Chapter 203 Hunters and Prey
Ilea thought about her skills and the short lived but very intense fights she had just been in. Zoy seemed to have a very similar skillset to her own and it definitely showed. Between the two of them there was nothing other than their fighting skills going against each other. Her ash didn’t make a difference and neither did her ability to teleport. It would’ve likely come down to one of them making a severe mistake or simply a battle of attrition.
Perhaps her healing ability would give her the edge but who knew if the woman didn’t have such a skill as well. Maybe shoving ash down her throat would be an idea…, Ilea thought, generally choosing a more direct approach. Her control over both ash and ember would be cut off immediately upon entering an enemy’s body but it would certainly be an annoying distraction. She doubted that with her current ash control, someone at the power of Zoy would be inconvenienced at all but it would be worth a shot in the next encounter.
Her wings and Veil would also be skills she should utilize more to attack but again, they were somewhat bound to what her ashen skills could do. Perhaps getting Ash Creation to the third tier will change that. Ilea questioned but right now she was at least confident in facing enemies unable to deal with her speed and maneuverability combined with her high defense and stamina.
The plains and ocean below rushed by in the afternoon light, the rare animal or monster looking up at the low flying passerby close to the coast. None of them chose to pursue the fast potential prey. Most would’ve likely found it not to be worth the trouble.
Several hours passed with Ilea flying at her highest possible speed, having to slow down from time to time to recover her mana and health a little. Finally seeing the island group in the distance, she slowed down to a complete stop and observed, her Meditation skill working quick to recover her lost mana and in turn health as her Hunter Recovery took care of the sacrificed life force. No big fire or spells could be seen in the distance as she slowly moved closer, her health and mana reaching acceptable levels to join a fight again.
The busted wall of the castle showed the big hall they had initially fought in, a couple people standing near one of the walls. People she knew.
Ilea sped up again and landed casually next to the seemingly injured Edwin, the man leaning on the wall behind him, a rather large pool of his own blood converging under the man as he enthusiastically bit into a pastry.
“Maurice, didn’t think I’d see you again so soon.” Ilea said to the man in his black feathery armor. “Hey Popi.” She added to the baker who handed more pastries to Edwin. Maria was around as well she noticed, breathing hard but nearly invisible standing close to Edwin.
“Ilea…,” Edwin said, gulping down his food as he focused on her, trying to get up but wincing as a wound on his stomach opened again.
“So that’s your name.” Maurice said and chuckled. “He’s probably trying to say that the windy chick that followed Arthur out is in danger. Went that way.” He added and pointed towards the mainland.
“Windy chick. Felicia?” Ilea asked and blinked out, not waiting for a response as she sacrificed health again to speed up. The girl hadn’t listened to her brother after all. She was proud and worried at the same time. The woman wasn’t on the same level as Edwin and Maria. She reached the mainland less than a minute of flying later, looking around only to find much of the vegetation destroyed and dead.
Following the destruction and upturned earth, she finally saw them and landed close to the two.
“Felicia.” She said simply, taking a couple steps towards the two women. The burnt corpse lying on the ground before them told enough of the story for her to grasp the situation.
“You did it.” Ilea added, coming up next to them when Felicia turned to her, brushing away tears on her face before she nodded. Ilea hugged her immediately, patting her back as the woman sobbed into her shoulder. Aliana nodded to her before she sat down on the ground.
“Are you injured?” Ilea asked, healing the bruises and broken shoulder Felicia had suffered in their fight.
“Nothing serious.” Aliana said as she looked at the corpse of Arthur Redleaf, his remains much less imposing than he had been when he was still alive.
“Is Kyrian still here?” Ilea asked, knowing that the man was likely trapped in whatever Taleen dungeon he had wound up in. Hopefully the man hadn’t been transported to Iz as well.
“I don’t know. We didn’t see him when we arrived.” Aliana answered her when Felicia let go of her, brushing away the last tears as she breathed in harshly.
With Arthur dead, she didn’t know if anybody could give her the necessary answers to Kyrian’s location or the teleportation gate used but perhaps there was still something left in the castle. She was glad at least that Felicia and Aliana were alright and that they had gotten their revenge after all. “Come on, let’s get you to the others and heal up everybody.” Ilea said, checking on Aliana when Felicia spoke, pointing towards a spot in the distance.
“Someone is coming, quickly.” She said and Ilea checked out the approaching people.
“Two of them, what is that?” She asked and grabbed both Aliana and Felicia in the meantime. “Let’s regroup, if they’re hostile we’ll have a better chance if the others help as well.” She added before flying off, letting go of Felicia a moment later as the woman flew on her own, carried by the winds around her.
They reached the others and Ilea immediately went to Maria, checking her injuries and healing them as quickly as she could, focusing on the most severe ones and completely ignoring the small stuff. “We’ve got incoming. One flying woman and a massive beast with teeth as long as my arms.” Ilea said. “Know anything about them?” She asked, finishing up with Maria who was breathing much lighter and moved on the Edwin.
Surprising her, the man stood up on his own, his wounds mostly mended as she touched him and finished healing the cracked bones in his chest. “You two got fucked up pretty badly.”
“Where’s Arthur… Felicia, I told you to…,” Edwin said and walked towards the woman when she pushed him back with a gust of wind.
“He is gone. Dead. You started it and we finished it.” Felicia said and looked him in the eye, shocking the man to a standstill.
“The two you mentioned, Kyle and Tiana. Hunters in the employ of Arthur. They won’t like it when they find his corpse.” Maria said, cracking her neck as she turned visible.
“She’s a pretty one too eh?” Maurice asked and pointed towards Maria who stared at the man with focused hatred. “Maybe give her some time to warm up. Popi see, told you we should work with them instead.” He added and smiled at his friend.
“Yes, and they all like my baking.” Popi said and summoned a piece of cake, handing it to Ilea who started eating it immediately.
“Mediate your mana and health. Would be good if we killed those two before they can inform anybody.” Ilea suggested with a mouth full of delicious cake.
“We could also leave.” Maurice suggested but she shook her head.
“I need whatever I can find in this castle, maybe there’s some gold for you left as well. If you help I’m sure Edwin here will pay you handsomely.” She said, punching the man’s shoulder who apparently woke up again just then.
“You killed him?” He asked and then smiled brightly before he hugged Felicia. “I’m proud of you.” He whispered when Maria clapped.
“Edwin, we’ve got visitors and they’re here in a minute or two.” She said.
“I know, I know. My mana is recovering as we speak. Maurice, was it? I’ll pay you each another two gold coins if you help us kill those two pests.” He said and turned around, unsheathing his blades and twirling them in his hands.
“We should get out of this room, the monster is a necromancer and he can, well turn into a monster. Be careful of the flying woman, she’s an ice mage of some kind, more dangerous than any I’ve fought before. Plus I think she might be a silver mage. She won’t go down easily. Me, Maria and Aliana will take care of the monster, the rest try to go for the woman. I hear you’re good at heating up areas?” He asked and looked towards Popi.
The man nodded and smiled, his armor appearing on his body right after. “I’ll melt the ice.” He said.
“Good, Ilea, where’s the metal mage?” Edwin asked as he looked around.
“Teleported away, just like I was. I assume the woman in white armor was as well, or you managed to kill her?” Ilea asked, Maurice snorting at that.
“Yea, good luck with that.” He said.
“Up.” Edwin said as he rushed to the stairwell. “He’s always been obsessed with these dwarven teleportation devices. I’m sure you’ll find your friend. We can look for clues as soon as we took care of the intruders.” Edwin said as they came out in the open, the castle ruin towering around them on the terrace of the big structure.
“Start heating up the area.” Edwin said and Popi spread his arms, the temperature rising drastically.
“I claim her silver things if what you say is true.” Maurice said with a smile as he shrouded himself in a dark mist, ravens, eagles and monster like birds of prey appeared out of nowhere around him as he talked, Ilea summoning her ash in turn, condensing as much of it as she could in small spheres to be expanded or used at a later time.
Maria was already out of sight, Edwin’s blades burning with a red flame as he walked to the front of the group. Felicia hovered in the air behind them and Aliana positioned herself behind some broken down walls that would give her a little cover.
“Don’t let them escape.” Edwin said when the creature of blood and claws appeared on the ramparts, growling deeply at the group before it when the woman Ilea had seen in the distance flew up behind the beast, a little of the surrounding heat flowing away immediately. Her eyes opened wide as she looked at the group.
“Go.” Ilea said and rushed out, teleporting as close as she could, speeding up with her wings as a sphere of ash spread out before her, covering both herself and Tiana in a cloud. Ilea smirked as the woman vanished. Of course. She thought when a freezing cold spread through her, making her blink away as well and orienting herself to find the enemy.
Tiana was floating a little bit away, raining a shower of ice spikes onto the terrace below, most of them stopped by the winds Felicia had summoned. Edwin and Aliana were engaged with the beast already, none of Ilea’s concern for now as she rushed at the mage again.
A group of birds rushed at her as well, blades of wind and flashes of heat appearing around the mage as she retreated more and more, the group now engaged in their hunt above the ocean. Popi couldn’t fly it seemed, focusing his attention on the monster instead.
Ilea found it hard to catch the woman without risking being damaged by one of her ice spells. She left behind a growing rose of the element whenever she vanished, spreading freezing cold where she left and appeared. After half a minute of engagement, the enemy mage was fully on the defense, trying to catch any of her pursuers in one of her traps as she cooled down the air around her.
It would only be a matter of time until she ran out of mana. The thought kept Ilea at a distance, summoning her bow instead as she continuously formed ashen projectiles that shot towards the woman, not letting her use her meditation skill. One of her arrows actually hit and was blocked by a growing plate of silver, the exploding projectile sending the woman off balance before two windblades cut into her chest.
She turned in the air, trying to gain control again when a swarm of crows smashed into her, forcing the woman to use her magic. A sphere of ice suddenly formed around her, trapping herself and the birds within before it fell down towards the water. The three hunters followed, hovering around the sphere that stuck itself in the water as more and more of it froze, keeping the sphere at the surface but the woman inside unable to move away.
“She can recover her mana this way.” Felicia said, sending a couple blades of wind into the icy sphere. Cuts formed but froze up again quickly.
“Let’s see. Pull me out if I get stuck.” Ilea said as she landed next to the sphere. Her ash spread out around herself and the sphere of ice, Embered Body Heat activating and heating up both her blood and the ash around her before her fist crashed into the ice, destructive mana flowing into the sphere, combating the mana that in turn tried to get to her.
Ilea’s healing and Resistance pushed against the icicles forming on her arm with every punch, the ash around her helping against the biting cold that threatened to freeze her in place with every moment she continued to stand there. Cracks formed with every hit, reforming but unable to completely alleviate the damage, mana wrestling against each other until finally, Ilea reached her opponent’s body, her fist hitting the silver that spread around her target.
The element hissed and burnt her hand, even below her armor but she kept on attacking, Destruction and Wave of Ember continuing to damage the silver mage’s defenses as birds picked away on the ice, many of them freezing in place, blades of wind slashing into the sphere around them.
Finally, the ice cracked, Ilea’s fist hitting the silver armor when it got swallowed up by the metal, her whole arm stuck when a burning pain shot through her, her arm freezing up while her flesh melted from the acidic attack coming likely from the silver. She pushed her recovery to the max while pumping destructive mana into her enemy who was additionally occupied with Felicia’s and Maurice’s attacks now only blocked by fields of silver that formed and retracted around her.
Ilea focused on the ash around her, pushing it towards the woman’s eyes and throat while she used her legs to kick at her armored shins. Finally, she got a good kick in on the coughing woman, destabilizing her enough to let Ilea get her free left arm around the silver. Grabbing around the woman’s arm, she crushed it with all her enhanced strength, standing firm on the ice and pulling the mage around, smashing her on the very ground she had created.
The silver around her right arm dropped off and her healing continued to fight the ice crystals forming inside of her body, the enemy magic somewhat slowed by the near boiling blood. Ilea’s ash continued to assault the woman who was on the ground with a broken shoulder.
The assault from the other two mages flying around them continued and the silver mage barely managed to block the hits with her magic. Ilea’s left arm was still firmly holding her enemy hostage, likely disabling her ability to simply teleport away. The position didn’t allow Ilea to get in a kick or even knee the woman but her head was close enough. Her brow smashed against the silver expanding out of the woman’s hair ornament, again and again, Destruction and Wave of Ember withering down her defenses as her healing fought the spreading cold in her body and the acidic deconstruction of her cells.
The woman’s eyes turned from determined to fearful as Ilea didn’t relent, not after half a minute and not after two. It was obviously becoming hard for the mage to keep up her defenses when Maurice appeared in a smoke of feathers, blades flashing in the sunlight as silver expanded to deflect the attack. The second blade was stuck in the metal as it expanded to trap his arm as well.
As soon as it reached his flesh, he winced, the cold spreading fast, reaching his shoulder in but a moment. He clenched his teeth as Ilea continued to bash her bleeding head against the defenses, the flesh having come off long ago. A massive gust of wind crashed into them, sending the three flying and destabilizing Tiana’s silver magic. Maurice was sent to the side, gasping for air as he struggled to fly away from the woman, his right side frozen solid. He landed in the water a moment later, Ilea still holding on to Tiana, the woman’s right arm destroyed and Ilea’s reversed healing spreading through her foe’s body continuously.
Both of them were likely using their meditation to recover mana that they immediately channeled to attack the other. Still, the state of Tiana, both there for everybody to see but specifically for Ilea and her healing magic, didn’t look great. While Ilea had to concentrate on keeping several skills active while trying to counteract the ice crystals forming, she’d be good for quite a while.