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Ch053-Miracle Worker

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“I missed it?” Lola asked, as she stepped through the portal and handed Sylver the packages.

“Don’t beat yourself up over it, I missed it too. I was cleaning up the ritual site because I thought ‘why not, it’s not like she’ll give birth in the time it would take for me to fly back’ and yet…” Sylver explained, putting the boxes down and separating them by their wrapping color.

“How? I thought it usually took hours upon hours, even under the best conditions. I understand human women are a little better suited to it, but it barely took an hour to walk from the cave to the village.” Lola asked, handing Sylver the last of the packages and stepping through completely allowing the portal to close.

“The healer explained that she has tons of perks and traits related to helping women give birth. Look, the important thing is everyone is safe and sound, and they named the baby Benjamin,” Sylver said, gently moving the packages around until they were in two separate piles.

“Like the alchemy hero?” Lola asked, the same question Sylver had when he first heard the name.

“Yes. Except they didn’t have a hero named Benjamin here. It’s also the name Yeva picked out back when she thought Ciege was gone for good, and since Ciege didn’t have an issue with it, they decided to keep it.” Sylver explained, walking to the pile that belonged to him and starting to open it.

“Isn’t it bad luck to name a child this early?”

“Only if you think there’s a chance it will die soon. Or if you’re uncertain of its future and don’t want to get too attached. It’s where the term ‘too poor for a name’ comes from. Or at least it did, I’m not all that sure they have that here. I haven’t heard anyone use that idiom since waking up here,” Sylver said, checking the contents of his packages and moving them behind himself as he went through each box.

“Huh. I didn’t know that. The ones with the bow with two knots are from me, and the ones with a single one are yours. And the ones with a fish drawn on them are from Kitty and Wuss. They said they will be coming during the next week or so to see the child.”

“Why?”

“They seem to think Ciege is your blood relative. And they seem to think there’s more to Ciege and Yeva, in the same way, there’s more to you than what they know. So they’re being extra careful and extra polite, as far as I understand it,” Lola said, separating her pile of boxes away from the rest.

“Well he is my blood relative, technically speaking. I mean, the only reason I found him was because I have his blood running in my veins. Which reminds me, when we go back I’m going to preserve some of yours, should it ever be required. But the only reason they got past Whiskers was that they somehow knew exactly who to replace, and knew exactly how and when to strike. I’m starting to think his theory that this was all months in the planning isn’t as far-fetched as I originally thought.” Sylver said, shoving one of the boxes a little harder than intended and nearly causing it to topple over.

“We still don’t know what the imposters were, or how they were made, and neither Ciege nor Yeva remember being taken. Their blood is clean, save for the poison used to render them both unconscious, and Whiskers’ mind mage said there’s no evidence of memory tampering, so I have no idea what happened,” Sylver said, as he finished looking through his boxes of crystals and ashes and helped Lola separate the gift boxes.

“What about the demon summoning circle?” Lola asked.

“See… That’s a good question… Actually, would you mind looking at this for me?” Sylver asked.

He reached into his robe and pulled out a large folded sheet of paper. Opening it up fully it became a 2-meter wide square. He laid it down on the floor and Lola cast a ball of light to hover over it.

“What am I looking for?” Lola asked, getting down onto her knees to see the details better.

“I just want to hear your unbiased opinion on what you think this framework would do. Just tell me what if you see anything you recognize,” Sylver said, looking down at it and watching Lola.

She pointed at an area in the top left, “So that’s a stabilizer, fairly standard. A little too big for a framework of this size, but still within reason. This would be the deconstruction framework, breaks down the components into their base forms to be used by the rest of the framework, also strangely too big for the framework. And this would be where the mana is stored, but…” Lola said, pausing with her finger pointing at the section which gave Sylver the most confusion.

“Not stored, funneled. As in someone would be providing the raw mana all at once instead of letting it slowly build up.” Sylver said, waving his hand slightly and causing the section to light up and become isolated from the rest.

“I’ve only ever seen this used in very small tools and weaponry. Where the user can provide the mana themselves, and regulate the power by changing how much mana they let in. But there’s no diode or regulator here. What was the radius of it?” Lola asked, mumbling to herself as she traced the circuit with her nail.

“615 meters. Exactly.” Sylver answered.

“Then this would be… This would be 10th tier magic… Do human sacrifices give out that much mana?” Lola asked, looking up at Sylver.

“If you properly sacrifice 5 tier 5 mages, you could get enough mana out of them for one tier 6 spell. But you would need tens of thousands of people with less than tier 1 magic to cast so much as tier 3 magic. It doesn’t scale linearly, and then there’s the issue of the Gellmann constant getting in the way.”

“The what?”

“Gellmann constant. It’s the… There’s a limit to how small a string of mana can be, or how close the strings can be to one another. Aether gave it a really stupid name, but I can’t for the life of me remember it. The Zoro function? It starts with Z.”

“The Zweig Constraint?”

“Zweig… Yes, I think that’s it. What was I saying?”

“They don’t have enough sacrifices for tier 10 magic, even though it’s a framework with tier 10 magic in mind. And there’s no mana being stored so they aren’t just slowly gathering it, and the question is what were they doing there? The crystals they got from the turtle?” Lola asked with a raised eyebrow.

“That was my first thought too. But there’s no mana in them. And they’re not biological despite the fact I’m fairly certain they grew out of her spine. And Nautis and the woman ditched the whole place at the first sign of trouble. Other than those weird melting copies, the whole place was empty. If it’s a ritual where they specifically need pregnant women who have meddled with their souls, why was it so poorly defended? Why were there only 3 people there? Do they have so many to spare that they don’t care about the wasted effort, or is the mere possibility of that woman getting caught too much for them to take the chance? They went as far as to take their husbands and fathers and other women and hide them down below without killing them. Why?” Sylver wondered out loud, as Lola continued to tap her finger on the funnel part of the framework.

“I’ve seen this before,” Lola said, lost in her thoughts and barely hearing a word Sylver had said.

“So have I. But I want to hear what you think it looks like.” Sylver said, walking around to stand behind her so he was looking at the picture from the same direction.

“But it doesn’t make sense. They don’t have an Eldar tree, where would they get that much pure mana for it? But it looks just like it.” Lola thought out loud, tracing the entire section, again and again, smudging the ink slightly.

“What? Do you mean the Eldar Rite? No, it doesn’t…” Sylver said, leaning down to look at the section more closely. “Oh fuck… Fuck! How did I not see that?” Sylver half-shouted, walking away from the large drawing as if it would harm him.

“This is even worse than my hero summoning theory,” Sylver said, causing Lola to get up from the floor and back away from the drawing as if it had just burst into flames.

“Hero summoning! Why would they summon a hero! What-what-”

“I don’t know! Look, I’m sorry I asked, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t seeing patterns that weren’t there.” Sylver said, manipulating the page with magic to start folding back up. Lola twirled her index finger at the page and caused it to unfold again.

“Wait! Look.” Lola said, bringing her ball of light closer to the page she was forcefully keeping open. “What if they aren’t trying to summon a hero, but send one back? Wouldn’t the created mana be enough for a tier 10 spell? Or whatever tier it is they wanted to cast?” Lola asked, causing Sylver to stop trying to force the page closed and walk back over to it.

He stared at the thing long and hard and in complete silence for a solid 2 minutes, going through the whole thing in his mind and trying to see if the circuit would fit that function. It would work...

“But where do the women come into it? And wouldn’t the hero already be there? Why did they abandon it so easily? It doesn’t make sense.” Sylver said, rubbing his chin and staring at it. “No… Your Eldar theory fits better. Look, I’m sorry I asked, just forget about it.” Sylver said, doing the magical equivalent of a fencing envelopment to get past Lola’s overpowering magic and fold the page up.

“I want a copy,” Lola said, as a shadowy arm pulled the folded page away before she could grab it or catch it with her magic again.

“No. I just wanted to hear an outside opinion, and I’ve heard it.” Sylver said, taking the page out of Fen’s hand and hiding it into the folds of his robe.

“I want a copy,” Lola repeated, getting up from the floor and staring directly into Sylver’s completely black eyes.

“What for? What do you think you will find that I haven’t?”

“I figured out the funnel is from the Eldar Rite.”

Might be from the Eldar Rite. Looks like it’s from the Eldar Rite.”

“Who knows what else I could find,” Lola added, before Sylver could finish speaking.

He just looked in her eyes, and wasn’t all that sure what he was seeing there. There was certainly fear, but that was normal, she always looked a little afraid. But now there was…

“You think that there’s a high elf involved in all of this. One whose been through the Eldar Rite,” Sylver said, watching her closely enough that he could see her suppress her reaction and stop her shoulders from twitching. Which was more of an answer than anything she could say would be.

“I’m not going to argue with you over this. I’ll make you a copy before you leave. But I’ll say it now, you aren’t responsible for the actions of every high elf, in the same way, I’m not responsible for every person who uses necromancy,” Sylver said, summoning shades to pick up his and Lola’s boxes.

“If she’s the one responsible, for Yeva getting kidnapped, for giving her your book, for what she did to the turtle, then she isn’t a high elf, she’s a traitor and a-”

“Enough. Wash your face and calm down before you even think of walking into their house. She might be a high elf, this is still nothing but speculation. This conversation ends here. It’s my technically nephew’s zeroth birthday and I have what feels like some sort of music device to give to his mother as a present.” Sylver said, looking into the box in his hands and sensing a lot of condensed frameworks and a very small mana siphon.

“It plays 50 different lullabies and more can be recorded on top of that,” Lola said, walking over to the sink in the corner.

“Fantastic. But do keep in mind that whoever they are, however they’re involved, they nearly killed Yeva. Which doesn’t just put them in my way, it puts them at the very forefront. Which very rarely tends to end well for the people standing there,” Sylver said, with a cheerful confidence he wasn’t feeling and following behind the shades to go to Ciege’s and Yeva’s home.

If this was a high elf, this wasn’t someone who could be brushed away.

And even if she wasn’t, she was smart enough to realize when there was no chance of winning and cut her losses. Which made her dangerous in an entirely different way…

*

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*

“There was a time I couldn’t even imagine touching something like this. And now I’ve got spares.” Yeva said, taking off the white gold earrings and wiping the tears out of her eyes.

“Oh, then you are going to love this,” Lola said, handing Yeva the next box and watching her unwrap it.

The necklace inside was completely black, made up of carved up beads, each glowing faintly with the framework etched into them.

[Aeyri Necklace Of Supreme Stamina - 726G 53S 92C - Flawless Quality]
[+0.92% Health]
[+13.33% Stamina]
[+4.74% Stamina Regeneration]

“I can’t take this!” Yeva said, trying to hand the box and necklace back to Lola, as she had for just about every single gift she had received today.

“Sure you can. And I would take it as a personal insult, if you refused my gift.” Lola said, as she had for just about every single gift she had given today. Sylver was quite glad Lola had given him all the practical gifts to give to them, the music box toy, the self-washing baby clothing, and a few other extremely useful enchanted items, which Yeva thankfully took without a whole lot of question or complaint.

This went on for about 2 more minutes, the box moving back and forth, and both women trying to one-up the other with politeness. Sylver tried to imagine himself trying to do that, and was doubly glad Lola was the one doing this and not him.

Ciege took Sylver outside for a moment while some of the mercenaries who had become Yeva’s friends during their stay here, along with several cats she now knew could talk and had also befriended, watched the exchange with cheery smiles.

“About what happened to those women that were tied up along with Yeva… Is… Is that going to happen to her too?” Ciege asked, looking down at his cup to avoid having to look at Sylver.

“You mean the insanity, the hysteria, self-harm, and that the lucky ones were so dazed they stopped eating and nearly starved to death in their own homes?” Sylver asked.

“I spoke to some of the people I was with. They said at first everything was fine, better than fine, their wives suddenly started leveling like crazy, making things that people with 10 times their level couldn’t make. And then they stop sleeping, they started eating their fingers, they used knives to-”

“It’s why the very first page of every single book related to soul magic explains to never ever ever ever practice it alone. Or at least it did back in my time. The ones Yeva used never made any mention of it. The fact that she and the child are fine is due to her sheer talent for it, and an equal amount of luck. The problem with practicing it alone is that you don’t know if you made a mistake. Imagine you have a giant tower of coins stacked on top of one another. You nudge them a little to the left, but it still stands. You nudge it to the right, and it’s back to how it was. Except if you nudge them too far to one side, the whole thing topples over. Killing you if you’re lucky, or doing something irreversible, if you’re not.” Sylver said, looking up at the night sky.

“But Yeva is fine, as is Benjamin. There was damage, but nothing that won’t heal in a few months. They’re both strong, you have nothing to worry about. If anything it's for the better she’s managed to figure it out. At least now I don’t need to worry about you outliving her.”

“What?”

“Did I not tell you? You’re, to an extent, immortal. You’ll still die if something kills you, but old age isn’t something you’ll ever need to worry about. And I want to say disease, but I am not 100% certain on that one.”

“And Yeva?” Ciege asked, causing Sylver to smile at the fact that his first reaction to being told he’s immortal is to ask about his wife.

“Also immortal. But not in the same way as you. When I was making your body, your soul was altering the liquid you were into what it should be. If Yeva keeps progressing at her current rate in about a year or so she’ll be able to do the same to her own body. Nothing major mind you, she won’t be able to make herself taller or grow a third arm, but it's more than enough to maintain her current physical abilities and appearance. The only downside is that if she feels like she’s old, she will start to look old. A self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. So if you want her to stay young, I recommend making sure she always feels like she’s young, even after you start counting your ages in centuries. Oh and do keep track of them, a lot of people lose track and regret it a lot later in life.” Sylver said, looking back through the window to see Yeva trying to give Lola some sort of bracelet back.

“It can’t be that easy… Where’s the catch? Why isn’t every single mage immortal if that’s all you need to do?” Ciege asked.

“I’m sorry? All you need to do? Ciege, what Yeva’s managed to achieve, all alone I might add, should be impossible. It took me over 20 years to get anywhere near the same level she is at after only a few months of practice. Granted I wasn’t anywhere near as careless or desperate as she was and I had other things to do, but it’s still incredible. As for you, you cannot even comprehend how long it took for me to learn everything I needed to learn to be able to make you this body.” Sylver said gesturing at Ciege.

“Not to mention the material cost, which I can’t even begin to guess. What I gave the Cord was a wish list, I wasn’t expecting them to manage to gather everything. Let alone so quickly. So it’s not ‘that easy’, I just make everything I do look easy.” Sylver said, as Ciege went back to staring down at his cup.

“What do I do now? With being immortal I mean?” Ciege asked after a few seconds of thoughtful silence.

“Have fun. Become a master blacksmith that your children can be proud of. Live out your long life with the woman you love, happily ever after. Or just hide away in some village and pretend to be a normal person, you’ll need to move around every 50 years or so but you’ll get to live however you like. It’s all up to you. I mean, you’d have to get Salgok’s permission until you finish your apprenticeship, and Yeva also has a contract with Lola, but other than that, you’re free to do whatever you want.” Sylver said, speaking quietly and with a big grin on his face.

“A master blacksmith… I think I can do that.” Ciege said, the uncertainty in his just barely present.

“I can’t promise you it will be easy. But what I can promise you is that if you set your mind to it, you’ve got all the time in the world to make it come true. This I say both as someone who knows you better than anyone else in the world ever will, and as someone who had more time than you can imagine to master his craft. It will be jarring at first, but you’ll learn to love every second of it. Not everyone can handle immortality Ciege, but I’m certain you can do it.”

“Let’s hope you’re right,” Ciege responded, finishing his drink and starting to walk back inside.

“For all my many faults and blunders, I’m rarely wrong about people,” Sylver said almost under his breath, as if afraid someone somewhere would contradict him.

*

*

*

“Are you sure you want to see this? Making a sentient shade is a bit different than making a regular one,” Sylver asked, as Lola walked away into the corner and sucked up all her ambient mana so as not to get in the way.

“I want to see how you interact with them, so I can make your gear with them in mind,” Lola said, pulling a notebook out of her pocket and flipping to a new page.

“I see… In that case, watch closely. And there’s a bucket over in that corner in case you need to vomit,” Sylver said, gesturing at the polished metal bucket that he had prepared beforehand.

Lola just looked at it, and nudged it away with her foot.

“Suit yourself. If you have any questions, ask me after I’m done.” Sylver said, as he cracked his knuckles and had Fen and Reg undo the bindings around the body.

The demonic warrior almost looked alive. Which was by design given how Sylver took the time to coax his blood back into his body and had even gotten a healer to heal the wound on his heart. The corpse was perfectly intact and extremely well preserved.

The original plan to use Fen was put on hold. Sylver didn’t feel like he would be able to handle making a second sentient shade for a while now, and this man was better suited in both mana conductivity and his affinity.

The ritual started very simply, Sylver cut open the man’s torso, removed his internal organs, and only left the heart inside. The kidneys, liver, gallbladder, colon, small intestine, and pancreas were discarded completely, while the lungs and stomach were stuffed with a variety of powdered materials, mainly very specific ashes, and crushed diamonds, and then carefully inserted back into the body.

Sylver closed up the torso, and stitched it tight, using silk threads and a custom made gold needle he had gotten from Salgok but left a slight opening near the top. Next, the man was turned around, and the back of his head was cut open, and the whole thing split to carefully remove the brain. Sylver spent several minutes holding it in his hands, as tiny wisps of smoke escaped from the inside of it, before the framework made its way to the outer folds and barely visible sigils burned themselves into the gray flesh.

Putting the now almost black and completely solid piece back into the head and sealing it closed took another couple of minutes. Sylver had a small satisfied smile on his face, as he got to do something he couldn’t remember doing for a very long time. By the time he figured out how he could make a low tiered sentient shade, he was already well past the point of needing to make one.

“You might want to look away for this part,” Sylver warned, not even looking to the side to see if Lola had heeded his advice or not.

Holding his left hand over the piece of wood, Sylver brought the cleaver-like blade above his head, and severed all 4 fingers in one quick and fluid motion. He heard a gasp and the sound of metal scraping on the wooden floor, but ignored it and sealed off the 4 stumps he had just made with darkness.

Closing his left hand into a fist, Sylver checked that he could still manipulate the darkness created digits without any issue, and found them acceptable.

Picking up the 4 fingers that had fallen and rolled away, Sylver held each in his right hand, as wisps of smoke appeared on the skin and escaped from the inside. Giving each finger a few minutes’ worth of his attention, made them all look practically identical in that their skin looked dried up and charred, the joints clearly visible. They went from looking like fingers to looking like pieces of burned wood.

Sylver turned the man back around, and inserted a finger into his mouth and shoved it down his throat, one into his torso through the hole he had originally left, one was placed standing upwards like a nail above his heart, and the last right against his forehead, also standing perfectly straight.

As Sylver stood up, he glanced to his right and saw that Lola was holding the bucket in her hand, but otherwise, her gaze was fixed straight at the dead body.

Finally, Sylver held his left hand above the man’s body, and let the blood drip freely from the open wounds where his fingers used to be. Instead of spilling all over the place, the blood gathered around the finger above the man’s heart, and spread, as if it were string, to the other 3 fingers.

Closing his hand into a fist, the blood started to glow bright yellow, sparks of black jumping around the blood connections.

It was very slow, but the finger above the heart and brain started to force itself into the flesh and bone below. A very wet crunch was followed by a squelch, and then a single crack that sounded as if it were made by a wire under tension that had snapped.

The body started to shake and shudder, every limb hitting itself against the floor, the stitches Sylver had made threatening to tear themselves open, as a black viscus rot started to bubble out of the hole the finger above the heart had made, splashing all over the floor and pooling around the man.

The black rot looked almost like it was alive, as it crawled and pulled itself back onto the body, and crept higher and higher up the man’s chest, until it reached the remaining three fingers. In a single motion, the black liquid exploded and enveloped the whole body, and pulled it down into the floor, leaving only a still mirror-like puddle behind.

“Jumper… Springer. Spring. That is your name.” Sylver said, as he got down on his knees and reached into the black liquid. Even though the floor had no hole in it underneath, he managed to reach down into the liquid, all the way up to his shoulder. Sylver looked confused and worried for a moment, before a self-satisfied smile spread across his face.

Standing up, his hand very slowly came out of the pool, the black liquid sliding off his arms as if it were quicksilver. He tugged hard and Lola gasped as she saw a hand clasping Sylver’s hand emerging out of the puddle, more and more arm getting pulled out, next a shoulder, and finally a head. Sylver walked backward, pulling the man out of the pool of black, as the darkness receded and disappeared entirely as the man's foot came out of it.

He stood in place, just holding onto Sylver’s hand, and staring at him.

The shade appeared to be covered in boiling bubbles of shiny darkness, shuddered once, and the formless mess evaporated away, leaving behind a completely nude man, but looking as solid as Sylver was.

The air was tense for all of two seconds before the shade disappeared back into the floor, and reappeared a moment later covered in a yellow wispy karategi.

“Spring… I like it.” The shade spoke, in a voice that was just barely an octave lower than Sylver’s. From the way the shade stood, to the accent with which it spoke, it sounded almost identical to Sylver’s.

[Shade (Unique)] Raised!]

[Shade (Unique)] has received the name [Spring]]
[Requirements for evolution not met.]

[Raise Shade (II) Proficiency increased to 100%!]

[Raise Shade (II) rank up available!]
Choose 1 from the following:

Raise Shade (III)
-Increase CON of all shades under your control by 10%.
-Decrease MP cost to raise new shades by 10%.
-Duplicate a shade. (Each duplicate will have 40% of the originals stats.)
-Manually control up to 2 shades within 100m of yourself.
-Increase the amount of mana returned by shades from [Dying Breath] from 5% to 10%.
-[Requirements not met]
-[Requirements not met]

“How much do you remember?” Sylver asked, patting the shade down and pinching his clothing and skin.

“I remember thinking about how cold it is, and next thing I know I’m here,” Spring answered, completely ignoring the fact that Sylver was forcing his hand into his chest.

Sylver rummaged around the inside of the shade for a full minute, seemingly looking for something, before a soft click was heard and the shade gained even more cracks of yellow all over its skin. It almost had as much yellow on it as it had black.

“Lola, Spring, Spring, Lola,” Sylver said, pulling his hand out and wiping it on his robe as the shade bowed slightly to Lola.

“So how does it work? What can it do, what does it know? Why does it look like this, why does it sound like you?” Lola asked, walking up to Spring and opening his mouth to look inside. His tongue was covered completely in glowing yellow sigils.

“First of all, he’s a he. And as to all your other questions, trade secret, he can do anything short of using magic, he knows a small portion of what I know, he looks like this because this is the form his soul chose, and he sounds like me because only about 3% of him isn’t me.” Sylver answered, with Lola jotting down the answers as he said them.

“3%? What do you mean?” Lola asked, looking up from her notes.

“I mean, my soul makes up 97% of his. He knows a specific fragment of everything I know, and as he spends time around me he will slowly absorb more and more knowledge and be able to use a larger percentage of his soul. The end goal is that I keep less than 1% of my soul in him. But that can take years, especially with how weak I am right now. Now this isn’t to say he’s got 97% of my soul, he has a little over 10%, but because of the strength difference, my 10% makes up 97% of his.” Sylver explained, patting Spring on the chest as he did so.

“I thought you couldn’t split souls?” Lola asked, resulting in a slight grin from Sylver.

“You can’t. You’d break yourself into two personalities or something of that nature. But every single drop of mine is consistently spread out, I can split it however many times I want. Or I could, I’m fairly certain this is already pushing the limits of what my soul can handle at its current size. Do you remember how I mentioned that if I kept Ciege around I would eventually decimate his soul? Well, this is a positive version of that. Spring’s soul has been marked, branded, imprinted or however, you wish to describe it, by mine. Until he gains enough power for himself, he is almost as much me, as I am. But the personality will start to show itself in a few days. This doesn’t work with just anyone mind you, he’s both willing and compatible enough for me to do this,” Sylver explained, trying to use illusion magic to provide visuals.

He showed two pieces of paper, one with squares of different colours on it, yellow, green, blue and so on, and the other one solid dark color. When split into two, the one with different colors on it produced 2 different pages, while the solid color one just made two identical pages.

“So how is this different from all the other shades you have? You said he can’t use magic?” Lola asked, writing down Sylver’s explanation, along with making quick diagrams as she followed along with his illusions.

“He can’t, but he knows what I’m thinking, and can to an extent communicate with me directly. He can obviously talk, but I also now have a slightly fuzzy awareness of my surroundings. If I want him to focus on something, I should be able to see it as if I were standing there. Other than that, there’s also this.” Sylver said, raising his hand towards Spring and causing over 20 darts to fly out of his sleeve and embed themselves into the shade. A few even bounced off his body, but otherwise, he didn’t look too concerned with them.

“I’m still not getting it. You wanted a shade that could use magic, why did you do this?” Lola asked, referring to all the times Sylver spoke about it back when she was inside his head.

“Because I changed my mind. I do that from time to time. And I’ve realized that this close combat way of fighting is a whole lot more effective than any spells I’m able to use at the moment. All the long-range spells I know, would use up over half of my MP, leaving me defenseless after only 2 attacks. This way I can get in close, steal mana, and then fire off spells if I need them. Or just stab and cut and use illusions to keep everyone confused and off-balance.” Sylver explained, as Spring disappeared into a tiny puff of black smoke and made himself comfortable in Sylver’s shadow.

“Also if I tried to make a shade that could use magic, I would need to connect it to my soul, which I am no longer capable of. This was already more dangerous than I would normally be comfortable with, but now I’ve got someone constantly watching my back.” Sylver said, as the darts that had fallen onto the floor from Spring disappearing slithered towards him and were absorbed by his robe.

[Skill: Raise Shade (III)]
Skill level can be increased by raising shades. (Repeat raising of the same shade will not increase skill level)
I - Turn a corpse into a shade.
II - All shades under your control have +10% DEX.
III - Duplicate a shade. (Each duplicate will have 40% of the originals stats. To reverse a duplication, both duplicates must have full health.)
*Quality dependent on the corpse.
*Quality dependent on the soul.
*Possibility of failure is dependent on the skills of the castor.

“Why are you smiling so much?” Lola asked, as Sylver’s grin only further increased.

“I’m just finally starting to see the appeal of this whole thing.”

*

*

*

“What is this?” Ciege asked upon seeing the giant crates with books stacked on top of them.

“Practice. You’ve got enough metal bars here to last you several months. And I’m not all that certain how much muscle memory you’ve retained, so I want to make sure Salgok doesn’t think it’s your first time holding a hammer.” Sylver said, lifting the top up to show Ciege the inside.

“You’re lying,” Ciege said simply.

“I am, but how do you know?”

“I don’t know. But it sounds like you’re lying.”

“I see. It might be due to the fact that our souls are similar enough that there’s a small amount of resonance. Although I’d normally feel something like that… Anyway, I need you to stay in the village for a few more months.” Sylver said, letting the lid drop back down.

“Why?”

“Because I need you and Yeva to stay here for a few more months. Kitty sent more people here to keep you two safe, and I’m leaving half of my army with you and Yeva just to be safe.” Sylver explained, as Ciege looked down and for a split second saw multiple glowing yellow eyes in his shadow.

“I understand that… But why?”

“As much as I hate saying things like this, but because I need you to trust me on this. I have no idea how this works or will work, so the best way to handle this that I can think of, is to have you act as naturally as possible. Plus, a little extra practice surely couldn’t hurt? Wait until you get to Salgok before accepting any classes, but you can still work on the actual physical aspects of blacksmithing. Develop the proper muscles, make sure your hand-eye coordination is up to par, and so on and so forth.” Sylver explained, miming the actions as he spoke of them.

Ciege stood in silence for a while, thinking it over.

“Alright… Is there anything I should know? Or something you need me to do?” Ciege said, walking over to look through the various blacksmithing manuals.

“If anyone asks, tell them you went to Orest. And regarding your level, or lack thereof, explain it as being a perk you got by accident that automatically hides your level. Other than that, just do what you would normally do. Actually, you have Benjamin to take care of, so practice when you have the time. And the more I think about it, having a child is a great excuse for your normal routine being changed drastically.”

“You’re waiting for someone, aren’t you. And you need them to think I’m still me, and you’re still inside the needle inside that statue.” Ciege said, with a very faint nod from Sylver. “How long do you need us to do this?”

“If I tell you the date, there would be no point to this. It’s already a shot in the dark, I just need you to act natural and do what you would normally do. Yeva’s already relatively rich from all the enchanted items she’s sold, so you can spend money however you want. But don’t leave the village. If you need something tell Whiskers and he’ll sort it out. I’ll come by every now and then to make sure everything is fine,” Sylver said, walking towards the door.

“Alright… I guess we’ll see you soon in that case.” Ciege said, starting walking over to the forge and unpacking his tools.

*

*

*

“So good news and bad news,” Lola said the moment Sylver had closed the door and activated the spy proof enchantments.

“Bad news first.”

“Wuss refuses to give me any information about Poppy Da’Batstoi. He’s explained that they have too many connections to them to get involved in whatever this is, even if there’s a possibility of a demon. But at the same time, neither the cats nor the Cord will get in your way if you want to do something. They both want to remain completely neutral.” Lola explained, fanning herself with a bright red envelope and with a delightful smile on her face.

“Oh no. Anyway, the good news?” Sylver asked, fixing his eyes at the red envelope.

“I’ve been invited to an auction hall, given the large quantities of rare materials my company has been buying from them. Would you care to guess whose name I saw on the guest list? No wait, I had a better way of saying it. Do you believe in fate?” Lola asked, placing the envelope on the table and unfolding it. Three names were underlined in bright red ink.

“Poppy, Rose and Lily Da’Batstoi… Are they sisters?” Sylver asked, touching the names with his finger.

“I don’t know. Without Wuss it’s hard for me to gather any information by myself. But I’m sure it will be a good place to meet people and maybe make some new connections. I’m planning on leaving in 3 days, if you’d like to join me.” Lola offered.

“3 days… Where is it, and how long does the whole thing last?”

“The invitation said there’s 5 days of auctioning, with each day the value of the items being sold increasing. You might even find something you like there, who knows. You would have to be my bodyguard, if you were to come along. I’m also hiring a B rank party for the journey there, but you’d be hired as my personal bodyguard. So if I were to ask for a meeting with any of the Da’Batstoi’s it wouldn’t be strange if you were to accompany me to the meeting.” Lola explained, watching Sylver closely.

“With all the guards around, I doubt there’s a possibility of her doing anything out in the open. But the same would apply to me too. There’s also the small chance Spring lied when he told me that name. But I’m sure if I see her, I’ll know if it was her or not. And it’s not like she knows who I am, my whole face was covered in blood and dirt when she killed me. The only question is, how was she able to sense me through the wall? There was enough interference that even I couldn’t sense anything. It could be dangerous to go in blind like this.” Sylver said, thinking it through.

“I’ll come with you… But I’m going to go try to get the attention of the supposed demon worshipers in the Swift Swindlers Swirl, in the meantime. And I need to go tell Salgok about Ciege.” Sylver said, mostly to himself as Lola already started writing something down.

“I’ll post it as a D rank quest in the guild. Shera will handle accepting it on your behalf, but go see her just to be safe.” Lola said, not looking up from her desk.

After deciding that not showering would help better with his disgruntled and slightly desperate persona, Sylver made his robe go back to it’s normal looking tattered state and made his way towards the bar.

And for some reason, Sylver had a really good feeling right about now. Demons to the left, demons to the right. A book that traced back to him, and the woman in white hopefully on the way.

At least one of these leads had to go somewhere. They couldn’t all be dead ends.

Could they?

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KingKennit

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