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Ch106-No Place Like

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At some point mid-flight, Sylver had been released from his seat, and two of the armored men lifted him and laid him down onto a strangely warm table. His clothing was very gently cut off, and they poked and prodded every single scar and wound on his body.

The man with the large mirror in his hand touched it every time the man with the small light found a new injury. Sylver could tell by their souls they were both confused, and disappointed.

Anyone would be, if they got an easy slave, but found him mute, with one eye, and missing an arm and a leg. Like opening a gift to find it filled to the brim with horseshit.

Nevertheless, the two men pressed on and checked every nook and cranny and got dangerously close to Sylver deciding he had had enough of being touched in all the wrong places. But they finished their inspection before he genuinely lost his temper, and Sylver just swallowed his pride and continued laying there, pretending to be unconscious.

They inserted a small syringe into Sylver’s forearm and took some blood. Spring watched them place the blood between two thin pieces of glass and then watched as they inserted the glass into the wall of the carriage. The man with the mirror in his hand stared at it for a while, and he slowly went from confused to worried.

He said something to the other man, and the man’s body language became very stiff and somewhat frightened.

All the people inside the carriage, all 14, counting the two in the front, never once took their helmets off. And as Sylver had found out, they somehow talked to one another without making any sound. Sylver doubted it was telepathy, given how much interference the lead would have caused, so his next best guess was some sort of technology.

It was a very vague explanation, but frankly, Sylver couldn’t wrap his head around most of the devices he watched them use, let alone one he couldn’t even see.

The man without the mirror grabbed a small metallic cylinder and twisted it in a weird way, which made a small needle pop out the bottom. He held the needle over his gloved finger and waited for a few seconds until a bead of something white and foamy came out of it.

Sylver understood quite quickly that it was a healing potion when the man pressed his finger on Sylver’s shoulder, and then very quickly started to wipe it away as it began to foam and sizzle and created a new wound on Sylver’s skin that very quickly started to bleed.

The men sitting around all stood up shortly after that to walk over to Sylver to see the wound on his shoulder. When the man with the light opened Sylver’s eye, he jumped back and made two others fall with him.

It was a very odd scene to see, considering Sylver couldn’t hear a single word any of them said. From Spring’s description of their body language, a couple of them laughed, a few seemed completely neutral to his pitch-black eye, while two of them kept moving their hands from their left shoulder to their right, and from their belly button to their forehead.

Assuming they did have a belly button.

Truth be told Sylver didn’t even know what race they were. The way they walked and moved, suggested they were human, but they could just as easily be elves or half-elves whose motions are restricted by their armor. Or they could be the same race as those fake half-elves.

Sylver’s clothing was folded up and placed into a metal box, and was then placed underneath the table Sylver was laying on. They dressed him up in a surprisingly warm dress that was worn like a backward bathrobe, and then strapped him down using several thick belts.

They all went back to their seats and didn’t bother him for the rest of the flight.

*

*

*

The carriage was sealed up tight. Which normally wasn’t an issue for Sylver’s shades, but this time it was. Spring could see out of the small window at the front, but that was all he was able to do. While moving through the shadows the amount of force Spring could apply to something was very close to zero.

He could maybe move a page in an open book, but that was about the extent of it. Forcing open extremely thick and tough rubber was completely out of the question, unless he materialized.

The carriage had very gradually flown higher and higher, and after a certain point, the only view to the outside disappeared entirely and instead became a completely opaque mirror.

After this happened all the men inside the carriage made an odd sound, before their backs straightened out and they all sat in the exact same position, completely motionless.

How long they traveled, Sylver couldn’t say.

It felt like 10 minutes had passed, but he once spent 3 years sitting and trying to decipher a book, all while believing he’d only been at it for a day or so. Sylver’s sense of time couldn’t be trusted, and therefore neither could Spring’s.

Sylver didn’t realize the carriage had stopped moving and nearly jumped when the door began to hiss as it slowly opened up. Spring tried to get out of the carriage, but he could feel the sunlight already weakening him from the reflections alone, and he retreated back into Sylver’s shadow.

Sylver’s table had wheels on the bottom of it, and it folded and unfolded in a way that allowed the two men who were pulling his table to move him out of the carriage without making him slide off it.

From his shadow, Spring tried to explain to Sylver what he was seeing.

There were straight lines in just about any direction he chose to look at. Hexagonal towers with glistening glass windows, hexagonal-shaped bridges connected two nearby towers, groups of people stood up against the windows and were staring in Sylver’s and the direction of the carriage, and many many flashes of light from something in their hands.

Spring also saw that the carriage that had brought them here was in fact made out of a greyish metal, and nowhere near as shiny as it had appeared before. It had 4 giant fans extending out from the middle of it, and three small fans on the “back” extension. He didn’t get a very good look at it, as the large metallic door closed behind Sylver and the two men who were pushing his table and him.

Sylver was moved through an empty corridor, without any windows and with the only light coming from thin glass sheets in the ceiling. The man with the mirror looked at it several times as they walked past several doors with labels on the right side of them.

The man with the mirror held the door open, while the other pushed Sylver’s table through it. The room inside was very small, barely wide enough for Sylver’s table to be turned around. The man with the mirror placed the mirror on Sylver’s chest, and reached into one of his pockets, and pulled out a small syringe.

A square hole opened up in the wall near Sylver’s feet, while the man with the syringe inserted it into Sylver’s leg. Sylver felt the numbness in his leg and foot slowly dissipate and felt it very slowly move upwards towards his head.

Meanwhile, his table was pushed into the hole, and Sylver found himself in an oversized coffin. He wanted to reach out with his hand towards the warm mirror laying on his chest but remained motionless instead and waited for all of the numbing poison in his body to be counteracted first.

He didn’t get a chance to wonder if they planned to just bury him and forget about him, as the table underneath him made a whirring noise, and all the belts holding Sylver down popped open and disappeared.

Sylver felt that he was moving, but it was difficult to feel if he was moving up or down, or in which direction for some reason.

By the time the table stopped moving and the ceiling started to open up, Sylver was wide awake and in full control of his body, but he kept his eye closed and kept his heartbeat low to feign sleep. As a thin hand reached out towards his chest, Sylver grabbed it and held it still with a vice-like grip, as he pulled himself out of his temporary coffin.

“Easy lad! You’re safe,” a man said, in the most peculiar elvish Sylver had ever heard.

It wasn’t just old, it was ancient. But at the same time not proper ancient elvish either. It was hard to put into words, but Sylver had never heard something like this before.

With the lead collar on his neck, Sylver couldn’t sense his surroundings, but Spring quickly spread out and informed him that he was in a small room with only a single door leading out of it. Sealed tight enough that none of the shades could go through it. The hole Sylver’s coffin had come from was also sealed tight.

Sylver let go of the man’s wrist and gave his eye a few seconds to adjust to the dim light. He struggled to get out of the coffin with only one arm and one leg, but he managed it after a try or two. He kept the mirror that had been placed on his chest under his armpit, while he jumped out of the coffin and looked at the old half-elf rubbing his wrist.

The man was dressed in a dark red shirt and matching dark red pants. He had a badge or something on the left side of his chest, that Sylver couldn’t read.

Having Spring speak from inside Sylver’s mouth and trying to match the words was difficult and unpleasant. It felt like trying to talk while drinking a glass of water.

“Where am I?” Sylver asked. With nothing to do but think, he’d come up with a few ways to blend into this realm.

The old fake half-elf had thin grey hair on the top of his head, and enough crow’s feet to call it a murder. His nose was pressed flat against his face, and his left eye wasn’t looking in quite the same direction as his right.

“Where do you think?” the man asked.

Only the fact that Sylver had to trod carefully here, stopped him from punching the man in the face. If he did that, then all the poking and prodding he had gone through was for nothing.

“I don’t know,” Sylver answered honestly.

Sylver looked around the room as he hopped a step forward, and heard a noise behind him. A metallic crutch fell onto the floor from underneath Sylver’s coffin.

“Can you walk?” the old man asked, as Sylver crouched down to pick the crutch up and tried to find a comfortable position to use it in.

There wasn’t one.

It dug very painfully into his right arm’s armpit, and Sylver could already tell stairs were going to be a huge headache. If it weren’t for the-

The lead collar on Sylver’s neck popped open and fell onto the ground. Sylver just stared at it, before the old man spoke.

“Put it inside the box, it will give you something to wear,” the old man said.

Both of Sylver’s eyes were wide open as he lifted the collar and gently placed it into the coffin he had arrived in. The coffin disappeared into the hole it came from so quickly and suddenly that Sylver filched.

Barely a second later a similar-looking but much smaller box returned, and the lid disappeared to reveal a very light green shirt, light green pants, and light green shoes. The shirt had something on its chest, but it was different from the thing on the old man’s chest.

The old man made a tsk sound when Sylver pulled the shirt out of the box.

“Been a while since the greens got a new member,” the old man said. Because of his accent, Sylver couldn’t tell if he was happy or saddened by the news.

Sylver refrained from making himself an arm and a leg and kept his magic suppressed and inside himself, while he somehow managed to shrug his robe thing off and dressed up in his green shirt and pants. And his one shoe.

“You’re going to want to get a bag,” the old man offered. Sylver made to put the extra shoe back into the box, while he activated [Bound Bones] and stored it in his forearm.

“Where am I?” Sylver repeated.

“The Garden,” the old man answered. Spring almost said what Sylver was thinking, swear words and threats and all, but Sylver caught him before he could start.

“What’s the Garden?” Sylver asked calmly.

The old man looked at him very strangely again. He pointed at the mirror in Sylver’s hand.

“Read the leaflet, it will explain everything,” the old man said.

Sylver lifted the mirror up to his face and stared at his reflection.

Reveal that I can’t see what’s written on the mirror, or pretend to be illiterate?

Illiteracy could be more suspicious than an eye condition…

Fuck, I hate making decisions without enough information!

“I’ll read it later, is there food anywhere? I’m starving,” Sylver said, as he hopped over towards the old man and towards the door.

The old man walked around him and picked up his discarded bathrobe thing and dropped it into the box. If he noticed the lack of shoes inside the box, he didn’t show it.

The box disappeared and the door Sylver was standing near opened with a quiet whoosh.

Outside the small room, it was…

Dark…

Not dark enough for Sylver’s [Advanced Night Vision] to work properly, but dark enough that Sylver had some trouble telling what was on the floor in front of him.

There was an odd musty smell in the air, the kind more often found in abandoned buildings, as opposed to a wide and open street. As he looked around, Sylver saw in the distance the buildings he’d seen when he first got out of the flying carriage.

But they were so far away he could just barely make them out. There was also the fact that the sun was somehow still high in the sky, and yet it was so dark that Sylver was staring right at it without even needing to squint.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be “morning” in about 5 hours,” the old man said as he came out of the room and stood next to Sylver.

The door closed behind him with another quiet whoosh.

“So food?” Sylver asked. If he played it dumb enough, he could make it look like he’s just stupid, and not from another realm. It worked before.

“I’ll show you to your home, you’ll likely have something to eat there,” the old man said. He added the next words as if they were an afterthought, all while looking at Sylver’s missing limbs. “But uh… You might want to temper your expectations.”

“Why?” Sylver asked, as he hobbled along and followed the old man.

“Here in the lower decks the guards show up once or twice a week, to do a sweep for dead bodies, but the rest of the time we’re all on our own,” the old man explained.

Sylver only now realized he hadn’t asked his name.

“I’m Tod by the way,” Sylver said.

The old man almost reached out a hand to shake but realized what he was about to try to do and let it go back to his side.

“William. But you can call me Will,” the old man, Will, said.

“I’m a bit of a slow reader if I’m being honest. Do you mind telling me what the leaflet says?” Sylver asked.

Will somehow managed to seem both annoyed and delighted at the same time.

“It starts with a brief overview of the Garden’s history. The Flip, the Tides, and how the Gardener built the Garden. The next portion, if I remember correctly, is about the decks, and how one would theoretically go about moving up a layer,” Will explained.

“By theoretically I take it you mean that-”

“It doesn’t happen. You need to have saved over 100,000 cuts, and after paying for your house, food, and other basic necessitates, there isn’t much left to save. The only ones who managed it did so by pure luck, or through the tower,” Will explained.

Sylver wanted to run his hand over his face and dearly wished he could see the writing on the mirror, just so that he wouldn’t have to ask every little detail.

As Sylver glanced at Will’s lazy eye, he got an idea.

It wasn’t a fantastic idea.

Sylver would be hard-pressed to call it a good idea.

It certainly wouldn’t help his public image, but if this place was as lawless as Will made it sound, that wasn’t going to be an issue.

All he needed now was a willing donor.

And if Sylver was reading the situation right, there were going to be a couple of donors waiting right outside his house, asking politely that he hand over his food to them.

By the sounds of it, this is a Nautis and Tuli situation.

“So tell me, Will. What’s the consensus on magic?” Sylver asked. His armpit was already hurting, there wasn’t much point in carrying on with this, considering the people who brought him in saw that he had an arm and a leg somehow.

“If you can heal, you’re more or less set for life. Herbalism-related spells can fetch you a good price with the farmers. The smiths already have more fire users than they could ever need, so I wouldn’t bother with that. And in my personal opinion, you need something big and flashy if you plan to go into the tower,” Will explained.

“What about dark magic?” Sylver asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You know. Curses and hexes and all that. Summoning imps, raising the dead, that kind of thing?” Sylver asked nonchalantly, or as nonchalantly as Spring could manage.

“I’m not sure… I didn’t think elves were capable of using dark magic…” Will said after a bit too long of a pause.

It took Sylver a couple of seconds to connect the dots.

With his left ear missing, and his right chewed up and fucked up, he looked like a damaged elf. His complexation certainly leaned towards elf, more than it did human, and his slightly extended limbs didn’t help a whole lot either.

Ciege kind of looked like an elf as a whole, now that Sylver thought about it. Especially if he lost some weight as Sylver had done.

Is this the coin flip? That they mistook me for an elf?

“Are there any laws against it?” Sylver asked. Will gave him a strange look, as they crossed the empty street.

The “city” if Sylver could call it that, was a very odd mix. The buildings themselves looked pristine, they were in one piece, not a single crack as far as Sylver could spot, and all the doors were made of metal as were the windows.

If anything, it almost looked better than some of the houses in Arda.

And the street was much cleaner, there wasn’t even all that much dirt in the stone tile that made up the ground.

But there was a smell in the air, and an unpleasant feeling that Sylver couldn’t quite shake, that didn’t match the physical appearance of the homes and road.

“No laws… truth be told, there are worse things than having a necromancer around. Maybe you can do something about the dead bodies before they start to rot and stink up the place,” Will offered.

Free corpses, I might have misjudged this realm.

“I’ll keep that in mind… Has anyone ever managed to escape?” Sylver asked.

“Escape? You’re free to leave whenever you want. Just wait for the guards to come around, and ask. They’ll throw you out into the freezing cold water, and you’ll either die from the shock, or one of the millions of monsters surrounding the Garden will tear you apart,” Will explained, with an alarmingly calm and certain tone.

“What about other cities?” Sylver asked.

“I genuinely hate to be the one to tell you this but… despite what some may say, there aren’t any. The only people who survived the Flip were those the Gardener accepted into his Garden. And seafaring nomads like you. You were relatively calm when you woke up, so I’m going to guess that when they rescued you, you were already alone?” Will asked.

“Rescued?”

“It might not seem like it, but even with all the thugs around, you’re far safer here than you ever would be out there,” Will explained with that odd tone of voice old people who considered themselves wise tended to use.

“Even with the piles of corpses, you told me about?” Sylver asked.

“If you just give them what they want, they leave you alone. Think of it as a personal safety tax,” Will said.

“And what happens if you fight them?” Sylver asked.

He’d noticed it earlier, but each door had a small square on it, with a bit of writing that looked similar to the badge on Sylver’s and Will’s shirt.

Everything else aside, it was quite warm in here. Almost stifling if anything. But much better than walking around in the freezing cold.

“Their higher-ups find out, and kill you,” Will explained.

So almost exactly like Tuli.

Actually, if this is the only city in the realm, finding the book will be easy.

On the other hand, I feel like I’m being lied to, but Will doesn’t seem like he’s lying.

The Flip sounds like some sort of catastrophe, but how long ago was it that there are still nomads out there?

“I’d like to ask a bit of a stupid question,” Sylver asked.

“Go right ahead.”

“The tower you mentioned… Its purpose wouldn’t happen to be mining crystals or collecting resources or the like, right?” Sylver asked.

“No. It’s where you compete against other elves, to keep the purebloods entertained. It’s very dangerous and bloody, I wouldn’t recommend it, especially…” Will didn’t gesture or point to the fact that Sylver was using a crutch to walk, but Sylver understood what he meant.

“Fair enough. One last question before you’re going to want to leave,” Sylver said, as he leaned to his left and straightened out as his left leg formed underneath him, as did his left arm. Both were made out of solid darkness and with faint wisps of yellow smoke dissipating from the edges.

“How do I open the front door, and where can I find you if I have any further questions,” Sylver asked, as he placed his portable mirror down on one of the steps and stretched his right arm around and his right leg.

“Just tap it against the little square, and it’ll open. There will be a small key you can wear as a bracelet inside, but be careful you don’t lose it because it costs 1,000 cuts to be replaced. And I live in the red district, number 443. Best of luck!” Will said, as he walked backward and away from Sylver, and disappeared behind a street corner.

Sylver picked his mirror from the steps and walked towards the 2 large men sneering at him while standing outside the door that had a green square on it, and was a perfect match for the thing written on Sylver’s shirt.

“Gentlemen! I’m going to make you an offer you’re going to refuse!” Spring said calmly, but with a note of a smile, out of Sylver’s mouth.

Both of them were wearing light green shirts, that were slightly strained from the weapons they were hiding behind their backs.

Sylver was slightly at a loss for words as both of them pulled a gun out and pointed it at him.

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