Chapter 189 First Huntress
Another one…, Ilea thought as she blinked into an apartment, her hand slamming into the windpipe of a laughing soldier. Her next hit was a knee to his groin with forward movement, sending herself and the man tumbling into the second soldier in the room whose magic activated in a shower of ice that glanced against her ashen veil, not quite managing to break through as Ilea’s fist repeatedly smashed into the first soldier’s head before it finally cracked.
“Who are you, why are you fi…,” the mage couldn’t finish his sentence before Ilea reached him, her fist breaking his jaw with the first hit before her fist hit his chest, again and again her destructive mana surged into the man until she received a notification in her mind, the soldier falling down a moment later.
“I’m a bit late. You should flee.” she told the only survivor of the family who had been slaughtered, a small boy of around twelve years old with nasty wounds on his legs. She grabbed him and healed the injuries. The kid started crying a moment later and Ilea crouched down next to him. “Come on, up and grab on.” she said. “If you want to survive this is it.”
The kid brushed away the tears with anger and fear in his eyes before he carefully moved onto her back. Ilea cut off ears number twenty seven and twenty eight before she grabbed the corpses and walked out of the house, her wings spreading before she ascended. She quickly found what she had been looking for, a group of Baralia soldiers resting after a battle in a square. Imperial and Baralia soldiers laid dying or dead on the ground.
Ilea walked up to the group who got alerted immediately and sprung up, apprehensive of the new arrival. “Shadow… what do you seek?” The one with the most fancy armor asked as his fists started glowing a shade of blue.
“These two have killed an innocent family. For no reason I assume.” she said and effortlessly threw the corpses towards the group. “Don’t do that. And don’t rape people. I’ll come for you if you do. Just fight your war and be done with it.” she said and turned around before she flew off again. Perhaps the fear of someone specifically looking for rapists and killers would change some people’s minds. Even with slavery being a thing, what Ilea had seen of the Baralia soldiers so far didn’t imply complete savagery. They were people like the people of the empire or the independent cities in the west.
She sped up while shielding the boy on her back from most of the wind before she landed much closer to the center, near a defensive line of imperials. Again she was met with apprehension but not outright hostility. Her status as a Shadow’s Hand mercenary certainly helped, as most wouldn’t want to engage her at all and listened first instead of shooting first.
“Boy, you go towards the center ok?” she asked, putting the kid down. “His family was killed, show him where to go to reach the center.” Ilea said to the soldiers, one of them nodding quickly and going for the boy.
“Thank you.” the man said with honest respect in his eyes.
“There’s a lot more coming, if your officer doesn’t demand otherwise I suggest you go too. The defensive line in the center will be where they’re stopped.” Ilea said while flying off. If they’re stopped at all.
Again she rushed towards the attackers, seeing a line of citizens running towards the center of the city as bells rang through it all. It seemed finally clear that the attack wasn’t coming from within but from without. People leaving behind all they own to get to safety. Ilea checked her notifications and found none of the soldiers she had killed to be above level one twenty. Compared to the force the Shadow’s Hand had sent to retake Ravenhall, this was quantity over quality. Still, she kept on the lookout for stronger soldiers, they had to be there after all.
Perhaps the enemy sent in their paid foot soldiers or even slaves to attack first, keeping the specialized powerhouses behind. Or more likely the higher leveled people were the ones in charge anyway. Having commanders rush into battle was definitely heroic and inspiring but risky for both the attacking army and the people themselves.
Well let’s hope there’s not a level two hundred assassin squad looking for me. She thought as she landed with a hard kick to a man’s chest, sending him flying and stumbling. He wasn’t dead yet and a healer rushed towards him to cure the wounds. Ilea turned around immediately and blinked towards a mage attacking fleeing civilians. His neck was broken with a swift movement and she blinked again, grabbing an archer’s foot standing on a roof and firing down before she turned and flung her downwards with full force, the woman’s head splitting open on the cobbled street.
Using a looted dagger, she cut off two of their ears and grabbed their bodies again. The healer was nearly done taking care of the injured soldier when Ilea suddenly stood next to her, dumping the two bodies. “You’re attacking citizens. Please tell them to focus on soldiers, these people just want to live.” Ilea said, moved closer and pushed away the healer before she stabbed her dagger down into the man’s throat.
Flying up again, she watched the healer run to the dead soldier, trying to change the man’s fate. Perhaps they were lovers and Ilea had just created a tragedy in the healer’s life. Focus. Ilea told herself. Hovering above a group of running soldiers, she watched them apprehensively as they ignored the fleeing people and instead secured their position. She nodded and continued on her way.
A sudden beam of lightning appeared in her Sphere’s vision, making her blink upwards as the energy flashed by in an arc, coming down with a crash on a roof a hundred meters further in. Ilea looked towards the origin of the spell and found a soldier flying a couple hundred meters away, drawing a massive bow before another lightning arch flew her way. The projectiles were fast but at that distance it was easy to dodge them with her sphere and blink abilities, the speed comparable to a Taleen Guardian’s guns.
She ignored the attacker and continued westward, no further attacks coming from the archer. Perhaps an officer or a mercenary. Or simply a weak and flashy spell. She wasn’t sure but she didn’t care much either, landing behind a mass of fleeing people pursued by a couple Baralia soldiers.
“Let them go or you die!” Ilea shouted as the soldiers skidded to a halt, looking at each other after a moment.
“The hunter…,” one of them said as he held his spear towards her.
“Yes, the hunting huntress.” Ilea said. “So what will it be?”
A spear like object suddenly appeared ten meters in front of her, too fast to dodge as she blinked to the side, the speed and power of the projectile pulling her a little towards the impact where the metal spear dug into the ground until it vanished completely from her sight, leaving behind a trail in the cobbled road before it came to a stop somewhere below the ground.
Magic suddenly surged from where the spear lay, an explosion nearly taking out her hearing resounded before a flash of light and fire covered her sight, stone and earth alike flung off her armor as she stood her ground, lifting her left arm against the wave. One of the soldiers had stood too close, his body falling down, charred from the fire.
Looking up, Ilea could see three floating dots in the distant sky, one of them likely responsible for the attack just now. Either they had started looking for her or it was a random move. Seeing three dots and the power of the attack meant that likely each of them was around or higher than level two hundred. Or they simply invested all their stat points in a way to allow such a powerful attack. Mages tended to be killed rather easily, Ilea found.
“Fuck off.” She said to the two remaining soldiers. They ran away immediately as Ilea looked up again. The dots were moving but no further attack came her way, perhaps because the first one hadn’t taken her out. A specialized assassin squad then, find and eliminate targets from that kind of distance… The thought made sense. So at least they weren’t specifically targeting her, just opponents worth taking out. If her theory was correct at least. She hoped Kyrian wouldn’t get hit suddenly. Then again he probably felt the metal coming long before she even noticed.
She quickly took off again, seeing that the civilians weren’t in sight anymore. The massive main road leading from the northern gate towards the center of the city had been turned into a battlefield, mages fighting for life and death where they had previously performed their spectacles. Ilea landed on the outskirts of it but found that the civilians had mostly avoided this place, or they were all dead already. Heavy artillery was being moved further inwards, flinging fiery stones towards the houses from time to time as groups of people pulled the heavy machinery.
Ilea couldn’t help but admire the weaponry. Some of them looked like medieval rail guns, runes engraved on the insides as mages charged up the machine and a metal sphere shot out, crashing through four houses before it finally came to a halt. Others were catapults or trebuchets but clad in metal armor and equipped with runes to increase what Ilea assumed to be their power. Bricks and pieces of destroyed buildings were moved by earth and stone mages or by warriors strong enough to lift them before they were flung towards the houses again.
Her sphere suddenly spotted another metal spear rushing towards her back as she blinked away again, the weapon digging deep into the big street before her, coming to a stop around twenty meters further in before the explosion ripped friend and foe alike apart in a fiery chaos. A small crater was left behind as she looked back to find the dots again. Hopefully they would leave her alone now, seeing how she dodged both a frontal and a sneak attack. Either that or they would come closer. In that case she could maybe harass them a little or flee immediately.
Here on one of the main streets, the empire responded in kind, big groups of troops clashing with the enemy as spells ripped apart bodies, machines and stone alike. A terrifying picture, yet awe inspiring nonetheless. I’ve wasted enough time.
Ilea jumped down and crossed the several hundred meter long battlefield to the other side, through smoke and fighting warriors, deflecting or dodging spells and arrows as she pushed through. Her sphere picked up someone following her, making her jump up a building and turn around. An armored man with a halberd greeted her with a slash that she dodged backwards.
“Shadow, what side are you on?!” He demanded as he landed on the house she had just stood on.
[Warrior – lvl 221]
“My task is to protect civilians.” she answered with a smile on her face, his attitude changing immediately as he lowered his weapon a little.
“What…,” he looked around but found nobody close by. “You’re not paid by the empire? A generous noble then. A shame, it would’ve been a joy to face you.” the man said and Ilea agreed.
“Perhaps another time.” Ilea said as she turned around and ran off, hearing him shout after her.
“Veran Dagoth, come look for me Shadow!” he shouted and laughed, the sound growing more and more distant as Ilea veered right, towards the faraway wall of the city. Other than on the main road, Ilea saw few imperial soldiers the further she got away from the center. Either their numbers were much lower or they focused themselves on a defensible center with the strongest military forced grouped up there. Another reason for Ilea to be out here taking care of the undisciplined enemies moving away from their task.
She hoped that once the city was taken there wasn’t a massive murderfest but she couldn’t be sure about that. More people to kill then. The thought made her feel more like at the beginning of a long shift at the fastfood place compared to anything else. Once the fighting had settled it would become far more difficult for her to move freely. Her curiosity taking over, Ilea landed near a group of somewhat lower leveled Baralia soldiers carefully moving through the streets, looking for ambushes and enemy soldiers.
“Shadow!” one of them exclaimed and clutched his blade, unleashing magic to lend his attack speed and power. Yet Ilea sidestepped casually and felt the wind rush past, her hand gently holding down the man’s arm and with her other she grabbed his neck.
“Don’t move or this guy is dead.” she said. “Just a bunch of questions.” she added. The group seemed unsure but seeing their enemy it looked like they at least considered.
“My task is to protect civilians. I’m not here to kill you.” Ilea gambled and let go of the man who quickly jumped backwards, his sword held in a defensive stance.
“We are not here for the civilians.” one of them said.
“That’s good. I just want to know what your orders say in regards to my task.” Ilea said, hoping that the Hand’s reputation would prevail once again. She was a mercenary and not a soldier after all. Combined with the fear of facing her in battle it seemed her gamble paid off.
“We are to advance through the city, secure sector after sector as we take out enemy forces. There are not orders in regards to civilians. No restrictions either I’m afraid. Getting distracted by looting or killing is disobeying orders.” the man explained and Ilea nodded. She couldn’t be sure he was telling the truth but the man seemed like a real soldier to her, not one to scheme or lie in the face of danger.
“What about after the city is taken?” Ilea asked and watched him getting a little more nervous.
“There are no orders. In the face of war I’m sure you know what will happen.” he said, making her sigh.
“Well humanity really is the same everywhere isn’t it?” Ilea said more to herself, looking up towards the sky. She really did long for nature again, to get away from this mess. But she wouldn’t forget about Eve and this was a good way to get information, now while the city was in chaos and her power was desperately needed, even for a task such as protecting civilians. If she showed the ears of all the soldiers she had killed, she was sure it was worth something.
“Monsters without fur.” one of the soldiers said, making two of the others look at him with anger.
“We really are, aren’t we?” Ilea asked, looking at the man who gulped, regretting that he opened his mouth. “Well let everyone you see know that I will kill anybody murdering, raping or torturing civilians.” Ilea said before she blinked away, her vanishing form likely leaving a more threatening impression behind. She specifically didn’t mention slavery as these people likely didn’t see it as anything bad or wrong, just a part of life. Still people could rape and kill their slaves or give them work and a home. Not that she supported it but in a society with established rules, she didn’t have illusions about changing a fundamental thought like that.
The fighting went on for hours and hours, the sun moving along the horizon as more and more smoke covered the city in its looming doom. Forces on both sides suffered casualties and Ilea couldn’t tell if either side gained the upper hand in specific battles but what she could tell was that Baralia was moving in further and further, the resistance moving towards the center more and more.
She had killed over a hundred people already, just a drop in the numbers of participating soldiers. Some of them were even empire soldiers, showing that neither side had a perfect control over their troops. At least several hundred soldiers knew about her and her task by now and hopefully it had a small impact at least.
The evening would soon come and she wanted to check with the major to see if she could already get something. Her efforts would be in vain should there be a takeover in the central powers of Virilya. Ilea ate while flying, covering the distance from near the wall to the center in the span of about forty five minutes. The Baralia siege engines hadn’t reached so far yet, the fighting still raging in many parts of the city further out as Ilea reached the palace and military structures looming over the surrounding buildings.
As expected, there was a massive shield slightly visible in the air over the area. Certain areas on the ground were left open, troops moving through with already established checkpoints. Wounded and reinforcements moved in and out as Ilea landed, a group of alerts soldiers approaching immediately.
“In the employ of Major Falken.” Ilea stated, showing the previously summoned contract and her badge of the Hand.
“May I see that miss?” An officer asked as he approached carefully, looking her over. She handed over the document and badge, waiting for only a couple seconds before he handed it back.
“You may move through. She’s with Major Falken!” he shouted as he resumed his position and waved her through. Ilea saw some begging civilians asking to be let in but denied by their own soldiers. She could see the issue with feeding and protecting everybody inside and to her own surprise didn’t care further. These people had to flee, one way or the other. There was not even enough room alone to shelter all of the city’s population in its central district, let alone food and water.
Spreading her wings as soon as she was through, Ilea made her way to Falken’s command and entered, this time let through upon showing her contract.