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Ch081-Fish In Water

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As Sylver approached the temple gates he considered what he would do if the two guards wearing silver armor were to attack him.

The first obvious solution would be to run away.

Between Spring, the shades, the wolves, and Will, there would be more than enough pure mass of bodies to give Sylver the 2 or so seconds he would need to find a manhole cover and disappear into the sewers.

But then what?

The first question would be if he would retaliate publicly or privately.

If it were public Sylver could just circle above the temple on Will and summon some of those infinite bombs Lola was going to give him. When he felt that he had enough, Sylver would simply step onto an invisible platform, and allow Will to dive-bomb right onto the barrier surrounding the temple.

Will would be disintegrated instantly, but assuming Sylver got the timing right, the force of the explosion would be enough to damage or downright destroy the barrier.

After that Sylver would continue to stay where he was and drop bombs down onto the temple. When the priests teleported up to fight him, he would take whatever damage he had to and would stab them with a lead-coated dagger. Then he would retreat with the body of whoever he captured, and use it to give himself and his shades enough of a resistance to holy magic to put up a fight.

After that, it would be a simple case of dive-bombing the recently repaired barrier, and then going in and causing enough chaos that they wouldn’t be able to organize and Sylver would kill them off one by one.

Alternatively, Sylver could track down the demon worshipers, and show them how to prepare for a proper possession. They could be used as either a distraction to empty the temple or as a direct attack force. It would take some convincing, but at worst Sylver could prepare them and simply force the possession, before dropping them down into the temple.

But that would be public and would bring with it other issues in the future.

They’re priests, so supposedly they don’t have families outside the temple…

Political interference? Use the cats' influence to trick them into lowering their defenses? Have the strongest priests sent away on a wild goose chase, some sort of mythical undead demon monster, it wouldn’t be that difficult to fake it…

Or make a real one just to be safe…

Sylver already knew where to find a demon, and undead monstrosities were just a matter of time and materials…

Controlling it would be out of the question, but Sylver could just give it a limited lifespan…

But what about when the priests return and find their temple in rubble and their people destroyed?

If the purpose was a show of force, digging a tunnel system underneath the temple and then sinking it into the dungeons below was an option. It would take time, but it wasn’t impossible. Sylver had used giant worm zombies in the past, it wouldn’t be that difficult to find some and bring some into Arda. Ron’s door might not work but-

“-help you?” a voice said.

Sylver looked sideways to see the source of the sound and an old-looking priest was standing a few steps away from him.

“Yes. I’ve taken the quest to retrieve the ring in the Anderey residence, and I need a priest to open the barrier surrounding it for me. I would normally offer a share of the reward, but I intended to live inside the house, so I would like to pay with gold instead,” Sylver explained.

Sylver burned through nearly 400MP just to stop the priest’s leaking mana from damaging him. In another 10 minutes, Sylver would be all out and would start to smoke.

The priest took the quest paper from Sylver’s hand and read through it. He furrowed his brows at one point and read over one section several times before handing it back to him.

“Wait here please,” the priest said.

Sylver didn’t even get a chance to nod before the man teleported away.

He spent a good 20 minutes hanging around the entrance, and eventually returned to thinking of ways to destroy the temple of Ra. In the highly unlikely case that it should ever become necessary.

The result was almost painfully boring. Sylver would simply dig underneath the temple, find the bottom of the spherical barrier, and would introduce a slow-acting zombie pathogen into the water and air. He would use his blood to act as the trigger, and after waiting about a month to make sure everyone was infected, he would walk inside of the barrier, activate the pathogen, and would turn all the priests and people inside into undead.

It wouldn’t kill them, obviously, but the holy energy trapped and concentrated inside the barrier would. Any attempts at healing would also damage them, they would be rotting from the inside out, and if they tried to heal it, they would be burning from the inside out.

This still wouldn’t kill them, but it would weaken them enough that Sylver could kill them himself. He would be on a tight time limit, but as long as the head priests were all dead, the others could be picked off after Sylver had had time to heal up and prepare a bit more. There would also be a fairly good chance that the weaker ones wouldn’t be able to counteract the zombie virus, and would either die in the process or would turn into zombies and kill the remaining priests for him.

Sylver stared at the two guards who impassionedly scanned the area behind and around him, never once concentrating on him for more than a fraction of a second. One of them brought his right hand up to the ear area of his helmet. The guard tapped his partner on the shoulder and the two disappeared together.

Sylver was left completely alone. Up until he felt something similar to scalding steam narrowly stop from searing his skin and robe off appear right in front of him. The effect disappeared entirely as Sophia put her bracelets on. The first was the same one she had used the first time Sylver had met her. But the other was a lot bigger and looked to be carved out of black rock. It hung loosely around her wrist before she pulled it upwards towards her bicep.

Before Sylver could say anything, Sophia fiddled with one of the rings that hung in her hair, and her previously frilly dress disappeared to be replaced by an almost insultingly simple priest robe. Her hair was covered up by a shawl. The robe was a tasteful mixture of red, yellow, and grey, made out of seemingly rough fabric. Everything apart from Sophia’s face was completely covered up, even her hands were covered in dark grey gloves.

“With the tournament going on, we’re stretched too thin to spare any priests for this…” Sophia said, as she walked out of the gates and started to slowly walk towards the haunted house. Sylver knew this was for his sake since with her long legs and matching long steps, he would normally have to jog to keep up with her. “…and there was something I wanted to talk to you about,” Sophia finished.

“I thought it was a bit of an overkill to send the head priest to essentially open a lock,” Sylver mentioned as he felt the two guards reappear back at their spots near the gates.

“Regarding your duel with Samuel Du’Rodier’s-”

“What about it?” Sylver interrupted. Whatever minuscule pleasure Sylver took in Sophia’s company was almost instantly replaced by irritation.

“I don’t want to talk about him specifically, but I want to talk about what you did to him. The curse, skill, or perk that you used to stop him from being healed. I would like to know what you would want in exchange for telling me how you did it, and how it can be removed or counteracted,” Sophia explained. The irritation disappeared and was replaced by a warm feeling in Sylver’s chest. He had a soft spot for people that didn’t beat around the bush.

“Any particular reason? I wasn’t lying about the several months’ part; the effect will disappear in a few more weeks or so. And as much as it pains me to say, but even if you’re the one asking, I’m not going to undo it. I didn’t do anything illegal, it was a fair and honest duel, and I would have been in the right if I had killed him,” Sylver explained, as Sophia already started to wave her hands before he had finished speaking.

“Oh no, you misunderstand, I don’t care about Samuel. If what I heard he did is true, I would have cut his legs off, as a start,” Sophia said, with the kind of dangerous spark in her eye that put a smile on Sylver’s face. “No, I’m asking because there was a man that came to us with a very similar issue, except his was a lot more violent, and a lot more permanent. Similar to how we collect poisons to find antidotes, I was hoping to collect your curse, to find a solution for it, so to speak,” Sophia explained.

Sylver mentally consulted the path from the temple to the haunted house as they walked.

“There’s no cure. Or at least, I would be willing to bet everything I owned there isn’t a cure for it. You’ve seen Samuel in person, yes? Inspected him?” Sylver asked.

“I have. The temple of Ra isn’t exactly world-renowned for its healing abilities, but Samuel eventually came to us just in case we had a solution. I’ve seen damage done by level 200 undead that wasn’t as severe. Or, if not severe, not so resistant to healing magic. If anything, I feel like we made worse by the attempt,” Sophia explained, being careful to pick the right words.

“You didn’t, at worst the pain from the healing stressed him out, but it isn’t enough to kill him. But I’ll be honest with you, I’m unwilling to explain how it works because it would require explaining things that I can’t explain,” Sylver said.

“I see… But is it something from your necromancer class, or your unique class?” Sophia asked.

“Would you believe me if I said neither?” Sylver asked as Sophia turned to look behind them at the two invisible guards following them from the rooftops. She sounded irritated as she spoke, but it wasn’t directed at Sylver.

“So a custom skill… Or a combination of skills that you rightfully can say wasn’t meant to be combined… And yet low tier enough that you were able to use it right after a fight…” Sophia thought out loud, reaching up with a hand to bite her thumb’s fingernail.

“If this is an attempt to get me to correct you, and accidentally over-explain until you have more than enough information to figure the rest out, you should know that it isn’t going to work. I’m always willing to trade information for information, but this particular magic is far too valuable for me to ever trade with anyone. Not to mention, in the same way I’m certain it cannot be cured, I’m certain no one but me would be able to use it even if I wrote it out into an easy to use guide,” Sylver explained, with a gentle and polite tone, as the Anderey house started coming into view.

It looked like it was built just yesterday. The tiled bright white roof didn’t have so much as a single smidge on it, as far as Sylver could see at least. The dark stone walls that surrounded it practically glittered in the mid-day sun. The garden in front of it had a white stone path leading to the front doors, connected directly to the locked gate, and wide enough for 2 carriages to easily pass each other without setting a wheel onto the weed-infested grassland on either side.

The house itself looked like it was built yesterday. But everything else, from the tangled mess of dead tree branches to the dead birds strewn around the white path, to the dead priest slouched against the front door, with visibly rotten skin showing up through the shreds of his robe.

“It belonged to a man named Andrey. Written as Anderey, with no one knowing why or where the extra E came from. It’s been classified as an A-class dwelling, with an unknown specialization. Numerous tests have been done on it, and everyone is certain there are only phantoms inside. Normally if an exorcism isn’t possible we would just burn it down with holy fire, but the current owner has been paying our temple to only secure it and has refused to allow it to be demolished,” Sophia explained.

“You’re sure there are only phantoms in there?” Sylver asked.

“Anytime anyone has attempted to enter it, they would have awful visions and would run away or they wouldn’t return. People immune or resistant to mental magic have attempted to enter it to find the source of its strength, but as far as my records are aware none have returned,” Sophia explained. Sylver felt the two invisible guards change places and then felt 4 more appear near them and spread out.

“How long has it been here?” Sylver asked.

“I don’t know. But it’s been haunted for the last 80 or so years. Sometimes people like you attempt the quest and our temple or one of the others run tests on it to check for any changes. The last one was… 5 months ago? A level 140 something paladin, if I’m remembering right. Never returned,” Sophia explained. She somehow managed to say it with such an oddly unconcerned voice, that Sylver half thought she was joking.

“I see… Is there anything else I should know?” Sylver asked. Sophia shrugged her shoulders.

“Nothing that wasn’t already written on the quest page,” Sophia answered.

Sylver stood in place and looked at the house for a while. He couldn’t understand what was bugging him until he realized that Sophia didn’t seem all that concerned for him. Which was understandable, given that they were just short of strangers, but it didn’t quite fit.

“When I finish the quest and live in the house, will I have to let anyone inside?” Sylver asked. It was hard not to emphasize the “when” part of the question, but he thought it sounded natural enough.

“Not that I’m aware of. This is a house for nobles, and the laws regarding what they can and can’t have or do on their property depends on the noble in question. Privacy of your own home and all that. Personally, if I were in your shoes, I would sell the house for nothing to a noble you trust, and rent it from them for 100 years for a copper coin, or something. It would make your life a whole lot easier,” Sophia explained.

It was odd to hear a priest explain how to bend the law in your favor, but Sylver had another question before that.

“Normally with a seemingly impossible quest like this, people wouldn’t just assume I would be able to handle it,” Sylver asked. He tried to be subtle, but Sophia didn’t even try.

“Well, considering you somehow broke the curse that had been plaguing Kitty’s family for generations, a couple of high-level phantoms aren’t going to be much of a challenge,” Sophia said, without once smiling as she spoke. Sylver continued to silently stare at the house and did his very best not to phrase it like a threat.

“Who the fuck are you that she tells you my business?” Sylver asked calmly.

The very idea that Kitty would so blatantly ignore his simple request for anonymity pissed him off so much that he could feel the slightly relaxed guards hiding behind them perk up and get ready. It said something about Sophia that she didn’t so much as flinch.

“She didn’t tell me anything. Which quite honestly hurt considering how long we’ve worked together. But there are boundaries we don’t cross. In her case, we turn a blind eye when she asks for Cord members to be healed. In our case, she doesn’t interfere with my plans or my people. This includes killing them to silence them after they saw a white-haired man with completely black eyes, covered in sigils carved into his body, black as charcoal arms, and laying inside the shattered remains of one of the most powerful barriers the temple of Ra has ever made. Which right afterward just so happened to no longer be necessary, as some nameless mage had undone the curse,” Sophia said, slowly and nonchalantly, chewing the words as if she were savoring them.

“And wouldn’t you know it, there just so happened to be a mage with a similar appearance in Medera, right when the curse disappeared? I can’t describe to you how insulting it was that they refused to admit anything, even when I already knew your name,” Sophia said. If she spoke with a drop of poison before, now there was a bucket of it. Except it was once again not directed at Sylver.

“So back when we first met, you already knew everything,” Sylver summarized.

“No.”

“No?”

“Ellari recognized you. If not for him, I wouldn’t have known about the barrier, the curse, or you, for another year. He’d written out a report on the matter, and if it went through the proper channels, I would have only heard about it during the next summer solstice meeting. After you left to find demon worshipers, he casually joked that you overdid it with the healing and made your hands too white to compensate for them being burned. It is pure luck that I was within earshot and asked him to elaborate,” Sophia explained.

Sylver tapped his foot as he thought things through and spoke without so much as a hint of malice.

“Who else knows about this? About me and the curse and the cats?” Sylver asked.

“A small trusted group of people, that will sooner die than speak of it, if I were to ask them to. Which I had already done. With Kitty and her people, I don’t know, but I would imagine it’s a similar situation. Outside of that, no one. Or at least not that I am aware of. Kitty had done everything she could to make Ellari forget what he saw, but unluckily for her, he is one of the few that genuinely believes in Ra,” Sophia answered.

“So when I returned to accept finding the demon worshipers, with the cats and Cord acting as backup-”

“The cats that spoke to us were not aware of it. And neither is the Cord, as least as far as I could tell. Their whole thing is information, I would find it hard to believe Kitty would have trouble keeping certain information from spreading. She got plain unlucky with Ellari. I only found out about the whole thing, after we had spoken and you left. I would have been more… courteous if I was aware of what you were capable of,” Sophia answered, with a vague gesture of her hand as she searched for the right word.

“So the one guard that just so happened to have seen me, just so happened to get transferred here, and you just so happened to overhear a joke, and found everything out?” Sylver summarized.

“More or less. I can’t do a whole lot about the report he has written, not without essentially starting a civil war inside the temple, which I am unwilling to do again, even for you. But until the summer solstice, no one is aware of what you’ve done. You aren’t named in the report, but adventurers with white hair and black eyes are very rare, especially full-blooded humans. If you were a gnome or a dark elf, maybe there would be some wiggle room regarding your identity,” Sofia said.

Sylver could almost hear the faint sound of Spring scribbling inside his shadow to speak to Kitty when he had the chance

“Well, not a whole lot I can do about it now,” Sylver said. He wasn’t certain if this was a good or a bad thing, but he and Kitty had a deal. If it was genuinely accidental and happenstance, it was one thing.

If she had purposely allowed this to happen, it was a very big problem.

Sophia wordlessly opened the gates and shut them behind him after Sylver had entered. The moment the gates had shut, Sylver suddenly found himself surrounded in blood-red fire.

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