It was a bonding moment for the two men, as they each drank from their respective cup of tea and glass of liquor, and watched a relatively attractive elf woman wash herself in the shower.
He didn’t have a strong opinion regarding the glass and mirror houses. Or more accurately, it ended up being neutral.
On the one hand, he had a constant feeling of being watched, and Spring’s inability to find shadows to move through limited what he could see and do. There was also the fact that Sylver’s eye jumped to whatever moved around him, which ended up hurting him after just a few hours of being inside his house.
On the other hand, this was the fourth woman in the last hour who had no reservations about getting undressed or bathing while Sylver and Grant stared right at her. He normally respected people’s privacy and wasn’t a child that would get a nosebleed from seeing breasts, but there was something different about this whole thing.
The best way Sylver could describe it is that the glass and mirrors gave the whole place an oddly sexually charged vibe. It certainly didn’t help that most of the people here were women, and the few men that Sylver could see from his kitchen were all either fast asleep or lived in houses made out of frosted glass.
Sylver had been in a similar culture before, unmarried women walked around with some sort of sign or signal that they were actively looking for a mate, but this felt uncomfortably direct, even for Sylver. A necklace with a wooden phallus was one thing, but living in a house where anyone at any time can watch you sleep, eat or use the bathroom just seemed like too much.
Not that Sylver was complaining, it certainly made waiting around for the dungeon dive much more interesting than it could have been.
The bullet crafting device was mostly finished, Sylver had done his part and now all that was left to do was for Grant to finish calibrating it.
It ran on electricity and pure sugar.
Sylver wasn’t the world’s greatest flesh crafter, but he was certainly in the top 10 at the very least. He would be number 1, if not for the technicality that undead creations and living ones were considered completely different. His flesh crafting fell under the school of necromancy, according to the alleged authorities on the matter.
In Sylver’s personal and professional opinion “who fucking cares if it’s got a heartbeat or not, my monster will rip your monster to shreds!”
Nyx shared Sylver’s opinion, while Aether went against him and compared his giant self-replicating goat-like creature, the peak of flesh crafting, to a fucking golem of all things.
And sure, Aether, and that son of a bitch flesh crafter Pecklis, did make irrefutable points, but Sylver was more than willing to die on the hill that after a certain point of modification, it didn’t matter if one of the pieces was dead at some point in time. If anything, making something “alive” out of dead shit is harder than just turning 4 living creatures into 1.
Sylver considered anything with a soul “alive” and anything without a soul “dead”. It got messy regarding undead, given that they had a soul that was “dead”, but the gist of it was that it doesn’t matter that the thing Sylver created to eat raw meat and spit out enchanted bullets had a heartbeat and something close to a brain and nervous system, it wasn’t “alive” in his eyes.
Then again, “dead” and “alive” were subjective.
Sylver had a philosophical discussion with a giant talking tree that explained that in its equivalent of eyes, Sylver was the one that was “dead”. The tree couldn’t even comprehend the idea that something could be “undead”, let alone the fact that Sylver was both dead and alive at the same time.
“What were we talking about?” Grant asked, still as stuck on the bathing woman as Sylver was.
He wasn’t even turned on by her at this point, she’d simply grabbed his attention and wouldn’t let go of it. Like watching a giant fire burn, but with more soap, clear and see-through bathtubs, and a mirror right behind her that gave the two men a view of everything from all angles.
“I genuinely can’t remember,” Sylver said, as he took another sip from his tea that should be stone-cold but had been warmed up again and again and again.
The woman very slowly stood up from her foamy bathtub, and just stood there for a while, as all the foam slid off her and returned to the water. She was quite pale, despite spending almost every hour she was awake under the sun and in relatively skimpy clothing. Everyone in the Trunk was pale, not as pale as Sylver, but they made Grant’s rosy-colored face look almost red in comparison.
The woman said something that Sylver couldn’t hear before the glass that made up her bathroom’s walls and ceiling suddenly became frosty. Sylver could have sworn he heard several voices groan in the distance, but it might have been his imagination.
He and Grant were about to turn towards the next woman, who Sylver was sure was looking at the one before and waiting, but some semblance of reason managed to return and Sylver broke the spell that had entrapped them.
“While I’m gone, you remember how the thing works, right?” Sylver asked, although there was little point in asking.
Grant had a shade in his shadow, that was going to be handling the Deadmen, and making sure none of them stepped out of line while Sylver was gone. But since it was just a shade, it couldn’t make any decisions on its own, so Sylver had made it follow Grant’s orders.
“Point with the left hand and number of fingers on the right for severity. Closed fist with the left for full paralysis, and if one of them touches me, full paralysis for everyone within 50 meters,” Grant answered.
“Yes, and when things go tits up and you’re hurt-”
“Nothing is going to happen,” Grant interrupted.
“Sure… But when you’re too soft on them and they check to see how far they can push the limits and ultimately try to kill you-”
“They’re not going to do that,” Grant interrupted dismissively. Sylver gave him a couple of moments in case he wanted to add something.
“Alright... Anyway, if for some reason Chen or one of the other’s tries talking to you, tell them to wait until I come back. Or actually, tell them that if they don’t surrender and bend the knee I’m going to spend a few days tracking down everyone under their command, and ripping their eyes out,” Sylver said, as Grant started doing the thing he always did, and reached up towards the piece of tech on his wrist and caressed it with his fingers.
“Is this really the key to success? Overconfident aggression?” Grant asked with a weary tone. Sylver respected him enough to think his question over.
“Yes… But actually, no. I’m not overconfident, I’m the exact level of confidence I should be at my current level of abilities. Going back to the topic of band-gangsters being friendly people and skull-bashing hooligans at the same time, most people in charge are people too. And most people don’t want trouble. The only downside to this strategy is that it can become a pissing contest if the other side is equally confident and prideful, but I am yet to be outpisssed,” Sylver explained.
“So confidence, aggression, and the ability to win if it devolves into a fight?” Grant summarized.
“More or less, yes. It also helps to have powerful friends backing you up… If there’s something I can-”
“No, no, no, everything is fine, I’m fine. It’s just… none of this feels real if I’m being honest. I’ve spent years working my ass off, and in just a few days of being with you I’m already in the Trunk and making more money in a day than I did in a month,” Grant said with a tired voice, not quite upset, but not quite happy either.
“It’s what I do. I make my friends rich, and myself richer. You’ll get used to it,” Sylver said, while Grant ever so slowly turned his head towards the next nude woman and Sylver had to force himself from turning to watch with him.
The Iris embedded into the table turned opaque and informed Sylver that the expedition team was ready and would be departing in an hour. Sylver got himself dressed and ready, and missed Spring like never before as he had to consciously control the [Coat Of Carrion] soaked bags with his own mind to make them float and follow after him.
He was literally closing the door behind him, when he saw a large black package appear out of nowhere and move through the floor, towards Sylver’s house. Normally he would just ignore it, these things moved everywhere all the time, Sylver was almost used to it.
Except this one had a logo that he recognized.
Sylver was beaming with a childlike joy as Grant handed him the package and he skipped down the shiny mirror road towards the dungeon.
“Is that everyone?” the guard asked.
Or more accurately, the woman speaking through the guard asked.
All of the guards were purebloods. Grant didn’t know the particulars, but pure-blooded Leafs and Branches all at one point or another worked as either Thorns or Barks.
The interior guards tended to be women, while the exterior were almost universally men.
They also didn’t speak the same language as the elves that lived in the Roots or Trunk, and more importantly, they didn’t speak at all. Sylver guessed the reason was more cultural than practical, but guards themselves never said a word to anyone that wasn’t another guard. They communicated with each other through a headset inside of their helmet.
They had a speaker near their mouth area that other people spoke through.
“You’re that necromancer… The Silver something,” one of Sylver’s expedition members said.
He was about as tall as Sylver was and had dark blue eyes that didn’t look right on his face.
“Just call me Silver, it’ll make life easier for everyone,” Sylver offered with a hand extended out to shake the other man’s.
He looked Sylver up and down and smirked, ever so slightly, before he turned away without another word.
“There’s no need to be rude,” Sylver offered, with a quick glance at the man’s status.
[Elf (Soldier+White Knight+Black Knight+Warrior) – 131]
The man must have felt the skill being used because he puffed his chest up a little right after Sylver was done reading through it.
“Only level 131? At your age? Kind of pathetic, don’t you think?” Sylver asked.
Before the warrior had even started to move to grab him by the collar, and before Sylver had even finished getting a grip on the dagger in his sleeve, one of the two guards escorting them appeared between them.
“There will be no fighting,” a woman’s voice said through the guard.
Sylver leaned to the side to see the warrior’s face and didn’t bother suppressing his grin as he saw the warrior just barely managing to hold himself back. He looked Sylver in the eye and held his gaze. The guard’s head moved to the side and he blocked their line of sight.
“If you are unable to cooperate, you will both be asked to leave,” the woman’s voice said.
“WHAT! HE’S THE-” the warrior had an enlarged blood vessel on his forehead that looked about ready to burst, as he stopped shouting and took a very long and very deep breath. One of those anti-magic drones floated ominously above the guard and made the sound Sylver now understood to mean an energy-based weapon was being charged to fire.
Sylver just continued to quietly smile at the man, while he very slowly forced himself to relax.
“I’m cool. I’m cool. Stay away from me, kid,” the warrior said with a tone of voice that made the last word sound like an insult.
“Kid, ouch. If I were in your shoes I would go out of my way to avoid using age as an insult. You’re not even 30 levels above me, and you’re as old as-”
“This is your final warning. Please enter the Lyon,” the guard still standing between the two of them said, with his head facing Sylver.
Sylver continued to smile at the warrior, even as he jumped up into the flying carriage and began to try to buckle himself into his designated seat. One of the guards walked over to him and did it for him, and then double-checked that he was fully strapped in. Sylver’s bag was underneath his seat, along with his still unopened package.
Sylver couldn’t tell the two guards apart by their appearance, and there was too much lead in their armor for him to feel their souls.
“Thank you,” Sylver said to the guard he felt might be a man. He ignored him entirely and moved onto the next seat to check they were properly strapped in.
“You’re wasting your breath. Whoever is underneath that mask can’t hear or even properly see you. Facial blocking technology, to them we’re all numbers 1 through 5, the operators tell them anything else they need to know,” a man on Sylver’s left said.
He turned to see an oddly rectangular-shaped man, with a square chin and with a pitch-black helmet pulled back to the top of his head. He had a bright red tree symbol on his front, and a box attached directly to his chest, that the seat straps went over.
[Elf (Warrior+Mage+Medic+Healer) – 126]
“Why?” Sylver asked. The metallic Lyon began to gently hum and started to slowly move upwards into the air.
“Beats me. I annoyed an operator into telling me once, they’ve been careful about what they tell me ever since. My best guess is so that the guards themselves don’t hesitate to put us down if it’s required,” the medic explained.
“I’m Silver,” Sylver offered.
“Esteas Falakas. But everyone calls me Estus. Want me to have a look at your eye when we land?” Estus offered.
Esteas… He wasn’t on the list, what the fuck? And why are there only 4 of them?
“Healing magic doesn’t work on me, it’s part of one of my perks,” Sylver explained, while Estus nodded.
They both looked around the small cramped metallic interior and saw that one guard was standing up against the wall that led into the piloting room, while 5 men sat with 1 seat between them on either side.
Sylver was in the bottom left, while Estus was in the middle right. The warrior Sylver had pissed off or tried to was in the top right.
“Ganry usually always comes along when Mods is going, but his last fight fucked him up from using too many healing potions. Poor bastard is probably sitting on the toilet and hurling his guts out right now,” Estus explained.
Well, that certainly answers one question… So Genry isn’t here, Moderus is here, who’s left?
“Is one of you Runnel?” Sylver asked while looking around the room and making sure not to look at anyone in particular as he asked.
“Going clockwise, Runnel, me, Bigs, you, and Mods,” Estus said, pointing at each silent person in turn.
[Elf (Mage+Mage+Warlock+Ice Burner) – 122]
Runnel was bald like Sylver, but with odd patches on the top of his head, that looked like a mixture of frost burn, and regular burn. The patches came down to his face and marred his left side, but he didn’t look like he was particularly handsome before the burns. Unlike the others, he didn’t wear any armor and instead had a suit that looked similar to the silvery one Sylver wore in the Tower, except it wasn’t shiny and was dark blue with swirls of red.
[Elf (Warrior+Rogue+Mystic+Bleeder) – 130]
Bigs was apparently an ironic name, given how small he was. If not for the scowl on his partially covered face, Sylver would have thought he was a human child. He wore a black wrap over his eyes that went down to his nose, with only his mouth being visible. All over his body, he had various daggers stashed away, alongside very small and very flat guns, that Sylver hadn’t seen before.
[Elf (Soldier+White Knight+Black Knight+Warrior) – 131]
The man Sylver nearly goaded into a fight, Mods, was dressed warmly, in a lavish-looking fur, with gem-studded earrings, a diamond sticking out of his lower lip, and with one eye missing and replaced by the exact same metallic sphere as the one Sylver had right now. If looks could kill, Sylver would be thrice dead, going by the daggers the man was glaring at him.
3 out of 5 isn’t so bad…
I only really need 1, I asked for 5 to fill up the seats…
Sylver clutched at his straps as the whole vehicle jolted, and moved Mods up from being 2nd to die, to 1st place. The poor soon-to-be-dead man somehow managed to force himself into a laughing frenzy and made himself run out of breath as a result.
Sylver wouldn’t exactly say he felt humiliated by the experience, but Spring very certainly was. If anything, Sylver found it a little sad, more than humiliating.
Not that it really mattered, everyone but Estus was going to die down in the dungeon. Sylver had learned a long time ago not to take things personally.
“What’s in the package?” Estus asked, with a gesture towards the tight black wrap attached to Sylver’s large bag.
“This? Oh, I found out there’s a crafter who specialized in anti-ballistic fabrics. I had him make me a robe out of them,” Sylver explained. Estus gave him an odd look.
“You know there aren’t a lot of monsters down there that use guns, right?” Estus asked.
“I know,” Sylver answered.
Wouldn’t shut up is the way Sylver thought best to describe the never-ending cascade of sounds streaming out of his mouth and bouncing around the enclosed metallic space, before arriving at Sylver’s earless ears.
The worst part was, Sylver actually liked the guy.
He learned a lot of information regarding the Garden, but Estus had an annoying habit of jumping from one topic to another, and Sylver couldn’t figure out if something was universal common knowledge or not, and had to just wait until he heard enough to figure it out from context.
The dark year was coming up.
Or more accurately it was predicted to be coming up soon. From the fact that Estus complained about it fucking over a very lucrative job opportunity by ending too quickly 4 years ago, the dark year was akin to a weather phenomenon.
The Tides allegedly hadn’t occurred this year, which was a very bad sign for the dark year to come.
And this was Sylver’s guess, but going by the way Estus talked, the elves here gained a resistance to healing magic and potions much faster than people in Eira. Down to the point, it was impossible to go through a dungeon without a healer and potions available. The rest could only be treated the way someone would do it without using magic.
Mostly bandages and stitches, and the non magical kind of prayer.
With no warning, the Lyon started to freefall, and Sylver could only imagine how much paler his skin turned as he clutched for dear life and was already mentally halfway out of this metallic coffin, via the giant hole he was going to create in the ceiling.
“It’s just the antigravity field kicking in, relax,” Estus said, as Sylver got a faint look of pity from the square-shaped man and unfriendly chuckles from the other 3 occupants.
The door opened with a whoosh and Sylver heard a series of clacks and metal grinding on metal, before the latches keeping him glued to his seat unbuckled themselves and disappeared off him.
“This dungeon has received a rating of 6.7 out of 10. This Lyon will depart in 120 hours. Good hunting,” the woman’s voice said through the guard’s loudspeaker.
Sylver grabbed his bag from underneath his seat and placed his sealed robe under his armpit, as he followed behind Mods and Bigs with Estus and Runnel behind him.
Sylver had expected to see a cave or faintly glowing stone bricks.
Instead, when he walked out of the metallic tube that had extended from the Lyon, he saw a rusted to shit metal corridor. It was dark brown and dark green with rust, but very clearly not naturally made.
Sylver mutely followed the group down the corridor, and no one said a word for a long time. Spring informed Sylver that the guards had pulled the metal tube away and they were now sealed back inside the flying Lyon.
Sylver released a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding as he felt relaxed in a way he hadn’t been in a long while.
There was no lead anywhere. And in the pitch-black darkness, with the little flashlights everyone but Sylver had, Sylver felt at home in a way he couldn’t put into words. Despite appearances, this place was indeed a dungeon, Sylver could feel it in the way the metal beneath his feet was enchanted to near unbreakable levels.
“Quick question. Do our Iris’s work down here? Or anything?” Sylver asked. His voice caused all 4 men to flinch so hard that Sylver got into a battle-ready stance. Mods seemed more amused than pissed off, going by his body language.
“What’s wrong? Worried about what might happen to you? Away from the guards and all alone?” Mods asked, with an unmistakable grin in his voice. His back was turned to Sylver, and he hadn’t given him the honor of turning around to speak to him.
“We’re already one man short Mods,” Runnel added quietly. It wasn’t exactly a “don’t kill him” but more of an “it’s a bad idea to kill him, but we won’t stop you.”
“So? He’s barely level 100, what good will he do?” Mods argued, while Sylver ran his finger down his enclosed package and pulled the surprisingly soft and light fabric out of it.
“I saw his fight with Bellor. You might win, but you’ll be too damaged to do anything. He used a curse to permanently cripple Bellor, it isn’t worth it. Silver Sliver was it? If you don’t attack us, we won’t attack you. I just want to get through this dungeon and go home, that’s all,” Bigs said.
His voice was far deeper than it had any right to be. Sylver felt by Mods’ and Estus’ reaction they were scared, or at the very least cautious of Bigs.
“Sorry, I’m just nervous, it’s my first dungeon. But sure, I always love cooperating when it’s an option,” Sylver explained.
He was curious to see how well 3 men that were the very definition of scum would wait until strangling him in his sleep or stabbing him in the back.
Kass called Sylver a sick fuck for asking for 5 men that no one would miss and were the most likely to try to kill Sylver.
“Anyone got a mapping skill or something? Est, mark the ceiling whenever we get to an intersection,” Bigs ordered, as they started to walk again.
“What are we looking for exactly?” Sylver asked, while he turned his robe inside out and rubbed the silk smooth fabric against his cheek.
It was even better than his robe in Eira.
“Monsters and lairs, obviously,” Mods said.
“I see… There are a bunch of humanoid figures in that direction,” Sylver said and pointed. All 4 flashlights turned on him and focused on his outstretched finger.
“How do you know that?” Mods asked.
Sylver moved and pointed his finger at his ear, which was missing entirely.
“Echolocation. I can sense my surroundings by the vibrations in the floor and air,” Sylver lied.
Spring was in the middle of exploring, and seemed to be getting happier with every found monster. This metallic dungeon didn’t appear to have an end and was filled to the brim with monsters in some places.
“See? And you wanted to kill him,” Estes said while gesturing at Sylver.
“I did,” Mods said as he turned around and started to walk forwards again.
Sylver followed after them and felt a stone drop in his stomach when they passed a rusted shut door. No one even batted an eye at it, but Sylver had had far too many bad experiences with the language to not instantly recognize it.
Why the fuck is the English word for “Food Hall” in this realm?