Sylver had planned to skulk around the village, check if the tripwire spells he left had been triggered, and then over the course of several hours, slowly and quietly dig his way under the village, and appear inside of Ciege’s and Yeva’s house.

That had been the plan.

Except the first tripwire Sylver checked had been tripped.

As had the second.

And third.

And after the tenth one, Sylver figured out that something big had set every single one of them off. Did she do it on purpose, or did she just not care?

When fighting against a more powerful mage, every little scrap of information could be vital. A mage that can use 7th tier spells had to be approached differently than one that could use 8th tier spells. Then their speed, range, affinity, conductivity, physical ability, even knowing if they’re left-handed or right-handed, could prove to be the difference between winning or losing.

In this case, however, Sylver didn’t get a chance to figure anything out. Because the woman in white knew he was here.

She was looking right at him.

Three villagers had stopped dead in their tracks and had turned to look at him. Sylver stared back at them in turn, but their souls felt like they were frozen in place.

What was scarier though was just how tight of a grip the woman had on them.

Mind control magic was finicky, even the higher tier spells could be broken if the person being affected felt enough of a shock.

But this was different.

Sylver was all but certain he could tear these people’s arms off, and they would stay perfectly still, perfectly calm, and would bleed to death if the woman told them to.

Sylver adjusted the collar of his robe as he walked past them, and could see every living creature slowly turn its head to follow him. From the goats, the chickens, the children, the mice, everything and anything that had a head and a brain had glowing white eyes and was watching Sylver.

The only good thing about this is that someone who was certain they would win wouldn’t bother taking control of so many people.

Unless the plan was that Sylver wouldn’t be willing to hurt him, in which case they severely underestimated just how much Sylver cared about his own wellbeing.

Sylver arrived at Ciege’s house and felt a lump form in his throat as Ciege opened the door for him and gestured inside. The glow in his eyes was so bright that it actually hurt a little to look at him.

Sylver’s mana spread out through the house in a quick and silent wave, and Sylver almost flinched when it touched the person sitting in the kitchen. It was dense.

Dense enough that even if the woman was an amateur mage, she could easily overpower Sylver with sheer volume.

He didn’t bother taking his shoes off as he walked down the short hallway and entered into the kitchen.

[??? (???) – 999+]

Sounds about right.

The woman was wearing a very simple white robe, and that was all Sylver could tell by looking at her.

From her face to her hair, to even the color of her skin, it was like the information was being scrambled before it even began to reach Sylver’s eyes. He could see her, but he couldn’t describe her. She might have been fat or skinny, black or white, an orc or an elf, a loose collection of worms, or even nothing more than an empty white robe.

Sylver could feel that she was looking him right in the eyes, as his eyes were glued onto Yeva’s glowing eyes and the small baby with matching glowing eyes in her hands, standing a few steps behind the white robe-wearing woman. How he knew this without being able to actually see her was a question for another time.

“Most people in a situation like this would do something drastic, or they would be screaming threats at me, or just asking stupid questions. But you choose to stay quiet and listen,” the woman in white said.

Whatever she was doing to her appearance was being applied to her voice too. Sylver could hear her, and he could understand her, but any attempt to try and recreate her voice in his head felt like trying to remember a dream he had just woken up from. The woman cleared her throat before she spoke, or at least that’s what it sounded like to Sylver’s ears.

He barely reacted when Ciege pulled a chair out and moved it up to Sylver’s legs to sit down. He sat down on it and just stared at the woman.

“First of all, I believe this belongs to you. I also want you to know I didn’t need to come here, I could have easily spoken to you through them,” the woman in white said, as she pointed at Yeva standing behind her, and then gestured to her right.

A very small wooden box sat on the table and looked so ordinary that in his controlled panic Sylver almost missed it when he turned to look for something. Sylver reached out and took the box and held it in his hand. It was heavier than it should be, even if the whole thing had been made out of metal it wouldn’t have weighed this much.

Sylver very gently lifted the lid and saw a small wooden ring inside.

It was a little wider than a normal ring would be and looked as if it had been chewed and scratched into the shape of a ring. The wood was a very dark color and had a hole that went all the way through that looked to be just big enough for a small gem.

He didn’t even need to use [Appraisal] because he already knew everything there was to know about this ring. He ran his finger over the comfortably cold wood as he read through the information his skill provided.

[Gnarled Staff Fragment Of Igri - N/A - Phantasmal Quality]
[Soul Bound.]
[Decrease the cost of all dark magic by 50%.]
[Decrease the effectiveness of positive energy on the user by 50%.]
[*Conditions for effect not met.]
[*Conditions for effect not met.]
[*Conditions for effect not met.]
[*Conditions for effect not met.]

Sylver closed the box and tucked it away into his robe.

“I expected a bit more of a reaction, but given the circumstances it’s understandable,” the woman in white said.

They sat in silence again as Sylver kept staring at her and didn’t move a single muscle. She might have moved her head to the side for a moment, before speaking.

“I know who you are… I know what you are… And if not for the fact that I’ve personally witnessed how crafty you can be when cornered, I wouldn’t have done this. Even with over 800 times more mana than you, I don’t doubt that you’d eventually find a way to turn the tables on me,” the woman in white explained.

“But I also know that you can be reasoned with. I just wanted to save us both some time. Otherwise, you would use the [Dead Man’s Last Stand] on me and it would get messy, and it would not end well for either of us,” the woman in white explained.

And as always, everyone seems to know everything, except for me.

“I don’t know how or why you’re here, but I have something you want,” the woman in white said.

Is she lying? Why would she lie? She could just demand whatever she wanted done as payment for reviving me. My ring? Has she heard of me, or has she met me?

“I know where Edmund is,” the woman in white said.

Sylver felt one of his back teeth split as he clenched his jaw and forced himself to remain calm. He practically shook for a moment, before he spoke with a strained voice.

“What do you want?” Sylver asked without moving his jaw too much.

“This is where things get difficult. Because I need you to trust me,” the woman in white explained.

Sylver’s gut remained unnaturally quiet as he considered his possible moves.

Given that I’m getting the same feeling from her as I did from Poppy, she may be one of her sisters… She could be either Lily or Rose…

Or worse, there’s a 4th guide walking around, completely unrelated to Poppy and her lot… Sylver shuddered at the thought.

“Are gods involved in this in any way shape or form?” Sylver asked.

It’s hard to describe, but he got the feeling the woman in white smiled at him.

“Not in the way you’re imagining it. I can’t explain it properly, because then you would be directly involved,” the woman in white said.

“So whatever I’m going to be doing somehow won’t count as being directly involved?” Sylver asked.

“Even if you want to walk away, I don’t want you as an enemy. If my alternative options were even a little better, I would have never approached you and made you aware of my existence. There is a very small handful of people that I have reason to fear, and you are one of them,” the woman in white explained.

Why would someone ever admit they’re afraid of someone else?

Is her plan to be 100% honest with me because she thinks I’ll trust her because of it?

“Here’s why you’re not involved. We’re not going to make a deal. I’m going to suggest that you do something. And once you’ve done what I’ve suggested I’m going to suggest a location you should go, and in that location, you’ll find Edmund,” the woman in white explained.

“Ah… I see what this is… Can you tell me where you found my ring first?” Sylver asked.

Now he was starting to piece everything together, and it was slowly starting to make sense.

She was under some sort of condition that didn’t allow her to directly interfere with Sylver. Or possibly anyone for that matter. Trading with him would be directly interfering, but if she just suggested he do something, it apparently didn’t count because it was of his own free will.

A written contract would never allow such a simple loophole, it’s either verbal or is meant to be carried out “in the spirit” of what the contract represents.

“I can’t answer anything related to the Ibis. It’s… complicated,” the woman in white said.

“So whatever happened to it wasn’t natural… Or whoever is restricting you would consider it a breach if you offered me information about it…” Sylver guessed. The woman in white didn’t nod or move, but Sylver felt that she had agreed somehow anyway.

“Or something else,” the woman in white offered.

Sylver crossed one leg over the other and leaned back in his chair.

In front of him was a mage of unknown ability and possibly well over 400 times his mana capacity. A mage who seemed to have very little trouble controlling the minds of well over 600 people. Or at least that’s the way it seemed, Sylver hadn’t gone and checked that every single villager was under her control.

“So what is your suggestion?” Sylver asked.

Just knowing that Edmund was out there somewhere was already such a relief that Sylver wanted to slump in his chair and cry from joy.

But the crying would be for later. First, he had to figure out if this was something he could do. He wouldn’t be of any help to Edmund if he died in the process.

“I would suggest that you go through a gate and find a book titled “The Story Of The Seven Suns” and destroy it to the point it can’t ever be read or recovered. You’re able to use abyssal magic, that would be sufficient for my purposes,” the woman in white offered.

“Why me?” Sylver asked. She was going well out of her way to hire him, Sylver wanted to know exactly why.

“Four reasons. The first is that I know that if you decide to accept my suggestion, you’ll be able to follow it through. The second is that only an undead would be able to survive going through the gate I have access to. The third is that you’re familiar with the area. And the last is that you’re one of a very small number of people who will be able to open a gate to come back here,” the woman in white explained as if she were talking about the most mundane thing in the world.

Sylver realized that he could sort of make out her face now. Whatever her magic was, he was either building an immunity to it, or it was wearing off. He could even hear the hint of pride in her voice, where before he would just hear the words as if he had read them off a page.

“Familiar with the area meaning…” Sylver asked.

“Familiar with the area,” the woman in white repeated. Sylver narrowed his eyes.

“And I take it I’m going to have to find my way back here without any help?” Sylver asked.

“I’ll put it like this… Coming back will be significantly easier than initially going there. I am certain that you’ll find a way,” the woman in white said. Sylver felt like there was an unspoken eventually at the end of her sentence.

“I need some time to think about it,” Sylver said. He could make out a little more of the woman in white. She had very light blond hair, almost as white as Lola’s. And she was tall too, much taller than Ciege of Yeva.

“Take all the time you need. But this is a one-time deal, I can’t renegotiate, and once I leave, I’m never coming back, and you’re never going to find me,” the woman in white said.

I’ve already felt what her soul is like…

With the ring, I might be able to track her…

Then what?

Use the [Dead Man’s Last Stand] on her?

Then what?

Torture her for 30 minutes, after which she’ll be back to full strength and she’ll kill me? I would need special gear to hold someone with so much mana captive.

30 minutes isn’t enough. Even if I put her in a coma, she can use mind magic, how likely is it being unconscious would change that?

Not to mention she’d likely threaten me with Ciege and Yeva, she already said she doesn’t need to be here to control them.

It could be a bluff…

Sylver felt a tightness in his chest that knocked the wind out of him and made him feel the kind of shame he’d never thought he’d feel again.

If the roles were reversed, Edmund wouldn’t have hesitated. He would have already been halfway there, damn the risk and danger.

That fucking idiot.

Sylver pretended to pinch the bridge of his nose to hide the robe’s sleeve wiping the tear out of his eye.

What else am I going to do?

If I say no, my next best option is a book thief, a bunch of fucking cats that won’t find shit, a sleeping, possibly dead, demi-god who might not even recognize me, and the other alternatives aren’t even worth mentioning.

Worst case scenario?

It’s all a big setup to remove me from this realm.

But even if I go to the demon realm, I still have [Xander’s Waystone] to bring me back. I can modify it to move between realms, it would just be a matter of time and energy.

Best case scenario…

If Edmund is at full strength, he can pull me up to match him. He’d have to learn a bit of dark magic, but even he would understand the seriousness of the situation. I can leave him here to guard Lola, or he could come with me to help…

Just like old times.

I’d finally stop being alone.

Sylver hated how little he needed to convince him.

He didn’t like thinking about it, didn’t like acknowledging it, didn’t want to accept it, but he was desperate to find at least someone.

And here was a woman offering him exactly what he wanted.

It almost seemed too good to be true.

Then again Sylver doubted that finding the book would be easy, let alone destroying it. If anyone else could do it, she said it herself that she never would have talked to him.

“Will I still have all my skills and perks in the other realm?” Sylver asked almost as an afterthought.

It was a simple question. And yet the woman in white didn’t say a word for almost an entire minute. Even when she spoke Sylver could hear the hesitation and uncertainty in her voice. He was sure he wasn’t imagining it.

“Of course. Why wouldn’t you?” the woman in white asked.

Sylver felt the buzzing behind the ears before he even finished forming the thought.

Two birds, one stone… Maybe…

“What would you suggest I do?” Sylver asked.

“722 kilometers south-southeast from here is an old abandoned temple. Beneath the altar is a hidden room. Inside the room is a gate, set up and ready for use, all it needs is to be turned on. The book’s title is “The Story Of The Seven Suns”. I suggest you don’t read it, but as long as it’s destroyed, I honestly don’t care if you do,” the woman in white explained.

“Could you tell me why I’m destroying a book?” Sylver asked.

“Have you ever seen one of those giant domino chains? The really fancy ones, with tall towers, layers upon layers of domino’s inside of them? This book is one of those dominos. And without it, no towers will fall. Or well… Does it really matter?” the woman in white asked.

“It matters if I’m going to be making a bunch of enemies because of it,” Sylver said. The woman in white leaned forward in her seat.

“If you destroy the book, the people who would become your enemies aren’t going to be a threat. So as long as you don’t come back without destroying the book first, you have nothing to fear,” the woman in white said.

“And my people while I’m gone?” Sylver asked. The woman in white took some time to think about it before she answered.

“The same way I’m giving you a suggestion now, I’m going to give one to a few other people. Maybe they find something very useful in a dungeon, maybe they drink water from a specific river and gain a perk, maybe they manage to catch one of the enemy armies while they’re barely standing on their feet. I obviously can’t promise anything, but Arda is safe as is, with a little bit of help from us, it will be a little safer,” the woman in white explained.

‘Us’ she isn’t acting alone.

Sylver asked a few more questions, but the woman in white was very limited in what she could tell him. Even when Sylver tried to play the “hypothetically” game he played with Ron, the woman in white wouldn’t budge.

The risk was, as per usual, death or worse.

The reward was Edmund. A reckless moron who died owing Sylver an astronomical amount of money.

But when Sylver dumbed it down to that level, it seemed a very simple and obvious choice to make.

“How much time do I have before I need to leave?” Sylver asked.

There was another awkward pause, as the woman in white stood up and Sylver stood up along with her.

“If I teleport these three directly to Arda, will you leave right away?” the woman in white asked.

“I will, just give me a second to write a letter,” Sylver said, as he pulled out a notebook and ripped a page out of it.

“Don’t tell the elf what you’re doing or where you’re going. The fewer people know the better, even these two are going to think you came in, had tea with them, and then Tolga teleported them right outside Arda’s gates,” the woman in white explained.

“I want to be sure they make it inside,” Sylver said while he crossed out a word he misspelled and rewrote it.

“You already had your biggest enemy murdered in cold blood and then hung like an ornament. I’ll meet you at the temple and give you proof that they’re safe,” the woman in white offered.

Sylver looked up from his letter and wondered who exactly this woman was that she knew this much. Then again, this wasn’t the weirdest thing about her, or this situation.

“Are you Naut?” Sylver asked with a completely wild guess.

“No. And it's Knot, not Naut. Knot. Cord, rope, Knot, see the connection?” the woman in white said.

She had cleared up to the point Sylver could almost imagine what she looked like under her spell. But the moment he tried to firmly grasp the image, it completely melted away. Now he wasn’t sure about anything, it could have all been his mind being desperate to fill in the gaps it was receiving.

“That makes a lot more sense,” Sylver said.

He gave both Ciege and Yeva a long hug before a portal opened up and they walked through it with slightly glowing white eyes and with already packed bags.

It’s all on you now Lola. Sylver thought before he started to walk to the outskirts of the village to fly away to another realm.

At least I’m finally going on a proper adventure.


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