Chapter 191 Black Death
“So you’re definitely leaving.” Ilea said, sitting comfortably on the bed while eating one of Keyla’s meals. Maybe she should ask about her as well, the woman was supposed to be in the capital after all. And now she was all but safe. If anything she owed it to her for the great food she sold her.
“I am. And soon. The inn is empty, its owners gave up on it when news of the invasion’s scale spread.” Trian said.
“Then we meet again in Ravenhall.” Ilea said and put her hand on his shoulder. “Take your time to grief them. My people were quite a bit ahead in psychology… so take me seriously here and talk to someone.” Ilea said and looked him in the eye.
Trian nodded and got up. “Thank you again Ilea. I would’ve failed without you two.” Trian said and hugged her. A surprising gesture to be sure but she hugged him back after a second.
“Take care. And greet Aurelia and Claire for me. I’ll visit as soon as I can.” Ilea said, releasing the hug.
“I will. You’re going to look for Eve’s killers?” He asked, sounding a little guilty.
“No. Not yet. If the time comes and you’re willing to help, perhaps I’ll come and ask.” She answered and smiled at him.
“I won’t promise anything but I definitely owe you, more than a life.” He said, putting on his cloak and helmet. “Kyrian is waiting for you in the clock tower down the road. Had something he wanted to show you.” Trian said before he vanished.
Ilea appeared on the roof of the inn and looked after him, red lightning spreading around the man before he sped off. Still too slow. She thought, smiling. Turning around she saw the half destroyed clock tower and jumped down on the road. It was deserted, the people in this area having fled hours ago already. Pieces of clothing, goods and tracks remained, the smell of fire and ash lying thick in the air.
She reached the tower and blinked upwards, once, twice, appearing in the top. A good view, overlooking the eastern part of the city, the wall to the north too distant to see.
“Welcome back, Huntress. I heard they called you black death.” Kyrian said as he looked northwards, Ilea stepping next to him.
“An undeserved name.” She said and chuckled.
“Why? I think it fits.” The man said.
“There’s a history to that name where I come from. One a little more terrifying than little old Ilea.” She said and leaned on the railing. “The city’s going down.”
“It is. The center will stand strong. I hear it’s not the first time an invading force has come this far. Too large an area to effectively defend. The people will return once the war is over, no matter who wins or loses.” Kyrian said.
“Even if it means slavery?” Ilea asked and he looked at her.
“Better than dying of starvation. Or being in the wild. Many will die to beasts and monsters in the coming weeks.” He said.
“You wanted to show me something?” Ilea asked and saw him smile. She could only see his eyes but knew him well enough.
“I’ve had a breakthrough. Yours and Trian’s abilities have always fascinated me. You’re a healer or at least you once were one. And Trian could take other people’s life for himself. Well focusing on that I’ve developed a new curse. One quite effective at taking life.” He said and flung a needle her way, the piece of metal stabbing her between two pieces of armor before she felt a drain of her health.
“It’s not very effective on someone like you of course, having trained with Trian and myself. Curse and Health Drain is part of your defensive arsenal but trust me this has changed how I can fight. How long I can fight. No longer do I have to worry about any small injuries.” He said and smiled.
“Congratulations.” Ilea said and ripped out the needle, flinging it back. “Why didn’t you do it earlier? Seems like an obvious choice to get a skill for self healing.” She asked.
“Not any random class can do it. And my teacher in curses never mentioned the possibility. Trian’s magic always felt peculiar to me but seeing that wood mage fight made something click. He had ways to heal himself as well. Life magic, something quite opposite to my curses but it helped tremendously to see it in action.” He explained quite happily.
Ilea didn’t reply but looked over the city again. She was glad the man had found another thing to protect him from death. Her own abilities had grown as well and soon she would likely have the possibility to advance one of her Ashen skills to the third tier.
“What are you going to do now? Trian left a moment ago. For Ravenhall.” Ilea said.
“I’m not sure. The team…,” he started and paused. “Well you’ve been the first group I worked with. And I’ve learned a lot from you all, you specifically Ilea.” He said, turning his head away a little.
“I think I’ll try to work with you for now. If you’ll have me.” He said which put a smile on her face. Working alone felt right to Ilea but having capable backup made a huge difference. As much as she hated to admit it. Plus the man wasn’t half bad.
“Of course I’ll have you Kyrian.” Ilea said and looked at him. “It would be my pleasure in fact. For now I’ll observe the developments here. Tomorrow I’ll meet the librarian again who I asked to look for records on Eve. We’ll see what comes of it.” She said, tapping her helmet with a finger.
“What about Edwin and Maria? You wanted to help them find his father didn’t you?” Kyrian asked.
“Yes. We might just do that. I doubt he has the strength to pull it off, if his father really is as powerful as he said. I don’t get why he doesn’t go and train first.” She said.
“I think he trained for years to get to where he is now. One’s patience isn’t endless and if he feels himself ready then that is the time to move. You don’t feel ready to face his father?” He asked.
“If we’re together then I think we’ll find a way. Or at least escape if everything goes wrong. There’s an opportunity to learn about the Golden Lily as well and I don’t want to miss that. But no, were I alone then I wouldn’t want to face him, knowing that Edwin fears the man. Other than just for a fun fight but to death? No.” Ilea said when a bright light made them look towards the center of the city.
A beam of bright red energy shot out northwards from the central military construct, explosions resounding far enough away to be barely audible.
“So it’s started then.” Kyrian said.
“What has?” Ilea asked.
“The stage is set. Now begins the battle for Virilya.” He said.
“The death of thousands.” Ilea said as another beam came from the center.
“Glorious isn’t it. To be witness to such an event.” He said, excitement in his voice that surprised her. “Some of the books in your room, they talk of events like this. Did you not want to see for yourself?”
“Reading about it and witnessing it is different. You don’t see people split in half and burned alive in a book.” Ilea said.
“But you can’t change anything about it either, in a book that is.” He said and smiled. “Or do you wish to simply observe. Huntress?”
She laughed and smiled. “You like that nickname don’t you.”
“I do. And I have a feeling you do as well.” Kyrian answered.
“Well I am the Azarinth First Hunter.” Ilea said.
“Azarinth First Hunter. I like that. Better than Witch of Nari.” He said and chuckled.
“You’re a witch? What about your metal class?” Ilea asked.
“Not a chance I’ll tell you.” He said. “So, First Huntress. We have a city in flames, two countries at war and ample opportunity to profit. What would you like to hunt?”
Cameron held his breath as he hid inside the closet, his sword clutched tightly in his hands and ready to strike at any moment. He could hear the crying coming from the apartment above but he didn’t dare move. Baralia soldiers were around and in the house, he could feel them clearly.
Why the hell didn’t I go back with the others? The thought was too late, his squad dead by now. Slaughtered in an ambush, himself the only one with a teleportation ability to escape. Well Gloria had one too but she was the first to be hit. A sudden noise in the room, he felt a couple of people enter.
“I tell you it’s not a good idea.” A male voice said.
“I don’t give a fuck, they insulted us and I’ll kill them.” Another voice said before Cameron felt a magic surge, the presence of the third person suddenly vanishing.
“Fuck, come on let’s at least leave quickly.” The first person said.
“Why are you so damn scared.” The second man said, laughing right after, their voices leaving the room and growing more distant every moment.
Cameron waited another two minutes before he left his hiding spot, checking the room to find a dead man. One of the citizens he was supposed to protect yet he hid to save himself.
He would’ve died one way or the other. He didn’t believe his own thought but right now, survival came first. It wouldn’t help anybody for him to die in some random house behind enemy lines. Cameron winced as he moved through the room, the wound on his thigh bleeding into his clothes. He wouldn’t die from this but any more injuries and he might as well surrender to the Baralia troops.
Heroic Cameron. He thought and smiled to himself, bitter about the course of events. The empire was still busy with the roaming demons and now the very capital was at war. Opening the door to the street, he checked the surroundings, finding not a single living soul. A few of the buildings were on fire and he could tell from scorch marks on the ground that a fight had happened in the street. The soldiers previously in the house were nowhere to be seen or felt.
He had to make it back to the center. If a reasonable defense was put up, then it was there. The man had helped people escape right until his whole squad was wiped out, himself left wounded and fleeing from the elite squad they had faced. The Blood Vipers apparently. He had never heard of them before but their apparent tendency to babble about themselves left him time enough to route his escape and actually survive. Perhaps they had let him go but considering his level was comparable to theirs, it wouldn’t serve them in any conceivable way. At least none that he could think of.
The man made his way through the northern parts of the city using mostly his teleportation ability to cross streets and hide again in empty houses. Any looter would have a good time in the current capital. A sudden set of explosions rang through his ears as he shielded them quickly and jumped on the ground. Far enough away. He thought as he scrambled back up, careful not to worsen his wound any further.
The center was ready it seemed and the city, or at least the northern part was evacuated enough for them to engage the enemy with full force. Virilya was huge and they had the resources and people to rebuild. So long as the central district held. He knew that and Baralia knew that as well. Still, even if they couldn’t take it, the economic damage would be substantial. As is sending an army. He thought as he rounded a corner, watching enemy troops casually walk through a rather large street, checking in stores and houses for survivors or anything easily looted. Most of the people would’ve taken their gold and most prized possessions with them but some likely weren’t fast enough to leave.
A beam of red light suddenly enveloped the street, making Cameron duck back, his cheek singed from the heat. Explosions followed as he braced against the shock wave. It came and went, as did many of the soldiers he had seen walking their streets just a moment ago.
He would’ve avoided the open streets anyway but now he had another reason. The problem was that the enemy would do so too from now on.
Appearing beyond the street, he walked towards where the beam had come from. As an officer in the guard, they would let him into the central district, even heal him.
“Hold right there.” A voice resounded behind him, a presence he just now noticed, too distracted by the fire and mana in the air. Cameron turned around to find a Baralia soldier standing there, missing an arm and holding out the other with lightning crackling at his fist.
“You are dying. Go see a healer and I will do the same.” Cameron said. He was in the worse situation. Should the soldier call for help, he was likely done for. He didn’t know if he could take him out in time and lightning had the annoying side effect of being a rather good defense. At least against enemies up close.
The soldier chuckled before leaning on the wall to his right. “You’re not getting away scum…,” he said smiling before a bolt was sent Cameron’s way.
His sword flashing with blue fire, the man appeared next to the soldier and slashed towards his neck with full force. A shock went through him right when his sword made contact but the defense wasn’t as formidable as he had dreaded, the metal cutting through to the bone, killing the soldier in a single strike.
The message in his mind informed him about the man’s classes and levels. Just twenty below his main one. And now his health was even slower, his regeneration canceled out due to the wound on his thigh. Keep moving. He told himself. It was a long way still, especially with his injury. But he would spend his last ounce of mana and health to get back and to take as many of those fuckers with him as he could.
“Black death, fucking ridiculous.” The soldier said as he sheathed his sword again, the joy of killing coming over him as he looked at the bloodbath before him. They had tried to hide but his nose was a good one. A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth as he turned around, only to find ash spreading towards him. The only escape route was through one of the windows but he would just blast whatever feeble mage did this to bits. His senses were good, especially in dark places.
The ash suddenly advanced much more quickly, enveloping him and the room. “Fuck… what the fuck.” He grunted as his body started burning, his health draining as his armor heated up, burning ash shot down his throat and into his eyes and nose as he tried to brush it away.
Ilea appeared behind him and cracked his neck. She didn’t bother taking an ear as she checked the massacre for any survivors. There were none.
“Too late.” She said as the man dropped to the ground, a notification popping up in her mind. An almost comical noise to her in this gruesome situation.
“I doubt there are many survivors by now.” Kyrian said but Ilea wasn’t so sure about it.
“At least we can find these kind of guys. Weed them out and murder them.” She said, grabbing the man by his chest piece and lifting him up. Looking at his face, she had to remind herself not to do this for too long, otherwise maybe she would become like him at some point. Perhaps I already am.
Walking out, she found a group of around fifteen Baralia soldiers stopping in their tracks as she exited the house. None of them was above level one fifty even. Likely a group they could take.
“The black death…,” One of them exclaimed in a hush, readying his weapon.
Ilea just threw the body towards them. “Don’t kill bystanders and citizens.” She stated before her wings spread and she flew off, avoiding any high level people that might’ve come to hunt them down.
Don’t linger. Kyrian had told her earlier. Especially now that the resistance from the empire was mostly focused on the central district. Soldiers had either fled there or outside the city, if they were alive that was. According to the corpses she saw, both sides had lost an absurd amount of people by now. She didn’t quite know what the purpose of those deaths was. She knew rationally speaking but seeing the corpses didn’t quite make sense to her. For power and territory? Both countries were fine before, why have a war.
Greed was of course the answer, as were many more complicated motives but to Ilea human nature itself was at fault here. Seeing all this horror made her lose most of the remaining belief she had in her species. Demon spawn at least were single minded killing machines, driven by their instinct and hunger. Mere beasts to be fought and taken down but all of this here? That was deliberate, the people in charge knowing exactly how many people would die, how many houses destroyed and how much resources lost. They knew and still they decided to engage.
“I’ve decided Kyrian.” She said, turning to the man leaning on the wall of the side street they were stopping in to eat and drink something.
“Hmm?” He asked, finishing up, his helmet appearing on his head.
“Tomorrow we’ll meet the librarian and after that I’m going to try and get as much info on Eve and the Golden Lily as I can. Then I leave this dump.” She said and he nodded.
“If that’s what you’ve decided. You’ll have to do the stealth though.” He said, pointing at her.