Chapter 217 Preparation
Or just a ton of ash floating around me at all times. She chuckled, thinking about the reaction form the people in towns, thinking her to be some kind of ash elemental. Am I not that already? In some fucked up way… Time would tell how her ash would most efficiently be deployed but for now the eight arms on her back felt the most natural to her. A number she could still manage. Perhaps she would increase it with time and her increasing skill in the element. Third tier Ash Creation here I come. The thought made her smile and with the changes this had already brought it would definitely be the first one she’d advance next time she got a skill point.
Azarinth Fighting and Ashen Warrior increased the damage dealt with her body. One of her ashen arms lashed out at a nearby tree trunk, smashing into the wood with ease before it retracted back to her. She hadn’t tried a similar move before but her projectiles definitely had a little more difficulty destroying a tree. Is the increased damage dealt only towards other living being’s health? Or to objects not categorized with a health bar as well? Ilea wasn’t sure but the effect against the spirits had been clear, her ash hit hard. Do trees have health bars?
She identified the trunk but found nothing else than a simple [Tree]. No level or health bar. I bet there’s some kind of sorcery to animate them. There has to be. She smiled at the thought. Like a tree necromancer or something. She had tried but couldn’t use Destruction on the spirits through her ash as the skill defined a punch or kick to be used. Perhaps if she formed her ash into a fist it might work. Instead of pondering, she did exactly that and formed a small fist at the end of one of her ashen limb and again assaulted the tree. The skill didn’t activate sadly. Leaves me with a reason to still engage with my own two hands though. Ilea thought. It would’ve been annoying to change her whole approach because she had gotten a new skill. Then again, the range of her ashen limbs was somewhat limited anyway.
Using Wave of Ember with the same limb she had just tried her Destruction spell with, the mana left her and a fiery spark entered the tree trunk, igniting it before the snow and cool air around it slowly smothered the flame. The application of the skill was good but what really made a difference against the spirits was the speed at which she could apply it through different ashen limbs. Before, she was limited to how quickly she could punch and while she was still much faster with her own body, she now had eight more arms to send out Wave of Ember, at least doubling if not tripling her damage output with the skill.
Plus, human opponents usually couldn’t exactly block ten arms at the same time. One or two, maybe but the reach she now had allowed her to get behind an opponent’s shield or get then in a blind spot. Combined with her ability to just explode the ash into their face or spread it around them she’d be even nastier to fight against. She grinned at that but then thought about how she’d measure up to someone like Green, the demon that had nearly killed her. Perhaps she’d be able to take two or three of his punches now before her bones were shattered but it wasn’t enough. Not even close. She sighed but was still content with the changes. Fucking glad I chose this one and didn’t have any of the more obvious choices available.
The third tier of Veil of Ash was a joke compared to Ash and Ember Manipulation but she couldn’t have known. Thinking about it, perhaps the same was true about her Azarinth First Hunter skills. The third tier of Blink had already saved her life once and would doubtlessly do so again in the future. It had little impact on her fighting capabilities but the skill alone was criminally good for how early she had gotten it in her leveling. If every level twenty or thirty person had teleportation at their disposal, the world would be a different place. More runes and enchantments to stop them to be sure.
State of Azarinth was good, a staple to her fighting and her survival so far. The third tier had made it permanent and even gave her a little boost should she need it but even that had a much smaller impact compared to her manipulation. Ilea wondered what her Sphere or even her Azarinth Reversal had in store at the third stage. She took in the snow around her and took a deep breath, reminding herself that in time she’d have all her skills in the third tier. Perhaps a class evolution would change them so much that they’d be unrecognizable compared to now. Only time and excessive training and fighting would tell.
Fighting far off from human wars. She thought, watching the distant dots closing in on the city. Survivors, refugees, spies and saboteurs mixed in for sure. All looking to join the repopulating mountain refuge and fortress of Ravenhall. Ilea thought about leaving then and there, the winds asking her to join them, to go east or north, south or west, far away from any human populated town to explore the mysteries of the undiscovered and the forgotten. Her wings were already spreading, the ashen arms tucked behind her back before she stopped herself.
Fists at her side, she gnashed her teeth before she relaxed again. She wouldn’t die without preparation, that much she owed to Eve, to Kyrian and to Trian. She would gain as many resistances and knowledge in Ravenhall as she could before she would venture out into the unknown. As much as it annoyed her to be stuck inside of a city for even another day. She just hoped no elves, demons or another human kingdom would attack as long as she was there. Ilea didn’t feel like getting involved in another conflict completely out of her control.
The ash behind her dissolved as she made her way back to the city. She had a purpose here and she would fulfill that as well as she could before she moved on. Ilea couldn’t ignore the vast resources she had here, the network of people willing to help and prepare her for things others doubtlessly had tried before. She would be the one to succeed where others had failed before her.
“Four more adventurers attacked city guards. One even another Shadow.” A man in black armor said quietly, arms folded behind his back.
Viper sighed and shook his head. “If this continues people will be scared to leave their homes. Any of them still on the loose?” He looked over at Philipp who was scratching something into one of the massive arrows the woman had given him. She seemed to have made an impression judging by the pile of already enchanted arrows on the table.
“None but we believe an associate is still on the run. The city guard didn’t recognize any of the attackers, meaning they got past the security at the gates.” The guard replied.
“That’s not exactly difficult.” Viper said and took one of the enchanted arrows, looking over the beautifully etched runes.
“For a Shadow like yourself perhaps. I would have difficulties staying undiscovered. The Head Administrator and her runes make sure of that.” The shadowguard replied.
Ah the head administrator. Sounds more like someone took charge of the Shadow’s Hand after the demon fiasco. I might have to meet them after all. The new self imposed elders. I’m not sure if Verena would’ve approved of this. His opinion on the matter wasn’t important of course. Viper and Philipp had returned with the others when Dagon had called for aid. To destroy the demons that had taken the lives of Katelyn and Robert.
He wasn’t sure how far the conspiracy reached, perhaps all of them were involved. He had known about some disagreements among the elders but to bring them so far to get the whole city wiped out? Unthinkable. He sighed, for the tenth time today already. They had come home, destroyed the demons and he had watched as people he barely knew took over the order that had taken him in, had given him a purpose.
“You’re thinking too much.” Philipp said, Viper looking down at him before he put the arrow back.
“It’s gonna be alright.” The man said to him and Viper nodded.
Is it though? You were the one to cry and scream in your sleep Philipp. You were the reason I didn’t invest any of my time in investigating this whole ordeal. You were… He stopped himself. Maybe he was thinking too much after all. Blaming anybody wasn’t going to help, neither him nor his last remaining friend. You are being dramatic. He told himself and dismissed the shadowguard, a man he had gotten into the newly found order with a good word, an additional informant he had added to his network. One that shrunk by the day it seemed.
“Maybe you can ask Ilea. She might know something.” Philipp suggested.
“Ask who?” Viper replied, closing the window behind the shadowguard that just left. Not even a teleportation ability. Perhaps I hired the wrong person.
“The woman who trained with me yesterday. She said she’d be at the arena again later.” His friend said, finishing another arrow before he took a sip of his drink.
“Ah, that’s her name then. She doesn’t seem to care much for politics.” Viper said and sat down opposite the hunter.
“You judge people too quickly. And what would it hurt? You think she’s somehow involved in it too?” Philipp asked.
“No but she might talk to the wrong people. And we wouldn’t want members of the Hand hunting us down, not with just the two of us.” Viper said but Philipp just laughed.
“I think you’re too paranoid. Still, you’ve never led us astray. It’s your decision. I’m just suggesting it. If she turns out to be against us we’ll notice soon enough.” The hunter said. It was certainly tempting, to ask an isolated member like her before going to this administrator or Dagon, to try and gamble out some information. The librarian already knew most everything useful Viper had to share. Back then information on classes and monsters seemed so worthwhile.
“I’ll think about it. Thanks Philipp.” He answered after a while, getting up to take a walk. At least he owed the woman that Philipp finally used his bow again. They’ve been through much together but losing the two changed him. He won’t be the same anymore. The thought reminded him of himself but he made himself stop. I need a woman.
“You are drowning quite well today Ilea.” William said after two hours of continuous training. Ilea coughed up water and blood as healing mana flowed through her body, her near blue face turning more lively by the second.
“Is this sexual to you?” She asked after having recovered enough to talk. He looked at her and then shook his head before he continued working. That’s not an answer. She thought. “Again.”
Water formed around her while she took a deep breath before she was submerged. Spikes of ice soon smashed into her skin while she healed herself. Ilea let all the air in her lungs out and simply accepted the suffering that would lead to improvement. Right now, she was sure that drowning was worse than being burnt alive. Although some part of her mind told her that it’s more about perspective. With every minute of choking and coughing, her whole body retracting and fighting the creeping death coming closer and closer, she focused, focused on all the ways she had to improve.
If a fire mage was her enemy, she would be resistant to his magic. If a water mage trapped her in a flooded cave, she would be resistant to drowning. If an assassin poisoned her, she would prevail. And she would move on, punching them down one piece of their life at a time until they were defeated. The thought kept her sane as she continuously drowned, her hardened and enhanced body living through the suffering like no normal human could, the call of unconsciousness ignored with an iron will. The training would last another three hours.
“Ilea! What a nice face to see. How did your mission go with the Redleaf boy?” Elise asked and put down the ten books she was carrying. She looked younger than Ilea remembered her, rejuvenated even.
“You look great. Finally out of your prison really is becoming on you.” Ilea said and smiled, sitting down on a nearby arm chair. She had found the woman in a section of the library usually reserved for Dagon and his crew. Most of them had died in the demon attack and the runes keeping people like her out of it had been tampered with as well. By her in part. Five minutes ago. What a shame.
“Oh dear you have no idea how amazing I feel. For as much as he knows, he’s surprisingly good with his body too.” Elise said and took off her glasses.
“Now that’s a piece of information I’ll be able to trade with him for quite a fortune isn’t it. I’m glad you’re doing well.” Ilea said and smiled. She was happy for both of them, to find someone they clicked with, in this case rediscovering a long lost love.
“Ah he’s not young enough to be embarrassed like that.” Elise said as she cleaned her glasses.
“New hairstyle?” Ilea asked, seeing that the glasses too weren’t the same white horned ones she had worn before.
“Yes, never liked bangs but I suppose it serves the required purpose.” The librarian replied. “Let me know which enchantments you broke to get in here by the way. And how, they seem terribly ineffective.”
“Just a bunch of minor ones. The big one leading down I didn’t touch.” Ilea said and shrugged.
“Good. I’ll have to talk to Claire again if she finds the time.” Elise said. “Now, as much as I appreciate the visit, I don’t take you to be one to socialize for fun.” She looked at Ilea.
“Right on all accounts Elise. You’re good at reading people even while being stuck in a library for most of your life.” Ilea said. Perhaps she was just easy to read but she didn’t mind too much about being open with her motives, moods and intentions. Too many people were secretive and scheming in this world. Just because she couldn’t trust any random deceitful stranger anymore didn’t mean she had to become one herself.
“I don’t really know where to start Elise.” Ilea said and sighed, summoning a mug of ale and taking a sip.
“Is it about your revenge perhaps? About a man? Trust me, finding out about their every move and ability won’t win you their heart.” The librarian said.
“If you want their literal heart, then it might actually.” Ilea retorted and took another sip. “I’m working on training resistances and need a list of possible dangers I’ll encounter in undiscovered ruins, dungeons and dangerous environments.”
“I can get you some books on that. Also about love, I think you direly need it dear. If you want to explore dungeons then I can give you a list of known locations in the plains and even some around here. The mana density has them recover somewhat quickly after they’ve been cleared and with the absence of any humans around here, some of them are sure to be filled with dangerous monsters.” Elise said.
“I’ll go north probably. North beyond the mountain chain.” She said and took another sip. Perhaps visiting Walter to get some more ale as well.
“To be young and adventurous again…,” Elise said and smiled. “You will die. Like most everybody else has before you. One way or the other, something will get you. The geographical location of the plains is the only reason humanity is still around.”
“Well you’re a bummer. What’s so different about the north then or any of the other frontiers? What makes you think you won’t find humans after traveling for a couple months or years?” Ilea asked. “And what makes you think the monsters in the north wouldn’t come ever come here?”
“Some have and they decimated whole cities. The elves are the frontier to the west and I think the cities destroyed in the last year were in big part just a warning for us not to expand further. Ilea. I don’t want to make you stop whatever you’re doing but there have been countless expeditions. Few ever returned and fewer have brought news of habitable land, valuable resources or amiable races.” Elise explained.
“Why are you doing this Elise? I will go there one way or the other.” Ilea asked, knowing that while the information certainly seemed plausible, the woman likely had a reason to talk her down from her idea.
Elise looked at her for a while without saying anything and then just shook her head. “Ilea, you’re a promising young woman. Stronger than I am even after all those years of study and training. I’ve seen many like you, all of them are dead now. I just… I don’t want to see you die. You could live happily here in Ravenhall, do jobs around here, work for the city or the Hand but you will bring nothing to humanity if you die somewhere in the north, eaten by a beast not even categorized in any encyclopedia.”
Ilea thought about it for a while but she couldn’t disagree more. “I appreciate the sentiment Elise, I really do. Ever since I’ve come… ever since I was born here in Elos… I’ve felt free. Free to explore, to fight and to discover the unknown. It’s not a romantic whim either. I’ve been to the demon realm, the place they call the Great Salt. I’ve befriended one of them. I’ve fought and killed elves, have seen Taleen machines dangerous enough to wipe out cities. And yet here I am. I’ve survived them and I’ll survive much worse. And should one of those monsters come south, I might be one of the humans that destroys it. Just like I have been one of the people destroying the demons that were summoned here.” Ilea finished.