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Ch092-Collaborate And Listen

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Sylver realized that he hadn’t said a word in almost 2 days.

Mostly because he was busy adapting the spell that ended up turning into [Coat Of Carrion]. He could have left it as is. The skill did do all the work for him if he allowed it, but there was room for improvement.

Primarily using the created liquid coating to form a weapon without using something as a base. Sylver knew at a rational level it was possible, but even with Bruno’s notes, he couldn’t figure it out. One thing he did learn was that his shades weren’t capable of donning a full set of [Coat Of Carrion] armor. Or even a piece of [Coat Of Carrion] coated armor.

Spring was the strongest, but his body exploded under the weight. The same was true for Sylver, except his spine threatened to shatter when he tried to wear even a drop more than gloves, gauntlets, and shoulder pads. Sylver had some hope for zombies, but he was getting more and more of a feeling that it was simply a limitation of the skill.

On the bright side, the skill or spell didn’t appear to have a range limitation. Sylver coated a shades sword and then flew away on Will. The shade was instructed to wait for a full day before returning to Sylver with a report.

Range wasn’t an issue.

Duration was the issue.

If it wasn’t being used the weapon could be coated for as long as you wanted it to. But every single swing, regardless if it hit something or not, burned through the coating. Sylver could control his coated weapon directly, he could choose when the weapon was boosted or not, but Spring and the other shades couldn’t.

[Bound Bones] luckily prevented a need to carry a dead body around, but Sylver found that reversing the spell’s effect wasn’t possible. Once a piece of skin, bone, or drop of blood was converted into [Coat Of Carrion] there was no reversing the effect.

Or more accurately it was difficult to the point of being impossible. Breaking something apart was always a lot easier than building something.

Sylver found that the skill wasn’t limited to just being used to bind something. It could just as easily be used to tear something open, forcing its fleshy bone-shard-tipped limbs into a wound and pulling it apart until it ran out of strength.

Sylver also found that he had a certain level of control over something coated in [Coat Of Carrion], even if he hadn’t had contact with it for a long while. There was a range limitation, but for the life of him Sylver couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t limited to his line of sight, but the longer the time between him having physical contact with the coated item increased, the less control he had over it.

Something Sylver himself held in his hand and threw could be made to adjust its course, quite a significant amount. If he wanted to, he could even make it shoot out a tendril and pull the thrown weapon towards the target.

All in all, Sylver had a lot to think about.

Pyos and Lorn talked to each other for the most part, and whenever they needed to stop to rest and camp, Spring handled everything.

“There’s no need to apologize, Grusha does the same thing now and then, I’m more than used to it,” Pyos explained when Sylver hid his notes away and looked around slightly confused.

“Grusha?” Sylver asked.

“My wife. She’s a mage too, one day her eyes just glaze over and she spends several weeks barely speaking a word or eating anything and sits around writing things down while trying to make a pebble glow in a specific pattern. At least you’ve got your friend here to make you eat, Grusha used to starve herself half to death before I met her,” Pyos explained, while he patted his stomach.

Although there wasn’t a whole lot to pat, for an old man Pyos was in very good shape. Save for some problems with his back, and some sort of lung thing given by the way he would run out of breath mid-sentence from time to time.

“What is he anyway? Every time I asked he wouldn’t say anything,” Pyos asked. Lorn seemed to perk up from quietly playing his lute without making any sound.

“He’s a shade. A bound shade, although they’re all in a way bound shades,” Sylver explained, as he stood up from the tree stump Spring had given him to use as a chair.

“Why can he talk while the others can’t? The one with the hat that was watching the pot looked like he wanted to say something to me, but he didn’t,” Pyos asked, with a gesture towards Fen he was currently standing near the edge of the camp and staring and acting as a deterrent for low-level monsters.

“His name is Fen, and uh… How do I explain this... When I raise an undead there’s a very tiny interaction between their mind and their body. A zombie isn’t aware it’s a zombie, but it knows how to walk and swing a sword and all that. The connection is far too small for it to understand what’s going on around it, or speak for that matter. They have spacial awareness, to an extent, but it’s all tied to me,” Sylver explained, as he placed his hands on his hips and leaned back until he felt the tension in his spine release.

“Ah. So you can’t just send them down into the dungeons to hunt for you?” Pyos asked. Sylver spun his finger towards the campfire and made it burn a bit brighter as he waited for the teapot to boil.

“With Spring, I could. But they can’t be healed without me being nearby, and with dungeons specifically, he’s almost blind inside of them. They’re like… Essentially any undead I raise are trained dogs. They can bite on command, but there’s only so much that they can do without any input from me. Their minds aren’t awake or aware of what’s going on, but if I tell them to go here and kill that guy, they’ll do it,” Sylver explained.

He poured Pyos a cup of tea into a wooden travel mug and poured himself the same.

“So they’re beaten into submission dogs?” Pyos asked without bothering to hide his distaste.

“No. They’re more like employees or mercenaries. They’re afraid of dying and I allow them to remain on this plane of existence, and in exchange, they fight for me. Their souls provide them the mana they need to remain here, but without my magic and framework inside of them they wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Sylver said.

“That’s not as bad as I expected. Quite honestly I always pictured necromancy to be a whole lot more… Devious?” Pyos asked. Sylver smiled slightly at the word.

“It’s uh… They’re renting their bodies from me if that makes any sense. Because once they died their corpse was no longer theirs, I took it, for lack of a better word, renovated it, and allowed them to live in it. At the cost of following my commands,” Sylver explained.

“Why is it that magic is always so boring once you get past the exciting and flashy exterior?” Lorn asked with a defeated sigh.

“Because it’s as much of a science as it is an art. Chords are boring, learning notes is boring, but you can’t play a song without knowing them. You can play by ear, sure, but that’s called being a sorcerer, and they’re vastly inferior to mages or wizards,” Sylver explained while he sat back down and drank some of his tea.

“So what’s so special about this one?” Pyos asked, pointing at Spring who was currently in the process of watching three shades pack away Sylver’s tent.

“Remember that connection thing I spoke about? What normally happens is that it grows bigger or smaller depending on how willing, or motivated, the undead is. But it’s a slow process, we’re talking years slow. With Spring I was able to expedite the whole process because he was a lot more compatible than all the others. I won’t get into specifics, because it’s a trade secret, but what he is right now is what I hope all the shades I gave names to will end up as,” Sylver explained.

“What happens to the unnamed?” Pyos asked.

“Nothing. They remain at the bottom rung and aren’t aware of what’s going on around them. Once I have passed a certain number of shades I release the weakest and most unaware ones,” Sylver said with a shrug of his shoulders.

“I’ll be honest with you. I like you, as a person. And I’ve seen enough in my life that I’ve learned not to make assumptions about people and their reasons for doing certain things. But it’s sickening to hear you speak of people’s souls as if they were disposable objects. I would prefer it if we changed the subject,” Pyos said with a grimace and with a raised hand towards Sylver, while Lorn just shrugged.

“I can understand that. What’s your plan for your kitchen?” Sylver asked, as Pyos almost excitedly reached into his backpack and looked through his notebook for the sketches.

*

*

*

Things like this reminded Sylver, yet again, to always temper his expectations. Considering how advanced Red-Eye’s barrier was, and how well trained the men under Bonny’s command were, Sylver had expected an impenetrable fortress.

Instead, he saw what looked like a fishing village.

A fast-moving river meandered its way out of a large rocky cave, on top of which small wooden huts had been built on raised platforms. The roofs were made out of thatch, and small tough-looking boats were littered all over the place and hanging just above the water.

If not for the cages that had remains of blood splatters on their floors, Sylver would have honestly thought Pyos had brought him to the wrong place. It wasn’t even that heavily guarded.

But nevertheless Sylver could see the logic behind it. He wasn’t familiar with the surrounding area but could guess that this river was important for moving items north and south, making it incredibly difficult to predict where the rebellion would strike next. Not to mention it made bringing in reinforcements dead simple, as well as escaping in the event of the army deciding to attack.

Even with all the magic in the world, an army of soldiers could only move so fast. On the other hand, the rebellion would only need one mage that was capable of water magic to run away, out of the army’s reach.

What the empire needed to nip this in the bud was to block up the river and make traversing it impossible. Or to hit them so hard that they didn’t have time to react, but that involved moving enough men to handle them.

Which because of the other wars they were currently in the middle of, meant they likely didn’t have the manpower to cover so much ground. If the empire found out about this rebellion they would very likely dispatch a small mobile group, to do what Sylver was about to do.

“I have less and less faith in this rebellion. Bonny seems to have been an outlier,” Sylver mumbled to himself as he turned into smoke and materialized standing up. Pyos flickered for a moment before he appeared near him.

“We’re well past this being a bandit clearing quest, so I’m willing to help if you need it,” Lorn offered. Sylver looked at him and thought it over.

“As much as I enjoyed our fireside chats and all that, I’m too old for this. It was very nice traveling with you, I genuinely do hope you make it out of this alive. Grusha will make biscuits and I’ll show you the wood I plan on using for my countertop” Pyos said, with a hand extended out towards Sylver. Sylver pulled his glove off and they shook hands.

“Thank you, I’ll be back as soon as I’m done here, I look forward to it,” Sylver said without so much as a shred of uncertainty. If Pyos was at all impressed at the confidence, he hid it well. If anything he looked mildly bored.

Sylver turned away from Pyos and quite honestly didn’t realize when the old man had left. He was one of those people who naturally compressed his soul to be near impossible to track.

“Since you’re willing to help, can you check if that cave goes anywhere?” Sylver asked.

*

*

*

Sylver had planned to wait until after wiping out the remaining bandits before choosing a perk, but he was worried he would accidentally hit level 90 and would get one randomly chosen for him. Ideally, he would have done a bit more to give himself a better chance at getting a really good perk, but he wasn’t about to go try and kill monsters on the off chance it might unlock a special level 80 perk.

[Perk: Phantom’s Theft]
-For every creature that dies within your range, heal for 5% of their maximum HP.
*Current range: 21m

[Perk: Shadow’s Subtlety]
-Move with the silence and grace of a shadow.
-Gain 25% to Dexterity and MP Regen while in the form of a shadow.
*Weakness to all forms of damage increased by 50%.

[Perk: Dead Dominion]
-Gain control over any deceased biological matter within (WIS/2)m.
*Control over deceased biological matter dependent on proximity and mass.

Sylver had 9 other perks to choose from, but these three stood out.

[Phantom’s Theft] was good in theory, given that Sylver could hypothetically just jump into the middle of a crowd and focus solely on killing things. With how much more HP everyone else had it would mean that for every person Sylver killed that had over 20,000 HP he would gain 100% of his HP back.

It was tempting. Especially given how few options Sylver had to heal himself with, but he could achieve the same result with [Draining Touch], not to mention draining touch provided him with mana on top of HP.

[Shadow’s Subtlety] sounded interesting for a wholly different reason. Sylver’s smoke form via [Shadow’s Soma] was useful but was limited in that he didn’t regenerate anything while using it. [Shadow’s Subtlety] on the other hand would allow him to presumably hide and regenerate his HP, stamina, and MP, with an extra 25% boost to his MP regeneration.

But the 50% damage increase meant it wouldn’t take a whole lot to finish him off. He would be one lucky silver-tipped arrow away from dropping dead or being crippled.

[Dead Dominion] felt a bit different from the other two. In fact, it was the only one Sylver had a good feeling about. His range would be limited to 50m, but it would grow as he increased his level. In theory, every level up could increase it by 2.5m.

Not to mention it was the only perk Sylver knew the requirements for. His skill [Biological Manipulation] was one part of it, and having physical contact with over 250 corpses was the other part. The other two had been unlocked without his knowledge.

Most importantly, Sylver already knew how to use this perk. It was technically something he could one day use on his own, but the ritual to open his senses to primal energy wasn’t one Sylver was going to be able to do for a very long time.

The ritual needed the blood of a very specific eel, that was nearly extinct back then, Sylver genuinely couldn’t imagine that it existed on this side of the Asberg. He’d already attempted to find it via the cats, but they found absolutely fuck all. Either it didn’t exist here, or it was so well hidden that Sylver had no chance of finding it. Then there was the fact that Sylver wasn’t sure his body would even be able to handle the ritual, even if he did have all that he needed.

Not to mention the perk didn’t mention a cost for using it. If [Dead Dominion] functioned in the same way Sylver used to be able to manipulate dead matter around him using nothing but his soul, it would be the perfect defense and offense all at the same time. It was a useless ability back then because of who Sylver was up against, but it would be extremely useful when fighting against anything lower than 6th tier.

The other 9 perks Sylver had to choose from offered either a slight decrease in the cost of using dark magic or provided resistance against holy magic. All 9 were too small to even be worth considering, a 5% resistance to holy magic wouldn’t save him if he were to fight a priest.

Sylver sat down and looked down at the rocky river below and read through all the perks one last time to make sure he hadn’t accidentally missed something vital.

If he were fighting a large group, [Phantom’s Theft] would make him near unkillable. But that would only work if the enemies all had a ton of HP and could be killed in one hit by the shades. The same effect could theoretically be achieved if Sylver could get his hands on whatever the recipe that alchemist from Urth used, not to mention a potion would be a lot more reliable. And with [Dead Dominion] Sylver could just immobilize his enemies and use [Draining Touch] on them with relative safety and ease.

“There’s a hidden exit in the cave. It’s behind a large rock and warded against teleportation and clairvoyance spells, as far as I could tell at least. The river is coming up from the ground, but there’s a bunch of roots and rocks down there, I don’t think anyone would be able to get through it,” Lorn said, surprising Sylver for a moment.

Sylver looked up at the floating man.

“Where does the exit lead out to?” Sylver asked. He stood up from the rock he’d been using as a seat and cracked his neck.

[Perk: Dead Dominion]
-Gain control over any deceased biological matter within (WIS/2)m.
*Control over deceased biological matter dependent on proximity and mass.

“There’s a large dead tree, my guess is that it used to have goblins living underneath it, going by the claw markings and the shape of the tunnels,” Lorn explained, as Sylver took a very deep and slow breath.

Everything else aside, the system really knew how to make something intuitive. Just like with [Shadow’s Agent] it took Sylver a few seconds to get used to the new extra limb.

But this wasn’t quite a new limb, it was more like it was something Sylver already had that had gone numb, and now was slowly regaining feeling.

He spread his arms out and felt the system limiting him. Just like he had done with the demon, using a paper-thin cloth barrier to stop it from leaving its plane, the system had placed a similar razor-thin cloth over Sylver’s senses.

It was so similar to what Sylver would have felt if he could sense primal energy that he felt like his finger was just about to scrape against the bigger picture before the system ever so slightly tightened the limitation and pushed him back in his place.

Sylver let his breath out and burned his lips from the resulting steam.

Right, my body is still human, I need to be careful not to fry my brain, Sylver thought as Spring handed him a handkerchief to wipe away the blood oozing out of his nose.

“You alright there?” Lorn asked, floating in a circle around Sylver as Sylver once again spread his arms out.

As long as he stayed within his allotted 50 meters, the system didn’t seem to have a problem with how Sylver used the perk. His only limitation was range, and that his brain would start to boil if he tried to move too much mass at the same time.

He nudged a tiny dead and dried up worm to straighten out and push its way out of the ground, found dead mouse bones covered in roots and snapped them into pieces, and forced them up into the air, a bunch of teeth that he couldn’t identify came out of the ground and floated in the air.

In under a minute Sylver was surrounded by a small vortex of tiny pieces of dead things. He stretched his arm out towards it and they washed over it as if liquid. Sylver momentarily cupped his outstretched hand and grabbed a fistful of floating dead matter. He opened his fist and a dark red ooze fell down towards the ground before it joined the vortex of floating trash.

A smile spread on Sylver's face as the dark red ooze mixed into the floating junk and absorbed it into itself, slowly but surely getting bigger and bigger.

Barely 3 minutes passed before Sylver was surrounded by a bubbly dark red swirling sphere with him at the very center. Sylver’s robe shuddered for a second before it flicked several darts and daggers at the floating liquid. They came out on the other side covered in red and wiggled in the air for a moment before they joined in on the slow-moving whirlpool of death and decay.

“Couldn’t be better, thanks for asking. Would you mind showing me where the escape route comes out?” Sylver asked politely, as his robe absorbed all the floating coated daggers and darts back into itself.

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