Chapter 155 A Night of Investigations
“You want her to get kidnapped basically?” the man asked, nearly with a hiss.
“Dear it’s alright, we don’t really have a choice.” the woman said but Ilea interjected.
“I will leave a bit of food with you one way or the other. You do have a choice but we don’t have all the time in the world. She’ll go out, get kidnapped hopefully and we’ll see where we go from there. Her safety is guaranteed of course.” Ilea said.
“If they don’t kill her immediately… I’ve heard what they did to people who oppose them… what if you lose her?” he was obviously worried.
“You’re not opposing them, are you? I won’t lose her.” she said with somewhat faked confidence. If Eve could get away from her then the people here could have a way as well. It was unlikely but certainty wasn’t something she could guarantee.
“What if she gets hurt then?” the man insisted.
Ilea sighed and unsheathed Aki, making them tense up before she grabbed the man’s arm and cut him.
“What the h… aaah!” he exclaimed but she didn’t let go and look into his eyes as she healed the wound again in mere seconds. “aaa… wh.. what.” he said as the woman tried to get Ilea away as well, shouting for her to stop.
“You healed… “ he exclaimed as she let him go while he looked at his hand.
“Yes, I healed. And I will heal her, at least if they don’t take her head in a swing. Even then I might be able to prevent the attack. We’ll wait outside for two minutes, if you don’t come the deal is off. Dress in something cheap, look desperate.” she said and summoned enough food to last the family a couple days. “That’s yours one way or the other.” Ilea got up and walked outside, Kyrian followed right after.
“What do you think?” he asked her when they stood outside again.
Ilea looked at him with a smile. “I don’t have to think, I can see her getting ready.” she said as she held Aki into the rain to clean off the blood a little.
It had been a long day, another one after many. No sleep had found Michael for a week already, his magic fueling him to stay awake and aware of both his work and his surroundings. The small stack of documents and letters in front of him was nearly dealt with, the final thing before he’d get at least some rest.
‘Another three towns have fallen to the demons…’ he thought, marking them on the massive map of Lys behind him with floating pins of gold. His office was richly decorated, as decadent as his very image. Not many knew of his magic and the fact that the supposed decadency was what brought him the advantage on his territory, at least in his personal quarters.
A knock on the door made him perk up. It was his butler who entered a moment later. “Sir, you’ve been working for fifteen hours without eating or drinking. Would you like some refreshments?” he asked. Michael smiled and sat back.
“No, I’ll get some rest soon. You should too. Be back again tomorrow morning.” he said and the butler bowed and left the room again.
The remaining documents were worked through in the span of forty minutes and Michael finally sighed and stood up. He teleported next to his bed in the room over and switched his beautiful red and gold suit to a night suit, still partially woven with gold.
A small plate with egg, bacon, cheese and bread stood next to his bed on a table. Michael smiled as he walked closer. Taking the plate, he smelled the simple yet beautifully prepared food. “That old man, just c…,” he stopped in his tracks as he looked at the shelf above the table.
The plate shattered on the ground, food spilling onto the expensive carpet as Michael stepped over the shards, crushing them below his bare feet as he extended his hand towards a particular glass container on the shelf. The man carefully touched it.
Inside was a wilted flower, only a hint of the beautiful purple remaining that had so strongly sang with life just the day before. His breathing picked up as mana gathered around him, the air in the room feeling more dense as the walls started to crack, the interwoven gold pushing at the foundation of the room itself. It lasted only a moment.
When the butler rushed into the room, magic flowing around the man as well, Michael’s breathing was steady again. “Have the room repaired Teris. I will be gone for a while.” he said and walked to the door, his night suit replaced by intricately designed golden armor, the helmet resembling a stag. “Prepare a funeral ceremony. Prim has died.” he said and the butler bowed before he went to clean up the food.
“That was easier than expected.” Ilea whispered to the man next to her.
“Are you sure it’s them though?” Kyrian asked “Could be anybody for all we know.”
“There’s fifteen armed people in there and the place doesn’t exactly look official.” she said. “If it’s another group then we’ll find out more about them as well. Plus they seemed too professional to me to be just a bunch of thugs. They’re organized at least. One of them is writing letters as we speak.” she said and the man nodded at that.
“Then how do you want to approach this? Just go and knock again?” he asked.
“They haven’t hurt the woman, they’re just talking to her. Even got her a blanked. I think I’ll go in there and talk to the guy who’s interviewing her. He’s probably the one who knows the most in there.”
“I’ll wait here until a fight breaks out or you get me.” Kyrian said.
“Alright. Wish me luck then.” Ilea said and smiled below her helmet. A moment later she appeared inside the room twenty five meters away, where a small table and two chair stood, occupied by the woman they had used as bait and a man in light metal armor. Ilea immediately grabbed his throat and pushed him to one of the walls. He was only at level one hundred and the identification informed her that he had a rogue like main class.
He was powerless to oppose the sudden appearance and the strength of her arm. The woman in the room managed to at least not scream, knowing that something like this was about to happen.
“If you don’t want to die in the next seconds, I suggest you don’t do anything stupid. Alright?” Ilea asked, looking deep into the man’s eyes whose adrenaline was likely pulsing at a high. He hadn’t used any skills or attacks on her immediately which meant he either simply wasn’t fast enough or he was smart enough to know when he was beaten.
“Now I’m here to talk and if we can find an arrangement suitable to all parties involved, we can all leave happily without anybody dying. How does that sound?” she asked, lessening the pressure on his throat a little.
“Go.. ood” he squeaked out.
“Good.” she said and smiled, though he didn’t see that through the metal of her helmet.
“Now I’ve learned that a certain group of outlaws has taken it upon themselves to try and take over Riverwatch. I am told that there is a certain individual orchestrating the whole thing and I’d like to meet said individual. Now please don’t try to bullshit me here because I have developed a somewhat small tolerance for that in the past year. Are you a part of said group?” she asked.
“Ye.. s.” the man supplied, either willing to cooperate or more interested in his own life.
“Good, then is your leader around?” she asked and lessened the pressure even further.
“I’m afraid not, no. She’s out of town at the moment and I doubt I could get you an audience.” the man said.
“That’s a bummer. I specifically forced this bitch to bait and find you and now you’re telling me my target isn’t here?” Ilea said, looking at the woman who nervously moved on her chair.
“Why don’t we turn this around then.” Ilea said. “How much time do we have?”
“Nobody will bother us for at least an hour.” the man said as Ilea let him go. He coughed a couple times and held his throat before he looked at her and gulped.
“For the H… Hand to get involved… I never… “ he said before Ilea grabbed him and pushed him onto a seat. She walked over to the woman, grabbed her and roughly shoved her to the ground, hopefully not injuring her too badly. She’d heal her afterwards, it was part of the deal and the only way they could at least somewhat protect the family against a possible retaliation by the group in question.
Ilea sat down on the now free chair. “Now I’m glad you’re not quite as stupid as I expected a random member of a gang of outlaws to be. First tell me about yourself and your group, who is your leader and what does she want with this city.”
The man looked up for a moment and started speaking right before Ilea wanted to push again. “I’m Trevor. Born and raised in Riverwatch. I was…,” he stopped and sighed, lost in thought and then locking eyes with Ilea who patiently gave him his time. “I was the leader of the Riversong.” he said and waited.
The moment stretched on before Ilea finally reacted. “I’m sorry I have no idea who you are, is that a band?” she asked. The man smiled and held a hand to his face before he chuckled into his fist.
“Do I have to remind you of the position you’re in?” Ilea asked, though she found the whole thing somewhat amusing as well. This reminded her of a movie where a guy gets killed because he laughed at the wrong moment. She liked the guy already and hoped that she could somehow not kill everyone in this building.
“No, I’m aware that you’re perfectly capable of killing everybody in this building.” he said as he worked hard to turn serious again. It took him a moment but he was back to his calm self from before again. The scar near his eye and the beard gave him a viking like look but coupled with the laughter from before it was difficult for Ilea to take the man as a threat.
“It’s just that you’re ridiculously uninformed for teleporting straight into our stronghold and expecting me to just talk about everything. Now before you interject I’m quite happy without any torture so I’ll spare us both the trouble. You don’t seem like the kind but I can tell you’re ready to kill. I’ll make it quick then.” he sighed. “A drink would be nice.” he said and continued talking, interrupted again at the sudden appearance of two mugs and a bottle of ale in front of Ilea.
“Today might be the lucky one.” he murmured and poured himself a drink after Ilea nodded at his questioning look.
“The Riversong is an organization founded several hundred years ago. An honorable organization of mercenaries…,”
“You’re criminals. Murderers, thieves, rapists?” Ilea interrupted and took a sip.
He sighed again and smiled. “Thieves, yes. Criminals, yes. There’s little money in raping and slavery will bring too much attention on us. Aye, I have murdered people but your shining order isn’t exactly the brotherhood of paladins either.” he said to which Ilea didn’t visibly react.
“Focus.” she said and poured herself another drink.
“Yes. We were perfectly interwoven with this town until the elven attack nearly a year ago. It was a feast right after but many smaller groups popped up and many questionable people from outside came here. The refugees haven’t stopped coming and every day it gets harder to keep people from murdering each other. There’s a balance you see, a balance that has to be kept up, otherwise we become just another bandit camp which will be eradicated by someone like you, or by themselves as is more often the case.” the man explained.
“Well the new leader of all the organized crime, both old and new, doesn’t quite share my outlook on this topic. Melian is her name and she’s from some backwater shit town in the west. I heard it got wrecked by the elves and I hate the fuckers for leaving her alive.” he said and spat on the ground. “I can tell you where she is, you take care of her and we can all be on our merry way. How does that sound?” the man asked.
“Tempting and easy.” Ilea said. “How can I trust you?” she asked.
“I’ll come with you. I have no doubt that even should an elaborate trap get you, you’d manage to get my head in the process. I want to see the bitch die, she’s killed many of my best.” he said and drank his ale, pouring himself another one. “I’m not a good man you see. But I don’t torture people for the fuck of it, I don’t enslave people and break them as a sport. She’s twisted, the worst kind of psychopath and she’s powerful. She’ll take what she wants and Riverwatch will be just one of many destroyed places before she finally fucks with someone too powerful for her to take. The Hand…,” he gestured towards Ilea “… might be just that someone.” he said.
She moved back in her chair. “Sounds like a cunt to me but I’ll make my own picture when I meet her. Any idea to her level and skills?” she asked.
“Her lightning magic is displayed openly for all to see, as an example mostly but also just because she loves to use it. No idea about her second class. She could be two hundred or five hundred for all I know.” he said.
“Lightning, well I’ll meet her one way or the other. We’ll see then if I can take her or not. You’d probably die though if I have to flee.” Ilea said.
“Worth the shot, trust me I tried to undermine her. The only reason she hasn’t taken over the whole city already is because of the coordination of me and two other bosses, one of them dead by now or still being fried by her.” he said and spat again. It really irritated Ilea for some reason.
“Stop spitting, that’s the first thing. I could find her anyway, without you it’d just take longer. I prefer quick. I know a captain of the guard, you’ll meet with him as soon as this is over. You and those bosses. You’ll find some sort of agreement that will allow you to coexist with the city at least somewhat.” Ilea said.
“We already have something like that. It’s not written down but the guard isn’t the only party defending this town. We live off it too and when the elves attacked we lost our people as well. I will meet your man and at least I am willing to reduce our influence if the city is still standing in a month’s time and that bitch is dead.” he said. That was good enough for Ilea. Criminals wouldn’t stop to exist, especially in a world where people could literally damn near turn invisible. Perhaps someone like this man would at least adhere to a certain codex.
Of course he could still just be fooling her but Ilea has developed at least a certain feel for people in the past year. Alice had fooled her but she had been a trained noble and what she considered a friend, this man certainly wasn’t either of those things.
“Then let’s not lose anymore time.” Ilea said and got up.
“There are spies from her in here as well. Can you follow me if I leave later?” Trevor asked her.
“Sure, when are you leaving?” Ilea asked.
“Half an hour.” he said.
“Don’t do anything stupid.” Ilea said and vanished. She doubted he had made up the whole story from scratch, he was too emotionally invested in all of it. If he didn’t betray them, it would mean a rather swift lead to the person responsible. The man was rather open about his personal interests as well but in this case it would have a positive result for all parties involved.
“We’re waiting for the boss of a local gang to come out and then lead us to the supposed mastermind of this fuckery.” Ilea explained to Kyrian who nodded.
“You’re watching him?” he asked.
“Yes I am. He’s currently talking to the woman we employed, helping her up and checking her injuries. Criminal but he doesn’t seem like the worst.” she said.
“Many of them aren’t.” Kyrian said absentmindedly. She looked at him for a moment and then focused on her target again.
Michael stored his helmet as he came up on the corpse. She was beautiful as always, a beauty like few others, so young and pure. He knew of course that Prim was neither of those things but he remembered her from back then. She was a strong human, twisted and burdened with a terrible childhood. He didn’t want to know about her desires but had kept a tab on her. She killed peasants and nobles alike, for her own enjoyment and, other things. Never in excess and never in increasing quantity. The beautiful garden that surrounded both her mansion and the caves below outweighed the deaths with its artistry alone.
Closing her eyes, he cleaned up the wounds on her body. Curse marks ran through most of her skin, originating at the wounds. Daggers most likely. Her foe had been efficient, all the cuts in critical positions. Having sparred with Prim before, he knew it wasn’t easy to get an opening on her. The dead and corroded ground covering most of the cave told him that she had been pushed to the limit. It wasn’t an assassination, it was a hard fought battle and Prim had lost.
Michael wouldn’t underestimate whoever had done this. He activated his blood magic and looked around, checking both the corpse of the deceased Prim and the surrounding ground. It didn’t take long for him to find what he had been looking for. He sighed and shook his head. Two capable humans would die tonight. Truly, it was a shame.