Ch130-Friend Or Foe
True to her word SAM just flat out ignored him, and slithered around him. The black limb-filled sludge thing divided into two parts and flowed around Sylver as if he was infectious.
Sadly, SAM’s neutrality would only last until Sylver tried to harm her.
And while Sylver could just have his shades cut it until it died and gave him experience, he didn’t get the feeling that would go over well with Ria. Sylver could tell that she regarded the creature as something close to a sister. Considering she didn’t seem to believe that magic was real or possible, Sylver doubted she would believe him if he explained that her “sister” didn’t have a soul and therefore wasn’t alive.
Sylver wanted Ria to work for him, and people very rarely agreed to work for him after he had killed their families.
With some rare obvious exceptions, but Ria didn’t seem to be getting abused by SAM, and felt an odd mixture of longing and sympathy whenever the dark sludge was near.
There was also the extremely important fact that Sylver was about 99% sure that Ria didn’t have access to the system.
Which begged the question; if someone doesn’t have access to the system, does the system have access to them?
Sylver had to consider this part very carefully.
But more honestly, he wasn’t entirely sure how to use this.
What would he even test? What new information could he find out from a creature that wasn’t able to perceive screens floating right in front of her face?
He was a mage who had access to a person who couldn’t perceive mana. What could he do with that? Set up a ritual that would track any changes made to Ria, tell her about the system, and then see what changed once she knew about it and had access?
Have her think about the system and its weirdness in his place, without Sylver being able to discuss her thoughts with her?
What good would that do?
The perk Kitty had given Sylver [Eyes Of The Royal Tiger] told him that Ria wasn’t a “marked” creature.
But then the question is, why does SAM have access to the system, and have a class and level, but Ria doesn’t?
SAM killed and absorbed other people and gained access to the system through that?
She killed a creature with access to the system, and the system passed over to her?
If it acts like a virus, wouldn’t the fact that Ria is currently wrapped around Sylver’s arm mean that she should already have access to it?
Or does the system have certain requirements for a creature to have access to it?
What does SAM have that Ria does not?
From the way she spoke, the main difference between SAM and Ria was that SAM was made to interact and alter biological matter, while Ria was limited solely to the technological.
According to Ria, she can replicate most technologies, assuming she was provided with the raw materials, and an adequate power source. She made Sylver a fork, out of a piece of rust he picked up from the floor.
Her limitation was time and energy, provided with enough of either she could replicate even the cloning tech being used here.
“You should be dead,” Ria said, breaking her silence.
“I hear that a lot. Any particular reason, or can you just tell that deep inside I’m a monster?” Sylver asked with a chuckle, as he felt the impossibly thin wire gently remove itself from one of his veins.
“I was scanning your blood, and the liquid your heart is pumping throughout your body, is closer to highly toxic embalming fluid, than blood,” Ria explained, with a note of offense in her voice.
“You are aware of what a catalyst is, right?” Sylver asked.
“A substance that increases the rate of reaction. Or a substance that reduces the activation energy required for a reaction,” Ria answered, in that odd tone she used from time to time as if she were reading from a book.
“With most of my spells, I need to put considerably more effort to start them. The various metals, compounds, elements, and other miscellaneous substances, decrease the initial activation cost considerably. I’m pale as I am because several components are too complex for me to create and substitute, I can only naturally produce them, and I don’t produce enough for all the magic I use. It’s why you can sometimes tell what magic a mage specializes in by their physical appearance,” Sylver explained.
“I see,” Ria lied.
Or, not lied exactly, she couldn’t lie, it was true that she understood what Sylver had said, but that didn’t mean she believed him. Frankly speaking, Sylver wasn’t entirely sure what he could do to convince her.
She explained his magic and shades as nano this or nano that. If Sylver understood her correctly, whatever this nano thing was, it was just as powerful and as versatile as real magic. But apparently, it was so powerful, that it was one of the few pieces of technology that Ria hadn’t been granted access to.
“Left here,” Ria said, and Sylver turned left at the intersection.
The question Sylver still had but was afraid to ask, was if this was Earth.
The bleeding effect fucked around with names all the time, Sylver had been to at least 3 realms that had a king named Sylver Sezari, or some sort of demi-god monster that was known as “The Silver Lich”. Granted neither the kings nor the monsters had anything in common other than his name, the demigod monster wasn’t even a lich, it was just a skeleton mage with an overinflated ego.
So it wasn’t impossible that this world used to have cities, universities, and continents that matched perfectly with the ones Earth had, that Sylver could remember, but until Sylver asked point-blank, it was up in the air.
He had enough shit to deal with as it was, even if this was Earth, would that change anything? Enough time had passed that the whole planet was covered in ice, and almost entirely devoid of negative energy.
It would certainly explain the overabundance of lead, but not the 5 sided snowflake, or the fact that the sun was significantly bigger and brighter than what Sylver remembered Earth’s sun being.
Time, when being discussed in relation to realms and traveling from one to another, was a big-ass question mark.
No one knew how it worked, the Ibis had even stopped trying to figure it out after a point.
It was just one of the many risks you had to take when traveling to another realm.
Thankfully Eira had an extremely high relative time dilation. A year spent in another realm, typically amounted to less than a week passing on Eira. And vice versa, a month on Eira could mean a civilization in another realm had more than enough time to get replaced 10 times over.
There were some rare exceptions.
Or not exceptions, but anomalies.
Earth was one of them, sometimes the dilation was on par with Eira and a day on Earth meant a day on Eira, other times whole years could pass on Earth while only an hour passed on Eira.
Very very few mages went to Earth after that mess with Yeshua. Those fucks tortured the poor healer with nails made out of lead and then dropped the man into a cave that just so happened to have a ton of lead ore. It took Adema 3 days to find his body, the poor boy was almost undead by that point.
It certainly didn’t help that the only 3 immortals on Earth were completely disinterested in having anything to do with the Ibis.
And human civilizations were impossible to deal with, barely 200 years would pass and suddenly an ironclad deal was nothing more than a “fairy tale”.
And the magical creatures on Earth?
Hidden away, understandably terrified of the lead drinking fucks.
Every time someone came to Earth, a good half of the magical population would be marked as extinct. The world used to have dragons, unicorns, selkies, even demigods, and now all that was left were creatures that were experts in hiding.
And even then, a very large portion of the “mages” on Earth further hunted them down, just to bump their level of power from tier 1 to tier 2.
There were only 2 tier 5 mages on Earth, and not a single one above that, as far as the Ibis was aware at least.
Earth wasn’t a realm anyone went to; it was a realm you ended up at.
But if this was Earth, it meant that a significant amount of time had passed in Eira too.
Something Sylver “knew”, but this would change it from a theory to an extremely painful fact.
Sylver nearly jumped when he heard Ria speak.
“I have a request. But before that I have a few questions,” Ria said.
“Ask away,” Sylver offered.
“There’s no one alive outside, right? A very small group survived, but all the cities are gone, aren’t they,” Ria asked, somehow genuinely calm about it.
“Yes. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m going to be asking one of the men that came with me this very question,” Sylver answered. He would lie if it was needed, there was nothing to be gained by being dishonest right now.
“You’re an alien,” Ria said.
It was a statement, not a question.
“That’s certainly one way to describe me. The blood gave it away; I take it?” Sylver asked.
“That, and the odd speech pattern. It doesn’t match any I’ve ever heard but doesn’t sound like it’s digital either,” Ria said.
Sylver unconsciously tried to flick her off his arm but remembered that he needed her quickly enough.
“My speech pattern is fine. No, you know what? You spend a couple of centuries without having to breathe when you talk, and we’ll see what you end up sounding like,” Sylver argued.
“Couple centuries, that certainly explained the extremely inconsistent carbon dating. I did not mean to offend, I-”
“I’m not offended, just don’t bring it up again, I’m sick and tired of everyone pointing out the way I talk is weird. There are a million interesting things about me, my “accent” is the least interesting topic anyone could choose,” Sylver explained.
He wanted to hit Ria against the wall for the uncomfortable silence that followed, but she broke it one more time.
“In a lot of the texts I have, necromancers tend to be undead themselves. Given the state of your body, am I correct in assuming you are a zombie of some sort? Or a vampire?” Ria asked.
Sylver smirked and couldn’t hold in a small giggle at the words.
“A vampire, please. I am… well, actually, given my current condition and state of affairs, I guess a vampire isn’t that far off from what I am. Without the blood-sucking part,” Sylver said, as he realized he nearly blurted out the fact that he was a lich.
In spirit, not in form, at the moment.
“I see. So higher than a vampire… How old are you?” Ria asked.
“I genuinely have no idea,” Sylver answered, completely honestly.
“For someone who lived at least 2 centuries, you don’t sound old. Doctor Amari was in her 80s, and you sound like someone in their 20s or 30s,” Ria said.
“The first 500 years everyone goes for the wise old man thing, but after they reach the thousandths, they fall right back down to sounding the way you did when they were young and full of life,” Sylver explained, as he walked through yet another intersection, and tried to guess how long he’d been walking for.
“That doesn’t sound right… In all of my texts, the long-lived characters all-”
“By texts, I’m assuming you mean fiction?” Sylver interrupted.
“Do you know anyone over the age of 1,000 personally?” Sylver asked.
This silence wasn’t awkward and seemed to be just Ria genuinely thinking the question over.
“No,” she answered.
“Well, there you have it. If a man who actually lived to be over 1,000 says that that’s how and why he speaks the way he does, you can’t exactly point to a fictional character and use that as evidence, now can you?” Sylver asked.
Great, back to me sounding weird.
Always the same fucking questions, every fucking time.
“You know why old farts like to point at themselves and say they’re “wise”? It’s because if you’re “wise” you don’t have to do anything. You’ve already done it all, there’s no need to further learn anything, or do something. You get to just sit there and be “wise”,” Sylver said while wagging his finger at his arm, like a crazy old man.
“Young people get shit done, which means that those of us that want to get shit done, have to emulate them. Lest we fall into the trap of being “wise” and sitting on our asses collecting dust on our wrinkled wisely asses,” Sylver explained in a slightly exasperated voice.
He didn’t need to get into the topic of old men and old women preferring younger partners, because that was just one of those things that you didn’t talk about with someone who didn’t already look to be in their 20s, while well past the age that most would consider “ancient”. Old women had a certain charm to them, but appearance-wise, everyone preferred someone younger.
Dwarves had a thing for elders, but they were a minority as far as Eira at large was concerned. There were some weirdo high elves too, but mostly it was dwarves.
“I appear to have struck a nerve. I apologize, this is a very strange topic of conversation for me. I… I would like to trust you, but it feels foolish to trust someone I had just met,” Ria explained.
“It is foolish. Downright moronic. But that’s something you have to consider whenever you meet someone. You’ll make mistakes, but in my personal experience, there are more people you can trust in the world, than those you can’t,” Sylver said.
Assuming you kill everyone who ever tried to betray you.
And if you’re violent enough about it, for some reason the people planning on betraying you, just steer clear.
“My alternatives are… well, I don’t have any alternatives. I am not entirely certain how SAM would react to me being alone out here, but I do not think it would end well for me. I would like to destroy this facility,” Ria said without so much as a twitch in her voice.
Her soul on the other hand…
The door opened to reveal Bigs, Runnel, and Estus floating inside giant see-through liquid-filled bags. The rest of the room was hard to describe, as every single inch of it was covered in a mucus-like black sludge, that was SAM.
“Define “destroy”,” Sylver asked, as he very gently stepped on the floor, covered in SAM, and was relieved to see she didn’t react to him walking over her.
“There is a 16 core cold fusion reactor in the lower floors. I would like to arm it to explode so that everything in this facility will never be able to be used to do anything doctor Abel and his team wouldn’t have wanted,” Ria explained, as Sylver walked over to Bigs and looked at his sleeping form.
“Will SAM attack them if I pull them out of here?” Sylver asked.
“I have registered them as guests. As long as they are in the same room as you are, they will be safe. Provided they do not attempt to harm you, or each other,” Ria explained.
Sylver thought about Ria’s request while he used one of his daggers to gently let some of the fluid leak out.
“Sure. Just let me talk things over with these two, and you can set the bombs up,” Sylver said with a shrug of his shoulders, as Bigs very slowly started to float down to the bottom of the bag, and Sylver started to wrap him up in [Necrotic Mutilation] to stop him from panicking or running away.
Even though there wasn’t a whole lot he could do to Sylver, he still took his wire tool away, just to be on the safe side.
“But you understand what will happen, right?” Ria asked, more confused than anything else.
“Everything in here will be destroyed, yes. I don’t know what a cold fusion reactor is, but it sounds like it can be turned into a bomb. I take it you would like to stay here as well?” Sylver asked, without looking away from Bigs, who was now trapped inside a dark green cocoon.
The only sound for a while was the sound of liquid splashing all over the floor.
“I don’t know,” Ria answered honestly.
Sylver nodded and very carefully lowered Bigs down from where he had been hanging.
“How about this? Stick with me for a while. I’ll show you things no one has ever seen, we’ll go on an adventure unlike any other. You’ll learn more than you’ve ever known, whatever is lost here today, you’ll rebuild ten times, a hundred times over, if you want,” Sylver said, as he helped Bigs turn to the side, so the man didn’t choke to death.
“And if at any point, you still feel like dying, I can offer you a death so quick and painless that you won’t even realize you died,” Sylver offered, as Bigs’ eyes opened and he attempted to force his way out of Sylver’s [Necrotic Mutilation] cocoon.
“I would have thought you would have an issue with so much technology being destroyed,” Ria asked.
Sylver looked Bigs right in the eyes while he waited for him to calm down.
“Very little of it would be of any use to me anyway. And it’s a worthy trade if I have you to help me out. If you wish to stay here, I will respect it. I do not know what doctor Abel was like, but I don’t think he would have left you alive if he wanted you to die. So the question is, what do you want to do?” Sylver asked.
Apart from the fact that Ria could theoretically rebuild most of the technology here, there was also the fact that she was much more useful as a trustworthy ally than any fancy gun or whatever that Sylver would find here.
With her skill set, she could theoretically create the perfect ritual site.
And this wasn’t something he told Ria, but she somehow wasn’t affected by mana. Sylver had been careful and gentle about it, but even when he concentrated enough mana that it was just short of the Gellman constant, Ria didn’t so much as react.
A normal electrical tool would have short-circuited, at the very least. The metal Ria was made out of, Mangolium, seemed to be immune to magic, but not in the way lead was.
That alone was worth losing this giant metal trap full of advanced tech, that Sylver genuinely didn’t give two shits about.
And he could kind of understand where she was coming from.
If Sylver had a choice, he would have destroyed the Ibis, after everyone had already died. The thought of having his belongings, let alone Aether’s or Edmund's, stolen and used by someone else, made a lump form in his throat.
Better they were gone.
“Calm down. I just want to talk,” Sylver said, as he switched back to elvish. He felt Ria tighten around his arm but continued speaking. She needed time to think anyway.
“I’m going to ask you some questions, and you’re going to answer them. If you lie, refuse to answer, or piss me off, I’m going to gut you like a fish, and then wake Runnel up to watch you die. After that I’m almost certain he’ll be willing to tell me anything I want to know,” Sylver explained, as he watched Bigs attempt one final struggle, before all but relaxing inside his cocoon.
“I don’t know who or where Chen is,” Bigs said, with a hint of a grin playing at the edge of his lips.
“That’s alright, I don’t care about Chen. What is the Flip and what are the Tides?” Sylver asked.
“The Flip? How could you not know about the Flip? Everyone-”
Sylver was quite glad he had two eyes right now because he doubted he’d be able to glare the way he wanted with only one.
“The Flip was… well, it was when everything flipped. The planet turned over, and all the ice melted and drowned the whole world. The sun on the other side boils everything that gets anywhere near that half, and the one on this side is cold and creates the ice that ultimately floats to the other side, to melt,” Bigs explained.
Sylver nodded and gestured for him to go on.
“The Tides are what happens when enough ice has melted on the other side. The water comes rushing in, drowning everything in its path. This year it's predicted that the Tides will occur during the Dark Year. An impossibly tall wall of water will cover the Garden and will freeze around it, blocking up the sun for who knows how long. If the timing is just right, this will be the Garden’s longest Dark Year ever.” Bigs explained, so calm that Sylver sent a pulse of mana through the [Necrotic Mutilation] wrapped around him to check he wasn’t doing something to get out of it.
“What exactly is the Dark Year?” Sylver asked.
“A cloud. A cloud that travels the whole world and is impervious, unstoppable. Once it gets to the Garden, it will make all those monsters… unkillable. If you thought the night was dangerous in the Garden, just wait until the lamps start short-circuiting during the “day”,” Bigs explained.
“Hmm…” Sylver said.
I think it’s fair to assume it isn’t a coincidence the cunt in white sent me here just as the whole city was about to be plunged into a record breaking darkness.
But was her intention to make it easier for me to find and destroy the book?
Or is the book just a way to keep me in one place, so I’m forced to save the city?