Chapter 36 Sparring and advice
“So you’re the ones that cleared the way? I was just on my way back...” she said but was stopped by his gaze “...but I wouldn’t turn down a free meal now would I?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll leave unscathed...as much as that’s possible after that...” he gestured to her neck “...but I’ll have to insist on the meal.” his tone was non negotiable.
Felicia soon released her surprisingly strong hug and smiled brightly at Ilea. “Ed, I didn’t kill her!” she said to which Edwin smiled a weak smile.
“You didn’t, good job Fel. Now go help Aliana.” the woman saluted to that and went to Aliana.
“Now you know our names already, would you care to reciprocate that gesture? And also add in your origins and reason for being here. Current occupation and if you’re willing your classes.” he said but to Ilea it didn’t sound like a question.
In the meantime Ilea had identified the three and all she got were question marks, him being a warrior while the women were mages. Something told her not to take them lightly, her instinct perhaps. The phantom pain in her neck certainly helped in that regard as well. She was pretty sure that these were the people who trashed the guardians.
“Ilea Spears is the name. Grew up in Riverwatch and became an adventurer. I’m currently just that. I’m here on a mission for a friend of mine. I’m a close combat healer and body enhancer. Second class is Fire Enhancer currently.” she told him as much as she was willing, not wanting to make it more complicated with her true origins.
“You’re not completely telling the truth but I guess this is good enough. Close combat healer…very very interesting. Healing yourself while fighting...you could technically fight on your own...” he was apparently lost in thought at the possibilities of her class but soon focused on her again.
“Did you know any of the names we mentioned so far?” he asked, his eyes turning cold again.
“No. I have never heard any of the names.” she said, locking eyes with him. He stared at her for ten seconds before turning away.
“You’re either the best liar I’ve ever seen or you’re really that clueless. Well I promised you a meal. You’re free to go now though if you like. I apologize for being like this but you wouldn’t be the first one sent to murder us. Even in a place like this” he said, a slight smile on his face that didn’t reach his eyes.
“You’re a scary fucker you know that?” Ilea couldn’t resist after all. His eyes widened a little at that and while the smile on his mouth stayed the same, his eyes smiled as well this time.
“How one sentence can change the whole perceived personality of a stranger. I’m glad I didn’t kill you on the spot Ilea. Edwin Redleaf, I am indeed a scary fucker. To most at least.” he extended his hand which she shook in greeting, smiling back at the man.
“I would like the meal but I have to warn you...I eat a lot.” she said as they walked towards the other two. Aliana had already set up a fire, two pots and was cutting meat that certainly hadn’t been anywhere before.
“We have a lot of food.” Edwin said “And I’d be very impressed if you managed to even match Aliana or Fel, let alone me.” they sat down on destroyed guardians next to the fire and watched Aliana slice through what seemed at least ten kilograms of meat. Ancient dwarven furniture was burning in the fire but Ilea didn’t feel like mentioning it.
“Where did she get all that from, you guys don’t have packs...” Ilea wondered out loud to which Felicia giggled and showed her her hand. She then started outright laughing at Ilea’s confused look.
“It’s a spacial enchantment bound to her ring. You’re really not that worldly are you? I’m aware that an item like that is incredibly rare but there are plenty of myths going around. Many powerful people like to flaunt them as well.” Edwin supplied.
“Like for food?” Ilea said and her eyes glazed over “Where do I get one?” she asked to which even Edwin chuckled.
“You don’t. Nobody in their right mind would sell one. Only dwarves and elves know how to make them and good luck trying to buy one from them...” Edwin was smiling, more towards Felicia than Ilea.
‘So I guess these people are very powerful. Their names were important which means their family is probably famous as well, or infamous.’ she thought, smiling at the possibilities of a spacial ring.
Looking at the meat she was sure that the things inside would stay fresh as well. It looked like it was cut just a moment ago. And she hadn’t seen a single living thing in this dungeon so far.
“So about that close combat healer thing. How is it working out for you? How are you fighting and leveling?” Edwin’s question surprised her a little. It felt more akin to someone asking about the engine of their friend’s car instead of a fighting style.
“Well it’s going quite well. Since I’ve left Riverwatch I’ve mostly fought things alone and it’s been quite...rewarding. And fun to be honest.” Ilea didn’t feel like she was over sharing. Something about the group made her feel comfortable.
‘Maybe it’s a mind spell or something… or the food…,’ she thought but was interrupted by the confirming sounds of Edwin.
“Mhm, mhm… interesting interesting. If only I could’ve stumbled upon your class earlier. How is your destructive power? You already showed your movement skill. What other skills do you have? Can you only heal yourself or others as well?” he asked all those questions in quick succession while Felicia nodded to all of it quite attentively.
Aliana in the meantime was humming a tune and hacking into the flesh in front of her.
“Wait, don’t answer...let’s have a quick bout before we eat ok? I can give you some pointers as well if I see something, how does that sound?” Edwin said, getting up from his rock.
‘They seem scarily friendly… I’m obviously not a threat to them so why the hell not? That guy though, he treats me like a computer character in a video game with a rare skill to share. What a nerd.’ she thought but got up as well. ‘Seeing the girl nearly beheaded me I can definitely learn something from this guy.’
“Sure, you tell me when you’re ready.” she told him after they moved a bit further away from Aliana.
“I’m always ready to fight. Do you have a skill that lets you sense things around you in any way?” he asked her, standing opposite her nearly ten meters away.
“I do, yes.” she answered and activated both State of Azarinth and Body of Flame, getting into a stance.
“Hmm, yes. Body of flame. And the blue runes… I assume from your healer class? Two body enhancing classes working together while being able to heal. That is quite the combination. Why I asked about the perception skill, you should always and when I say always, I mean at All times keep that skill up. I assume it saved your life earlier when Fel attacked you. Are you ready then?” he finished to which Ilea nodded
A red mist suddenly exited out of Edwin, hovering sporadically above his armor. And he vanished, appearing to Ilea’s right. His right sword was unsheathed in a speed barely comprehensible to Ilea and slashed towards her arm. She turned her body slightly, trusting fully in her Azarinth Fighting and Perception skills. Blink would’ve been the safer way but she didn’t feel like running away right now.
The sword scraped against her bracers before she started to deliver a punch towards the man. A touch to her side let her know she has already lost though as his second sword somehow already reached her.
Blinking away, Ilea held her side that started to bleed a second later. She healed it while Edwin slowly sheathed his swords.
“Very impressive. I can barely think of anyone able to touch you in your level range. Although body enhancers do have a massive advantage early on, don’t forget that. Good reliance on your skills and instincts as well, you’ve been fighting for your life more than once already. Your perception skill can certainly use some training though. You didn’t seem to notice my second sword until it reached you.” he analyzed
“Let’s just say you’re good. You were simply too fast. I could barely comprehend your first strike.” she answered, getting back into a fighting stance, her wound healed.
“Healing seems second nature to you too. Do try to ignore superficial wounds like that in a fight of attrition, every ounce of mana is important, even though your regeneration might be high. I didn’t hold back much on speed seeing how you dodged Fel’s windblade before.” he said
‘Not much? This guy really is fucking scary.’ the smile on her face betrayed her thoughts though as she prepared for another strike.
“Let’s see your destructive power then. You can heal others right?” he asked and received a nod in reply.
“Good, then give me all you’ve got. I’d normally not do that but honestly you don’t seem smart enough to fool me like that.” he said, holding his hands in a cross in front of him.
“Fucker.” she said and blinked right in front of him. Somehow his comment didn’t insult her, she truly wasn’t the kind of person that would scheme like that.
Her fist reaches him a split second after blinking and impacts on his arms, a full wave of Destruction following after. Both of them smile as their eyes lock.
“Not bad, not bad at all. That did more damage than I ever expected...” he said as she extended her hand towards his. He let her do her thing as he assumed what her intentions were.
She assessed the damage and healed him, rather disappointed by what little her attack seemed to do to him.
“Don’t be discouraged. I assume you can feel my injury? Many healers have that ability. It’s a wonder someone of your level even managed to hurt me...I have plenty of Vitality after all. Your strike was good, very fast and combined with the teleport you’re the bane of any mage...just like I am.” he said and smiled again.
“The actual impact of the strike wasn’t too bad either. Considering you’re using Body of Flame the other skill you have must be quite impressive. Now the reason you managed to hurt me though was the force of mana that entered my body upon impact. A very rare form of attack and only hand to hand combatants can usually use something similar. Just be aware that there are ways to guard against it for many mages out there. It’s still a strong attack but don’t rely on its impact in all cases.” he lectured
‘That’s a bit more than some pointers but it’s free and he seems capable enough….’ she thought as she nodded, internalizing his comments.
“Your skills make your form nearly perfect. How many times have you fought against mages, swordsmen, people using axes, monsters with claws….” she stopped him there.
“I’ve mostly just fought Drakes and Stalker Hounds so far. Not many actual people...” she said, a thoughtful expression forming on his face
“...aaand I do believe the food is ready.” she finished while motioning to a waving Aliana. Something about the woman made her shiver right then.
‘What a bunch of nutters…I feel right at home.’ she thought, a manic grin forming on her face. ‘Fucking fitting that I find them hundreds of meters underground inside an ancient dwarven ruin...now let’s just hope they don’t murder me.’
The four people sat around the fire while eating the generous amounts of meat Aliana had prepared. “Wow, this is delicious…” Ilea said to which Aliana smiled brightly.
“Yea right!” she answered, getting a thumbs up from Ilea.
“Although it seems like you’re not here for us, may I ask you about what you’re doing here?” Edwin asked, after having eaten a massive piece of meat already, throwing the bone behind himself.
Ilea explained her talk with Alice and what she experienced on her way here. Seeing how easily Edwin could dispatch her if he wanted to, she told them about the dead adventurers and her fight with the guardians as well.
“That is some creative usage of your skills. If only all of them were gunners…” he said.
“Don’t be mean to her Ed, explain the rest.” Felicia told him with a mischievous look and continued eating.
“Hmm, well alright. That girl, your so called friend is using you. I’ll give you more if you give me the name of your class.” he said, looking at Ilea.
“I’ll tell you for that information AND if you let me come along with you. I won’t get in the way, I promise.” she answered, knowing that his curiosity would likely win over.
Edwin tsked in an annoyed way which made Felicia laugh loudly, dropping her food in the process. Edwin looked at the scene and his annoyed look turned joyous. Looking back to Ilea after a couple seconds though, it seemed like the joy was an illusion.
“Alright, we can handle it and your healing might come in handy once or twice.” he said but to Ilea it seemed more like an excuse. She didn’t question his decision further though.
“Azarinth healer it’s called. A very old order of mages. I stumbled upon their remains and got the class through various met requirements.” she said.
“You can teach it to others?” his eyes lit up a little.
“Not for many years I’m afraid. A moss like substance is required to get it and nothing remains sadly.” she answered.
“Bloody idiot...could’ve made a fortune with selling that class. I don’t know the circumstances though so no offense. And it doesn’t seem worth to switch at this point...” he looked at her thoughtfully.
‘I really could’ve done that, yea. But then other people would have the class and I do like being special.’ she smiled “None taken. It was necessary at the time to use it all, not to mention the 35% mortality rate.” she said ‘It really wasn’t.’
“You’re not the best liar you know? I guess keeping the class to yourself is an advantage in itself as well though. And there’s plenty powerful classes out there anyway.” he finished another leg and threw the bone away.
‘Is he reading my mind?’ Ilea thought and also grabbed more food. “You mentioned something about Alice though, do tell. How is she using me?”
Edwin nodded “Hmm yes, well you’re aware that the six big houses of Dawntree declared different parts of the cave systems their own right?...” he looked at her and continued “...You don’t. Well it’s no matter. They just chose different tunnels and declared them theirs. Whatever lies within they claim, not that the houses play by the rules. This dungeon was found a couple months ago by the Forkspears. Usually Taleen dungeons are left alone because they’re too dangerous and not rewarding enough to touch. Whatever those dwarves did before leaving, they had a way to make their valuables disappear as well.” he paused to chew some more meat.
“I did hear about some Forkspears sending adventurers inside to map the dungeon out. Outrageous prices are usually paid for that, not that many actually make it back. Only the desperate, the stupid or very powerful take on first dungeon explorations in Taleen ruins. Compared to most other dungeons, these hold ridiculous traps and usually beasts above level 150.”
“More importantly though, I’ve never heard of a sleeping plague and it seems like a bit of a stretch to find a cure in a newly discovered Taleen dungeon. More a political move it seems, and why not send a free scout in there that thinks they’re doing their friend a favor…” he finished
“No...she didn’t seem like that...I mean maybe something changed after it happened...” Ilea mumbled to herself.
“The girl is part of a major house, she probably values the opportunity to gain favor in her family more than a friend she knew for a couple months.” Edwin said. Ilea had mentioned that she didn’t know Alice for very long.
“I...guess. How cold though, I mean it makes sense given your information, but...” she stopped herself. ‘It makes perfect sense in this world but I still didn’t expect it. Even on earth people would easily do something like that if they were in a higher political position...I was simply never exposed to that.’ she analyzed her thoughts and continued.
“You said gain favor...how would you do that by sending adventurers into this dungeon? Didn’t you say it’s too dangerous and not rewarding enough?”
He nodded “I also said the desperate would take the job. She doesn’t seem to be in a very stable position if this is what she uses her resources for. It is certainly highly dangerous but some Taleen dungeons also hold treasures many would kill for, while others hold only death and despair.”
Ilea nodded and stayed quiet for a while, thinking it over. She was more hurt by the lie than anything else. ‘Going to the dungeon is a good opportunity and I would’ve done it anyway if she’d just asked me...I’m gonna ask her about it once I’m back. As much as it makes sense, I won’t simply trust this man’s word for it.’
“What’s your objective here then? Were you hired as well?” Ilea asked but didn’t receive an answer. The fire had burned out at that point and everyone was done eating. Nothing was left after all. Edwin hadn’t exaggerated their appetite.
“You can come with us, we’ll go further into the dungeon and destroy more guardians. Additionally I’d like us three to spar with you regularly. It would be a hindrance to leave your lack of experience unattended. And it will be good for them as well.” he gestured towards the two women.