Chapter 129 A Good Show
“I expected as much. It’s weird that there were no demons in that village but that might be a good sign after all.” Trian said. The sun was rising, illuminating the living room of Ilea’s house with the morning light. Senia and Rock emerged from downstairs, their rest extended a little after Ilea had brought some comfortable beds, pillows and blankets from their little expedition to Morhill.
“Breakfast will be ready any moment now. Everyone feel prepared for the day?” Trian asked, getting some grunts in response. Ilea chuckled, his demeanor reminding her of a mother preparing her children for the day at school. The reactions were similar as well. The man looked at her with a frown but it didn’t reach his eyes. She assumed he was glad to be out of the demon realm. Her last stunt with the third stage of blink was admittedly risky but she believed he would’ve figured out a way to get back if it would’ve failed. It would’ve taken longer probably but he and that demon would’ve found a way.
Breakfast arrived swiftly, everyone’s mood improved by miles compared to the day before, some for different reasons than others. Ilea was somewhat falling into competition with Rock, at least that was what the man thought, continuing to eat way past his needed calories. The woman of course was unaware of this and just ate to her heart’s content until Trian clapped his hands together, his patience reaching its end. Morhill would be their main destination for the day.
The sun was rising over Morhill and Eleonora knew that something had changed. Something had happened in the night before but her subordinates were either drunk or blind to miss it. The demons were riled up, more than they usually were and they had gathered around the main government office in the city.
“Are you sure you haven’t noticed anything? Bloody fucking drunk...” she said, murmuring the last part, all of their team gathered near a rock formation overlooking the town below. Jeff of course didn’t even react, his position in the squad secure as ever. Nobles and their shitty influence. Of course they had to put their reject into her squad but there was little she could do about it and on a job like this she couldn’t let team issues distract her. At least everyone else was carrying their weight.
The others weren’t happy with the situation either but they had to involve the man, at least somewhat. Otherwise they’d be chewed out again by the higher ups. Eleonora had two more years of service to go until she would be allowed an adventurer post by the empire itself, a highly desired position and one she wouldn’t give up because a team member annoyed her.
Usually the jobs were simple as well, the scouting squad rarely asked to actually deal with problems, more often only asked to report them. She had hoped to god it would stay that way, especially because her branch was assigned to the area around Ravenhall and its mountain chain, now of course the opposite of the previously safe and secure spot it held in the empire. The Hand had dealt with most problems themselves, some of the reported monsters vanishing overnight without anybody paying for the mercenaries even.
There were many reasons the empire let them do as they pleased and that was one of them.
“So what should we do captain?” their healer asked, a man in his thirties with classes so contradicting she questioned his base intelligence. Of course having a healer in the team was more important than anything else so she didn’t deny his application, not that she had much of a choice. She chuckled at the thought of being a scout captain, a job highly praised when she was still in the academy in Virilya. Experience told her otherwise but she wouldn’t be found trash talking the job, lest the empire’s hounds ask her uncomfortable questions.
“Boss, someone just appeared near the south gate, look.” the blue haired ranger said, her tone of voice as boring as her character. Eleonora had thought rangers would mostly be interesting people. She wasn’t wrong of course but there had to be an exception to the rule. ‘Two more years...’ She thought, saying the three words like a mantra in her head. Of course she had noticed the mage flying above the south gate, mages at that, one of them flying at a much higher altitude.
She wasn’t concerned about being discovered, they had an illusion spell cast on their location, making them very hard to discern. A couple more flying people appeared soon after, one of them even carrying two people. All of them were clad in black.
“So the Hand hasn’t fallen completely… hahaha, and here I thought they had all given up.” the healer said from the side, his negative attitude towards the Shadow’s Hand common knowledge in their squad but Eleonora had given up on trying to change his mind. Let him insult one of them and see how he fares with his shitty camouflage spells and self healing.
“Yea, why not throw your life away in that horde of demons… seems like a great idea.” Jeff said, making Eleonora’s breathing speed up. She was so very close from ripping off his head.
‘Two more years. Two more years.’ The woman wasn’t annoyed for very long though, seeing the people above the city start their move. A full squad or even more Shadows moving together and fighting against a horde of high leveled monsters was not something you saw every day, the show would be good and they had premium seats. Food and drink was missing but that was a given, the Hand rarely appeared where there were such things to buy.
“What are they doing?” the healer continued, disbelief and confusion showing on his face. Eleonora agreed with him for once as she watched the dark warrior plummet downwards with their two teammates, one held on each hand. The mage let go in the last second, all three of them falling into the demon horde, the mage in the middle suddenly wearing bladed gauntlets. More likely a warrior, Eleonora thought as the three impacted hard into the horde, immediately engaged with more than five demons each.
Contrary to her thoughts, the warriors weren’t overwhelmed. On the contrary, they absolutely destroyed the masses of demons. The warrior using his hammer smashed five monsters at a time, completely uncaring for any claws that scratched at his armor. The small rogue appeared around the big warrior from time to time, cutting heads and limbs off the nearby monsters but the gauntlet using one was on a completely different world, their movements so fast they nearly blurred in Eleonora’s vision. Movements like a dance, leaving only sliced through corpses and flying limbs behind. It was almost comical how a foe so overwhelmingly terrifying was pushed through as if they were mere village bandits engaged by the imperial guard.
Nobody spoke another word when a loud crack resounded, a massive stream of lightning impacting the flooding masses of demons, the stream coming from another flying individual. Metal spikes flew out from another one, shredding through the demons, their bodies falling like flies before a big chunk of them suddenly started floating. Upwards they went and the full scout squad of the empire was locked on the floating monsters clawing at the air around them, utterly lost in their position before they crashed downwards at an unnatural speed, impacting on the houses, streets and their brethren below, the sound of squashed bodies interrupted by the loud lightning and golden flashes coming from somewhere on the other side of the valley.
Eleonora was white at that point, unable to comment on the massacre before them. The sun was shining down on the gruesome scene, calling in the coming of spring even in this snowy place. It was still cold, oh so cold. She hadn’t noticed how cold it was and put her coat closer to her mouth, breathing into the thick fabric as she watched the warriors and mages of the Hand dance and fly through the demons, monsters of terrifying children stories burned and smashed by the overwhelming power of these individuals.
Her whole perception of the Hand changed in these moments, from an entity the empire allowed to exist for their use to a terrifying organization allowing the empire of Lys to host them.
“Fuck the hell...” the previously quiet warrior next to her uttered, more or less mirroring the whole team’s thoughts on the matter. This was not something they would forget, not ever. What they did with this experience would vary from person to person. Eleonora at the very least felt weak, so terribly weak and cold. A fire was lit within her, one that hadn’t burned for many years as a quivering smile forced itself onto her face.
Ilea cut through three demons at once as her veil was pierced from behind, two golden streaks taking the lives of the monsters who dared to attack her a moment later. She appeared in a crouched position ten meters away right before a scorching beam of lightning burned away a group of demons next to her as she spun, taking the heads of four more monsters. A big smile on her face as she teleported again, further away to not disturb the others. A cloud of ash sprung into existence around her, confusing and blinding the demons frantically clawing at each other to get to the juicy prey that had suddenly appeared in the city.
It was almost too easy as she danced through the beasts, her knifes biting through bone without noticeable resistance, her strength and equipment simply too much for the enemy. A sudden push from the right sent her flying through two walls of a nearby house. Dusting herself off she looked for the offender and found one demon standing a little taller than the others, its level at over two hundred, rare for this encounter to say the least. Most of the monsters were below seventy, the main reason why their group was destroying them so easily. They simply lacked the strength and resistance to reasonably fight back, their big numbers in the open space a detriment and without coordination provided by a mind weaver, the ranged attackers were hitting more demons than humans.
Ilea’s wings spread as she screamed towards the demon, her bladed gauntlets replaced by her normal armor as she shot towards the monster with her full speed and weight, landing on its chest and sending the two of them through the house behind the demon, landing on the street beyond where an unfortunate beast was squashed by their combined mass. Ilea ignored the monster’s struggling and punched at its head, some of the blows missing, the stone street cracked and broken where her fists landed, creating booms on impact. Of course the demon’s head didn’t fare much better even with the higher level. Four blows were needed until it was paste, Ilea blinking upwards to avoid the claws of four more monsters when she summoned her heavy gauntlets and fell downwards, her fists smashing two of their heads, the blood and brains splashing against her Veil of Ash.
The woman blinked upwards to a balcony, summoned bow in hand and loosing explosive arrows into the masses. She ducked when a group of demons rained down from the sky, their bodies destroying more of the monsters and parts of the houses. A rain of golden rays came from above and hit more than thirty of the beasts as Ilea jumped back down into the fray, advancing through with her blades until she met up with Rock and Senia.
“Rock! Let’s play catch!” she shouted as she cut through the demons close to his back, Senia appearing in front of them an, her daggers entering two demons’ heads.
“What? Oh I get what you mean!” Rock shouted back, a heavy swing of his hammer landing on top of an unfortunate enemy before him, the blood splashing on his already red armor, wet from all the killed monsters. Ilea blinked away and shouted towards him again when the man turned his huge body with all his strength and speed around, his hammer swinging with all the force before it was let go, flying towards Ilea. Fifteen or so demons were completely obliterated on the path of the hammer when Ilea caught it and spun around again, sending the heavy object back where it came from.
The fight continued, each of them pausing from time to time, Ilea flying out Rock and Senia after they took more damage than they could sustain for the moment. She healed them up and let them rest as she went back into the horde of demons. The mages of their group fell into tandem as well, each of their mana regenerated in shifts as they continued to absolutely destroy the demons on the ground who were distracted by Ilea and soon again Rock and Senia.
The ranged monsters were much rarer and were taken care of with cold precision by Navalis who changed position on the mountain side from time to time, rarely ever stopping in her attacks, perfectly paced and efficient. There were no flying demons, likely because they already left these parts of the world, not held back by the confusing city layout or mind weavers taking control. As soon as the ranged enemies were dead it was only a matter of time and perseverance for the group to finish the thousands of demons on the ground. Nearly all of them were at a low level, making the whole ordeal much less dangerous than expected by both Trian and Sulivhaan. Still both Sulivhaan and all the melee fighters got minor to severe injuries in the process, all taken care of by Ilea.
She herself nearly lost one of her legs at one point, the lucky demon attacking exactly the weak spot in her armor Albert had previously used to nearly incapacitate her. Perhaps Balduur could help with that if he had survived but it wasn’t the time to worry about her equipment, it was serving her incredibly well after all. She flew upwards and used Meditation to get back some of her resources as she breathed in and out slowly, the sound of cracking lightning and screeching demons all that filled her ears. A couple moments of rest were all she allowed herself, the cold anger inside of her demanding she take out as many of the beasts as possible, for the people they once were.
Eleonora gulped, the whole group fixated on the scene before them still. It had been hours, hours of continuous fighting, the members of the Hand untiring, calculating and ruthless beyond compare. The destruction beyond anything she had ever seen in her life, one not quite young anymore.
“We have to… we have to report this...” Jeff said, backing up a slow step.
“Don’t you fucking move!” Eleonora said a little too loud. “The illusion spell is all that keeps us from being noticed… do you really want these people to see us?” she said. Although they were nearly one hundred percent on their side she didn’t want to risk it. If there was only the slightest chance of offending these people all of them would die, she was sure of it.
Of course her fears were misplaced but Eleonora’s experiences and history had shaped a person cautious and mistrusting. Her squad at least agreed with her reasoning and even Jeff didn’t talk back, getting back into a crouch and watching on as the mercenaries gradually cleaned out the once human population of Morhill.
“Absolutely amazing...” the woman whispered to herself. Mere hundreds of the demons remained and still the people fought on. She was sure that they wouldn’t stop until the last of them were killed.
“How the hell did Ravenhall fall if they had dozens if not hundreds of people like that?” the healer asked, even he was awed by the display of power.
“Less efficient abilities? Stronger enemies or perhaps the assault on Ravenhall was different in some ways. Many of the demons coming into the plains were reported to be around level two hundred, decimating even high leveled military bands. The ones down there are lower. We could take care of a couple dozen or even more ourselves.” the ranger explained in her monotone voice. Eleonora agreed but still it didn’t quite make the scene any less impressive.
‘I’ll get to that as well… I will. Fuck this squad, I’ll quit and find an adventuring team until I hit two hundred… and then… then I’ll join the Hand...’ Perhaps her thoughts were a little emotional at the time but she was quite convinced of her reasoning. If this level of power was obtainable for humans then she would reach it. Hell she was close already, just another fifty levels. She gulped at the necessary risks and fights she would have to get through but suddenly the quiet life of an empire sponsored adventurer didn’t seem as appealing anymore.
“Wait, isn’t that guy coming straight for us?” The healer suddenly said, pointing towards the masked individual floating towards them at a somewhat leisurely speed.