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Ch080-Sticks And Stones

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“So that’s it?” Faust asked. He looked down at his hands again and turned them over a few times.

Sylver continued grinding the sand-like substance in his alchemical grinder as he answered.

“Almost. Once you eat this, it’ll fuse the flesh to the soul. You’ll have to be burned until only ashes remain if you want your consciousness to return to your original bodies. Might sting a little as it moves around through your blood, but you’ll barely notice it,” Sylver explained.

“It seems… too easy, it can’t be this easy,” Faust said, as Bruno chuckled in the background.

“It’s the mark of a true master. Making the impossible not just possible, but trivial. It’s hard to even call it necromancy at this point, this is true magic,” Bruno said between a coughing fit. Their lungs were still filled with chunks of blood and they were both coughing them out every other breath.

“No, this is very much necromancy. You were dead, and I gave you life, still necromancy. The soul magic especially is necromancy. About the only thing that isn’t necromancy is what I used to mold your bodies. I sometimes forget how much people bleed, it’s amazing how much blood there is in a body. I’ve been working with corpses for so long, I almost killed you by accident,” Sylver said, as he adjusted the grinder’s speed and closed it to keep the dust-like material inside.

“Which reminds me, please wait at least 2 weeks before sharing… fluids, with anyone. Nothing is toxic or anything, but uh… Just trust me on this, especially you Faust,” Sylver said, with a finger pointed towards the blond man.

“I highly doubt there’s anyone to share fluids with as I am now. No one’s going to invite a stranger that came out of nowhere into their home,” Faust said, raising an eyebrow at Sylver’s slight frown.

“You would be surprised. How’s your Ki core, or whatever you call it,” Sylver asked, changing the subject before it even started.

Faust closed his eyes and brought his hands together, fist to fist. Sylver felt Ron’s miasma react to whatever Faust was doing, but Sylver couldn’t see anything happen with his [Mana Sense].

“It’s fine. I mean, seriously, thank you for this, it’s more than I could have hoped for. I’ll make it work, don’t worry about it,” Faust said, quickly adding his thanks.

Bruno grabbed his crotch for the tenth time and adjusted it again.

“How do people walk around with this? I feel like when I turn, it turns a second after me,” Bruno complained, turning in a circle as if to demonstrate.

“Of all the things you could complain about, you’re complaining about the one thing I asked for,” Faust said, without so much as turning around from looking at himself in the makeshift ice mirror.

“You asked for this? Why? When?” Bruno asked, adjusting his crotch again as he spoke.

“I thought if we’re getting custom-made bodies anyway, we might as well get the deluxe variant. Although in all seriousness, I think I may need glasses,” Faust said. Sylver walked over to him and placed a hand on his forehead.

“Fuck… Can you fix it yourself? I’ve never fixed someone else’s eyes before, only my own… I would need to possess you to see through them or remove them outright, but even then eyes are notoriously difficult to heal. Maybe have a healer look at them when you get the chance?” Sylver offered. Faust’s body was partially Krist, meaning it was pure bad luck that the eyes he had chosen were bad.

“When did you even have time to ask him for this?” Bruno asked, once again moving side to side. Thankfully the clothing fit them both fine and nothing was moving.

“When you were busy looking over your soon-to-be body. I also asked for us both to be double-jointed, and for livers that can handle anything,” Faust explained, as he looked expectantly at Sylver.

“Within reason. Although if we’re talking strictly alcohol, the only way it will kill you is if you drown in it,” Sylver explained with a small smile.

“I don’t drink,” Bruno said. Although the way he said it made it sound almost like a question.

“Up to you,” Sylver tapped his sternum, “there’s a small recording spell in there. It’s small enough and deeply engraved into your bodies and souls that you shouldn’t notice it, but let me know if you ever feel like it’s getting hot. Gods are… tricky to record, especially if you don’t know which god it is, but this will at least let us know if she’s doing something to you. A litmus test, so to speak,” Sylver explained.

Bruno stopped fiddling with his groin and took a deep breath, which caused him to start coughing again.

“There will be blood coming out from… well... everywhere, for about a day or two. Don’t worry about it too much, it’s perfectly normal. You’re also both going to be starving for the next week, try to eat as much meat as you can. What else…” Sylver said, as he went back to the alchemical grinder and further adjusted it.

“Do they have brothels here? Not the kind where they’re kidnapped and forced into working there, but like, the kind where they chose to work there?” Faust asked.

“Wasn’t your dream to fall in love and get married? I clearly remember you saying that?” Sylver asked.

Faust shrugged his shoulders as he answered, “I forgot how fun it is to be an adult man. Between the temple and [Hero]’s sword, there wasn’t a whole lot of time for… I don’t think I even hit puberty in this life... Wait, am I a virgin?” Faust asked as he patted his body down as if looking for something.

“I could argue either way. Brand new bodies, so you’re both virgins. Your body is the combination of different men, that I am all but certain have either raped or had sex at some point, so you’re not virgins. Then there’s the question of souls being virgins, but short answer, who cares? Technically I lost my virginity a few months ago. It gets confusing, I would advise against thinking about it too much,” Sylver offered.

Bruno grabbed his crotch again as he spoke.

“Isn’t this too big? Will, it even fit in-”

“It’ll fit,” Sylver and Faust answered in sync without even looking at him.

It started with Bruno giggling slightly before the rest of the room erupted into full-bellied laughter. All three laughed hard enough to go into a coughing fit, which caused them all to laugh even harder.

*

*

*

“There’s an extra fee since monsters are involved, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s negligible. The merchant’s guild does have a slight issue with spider silk being produced on an industrial scale, but Wuss said not to worry about it. With the… let’s be honest and call it what it is, with the chimera research, the only ones that have a real problem with it are the local temples. Which I’ve already spoken to Sofia about, and she said it isn’t going to be a problem,” Lola explained, as Tamay collected up her papers and left the room.

“And Faust?” Sylver asked. He sat down on the chair opposite Lola’s desk.

“With him wanting to work in the adventurer’s guild, his background had to be a little more substantial than Bruno’s, references and the like. But other than that, everything’s fine. They should be entering the city in the next hour or so, and their escorts will show them to their home/farm, and I’ll let you know if there are any problems. The cats are handling security for them, so that’s taken care of. And both of their connections to me are vague enough that I highly doubt anyone will be attempting to kidnap them anytime soon. At least not as a way of getting to me,” Lola said. She reached down and pulled out a large notebook, and laid it out onto her paperwork-covered desk.

Sylver saw the schematics for his ribcage replacement and saw that barely anything of his original designs had remained.

“For starters, I had those runes further appraised. They don’t have a limit to how many times they can be used, so we’ve been able to test them somewhat. The [Rune Of Indestructibility] cannot be kept inside whatever is made indestructible. It refused to work when we tried. Once it’s tagged to your ribcage, I’ll have it sent to Torg and locked in a private vault, that technically speaking doesn’t exist,” Lola explained.

“Sounds good. Range isn’t an issue then?” Sylver asked.

“It’s not, but there are some things you should know. Whatever is made indestructible by the rune becomes a perfect insulator, electrically and thermally, and it is 100% chemically non reactive. Another interesting fact, the indestructible item is a perfect mana insulator. It’s like lead, but the effect is limited purely to the item in question. I had a mage that could use 3rd tier magic try to destroy a tagged shield, and nothing happened to it,” Lola said.

“I take it there’s a but coming up?” Sylver asked.

“Kind of. More of an oddity, than a real but. Whenever the rune is removed, assuming the item that had been tagged had taken a certain amount of damage, it disintegrates into nothing. We’ve checked, but the type of damage doesn’t matter, fire, blunt, sharp, chemical, explosive, result is always disintegration. This means that if the rune is destroyed while the ribcage is still inside of you, you’ll find yourself missing a great deal of bones, all at once,” Lola said.

“That might be awkward if I’m in the middle of a fight, but it’s not exactly a deal-breaker,” Sylver said as he continued to look at the strange-looking design.

“It’s teleported along with the person teleporting, so your smoke perk should work with it too,” Lola said.

“Great! Finally, good news without a whole bunch of bad news following it,” Sylver said, genuinely glad to hear at least something was going perfectly fine.

“More than that, see this part here?” Lola asked, she smiled as she pointed at a closed-off segment near the left shoulder blade.

“A decoy?” Sylver asked. It was too short for the needle but too small for anything else.

“Better,” Lola said, as she pulled out the [Rune Of Infinite Summoning] and placed it on top of the closed-off segment.

“Oh,” Sylver said as he connected the dots. “OH!” He shouted as he realized what this meant. He nearly fell out of his chair as he stood up to look at the page closer in his excitement.

“Not only is your weak point protected against most kinds of damage, but you’ll be able to summon a bomb whenever you want. There’s a spiral around the needle, like a seashell, so the only way someone will be able to damage it is if they submerge you in acid and turn you around multiple times. Or they heat you enough to melt it. Assuming the needle can be melted. Same for the rune, but it’s entirely closed off, it doesn’t need a direct connection to you, it’s completely inaccessible to anyone,” Lola said, while Sylver was busy mentally adjusting how to handle the surgery. She picked up the rune and put it back in her pocket.

“So given enough time it would be possible to break the needle, but not while I’m constantly dropping explosives all around me. Speaking of which,” Sylver said, as a perfectly round light grey sphere appeared in Lola’s hand, with a strange ring sticking out of it.

“This is a prototype mind you, but look at this,” Lola said, as she turned the sphere in her hand and inserted her thumb into the ring. She pulled it back from the sphere, and it clicked once. She pushed it towards the sphere and it clicked twice.

“The default is 30 seconds. Push it in deeper to get it down to 20, 10, 5, or instant, but you’ll need to get it all the way in for it to instantly detonate. Pull it out for up to 30 minutes of delay. Once it’s armed, it will explode instantly if someone tries to remove the trigger. Do this when you’re done setting the delay,” Lola said, as she pulled her thumb out of the ring and twisted it. It came off and left only a metallic rod stuck inside the grey sphere.

Sylver stared at it for about 10 seconds, before there was a muffled clink.

“As I said, prototype, but the real thing is almost ready. It is sadly affected by magic, so if someone simply surrounds it in a vacuum it won’t go off, but there’s a condensed air pocket inside to hopefully get around that. Each explosive costs somewhere around 19,000 gold in case you were wondering. The real trigger is so intricate that a watchmaker had to be hired to make it as small as it is,” Lola said, bragging as she tossed the grey ball to Sylver.

“This is incredible!”

“There is a small problem. Or something to keep in mind more accurately. You can unsummon them with a thought, but… only while you have physical contact with them. Once you stop touching the summoned explosive, for even a fraction of a second, you can’t unsummon it. It will disappear in exactly 1 hour on its own, but until then, it isn’t going anywhere. So you could summon 5 of these,” Lola said, as 5 identical grey spheres appeared in her hand.

“But if you let one go,” she moved one ball into her other hand and gently tossed it into the air for a second before catching it. The four balls that weren’t tossed disappeared, while the one that had been tossed remained where it was. “So be careful that someone doesn’t use them against you. From what I’ve been able to find this rune is normally used for throwing knives, or arrows, or something simple. Same for the [Rune Of Indestructibility] it’s normally used on a sword, or a spear, or a shield,” Lola explained.

“I almost feel bad for whoever decides to fight me,” Sylver said, as he put the grey ball back onto the table and went back to looking at the ribcage design.

“Honestly? Me too. This feels like overkill, to an extent. You were already unkillable, now you’re not even in danger anymore. What’s the worst they can do? Rip your arms, legs and head off, and pull all your internal organs out? Heart’s protected and nearly untouchable, not counting the holes for the arteries and veins, the needle is safely inside a spiral. I mean, if someone had a hot enough flame I guess… Not unkillable, more difficult to kill I should say. It’s bad to tempt fate with these kinds of things,” Lola said while Sylver continued to look over the vastly superior design and barely heard a word she had said.

“What’s this for?” Sylver asked, with a finger pointed at a mesh-like material between the ribs.

“So people can’t slip a sword between your ribs. You would be amazed how sharp an indestructible wire is, if someone tries slashing their sword against this mesh, it will cut the sword instead. And with a mesh, it will help keep it in place. Same for this part here for your spine, and here for your floating ribs,” Lola said, gesturing at several other points.

“Will this get in the way of me moving?” Sylver asked.

“No. I’ve spoken to an elf that’s a prosthetics expert. He’s the one that helped with the design and recommended the watchmaker. A lot of work went into this, and an insane amount of money,” Lola said. A slight shift in her tone gave away that she had hoped to skip past this information.

“How much?” Sylver asked. There wasn’t any real tension in his voice, this was worth 100 times its weight in gold for the security it provided.

“400,000 gold… Between the bribes, research, getting the materials delivered, design, prototypes, creating the necessary amount of Octanitrocubane, and the-”

“It’s fine, how much money do I have left from Poppy’s 5 million?” Sylver asked. He saw Lola’s temple twitch as she did the mental math.

“Between the… Well, everything, including Bruno and Faust… 2.36 million,” Lola said.

Sylver froze slightly as he heard the number.

“How? Where did-”

“The cat’s services are expensive. Some they’re willing to do for free, as a favor, but you can’t even imagine how much they want for the simplest request. And because the only alternative to them is waiting for months, possibly years for even a tenth of the materials you’ve used for your rituals, there isn’t much of a choice. If you were willing to wait, it wouldn't be a problem, but you always want everything as soon as possible, and speed is expensive. The stuff you wanted for Faust and Bruno alone cost-”

“I changed my mind, I don’t want to know… Isn’t the workshop making a profit, I thought we agreed I would get half?” Sylver asked.

“We have contracts, but by my estimates, it will take another 9 years before we’re breaking even. Between the loans, interest rate, machinery, and research and development costs, there isn’t much money left. But it wouldn’t work without that, the scale needs to be high to make up for the small margins. Why did you think I’m always so stressed out? When’s the last time I asked for something to help with my research, I haven’t had the time,” Lola complained.

“I didn’t… I’m sorry for not noticing, I had thought with all the new inventions it would have all been easy, but apparently not. I will… leave me 100,000 gold and use the rest as you see fit. I’ve got armor, a weapon, and magic, I’m more or less set for now. Oh but actually…” Sylver said as he considered how much the next ritual he had planned to perform would cost.

“No, no, I’ll be fine, I’m going to be a C rank adventurer soon anyway. I’ll keep 100,000 gold, and use the rest for whatever you need,” Sylver offered.

I forgot how expensive everything is, not to mention those god damn cats…

Sylver spent the rest of the visit listening to Lola complain about how much of a clusterfuck, her words, everything was. While Sylver did sympathize with her, he at the same time couldn’t help but smile at how fortunate it was that he didn’t have to do anything about it.

A small part of him felt bad for taking this adventurous researcher elf craftsman and sitting her down behind a desk to manage what was starting to sound like a massive headache. But a much larger part was just glad he only needed to worry about being killed.

Still, Lola was handling everything great, and apparently had people to talk to about it when Sylver wasn’t around. Three cats that Sylver hadn’t met before, the high priest of the temple of Ra, the head of the merchant’s guild’s daughter, and a nobleman elf named Olds, who was trying to woo her.

And by the way she spoke of him, was succeeding.

The fact that Lola had someone was great, Sylver was happy for her. Even if it did remind him of the issue with Leke and that he still hadn’t spoken to her. It amazed Sylver how much such a small thing could sour his mood, and he very nearly spoke to Lola about it.

At some point late in the night, Tamay had returned to inform them that Faust and Bruno were settled in, and everything was fine. Sylver made a mental note to go see both of them tomorrow morning, as he left and went home.

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