Chapter 89 Shields and Explosions
It only took the span of ten minutes for both Joseph and Eve to arrive but Ilea was already so immersed in the fight, she only noticed them as potential dangers through her Sphere. Lightning roared on, piercing the ash surrounding the fighters, both of them vanishing and appearing, clashing and disengaging.
Joseph just let them fight and would include them in the plans for today’s classes as soon as they would reach their first mana exhaustion. ‘It’s not them that I have to teach much either...’ he thought and walked towards the fighting Kyrian and Claire, a much less explosive encounter. Dangerous mages nonetheless but he felt they were lacking the edge Ilea and Trian already possessed.
“You two, incorporate Eve in your fighting while I build today’s training ground. Try to get moving a little more. Getting injured is fine, we have a healer.” he exclaimed to the two, Eve joining them quickly.
His mana surged as he started molding the ground and walls of the training area, adding flair wherever he deemed necessary. Though nothing comparable to his work in Eregar’s Haven.
Fifteen minutes later he was done and checked on the team. Ilea and Trian had apparently stopped and the woman was taking care of Eve who had been badly hit by an explosion. Though it was nothing life threatening. Not with a healer around.
“Alright people, same drill as yesterday. Today we’ll do Eve and Trian attacking Ilea for the first hour. Kyrian and Claire to me.”
So the first hour passed. Both Eve and Trian enhanced their attacking power while Ilea improved her ability to defend and resist said attacks. Kyrian and Claire worked together to figure out more efficient and tactical ways to use their abilities as Joseph felt their control was more important at the moment compared to raw power. Both Ilea and Trian had excellent control of their powers and were using them in efficient ways already. They also seemed like they could incorporate a new way of fighting while they were facing an opponent.
Eve on the other hand was the best by far when it came to using her skills. Joseph thought that while her brute force was low, the skill she showed in using her abilities was much higher than anybody else in the team. Higher even than his own but he knew little about mind magic. The girl had a calculative way and he didn’t dare face her if life was on the line. Not on a battlefield that was anything more complex than a simple field.
The second hour was spent with bouts. This time Trian learned that Kyrian’s metal wasn’t just that and though nobody seemed to notice but he didn’t taunt Ilea about her crying anymore. Ilea enjoyed watching the fight and already saw massive improvements in Kyrian’s fighting. The spheres of metal expanded into disks that would block incoming attacks.
Lightning strikes were deflected to the ground and walls around the hall as Trian grew frustrated with the efficient defense. Additionally he only had his agility to dodge the incoming projectiles that resembled a storm more than anything else at that point. It was inevitable that he would get hit at some point and while his draining abilities were useful, curses were something else entirely.
Trian was slowed down soon as more and more of his body was filled with the cold sensation of the curse. His abilities failed him as time went on and Joseph quickly stopped the fight when Trian looked hungrily at Kyrian, knowing that what would’ve followed might’ve been difficult to heal. No matter who would have been at the receiving end.
Ilea pictured Trian teleporting into Kyrian’s range and lightning expanding from his body while the spheres of metal expanded into the form of a morning star’s end. Not a beautiful sight and likely not one Ilea could remedy with her healing ability. She was curious though and a small part of her urged the two to try, just to find out if she could still heal them. Hunter Recovery mentioned only her own body being healed from fatal wounds like that but perhaps there was a chance.
Ilea thought about the possibility of trying the ability in Riverwatch but the thought got her in a sour mood. A mood that would be helped by fighting against Claire. The second bout was called out by Joseph after he had talked to both Kyrian and Trian about their fight, possible changes in their skill usage and ways to improve. The man didn’t seem like a dangerous warrior or mage to Ilea but if anything he was experienced.
What impressed Ilea the most was his ability to explain shortcomings in a way that not even the noble Trian was offended, though more and more Ilea felt the man was less the noble stereotype than he pretended to be.
“Now Ilea and Claire. Please don’t use your full power from the start Ilea. Try to break through with reasonable power but let Claire use her skills as well. This is more about her than you. Do try to blink inside any barriers to test their making. Claire for you, try to hit her while defending. Use everything you have and good luck.” Joseph finished and stepped aside.
Ilea felt a little bad about his portrayal of Claire’s abilities but then again she did feel rather sure about winning, more so than against any of the other members of their team. Claire just seemed nonthreatening to her. She looked at Joseph who was watching from the side and perceived the smallest smirk on his lips. It clicked then and Ilea smiled as well.
‘This is about Claire, not me...’ she thought and moved into a much less aggressive stance. “Come on Claire. I’m gonna give you three free shots, not like you can hurt me anyway.” Ilea said while imitating a yawn. The woman didn’t show much of a reaction so Ilea simply waited.
Claire looked to Joseph and the others for help but none of them reacted in any way. She looked towards Ilea with an unsure expression on her face before she threw a rune inscribed rock towards her. It landed a meter away from Ilea and exploded in a flash of fire and force.
The dust settled and Ilea hadn’t even moved a single step away. Her training armor was singed at the side and her face was reddened but after her healing was activated, it quickly returned to normal. She hadn’t even used her Shroud of Ash to reduce the damage.
“Claire.” Ilea started and paused, looking directly into the woman’s eyes. “This is child’s play. Have you reached level 200 with attacks like that? Attack me! You’ve seen me fight Trian, I can take it.”
Claire nodded and her expression turned serious. This time four stones landed next to Ilea and the woman in front of her started drawing runes into the air before her. More and more formed before they were moved together. A pulse of force reached Ilea and the four stones closed in on her, exploding when they reached her armor. Ilea activated her Shroud of Ash in the last moment which took the brunt of the attack.
Ilea stood and the blood dripping from her arm quickly came to a stop as the light burns were healed. Impressive power, especially considering her Heat Resistance. The force of the explosion had likely done the most damage though.
“Not bad, not bad. Not enough though. Claire you’re not a paid member?” Ilea asked and seeing no reaction continued. “Well if you manage to take more than fifty percent of my health with the last attack I’ll pay your share, how about that?” Ilea finished. The woman’s reaction was something quite different than what Ilea had anticipated.
Joseph watched from the side as Claire’s jaw clenched upon hearing Ilea’s suggestion. Her eyes turned cold as she advanced on the only present healer while throwing stones around her. They landed precisely where the rune mage wanted them and Joseph grew a little wary. ‘Something’s different...’ he thought but didn’t dare interfere. With the shown attacks there was no way Ilea would be hurt seriously.
“Don’t patronize me.” Claire’s words were cold and calculated, different from her previous demeanor. Runes came to life in front of her as a dome of light formed around Ilea. Two seconds later the runes before Claire aligned and a pulse of mana reached the dome. The following explosion rattled the ground as the inside of the dome turned into fire.
Brighter and stronger than anything Claire had shown before, the explosion was followed by another one and then another. Five consecutive blasts followed, each of them stronger than the one before. Joseph only caught glimpses of a silhouette inside the dome, the only proof there was anything left inside. He doubted anybody else in the room could survive the attack but if anybody, then the tank. Otherwise this team’s endeavors would end even earlier than his last.
He looked on as Claire’s face turned from a cold mask to a horrified expression, her arms lifted up to her face as she realized what she’d done. She watched on as the fire continued to rage inside the dome, a tear running down her face as she mumbled something that Joseph couldn’t hear.
A long minute passed as the storm of fire and light came to and end. The inside of the dome was still shrouded when a laugh suddenly filled the otherwise quiet hall. A hoarse and inhuman laugh but every passing second it turned more and more into a voice they recognized until finally, thirty seconds later it was obviously Ilea’s laugh. She had survived.
“That’s what I’m talking about!!” the shout came and then a dull slam made the shield dome quiver. Two more and the dome was cracking. Claire took two steps back and had to catch herself from falling down, tears now flowing down her face. Joseph wasn’t sure anymore if they were out of terror or happiness.
The shield broke and Ilea stepped from the released steam, seemingly completely unharmed. Her armor was gone, the woman completely naked and with a big smile on her face. “That was good. You nearly killed me there Claire.” Ilea said as she appeared next to the woman. “Warn me next time.” she said and punched into Claire’s stomach. Joseph saw no mana was used with the attack as the air left Claire’s mouth and she sunk to the ground coughing.
Ilea stood there and put a hand on Claire’s shoulder. “Eve would you be so kind to bring me some clothes? Trian is creeping me out.” Ilea said without looking at any of them. Kyrian had been looking away but Trian was glaring at Ilea. Not with lust, Joseph thought but with intrigue perhaps?
Eve ran to the chests in the room and got Ilea some new clothes, running back to the bare woman.
‘That was close...’ Ilea thought as she received her new clothing from Eve. She was glad that likely nobody in the team had a perception ability like her own. At least she thought that was the case. She wasn’t sure about Eve and Claire but the latter would likely not be in the same state had she an ability like that. Something about her remark for paying Claire’s debt had unhinged the woman. Not in a bad way at all but more an unexpected one.
The power in her attack had been something completely different. Stronger even than Trian’s lightning, condensed inside the sphere and ongoing for over thirty seconds. Ilea’s perception had slowed down, triggering the 2nd stage of Azarinth Perception for the first time in a while. She had summoned her Juggernaut armor and had crouched down with all her defensive skills at the maximum.
The explosion still took over fifty percent of her health. A testament to the armor’s quality but also to the attack’s power, considering it would’ve taken 75% or more of her health according to the 2nd stage of Azarinth Perception. She had gained Blast Resistance in the process as well and leveled it to four already. A nice addition. Hunter Recovery proved invaluable as well as it healed her whole body in moments while the steam around her was still hot enough to boil anything inside alive. Heat Resistance had leveled as well.
“Remind me not to talk about money with you.” Ilea whispered to the still crouched and coughing Claire. She wouldn’t heal her. Nothing should be able to taunt one enough to suddenly go for a sure killing blow on a team mate. Although she had to cut Claire some slack, Ilea was definitely asking for it. She got what she wanted and she was still alive. It proved to her again that her power wasn’t adequate. She needed this team and the training with them if she planned to face enemies at their level or higher. Unexpected attacks were the norm in the wild after all.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” Claire got up as soon as the coughing stopped and jumped Ilea, hugging the woman tightly. Ilea patted her on her back and then firmly removed her from her own person.
“Let me get some clothes on first.” she said as she put on the clothes and leather armor she had gotten from Eve. She had decided not to reveal her storage item just yet and the reactions from both Kyrian and Trian were certainly worth it. Though again it seemed the noble was less interested in the obvious. Kyrian was plain cute though and she couldn’t help but wonder if he had ever seen a woman naked.
“Impressive, I accept you as the group’s tank.” Trian was surprisingly the first to talk after the whole ordeal.
“That would’ve killed me three times over...” Eve said from the side and then hugged Ilea tightly.
‘What’s with the hugging today...’ Ilea thought and just let it happen. The women both felt nice at least but she wasn’t quite in the mood after that fight.
“I think that concludes the bouts for today. Ilea and Trian, you can go on of course. The rest will be inside the prepared area again. Claire, that was impressive. Do warn your teammates before though. I’ve seen level 200 tanks die to less powerful attacks.” he said and looked at Ilea a little intrigued.
“I’ll be on the offensive.” Ilea stated to Trian who just nodded and started attacking her again, resuming their bout. They were already at a point where either noticed the other one improving ever so slightly.
Claire paused for a while but joined Eve and Kyrian’s fighting a while later, each of them trying new ways to get to the others. Joseph looked on from the side and allowed himself to smile a little. ‘I got lucky...’
Before the team tactics lesson started, Ilea asked Trian to continue their training later in the day. The man just chuckled at her though.
“You already crave me so much you want to see me after the classes? Oh honey. I’m afraid that won’t happen though. I have important meetings to attend you see.” he stated and shook his head.
Ilea wasn’t convinced though. The man seemed more sincere when he was actually fighting. It looked to her like he was acting and saying recited lines his noble status brought with it. Perhaps it was only a small hope inside of her, telling her that he wasn’t as bad as he seemed. The feeling was definitely cause by their fights and a weird connection she was forming with him through that. Nothing she had experienced ever before. Then again she has never trained with someone using fatal attacks.
Even while kick-boxing she mostly just trained alone and used it more as a way to let off some steam. All she could say was that she was glad that they were training together, or rather against each other. The intent to kill was still there even though they stopped themselves in the last moments, at least so far.
Trian left soon after Joseph had ended the lesson, leaving the four of them to the team tactics lesson with Claire. She was still a little shaken from her nearly murder of Ilea but still managed to give the rest of the team some valuable information. The class still only consisted of theory but today she went into more detail for the different roles people could have in a team and how they applied to their team’s members.
All of them weren’t as one sided as lower leveled guards or military squads for example. Adventurers were usually more creative with their skill usage as they had to fight stronger or specialized monsters more often. The members of team 34 all survived so far, most of them alone and all had the capacity to kill and maim while sporting an impressive defense or evading ability. Of course Ilea could tank more direct damage than Eve but she was certainly good at vanishing from her enemy’s sight.
The conclusion of Claire was that with their team they could maneuver more freely and could implement tactics according to the enemy’s abilities and numbers. A more traditional approach with Ilea tanking damage while Kyrian and Claire would be supporting, leaving Eve and Trian to destroy the opponents was certainly a possibility and sometimes even the favorable approach but with their diversity of abilities many more constellations were possible.
They went to the monster knowledge class with newfound confidence in their team and started learning about unknown dangers waiting for them in the wild of Elos.