Chapter 201 Engage
“Still… you should’ve found out more.” Welk complained and walked to the castle, likely to tell his lord about it.
Maybe we’ll lose this job earlier than expected. Maurice thought, smiling at the idea.
“Any news from inside?” He asked the silent woman.
There was no response or reaction at all. “Nothing then. Well I’m sure they’ll get you when they find any of those killer machines.”
“How do they not scare you?” He asked in a joking manner, finishing his meal when a couple guards walked by, armored in red and gray. Colors of house Redleaf. What a stupid fucking name. He thought and smiled.
“They are just machines.” Zoy said, gracing them with her voice. Popi perched up and summoned a cupcake.
“I made a new one. You said you didn’t hate lemon.” The man said and shyly walked over to where Zoy was sitting. The woman didn’t look at him but didn’t stop him setting the cupcake down next to her on the stone.
“Thank you Popi.” She said before she placed her hand near the cupcake, moving it a little before she finally found it.
Don’t have to fool us lady. Maurice thought but he had that talk with her several times already. Maybe he would’ve believed it before he saw her fight.
“I’m gonna catch some sleep. Wake me when something interesting happens.” He said and lied down on his mat.
“Will do Maurice. Sweet dreams.” Popi said which made him smile.
“At least fifteen guards looking over the castle. And they’re just hanging out in front of it?” Ilea asked as they looked over their target isle.
“They have Redleaf colors. Likely not as high level as the others. That’s why we go in and check it out.” Kyrian said.
“Yea.” Ilea said and glided down to the tiny stone connection that bridged the two islands. Kyrian followed and landed behind her.
“Are you with me if I improvise a little?” Ilea asked the man a moment later.
“Like completely ignoring Edwin’s plan to fight him yourself?” Kyrian asked but she waved him off.
“I just don’t know if I’ll get an opportunity to talk to the man otherwise.” Ilea explained.
“Of course I’m with you. I’m here for Eve. And for you.” He said. Ilea felt the burden lessen a little. Hopefully she wasn’t dragging them both to death.
Well, Edwin will intervene at one point or the other anyway. Just depends who’s quicker. She thought and smiled as they made their way over the pathway.
There were three people near the fire, two of them she knew already. Two guards on the top of the stairs leading to the castle pointed at them but didn’t do anything yet. The third person sitting near the fire was a woman with somewhat short blond hair. None of them reacted before she shouted towards them.
“Hey Popi!” She waved and smiled when he turned towards her, taking off her helmet in the process.
“Lilith!” Popi answered and smiled as well, kicking at the third person who had been soundly asleep. Maurice grumbled and sat up with a skeptical look on his face.
“The Shadowgirl.” He said. “She’s pretty.”
“Thanks old man.” Ilea said. “This is Joe.” She said, pointing at Kyrian behind her.
“Old man. Ah well you’re right. The invisible angry one here too?” He asked, a little apprehension clear in his voice. The woman sitting in her white metal armor hadn’t moved at all so far, her eyes white as she stared into the distance.
“She didn’t feel like seeing your faces. Is she blind?” Ilea asked.
“You’re being rude.” Kyrian said and nodded to the woman. “It’s nice to meet you all. I apologize for her behavior.”
“No I think it’s cool actually.” Ilea said and tensed her body slightly, turning it a little towards the woman. Her Sphere told her enough. There was a slight twitch in the woman’s fingers and her breathing slowed down a bit.
“Hahaha. I knew it.” Ilea said and relaxed her body. “Popi how are you doing? I’m here to pay you and to buy more if you have anything else.” Ilea said and smiled at the man as she sat down next to him, opening her pack and getting her pouch.
“Your spending habits haven’t changed at all.” Kyrian said and sighed.
“Where did you get that armor?” The woman in white asked suddenly.
“Her or me?” Kyrian asked as he sat down as well. The two guards from the stairs had walked towards them in the meantime.
“What’s the meaning of this? Who are those people?” One of the guards asked.
[Warrior – lvl 141]
[Warrior – lvl 148]
Guards at a lower level. Ilea thought and smiled at them.
“Fuck off, they’re just here to buy cake.” Maurice said.
“What do you mean they’re just…,” The guard was interrupted when the woman in white held up her hand.
“Her armor.” She stated in a tense voice.
“Smith friend made it for me, why?” Ilea said as she bit into the cupcake Popi had handed to her.
“The metal.” The woman said.
Interesting. Not even Balduur knew what it was and this chick points it out immediately.
[Warrior – lvl ??]
Which means she’s higher than two fifty at least. Ilea thought and debated on how to handle this interaction. The truth seemed as good as anything.
“Found it in a Taleen dungeon about a year ago. Belonged to an elf I think. Wore it until it was too messed up and had it reforged. This is the result. Do you like it?” She asked and studied the woman’s reaction.
“Where is the dungeon?” The woman asked.
“Maybe I’ll tell you if you tell me your name?” Ilea asked and smiled. The guards looked at each other and shook their heads before they went back to their posts, entirely out of their comfort zone it seemed.
Shit guards. Ilea thought as she watched them leave, taking another bite of the cupcake. “That’s fucking delicious.” She said.
“Zoy.” The woman said after a while.
“Zoy… like in soy sauce? Interesting name. The dungeon is inside the massive mountain Karth. I wouldn’t recommend going in though, there’s two Praetorians waiting.” Ilea said and finished the cupcake, not missing the sudden tension in Zoy’s body, moving her head for the first time as she looked up to the sky.
“You. Fought them?” She asked after a while, looking at the same nothing again before her.
“You really are something.” Maurice said as he sat up and put something that looked like coffee into one of the pans, filling it with water from a flask. “Never seen the mute talk that much.”
“Means she’s not a mute.” Kyrian interjected and smiled when Maurice looked at him.
“Got bloody mauled by them. Centurions are one thing but Praetorians…,” Ilea started. “They seemed… intelligent. Dangerous.” Ilea said.
“Do you fear them?” Zoy asked, holding her breath.
“Fear them? I did, yes. For a while.” Ilea said and thought back on the two machines decimating the expedition. There was nothing she could do back then. And she doubted she could do anything now. Not yet.
“You do not fear them anymore?” Zoy asked.
“No. As soon as I’m ready, I’ll go there and take them apart, piece by piece. Until nothing remains.” Ilea said and looked at the woman.
“Good. Then I leave them to you. Huntress named Lilith.” Zoy said and nodded.
“Wow and she used your name. You’re an ice whisperer or something?” Maurice asked as he stirred his brew.
“Smells nice, can I have some?” Ilea asked.
“If you pay me. One silver for a cup.” Maurice answered with a grin on his face.
“You’re overcharging me. Five copper.” Ilea said.
“Twenty” Ilea said. “Not more. His cakes are better.”
“Twenty it is for the lady huntress.” Maurice said and gave her a cup of the brew.
It smelled and tasted close to coffee. Not that she missed it specifically but it made her think of earth, of hanging out in a cafe with a friend, enjoying a peaceful summer day while the birds chirped in the background. Pink glasses. She thought and turned serious.
“A friend of mine. She got murdered.” She started, Kyrian glancing over to her with a stone faced expression. Maurice picked up on the tension immediately but neither Popi nor Zoy seemed to care much.
“Your employer I assume. Arthur Redleaf. He might know who did it.” Ilea said and watched their reactions. Maurice looked at her and then towards Zoy and then the castle.
“Are you here to kill him?” He asked after a moment. “Cause we can’t have you do that.”
“Not primarily.” Ilea said. “I want to talk to him.”
“I’m afraid he hates visitors and I do like to get paid for a job.” Maurice said as he got up, magic gathering around him. Nobody else made a move yet.
“How much is he paying you?” Ilea asked and smiled at him. “And don’t lie to me.”
“Three gold coins for three weeks of guard duty.” He said but didn’t stop his skills.
“A partner is paying five. Would you reconsider your allegiance, I would not like to fight you just to talk to the old man.” Ilea said, watching him as he considered her offer.
“I fucking hate this island and I hate that old fucker and that cunt Welk.” Maurice said and sighed.
“I won’t help you fight her.” Maurice said, pointing at Zoy. “And I won’t fight him or the rest of them. And you make that ten gold for both me and Popi.”
“Deal.” Ilea said. “Who else is here apart from the guards and Arthur?” She asked.
“One guy from our team, Arthur has his own protector as well. Creepy girl that one, even more than her.” Maurice said and looked at Zoy.
“You don’t seem bothered by our talk.” Ilea said, looking at the woman. “Will you stop me if I go up those stairs?”
“Yes.” She answered simply.
“Why?” Ilea asked.
“The Taleen network.” Zoy said.
“You mean the teleportation gates? There’s one here?” Ilea asked and interpreted her lack of response as a yes.
“There’s no problem then as long as I just talk to him, is there?” Ilea asked.
“There is not.” Zoy answered which made her grin.
“Great, can you bring us to him then? Joe, come on.” Ilea said when the castle’s wall suddenly exploded outwards, sending bricks into the ocean below.
“Great.” She said when Zoy vanished. “We’ve waited too long.” She said and spread ash around their group. “You two should leave, here’s your gold.” Ilea said and handed Maurice twenty pieces of gold, ten from Edwin and ten from her own pockets, leaving her at thirty one gold pieces. “If you’re looking for a new place, Ravenhall has great ones for sale.” She said as she ran towards the opening in the wall. The guards did the same, as did Kyrian behind her.
Ilea’s wings spread and she flew outwards and around the castle, looking into the big hall where Edwin stood, his blades interlocked with the greatsword of a heavily armored woman. Landing in the hall behind him, her ash spread out around her as her skills activated all at once. Kyrian’s metal spheres moved out as well while she glanced around.
A middle aged man with a bald spot, a viking looking guy with no hair at all, the angry chick with the greatsword and a bunch of Redleaf guards appearing and coming into the hall. Surprise attack officially failed.
Her ash was blown away by a strong wind originating from the middle aged man himself who lifted his hand to stop the approaching guards.
“Son! You disappoint me.” He said and glanced at both Kyrian and Ilea in turn. “The Shadow’s Hand? Not even revenge you could manage on your own.”
The hypocrisy of his words weren’t lost to Ilea as she watched the guards take positions around the man, aiming their bows, swords and spells at Edwin and herself.
“Doesn’t look good.” Kyrian whispered to her.
“Easy way to escape though. Let’s see what he does.” Ilea whispered back.
Zoy stood to the side of the enemy group, two short curved blades in her hands.
“You’re right, I’m not alone.” Edwin said as he pushed away the blade and slashed one of his blades across the woman’s armor. She started screaming and Ilea remembered his ability to inflict damage with his blood magic, even through armor.
“Take him down.” Arthur said when the chest of a guard next to him suddenly exploded, splattering blood and guts over him and the floor.
There she is. Ilea thought as she vanished, feeling the curse on her immediately when she appeared among the mages of the guards. The effect seemed much worse on them than on her as she punched the first one, sending him into the wall behind him like a rag doll, breaking several bones with her attack. Ash spread again, this time not immediately washed away as she blinked to the next mage, frantically sending beams of light outwards before her fist smacked into his chest, his energy shield breaking with the first punch before her second one broke his chest.
The third punch didn’t land when a blade came dangerously close. A blade shimmering white in the dark ash around her. Two blades to be exact. “Are you sure about this Zoy?” Ilea asked but her answer were two quick slashes that she dodged backwards. She was unwilling yet to engage her, using the guards around them as cover and targets at the same time.
Maria used her magic from somewhere hidden, one after the other dropping dead or screaming with missing limbs as Ilea blinked between them, seeing the red blades of Edwin flash through her ash as she continued to spread it wherever she appeared. Kyrian’s curses were affecting her and the enemy wherever she stood, his metal spikes and needles filling the hall. A blast of wind sent a part of her ash, several guards and herself flying.
Wings spread before she blinked away, avoiding the white blades of the mercenary when she spotted Arthur sending a massive blast of wind her way. Blinking away, she looked back at the ceiling that wasn’t there anymore, pieces of still visible in the air some hundred meters higher up. Her ears popped and a sharp pain went through her head when a wave of magic went over her, originating at the bald man next to Arthur.
Sound. She thought as she watched him play his harmonica with a smile, her second stage of pain tolerance activated as she blinked closer to the two of them, coming to a stop only to be engaged with Zoy again. The woman in heavy armor and her greatsword screamed and rushed at Kyrian who flew out of the castle to avoid her.
The blades rushed at her and Ilea dodged right, jabbing at Zoy’s left hand with her own to send the blade past herself. Her left fist landed on the woman and the punch destabilized her and sent her destructive man into the woman. Something blocked most of it, Ilea felt as she spread her ash around and heated it up as much as she could, a flurry of attacks following by Zoy and leaving her defending and dodging the short blades with little opportunity to strike back.
Her wings moved forward and held back Zoy’s arms in a moment of surprise, letting her get a kick in that sent the woman stumbling backwards. Another wave of sound came over her before all the air around them was pushed backwards in an instant, sending Ilea crashing through the wall behind her and out towards the ocean. Zoy and an unfortunate guard had been hit as well, the latter screaming as he was flung into the water.
She stabilized quickly and healed the damage to both her ears and the rest of her body, internal bleedings in several places and even a cracked rib from the wind alone. Impressive magic old man.
Ilea watched Zoy teleport back to the castle in intervals, using her ability in a similar fashion to her own blink as Ilea rushed back, her wings and blink combined getting her there much quicker than her adversary before she crashed her whole weight into the bald mage who was focused on Edwin who was engaged with the armored woman. He turned a little in the last moment to avoid critical damage but she still punched herself and the man through the wall behind him and into another room.
A noise so loud her ears went deaf again immediately and blood came from all openings in her head as she felt her brain squeeze together was released from the man she held beneath her. He was bloodied and one of his arms was mangled when she smashed his face with both fists, the impact sending a shock wave back that nearly sent her flying but her wings pushed against it and her fists landed again, cracking through whatever barrier he had put up before his face was caved inwards. A third hit with both fists sent the remainder of his skull and brains to the nearby walls.
Several messages popped up in her mind as she healed the damage to her body, nearly falling down again after she had stood up, her head spinning as she blinked her eyes. A sword hit her in the shoulder, the force sending her to one knee as she focused on her Sphere to see the enemy. The sword was lifted and came down again when Ilea vanished, appearing behind the guard, her fist impacting hard on his leather armor and breaking his neck.
Right when she stepped out of the room and back into the hall, a blast of wind send her right back inside, bracing herself against the impact. Her wings combined with a blink were enough to prevent that as she slid to a stop and blinked out into the hall.
Some of the guards were moaning in pain, parts of the room covered in ash, some of it still floating. Edwin had one of his swords stuck through the woman’s neck and pulled it out slowly, letting the corpse drop to the ground.
Arthur and Zoy were nowhere to be seen when Kyrian landed next to them.
“Where’s Maria?” Ilea asked.
“On the hunt.” Edwin said before he ran to the stairs leading down.