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Ch083-You Can’t Even Run

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“A waystone? You know how to make one? How?” Lola asked. Sylver continued to rummage through her stores as he spoke.

“Not a real waystone, but it will be close enough for my purposes. There will be a gap between Nautis’s skills leaving him, and going into Melo, that I’ll hopefully be able to take advantage of. I don’t know how it’s going to work with levels and classes and the like, but I haven’t felt anything while thinking about it, so I think the system doesn’t have a problem with it. Kitty gave me a perk once, and I am, technically speaking, doing this with Nautis’s consent. Melo wasn’t thrilled about it, but he wasn’t unhappy either. As usual, there’s more guesswork in this than I would normally be comfortable with, but that’s normal by this point,” Sylver explained. He found the carefully put away sealed bottle of thallium and put it into the box Spring was holding for him.

“You’re going through a lot of unnecessary steps when you could just hand him over to Novva and his friends and be done with it. They’re all dukes, they could make the 2,000,000 look like pocket change...” Lola argued. Sylver was starting to regret telling her about how he was essentially pulling the rug from under Sophia’s feet, but he didn’t want to keep any more secrets from her than he had to. He drew the line at asking her to use her friendship with Sophia to help him out on this.

“First of all, Nautis and I made a deal. I will cure his curse. What happens after that, isn’t part of the deal. Second of all, I’m curious where he’s gotten the funding for this, Sophia doesn’t have this kind of money, and I know the cats or Cord wouldn’t pick Nautis and Tuli over the money they could make selling him off to Novva and friends. They know where the cave is, they don’t need him,” Sylver said, with a harsh emphasis on the word “cave”.

“They never did figure out where all those crystals went. You think if you pull Nautis’s string hard enough, you’ll find Faun and find where the rest of the crystals are? And why exactly Poppy kidnapped Yeva and Ciege and what she was trying to do with them,” Lola asked.

“No, that I am purposely ignoring. It’s done, case closed, I am not going to even dip my toe into that. If it turns out Poppy is the mastermind behind this whole thing, I’m just going to drop it and move on. I am too weak and too smart to get involved with a god in any way, shape, or form,” Sylver said. He got up from his crouch and looked Lola in the eye as he spoke.

“Aside from what you’ve done with Faust and Bruno,” Lola added.

“Aside from that, yes. I get an awful stomach ache even considering talking to Poppy, let alone somehow getting involved in her business. Faust and Bruno are low scale enough for me to handle, at least that’s the feeling I’m getting,” Sylver explained. Lola shrugged her shoulders as Sylver opened the next box and started to rummage through it too.

*

*

*

Sylver floated in the air and consulted his mental map as he changed direction and went a level lower. If he was right, it should be right around here that-

An arrow passed through the hole Sylver had made in his smoke form and shattered into pieces against the ceiling above him.

[Chimp (Archer) – 68]
[HP-2657]
[MP-411]

“Ah, good, I was worried I missed a tunnel back there,” Sylver said, as another arrow passed through an opening he made. His smoke descended downwards as arrow after arrow harmlessly passed through him. Sylver’s smoke spiraled around the confused chimp, as he suddenly materialized directly behind it and kicked the back of its knee.

It went down, as Sylver put it into a chokehold and simultaneously drained the life out of it with one hand, as the other vibrated the chimp’s brain and knocked it out. Sylver kept his grip tight on the chimp’s thin neck as it went down, and waited until he was certain it was unconscious before he stood up.

“Told you. I might be blind as a bat down here, but I can still read a map,” Spring said.

Sylver nodded as he used a small flame to burn off the hair covering the chimp’s arm.

“I know a variant of the spell Bruno used. The problem is, the frameworks he drew all have this strange fragment, that I don’t understand the purpose of,” Sylver said, as he pulled back the sleeve on his arm and considered if he should shave the hair off his too.

“You could ask him?” Spring offered. Sylver ran one hand along his forearm and the pale grey hair flattened down against his skin.

“I don’t want to disturb him unless it’s important. And my magic doesn’t quite work as his does, I doubt his explanation would be of any use to me. It’s also kind of fun. In a, trying to solve a puzzle where none of the pieces fit together and you have to cut them until they do kind of way,” Sylver explained. He placed his hand over the chimp’s and focused.

“Are you sure it will work with dungeon monsters?” Spring asked. The yellow glow emanating from Sylver’s hand started to sputter before it returned to normal.

“No harm trying while we wait. It’s going to take me a few attempts before I figure this out anyway, might as well get the first couple of failures out of the way,” Sylver said. Spring nodded as Sylver’s arm started to sputter again. The skin near his wrist burst open and splattered blood onto the unconscious chimp’s body. Sylver ran a finger along the tear and sealed it closed to a thin layer of darkness.

Sylver slowly moved his hand upwards, and the skin on the chimp’s forearm started to move as if it were liquid. It bubbled and turned dark before it snapped back into place as if nothing had happened.

Sylver placed his hand back down and started again.

*

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*

The floor was covered in a thick layer of blood and, and a small raised table was surrounded by charred bones and pieces of flesh that had fallen off it. Sylver stood a few centimeters off the floor and tried to once again get Bruno’s spell to work.

The unconscious chimp’s arm rose slightly into the air, instantly turned black, and then returned to its normal color, as a wave of darkness traveled up the chimp’s arm and spread out through its body. Sylver’s robe caught most of the gore as the chimp exploded, and he flicked away pieces of bone off his blood-covered hand.

[Chimp (Rock Thrower + Warrior) Defeated!]

The shades didn’t bother cleaning the table as another unconscious chimp was thrown onto it.

“I think they’re lost,” Spring offered. Sylver spent a while adjusting the framework in his mind before he heard what Spring had said.

“Or they’re resting before attacking,” Sylver said. He rubbed his eyes with his clean hand and ran it through his sweat-laden hair.

“My perception of time is as faulty as yours, do you think you’re going to figure anything out in the next hour or so? Because otherwise, we should handle this now, unless you want to be late to your meeting with Nautis,” Spring suggested.

Sylver looked down at the unconscious chimp and looked at its shaved arm. The spell itself wasn’t that complex, Sylver’s robe functioned similarly to what Bruno had done, just a different application of the same components.

Except Sylver couldn’t even cover his arm with it, let alone his whole body. His ongoing theory was-

“They’re here,” Spring whispered. Sylver continued to stand where he was and stared at the partially shaved chimp that lay sprawled out on the makeshift table.

“If you’re trying to sneak up on me, I would advise against it. When I’m this far away from any kind of guard, I tend to employ a kill first, ask questions later tactic,” Sylver shouted into the empty cavern.

The tunnel he was currently standing in was smeared in blood on every visible surface. From the smooth rock walls, ceiling, lanterns, and floor, everything was slimy and red with gore. A pile of dead chimps lay loosely against one wall, while Sylver stood next to a raised rock table near the other wall.

“We’re not here to fight,” a voice answered back. Sylver turned to face the source, but couldn’t see anything there.

“Good, I’ve spilled enough blood for one day, and I always prefer talking things out when possible. How may I be of help to the people who have been following me for the better part of 3 weeks, and followed me deep down into the dungeons?” Sylver asked.

He had done his best to ignore them before and had succeeded to an extent. He also knew them and didn’t like the idea of harming them. But he had time to kill, and the more people he had to test Bruno’s spell on, the better.

“Respectfully… We would like you to heal Samuel, and leave Arda as soon as possible… And never return,” A different voice said. It was a woman’s.

“You know what? That’s oddly reasonable. You even started it with the word “respectfully”, which I do appreciate. But I would like to hear the other half,” Sylver said.

“We would prefer if you just accepted our offer, as is,” the woman said.

“I’m sure you would. But it isn’t an offer unless something is being offered. You’re not giving me a choice; you’re simply asking me to leave. Here’s an example. Leave me alone, and I won’t kill you. See? Now that’s an offer because you have the option of A: leaving me alone, or B: getting killed. You’ve only provided me with one option. The “and” is key here because the implication is that if you don’t leave me alone, I will kill you,” Sylver explained. He felt the group of four spread out and nodded to himself approvingly.

“How about a one on one match? Winner takes all? If I win you leave Arda, and if I lose, I’ll leave Arda tonight,” Sylver offered. There was a sound that might have been a chuckle.

“Fair enough, I wouldn’t want to fight me either. Even as a group you lot barely have a chance, one on one I would destroy you,” Sylver goaded. The C rank adventurers for their part didn’t so much as make a noise this time around.

“In that case, before we begin, could you tell me one thing? Did someone hire you to do this?” Sylver asked. He heard the sound of a sword being drawn as someone to his left answered.

“I know firsthand how much of a problem you’ll become in the future. It’s better to handle you now before anyone else has to get hurt or involved,” the voice answered.

“I see. So you’re doing this to protect your city, quite honestly I-” Sylver didn’t get to finish his sentence as an arrow passed through his torso.

Barely a moment later their rogue appeared directly behind Sylver and attempted to wrap a garrote around his neck, but it passed through him as well. The rogue disappeared.

Pitch black smoke began to fall from the ceiling and lowered the visibility inside the tunnel to next to nothing.

In the proceeding silence, a muffled gasp alerted the other 3 that their archer was gone. Sylver reappeared where he had been a moment earlier, and at his feet, the small-framed archer lay blue in the face. The smoke thinned the smallest amount so the others could see him.

“Concealment rings, clever, but useless against me,” Sylver said, as he crouched down and reached with a hand towards the unconscious archer. As he had expected the warrior came rushing in from the back and waved his sword hard enough to disperse the surrounding smoke.

The warrior’s skin shone with a green light for a split second, before he began to swing his sword, and appeared right in front of Sylver. The sword clattered out of the warrior’s hand’s as several chimp zombies stood up from the floor and grabbed and subdued him. Sylver paused for a moment as he realized the warrior had changed the angle of his swing to hurt Sylver, but not cut him apart. It seemed too rookie of a mistake for someone of his ability.

“It’s also a bad idea to give a mage time to prepare. There could be traps everywhere, in the walls, in the ceiling, even right under your feet. Blood can cover a lot of things, and it can hide even more,” Sylver said, as the remaining two party members moved again, and attempted a pincer attack.

The rogue’s dagger passed through Sylver’s torso as if he wasn’t there, while the woman’s fist passed through Sylver’s back and nearly hit the rogue in front of him. Both of them disappeared immediately, and Sylver reached down for the archer and lifted him off the floor by the neck.

“I’m going to decapitate him in 3 seconds if you don’t surrender,” Sylver shouted. He turned towards where he could feel the rogue and woman warrior, and lightly shook the archer’s body in his hand. To his surprise, the two appeared a few steps away from him with their hands raised. Sylver adjusted his grip on the archer’s neck.

Sylver stood in mild shock for a moment and considered what to do now.

“Please don’t hurt him. We were going to rough you up a little, nothing more, I swear on my mother’s life,” the woman warrior said. Sylver stood quietly for a while longer, while he tried to process this. The interference in the dungeon muddled his soul sense a bit, but the woman was close enough that he was confident she was telling the truth.

“I… Seriously? Oh… Oh wow, you’re actually serious,” Sylver said, as he tapped his foot on the blood-covered floor. Spring was equally tense as the remaining 30 shades stopped what they were doing and started to search for a fifth member. It felt like a trap, but it felt too obvious to be a trap.

Sylver didn’t know what to do when all 30 couldn’t find anyone or anything nearby.

“A rogue, an archer, two warriors, you’re The Hopeless, right?” Sylver asked. The woman warrior nodded.

“Last chance, did someone hire you?” Sylver offered.

The woman warrior shook her head, as did the masked rogue next to her. Both were wearing tightly fitted dark leather armor, with the rogue having a hood that covered his head and face, with small holes for his eyes and mouth.

Sylver lowered the archer to the floor slightly as his arm started to get tired.

“How about a deal in that case? I’m not going to kill you, but I’m going to curse these two. Not the way I did to Samuel, but any of you ever cross me, they’ll die, and then I’ll kill you. Sound fair?” Sylver asked. The warrior woman and the rogue looked at each other before they both nodded. Sylver paused again as he tried to remember the last time something like this had happened.

“And you know how some villages submit F rank quests that are only F-rank because of the low reward, and not because of the level of danger? Your party has to do at least 3 of them every month before you take any higher rank quest, sound fair?” Sylver asked.

The rogue attempted to lower his hands, but Sylver shook the archer in his hand and the rogue kept his hands up. “What if there aren’t any and only higher-ranked quests?” the rogue asked.

“That’s fine, but if you ever purposely take a higher-ranked quest without doing three high-risk low reward quests first, I’ll know, and I’ll kill you all. Do we understand each other?” Sylver asked. They both nodded.

Sylver snapped his fingers with his free hands and the garrotes around the archer’s and warrior’s neck disappeared. A bright yellow light glowed from where the archer’s and warrior’s heart was and gradually dimmed back into nothing.

“I appreciate that we could talk things out. Tell anyone you feel is likely to attempt what you have that the next time I’m followed, let alone ambushed, I’m going to skin them alive and permanently rearrange their digestive system to work backward but I’m not going to kill them… Any questions?” Sylver asked. The warrior at his feet made a strange sound as he stirred awake, while the rogue and woman warrior shook their heads.

“Good. And just to be clear,” Sylver said, as the illusion surrounding Spring disappeared as he lowered the archer to the floor, “you never had a chance. I’m not even here, I’m about 4 miles away,” Spring said with Sylver’s voice.

Spring winked at the party, as he disappeared into the shadows. The smoke that had been falling from the ceiling disappeared as well, while the woman warrior and rogue rushed over to the coughing archer and warrior. The zombie chimps that lined the walls and were helping maintain the illusions, slumped over dead.

Sylver spread himself out as thin as he could as he came out of the pile of dead chimps and traveled up the wall and along with the ceiling. He could hear the warrior cursing as he left.

*

*

*

“So why didn’t you kill them?” Spring asked while Sylver used a ball of water to wash away the gunk on his boots.

“They’re good kids. And Shera has been complaining about those F rank quests for a while, and they’re too dangerous for F rank adventurers, but not worth the trouble for anyone higher ranked, so I found someone to handle them. Most of them are from piss poor villages that can’t afford to cobble together a proper reward, but that doesn’t mean the danger of ogres or goblins is any less real. By the time the quest is handled by the army, it’s already too late. I don’t like the idea of what happened to Ciege repeating if I can help it,” Sylver explained. He heated the floating water and it turned red as the blood dissolved in it.

“And the fact that they surrendered, threw you off,” Spring added.

“That too. Also… I don’t know… They showed me respect by not trying to fight me fairly, and they were polite and calm throughout the whole thing. Their hearts are in the right place, even if I’m not a threat to Arda. I live here, Lola lives here, this whole city is arguably the safest place to be in the world right now,” Sylver added.

“I see… How long until they figure out you just made their chests glow and didn’t put a curse on them?” Spring asked as he returned to Sylver’s shadow.

“Look at me. I’m a terrifying and mysterious necromancer, who knows what I can do? They know I can cause permanent damage that can’t be healed, isn’t a long-range curse one hundred times easier and more believable than something that goes against common logic? It feels bad to say, but I’m starting to like the fact that necromancy is all but gone in this world. It’s extremely convenient, at the very least,” Sylver said. Spring wrote something down before he spoke again.

“Did you feel that was too easy? They were all level 80 to 90, both the archer and warrior went down with barely a struggle,” Spring asked.

“Element of surprise, that they aren’t used to fighting people, let alone necromancers, and that they weren’t trying to kill me. Or maybe they don’t fight well when they’re blinded, separated, and I spent nearly an hour preparing for them. And to think, you said there wasn’t any point accepting [Shadow’s Agent],” Sylver reprimanded, as Spring smirked inside his shadow.

“It was fun to pretend I can use magic,” Spring said nostalgically.

“I’m happy you had fun. Go to Ron’s to check all the prep is done, I’m going to talk to Melo and get him ready too. I know I said I’ve had enough bloodshed for one day, but I cannot wait to see the look on Nautis’s face when he sees me. Or Novva,” Sylver said. With a little too much skip in his step.

“Do you think there’s a chance Poppy somehow sent him here as a gift to you?” Spring asked. Sylver stopped dead in his tracks as he thought it over and frowned.

“Great, thank you, now I’ve got one more thing to worry about, thanks for that,” Sylver grumbled.

“You’re welcome,” Spring laughed, as he moved through the shadows and went to Ron’s rest.

Sylver took a deep breath and sighed loudly before he turned into smoke and began to move towards the inn Melo and Novva were staying at. Once Nautis was up and healed, they could start interrogating him, and undoing all the healing.

Just like old times.

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