Ch111-Can’t Touch This
The creature barreled towards Sylver, with the force and momentum of a dead silent avalanche. For half a second or so, there was a vicious beauty to the ferocity and aggression with the practiced ease the creature’s claw’s found the perfect place to grab onto. It flowed towards Sylver, with a monstrous strength between each lurch forward.
Sylver didn’t move a single muscle as the darkness that made up his arm and leg seeped through his sleeve and trouser leg, and spread out to cover every inch of his body in a paper-thin layer of darkness. The creature moved upwards as it came towards him, and Sylver had to raise his head the tiniest amount to continue seeing it.
He couldn’t see its eyes, but Sylver felt the moment the creature looked at him.
The effect wasn’t as visible as it was when Sylver faced down predators that were warm-blooded and as big as mountains, but the effect was there nonetheless. A split second of indecision as the predator realized this wasn’t a fight it could win, followed by an animalistic fear.
In this case, there was no fear, just a completely emotionless acceptance of looking at an immovable object. It reacted to Sylver in the same way a person would disregard a locked door. The creature abandoned all pretense and in a single fluid motion pushed itself away from Sylver, and sent its wormy body flying backward and away from him.
Sylver leaned forward an inch or so, which prompted the dead silent creature to start making a noise that sounded like a cross between a creaking door and a woman’s moan. When he pushed with his right foot and exploded with force towards the creature, the sound intensified to the point the glass windows nearby vibrated to match it.
Bad idea. Sylver thought as the creature glanced downward, and attempted to disappear into the shadows.
It was met with glowing yellow eyes and another acceptance of something it didn’t have a chance of winning against. With Iris watching and listening, Sylver didn’t know what he could or should say, he had no idea what the relationship was between this… thing, and the elves living in the Garden was.
It wasn’t a shade.
Sylver felt it right away.
A shade always had a connection to the shadow it came from, this thing might use the shadows, but it certainly didn’t live in them.
The creature’s head spun all the way around before it flicked its claws upwards and pulled itself off the street and onto the curved roofs above. Sylver leaned to the side and kicked himself after it using one of the walls, while the creature’s wriggling body flowed over the edge of the roof and disappeared over it.
Sylver almost made contact with the glass ceiling above, but a small movement of air stopped him from colliding with it and instead sent him gliding towards the barely visible creature.
[??? (???) – ???]
Could have predicted that, Sylver thought, as the creature used chimneys, edges, and anything it could grab to pull itself forward and away from him. Sylver could tell by the way it kept glancing around it wasn’t used to having to traverse this type of landscape, it likely hunted the way shades did, appearing for a single moment to attack, before disappearing into the shadows.
Although in this case all the shadows were occupied by a very aggressive group of shades, armed with sharp swords, and although they’ve never had to fight anything inside the shadows, they were very willing to give it their best shot.
Sylver’s foot lost traction for a moment, but he caught himself with his arm and did a front flip in the air. Spring informed him the creature had slithered down, and Sylver twisted his body in the air again and used a small puff of air to push himself back down to the street.
They were back where they started, Sylver standing on one side of an alley, and the creature standing on the other. Albeit now with a wall blocking its means of escape.
The wall looked solid enough that Sylver didn’t think it would be able to break through it in time, the shadows and floor had Spring and the rest of the shades, Sylver had already proved to it that going up wasn’t going to do it much good, so the only option left was through Sylver.
He watched the creature consider its options, and didn’t like the confident way with which it just stood there. It didn’t move an inch, didn’t make a sound, it just stood there…
Waiting for something…
Sylver very slowly turned around and saw complete and total darkness.
When his eyes adjusted a moment later, he realized that it only appeared that way because these shade-like creatures had him surrounded from every angle. Most were on the ground, some clung to the walls of the buildings, and others stood above on the roofs.
He barely waited a breath, before he turned around again, and began to sprint towards the trapped creature. It had just begun silently trying to climb upwards when Sylver jumped up in the air and landed directly onto it.
The sound it made when Sylver’s darkness-covered hand made contact with its oddly powdery and slimy skin, sent a chill through Sylver’s spine.
It was like grabbing hold of a paper bag filled with bones, while it was covered in a film of flour. Sylver struggled to find something solid enough to get a proper grip on, but eventually, he managed to find the equivalent of a skull and grabbed hold of the creature by the eye socket.
The creature tried to swipe at him with its sword-like claws, but the pitch-black blades bounced off Sylver’s equally pitch-black skin as if it was the world’s strongest armor.
It was one of the many benefits that came with being a pure-dark and a master of the dark arts. Even if it did look a little funny from the outside perspective. Anyone else would have been ripped to shreds by now.
It became even more ridiculous when the creature tried to get a hold of Sylver in turn, but every attempt failed as its overly long fingers just slid off whatever they were trying to grab.
Sylver’s darkness-covered body was indistinguishable from the dark-colored claws the creature kept trying to grab him with, as he kicked his feet down onto it until it got out of the way and his soft-soled shoes touched the stone floor. Sylver began to walk towards the large mass of creatures while being repeatedly attacked from all sides, all while dragging his attacker along with him.
Sylver got to the edge of the alleyway and saw that the creatures that had surrounded him hadn’t moved an inch from where they were a minute or so ago. He didn’t get the feeling they were frozen in fear, but at the same time knew there was absolutely nothing they could do right now.
Sylver lifted the creature in his hand up into the air and grabbed one of its claws with his free hand. It started to struggle even harder than before, but it was like watching a cat try to get its head unstuck from in between stair rails. Sylver’s hand slid down the sharp-looking blade until he found the joint near the “palm” and very gently began to squeeze it.
The creature surprised Sylver by the sheer volume with which it managed to scream, but he didn’t let go or stop squeezing. Spring very briefly informed him that the ones that had surrounded him had started to disappear and run away.
Sylver shoved his thumb down over the joint, and as the sword-like claw popped out of its socket and detached itself from the screaming and struggling mass of wriggling darkness, Sylver used [Bound Bones] to store it away.
He released the creature’s hand and pulled it up so it was eye to eye with him.
If I concentrate a silencing spell into a half a meter diameter, will it be enough so that Iris doesn’t hear me?
Small tendrils escaped from the creature’s mouth and tried their best to wrap around Sylver’s head and force themselves into his nose and eyes. He tightened his grip and the tendrils lost their strength and went back inside its mouth.
Worst case scenario…
They think I’m in cahoots with these things, and I’m captured and executed, or interrogated. If they’re watching right now, they know I have a skill or a perk or something that makes it so that they can’t hurt me…
If I can prove I know how to permanently get rid of them, maybe…
No, the risk is too big. Even doing this was a bad idea, I should have waited…
Too late to do anything about it now.
I can always track them down later, and make a decision when I have more information.
Sylver kept his face neutral and friendly, as he pulled the creature behind himself, and threw it out into the empty street, towards the ones who had remained. There were 9 of them, and unlike all the others, they looked like proper shades. And they felt different, but not in a way Sylver could put into words. Not stronger exactly but more… solid.
Sylver thought he might have seen one that looked like a woman nod at him, but it was impossible to know for sure.
The one that Sylver had stolen a claw from scrambled on the ground to stand up, and backed away from him as if it were a frightened animal. With Spring and the rest back in Sylver’s shadow, the thing disappeared into the darkness, along with all the others.
If Grant’s informant knows a place that I can speak in private, I’ll just take one of these things with me. Or better yet.
“The third one from the left. Split up and send a split of yourself after it. See where they hide when the lights come back on,” Sylver silently tapped out the instructions.
Spring split into two, and without pause one of them moved out of Sylver’s shadow and did his best to find the creature Sylver had thought had nodded at him.
With any other shade, Sylver would be worried about someone catching it and permanently severing his connection. With Spring at the absolute worst, he could get trapped. But Sylver could vaguely feel his location anyway, so that wasn’t a big problem either.
Not to mention Sylver trusted that Spring could handle himself.
“You’re alive?” Grant asked as Sylver closed the door behind him.
“In a sense. How are you feeling?” Sylver asked, as he looked around the room and saw that there was a portable table unfolded in the couch area, and had a mirror sitting on it with very small fast-moving letters.
“Having had a bit of time to think things over… Not too bad. Could be worse, way worse, like you said. Did you manage to gather your thoughts?” Grant asked, from his seat at the kitchen table, where Sylver saw he had dismantled something full of wires.
“What? I did, yes. Did you look the guns over?” Sylver asked. Grant shrugged towards the bag where Sylver had thrown the guns into it.
“They’re all loaded, one has a bent barrel but I can’t do anything about it, but the rest are all fine. They all use 11mm ammunition, except the revolvers that use the .30 rounds,” Grant explained. Sylver opened the bag and saw that the guns were a lot cleaner than they were before.
“I see. Thank you. Did you get a chance to eat?” Sylver asked.
“Truth be told, I’m still feeling like something is buzzing inside my chest. I’m afraid if I try to eat it will just come right out. I shot 6 men in the knee. I’m not… I’m not a violent man. I don’t know what came over me,” Grant explained, as Sylver picked the biggest and heaviest gun out of the bag and brought it over with him onto the kitchen table.
“You were about to die, and then you lived. You’re filled with relief, mixed with the initial fear of dying, the regret of almost being killed, it’s just a big clusterfuck of emotions that shouldn’t ever be meeting in the first place. If a different man was in your place, I’m all but certain he would have shot them all in the groin or the head. I would have at the very least smashed the teeth out of their mouth,” Sylver explained, as Grant started carefully moving the thing he had dismantled off to the side and out of the way.
There were a few moments of silence as Sylver inspected the weapon in his hand.
“You’re used to violence, right?” Grant asked.
“You could certainly say that. Do you mind dismantling this for me?” Sylver asked as he turned the gun around so the handle was facing Grant.
“Does it get easier the more you do it?” Grant asked, as he took the gun and pulled a small lever on the side, and made the rectangle filled with bullets fall out of it.
“You mean hurting people? Absolutely. The mind is a wondrous thing, do anything enough times, and even the most horrific of horrors can become mundane. You don’t exactly not think about what you’ve done, but the feeling is blunted to the point it’s almost harmless. But I wouldn’t recommend it,” Sylver explained, as he watched Grant pull the top part of the gun until it came off.
“Why not?” Grant asked as he placed the top part of the gun onto the table, and very briefly showed Sylver the mechanism inside, before he started to pull the spring out of the front half.
“For starters, you’re not very good at it. You were holding onto a rock while they pulled you away, after having beaten you bloody. You don’t have the necessary aggression to be violent,” Sylver said, as Grant removed the spring and placed it near the top of the gun, and started to fiddle around with the cylindrical part of it.
“I can be aggressive,” Grant offered. Sylver didn’t know him well enough to ascertain how serious he was, his tone was completely neutral.
“I didn’t say you can’t. But you were born and raised in a place where you didn’t have to fear for your life. Where an issue between you and someone else can be resolved with words, and a fight was reserved for when all other methods of conflict resolution had been attempted and proved futile. You can be aggressive, but you won’t be until you’re forced to,” Sylver explained, as he picked up the spring and looked at it.
It was thin, but somehow surprisingly strong.
“I’m not getting the point,” Grant said.
He pulled the cylinder out and laid it down on the table. The gun was now in 5 pieces, the handle with the trigger, a spring, a cylinder thing, the piece that covered the spring and cylinder, and the rectangle that held the bullets.
“Let me give you an example… Imagine I pulled a knife on you, right now,” Sylver said, as the cleaver glued to his back dropped down the back of his shirt and jumped into the hand he was holding towards Grant and was now pointing a flat red-coated cleaver right in his face.
“See that pause? Is he serious? Is he going to hurt me? What should I do? You’re a civilized man, speaking to another civilized man. It is out of the norm that I would do anything to hurt you. How often do normal people pull a knife or a gun on one another?” Sylver asked, as let go of the cleaver and let it float back into place on his back.
“So? What does this prove?” Grant asked.
“I’m not very good when it comes to these kinds of things. It’s a different world is what I’m saying. And once you step into it, you don’t get to leave. If you placed a knife up to my throat, I would have responded with instant violence. There wouldn’t be a pause, because my life is in danger and if I don’t do everything I can to defend it, I’m going to die. You could absolutely get to this point through some experience and training, but why would you want to?” Sylver asked.
He picked the rectangle holding the bullets and found that he could pull them out with his thumb.
“So that I can defend myself?” Grant asked as if it was obvious.
“From what? From who? Do you think that if those 6 men came back it would somehow end differently? Even if you were armed to the teeth, that split second of hesitation would be all that they needed. And you did say you would kill them if you ever saw them again, but would you really?” Sylver asked.
Grant started putting the gun back together.
“Even if it’s in self-defense or completely justified, you’re still killing someone. Hurting someone is one thing, killing them is like comparing masturbation to sex. Shooting someone in the knee, and shooting them in the head, requires the same amount of effort, but has vastly different consequences. With one, you simply have a tissue to throw away, and with the other, you might do something that can’t be undone,” Sylver explained.
“By something that can’t be undone you mean-”
“Getting a woman pregnant. Which I guess can be undone, but it’s a metaphor, it shouldn’t be taken to be literal. Look, the short of it is that I’m good at violence. I’m very good at it. I would go as far as to say it’s my specialty. You’re good at,” Sylver waved vaguely at the piece of technology Grant had dismantled.
“What am I supposed to do when you’re not around then?” Grant asked.
“I assume you’re asking what you’re supposed to do if those 6 come back and I’m not nearby. The answer to that is that it won’t happen. I’m going to scare potential trouble away, and soon I’m going to find someone capable of defending you and whoever else I end up employing. I do realize we’ve only known each other for a few hours, but I’d like you to trust that I know what I’m doing,” Sylver explained.
“What kind of tribe did they pull you out of?” Grant asked.
“The kind where you wouldn’t believe me, even if I told you. I offered you a stable income, interesting work, and protection. As long as you handle your side of things, I’ll handle my side. I was going to look for a magic specialist next, but just for you, I’ll be on the lookout for a guard instead. Not that they’ll be necessary in a couple of weeks or so,” Sylver explained, as he watched as Grant finished putting the gun together and then pulled the top part until it made a sound.
“Why? What’s going to happen in a couple of weeks?” Grant asked as he handed the gun back to Sylver.
“Is it ready to fire?” Sylver asked while he looked at the gun.
“It is. There’s a way to further disassemble it, but I don’t think I would be able to put it back together if I did that. Why will a guard not be necessary in a couple of weeks?” Grant asked.
“Because in a couple of weeks, either Chen will be on my side and won’t bother me or the people working for me, or he’ll be gone, and whoever replaces him will be on my side,” Sylver explained, as he put the gun back on the table and stood up to get a glass of water.
“Chen has been in charge for well over 40 years. He’s outlived at least 11 district representatives and more attempts on his life than anyone has ever bothered to count… but considering you went out for a walk during quite literally the most dangerous time to be outside at night and came back, I can kind of see it happening,” Grant said, as Sylver drank from his glass and opened the fridge to look inside.
“I’m very glad to hear that,” Sylver said.
“And it’s not like I’m going to live for very long if you fail, so I’ll do everything I can to help you in your efforts,” Grant added.
“I think we’ll get along just fine, Grant. My endless optimism will look all the brighter against your stiff-faced pessimism. Would you like a giant fried egg?” Sylver offered, while he held up a green-colored egg that was almost as big as his head.
“I’m fine, thank you. Since I doubt I’m going to be able to sleep tonight anyway, would you like to start on your crash course of 29th century Garden tech?” Grant asked.
“Sure. But we’ll need to start from the absolute basics,” Sylver explained, as he pulled out a large frying pan and got to work opening the matching large egg.
“Are you alright? You’ve been very fidgety,” Sylver silently tapped out against his leg.
“Everything is moving just a little too fast. I haven’t been split up like this for so long before, I kind of feel like I’m…”
Sylver giggled to himself, or the closest thing a person without a tongue could manage.
“Just say it,” Sylver tapped out.
“Like I’m missing an arm and a leg. Like I’m not half the man I used to be. Like-”
“There is a very limited amount of jokes you can make about this, so wait a little. Spread them out,” Sylver interrupted, as Spring giggled to himself in his shadow.
The room he was inside was quite barren, it had a chair, a blood-stained rug on the floor, and one door leading back outside into the hallway, and the other leading inside the tower’s arena.
Sylver spent his time stretching his remaining limbs, and very slowly and gently increased his blood pressure and heart rate to further wake himself up.
The door opened as the timer on the television screen reached 0, and a cold and impassionate man’s voice instructed Sylver to leave the room and enter the tower.