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Chapter 44 Newcomers

A lack of food wasn’t really something that would kill Ilea in the short term but it was a matter of principals. The coco fruits were quite alright but there was no diversity. Of course Ilea could live off grass or unseasoned meat for a long time but if there was a town just a couple hours away with food to buy, she wouldn’t say no.

‘So I’ll finish up the teleport room and then quickly go back to Dawntree...’ she already dreaded the thought of confronting Alice but having made up her mind, she stuck to her decision. Looking down on herself made her a bit weary as well. Her once beautiful armor was in tatters. ‘No smith will be able to repair this...’ she thought.

“Oh well, nothing I can do about that now. If only there was an actual armory here...wait. Maybe...” Ilea said out loud and thought back to the three adventurers she found dead at the start of the dungeon. ‘Free clothes...with holes...still better than whatever my current attire would be classified as..’

So Ilea went back down to fight more guardians. The next day was spent fighting them and she gained an absurd amount of levels and stats. Reaching level 125 in Ash Wielder filled her last passive slot in the class as well.

Passive: Ashen Warrior – lvl 1:
You are familiar with the fighting style of Ash. Damage inflicted with your own body and while shrouded in Ash is 50% higher [after bonuses 150%]’
Category: Body Enhancement

The skill alone made fighting the guardians much faster. Although the fight did turn quite a bit harder as soon as only around fifteen guardians remained. The chaos previously abused by her wasn’t present anymore and Ilea had to leave more often to recover. Using Azarinth Reversal she could fight around 30-40% longer until her stamina reached critical levels. She debated if it was more or less efficient that way as with using reversed destruction, her damage would plummet by a lot.

In total she had destroyed 43 guardians that stood in the teleportation room. Checking her status, Ilea had made quite a leap. Although the more she killed the fewer levels she got for each one of them. It seemed her familiarity with them and of course her closing the gap in levels reduced the rewards exponentially.

Her stat points she split through five again in what she considered to be the most important stats. ‘From now on though I’ll continue for a while with Edwin’s suggested Vitality, Dexterity and Intelligence route...’

Name: Ilea Spears

Unspent statpoints: 0

Class 1: Azarinth Healer – lvl 144
- Active: Destruction – 2nd lvl 20
- Active: Reconstruction – 2nd lvl 18
- Active: State of Azarinth – 2nd lvl 20
- Active: Blink – 2nd lvl 19
- Active: Azarinth Sphere – 2nd lvl 12
- Passive: Body of Azarinth – 2nd lvl 11
- Passive: Azarinth Fighting – 2nd lvl 20
- Passive: Magic Perception – lvl 14
- Passive: Azarinth Perception – 2nd lvl 3
- Passive: Azarinth Reversal – lvl 9

Class 2: Ash Wielder – lvl 138
- Active: Shroud of Ash – lvl 8
- Active: Form of Ember – 2nd lvl 6
- Active: Ash Surge – lvl 5
- Active: Body Heat Manipulation – lvl 1
- Active: Wave of Ember – lvl 9
- Passive: Ash and Ember Manipulation – lvl 15
- Passive: Heat Perception – lvl 1
- Passive: Eyes of Ash – lvl 6
- Passive: Body of Ash – lvl 6
- Passive: Ashen Warrior – lvl 3

General Skills:

- Elos Standard language - lvl 5
- Identify - lvl 4
- Meditation – lvl 2nd 14
- Poison Resistance – lvl 16
- Heat Resistance – lvl 14
- Pain Tolerance – 2nd lvl 2
- Mental Resistance – lvl 5
- Fear Resistance – lvl 1
- Water Resistance – lvl 5
- Wind Resistance – lvl 3

Status:

Vitality: 412
Endurance: 217
Strength 111
Dexterity 257
Intelligence 402
Wisdom 227

Health: 4120/4120
Stamina: 2133/2170
Mana: 1828/2270

Ilea finished distributing her latest gains as she stood next to what remained of the last guardian in the room. “Well not quite the last one eh?” she asked while looking towards the still kneeling form behind the teleportation platform.

Slowly the dust on the machine started to move as it came to life with jerky movements. Seemingly cracking its neck, the six legs that previously were joined together to form a kneeling position separated and the Centurion got up. Slowly the jerky movements turned fluid and a massive spear appeared in its right hand.

Ilea watched on, all her buffs active, as the monster of a machine started to advance on her. “Let’s see then...if this is a challenge I can best...” she said out loud, a grin on her face.

[Taleen Centurion – lvl ??]

The spear was thrown before Ilea registered the movement. With all her skills she could still dodge it without having to use blink, albeit barely. Her head moved to the side as the weapon passed, crashing into the ground several meters behind her. It vanished and the machine was upon her.

Three thrusts of the spear came nearly simultaneously which made Ilea blink to the machine’s right. It let go of the spear and punched her way without even looking. ‘Fuck’ the thought didn’t finish in her head before the fist impacted her chest. The small cooldown time between blinks was enough for the warrior to land a hit on her.

And a hit it was. Ilea was sure that the sheer force would’ve killed her on the spot the last time she’d faced a centurion. Her health was down a whopping thirty percent and she started healing the broken bones while flying backwards. A blink saved her from the thrown spear that reached her before she hit the ground. Sliding to a stop, she coughed up blood. Her chest reformed and the shroud of ash that was dispersed by the punch came back together.

The centurion advanced again and thrust towards her heart. Ilea trusted all her skills and deflected the weapon with her arm. It was enough to change the direction of the spear but not enough to completely avoid the attack. The spear cut a part of her arm and her side, the ash around her reduced the damage greatly.

At the same time as the centurion’s attack, her right hand advanced with her fist at the front. The machine moved to block with its left hand, the two limbs crashing together with a loud noise and a gust of wind that was pushed away upon impact. The full force of Destruction and Wave of Ember crashed into its hand, enhanced by her classes, aura skills and both Azarinth Figher and Ashen Warrior.

She noticed that the centurion’s hand was pushed back a couple centimeters. The damage had gone through, it was simply a question of how much it actually affected her enemy. In the meantime the spear had been removed and another thrust came her way. This time Ilea blinked behind it.

Her punch was met by the creature’s left elbow that intercepted her attack while the centurion’s torso turned to the left with the force of its spear thrust. Another wave of destructive mana entered the centurion but it didn’t slow down at all. Ilea was still in the air as the creature’s torso turned 180 degrees in a fluid motion, trying to hit her with a swiping motion of its spear that was still too far extended to thrust at her.

Ilea appeared ten meters away from the centurion and breathed out. ‘I can hit it….’ she thought and smirked. Another spear throw was dodged as she advanced again. The centurion had learned from her moves and got better and better at predicting where she would appear. It started to act more defensive as time went on, trying to cover its blind spots first before attacking Ilea.

“You’re way smarter than the others eh?” she asked, another thrust was barely dodged and left a bleeding cut on her arm. She was covered in them by now and the fight had only been going on for two minutes. In those two minutes she had managed to hit five attacks on the Centurion. Four of them in the first minute.

Although her Form of Ember skill enhanced her speed as time went on, she found it harder and harder to see any openings. The centurion had changed from holding its spear at the last third to the middle, effectively countering her blinking behind it. There was no bladed end on that side of the spear but Ilea had learned it could still break all the bones in her fist and wrist should they collide.

Four minutes later, Ilea was bleeding from several superficial wounds and hadn’t managed to hit even one additional attack. Her mana was running low as well as she hadn’t meditated between her last fight with the sword guardians and the centurion. Additionally this enemy made her use Reconstruction quite a bit more frequently on severe wounds than her previous foes.

“Time to go for now but we’ll play again later Centurion...” Ilea said and blinked away towards the door. Blinking again, she found her perception heightened to the extreme. The Centurion’s spear was two meters behind her and closing in. With her sphere and the 2nd stage ability of Azarinth Perception active, she managed to dodge the attack easily and blinked out of the room.

‘That was a close one...’ she blinked further and further out. ‘...it knows the maximum distance of my blink and I couldn’t get even a single hit in in those four minutes...’ she reached the squid and blinked upwards.

Three minutes later she reached the first trap room and breathed out. ‘Well that was something.’ she sat down and started meditating. ‘Even the centurion doesn’t follow me this far...’

ding’ ‘Azarinth Perception has reached 2nd lvl 4’

bing’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 145. 5 Stat points awarded.’

‘Hmm, been a while since I got a class level through skill advancement...’ she thought. A while later she got up again and cracked her neck. “Alright, once more with full power.” Ilea said out loud and walked back to the stairs.

Sadly though the centurion hadn’t forgotten about her and the way she fought. It immediately changed the grip on its spear and rushed her. Twenty five minutes of fighting later, Ilea fled again. This time using different distances to blink which made the spear throws miss completely.

ding’ ‘Azarinth Perception has reached 2nd lvl 5’

ding’ ‘Azarinth Sphere has reached 2nd lvl 13’

dang’ ‘Shroud of Ash has reached lvl 9’

ding’ ‘Shroud of Ash has reached lvl 10’

ding’ ‘Eyes of Ash has reached lvl 7’

bing’ ‘Ash Wielder has reached level 139. 5 Stat points awarded.’

“Not a single hit...” she said out loud with a frown on her face. The fight was fun for her to be sure but after a couple minutes she felt almost mocked by the expressionless machine. ‘As if it said it’s untouchable.’ she thought and hit the ground next to her. “I’ll show you in time...” she said and got up a while later. ‘First though, food...’ she thought.

And so Ilea went back. It’s been over four days since she had left Dawntree but her progress was as much as the past couple months combined. ‘Sucks to not have the guys around anymore...’ she thought as she blinked over the crevice that marked the way between the city and the great hall.

The scenery changed slightly again as the white stone was replaced by the more natural looking gray one from what Ilea assumed was the residential district of the dwarven city. She took her time to walk back the way they came. She had continued her sketching as best as she could and found her way back easily enough. The dwarves had a flair for symmetry, which made it easy to find one’s way. ‘Glad these guys understood town planning better than the humans living above...’ Ilea thought. Her ability to simply climb up and cross buildings made it much easier to navigate the otherwise rather chaotic cities she’d visited so far.

Ilea didn’t come across any guardians on her way back but she didn’t try particularly hard to find any of them, still a little down from her inability to win against the centurion. When she reached the square where she had found the first destroyed guardians, she turned left and followed the road until she found what she came for.

The corpses were as she had left them. ‘Maybe a rock mage can bury them...’ she thought as she checked through the people. “Well this is goodbye then...” she said and sighed. Removing the barely still connected pieces of armor she still wore, she threw them on the ground and undressed one of the dead women.

The clothes stank of death and rot but it wasn’t too bad compared to Ilea’s which smelled of blood and ash. ‘Guess the water on the way here might actually help this time...’ she thought and finished putting on the straps on the leather armor. Luckily the pieces she had found covered her more private bits. ‘Let’s move on then...’ she thought and walked back towards the first house she had come out from at the very start of this dungeon crawl.

She quickly looked backwards before entering and smiled at the greenish light and gray houses and streets. What others might see as a deathtrap, she already looked at fondly as one of the biggest treasure troves she’d ever found. ‘Maybe I’ll find some actual treasure for once in a fucking while...’ she thought and entered into the hall connecting the storage rooms together.

Ilea didn’t quite find the empty room she expected though as immediately two people jumped up from their lazy lounging positions while grabbing their weapons. “Who goes there!!?” a man in his thirties shouted.

[Warrior – lvl 142]

‘I’m a higher level than him, heh’ she thought as a slight smile tugged on her lips. It didn’t quite yet sink in just how many levels and stats she’d gained in the past week.

“Cheers lads. No reason to be so on alert. Just a healer passing through.” she said in a neutral voice.

One of them held up his spear and nodded towards her. “A healer eh, where’s your party then?” he asked to which she sighed.

“They died nearly a week ago. I only managed to get away because I could heal myself...one of those...machines ambushed us.” she said. The blood on her body and her stench helped a lot with selling the story. The man lowered his spear a little and sighed. They were obviously afraid.

“Why stay in there for so long then? We’ve been here almost two days now.” the other man said. His dark eyes looked at her suspiciously but Ilea stayed calm.

“I wanted to get them out. They managed to nearly destroy the machine and I could actually finish it after a couple days...not a lot of damage but it gets the job done...” she said and tapped the mace on her belt.

‘Glad I kept that bad boy.’ she thought as his eyes softened and he nodded towards her.

“I couldn’t move them yet and even had to get some gear from my friend cause mine was in tatters.” she said noticing that the look on one of the men changed to something she hadn’t quite calculated in.

‘Maybe I acted too vulnerable...oh well, two more corpses on the way to...well food.’ she thought as she prepared herself to attack them. Suddenly the one that hadn’t looked at her like a savage slapped his friend in his face.

“Get your head out of the gutter you cunt.” he said and walked up to Ilea. “Excuse the idiot, been a while since he got lucky. And you know how adventuring can get lonely. Name’s Roger. And the idiot’s Tim.” he extended his hand which she shook.

“Don’t worry about it Roger, I’ve seen worse. Those guys with you?” she said, not mentioning her own name and motioned to several groups of well equipped people behind them. Some were wearing shiny armor that would blind someone in broad daylight while others sported gear even more horny than Arven’s.

“They are, ye. Appreciate the lack of offense taken by the way. You were part of the scouts then?” he asked to which she shook her head.

“Not exactly...a Forkspear sent you?” she asked to which he nodded.

“Bjorn Forkspear, yes. Oooh let me guess. You’re sent by a different member of the family. Well no matter, not like we care much who pays. Planning on going back in?” he asked.

“Not right now, no...” she answered and looked at the other people.

“Hey who’s she?” one of the men standing next to a makeshift table with a map on it said, getting the attention of most of the mercenaries and adventurers around himself. Their armor shifted as they looked at Ilea. Some of them resumed their tasks of sharpening blades or checking potions and bombs after a couple seconds but others’ gazes lingered for longer.

Ilea approached the man that had spoken and patted Roger on his shoulder when she passed him. “Lilith, nice to meet you.” She walked up to the man, choosing a random name that came to her mind and extended her hand, her face solemn. She continued talking but at a lower volume “My party was killed a couple streets in, four days ago.” She didn’t let the man ask questions as she quickly approached the map that was apparently blank after the room they were standing in.

“May I?” she asked a lvl 120 mage with a scholarly looking robe. He nodded and she started sketching with the pencil that lay on the table. “There was a square here, we managed to defeat one of the guardians…” she sketched and the people around her listened attentively. Nobody seemed to have a problem with her sketching on their map. Considering her looks and smell, she certainly sold the persona well.

Her status as a healer was certainly of help as well. “There’s a fork here, we went to the right and were ambushed on the ground floor of this building…” she showed it to them. “I managed to finish off the severely damaged guardian after two days of going in and going back out to heal.” She motioned to the holes in her armor that were punched through by the guardian’s metal slugs.

“There are ranged and sword guardians in there, around lvl 150 and up.” She finished and leaned back while putting the pencil down.

“Well that’s nothing majorly new…” one of the men said.

“Nonetheless thank you for the information. We’ll go in tomorrow. You probably won’t be able to convince Bjorn to let you join, assuming you were sent by someone else in that family. We’d appreciate the help of a healer though and would pay you a fee.” He finished and looked at her with anticipation.

His hopes for another healer were dashed though as Ilea shook her head. “I’ll come back to get the bodies with some help…I won’t let them rot down here. But I won’t be going further in…” her tone was final and most of the people that had listened in nodded or showed some sort of understanding.

Her presence then seemed to have less and less impact and Ilea decided it was a good time to leave them be. “I’ll go to Dawntree first to speak with my contact…” she tried to sound resigned and with what she could read on the man’s face it worked at least on the surface.

“I understand. Shame you won’t join us, such high leveled healers are rare as it is. Do you need somebody to guide you back? I’m afraid that would cost you though” the man asked to which she shook her head.

“I’ll be fine on my own. I assume you cleared the way here?” she paused and he nodded “Then I’ll go, I hope you’ll fare better down there than we did…” she finished and simply left. They would likely not fare better than she did but Ilea decided to keep her visit to Dawntree to at most two days. ‘Can’t let them get to the great hall before me…’ she thought but deemed it unlikely to happen even in the next week, considering they’d stayed in the first couple rooms for two days already.

Nobody stopped her after that, most of the people hadn’t cared much to begin with. They were focused on the hard weeks of battle to come. Many of them didn’t plan to go very deep into the dungeon. They were paid to explore, not to fulfil a specific goal or even clear the dungeon. Likely some of them were excited as well or thought about finding a rare treasure or gaining a lot of strength but Taleen dungeons had a reputation that could be summed up in one word, dread.

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Rhaegar

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