Ch084-Big Words, Little Man
Sylver racked his brain to match the faces to names, but even Spring was drawing a blank. Which meant that either Sylver had done a poor job when he created him, so unlikely it was impossible, or that Sylver hadn’t seen these three people before. All three wore matching black cloaks, oddly similar to the one Sylver was currently wearing.
Although they looked cheaper, uglier, and didn’t look like they were liquid, unlike Sylver’s.
“Gentlemen? Lady? Is there some reason you’re standing outside my home?” Sylver asked. He rolled his eyes as they all took far too long to get up from sitting on the steps, and almost immediately moved just a bit too close to him. They stood in a semi-circle, the woman in the middle and directly opposite Sylver, while the two men stood on either side of her.
The woman was shorter than Sylver, but not by a lot, while the two men were about his height. They smelt of smoke, and alcohol, as cheap as their cloaks. The man to Sylver’s left, with brown stubble and circular glasses that completely hid his eyes spoke.
“In the interest of keeping things civil-”
“If you were interested in that, you should have arranged for a meeting. Either through Shera in the adventurer’s guild, Ron at Ron’s rest, or my current employer, Lola Aeyri, or her assistants. We would agree on a time and place, and we would sit down and have tea and cakes while we spoke. Like civilized people. But instead, you’re standing here. Outside my home. Blocking my path to it, if you will,” Sylver interrupted. Although the three of them continue to smile, Sylver could feel by their souls they didn’t like what he had said.
“Then in the interest of keeping things short, we’re here to offer you protection,” the man with the glasses said.
“From?” Sylver asked. He looked around for a guard, but the street appeared uncharacteristically empty. It likely had something to do with the people hiding behind the corners and wearing the same black cloaks as the ones talking to Sylver.
“Fires, break-ins, theft, vandalism, and other extremely costly and hard to deal with damages. For an extremely low price of 500 gold a month, you’ll save yourself an estimated 11,400 gold per month worth of damage, time, and headache,” the man said.
“How did you come to that estimate?” Sylver asked. He wondered if everyone being so reasonable was the result of the general culture, or just that the existence of the system made it easy to see how difficult fighting someone would be.
[Human (Bladesman + Rogue) – 88]
[Human (Brawler + Armorer) – 81]
[??? (Guardian + Mage) – 86]
Sylver made a mental note to buy the next level of [Appraisal] when he had the time. They must have felt Sylver using the skill on them, or just correctly assumed, as all three leaned closer towards Sylver, with a grin on their faces.
“Experience. A great deal of experience. Then again, all it would take to make that number significantly larger is harassing any craftsmen that are hired to repair the damages, so it’s an extremely conservative estimate,” the level 88 Bladesman said.
Sylver thought it over and spent a moment gathering himself before he smiled with false confidence at the three annoyances. Although he was careful to have just a hint of uncertainty mixed into his smile.
“Thank you for the offer, but I think I’ll take my chances. I have two very excellent guards employed right now, and I wouldn’t feel right calling myself an adventurer if I couldn’t defend myself, or my home,” Sylver said as he took a step back and attempted to walk past the group, which moved a step forward to keep him closed in.
“Fighting monsters and fighting people are two very distinctly different things,” the man with the round glasses explained.
“I’m well aware,” Sylver said, still confident, but now with a slight irritation in his voice, as if to hide his nervousness.
“I would go as far as to say that a person that’s used to fighting monsters, would have a very tough time fighting people. Especially if they were outnumbered, and out leveled,” the man continued. Sylver looked around again, and genuinely flinched when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He had the cloak washed while he spoke to Novva, and now he would need to wash it again.
“500 gold is nothing for you. I wouldn’t be surprised if you had that much on you right now,” the man with the round glasses said. He didn’t put any force into the hand on Sylver’s shoulder, but the physical contact spoke enough on its own.
Sylver looked at each of their faces one after the other and focused on them. He gently pushed the man’s hand off his shoulder.
“I’m really curious. What exactly is going through your mind right now? Presumably, you know who I am, you’ve heard of what I’ve done, who I’ve fought, and who I associate with. And yet you three are standing here, blocking the entrance to my home, in my way, and demanding protection money? I hunt people and monsters for a living, what exactly is it that is going through your thick heads right now?” Sylver asked. The two men standing on either side of the woman stopped smiling and their faces turned neutral, while the woman’s remained with a grin.
“Several reasons. But the main one is that I’m good at reading people,” the woman guardian said. There was something wrong with her throat because her voice was far too deep and rough for her otherwise feminine appearance. Sylver straightened up at her words.
“Are you now? And what exactly did you read from me?” Sylver asked. The woman’s smile widened, as she leaned an inch or so closer.
“I know that there are two types of men that would break someone’s jaw open, in the way that you did. The first are the ones who get off on it. You know the type. Lex here would love nothing more than break a finger or two, and then cut your nose off just for the fun of it,” the woman said, with a nod towards the man with the round glasses.
“I’m guessing since you’ve attempted to talk to me, I’m whatever the second type is?” Sylver asked. The woman nodded.
“The second type, are the ones who are afraid of violence. The ones who think that if they bark loud enough, they’ll never have to bite anyone. Or in your case, the ones who think if they put on a show and bite hard enough once, that will prevent all future biting,” the woman guardian explained.
“I see… But what makes you think I’m not going to bite this time as well? To prevent the need for future biting?” Sylver asked. He lifted his hand and scratched his cheek, and made a mental note when all three of them flinched to reach for their weapons, but caught themselves. They were nervous. Good.
The woman had something on her back, the Bladesman had the sword at his side, and something on his other side, while the brawler had something up both of his sleeves.
“That you’re well aware how quickly a fight can turn south, and you value your life and safety much more than you would a measly 500 gold. We aren’t leaving without something to show for it, bribing guards is more expensive than you might imagine. But you seem like a reasonable man, from what I’ve seen at least,” the woman guardian explained.
Sylver reached with his hand and scratched the back of his head, as he silently had a short staring contest with the woman. He blinked first on purpose and looked away before responding.
“What if I said I knew people in the Cord that wouldn’t be happy to hear I’m being extorted like this?” Sylver asked.
“Then I would say you should have picked a group that wasn’t an ancient fairy tale. Please. Have a little respect, I wasn’t born yesterday. So what are we doing here? Everyone walks away happy and with what they want, peace in your case, and a small amount of money in mine. Or are you going to see how well your tricks work when you’re outnumbered, and against professionals?” the woman asked, almost purring as she said the word.
“Alright… You have a point, 500 gold isn’t worth fighting over... Give me a moment, I don’t have any on me, but should have enough in my house,” Sylver said, as he tried to sidestep around the trio. The woman turned around and grabbed Sylver by the arm and held onto it as if they were out on a date. The two men didn’t move away, and if anything got even closer to him.
“I take it you’re not going to trust me to go and get the gold and want to follow me inside to make sure I don’t run away or something? I already know you can fuck with my home, I fail to see the purpose of this,” Sylver said. He didn’t try to shrug the woman away.
“Just an assurance that you won’t try to run away and go tattling to the guards. Nothing would come of it anyway, we’ve got friends in high places. But it would be annoying to deal with, and then we would have to hurt you, and I like your face and wouldn’t like to see it bruised, cut up, and battered” the woman guardian said.
“Could you at least send those two away? If I wanted to fight, I would have done it here, not inside the house I’m attempting to protect from damage. Even if I won, the repair cost alone would be, as you said, much higher than 500 gold,” Sylver suggested. The woman adjusted her grip on his arm and Sylver counted at least 4 layers of armor beneath the thin cloak hiding everything. She pretended to think it over before shaking her head.
Sylver shrugged and waved his hand towards the gate to open it. It’s amazing how easy it is to get people to do something by asking them to do the opposite. If he had invited them inside, Sylver was more than sure they would have all waited for him here.
Inside the previously overgrown lawn was now neat, tidy, and bright green. Various corpses, of rats, birds, and priests had been carefully collected and burned. Sylver had held a slightly more formal funeral for the bodies of all the girls down in the basement, save for the corpses of Masha and Misha, as well as the previous home’s owner.
With the barrier that surrounded the house gone, the sunlight gave it a fresher appearance. It still wasn’t completely repaired, some windows and other minor architecture were beyond Sylver’s abilities, but everything was clean and cobweb-free. It was amazing what one person could achieve when he had over 300 shades working in tandem to clean something. The girls helped too, but mostly in guiding the shades and pointing out things they had missed.
“You know; this could be the start of something nice. A capable mage like yourself, especially one that’s so rational could do very well for himself if given the right connections. You might not know this, but there’s a power struggle right now for the remains of the Black Mane, and you could stand to make a lot of money if you were to help us out on a few jobs,” the woman offered.
Sylver gently lifted his hand into the air as they walked, and made a turning gesture with it. The gates behind them slammed shut and clattered so loudly and violently that the Bladesman with the round glasses drew the sword at his side, as well as a strange double-sided dagger in his other hand, while the brawler punched downwards, and caused two odd-shaped knuckle dusters to jump into his hand, while the woman holding Sylver’s hand began to glow a pale blue light and tightened her grip around his arm.
“For your own good don’t be stupid, don’t-” Sylver didn’t hear the end of her sentence as he lost the ability to see. He heard the woman start to scream as he felt her attempt to keep her hold on his hand, but a very powerful force ripped her fingers off him and dragged her away.
“Don’t kill them please,” Sylver said, into the endless and deep dark void.
Sylver felt something splatter onto the bottom of his robe and rolled his eyes. Barely a minute later, the darkness receded.
The three people who had attempted to extort Sylver for money, were now all on the floor, unconscious and both of their legs twisted so that they pointed backward. The fingers on the woman’s hands were bent the wrong way, with the thumb bleeding from the ripped open skin.
Sylver looked down and saw that his robe was covered in blood again.
“Great job, thank you. I hope neither of you was harmed?” Sylver asked. Masha appeared a couple of inches off the neatly trimmed and now blood-covered grass.
“Are you going to interrogate them? Because I can see their memories, they’re part of a gang called the Left Tooth and they have 5 people waiting outside,” Masha explained. Sylver nodded and summoned several shades to dig through their belongings.
One shade disappeared as one of the woman’s pockets was rigged with acid, which killed the shade, and then started to burn through her armor. It stopped before it had reached the skin. Inside the destroyed pouch, liquefied paper spilled out.
“Sorry, she’s had it for so long she doesn’t even think about it. I’m good with recent memories, seeing something older than a week takes a while,” Masha said. Sylver turned to look at her. She looked like she was in mourning from how much black she was wearing. It appears she liked Sophia’s robe but had converted it into a slightly less conservative dress.
“It’s fine, I’ll sort this out later. If anyone tries to come inside to rescue them, don’t kill them either. Were they hired by anyone, do you know?” Sylver asked.
Masha stared at him with a blank look on her face before she answered. All three gang members let out a short whimper before becoming silent again.
“It’s hard to see when they’re unconscious… But no. Or at least not directly, someone hired them to find as much information about you as possible, and Deya here decided you’d be an easy way to make some fast money. You were also her type, and she liked the way you walked, very confident, which influenced her decision a surprising amount. She ran away from home 3 years ago with a man she intended to marry, but he left her, and she had too much pride to go back to her parents and turned to crime. Originally she worked under Poll the Green as a safecracker of a sort before she-”
“Thank you, but I don’t need her life story. The man who hired them, what did he look like?” Sylver asked.
“He’s a dwarf… I think, he had a robe that looked a bit like yours, but it covered him from head to toe. Other than that he only came up to Deya’s hip, and had a low-pitched voice, they don’t know anything about him. He found them, and hired them, didn’t say who or why. They got paid 2,000 gold for it. What they found was kind of basic, where you ate, what shops you visited, who you talked to. But it’s splotchy, you disappear without warning a lot, and most of the time they got lucky when they found you. There’s also a different group that is following you, that got in their way. Adventurers I think, but it’s hard to tell,” Masha answered. Sylver looked down at the woman.
“Where did they meet the dwarf? Did he smell like anything? Could you copy his voice?” Sylver asked. He had forgotten how convenient having someone with mind-reading abilities was.
A figure wearing a pitch-black robe appeared a few steps away from Sylver. It was covered from head to toe, without a single visible discernable feature.
“You know what, I don’t even care. I’ve got too much other stuff going on to waste my time tracking down some sort of quasi-spymaster dwarf. Where’s Misha?” Sylver asked. Masha’s face turned sour at the question.
“Downstairs. She’s trying to remember everyone’s names, but she’s struggling with it,” Masha said.
“He didn’t keep a record? Oh… He did, but with numbers I take it…” Sylver said. He had guessed correctly, as Masha nodded. “You’re not going to try and help her?”
“Why? They’re gone. The things down there are just people-shaped beef jerky as far as I’m concerned. Lisa, Anna, Corry, Megan, all died down inside the cages, crying and cursing me with their last breath. If not for Misha, I would have used the bodies as fertilizer,” Masha said with a faint crack in her voice.
Sylver looked around the renovated garden and silently fixed his gaze on an empty spot near the edge that had a large pile of rocks with names etched onto them.
“I’m not going to ask you to make peace with your past, because I know first hand it isn’t always possible. But you should try to not focus on it. Let your sister deal with it how she wishes to and respect it,” Sylver said. Masha huffed and her form disappeared, as did the dwarf’s.
“Why are you here?” Masha asked. Sylver accepted that she wasn’t going to listen and didn’t waste his breath.
“I got what I needed to start the anti-teleportation spell. There will also be some guests coming over soon, so if you could fill the house up with some staff that would be great. They don’t need to do anything but hurriedly hide away. A friend of mine is looking for maids, butlers, a bard, and a chef right now, so this is just a temporary measure,” Sylver said.
A lineup of various men and women appeared in a giant group and moved into a semi-circle so Sylver could see them all at the same time.
“You made the same mistake when I first came here. Her shadow is facing the wrong way, the knees on a man of his height should be a bit lower, his hairline is too low for his head shape and…” Sylver explained, as he pointed at each person in question and made Masha change them to look more realistic.
Nautis was blind, and his guard didn’t look particularly smart or attentive, but Sylver didn’t like taking chances with things like this.
After his false staff were good enough to fool someone who hadn’t spent more time than he cared to admit learning how to create lifelike illusions, Sylver went to the edge of the garden and started to carefully lay out the foundation for his magic. When Masha questioned why this was the first thing he was doing, above all else, Sylver spent the entire 3 hours while he was here, explaining why he didn’t like teleporters.
He would later learn, Masha had learned several new swear words from his explanation.