Chapter 130 Noble Halls
“Are we done?” Rock asked, the grin translating to his voice as he looked around the battlefield that spanned several streets and squares of the once proud city.
The lingering cold of winter helped with the smell and decaying issue somewhat but come spring, someone would have to clean up for more than just a couple hours to make this place hospitable again, the sheer mass of all the corpses would be a nightmare to any cleaner on earth but luckily for everyone involved, there was magic. Not that Ilea knew of any ability that would help them here. Perhaps there were beasts that could be let loose to simply eat everything up.
“A couple more in this side street!” Ilea shouted towards the man as ash formed around her, partially dragged with her as she blinked away from his line of sight. It was only a matter of time now until the last of the demons were hunt down.
“Rock, was it? Can you help me close and shut the gates? Maybe we can avoid stragglers finding their way in again.” Trian said from a slightly elevated position near the warrior. The man looked towards where Ilea went and then resigned, nodding towards Trian and following him. The mechanisms of the gates were likely broken when the demons pushed in but with sufficient strength and ingenuity that wouldn't be an issue.
“Welcome to Morhill. I'm afraid I'll have to ask who you are.” Sulivhaan had approached the hiding squad Navalis had immediately spotted on their arrival, their medium grade illusion magic an indicator for their levels. They hadn't interfered and Navalis had reported them to be wearing imperial gear.
One of the people stood up, the rest remained crouching. “Captain Eleonora, empire of Lys scouts division three. You must be a member of the Hand?” she said, very open about information and visibly nervous. A good sign to Sulivhaan. They likely weren't a reason to be concerned and if their acting skills were high enough to fool him in such a fashion, then he wondered what nobles were doing so far out of their city walls.
“We are indeed members of the Hand. If your mission is to surveil the city then I presume it is done. Do you have a camp or reinforcements nearby? There are survivors in the city and taking care of them would be a waste of our resources.” Sulivhaan said, stating fact more than being arrogant. Now that he was close enough to see their levels he binned the idea of having them join their team, a single level two hundred demon would trouble each one of them and there were still plenty of them around.
“Of course sir. Some of us will go back to report and send for reinforcements while the others gather the survivors and secure the city.” the woman replied, a slight grin on her lips. Sulivhaan didn't miss her addressing him as a higher ranking officer, quite uncommon with soldiers but this one might not stay one forever.
“Then that's discussed. We're gonna be here for at least an hour or two so let us know if you need anything. The woman in plate armor will let you know where the survivors are, check in with her.” he said, looking back to find Ilea still hunting down some stragglers. One of the soldiers gulped while looking at the same scene when Sulivhaan turned back.
The captain said her commands and two of the soldiers moved outwards and towards the plains. Hopefully they would bring reinforcements and the situation in the bigger cities wasn't quite as dire as in Morhill. Sulivhaan was optimistic but he had little faith in the military and nobles. The crysis would forge more capable warriors and mages, he told himself, hoping that the price would be worth the rewards. Looking over the devastated city he knew that wasn't the case.
Two people hesitantly moved downwards to the city while the captain remained, looking at him. “As soon as you reach level two hundred, come find me or the Hand. Wherever it may reside.” he simply told the woman whose smile grew a little before she too followed her companions.
Ilea looked upwards to see three people approaching from the mountain where the imperial squad had been watching. Ash came into existence around her as she tried again to clean herself of the blood and guts that managed to get through her Veil whenever it had been damaged. It worked a little, smearing everything much less than last time.
'ding' 'Ash and Ember Manipulation reaches 2nd lvl 11'
She blinked away the notification joining the already large list of skill and level ups from the fights the day before and now. Punching her breast plate, she walked over to the approaching people who quickly slowed down upon noticing her movements.
“H...hey, we were told you'd show us the sur... survivors.” The man managed to get out, intimidated after their display.
“Yea sure, we'll have to walk around all of the city. I only know of two groups so far. Come.” she simply stated and walked off, quickly deciding to sprout her wings to avoid walking on the corpses. Only one of the soldiers apparently had a flying ability, moving to the air a moment later.
A couple minutes later she had gouged the others' speed and checked below and inside all the houses they passed for any survivors. Sadly they didn't find any until they reached the place Ilea had visited the night before. Knocking on the door, the people weren't as startled this time around. Blinking inside she simply opened the massive steel door and led the soldiers inside.
“Two of you with me.” she said and walked out again, ignoring the people who started crying behind her. She did feel happy to be able to help but it was a bit much. Additionally a part of her mind made the connection that every single person who died inside Ravenhall and Morhill was as much a living and thinking being, snuffed out of existence by the summoning of that elder. Perhaps they shouldn't have left him there but it was too late to think about it now, there was enough to do here after all.
She moved on, followed by a woman and a man. They ran through the city for the next hours, Ilea occasionally moving into a house and finding survivors hidden away inside closets and cellars.
“How long have you been doing this?” the woman asked Ilea at some point, while the man was taking care of some kids they had found in a kitchen cupboard.
“Doing what?” Ilea asked as she watched the man talk to the kids. He was better at it than herself.
“Being with the Hand... having that... well power.” the woman finished, getting progressively more quiet as she talked, avoiding eye contact with Ilea. She looked at the woman and then back to the man.
“Not long, couple months at this point. We all have classes here so a certain strength is available to anybody.” she responded.
“But you're different. You and your group.” the woman said but Ilea disagreed.
“You can reach it too, so can these kids. I know that there are much stronger beings out there too. With classes and skills, you put in the work and you get a reward. The higher the risk, the higher the reward. That's how I see it.” she explained and walked outside again, breathing in the fresh air and asking herself how these kids had survived for weeks on end.
“Maybe the risk you're willing to take is the difference.” the woman said more to herself as she joined Ilea outside.
“Let's get going, we're barely done with a third of the city.” Ilea said and conjured her wings.
Another four hours later, Ilea and the soldiers joined the growing group of people in a central square devoid of corpses. Both Ilea and Trian had contributed a part of their food and water supplies to the people but at this point the rest of their group had found enough in the city stores for their personal contribution to become unnecessary.
Big fires were burning in the square with food all over, warm clothes and packs were gathered to prepare the survivors for their oncoming journey. Sulivhaan had decided the city in the mountains was too dangerous for them. They would move to the plains and to the closest intact settlements. With the supplies they would take with them, the nearly two hundred survivors would be taken in with joy. At least he had hoped that to be the case.
“Ilea, you're done then?” the man asked as he landed next to her.
“With the city? Yes. But I'll eat first before we can leave. I assume I'll be the one to escort the group?” Ilea asked. Considering their earlier talks of visiting the capital and checking in with the survivors of the Hand, it only seemed reasonable to her to also take this task.
“I did want to ask you, yes. Additionally you're the only healer around so you can take care of anybody that might get injured.” he explained. Ilea just nodded in response and summoned one of Keyla's meals. She rarely shared them with others so still had a high number of them stored away. Blinking upwards, she sat down on one of the rooftops and started eating.
Two of the remaining soldiers would come with her, the remaining one left behind to inform the possible reinforcements of the current situation. Securing the city was in the empire's interests, moving away the now refugees wouldn't change that.
“Wanna go check on the vaults?” Rock asked after he had jumped up to her. “I'm sure most of them won't miss a bunch of coins and treasures.”
Ilea gulped down the food and nodded. “Why not. Let's see what kind of fucked up shit the nobles here were up to.” she smiled.
“Fuck yea. Wanna ask the others?” he asked as he jumped down, Ilea landing next to him.
“If we see them.” she said and started flying, increasing her speed as the man kept up. The heavy hammer on his back didn't seem to slow him down much. She would've been terrified of facing him on the field a year ago but now. Now she would definitely have a bout against him but that would have to wait for a bit longer.
“Another empty one here...” Rock complained, kicking at a metal door and leaving behind a noticeable dent.
“Seems the nobles had more storage devices than I would've thought. Or maybe they simply had enough time to get out of here.” Kyrian said, walking out of one of the rooms that still smelled exotic metals, only dust left of whatever was once stored in there.
“Maybe they simply didn't own a lot.” Ilea said, lifting her head out of the empty box she had just checked. Not that her sphere didn't let her know of anything in there anyway but it wasn't easy to trust a new sense like that completely, even after such a long time.
“Couple more rooms down the hall but I doubt they left anything...” Rock complained, his easy treasure hunt turning into a disappointing journey into empty and boring cellars. At least the houses themselves were nice to look at, the wealth of the nobles clearly showing even in a smaller town of the empire.
Walking past the remaining rooms, Ilea already saw what was waiting in the last hall in the corridor, skipping past the empty ones altogether.
“Hey guys, I think you should....” she started but was interrupted by a weird feeling in her head. A feeling that reminded her of Eve most of all, her magic that was. Veil of Ash came up and the feeling was reduced to a slightly irritating pulsing in the back of her head.
“Now who of you guys is doing this?” she asked into the room full of cages, creatures of all kinds were kept in them, many of them dead. Left behind to starve while the gold and expensive gear was taken. Ilea was angry though she understood the nobles' actions. Some of the cages were empty, indicating that some of the creatures were taken, or the cages were empty to begin with.
“So it's you... now what exactly are you hmm?” Ilea stopped before one of the cages, a cat like creature was residing inside, blue eyes and sparks running across its soft looking fur. Ilea concentrated on its eyes, focusing on the pulsing in her head that had gotten more subtle the closer she got to the animal.
“Drop it, I know you're in my head.” she said and hit the cage with her hand. The impact made the cat move to the back of its cage, the pulsing interrupted for a quick moment. Ilea didn't miss the bright ball of lightning residing in the cage that quickly turned back into a cute looking cat. A cat that was in fact too cute. Ilea didn't even like cats that much, even now with the swordmouth tiger near her house.
Not that she liked dogs anymore. The dagger was quite fine as a pet. Speaking of, she unsheathed the knife and held it towards the weird mind magic creature.
“Any idea what this is? How does it look to you?” Ilea asked, remembering that Aki had never mentioned any mind magic to be able to influence him before.
“It's a ball of lightning. I think I have heard of it before. A rare creature from the Navali forest. At least that's where its usually found. What does your identify tell you?” the dagger asked, surprising Ilea that he finally did in fact know a thing about a creature she encountered.
[Silintis – lvl 103]
“A Silintis it says. At level one hundred and three.” Ilea recited and crouched down to look at the thing.
“Ah yes. It's mostly a ball of lightning. Why do you ask, are your eyes failing you?” Aki asked.
“Its mind magic is pretty good. It looks like a cute little cat to me. Didn't starve yet that one.” she said and got up again.
“Any idea if these eat meat or would attack me upon release?” Ilea asked her dagger, soon joined by Rock and Kyrian who helped evaluating the surviving beasts.
“Most of them are harmless but they're not supposed to be in this climate.” Rock said, opening the cage to a turtle like creature that slowly floated towards him right after.
“If we take them wish us people would eat or sell them. Kyrian can you and the others take them to my house and feed them. I'll think of something later.” Ilea asked of her friend.
“What about that cute creature here, I think I'll take care of it myself.” Rock said, stepping next to the cage where the Silintis was held.
“That's a Silintis, it's in your head.” Kyrian said, his resistances to mind magic considerable as well from their training with Eve.
“Oh boi, I'll get out of here then. Fuck that mind magic bullshit. You don't look like you'd kill it?” Rock asked but left before he got an answer, Ilea's look enough to dissuade him. The man shook his head and walked off. “I'll check the last houses, join me if you feel like it.”
“It's the cutest thing I've ever seen...” Kyrian said, opening the cage. Ilea didn't intervene, the man was old and strong enough to handle a critter at level one hundred.
“They don't eat meat so it should be fine...” Aki said from the side as the two watched the creature walk up on Kyrian's armor, resting around his neck.
“Is it gonna take over now?” Ilea asked.
“I doubt it can do something like that, otherwise we'd likely have a lot more of them around...” Kyrian said before he pet the creature on its head.
“I'll take care of the rest here. Don't worry about the creatures. Now stop with your magic.” he said as he snipped the creature with quite a bit of force. The animal screeched and ran off, soon resting on Ilea's head instead.
“He's right you know?” Ilea said and grabbed the animal from her head, looking at it while she squeezed a little. The creature released its magic, revealing its ball lightning form to the onlookers. Ilea summoned a piece of meat from her storage and held it towards the creature. After nothing happened for a couple seconds, she exchanged the meat with a head of salad. This time the creature extended some tentacle like arms and grabbed the meal, the whole head vanishing inside of it in the span of three seconds.
“Hungry eh?” she asked but the creature turned back into a feline and fell asleep, its spell still active in that state. She placed it into the cage again carefully and nodded to Kyrian.
“Yea, that one isn't very dangerous.” she said, looking over to a rabid racoon inside one of the cages, some runes keeping the fire magic released by the creature inside at bay. “Don't let them into my room, alright?” she said and left the man to his post, a little forlorn amongst the strange creatures.
“Nothing nothing nothing. Man this sucks, seems like they weren't quite as unprepared as the rest of the city.” Rock said as he came up from the cellar, joining Ilea in the big dinner hall that still had questionably fresh food on the massive table.
“Not completely...” she said, changing into a black dress while spinning around, her armor exchanged with the beautiful fabric that now adorned her.
“Whoa there...” Rock said, taking a step back at the warrior now dressed in a noble's dress.
“Looks nice right? Honestly the pain of getting one of these made, the price and the time it takes to just get it on is just not worth it... but like this?” she asked, switching the dress to a red one in the next moment. Ilea had checked a couple houses already, seeing that the vaults themselves held little of interest but up until this house, nobody had a similar size to her. These fit nearly perfectly though, enough for her to consider using them should the occasion arise.
A wedding perhaps, or maybe to blend into a ball or something. Ilea shrugged as she switched back to her armor, her helmet still left inside of her necklace as she tried some of the wine that still seemed good.
“You're gonna poison yourself... or catch a disease.” the man said, having caught himself after the display.
“Good thing I'm a healer.” Ilea said, appearing in the biggest chair at the end of the table, wine glass in hand as her legs landed on the expensive silk covering the table. Some glasses nearly fell at the weight of her boots.
“They wouldn't be happy about this...” Rock said, loosly motioning to the big flag placed on the wall behind her. He walked to the table and grabbed a bottle, sitting down opposite her, lifting it in toast.
“To killing demons?” she asked, lifting her glass in turn and the man nodded, downing the whole bottle in a single swig. Ilea took a single sip and put the glass down again. Wine wasn't exactly her preferred drink but it did taste rather rich. It was the last noble house in the city and Ilea was sure the survivors were soon ready to leave. Getting up, she waved to her friend who had finished five bottles and held another three in his arm, gentle enough not to crush them.