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Ch038-Dust To Dust

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“Go on! Tell him!” Sylver shouted, as he dodged yet another skill powered attack.

“He’s too pathetic of a man to take revenge for his dead wife by himself! Tell him, or he’ll be dead, and the blood will be on your hands!” Sylver goaded the mage, as his opponent nearly got him in the neck, and Sylver managed to dodge by the width of a hair.

He watched the mage grit his teeth, and open and close his mouth several times, before getting a single glare from Otto and choosing to remain silent.

Which was a poor choice on his part, considering that if the man fighting ‘Sylver’ knew he was just fighting a shade with an overlayed illusion, he would have probably tried to save some of his stamina for when he actually managed to kill it, and had to fight the real Sylver next.

Which he actually did a few times. If it weren’t for the fact that Sylver was actively healing the shade and even swapping him out a few times to give him time to fully recover. If he was alone Fen would have been destroyed about 22 times by now, in the nearly hour-long fight that had been going on

Sylver was actually pleasantly surprised at how well Fen managed to copy his movements, and even more so at the fact that he was pretending to breathe, and moved somewhat sluggishly and touched the ‘wound’, Otto had inflicted on his arm every now and then. Otto on the other hand seemed as spry and alive as he was an hour ago. It was odd to be in a battle of attrition like this, but Sylver was glad he wasn’t the one doing the fighting because he would have been exhausted by now if he had to physically move around.

Instead, Sylver was sitting on the floor and slowly getting a better image of what exactly the situation with the prisoners was. They had only left 1 person to guard them, while the rest were watching Sylver’s fight. All looking with a smug expression as ‘Sylver’ was just barely holding his own, while a few of the people with [Mana Perception] were staring directly at Sylver sitting down at the edge of the 20-meter circle, and keeping the fight as far away from him as possible.

Sylver had to return his attention to said fight for a moment, as Otto used another skill that sent a volley of throwing knives at Fen, a few hitting Sylver. His robe caught all of them, and carefully embedded them in the ground as if they had fallen there themselves.

But it was too late. That half-second of the knives disappearing behind the illusion, and reappearing back on the floor was enough for Otto to put two and two together.

“You cheating bastard!” Otto shouted, increasing the speed of his attacks and hitting Fen’s vitals 3 times.

Sylver stood up from the area he was sitting in, and undid the illusion hiding him for a moment.

He watched as Otto tried multiple times to ignore the fake Sylver, but each time had to block or dodge another of Fen’s attacks.

“Where I’m from, it was considered suicide to try fighting a mage without being able to sense mana,” Sylver said, disappearing yet again, as Otto started to look around, blocking another hit from Fen and barely paying him any attention as he skewered the shade through the head. His previous fighting style of constantly watching out for ‘Sylver’ using magic disappeared, as he realized that ‘Sylver’ wasn’t not using magic to conserve his mana, but because the fake he was fighting couldn’t use any magic.

Sylver moved away from the flying daggers, watching them pass harmlessly through his illusion image of himself, and just slowly strolling around the 20-meter blood-covered circle, keeping his gaze locked at the few people who could actually see him.

He wasn’t invisible of course, true invisibility was unbelievably difficult and expensive. Sylver was using what has been initially jokingly called ‘hobo illusions’ and later officially labeled as ‘poor man’s illusion’. Or whatever the official old Elvish word for it was. Everyone had a slightly different variant of it, but it all fell under the ‘poor man’s illusion’ category.

There was a very short-lived attempt to have it officially relabeled into something a little less demeaning, but just about all the people who actually used ‘hobo illusions’ found the name hilarious and didn’t care what it was called.

True illusion magic involves bending light at an absolute minimum. If no light is bent, it isn’t a proper illusion. But bending light required an advanced understanding of it, that Sylver had never actually managed to achieve.

So instead he created soft two-dimensional planes, with a moving image on them, that could be connected to each other and enchanted to create a false depth, and ended up with what could effectively be called an illusion. In the roughest sense of the word.

If Fen had stopped moving, and Otto walked a little to either side, he would see the shade covered completely in polygons, each with an image of what Sylver would look like if Otto looked at him right from where he was originally. Getting the perspective right was the only difficult part of this, but Sylver had had lots of practice.

They weren’t perfect. And it looked incredibly confusing to all the people that Sylver wasn’t paying enough attention to, to alter the hobo illusion to include. But as with a lot of Sylver’s incredibly specialized, effective, but disgustingly informal magic, it worked perfectly for what it was intended for.

Which in this case was to make sure Otto couldn’t see him walking around and thought Sylver was still fighting him. And another illusion right in front of the people watching, to make it look like Otto was winning and just one more hit away from avenging his dead wife. Sound was a little easier to work with, and after hearing a person talk for a few seconds Sylver could quite easily mimic their tone and speech. Not that either of them were doing a whole lot of speaking.

What was originally one of Sylver’s many greatest weaknesses, not having any bloodline magic, ended up being one of his greatest strengths. Where other’s considered it beneath them to talk to a hermit to learn how his magic to roast a duck from the inside, Sylver learned it, dismantled it, and turned it into a spell that allowed him to melt things with his hands.

His ‘hobo illusions’ were from a fellow necromancer, who was working on a way to hide his rotten face, and after a lot of alteration, allowed Sylver to make cheap, effective, and passable ‘illusions’. Even if the master of illusions did pick a fight with Nyx over his use of it.

Sylver always took great pride in his classical training magics. But after a certain point in time, he valued effectiveness over how efficient or ‘proper’ the magic was.

Not to mention that learning magic that came from the most egregious sources was very heavily frowned upon, down to the point Nyx nearly killed him over it once.

Sylver’s robe stopped the dagger from reaching his throat, and wrapped itself around Otto’s hand, as he tried to pull away. Sylver nearly grabbed his hand himself, as Otto became a whirlwind of edges, and cut himself out of Sylver’s robe, and disappeared from sight.

Sylver put the frayed robe back together and dropped all the illusions all at once.

Otto was looking right at him, his limbs vibrating with power, as Sylver continued to leisurely stroll around the 20m perimeter, now giving the man a slightly bigger tiny portion of his attention.

He dropped down to the floor as Otto flew over him, and Sylver’s robe pushed him back to his feet and moved his body out of the way as Otto attempted to hit him mid-flight. Otto’s attacks were already past the point that Sylver could physically see what was going on and he was relying purely on his mana senses and a lifetime of experience fighting people dual-wielding daggers.

It almost felt like a dance by this point. Block a feint from the right, dodge the kick from the left, duck below the swipe with the left, move his leg away from the kick at his knee, and so on and so forth, as Otto appeared as nothing more than a blur to Sylver’s eyes.

Nevertheless, he was almost done. The best way to make someone feel at ease was always to let them think they figured you out.

Honestly, Sylver was more excited about springing this trap, than he had been at just about anything else lately. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been able to use it.

It was so obvious and blatant, that unless all your focus was fixed directly on one thing, even the densest mage would see and feel it. Which was why it was useless on all the people Sylver fought in the past, since they knew one of the first rules of fighting another mage.

Otto managed to scratch the edge of Sylver’s mask and Sylver had to move backward and away from the man. With how feverish Otto’s smile was you would have thought he managed to pierce Sylver’s heart just then.

Sylver’s robe caught 3 more daggers that had come out of nowhere, and pulled them inside, and hid them along his body. Otto’s afterimage jumped around, as he kept appearing and disappearing, each time his attack getting blocked or dodged by Sylver and his robe.

A tiny sheet of ice placed at just the right spot, barely the width and size of a piece of paper, was enough for Otto to slip, lose his footing, and for Sylver to grab him by the face. Sylver’s thumb and pointer went into either eye, as he maneuvered the man to the floor, and with a hard kick broke his left arm, almost severing it.

Hand’s from Otto’s shadow held down his other hand, as Sylver stepped on that too and with a wet and sickening crunch stopped any further attempts for Otto to get him. More hands appeared near Otto’s legs and held those down too.

Sylver squeezed the fingers inside Otto’s face causing him to scream deafeningly loud.

“If you want your friend to live, guess who I’m going to fight next!” Sylver shouted over Otto’s screams of pain and promises of what his companions will do to Sylver.

“Mage with the big tits, who do you think is going to die next by my hand?” Sylver asked, pointing with his free hand at a woman at the very end of the group, and making the group turn to look at her.

She pulled her robe tighter around herself, hiding her chest, and walked up a little closer to the 20-meter dueling arena.

“I will fucking destroy you, you little…” She spent a few seconds describing everything there was to describe about Sylver, from his mother’s marital status, to his father’s sexual preferences and experiences, down to what Sylver’s children would be capable of accomplishing and what fees they would be charging.

“Wrong answer!” Sylver said, pushing his fingers deeper into Otto’s face causing him to scream even louder and seeing everyone stop themselves from flinching.

“You there! Man with the longest nose and ugliest face I have ever seen, who do you think will die next!” Sylver asked, gesturing at a man with an average looking face and normal nose, and causing the man to come closer to the edge and repeating almost verbatim the speech the mage with a modest chest had just said.

“Wrong! You there! Man who looks like he shit himself, who do you think will die next!” Sylver asked, gesturing at a warrior with ever so slightly saggy pants.

The fact that there was so little variation between this man’s speech and the previous two made Sylver worry there’s some sort of book of insults everyone is following.

He repeated his taunting, causing everyone who was outside the radius to get in closer, and excluding the few people on the other side, everyone was almost perfectly in place. Since Otto was constantly screaming, everyone was forced to come as close as possible, without violating the ‘sacred’ rules of a duel, so Sylver could hear them.

Having appraised everyone here, Sylver was still having trouble locating their leader. Or more accurately he knew the truth, but was having a tough time accepting it.

Who the fuck sends their leader out to scout?

Unless she was the leader because of her scouting abilities and prowess. With how unbelievably well her presence was hidden, if she just went for the kill Sylver might have actually died back there. His guard was up, but even with that, he couldn’t feel her.

It was probably what made her so cocky so as to openly approach him and make her presence known.

Sylver locked eyes with a woman who was standing nearest to the dueling arena, and smiled at her from underneath his mask.

Snapping his fingers was the signal for one of the archers to strike the flint, and for the carnage to begin. He saw just about every single one of them start moving inhumanly fast, looking around all over the place, and unable to pinpoint the source of danger. A few of the smarter ones immediately began to run, but they were too late.

The ground underneath the people that were all patiently and politely waiting for their turn to take revenge for their fallen leader, appeared to expand upwards for a second, before exploding with a gigantic blue flame. Sylver almost flew backward as the wave of air collided with his barrier, and moved around it, the blue fire coating it with water, as the blinded Otto became deaf from the squeaking explosive noise.

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

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

[Human (Rogue) Defeated!]

[Necromancer] has reached level 36!
+5AP

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

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

Sylver quickly followed the incredibly quick announcements with his eyes, and counted them out against how many people he knew were here. The single explosion took out 38 of their 44 people.

As he drained the life and mana out of the barely audible screaming Otto, Sylver glanced around at some of the people already getting up from the floor.

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

[Optical Illusion (I) Proficiency Increased to 100%!]
[Optical Illusion (I) rank up available!]

[Auditory Illusion (I) Proficiency Increased to 34%!]

[Magic Nullification (I) Proficiency Increased to 6%!]

[Drain Touch (II) Proficiency Increased to 6%!]

Running away from the giant crater his explosion had created, Sylver’s robe helped him launch himself towards the warrior with bleeding ears and blinded eyes, and held his arms down as Sylver drained his mana and life out of him.

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

[Drain Touch (II) Proficiency Increased to 8%!]

Sylver saw the next 2, both mages that were out of mana from having to defend against the shockwave, get stabbed through the throat by Reg and a warrior shade.

[??? (Mage) Defeated!]

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

There were 2 more, but Sylver couldn’t see or feel them. And he only had 6 shades with him, only 5 of which were still functional. He looked all around, but between the gigantic cloud of dust, the disturbed ambient mana, and all the mana that was leaking out of all the dead bodies, Sylver was effectively blinded.

He quickly changed direction and ran towards the crater and jumped inside of it, so as to make sure they didn’t have enough room to pincer him, and was half impressed by the size of the hole, and half upset at how small it was compared to what he used to be capable of. In his prime, even his late apprenticeship, he could make one this big on a whim. And now he had to waste almost an hour, tormenting a man whose wife he killed, just so he had time to build up enough hydrogen for it to work.

Incidentally, this spell came from an alchemist Sylver knew who showed him how to make burning water to impress small children. And the small children were very impressed. He even used it at a party once.

And later Sylver dismantled the spell, adjusted it to suit his needs, and as long as the air was moist enough, or in this case, the soil had enough water sitting around, he could turn the whole thing into a small bomb.

A spear the width of Sylver’s arm, passed through the heavily breathing illusion, and a woman quickly followed after, pulling the spear out of the singed clay, and looking around for the real target. She locked onto Sylver immediately, despite him hiding relatively well, and the spear disappeared from the woman’s hand, and appeared right inside Sylver’s stomach, passing through his liver and embedding itself into the clay-like wall behind him.

The spearwoman had enough sense not to say anything or taunt him and simply ran up to him as fast as she could, and tried to punch a hole in his head.

The clay around Sylver stretched out and molded itself around him, forming a defensive shell, as the woman’s glowing fist punched through it. Sylver blindly threw pillars and spikes of earth at where he assumed the woman’s body was, each time hearing and feeling the pillars and spikes being shattered before reaching their target.

Sylver pushed against the wall behind him and pulled himself off the spear, making it pass through him completely, and clogging up the massive gaping hole where his liver used to be. Sylver moved the earth underneath him around, and dropped down into a deep tunnel he had made, burning through mana so quickly he was down to half his capacity, having wasted all the excess mana he had gotten from the people he drained.

The spear moved right by him, missing him by the tiniest amount, as it quickly moved back the way it came, and fell on top of Sylver again cutting the side of his shoulder.

Sylver silently made a slanted tunnel going upwards and crawled through it, each time the spear passing mere inches away from where he was half a second ago, as he finally managed to reach the surface and break through it.

The robe shoved Sylver’s body to the left, moving his head away from the spear, and saving his life. He saw the spear jump back in the woman’s hand, and dodged another throw, running up the wall of the crater.

The spear stopped right in front of him, and identical copies appeared all around him, walling Sylver in while he was standing on the wall. They elongated ever so slightly before he could react, and bent inwards, completely caging him in.

“Let’s talk this out,” Sylver said calmly, as he flinched away from the electricity pulsating from the identical spears. He couldn’t feel a drop of magic from them, but could certainly feel and smell the ozone they were burning.

The woman didn’t respond, and simply threw another spear at Sylver. It passed through the spear wall and stopped right in the middle. This limited Sylver’s area of movement significantly, as another spear was thrown, and added to the limiting area.

Sylver stomped his foot hard against the wall/floor and completely broke the whole thing apart. A large chunk, including the area where the spears were embedded inside the wall, fell down and hit the ground along with Sylver.

The electrical effect disappeared the second the spears had stopped being in a perfect circle, and Sylver waved with his hand, further breaking the piece of clay apart and completely flooding the crater with dust.

Another spear landed right next to his head, and as Sylver rolled away, more spears followed, each time just bare inches away from his head.

Getting thrown back onto his feet via the robe, Sylver had a dart placed in his hand, and threw it semi-randomly. A spear passed right by him, and cocked his head towards the source of the spear, and took a defensive stance.

With his hands both placed in front of him, Sylver waited patiently, as another spear passed right next to him. He kept still and waited again, as a spear passed nearby and missed him completely, this time even further off the mark.

Sylver moved to the side quickly, and the spear grazed the front of his mask, chipping away the nose area.

Standing perfectly still, and grinning, he heard and felt the spears hiss and pass right by him, missing him completely.

There was a wet sound somewhere in front of Sylver, followed by a mixture of wet and hollow dry noises, and finally a pleasant-sounding crunch and stifled grunt. The archer’s arrows had hit true, and Sylver leaped towards the source of the noise, and used the heel of his boot to kick the woman in the face, pulling her jaw downwards and ripping it off completely.

She screamed wildly, and swung at Sylver with her spear, he ignored the attack and forced his robe to wrap around the weapon and hold it away from his neck. He hooked the back of her head with his foot, and pushed down hard with the other, twisting her head and snapping her neck.

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

Sylver dropped to the ground as the woman’s spear went limp, and gently righted himself using his robe. He cursed at himself at missing his chance to heal, and looked upwards through the cloud of dust.

He could feel her. She was just at the very edge of his soul sense, but he couldn’t be certain where she was.

If he sat in the crater and waited he would be in danger of the woman deciding to run away. But getting out and fighting her in an open area was going to be harder.

Coming to a decision on the spot, Sylver moved a small stone platform up the wall, and launched himself upwards at a very high speed.

He flew out of the dust-filled crater and a trail of dust followed after him. While airborne, Sylver observed his surroundings and saw the last one.

[??? (Mage) – ??]

Sylver reached the apex of his ascent, just as the woman was about to finish casting her spell. A small black and yellow figure appeared behind her, and shoved her pointed staff downwards.

A giant ball of bright white fire engulfed the area the woman was standing in completely, spreading out in a wave of flames. Sylver gestured with his hand towards the area he was falling down towards, and extinguished the white flames, looking around for the mage.

The white fire spun in a vortex around him, as it flew high into the air, before rushing towards Sylver with a spiraling precision of an arrow.

Sylver stomped his foot on the ground again, and surrounded himself with a completely sealed cone of earth, moving it along with his body, towards the mage. He felt the smallest amount of resistance, and opened up the whole thing, lunging at the woman, and immediately going for her neck.

She tried to hit him with her glowing white hand and staff, before Sylver’s robe reached out and wrapped itself around her wrist, crushing it and holding it in place. The woman screamed as Sylver’s fingers dug into her throat, tearing through the thin flesh and splashing blood everywhere.

Sylver felt it happen exactly where he was sitting on top of her, and jumped off the woman, using his robe to simultaneously protectively wrap itself around his body, and kick off the ground to launch him upwards and away.

The explosion burned through most of Sylver’s cloak, engulfing his entire body at the same time as he was sent flying by the shockwave. His sturdy leather boots turned into ash instantaneously, a couple of his toes getting their skin and nails melted off, and only the fact that Sylver had curled himself into a ball around them, kept his fingers and hands almost unharmed.

He lost some feeling in his legs from his back getting burned, his spine becoming completely exposed to the air, and landed somewhere in scorched grass, bleeding everywhere. His shades appeared all around him and immediately hit the burning areas, putting the fire out. Fen and Reg followed his command and went looking for the best-preserved corpse. Sylver quickly covered himself up in darkness, and clogged up the most egregious injuries.

Sylver lay in the flaky grass, silently shivering with pain, as Fen and Reg pulled a man who was clad from head to toe in iron armor, and cut at the leather straps holding it together.

They pulled his body out of the armor, and Sylver almost laughed at the fact that he had died from falling down and breaking his neck on something. The armor had been modified to allow for ease of movement, at the cost of removing all the neck support.

Fen very gently sliced along the shoulders and back of the corpse, and with practiced ease pulled the skin up and away from the body.

Sylver was turned over and allowed the shades to place the pieces of skin onto his completely exposed back and spine, and very gently melded the foreign skin to his own, sealing everything inside. The relief was instantaneous, even if there were pieces of rock and debris trapped inside him now.

[Skill: Flesh Weaving (I)]
Skill level can be increased by manipulating flesh. (If no effect occurs due to flesh manipulation, skill level will not increase.)
I - Manipulate flesh.
*To manipulate foreign flesh, caster must overcome natural resistance.
*Cost of manipulating own flesh increases with volume.
*Caster cannot stretch or grow flesh, without an external energy source.

The process was repeated for Sylver’s legs, using the dead man’s skin like it were leather trousers and boots, and closing the wounds temporarily. His hands, chest, and head had only minor injuries, and could be ignored for the time being. His robe had been reduced to little more than a cape, that Sylver had to spread and stretch to cover himself with.

Sylver just barely paid the new skill any mind, as he turned onto his back, and breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Close call’ doesn’t even come close to what this was.

From the woman who could somehow see him through walls, but only if he was moving, to the suicidal pyromancer, he was very close to being outmatched. But it filled him with a strange emotion to see this level of dedication from the pyromancer.

Sylver could only guess who exactly she was doing it for, but hoped that whoever it was, was in no way associated with the Black Mane and he would never meet them.

He spared a glance at his status, and saw that his health was…

3…

Out of 250.

Which explained why everything had slowed down for a few seconds, while he was being burned alive. Increasing the amount of pain he felt by several degrees and extending the experience much further than necessary.

But on the other hand, it did give him enough room and time to keep his channels from getting messed up. At the cost of his legs and back, but it could have been worse.

It could have been better, that was for certain. He should have handled the spearwoman quicker, guessed she only saw him when moving from the start, and killed the pyromancer before she had a chance to do anything.

But any fight you can walk away from, was a win in Sylver’s book. Or limp away, in this particular case.

Watching his HP slowly tick up, Sylver grit his teeth, and one step at a time, made his way towards the hideout, where the last guard was waiting for him. Hopefully, he had enough HP for Sylver to fully recover, but if not, he would just have to take his time to heal up instead.

And if that didn’t work out, he was certain the people he was about to save, would be grateful enough to let him drain a few digits of their health and mana.

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KingKennit

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