Chapter 90 Picnic
The Tremorling is a dangerous foe. Their earth magic combined with excellent perception lets them set up traps to lure and catch any wandering adventurer. The low level is deceiving as they are proven to chose the lowest leveled and youngest members of their tribe to lure any prey towards their traps. Usually Tremorlings reside inside caves or near mountains but rare occasions have been reported of them appearing in forests as well, using the trees and bushes as extensions of their devious traps.
The picture of the beast looked incredibly cute to Ilea, ignoring their hands instead of paws. ‘Like a small puppy but with thumbs.’ she thought as she listened to Liam talk about the beast and possible ways to approach them. The first suggestions was not to. They were found to kill beings and monsters a hundred or more levels above them. A collapsing tunnel was quite deadly to a mage after all, no matter how strong their ice powers were.
Ilea smiles as none of the monsters so far seemed to pose a massive threat to her. She would likely be able to get away from nearly all of them. Killing the monsters was a completely different story though as many of them had specialized abilities to deal with her sort of attacks. Her high level would help of course but then again they were talking about common and known monsters, not about the ones that would be able to easily kill a level 200 human.
They covered only two monsters in the hour long class but Ilea tried to internalize the knowledge as best as possible. She found herself very interested in the topic which helped tremendously. Eve seemed to be half asleep and Kyrian had a hard time remembering the names and abilities when they quickly recapped the monsters from yesterday’s class.
Claire of course knew a lot about them already and could answer all questions even for the new monsters they were discussing. Being the team tactics teacher and likely the one calling the shots when the team would actually face one of the enemies, Ilea found it comforting.
The class ended soon and Liam excused himself quickly, leaving in a hurry. As everyone was getting up, Ilea proposed the same thing she had tried to convince Trian of.
“Would any of you like to continue the training, bouts and attacks you can try on me? I don’t need a lot of sleep and while I’m here it seems like a good way to spend the time.”
Kyrian nodded “I’m t...training in the wood where you found me yesterday for most of the time. You can join if you like.” he told her.
“Maybe but I’m rather busy. I’ll come join you sometimes I guess.” Eve said. Both Kyrian and Ilea looked towards Claire then.
“I… I’ve been training alone usually...” she scratched the back of her head and looked to the floor.
“Perfect, I assume you won’t argue about the efficiency. Except of course you were killing things to level up?” Ilea asked. Claire shook her head though and then looked at Ilea, her eyes brightening.
“Maybe we can get an area in Eregar’s Haven...but we’d need the whole team for that I think. We’re the lowest ranked after all.” she said and put her hand to her chin.
“What the hell’s Eregar’s Haven? And what do you mean lowest ranked? What would the impact of that be?” Ilea asked.
“It’s a place below Viscera. I’ve not been there but I hear it’s massive. A magically constructed landscape all the elders and many members of the Hand have been working on for centuries. Eregar was one of the first Elders of the order and expanded the cave system to start the whole thing. Beasts were brought down and whole ecosystems grew. I assume we’ll be seeing some of the monsters in our monster knowledge class at some point.” Claire explained while everyone else listened.
“People are not just let down there. We need to have permission from the team fighting teacher and with our low rank we also have to go there as a whole team. I think top 20 can go inside with two people and top ten can go in individually, though I don’t know how helpful that might be.” she explained.
“What stops someone from just killing everything down there? The monsters I mean.” Eve asked.
“Well they are all lower than level 200. It wouldn’t be worth anyone’s time. I have a theory that the level 200 requirement is there in big part because of Eregar’s Haven. The Elders really want to keep it the way it is.” Claire explained.
“What’s the benefit though, we can just train outside can’t we?” Ilea asked.
“I don’t know to be honest. The tournaments are down there at least.” Claire said.
“Maybe it’s just very beautiful?” Eve asked.
“T..tournaments?” Kyrian interjected.
“Yes, it’s a part of the rankings. Finished jobs and the power of killed beings is the biggest part but bouts against other teams and their members help as well. It can get very messy though that’s why they’re only held every three months or so. Many teams aren’t even there and even fewer participate but it is a good way to see people on our level fight. All teams that are in Viscera come to see the fights at least.” Claire went on. “Usually the new teams don’t join because they have to show off their abilities, not something easily shared. Killings among the hand have been relatively rare though, that’s why the tournaments are still there.”
“Oh and of course you can challenge anybody in the Haven at all times. It has no impact on the rankings and everybody can refuse but it’s an easy way to fight people on your level without them killing you. At least that isn’t allowed.” Claire finished.
“So that’s the middle elevator?” Ilea asked and Claire nodded.
“Yes, exactly. Though as I said new teams aren’t allowed to go down there except all members are present. And don’t look at me like that, don’t break that rule. We’d be expelled. Do you really want to lose a hundred gold coins just to go where you could go anyway? We just have to convince Trian to join us.” Claire said.
“Alright alright, I won’t go. If Eve promises the same...” Ilea said and looked at the woman. A smile was on her face but she sighed theatrically.
“Oooookay, I won’t sneak in either. Maybe I have already though...” she said but Ilea was sure she hadn’t. Eve likely wouldn’t have been able to not say anything about its beauty. No matter how nice it actually looked.
“Forest today then? I’ll ask Trian about the Haven tomorrow. And we need permission from Joseph.” Ilea said and the others nodded.
“When should we meet there?” Kyrian asked.
“Now? Let’s get some food first though, I’m starving.” Ilea said.
“I’ll join later as mentioned." Eve said. "But I know where you are so it’s fine. See ya.” she said and vanished from Ilea’s Sphere. She saw Eve smile at her as Ilea struggled to perceive the woman. There was still a weird distortion in her perception but it was less noticeable than it had been the day before.
‘You little shit...’ she thought but couldn’t help smile. That would be the woman sneaking into enemy strongholds and unknown monster infested places for the team after all.
“Let’s go then.” Ilea said to the two others who followed in silence. She would wait with revealing either her storage necklace or Aki to them for a while. It wasn’t easy for Ilea to try and not trust them already. Her life on earth had schooled her that most people were somewhat trustworthy, as long as they weren’t salespeople. Of course there would be gossip and possible bullying but there was nobody trying to kill her because she owned a new computer or was looking for someone. At least not in her circles. Life in Elos was different and Ilea slowly learned that if she wanted to stay alive, she had to be more careful about what she shared with people.
The three found themselves in the forest just thirty minutes later, with a basket of hot food and drinks. Both kept at the perfect temperature thanks to some of Claire’s runes. ‘She really is helpful for a nice pick nick.’ Ilea thought as she unpacked the food and sat down on the snowy ground. The others followed suit, sitting down as well.
“We should bring chairs or at least a blanket next time.” Claire commented, getting an approving grunt from Ilea. Kyrian didn’t seem to care either way and started eating his food happily. Claire had insisted on paying her own part but Ilea decided not to talk about it. It seemed like a rather delicate topic to the woman.
“So you two have been training alone the past days? What else do you do in your spare time?” she asked and started eating as well. “I read mostly and find new places to eat at.” she said after the others had stayed quiet for a while.
“I...c...I like cooking.” Kyrian said quietly, looking down at his food.
“That’s cool, do you wanna cook for us at some point? I can get you the ingredients.” Ilea said and looked away when the man stared at her and she saw fresh life come to his gray eyes. ‘Careful Ilea, don’t fall for the guy just yet...’ she thought.
“I would love to, y...yes.” Kyrian said. Claire didn’t comment on anything and neither shared any of her spare time activities with the others but Ilea didn’t mind. The two were rather quiet and she liked that. It didn’t feel like a chore to stay with them. They started their training a while later, having eaten their fill.
“How do you want to do it?” Kyrian asked, looking at Ilea with a bit of a worried expression. She wanted him to curse her. To try and face her fear of his ability. It was the obvious step for her and the first one she wanted to work on with the two.
“You had a field of runes or something last time I came here… can you do that? I can step in and out at my own consideration.” Ilea explained and Kyrian nodded. Both Claire and Ilea watched him work then, using a wooden stick to draw in the snow and dirt below. A beautiful runic formation that even Claire seemed impressed by.
“Can you do that as well?” Ilea asked the other woman while watching Kyrian move his stick around with skillful motions.
“No, curse runes elude me. I’m sure I’d manage at some point but I don’t see it being worth the effort. Understanding and using a rune is much more difficult than simply being able to draw it. Ones mana has to resonate at least to an extent and only rare rune mages can use something as exotic as curses while still being able to use fire or barrier runes.” Claire answered.
“I’m glad I don’t have to think that much about my abilities...” Ilea said and clenched her fist, getting a chuckle from the woman next to her.
“You seem more the type, yes, I have to say though that your instincts and speed at which you use your skills is very impressive. Stats help of course but you’re born for your classes.” Claire said, making Ilea smile.
“Thank you.” she said when Kyrian stopped his drawing and Ilea’s stomach dropped as an eerie feeling filled their surroundings. His mana flowed into the rune on the ground and he looked up to the others with sweat on his brow.
“Step in and out. I made it so the effect gets stronger the closer t… to the center. Tell me if I have to stop the effects.” he said and then nodded to Clarie as Ilea gulped. “We can do the same as earlier today, ok?” he asked and Claire nodded happily, walking far enough away with him so they wouldn’t disturb his drawn runes.
‘Alright, here goes nothing...’ Ilea though and took a step into the circle. Immediately the cold and familiar feeling filled her stomach as her body started to feel wrong. Everything started to feel wrong and she found herself clenching her teeth and hands enough to break the skin with her nails. Ilea persevered and closed her eyes, steadying her breathing. It was hard, one of the hardest things Ilea had ever done.
It was harder than killing her first drake, harder than the first date she went to and harder even than killing her first human. The weird pain and coldness throbbed through her in waves and it didn’t get any easier as time went on. Only the sudden notice in her head made the ordeal a little easier.
‘ding’ ‘Curse Resistance reaches lvl 5’
She had decided not to use her shroud to intensify the curse’s effect on her. With the level up she took an ever so slight step further into the circle to get to the same level of intensity she had been before. To distract herself she used Ash Surge and tried to manipulate the ash around her. The curse certainly didn’t help but she found that concentrating on the ash made it easier to bear.
Ilea became one with the curse and ash as a slight whirl of the gray and black particles around her started to form. Time passed and only a sudden absence of wrongness got Ilea out of her reverie. “W...what..” she exclaimed and found herself looking straight into Kyrian’s worried eyes. The ash around her fell down in that moment, tainting the snow in a dark gray color.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“Too close...” Ilea pushed him away a little and breathed out. She looked down at her hands and found them bleeding. The ground was soaked in her blood that had formed a trail from the outer part of the circle up to nearly halfway towards the center. “I’m fine.” she said.
“Alright, we wanted to switch it up for a while. It’s been three hours you know?” Kyrian asked.
“Three...oh well. Yea, what did you have in mind?” Ilea asked.
“Eve joined a couple minutes ago so we’ll figure something out. Maybe C… Claire has an idea or two.” he said and held out his hand to her.
“I said I’m fine.” Ilea said and walked by him, stopping next to the man. “Thanks for the circle. I’ll need that again tomorrow.”
“Sure.” Kyrian said, watching her back. “It helps me too you know.” he said quietly and followed.
Claire was already discussing possible trainings for them with Eve when the others joined and immediately included Ilea in the discussion.
“So seeing as we’re in a forest I thought we should work on our perception skills. In the training sessions and if you guys want to after, we can work enough on using our attack and defense skills but as you all know we need more than just that to survive in the wild. At least when we encounter things that could easily kill or maim us.” she explained and Ilea sat down on a tree trunk that was lying nearby, wringing her already healed hands while listening.
“What I had in mind was somebody plays the hunter and the rest hide and try to make themselves invisible. Eve will probably be the best at that anyway but the rest of us have to get to some level as well. Does anybody not have any hiding skills?”
Ilea wanted to answer but her Body Heat Manipulation skill was a sort of hiding skill but she certainly preferred fleeing if at all possible. She was certainly better at that.
“So everyone has something at least. Good. Now the trickier question thing, who is good at locating people?” Eve immediately looked towards Ilea and smiled as soon as Claire asked the question, giving the rune mage her answer.
“She can see me completely concealed. Nothing easy to accomplish.” Eve said.
“I’m good at finding people. So I’ll play the huntress.” Ilea said and couldn’t help but smirk a little at the prospect.
“Good, then let’s do that for now. We’ll hide while you wait here. Seeing your speed I think the forest seems like a good area limitation. Can you find people with tracks or smell as well? Otherwise it might be better to just hide in a hundred meter radius.” Claire said and looked towards Ilea with a questioning look on her face.
“The forest is fine. I can fly as well so that’s good. And I won’t reveal my skills so easily.” Ilea said and smiled, while she motioned for them to start. “I’ll count to one hundred. One… two… three...” she started and closed her eyes, seeing the others through her sphere which she refused to deactivate. Knowing the first thirty meters wouldn’t help much and monsters would cheat as well. She smiled while counting, remembering her youth. Memories flashed through her and the desire to visit her designated Blink destination made itself noticeable.
‘Soon.’ she thought and opened her eyes, the blue shine in her eyes playful yet calculating. Hunter’s Sight activated as she looked around and took in her surroundings with all her enhanced senses.
“one hundred… enhanced human magical hide and seek… Here I come!”