Chapter 46: Icy Grin
“I’m telling you a third of the newest batch didn’t fail.”
“A third? Really, a third? You had me teleport you all the way here because of such a blatant obvious error?”
“I know, just please, it sounds unbelievable, but I can’t risk missing the opportunity to find out why.”
“Remember that time you said a there was a 100% success and when we got here we found all the incubators turned off because someone forgot to turn on the valve of the main specimen? You don’t think the same thing happened here? Thirty percent when at the moment you call it a success if you get one per batch.”
“It’s different. The sync waves shifted causing a massive spike of activity during the creation process. If I can find out why then this project will accelerate almost exponentially. We have EMPIRICAL data this time. EMPIRICAL”
“You know what else is exponential? The amount of mana it cost me to bring us here in one phase. I swear Eystil if you’re wrong then… I don’t know, but you owe me, I’m missing the season premiere of Heroes of History”
That answers that question.
“We have to go. Now! lucids.” I sent the message out to all the mana bodies connected to me.
With the arrival, the last dark thread of essence disappeared into my body.
My heart rate rose as I watched two people enter the range of my wards on the first floor. With the sight and sounds through the passing to me I watched a tall lanky man make his way down the long front hall towards the room where the lucids are. Besides him was an equally tall, but not so lanky woman wielding a spear. Both were strikingly pale with hair of a familiar white like mine.
Their pace seemed quick, but not hurried leaving me to believe they don’t suspect someone else is in here.
I moved to jump on my feet. I needed to stop them from getting to the lucids before they had a chance to move down to the lower floors.
In a complete surprise, my head slammed into the ceiling above shattering it, my body soon followed falling straight onto the floor above.
“FUCK! Oww oh god did I brake something?” I rubbed my head as I threw off a chunk of building that I had brought up with me.
“Shh, did you hear that?” I heard them suddenly hush mid conversion through the ward.
“Hear what? Hurry up and teleport me to the lab, we’re inside now you can teleport within once we’re in here remember or did you truly run out of mana?” The lanky man shot stood still with a smug look.
“Shut the hell up…shhh…dammit.” Her face turned pale the moment she closed her eyes for a moment.
“What, why are you so angry? Are you really that mad at me put your spear away. I’ll pay for today’s dinner, on m—” The spear-carrying woman put her hand over the face of the man to quiet him.
A lab coat?
Only the lanky guy wore one as I watched through the ward.
“They obviously must have heard me bust a hole through this place.” I studied the feed through the wards as I fought to get control over my new found strength.
Being honest, I did not expect this. Being unable to fine-tune the force that went into every movement. Before moving my arm took, let me say for simplicity, 1% of my strength, now that 1% was way too high for me to adjust quickly.
Being as careful as I could be I crawled the metal floor as it crumbled when my fingers pressed down cracking the floor as if it were made of thin sheets of black ice.
“Shit, I think an elder lich found this place again, call for backup.” She put her guard up her spear clutched tightly.
The man stood still a bit shocked.
“Another elder lich? Again? Fucking hell okay I’ll call the HQ. There goes my day, Why are they the most annoying shits? No matter how hard we try to mask the scent of the bodies they’re attracted to them like it’s a damn drug.”
The young man in a lab coat rolled his eyes having moved the woman’s hand away from his mouth to continue his tirade.
“And every time they realize they can’t absorb, control, or do anything to the bodies they lose their minds, relative to their insanity of course mind you, and start unleashing hell onto the building.”
“By the way are you sure it’s a lich again Frium? I didn’t see any bodies outside that would attract one this time”
“What else could it be they’re the only living thing that can bypass the wards without a badge.”
“They’re not living you know.”
Frium, the spear-wielding woman, sent a deathly stare back at the man named Eystil.
“You know what I mean, did you get word from dispatch yet?”
“Their ETA is an hour, oh, and they said not to engage unless it does so on us first.”
“Say that first!”
The man in a lab coat ignored her complaints and continued to talk.
These two know a lot…
I wanted to stick around and listen in on more, but it was better to get moving as the many lucids were already on the move downstairs. An hour is definitely not enough time to get everyone out.
Shit. I’m gonna need to stop that back up from coming.
I took a breath.
“At least I can try and find out why my essence is so special.” I had an inkling before and now after crashing through the roof, I was confirming my suspicions of how strong my body had become.
I switched my gaze to a point in the roof using the 3D map projected through the contacts. My aim directly to them.
“Why are there so few bodies outside Eystil?”
“Probably the summer heat that rotted the bodies quickly and are scooped up by the system for recycling. Crazy how we literally have to wait for them to naturally rot, nothing else works well unless we throw money into a pit.”
“Where did the director say he found the subject with the special essence again?”
“Shhh Eystil shut the hell up, the lich might already have gone mad stay quiet we don’t want to fight it as just two.”
“OW! Fucking hell, oooh…” I crashed through another floor.
“Did you hear it this time? That sound… it’s getting closer?”
“Yeah, I think I did hear it this time what is that? Like a beat of a massive drum.”
“The grounds shaking too, maybe one of the machines malfunctioned?”
A rain of metal and metal tubing fell onto the ground of the first floor following after me.
“Ohhh god that fucking hurts.” I groaned while raising to my feet using the end of my spear to prop myself up.
“What the hell is that!?”
“No, who the hell is that.”
There was no way I would reach the top floor at a reasonable speed walking up with the coordination I have now.
So… I bust through the floors all the way up.
“This death aura… Get back Eystil it’s the lich!”
“T-that’s the lich!?”
“Call off the backup,” I yelled at the two intruders of my children’s home as the dust began to settle
“Quiet you damned undead, back me up Eystil!”
Frium lunged at me with her spear it seemed there would be no exchange of words to be had. As I watched her spring forward I jumped back only to forget in the split second of the lack of control throwing myself into the wall behind me.
The spear stabbed the air leaving the armored woman looking around to see where I had gone.
“Ohhhh not again my ribs…” I groaned once again as I peeled myself from the wall.
Taking the blow with my armor would have been preferable, probably. I’ll know the comparison once a blow lands.
“This lich is moving as fast as me? No, faster. Eystil be careful.” Frium focused on me, studying what I would do next.
“Flame Bloom!” Standing at the back far from me a massive array of blazing lilies appeared controlled by the pale man in his hand.
Distracted by the sudden fight, I was caught off guard by the man behind her.
Like circular sawblades, the bloomed flowers spun at me charring the walls with streaks of fire in their wake.
As the dozen or so flaming lilies made their way to me I threw myself off the wall and prepared to move. Dashing to my right dodging the saws that whistled past me slicing into the wall behind.
[Henry we’re helping each other reach the lower floors, out bodies seemed to be stronger than we thought.]
A voice appeared in my head a familiar one instantly I could tell it was from the lucid with the flaming tree mana body.
That’s one thing off my plate the only problem will be these two and the stopping backup from coming before we can escape…
Without giving me any more time to think Frium was gunning towards me. However, this time coated in light of light blue mana.
They’re getting serious now. There would be no more pauses between attacks the array of lilies was already forming once again behind the pale man and the mana radiating off the spear was telling me it would hurt.
Busting through the various small tables, chairs, and tables scattered throughout this first-floor Frium’s charge was not one that could be dodged.
At least I didn’t throw myself into the wall dodging this time. Seems exerting myself was helping me regain finer control.
With a resounding thud, I blocked a downward blow from her spear with the shaft of mine. Instantly after her spear bounced off and began to swing at me in a flurry.
I did my best to block but I knew nothing of combat other than trying to meet her weapon with mine. Openings, parries, timing I knew none of that in the heat of the moment.
“You take us for fools lich! There is no need to stall for time you cannot control these bodies! Go, off with you. Back to you’re cursed lands!”
Sparks flew as I was pushed back as I tried my best with my high base strength and agility. Only through raw strength was I was able to stop any serious blows. The nicks that would have killed me were being taken care of my powerful set of dark armor.
Not a single blow.
I haven’t been able to land a single one, and I was positive I wouldn’t be able to. I jumped back using one of her blows to propel me.
Although stronger than her, I would lose the battle in a few more moments for I did not know how to use my strength. There was only so many blows I could take and her barrage was tuning into the battle becoming more and more precise.
“Go!” Not allowing me a breath Eystil, who I assumed was the backline mage, began his barrage. With the repeated attack it was obvious both were holding back as to not destroy the building.
“I’m not a lich, I’m only here to save the people imprisoned here.”
“People? There are no people here! You’re attracted to the stench of death from the homunculi you foolish undead!”
Fuck my arm!
My entire arm tingled, having stepped away from the trade of blows I was able to finally take notice that a layer of blue ice had formed over it. Heating the air did nothing to melt it.
I scanned my surroundings, all around me I could now feel the icy chill in the air after the heat of the battle passed. The frost was even forming on my spear.
So that’s why it felt like I was matching her with defense, but it wasn’t the case at all.
I sent a glare at the woman before me.
“It’s rare to find a lich with any combat potential, did you die on the battlefield? With such high strength maybe you were a general perhaps? It matters not, stop stalling undead bring out your army now so I can raze it.”
A coat of frost covered me being thickest on my legs and arms each time it cracked when I moved it would quickly freeze once again.
“Why do you defend this do you not see the state that hundreds of my clones have been suffering in!?”
“Your clones? Your insanity has reached new heights for a lich. These subjects have nothing to do with you.”
I ran in a large circle around the two as he homed the flaming flowers aiming to behead.
“Nothing to do with me! You, aren’t you a researcher here!? Then you should know they all infused with the same single source.”
A larger lily whizzed past me, releasing fireworks of sparks then just the tips of the petals brushed my shoulder.
“Ha! Your stupid frost wasn’t eno—”
My celebration was preemptive as this flower exploded the full force hitting my back. With no time to react my body was thrown forward towards the ready Eystil.
The air around her grew foggy condensing into a massive dragon’s snout at the head of her spear. The large form made of ice with each tooth a jagged giant icicle.
With a puff of an icy breath she pushed the spear forward causing the mouth to open up for my arrival.
A pale blue world greeted me as I fell into the mouth followed by the echo of crackling as if I was a crispy piece of meat fed to this dragon.
Rolling inside the giant mouth I fought to regain my balance as the tongue and mouth continued to chomp at me. I could see the icicles reform every time one snapped off damaging my armor. It felts as if I was being punched and stabbed from every direction.
“It’s still going! What kind of armor does this lich have!?” I heard Frium’s muddled cries from inside.
“How long can you hold him in there?”
“Maybe ten or fifteen minutes! His armor is so damn hard! And isn’t taking much damage internally either! Each tooth comes with a biting force equal one of my piercing attacks what kind of lich is this!?”
Before I could answer the rain of firey flowers was being shot at me.
“I.AM.NOT.A.LICH!” Witch each word I threw a kick and a punch trying to lessen the number of blows my body was taking.
I don’t know how she thinks I’m not hurting.
“N-not a lich? Then w-who are you how did you get in here!?”
“Oh no, Frium if he got in here without a badge…”
This continued barrage was starting to piss me off!
With a wild set of swings of my spear and flurry of kicks with all the strength I could muster I instantly burst through the side of the mouth.
“Let me finish what I was saying, each one of the specimens originate from one source, correct?”
The tall pale man looked at me both of them with expressions that had turned into that of fear.
“That source is me!” I smacked my chest with my arm
“That’s impossible the source was dissolved! I saw it myself with my own eyes the team created the solution using the resources of a small country to dissolve a DEAD body!”
“Is it?” I looked down at my scuffed up armor filled with thousands of tiny chips in every part of it now.
What a disgusting attack…
“Then shouldn’t this face look familiar?” With a quick motion, my helmet disappeared for a moment before reappearing again.
“Eystil, who is that do you know them?”
“T-that’s the subject that’s his face!”
Being honest it was only about 70% of my original face. On another note absorbing essence that is “mine” seems to affect my physical appearance on one to one ratio.
“I guess in a way I did come back from the dead didn’t I?”
“Run.” One worth escaped from Eystil’s mouth.
At the drop, both were in a maddened dash to the door outside.
Shit, while I have the speed to run past them and block them off, I don’t have the coordination to pull it off.
But… I thought back to their faces earlier, I do have the fear instilled that I do.
“Stop, or I’ll end you both. No more playing with spears.” I yelled at them standing, returning my spear back into a ring.
Two elongated and now thick arrows appearing in both hands as I waited hoping this bluff would work.
My javelins are weaker, much weaker, than just fighting with my body, but of course they don’t know that. They think I’m probably on par with someone like Lisuliam, or in my mind, Laurent.
On a dime, both stopped and turned around. They probably sensed the switch in weapons as the half the strength of my deathly aura disappeared.
“First, call off the backup.”
“Backup?” Eystil tilted his head at my request.
I moved to raise one of my arms “I already know, do it, now.”
The lucids were already now waiting for their turn out from the disposal system, but maybe they won’t have to do that…
My heart began to really race now, keeping this façade felt far more difficult than rolling with their attacks.
The two looked at each other then Eystil began to speak.
“Hey, it’s Eystil again, turns out it wasn’t a lich just a faulty pump making some noise. Cancel the backup team, please. Yeah, just schedule a repair team for next month’s visit.”
Convincing as it was…
“There backup isn’t coming anymore…”
“Swear on oath that confirming that.”
“I swear upon my soul bound by my mana that my words were true.”
Hearing those words I began to walk towards them. Dispersing my two javelins nearing them to double down on showing how little I think of them.
“Now…” A grin spread on my face as I stood close to them, within arms distance.
I willed my armor to remove my helmet allowing our eyes to meet again, this time I kept it off.
“Swear on oath and become my indentured servants.”
I could feel my hands wanting to tremble, but I couldn’t let that happen. These two owe the lucids something, I don’t know what yet, plus I can’t have them just leave either not right now at least. The other reason for this was because these people they owe me answers too and from the conversations, I picked up they have answers.
A nervous look appeared on both their faces, my bluff wasn’t perfect…
Time to… triple down? Is that a thing?
With a little wind, I picked up one of the thrown chairs and sat down removing the rest of my armor. Further showing the lack of any injury the short battle left me with.
“Well, hurry up and decide yes or no? Oh, don’t worry you’ll keep most of your autonomy minus a few things of course. I want answers and you have them. Wait, no, you owe them to me and my kin.”
It helped to picture myself as someone as grand and lofty like Laurent. I thought back to when I watched him force all those powerful people to swear the same oath. To push them he had the looming sword that was that death ray. So, if these two perceive my strength in a way similar to an Arc Argent…
“You really fucked me today Eystil, goddamn. You fucked me so hard with this.”
“I…” Eystil couldn’t seem to find any words.
Then, simultaneously, they both began to speak.
““I swear upon my soul bound by my mana that I will become your servant.”“
I let in a giant breath.
“Woooooo” I felt my shoulders finally drop.
“Armor, armor! Armor, please. Damn, I should have given it a name.” The waves of anxiety and freight began to crash down now that the wall propped by the façade was gone.
After repeated it a couple more times the dark armor appeared over me giving me back the comforting cocoon-like embrace.
This was my first time actually fighting people in this world that were out to kill me! Even with the armor that inside the icy jaws would have ended me through sheer blunt force trauma had I not had the strength.
Although I was confident in the strength I had gained during the absorption process and after seeing myself burst through roofs with ease, it’s still frightening to witness another human trying to kill me.
I slowed my breath, at ease inside my armor.
The two looked at me with suspicious eyes, but since the oath was done there was nothing they could do so I didn’t bother to care.
I willed my helmet to come off.
“I’m sure you both have spatial treasures correct?”
Although it was a question, we knew it wasn’t optional to answer.