Ch108-Luck Be A Woman
The language the “elves” used was different from the one the “elves” on the boat had.
It was a bastardization of elvish, but Sylver had to admit he liked the simplicity of it. They narrowed the alphabet to a mere 50 letters and used a special “softener” and “hardener” letter to make a vowel or consonants the proper pitch when written.
Given that Sylver could already speak the language, and the bird helped him narrow the dialect down to a mix of 3 dialects he already knew, in regards to grammar. Sylver was reading and writing in “modern elvish” within two hours of starting his lesson.
The purple-skinned woman, Iris, helped him get sorted out on everything else. Sylver freaked out a little when she created a life-sized illusion of herself in his kitchen and showed him how he was supposed to remove the seeds from the fruits in his fridge, but everything just more or less fell into the “this realm is weird” pile in Sylver’s head.
Food-wise the only real strange thing was that everything seemed to have some kind of connection to “mangoes”. Good meat came from animals that had mangoes in their diet, the best teas and sauces were made from mangoes, and even the milk advertised that it contained the same nutrition as mangoes.
According to Iris, the Gardener loved this odd-colored fruit above all others, and somewhere near 60% of the available land was originally used to farm it.
Sylver had seen stranger cultural fixations and kept his opinion to himself.
In fact, he kept most of his opinions to himself, once he figured out that Iris wasn’t here with him. Similar to how Sylver could see the things his shades see, Iris was an extension of someone or something, and he was talking to the non magical equivalent of a shade.
Trapped inside a mirror, that apparently cost 4,000 cuts to be replaced if he wanted one without a crack. They also sold a miniature handheld version for 2,000 cuts.
In fact, they sold a lot of things.
Food, water, drugs, weapons, armor, clothing, eating utensils, crafting equipment, vehicles, services, books, and even slaves. Although Sylver couldn’t get a straight answer out of Iris as to where the slaves came from.
Frankly speaking, the only law that really mattered and was enforced was that the lower-ranked elves, “Roots”, didn’t try to go up to the higher areas without permission, like the “Trunk”, “Branch”, “Leaf” and “Flower”.
It sounded a lot nicer in their elvish dialect than it did in the way Sylver translated the words in his head.
The short of it is that there was a caste system in place, wherein Sylver was currently at the very bottom. His options to go higher were to either save up 100,000 cuts and buy his way in, get hired as a servant for one of the higher areas, or marry his way into it.
The way Will had talked about it, moving up a rank plain and simple didn’t happen. People were born into whatever rank they were born into, and very often stayed there. With the rare exceptions that got moved down due to bad luck.
The house Sylver was currently in cost 3,550 cuts per month, along with running water, heating, and electricity, it rounded up to an even 5,000 cuts per month.
As for earning cuts, Sylver noticed a strange discrepancy straight away. The same job done during the “night” paid nearly 5 times as much as during the “day”. But something in his gut told him that if he asked Iris about it, she would find the question suspicious. Or whoever was controlling her would.
There was a difference between being a nomadic traveler who only recently learned about the wonder of the Garden, and being from another realm and having no idea why the “night” was so dangerous. Or why they bothered having a “night” if that was really the case.
Sylver put the Iris down for the moment and leaned back in his chair.
His eye was starting to hurt.
And his head wasn’t doing much better.
The amount of raw exposition Sylver had experienced in the short time he’d spent getting a crash course on this realm’s history would have put a lesser man to sleep.
But he powered through, and now he had a headache to show for it, and if his eye wasn’t pitch black, it would very likely be bloodshot too.
Sylver had 5,000 cuts to his name at this very moment. Enough for him to live in this house without doing anything for a single month. Iris had suggested giving her a list of his skills and perks and abilities so that she could help him find employment, but Sylver rejected the idea.
He was going to do what he always did.
Try to resolve things peacefully.
But first, he was going to take a very long and very hot shower to scrub everything away, and then sleep for however long he could manage.
As Sylver flipped the piece of meat over, he tried to remember the last time he’d cooked something himself. On his first day of being reborn, he had been attacked by a man who would become Tom, and from that point on he’d always had shades do all the cooking for him, or he’d just buy food from someone.
And now that Sylver couldn’t risk anyone finding out about the shades and had to cook for himself, he remembered why he all but swore off cooking.
It was fucking boring.
And without a tongue he couldn’t even taste anything, it wasn’t worth the effort it took.
And then having to wash everything, even if Sylver could take shortcuts with magic it still took far more mental effort than it should.
The last time he cooked something and didn’t have one of his shades do it was when he was teaching Oska how to cook for whatever reason.
Why didn’t I have one of the Ibis cooks teach her?
Sylver turned the meat over again and poured the half a cup of sweet and sour mango sauce into the pan as Iris had instructed. It burst into flames and burned while Sylver used a spoon to baste it.
Right, the head cook told her to fuck off because she overheard Oska badmouthing her… What did she even say? Oska never really spoke all that much, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard her insult someone.
Sylver’s eyebrows were in a deep furrow as the timer ran out and he flicked his hand and snuffed the flame out.
Standing alone in a dead silent kitchen Sylver suddenly felt like he was running out of breath. He crumpled the feeling into a tight ball and pushed it back down where it belonged as he sat down and started eating his steak that tasted of nothing.
Sylver’s knife scraped against the plate as he put a little too much force behind it, and he chewed the tasteless meat as if he was trying to tear it off something.
If I die here, Lola will never be able to find me. If the cunt in white knew about the pot, and the fragment I left inside Ciege, and Lola’s coin, she probably knows about the other thing.
If she decides to go back on the deal, which we haven’t even officially made, what can I even do against her? She’s afraid of me, but what if-
Sylver’s knife cut through the plate and cut through the metallic table beneath it and he stood up so hurriedly that his chair flew backward and bounced off the now dented kitchen counter.
He walked up the stairs and went into the bathroom and splashed his face with cold water until he was back in the right headspace. He stared himself in the eye in the mirror hanging over the basin.
Just find the book and deal with the rest as it comes.
If this is the only city in this realm you’re halfway done.
Sylver splashed his face a few more times and ran his wet hands over his bald scalp, as he considered rewiring his brain so as not to think about his apprentices again.
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time Sylver had considered this. But he already knew this would be a temporary solution that would bite him in the ass so hard that it would cripple him beyond any hope of repair.
If Edmund hadn’t found him out the first time he tried to do it, he wouldn’t have become the arch necromancer.
He wouldn’t have become anything for that matter.
He would have walked around happy as can be, and then one day he’d do something horrific without realizing it, and Nyx would have to hunt him down like he was some sort of feral animal and kill him.
“You alright?” Spring whispered in Sylver’s ear from the shadow inside of it.
“I’m fine. Did you need something?” Sylver tapped out with his right foot.
“You’ve got guests coming over. Three men, two armed with guns hidden under their armpits, and one with a small gun hidden in his right hand’s sleeve,” Spring said.
Sylver wiped his face and head with a towel and put it back on the small metallic hook he took it from. He went to his closet and put a shirt on, one of his 2 identical bright green shirts. There was a service to have your clothing washed, but Sylver could just use steam to clean the sweat and grime out.
Sylver had been careful about what kind of magic he used while inside the Garden. Because Iris was watching him at all times. The walls had metaphorical eyes and ears in this city. He could feel it.
In hindsight taking those 2 darts from his [Bound Bones] storage was stupid, but there wasn’t a whole lot Sylver could do about it now. He could use [Coat Of Carrion] since he’d already used it and there wouldn’t be much point hiding it now.
Sylver was careful to be as covert about what he could do and what his skills could do. Like that he could create more [Coat Of Carrion] if he needed it, and that there wasn’t a limit to how much he could control.
Small details like that could play major roles in the future, a fight was as much of a battle in information as it was physical. Ideally of course Sylver would just rise in their ranks, find the book for sale, earn enough cuts to buy it, destroy it, and spend whatever money he had left buying the components he needed to make a gate.
Finding a potential gate was on his to-do list, but the book took priority.
Absolute worst-case scenario, assuming [Xander’s Waystone] didn’t work, Sylver could always trade with a demon.
Although, that’s assuming such a positive energy-rich realm even had demons to begin with.
Sylver stretched his arm and leg out as he moved the future issues into the future where they belonged, and focused on the three people currently standing right outside of his door.
Sylver made a [Coat Of Carrion] coated butcher’s knife float over to him from the kitchen, and glued it to his back underneath his shirt. His two darts were glued to his calves, underneath his green pants.
And there was a large blob of frozen solid-liquid gore spread out around the door frame, in case someone tried to force their way inside. Sylver pressed the button on the lock, and the door opened itself up.
“Can I help you?” Sylver asked as the three men turned around to look at him.
The two that had a gun under their armpit wore a dark green jacket over their shirt, and the guns weren’t hidden hidden, but they were out of sight for the most part.
While the man who had a small gun up his sleeve wore a dark green three-piece suit, with matching pants and shoes. He was noticeably smaller and thinner than his bodyguards, but the air around him had that odd calm relaxed feeling to it, that Sylver normally associated with high-ranking mages. A kind of certainty that they would always walk out of any scuffle unharmed.
His eyes slowly moved up from Sylver’s left hand up to his left shoulder and seemed to turn soft when he saw his lack of ears and the missing eye.
“My name is Teal, I would like to first and foremost apologize for what happened to you. Lokke normally has a better grip on his men, but lately… I’m sorry, do you mind if we continue this inside?” Teal asked. Sylver looked at him and nodded.
The street wasn’t exactly crowded but men and women were walking around by this point in the day.
Teal looked around the room that had the kitchen and the living room, or in this case the room with the large Iris on the wall, and seemed both confused and surprised. He walked over to the dent in the countertop and looked a bit more at ease when he saw it.
“I’m not all that certain there’s anything I could say to remedy what’s been done to you,” Teal said, as Sylver pulled out a chair and sat opposite him on his small kitchen table. Sylver could feel by Teal’s soul what was going on, but it confused him for a while.
Does he feel pity? Or am I reading him wrong?
“My name is Tod, by the way. Forgot to introduce myself,” Sylver said.
Teal looked up at him as if he only just noticed him properly.
“I would start by explaining what you’re here for exactly,” Sylver offered.
“I’m the representative of the green district. I handle disputes, maintain order, delegate responsibilities and keep Chen’s men away. I have failed you in that regard, but it won’t happen again,” Teal explained.
“I see,” Sylver said simply, as he realized what Teal thought had happened.
He thinks those two took my eye out and probably my arm on top of that… So either those two haven’t told anyone about me, or Teal is only aware of the gunshots, or he’s faking for some reason…
I’m not getting the feeling he’s malicious...
“If you don’t mind me asking… How much did they take?” Teal asked.
I could lie and he’ll reimburse me, by the sounds of things.
But then he’ll know me as a liar if he finds out the truth. If he’s the leader of this district, it would help to have him on my side. Or at the very least have him know I tend to tell the truth, in the event I need to tell a big lie later on.
“If you’re asking about the two men who were waiting for me outside my home, they didn’t take anything. We had a chat, and I asked them to come back so I can make them an offer,” Sylver explained. Teal for his part took the explanation in stride and surprisingly didn’t even pause before asking.
“What kind of offer?” Teal asked. Sylver felt something from the two men standing off in the corner, but he couldn’t put his finger on the emotion.
“I was going to have them pay me cuts, in exchange for allowing them to live. Sort of a hostage situation, but a little bit more intricate,” Sylver explained.
“You poisoned them?” Teal asked.
“Sort of. It’s a curse, but a very specialized one,” Sylver explained. He could almost hear Iris making notes about him in the background, even though it was mostly dead silent.
Teal looked over to one of the men that came with him, and Spring informed him that the man shook his head.
“I would like to offer you 10,000 cuts to leave the green district and move somewhere else,” Teal said. His change of voice and tone was so drastic it reminded Sylver of Raba whenever she had her mask on.
“Where would you have me move? I only just got here, I’m not all that familiar with the whole color system,” Sylver asked.
“The green district mostly houses those that are involved in agriculture. Red is for crafters, yellow is for artists and the like, and blue is for the cutters and those that go into the tower. I’m not all that concerned with where you go, as long as it isn’t here. We don’t need any violence, fights, or gunshots in the middle of the night,” Teal explained.
Sylver leaned back in his chair and thought it over.
“How much would you offer me if I got rid of Chen and all of his men for you? Made the source of the violence disappear so to speak,” Sylver offered. He saw Teal look over at the man he had looked at before, and said something with his eyes.
“Chen has been in charge for a little over 40 years. You are not the first, nor will you be the last, to try and overthrow him. So let me tell you what will happen if you try to go after him. He’ll track you down. And he’ll either kill you or the guards he’s “employed” will subdue you and kick you out of the garden,” Teal explained.
So the guards don’t just gather corpses… And they can be bribed…
“But on the other side of things, Chen has kept the peace. There’s violence, yes, I won’t pretend that isn’t the case. But it’s limited to the ones who are used to violence. The soft-natured folk are left alone. If Chen is gone one of the other groups will take over instead, and they don’t have Chen’s foresight to keep people unharmed and able to work, to pay him. Chen is milking the cow, the other’s will butcher it for the meat,” Teal finished.
There are other groups… I could side with them…
But in this direction, I’ll end up walking over a mountain of innocent corpses…
This isn’t my realm.
No one would ever know about what I’ve done, as long as I never tell anyone.
I could do whatever I want without any repercussions or consequences. These people barely have any defense against my magic, I could turn this whole city into a necropolis in under a week. The ones at the top could use all the lead they want; I’d just bury them in bodies, or starve them out…
What if the book isn’t here? What if this isn’t the only city in this realm? Am I certain this would be enough for handling a city as big or bigger than this one?
I kill everyone here, and then what? Spread my zombies around the realm in search of anything vaguely shaped like a book and just wait?
If they have the components, I could make the zombies spread corrosion everywhere. Melt this realm to nothing along with the book…
Sylver looked at Teal’s face and turned his head slightly to look at the two men standing in the corner of his kitchen.
That’s assuming the ones at the top don’t have something other than lead… Like that floating magic disrupting sphere.
I need time and preparation to get enough momentum to handle big threats, even with this whole city dead and under my control, they’d only need 1 tier 5 mage to take me out.
That’s without mentioning the fact that their mages are all likely as close to pure lights as Aether was, I might as well be up against a city full of priests…
I need time and information before making any big moves. For now, I’ll keep my head down, relatively speaking, and wait until at least my leg has healed up.
“What happens if I don’t want to leave?” Sylver asked.
He’d already made his decision, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try and give himself more of an advantage.
“It depends on the person. Threats won’t work on you, you’ll dig your heels in and stay out of principle. Inks doesn’t think it would be a good idea to fight you, so anything direct is also out. But I have a good eye for people,” Teal explained.
He leaned in closer as if Sylver was having trouble hearing him.
“I’ve met savages. True savages, the kind who consider anyone weaker than them worthless and would step on a baby’s skull just because the sound was annoying them. And despite how you appear, you’re no savage,” Teal explained. Sylver just silently continued to sit in his seat.
“How confident are you about that? What is it that you’re seeing when you look at me?” Sylver asked. He would have felt if his soul was being touched or read, or even if Teal was using primal energy in some way.
“We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you were one of the stupid ones. They didn’t talk to me. So at the very least, you’re able to think things through. And hopefully, you’re smart enough to realize the meager benefits that come from dismissing my offer, are outweighed by simply accepting it. You’re going to be fighting in the tower anyway, do you really want to walk an extra two hours to get to it? And you can do a lot with 10,000 cuts, a good weapon, some solid armor, maybe both,” Teal offered.
What am I even doing? Is it that I feel like he’ll win if I accept his offer?
Sylver found the source of the odd defensive aggression inside of him and did his best to push it down. Teal picked just about the worst time to talk to Sylver and appeal to his reasonable side.
“50,000,” Sylver said after a minute or two of closed-eye silence.
“15,000,” Teal countered.
“I’ll cut to the chase, 25,000. But that’s all I’m able to offer,” Teal said.
Sadly, Sylver felt fairly certain Teal was telling the truth.
“How does moving house work anyway?” Sylver asked.
“Your Iris will register the transfer of cuts, and once you walk out this door, your ID number will get erased from it. The Garden will put out a work notice for someone to come clean it up, or repair any damage you made, and once that’s done, the house will be marked as available. The only reason you got placed here was that Leeroy moved into the red district to live closer to his grandchildren,” Teal explained, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small handheld Iris.
“Normally we rent it in someone’s name to make sure this exact situation doesn’t happen, but due to certain circumstances the people who handle this messed up, and you slipped between the cracks. It’s just plain bad luck things ended up like this,” Teal explained.
Luck? Is this… No, too big, doesn’t fit.
“So who owns the house? It’s just… the Garden’s?” Sylver asked.
“Essentially. 25,000 cuts. You can rent an identical house to this in the blue district. It’ll even be stocked with food samples; in case you couldn’t decide on what you liked. Or rent something bigger, as most of the elves in the blue district tend to do. I’ve been told that it’s cheaper the further away you are from a practicing healer, but I haven’t stepped foot in there in years,” Teal explained.
“Would I still need to pay Chen a protection fee?” Sylver asked with a slightly raised eyebrow.
“That’s between you and Chen. You can fight him and his underlings, but in my opinion, it isn’t worth it. If you pay them, on time and without showing any disrespect, they leave you alone,” Teal explained.
Sylver sat quietly for a while and tried to figure out just how much of this was “luck”. His gut was telling him that that’s all it was and that he should just take the money and go.
And frankly, Sylver didn’t see much point in staying here. He wasn’t a farmer, and the tower was his only option anyway.
Aside from his passive income plan, that is.
“Alright… I accept your offer,” Sylver said.
Sylver hadn’t realized it, but he’d been on edge ever since he came into the Garden. The mana in the air was thin in the green district. Not to the point that he’d have trouble casting, but there were tiny increments where he didn’t have any positive mana near him.
Which made him feel disarmed, the smallest amount, and when the rest of the shit he was dealing with piled on top of that, the minor discomfort was amplified.
The blue district on the other hand felt like he was finally breathing regular air. The tension in his shoulder’s released the smallest fraction, and even Spring felt slightly more comfortable in his shadow.
If you didn’t think about the glaring sun above them that limited Sylver’s magic.
What even is a “coin-flip” of a nudge?
If I’m in a situation that has a 50/50 chance of helping me versus harming me, it’ll go my way? Or was she speaking in volume, she’ll move a flying bullet a coin’s width to the side to make it miss me?
At this point, I’m tempted to just flip a literal coin just to get it out of the way.
Fucking cunt in fucking white, piece of goddammed-
Sylver stopped his train of thought as he leaned to the left and a blunt piece of wood missed his head by a hair's width. He turned around just as the man behind him readied it to swing again.
Sylver kept holding his bag with his right hand and lifted his left darkness made hand up towards the attacker. The portly man swung at Sylver and seemed beyond surprised when the piece of wood was caught by Sylver’s hand and wouldn’t budge an inch as he tried to pull it out of his grasp.
“You’re left-handed, right?” Sylver asked, as the man wrapped his other hand around the makeshift club and pulled even harder.
“Come find me when you feel your right hand starting to go numb,” Sylver said, as he let go of the club, and the man managed to pull it out.
Sylver took a single step towards him, and gently pushed him in the chest as if he were opening a door. The man froze in place from the contact and landed on his back without so much as a bounce. His head didn’t hit the hard stone pavement, courtesy of the bag of garbage directly beneath him.
Sylver put his hand flatly against the man’s right eye, and when he removed it his eyeball was missing and was now being held between Sylver’s thumb and forefinger like he was inspecting a jewel.
“Oh, and bring your friends. I don’t like being bothered, so I’d rather handle everyone all at once,” Sylver said, as he took out a small jar from his bag, that he bought through his Iris for 5 cuts, and placed the still warm eyeball into it.
Sylver looked around at the people sitting on the steps outside their houses, or leaning down from the roofs and looking at him, and smiled slightly, as he started to walk away and towards where Iris had told him a house was available.
Does this count as starting a gang?
Is it still a gang if I’m threatening people into doing honest work instead of trying to rob others? Technically I’m enslaving them, but they attacked me first, I could just kill them.
This way at least they’re producing something.
And who knows? Maybe after this, they’ll have a change of heart and see that it’s a bad idea to hurt people? I’ll let those go, and as for the others…
Well, they weren’t being useful anyway, I would be doing the Garden a favor. I’ll need to find someone who knows how much it would be reasonable to charge them per week, so they have enough to live on.
Sylver zipped his bag up, and could vaguely hear his one-eyed attacker screaming in shock and pain as he turned the corner and walked down the street.
He unzipped his bag again and pulled out a different jar as three men holding a rusty crowbar, a table leg, and some sort of homemade-looking gun blocked his path.