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Ch044-The Long And Short

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[Draining Touch (II) Proficiency increased to 14%!]

[Optical Illusion (II) Proficiency increased to 9%!]

Sylver pulled the dagger out of his stomach, and used the dagger’s owner’s own health to heal the wound. Spitting out the foamy blood in his mouth from his temporarily opened stomach, Sylver wiped it off with his sleeve and looked around.

The scene reminded him of one of his earliest fuckups. He went along with Nyx to find a thieving mage from Ibis, and got separated. One thing led to another, and suddenly Sylver was fighting for his very life, outnumbered 200 to 1. Back then he lost and got decapitated. And had his staff taken from him. And they even went the extra step and burned his body, and buried the ashes.

Back then Sylver had lost because he underestimated much damage sheer numbers could do. One on one, he never would have lost. Even 10 on 1 he would have won. But all it took was a lucky shot from number 84 causing him to stagger, and his head was very suddenly separated from his body.

He annihilated them completely, after he came back. But looking down at the giant pile of bodies around him, Sylver was disappointed he didn’t get anywhere near the same feeling of satisfaction as he had back then. Which was understandable, considering this wasn’t anywhere near as personal as that fight was. This was just a means to an end.

He didn’t make the same mistake as he had back then. Not to mention he had his shades with him, and even though he had significantly less mana than he had back then, he knew how to use what little he had to great effect. And he was no longer concerned with fighting ‘fair’ or being ‘sporting’ about it.

Sylver walked over to the corner of the room, and slumped down into one of the few remaining chairs. There were a lot more women and children here than he was expecting, and strangely enough even some men. About half just ran away the moment he had freed them. Either they had somewhere to go, or were too terrified of Sylver to hear him out. In short, they weren’t his concern anymore. He was fairly certain there was at least 1 village nearby, so it wasn’t like he was leaving them to die.

The ones that remained were a mixed bunch. A couple of dwarven sisters, along with a male dwarf child, 3 male elves, a blinded half-elf who was missing both of her ears, 9 elf women, 11 human women, and a few others that Sylver didn’t take the time to count yet.

Sylver found that one of the male elves was a healer, and asked him to make sure everyone was stable enough to travel. They were all currently sitting in what used to be the dining area, while Sylver waited for his shades to finish going through the bodies and getting them into correct positions.

Sitting alone in the barracks Sylver pulled the mask to the side, had all the torches in the room snuffed out, and very slowly let black and yellow smoke start to gather on the floor and around the dead bodies.

*

*

*

[Shade (Petty)] Raised!]

[Raise Shade (II) Proficiency increased to 39%!]

As the last shade rose up from the ground, Sylver ordered it to line up with the others and got up from his seat. In front of him stood an army of darkness, with bright yellow cracks along with their clothing and cracked up bodies, with bored looking glowing yellow eyes. From the fact that most of them were still shorter than he was, they all looked like a bunch of fireflies to him. When he turned off his night vision that is.

“Alright. Gear up as much as you can. Reg, any problems?” Sylver asked, getting a negative from the shade.

The total number of shades currently under Sylver’s control was 105. Fen, Dai and Sho, each had 20 shades under their command. And Reg had 20 rogue/assassin types, and 20 archers under his. This was more for convenience than anything else, due to the fact that Reg’s soldiers would not be getting anything too complicated to do, save for kill that target, or shoot that target.

The shades stripped the bodies that couldn’t be converted down to nothing, and swapped armor until everyone had a complete set, and took up the same weapons their leaders used. Sylver walked among them, poking them in the back and head, hitting a few harder than the others, to make sure they were fully formed. Some moved stiffly and with resistance, and others were almost as fluid and alive looking as Fen.

These were adequate. Not great, not terrible, good enough for who and what Sylver currently was, and for what he was intending on using them for. And it only took him a few hours, with his current mana regeneration. The skill had said shades below his level would be raised for free, but strangely enough he still had to fill them up with mana before they converted fully. Another thing to look into later.

The bodies that were either too badly damaged, didn’t hold a soul, or Sylver didn’t like the feel and look of them, were carefully tossed into a pile in the opposite corner. If he wasn’t pressed for time, Sylver would have done the polite thing and burned them, so the people from the Cord who came to take this hideout over, didn’t have it smelling of carrion.

But the people who would soon be working for Lola were ready to leave, and understandably anxious to get out of here as soon as possible.

*

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[Human (Warrior) Defeated!]

[Draining Touch (II) Proficiency increased to 20%!]

[Optical Illusion (II) Proficiency increased to 15%!]

[Raise Zombie (II) Proficiency increased to 44%!]

Sylver had gone into the last hideout with high expectations and with a giant army behind him.

He was overprepared.

Way over-prepared. Between the bright flash of light that blinded everyone, the loud clap that put everyone into a state of deafened shock, and the fact that everyone got at least 2 shades trying to kill them, Sylver barely did anything.

The people here were smart enough to barricade themselves deeper inside. But all that did was give Sylver time to raise all the people he had killed as zombies, and just overwhelm them with sheer numbers when he finally broke through the door.

They even tried to use the captives here as hostages, but because everyone who could sense mana was the first to die, all they did was hold a dagger to the throat of Sylver’s shades, covered in an illusion and pretending to be a hostage.

As far as fights went, this was boring. And Sylver didn’t even get any experience from killing people that were so much lower-leveled than he was. The system didn’t even bother telling him they were dead, that’s how easy this fight was.

And even worse, the prisoners here all had places to go. The human ones at least, the elves were honored to work for a high elf, and went along with Sylver.

But this was it. He was done. Assuming the Cord handled its side properly, the Black Mane was no more. Sylver would never need to worry about them, ever again.

*

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*

“You forget that these aren’t countries or kingdoms. These are crime organizations. They can’t survive on loyalty and faith alone, you cripple their income, cripple their infrastructure, cripple their leaders, and they’re done. And I mean this in the most polite and positive way possible, you were a vital but a small part of it. Your part may be over, but the Cord still has a lot of work to do. Thomas was supposed to talk to his superiors before handing you any kind of information, but he took the initiative, and a risk, and it paid off. He’s been promoted, and moved to Arda for the foreseeable future as a result.” Whiskers said, licking his paw and rubbing his ear stub.

“Into Lola’s workshop, I’m assuming?” Sylver asked, taking another plate full of stew.

“After seeing the kind of shit you wanted Wuss to procure for you, no. His home will be as far away from there as possible. But possibly in Lola’s home. With his position and all.” Whiskers said.

“And you?”

“What about me?”

“Where are you going to go?”

“Wherever Yeva and her husband go. Other than the odd monster attack, and overly confident bandit, this has been the most relaxing bodyguarding assignment I’ve ever had. And I know it’s hard for you to tell, but I’m old. And this is as close to retirement as I’m willing to go. I don’t like feeling useless, you know?” Whiskers said.

“I know exactly what you mean. Speaking of... How is she?” Sylver asked, sitting up straight.

“It depends on how you look at it. Physically she is perfectly fine. No harm has come to her. She was at the healer’s yesterday, and I’ve been told everything is in perfect order. But… She’s been crying a lot lately. I won't pry into your business, or whatever deal it is you’ve made with her, but can you talk to her? The stress isn’t good for her.” Whiskers asked, his eyes widening as he spoke.

“Or for the child…” Sylver finished for him. It was strange to see Whiskers like this, his eyes as big and adorable as kittens. It didn’t really work all that well with his emancipated and feral look, but Sylver gave him points for effort.

Sylver thought about it for a few seconds. And found that he didn’t want to. In Yeva’s eyes, until he came back with Ciege he was just a thief. An imposter, the one who had taken Ciege away from her. And he hadn’t been in Ciege’s body long enough for the face to change yet. He’d lost weight from his erratic eating and sleeping schedule, and all the damage that had been done and repaired, but even Sylver still saw Ciege when he looked in the mirror.

And whatever stress Yeva may be experiencing right now, was almost certainly less than if Sylver showed up, showed his face to her, and then had to leave to come back with Ciege at a later date. It would be better if he showed up, with Ciege already awake and alive. And he still needed to go get the ingredients, and then find a good spot to actually perform the ritual.

“It would do more harm than good if I were to talk to her right now. Continue to keep her safe, and let me worry about the rest. Have there been any issues with the people I brought in?” Sylver asked, crossing his arms and changing the subject.

“A number have taken up your offer of taking 5 gold and leaving. A little under 30. Mostly people from the last two groups. The elves and dwarves have already started asking about the workshop, the dwarves, in particular, trying to find out what kind of work they’ll be doing, but none have asked to leave. What else… Everything has been kind of calm actually. The innkeeper has been both friendly and cooperative, and other than some scarring and malnourishment everyone is in perfect health. Relatively speaking.” Whiskers reported.

“Good. I’m going to be gone for a while, get everyone ready to move but don’t rush anything or anyone. Yeva is going to stay here for a while longer. But she’ll be going to Arda in a few weeks too. Assuming everything turns out fine.” Sylver said, getting off the chair and putting his mask back on.

*

*

*

Sylver was starting to wonder if the guard ever took a day of rest, as every single time he came to Arda, it was always the exact same guard. If it weren’t for the man’s professional, and mildly unfriendly attitude, Sylver would have invited him out to drink together.

Not a whole lot had changed in the week or so that Sylver was gone. Granted when he last came to Arda he went directly to Salgok’s, got drunk to the point of nearly blacking out, went to see Leke, and then left early in the morning to start a war with a criminal organization. So it wasn’t like he had seen enough of the city to even be able to tell if anything major had changed.

“There’s good news and bad news,” Ron said, as Sylver walked inside.

Sylver spent a few seconds just silently pulling his old clothing out of his bag, and replacing it with fresh identical shirts and pants from his wardrobe. As much as the robe protected him from being splattered with blood and other fluids, it couldn’t protect him from sweat. Or his own blood for that matter.

He made a mental note to have Lola make him some self-cleaning clothing.

“Bad news first,” Sylver said after a short sigh.

“Oh… Alright... The temple of Ra has been looking for you. Just to talk, they said, but I would advise against it. In fact, I highly recommend getting into the habit of not being in an area without at least a couple of guards within sight.” Ron said, gesturing with his hand towards the pile of worn clothing on Sylver’s bed, causing it to disappear.

“It’s fine. I’ll only get attacked once, at best. They’ll back off after that.” Sylver answered, calling Tom out to help him close the bag properly.

“The local high priest is level 102. All the other priests are in the 80 to 90 area. But they usually send apprentices, since the experience they get from killing their natural enemy is absolutely insane. Not to mention with their bonuses against undead, I’ve heard of certain apprentices defeating things 40 levels higher than themselves.” Ron explained, opening the wall with the hidden chest up for Sylver.

“Great. So assuming the news is in equal proportion, you’re about to tell me there’s a group of traveling succubi who need someone to act as a volunteer for a competition of some sort. And it just so happens, I’m the only person in the whole city who fits their criteria.” Sylver said, with a slight grin.

The chest inside was absolutely overfilled with gold. All neatly stacked, shiny and glittering, and with a small notebook on top of it all. Taking it out of the chest Sylver looked through the notes in it, and didn’t see any mistakes. His rent and workshop costs were covered, Shera was about halfway done with taking out his 15,000, Salgok was already paying back a small portion of Sylver’s loan, everything added up.

“You say that in jest, but I’ve seen that exact thing happen once. But sadly, no. And I quite honestly haven’t seen anyone pureblooded enough to be called a succubus in years. I think they all moved south.” Ron explained, as Sylver scooped out gold and placed it into a smaller chest.

“I was joking. This isn’t my first time being targeted by self-righteous priests. I know what I’m doing. It’s not as bad of news as you think it is. What’s the good news?” Sylver asked, locking up the chest and sealing it further with magic.

“They found a crypt a few days of travel from here. And they’re looking for people with immunity to darkness to help explore it. It’s filled to the brim with undead and other dark type monsters. And possibly treasure.” Ron said, closing up the wall with the hidden chest.

“That’s almost as good as the succubus contest would be. When do they leave? What’s the pay like?” Sylver asked, bringing the robe to life for a moment to shift the bags underneath it. Sylver never really turned it all the way off, but when he was inside the city he allowed the outer part to diffuse, so it looked like a normal robe. Otherwise, his daggers and darts made too much noise when he walked.

“Tomorrow. And I’m not sure about the pay, but they usually find artifacts inside, and split them up evenly. It's a bigger risk than just going monster hunting in the caverns below, but the rewards can be astronomical. Half the known phantasmal level weapons were found inside crypts like these. And with the lowest level enemies being in the 50s area, it looks like it could be good.” Ron said, pulling a map out of nowhere and pointing with his finger towards the area in question.

“I’ll keep it in mind, but I’m a little busy at the moment, so it’s a pass for now. But thank you for letting me know.” Sylver said, as he opened the door leading directly to his workshop.

In a neat pile off in the corner lay 5 dead bodies. Sylver’s magic, and Ron’s dark miasma, had kept them in pristine condition. Even their eyes were still relatively clear, only a tiny bit of discoloration.

With a snap of his fingers, Tom appeared along with Reg’s assassins, and got to work preparing the workshop for Sylver. Meanwhile, Sylver very carefully opened up the storage altar and removed the sealed chest sitting inside of it.

“Do you mind throwing the bodies out for me? I no longer need them.” Sylver said, getting the shades to move them around to be as compact as possible, and then wrapping them up together for easier transport.

“What did you want them for anyway?” Ron asked, waving his hand over the wrapped-up bundle of corpses and causing them to disappear.

“I was planning on having them work as craftsmen for me, but I got a good deal with a high elf woman who will be moving in here soon,” Sylver answered, removing all the contents of the chest outside and checking to see if anything had gone bad.

“I heard about that. Is it the same thing with Salgok or?”

“Kind of. But I need to maintain a little space between her and myself for the time being. Salgok is one thing, but she will be on a level where certain groups and people would see me as leverage to be used against her. And until I’m strong enough that I stop being the weakest link in the whole thing, I can’t associate with her directly. While we’re at it… How much do you know?” Sylver asked, turning around and facing the walking armor.

“How much do I know? About what? Naut? The Cats? The Cord? That you helped wipe out the Black Mane? You pretending to be Mort De’Leon? Which part are you asking about specifically?” Ron asked, very likely rolling his eyes given his body language.

“You know what? I changed my mind. I don’t want to know. I’m just going to continue to pretend you’re Ron the friendly innkeeper. There’s already too many people in my life who are far more than they appear, so I would like for at least one to continue being what he appears to be. Whatever it is, I don’t want to know.” Sylver said, holding up a hand towards Ron’s face.

“Are you sure? You’re already neck-deep in the whole thing, if I told you about-”

“I am knee-deep, thank you very much. And I refuse to go an inch deeper! I am Sylver Sezari, necromancer, and adventurer extraordinaire. That is all I am, and all I want to be. At least for the foreseeable future,” Sylver said, as Ron started to laugh.

“Adventurer extraordinaire. When was the last time you went on a quest?” Ron asked, covering his mouth to muffle the laughter.

“My last quest… The escort quest with the Pixies? Fuck… Have I really only been on 1 real quest? No wait, I cleared out giants… So 2 quests...”

“And you’re already an E rank. Don’t beat yourself up about it, I’m sure whatever it is you were doing could quite easily fall within a very loose definition of a quest. Quest just means trying to find something. Did you find what you were looking for?” Ron asked, getting a completely blank stare from Sylver.

“No... Not the one thing I wanted to find. But if it’s really out there, I’ll find it eventually.” Sylver said with a very faint scowl.

*

Sylver felt a little bad about this, but he avoided going to see Salgok. Mostly because he didn’t really have a reason to see him, save to say hello and tell the dwarf he was still alive. But also because he knew that he would somehow end up with a drink in his hand, and right now Sylver didn’t have the time for that.

So after he had gotten everything he needed, he went up to the adventurers guild. And as luck would have it Shera was working tonight.

“Do you have some sort of grudge against bandits or-”

“Personal reasons. And I would really prefer it if you didn't question me about this. I’ll explain everything later, if you’re really interested, but right now I just need the location of some bod-bandits to clear.” Sylver interrupted, spinning the piece of paper on the table as he talked, almost sheepishly not looking Shera in the eye.

Shera stood quietly for a while, and huffed twice before sighing.

“Fine. I can’t really stop you. 1 F rank bandit clearing quest accepted. But be careful. They might be level 20, but there’s 16 of them. If it weren’t for the fact that they don’t have any mages in their ranks, this would have been an E rank quest at a minimum.” Shera said, pulling Sylver down by the chain holding his adventurer’s tag, and causing it to turn green as it touched the piece of paper.

“I’ll be sure to handle this with the carefulness and preparedness it deserves,” Sylver said, with what he had hoped was a confident smile, but in hindsight may have appeared as an overly arrogant one instead.

Sylver stood back to his full height, hid the adventurers tag back underneath his shirt and robe, and walked away as the woman glared daggers into the back of his head.

*

*

*

“All alone? You think we’re scared of you? My name is Raschel Yevesamani! My men and I have-”

Sylver didn’t stop walking for even a moment as the bandit leader had introduced himself. He didn’t even look up at him, as both Reg’s team appeared behind every single bandit, and very gently removed their weapons from their hands, and made sure the garrots didn’t break their windpipes.

The 40 or so shades very quickly tied the various bandits up and picked them up over their shoulders and all moved into one area for Sylver to examine them. A few were hidden up in trees, a few were prowling behind Sylver somewhere, but a majority were standing beside their leader doing their best to look fierce and intimidating.

It perplexed Sylver to no end that people like this were around. Just wandering inside the forest, waiting for unsuspecting victims. One of them might have even known Tom, this wasn’t that far away from Yeva’s village.

But Sylver had to admit, this was beyond convenient. All the human sacrifices he could ever want, just one trip into the forest away. Granted bandits were never this weak when Sylver back when was an apprentice, but this is still so much easier than kidnapping innocent people and then having to fight off knights and other local law enforcers later.

If you just killed the ‘bad’ people, everyone mostly left you alone. It was absurd how many perfectly good and intelligent mages couldn't think a few steps ahead and see that the convenience of kidnapping an entire village, wasn’t worth it in the long run. Sure it was a little hard to have to fight them, but it wasn’t that hard.

These were ideal subjects. No one will miss them if they are gone, there’s no one to come after him for killing them, and Sylver even hypothetically saved a few people from being harmed by them. It’s a win-win, for everybody involved.

Not counting the bandits themselves of course. To them, Sylver, who didn’t even have the decency to introduce himself before knocking them out, or even look at them as they lost consciousness, was the epitome of ‘evil’ in their slightly bulging eyes.

Their hideout turned out to be an honest to god treehouse. Like the kind certain elf tribes lived in, but nowhere near as large or impressive. It was little more than a bunch of wooden boards held up by a large tree. There were some sleeping bags and a small campfire to cook over, and that was it. They carried all their weapons on them and didn’t even have any gold on them, just silver, copper, and a few trinkets.

But in a surprising twist of fate, there were 2 men with a little elf blood in them. Which was very lucky on Sylver’s part, because he was initially planning to go hit another bandit hideout, to find one.

It put him in a good mood, that all 16 were in near perfect physical condition too. They were missing some fingers, they all seemed to be avid smokers, but other than that, they were perfect.

And 16 on top of all that, almost exactly twice what he needed.

Sylver mixed up a sedative from the supplies Tera had given him, and gave everyone enough to keep them out of it for weeks. It may have been overkill considering he only needed them for about a day or two, but the ingredients didn’t have a very long shelf life, so Sylver might as well use it all now. Plus it would help with dulling Ciege’s and Lola’s pain once they were back in their bodies.

Flying away on Will, Sylver absentmindedly tapped his tag on the passed out bodies and confirmed that his quest was complete.

*

*

*

There was a certain irony to it.

The cave in which Sylver was born, and Ciege had died, would now be the place Ciege would be resurrected.

Or reborn, depending on how exactly you chose to look at it.

It was the perfect spot. Secluded, close enough that there were no monsters around, and already tainted with death energy for Sylver to use.

Cleaning the whole thing out took a couple of hours. The shades got rid of the disgusting sludgy dirt, scrubbed the walls and ceiling clean from blood and mold, tossed the dead and rotten goblin bodies into a fire, built a temporary floor out of some wooden boards from dead trees they found, and destroyed and got rid of the alter the goblin shaman was using.

Sylver helped the shades move 8 large stones inside of the cave, and gave everyone more work to do, while he started carving out the framework.

The ritual he was using normally required a giant sheet of pure platinum, encrusted with diamonds, sapphires, and emerald at the edges, slathered a special liquid that was as close to liquid mana as anything could be, and done inside a completely sealed off space, free from outside magical interference. Which if he had enough time to gather, he would have preferred to have.

But he couldn’t do it in Ron’s workshop since there was too much dark energy, and because of Yeva’s pregnancy, he was pressed for time.

So instead, Sylver was using a bunch of large rocks, melted gold coins, and the bare minimum amount of rare metals, crystals, and powders required for this. But all the fancy components were there to help with controlling the spell, more than actually casting it. The better the tools and ingredients, the more errors the caster could make and still end up with an acceptably cast spell.

There was also the fact that the better the ingredients, the lower the cost of casting, which was the main reason Sylver had decided on getting these specific ingredients, and in these specific quantities. They functioned a lot like catalysts in that regard. There was some debate on whether this theory was true, given how some spells couldn’t be cast without the required components, but Sylver personally believed that the catalyst rule remained true, and those weren’t exceptions to the rule.

While it was impossible to prove, Sylver believed that since some spell costs reduced drastically in the presence of the proper components, it was not out of the question to think that it wasn’t that certain spells couldn’t be cast because they were missing components, but more so that their costs without components were just unreachable.

The ritual had 3 parts to it. The first part was creating the body moulds. Ideally he would have a piece of the original body to build out on, but this wasn’t an option right now.

For Ciege it was due to the fact that Sylver had altered the body too much for it to be called Ciege. Not just physically or aesthetically, but the mana channels have been moved around enough that Ciege wouldn’t be able to move anything, if he were to be given a perfect copy of Sylver’s body. And for Lola it was because even though he had hoped there was at least a drop of dried blood on her grimoire, he couldn’t find anything to use as a base for her body.

So they would both be getting a giant balloon full of absolutely everything they could ever need to make a body, and then Sylver would use their own souls to make sure both were built to their liking. Sylver would of course be doing a majority of the work, but there were a giant amount of tiny details that he would otherwise be unaware of, that will require their own personal touch.

The souls would be stretching out of their shells, reaching for what they knew and expected, and Sylver would use that to create what they were hoping to see. Once he had a few key pieces finished, the rest could be done relatively quickly.

The second part of the ritual would be where things could go wrong. Souls were finicky. And tricky to work with. If Ciege and Lola had actually died, really died, it would have been simple. Instead, they were both displaced. Ciege by Sylver, and Lola by the cat killing sorcerer, or whoever it was that was responsible for her soul ending up where it did.

In short, neither were truly dead. Which was good since Sylver wouldn’t be needing to revive them. Because right now even if he had every single tool and component he needed, his body wouldn’t be able to handle the amount of mana required to revive a soul.

But it was bad in the sense that he had to be gentle with them, in a way he wasn’t all that used to. He’d worked with still-living souls before, but they were all at least at a level where he couldn’t really harm them if he tried, let alone by accident.

With Ciege and the weakened Lola, he required the kind of gentleness that trying to pick up a grape using two sledgehammers would need.

And the third part would be making sure their souls didn’t reject the bodies. Which was the somewhat second pivotal part of the ritual. They would either fit perfectly, or they get flat out rejected and Lola’s soul would go back to Sylver’s and he would try again later, and Ciege’s would disappear permanently to never return.

Even worse, he had to do both at the same time. Because this ritual required interaction with his soul, he didn’t know if he would be able to handle opening and closing it twice. So the plan was to do it once, do both at the same time, and do them both perfectly.

Otherwise, it might take at least another year before Sylver could try again. By which point Ciege would be long and gone.

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KingKennit

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