Chapter 223 Pointers
Cornelius held his breath, prepared to use his magic whenever necessary. Had he made it? To think an actual Shadow would take interest in him. Keep your guard up. The thought never left his mind. Not when the woman had first talked to him during the supposed magic training session and not for a moment after. He had checked out the arena after people in the adventurer guild had talked about it, a real Shadow, not some kind of misleading job offer as so many others seemed to be.
It turned out there were two more and they would actually train together in Eregar’s Haven, the legendary underground base of the Shadow’s Hand. He was still suspicious of course, ready to flee at any moment. The woman had offered to train with them, something one at his level could only dream of. If it’s too good to be true… The words echoed in his mind but he had learned that sometimes taking stupid risks would pay off. The wood mage girl next to him didn’t seem to be concerned by any of his worries, a stupid smile on her face as she watched the two Shadows prepare on the field.
She was there to train resistances and that was true. Why wouldn’t she want us here? Why would she kill us? Questions flowed through his mind as he considered possibilities. None of her reactions had been predictable. He had tried to gauge her with asking for money, something no Shadow would agree to but Ilea had, if that was really her name. A powerful surge of magic made him focus, head radiating from the robed mage even as far as they were standing. The plants around him were set aflame but Cornelius couldn’t make out a skill being used. Is it burning from his mana alone?
“Now don’t make a noise.” The Shadow standing before them said, a bow suddenly appearing in his hand, an arrow in the other. Both looked more expensive than all the wealth Cornelius or his parents had ever possessed. The man drew his bow and aimed at the Shadow who was supposed to face the mage before her. He looked over to Raphia who looked to be in conflict with herself, switching her gaze from the hunter to the warrior.
“You saw her before, she will survive.” Cornelius said, mostly to stop her from doing anything stupid. She could ruin their chances, whatever that meant. Perhaps the Shadows wanted to kill Ilea, perhaps it was a test of some sort. He didn’t know. Her behavior compared to the two made him think she was an apprentice, someone inexperienced compared to the mage or the hunter but these were Shadows he was talking about. Anything was possible. At least he knew she could take quite a bit of magical damage before being damaged but in an actual fight, how much would that mean?
The arrow was loosed, the projectile flying with a speed he could hardly process, enhanced by either the bow or its user no doubt. It should be louder. He thought and watched as the arrow hit. Ilea hadn’t moved, at least that was what he thought at first. The woman’s hand was lifted, holding the arrow in it as gray mist formed around her. Is that? Cornelius thought but the consistency looked different. Ash? So she’s a creator as well. He smiled, perhaps she could teach him something after all. If she survived.
Ilea didn’t look their way and he watched as the arrow exploded, the force of the blast pushing them back a little but the hunter didn’t seemed to be bothered by it at all. He caught himself and walked up the incline again to see the fighters, Ilea’s ash lowering to reveal a completely uninjured face. Her arm didn’t look any worse either from the distance. And then she vanished. Cornelius looked around to find the mage also missing, a sudden beam of light appearing in the air above before Ilea and her ash was flung to the ground, crashing into it with a loud boom. He watched as she skidded to a halt and vanished again. I can barely see them. He thought, his nails digging into his palms as he activated his magic. The hunter looked his way and nodded.
It was a little easier to follow them now but mostly because the light mage didn’t move at all, instead remaining in the air, occasionally shooting blasts of fire and light at the appearing warrior. Half of the field was on fire already, his eyes growing teary and his throat itching from the smoke. A blast fired into the air but Ilea didn’t follow, the mage vanishing and ash following behind as the blasts became more frantic, quicker between pauses until he somehow couldn’t vanish anymore. Tendrils of ash was all that Cornelius could make out in the tumble that hit the ground with immense speed.
“And it’s over. He did better this time.” The hunter before them said, Cornelius raising his eyebrows.
“What do you mean? She was blasted ten times.” He said and squinted his eyes, trying to make out the area where the two had impacted. The man could’ve easily been the one coming out on top from that encounter.
“I’m afraid it needs a little more to take her down. Hard enough to hit her at all.” The hunter said and made his way to the fighters, unconcerned about the possible danger. “Is he conscious?!”
Cornelius looked at the fire but couldn’t stop himself, following the hunter. Raphia looked at him and walked down as well, sweat on her face when he quickly glanced her way.
“Give it another minute.” He heard Ilea’s voice come out of the fires.
“Damn flames. You guys can’t control fire?” The hunter asked, Cornelius trusting his intuition as he concentrated on his magic. Dust began to form in his hands before it spread out, more and more added to it as his mana dwindled. He made it lay on top of the flames, smothering them out to form a path towards the voice they had heard before.
“Nice one.” The hunter commented but he barely heard it, sweat on his brow as he painfully stopped his spell before his last ounce of mana would be used up. Falling unconscious in front of the Shadows would be the opposite of what he intended.
“Are you ok?” Raphia asked from his side, touching his arm. He slapped her hand aside and continued walking, the girl staring at him with fear in her eyes.
“There you go. Could you put out the flames?” Ilea said, straightening herself over the mage who coughed up what looked like ash.
“You… why… always in my mouth?” He asked, spitting on the ground before he lifted his hand, the fires subsiding immediately, their life taken as if he was the god of flame. Cornelius looked at him with big eyes and then realized that the woman had taken him down. He saw the grin on her face when the mage stood up, ash dancing around her body before it slowly dissolved. He could feel goose bumps on his body as he gulped hard.
“A dust mage?” Viper asked as he continued coughing. Ilea loved pushing some ash into his throat, just as he loved burning through her skin and organs with his magic. Even with her second stage in heat resistance, he could damage her. With her Veil and ash around her it would take a couple direct and prolonged hits though, nothing he could consistently manage during a bout.
She had underestimated him at first, thinking that he’d be just another mage with a strong attack but his movements and speed were on par with Trian if not better. He would use his magic to burn through any connections she established to his body with her ash or hands, staying focused even after several hard hits. He definitely had more Vitality than most mages she had fought before plus some impressive defensive skills. A reasonable approach. She thought but most people didn’t seem to agree with her, instead rather investing everything into destructive power to quickly whittle down anybody’s defenses and health.
The problem occurred only when the enemy stood up again. “I liked you more when you weren’t that ruthless.” Viper said as he stood up.
“Yea I mean it was fun to have my head turned to ash before our bouts even started.” Ilea commented with a smile.
“That was one time, don’t hold that against me. You said I should go all out.” Viper hissed.
“It’s so easy to irritate you. Maybe I should join that team.” Ilea joked, sent tumbling by the sudden white flame that impacted her head. Her Veil hadn’t been up, both eyes and most of her skin melted in an instant before she caught herself, her hand digging into the ground and bringing her to a stop as her healing started, ash forming around her and her defenses activating.
“Outstanding move.” Philipp said and held up two thumbs when a flying ball of ash and fury impacted the injured mage, the two of them rushing over the field before she pushed him down into the dirt, her fist landing on his head, a shield of light flaring up before her ashen limbs dug into it, sending Wave of Ember into it, her left hand adding reversed healing while her right one kept punching. Three hits and it was broken, his white flame just now passing through her Veil before she grabbed his hand, crushed it to break several bones and pushing it away, the spell burning into the ground.
Another punch to his head and his nose was broken, another one and his right eye was squashed. He held up his broken hand as fire enveloped her, burning into her ash and health. Again, she took his arm and this time bent it to the side, breaking it as he winced and screamed, his other arm held by her left one. Ilea held up her fist, the man just looking at her with broken teeth and a crooked smile before she kneed him right in the junk. Again he howled in pain. She wanted to say something but remembered her face hadn’t been healed, her throat burnt and her mouth partially missing.
Breathing heavily, she rolled to the side, her face rebuilding slowly while the man cried in pain, holding his crotch with his one good arm. Ilea’s eyes opened, good as new before she touched him, checking on his health to find him not closer to death than she had gotten him before. Tough fucker.
“Was that really worth it?” She asked, spitting out some blood that had remained in her mouth.
“Always…,” The man groaned before she started healing him.
“Do you have a healer in the new team?”
“We do, second class but he’s good enough. About your quality I suppose.” He replied, wincing as he moved his destroyed arm. She took care of his internal bleedings and his broken face first before she healed his arm.
“Your defenses are pretty good though, for a mage.”
“The only reason you win is because you’re the only one I’ve met able to take my attacks for longer than a couple seconds.” Viper replied, his face back to his usual grumpy look.
“Don’t flatter yourself, I’m obviously just better.” Ilea joked, standing up and helping him in turn.
“You are.” He said in a serious tone, making her look at him but the man didn’t say anything else, Philipp and the others joining them while the hunter clapped.
“Nearly died because he just couldn’t accept defeat.” The man said and stopped clapping. “At least you managed to traumatize these two, good job.”
Ilea watched the young mages but if anything she found admiration in their eyes. Envy perhaps but if anything she felt like this was a good thing for them to see. “He said dust mage before, is that true Cornelius?”
The man nodded with a smile, at least he didn’t look as cocky as he had before. “Alright then, both of you attack me with everything you have.” Ilea said and appeared a little closer to the center of the field. Big parts of it were still charred, smoke in the air and the smell of burnt flesh and hair interwoven. Raphia gagged a little but was the first to face her, wood forming before her. Cornelius looked at her and then stepped to her side, his hands held together, dust appearing between them.
“You are both element creators.” Viper said, having put up his nigh indestructible hood again. “That means you have an advantage against other mages. You can fuel your spells from your mana alone, no need for the air and nature around you.” He winked at Ilea and continued the lesson.
“While many classes evolve to allow creation, wood and dust are not normally found, meaning you have the privilege to grow through your powers quickly. Now attack her.”
Wood and dust shot her way but Ilea simply moved to the side quickly, her boots digging deep into the earth as she dashed to the side, coming to a stop as their magic hit nothing.
“You know her defensive capabilities. Neither of your attacks would’ve done any damage and yet she moved away. Why?” Viper asked.
“Because she does whatever she feels like?” Philipp interrupted and smiled.
“She is standing closer to us now. And if we didn’t know her, we might think her defenses are low, allowing her to surprise us with a frontal attack later in the fight.” Cornelius said, Viper looking at him with raised eyebrows.
“Good. Yes. Although in her case I agree more with Philipp. Still, Ilea knows to trust her skills and instincts, her movements quicker than her brain could likely process… although I have a feeling she has skills that increase that.” He said and looked at her. “You both are mages, your attacks currently focused in the ranged variety. Just like mine.”
“You’ll have to learn to fight in close quarters, to keep your concentration and spells up even when an enemy is slashing their sword through your flesh. Keep a healer nearby or even better, learn skills that heal yourself if your class allows it. Even little recovery can decide between living and dying so chose wisely between offensive and defensive power.” Viper explained.
Ilea appeared behind the two mages standing entirely too close together and grabbed their arms before she flung them forward, the kids hitting the ground and tumbling. “Keep vigilant, don’t get distracted when you are in a fight.” Viper said while the two got up slowly, defiance in their eyes. “Found some promising ones didn’t you?” He whispered towards her.
That’s what war does to children. Ilea thought.
“Good. Keep a lookout at your health and signal your healer if you’re injured or crippled. Raphia, you have a sprained ankle. Try to endure the pain and don’t shot it to the enemy, especially not smart enemies. They will favor your weak side and use it against you.” Ilea jogged towards the girl’s left, moving in when she tried to face her but moaned out in pain when she put weight on her foot.
Standing before her, the girl looked up at her with tears in her eyes but Ilea just grabbed her and healed the foot. “You’re a healer…,” Raphia exclaimed, Cornelius snorting behind her.
“What do you think she did to the mage, kiss him?” He said and the girl looked away.
“Don’t let him frighten you.” Ilea whispered to her when she got close and jumped away again.
“You have rare classes, the both of you. Still, either at level one hundred, one fifty or two hundred you will likely get the chance to evolve them. Until then you should level your skills as high as possible. Train and fight, try to find a healer to incorporate into your team or get the necessary skills yourself. I didn’t have the foresight when I rushed through the levels and still I regret not having gotten everything to the second stage at least before getting my current classes.” Viper explained. Ilea doubted his apparent lack of foresight but didn’t comment on it.
“That’s what I’ll offer you. Perhaps Ilea will teach you some more.” Viper said and nodded to Ilea.
“Thanks.” Ilea simply said and looked to the two.
“Thank you!” Raphia shouted and Cornelius bowed to him.
“I’ll be in the arena again tomorrow. Make sure to say bye.” Ilea said and waved to the two Shadows who were about to leave.
“Of course.” Philipp said and smiled at her, bowing lightly as he said it. Viper nodded before they made their way out of the Haven.
The three looked after the mages before Ilea clapped. “Alright. Now you’ll have a little more time to try out your skills and to level them on me. Just go nuts. Both of you have meditation already?” She asked, Raphia nodding but Cornelius looking around a little confused.
“Really?” Ilea asked. That was unexpected. “Raphia can show you how to do it, I’m sure you’ll figure it out in no time.”
Now it was his turn to look a little flustered. They soon started to attack her, Ilea deactivating her spells and looking towards the elevator in the distance. A smile came to her lips before she focused on the two mages again, their attacks already impacting her uncovered belly. “Move while you attack, at your level you might be able to get some stat points for free.”