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Ch085-Lost And Found

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[Human (None) – 1]
[HP-10]
[MP-10]

Nautis threw up, and Sylver was all but certain he had just lost his other lung. But the three masked healers were making quick work of what would have been a fatal wound, and Nautis was breathing normally by the time he was done spitting everything out.

“I’d like to apologize for threatening you earlier,” Nautis said quietly.

Sylver adjusted the mask on his face and waved away the questioning look on Novva’s face.

“Don’t worry about it. You were stressed out, desperate, I can understand when people say or do things out of desperation,” Sylver explained.

“It doesn’t make what I did right. I’m going to double what I owe you, as an apology,” Nautis promised. Sylver whistled at the promise of an extra million gold and nearly burst out laughing at the smirk on Novva’s face. Even the three healers, lent to Novva by a friend of his, smiled at Nautis’s words.

“You know, I almost feel sorry for you,” Sylver said, lowering the level of excitement in the room down a few steps.

“You think going through this is worth however much money I made? I’ll tell you now if I could give all of that up for never being in this situation in the first place, I would have done it in a heartbeat,” Nautis said, as he hit his recently healed chest with his recently regrown hands and fingers. All that was left were his insides and eyes.

“No, not for that. I honestly believe that you deserved every single second of pain you’ve experienced, and more. It’s difficult for me to hate someone because in most cases I can see where they’re coming from, and I can’t bring myself to hate them for it. If I were in their shoes, I would do the same thing and all that. The only person I do hate is the one I can’t understand,” Sylver explained. Novva reacted to the sound of glass breaking and silently teleported out of the small room.

“Go fuck yourself,” Nautis muttered under his breath, as the healer’s finished with his other hand. Sylver stood up from the chair he was sitting in and walked over to him.

“See… I don’t believe in “evil”. I believe in a great number of things, but I don’t believe there’s such a thing as “evil”. And when you look at a bandit and no longer see an enemy, but a person who could have been a friendly baker if things were slightly different, you lose the ability to hate them. I do my best to make sure the people I fight have a quick and painless death, as much as the situation allows at least. But even when I kill them, I don’t hate them,” Sylver explained.

“I see, now that I’m alone and with something to lose, you think you can extort more money out of me? I already apologized, what more do you want?” Nautis asked, biting each word as if it could hurt Sylver.

“I don’t want your money Nautis,” Sylver said. Nautis lost whatever color had returned to his face.

“I just want you to know that I hate you. I can empathize with a murderer, a tyrant, a thief, a slaver, a kidnapper, even a rapist, as long as they understand what they’re doing, and accept it. I don’t condone it, I don’t like it, and I may kill them for it, but I can understand it. But kidnapping thousands of people, keeping them separated from their families for years, making them eat the shit I would be wary of mixing into pig slop, all because “it got out of hand”. That I can’t understand,” Sylver said, as he gradually removed the voice-altering effect, as the healers started to work on Nautis’s eyes. All three disappeared a moment later, while their magic remained and healed him.

“No,” Nautis whispered.

“It is one thing to do something you know hurts people, doing it willingly, or at least with an understanding of what you’re doing. I can understand why a bandit kills and steals because he cares more about himself than other people. I get that, I understand it,” Sylver said.

Nautis barely reacted.

“People can rationalize anything away, I understand that too, and I can’t hate them for it. I don’t love them for it, but I don’t hate them either. But you? A man who mindlessly went along with whatever you were told to do, and never once, for even a second stopped to think for himself? I don’t like bandits because they use up precious resources and don’t create anything of value, but I don’t hate them. I don’t like killers or rapists, because their actions cause more damage for the future than whatever possible good they might do while alive, but I don’t hate them. But you? If I didn’t hate you, you would have died the moment the ritual ended,” Sylver said with a calm voice.

Sylver could tell the healing magic wasn’t doing anything anymore, and only the small bandage on his face kept Nautis’s eyes closed.

“Just let me go. Please? I’ll tell you where Faun is, I’ll tell you everything, I’ll-”

The tip of Sylver’s boot connected with Nautis’s mouth and shattered several front teeth. The bandage tore off as Nautis scrambled on the floor and held both hands against his recently repaired, and more recently destroyed, teeth. His eyes opened wide in recognition.

“Don’t even worry about it. We’re selling you off, but Novva hired a specialist to get everything you know out of you first. You won’t die, I’m told the woman that’s handling it has a near-perfect success rate. Now, I want to make sure you understand something. There may come a time, far into the future, where I will all of a sudden get an epiphany and will regret what I’ve done here. Then I’ll understand you, and I’ll lose the ability to hate you and I will genuinely feel sorry for you. I might even lose sleep over it, although I doubt it. But until that day comes, I want you to know I’m enjoying every second of this,” Sylver explained with a toothy grin.

It was oddly invigorating, there were barely a handful of things Sylver didn’t understand enough to hate. It was a shame Nautis very likely heard very little of it, over the throbbing pain of his broken teeth.

But at the same time, Sylver recognized this whole thing as misplaced anger. Nautis was just at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and Sylver was more pissed off at the fact that he was the reason for the rift between him and Sophia, and didn’t have any monsters or bandits to let loose on.

But at the core of it all was the much deeper, ever-present, and ever-burning rage at losing the Ibis that simply added fuel to whichever fire happened to be occupying Sylver’s mind at the moment.

Sylver reached down and picked Nautis up by the back of his neck. Nautis struggled against his grip, but Sylver couldn’t feel even a trickle of mana in the man’s hands. His freshly grown fingernails attempted to scratch against Sylver’s arm, but they couldn’t even get close because of his robe’s sleeves hardening. Sylver put his mask back on and carried Nautis with him.

*

*

*

The building had been cleaned, but there were still traces of water damage on the walls and ceiling. The floor had been scrubbed to the point of shining. The people standing inside the large and open room all shared something in common. Not just the masks they wore that hid their face and statuses, not just the scars that every single one of them seemed to have, and not just the battle-ready way all of them stood, regardless of what they were doing.

There was something off about them, in the way that made them stand out from the unscarred people.

The crowd went silent as Novva walked onto the makeshift stage and lifted Nautis into the air by the arm. He splashed the weakly struggling man with a healing potion, and Nautis’s shattered teeth started to fall out as new ones grew in to replace them. The dark robe he was wearing glittered in the artificial lighting from all the blood it had soaked up.

“Lords and ladies, counts and countesses, dukes and duchesses, thank you all for gathering here today! I assume that all of you know me, but I’ll introduce myself to the friends and family you may have brought! My name is Novva of Pere! I have recently inherited the title of Duke! From my now 33-year-old daughter! I was gone for a while, for those who may not know! I missed all of my children’s weddings! My wife had buried an empty casket and mourned my death as a widow! I am a stranger to my grandchildren, a ghost that looks just like the man in the portraits!” Novva shouted, lifting Nautis into the air with each sentence.

“I’ve killed people! I’ve tortured people! I’ve eaten people! I’ve crippled them! I left them to die! I’ve committed so many atrocities, only the fact that I had people that depended on me stopped me from taking my own life! There is nothing I will do, or will ever do, that will make up for what I’ve done!” Novva shouted, each time getting a small nod from the mixture of mask-wearing nobles.

“And yet! I got to return home! To a widowed wife that refused countless offers of marriages! That went to sleep weeping and alone, all in the faint hope I would someday return! To a daughter that was now a mother! To my son's grave that had died proudly in battle! To a brother that had passed in his sleep!” Novva shouted, earning teary-eyed cheers from the masked crowd.

“And it is all thanks to one man! We can be honest here! We tell the world a story, but we all know the truth! We’ve been there, we’ve met him, shook his hand, watched him repeatedly lay on the ground shivering in pain as he tried to get us out!” Novva shouted. The crowd of nobles all started to look around, amongst each other.

“Some of you respected his plea for privacy and left him alone! Some of you did not,” Novva said, with a pointed stare at one particular corner of the crowd.

“But today isn’t about that man! Today is about the man that brought Salvador the peeler to us! The one that brought Elyda to cut us apart to see how much she could remove before we died! The man directly responsible for every missed birthday, every missed wedding, every widow, every dead relative, every drop of blood our wives, husbands, aunts, uncles, sons, and daughters shed in our place, and every single person that isn’t here today!” Novva half shouted half screamed as his booming voice threatened to crack. Nautis had gone completely limp by this point in time.

“The man who the Cord refused to give to us. Who managed to escape and then tried to make a profit on our suffering by selling it to the highest bidder!” Novva shouted, as he let go of Nauti’s arm and grabbed his head instead.

“The man who’s responsible for every single thing we had to do in exchange for the Cord getting us out of there! He’s here now! Available to do with, as you wish! With every copper going directly to the man who shall not be named but we all know! The starting bid is 2 million gold!” Novva shouted, immediately being drowned out by the sounds of people outbidding one another.

*

*

*

Lola slowly removed the cigar from her lips and blew the smoke up towards the ceiling.

“973 million gold…” Lola said, as Sylver took a sip from his glass and swirled the dark liquid around.

“It’s enough to tell Wuss to go fuck himself if you ever feel like it. Probably the Cord too, but we’re not quite there yet,” Sylver said, as Lola continued to stare at the ceiling.

“It’s almost enough to buy a phantasmal level weapon,” Lola said, as she slowly spun in her chair and made the smoke coming out of her cigar become a spiral.

“Not really. At that level people rarely care about money, it’s more about trading and favors and the like. Before I was reborn, you could offer me billions upon billions of gold, and I wouldn’t have even considered it,” Sylver explained, as Spring poured more dark liquid into his glass.

“What family bought him?” Lola asked as she sat up straighter in her seat. She didn’t bother sipping from her glass and took the whole thing as a shot.

“Don’t know. But I’m guessing it’s a couple that are planning to share him. Love and hatred, the two most powerful forces in the world. The things people are willing to do for the ones they love is a thing of beauty. And the lengths people will go to stick it to someone they hate, should be feared. Oh, uh… The money is going to be coming in a bit slowly, moving around large sums takes time, a woman named Nate will be coming to see you at some point in the future, to sort things out. She’s Novva’s so you can trust her,” Sylver said, as he remembered what Novva had said after Sylver had shown him how to activate the many many curses embedded inside Nautis to shut him down.

He wouldn’t die from them, although Sylver did make it so that he could kill him at any time he wanted, just to be safe.

“My sense of value doesn’t quite fit. The things I considered rare and valuable, cost mere silvers for a kilogram, while the things I took for granted now costs hundreds of gold,” Lola said, as she had just about every time they sat down to talk.

“At least for personal experiments, that’s no longer an issue. I know things need to be done in a certain way for the workshop to work, so use the money as you see fit, but in the future when I ask for something, I’d like to not have to think about the cost. I’m not going to try to buy anything impossible with this, but at least for components and ritual ingredients I want the best of the best,” Sylver said.

“As soon as possible,” Lola added.

“As quickly as the laws of magic allow an object to move from point A to point B, yes. With how many people teleport, everything moves quick. Novva gathered hundreds of nobles from just about every corner of the continent in a couple of days. And yet with all that speed, Kitty has had nearly a year and still hasn’t found so much as a trace of members of the Ibis,” Sylver said bitterly.

“In her defense… this is the Ibis we’re talking about… If your people are hiding, I’m pretty sure even you would have a hard time tracking them down. Not to mention, you’re putting a lot of eggs in the ‘they’d use their real names’ basket. You’re uniquely suited and used to fighting against people stronger than you, is the same true for everyone else?” Lola asked, poking with her cigar towards Sylver as if poking a hole in his plans.

“It isn’t a perfect plan. But what’s the alternative? Look for anyone that what? Anyone who’s too old to be level 1? Anyone who recently had a major personality change? A mage that is using magic that is thought to be dead or lost, at a level of proficiency that shouldn’t be possible?” Sylver asked, as he finished his cup and leaned back in his seat. Spring refilled it.

“There’s also…” Lola started to say but changed her mind.

“There is, it’s a possibility. But for now, let’s assume the best. They’re out there, well hidden, and at some point, they’ll recognize your name, or just happen to overhear mine, and will send a letter, or come here themselves… I’m going to do the surgery tomorrow evening. I would appreciate it if you could watch over me, just in case. I’m going to be uniquely defenseless during the process, and it would calm me down to have someone nearby in case of an emergency,” Sylver said, with his eyes closed and shoulders relaxed.

“I’m offended that you thought you needed to ask. Of course, I’ll stand guard. Not to mention, it’s not every day that you get to see an ancient lich operate on himself,” Lola said, a slight hint of hurt in her voice as she finished her cigar and left it on the ashtray.

“It isn’t as exciting as you imagine it to be, my biology is a lot looser than a normal person’s. And I’ve had a lot of practice. It’s honestly easier now that I have a mostly human body,” Sylver explained, gesturing towards his significantly leaner than the real Ciege’s body.

The muscle was still there, but lack of proper hydration, and over-exertion, as well as Sylver’s magic burning through various vitamin reserves, had made him pale and almost too veiny around the arms and torso.

“Either way, congratulations on nearly becoming a billionaire. If I’m being entirely honest, I’m jealous. The workshop isn’t getting anywhere near that figure for another 23 years,” Lola said.

“This was luck. A steady income is always better than a one-off lucky jackpot. It’s not like I can repeat this,” Sylver said.

“True… It’s weird nothing happened to Melo. Do you think there’s a chance he’s lying?” Lola asked.

“No. There’s no point to it. My best guess is that either the system doesn’t allow skills, perks, and traits to be transferred to the extent I attempted… Or that Poppy’s mark interfered with the ritual. I might not be able to sense any traces of her magic, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of something being there,” Sylver explained. Lola’s eyes widened slightly.

“So what’s next?” Lola asked, deciding she didn’t want to get into this.

“After the surgery… I’m either going to go down into the dungeon to increase my level, or I’m going to go on a quest or two. I’m leaning towards a quest because I really don’t like the idea of being trapped inside a boss room again. There’s also the war with the Krists, so I could always ask for higher leveled groups and go after them. If there aren’t any good quests, I’ll go kill Krists off. I don’t think I can make shades out of them, so I’m hoping for a good quest, with lots and lots of bandits. Or monster extermination, although those would take longer to raise as undead. I could use a few more flying capable ones…” Sylver said.

“And then you’re going to meet the woman in white?” Lola asked with a slightly raised eyebrow and a faint grin.

“That’s the plan,” Sylver answered.

“I see… And just for curiosity’s sake, does she look anything like the woman in white standing right behind you?” Lola asked. Sylver turned into smoke and turned inside out and materialized looking behind him. The chair had been sent flying, and Sylver’s heart was trying to hammer itself out of his chest as Lola started to laugh so hard she began to cough.

Sylver reached over her desk and took her empty glass away from her.

“I’m telling Salgok not to give you any more black ale. And I’m taking your bottle,” Sylver said, as Spring collected the large half-empty bottle in question and gave it to him. Lola didn’t stop laughing for even a moment as Sylver finished the whole bottle himself, and started to laugh at her laughing.

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