Chapter 224 The Daily Grind
Ilea started her daily resistance training class in the arena a couple hours earlier that day. William taught her what was necessary to survive underwater meaning she had around half a day to herself now. She would still occasionally test possible new members but those were few and far in between. Only four had joined the Hand after she had tested Gan and Bataar. Wonder if they are dead already.
The arena was closed off, the clerk sleeping on his desk when she arrived. She quickly checked the wooden table and the boxes below, finding the key inside one of them. The lock on the chain clicked and was removed, opening the double door to the underground arena she had rented for the third consecutive week.
Maybe I’ll get stuck here and become a training instructor. She mused, not hating the idea as much as she would’ve thought. New people seeking adventure would come in and from time to time they might return, showing off their new gear or skills to the instructor that initially believed in them. Dale is more shocked whenever he sees me. Ilea snorted, summoning the battered metal bucked from her necklace.
She had earned around 1830 silver coins in the past weeks, 18 gold and 30 silvers. Exchanging them in the adventurer guild had cost three silvers which brought her new total to 50 gold, 71 silver and 62 copper coins. And half the bloody city if I know Claire at all.
“How the fuck can’t shadows pay off their debt of a hundred gold in a couple months?” She asked herself and shook her head. The empty bucket fell onto the sandy ground next to her. She had informed the guild to change the time on her notice. Seeing how popular the job was, they offered to keep it on the notice board for free.
The first people started coming already and it was barely one in the afternoon. She had decided to sleep a couple hours longer in the morning, enjoying her bed at home. Might want to bring that one. She thought as she waved to the group of adventurers. A new team formed in Ravenhall, levels around a hundred but they wanted to work on their skills and teamwork before going out.
“Welcome back. Did you decide on a name yet?” Ilea asked and walked away from the bucket. Sadly it didn’t have a recovery skill like herself.
“Not yet. Is that really necessary Shadow?” One of them asked.
“No idea. I think when you’re out there you’ll have more pressing matters than your group’s name.” She replied with a smile.
“Miss Ilea. We erm… we thought as long as it’s just us, maybe we could do a real bout against you. We’d be willing to pay more of course.” The apparent leader of the team asked. Their group had come nearly every day in the past week, paying huge amounts of silver just to train with her. Their gear was already good and their knowledge and experience even better.
“Sure, but only for a short while. I’m here to train resistances and if you can’t hit me it kind of defeats the purpose.” Ilea said as ash started forming around her. “You don’t have to pay more either.”
“Move out!” The warrior said and Ilea smiled as his team immediately moved into a crude formation, mages in the back, healer in the middle and the warriors up front, standing in a way that allowed the mages to send their projectiles her way.
“Good formation.” Ilea said and blinked to the healer, grabbing the woman by the neck and lifting her up. “If you move I’ll kill her.”
The team froze up and spun around to face her, unsure how to proceed. The mages had their spells at the ready but hadn’t fired them immediately. “Too bad. She’s already dead.” Ilea said, letting go of the woman who started coughing immediately. Blinking to one of the mages, she kicked at their leg, dodging the fire that she blasted towards her face.
The bone cracked and pierced the mage’s skin, the woman screaming before she fell down. “Aim at the center of mass, it’s your best bet to deal some damage at least.” Ilea said and rushed at the other mage, dashing left and right to avoid the lightning bolts rushing past her before a warrior intercepted her, his offhand shield smashing into her.
“Good job.” She said, holding onto the shield while they skidded to a halt. Turning the shield, she twisted until he was on the ground. Putting a foot behind his back, she was about to break the arm when a lightning bolt made her dodge again. “You should be able to let go of your weapons should the need arise. Find a good balance, you don’t want to lose them without good reason.”
Rushing at the mage again, she found he had relocated and stood near the remaining warrior now, the two protecting the healer who was taking care of the crying and injured mage. Ilea nodded at that and stopped. “What went wrong?”
She didn’t intervene in the healing, instead letting them do their own thing. “We didn’t immediately flee.” The warrior behind her said, his arm injured by her twist as he unslung his shield, the heavy iron piece falling to the ground with a clatter.
“Perhaps. You’ve seen how quick I am, that I can teleport around. I would’ve picked you off one by one.” Ilea said. “Grouping up again might be the best option, like you did in the end. The formation was good against anybody with less mobility and I assume you’ll be fighting monsters?” The warrior before her nodded, his sword still held high with the one good arm.
“They’re easier predictable but not always. Inform yourself well as soon as you’ve made contact with whatever beast occupies the dungeon or land you work in. If it’s an unknown, learn as you go.” Ilea explained, the mage’s bone cracking back into place as she winced. “Use whatever time the enemy gives you to the fullest… but you’re already doing that.” The warrior had circled her to join the group while the lightning mage was preparing a more complicated spell she had seen him use in their training before.
“Props to the healer for not panicking. You’ve all at least seen some action.” Ilea said. “Would you like me to continue?”
Viper and Philipp later showed up as promised, clad in their usual black gear but wearing packs on their backs additionally. “No storage rings for you?” Ilea joked, spells raining down on her as she gestured the mage group to stop.
“Perhaps we’ll find some on the journey.” Philipp replied and hugged her.
“Where to?” She hugged the man back.
“West. The destroyed independent cities have become breeding grounds for beasts, cull the herd a little and investigate.” Viper supplied.
“And loot whatever isn’t looted yet?” Ilea asked, the man snorting at that.
“It’s no man’s land now.” He simply stated.
“Well then I wish you good fortune. Hopefully no elves.”
“I hope for the opposite.” Viper said and grinned.
“You’re still bound to go north?” Philipp asked as he let go of her, a nod his reply. “Well then it’s not us who need the wishes.” He smiled. “Let’s meet up again here and have dinner, all of us.”
Ilea was surprised no dragon suddenly razed the city to the ground at that statement. “Don’t deathflag me Philipp, it’s not a nice thing to do.”
“What does deathflaggin mean?” The man asked to which Ilea quickly explained.
“Ah, I understand. Then let’s not meet up. I hope we both die.” He said, smiling.
You don’t understand Philipp. Ilea thought and shook her head laughing.
“Seriously though, good luck.” The man said and punched her chest.
“Good luck Ilea. Let us know if you need support at some point.” Viper added.
“To you as well.” She said, thinking about the lack of any cool one liners related to the Shadow’s Hand. Maybe we don’t need that.
She watched them leave with a smile before turning to her trainees again and gestured for them to continue.
“Philly, come quickly.” Ilea said after the training ended, her two trainees waiting a little to the side.
“You two can continue your training together, I’ll be right there.” Ilea said when the ice mage came up to her.
“What can I do for you Shadow?” Philly asked.
[Mage – lvl 140]
“I might be able to get you an ice mage instructor of the hand. Interested?” Ilea asked, watching her face light up at the question.
“Definitely, what would I have to do for that? My goal is to eventually join the Hand anyway.” She replied immediately.
“I haven’t asked the guy yet but I feel like he likes torturing an apprentice. It’s gonna fuck you up but he’s good.” Ilea said, the smile on Philly leaving slowly.
“I’d still do it.” She said, determined.
“Good, I’ll ask him then. Maybe those two will join as well. The old fucker might not accept his luck at first.” Ilea said more to herself as she waved the others over. “I’ll talk to you again tomorrow if you’re here.”
“Of course lady Shadow.” She said and bowed.
“Ilea is fine you know. Come on, ready to get thrown around again?” She asked the two, Cornelius snorting and Raphia giggling nervously.
“And why did you want me to watch you train those two?” William asked, standing next to her while they watched Raphia and Cornelius meditate, creating as much of their element as possible.
“To get to know them. Both creators and as you can see with rare classes. I want them to be nurtured and I wanted you to be their trainer.” Ilea explained, the man frowning next to her.
“Did the drowning get to your mind?”
“No. But I’ve seen how much you enjoyed it. You’re aware I can see with my sphere. I traced your movements and know you wrote down the times I could stay underwater. Your statistics were a little extensive I think. I don’t think your other work suffered much. Ever considered becoming a team manager?” Ilea asked, thinking back on Joseph who had been theirs for a little while. She wondered if he had survived. Not enough to actually check with Claire.
“That’s just for full members.” William said.
“Eh, one of the elders is a traitor, one is dead and the others are fuck know’s where. The Shadowguard is a thing now and you evaluate some of them as well don’t you? Why not train them too, in addition to some young and talented fighters like these?”
The man was quiet for a while. “Why?”
“Why not, the job seems to fit you. I also have two more people that would fit well into the team. An ice mage at level one forty and a healer working for the imperial guard at the moment. I think they’d make a wonderful mercenary team together.” Ilea suggested.
“I mean why think about me even? All I did was riddle you with ice and drown you.”
Ilea thought about it for a while and then smiled. “I have this unhealthy notion that makes me care about people who hurt me.” She said. “Maybe it’s stockholm syndrome.”
“I read about something like that, the name was different I think.”
“It’s a fine line between caring and wanting to rip off their heads.” Ilea said seriously, the man turning towards her before he started laughing.
“You truly are one of a kind. Warn me before you go for my head but you certainly deserve it more than others. I’ll take the team and I’ll… think about training some guards. I heard a group of imperials were wiped out by a mind mage just yesterday. Embarrassing I tell you.”
Ilea grunted in response. “So you’re leaving then? Done with your resistances and drowning?”
“Not quite. Hopefully soon. Maybe you can help with ice and water. They’re both sitting close to the second stage. Maybe while these two try to give me their respective resistances too.” Ilea suggested.
“We might as well start then. You two.” He said and walked over. “Ilea asked me to train you. Objections?”
“Anybody’s better than her.” Cornelius said with a grin while Raphia looked at the ice mage and then Ilea.
“What about you girl?” William asked in a harsh tone.
“I… if she thinks it’s a good id… idea.” Raphia said and looked at Ilea, the woman nodding once.
Better than me? You will learn pain my boy. Ilea thought and grinned.
“That’s settled then. We will start now, get up and run laps. Dodge my attacks in the process.” He said, Ilea watching the two confusedly stare at him.
Bad move. She thought when the first spikes of ice hit them, digging into their flesh just enough to hurt. Raphia was the first to react, getting up quickly and starting to run in a random direction. Cornelius opened his mouth but was hit with a chunk of ice in his teeth. Gotta hurt. And then he ran as well.
“Slow learners those. No wonder after you trained them.” William said and turned to her.
“I’m immune to your banter William, come on. Let’s get me those resistances.” Ilea said and pointed at her belly while the air around them cooled, a lance of ice forming before the mage. She could tell he was happy.
‘ding’ ‘Water Resistance reaches lvl 19’
‘ding’ ‘Ice Resistance reaches lvl 20’
The two final notifications of the night made Ilea smile. Getting her body destroyed by attacks was much simpler than drowning. His sadism or in his words rigorous methods had been directed at the two new students after he realized Ilea wasn’t much bothered by whatever attack he produced.
Cornelius lay knocked out on the ground, bleeding form his head and dozens of small cuts on his body that William assured her were nothing to be taken seriously. She had checked of course but found his words to be right. Raphia was crying quietly as she hugged her knees.
“Are you up for this girl?” Ilea asked when she sat down next to her.
“Up for this… yes. Yes. I gained a point in Dexterity and two in Endurance. Ice Resistance as well. It’s… good.” Raphia said. “I’ll miss you.”
“You can stop at any moment but I think he’s good at what he does, albeit a little extreme. You’ll look back on it with hate and despair, those emotions fueling whatever destructive spells you will bring down on your enemies.” Ilea said and patted her head, a sob leaving the girl. “If that is what you want.”
“I want to… bring destruction down on my enemies.” The girl said, sobbing between words with snot coming out of her nose and tears in her eyes.
“That’s my girl.” Ilea said.
“Don’t worry. I won’t torture them like this everyday. Just wanted to see what they’re made of.” William said as they walked out of Viscera, the two trainees sleeping in the apartment Ilea still had in the town of the Hand.
“What do you think?”
“I’ll work with them.”
“That’s the highest praise anybody will ever get from you, damn perfectionist.” Ilea said and chuckled. “Hungry?”
“The world is filled with untapped potential. If you didn’t sit around in restaurants all the time maybe you’d actually get somewhere.”
“Careful old man, we don’t want to produce property damage with your limp body. You’d have to pay me more than you own.” Ilea replied. “I wanted to check out a new place.”
“If it’s an invitation.” The man said.
“Not making enough at the Hand? Could talk to Claire about that.” She suggested as they walked through the city, the suns rising but still hidden behind the mountain chain separating the city from the plains.
“Don’t talk to her about me. I make enough.” The man said abruptly, even lifting his hand to metaphorically stop her.
“You like her? Or are you scared of her?” Ilea asked with a smile when they passed some nature mages growing trees on a patch of earth between the cobble stone. One could see the sapling grow. Magic being awesome.
“I don’t know Ilea.” William answered when they rounded a corner to the next street.
“Bit of both maybe.” She suggested and saw the building she was looking for in the distance.
“Maybe.” He said as they came up on the Golden Drake, the sign broken in places and many of the windows destroyed, one wall outright missing.
“Golden Drake is it?” He asked. “Looks like it’s owned by the empire.”
“It was.” Ilea said and entered, the door wide open but her nose didn’t lie. She led him into the kitchen where she saw a group of people watching a lone Breed work.
“We’re closed.” Keyla shouted when Ilea opened the door.
“I knew you couldn’t resist.” Ilea said and smiled as she walked towards the pot. “What’s that.”
“Ah it’s… that’s Lilith. She’s the owner and he is?” Keyla asked, the cooks standing around the room nodding or bowing respectfully.
“William. We’d like breakfast. How about that?”
“It’s a northern seafood dish, very savory and not my suggestion for breakfast.” Keyla explained while Ilea took a spoon to taste.
“We’ll have it. How’s the top floor?”
“Most of the tables and chairs smashed to pieces and parts of the walls are missing.”
“Towards the suns?” Ilea asked, getting two plates and handing one to William.
“Where are the suns?” Keyla asked, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“Northwest.” One of the cooks supplied.
“Good.” Ilea said and smiled, filling her plate before William did the same, bowing to the cook after he was done. The stairs were broken but Ilea simply blinked up, her plate still in hand. The man behind her concentrated before ice started forming before him, effectively rebuilding the stairwell.
“That’s gonna be water damage William.” Ilea sighed and grabbed one of the tables, dragging it towards the opening in the wall. The man got two chairs and handed one to her. “What a gentleman.” She said and smiled.
“You’re the owner, what other choice do I have.”