[Elf (Swordsman+Blade Lord) – 155]
Sylver didn’t bother watching the wheel next to him spinning, and quite honestly couldn’t really hear a word Rouge was saying either.
The normally ruckus crowd was just short of silent this time around, and Sylver quite honestly couldn’t blame them.
He missed Rouge’s description of the man and didn’t get his name, but the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach told him everything he needed to know.
Sylver wasn’t going to lose, that wasn’t an option, wasn’t possible even.
But if this fight wasn’t over in a single move, his victory would cost him.
Despite having 50 levels over Sylver, the man had a relatively low amount of HP. His lack of MP meant he didn’t bother with intelligence or wisdom either. Assuming all of his points were in strength and dexterity, or more worryingly only in one but not the other.
If supposedly he had 100 points in constitution, that left him with 675 points to go towards strength and dexterity. Sylver wanted to say he was fairly certain the man favored speed over brawn, but his body was at a very odd midpoint between being muscular and streamlined.
He was dressed in an incredibly simple long-sleeved shirt and matching dark brown trousers. Both pieces of clothing had been bought very recently, or possibly the man simply took good care of them, it was hard to tell from this distance.
Sylver felt a little silly in his sparkling silver-colored jumpsuit, but now wasn’t the time to be thinking about that.
Sylver flinched as a one-handed sword landed next to him, but the swordsman standing at the other side of the arena caught it midair, and simply held it in his hand for a few seconds.
Sylver leaned down to pick up his sword and with a flick of his wrist covered the blade entirely in [Coat Of Carrion]. The swordsman took a very odd stance, one hand behind his back while he held the sword the way a person would normally wield a dagger.
The swordsman had his thumb on the bottom of the hilt, and Sylver waited while the man leaned down towards the ground, low enough that his head was at the same height as Sylver’s crotch.
“…One… Fight!” Rouge finished, but neither Sylver nor his opponent made a move.
Sylver moved his sword down into a fool’s guard and had the tip of the blade almost touching the floor. His opponent didn’t move from his spot.
He just stood there, perfectly still, his eyes unblinking and locked on Sylver’s head.
Not the sharp bright red sword in Sylver’s hand, but at Sylver’s head.
“Don’t your type usually brag about practicing the same move 10,000 times? Or that magic is for cowards? Or how their sword style had been developed and perfected over countless battles?” Sylver asked, with a cheerful tone towards his opponent.
The man just remained motionless and continued to stare at him.
“Strong and silent type… Got it… Well, I like to talk when I fight. I think it-”
“I will not waste my breath on a corpse,” the man interrupted.
Sylver forced his body not to react.
Whether the man meant it as a random insult or if he knew something, Sylver couldn’t tell. It did sound a little cliché, in a “you are already dead” sort of way. But the man already knew he couldn’t kill Sylver, so was it just a slip of the tongue?
He couldn’t exactly ask him what he meant by that, but now the silence had lingered for too long. If Sylver denied it or tried to play it off it would sound suspicious and bring attention to it.
Does it matter? They already know I’m a necromancer, they’re fine with that, what would be the problem with them learning I’m undead?
Well… They could decide I’m one of those fake shades hiding inside a corpse… Kass seemed fine with the fact that I can walk around during the night…
Sylver decided that staying quiet would be the best course of action.
Sylver took a small step towards his opponent, but the man didn’t react.
Sylver took another step, and the man remained still, silent, and continued to not blink.
His stance didn’t make sense.
His left side was wide open; the only way he would be able to block anything would put his fingers in danger. Even if he was faster and stronger than Sylver, this was pointlessly dangerous.
But Sylver had seen this before. Been in a situation where he couldn’t figure out what his opponent's plan and angle was.
Sylver could even tell that regardless of strength or speed, this man was simply a better swordsman than him. Sylver knew how to use a sword, but despite how long he’s been around, it wasn’t something he put all that much effort into. Sylver was a necromancer, not a swordsman.
Maybe if he overpowered him, but Sylver somehow didn’t get the feeling that was an option. If he was in his original body, he would have the reflexes and muscle memory, or more likely he would just make the man pass out with a single flick of the finger.
If Sylver was in his old body he would have just surrounded the Garden with an army of shades as far as the eye could see and would force enough mana into the city that everything more complicated than a door lock would stop working. Even if they had metric tons of lead to shoot at him, it would slow him and his shades down, not stop him.
But Sylver wasn’t in his old body.
He was in Ciege’s. But he was still the Silver Lich, regardless of what kind of body he was inhabiting.
And he had a trick up his sleeve that had yet to fail him.
The bright red sword in Sylver’s hand began to glow a dull yellow as he walked towards the crouching swordsman. The glow increased and became even brighter as Sylver started to jog, then run, and by the time Sylver was full-on sprinting, his sword appeared to be made entirely out of light.
4 steps before Sylver reached the man, he used the hand that wasn’t holding the sword to snap his fingers, and just barely managed to keep his eardrums from bursting as the intense flash of light was followed by a matching and teeth-rattling noise.
Sylver almost let out a sigh of relief as the man moved in an extremely odd way, and very suddenly Sylver’s sword was attempting to fly out of his hand. With the help of [Dead Dominion] and the strength [Coat Of Carrion] added, Sylver just barely managed to make the sword stay where it was.
He and the man locked blades, Sylver’s bright red and glowing from the inside, and the swordsman’s completely invisible to the naked eye and any other senses Sylver had access to.
Even though Sylver was ready for the flick and twist, he plain and simple didn’t have anywhere near enough strength to keep his locked against the man’s. Before Sylver even got a chance to try and pull the flying sword back into his hand, he felt something impossibly sharp pressing against his throat.
“Surrender or I will-”
The fingers on Sylver’s right hand were sliced clean off as he pressed his hand and palm against the invisible blade and pushed it just enough to the left that it wasn’t going to cut through his spinal column. The invisible blade entered the side of Sylver’s throat and as Sylver pushed himself forward onto the blade, and came out on the other side clearly visible because of all the blood clinging to it.
Sylver raised his left fist into the air to punch, and as the man tried to change his stance and grip to adjust, Sylver kicked him between the legs using his left foot.
The moment of hesitation that came from something below the belt going pop, was enough room for Sylver to slap the man on the side of the face with his bleeding and fingerless palm, and knock him out with a single controlled zap to the brain stem.
The blade in Sylver’s neck disappeared, as the man dropped to the ground. Sylver caught him and was very gentle as he soaked up some HP to heal his sliced open jugular, his fingers that were floating in the air, and the sprained ankle from putting too much weight on his right leg.
[Physical Endurance (III) Proficiency increased to 19%!]
[Draining Touch (III) Proficiency increased to 6%!]
Sylver stood up after less than 10 seconds, and flexed his reattached digits, while he massaged his throat with his left hand. He turned around in a circle and saw that his blood had splattered all over the floor, and Sylver heard a collective gasp as he waved his hand towards the blood and made it float in the air.
It gathered into a smallish sphere before it began to spiral down into Sylver’s right hand and disappeared into the slowly closing wounds.
Good to see the ancient trick of attacking with complete and total disregard for your life still works. Although it did help that he knew he would lose if he killed me.
Actually, if everyone is used to holding back so as not to kill their opponent, even if they’re ready for it, they won’t be able to do anything about it. Normally I would have shades handle this, but there’s no shame in doing it yourself.
Frankly speaking, it would have been a bit embarrassing to have lost due to a trick Sylver himself used. It was stupid, true, but in the middle of a fight that lasts 5 seconds, an invisible blade is very hard to defend against.
Sylver stood around waiting for a while, as his sword floated back into his hand and the layer of [Coat Of Carrion] liquefied and disappeared under Sylver’s sleeve.
Rouge’s voice was hesitant and nervous as she spoke.
“And the winner is… the Silver Sliver… a umm…” Rouge cleared her throat and returned to her normal overly enthusiastic shouting, “A round of applause ladies and gentlemen! By the looks of things, we’re all not that far away from being able to say we all had the pleasure of witnessing a new legend being born!” Rouge shouted to a completely mute crowd.
The silence was broken by a woman’s cheering scream, which was almost instantly drowned out by the rest of the crowd seemingly waking up from their shock.
Sylver lifted his very recently severed hand into the air in victory and smiled through his bright red teeth. He swallowed the blood that had gone into his mouth from the hole in his throat and leaned down to wake his, soon to be severely disabled, opponent up.
“Holy fucking shit!” Ilkes shouted as Sylver looked up from stitching his fingers in their proper place.
He could keep them in place using darkness, but he didn’t like the idea of accidentally losing concentration and having them fall off. The nerves and blood vessels had been connected, so all that was left was waiting for the bones to fuse, and for the flesh to heal.
Sylver was fairly certain one of his vocal cords had been sliced through, but it wasn’t like he was using them anyway.
“What?” Sylver asked.
“Pecan wants to meet with you… I don’t believe it! I’ve been busting my ass for 9 years and you wander in and not even a month Pecan wants to sponsor you!” Ilkes shouted, as he tossed the Iris into Grant’s hands, who read out the message in question.
Sylver was invited to meet with someone named Pecan.
“Well maybe if you had a sword narrowly miss your spinal column, he’d sponsor you too. I take it Pecan is the sponsor?” Sylver asked, as the needle very gently pushed itself through his skin and then pulled until the suture was tight enough.
“Branches very rarely give a shit about what’s going on at our level. Pecan has at least 4 people above level 400, it’s a little strange that he’s so much as willing to meet with you… But he has an eye for talent, so maybe he saw something. Then again, this many offers of sponsorship with only 4 fights under your belt… I’ve seen it happen a few times in the past, but that was after months of preparation,” Ilkes said, as Sylver moved onto his pinkie.
“Seen what happen?” Sylver asked.
“Rising through the ranks this quickly. People have done it before, but all of their matches were choreographed and planned and practiced well ahead. They managed to trick even Werest into thinking they were skilled beyond their years and level. And when they lost all of their matches, they made all the higher-up sponsors paranoid about this kind of thing, and ruined it for the rest of us” Ilkes continued, as Sylver closed his eye and concentrated on his right hand.
The cut was textbook definition of clean, Sylver either got plain lucky, or the invisible sword was just that sharp. Even the bone was almost smooth from where it had been cut into two.
“What can you tell me about Pecan? What’s he like?” Sylver asked.
“Pecan? I don’t know. He’s come down to the roots a total of 2 times that I know of. But from what I’ve heard he doesn’t talk a lot and hates when people are late. Or don’t fulfill their obligations. One climber, and take this with a huge grain of salt because the man I heard this from is a bullshit artist, but he told me someone he knows was going to be sponsored by Pecan but was told to go away when he was late by 10 seconds,” Ilkes said.
“Be on time, got it. When did he want to meet again?” Sylver asked.
Grant nervously turned around and saw that Sylver was done with his stitching and had put his gloves back on.
“In a little over an hour,” Grant said.
“Shit… I need to get the Deadmen sorted out… Do you mind going with Grant just to be safe? They’re scared enough that I doubt they would do anything, but it would ease my mind if you were there just in case,” Sylver asked Ilkes.
“Sure, I’m not doing anything. My next fight is in 3 weeks, I only came to watch because you were fighting,” Ilkes said.
“That guy was a hard climber, right?” Sylver asked. Ilkes snorted in response.
“I just wanted to be certain. Who was he anyway? What did he do?” Sylver asked.
“We called him Mirror, but he’s literally never told anyone his name. He’s been here for… 2 years I think? I’m pretty sure, ‘cause his first fight was with Aydik, and Aydik came here less than 3 years ago. He’s from the south, they’re all like that, no offense. He has a perk called [Edged Mirror] his weapons can create an invisible copy as if a mirror was being held to them,” Ilkes said.
Sylver didn’t take any offense from his words, but he dearly wished Grant would have shut up so Sylver had a chance to learn a bit more about the south.
“Next is the warehouse in the green district, right?” Grant asked.
“Yeah, I’ll send you the notes and work request in a bit. Or send it yourself, you’re the one who showed me how to use the thing,” Sylver said, and somehow managed not to sound the least bit angry.
“What should I do if any of them try something?” Grant asked, as he looked through Sylver’s Iris and found all that he needed at half the time it would have taken Sylver.
“Nothing. Walk away, go home. I’ll round them all up and pick people to hurt at random,” Sylver answered.
“Why? Why at random?” Ilkes asked. He didn’t sound the least bit disapproving, just mildly curious at most.
“So they all are against each other, and no one will group up and feel some sort of safety in numbers. If you want to break a group of people, you have to start by isolating them. Because then they become desperate for a group, and you allow them to become part of your group. They’re no longer part of Chen’s gang, they’re part of the Deadmen. Although it’s a little different since I’m holding them hostage,” Sylver explained absentmindedly, as he concentrated on tying his shoes.
“Sounds like the start of a cult,” Grant offered.
“Cult, dictatorship, call it what you like. The principle is the same. I could be a lot harsher with them, but there’s a lot of room for mistakes if I try that. I first and foremost don’t want to do any more than I have to, and second of all, I don’t think it’s needed. They’re all cowards,” Sylver explained.
He carried the metallic bowl filled with used surgical sutures and blood-soaked rags and dropped it into the hole in the wall.
“Are any of them armed?” Ilkes asked as he followed Sylver and Grant out of the resting room.
“They have a gun that shoots nails, but we’ve reached an understanding regarding other types of guns,” Sylver said.
“What if they’re attacked?” Ilkes asked, as had Grant the first time Sylver talked to him about this.
“That’s their problem,” Sylver said. Ilkes walked with a slight smile on his face for a while, before he remembered something.
“I know the answer to this is “no” but are you aware of the process of moving up into the Trunk?” Ilkes asked.
“100,000 cuts per person. The rest I’m not really sure, Grant doesn’t know, and Iris hasn’t been able to explain anything to me either,” Sylver answered.
“You’ll probably hear this from Pecan anyway but…” Ilkes said as he started to explain.
After this fight, Sylver had 340,000 cuts.
And after he moved himself and Grant up in the Trunk, he would spend a little bit of it to gear himself up properly. This was very likely his last fight that was fought with a weapon he didn’t own.
“Do you prefer Tod or Silver Sliver?” the man, presumably Pecan, asked.
Sylver arrived 10 minutes early and walked around for a while before knocking at the door with exactly 5 seconds to spare.
“Tod is better, I’m planning on having the stage name changed when possible,” Sylver answered. The man nodded and gestured for him to come inside and sit down.
The room was somewhat cramped, Sylver could touch the ceiling if he stood on his toes. On one side was a door, and on the other was a rectangular table attached to the wall, and two dark blue couches on either side of it.
“Are you aware of the purpose of the Tower? Aside from reaching the top and being the best,” Pecan asked.
Despite how highly Ilkes had described him, he didn’t look all that impressive. Sylver didn’t peak at his status out of fear of being rude, but the man didn’t have the hands of a mage or the shoulders of a warrior. If anything, Sylver didn’t he’d ever been in a fight in his life.
Then again, with guns present, he didn’t need to be all that strong to kill someone. But according to Spring, he was unarmed. The woman standing outside the door and masking her presence was armed though, she was really well-armed.
“I am not,” Sylver answered honestly.
Pecan was a light-skinned man, with a soft-looking face and very thick but short blond hair. He was wearing dark blue trousers with lines on them, and a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves. His jacket and tie were hanging in the corner and were both a matching blue. Sylver had changed into his regular dark blue clothing while his silvery jumpsuit was getting washed.
“In the past, it was used to determine how certain resources were allocated. Before the red, blue, yellow, and green division, everyone lived in square-ish sectors. If you’ve looked at a map of the Roots, you’ll notice some streets are wider than others. The closer you were to the Trunk the more hours of light your sector was provided, and the more it cost to live there. Nowadays it’s spread out somewhat evenly so people living in the Roots have spread out relative to their work,” Pecan explained.
Sylver made a mental note that the glasses he was wearing had slightly too thick frames, and didn’t look like they were very light either. And they were a little too reflective for regular glass.
“Since then people like myself found a way to make money from the people that are interested in watching the fights that go on inside of the Tower. That is its second, and somewhat recent, purpose,” Pecan explained.
Oddly he reminded Sylver of a teacher, his accent was the closest Sylver had heard since coming here that sounded like proper elvish. Pecan lightly bit down on his tongue for a moment before he continued.
“You are biologically of age. But without sounding crass, were you considered a man or a boy when you were brought into the Garden,” Pecan asked softly.
“I was considered a man,” Sylver answered.
Please let me be wrong.
“Then to get all the uncomfortable questions out of the way, did you have a partner? Children? Are you under an oath of any kind?” Pecan asked, with just the smallest tinge of hunger in his eyes.
Don’t jump to conclusions, hear him out first.
“I did not. No children. I’m sworn to secrecy regarding a few perk and skill requirements, but other than that, no,” Sylver answered.
“Good, good… That’s very good, excellent even,” Pecan said. His chin wobbled a little as he spoke.
“I’ve had a chance to look at your medical records, and I loathe to ask this but… Are you fertile?” Pecan asked.
“Would you mind if we were to test it?” Pecan asked.
“… I’m uh… I… What do you mean test it? How?” Sylver asked, clutching to the last piece of information the way someone might clutch to a ledge hanging over a massive chasm.
“They have a machine for it. You provide a sample, and within an hour or so, we’ll be able to know the likelihood of you being able to father a child,” Pecan explained.
Is this really happening to me?
What sort of twisted game is the white cunt playing at?
“Why?” Sylver asked with a completely blank expression on his face.
Before he wasn’t thrilled by the direction the conversation was heading and was planning on refusing, but now he was plain and simple confused.
“I’m only telling you this because you would be the first person to refuse this offer,” Pecan said, in a lowered voice but not quite a whisper.
“What is the offer,” Sylver asked.
“As someone who has spent his life outside the Garden, you’ve very likely never seen a pure-blooded elf before. A… let’s call it a quirk, of their physiology, is a very low fertility rate. But… and it is an incredibly fortunate but… at some point the purebloods decided that tower climbers of great prowess are able to…” Pecan coughed uncomfortably into his fist.
His face was beet red, and Sylver didn’t even try to hide the growing grin on his face.
And that’s another item off my bucket list.
“They’ve decided that if they were to… copulate with lower elves that were capable tower climbers, the children produced from this were indistinguishable from regular pureblooded elves. There have been some… anomalies… but the vast majority have been a massive success,” Pecan explained.
The redness of his face lessened as he saw the self-satisfied smile on Sylver’s face.
“If I were to agree, would there ever be a point where I… Do I have any say regarding who I…”
“Of course, of course, this is completely voluntary. But my understanding is that for lower elves the purebloods all appear to be the epitome of beauty. This wouldn’t be an official agreement. It would be more akin to… an unspoken understanding,” Pecan interrupted and explained.
Well… If the lady in white is trying to gain my favor…
“Would the issue of parentage ever come up?” Sylver asked.
Pecan actually thought the question over, or at least thought over how to answer it properly.
“I genuinely do apologize for this, but all the euphemisms and idioms I would normally utilize, won’t mean anything to you. To put it in simple terms, the only time parentage would ever become an issue is if you died. Most women will tend to wait long enough to be sure they aren’t with child before deciding on visiting another tower climber. There have been some cases where that wasn’t the case, and it has caused some issues, but the last time this occurred was 40 years ago,” Pecan explained.
I could just lie about being fertile… I’ll be gone by the time anyone realized not a single person I slept with has gotten pregnant…
But that would be dishonest and unfair to the women, I don’t need yet another reason to feel bad about myself.
“I think I will have to pass on that part of your offer. I wouldn’t feel right fathering a child if I’m not going to be in a position to raise it,” Sylver said.
“Understandable... However even with that being the case, given your… exotic nature, there will undoubtedly be a number of women interested in you. They would very likely attempt to gain your favor, would that be something you are open to? You very obviously would be under no obligation to accept their advances,” Pecan asked.
“For what purpose? I’m sorry for being so direct, but what do you get out of this?” Sylver asked. Pecan’s soft and almost childlike eyes had a split second of a dangerous sheen.
“In the same way a potential suitor would attempt to bribe the father with gifts, my hope is that the Flowers that are interested in you will bribe me with cuts, connections, political favors, and other extremely lucrative gifts. They’re not paying for you but rather for a chance to speak and possibly seduce you. As I said before, you would be under no obligation to do anything,” Pecan explained.
If I, hypothetically, am upfront about being infertile due to a spell, there wouldn’t be any problems… I obviously can’t be upfront to the point that I’m going to eventually leave this realm, but what’s the harm of having a little fun while I’m here?
I’m not hurting anybody if I’m honest and they’re fine with it…
And like Pecan said, money, connections, this could be my chance to move up the ladder in case Kass has a problem finding the book.
And I could rub Edmund’s face in it, once I find him.
“I’d like to discuss the specifics regarding my future fights, access to the dungeons to increase my level, and a few other things,” Sylver said, after a somewhat long pause as he tried to find the downside of this situation.
“But as a whole, are you open to the idea? It isn’t a deal-breaker if you are not, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t part of the reason as to why I approached you,” Pecan asked.
“I am very open to the idea,” Sylver answered, as Pecan got that glint in his eye again.
They spoke for a long while, and aside from the fact that Pecan was very good at playing dumb and innocent, Sylver liked him.
How could you not like a man who offered Sylver something he used to dream about as a young man? And something he had been dreaming about since he recently became a young man again? He wasn’t going anywhere until he had fully recovered, and there are much less pleasant ways to pass the time.
And if for some reason he decided he didn’t like any of the women throwing themselves at him, he never made any promises to Pecan, and wouldn’t be breaking any.
I hope Edmund appreciates what I have to go through for him.