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Ch072-Damned If You Do

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Sylver’s eyes stung slightly, but he was more relieved to feel Rosa’s soul nearby. In his hand, Sylver felt a new weight, and nearly dropped the sword.

[Coward’s Bane - ??? – Epic Quality]
[Automatically blocks any attempt to backstab the wielder]
[Uses Left: 100/100]

Sylver lifted the sword to inspect. It was almost small enough to be called a dagger, and had an empty hole down the middle of it. More than that, it was blunt, but oddly heavy for its size. Sylver’s curiosity got the better of him, as Spring used the same dagger he had a moment ago to kill that woman, to stab Sylver in the back.

Sylver’s fingers went numb as the blade in his hand ripped itself free from his grasp, and caught Spring’s dagger in the empty hole in the middle of it. It lurched back into Sylver’s hand, with Spring’s dagger in tow.

[Coward’s Bane - ??? – Epic Quality]
[Automatically blocks any attempt to backstab the wielder]
[Uses Left: 99/100]

[Appraisal (V) Proficiency increased to 5%!]

Sylver brought the sword up to his face and tried to see the framework drawn on the blade. It was hidden deep inside the metal but it only took one mana pulse for him to realize this wasn’t something he would be able to crack open to inspect. Maybe Lola could manage it, but Sylver would just break it if he attempted it.

“We’ve moved,” Rosa said as a matter of fact. Despite the floor and ceiling being identical, Sylver understood what she meant. If the slight bend of their path was anything to go by, they were about 2 layers closer to the middle, and hopefully end, of the crypt.

One square forward, and opposite them, there was a spear sticking out of the ground.

“It disabled her skills, or at least she said they were disabled. The message read ‘a fair duel’ and the only way a duel could be fair between a mage and a warrior, both wielding identical sword and shield, would be if the warrior lost their skills or perks…” Sylver thought out loud.

It gave any mage or rogue a massive advantage over a pure warrior, or even a hybrid warrior, but the sheer difference in strength and dexterity would even things out. It was hard to tell how much of this was true, given that he didn’t give the woman a moment to use any of her skills. And he hadn’t checked to see if he could cast magic, he only knew that he could use body-enhancing magic. For all he knew, the crypt hadn’t restricted anything, and the woman was simply lying.

It was hard to tell if the system had done anything to Sylver, since the drop of magic he used to enhance his strength was negligible. The shades were also completely unaffected, as far as Sylver could tell at least. It wouldn’t make sense if it restricted the warrior, but not the mage, but then again, Sylver wasn’t exactly a typical mage. It might have simply disarmed them, and given them equal equipment, and considered that fair. Sylver would be hard-pressed to believe a warrior didn’t have her own sword.

Sylver looked at Flax and could see the man wanted to say something.

“If you’re considering telling me I fought ‘without honor’ I would say I did just the opposite. I respected the woman enough to not give her a chance to fight, if anything I feel like trying to win against her in a fair fight would have been dishonorable. I’m not thrilled about it, but as she said, we both knew the risks when we came here,” Sylver said carefully.

Flax nodded with a faint trace of a sneer on his face, before he turned around and pretended to look ahead and onto the path ahead.

Sylver placed his new dagger into his robe and moved it to sit directly over his spine. He’d need to check how it worked a few more times before putting any real faith into it, but it was in a good of a place as any for the moment.

Sylver looked around the floor as he approached the spear, and made a mental note that there were specks of blood on it. He saw from Rosa’s eyes that she saw it too, but there wasn’t any point in discussing it.

Flax might not have been thrilled about Sylver cheating like he had, but Rosa didn’t seem to have an issue with it, or at least didn’t show it. Basil was dead silent and unreadable as usual.

Sylver grabbed the spear and everything went white again.

*

*

*

Sylver did his best to keep his eyes open, to get used to the bright light, and saw that a man was already running at him. In Sylver’s hand was a spear, with minimal shadow-based armor wrapped around his forearms and shins, as well as a thin leather-like helmet on his head. His torso and the rest of his body was entirely unarmored, with only Sylver’s robe and cloak defending it.

The man rushing towards Sylver had tears streaming down his face, but his bloodshot eyes were focused enough to see where he was going. He was dressed the same as Sylver, with the same simple stick and blade spear in his hand, pointed at Sylver’s torso as he ran.

Sylver did a mental calculation, and placed his spear in his left hand, and started to spin it around clockwise around his torso. He held his breath as the man was now two steps away, and spun his spear so quickly that he felt it bend from the air resistance. Sylver’s spear tip caught the man’s spear tip, and flicked it away from the middle, to Sylver’s left and the man’s right.

Sylver let go of his spear and didn’t even watch as it was flung away from him. The man’s eyes were focused on Sylver’s airborne weapon, as Sylver tensed and straightened his fingers and hit the man square in the neck. Sylver made his hand into a fist as he pushed it down from the man’s neck, and brought it back up, and hit him with a loose sideways uppercut, shattering several teeth as the man’s open mouth slammed shut.

The man’s grip on his weapon had released at some point, and his weapon flew away to the side. He lay on the ground, clutching and clawing at the sand, uncertain what to address first, his crushed shut windpipe, or his shattered teeth.

Sylver experimentally held his hand open, but couldn’t get the mana to come out. The effect was similar to lead touching him, but it wasn’t as invasive. Spring summoned more shades out of Sylver’s shadow, and none of them had any issue walking around. So magic was limited, but not internal magic, or Sylver’s shades. So what was limited? Just magic external magic? Did the crypt consider that a fair fight, if a mage couldn’t use magic, and a warrior couldn’t use their skills?

Sylver turned the man over onto his back, and searched through his pockets as the man hoarsely gasped, trying desperately to suck in a breath of air. The blood from his mouth had stained the sand red, and made it stick to his face and beard. Sylver did his best to tune out the man’s pitiful cries for help and mercy, and continued to search him.

What mercy? The only way out of this arena was for one of them to die, the man was essentially begging for Sylver to kill himself so he could live. He knew the risks when he touched the spear, it was his problem If he couldn’t accept them.

Sylver found what he was looking for inside of the man’s armor, hidden near his stomach. Sylver quickly flipped through the small notebook and was happy to see a nearly identical map in the later pages. The man was from ahead, and going by the markings on his map this was his 2nd challenge. But they were spaced out, Sylver’s had been right next to each other, but this man, or his party, spent several hours walking before another challenge showed up.

Sylver was about to kill the man to finish this, but got a better idea instead. He glanced behind himself to see Flax and Basil standing with their backs toward him, with only Rosa staring unflinchingly. Sylver made a spinning motion with his finger towards her, trying to tell her to turn around so she didn’t have to see this, but the elf woman refused with several shakes of her head.

Sylver ripped the silver adventurer’s tag off from the man’s neck and pocketed it without even looking at the name. He made a mental note to make a bag for adventurers tags when he had the chance. The man continued crying and trying to beg, but Sylver was well past that, the sounds didn’t even register as speech in his mind at this point.

The shades held the man’s arms out of the way, and Spring sat down near his head and held it in place. Sylver cut the leather straps that kept the man’s armor in place, and exposed the man’s chest. Sylver could feel the man’s chest nearly bursting with the effort of trying to pump oxygen around his system without any ability to breath, mixed with the unimaginable fear of what he could only guess was about to happen. But this didn’t need to be precise or pretty, blood magic was crude by nature.

Not even 5 strokes of the scalpel later, Sylver had a simple framework over the man’s chest. His head was a lot easier, the man was barely moving by that point in time. Finally, Sylver made a small cut on his wrist, and let his blood drip onto the man’s open and heavily bleeding wounds. Sylver carved a similar, but slightly move complex sigil onto the back of his forearm and checked to see if the connection had worked.

Spring waited for Sylver’s nod and in a single fluid motion, turned the man’s head sideways and snapped his neck.

[??? (???) Defeated!]
[Due to defeating an enemy in a fair duel, additional experience has been awarded!]

The body started to disappear, as Sylver was blinded by a white light.

*

*

*

Blood dripped down from Sylver’s elbow as he brought his hand to his face and held his palm over his eyes. It flashed yellow for a moment, and continued to glow as Sylver focused on the spell.

Sylver struggled to see anything, there was too much blood in the man’s eyes, but he could tell by the rough shapes that 4 people were staring down at the body. Sylver couldn’t hear a single word the people on the other side said, but could only guess that they were swearing revenge, or something of that nature. They all noticed the man moving, and the glowing sigils on his chest and forehead.

Before Sylver could say anything, the man’s head was smashed by a large hammer, and Sylver’s connection was severed.

Sylver removed his blood-covered hand and wiped it on his robe, and did the same for his face. He tightened the darkness around the wound on his arm to stop the bleeding.

Flax and Basil were looking out into the hallway, so as not to look at him. But what upset Sylver more was the disgust in Rosa’s eyes. They stared at each other for a moment, before Sylver’s eyes made their way down to his other hand and the short spear he was holding.

The weapon was roughly 1-meter dark wooden handle, and a relatively wide 30 centimeters of blade. Sylver spun it in his hand once, and didn’t like the balance on it.

[Spear Of Shriveling- ??? – Rare Quality]
[Any flesh damaged by the spear will gradually contract and harden.]
[Uses: 333/333]

[Appraisal (V) Proficiency increased to 7%!]

Sylver spun the short spear in his hand a few more times, but still didn’t like it, the point of balance was too close to the blade.

“If I were to die during the challenge, the rest of you would be teleported back where we accepted the challenge, I think. Or possibly, it teleports the losers backward, so you would lose a few hours of progress, but that’s about it,” Sylver explained.

He looked up at Rosa, but couldn’t get a read on her. Without directly touching her, all he knew was that she wasn’t thinking of attacking him, or at least there wasn’t any killing intent directed towards him.

“Is… Is that why you tortured that man?” Rosa asked, her expression breaking down the slightest amount, more towards upset, than disgusted.

“I don’t cause harm for the fun of it. I needed to see what happens to the bodies of the people who lose, and this was the only method available to me. I had hoped to track it to figure out how much ahead the person was, but I couldn’t feel the location of the body, there’s too much interference. His map isn’t detailed enough for me to figure out where exactly they were when they accepted the challenge. I also wanted to make sure the people who were teleported along with the challenger didn’t get killed if he failed,” Sylver explained.

Rosa took a shuddering breath before she composed herself.

I see, she was worried I did it for fun.

“Why?” She asked.

“Because I was worried about what would happen to you should I lose, and I needed to know,” Sylver answered.

Rosa mumbled something to herself in her language, and smiled ever so slightly before she spoke in Eirish.

“I would like to take the next challenge,” Rosa said.

Sylver shrugged his shoulders, as they walked towards the rust-covered and nearly destroyed bow.

*

*

*

The fight was over, even before Sylver’s eyes had time to adjust to the sudden flash of light. Trying to hold them closed didn’t work, since the light passed through his body, and thereby eyelids.

Rosa stood completely motionless, with three arrows embedded in her bow, and a thin man standing on the other side of the room. His face was invisible behind the forest of arrows embedded into it. The man slumped down to the floor, and blood sprayed out onto the sand below, as the arrows pierced further into his face.

Sylver could guess what had happened, and was curious if the crypt decided not to restrict any of their perks or skills since they were both archers. Rosa had caught the 3 arrows that had been fired at her, with the shaft of her bow, and at the same time unloaded enough arrows into the man that his death was as close to instant as an arrow could provide.

Rosa made the faintest of bows towards the corpse, as a bright white light blinded Sylver again. Sylver had considered asking her to stun the opponent so she had enough time to take their maps or notes, but now that Sylver saw how much respect, for lack of a better word, Rosa had for the deceased, he didn’t think there was any point in asking.

*

*

*

[Bottomless Quiver - ??? – Epic Quality]
[The arrows inside this quiver will never run out.]

[Appraisal (V) Proficiency increased to 8%!]

If Rosa felt any joy at gaining an item that apparently would let her never worry about wasting any arrows ever again, she didn’t show it. She turned the quiver upside-down and a torrent of arrows fell out of it, fading into nothingness before they even bounced off the floor.

Flax on the other hand had something eerily close to a grin, as if he was trying to say “that’s how you do it. No cheating, pure skill”. Sylver chalked it up to youthful ignorance, that Flax didn’t quite understand how the world worked, and how easy it was to lose a fight and everything you’ve worked hard for.

In Sylver’s case, it only took him 3 very bad losses until he stopped trying to ‘fight fair’. If Flax was smart, it would only take him 1 to realize this, and if he was an overly optimistic moron, it would take him 3.

Basil was as always, silent and neutral, while Rosa had a grim determination painted on her slightly pale face. She told Sylver that all of her skills were restricted, but the perks and traits remained untouched. At least as far as she could tell.

Sylver glanced towards the next box, and suppressed a smile as he saw the rusted to shit, twin axes. And going by the curve of the walls around them, Sylver guessed there were only 4 or 5 more challenges until they were near the center. But that was a guess, considering no one was sure how many people were down here right now. Everyone was slowly walking in the spiral towards the middle, and they were skipping ahead of everyone.

Only a bit more until they were done, and could go their separate ways, and Sylver could go and confront the woman in white. Hopefully armed with whatever Igri’s student is using to power this dungeon, and even more hopefully, with a [Hero]s weapon that Sylver could use.

With how thick the dark miasma was here, Sylver couldn’t imagine anything with a holy, or even a positive attribute surviving down here. Barring that, even getting his hands on the notes that let the crypt creator create Sabo and the harpies, would be a massive help.

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KingKennit

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