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Ch072-Damned If You Do

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The silence lingered. Sylver’s attempt at conversation had gone nowhere, Basil was very likely mute, Flax looked mortified any time Sylver so much as looked at him, and Rosa turned out to have a very limited vocabulary when it came to Eirish. On top of that, Sylver wasn’t entirely sure what to even talk about.

They sat down to eat for a few moments, to allow their legs to rest if nothing else. The path had been meandering, and largely pointless. It felt like they were walking in a circle, but the marks they left hadn’t shown up, and Sylver’s map confirmed that they were walking in a very large spiral.

After they had left the area where Sylver had met them, they entered an area that was more akin to a large room, with giant columns placed roughly every 40 meters apart. Walls of darkness stretched between, and as Sylver found out after multiple attempts, through the columns, effectively creating a straight path forward.

Sylver made note of the pillars in his map, and it looked like someone had connected a pair of dots to draw a road between them.

Zombies had stopped showing up entirely as they came in here, but now and then Rosa swore she heard something. Sylver had tried to send shades ahead of them, but found that there was a wall at the end of their path. That retreated once they ventured past a certain point, to give them more room to go forward in.

The same was true in the back, the walls would wait until the shades came back before advancing further behind them, but once they went up, they stayed up. The group of 4 was effectively moving in a very long box, that moved with them so they never saw the walls ahead of or behind them.

“If you are doing it for show, it isn’t needed,” Rosa said as Sylver continued to eat one of the dried sticks of meat Ron had prepared.

“It’s better than it looks. There are limitations to what I can get the shades to carry, and as far as foodstuff goes, this is in the top 10,” Sylver explained, as he had Tom appear again and show her the completely black bag on his back, stuffed full of tightly wrapped edible dried up meat and vegetables.

“No, I meant… You don’t have to eat if you’re doing it for us,” Rosa tried to explain.

Sylver cocked his head at the woman but couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.

“You are dead. If you’re eating just for show, you don’t have to. It is none of our concern what you are,” Rosa continued. The way she spoke Sylver couldn’t guess if she sounded uncertain because she wasn’t sure about the words she was using, or if she wasn’t sure if he was dead.

“You talk like them,” Flax added. For once Rosa didn’t glare at him for speaking.

“Like who?” Sylver asked.

“We came here from the east, and stopped at Urth on the way. You talk the same way as the people there. Unnaturally long sentences, and you’re guessing where you need to breathe, and you’re sometimes wrong,” Rosa explained.

“Urth?”

“The necropolis,” Rosa answered.

“Huh… I didn’t think it was real. What’s it like?” Sylver asked. He continued to chew on his stick of meat as Rosa spoke.

“Fortified. The man in charge is extremely protective of the people inside. We ventured too close by accident, and were met by a large gathering of skeletons. They didn’t attack us, and we didn’t attack them, and then this talking dog appeared and told us we were welcome inside, provided we didn’t harm any of the residents.”

“Was the dog about the size of a horse and with bright red eyes?”

“Yes! It said its name was Charlie. Inside the city, there was mostly… I forgot the word, but cold hard water.”

“Ice?”

“Yes! Ice, everywhere. But it was dark, darker than any I’ve ever seen. And it was cold, but not as cold as it should be. The city was split into two, it was explained to us that it was much bigger down below, but we were not allowed down there. It was dark, even during the day, but the black ice glowed at the edges, making it easy to see and walk around. It’s where we got our protection from,” Rosa explained, as she pulled back her left sleeve and showed Sylver the long piece of bright red fabric wrapped around her forearm.

[Wrap Of Immunity – 945G – Uncommon Quality]
[-75% Health Regeneration]
[-50% Stamina Regeneration]
[Immunity To Darkness]
[Time Remaining: ???:??]

“Do you have more?” Sylver asked. Rosa nodded. “Could I see one?”

Rosa reached into her rucksack and took out a tightly folded-up dark grey square. She handed it to Sylver and Sylver gently opened it.

The inside was covered in gold circuitry, with a few small spikes sticking out in several areas, where Sylver assumed the device clamped onto the skin and into the arm. The spikes were hollow, and having figured that out, Sylver could see how the thing functioned.

It was… strange. Sylver could see the logic of it, he even understood some of the sigils used for the framework, but it was too far away from anything he was familiar with. But despite that, it worked. Not only that, but Sylver couldn’t find a fault in the thing. He wouldn’t have built something like this, there were easier ways of protecting people from dark miasma, but he’d never seen something so compact that wasn’t a ring with a pocket dimension.

“You haven’t denied it,” Rosa said.

“Hmm?”

“That you’re dead. Or undead I mean. If it isn’t too personal, how did you die?” Rosa asked.

Sylver stayed silent as he folded the grey fabric back as he had been given it and thought about it. Other than Ron, Lola, and Ciege no one else knew he was undead. The cats might have known, but Sylver didn’t get the feeling they put any weight on that information, or shared it with anyone. Plus [Living Undead] seemed to handle anything system-related when it came to people analyzing him.

“You are right in that I am undead. But… It isn’t the kind of thing I am comfortable discussing until we’ve known each other for a very long time,” Sylver said, as Rosa nodded slightly. “Why did you ask?”

“No reason. You feel like you’re alive, but you aren’t and it was worrying me. Do you need to eat?” Rosa asked, as Sylver felt Flax and Basil look up from their food to look at him.

“If I want to stay as I am, I do. My body doesn’t need to have skin and flesh and muscles, but they make things a lot easier for me. In terms of effort, eating, breathing, and sometimes washing requires significantly less effort than bringing dead flesh back to life. It’s like doing what you need to, to take care of your hair, as opposed to shaving it off. Not to say my body is entirely aesthetic, but it makes life easier in the long run if I have it. Not sure how that works with the hair metaphor, but you understand what I’m trying to say?” Sylver asked.

Rosa thought about it for a few moments before she nodded.

The rest of the meal was eaten in relative silence.

*

*

*

It opened up without any warning.

One second they are walking down a straight path, ever so slightly curved to the right, and the next there’s a rusty sword surrounded by a teleportation framework. The wall on the right had opened up to reveal a sword stuck in the ground, with 3 walls surrounding it. The group’s previously rectangular box now had an extra square of area that it encompassed.

“A challenge... Either a sword is the prize, or it’s just the way the crypt is set up to activate… But knowing challenge crypts there’ll be restrictions…” Sylver said, partially to himself as he approached the weapon but stayed out of the teleportation framework.

He looked back at the group to see them standing where they had stopped.

“It’s a shortcut,” Sylver surmised, as he gestured towards the rusty sword.

“How do you know this?” Rosa asked. She walked closer to Sylver and the sword but Flax and Basil remained where they were.

“Stories. Sometimes it’s a chalice on a pedestal, sometimes a crown to be put on, sometimes a hammer, sometimes a dagger, but the gist of it is, you accept the challenge, and have to complete it to skip a portion of the crypt. One sword mostly likely means only 1 person can challenge it. I pull the sword out, and everyone in the teleportation framework is teleported along with me. I complete the challenge, and we move on to the next area. Probably…” Sylver offered.

“How certain are you of this ‘probably?’” Rosa asked.

“Fairly certain. But it could also be a trap, we get teleported into a room where the walls slowly close in and crush us. But that’s not the feeling I’m getting here, I think this will be as fair as something like this can be. So how are we handling this?” Sylver asked.

He turned around to face the others and dusted his hands off.

“…”

“Our options are either; one of us pulls the sword out and accepts the challenge, and potentially we gain some sort of prize if the challenge is completed, or we are killed because this is a trap. Or we keep going and wait and see if another one of these shows up. I vote to accept it and see what happens,” Sylver offered.

The elves exchanged looks and used their eyes to ask each other if this was a crazy human, or a crazy undead.

“We think we should leave it alone,” Rosa answered, and got nods of confirmation from Basil and Flax.

Sylver stepped away from the teleportation circle, and walked out of the ‘room’ until he was back in the original rectangle they were in before.

“Would you mind if I checked it first? Have one of my shades try to accept it to see what happens?” Sylver asked, as one of the swordsmen shades appeared by his side. He had it take off most of its gear so it wouldn’t be lost if it never returned.

“What happens if it doesn’t come back? Or if the teleportation circle takes you along with it?” Rosa asked.

“They’re not connected to me like that. They’re more like dogs that follow my orders, than summons that are part of me. I’m not going to do it unless we can all agree, but I think we should. I don’t think the owner of this crypt was the type to try to starve or bore people into stepping into a trap, but I can’t say that for certain. There’s a risk to this, but it’s minimized, and the reward could be nearly anything,” Sylver explained.

“Do you think you could analyze it with your magic?” Rosa asked, as she turned to look at Basil.

“Everything in this crypt is heavily protected from anything I have, I do not think this would be any different. And I would need to touch it to be certain, which could very likely trigger it. But if he’s willing to take the risk, I don’t see the issue with it,” Basil said. Sylver was slightly surprised by how normal Basil sounded.

Going by the fact that the man hadn’t uttered a single word up until this moment, Sylver was half certain he either couldn’t speak, or was embarrassed by his voice. Apparently, he simply didn’t have much to say up until now.

“We’re only here for the flower, this would not be to our benefit,” Rosa said quietly. She stared at the sword and was swaying on her feet a bit. “Having said that, it wouldn’t be fair to you if we were to simply find the flower and leave… If you believe it to be safe, you should send your shade to check,” Rosa offered.

Sylver nodded and had the shade swordsman walk over to the rusted sword.

Nothing happened. The shade attempted to pull the sword, but couldn’t get it to so much as budge.

“I think it’s the same thing where the crypt can recognize parties. All four of us need to be on the teleportation framework, with one person accepting the challenge. Are any of you any good at close-quarter combat?” Sylver asked, despite already knowing the answer.

“Just speaking in hypotheticals, but if someone who wasn’t aware of the flower’s value had managed to find it, using the rewards we get from these challenges to trade for it wouldn’t be out of the question,” Sylver offered.

All three of their faces went blank slightly at this, but Rosa slowly nodded. Sylver could almost see Rosa imagining a scenario where the flower is taken hostage, in the same way, he was, and whatever they got from this challenge would be the difference between complete and utter failure, and walking away with the flower in hand.

The four of them made their way to the sword and teleportation framework.

As long as the challenge didn’t stop Sylver from using magic, there wasn’t anything to be fearful of. Although if it could restrict Sylver’s shades, it would be difficult.

And if it restricted his shades and his magic, his 1 point in strength would be a massive issue. Not impossible, but very difficult, nonetheless.

Sylver took a deep breath before he grabbed the handle and was blinded by the bright light.

*

*

*

Opening his eyes Sylver found himself standing in the middle of a sand floored arena. In one hand he had a circular medium-sized wood and steel shield, and in the other a very simple one-handed sword. Sylver tried to turn, but found the armor he was wearing was restricting him. He looked down to see he was covered from head to toe in a dark plate mail, the kind Sabo had, but small enough to fit Sylver.

Sylver managed to turn and saw Rosa, Flax, and Basil standing behind him, separated by an invisible barrier that looked exactly like the shadow walls they had seen before, but clear. Sylver felt a relief when he felt Spring tap on the inside of his wrist. The shades were fine.

Sylver heard a clanking noise opposite him and saw that his opponent was dressed and armed identically to him. Although the armor was a little larger, to accommodate for the person’s height.

“Kid, I’m sorry about this, but you knew the risks when you came here,” The woman said. Sylver was upset to hear that she genuinely sounded sorry about it. A screaming lunatic would have been easier to deal with, not that it would have changed the end result in any way.

“Likewise. If you have anything you’d like for me to pass along to your teammates or the like, I have a good memory,” Sylver offered. He already had a plan in mind, and awkwardly tried to spin the sword in his hand and nearly dropped it.

“What happens if we don’t fight?” Sylver asked, as the woman slowly walked towards him. The arena was large, and the armor limited their movements; it would take her a while. She was holding the sword in her hand expertly, but there was a strangeness in her movements, the shield on her arm wasn’t something she was used to.

“I don’t know, but I’m not willing to find out. If you throw down your sword, I promise to make it as painless as possible. Even with my skills disabled, you don’t have a chance at winning,” the woman offered. Sylver looked back at Rosa and the others, and let his sword fall to the ground.

“And the shield! I’m not falling for this a second time!” The woman warned. Sylver had to work at the latch for a few moments, before he managed to get the shield to fall off too.

Sylver got down to his knees and angled his head to the floor. Sylver reached into the floor and pulled out a small notebook. He ripped a page out and folded it.

He held it out for the woman to take, while keeping his head facing the floor.

“Shera in Arda, she’ll know what to do with it,” Sylver half said half mumbled.

The woman gave him a curt nod as she reached for the paper.

Sylver grabbed her by the wrist, and pulled her towards himself. The woman swung her sword backward to hit Sylver, but screamed as her sword holding hand was cut off. She didn’t manage to get another word out, as Spring stabbed her in the back of the neck with a dagger, and pierced upwards through the armor plates, and hit her right through the brain stem.

[??? (???) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy 10 levels above you, additional experience will be awarded!]
[Due to defeating an enemy in a fair duel, additional experience has been awarded!]

Sylver got up from his half-crouch and looked at the disappearing body of the woman he had killed. He barely got Spring and the others back into his shadow when he was once again blinded by a bright white light.

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KingKennit

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