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Ch034-Run Little Courier

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What was a 3 day walk on foot, turned out to be barely 5 hours worth of flying on Will. With little else to do, Sylver used his excess mana to reduce the air resistance as much as he could, and barely even felt a breeze while on the shades back. Sylver only had his bags with him, deciding to ultimately leave the chest full of extremely rare and valuable materials back with Ron inside the deep storage altar, just to be safe. Ciege and Lola would be too weak for him to leave them alone, if he brought them back, so he would have to do it after he was done with the Black Mane.

He sat right on his spine, and was glued in place using one shade or another, holding him down. After rereading the book of requirements, Sylver decided now wasn’t a bad time to see what exactly [Tools Of The Shade] considered to be a tool or not.

And he found a weapon within 2 tries.

A hammer.

Not a single person in the world wouldn’t think of it as not being a tool. Similarly, a screwdriver was also a tool. So was a crowbar. And of course, so was a shovel.

Edges were where the perk seemed to draw a relatively hard line. No manner of knife, cleaver, ax, machete, spear, sickle, saw, chisel, or even scythe could be created.

On the other hand sledgehammers, clubs, tongs, a large number of various screwdrivers of various lengths and sizes and even curved walking sticks could be summoned at a moment’s notice. This sadly did not apply to Sylver, but his shades could make them whenever they wanted. He even tested out how quick it worked, by having 5 of them hand him screwdrivers that he threw overboard.

And although it wasn’t instant, it was still very quick. The only issue Sylver saw with this, was that he couldn’t understand where they were getting the mana for them. And similarly, he couldn’t feel any mana coming from the created tools either. When he tried to drain them or manipulate them with magic, he couldn’t even tell it was there.

The next thing to check was the durability. And that was another mystery. The tools looked like they were made of solidified darkness. Like the kind he used to move his left arm when it was dead.

And even at his level of control and precision, it was still extremely brittle. He got around that by having it in layers and in segments, but everything the perk created was one solid piece.

That as far as Sylver could tell as durable as iron. The hammers were hard enough to kill a shade in one hit. Hitting a sledgehammer with a crowbar, broke neither. And the screwdrivers could stab even Fen without any issue.

It was really strange, to say the least.

What Sylver couldn’t figure out was where exactly it drew the line at projectile or complex tool. He could summon screwdrivers, and throw them without any issue. The fact that he couldn’t summon a screwdriver that was balanced well enough to use as a throwing dart, felt like a matter of poor visualization on his part, rather than something else. Sylver made a note to have Salgok make him some tools that were a single step away from weapons, so he could show the perk what he was going for. And as stupid as it sounded in his head, he had a feeling it would work.

There was also a size limitation. But it wasn’t consistent. The limit for a screwdriver, was different for a hammer, or a sledgehammer.

In all honesty, Sylver looked at the whole thing as more of a novelty, than anything actually useful in combat.

He did get excited for a split second, but went right back to indifferent, when Fen couldn’t summon a lute or a harmonica or a flute or any kind of instrument.

Seemed so promising.

*

*

*

“Are you Tulion? Jarot Tulion?” Sylver asked, looking up at the giant standing before him.

“Yeah?” The giant man answered.

“Sorry, I need to hear you say it properly. I am Jarot Tulion, or, my name is Jarot Tulion, or, I am called Jarot Tulion.” Sylver said, gesturing with his hands as he spoke. Smiling underneath the completely black mask, but making sure his body language heavily implied the obnoxious grin.

“My name is Jarot Tulion,” Jarot Tulion said, surprised himself that the words escaped his mouth.

“Great. Jarot. I would like to give you an offer, you will very likely refuse. In fact, I would go as far as to say I’m already moving with your refusal in mind.” Sylver said, walking past the giant and inside the building, looking around. It was a small warehouse that had been converted into a living area. Good strong wooden beams made up the roof and walls, and the flooring was mostly packed dirt and straw. The windows were boarded up and closed off, and the only entrance or exit was the one Sylver had just walked in through. Off in the corner sat another 9 men, in the middle of a game of cards, all staring at Sylver.

“Lad. Are you alright? Do you know where you are? What you just walked into?” Jarot Tulion asked, closing the door and locking it.

“Of course I do. One of the hideouts belonging to the Black Mane.” Sylver answered, walking over to one of the walls, and opening the cupboard to see what was inside.

All 10 men just stared at him, unable to properly perceive or accept what their eyes were telling them they were seeing.

“Jar? Is this some weird test or something? I’m not getting it.” One of the men asked, standing up from the table and walking a little closer.

“Do I have everyone’s attention?” Sylver asked, turning around and causing his cloak to open up, revealing the daggers strapped to his thighs, arms, and torso. Jarot and the man who had walked over to him, continued to look at him in disbelief.

All the other men sitting at the table stood up and carefully walked over to Jarot Tulion.

“You and your organization have crossed me. Twice. More than twice, but it can be boiled down into two separate major events. And normally I would be done before any of you so much as saw my mask, but this is my first interaction with you, so it’s important to set the tone. Jarot Tulion, remember this above all else.” Sylver said, looking the man directly in the eye. The tiny slits in the mask weren’t enough for anyone to see his eyes underneath, but Jarot tried anyway.

“I cannot be reasoned with. I cannot be bribed, threatened, or frightened away. I will allow you to peacefully retreat, but if not, I will not stop until you are all either dead or gone. In the event of a peaceful retreat, I expect your head boss, Faun De'Lore, to be publicly executed, along with his 2 officers. Are you getting this Jarot Tulion?” Sylver asked.

Sylver rolled his eyes at the strange smile on Jaret’s face, but he only needed to stall for a few more seconds. He wasn’t sure if he was liking how much of a non threat people saw him as, just because they could see his level. Granted it was immensely useful right now, but it left a sour taste in his mouth. Everything was going surprisingly well. And in any other circumstances, he would be suspicious of it. But after having spent so long around people who only saw the world in levels and skills, he understood perfectly well just how little they thought of him.

“For this group specifically, I am willing to spare all of you... If you kill one of your own. Otherwise everyone, with the exception of Jarot Tulion, will be killed. Now. You have 30 seconds to decide which amongst yourself will be sacrificed for the others to live. And I’m only saying this because I imagine that brutes such as yourselves are just short of mentally handicapped, but you cannot choose Jarot Tullion.” Sylver explained, walking with a slight false limp and waving his hands quite slowly and dramatically.

They looked at each other. All 10 of them were level 40 warriors and rogues, with Jaret being level 44.

And then they looked at Sylver. A level 29 mage. Alone.

“This is one of Faun’s weird tests, isn’t it? I’m sorry, do you mind repeating everything from the start, I didn’t quite catch the riddle.” Jaret said with a polite smile as he walked towards Sylver, hiding one hand behind his back.

“No riddle. But we are out of time.” Sylver said, taking matching steps back as Jaret approached him.

Jaret stopped mid-step as he heard a dull thud behind him. He turned around and saw that Richmond was on the floor. And that Kari was swaying where he stood and fell down too.

Jaret looked down and saw that he had dropped the knife he was holding and couldn’t seem to keep his hand closed properly. Everything went black.

*

Jaret woke up with a startle and struggled against his bonds. His left arm burned with a searing pain that he couldn’t even put into words, and he couldn’t summon an ounce of strength to break the chain binding him.

“You’re finally awake. I thought it over, and it’s really best to have things like this written down. I’ve got it all in an envelope. Pass it on to Faun when you see him for me. You have until sunrise tomorrow, to have Faun killed if you decide to end things peacefully. It’s all in the envelope.” Sylver said, getting up from the fallen tree and walking over to Jaret.

“You should really have a lookout to make sure something like this doesn’t happen. Anyway…” Sylver said, lazily walking to the left and causing Jarot to rock himself sideways to see where he was going. He saw all 9 of his group members unconscious and tied to tree trunks.

“Now then. I had originally planned something significantly more dramatic but I’ve since lost my taste for it. There was going to be fire and ice and maybe even some lightning. But keeping things simple really feels like the best way to go.” Sylver said, as he walked over to the first tied up men. Fen and Reg appeared from behind Jaret and dragged him forward and closer. Jaret struggled against his chains, and did his best to displace the leather strap holding the cloth in his mouth.

“Look at me Jaret,” Sylver said, crouching down to be eye level with the man.

“I will not stop until you have all either left, or you are all dead. And I normally stray away from monologuing like this, but I cannot think of a better way to express myself right at this moment.” Sylver explained, getting up from his crouch and walking over to the first man. A Duril Horsal, according to the notes Thomas had given him.

“Are you familiar with the phrase ‘going to the mattresses’?” Sylver asked rhetorically, taking one of his many knives out of his cloak and looking at it.

“It’s a saying one of the children of earth brought to us. And one I will be employing to explain what exactly is going to be happening from now on.” Sylver said, swiping the knife quickly through the throat of the first man.

[Human (Rogue) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

Jaret jumped and screamed through his gag and strained against the chains even harder, with little to show for it.

“‘Going to the mattresses’ is a term usually used when two crime families go to war with one another. Like the Cord and the Black Mane, for example.” Sylver explained, swiping the knife through another throat as he walked over to the next man.

[Human (Warrior) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

“Now, I may not be a crime family, and just to be clear I am not with the Cord either, but I am going to war with you. But the saying comes from the idea that the troops of one family hide away from their rivals, in secret locations that are made for the express purpose of being temporary accommodations. And instead of soft comfortable beds, with their wives and children, and with all the warmth and love they could ever want, all they have are hard mattresses on the floor.” Sylver continued as he sliced the throat of the next man.

[Human (Warrior) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

“Hence the term. I will hide away, sleep on a metaphorical cold hard mattress on the floor, and I will not go home until I am done. Do you understand me, Jaret Tulion?” Sylver asked, wiping the blood-covered knife on the next man’s shirt.

The pale and glistening with sweat Jaret nodded once.

“Good,” Sylver said, moving the knife through the next man’s throat.

[Human (Rogue) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

“I will allow you 4 questions,” Sylver said. Fen undid the buckle on the strap holding the material in Jaret’s mouth, and he spat it out. Jaret sat motionless, looking down at the floor and breathing heavily. He calmed down enough to talk a few seconds later.

“Who are you?” Jaret asked through gritted teeth.

“What a stupid question. Asking a masked man who he is. But you can refer to me as Pestilence if you want. Because that is what I will feel like fairly soon. Like your personal fucking plague descending on you, but much more deadly,” Sylver answered, killing the next man.

[Human (Warrior) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

Jaret closed his eyes and looked away, before having to look up at Sylver to ask his next question.

“Why are you doing this?” Jaret asked, straining against the chains. “What the fuck?” He asked under his breath.

“I already answered you before. But let me try to word it differently. Normally people would say something like ‘it’s just business’ or ‘nothing personal’. But this is the exact opposite. It is completely personal. And I am unconcerned with making money off this, as long as all of you are dead or gone. But I am not doing this in the name of justice or honor or because I believe that the world will be a better place because of my actions. I am doing this solely because you have moved against me, and I will now move against you. And that’s a minor curse, temporarily weakens you, don’t worry about it.” Sylver answered, slashing the throat of one man, then the next in quick succession.

[Human (Rogue) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

[Human (Warrior) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

“Last question Jaret. Make it count.” Sylver said, holding the blood-covered dagger against the next man’s throat.

“They’ll kill you. It doesn’t matter what you do, they will find and kill you. Your family, anyone who so much as shook your hand will die. Slowly and painfully.” Jaret said through tightly pursed lips as his body began to softly glow as his muscles and frame grew, the hard metal chains digging in deeper into him.

“You have a golden opportunity here, and you’re wasting it. Last chance to ask me a question, Jaret. Because the next time we see each other… Well, you won’t see me. You’ll just feel the slight sting of my dagger cutting its way through your back” Sylver said, digging the dagger a little deeper into the unconscious man’s throat.

Jaret looked down at the ground, where the dirt had mixed with the sprayed blood, and looked back up at Sylver.

“How did you knock all of us out?” Jaret asked, the chain creaking from how hard he was pushing against it.

“Now that’s a good question. Sure it's not as good as asking if I would spare this man, but at least you’re thinking for the future. So points for effort at least. And the answer is... a magic item I found inside a cave. I’ve got 4 more uses left, so I’m going to be wiping out 4 more hideouts like this, easy.” Sylver lied, patting his pocket which only held a few mineral rocks.

No point telling anyone he was using dry ice to suffocate them with carbon dioxide. Or that his mask had a small oxygen supply so he wasn’t breathing any in.

He saw that Jaret was gritting his teeth and bleeding from his mouth. He also saw that the chain was straining and wouldn’t be holding on for much longer. Sylver stabbed the last man through the throat, embedding the dagger into the tree trunk he was tied to.

[Human (Rogue) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]

[Necromancer] has reached level 27!
+5AP

By the time Jaret managed to break his way out of the chains, Sylver was long gone. All that was left were his 9 dead brothers in arms, a very basic iron dagger, and a crisp beige envelope hanging off said dagger.

*

*

*

“You wanted to say something?” Sylver asked, as he walked through the dark and thick forest, followed behind by his shades carrying his belongings.

“Was that necessary? I understand you need to kill all of them, but why give them any warning? You’re just giving up the element of surprise for… for what?” Lola asked, sitting down and looking through Sylver’s eyes.

“Oh. I see the confusion. I’m not just going to kill them.” Sylver said, walking over a large branch and waiting for the shades to pass it before moving on.

“Then what are you going to do?” Lola asked, careful and uncertain.

“Send a message. If I’m just a shadow skulking around, killing their members left and right, they might be afraid of me in a practical way, but that would only last as long as the people who knew about me personally would. I don’t plan on dying anytime soon, and it’s very likely I will outlive all of the current members of the Black Mane. So this needs to be done in a certain way. So that they not only tuck tail and run, but that this entire area gets marked and remembered as ‘off-limits.’ I would prefer if the Cord stayed out of it too, but I am not in a position to threaten them as well. Plus I like Raba, so I like them. They’ve been fair and courteous with me, and I’m going to need illegal services every now and then, so it may as well be them.” Sylver explained, finally reaching the main road and walking down it.

“So you’re going to scare them so they’re too afraid of even attempting to return?” Lola summarized, still sounding uncertain.

“Pretty much. I don’t really have the time, or the desire to hunt down every single member of the Black Mane, so this is the next best thing. The Cord gets a little stronger, Thomas implied some sort of financial reward, Ciege, Yeva and their child get extra protection, I get to increase my level, and summon more shades. And they’re directly responsible for pushing Nautis into kidnapping people. Which means they are the reason I spent 87 days eating disgusting slop, got hit in the face by a table leg, and had to walk through liquid goblin shit.” Sylver explained, walking along the road and looking up at the barely visible night sky.

“Not to mention, if Nautis just left it alone, Tuli wouldn’t have had people mining her fucking spinal cord for crystalized mana. And they threatened Yeva. 9 times. So they’ve wronged me at least 11 times.” Sylver said, adding the last part almost under his breath.

He could feel Lola raise an eyebrow at this.

“Here’s the way I see it. If I just killed all of them, and carried on killing without announcing myself, they would send their most competent squad after me because they would assume the worst possible case. And I would be in danger of being outmatched if that were the case. So instead they now know, that I’m just a level 29 mage. So they’ll be conservative with their resources and send their least competent and cheapest squad after me. And when I kill them, they will send the one step higher squad.”

“Each time trying to spend as little resources on me as possible, because I’m not that big of an issue to send the best to deal with. And by the time they realized how much of a threat I am, I will be powerful enough to kill whoever they send.” Sylver said, drawing a graph in his head for Lola to follow that showed the ever-increasing average level of the groups sent after him, and his level compared to them.

“And… If I’m being completely honest I’m still a little angry about the whole thing, and not acting completely in line with what is rational and optimal. I even wouldn’t put it past me to have come up with an explanation for my actions, well after I had already done them in what could conservatively be described as a fit of cold and calculated rage.” Sylver explained, earning an ever so small smile from Lola.

“But this wasn’t that. I’m just speaking in general terms. This was all planned out, well before I even left Arda. And with this, they’re most likely to believe I went through the whole charade to make myself seem like a bigger threat than I am, when in reality I’m weak. Which will only further weaken me in their eyes. Strong men don’t need to send messages, they just do what they want.” Sylver said, wiping the sweat off his forehead and running his hand over his bald scalp.

“So where are we going now?” Lola asked, changing the subject and walking back to her corner and choosing another book from Sylver’s bookshelf.

“Orest. It’s the edge of the area I want to clear out, so I’m going to start there. For now, I’ll be staying in Orest, as myself, and taking on a few quests to pass the time and level up. If those quests happened to take me in the general direction of soon to be destroyed Black Mane hideouts, it would be a really convenient coincidence.” Sylver explained.

Obviously, at some point, someone would make the connection between him and the destroyed hideouts, but that was exactly what he was counting on. The Black Mane was about to find out that it wasn’t his magical abilities that made people afraid of him.

*

*

*

“Love the name. ‘Arty’s Arcane Armaments’” Sylver said, smiling with genuine delight at the old looking wizard. “You must be Arty in that case.”

“Oh yes. Artemis O’Loctorn, geomancer. But please, call me Arty. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.” The old man said, reaching out with a hand to shake Sylver’s.

Sylver was surprised at the old man’s strength and did his best to match it.

Artemis wore a slightly slanted pointy hat, a single piece dull pink robe, and had a free-flowing white beard that hid the entirety of the lower part of his face. A wizard if Sylver had ever seen one.

“I’m here regarding the D ranked gathering quest. The receptionist said to see you for further details? And she said payment would be discussed with you as well.” Sylver said, pulling the paper in question out of his pocket and laying it out on the table.

Arty looked down at it and squinted slightly.

“Ah. Yes, I remember now. But there’s a few requirements that you must meet before I tell you about the quest. Do any of your spells rely on fire, lightning, or on any form of combustion?” Arty asked.

“Some do. But I mostly use earth, water, or darkness.” Sylver answered honestly.

“Right. Would you be capable of outrunning a level 30 to 40 giant wasp? And possibly various variants of giant ants.” Arty asked, looking up at Sylver and squinting at him now.

“I believe so. I can fly, provided I have enough of an open area. And I have ways to stall something if it’s chasing me.” Sylver answered.

“How much damage can you take and keep moving?”

“As long as my head and heart are intact, I can walk almost anything off.”

“Have you ever heard of ‘false dragon fire’?” Arty asked. Going by the fact that his soul had stopped moving around Sylver guessed that this was the real question.

“I have. An attempt by alchemists to produce a portable version of dragon fire, that as far as I understand, burns at roughly a tenth of a real dragon’s flame. Only slightly more potent than white mage fire.” Sylver answered, lowering his voice slightly to sound as casual as possible.

Arty’s eyes opened up as Sylver spoke.

“This will be easy to explain then. I believe there is a naturally occurring variant of false dragon fire. And I require a few samples from there, so I may examine them and confirm if this is true or not. The reason I asked regarding the fire and damage situation is that… well… all the monsters in that area explode upon death. Very violently I was told. To the point, a party of level 50 warriors died a few months ago because of it. I tried hiring a party of water mages after that, but they quit when one of the wasps nearly got them.” Arty explained, walking off to the backroom and coming back a moment later.

“That certainly explains why the quest was so old,” Sylver answered, looking at the box Arty had opened.

“And regarding your reward. What range would you think is fair? Considering I’m not actually asking you to kill anything, simply bring me a few of the bags of dirt from several different areas.” Arty asked, looking Sylver directly in the eye.

Sylver thought it over for a moment. He had chosen this quest only because it said that it was somewhere east and only a few days of travel away. Roughly where he knew at least 4 Black Mane hideouts were.

“Would you accept a trade, instead of any direct payment?” Sylver asked, looking around the store.

“What do you have in mind?” Arty asked, following Sylver’s gaze.

“Do you have anything that could hide a person’s status from being appraised?” Sylver asked, looking back at Arty.

A slight smile tugged at the hidden edges of the old man’s mouth. “Would you accept a skill instead? I can teach it to you. It can hide your level, classes, and even how much health you have.” Arty said.

“Even better. In that case, I accept your quest. I will return in a few days, with samples.” Sylver said, folding up the paper as Arty touched Sylver’s iron plate adventurer’s tag.

After Arty officially assigned the quest to Sylver, they shook hands and Sylver went off to go and collect dirt samples.

And possibly poison the water sources of several Black Mane hideouts on his way there.

 

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KingKennit

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