Chapter 131 Escort Missions
“Just one of them will come with us?” One of the many overlapping voices whispered to the people next to them. The concern was evident and Ilea just waited on her spot on top of a house near the group of people that was being managed by the soldiers who would come with them.
Ilea just smiled, just one of them? The people didn't even consider the soldiers who were nearly at one hundred and fifty, certainly not incapable warriors. However it would be a shame if the survivors died on the way and Ilea did plan to do as much as she could.
It seemed the soldiers finally managed to explain the formation, where to go and most importantly the rules for the survivors. The woman who had previously talked to Ilea waved towards her and turned around, towards the gate that had been opened a couple meters wide by Rock.
“See you Ilea, don't take too long.” Trian said, having landed next to her. “Don't fuck around too much in the capital.” the man said and she just nodded.
“You really embraced that team leader thing you've started. I wondered one thing Trian.” she said, peaking his interest as he looked at her through the slit in his helmet. “Why are you still here? I thought you just joined the Hand because it's a family tradition or something, wouldn't now be the time to get out?” she finished, knocking off the gathered snow on her armored legs.
“What a surprise, you actually care about me? Well don't consider me too much, I have my reasons and you have yours.” he said but she just shook her head.
“I like to fight, and I like you guys. That's reason enough but hey, whatever goes on in your head...” she touched his shoulder. “I'm glad you're still hanging around.” she winked and summoned her helmet before following the rather big group of survivors and two soldiers leaving the gate. The close vicinity had been cleared by Navalis and Trian beforehand so at least for the next couple kilometers there wouldn't be imminent danger.
The survivors had been divided into three groups. Children and elderly unable to fight, adults below level fifty and the rest. Adding to Eleonora's bad mood the two first groups were much bigger than the last one. She looked over to find a mage at level seventy walking next to her. A sigh left her mouth, the air visible before her as she pushed her coat closer to her face.
The last of the group had left the gate of Morhill, the formation not quite what she had intended. It was a given though, the civilians unable to follow her instructions without any training as soldiers or adventurers.
“Where's... oh..” she whispered to herself as she looked around and then up to find their escort flying about a hundred meters above, the lightly falling snow making it hard to see her. Still the black wings could be made out.
“Man I wish I had wings...” she continued to murmur to herself, annoyed at the still cold weather. At least down in the plains the cold would be more forgiving. For now she hoped at least half the people made it to the next city, if that city was still standing of course.
Ilea landed on top one of the demons, crushing its head with a quick punch, destructive mana entering the demon while it screamed and flailed upwards, the sharp claws glancing off the hovering ash around its target. The other demon nearby ran at her but the woman simply appeared behind it, sending the creature to the ground with a hard kick. Another blink and stomp later and the area was clear.
Looking around, Ilea breathed out and looked towards the rising sun. They had encountered stragglers, both demons and other monsters using the opportunity to hunt or forced to relocate due to the new threat. They had come out of the mountains a couple hours ago, the refugees having slept for a couple hours earlier. The motivation to get behind walls was high and pushed the group further than Ilea thought possible, certainly further than most humans on earth would be capable of walking in ten hours. Not like an elderly man could even walk for ten hours straight.
The several dozen people with levels above fifty were the reason for their success, willing to carry people and more of the light equipment they had taken with them.
Ilea turned around and flew back into the nearby forest, finding the refugees huddled together and waiting for her report. The soldiers and capable people formed a protective circle around the rest. Ilea landed near the woman, Eleonora Siva apparently, captain of the scouts squad they had found near Morhill.
“All clear, we can move out into the plains. You lead, I'll stay above as before.” she said to the woman and flew upwards, checking the surroundings. The day was clear and down here the snow had already melted. The forest was thick and dark, more than a few of the survivors had injured themselves at the brisk pace. Other than Ilea there wasn't a single healer in the group. Luckily no demons or other monsters had managed to sneak by to heavily injure too many people for her alone to handle, the mostly just sprained ankles had swiftly been healed.
The country spread before her as Ilea checked for movements, the speed of the group below her picked up as they finally exited the forested hills. The lands were still mostly frozen, soon plants and flowers that didn't survive the winter would sprout again and color the area in a lush green but it would take another month at least.
The sun was high on the horizon, its warmth burning away the remnants of winter. Ilea could finally see a wall and lights in the distance. There was no massive smoke going up from the still rather far away town, which was a good sign. Only a few demons had approached the moving group in the past hours, each taken out by Ilea before most of them even realized there was something coming. A few feathered Drakes made themselves seen but quickly moved away after Ilea shot an arrow their way.
“It shouldn't be very far to Marwatch now.” Eleonora said to her companion, moving her pack a little on her back.
“I can see walls and fires in the distance. I assume that's the city we're going for?” Ilea landed next to the woman, motioning towards the general direction of the town.
“Probably, if I didn't get lost completely. I can't say until I see it myself though.” the woman said and Ilea nodded, grabbing her around the chest and flying upwards. Eleonora gasped as they got higher and higher but soon she was mesmerized by the quick ascent and newfound birdsview.
“Fuck that's so awesome...” she said, Ilea just smiling below her helmet as she nodded towards the town in the distance.
“That it?” she asked and the woman nodded quickly. “Wanna see something cool?” she asked and didn't wait for an answer before she simply let go of the captain, the scream making her smile as she flew after her, quickly overtaking the woman with a blink and catching her a moment later.
“You're mad...holy shit why did you do that?!” the woman was gasping for air but the punch directed at Ilea was either not meant seriously or her strength stat was under leveled at best.
Ilea just shrugged as an answer, quite happy the boring tour would finally be over.
Darkness filled the room, day in day out it had been the same. Eve opened her eyes from the meditative state to check if she didn’t miss anything. The hall was the same it had been a week prior. The bookshelves were still empty, the table and the adjacent chairs unoccupied. And so she waited, completely invisible to most eyes she waited in her chosen corner of the room.
Space enough for her to lean comfortably but not enough for someone to choose it as their own spot for lounging. All the leads had come together to this building. An old house, quite well built but then again most buildings in the capital were made to last. To her annoyance, there was nobody to stalk, nobody to get information from, just the dim light that occasionally made it inside from the windows.
The house held little to no comfort, this room obviously holding the only importance. The only reason Eve was still there after searching through the whole place was that there was no dust. The space was used, she was sure of it and with the information she had managed to obtain in the past weeks she was sure to have stumbled upon something big, something she had been looking for for many years.
And today would be a day for answers, she felt it. She literally did though as the vibrations of someone entering the house could be felt from below. The place wasn’t registered, didn’t show up in any public records of the city, even some middle level officials didn’t know anything more about it or simply let her know she should stay far away from it.
Of course her actions, as experienced as she was, would alert anybody that would occupy such a place if they had paid the right people, had influence in the right circles. If this was worth her time though, these people wouldn’t care or they would send someone to hunt for her. It had always been that way and at this point she knew it to be one of the most effective methods to get her targets to show themselves. Being a little too obvious, making intentional mistakes. It would help increase their biggest weakness, that so far at least nine out of ten people possessed. An otherworldly sense of superiority.
A smile bloomed on Eve’s face as she pushed her magic further to be even harder to detect. Even Ilea would have difficulties with her weird spherical vision Eve had trouble completely avoiding. The training had pushed her to be even more creative in using her powers. Smells merged around her and light fell naturally through her illusion spell as she slowed her breathing.
The door opened and a well dressed man in his fifties entered. Gray hair and beard with black eyes. His hair was well taken care of, looking like either a butler to a noble house or rich establishment or perhaps a noble himself, trying to blend in a little more. Eve doubted it, rarely would it be required and even more rare was the benefit of a noble dressing down.
She was excited, her waiting had paid off. The man checked the room with trained eyes before he walked to the door and operated a small switch that activated different magical lights built into the ceiling. Eve’s eyes adjusted quickly, ready for any move on the man’s part but all that happened was him walking to the windows and closing the heavy red curtains.
He meticulously checked the whole room and cleaned some parts, dusting off the non existent dust from some of the furniture. Eve changed the visual of her corner a little to make it nice enough for him to ignore. His cleaning ended an hour later, all done in silence before he set the table. A red tablecloth was brought in and placed on top of it, as was an expensive bottle of wine including a glass. Expensive enough for Eve to at least consider revealing herself to taste the beverage, one of her few pleasures in life.
She controlled herself, the possible gains too high and perhaps they had more stored away somewhere. Her thoughts came to a close as she concentrated on the room again. The butler had left but Eve was rather sure he hadn’t left the house at least, not feeling the heavy door downstairs move.
She blinked and on the chair next to the wine bottle a woman was sitting. Black hair and an open back was all Eve could make out in the first moment. The woman was beautiful, her hair long and healthy, white porcelain skin showed on her arms and back where exposed. She wore a dress, a black dress that allowed for quite a bit of movement. This woman was either a passionated dancer, escort or according to Eve’s identify, a quite dangerous warrior.
[Warrior – lvl 230]
An elite human, truly Eve had made the right decision to come. Even here in Virilya it wasn’t common to see people above level two hundred, the occasion reserved for travelers and adventurers from far away or nobles that didn’t show themselves in the streets.
The woman quietly opened the bottle of wine, putting a nail into the cork and simply pulling it out before the glass was filled with red liquid, the heavy aroma drifting as far as to reach Eve. The glass was swayed in the woman’s hand, an occasional whiff of the smell deeply taken in.
It took only five minutes for the door to open. This time it wasn’t the butler but two people coming in, a woman and a man. Both below level one fifty, each a mage.
“Master.” the two said at the same time, bowing low to show their respect for the woman sipping her wine.
“Report.” she said in turn, simple and direct, her voice clear and controlled. She wasn’t a simple upstart, Eve thought, her composure and grace one built on experience. Though it would likely come to a bloody end Eve held a certain amount of respect for the woman sitting in front of her.
“The boy has been sighted in Virilya. Four more dead nobles, all minor. For names and further details the report.” the woman said, handing over a letter to the woman on the table who motioned to the table itself, where the letter was finally placed.
“A woman was sighted with him, the sources are questionably reliable but we have two reports and one more where other people were mentioned.” the man added after a moment, their master not reacting to the letter or anything they had said so far. His unease was showing on his face.
“The sister?” the woman on the table asked, finishing her glass of wine and putting it down.
“It’s a possibility but the sources descriptions didn’t match with what we know. Perhaps it’s the escaped prisoner.” the other woman said.
“Hmm, yes. Any leads or is this all?”
“Nothing more. They’re experienced and leave little evidence behind.” the man said, getting a gesture of dismissal in response.
“You may leave then. Continue as you have.” the woman said, the two people in front of her bowing again and leaving the room quickly and quietly.
“Aaaah, incapable subordinates. A pain.” the woman sighed, pouring herself another glass of wine before she started swaying the glass again. “Wouldn’t you say?” she asked and looked backwards right at Eve.
Her eyes opened a little wider but she stayed quiet otherwise, her magic still activated. Certainly impressed but not convinced, Eve simply waited, calming herself for a possible incoming fight. It wouldn’t be easy. The woman was a warrior and nearly twenty levels higher and should a fight break out, there was no factor of surprise on her side.
“Did I get the wrong corner? Oh well, doesn’t hurt to check, does it?” the woman said and suddenly appeared before Eve, a thin slightly curved blade in hand, she cut through the wall, right past where Eve was standing, the movement fluid and strong, the blade shaving through the wall with no noticeable resistance.
“Not here huh.” the woman said and appeared in the next corner, cutting into the wall again. A sudden pain shot out from Eve’s left arm. Looking at it without moving her head, she could see a deep cut. Blood slowly made its way outwards, soaking the cloth below her armor as she stayed quiet, her mind fighting against the pain and her body’s demand to scream. An experience trained and known.
It was only a matter of time for the first drop to land. Her reveal inevitable, Eve waited for the woman to appear in the next corner before a clone appeared and ran towards the window. The woman appeared near the clone immediately, her blade cutting through the air when Eve’s dagger closed in on her neck. Suddenly a shiver ran through Eve, her whole body shifting to the left by a couple centimeters, the blade of her dagger scratching the woman’s skin on her neck before the blade was brought towards the attacker.
The second dagger intercepted the enemy blade but still a cold impact could be felt on her chest, a line of red formed, deep enough to draw blood. The woman moved her blade upwards when Eve whistled. A loud deafening whistle startling the woman, a burst of mind magic pushing against her as she lifted her blade in defense. Eve didn’t question the move, assuming the woman had some way of defending as she moved past the table quickly, grabbing the letter and jumping through the window.
She created four clones in the air and landed, seeing one of them cut down by the woman who had appeared next to her outside. Again the woman teleported and smiled as she cut through the clone with a letter in her hand. Unfortunately for her, Eve had let go of the letter in her fall, near invisible and barely a meter away from the woman she aimed her dagger at the center of her target’s mass.
Her body shifted again but still her blade struck true, cutting through the surprisingly tough dress and into her lung. The dagger was let go as she created more clones, the woman appearing behind her but unable to swing her blade. She screamed as she tried to grab the dagger in her back, the cursed blade rotting its way through her flesh before a second dagger struck her stomach.
Eve stabbed and stabbed again, the woman resisting at first but soon her lifeless eyes stared back at her, the blade clattering to the ground. She had done it now. Eve ripped off a piece of the woman’s dress, grabbed the letter and ran off, her injuries too serious to engage the others in the house, likely rushing towards the noise in that very moment.
Four streets later Eve wrapped up her wounds with the cloth and started moving through the alleys more strategically, her magic working to mix up the trail of smell she left behind. Eve ran for two hours straight, not once sensing anybody behind her. She concentrated fully until she finally arrived in one of her hideouts she had in the capital, stumbling into the cellar and shutting the door behind as she fell on the stone floor.
She winced as the wounds continued to bleed, slowly moving towards a corner of the room, grabbing the health potion she had in every hideout. Stolen wares and sadly nothing compared to Ilea or another capable healer but it would hopefully do the job of stabilizing her. She undressed in silence, taking stock of the wounds and any infections or curses, luckily finding nothing. A poison was running through her but what Eve hadn’t ever mentioned to her team mates was that her resistance to that kind of attack was likely on par if not higher than their tank’s.
Finally the wounds were bandaged and Eve moved to the bed, stopping her meditation and iron mind skill, falling unconscious nearly immediately. The blood loss and strain to her body given free reign over her consciousness, still her sleep was plagued with nightmares.