A note from Rhaegar

Hey, hope you aren't too warm. I am.

Chapter 216 Ashen Considerations

“Two of them? That’s insane… there is a dungeon in the vicinity but to think spirits of winter came out of there. We’ll have to check with the Guild and the Hand, their records might clear it up.” The guard captain said upon their return, hearing the short report from one of the flying mages who had supported Ilea previously.

“There were four spirits actually.” Ilea said, still carrying the healer and holding on to the boy.

“F… four of them… do you know their levels and were they destroyed?” The captain asked, moving over to her immediately.

“Oran! Where did you c…,” A woman shouted as she walked briskly towards Ilea and the guards, stopping in her tracks when she noticed the woman in her black armor. “I didn’t…,” She started but Ilea touched the boy’s back and moved him a little closer to her.

“Do you know him?” She asked as the woman tried to avoid looking at her.

“I traveled with his father and older brother… they?” The woman asked and looked up as she wrung her hands together. Ilea just looked at her without saying anything. “I… understand.”

“Can you take care of him?” Ilea asked and watched her reaction. Tears came close to the woman’s eyes but she nodded quickly.

“Of course. My sisters and I will take care of him. Oran come, say goodbye to the nice lady.” The woman said and approached the boy, taking his hand before he waved towards Ilea, his eyes still puffy as he sobbed once. He would understand in time, Ilea was sure. She had no knowledge in psychology but an event like this, with the boy being maybe seven, eight years old? She didn’t let it get to her, instead focusing on the fact that she had saved several people’s lives today. Lives that were now full of opportunities. She just hoped that some of them would welcome that fate.

The guard waited patiently for her to finish with her business but Ilea wasn’t quite done. Checking her messages, she quickly found out what the guard had wanted to know.

ding’ ‘You have defeated [Spirit of Winter – lvl 341] – For killing an enemy one hundred and ten levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’

ding’ ‘Your group has defeated [Spirit of Winter – lvl 330] – For killing an enemy one hundred levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’

ding’ ‘Your group has defeated [Spirit of Winter – lvl 327] – For killing an enemy ninety levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’

ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 230 – Five stat points awarded’

ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 224 – Five stat points awarded’

ding’ ‘Embered Body Heat reaches 2nd lvl 3’

ding’ ‘Wave of Ember reaches 2nd lvl 16’

ding’ ‘Ice Resistance reaches lvl 10’

“Between three twelve and three forty one. All destroyed. You mentioned a dungeon?” Ilea asked after she had answered the man.

“I’m glad you were there then…,” The man said and scratched the back of his head, moving his hand back down after hitting his helmet.

“We will conquer the dungeon.” Gan said after she and Bataar had entered the city walls as well. “After this lazy one recovered.” She said and laughed, hitting Bataar who didn’t react in the slightest.

“Have to prepare, buy tools and hire a team.” He said, the man’s voice a murmur.

“Good luck with that, just don’t get as close as you did the first time.” Ilea said.

“I can handle myself.” Gan said, raising her eyebrows and staring at her.

Ilea just looked at her for a while before she smiled “This is not a challenge mage, you were about to die were it not for Bataar and me.”

The mage’s eyes turned into daggers but Bataar interrupted her before she started talking, holding out his hand before her.

“Gan, leave. You are embarrassing our tribe.” He said. The woman stared at him with an open mouth but then bowed lightly and left, Ilea lifting her eyebrow at the behavior.

“I apologize for her. She is young, battle hungry and inexperienced. One to be nurtured and taught. She will learn in time. May I ask for you to leave the dungeon to us? It would be good for her to struggle against an enemy, learn about necessary preparations and to regret her behavior towards you. I will pay you for the loss of the opportunity.” He said.

“Her actions are hers alone. I won’t kill her if that’s what you’re worried about, not if she’s just an idiot. I won’t promise anything but this is a start. Finish your preparations quickly, perhaps that will make it a little more dangerous.” Ilea said, taking the pouch of coins he handed to her with her free hand. She respected the man for how he had treated the survivors and her in the whole situation, enough to at least consider his offer.

“I thank you for the consideration. You have my respect Ilea of the Hand and we are in your debt.” He said and bowed deeply before he left without another word.

Ilea watched his back for a little while before she turned to the guard again “This one yours?” She asked, looking at the healer she still held, the woman was alright but still knocked out. The pouch of thirty silver coins was put into her necklace behind her back.

“Indeed. Marvelous healer that one. You saved her too?” The captain asked.

“Nothing of the like. She saved several people herself. What’s her name?” Ilea asked.

“Dany, joined the guard a week ago actually.” He explained.

“Dany… Thanks for letting me know. Take care of her, she’s a good one.” Ilea said and handed her to the man.

“We know that already, saved several of our own in this week alone. Healers are always welcome.” He said and nodded towards her. “Thank you again for your help Shadow.”

Ilea nodded and turned away, thinking about testing her newfound third tier ability in Viscera. Looking up at the bright and visible stars, she changed her mind and walked back out of the city. The guards nodded towards her, having heard about what she did earlier.

Looking around the area, her wings spread and made her ascend a little before she flew towards the lake and the surrounding forest. The part where she had found Kyrian training his curse magic and where she had played hide and seek with the team was near completely destroyed still. Snow covered parts of it but it still looked like a storm had gone through. Trees that had been snapped, half of them remaining with a thin layer of snow. They would start to rot soon, when the temperatures would further rise.

Ilea stopped near the field of destruction. One demonic monster had been responsible for all this, one attack had destroyed a big part of the forest, another a part of the city. If something like that can just randomly pop up, I wonder why not more cities just up and vanish from such an attack. Even something like the werewolf they had encountered would deal considerable damage in a human settlement. The beast just likely had no interest in doing so, lacking either the intelligence or the instincts to go after a brightly lit city with thousands of people in it.

The elves did it, Ilea knew. They had destroyed many of the western independent cities just a couple months ago. And then they went silent again, as if it had just been a warning. She wasn’t particularly interested in the political and environmental reasons the monsters had but there was the question why they had suddenly stopped. The way they talked whenever she encountered one of their race sounded like they thought less of humans than insects. If she thought about it pragmatically then she knew that some insects or critters were important for the ecosystem but if they expanded too much and too fast, they could destroy the living space of other beings.

Still, she had the more conventional idea of the elven protector of the forest and all living beings in her mind. The fact that they slaughtered whole cities undermined that thought considerably. She just didn’t want to believe it was without reason. Ilea herself would kill and decimate whole monster populations just to enhance her strength and levels but the beings she hunted didn’t speak in her tongue, didn’t show intelligence beyond hunt or be hunted. Perhaps I’ll find out in time. She thought, not going further into the depths of her own morality.

She lifted her hand and watched as a small orb of ash formed in it, created from her own mana as the energy was converted into an element some system, god or the very nature of magic allowed her to control. It was dense and she concentrated on making it even more so while she went through her list of skills. In the fight against the spirits it had been instinct but now she wanted to know how exactly her ash had changed from the convenient distraction to her enemies it had been before.

Her healing and the reversal of said skill already proved to work, effectively allowing her to now heal and attack from a distance. As well as increasing her targets to more than a single one. It would need some testing to see how far exactly her tendrils of ash could reach. She knew already that the ash had to be connected to her for it all to work, the skill description was clear on that. Still, she would certainly test the limits. Having more than a single target would of course drain her mana quicker as well. So far even with using all her skills, she had found few that could outlast her in battle but if she used several of her magical abilities against several opponents, she might have to invest into Wisdom and Endurance again soon enough.

Thinking of that, I still have ten stat points I can invest. She thought and smiled. Following her own advice, she put them into Wisdom, bringing the stat to 425 and an equal of 4250 mana to be at her disposal. Meditation of course was the main reason she could fight for so long, the skill allowing her to recover quickly if only she had a quiet minute or two. A skill that was available to any mage but her added healing skill converted that insane mana recovery into health recovery at the same level. Few she had met so far could match that.

I should start a school for battle mages, seems like humanity would benefit from a higher popularity of this combination. Perhaps she had already inspired some but she knew that flashy attack magic would still be the preference, young nobles and talented kids thinking themselves invincible before they were struck down by a monster just like the one responsible for her current surroundings. Ilea sighed. It wasn’t her problem. Not really. She had people she cared about now and most of them resided in Ravenhall, the soon to be best defended city of the human empire, likely coming close to what Virilya could spew out.

Don’t jinx it Ilea. She thought and chuckled before her dense ashen sphere extended around her, the loose ash forming into four, then six and then eight shadowy tendrils that moved around. It felt a little weird to be in control of them. Even with her high skill in manipulation it lacked a natural feel now that she had to have it be connected to her body. Perhaps… She remembered a movie she had watched where a guy tried to harness the power of the sun or something. Ilea just hoped her own tentacles didn’t try to take over her mind and manipulate her into nearly destroying a city.

Then again, her Mental Resistance was leveled higher than most. Moving the ashen arms to start at her spine and extend over her arms, shoulders and hips made it feel a little more natural. As if she was a spider or something, just with ashen arms instead of real ones. She wouldn’t use them to move either but simply to attack and defend. “Hold up a minute.” She said before the ashen limbs moved down to the ground, her mind making them push down as she tried to lift up her body.

To her surprise it actually worked. Not terribly well but she could lift herself up. With her wings and strong body there was little this would add to her mobility but she could already think of some applications. To change directions rapidly in a forest for example or to allow movement when all her real limbs had been cut off, not that such a scenario was desirable. Let’s be honest, it’ll happen soon enough, I should train to move with this.

Ilea removed some of the ash from one of the arms and used her healing skill to fix the missing part. She had used this in the fight before but was a little surprised to find it actually worked. With it being a part of her body, her Hunter Recovery recognized it as such and actually managed to heal it. The mana expenditure for healing or creating the ash anew with her Ash Creation was similar, healing actually being a little more exhaustive. Still, the way she had used it against the ice spirits was a combination of both to allow for faster rebuilding all in all.

The pain she had felt through her ash was something others would certainly see as a major weakness but to her it was an asset. To feel through the ash allowed her to see should her sphere fail somehow, it allowed her to assess an enemy’s resilience depending on the impact she felt. Should the pain be too much she could simply disable her perception of it. Healing the flying ash she had removed from the arm didn’t do anything, her skill neither sending her any information about the floating ash nor healing it in any way.

Touching the ash, she could immediately feel the mana flow into it, letting her know about its properties and how the element could be healed. Weird concept, healing ash that I myself created from mana alone. It reminded Ilea of fantasies of alchemy, creating something out of something else. Something close certainly existed on earth with chemistry but it was either combining or splitting elements to gain something new. Mana in this world proved to be a building kit for literally everything. Like the cheat element and everybody possessed it.

Ilea still didn’t know if she was merely trapped in a simulation or if this was real after all. Her instincts told her it was real but then again, she had read some theories on the internet about Earth being in a simulation, the chances of it being rather high actually. Neither back then nor now did she give much credibility to it in her mind. It didn’t matter. To her it was reality, both if her mind consisted only of a block of memory in an enormous and incomprehensible computer or if it was an independent biological entity.

She had used mana time and time again and she trusted her abilities to the fullest. Still, the question remained if it was based on a scientific element that could be used, changed and exploited or if it was something spiritual, something in its nature pure and unchangeable, impossible for the mind to understand. The impacts would differ greatly but only time would tell, time and people more capable and intelligent than her. Ilea would explore magic’s limits in her own ways. Perhaps she would acquire the heart of some magical beast nobody else could slay and sell it to the scientists that would build this world’s first nuclear weaponry.

If she knew humans at all they would likely use it to bomb some other kingdom’s capital. She couldn’t help but snort at that, the thought funny to her in a morbid way. Ilea sighed and looked up again, thanking whoever brought her to this world that she now had the freedom to chose, to do and say whatever the fuck she wanted without any social constraints or the thought of money. If she had no food, she could just hunt for it, if she lacked the strength to fight someone she could simply acquire it. If she chose to live underwater, she could probably just grow gills. Damn I wish I had gills. She thought, remembering the training she had vowed herself to continue. Her drowning escapades with William.

She had tried to use her ashen arms to move herself around the snowy ground while considering her questions, finding it easier and easier with every minute. She had formed entire models of cities with her ash before, moving them in a spider like manner wasn’t exactly the hardest task to do. At least if she concentrated on it. Contemplating the reason for this ability, she couldn’t find another answer but her State of Azarinth and Form of Ash and Ember. Both skills were body enhancement spells that increased several of her attributes like strength and resilience.

She didn’t know if her ash benefited from her stats or if the described strength in her skills was less directly influencing her stat. Either way the ash connected to her definitely felt more powerful, easier to move and as proven by the fight earlier, more resilient by a metaphysical fuck ton. It was a welcome change of course. Considering her Veil benefited from her Ash and Ember manipulation directly, the effect to her defenses was doubled. She would have to consider the placement of her ash more. Perhaps the eight arms out of her back would be sufficient and could be expanded whenever necessary but shields formed around her real arms could be better in the end.


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