[Elf (Engineer+Developer+Technician+Scrapper) – 79]
Sylver had forgotten how convenient it was to have Spring around to carry everything for him, as he struggled to make all 9 guns fit into his bag. 3 of them were much smaller than the ones that they shot at him with, and Sylver only found them because of the lead inside.
They were attached to a leather case strapped to their leg, near their socks. Similar to how Sylver kept a small stiletto hidden up his sleeve in Eira, he guessed that these tiny guns were the equivalent of that.
“Are they dead?” Sylver’s recently hired employee asked as he used the nearby bullet-ridden wall to balance himself while he slowly jumped towards the group of one-eyed and motionless men.
“Just paralyzed. I need them all alive, I have a plan I’m working with and it kind of hinges on me not killing anyone,” Sylver explained, as his employee limped over towards his bag.
“Do you need them in one piece for that plan?” the nameless employee asked.
“Oh, not at all, as long as they’re alive the rest doesn’t particularly matter,” Sylver said.
Sylver’s ears rang as several gunshots went off with barely a moment of pause between each consecutive shot. He vaguely heard the sound of the gun clicking, before the mustached man picked up a different one and shot the 6th paralyzed man in the knee. He’d shot all 6 of them in the left knee, and as far as Sylver could see, hadn’t missed even once.
Sylver flicked his hand towards the now bleeding knees and forced the torn open arteries to tighten and close themselves off. He turned to look towards his employee and had a good feeling about him as he saw the almost completely blank look on his face.
“Can they hear me?” the man asked.
“They can. They feel everything too.”
“Good. Mirl. The next time I see you or any of your men I’m going to kill you,” Sylver’s employee said.
The inside of the man’s shop was in complete and total disarray. Everything had been tipped over, smashed, trodden on, and then covered with a foul-smelling and extremely flammable liquid.
Sylver had to be careful when carrying his employee as the man’s foot was completely out of its socket, and he was coughing a little bit too much blood. He sat him down on a box that looked solid enough to sit on, and had to crouch to be eye level with the man.
“Look up with your eyes please,” Sylver said, as he placed his hands on the side of the man’s face and watched his bloodshot pupils move upward.
“Any pain in your head? Particularly near the neck?” Sylver asked. The man mumbled a no.
He moved his hands down to his shoulders and made the man yelp when he pressed too hard.
“No major damage to the skull. A crack in the right clavicle. The sternum is surprisingly fine, second and third ribs on the left side are broken, might need surgery. The spine is intact, no problems there, close your hands into a fist for me please,” Sylver asked.
He could see the muscles in the forearms attempt to close them up, but the man winced and couldn’t form a fist on either hand.
“You’ve been healed too much recently, and now need to wait a few weeks?” Sylver asked to confirm what he could already feel with his mana. The man nodded.
“The good news is that you somehow don’t have any internal bleeding. The blood in your lungs and throat is exclusively from your lip and broken nose. The damage to your hands isn’t permanent either, once the swelling goes down you’ll be mostly alright. Maybe some stiffness, depending on how fast the tendons heal. You might have a very minor concussion, but it’s very minor,” Sylver explained, as the man just nodded along.
“Are you a healer?” the man asked.
“I am the exact opposite of a healer. I’m a necromancer. But it just so happens that there isn’t that much difference between repairing a dead body and healing a living one. Well, there is, but broken bones and torn flesh are very easy to deal with. If anything it’s easier to repair a living body than a dead one, rigor mortis is a bitch to deal with, let me tell you,” Sylver said, as the man’s eyes widened slightly.
“I’m going to take your word for it… I’m Grant, by the way. Thanks for… well, thank you for saving my life. I’m not entirely certain what would have happened if you didn’t show up when you did,” Grant the engineer said.
“Glad to be of help. You’re still in shock, so do you mind if I set your nose and pop your foot back in place before you start feeling the pain?” Sylver asked, as Grant slowly just looked at him.
“I feel fine though? I’m not in shock,” Grant said, with the calm and relaxed tone only someone in shock could manage.
“Your heart is beating a few beats above 240, your pupils are so dilated they almost look like mine and I can smell the adrenaline from your blood. It’s going to hurt either way, but at the very least you’re not going to pass out if I do it now,” Sylver explained.
“I’m not… I shot Mirl… Holy fucking shit, I nearly got shot… Yeah, go ahead, I shouldn’t be this calm, you’re right,” Grant explained as Sylver felt his soul turn from smooth to spiky and placed his hands on either side of his face.
Shouldn’t have said anything, now he’s aware that he’s in shock.
“On three. One,” Sylver gripped Grant’s head so tight that he reached up with both hands to try to grab Sylver’s hands, as Sylver’s thumbs pulled the cartilage towards himself and then pushed it back into its proper place. Grant shoved Sylver away and winced as he reached for his face and tried to touch his nose but couldn’t close his hands around it properly.
While he was distracted by his nose, Sylver very gently pulled Grant’s foot up and turned around, and held it in place between his knees. It made a very wet-sounding crunch as Sylver very carefully but quickly pulled it back into place and let go of it as Grant started to scream and nearly fell off his box.
He caught himself on the pillar behind him and spent a few minutes breathing in and out as the panic started to set it.
“You’re also going to need stitches,” Sylver said as he started to walk around the shop.
Grant didn’t “calm down” exactly, but at the very least he was aware enough to explain to Sylver where his first aid kit was. Sadly, there weren’t any needles or thread inside of it, mostly bandages, sticky tape, and a bottle of some sort of cream that Grant told him to throw away since it was expired anyway.
Sylver ended up buying a single-use surgical kit, which included a surgical suture. The curved needle was tiny, and Sylver used one of the provided forceps to hold it and push the needle through Grant’s lip. The whole thing cost 490 cuts and the disinfectant cost an extra 120 cuts for the bottle.
Healing magic was great, but it came at a cost.
A true master might be able to heal the same person 100 times in a row without a single side effect. But even they had a limit they would reach eventually.
Less capable healers could at best heal someone 5 times in a single day before their healing would start to leave very painful and very permanent scars.
Even healing potions could only be used so often for the same reason, although in their case it was more of a buildup of toxicity. Depending on the potion even an amateur healer could heal someone back to full health, using the potion as a crutch.
Although in Sylver’s experience, any healer that needed to be helped by a potion, would fuck up anything genuinely serious anyway. But with the system doing most of the work for them, who knows?
Grant was… not very good with pain. Sylver ended up holding him by the face and neck like he would a dog, while he finished stitching his lip into one piece, and then swabbed it with the brown-colored disinfectant.
Another big difference between repairing a corpse and working with a living person was that corpses very rarely complained about the pain, or that your hand was too cold. They also didn’t normally question Sylver if he knew what he was doing, even when it was pointless to ask given that he was already halfway finished.
But underneath that terrified and whimpering shocked exterior, Sylver felt that he and Grant would get along well. Maybe not as well as with Salgok, but good enough to have a drink with.
Grant winced each time that he tried to part his mustache to look at the neat and tight stitches in a piece of mirror on the wall.
Sylver thought that it was odd how much he was walking around on his very recently fixed foot until he remembered a perk he hadn’t used in a while.
[Perk: Kindred Spirit Mitigation]
-Any creature under the protection of the user, may pass on all negative effects to the user.
*Creatures within 10m of the user can pass negative effects instantly.
*May not work if the creature is further than 100m away from the user.
*May not work if the creature doesn’t recognize the user as an ally.
*Will not work if the user isn’t willing to accept the negative effects.
Sylver reached up and touched his lip, and could feel a very faint dent in his skin, where Grant’s cut was.
If nothing else, it’s nice to know he sees me as an ally.
“Is there any place where we could talk in private? Without Iris or anything like that listening in?” Sylver asked while Grant crouched down to move a broken shelf off a small red box.
“It’s literally impossible to be out of earshot of Iris or one of the other AI’s. There’s tech that can see through solid rock and metal, and the solar panels are all almost certainly lined with listening devices. Unless you leave the Garden, there’s always someone listening,” Grant explained, as he lifted the small metallic red box out of the rubble surrounding it and limped over towards a table he had cleared.
He put it down alongside a mirror with a large number of small buttons attached to it, and a locked metal safe that he had opened and removed something that Sylver didn’t see.
“That is very worrying to hear. Why is Chen after you?” Sylver asked. He turned out to be right, but as usual, he wasn’t happy about it.
“Because he owes me 144,000 cuts,” Grant grumbled as he went back to searching through the piles of debris. “Well, not Chen exactly, one of his captains, Burts. But Chen is the one who gave him permission to try and get me to forgive the debt, as opposed to just paying me the cuts I almost literally bled for,” Grant explained.
“I was under the impression Chen was quite reasonable?” Sylver asked.
“Is he? First time I’m hearing of it. There used to be 9 other men working alongside me on this street, and now every single one of them is either missing or working for someone who’s working for Chen,” Grant said, as he found a rectangular cloth bag and yanked it out of the rubble surrounding it by the handle.
“Still, you held out for two years,” Sylver said.
“Two years? Burts has been bleeding me dry for well over 4 years now. First, he thought he could scare away the people who hired me, and it took him a while to scare off the wealthier ones, but in the end, they all couldn’t take it anymore. I can’t even blame them. I blame Burts, and Chen exclusively,” Grant explained, as he found an odd-looking mirror with a frame around it and placed it down onto the table.
“I see… You mentioned that there were other things like Iris?” Sylver asked.
He needed to find someone who could help him on the information side of things, sooner rather than later.
Maybe this realm would have talking rats?
“There’s an AI for each level, Iris is the one for the roots. I’m really sorry about this, but there’s not much time left until it gets dark,” Grant explained.
“Why do you make it dark?” Sylver asked, deciding that if he managed to make Iris and Grant think his question was about why they made it dark, as opposed to why the dark was dangerous, he would get an explanation for both.
Grant turned to look at Sylver with a strange expression on his face before he turned around and went back to searching.
“We call them solar panels but that’s just a nickname. The glass covering the Garden has a special liquid inside of it, that… How do I explain this? Without getting too much into the science of it, the glass can make a special type of electricity. But to do that it needs to turn dark, which blocks the sunlight from reaching the buildings and people under it,” Grant explained, as he shook a box full of metal and made all the dust fall out of it, and placed it down onto the table.
“The energy is stored up with the Leafs, and during the dark year, the energy is released throughout the Garden. Basically, we’re storing sunlight to use in the future. We’re a little under a month away from the dark year, so the ‘you know whats’ are extra aggressive. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s their mating cycle right about now,” Grant explained. Sylver cocked his head to the side.
“You say “you know what” but what do you actually call them?” Sylver asked.
He knew what Grant was talking about, and was just interested in learning what the Garden called whatever he was talking about.
“I’m a man of science… But they know when you say their name. It’s plain bad luck on top of that. And I feel like I’ve used all of mine up when you showed up in the nick of time,” Grant explained, as he started looking through an area he’d already looked through, and began to retrace his steps.
“I see… Do you know any trustworthy information brokers?” Sylver asked.
“Trustworthy? No. But I know an alcoholic piece of shit who always seems to know someone who knows someone,” Grant answered.
“How untrustworthy are we talking about?” Sylver asked.
“To the extent that if someone comes to him and offers him cuts for information on you, he’ll sell them every single word you said to him. You could try threatening him, but if he didn’t have a failsafe for that, he would have been killed years ago,” Grant explained.
“Does he work for Chen? Or one of Chen’s men?” Sylver asked.
Grant seemed pissed off by the question, more than he had been when Sylver held him in place and treated him like a fussy animal as he stitched his wounds closed.
“No,” Grant said after a long silence, during which he’d managed to find a green-colored box and placed it down on the table. “He’s a piece of shit, but even he has standards. Knowing him it’s honestly weird that he isn’t working for Chen,” Grant said.
“How much do his services cost?” Sylver asked.
He wasn’t going to just pawn the book searching onto one man, but he needed to know if there was someone he could just pay to find it for him.
Assuming it was inside the Garden.
“I don’t know. I only know about him because we went to school together. He flunked out and now lives in a 5 story house, while I pressed on, passed with near-perfect marks, and now because one man decided he didn’t want to pay me for my time, I lost over 70,000 cuts worth of equipment. Gathered over a literal lifetime, and now all that’s left is a fucking laptop I used to troubleshoot repaired hardware, a box full of tools I used maybe three times since I bought them, a box full of dead hard drives, and a bag full of extension cords,” Grant asked, pointing at each item on the table in turn.
Sylver made a mental note that he didn’t mention the thing hidden inside his coat pocket, that he took from his safe.
“Look on the bright side,” Sylver said, as Grant picked up one of the “hard drives” and threw it against the wall, and made it smash into pieces. It had a small mirror inside of it, that shattered and disappeared amongst the garbage on the floor.
“You could be dead. Or crippled, like Mirl is. Or you could have me as an enemy, which in my personal experience is about the worst thing that could happen to anybody,” Sylver offered with a grin. Grant somewhat ignored him as he picked up another “hard drive” and threw it against the wall.
Grant took a very deep breath as he threw the last “hard drive” against the wall, and sighed for nearly 30 seconds as he breathed out.
“It could be worse… But you can’t imagine what it’s like to have everything you spent your whole life working towards, ruined in a single day. I’m never going to get back to where I was. Even if you gave me a million cuts right now, my reputation, my equipment, my software, it’s all gone. I’ll have to start from nothing,” Grant said, as he gathered what remained on the table into a single box.
“You’d be surprised what a person can heal from. Even the worst of scars fade given enough time. You’ve still got your life, and you’ve got your mind and your experience. Use it,” Sylver offered with a sorrowful tone.
“If you’ll allow me to stay at your home, I’ll give you lessons on whatever you want for free. As for the rest… I don’t know yet, I’ll need some time,” Grant said.
“There’s no rush, take all the time you need. But keep in mind that I have the knowledge base of a child, I don’t even know what “lap top” means,” Sylver explained.
Grant had an even more regretful look on his face before he forced himself to cheer up and followed Sylver out of the destroyed shop. He could only keep his fingers crossed some idiot didn’t throw a lit cigarette into the extremely flammable building.
“Did you feel that?” Spring asked in a very quiet whisper in Sylver’s ear, as Grant followed behind him and nervously looked around at all the people staring at them.
“Bring everyone back into my shadow, and don’t move a muscle unless I say so,” Sylver tapped out against his leg, as Spring silently left to gather the shades he’d spread around the blue district.
“It’s a lot cleaner than I thought. The rumor was that the streets ran red with blood,” Grant whispered towards Sylver, who ignored the people sitting up on the roof and was trying to figure out if he was the reason there wasn’t anyone out in the street today.
He’d certainly scared them, but he didn’t get the feeling that was why they were all up on the roofs.
The small Iris Grant wore on his wrist made a sound.
“Fuck, are we close? I shouldn’t have spent all that time moping around, fuck,” Grant cursed, as Sylver continued to walk towards his current home.
He’s scared, and apparently it isn’t something he thinks I can defend him from.
Sylver’s breath caught for a moment as he turned the corner and tried to step into a dark alleyway. He pressed on and got to the other end with Grant in tow and arrived at his current place of residence.
Sylver opened the door with his book-sized Iris and saw a notification appear on it asking if Grant should be granted guest access. Sylver touched the green “yes” box.
“There’s food in the fridge, make yourself at home,” Sylver said, as Grant put down his box of tech near the front door so as not to have the dust get into Sylver’s kitchen or onto his couch.
“Wait? You’re leaving? But it’s going to be night in just a few minutes!” Grant said, almost as frightened as he had been when Sylver first met him.
“I’m not going far away, if someone tries to come here I’ll know it and I’ll handle it. You’re safe here,” Sylver explained, as Grant just looked at him.
“There are guns in that bag over there, I don’t know if they work or not, but maybe figure that out while you’re here?” Sylver offered, pointing at his collection of confiscated weapons. The jars full of floating eyeballs were inside the fridge and hidden away inside a [Coat Of Carrion] box.
“Tod… You know this is a danger zone tonight, right? They’re going to be here,” Grant said in a hushed voice.
“I know. But I feel like taking a walk, to gather my thoughts, breathe some fresh night air, that kind of thing,” Sylver explained, as Grant just mutely stared at him.
Sylver put his bag back over his shoulder and with his non-functional Iris in tow left through the front door.
As the glass above turned dark and stopped letting sunlight through, Sylver was worried he was going to moan from how good it felt.
It wasn’t just the lack of light, there was something more in the darkness that suddenly surrounded him. Sylver’s arm and leg flickered with bright yellow lightning for a moment, before it solidified back into an arm and a leg, albeit with significantly more focus and weight.
Sylver closed his eye and for a moment just enjoyed the feeling of allowing his mana to spread and inform him of his surroundings. He kept at it as he mixed his soul into his mana, and was happy to find that the houses around him were all empty right now.
He opened his eye and saw it standing on the other end of the alleyway, blocking his path.
Even with Sylver’s [Advanced Night Vision], he could barely see it.
It stood well over 10 feet tall, and Sylver felt, more than saw, that it was looking down at him. Its limbs were as thin as a person’s finger, while the claws that protruded out of what the thing would call a hand were each as long and sharp as a sword.
Its mouth was a large hole that stretched from where its eyes would be down to the middle of its chest, with flesh stretched over the hole, barely managing to hide the ring of razor-sharp teeth inside of it.
“Well… This place just keeps on getting more and more interesting,” Sylver said, as the thing screeched a dead silent screech and started clawing its way towards him, dragging its limp worm like body behind the grasping claws.