Chapter 161 #Economics
Ravenhall looked a little better already. It had been a couple days but Ilea was still surprised at the progress. The Hand or the empire must’ve put up some rather good pay to entice all the workers that busied the streets. Not just soldiers and mercenaries, she noticed. Many of them of a level much lower than usual for the Scouts or the Shadow’s Hand and their gear specialized for construction, not for adventuring or war.
Ilea reached the central government building a couple minutes later. It was busy. Much more than it had been the week before. The square was bustling with people going their way. A destroyed city with a mostly dead population combined with the funds to rebuild left a lot of economical opportunities. Ravenhall would stand again and the first people to realize that and invest would be the ones to profit the most.
Walking into the building, Ilea was glad to find that the Hand’s leadership was still there. Thanks to her Sphere she didn’t even have to ask anybody and simply blinked into Claire’s office, putting Aki into her necklace an instant later. A nicely furbished room greeted her, with a big wooden table, shelfs and a red and gold carpet, an intricately woven design woven into it. An oil lamp was burning on the table, unnecessary with the light outside but then again Ilea didn’t know how good Claire’s eyes were.
“Oh hello Ilea. Back already?” Claire asked, looking up from the document in front of her. One of many that cluttered her table. With her spherical perception, Ilea could tell there was an order to all the paper. Much more than one would assume looking onto the scene from the middle of the room.
“Yea, put our demonic friend in good care and even wiped the floor with a sparky bitch. The worst kind.” she said, getting a stare back from Claire.
“Well, you do you Ilea. What can I do for you, you can probably see that I’m rather busy. Anybody else I’d have already blown out of the room.” Claire said with a smile. The scorch marks on the floor, hidden below the carpet, and the neatly repaired window were proof enough of the woman’s words.
“Ah yes, well there are a couple things and I won’t be busying you for long. Any idea where I can find Dagon? I can’t see him in this place. Are there merchants in town who sell leather armor or maybe there’s a store open already? Ah and are there good jobs in already, me and Kyrian would love to get some good ones while they’re fresh. And can I have a badge or something? I don’t want to wear my black armor all the time. It’s kinda busted anyway.” Ilea monologued while walking around a little, picking up random documents and books before placing them back neatly into the exact same spot where she took them.
Claire listened intently and answered as soon as Ilea stopped speaking. “Dagon is either here or in his library, he got rather angry when he found out some of the Mind Weavers tried to get in there. There are merchants though no shops have opened yet, let me get to that after I answer you. Out on the square or near the northern gate you should find what you need.” she paused, signing the paper in front of her and putting it into a pile.
“We have an all time low for jobs at the moment. Everybody’s busy with the demons and people have just received news that the Hand still exists. Most places I assume think Ravenhall is destroyed and the Shadow’s Hand gone with it. Come back in a couple weeks and I should be able to get you some good things. Many of our members are helping with the rebuild and trust me, the pay isn’t worth their ability. Better for the city though. And for your last question. You should have a badge. We all got one. Did you lose it? It’s a black metal with, you guessed it. A hand on it.” Claire finished, looking at Ilea as she leaned back in her chair and sighed.
Ilea just shrugged in response. She had no idea where hers had gone, not remembering receiving one in the first place.
Claire stood up and got something out of a pocket in her pants. “Here, take mine. I’ll get a new one.” she said and handed Ilea a black piece of metal. “Touch it while it’s on top of my hand and accept. Otherwise you’ll get burned.” Claire said and showed her hand. Ilea did as was asked and got a noise in her mind in response.
‘ding’ ‘Would you like to claim [Shadow Badge – High Quality]?’
‘Yes I would, thank you oh dark one.’ Ilea thought, hoping that if there was an entity in control of this world and its magic, it understood sarcasm. If not, it would have to rip it away from Ilea’s cold corpse.
‘ding’ ‘You have claimed [Shadow Badge – High Quality]’
“Thanks Claire, I owe you. How much does one cost?” Ilea asked the woman who slowly walked to the window. A sudden feeling of spreading magic made Ilea alert, looking around the room and beyond as her buffs heightened.
“Don’t worry, it’s me.” Clarie said, looking out the window before she turned around, a sly smile on her face. “The necklace you can have for one question of mine.” Claire said, holding up a finger.
“Sure, you can ask whatever, I can’t promise an answer to everything though.” Ilea said, intrigued by the weird behavior of her friend. She walked behind the desk and sat down on the comfortable leather chair. ‘I have to get one of them too…,’ Ilea thought and smiled at the small twitch she could see on Claire’s mouth.
“How much gold do you have?” Claire asked, making Ilea turn with her chair towards the woman.
“How much gold? Why?” she asked in return.
“I’ll tell you if you tell me. The room is sealed, even you wouldn’t be able to hear through this.” Claire said.
“Well if there’s anybody I trust with information on my money it’s you. Lemme check… I have 44 gold, 29 silver and a whole two copper coins…,” she said, watching the smile on Claire’s face flatten a little and the spark in her eyes vanish.
“… not counting the 2325 gold coins I found in a dwarven mine. Don’t worry, they didn’t below to anybody anymore.” Ilea added with a dumb smile. She could see Claire actually getting close to throwing a runed stone towards her. The woman managed to stop herself though, likely because of the documents on the table.
“You… fuck.” Claire uttered but the tone implied a different feeling. “Ilea, this is just between me and you. You saw all the people outside. This city is a gold mine but it won’t be for long. The power, especially economic is a complete void. Most of the Hand’s members are too occupied with finding new jobs or their funds too far away to make deals right now and the imperial soldiers are simply not allowed to. Most of the rich merchants are yet to come here and the empire itself is too slow in its bureaucracy to allow fast acquisitions of their own. I’m sitting at the source and would be able to push through a ton of deals but I don’t have any gold Ilea. Damn I came here to get gold and influence, now I just lack the former.” Claire explained in a rush, nearly running over her own words. She was excited to say the least.
“I won’t let you get out of this room without at least lending me a couple hundred gold coins. Do you have them in your house or somewhere hidden? I can’t squander this opportunity so I ask you to help me. I’d get you favorable jobs and anything you need from the Hand as is within my power. Personal advice or work is included as well of course, as is anything else where I can be of service. Anything.” she stressed the last word, looking deeply into Ilea’s eyes. This was a woman ready to do business, at all cost.
“Claire, as much as I’d like to see you naked in my bed, me and Kyrian are becoming a sort of, well thing.” she said, Claire just looking at her confused before her eyebrows rose.
“I didn’t mean that…,” she started but Ilea stopped her with a gesture, walking to one of the shelfs. Next to it was a box with clothes. She took them out and placed them on the floor before she summoned exactly 2325 gold coins into the box, nearly filling it to the brim. Claire walked a step closer but stopped herself, her eyes fixated on the gold before Ilea closed it.
“I want you to take over as much of the city as you can. Understand me?” Ilea said, the woman looking at her dumbfounded. “Prioritize restaurants and any establishments that have to do with food, obviously. Then go for smithing, clothing, bed stores and anything else you deem useful or economical.” Ilea started, walking a couple steps in the room.
“Anything you can buy or build up. I trust you with this gold. I want Cless to have a school again where she can learn about the world. I want the guard and adventurers from around here to be equipped well and I want the whores to be treated right. Invest in political influence as well if you can. Unions for workers, is that even a thing here?” Ilea asked looking at the woman sideways who just nodded.
“Good. Stay economical though but you can invest long term. You know all that stuff better than me anyway, don’t do anything stupid and I want personal reports from you whenever I come back here. Make sure that the bosses and staff know of Lilith.” Ilea said and smiled. She really liked the idea of being this unknown owner of damn near a whole city. Claire seemed to like the idea just as much as her grin started to mirror Ilea’s.
“Everything to be co owned by me and you, contracts signed by both of us. Twenty percent you, eighty me?” Ilea asked.
“God you’re terrible at this. Good thing you have me. Ten for me, let this be the only horrible decision made with this gold.” Claire said, shaking her head as she started writing on a fresh piece of paper. “Come back in two hours.” she said, focused on the paper as Ilea shrugged “Even less sleep then…,” Claire grumbled before Ilea blinked out again.
She moved the new badge in her hand and looked at it. ‘Second necklace?’ she asked herself but then simply made it vanish into her existing one. There likely wasn’t frequent use for it anyway. Aki was summoned again but didn’t complain this time around. Jumping down the building, she bought some food nearby and walked around. ‘Was twenty percent that much?’ she asked herself as she checked the armors placed on a wooden table. The merchant was talking with another man while Ilea looked at the goods.
There was no set of leather armor that would fit her well so she continued her search. Ilea didn’t find what she was looking for in half an hour of browsing but she did purchase a small wooden box, perfectly sized to store around twenty of her ashen spikes. Putting the five she still had with her inside, she successfully stored the box in her necklace.
Removing it again, Ilea found the spikes completely crumbled already. “Fuck. Well this isn’t gonna work…,” Ilea grumbled to herself and made the box vanish again. At least she had a nice box now.
Viscera looked spotless compared to the rest of the city and it seemed many of the Hand’s members had prioritized its cleanup. Most of the previously damaged architecture had been repaired and the only visible signs of a battle were small scratches and scorch marks on a couple of walls. The elevators had been repaired as well and Ilea found herself in Dagon’s domain soon after.
The man was nowhere to be found and even with her Sphere, she couldn’t see him. Hunter’s Sight activated and Ilea looked around again. This time she noticed a couple of things. One, that her senses were a little off in this room. She could feel the faint presence of magic. Her Sight and Sphere combining, Ilea could make out several traps in the room, all of them not active it seemed. She didn’t know why and walked to an inconspicuous part of the room where she touched the wall, both her Sphere and Sight telling her that something was wrong with it.
Runes lit up on the wall, a complex magical construct activating before a beam of light shot out from the middle of the wall, burning through Ilea’s chest and the wall behind her. She blinked out of the still active beam of scorching light immediately, her leather armor destroyed and a bleeding hole in her chest. The beam had nearly immediately burned through, activating too fast for her to react.
The second stage of pain tolerance was activated and Ilea used her Hunter Recovery to start healing the massive wound. The spell had taken around thirty percent of her health. Not as dangerous as the poison trap but then again her Heat Resistance and ability to blink out probably helped quite a bit. She was surprised that she could still stand and function as several of her vital organs had been completely destroyed. Additionally she had only lost thirty percent of her health. Losing one’s heart should probably count for more but she assumed it would, if the wounds stayed uncared for. The bleeding alone would kill everyone not able to heal immediately.
‘ding’ ‘Light Magic Resistance reaches lvl 3’
‘ding’ ‘Light Magic Resistance reaches lvl 4’
‘ding’ ‘Light Magic Resistance reaches lvl 5’
The wall opened up and an armored Dagon with his metal tome stepped out, magic flared around him as he prepared to strike. The sight before him stunned the man as the book was lowered. “Ilea! By the dragons what have you done!” he uttered, putting the book onto the table and walking up to her but the woman stopped him.
“I’m fine, just give me a minute.” Ilea said and summoned the remaining taleen clothing she usually wore under her juggernaut armor. It was pretty beaten up as well but at least covered her chest. Dagon didn’t get to see much other than burnt skin and well, the absence of a chest. The wounds slowly healed, slower than usual Ilea noticed. The beam seemed to have something that acted similar to Kyrian’s curse magic. Additionally all the veins had been scorched and rebuilding a complete heart wasn’t the simplest thing, even for her recovery.
Still just over a minute later Ilea rolled her shoulders before she summoned the destroyed leather armor. “Care to replace this?” she asked, smiling at the man.
“Care to re… you ignorant fool… do you know how much that spell… how did you sur…,” she had caught him at a lack of words, uncommon to say the least for the head librarian of the Shadow’s Hand. The man sighed heavily and walked behind his desk, sitting down on the massive chair as he removed his helmet.
“How did you even find the wall? How did you survive? Your recovery is incredible… even for a high end blood mage or dedicated healer that would be difficult to do. The pain alone should’ve rendered you immobile, in a complete state of shock. The spell has mana draining and recovery stopping properties as well. A masterpiece of runic magic. And a high quality mana crystal destroyed. Any idea how rare those are?” Dagon asked in quick succession as he opened one of the drawers in his desk, getting out a bottles and two glasses.
“About as rare as that one I suppose?” Ilea asked, motioning to the bottle and getting a chuckle from the man. “Or this?” she asked again and summoned the high quality mana crystal she had gotten in the demon realm.
“You cursed demon.” Dagon said and closed his eyes.
“I thought the spell should put me in a state of shock, not you.” she said. “Care to help me with a couple things? Take the crystal as repayment for fucking with your runes. I was just looking for you.” she said.
“Looking for me. You’re not the first who found that wall but you’re the first one stupid enough to fuck with a runic formation this complex. Why would you do such a thing? No, don’t answer that one please. My headache was strong enough already.” Dagon said, uttering the last bit to himself.
“Do you have more of those crystals? Most of mine have been drained because of the mind weavers trying to get in here.” Dagon said, having calmed down a little.
“I only have medium quality ones. Wanna trade?” Ilea asked as she looked at him.
“Sure, information or whatever else you need.” the man said as he returned to his normal self, pouring two glasses of the whiskey, going by the smell and color.
Ilea took her glass and leaned on his table sideways, a little annoyed that there wasn’t another chair. Perhaps she should keep one in her necklace as well. “I won’t answer the previous questions. Trade secrets and all. Now that you destroyed my leather armor I need more. The Hand has a stock in the training halls? I’ll just take a bunch if that’s alright.” Ilea said and took a sip. It was good, very strong though, surprising even her. The taste was likely lost on her but she wouldn’t slap away the gesture of him pouring her the drink.
“Sure, take however many you need.” Dagon said. “That’s still for the high quality crystal. I’m sorry you got hurt, I can be a little paranoid at times.” the man said but Ilea shrugged it off.
“It’s alright, I got some resistance levels out of it.” she said and got a nod from him before he took a sip of his drink.
“Is that all you needed?” he asked.
“No, some other things.” Ilea said and summoned a mana crystal of medium quality.