Chapter 110 Barriers
Nothing happened as Ilea walked into the corridor. The ruin looked a lot less like a cave and more like a place to live in at that point. Ilea kept walking, looking around to see magical lights placed on the stone corridor’s wall. The way led deeper into the ground before another door blocked the way. Eve’s illusions were standing in front of it and vanished as they saw Ilea approach. The squad followed after them while the rest of the adventurers waited in the hall, looking into the corridor and ready to join in should there be something reasonable to fight, something they could attack safely from a distance.
“I can’t see inside the room beyond...” Ilea said as she touched the stone door, blocking the way further in.
“Open up then.” Trian said and gestured for her to take action. Ilea obliged and punched through the door, only to find her fist stopped completely after breaking through the stone.
“Hmm, weird...” Ilea said and punched another couple times before she simply ripped the rest of the stone out from its place on the wall. A golden shimmering light appeared beyond, likely the thing blocking Ilea’s fist. She touched it and found her hand unhurt but stopped nonetheless.
“A barrier…” Clarie commented and walked next to Ilea, touching the barrier herself. “This is nothing ordinary...”
“Yea, it’s a golden barrier inside a ruin. Probably not that ordinary.” Ilea said. “Should I punch it?” she asked, expecting a groan but Claire just shrugged.
“Sure, go for it. This is not based on runes that much I can tell you. I’d try something similar as with the blood magic one yesterday but with the small surface area we can access, your attacks are probably a better bet. The heavy gauntlets are probably the best way, barriers tend to focus more on energy and magical attacks.” she finished and stepped aside.
“I’ll try first...” Trian said as magic gathered around him. Ilea blinked a couple meters away to join the others waiting and watched the man unleash an attack similar to the one used against the stone guardian. Contrary to his expectations, the lightning was reflected right back towards him upon impact and he teleported away to let the energy flow into the stone wall further back. The explosion rattled the walls as chunks of stone fell down, blocking the entrance to the hall they were in.
“Good job mate.” Ilea gave Trian a thumbs up and smiled. The man shrugged and motioned for her to continue.
“Knock yourself out dustgirl.” he said which made Ilea look at him confused.
‘Did he just give me a nickname. Dustgirl, I like it. Impressive, his growth is comparable to the hamster I never had.’ she thought and walked to the barrier. “Alright, let’s see if my arm gets ripped off from this. Step back folks if you don’t want a red shower.” she grinned below her helmet as the heavy obsidian gauntlets appeared around her hands. A pale blue and red glow illuminated the inside of her helmet and armor as her fist impacted with the comparable power of an iron junk thrown by a cave troll. The impact flowed through her body and made her clench her jaw as she looked at the slight flicker in the barrier.
Another three punches had the exact same result. ‘Maybe without...’ she thought and stored her gauntlets back inside of the bracelets made for them. The next punch was fueled with Destruction and Wave of Ember, her fists surrounded by ash which she tried to form into a spike. The kinetic impact and spike of ash didn’t seem to do much but something was different this time. The destructive mana flowed into the barrier and was visibly disturbing the golden glow from the inside. “Huh..” Ilea said and continued.
More and more of her mana was sizzling inside the barrier until a small hole was opened up. “Hey guys this is working. Should I blink inside?” she asked and continued her attacks.
“Don’t, we better go in there together. Whatever or whomever is causing this might not be taken down by you alone.” Claire said and Ilea saw Kyrian nod at the comment.
“Alright.” she said and punched again, only to find no resistance at all to her arm that moved through the now open doorway. No golden shimmer could be seen anymore as Ilea’s momentum took her further into the room, now past the door frame. Her mind sent the signal to blink backwards as Ilea came up on something blocking her way. A dull pain came from her legs below as she failed to land on her legs. Looking down and around, she found that both her legs had been cut off at the knee and blood started to flow. Behind her the golden barrier was back as if it had been there forever, blocking her attempted escape.
Her team jumped into motion, Kyrian shooting his metal spikes into the barrier and Eve using her enchanted daggers to cut through it. Ilea was falling down and caught herself with her hands, before healing mana circled through her body, immediately stopping the bleeding. She came up on the floor when a sudden golden light appeared mere centimeters away from her neck, only visible to her thanks to the Sphere that was now cut off at the door but could now also penetrate further into the structure.
More importantly at the moment though, Ilea appeared behind the golden line that had come to be next to her neck and focused on reforming the parts of her legs that were now lying behind the barrier, including the parts of elven armor below her knees. Her senses were working on overdrive, trying to prepare for the next and inevitable attack as the golden line from before shot through the air where she had been before. Her legs were reforming quickly as more and more golden lines appeared around her, never closer than five centimeters but always in positions that would normally be invisible to her and ready to cut a spot where her armor wasn’t covering her.
Her elven gear was pretty good at the coverage but it seemed whomever was attacking her had a similar skill to her Sphere at least. The golden lines went straight forward so far and with her blinks, Ilea managed to dodge them in time. After two blinks, the room filled with lines of golden shimmering light and she aligned her body in a way that her armor would block the hits she wasn’t able to dodge. The golden light hit her in several places at once, luckily only scratching her armor before she was flung around by the force of the magic. ‘It cuts through the Veil like it’s butter...’ she thought as the room continued to shine in magical golden light.
The others were still working on the barrier but found most of their attacks to be ineffective. Claire was calmly laying out plates in front of the barrier and scratching around the door frame to prepare her intrusion while Eve and Kyrian continued their assault. Trian stayed out of it to avoid hurting himself or anybody else with the likely reflection of his magic.
‘Can’t get out...’ Ilea thought as the shock of several impacts went through her body. Her armor was showing some rather worrisome cuts by now, something that hadn’t happened before. One of the golden lines managed to cut through an unarmored part near her elbow joint, drawing blood and nearly severing her arm. It healed quickly as Ilea continued to dodge, this time going further into the structure, towards the center of the barrier. Her perceptive Sphere was cut off in a way that made it easy for her to determine its center. Another room was behind the first one and just like before there was a door Ilea couldn’t see through. ‘Alright, here we go.’ she thought and appeared next to the door with a fully powered spin kick, driving the full momentum through the rock. Her leg hit another barrier but this time she had expected it as mana started flowing into it from all her destructive skills. Even the offensive capabilities of her ash creation, veil of ash and her wings came to bear onto the barrier.
More and more golden lights focused on the area around the door which made it hard for Ilea to approach it but then again there was no reason to attack the barrier where the door was. Ilea smashed through the walls around her, appearing and disappearing all over the place while ash surged around her from thin air, forming into spiked ghostly arms that shattered against the golden light. More and more of the walls were punched through and the golden barrier was now riddled with Ilea’s destructive mana sizzling inside of the golden light. Right before she managed to form a small hole again the enemy’s attacks stopped.
“Stop please, or we will all be buried by stone.” a male voice said from behind her, a hazy form in her sphere as she turned around to look at him. “I’m sure you would survive it and so will I but I’m not so sure about the others, especially the ones waiting further above.” Ilea stopped her attacks and started meditating, recovering parts of the mana and stamina she had lost during the ordeal.
[Mage – lvl ??]
“You’re the one controlling the barriers? And the light?” she asked, mostly to stall for time to have her team break through. She wasn’t so sure she wanted that, considering his offensive potential. Eve and Kyrian would likely be torn to shreds in mere moments. The barrier she had been attacking vanished as the man walked past her.
“Yes, that would be me. You’re with the shadow’s hand I presume, seeing that armor. It looks elvish in aesthetics so you’re not part of any random squad… never heard of someone with your abilities in the Hand though. Perhaps my records are lacking.” he said, completely without tension.
“It was only a matter of time until the guild would seek help. I’m glad it was the Hand after all. Luckily I’m mostly done here, only a couple books I’d like to keep.” he said, vanishing and appearing in the next room. Ilea blinked in front of him and quickly locked eyes with his nearly golden eyes. He looked to be around fifty but something told her the man was much older, if he was human at all.
“Who are you? Are you responsible for killing all those adventurers?” Ilea asked as he looked away and grabbed a book from a shelf next to him. It vanished as did another dozen or so in the span of two seconds.
“You may call me Albert. This place was not built by me so I take no responsibility in any of the killings, though I must say it is useful and I regret losing it.” he said and continued with his book eating through the room, the blue coat he was wearing slid on the stone floor as he continued his work. Ilea was pretty sure the man wasn’t a danger to her anymore, simply concerned for his possessions. She was wary as well, continuing her mana recovery and thinking of a way of attack should the need arise. The life of her team and the adventurers was more important than attacking the man at the moment and a fight would certainly cause at least a partial cave in.
“You will not fight for this place? Why attack me then?” she asked and started copying his actions, walking around the room parallel to him and touching books to make them vanish. He glanced at her quickly and furrowed his brows but didn’t react further.
“This place was discovered and should you fail to kill me, others will come. I cannot hold off the combined effort of all the guilds and mercenaries nor do I wish to do so. You pushed through my barrier more quickly than I had anticipated. Intruding mana, a rather rare ability, especially for someone at level two hundred. Thus my attack, I need to collect the essentials first. If you let me finish in peace, I will leave and you may do with this place as you wish.” he said and continued collecting books and papers.
“You may be careful who you show these to, most cults and religions will think you a heretic or demon. Same for some governments.” he said and finally dusted off his mantle.
“A shame, what a great place to work in and I’ll miss her.” the man turned around to Ilea and his golden eyes locked again with her own blue ones. “Do take care of her, she’s been through a lot.” he said as golden light started to form around him. Ilea was torn for a second between interfering with whatever he was doing and simply letting him but as the moment passed, he had vanished.
Nowhere in her Sphere could she see any trace of the man but other things had appeared, Trian being one of them right next to her, lighting sparkling around him. The rest followed quickly after and checked around the room.
“Are you alright?” Eve said as she appeared next to Ilea before the later was caught in a tight hug. The armor made it a little awkward for Eve to get a good grip but the small woman was stronger than she looked, which to be fair applied to most adventurers, especially members of the Shadow’s Hand. Ilea pat her back in response.
“I’m alright I’m alright. There was a man here who controlled the barriers and attacked me but he vanished. I think it’s at least mid range teleportation because I can’t sense him anymore.” she said and Claire nodded, immediately walking towards the exit.
“No more danger then?” she asked, looking back at the still entangled Ilea who shook her head lightly.
“Not that I know of. There are other things here but I don’t think dangerous.” she said.
“Other things? Well whatever. I’ll go and stop the others from coming in immediately, loot this place to its bones.” Claire said before she walked out, leaving not only Ilea a little perplexed.
“What, did she really just say that?” she asked and locked eyes with Trian.
“Well she is supposed to be the team leader isn’t she?” he asked and started to collect everything he could find with his ring. Ilea tapped Eve on her shoulder before she pushed her away a little.
“Thanks for caring so much.” she said and smiled to the woman in front of her whose mask smiled back.
“I like you guys, don’t die on me.” Eve said and looked around the room at an embarrassed Kyrian and an indifferent Trian. It sounded more like a command than anything else but Ilea did find it rather endearing.
‘Like a murder ninja ready to protect me, gets me all warm and fuzzy...’ she thought before she sighed. “Kyrian, collect everything in the middle of the room, I’ll swipe it up after if Trian doesn’t have enough space. Eve please come with me, your girl whispering skills are needed again.”
“Don’t tell me...” Eve answered and removed her mask slowly, revealing slightly red eyes.
“Yep, we found another kid in a place where they don’t belong.” Ilea answered and slowly walked further into the structure. ‘Interesting...’ she thought and knocked on the stone door. The child didn’t react, too entranced in their actions it seemed. After another knock, Ilea removed her helmet and opened the door before the two women walked inside.
“She’s drawing...” Ilea said. This time the girl reacted to the voice and looked towards the two before she smiled.
“Hello. Are you Albert’s friends?” she asked, her blue eyes concentrating on the intruders.
“I know him. Is he your dad?” Ilea asked as she slowly walked closer to the girl, unable to not stare at the complicated painting on the wall which held a beauty to it that she couldn’t quite attribute to a child’s abilities. It reminded her of runes but less bound by their systematic nature.
“No. Do you know where dad is?” the girl asked which brought Ilea back to face her. She knelt down a little and saw Eve approach not the girl but the painting.
“I’m afraid I don’t know, but maybe I can help you find him. How about that?” Ilea said and smiled brightly which seemed to make the girl a little less anxious.
“Yes! Albert said he couldn’t help me yet…” the girl said.
“Did you paint this?” Eve said with an astonished voice. “It’s beautiful… the emotion I feel within this image are overwhelming.” the girl looked downwards, obviously a little embarrassed.
“Yes.” she managed to say and Eve continued to look at the picture, not the same help she had been with the other girl they had found.
“My name is Ilea. What’s your name little artist? And where are you from?” Ilea asked, seeing in it the best chance to find any relatives the girl might have. Finding her inside of this place didn’t make her very hopeful but it was a start. Perhaps Albert had abducted her. Then again the way he talked about the girl didn’t seem to indicate that.
“Nice to meet you Ilea, my name is Cless and I’m from London.” Ilea’s mind blanked out for a full five seconds as her brain quickly rebooted and then went into overdrive.