Chapter 159 The Hunted
“Good thing they took so long.” Edwin said as he turned towards the stairs as well.
Two people were walking downstairs and entered the hall, looking around. A man looking to be in his late twenties, brown hair and a black coat. He looked at the corpses and then focused on Edwin, a grin forming on his face. His companion, a woman looking to be not a day older than twenty, wearing beautiful silver armor with a perfect face and black hair, ignored both the corpses and the two people standing in the middle of the hall.
“Brother, welcome back! It’s been too long.” the man said and opened his arms, magic flowing into the room. The corpses slowly started to move as the blood around them started swirling, their bones breaking with a sickening crunch as they rose up.
Edwin ignored the man and prepared his swords. He didn’t need to tell Maria how dangerous the two individuals were. They had discussed a possible encounter with enemies they wouldn’t be able to stand against. Considering their specializations it’d be hard to get away unscathed. A smirk came to his face as he prepared to fight. He worried too much.
“Hello Tiana.” Maria said as her magic condensed. The black haired woman bowed a little in response but didn’t say anything.
“Let us dance!” the man in the black coat said as the unnaturally standing corpses suddenly lurched towards the two intruders. Edwin chuckled to himself, which got him a look from Maria right before his skills activated. This wasn’t only his enemy’s domain.
He had grown up here. The first reanimated corpse with no head reached him as Edwin’s swords moved, his body one with his classes, his skills and his instinct. The blades slashed through the corpse with ease, cutting through its torso and legs before he twirled around the still moving flesh, only the momentum remaining as his enemy’s control was ripped away by his own magic. An eyebrow rose on the necromancer as Edwin’s blood magic settled in his bones and muscles, his step sure and heavy on the stone floor as he advanced, blades flashing as they reflected the candle light in the room.
Both the necromancer and Tiana vanished as the air around them rushed inwards where Maria’s magic had activated. Edwin didn’t see her anymore but he concentrated on his enemies as his blades slashed, his body dancing as blood sprayed through the room, each cut ending the movements of a corpse trying to get to him. The air froze before he teleported away, appearing again and slashing at the spikes of ice coming from his previous position.
Some of them came through and clashed against his defensive layer of blood magic. He knew Tiana’s magic wasn’t as simple as that, dropping the layer and teleporting away to see the explosive expansion of her ice magic as it cut into a corpse and the ground below, freezing flesh, bone and the very stone beneath.
It would be unwise to keep their fight in the training hall, there simply wasn’t enough space to have an ongoing battle with the ice mage. He rushed forwards and watched the woman hold up her hand, a rose forming between them. Edwin could see more roses around the woman but he rushed on as the rose before him suddenly vanished, in addition to another one to Tiana’s side. He reached her and his blades moved to the undefended spot on her right.
The impact of his blades was too early. Ripping out the blades he moved backwards as red projectiles smashed into the stone where he had just stood. On Tiana’s side was a flowing mass of silvery liquid, two cuts slowly repaired themselves as he watched on, dodging more blood projectiles coming from the other man.
Maria had finished the rest of the zombies in the meantime, removing their arms and legs while Edwin had tested Tiana’s defenses. The ice and apparently silver mage looked at his blades with interest as the silver remaining on them dripped to the ground below, sizzling into the stone. Metal mages of all kinds were rather rare and certainly dangerous but he had fought enough of them to be prepared for the most obvious tricks.
Good thing he was trained to be a blood enhancer in these very halls, Edwin thought as he whipped his blade to the side, removing the remaining silver from them. He noticed the smile on his face as four spears of blood closed in on him, making him dodge to the left. Expecting the spears to follow his movements, he teleported upwards to avoid the likely counter of Tiana that would wait behind the blood spears.
The air below him cooled, confirming his decision as he at his enemies. Maria was out already, he knew it because of the lacking void attacks in the last three seconds. The corpses were dealt with and she too understood the disadvantage they were in in the enclosed space. Tiana wasn’t the real danger here and should Kyle stop fooling around, it would be a massacre down here. He locked eyes with the man, both of them with a smile on their faces, both for their own reasons.
They only had to get away and today would be a great loss for the house of Redleaf. Perhaps they should’ve killed the children as well but then again, what would be the difference between himself and his father? The moment passed as Edwin reached the highest point of his teleport, the momentum stopping as projectiles of ice and blood reached him. His teleportation skill activated once more and brought him not closer to his enemies but upstairs, signaling their intention of retreat.
The real fight would start now. Edwin started running, confused servants around him looking at the sudden commotion as a monster like scream came from below, making the hairs on his neck and his arms stand up.
The night had nearly passed outside as he rushed into the beautiful garden surrounding the Redleaf training mansion in the outskirts of Virilya. It had taken days to find its location. Luckily one of the nobles they had hunted down had been responsible for delivering promising children to the estate. The forests and hills around the terrain had come back to him immediately as soon as they had reached it but the children were never allowed further out.
He stopped his run, feeling the heavy mana in the air around him and the feel it had. Running wasn’t an option. No, they had to injure their hunters. Enrage them and then injure them. Edwin smiled at the thought of having his self proclaimed brother fail and his father rage. He calmed the shaking in his arms, his breathing steadying as he felt the power within himself and his surroundings. His eyes closed as he took a deep breath, feeling the air flowing through his hair.
Another monstrous scream resounded and he opened his eyes, the corpse of a servant flying out of the door, rolling on the floor a couple times before it came to a stop. Her stomach had been ripped open and her blood was staining the dirt road leading to the mansion. A moment later the hinges of the big entrance ripped apart, the wood splintering outwards, revealing the form of the transformed Kyle, his father’s best hunter. ‘Now let’s see if we’re truly ready for this.’ Edwin thought as he locked eyes with the beast, the grip around his swords growing lighter, the weapons becoming one with his body.
Kyle advanced, his clawed hands digging deep into the dirt road and the field beyond as his three meters high form, now moving on all fours rushed towards its prey. Truly, a monster. Edwin stood his ground and watched the half wolf, half elk like beast close the distance in mere seconds by the sheer strength of its body. His own limbs started moving as he dashed towards the beast, watching as its clawed prank slashed at him with lightning speed.
Only a part of the arm suddenly vanished, sucked in by a small space in the middle of it. The half removed arm flopped forward, allowing Edwin to cut deeply into the side of his adversary. He moved backwards immediately, holding out his blades to block the second strike, the monster injuring itself on the blades as Edwin was blown backwards, his arms barely holding against the savage strike.
Landing, he watched Tiana fly upwards from behind the monster, a shower of ice spreading into the field, covering at least half of the huge space. Edwin moved backwards, dodging the spears and subsequent explosions of shards coming from the growing flowers. Kyle roared as some of the shards slashed into its flesh. The closest roses vanished into nothingness as Edwin ran through the field, away from the now frozen terrain. They wouldn’t grow overconfident and while Tiana was almost unbeatable in a one on one fight in a tournament or a small space, avoiding her magic outside and getting away from her was possible.
A good thing that the two had either not worked together a lot or simply hadn’t faced an enemy strong enough for them to learn to fight together efficiently. More shards of ice hurt Kyle as he ran after Edwin, making the sword dancer’s smile grow.
Ilea sprawled in her bed, yawning after a deserved two hours of sleep. She would’ve like to sleep more but her mind was set on improving her magic. The flight back with Kyrian had made her realize what potential power she was sitting on. Considering the reactions she had gotten from the people who knew about her Ash Creation skill, there really was no reason to ignore it any longer. It was nearly at 2nd lvl 20 as well after all. She didn’t quite know what she had to do to actually use her 3rd tier skill points in her second class but getting more skills to the current maximum level certainly wouldn’t hurt.
‘What should I do after I reach the max level on all skills… Azarinth is nearly there already…,’ she thought and looked through her skills. Not being able to level her skills anymore would be frustrating but there really wasn’t anything else she could do but to find stronger monsters or people to fight and kill to advance her levels. At least if she did want to improve.
Ilea looked at the books around her and sighed. There was nothing on the Azarinth class or her Inheritor class. Humans really should start sharing their knowledge more. The thought was interrupted by Kyrian walking upstairs and waving at her. He wasn’t wearing his armor today, finally comfortable enough to put it down for a while.
“Good morning.” he said, looking outside and smiling. Probably because it wasn’t morning. “You look beautiful.” the man added and stared at her.
“Are you perhaps here to inform me about a prepared meal?” Ilea asked, sitting up on the side of the bed and stretching.
“There is food, yes. I also wanted to ask if you wish to train together.” he asked.
“Perfect and yes. Manipulation skills?” Ilea asked and received a nod before she blinked downwards, sitting on the table to eat. There were plates with cheese, cold meat, fruits, nuts and even tomatoes.
“Thanks.” she said with a full mouth as he walked down to join her.
“It’s your food.” he said and shrugged, metal starting to float around him.
“You prepared it.” she said, ash coming into existence around her. She started forming a table behind herself, the same size and form as the one she was sitting at. Afterwards she formed bowls and all the food that was on the real table.
“What you need is stability, not detail.” Kyrian said, a metal sphere rushing into the table of ash, pushing through and creating a path as it moved around to destroy the whole picture, stopping in front of Ilea’s face as she continued eating.
“I know.” she said. “Any tips on making it more dense? You don’t really have that problem with metal…,”
“True, I don’t. I’m sure we can find some tips in Ravenhall. Fire or Wind mages are probably your best bet but I’d go for the latter, they actually have to make their magic more dense for it to work.” Kyrian explained.
“Wind magic… what if it’s just, feel the magic, feel the wind. I’m really not good with that stuff.” Ilea said and shook her head.
“Maybe it is. That’s how my magic started to manifest. I could feel the metal around me you know? Did you always have an ash related class?” he asked and Ilea shook her head, putting her legs up on the chair as she pushed her knees to her chest.
“I didn’t, no. I started with Fire.” she said, remembering her conversations with that fire mage in the Calys mine. She chuckled, remembering the name of the mine but not the name of the mage. She thought about the people she had met there for a moment.
“Daydreaming?” he asked, smiling at her as he ate a piece of cheese.
“Yes. The guy did tell me to feel the fire. I walked around burning myself with a torch for the remainder of that day…,” she said, smiling at the memory.
“That’s one way to go about it. Fits you I suppose. High pain resistance?” the man asked.
“I do, took me a while. That wasn’t pleasant…,” Ilea said and shivered. Burning alive was not something she’d rate high in a review of life experiences.
“Well then I think you should repeat that. Class evolution changed the Fire to Ash?” he asked.
“It did, yes. So just get ash around me and feel it? I don’t know. Fire at least did something.” she said.
“Real ash does as well. I mean yours is real as well but the way you create it is magical. Not the way one normally gets ash.” Kyrian explained, drinking from his mug.
“Since when are you a magic scholar.” Ilea asked.
“I’m getting better at reading.” he said after a moment of silence.
“You do? I haven’t taught you anymore…,”
“Cless. She’s… she’s good at explaining. And I don’t feel like an idiot with her.” he said.
“That’s great. I mean I hope I didn’t make you feel like an idiot.” Ilea responded.
“No you didn’t but you’ve been rather busy, in the demon realm and all. All I did was take care of Cless and killing demons here whenever I could.” Kyrian said.
“Now you can read without help?” she asked, eating a tomato. The man nodded which got a smile from her. “I’m proud of you.” she said.
Kyrian just looked into her eyes for over ten seconds before he smiled a little. “I don’t know how to react to that.” he said.
“You could say thanks.” she said and got up. “Now where did I put my lighter…,”
“Thanks then. There is one in the kitchen.” Kyrian said as he also got up. “I’ll get some wood up in the forest.”
“Thanks, I’ll join you outside in a moment.” Ilea said.
Blood dripped down from his shoulder as he slowly closed the wound with blood magic. He wouldn’t be able to hide for long. Explosions of ice rang through the forest as he again checked his shoulder. A good thing he had more than enough finesse in infections and poisons to counteract Kyle’s downright disgusting claws. The necromantic curses didn’t help. Edwin sighed as he meditated, regaining some of his strength.
The sun was already hanging rather high and the four of them had moved further out into the wildlands of the east, their game of cat and mouse leaving behind a path of frozen death and blood. Edwin rolled forward as massive claws ripped away the tree he was hiding behind, the man standing and turning around in a single motion as he regarded the massive monster of bone, flesh, fur and claws.
“I can smell you…,” Kyle said in a low and grumbling inhuman tone. His breathing was heavy. Edwin was impressed the man had kept this form throughout the past hours but he didn’t have this reputation for no reason.
He could smell the monster too, he could smell the festering blood of its hastily healed wounds inflicted from his blades, could smell the spittle falling down to the ground, its acidic odor as it burned through the first green of spring.
“I will tear you apart…,” Kyle said again as Edwin rushed closer, his blades parried away by a massive arm. The small wounds had added up and Kyle had become more and more defensive as the hours moved on, Edwin not slipping up a single time and he didn’t plan to start now.
‘She’s here…,’ he thought and dashed backwards, a lance of ice shattering into a thousand shards as it impacted the ground, the pieces spiraling and rushing towards him as he moved behind a tree, hearing the ice impact and cut through the old wood. He teleported further as the tree broke. As soon as Kyle had to give up his transformation, they’d make their escape. He had grown and he was glad that Maria had kept up. They had luckily had enough time to get used to fighting together after he had finally managed to break into the prison.
A roar resounded through the forest as he looked past the tree, seeing the bleeding monster lash out around it, tendrils of blood destroying the trees and the ground around it as a rain of ice came from above. He moved, dashing through the trees with his full speed, blood magic enhancing his movements as he focused on every noise and movement in his peripheral vision.
“He’s transforming back. Let’s move.” Maria appeared next to him and said. “I need a break.” she said and fell where she stood, her consciousness leaving as Edwin caught her and started running. His eyes narrowed as he started moving through the forest, not on the ground but on the trees, his steps improved by his blade dancer skills, leaving behind only the faintest traces of a touch, easily mistaken for a wild animal. It would take them a while to follow though he doubted either Kyle or Tiana had the required skills. Both were likely excellent trackers but neither blood magic, nor silver magic would work on them.
They’d have to use more conventional means to find them an Edwin doubted a skilled tracker in the Redleaf’s employ was an hour or less away. He had succeeded. He winced as his magic failed against the festering curse in his upper arm. It had to be removed, or there was a chance for them to track it.