Chapter 19 Caves. Still caves.
Booms echoed through the cave as a crazed young woman appeared and disappeared, leaving behind cracks and craters on the walls around her. ‘I’m glad my clothes don’t burn up while using Body of Flame’ She had tested it prior with only her underwear on.
It turned out that the fiery wisps around her were mostly for show as they didn’t even generate noticeable heat. Laughing, Ilea stopped her antics to test her newfound power. Speaking of which, she had invested 20 skill points each into Strength and Dexterity, reaching a whopping 75 in each of them. The remaining 10 points had been spent on Endurance.
“Are you ready boys!?” Screaming into the dark tunnel before her, she started into a sprint. “Here comes MAMA!” A shiver ran through all Stalker Hounds remaining in the dungeon.
Feeling a bit anticlimactic for not finding an enemy after running for twenty minutes, the glow of excitement slightly dimmed and a slight annoyance crept into her eyes. ‘Finally’ she thought, as she came upon a group of three stalker hounds.
She blinked into their midst and kicked one in its side with the full power of all her skills combined. A reassuring crack resounded through the cave. Another blink, and Ilea delivered a punch into the snout of another hound while her first victim was still flying towards the nearby wall.
Ten punches later, the hounds that didn’t know what had hit them were no more. ‘I’m amazing, did anyone see that?’ Nobody did of course and so she went on, deeper and deeper into the cave system. Neither undead nor the stalker hounds posed a threat to her anymore. Larger groups were whittled down carefully while smaller groups or single enemies were steamrolled by the crazed fire enhancer.
Stopping sometimes to eat or sleep for an hour or two, her pace continued like this for several days. On the seventh day, she found something abnormal. Or maybe it was the tenth day, Ilea wasn’t sure.
A wide grin formed on her face as her blue eyes sparkled from beneath her black hood. She had arrived in a much wider area than any tunnels before. And in the middle of the cave around one hundred meters in front of her lay something spectacular. ‘Well not spectacular I guess but it’s bigger at least!’
She had gained several levels in both her classes in the past week. Her Fire Enhancer class climbing at an abnormal speed. Considering that even her main class was much lower leveled than her enemies, her second class’ growth was absurd. At least compared to normal people or adventurers.
Nobody in their right mind would walk into a dungeon without having leveled both their classes to at least a comparable one as the enemies inside. Some people did of course, people similar in their mindset to Ilea. Some loved fighting, some did it for love. Others again just liked killing. Many would die with this approach just as fast as their power would climb.
Although Ilea loved fighting and her reckless approach would signal an early death, it hadn’t happened so far. The most important difference to other people like her was that she was a healer.
Of course some people could pay a healer to accompany them but the world had a way of knowing if you were alone or not. If there was another person hiding around the corner to heal you at a moments notice, your experience gained would be reduced.
This didn’t apply to Ilea… it seemed fair as most healers wouldn’t have her offensive capabilities. Because of this many chose to go alone and without a healer. Many of them also didn’t have abilities like blink to flee quickly from a hopeless situation.
Maybe parts of these arguments went through Ilea’s head as she stared at the massive ten meter long hound before her with a manic smile on her face. A normally reasonable person like Ilea would need some justification to approach something like that even with her lust for battle.
[Alpha Stalker Hound – lvl ??]
Seeing that Ilea still couldn’t identify the enemy at her level wasn’t a surprise. Even normal stalker hounds were outside her Identify range. ‘Not for long anymore though…,’ she thought. As her Azarinth Healer class reached lvl 70 not long ago this thought wasn’t a stretch. Investing her gained Stat points into Intelligence, Wisdom and Vitality, Ilea slowly got up from her crouching position and approached the presumed boss of the dungeon.
As the woman closed in on the Alpha, she started to emit a faint blue light. Quickly joined by fiery wisps, she cracked her knuckles and neck. The Alpha sniffed the air and lifted his head, growling at the slowly approaching woman before him.
A snack perhaps, delivered straight to its maw, how lovely. Feeling no danger from the approaching human, the Alpha got up and growled at her. The level difference obvious. Were its instincts only a little bit more honed, he would’ve noticed something was wrong. Many months without anybody challenging him had made the Alpha complacent and sure of itself.
“Let’s begin then” Ilea said as she activated Azarinth Sphere and started running. The Alpha growled and started running as well, only slightly faster than her.
A snap of his maw around the victim before him brought nothing but air into his mouth as a sudden impact buckled his right hind leg. Kicking the Alpha left Ilea with a slight throb in her leg, choosing not to remove the pain with her Pain Tolerance skill, she blinked to the other side just as the hound moved his whole body with a rapid motion right where she had stood before.
Another kick hit the hounds left hind leg. Following up her attack by a dodge of the hounds kick, Ilea found herself below him. Punching upwards with her right arm, she found his belly to be much less resistant than his legs.
Before the Alpha could squash her with his weight, she blinked right in front of the hound. Having predicted his movements she landed a punch right onto his snout. The hound reeled back to roar at her.
‘You have heard the Alpha Hound’s roar, you are paralyzed for three seconds’
Before even reading the message, a swipe of the hound’s front paw sent Ilea flying. Landing with a crash twenty meters away, she groaned as her blood pooled below her.
Closing the wounds on her left arm and torso, she waited on the ground and continued healing the internal damage. ‘Those claws are sharp.’ the pain was dulled by her tolerance but she still chose not to completely eradicate it. The beast seemingly content in its victory slowly approached, giving Ilea precious seconds to work on the damage.
Just when the hound entered her Sphere of perception, she blinked in front of him and hit his throat with all she had. Her right arm functioning completely and her buffs helping her to ignore the still healing wounds.
The beast recoiled as another hit damaged its throat. ‘No more roaring my little friend.’ she thought as she blinked to dodge a swipe of his paw. Kicking into his hind legs again, she managed to break one after the third hit. The beast was slow to respond after its throat had been damaged.
A tail swipe sent Ilea tumbling, but this time she landed on her feet, skidding for a couple meters. The two stared at each other as the monster turned fully towards her. Both panting with blood leaking out of their mouths.
Every second where they didn’t move, Ilea kept healing. Her unnatural health recovery combined with her Reconstruction magic put her at a massive advantage in this fight.
Seeing as her mana was still relatively high, Ilea also kept up her buffs to be able to respond quickly. As if to confirm her decision, she suddenly felt a burst of mana below her and blinked away just as a spike of earth pushed away the air from where she had just stood.
Starting to run, Ilea moved in an unpredictable pattern as the Alpha stared at her with concentration in his eyes. ‘A monster like that having earth magic at his disposal seems kinda unfair.’ she thought.
What she didn’t know was that the Alpha stalker hound was at level 146 and boss monsters normally had at least some magical capability. The stalker hounds living in the cave system below the earth naturally formed a connection to that element.
Dodging another three spikes, the hound seemed to become irritated that his prey was still moving. Advancing on her, he again found only air but this time he was ready.
The strike didn’t come though and just as the Alpha tried to sense where his prey went to, there was a tugging on his tail. With all her strength Ilea dragged the weakened Alpha by it’s tail and swung it’s massive form around to throw it.
Sadly the result was less impressive than she had hoped for as the beast only slid a couple meters on the ground before stopping on his feet. ‘Guess stuff like that has to wait for a bit longer… or for when my enemies weigh less than a fucking tank.’
Her move had more of an impact than she thought though. The Alpha was both stronger and more intelligent than its lesser pack members and while her punches hurt him severely, being moved like a pup made him fear for his life for the first time in the fight.
With resolve in its eyes and a fight for survival imminent, its mind turned more wild. Spikes of earth emerged from all around Ilea and she dodged them as fast as she could, some even scratching her slightly. The beast was upon her as still more spikes emerged before it swiped at her with its long fangs.
Ilea blinked behind his left paw and punched into his ribcage. Three punches she landed as she continued moving down the length of the beast before it jumped back. Blinking in front of it again, she punched it’s face and dodged his nail like teeth before delivering an upper cut into the Alpha’s jaw.
Satisfied at the cracking sound of bone breaking, she moved ahead and stomped at the beast’s front leg. The physical damage alone wouldn’t have been much of an issue for the monster but her mana enhanced punches and kicks using the Destruction skill started to wear on the Alpha.
Howling in pain, the hound started thrashing around, trying to squash the annoying human with its weight and size alone. This didn’t pose much of a threat to Ilea though, as her sphere of perception allowed her to see just when and where to dodge.
The faster and more calculated strikes of his paws before had been much harder to dodge. This continued for nearly fifteen seconds as the beast continuously thrashed around while Ilea circled the massive form to land strike upon strike on the wounded beast.
Trying to get up and use it’s paws again, the hound stopped thrashing. The woman was relentless though and didn’t stop delivering pain and broken bones as he tried to stand on his broken legs. Its movements slowed massively by the blood loss and internal damage,
Ilea continued her barrage. Not being fooled by the beast’s weakness, she stayed concentrated and didn’t get too bold. Every strike calculated. Where she could deliver three blows before retaliation earlier, now she could deliver five.
With a last blink right in front of the hound’s head, she spun and delivered a kick with her heel and the power of her whole body and buffs behind it right onto the Alpha’s head. The crack was louder than the others and the Alpha went down.
Whimpering on the ground below her, his eyes stared defiantly yet much less focused towards his doom. Another two fully powered stomps to the beast’s skull ended its life.
Standing there in the dark and silent cave, a massive pool of blood forming around the smashed beast’s skull Ilea shivered. A combination of pain, excitement, happiness, fear and repulsion came over her.
Pain because of the wounds she started to feel, still healing but now with less and less adrenaline in her body. Excitement because of her massive increase in abilities and future prospects. Happiness at being able to experience a fight like that and live. At being able to call herself strong.
Fear at what she had become. At how much she had changed since coming here to this horrible yet beautiful world. At being able to kill without blinking an eye. Yes this was simply a monster but there was intelligence in its eyes and she would’ve done the same to a human trying to kill her. Repulsion at the blood and gore around her. She was getting used to it but the smell sometimes still made her a little nauseous.
‘An incredible feeling...’ She thought, as the emotions passed and left her in a thoughtful state. Smiling and looking down at the monster she fought and killed she bowed down and closed its eyes, what remained of them at least. “Thank you.” she said and closed her own eyes for a couple seconds.