Chapter 178 The Price of Information
Edwin’s swords slashed through the wall as he tried to attack Ilea who had blinked away, dodging his blood magic coating the blades.
“What the hell is going on!?” they could hear more and more shouts from inside and outside the mansion. Both Ilea and Edwin had focused more on speed than anything else but considering the man had already taken several of her punches directly, he was at least more tough than she had expected.
“Your armor is good. Care to share the smith’s name?” Edwin asked before he teleported into a new room, surprising a couple in the process of intercourse.
“I think not.” Ilea said as she rushed at him, dodging the flurry of attacks, some of the blood magic getting through her defenses, even managing to singe her flesh beneath her armor. Nothing a little bit of healing couldn’t easily take care of. She found the small injuries much harder to heal than more severe wounds in the past. ‘Blood magic…,’ she thought and smiled. Her arms rushed out, hitting the man’s hands and pushing away the swords before she delivered a headbutt to his chest.
The hit landed and Edwin was rammed through the room’s wall before he vanished again. Ilea quickly followed him through the use of her Sphere and Blink skills, not giving him pause as she continued to push further and further, activating more of her skills as they went on. At first she hadn’t used her Destruction and Wave of Ember but now she delivered them with each blow.
Ilea didn’t plan to kill the man but she did want to know if she could. Perhaps he felt the same, his attacks getting stronger and faster to match her. Of course their goal was simple, to cause a distraction in the estate for the others to carry out their parts. So far, they were doing rather well.
Ilea delivered three punches in quick succession, hearing a slight crack from the third one as Edwin stumbled backwards. Waiting for a moment for him to react, two people, a man and a woman appeared in the room, armored and with spells ready to go.
“Who are you!? Leave this place, take your squabble somewhere else.” the woman shouted. Edwin spat out blood before red flames gathered around him and Ilea saw as his chest moved a little, indicating that the broken bone had been mended.
His blades appeared before her, too fast for her to dodge as she blinked behind him, moving her hand just in time to hit his sword upwards as it threatened to smash into her helmet. Her hand was on fire immediately, her flesh burning below her armor with a pain distracting even to her. Turning off the perception of it, she simply used her healing spell against the red flames enveloping her hand. The fire didn’t expand, stopped by her Hunter Recovery but neither could she remove it.
Blinking upwards right when the next blade rushed towards her, Ilea ripped off her gauntlet, summoned one of her remaining Taleen swords and hoped that the blade was strong enough to do the trick. With all her strength, she slashed at her wrist. The bone was severed halfway but a second hit did the trick. Healing again, Ilea found the wound now completely normal and she put on her gauntlet again when Edwin appeared in the room, looking at her as she regrew her bone and flesh below her armor.
“Nice flames.” she said, honestly impressed at the destructive potential.
“Let me know if you’re close to death.” the man said with a very slight grin.
“The same goes to you.” Ilea said and activated State of Azarinth’s third stage before she ran towards him, now focusing on his limbs instead of the blades. Not able to touch the metal made the fight more even. She found that while the flames around his body did injure her, they were much less dangerous than the ones enveloping his curved short swords.
Dodging backwards, Ilea moved her body left and right, appearing and disappearing, trying to get into range for her fists while the man tried hard to keep her at his blades’ distance. His weapon rushed past her right side as she delivered a punch to his gut, the full force of Destruction and Wave of Ember entering him before she appeared behind him. The man teleported away but she followed but a moment later.
They stared at each other, Ilea waiting to give him time should the attack have been a little much. Edwin was panting, sweat on his brow reflecting the candle light in the small hallway as maids stumbled and ran away to avoid the two maniacs who intruded their workplace.
The man raised his blades again and Ilea nodded, appearing before him. His right blade flickered as Ilea turned her body to push her back against his chest as she grabbed both of his arms, pumping destructive mana into his body as he struggled to get away. A sudden heat could be felt in her right shoulder before it literally exploded, making her stumble. Thanks to Azarinth Reversal’s second stage she could continue to attack the man while she mended the nasty wound on her shoulder.
“Stop.” he suddenly said. “I’m getting dangerously low…,” he added with a whisper as Ilea disengaged, feeling her shoulder reconstruct under her armor. The way he just ignored the metal made her understand Iana’s lecture about how many people wanted enchantments that protected against mana intrusion. Well she didn’t really have a choice.
Stepping towards the man, she started healing him as the flames left his form, his blades held limply in both hands as he panted and leaned against a wall. Ilea was quite aware that he could’ve targeted her heart or head with that attack, which could’ve lead to a different result entirely. She could certainly recover but not having tested actually losing her head, she didn’t know how exactly that would pan out.
‘ding’ ‘You have learned the general skill Blood Magic Resistance – lvl 1’
‘The arts of blood manipulation can be deceptive and dangerous to both ally and foe. You have stood against the old magic and lived. Next time your chance of survival will be even higher.’
‘ding’ ‘Blood Magic Resistance reaches lvl 2’
‘ding’ ‘Blood Magic Resistance reaches lvl 3’
‘That will come in handy.’ she thought and continued healing as she heard people move towards them.
“You think that was enough time?” she asked the man who answered by teleporting away. Ilea followed when the first people came into the hallway. Edwin was still not at full strength when she reached him outside.
“Barely but we can’t stay longer, the city guard will join shortly.” he said while looking upwards.
“Let’s get out of here then.” she said and watched him vanish. She followed suit and blinked away as well. Again the escape was somewhat easy, mostly because of her blink spell, still one of the main reasons she hadn’t died yet. In a battle of attrition she was sure to have beaten Edwin. The surprise attack was a risk on her part. Perhaps she should only use her reverse healing when she knew the enemy couldn’t pull something like that. Or perhaps there was a magic intrusion resistance as well. She’d ask him to test it with her later on. For now, they had to meet up again with the others. This time in a hideout Edwin still had in the city.
She followed the man through cellars and houses, Ilea questioning the city guard’s ability to hunt down criminals with abilities like Ilea’s. It wasn’t uncommon to be able to teleport short distances after all. Then again she didn’t know how common crime actually was in Virilya.
Reaching their destination down in the sewers, Edwin vanished through a wall behind which Ilea’s Sphere didn’t let her see. Blinking inside, she found her team mates there. There must have been a rune placed somewhere to open the door as Kyrian was inside as well. They found themselves in a rather large room with stone walls, dilapidated and moist. In the middle of it there was a man, strung up by metal cuffs and with a sack over his head.
Maria appeared a little later, holding her arm where she had been cut. Ilea blinked to her side and started healing without any questions. The woman was injured worse than it looked. According to the mana Ilea used, the injury wasn’t just a clean cut. She couldn’t tell if it was poison or something else.
“What the hell were you doing?” Maria asked as she walked towards Edwin, slapping him. “You were supposed to distract them, not just fight each other like a bunch of fucking beasts!”
“Calm down, it served the same purpose didn’t it?” Edwin asked, looking towards Ilea who just shrugged.
“We got a little carried away.” she said. “Did they manage to follow you?” Ilea asked but Maria shook her head.
“Once we’re done here we’re going to go back out and you two can fight until you’re damn near dead. Just don’t do that while we’re working. Fucking idiots.” she said, dropped a bunch of paper into Trian’s hands and left the room again.
“Well she’s not wrong.” Kyrian said. “That’s rather unlike you, even with your love for fighting.” he added, looking at Ilea.
“Just felt right in the moment.” Ilea said and looked towards Trian. “Won’t happen again.”
“We got what we wanted and nobody’s dead. Let’s worry about the sentimentalities later.” Trian said as he approached the man in the middle of the room.
“Now, you’re here to answer some questions.” he said as lightning crackled around him.
Ilea left half a minute later, blinking out of the room and puking on the ground. Seeing torture wasn’t exactly on her list of things to experience in a magical land far from home. “Fuck this.” she said and left, the screams not audible anymore through the thick stone wall. They had agreed on meeting back in Trian’s hideout outside of the city. She didn’t want to know what they did to that man, nor did she want to know who he was.
If this was required to get revenge then perhaps she’d have to find another way. A more direct one perhaps.
Going back into the streets, she found some guards running around the area but they were easily avoided as she sneaked through the houses until she reached the city wall. It was night and Ilea wore completely black armor. She crouched down and blinked outside and into the grass. The color of the metal didn’t reflect much light, allowing her to simply crawl the distance to the tree line a hundred or two meters away.
Blinking turned out to be the even simpler way as she simply used the spell a couple times in a row to reach the trees. Looking behind, she saw an arrow cast in flames near where she had been lying three blinks earlier. There were some capable guards up there after all, she thought and started running through the forest.
Soon after she felt far enough away to spread her wings and rushed upwards into the clouds.
Ilea appeared in the hideout, just to be met with a wind blade to her chest. The impact resounded through the room with a bang and she stumbled back a step as she looked towards Felicia whose expression was already changing to a combination of apology and shock.
“Ilea I’m so sorry! I realized too late it was you, are you alright?” she asked as she rushed towards her, checking her armor.
“Of course you are. Damn indestructible barbarian.” she said and punched Ilea’s helmet. “Aliana has prepared food, come. I remember you loved to eat, didn’t you.” she added and walked into the room Edwin’s group had resided in.
The smell of sizzling meat was in the air and Ilea heard her stomach rumble as she entered. “Smells good.” she said and Felicia went to grab a couple pieces and handed them to Ilea on a plate, sitting down next to her on the big table.
“It’s wolf I hunted earlier.” Felicia said.
“You went outside?” Ilea asked, starting to eat after taking off her helmet.
“Of course, as much as Ed wants to protect us I’m above level two hundred and if we’re just staying behind all the time we won’t exactly get stronger either, will we?” she asked, poking Ilea’s shoulder and smiling. Seeing her so happy made Ilea smile too as she continued to eat.
“You went through some bad things huh?” Felicia asked suddenly, the chewing of meat the only sound remaining after the question. Aliana wasn’t around which made Ilea more inclined to actually answer.
“I did. Fought a lot and saw a lot of death. Now Trian’s family was murdered and Eve too.” she said, continuing to eat. Aliana really knew how to prepare meat.
“Yea. You remind me more of my brother now. Just don’t forget to smile, I liked you a lot when we found you in that dungeon. A bit naive perhaps…,” she said and laughed. “… I think Ed didn’t kill you because of that actually. You cheered him up for a little while afterwards you know?”
“Thank you for that.” Felicia said. “And sorry for just leaving you there. He can be very cold.” Felicia added. The woman was rather talkative when she was alone.
“Don’t worry, my humor’s still there. Just even darker now. And right now it just sucks.” Ilea said and smiled.
“There’s a smile.” Felicia said and pinched her cheek. A gesture Ilea would not allow to be left unpunished if done by anybody else.
They sat there for a while, Ilea finishing her plate in silence when Felicia talked again.
“It’s scary.” she started. “To know that your loved ones could die, at any moment. Ed is out there right now, fighting to get his revenge.”
“His? What about you?” Ilea asked and looked at the woman. Felicia just stared at the wall.
“Me? I survived, he saved me, saved us…,” she said, taking a deep breath. “… I wish we could just leave, go somewhere quiet, built a farm or take an abandoned castle and just. Live, you know?”
“Why not suggest that, maybe for you he’ll forget his revenge.” Ilea said, quite aware of the similarities to her own wish for vengeance.
“He would. I know he would but I can’t take that away from him. It’s what he fought for, his whole life. I’ll be there if he succeeds, or if he fails or gives up. But this is his path. And it’s not mine to take away.” Felicia said and looked at Ilea again, a smile and tears on her face. Getting up, Ilea grabbed the woman’s arm and lifted her up before she embraced her in a hug.
“I’ll try to protect him ok?” Ilea said after a while, letting go of the woman who nodded weakly.
“You don’t have to do anything. He’s not a good man and you have all the right to refuse to help. I don’t know how many times you’ve already saved his life. That dungeon was one of the most dangerous parts of our journey.” Felicia said but Ilea just stroked her hair lightly.
“I’m not doing that for him you know. I consider you a friend.” Ilea said.
“Really? After all we’ve done to you?” Felicia asked and then laughed. “I’m glad you’re still so naive Ilea. Ok, let’s be friends!” she said and held up her hand, making a weird sign with her fingers.
“What’s that supposed to be?” Ilea asked but Felicia just laughed.
“It’s something we used to do as kids. It means love and respect.” she said and smiled.
“God you’re fucking cheesy. How old are you again?” Ilea asked and mimicked the gesture, their hands touching a moment later.
“I’m not exactly the weird one here. Plus, we’re both above level two hundred, we have to be weird.” she said and smiled. “How the hell did you reach it that fast anyway? Tell me about it.” Felicia said.
Ilea summoned a piece of paper and wrote down that the two of them would be nearby. “Come, it’s depressing inside this stuffy chamber. I feel like seeing the stars.” Ilea said and got up. Felicia followed without complaint as they left the hideout and flew a couple hundred meters to find a clearing in the forest.
The first spring flowers were already blooming and Ilea jumped, switching to a more comfortable leather set in the air before she landed in the grass. Felicia sat down next to her as Ilea summoned some more food and mead.
“You’re an insatiable beast.” Felicia said. “You and Aliana should have a competition at some point. Now tell me. And you got a storage item? Does Ed know?”
“He doesn’t, at least I think so.” Ilea said, gesturing to the necklace that lightly reflected the moon’s light.
“Uuuuh, a necklace? That’s beautiful! Rings are so last decade.” Felicia said and reached out. “Can I?”
“Sure, don’t remove it though, I’ve grown rather attached.” Ilea said and smiled.
Felicia carefully touched the necklace and looked at it.
“I got it in the same Taleen dungeon. Belonged to a dwarven corpse I found. They had a treasure hall and everything.” she said.
“It’s pretty nice.” Felicia said and let go, sitting back again. “Ed said the traps probably wouldn’t be worth it. How’d you fare?”
“Nearly burned to a crisp.” Ilea said and smiled, remembering the green flames enveloping her. “I lost my favorite cloak there. Got the necklace in turn though so it’s alright.”
She continued to tell Felicia about the encounter with the Taleen Praetorians and her escape from the dungeon, her way to Salia and encounter with the elves.
“Never heard of Praetorians, you’re planning to go back there?” Felicia asked with a smirk. “Maybe we can come and help.”
“Not anytime soon, they were ridiculously strong. I feel like even the Basilisk or the demons I’ve faced don’t have a chance against them. Even with a likely lower level.” Ilea said and got a nod in response.