Chapter 138 Upgrade – Cave to Sewers
“Bunch of idiots...” Claire whispered to herself, very glad that the outlaws had decided to attack her on the tower. Hopefully not too many of the guards had been killed before. Having all their rogues spread in the city with the sleeping and tired defenders would have been the end of Vihal. She didn't know if this was the whole group but the leader inspired that belief in her. She had of course immediately activated the warning light runes placed in the armory and all the bigger barracks. They wouldn't get sleep again for a couple hours but at least they wouldn't lose many more.
Not something she could say for the enemy. Claire held the arm of her attacker, a rogue who had teleported into her inner sphere right before it came up. He was struggling to get the blade closer to her as she held on, her magic finalizing as she lifted her other arm towards his face, a barrage of wind blades coming to life, cutting into the fearful eyes before her. It was a shame, so many capable humans cut down because of their greed and stupidity. Blood sprayed onto the inner sphere and parts of her armor as the corpse in front of her fell down, the remaining pieces of the man's head falling to the ground the splatter of blood and mud.
Fifteen seconds later the explosions had come to a stop and she lowered the outer shield, the dust settling while the smoke dispersed. Seven scorched people remained inside, two of them still alive and whimpering. Two wind blades swiftly ended their suffering, Claire scolding herself at the unnecessary caused pain and her mana management. Another set of explosions would've done it.
“Y... you monster!” the man who had previously talked shouted, a battle ax that had previously been on his back now brandished in his thin yet muscular arms. “You will pay for killing our people!” he screamed at her while a red mist came to life around him, tears in his eyes as the mages around him sent another barrage of spells towards her.
It had been their choice and it was too late for compromise. The spells harmlessly bounced off her shield before she lowered it, with a swift movement throwing a set of newly created runed stones into the group of men. They scattered, but not fast enough before a barrage of wind blades extended outwards from the stones, cutting through legs and bodies as if they were made from paper. Only the more heavily armored survived the first assault, now joining their leader who had already stepped up to Claire, his ax brought towards her in a horizontal slash, enough power behind it to cleave right through the trunk of a tree.
Her shield came up again as the ax crashed against it, rebounding from the resistance before the barrier vanished again, Claire using the opening to move into the man's melee range, the runes on her bracers lighting up before an explosion of fire and force sent the man flying, a chunk of his torso missing as he flew into the advancing armored opponents. Activating more of the thrown stones, the mud below their feet turned more liquid as their heavy gear made them sink rapidly. Confused and angry shouts reverberated through the street when the first defenders arrived, watching the scene from the nearby rooftops.
Each of the remaining seven enemies were killed by a wind blade to their throat or eyes, passing below their low end armor or through the slits in their helmets. One after the other they were executed by Claire, instilling fear and terror into the next target. Right until only their leader remained, his leather armor torn and battered, a bleeding hole in his chest he looked up to her with disgust and hate in his eyes. She lifted her hand and used a little more of her mana to finish him with a single blade of wind, cutting deep into his throat before he slumped down, the last spark of life quickly leaving as his blood mixed with the fresh rain. Light flashed in the distance, illuminating the scene to all the bystanders, the light quickly fading as only the brought torches remained. The noise of thunder rolled over Vihal a moment later as the citizens and guards approached closer.
“She killed them all...” one of them whispered, Claire closing her eyes as she stopped the light shaking of her hands. The rain poured now, thunder rolling over the city again as Claire opened her eyes again.
“Get them out of the mud, strip them for their equipment and throw them into the burning pits. Scout the walls and look for survivors. And double the guard, as best as possible, only through the night.” she said and the people followed her command.
“We found this one trying to sneak away.” two adventurers said as they held the man between them, his face was bloodied by presumably a bunch of punches.
“P..leashe mish...” he stammered out and she just waved them away.
“Any more of your pals out there?” she quickly asked, grabbing the man's face to look him in the eyes.
“No... I shwear, you klled everyon...p.. pleashe...,”
“Bind him to the guard tower I'm in. I'll question him later if there's no further attack in the next three hours.” she said and the two men nodded, dragging away the beaten survivor. Claire took a lost look at the lifeless silhouettes around her before she quickly left the scene and climbed up the long ladder on the inside of the stone tower. Reaching the top, she sat down on the small wooden stool, moving back the battle skirt to have enough space. Her armor scratched against the low wall behind her as she sighed, lifting her arm up to see a trembling hand. It was necessary, she knew but few minds worked purely rational. The pouring rain and thunder masked the quiet sobs coming from the top of the watchtower as night fell and the moon broke through the clouds to illuminate parts of the town and landscape beyond.
Four hours had passed and Claire had cleared her mind. The last week had taken a massive toll on her mental well being and as soon as the imminent danger was back to normal she'd sleep for a full day at least. The rain had stopped and the clouds had opened to reveal an early full moon, white light pooled in the sky and looking down on the flat landscape dotted with trees and small bodies of water in the distance. Claire preferred the mountains around Ravenhall, more easily defensible. The thought brought a smile to her face as she leaned out of the watchtower, getting up to stretch and to fight off the approaching sleep.
If only the demons had attacked Ravenhall form outside the walls. It would've been possible to stop that mess from ever becoming this big. At this point Claire was rather sure that even cities and villages outside of the empire had to deal with invading demons, the only positive thing was that the higher leveled ones were thinning out as time went on. As long as the mind weavers were removed. She just hoped none of the demons had the glorious idea to hide and snatch away small numbers of people and amass an army of demons.
Then again, worrying about possibilities without any external information wasn't a sane thing to do. Claire put on her helmet again and jumped down into the muddy street. The man resting on the side of the wall jerked up, startled by the sudden landing, trying to move even further back into the stone wall behind him as his dirty boots dug into the mud. It smelled faintly of piss, reasonable considering the time he had been there. Claire was over her sentimental phase, the stress and murders having gotten a bit too close to her.
“What's your name?” she asked, walking closer to the man and crouching down.
“D... Damian...” he said, fear in his eyes as he couldn't look away from her. At least he had stopped the frantic movements, now frozen like a deer looking at an approaching fireball.
“Damian then.” Claire said, looking down at the mud. “You and your crew made my otherwise shitty evening into something much worse. Tell me why I shouldn't kill you here and now.” she asked the man as she stood up again.
He thought for a moment, looking at her boots and then back up at her face. “I... I have information... on other cities and villages around here... and our camp! There's supplies, gold and food, clothes and horses... you'll want those, I can guide you. I can help fight as well... defend the city...” he spoke quickly and Claire was glad to find he valued his own life and well being more than whatever doctrine their leader had instilled on them. She doubted him to be able to fool her, he looked, talked and smelled the part. Plus he had been the only one trying to flee earlier.
“That all sounds useful. Start talking then, I'll let you know if you manage to convince me afterwards. Don't invent anything, just give me what you have.” she said. Hopefully she could at least spare one of them, they didn't seem quite as bad as the demons. At least they were human.
Ilea raised her fist, took a step forward and rotated her whole torso a couple degrees to get the most power out of her attack, her fist impacting the heavy iron gate with a dull sound. “Not bad.” she said.
“Six out of ten punch.” Trian joked “Now come on, we want as much time as we can get.”
“Eh, the others start in seven hours, we'll have cleared the city before they even arrive.” she said but nonetheless activated her buffs, a dull blue hue formed on her skin below her armor and clothes, nearly overpowering the thin lines of red from her second class.
She breathed in deeply, the cold air reaching her lungs before it was once again released into the cool air around them. There was snow still but it was less than last month. The twilight broke through the trees and shone onto the warded metal door before them.
“Stand back you two, don't want to have you die to the defensive measures.” she said and got a grunt and a frown in response respectively, still her teammates stepped back. “You too Weavy.” she said, using a new nickname she thought of for the demon.
“Weavy?...,” the demon just looked at his hands and slowly floated backwards and away from the doorway, slightly disturbing the snow on the ground with his clothes, the Taleen clothes not exactly perfect fitting.
Ilea looked back to the door and this time punched with all her power. Her fist landed on the metal plate, immediately denting it as a wave of force pushed outwards from the impact, a sizzling sound was heard as her destructive mana flowed into it. The door started glowing a little before a single metal spike shot out towards her torso, Ilea moving to the side just enough for it to only scratch the armor protecting her chest. The force made her spin around but she landed on her feet, taking a step forward before the next punch hit the door.
This time a series of wind attacks were summoned, Ilea lifting her arms to protect her face. Part of one attack made it through both her defensive Veil and into the slit of her helmet, cutting into her eye and about five centimeters into her skull.
“Ah fuck.” she said as she took a step back, Hunter Recovery taking over as she waited through the dull pain. With her Resistance it felt more like stubbing a toe, definitely not like a fatal head injury. “Always the damn doors... why can't we just dig through further down...” she said as she made her helmet vanish and summoned a piece of cloth to clean up the blood on her face.
“Because then the tunnel collapses.” Trian simply stated.
“Well and it doesn't if the door is broken in?” she asked in return.
“No, the headquarters will be informed with some runed lights flashing but nothing else. They'd rather know from where an enemy strong enough to break into this door is coming.” he answered, taking distance again.
The next punch unhinged the door and a blue fire burst from around the entrance, engulfing Ilea who simply stood there, her healing taking care of the little damage the fire did. Nothing compared to the green fire that had nearly killed her in the Taleen dungeon. 'Fire categories by color... this world is so stupid.' she thought and laughed, shaking her head. To her teammates of course the scene of her standing in the midst of fire and laughing sent a bit of a different picture.
“How far can these runes go? Could be used for long distance communication.” she said.
“The alarm one you mean? Yea it's been tried. Depends on the magical power used but it's more difficult the further you go and the runes have to be undisturbed.” Trian said as the others walked up to her.
“Yea, earth magic and do it underground. Seems like an easy way to build a communication network.” she said and entered the darkness waiting for her beyond the doorway. Steps led downwards into the earth, connected with the sewage system of Ravenhall.
“I'm sure in some cities that's already set up but trust me it takes more than just a bit of energy to activate a light one kilometer away.” the man said and Ilea just shrugged, taking the next step downwards. She wasn't there to revolutionize anything. The people weren't stupid and without detailed knowledge she'd likely not be a big help, especially with electricity apparently not being a thing. Not that she was one hundred percent sure but with lightning mages around, they'd probably have found a way to power things with it.
Using her Sphere to see, Ilea walked downstairs with sure steps while the others either floated behind her or touched the walls for orientation. It took a little longer than expected to reach the deepest part of the spiral staircase, another door this one not warded opened up to Ilea's push, old and rusty metal croaking as she pushed the massive door outwards.
A dark tunnel lay beyond, the sound of flowing water clearly noticeable in the distance, giving their quite obviously artificial surroundings a more natural feel. Looking around, Ilea thought the place was definitely built for either a practical and fast escape or simply part of the infrastructure. They were still a while away from the actual city which spoke more for the first theory.
“How are the animals doing?” she asked as they walked through the corridor, Trian and Kyrian using their limited perception of the space around them, still training their eyes to perhaps receive a similar skill to their female teammate at some point. Behind the demon followed a crowd of all the monsters they had helped bring under his control in the time since coming back to Elos, the creatures shuffling in the dark, occasionally twitching and scratching a wall or the ground before them.
“They're doing fine. I talked to a summoner from the Hand and she said she'd take most of them, for a reasonable price of course. She didn't want the Silintis and suggested killing the monster. We set up a little cage in the armory. Cless likes to feed it and play with it but she's not allowed to let it roam around. They're mostly harmless apparently, if you don't hurt them. They love whoever feeds them so we're fine.” the man explained, their heavy steps echoing through the dark as they listened for enemies.
“Why did she suggest killing the beast then?” Ilea asked as she drove her hand past the wall next to her, the outermost layer crumbling and falling to the ground.
“Because its mind magic is useless for both fighting and performances. At least according to the expert. We checked it for a day and its harmless enough.” he said, Ilea grunting in response.
“Cold as fuck that summoner...” she murmured to herself as she opened another door. They had walked quite a distance already and were it not for her sphere, she'd probably have been surprised at the demon rushing towards her immediately upon opening the door. She simply jabbed it in the face, disorienting the beast before another two punches to its torso broke the bones and organs within, leaving it to slump down, dead in mere moments.
“Low levels down here...” she said. Likely the mind weavers pooled the stronger demons around themselves to ensure their safety and a tight grip on their minds.
“That's nasty...” Trian said as he entered the room, stepping over the demon corpse and holding his nose. The flow of water was closer now, and with it came the stench of a sewage system nobody had taken care of in more than a couple weeks.
“Welcome to paradise...” Ilea said absentmindedly as she heard the first screams of monsters. The stealthy approach was not going to happen. “Might as well start with the cleanup.” she said and put her fists together, behind her a series of metal spheres split into bullet sized and sharp projectiles as lightning sparkled around Trian.
“Calm down Thor, we don't want the ceiling to come down on us. Keep an eye on the shifty demon behind us instead.” she said and walked towards the noises steadily coming closer. Trian had a bit of a frown on his face but accepted, he wasn't unreasonable after all. The first demons were spilling out into the passage before them, nearly running each other over as they screamed towards the group of humans, teeth bared and spittle hanging low from their mouths.