Chapter 109 Dangerous Leeching
Ilea blinked into the magic laden air and grabbed onto the guardian, a creature made entirely of stone but much more durable considering the magic that was continuously rained into it. With a couple punches Ilea noticed quite quickly that neither of her mana intrusion abilities worked on the creature. Her fist even bounced back as Wave of Ember and Destruction tried to damage the creature. She didn't take any damage herself but was quite sure the golem didn't even notice her.
Ilea found herself to be the only one actually on the creature, all the other adventurers had formed lines of defense with mages behind, attacking the creature from a distance. It would sometimes shoot a lance of stone towards them which the first line tried to block or deflect. A couple adventurers had been hurt but nobody was killed so far, at least as far as Ilea could see from her vantage position.
They had one or two healers with them as well so she felt her abilities more usable on the offensive. The creature was riddled with Kyrian's needles which barely managed to pierce its shell, if there even was something else than stone inside. It was slow and under constant bombardment so Ilea decided to try and get its attention away from the mages and towards the fly that was crawling on its face. Arrows and bursts of fire and lightning hit close to her as she blinked towards the monster's head, summoning her black obsidian gauntlets in the process.
It was much too slow to do anything as Ilea's fist connected with her full force and all her buffs behind her, adding an inhuman amount of power into the already heavy gauntlets. Pure physical force smashed into the Guardian's head but its reaction was only a small bob to the other side. The head was chipped a little but it didn't seem like any substantial damage had been done. 'Not the head then...' Ilea thought and blinked downwards as another barrage of magic hit the creature. She was now standing below its massive legs, several meters in length and over one meter thick.
Its arms and legs tried to smash her now as more stone lances were released from its head and body to attack the adventurers around her. Ilea's speed was reduced by the weight but the slow movements of her enemy allowed her to easily dodge nonetheless. Some of the other adventurers who saw her display joined in and danced around the monster's legs as well, attacking it with physical damage while the mages worked on its torso.
Some of the spears were soon shot towards the annoying people attacking the monster's legs as well. One of them would've taken an ax wielding warrior right in the chest were it not for Ilea who appeared in front of him, deflecting the spear enough with her hand that it glanced her shoulder and then entered the water a dozen meters behind them. She continued her assault, appearing and disappearing, chipping away at the enemy's legs, hoping to topple the creature.
Nearly all of Kyrian's metal had dug into the creature by that point and combined with the many other mages near the ruin and their spells, the enemy was slowed down to a crawl. Still its spears were dangerous and if any of its limbs hit you, the force was considerable. Without a perception of pain or time the monster raged on but the group of warriors and mages had come into a routine, resting and fighting in groups, healing the injured and meditating back their resources at a safe distance.
“How long do you think that thing will hold up?” Ilea asked Trian who was standing next to her, getting back the mana they had used up when fighting the creature.
“You touched something didn't you?” he smiled as he said it and panted, sitting down on a rock behind him.
“You know it baby. I'm not sure it was me though. There was a massive door that nearly poisoned me to death. Maybe me interacting with it made the thing appear.” she said and he grunted in response.
“Ready?” he asked and Ilea's gauntlets appeared again, grinning below her helmet and blinking back into combat. A couple minutes later the creature suddenly stopped shooting spears and retracted its attacking arms back to its side. Most of the close combat adventurers pulled back while the magic attacks continued. Ilea watched as the outer shell of the creature crumbled and fell down, creating dust and a loud noise. Some of the stone fell on her head but she simply ignored it, continuing her assault. This time her fist seemed to have a much bigger impact as the now much thinner leg of the creature nearly buckled.
She felt the heat rise as she looked up, her eyes opening quickly as she looked at the supposed core of the creature glowing a deep red below its cracked stone mantle. 'Not again...' she thought and blinked on top of the monster, shouting to the people around her.
“Into the water! It's gonna explode!” it only reached some but the news spread quickly. The first of the adventurers were already spreading out to either jump into the water or run along the stone platforms to shield themselves with stone. The Guardian's arms and legs started moving again as it moved at a much quicker pace than before towards the biggest group of people still standing and attacking, two of the healers taking care of the previously injured.
“Nah mate...” Ilea said as she appeared right before the monster's chest and punched with her full force and heavy gauntlets. It slowed the creature down considerably as the adventurers got up and fled. With the fifth punch the monster tried to grab her, the heat still increasing around her but Ilea blinked behind one of its legs and punched where its knee would be. Another two punches and the leg buckled, the monster now on one knee. Ilea blinked to the other leg and continued her work while she avoided its arms.
She saw with her sphere that Claire was running around her position, distributing runed plates while Trian flew above, mana and lightning gathering around him in droves. Four big spikes of metal entered the monster's legs as Ilea delivered a last punch not onto the creature but onto the spikes, driving them further into the ground. Looking at Trian she disappeared and appeared right next to Claire, watching the light show around Trian gather into his hands.
She saw how the lightning burned his hands right before the massive amount of magical power was released and hit the creature right in its core. The last of the attack entered the creature as a bright yellowish shield formed around it, closing barely a meter above its head. A moment later Ilea tackled down Claire and formed as much ash to siheld them as possible. A blinding light followed and a dull explosion resounded as the core of the creature burst.
The rune shield gave out and a wave of heat and fire burned over the ash above Ilea and Claire. The fire managed to reach Ilea's veil but no further. An eerie quiet came over the area as slowly the sound of waves came back to Ilea's ears. She coughed and got up, moving away the ash with her creation skill. Claire got up as well and the two looked at the crater the guardian managed to form. Some mages were returning from the water or rock formations a little bit further away to put out the flames currently raging in their camp.
'ding' 'Your group has defeated [Stone Guardian of Karul – lvl 334]. For defeating an enemy one hundred and thirty levels or more above your own, bonus experience is granted.
'ding' 'Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached level 201 – 5 stat point are awarded.'
'ding' 'Ashen Wings reaches 2nd lvl 3'
'ding' 'Body of Ash reaches 2nd lvl 12'
“Now that was a bomb.” Ilea said and thought back to the Centurions she had faced. Although this one's level was a bit higher, it was still a substantially stronger blast. At least that was Ilea's thought as she looked at the crater. “Wasn't that shield specifically against explosions?” Clarie just gulped as she checked the runed plates that looked completely destroyed. Trian landed nearby and both Kyrian and Eve joined as well.
“Well done.” Kyrian said as they all walked to the crater to check it out. There was nothing left behind by the creature. It was doubtful to have ever existed, looking at the remains. The fires were now more or less under control and only a couple small flames had to be extinguished by the mages who continued their work. Some of the others walked closer to the shadow squad before one of them shouted, a cry of joy and victory. Many others joined in, mainly warriors but none of the black armored mercenaries felt the need to rejoice.
Ilea felt chills going down her back at the emotions displayed by the adventurers. They might've saved some lives here. The thought of that slowly sunk in as a smile formed on her lips. 'Lilith's legend grows!' she thought and looked to Claire.
“I have the map and found a door. Probably why that thing appeared.” she said and Claire nodded, walking towards the camp's center. The adventurers parted to let the group through and many followed to hear what was to come. A lot of them had likely gained a level or ten considering the level disparity between the group, only held together by the common goal of the ruin exploration.
Ilea got the map out of her pack and put it onto the table. “Traps on the way should all be dismantled and I checked the main room here three times to make sure. There was strong poison here... I can't see beyond the door and can't teleport through either. All side tunnels were checked as well, traps marked and deactivated.” she finished her report that was more akin to a speech considering the amount of people listening in.
“We need rune mages and alchemists or any other people versed in poisons.” Claire said and looked around.
“If the cave is safe, we'll move the camp in there. The cold out here is very demanding...” the ranger from before said which was the first time Ilea saw some of the people around her shiver, coming straight out of the icy water they had fled to for safety.
[Warrior – lvl 102]
[Warrior – lvl 120]
[Mage – lvl 105]
[Warrior – lvl 87]
[Mage – lvl 93]
'I'm not sure if they're up for that. The Taleen dungeon had lower level enemies than that guardian and the people were all at least near one fifty...' Ilea thought and looked to Claire.
“You think it's safe for a camp?” Claire asked and Ilea nodded.
“As safe as it gets and you can have fires there as well if someone manages the air. As mentioned I have no idea what lurks behind those doors. I doubt it's any weaker than that stone guardian...” she said and looked at the reactions around her. It was clear that most of the adventurers weren't ready to face a monster like that, be it a simple lack of strength or resolve. Some looked downright defeated while others smiled behind their hoods and helmets. Ilea saw it all.
'Only five people left...' Ilea thought as she walked through the now rather dense crowd inside the chamber with the circular door. A group of four people were looking at the poison darts that had nearly killed her, discussing the substance still clinging to the needles. Claire was talking with three adventurers and what looked like two scholars near the round gate, not daring to touch any of the runes yet.
Ilea stood near an old pillar and leaned onto the stone, eating a sandwich she had summoned outside when nobody was looking. Fires were burning in the half hall half cave as mages monitored the flames and created fumes. Water and food was handed around as people talked. One bard went so far as to play a tune on his lute.
“Quite happy considering the deaths in the past weeks...” a man said as he walked up to Ilea. A warrior slightly above level one hundred, a massive ax strapped to his back. Only light leather armor covered him as he leaned on a pillar two meters away from Ilea. She looked at him and continued eating her sandwich.
“It's unusual to have one of you show your face. First time I've seen it happen.” he said as she chewed and took another bite. “You saved me today you know. That stone monster would've smashed me to bits.”
Ilea swallowed and didn't take another bite. “Why are you still here then? You think there's nothing just as dangerous down there?”
The warrior was quiet for a while before answering, the smell of freshly grilled meat reached Ilea's nose. “I gained four levels from that fight and I'm not the only one. We spent the last couple weeks trying to get further into this ruin while keeping it as secret as possible. Nobody's leaving when there's more to get... with you here that doesn't seem very implausible anymore.” he said and chuckled.
“You're pretty honest about your intentions. What if you slip up and nobody's there to save you?”
“Then I die. But today I live, thanks to you.” he said and she snorted.
“You're alright. Lilith's the name.” she said and chuckled, remembering her own misadventures with some rather high leveled companions compared to her own. This time the group of adventurers would serve the shadow squad as distractions at least. Maybe the healers could help as well or some of the scholars. More minds to solve problems. Maybe what they needed was more muscle but flight remained an option.
“Nice to meet you Lilith, an honor to have a Shadow's Hand member tell me their name.” Ilea smirked at that and continued to eat. He offered his own name and then excused himself, reading Ilea enough to know she wasn't up for a casual conversation.
“Lilith eh?” Eve appeared right next to her and tried to grab the sandwich, which made Ilea blink half a meter to the side and letting the hand miss.
“Don't touch my food if you know what's good for yourself...” Ilea said and continued eating.
“Scary scary. Made a friend?” Eve asked, taking up the leaning position Ilea had previously occupied. She didn't get an answer from the woman who got another sandwich from her pack.
“How much food do you have stored away...” Eve asked in a whisper but again was left without answer. She left a moment later, walking towards the music and obviously bored by her team mate.
Ilea finished the sandwich and breathed out. ‘A bit too crowded...’ she thought before exiting the cave system again, taking a breath of fresh air outside.
“So you cracked it?” Eve asked, looking at Claire with a likely annoyed expression behind her mask. The fires had died down and many of the adventurers were sleeping in the somewhat warm hall which had become the new encampment for the impromptu expedition.
“I think so, at least I’m pretty sure I can open it up. The problem is I’m pretty sure there are more traps in there. With all the people here now...” Ilea leaned her head back when Trian grunted.
“They know the risks. We’re not here to take care of them. We’re here to explore the ruin.” he summoned a small spark in his hand to illuminate his surroundings. “I won’t endanger myself for any of them, just as little as they would do the same.”
“You don’t have to. Just think of how it would reflect on our team’s reputation if nearly thirty guild members die in our fourth mission.” Trian snuffed out the spark after Claire’s comment and just shook his head.
“Why care about the reputation? We’re a team of the Hand and can’t be held responsible for these peoples’ actions.” Kyrian commented, a rather cold view Ilea thought but she didn’t completely disagree. The guild had hired them specifically because so many people had died already, she doubted they’d get paid if all of their members died.
“You guys wanted into the tournament and this is how we’re gonna get in.” Claire said with finality in her voice. Trian shut up and Kyrian nodded. They would have to put up with the lower leveled adventurers which Ilea didn’t see as much of a problem.
“Are you guys done? Can we go in then, Claire?” Eve walked closer to the door. Some of the adventurers looked towards the team as they approached the round entrance. Most of them had stayed as far away from it as possible, which wasn’t very far considering the size of the hall.
Nodding, Claire walked up to the door and started scratching into the stone with a small and thin knife. It took ten minutes of waiting as the shadow squad stood before the entrance, ready and poised for whatever might come. The rest of the expedition gathered a little further back, waking up the sleeping members in the process.
“Brace.” Claire said as mana was released from her hand, touching the middle of the door. A pulse of energy rippled through the stone out towards the runes scratched into it before a complicated symbol appeared, shining a dull white. A moment later and it was gone.
“Did it work?” Eve asked.
“Yes.” Ilea answered, now able to see through the stone, small cracks forming in the door before it started to crumble.
“Eve scout.” Claire said and two of the woman’s illusions appeared, running into the still crumbling door. “Ilea traps...” ash appeared around Ilea as she smiled below her helmet, walking into the room and following the illusions.