Chapter 214 A Winter Night
The night was rather bright, the moons illuminating the still busy city when Ilea walked out of the arena complex in the second circle of Ravenhall. The construction noises weren’t audible anymore but there were shouts here and there, most of them coming from more than a little intoxicated individuals. Checking the gains for the evening, Ilea was rather happy.
‘ding’ ‘Wind Resistance reaches lvl 10’
‘ding’ ‘Crystal Resistance reaches lvl 8’
‘ding’ ‘Earth Magic Resistance reaches lvl 6’
‘ding’ ‘Corrosion Resistance reaches lvl 9’
‘ding’ ‘Corrosion Resistance reaches lvl 10’
‘ding’ ‘You have learned the General Skill: Blood Manipulation Resistance – lvl 1’
‘A rare gift similar to poisons having an effect with dangerous results. Your blood was tampered with through magic but you have survived, making it harder for the next attempt by your enemy.’
It was a sign for what was to come in the next weeks. Without a sudden invasion of demons or Baralia marching this far south to take the city, she might actually enjoy her stay for once. Ilea could’ve easily trained through the night but she wanted to do some other things than getting blasted with magic as well. Maybe work on her ashen manipulation or simple getting some air while flying over the mountains.
Could also go home and read for a while. She thought, being so close to her house again. In the end she decided against it, walking through the streets of Ravenhall instead. Her remaining leather armor was pretty fucked up and she’d have to get new ones the next day. Other than a bunch of holes near her stomach area, it at least still covered her up.
Maybe Philipp can help me with an explosion enchantment. Ilea thought as she turned a corner, going through the gate leading to the outermost circle of the city. Claire would likely be the better bet but considering how busy the woman was Ilea considered to at least ask the man first. He had taken the arrows with him and if he came back the next day she might just ask him about a last ditch grenade.
Ilea followed the noises and soon came up on a big open square close to the city walls. A fire was lit in the middle of it, refugees residing near it in the cool spring night. Some of them were talking or cooking while most simply slept. Guards from the city and the Shadow’s Hand were distributing blankets and even food. It looked like a collecting point for the people arriving even now. The magical lights distributed among the square illuminated the newly built or reopened stores at the sides of it. Their light was less warm than the fire burning at the center.
Laughter and yelling could be heard from the two or three inns in the square, people drinking and celebrating while others arrived, fleeing from the horrors of war. The overarching air wasn’t gloomy at all Ilea found, the people awake talking excitedly about new opportunities while they encouraged the ones in a more downtrodden mood. Perhaps they would find their optimism repaid. With what Ilea had seen in this world, the chances of that sadly looked slim.
When a monster could breach city walls or another kingdom could attack at any moment, a helpless civilian wouldn’t be much more than collateral damage. Claire and the others would work their asses off to prevent something like that but in the end, Ilea knew that to protect them, each and every one of them would have to grow in strength. To protect themselves and their families, or to become strong enough to escape a catastrophe like the elder’s demon summoning.
Many of them likely knew that and as she listened in on the conversations between the guards and newcomers, many of them talked about becoming adventurers, guards, soldiers or even aspired to join the Shadow’s Hand. It was a good thing Ilea supposed, for humanity as a whole. The leisure and comfort she had experienced on Earth was mostly due to them being the highest on the food chain. Even then, many of her comforts were resting on the suffering of less fortunate humans far away. A reality that she often ignored.
Here, every soul sitting on this cold square in a city they’ve likely never been before, each one had the power and opportunity to rise above their predestined fate. And many of them will. The thought was encouraging to her. Something positive to think about in all the chaos and loss she had experienced in the past months. All the death she had caused. It certainly had changed her but perhaps there was still a small part of her idealism left deep within. As unrealistic it may be, she herself had proven that it was possible.
Albeit with enough luck to gain such a powerful class, her knowledge of fighting and her love for it. Still, if one wanted to join the guard or become an adventurer, training would likely be provided. With a basic education and a sword or magic in hand, a lot was possible. Ilea reached the wall and listened to the commotion near the gate. A group of refugees had stumbled inside, fear in their eyes as the guards tried to stop them.
“What’s going on, talk!” An imperial guard said while holding a man in his mid twenties.
“The road… spirits… they kill everyone is frozen…,” The man stammered out and the guard nodded.
“Spirits of Winter.” He confirmed and Ilea thought back on her monster education classes. They were beasts appearing around the start of spring, bringing back the cold wherever they resided. More often they would appear near mountains, sometimes keeping a village or a lake frozen and covered in snow for months into spring and even summer before they vanished again. A seasonal anomaly and one quite deadly. They usually ranged from levels at around 150 to unknown heights.
It’s advised to leave them alone until they go but it seems one or more of them had chosen the road to Ravenhall as their place of residence.
“We will request a strike team to go out and destroy it. Send out a scout around the area and advise the refugees to take a detour. Where exactly is the spirit?” The guard asked, shouting orders to some of the men and women around him before he focused on the survivor again.
“I ran for two hours to get here… we were two days off from Morhill. It suddenly got awfully cold, we thought it was just the mountain at first but then the first babe stopped crying and soon some of our group stopped moving, frozen in their tracks.” The man stammered out as Ilea approached.
“I’ll have a look.” She said, getting their attention. The guard looked confused but when he saw the black leather armor he nodded.
“There is no reward we can offer Shadow.” He said to her but Ilea had already vanished, appearing outside of the city before her wings spread, taking her along the road to Morhill. Her armor was replaced a moment later by her Ashen Hunter set, already too far away for any of the guards to see.
The hunt is its own reward. She thought, smiling at how cheesy the line sounded. A little disappointed she hadn’t come up with it when the guard was still there to hear it. Her skills all activated, she reached the first frozen corpses in a matter of minutes. Some were still moving, albeit barely.
Ilea appeared next to one of them, checking on their body with her healing ability before she worked on recovering their health. The sound of metal hitting something made her jerk around. She couldn’t see anything in the snowstorm that suddenly surrounded her. The cold was barely noticeable to her but the visible breath before her mouth told her enough. She used Embered Body Heat to cool her body down as much as she could. A spirit of winter would likely see heat in some way.
The person before her stirred but as soon as she stopped healing, their health started to drop again slowly. I have to get rid of the source. The thought pushed her forward and she ignored the dying people around her for now, following the sound of fighting.
The cold started to become stronger, the surface of her armor starting to freeze over, ice cracking with each step she took but Ilea kept her body cold. Soon she could make something out through her sphere. The whirling snow and ice around her made it impossible for her to see further than a couple meters with her eyes alone but she recognized the man immediately. It was the tank she had evaluated earlier that day. Bat something, Bataar? She asked herself when she realized that he was crouching over the woman he had arrived with. Her eyes were cold and her body was frozen over. Metal again resounded when he was pushed back several meters, a thin gash showing on his shield where something had impacted it.
The man rushed back to the woman and crouched above her again, his healing skill doubtlessly trying to keep her alive. This thing took her out and has enough force to damage his shield…, Those facts made her apprehensive but so far nothing had attacked her. Ilea moved around the man, trying to find something through her sphere when she started to create ash around her, forming it into a person of ash. Using her manipulation skill, she made the ash move in a realistic manner, away from her for another five meters until her control started to lessen. Trying to heat the ash with her Embered Body Heat proved difficult but upon forming a thin ashen connection with the projection, she found it much easier.
It heated up immediately and was disturbed just as quickly when a wave of cold air pushed it aside, Ilea reforming the thing again right after. Again a wave of cold destroyed her ashen creation but she didn’t relent. This time swords of ice rushed through the ash, leaving it mostly intact before she finally saw it in her sphere. A misty form looking similar to a man but over two meters tall, its limbs unnaturally long ending in spiked hands. It moved through the storm of ice nearly as fast as her highest flying speed. And then the control over her ash vanished, only frozen particles of it remaining where the creature stood.
[Spirit of Winter – lvl ??]
It was above her level then but not yet three question marks. At least I’m not hopelessly outclassed. Let’s be honest, I’d engage it one way or the other. A smile crept up on her lips as she stood unmoving in the cold, the storm raging around her, her body close to the same temperature. The creature turned and looked towards the other Shadow but didn’t seem to see her at all.
It moved quickly again, closing in on the defending man before it reached out to him. He stood and held up his shield as the ice spread into it. The man screamed in defiance while Ilea used her blink to get right behind the creature, spreading ash around herself and the monster. Right before the cold broke through Bataar’s shield, she enveloped the spirit with ash and smashed her fists into its back, finding little purchase but some cracking ice. A moment later her reversed healing spread into the creature and the ash heated up as much as she could make it, her Veil protecting her against the ice while more and more ash appeared around the monster, replacing the frozen particles still sticking to it, giving it a more visible form to the eye.
Finding a grip with her left hand, Ilea started punching with her right one, each hit spreading the fire of her Wave of Ember through the creature while her left one continued sending destructive mana into it. The damage she herself sustained was continuously healed through her recovery. The spirit tried to turn around, lashing out behind it with its massive clawed arms but its attacks glanced off her Veil, the ones managing to pierce sprang off her armor, leaving behind spreading ice that was soon melting from her heated body and boiling blood within, her Veil just as hot as the ash that slowly ate into the icy monster.
Its struggles became more and more desperate and wild, one of its arms slamming backwards and getting a clean hit in on the Veil around her head. Ilea was slammed to the side but held on to her grip to its bone or whatever she had managed to grab onto. Another hit sent her flying before she could stabilize in the cold. She quickly created heated ash all around her while cooling her body down again, blinking out of the way of the incoming tide of cold air, swords and spikes of ice slashing through the ash.
A loud howl resounded when the beast started slashing all around itself, hitting the warrior’s shield who had managed to get the woman behind him again while he had retreated a couple steps. Ilea formed ash around her and slowly moved it closer to the beast before she blinked behind it, trying to grab the same spot as before while the ash enveloped it. This time she held onto it with both hands and simply focused on not losing her grip anymore while she pumped mana into it.
Her healing spell told her that her attack was having an effect, albeit a somewhat small one. If she could keep it up for a while, she could kill the thing. The storm of ice started to condense around the two of them, splinters and swords of magically frozen water slammed into her Veil and armor but it was a chaotic attack, one of a beast in panic while she focused purely on keeping her Veil functioning while more and more destructive mana damaged and broke down the monster’s body.
Ilea tried to focus on the core she felt in the beast but her mana struggled to get where it needed to be, her healing much more refined than the reversed alternative, the enemy body and its flow of mana fighting hard at repulsing its invasive counterpart. Ilea continued forming fake bodies of heated ash around the monster to get its attention away from her and found the tactic worked wonders, the storm of swords and ice focusing on the apparitions instead of the real Ilea clinging to its back.
She was right assuming its perception was tied to heat somehow. Information she’d gladly share with Dagon to add to any monster encyclopedia should she survive the encounter. The smile on her face didn’t leave. She hadn’t even come close to dying yet, this was a fight as easy as they came.
Ten minutes turned into twenty and soon Ilea’s mana was getting lower and lower. Ilea could leave and recover but she had invested too much into this fight to leave her prey a chance at escape or recovery. Everyone else around her would likely die as well. Her own health would come first but she had some time left before she would get into any danger and the feeling she got from her healing spell was that the monster was close to death, or whatever it was that was going to happen to it.
As its struggles became weaker, Ilea started to use one of her arms again to deliver wave of ember into the creature, its slowing movements allowing her to use Meditation in turn, saving her from the choice of leaving and returning to finish the job or find no monster anymore to begin with. It had lost and she had prevailed. Her high Mana and recovery had proven a barrier too high for the spirit to overcome.
Another minute passed before the beast turned, having stopped its attacks it moved through the mist of ice and upwards to the closest mountain. Ilea was dragged with it and held on, continuing her assault as its speed slowed more and more. Bataar had the freedom and ability to take care of the other Shadow including all the refugees that still lived. Ilea would join him as soon as she was done but risking the monster’s recovery and return was the worse choice in the long run. Plus Ilea couldn’t deny that she wanted the kill.
The spirit dragged her upwards on the mountain side, stone scratching on her veil as her body was smashed against the cliff side again and again while the magical beast climbed upwards to the colder altitudes with all it had left. A deathly struggle it would lose. She knew it and the beast would too, soon enough. Five minutes later they came out high above the valley, the snow lying high, undisturbed by travelers, the winds smashing into them with unrelenting force. Something Ilea noted but something that didn’t impact her strengthened body in the least. Her Ice Resistance coupled with her Veil, her high Vitality and all her body enhancement skills made the spirit of winter coupled with the storm of ice around her into a cool autumn breeze.
And then the beast died, Ilea’s hands gripping nothing as the clamped her fingers together and released them again, the winds taking away the frozen particles around her as it suddenly grew warmer, the ice on her armor cracking as she moved her body.