Chapter 145 Horde mode is exhausting
The crystal mage was a little confused when her savior and the others suddenly left but her indecisiveness cost her the opportunity to continue with the group as she moved back and forth until they were too far away.
Ilea had Weavy on her back as the three rushed towards the elevator too fast for the demon to keep up otherwise. “Are you getting more bulky Weavy?” Ilea asked, feeling his arms as she held him on her back. The demon shifted a little and didn’t initially respond which got a chuckle out of her.
“You know it’s not a shame to invest in Strength, I did it too...” she said, Trian looking at her a little perplexed. Speaking of, Ilea thought and invested her remaining fifteen stat points into Endurance, brining it to 335 and a respective 3350 points of Stamina. ‘That’s enough to masturbate for three days straight...’ she thought and smiled, maybe a bit of a vacation was in order soon. Then again why should she rest when so many meaty sacks of skill and class levels were waiting outside?
The three reached the top of Viscera and the exit of the Hand’s Stronghold a minute later, Trian already frying demons as soon as they stepped outside. “Save your spells and follow me.” Ilea said and flew off towards the defensive line of the Hand.
The demon hordes were flowing just as they did before. Looking into the overfilled northern part of the city where demons were already fighting each other, she realized the flow would continue for more than just a couple hours. At least the Hand was already taking turns in fighting to keep it going. Worst case they could retreat but that would create a whole lot of new problems when the demons dispersed, at least until now they had been held back by the mind weavers in the city.
One lost demon at level eighty could perhaps take out a whole human settlement. Ilea was certainly not in the business of saving everyone but if she could protect kids and elderly just wanting to live out their lives on a farm while she could rake in experience for herself, then that was a win win situation to her. She remembered the old man who gave her a lift to Riverwatch. Maybe he was still alive after all the elves and demons, though she doubted any demons had made it that far through the human kingdoms.
“Now Weavy I want you to hold tight and stay calm, we’ll let everybody know you’re not part of the enemy. I’m sure your control over the demons will win over some hearts rather quickly. Hopefully nobody cares enough to kill you instantly.” Ilea said to the demon on her back as they approached the front lines, streams of running demons below them, screaming at the enemy in the sky as they were scattered and destroyed by the many spells and obstacles on their way.
The three reached Sulivhaan a couple minutes later, none of the long ranged mages had attacked them on the way.
“You found them and the demon. Good. I informed everyone beforehand just in case he’d show up again on the front lines. You two are long ranged mages right?” the commander asked as a couple people around them gave Weavy and their group weird looks, one of them was smiling at least.
“Yea, well Kyrian, Trian go have some fun and take care of the demon. I’ll be down in the slaughter. Cheers.” Ilea said and let go of Weavy before she waved to Sulivhaan and let herself fall downwards.
The snow had melted around them, too many hot spells had taken the life out of the element. Ilea landed in the mud and looked around, in front of her a group of around forty people were fighting against the oncoming horde, each person occupying a rather large space for themselves while some people grouped up with two to four others to more effectively use their skills.
She was certainly interested in seeing them all fight but seeing the sheer overwhelming enemy numbers she’d probably get enough time to do so. It was good training for all of them and somewhat easy and safe experience from the many kills. Although most of the remaining monsters would likely be below level one hundred, only a trickle to their levels.
‘Good way to test my new skill...’ Ilea thought as she breathed out, her breath not visible as fires burned in close proximity. The power of State of Azarinth flowed through her as it did for the past fifteen minutes, no glow was visible and no mana was removed from her store. Form of Ember joined the skill as small lines of red formed on her body, only visible where no armor covered her. A moment later she equipped her gloves as well, the dim color of fire only shining lightly through the holes in front of her eyes.
The horns on her helmet reflected the different colors of spells unleashed in front of her as she slowly walked to the front line. There was plenty of space in between the different warriors, the demons attracted to the humans like moths to light. A Veil of Ash shrouded her quickly as she prepared for battle, breathing in and out steadily as ash started to form around her, the world perceived through a Sphere of around twenty four meters around her.
The warriors on her left and right ignored her as the blade and axes flashed, the sound of metal cutting flesh a constant grind in her ears. A band to play some metal would be a welcome addition but then again the thrill of fighting for your life was more than enough to keep the blood pumping. Ilea moved the ash in front of her to the side, alarming a couple running demons of her presence in the middle of it all.
She continued to move the ash around in more and more intricate forms and motions to boost the skill as much as she could while she prepared all the others. The first demon arrived, a level ninety monster of claws and teeth, pure muscle covering its legs and arms as it screamed towards the human prey in front of it.
Ilea stepped up, dodging the clawed hand by a couple centimeters before her fist landed in the demon’s abdomen, her skills sending mana through the beast combined with the kinetic force of her heavy and enhanced body and bones. The monster was stopped in its run immediately, the woman standing like a rock against the sea as the enemy’s limbs moved around her before they fell onto her Veil and dropped down a moment later, the corpse of the demon following a second later.
Ilea breathed in and closed her eyes, concentrating on the Sphere of perception and the ash around her as it twirled and moved, allowing the enemy to see her as she prepared the next strike. Perfectly timed, her kick came to a close on the demon’s head, cracking the skull in a satisfying crunch before it was sent to the side, Ilea recovering from the motion almost immediately before the next demon was upon her.
‘Ten.’ Ilea thought as a flash of pain and wrongness went through her, her health reduced by the though of amount as a light red light joined the fiery color on her skin, runes and lines of molten fire branching into each other as newfound power flowed through her. The next monster was hit in its chest, its ribs breaking as its thorax was pushed inwards and back out of its back, its spine broken just the same.
Ilea breathed out again as she stopped the motion, ripping her hand out of the beast’s corpse again as the power of her 3rd tier State of Azarinth left her again. ‘Only three seconds...’ she thought, analyzing the time the spell had held. The power chosen was neither the lowest nor the highest she could go at the moment. A middle ground.
For the next enemy she chose one hundred health again. Hissing in pain, she felt the power rush through her as her healing skill exchanged her mana for health again. The spell didn’t hold for thirty seconds as assumed previously. Ilea’s fists destroyed four demons with two expertly placed attacks each before the power vanished again.
‘Diminishing returns...’ she thought, looking at her hand as she sacrificed two hundred health. The pain was stronger this time, so much as to distract her from her surroundings. A claw hit her Veil, not managing to break through before she grabbed the hand and kicked the body, ripping off the clawed limb in the process. She chucked it away as she counted the seconds, realizing when the skill lost its power that the time was even lower compared to the three second usage.
It wasn’t much that seemed lost but there didn’t seem to be a reason for her not to just invest ten health in quick succession for the whole duration of the fight. Not until she noticed something else.
The power she could chose was directly influenced by how much health she sacrificed. She invested more and more until she sacrificed five hundred points of her health for a ten second boost, each punch literally ripping apart a demon as her fist traveled through their bodies like a blade through flesh. It was intoxicating but the pain was nearly unbearable at five hundred, her complete resistance not working on it either. It wasn’t pain exactly, it was something in her mind alone, no nerves were affected. The wrongness of the spell flowed through her again as she used it, the strength she gained demanded a sacrifice and not in life alone.
Ilea’s tests went on for hours as she lost herself in the process of controlling and moving ash around her and finding the new limits of her skill and the most efficient ways of using it. She knew that as it grew the numbers would change but some internal understanding of the magic let her know that the ratios would stay the same.
And so the corpses around her piled up as she moved further and further away from the line of defenders, more and more demons flowing towards her, only the ash in her vicinity allowing her not to be overwhelmed by numbers, still enough space for her to fight. Soon spells were hitting around her into the demons as she reached the position where the mages unleashed their destructive elements. It added another difficulty to her fight, avoiding the deadly spells and using them to kill clusters of enemies she grouped up beforehand.
Some of the mages started working with her as time went on and the enemy lines started to thin somewhat, the big clusters from hours earlier not present anymore without external influence, their big area spells less and less effective against the sometimes even lone targets running towards them.
The horizon was on fire as smoke and ash moved around Ilea, all her senses focused on her imminent surroundings as she used every second of quiet between encounters to let Meditation flow through her as she controlled and moved the ash and prepared her next usage of what she by now though of as blood magic. She was sacrificing her health after all, and the wrongness of it might be a clue as well. Though for magic itself to judge right from wrong, she wasn’t sure. The thought came up in the back of her mind as she splattered another demon’s head, dodging downwards and kneeing another one in its crotch, breaking the pelvis before a third enemy was simply grabbed and with the help of some health sacrifice, the limbs were torn out with a quick tug.
She had lost the perception of time as the smell of blood and fire filled her senses. Her body moved through the enemies with the grace of a veteran dancer and the efficiency of a car manufacturing machine as blood sprayed on her Veil and armor until finally her breath became heavy, each hit slowed down as she came back to herself and checked her resources. Her mana was down to one hundred but her Stamina was at ten, climbing each second and falling down again with each hit. Around her were the corpses of dozens of monsters, more coming from the unending numbers of enemies.
Ilea sighed as her wings spread and she blinked upwards to avoid the three monsters that were about to run into her. With a much slower speed than usual, she flew back to the defensive line which at that point was several hundred meters away from her current position. She saw some of the people nodding towards her and realized that a couple of them had tried the same, some more successful than others as they cut paths into the demonic lines and grouped up monsters for the mages to destroy.
It was a good approach tactically speaking and would save a lot of mana and energy in the long run but it wasn’t without risks as she watched two warriors dragging out an injured woman from the claws of a dozen monsters. She was alive and would be fine but the risk was visible to all. Ilea wasn’t worried though, her skillset allowed her just this kind of approach and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Flying back, she landed near where the members of the Hand were resting, getting two nods, and some stares. One guy was even clapping when she sat down and thought about summoning a meal. She didn’t, seeing her nearly emptied state right now and the still high value of a storage item. Looking around she found a couple people cooking, a man near the pot nodding towards her as he filled a bowl with near boiling stew.
Ilea blinked over and grabbed the bowl with her bare hands, her skin too resistant at this point to be affected by it as she thanked the man and walked back to the tree trunk she had been sitting on.
“Your endurance is impressive.” the female mage she had initially rescued had landed next to her and joined Ilea on the fallen tree. Someone must’ve brought it there to sit, Ilea thought. An impossibility on earth or at least an incredible effort just for a temporary sitting solution but here it was just the appliance of a bit of magic.
“Thanks, the only problem seems to be my lack of impact. You guys can just fry fifty of them with a single spell.” Ilea said before blowing on the meal, an unnecessary gesture but still it felt right to her. It was good and she closed her eyes to appreciate the taste of the meal and the energy it brought back to her body, more than she felt any food she had ever consumed brought back. One of the best meals she’d ever enjoyed.
“Well I paused like ten times while you were out there so in the end the numbers are similar.” the mage replied but Ilea knew that not to be true. She saw the devastation of the mage’s spells. Trian alone burned through dozens of demons in mere seconds while she needed just as long to kill one.
“The ash control you have is impressive though, maybe you could do something there?” the woman asked.
“Yea, that’s the only thing I’m working on right now. I can’t really kill anything with it though.” Ilea answered. She didn’t want to look at any of her skill advancements yet as she ignored the messages in her head. The actual class levels wouldn’t be many as the demons were of a much lower levels bare some few. Ilea just hoped her skills would grow with this, especially from her second class.
“Not yet. Let me get some of that food as well.” the woman said, smiled and got up before she walked to the cooks as well. They were members of the Hand too it seemed, their levels all above two hundred as they fed the order before going back to fighting.
Meditation at its fullest brought back Ilea’s reserves in a mere ten to fifteen minutes. Her body was still sore from the expenditure and in the long run this wouldn’t be healthy, she knew and felt it to be that way. Still as it stood, she would invest as much as she could right now to advance her strength while there were still demons to kill.
“This food is amazing...” the woman next to her said as Ilea got up again. Around fifteen minutes had passed in the meantime. “Back already? You should give your body some more time even though your resources are full...” the woman said, a little worry in her voice.
“I’ll be fine.” Ilea said as she got up and walked to the bard nearby who had calmed her mind with his music.
“Thank you.” she simply said and flung a gold coin towards the man which he snapped out of the air before he bowed his head lightly.
“To hear praise from a warrior such as thee is prize enough. I’ll make sure to spend it wisely.” the bard replied before starting to play again. Ilea felt as her muscles relaxed and her mind focused, that music wasn’t just sound. Each member of the Hand it seemed, had more than just one trick up their sleeves. All of it was needed as this day would be a long one.