Chapter 173 Void
“What’s their level?” she asked as she followed the three guards through the streets. The fires had been put out already but smoke was still rising from the city. An all too common picture in her life, she thought. Perhaps just staying in her house forever would be the better choice.
“Between fifty and one hundred and thirty, at least the ones we saw.” one of the guards replied, nearly stumbling as he looked back at her.
“Why are you looking for help then?” Ilea asked. Still it felt right to her. To move and to hunt.
“There have been casualties… They’re highly infectious and frankly terrifying to fight.” the man said. “We were ordered to keep injuries at a low. The healers have their hands full as it is. We have the money to pay and heard about Shadow’s Hand staying nearby.” another one of them explained.
Ilea thought back when she first fought a demon. They didn’t seem terrifying to her. There was another feeling she associated with them but right now she couldn’t recall what exactly that was. These men weren’t adventurers and they sure as hell weren’t hunters. Still, to defend one’s home, one’s family? Shouldn’t they step up?
She didn’t know. She knew that the numbness in her body left a little, just enough for her to feel it. The pain in her stomach. Like a curse, just ten times worse.
“This is it. We have barricaded the next three streets.” one of the guards said as they approached a stone wall going higher than the houses. Guards and what looked like adventurers stood near and above it, bows at the ready and sometimes flinging magic downwards. They could’ve just waited the demons out and killed them at range. She didn’t know why they had been looking for help. She didn’t care.
“… the pay is good but do you honestly expect us to just jump in there? We’ll need to get a proper layout of the houses first, plans and…,” one of the adventurers was talking as she walked by, blinking inside the apparently demonized territory. Just a couple of houses. They should’ve seen Eregar’s Haven at the summoning. A familiar scream resounded a couple meters to her right and Ilea turned.
A two legged spawn, a turned human it seemed. Level sixty, similar to the ones she had killed in Morhill. By the hundreds they had killed them. She remembered but the pain in her stomach didn’t leave. The beast moved quickly, mutated to the point of a perfect hunter. Sharp claws adorned its elongated arms and legs, its hole body thin to allow for faster movement and less surface for attack. Reddish eyes stared at her as its maw opened, sharp teeth ready to tear out limbs and bone alike.
A moment later it was standing before her and Ilea’s arm lashed out, enhanced by her skills she shattered the monster’s throat before she grabbed it. The thing tried screaming but she squeezed as it lashed out with arms and legs, the hits deflected by her Veil of Ash alone that formed around her as quickly as the beast had attacked. “They’re scared… of You?” she stated more than asked before she threw the monster into a house’s wall.
It slowly rose, obviously injured and angry, screaming at the attacker. And this time, Ilea screamed back. A loud clearing scream, full of pain and agony. They clashed, Ilea ignoring the beast’s irrelevant attack as her fist smashed its chest, breaking through the tough skin, breaking the bone beneath and squishing the organs before she opened her hand, grabbing its spine and ripping a part of it out with a quick movement. It was dead.
She didn’t even hear the sound in her mind, barely seeing what was happening before her as her eyes became blurry. ‘My helmet…,’ she thought and switched out her armor with casual clothing she’d wear at her house. The demon fell down and so did she. Falling to her knees and her vision still blurry, Ilea saw the monsters approach through her sphere.
They screamed and rushed at their attacker. The first beast to reach her slashed its claw right across her face, the attack was stopped even before it reached the bone. Ilea’s skin was already too tough. Blood streamed down her face, joining the tears as the beast ripped out its claw to attack again. One of her eyes came with it but the pain felt dull to her. Another attack landed on her back, cutting through the clothing and into her flesh before Ilea stood up.
A sudden blackness formed around them, a whirlpool of ash that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Cuts quickly formed on the beasts still trying to attack her. One managed to mangle her leg quite badly but Ilea just stood there, a smile on her face as she sacrificed a thousand health to activate her State’s third tier. Red tattoos started glowing on her, joining the fiery red from her Form of Ash and Ember. She turned and caught a clawed hand with her hand, fingers intertwining as the claws bit into her flesh.
Ilea just looked at the beast and pushed, the claws bending backwards as they struggled to cut deeper into her flesh before suddenly, several cracks resounded and the beast’s fingers broke backwards. “Why didn’t you come for me?” Ilea asked in a loud voice as the beast attacked her with its other arm, uncaring for its injury. Ilea simply punched, with all her strength. The demon’s chest was cracked inwards and its lifeless corpse sent flying, flinging into its kind as they struggled with the storm of ash around them.
“You wouldn’t be fucking dead now!” she shouted and stomped on the demon corpse next to her, her foot breaking through the skull and brain like through an overripe watermelon. Bone and blood flung upward, sullying both her and her ripped clothing. Ilea felt it then. The pain, not in her stomach but her face. She was injured. Her back hurt too. “What the hell am I doing?” she asked in a sad tone as she looked around, the whirling ash cutting into the weak demons, blood dripping down from her face, back and leg.
Looking down, the leg was a mess. Her flesh had been cut deeply and any normal person would’ve already bled out by now. “You will die too you know? If you continue like this.” she said and started laughing. Her healing spell activated and the arteries closed. The rest was irrelevant. The poison was irrelevant, as were the wounds themselves.
Breathing a deep breath, she quickly condensed the ash around her, five small spheres forming and condensing even further by the second. The demons looked at her and screamed. They did scream a lot, she thought before her ashen spheres rushed out, spinning in the air as she let go of them. One for each remaining demon.
The spheres weren’t enough. The hit demons were slammed to the ground or to the side at the impacts but they got up again. Enough to destroy a tree but not one of these fuckers? Ilea asked herself. She felt it now, over the pain on her body. Grief. For a woman she had barely known. They had fought next to each other, had saved each other’s lives. It was not a nice feeling, Ilea decided. But it was a feeling.
Her wounds closed and back in her armor, Ilea blinked into another house and clapped, several demons rushing at her immediately. Their impact was truly terrifying in a densely populated place like this. Moving quickly, she ducked under the first one’s attack and side stepped to get behind another. A kick to its knee broke the bone as she jumped backwards, evading the wild flailing of her closest adversary before she killed it with two quick punches to the throat and head, sending her offensive magic through the beast as the room slowly filled with ash.
They weren’t the best when they couldn’t see and while they somehow worked well in the night, ash wasn’t exactly the absence of light. She moved quickly through the room and finished the six remaining disoriented monsters with one hard punch to their heads, none of them above level forty. It felt good to kill them, cleansing in a way. ‘That’s the last of them.’ she thought and breathed in, ignoring the fact that the ash going into her lungs didn’t bother her at all.
“See? This is what you could’ve had to help you along the way… dumbass.” Ilea said and kicked at one of the corpses. “At least I will avenge you.” she said and walked to the door, opening the battered piece of wood and stepping outside. The area was clear.
Walking back to the wall where she entered, she blinked up to a rooftop where the guards and some of the adventurers had been watching. “It’s clear.” she said and started walking away.
“Wait!” one of the guards said and held up a pouch. “Your pay!” he said. Ilea turned around and grabbed it. She counted the money through her sphere and nodded. Fifty silver coins. She remembered getting a fraction of that from her first job as a healer in Riverwatch. Her wings spread before she rushed away.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Demon – Slasher – lvl 52]
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Demon – Slasher – lvl 34]
‘ding’ ‘State of Azarinth reaches 3rd lvl 2’
‘ding’ ‘Ashen Warrior reaches 2nd lvl 16’
She couldn’t give less of a crap about her skills right now. If it helped her find and kill the people responsible for Eve’s death though? She wouldn’t say no.
“Are you sure we can just leave her like that? She’s heavily injured!” Silvan said, shaking his head.
“Her eye was back.” Thomas answered, looking at his fellow guard.
“He’s right you know? That scream… I know the Shadows seem crazy sometimes but that wasn’t a battle cry…,” the leader of the adventurer group another guard had managed to hire said.
“She healed that injury? You mean she’s a healer?” Silvan asked and the adventurer shrugged.
“Well she got us out of a job, got any more areas like this one?” he asked.
“I heard about her I think? Lilith or something, the demon killer. Apparently she charged into a horde of those monsters outside the city, fights them with her fists alone.” another adventurer said and Thomas was already getting tired of it.
“Yes, you saw that monster. We do have more areas with demons so come along.” he said and shook his head, these fools had never seen a Shadow fight. Though he had to admit, that show was unorthodox. ‘Perhaps getting injured had some kind of effect for her, maybe a Berserker?’ The man thought. The scream seemed weird, he had to agree there and he could’ve sword he saw tears, not that he would ever tell anybody of that.
As Ilea rushed back, she saw a group of people break into a store, a fire raging in the building next to it. ‘Send in a couple demons and assassins and apparently you can damage even the capital of this empire…,’ she thought and continued on her way. The suns were going to set soon and she simply sat down on a rooftop near the inn they were staying at.
She wasn’t ready to face more of the disgusting documents yet. There was no video evidence like back on earth and Ilea had already seen a fair share of horrible shit in her time in Elos. Still, right now she just wanted to sit and look at the sky and the city that felt even more alive than it had before the attack. There were groups of guards moving around, some in the air. People were shouting and water and fire mages were trying to put out the flames that kept on appearing.
The scale of the operation attacking the city must’ve been rather big. Then again Trian speculated the kingdom of Baralia to be involved. An attack coordinated and funded by a big kingdom was understandably not something one could simply shrug off. She didn’t care much though.
Lying back, Ilea looked at the darkening sky. It was clearer than the day before. Some birds were flying by, nothing like she had ever seen but she hadn’t exactly been a bird watcher on earth either. Summoning some of Walter’s ale, she filled a cup she had taken from one inn or the other and took off her helmet, the old fashioned way.
Her black hair flowed a little in the wind, covering the blood and filth on her face a little. After taking a sip, she looked at the hair, moving it in her armored hand. It looked healthy, not something she ever really thought about but the lack of conditioner and shampoo really didn’t matter much. ‘Or is it the levels?’ she thought, taking another sip. She needed a bath and some sleep.
The decision made, Ilea got up and made her way back to the inn. Trian of course, was still asleep. Kyrian had taken over her position in reading through the evidence. He looked at her and smiled a weak smile. “You look terrible.”
Ilea didn’t answer, just shrugging.
“Let me know if you need anything.” the man said before he went back to reading. To think he could barely spell his own name just half a year ago.
“I will.” she said and blinked down into the common room, helmet back on as she approached the inn keeper. A burly man in his forties, both in age and level. He didn’t seem to care much about their presence, still she noticed his heartbeat increase a little at her approach. Respect, not fear.
“I need a bath, the biggest one you have. And another room.” she said. He responded with a nod and shouted a woman’s name. A couple instructions later, the jittery woman ran upstairs, nearly stumbling on the steps. The reaction people had on her grew to become annoying. At least a little. Changing the armor would mostly remove the impact but even then they knew she was a higher level and a warrior at that.
“This is good…,” Ilea whispered as she sunk into the steaming hot water. She had told the woman to heat it as much as she could. The tub was in another room, a more expensive one probably. The inn keeper hadn’t even asked for money beforehand.
Ilea just lay there, her head resting on the tub as she thought about the past days and weeks. Ten minutes later, she was asleep. Her dreams weren’t exactly the most comforting but not bad enough for her to wake up suddenly.
A knock to the door woke her up. Ilea was a little surprised at still being in the tub. The water was cool now. She noted while moving up her hands that they hadn’t been affected by soaking for so long. Another change her high level brought with it it seemed. The door opened a little and Kyrian peered inside. “Are you awake?” he asked.
“I’m awake.” she replied.
“Good. Come on, she doesn’t bite.” Kyrian said to someone else as he opened the door and stepped inside, walking to the bed and sitting down as he looked at the naked Ilea in the tub. The young woman from the day before entered with a serving cart filled with breakfast foods and drinks.
“It’s morning?” she asked, looking out the window but finding a wall blocking the view right behind the glass.
“It is.” Kyrian replied. “How are you doing?”
Looking down on the water, she found the murky color a little concerning. Blood most of all. The woman in the room was preparing everything on a nearby table, setting out all the plates and cups with careful movements, avoiding looking in either of the other occupant’s directions.
Blinking out of the water, Ilea grabbed a towel and dried herself before she summoned leather armor from her necklace. Walking to the table, she sat down and locked eyes with the woman.
“Thank you.” she said and looked at the food.
“Don’t tell me I have to feed you as well.” Kyrian said as he got up and joined her.
“Careful now boy, or we’ll have to pay more than just the rent.” Ilea replied and put some buns on her plate. “Can you get me another tub of clean water?” she asked, looking at the woman who seemed much more at ease now. She nodded and rushed out, closing the door behind her.
“Bathing more?” Kyrian asked as he started eating as well.
“For my armor.” Ilea replied and spread some butter and honey on one of the buns. The man nodded.
“We worked through the documents. Got some interesting leads. Nothing directly to either Trian or Eve but it’s a start.” he said. The woman entered again, this time with a teenage boy in tow as they carried buckets of water into the room. The boy then spread his arms and the water from the tub moved out, replaced by the water in the buckets. Putting the buckets outside again, the woman closed the door and used her fire magic to heat the fresh water.
“That’s good to know. I’ll be ready after I cleaned my armor. How’s Trian doing?” she asked and continued eating.
“As well as one does in this situation.” Kyrian answered after a while. The two continued to eat in silence but Ilea’s appetite wasn’t at its usual hight. As soon as the woman excused herself, Ilea went to dump her armor into the steaming water, scrubbing at the blood that luckily hadn’t been in there for a long time. The helmet was annoying to clean but it was nice focusing on working with her hands. ‘Going for another demon hunt might be a good idea.’ The thought crossed her mind but they had more important things to do, she knew that.
The cost of the stay including baths, food and both rooms had come to eight silver and forty copper. Considering she had just made fifty silver in about twenty minutes of work, the cost seemed incredibly low. Even with most of her money invested in Claire’s endeavors, leaving around 44 Gold coins, Ilea was still considered rich by most standards, albeit not lavishly so.