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Ch132-Sink Or Swim

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The Lyon was ripped open into roughly 4 separate pieces. Going by the fact that the “rips” were all perfectly straight, and that one cut was right down the middle, and the other cut down the side, this was supposed to happen.

In hindsight, Sylver considered the fact that he remained in his seat, with several belts holding him in place, a big mistake. He should have turned into smoke, made a hole in the ceiling, and clawed his way out of his metal coffin.

The main reason he didn’t do so the moment Ria had told him they were going to be in range of what Sylver would later compare to a 9th tier fire-based spell, was that by the time Sylver had decided on a course of action, the craft had already crashed into the freezing cold water, and Sylver’s seat had already started inflating.

Sylver’s orange-colored balloon tore through the water, with pieces of ice and metal bouncing off its slippery surface, as Sylver remained belted to his seat, and couldn’t do a whole lot but look down at the sinking vessel below him.

When his balloon broke the surface, Sylver was almost flung out of his seat, due to the speed at which the balloon turned over, so Sylver was sitting on top of it, as opposed to sitting below.

He turned his head to the side, towards the source of a painfully bright light, and saw an impossibly large cloud in the shape of a black mushroom, moving higher and higher in the otherwise cloudless sky.

Sylver felt a faint burning on his face and eyes, but couldn’t tell if it was from the chill of the air, or if the light was simply that intense. Estus, Bigs, Runnel, and the 2 guards popped up near Sylver, and all silently joined him in staring at the enormous cloud.

Sylver was the first to come to his senses, mostly because he could feel a lot of souls terrified for their life directly below him.

And when something is scared, the normal course of action is to find whatever is causing the fear and either run away from it, which Sylver guessed a few of the small souls were doing, or run towards it.

Sylver struggled with the belts for a second or two, before he gave up and simply grabbed hold of them with both hands, and caused them to deteriorate until they were as brittle as soggy paper.

Sylver stood up and said something, but found that no words would come out. The water made it hard to realize he was bleeding out of both ears, but Sylver figured out that he, and everyone else, had been deafened.

Using [Advanced Water Manipulation] Sylver moved all the balloons until they were touching, and froze the water directly beneath them so they wouldn’t tip over. Everyone, except the guards, kept opening and closing their mouths while pointing at their ears, while Sylver got up and found the balloon beneath his feet to be as hard as a rock.

The two guards stood up with a practiced ease, almost in perfect sync, while Estus sort of flailed around like a turtle that had been placed on its back. Runnel sliced his and Bigs’ belts off and stood up too, while one of the guards jumped over onto Estus’ balloon, and helped him out of his seat.

All 6 people jumped down onto the ice the balloons were trapped in, and waited while Estus calmed down to heal their ears.

Sylver stopped the bleeding in his ears immediately but would need a few minutes to regain his hearing. In the meanwhile, he had Spring tell him what he could hear the others were saying

“If either of these two do not make it back to the Garden, you will not be allowed to enter. If any of these two do not make it back to the Garden, you will not be allowed to enter. If any of…”

The words played on repeat from both 2 guards, while they stood side by side and continued to stare at the massive cloud in the distance.

Sylver wanted to say everyone needed to start moving, but [Advanced Water Manipulation] informed him of a disturbance directly behind him. Sylver and both guards turned around and looked towards the source of the sound/waves.

One of the quarters of the Lyon floated out of the water and continued to move upwards, floating a few meters in the air. The back right corner was joined by the back left corner, and the two sort of snapped together as if they hadn’t been ripped into pieces barely a minute ago.

A third quarter floated out from the water and-

An enormous pitch-black tentacle rose out of the bubbling water, wrapped around the 2 and a half pieces, and yanked them back down, so quickly that all anyone could do was watch. There wasn’t even enough time to gasp.

Or giggle in Sylver’s case.

His hearing returned just in time with the others, as Estus placed a hand on Bigs’ and Runnel’s head, and the two joined Sylver in laughing at their collective misfortune.

This was one of those situations where the only option was to either laugh or cry, and Sylver was considering himself lucky that 2 out of 3 of his companions chose to laugh along with him.

He wasn’t entirely sure how the guards had reacted, but going by the slight uneasiness in their stance, as they continued to stare at the area into which their Lyon had just disappeared into, they weren’t laughing.

Sylver cupped his hands over his mouth, awkwardly, given the two right hands, and whispered to Ria to stop apologizing and that everything was alright.

But like a toddler who had just knocked over an expensive vase, Sylver’s words weren’t enough to get her to calm down. Sylver had little choice but to tune her out for the moment and instead did his best to get the attention of whoever was speaking to him through the three guards.

He came dangerously close to continuing to speak in English, but caught himself at the last second and switched back to Elvish.

“We get it; you can stop repeating yourself. Which way is the Garden?” Sylver asked.

The two guards stopped talking and sort of shifted to look at each other but stayed completely silent otherwise.

Not that it was silent where they were, the water around them kept crashing against the floating ice Sylver had made, and Runnel was now helping maintain.

“They can’t understand you, the Dandi-Lyon had the coms unit,” Bigs said, as he gradually calmed down and went back to his usual mix of calm and slightly upset.

“What do we do? Did you see the size of that thing? That’s at least a level 400 [Kraker], and they almost never hunt alone! This whole region is probably infested with them! We’re all going to-” Estus didn’t get to finish his sentence as he went from mildly panicking, into straight-up hyperventilating.

Sylver couldn’t help himself and grinned a little, as Estus clutched at his heart and got down on his knees.

So many ways to die, and he’s about to drop dead from being afraid…

Hilarious.

Sylver thought as he watched as both of Estus’s hands began to glow, and his deep labored breaths gradually became shallower and slower, until he regained his composure and got back onto his feet.

“I’m ok. But we’re still all going to die,” Estus said, to the grinning trio of Bigs, Runnel and Sylver.

“No one is going to die… Probably,” Bigs said, and barely held in a laugh as he added the “probably” and watched the color drain from Estus’ already unnaturally pale face.

“If you think about it, we’re all very lucky that the dungeon exploded after we left,” Sylver offered.

“Oh, yes, very lucky,” Bigs said while looking right at Sylver.

Sylver just stared at him for a moment or two, and seriously considered just knocking him out right now, but then he would be 1 competent man short.

Which Sylver wouldn’t normally care about, but he had 3 people with him that he couldn’t allow to die, so the more people he had who could help defend them, the better.

Although I could probably get Ria to do something about that…

“What’s the plan?” Runnel asked.

Sylver was about to speak, but Bigs started first, and Sylver was curious to hear what the man had to say so he stopped himself.

“They’ve got a distress beacon embedded in their armor, if we just wait around, another Lyon will show up to pick them up. We spent about 9 hours flying to the dungeon, we were airborne for roughly half an hour before we went down, so we just need to wait for a little over 8 and a half hours,” Bigs explained.

9 hours? Did Estus really talk nonstop for 9 whole hours and I didn’t notice?

“So we’re good to go? No need to stay in one place?” Sylver clarified, just to be safe.

“It’s probably not a good idea to move around too much… Actually, I’m not entirely sure the Lyon had enough time to signal for help… 8 and a half hours of flight at…” Bigs spent a while mumbling to himself. “Shit… We might be out here for 17 hours. Maybe more… 8 and a half hours for the Dandy-Lion to be late… Another hour for someone to realize they can’t get in contact… And then there’s the fact that the distress beacons have a short-range, they could miss us…” Bigs said, beyond calm as he explained that they might all be stranded out here with no way back.

“But the thing… The woman’s voice said that we won’t be allowed to return without them? So there’s still a connection,” Sylver argued, as he pointed at the motionless guards.

“Prerecorded,” Bigs answered with barely a moment to think it over.

Sylver didn’t like the way Runnel was knowingly nodding along, while Estus just looked terrified and confused.

“How do you know all of this? Est said he had to annoy an operator into telling him about the facial blocking thing,” Sylver asked and was rewarded by a small crack in Bigs’ calm mask. He saw Bigs very briefly glance at Runnel before he spoke.

“I am, in a certain sense of the word, a pure-blooded high elf,” Bigs said. Going by the fact that Estus stopped panicking over his upcoming death and was instead staring at Bigs, this was supposed to be some sort of extremely important revelation.

“My mother was a tower climber my father sponsored and took a liking to. One thing led to another, and but then I was born without the telltale signs of a high elf. So my father slit my mother’s throat. My father’s sister raised me with the Leafs’, but when she passed away, I was thrown down to the Roots. If she’d died just half a month later, I would have been a Thorn or a Bark. I have all the necessary training, save for the fact that I need to be a Leaf to put my training to use,” Bigs explained.

That certainly explains the anger I felt coming out of him…

And I misinterpreted it as being directed at me, as opposed to the world at large…

“And I’m guessing this is some sort of bodyguard situation?” Sylver said, with a gesture towards Runnel. Runnel gave Bigs a nervous look, and Bigs nodded at him.

“He saved my life. I’ve followed him ever since,” Runnel said meekly.

“Remind me to have a word with Kass when we get back,” Sylver silently tapped out against his foot.

“I’ll remind you,” Spring tapped back.

“Good to know. So what do we do now? Stay here and hope nothing comes to snack on us, or do we try and get back to the Garden?” Sylver asked.

“Assuming we’re 8 hours away… At roughly 500 kilometers per hour… We are about 4,000 kilometers away… Likely more, depending on how many minutes we spent airborne once we left the dungeon,” Bigs said.

“11 minutes, 30 seconds, close enough that we would feel the shockwave to confirm, but far enough that we wouldn’t be in range of… Except I didn’t take the neutrino bombs into account… Actually, we should have been vaporized, either that helicopter is a lot tougher than it appeared, or my calculations were off from the start” Ria said.

Somehow she had snapped back into being calm and had even understood enough of what Bigs had said to tell Sylver.

“Don’t worry about it, focus on the now. Can you tell me what those two are saying to each other?” Sylver asked, as he turned away from everyone, and pretended to scratch his chin while he spoke into his palm.

Sylver heard a lot of sharp noises, but nothing that sounded even remotely close to any voices he heard earlier.

“Alright, thank you, let me know if something changes,” Sylver whispered as he turned back around.

“There’s something big heading right for us,” Sylver said.

“How big?” Runnel asked.

“Big enough that I think we should move. Probably whatever that tentacle was connected to, but I can’t say for sure,” Sylver explained.

The feeling he got with his soul sense was vague, but he could tell that it was either a small soul that was growing powerful at an impossible rate, or that something was getting closer and closer to them.

“Are we talking level 200 big, level 250 big, level-”

Estus stopped talking as a pitch-black tentacle the length and width of an apartment building that could fit at least 4 apartments on each level, came out from beneath the ice without making a single sound, and began to wrap itself around the 6 rock hard balloons floating on a magically enhanced block of ice.

Sylver grabbed both motionless guards with his robe, and felt a stitch in his left leg tear open from the weight, as he released every drop of [Necrotic Mutilation] that he had on hand, and had it launch him, Bigs, Runnel, and Estus, as high and as far away from the giant tentacle that he could manage.

He had a tiny tendril stretch out to him while he was already airborne, and Sylver absorbed the giant mass into his [Bound Bones] storage.

Even though Sylver could hear Estus screaming next to him, he thought he was deaf for a moment, as the giant tentacle pulled the balloons into the water, without even the giant splashing waves making any noise.

Runnel pointed with both hands towards a large chunk of floating ice and nodded at Sylver.

They landed in unnaturally soft slush, Sylver, Bigs, and Runnel landed on their feet, and the slush came up to Sylver’s hips because of the two guards he was holding, while Estus landed on his back with a splat.

“We should be fine. The big ones hunt big things, as long as we don’t make too much noise, the big [Kraker]s should leave us alone,” Bigs said quietly, while Sylver rose out of the slushy ice and his robe lowered the two armor covered purebloods down onto the now solid ice.

“You’re the expert. Why aren’t they moving? They were moving earlier, now they’re as stiff as a board,” Sylver asked.

Any attempt to use [Appraisal] on the two guards only gave an extremely uncomfortable [].

“They probably both tried to switch their suits to manual control,” Bigs explained, while he looked at the two metallic people lying face down on the ice.

“How long will that take?” Sylver asked.

Bigs shrugged.

“No idea. The switch should have been instantaneous, but clearly, something has gone wrong,” Bigs said.

Sylver rubbed his chin to hide the fact that his mouth was moving. With the sun affecting him, he was having trouble casting [Mirage] and was worried he’d accidentally make it too loud.

“Can you fix them without anyone noticing?” Sylver asked.

“I can try. Put your hands near their left shoulder blades, I think there’s an opening there,” Ria answered back.

Just to keep it interesting, Sylver made both of his hands glow a wild and vivid yellow and even went as far as to make flickers of blue fire dance above the palm of his hand, as he lowered both of his right hands down onto the two metallic forms.

He felt Ria spread herself thin, stretching underneath Sylver’s robe to stay out of sight and being very careful to not allow herself to be seen as she came out from the lower part of his sleeve and disappeared into the metallic armor.

“The design isn’t that far from what doctor Melphi was working on… The circuitry is a carbon copy of the kind Eden’s Garden uses, I can fix this, give me a minute,” Ria whispered, with a note of excitement in her voice.

“Strange, the translation module has been disconnected. And the auxiliary pistons have been limited… Anyway, I’m done, they should be able to move in 14 seconds. Although I didn’t find anything that looked like a distress beacon, I checked 9 times,” Ria said, initially concerned, but back to her normal, ish, calm by the time she finished whispering.

Sylver lifted both hands into the air and made them glow a little brighter.

“I think that should do it,” Sylver said, as he waved away the glow and flames.

“What should do it? You didn’t do anything,” Runnel asked.

“Trade secret. They should be able to move in 4, 3, 2, and…” Sylver pointed at the two motionless bodies and waited.

They stood up so slowly, Sylver was about to tell them to hurry up, but instead, he chose to just condescendingly smirk at Runnel.

The mage took it in good spirits, and could only shrug his shoulders as the two guards finished standing up.

“So we’re maybe 4,000 kilometers away from the Garden, and there’s a chance their distress beacon is malfunctioning,” Sylver said.

“What makes you say that?” Bigs asked.

“I have a very powerful intuition. Do any of you have some sort of skill or perk or something that could get us to the Garden?” Sylver asked.

No one said anything, including the two guards.

“What about you Runnel? A boat made out of ice, with a flamethrower at the back to move it forward?” Sylver asked the burned-up mage.

“With all the ice chunks in the way it would be faster to just run on a bridge of ice, then it would be trying to pilot a boat through them. And with this much weight I could handle doing it for maybe an hour, if we’re lucky. Not to mention it would make a lot of noise, and a moving boat would attract a [Kraker]s attention,” Runnel said, completely shutting down Sylver’s idea.

The chunk of ice they were standing on wasn’t moving solely because Sylver and Runnel were both channeling mana through it to keep it steady and in place, everything else was moving all over the place and bashing against each other.

If Sylver was alone he could have likely used [Advanced Water Manipulation] to just make his body swim underneath the ice at an absurd speed, but he couldn’t do it with 5 people in tow.

“Back to your original question, which way is the Garden anyway?” Bigs asked, half speaking to Sylver, half to the two guards, who were up, but hadn’t done a whole lot other than that.

“Assuming we were flying away from the explosion-”

“Sometimes they fly towards thermal lifts to get high in the air, and save fuel,” Bigs interrupted.

“…”

“Even if they were flying away from the explosion, we don’t have any way to know which direction to go, once we’re out of sight of it. And given that it is a cloud, at most it will be visible for an hour. What then?” Bigs asked while Sylver thought things over.

“How about this? We go towards the explosion. Surely once they realize something is wrong, they’ll come to the dungeon to see what’s going on?” Sylver offered.

Estus spoke up.

“Right, towards the explosion, great idea. What if whatever made the explosion isn’t finished? What about all the enormous monsters swimming towards the source of a massive disturbance in the water? Not to mention-”

“I am very open to suggestions. Your criticism is valid, but do you have a better idea?” Sylver asked, both hands spread out as if to show he wasn’t armed.

There was another moment of silence, during which Sylver shifted his gaze from Estus to Bigs, to Runnel, to the woman guard Tulip, to the man guard Bean.

“How about we flip a coin for it?” Estus offered.

Sylver could feel the confusion emanating out of everyone’s souls as he closed his eyes and took a very long and very deep breath to keep himself calm and relaxed.

Too on the nose bitch…

Is this it? Is this really all the help I get? After all I-

“Don’t be absurd we’re not flipping a coin,” Bigs said, as calm as always, but with a noticeable amount of worry in his tone.

“Why not? We voted on following the wind last time, and we walked right into a trap. So far 100% of the choices we made as a party have ended with 3 of us getting captured. If Silver here didn’t get lucky with that lab coat thing, we would all be dead right now,” Estus said, very stupidly exposing the fact that they had all lied when Bigs fed the guards that bullshit report about barely managing to run away from a powerful enemy.

Sylver made a mental note to make sure Ria erased whatever storage devices the guards might have.

“What about that green black thing you used to throw us over here? We just use that to hop from one block of ice to the next,” Runnel offered.

“Fantastic idea. But throwing this much mass is very taxing for me, I could maybe throw us all 20 more times before my brain started to leak out of my nose,” Sylver explained, as he reached up with his right hand to scratch his jaw.

“How did the Thorns find me when I was in the middle of nowhere?” Sylver asked. He’d all but forgotten about it.

“Scouting parties. Mages with clairvoyant skills spend a few minutes seeing how likely a party is to find someone in a specific area, and if the probability is high enough, they send a scouting party out to find them,” Bigs explained.

Sylver’s 4 daggers trick wouldn’t work all that well with this many people, not to mention the fact that the ice wasn’t perfectly flat for Sylver to basically skate on it.

He felt as if something clutched at his chest for a moment and turned around towards the source of the feeling.

“We should go that way,” Sylver and pointed seemingly towards a random direction.

“Why that way?” Bigs asked, but didn’t sound the least bit dismissive.

“Powerful intuition,” Sylver lied.

Because as much as he liked Estus, and was starting to like Bigs and Runnel, he wasn’t about to tell them about the shades hiding in his shadow.

Or the fact that the half of Spring that he sent after those shadowy figures was close enough that Sylver could sense him.

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KingKennit

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