Chapter 177 Negotiations
“You saw her fight that beastwolf. If she agrees to help us take down Arthur I’ll give her whatever information she requires.” Edwin said. “I hate to admit it but she’s caught up to me… in half a year.”
“You know everybody rising that fast is taking risks, she’ll die just as quickly. They all do.” Maria said.
“Then she’ll die for us.” Edwin said, which was the point when Ilea appeared in the room, casually sitting on the desk next to where Felicia and Aliana were sleeping.
“I see you haven’t changed Edwin.” she said. Maria took a defensive position as soon as she had appeared.
“And she’s listening in on us. How trustworthy.” she said, raising one of her eyebrows. Ilea pointed towards the woman.
“Nice trick with the one eyebrow, one of your skills?” she asked. “Look, Edwin used me to get to that Taleen teleportation thing. I profited by being able to get some rather nice loot and an insane power jump from that dungeon. Plus, I learned a valuable lesson.” Ilea jumped off the table and walked a couple steps closer to the two.
“Your stealth won’t protect you in here and I’m pretty sure I could take you two out without losing more than a couple limbs.” she started and activated all her skills. “Plus I have two guys a hallway over that have some rather nasty spells ready. The only reason I’m not smashing in your skulls for again trying to set me up to be your tool is sleeping right there in the corner.” She could tell they had activated some skills as well, Maria looking damn near invisible. ‘Not as good as Eve’ she thought.
“Now for starters, grow a fucking spine Edwin. If you’re looking to avenge what they’ve done to your sister you should at least be strong enough to face the man alone. Not that that would be a reasonable decision but just in case.” Ilea said and deactivated her active abilities again, walking back to the desk.
“I don’t trust you. You’re manipulative assholes only thinking of their own goals but right now? Right now I’m quite similar.” Ilea said and watched as Maria became more visible again and Edwin’s body relaxed a little.
Ilea clapped her hands together. “So we’re in luck. Somehow nobody has started fighting yet and we seem to have intertwining goals. I don’t want your help actually fighting the Golden fucking Lily. You’re here for your father, that I believe you. And as he is the only connection I have to reaching MY goal, I’ll be assisting at least to an extent. I’ve saved your ass Edwin, more than once at this point. It’s disappointing. We might’ve made a good team, us and you guys. On our way to kill some rare flowers.”
“I’m starting to think you might not be an asset.” Maria said and Ilea just shrugged in response. “Why would we want your help when you could disappear any moment?”
“You’re not exactly in a position to bargain lady. You know where Arthur is and I want to meet said Arthur. So I’m staying, if you want it or not.” Ilea said.
Maria just sighed and looked at the ground. “Alright, have it your way. You’re as bloody stubborn as this dolt. At least she has guts.” she said. Ilea saw Edwin gulp at that through her Sphere.
“We’ll make this very simple. As we are a group of mercenaries, you’ll be paying us. In gold and information. Additionally we’ll be free to loot, destroy, employ or kill anybody wherever we’ll find that man you so desperately want to murder.” Ilea said.
“We’ll get a say in the killings.” Edwin said and Ilea shrugged. “How much gold?” Maria asked.
“All of it.” Ilea said without a beat. “You would’ve died today or tomorrow, either by that wolf fucker or your two pursuers. Now if those flowers are as strong and dangerous as you suggested, I’ll think you’d need all the help you can get.” Ilea added.
Maria wanted to say something but Edwin stopped her. “Fine, you’ll get it. All the fucking gold we have and everything I’ll pry off my family. I’ll even make you bloody head of the house if you want it, as long as that man dies.” he said, a determined look on his face.
Ilea nodded. “Good. Then at least I know your goal is true. Perhaps this is the first time I feel like you’re not lying to me. Maybe I’m wrong too, well we will see. I don’t want to become a noble, most of the ones I’ve met so far were absolute cunts.” Ilea said, her magic activating as she blinked in front of Edwin, delivering a quick punch to his gut while Maria raised her hand, magic ripping at Ilea’s flesh as she moved backwards just a step, part of her lung vanishing instead of her heart.
The woman had nearly vanished already but she wasn’t invisible to Ilea’s sphere who took three quick steps and lashed out her hand, grabbing her neck. “Careful what you do now.” she said, her lung regenerating in the meantime. Seeing that Edwin was alright, Maria remained unmoving.
“You deserved it, and more.” Ilea said as she let go of Maria.
Edwin nodded as if nothing had happened. “We have a deal then.”
“We do.” Ilea said and smiled.
“Did I not get you?” Maria asked, surprisingly a little worry in her voice. For her own magical talent or her target’s well being, Ilea didn’t know.
“You should’ve gone for the head.” Ilea quoted and blinked away, her joyous mood settling quickly as she shook her head, remembering their task. “Eve liked my shit jokes.” she murmured to herself as she walked back to her team, at least what remained of it.
“It’s them. Can you read through the marked passages and confirm? I’d appreciate your input.” Trian said as he gestured towards the table with the spread out papers and letters. Edwin nodded and got to work.
“I meant you as well.” Trian said to Maria but she just chuckled.
“I doubt my input will be of any value.” she answered and left it at that. Though Ilea noticed that the woman kept a sly grin afterwards.
“The Birmingales then. Wouldn’t have expected such an act out of them but considering the past year they must’ve become desperate.” Trian said. “I’m not completely sure but were I in your position I’d grab one of them and interrogate. Could be that they’re being framed but considering the diversity of sources I’d say they’re your target.” Edwin said and leaned back.
“Good, I thought the same. I know some of them personally. They’re definitely capable of that. Fuck.” Trian said and shook his head while nibbling at his nails. “This is it then?” he asked himself before he looked at Ilea and Kyrian respectively.
“How are you looking with targets?” Ilea asked Edwin and Maria.
“It would be nice to surprise the two that were hunting for us.” Maria said.
“We have a couple more people on our list. Sadly the location of Arthur is still unknown to me. There’s plenty of possible places but the man is paranoid, always was. Damn well should be, I’m far from the only enemy willing to track him down.” Edwin explained. “Not the only one worth killing either.” he added.
“If we’re taking out a whole noble family anyway you might want to join us, they’re bound to have valuable information.” Ilea said, surprising Edwin who lifted his eyebrow.
“I don’t want you running off again.” Ilea added.
“Ah. Well you have my word Ilea.” he said and now she was chuckling.
“Would you like to join then? You two do love your killing.” Ilea said, locking eyes with Maria who started grinning.
“Only the ones deserving.” Edwin said.
“You really are a comedian Edwin, why didn’t I ever notice that trait about you.” Ilea said but didn’t expand on it. While Elos was somewhat advanced in some things and with the external threat of monsters and other races showed a somewhat bigger unity among humans, they certainly were not in the twenty first century with their morals. Ilea knew she was a murderer at this point, weirdly it didn’t affect her that much. She felt her actions had been justified, especially in a world as brutal as this one.
Perhaps she’d have long lasting psychological damage but that train of thought wasn’t a priority for her. Not now and maybe not ever. Edwin didn’t react to her remark but nodded a while later.
“We can help. Maria can check out their estate and look for evidence while we grab someone from higher up to interrogate. Up for that?” He asked the woman next to him who just shrugged.
“Good to not feel chased anymore.” she said.
“Who were those people anyway?” Kyrian asked. “They paid off the officials to hunt you on their own. Most would welcome the help.”
“Likely directly employed by my father. They’re dangerous. Kyle and Tiana. Kyle is a necromancer and can turn into a beast. Poison, blood magic. The usual. Tiana is a bit more tricky. She’s an ice mage but combines her first class with being a silver mage as well. Very rare that one and the combination can be unpredictable. They work together somewhat competently but as with Kyle’s nature, he can get a little out of control.” Edwin explained. “Just in case we encounter them again.”
“Silver mage. Interesting.” Trian said. “Creation?” he asked but Edwin shook his head.
“She’d be far more influential in that case. And she would likely not be working for my father.” he answered. “But it could be, who knows. If she has the skill, she didn’t use it in our fight.”
“She could make silver out of thin air?” Ilea asked and Trian nodded.
“It’s possible. Kyrian’s class is rare, having specific metal control is even rarer. While possibly not as useful in a fight, if you manage to advance your control to be able to create it you can basically trade mana into money. I don’t know of any proven gold or silver creator but considering some wealthy family’s quick rising in history, well I’d say it’s possible.” he answered.
An interesting ability to be sure. ‘Perhaps I can sell my ash then…,’ Ilea thought and smiled. Crashing the economy with created gold didn’t seem sustainable to her but then again she was no economist, especially not one for a magical medieval place like this. They might not even know about inflation.
Considering that gold still has worth though likely meant that the skills were incredibly rare, hard to use or the people in question know about the dangers of overusing it.
“We’ll move out as soon as the two wake.” Ilea said, motioning to the sleeping Felicia and Aliana.
“They’re not coming with us.” Edwin said and Ilea just looked at him before she nodded lightly.
“Then we leave now. Or does anybody need sleep or healing?” she asked. “Good. Then let’s go.”
The suns were setting when they started making their way back towards Virilya. Flying low, they passed over the wilderness, having left behind only their limited possessions not put into a storage item. Ilea knew Edwin had at least one ring but the man didn’t know about their own yet and she wanted to keep it that way.
The estate of the Birmingales was inside Virilya itself which made the whole operation both harder and easier in some respects. They couldn’t simply march in and fight openly as that would attract other parties rather quickly but it was also easier to stalk around the property and perhaps sneak in without arising too much suspicion.
Virilya was a vast city and considering how it looked like from Ilea’s previously used bird’s view, she was pretty sure Elos lacked competent city planners. The lack of cars meant that this wasn’t much of an issue, lending many of the streets, alleys and architecture a nice and unique touch. Horrible to navigate if you didn’t know where you were going though.
Entering the city without being noticed was somewhat tricky. The guards on the walls and even some flying squads had a pretty good view of the plains around the city. It also seemed like the chaos from the previous day had been mostly cleared up. Kyrian went in alone and through normal means as he was the only one in the group lacking a teleportation skill. The others had to wait a little longer but right before night truly came, a caravan of adventurers returning from a hunt or expedition arrived through one of the patches of forests near them.
After identifying some of them and seeing their rather downtrodden disposition, Ilea blinked right into one of the carriages where she found some wounded and dead. Without a word, she started checking and healing, surprising the woman sitting near one of the wounded with the young man’s head on her lap.
“Whho who are you?” she asked, wiping at her eyes.
“Passerby healer.” Ilea replied, surprised the woman hadn’t screamed. “I’m going to heal everybody here and me and some friends are allowed to ride in this carriage. Sounds fair?” she asked as she continued.
“You’re hardly a passerby healer… if you take care of them then I don’t mind. Just make sure to vanish before anybody checks in here.” the woman said, smiling at the man who woke up because of the noise. Ilea walked up to the two and checked him, healing the wounds in his legs. Arrows, and nasty ones at that it seemed.
“You’re right, I’m not but I will take care of them.” Ilea said as the man looked to his legs in a confused manner.
“H… hand…,” he stammered as he looked at her.
“I’m not gonna marry you.” Ilea commented and blinked away again, appearing ten seconds later accompanied by Trian, Edwin and Maria. “We will teleport in as soon as we reach the gate, don’t worry.” she said to the two people in the carriage.
“Shut it in there, we’re nearly here.” the driver commented, a ranger according to the bow on his back.
“Should we leave the city quickly?” the woman asked Ilea as she looked at the armored crew the healer had brought.
“No, but the city was attacked yesterday. We’re here for different reasons.” Ilea supplied which seemed to calm the woman down somewhat.
“Attacked by whom?” she then asked but Ilea held up a finger to her mouth.
“We’re here. Security is tight and one of them is already staring at us. See you in ten.” Ilea said and vanished, appearing as far away as she could which was just a couple meters behind the walls. ‘They should really invest in enchantments against teleportation skills.’ the thought had barely processed when a guard appeared next to her, a blade flashing towards her head.
Ilea ducked slightly and felt the metal glide through the air barely an inch above her helmet. She grabbed the guard’s arms and squeezed until he let go of the blade. Ilea casually caught the weapon with her free hand and threw it a couple meters away.
“I’m no enemy to the city.” she said and let go of the man, blinking away further inside. Blink after blink, she crossed through houses, cellars and alleys until she was somewhat confident nobody was still after her. After a while of running, she made her way towards their target. An inn closest to the Birmingale property and their area of influence.
Kyrian had gone into the city hours earlier and was waiting in one of the rooms inside. Ilea appeared and was greeted by a flurry of metal needles rushing towards her, stopping inches before her face.
“You’re the first.” the man said and turned around. “I might’ve already aroused some suspicion. We won’t have long.”
“We won’t need long.” Ilea said. A minute later Trian appeared, then Maria and lastly Edwin.
“Ready then?” Trian asked, getting nods and grunts in response. While they hadn’t worked together, everybody present was a veteran of their own right and the respective tasks were given respectively.
Ilea looked at Edwin and vanished, appearing just as he too teleported onto the street below. Some bypassers stumbled at the sudden appearance but lowered their heads quickly not to arouse and interest from the warriors before them.
“You know I’ve really wanted to do this for a long time.” Ilea said as they made their way towards the gated and walled off estate of the noble family called Birmingale. A name that didn’t mean anything to Ilea just a couple weeks ago. The name won’t mean much to her in the future either but perhaps her own name will etch itself into the family’s history.
“The circumstances just aren’t right.” Ilea said, looking up at the moon. A clear night it was. She took a deep breath and let out a sigh.
“I am sorry for your loss.” Edwin said after walking for a minute. Ilea scoffed and chuckled.
“Appreciate it.” she said before her fist rushed towards his face. The man dodged the attack as his blades flashed out of their sheaths and towards her throat. Blinking behind him, she grabbed around him and pushed forwards, crashing his head and torso right through the high wall of the Birmingale estate.
As expected, the stone broke and the two tumbled through the ruble and ensuing dust. She rushed at Edwin who prepared to defend, slashing through the air to deter her as they purposefully made their way towards the mansion standing a couple dozen meters further away. The first guards were already shouting as they made their way towards the noise.
Only Eve had used blades in their group but Ilea was thankful for that practice as she moved into Edwin’s defenses, letting his blades rush past her dexterous form before she elbowed him into his chest, grabbing onto his arm and twisting her body before she threw the man towards the house.
The loud crash indicated that they hadn’t put enchantments on the windows at least. Ilea looked up once more before she followed the man into the house, engaging him seriously and with the full power she had, except for her ashen skills. Those she wanted to keep a secret for now, just in case she needed an edge on the man at one point or the other. Their eyes locked and she made it clear that this wasn’t just a mock battle.