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Ch043-The End Is Nigh

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Sylver was surprised to find that a few goblins had survived. His shades informed him that they were currently trapped deep underground, as mages appeared every now and then and took shots at them, very slowly whittling down their numbers.

Sylver didn’t know when it had happened, but someone had killed all the hobgoblin zombies and the mage zombie, and the barrier had been closed back up. Golems stood at the ready outside and inside the barrier, all completely mobile and waiting for anything to get near enough for them to kill.

Sylver’s robe stretched upwards, and pulled him up and into the window, breaking it for him and swiping the shards of glass inwards. Like the 4 rooms Sylver had entered before, this one was also empty.

Sylver’s soul sense had stopped working against them, right after he threw a dart where he felt one of them about to appear. They were doing something to completely hide their presence, and he was no longer capable of feeling their magic gathering where they were about to appear. It was a little disorienting, if he was being honest.

Sylver adjusted the robe so the body tied to his back came up a little higher, to help with his center of gravity, and was relieved beyond words to finally see the top of the tower. There was a small sphere near the very top, where Sylver was assuming the remainder of the enemies were.

Along with the hostages…

Sylver reached the very top of the tower, and poked his head out for a moment. The barrage of magic passing through where his head was a tenth of a second ago, was fast and powerful enough to cause a ripple in the barrier surrounding the entire tower.

He saw that the small barrier surrounding the top wasn’t fully formed yet. They must have only started making it when the alarm was sounded. It was relatively small, so Sylver didn’t have a lot of time until it had fully formed and would require more mana than he had available to break apart. Not to mention the hostages inside might get killed by it, if it siphons too much mana out of them.

But on the bright side, they had moved all the people he was trying to save into one convenient spot. On the less bright side, that convenient spot was right inside their tiny barrier, almost in the very middle of it, near the source of both barriers.

Sylver continued to hold himself at the edge of the tower, looking down every now and then, and waited for the shades to finish scouting things out and reporting back to him.

One thing was for certain, the barrier was messing with their mana sense. They wouldn’t need to be standing in a circle around the device, if they could feel where he was. And if they knew he was just sitting in place, they could have just blasted him away with a few curved bolts. Instead, they were all just standing there. Waiting.

Sylver had a shade pop its head out for a second a short distance away from him, and did the same a little further. Both times the mages above blasted the area away with magic, reacting far too quickly.

Some sort of vision sharing skill? Maybe mind sharing?

Sylver let go of the wall and dropped down a few meters, just as the stone spike shattered into pieces, right where he was a second ago. Sylver saw the other golems similarly doing something with their hands, before another spike was sent flying at him.

Sylver dodged left, then right, then jumped upwards and nearly got hit by a mage standing at the edge of the tower, and had to go lower and lower to keep the stone spikes from impaling him, and the mage up above from hitting him with a firebolt.

Sylver got hit in the side, and only the robe reacting in time saved his torso from exploding and painting the tower bright red. After another 2 hits that were far too close, he made the shades appear and jump all over the place as if they were him, and went inside the tower, into the completely closed-off room. Right underneath the mages, the device, and the hostages.

Sylver sat in the middle of the room and watched the stone spikes pass through the windows, embedding themselves in the wooden ceiling above.

As far as defense systems go, this was pretty good. Unless you could teleport, you were stuck climbing the side of the tower, where the stone golems would get you. And even if you could teleport, then what? The barrier blocked any attempts to teleport inside, unless you were given permission.

So what was their end goal? If Sylver was a teleporter they would just have to wait for him to leave or hope he got killed by a stone spike. But with two barriers active, they would run out of mana eventually. Even with how many people they had being used as living batteries, there was still a hard limit to how much mana a human body could output in a day, regardless of capacity.

So then why take a defensive position at all?

Unless…

A shade passed through the thin gaps in the floor, and reported back what Sylver should have guessed.

The lead door at the very bottom was wide open. And all the goblin zombies were dead or too damaged to move.

They’re waiting for reinforcements.

Getting up from the floor, Sylver started to look for a way to end this quickly.

Who knows what the reinforcements could be? These guys were all 20 levels below him, and he was having a harder time with them, than he did with the real Otto and his group. If people even half as competent as them but at Sylver’s level came here, it would go from an uphill battle, to impossible.

Looking around the empty room, as stone spikes kept flying in through the windows and embedding themselves into the ceiling, Sylver hit himself on the forehead for not thinking of this sooner.

After who knows how long of facing people that always enchanted their castle or tower or cave to be near unbreakable, Sylver had all but forgotten that he could use the environment to his advantage like this.

Sending the shades out again to get a slightly better picture, he walked over to the correct area and made a mental calculation of how exactly this could work. There were 12 points of contact between the ceiling and the walls, via 6 giant intersecting wooden cross beams.

Jumping up to the ceiling Sylver placed his hand on the wooden beam and felt around using his mana for the enchantment inside. It didn’t feel like anything he knew, but most importantly it didn’t feel like a durability enchantment. The shape of the framework inside was quite strange too, Sylver’s best guess was that it was to make the wood fireproof, or something of that nature. Which was a good idea, considering this piece of wood was one of six holding up the most important part of the tower.

Sylver flexed his fingers for a while, as stone spikes started to hit already embedded stone spikes and sent pieces of broken stone flying all over the place. The stone spikes had started to pile up, and were already blocking most of the windows. Not to mention the spikes started to be fired consistently, and there was barely a breath in between the first hitting, and the one following it.

In the very middle of the ceiling, Sylver could just barely see the very bottom of the barrier poking out of the wooden floor/ceiling, and considered seeing if he could mess with it from here, before deciding against it and pulling his mask off.

Holding the dead body in front of him, Sylver very gently removed its arms and legs using the robe, and held them up in front of himself. After gluing the torso to the wall behind him, Sylver very gently allowed dark smoke to escape out of his mouth, and the limbs in front of him began to liquify.

As the smoke reached the bones flakes of black started to peel off and float upwards into the ceiling. In only a few seconds Sylver had a cloud of smoke in a pool above his head, and with a slow and careful gesture, the smoke spread out and made its way towards all 12 points of contact. Sylver put his mask back on, and filled it up with air just to be safe. He only had 220MP left at the moment.

It covered the wooden beams and seeped inside of them, disappearing completely in less than a minute’s time. Throughout all this, the stone spikes never once stopped firing and Sylver gave the small stone golems that were slowly forming out of the stone rubble, barely a second’s thought as he focused on making sure everything was happening in sync.

There was a very faint creak in the beam directly opposite the one Sylver was hiding under, followed by the marked corpse disappearing and reappearing at such a rapid pace that Sylver could feel the heat coming off it, even through his robe.

The wooden ceiling was too thick for Sylver to hear what they were saying, but he was almost certain they knew what was happening. The limbless corpse fell down from the wall and phased partially into the floor due to bad timing. It immediately exploded and splattered Sylver, and the newly appeared mages, in blood and bone fragments.

Sylver tried to throw a dart at the mage closest to him, but he was gone before the robe even had time to let go of it.

All the others had also disappeared at this point, but they reappeared the very next moment, 3 mages firing bolts of lightning at Sylver, and 4 others touching the wooden beams and freezing them solid.

[??? (Mage) Defeated!]

[Human (Mage) Defeated!]

[Human (Mage) Defeated!]

Sylver’s shades got the three mages that were supposed to distract him, as he almost fell straight down at the one closest to him, and missed ever so slightly, shoving his fingers into the man’s mouth and breaking his jaw when he closed his mana enhanced hand. The amount of mana he got from the man was barely noticeable, only bumping his MP up to 340, but it did heal up the Sylver’s broken rib, and possibly pierced liver.

The 4 mages that were in the middle of freezing the beams disappeared before Sylver’s shades could get them, and the half-formed ice fell down onto the floor, smashing apart.

The robe stretched out and grabbed the body closest to Sylver and ripped the large woman’s robe apart, as Sylver hastily etched the framework into her back. The corpse disappeared out of Sylver’s grasp the moment the framework had been completed. It fell through Sylver’s hands, and thankfully landed slowly enough that it stayed out of the floor disappearing and reappearing at a sickening pace.

Sylver felt, more than heard, the wooden beams further weakening and jumped back up into his spot, waiting.

There was a very loud crack, as the rotten wood fell down to the floor, followed by dull thudding as the newly created small stone golems tried to throw spikes at Sylver, but hit his illusion instead.

The anti-teleportation corpse disappeared completely for some reason, and Sylver could feel them mages above syncing up their magic. As always, it only took a few seconds to figure out the trick with the body.

As if on cue, they all appeared in the corner opposite Sylver’s, but strangely no one fired a spell.

“Let’s negotiate!” the mage standing at the very front shouted, holding both of his hands in the air, as did the mages behind him. He had a short white beard, and a bright yellow stone in place of his left eye.

“Too late,” Sylver said calmly, his voice lowered by a few octaves just to further play on their fear. He was barely visible with how dark the room had gotten from the stone spikes plugging up the only sources of light. With his white mask and completely black robe, it wasn’t hard to see why the weaker ones looked so scared.

“Look, how about-” the mage with the yellow eye disappeared before Fen finished materializing, and Sylver pulled him back inside his shadow. All the others had also teleported away, before the shades even managed to get into their shadows.

10 seconds of complete and utter silence passed, before the whole thing came crashing down.

Sylver launched his body towards the barrier, and the mages who had been thrown out of it due to the floor dropping out from under them. Sylver killed 4 in a single wave of his hand, sending a volley of darts at them, another 2 were killed by shades slashing them through the throat, and the last one was caught by Sylver himself. This mage still had his foot inside the barrier, and hadn’t passed all the way through yet.

[Human (Mage) Defeated!]

[Human (Mage) Defeated!]

...

Sylver grabbed the man by the shoulders, as the robe twisted his neck, and forced the man forwards, into the barrier. The mage’s body passed through without issue, with Sylver’s hand embedded into the man's back to the left of his spine, passing through inside the barrier along with him.

Shoving his hand deeper into the open wound, Sylver felt his fingers being repelled by the barrier, as he applied his magic to the man’s body and forced his hand through. The man’s body was torn into two, down the middle, as Sylver continued to move forward, through the cloud of blood and flesh, and fell down to the floor, rolling once before getting back up on his feet.

Standing inside their tiny barrier, Sylver looked up at the terrified faces, as the blood slid down his sleek black robe.

Up close, even Sylver had to admire the device. It was a beautiful piece of yellow quartz, cut and polished to perfection, before being embedded with gold and platinum, and placed into a lead-coated iron encasing.

“If you promise to spare my men, you can have it.” The mage with the yellow eye said. If nothing else, Sylver had to respect the conviction in his tone.

“I already have it.” Sylver countered with a faint frown, placing his hand onto the thing. As nice as it looked, he had zero idea how it worked. The framework was completely foreign to him, and Sylver couldn’t even begin to guess how to turn it on.

But he knew how to turn it off though.

Bringing his fist down, Sylver’s hand was caught by the mage with the yellow eye, whose arms shook with the effort. Sylver’s other hand immediately went for the man's head, as the man somehow managed to teleport to the other side, while not letting go of Sylver’s hand for even a moment.

Through some amazing amount of skill and luck, the yellow-eyed man proceeded to teleport left and right of Sylver’s hand, never once stopping long enough to get caught by Sylver’s other hand.

The other mage’s eyes were glued to the scene, not a single one daring to so much to breathe, lest they tip over the delicate balance their leader had managed to achieve.

The yellowed eyed man brought his other hand up to Sylver’s face, just as Sylver caught him by the neck. Almost in perfect sync, the two blasted each other with their magic, a stream of fire spreading out on Sylver’s mask, as dark red tendrils traveled up the yellow-eyed man’s neck and face.

[??? (Mage) Defeated!]

Sylver’s hand broke through the man’s dried up and brittle neck, and he remained where he was, standing in shock. He touched his mask, and apart from a tiny amount of soot, it was perfectly fine.

Confused by the lack of damage, Sylver just barely reacted to the lightning bolt, that sizzled into nothingness within the confines of his robe.

“Is that the best you can do?” Sylver asked, with genuine curiosity.

A small beam of frost came out of the hand of another mage, that froze a small fragment of the robe solid, before it shook itself free and didn’t even have a wet patch to show for it.

Extending his own hand forwards, darts shot out of Sylver’s sleeve, impaling more than half of the trapped mages, and bouncing off the barrier behind them where they missed.

The remaining half went down to the floor as the shades tightened the garrottes around their necks, and carefully laid them down.

*

*

*

As Sylver flew away on Will, a few things were going through his head.

The first was if it was worth the effort coming back for the lead door. The issue of transporting it aside, it was more lead than Sylver could ever need. And while lead was ridiculously expensive, he didn’t need it in such a large quantity or purity. And the risk of accidentally touching it, or having it touch Will mid-flight, wasn’t worth it.

So in the end he decided to just forget about it.

The second was why there wasn’t so much as a single gold coin in the entire tower. Even the hidden room at the very bottom only had a large chest full of encrypted documents. Sylver took it with him just to be safe, and placed it next to the bag full of yellow quartz, gold, platinum, and all the slightly enchanted jewelry his shades had gathered from the dead bodies.

He was planning on giving the documents to Wuss and giving the quartz and metal to Lola. To fashion a permanent anti teleportation device for him. Because as he found out from the 3 mages his shades had merely knocked out, teleportation was the first fucking skill a lot of classes gained.

Especially anything in the mage category. So until Sylver had enough mana to dimensionally lock down an area by himself, he would be using whatever Lola could manage to make for him. A catch-all enchantment wouldn’t be anywhere near as powerful as any of the personalized ones Sylver made out of dead bodies, but he only needed a moment anyway.

You stop someone from teleporting for even a moment, and it’s the same thing as getting your opponent to slip on some ice. The mistake itself wasn’t all that bad, but the confusion and indecisiveness that arises from breaking someone's stance like that, was all Sylver needed.

And the last thing going through Sylver’s head was if it would be a good idea to come back here to see what the reinforcements were. The stone golems had all shut down the moment the quartz device was broken, along with both of the barriers.

He still needed to bring the women he had rescued back to Whiskers, and his remaining two areas were almost in the exact opposite directions.

Sating his curiosity aside, what would be the point? If they are high-level enemies, warned and prepared for him he’s fucked. And if they are low level, they aren’t worth the effort.

As Sylver continued to supply Will with more mana to keep the shade in the air, he added getting more airborne shades under his control to his to-do list.

Sylver had held off on adding anyone to his army until he truly felt they would be a good fit, and now regretted holding that mindset. Tom was added because Sylver didn’t feel safe being all alone. Fen impressed him by managing to draw blood and think on his feet. And the others were chosen based on the fact that all that empty room inside his shadow felt like he was wearing loose-fitting shoes.

And if he knew he would be killing off the Black Mane entirely, he would have taken a few corpses with him from the start. Not to mention, he was no longer certain they had mages who could forensically analyze dead bodies to the degree Sylver was used to. Sylver himself used to be able to tell you everything you could ever want to know about how a person died, from a drop of their blood.

If he had a full corpse to work with, he could make it tell you how it had been killed, and what it had for its last meal.

But the more he learned about this side of the world, and its magic, the stranger it all became. It wasn’t that it was of a lower level than Sylver’s, but it was different, and Sylver still didn’t quite understand why that was. If anything this side should be even more advanced than his was, given the slightly higher ambient mana quantity.

They had more monsters, more magical resources, and even the percentage of the population who could use magic was higher. By all rights, they should be leagues ahead of the Ibis. That’s even without taking into account the time between Sylver dying and waking up.

And the system. This weird floating box system, overlayed on top of reality. The whole thing felt-

Rubbing his hand against the pounding headache, Sylver walked back inside the blacked-out sphere to see if anyone had changed their minds.

*

*

*

“Well of course. Everything always comes at a price. And with a double specialization, I’m surprised they could so much as give you a bruise. Why did you think they had stone golems all over the place, do you have any idea how expensive those are?” Whiskers asked, moving out of the way so Reg could pass without stepping on him.

“Why was it so well defended anyway? I’m struggling to see the purpose of the whole thing. It’s just a giant empty tower. With what could barely be described as a skeleton crew.” Sylver said, kicking his feet up onto the table and holding his hands over his slightly overfilled stomach.

“Skeleton crew. Almost 50 mages are a skeleton crew to you. I’m starting to get what Wuss was complaining about. I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard him swear that much. As for the tower’s purpose. Imagine you’re the head of a giant crime organization. You suddenly find yourself under attack from all directions, hideouts being wiped out left and right, and your territory shrinking by the hour. What do you do?” Whiskers asked, jumping up onto the table and sitting down to be on Sylver’s eye level.

“Me personally? Counterattack. And make sure whoever is attacking me is dead before they get a proper foothold in my territory. The best defense is a good offense,” Sylver answered, taking another drink of mead.

“Sure. If you had the numbers, the strength, and the resources. What about if you suddenly found yourself grossly underfunded, 2 hideouts that were vital in moving resources around destroyed, and even if you wanted to get them working again, people were scared shitless of going there, lest they get attacked by whoever killed the previous members?” Whiskers asked.

“I actually do have an answer for that, but I’m assuming the end goal of this hypothetical is for me to say ‘hunker down and wait the enemy out.’ Right?” Sylver asked.

“Essentially. Open war is expensive. Even for the Cord, there is a point where they will just stop, if the costs outweigh the benefit. And the war isn’t over until Faun is dead. Not just Faun, but everyone down 4 rungs from him. If Faun is the head, his consiglieres and caporegimes are the flesh and bones of the whole thing. And I’m sure I don’t need to explain to a necromancer, why it’s important to kill the whole thing if you want it to stay dead.” Whiskers explained, scratching his ear on Sylver’s shoe.

“It’s always such a pleasure to see someone who understands the importance of doing something right the first time.”

“There will of course be a few that are too valuable to kill, but the Cord knows how to handle those kinds of people. Not to mention no one really knows what’s going on, or how this whole thing started. So even if someone out there did want to get revenge for their fallen comrades, they wouldn’t even know who to go after. I’m not even sure the Cord knows why exactly everything has gone to shit with the Black Mane” Whiskers said, yawning for a few seconds.

“It’s been what? Barely a week since I started?”

“5 days to be exact. But that’s not taking into account the months spent preparing for this. You didn’t actually start the war, so much as you accelerated it. Your attack acted as a catalyst, more than anything. When Thomas told us what you were planning… Kitty actually sent people after you to help, but you were done and gone, long before they even finished gearing up.” Whiskers said.

A cat with brown fur appeared out of nowhere and whispered something into Whiskers’ ear, before disappearing again.

“I need to go, but one last thing. You need to clear out the mountain bases as soon as possible. If the Black Mane is off balance right now, removing those two will be the same as breaking their legs out from under them. We’re almost done.” Whiskers said.

“I’ll get right on it,” Sylver answered, as the black cat jumped off the table and disappeared, and Sylver pinched the bridge of his nose before donning his mask.

Almost done.

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KingKennit

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