, these guys also had something weird inside their skulls. Sylver made an educated guess that it was some sort of sonar organ.

Cutting the goblins torso open, he found that its digesting track was about 3 times longer and bigger than a normal goblin’s. Furthermore, these goblins appeared to be oviparous, which was disgusting in its own right. And the last strange part was that its skin was covered in mucus, identical to the one the tunnel was covered in.

Sylver’s examination had to be cut short, as he heard a noise off in the distance. He turned the goblin over and snuck his way into one of their remaining huts/houses. He sent the shades out to find the source of the noise.

After waiting for a long while, there were no more noises. The shades all returned without anything to report. Deciding that sitting around doing nothing wasn’t going to achieve a whole lot, Sylver made his way towards where he thought the noise had come from.

The tunnels were high enough for Sylver to walk without crouching, and wide enough for maybe 3 people to walk shoulder to shoulder. The floor changed very gradually, from the bony carpet, to a sandstone like texture, that actually had a fairly decent grip. But oddly enough he still couldn’t get a grip on the walls or ceiling.

[Blood Skitter (None) - 34]

A giant head greeted him, with a mess of sharp spikes that looked almost like a beard, below hundreds of small black dots. Above and on its side, the creature was protected by segmented, bubble-like carapaces, and hundreds upon hundreds of tiny legs along its incredibly long body. It was running along the floor, wall, ceiling, and wall in a spiral, it’s head somehow remaining perfectly in the middle as it got closer and closer.

Sylver didn’t have any space to dodge, and had one of the archers take the ranged attack for him. The shade took the liquid on itself without any complaint, but Sylver could tell immediately it was acid, as he could both smell it, and feel the shades regeneration being wasted. Cutting off its supply, the archer melted into the ground and was dragged into Sylver’s shadow, as he ran away.

Sylver sacrificed another 3 shades, as the perfectly straight tunnel didn’t give him even enough room to dodge anywhere. Finally, the tunnel split into three, and Sylver created an illusion blocking the one he ran through, and had a swordsman run loudly in another direction. The creature completely ignored the swordsman, and didn’t even consider going towards any direction other than the one Sylver had taken.

So it doesn’t rely on sight or hearing. Meaning either smell, or it can sense mana.

Throwing a weak bolt of darkness at the creature, proved this to be true, as it’s unbelievably long body somehow twisted and turned and completely dodged the mana charged projectile.

Sylver continued to run and came up with a plan. He waved his hand backward, and a stream of fire erupted out of his hand, covering the creature from head to tail, going right down the middle and around its head and setting its entire body alight.

It didn’t seem to even notice this and carried on chasing after Sylver, the only difference that its acid was on fire now.

Sylver gestured with his hand towards the ceiling, to crush this thing, but no matter how much mana he poured into the spell, he couldn’t get the stone to move. Abandoning that plan, he continued to run, almost sliding at this point given how smooth the floor was, and wanted to smack himself in the head for not thinking of it sooner.

With the creature spiraling after him, there was plenty of space for Sylver’s shades to materialize, in between the creature’s large body and it’s many feet. Fen was the first to attack, sinking his rapier deep between its carapace and getting dragged behind it as he forced the blade deeper and deeper.

The others followed suit and either stuck their daggers in between its armored plates, or simply cut its feet off. Sylver heard the weirdest scream from the creature, as it turned in on itself and started to run through its own body’s coil to get to the end where the shades were. At seeing its exposed and unarmoured belly, Sylver ran towards it with breakneck speed and sliced it open with a dagger.

As the creature tried to turn back again Sylver shoved his hand inside the wound, and set off a small explosion. The creature did it’s strange scream again, as Sylver continued to feel around inside its body and hollow it out with fire and force. When the hole was large enough, Sylver forced his way inside and felt around until he found what was either the heart, or hopefully something vital. Thankfully he either incinerated the acid storage sacks, or they were located much higher than this. Either way, he was fortunate he wasn’t having to waste mana protecting himself from acid.

As he started to drain energy from the hopeful organ, the creature did its scream one more time, about twice as loud as before. Between Sylver sitting inside of it, and his shades breaking it’s back open, the creature couldn’t choose where to go. It decided to ignore the shades, and went forward, planting its soft belly on the wall, and locking Sylver in completely.

Sylver felt it start moving somewhere much faster than before, and used the newly acquired excess mana to start freezing the creature’s insides, moving towards its head. He felt nauseous as the creature spun him around in a spiral, going up the wall, along the ceiling, down the wall, along the floor, up the wall, along the ceiling…

[Blood Skitter (None) Defeated!]

[Draining Touch (I) Proficiency increased to 95%!]

With the flesh surrounding him frozen solid, Sylver had to break it open to get out of the bug. And then had to have the shades pull the thing off the wall, so he could get out.

Walking on top of the dead creature Sylver couldn’t help but admire how nice it looked, now that it was no longer trying to kill and eat him. The carapace was incredibly shiny, and didn’t even have that sandy texture most large insects had.

Walking to the head, Sylver had it pulled out for him, as the coiled body fell down onto itself and now blocked up half the tunnel. Dai and Sho held the head steady using the spikes, while Fen got to work cracking it open.

Fuck… I can’t even tell if that’s a brain or lung.

After half an hour and a great deal of trial and error, mostly using his fingers to shock the various things he found inside the head until the whole body twitched, Sylver managed to get a very basic framework to set. Next came the hard part.

People were easy. They had a fear of death, understood contract and deals and the like, and were just a metaphorical handshake away from coming back from the dead as a ghoul or zombie or shade or whatever you needed.

Elves were a little trickier. Mostly because they didn’t particularly care if they died, since it’s all part of nature’s plan and all that. Dwarves equally so, since most considered it blasphemy to use a broken tool, including a dead body.

And insects? Insects ranged from instant and obedient, to completely impossible and nothing but a waste of time. The very little entomancy Sylver knew was based around very specific kinds of insects, spiders mostly, which weren’t even insects, and his experiences with whatever this thing was zero. Nevertheless, this thing was native to this place, and could somehow cling to the walls even Sylver was unable to.

If nothing else, he could use this to get back up the tunnel he had fallen from.

He sat in the darkness, carefully carving a basic framework to move its legs and bend its body, and out of sheer reflex dodged the arrow coming for his head.

Turning around to look at the source, Sylver saw 3 men staring at him, wearing the guards uniform.

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