Chapter 225 The Shadow’s Hand
“It’s the most powerful one I could make in that size.” Claire said, handing the metal piece to Ilea.
“Don’t activate it now please, trust me it works. I suggest only using it in emergencies, although I know how much you can take.”
“Thank you. I’ll need three at least.” Ilea said, Claire rolling her eyes.
“I’ll get it done until next week. You’re here for that long?”
“Probably. Hey do you have any time free in your schedule for some blast resistance training?” The woman didn’t seem too pleased to hear the request.
“I will make time for you but I don’t really have any.” Claire replied, getting out a bottle from a drawer and pouring herself a drink.
“You’re drinking now?” Ilea asked.
“It’s a potion, energizes me.”
“Maybe you need some explosion training. You’re overworking, it’s not healthy, even for a monster like yourself.” Ilea said, sitting on the desk and taking away the drink. “I’m sure you have a network of great people working for you already. Delegate more.”
“And eat this.” She added, summoning a plate of the meal Keyla had served to her and William earlier. They’re the same when it comes to work at least.
Claire rubbed her eyes but started eating nonetheless, quickly getting lost in it before the plate was empty. “This is excellent, did you find a new street cook?”
“That’s from Keyla, I don’t think the Golden Drake will be a wasted investment.” Ilea said and took the plate, storing it inside her necklace.
“Alright. I’ll do it. Train a little with you, it’s been entirely too long since I’ve used my skills and been in real danger. If this continues I’ll be assassinated by some shit Barilia hunter.” She said and got up. “Do you have time now?”
“I do but weren’t you working on something?”
“It can wait a couple hours… days even if I’m honest. The workload has actually slowed down now that more and more staff has been hired. You’re right. I should definitely delegate more and maybe spend some time with my mother.”
“While we’re talking about enchantments and explosions, Philipp told me to inform you about your arrows. He asked me to have a look and I’ve made some improvements.”
Ilea looked at her with a raised eyebrow and smiled. “Isn’t he the arrow guy?”
“He is, but I’m the authority when it comes to explosions.” Claire replied and summoned a box, opening the expensive looking wooden contraption. Inside was an assortment of heavy arrows. “Twenty of the best heavy explosion arrows you’ll find in the market.” She said and closed the box again, showing it towards Ilea.
“Thanks Claire.” She smiled and opened the box, putting the arrows into her necklace to be able to use them immediately.
“Of course. Where do you want to train? Should be Eregar’s or outside the city.”
“The Haven is fine.” Ilea said before they left together, Claire breathing in deeply when they walked out of the building. “Been a while since you were out?”
“Sadly, yes.” The woman replied, already looking a little less grumpy than before.
“Let’s blow off some steam then.” Ilea smirked and started running, activating her buffs in the process as she turned around, looking at a confused Claire before she jumped up the nearest wall, rebounding and landing on the nearby roof. “Come on, you’re falling behind!”
“Was that really necessary?” Claire asked when she met up with the waiting Ilea near the entrance of Viscera, two guards who had informed her about roof running walking away and nodding towards Claire.
“You’re slow woman.”
“Didn’t want to set the city on fire, I’ll show you how fast I can be down in the Haven.”
“You better, I hope you didn’t just sit back and work on papers until now. You’re still a Shadow Claire.” Ilea said, smirking at her.
They quickly rushed through Viscera, Ilea checking on the two youngsters with her sphere, only vaguely noting that the guy was only a year or two younger than her.
“How’s the farming going?” She asked Claire when they descended with the elevator, Ilea sitting down on the side, her legs dangling off the platform.
“The nature mages you’ve brought are a big help. Apparently pointed out some things that could’ve hampered the fields in the long term. It’s going well. We certainly needed it too. The city is nearly filled halfway already.”
“What about all the refugees? I’m pretty sure they can’t pay for food and apartments?” Ilea asked, ashen wings spreading before she jumped off the platform, descending next to it.
“Most of them can’t but we’re talking about people who previously lived in other cities. They had jobs and skills that we can use here just as much as in Virilya. I think in the long term it’s even going to benefit the city to have a fresh start.”
Ilea snorted. “Don’t say that to the people who lost everyone.”
“I’m speaking pragmatically Ilea, you know that. The Hand has lost enough.”
“Seems like you care a lot about the order. Remember when we joined it together?”
The elevator came to a halt, sounds of people talking with some interspersed shouts in between could be heard. “It’s my chance Ilea. To do something that matters.”
“I guess the demons weren’t entirely unwelcome to you either.” She smirked as Claire looked at her with an irritated gaze.
“I profited, certainly. It was neither of our faults that it happened and what else can we do but move on?” She asked, walking with Ilea for a while before metal gauntlets, a battle skirt interwoven with metal plates and armored boots replaced her professional clothing from before.
“Why are you asking those questions? Do you think nobody cares about the thousands that died?”
“Nice getup, runes on everything I suppose? It’s not about the ones that died Claire. I knew few of them and had my closure with wiping out the demon hordes.” Ilea explained as fire started exiting from Claire’s hands and feet, elevating her slowly as she struggled to control her ascent.
Ilea watched her adjust and stabilize. “I just don’t want you to get too involved with an order we don’t know the goals of.”
“What do you mean? The Shadow’s Hand is a mercenary guild first and foremost. I’ve looked into it myself Ilea, deeply. Into Adam Strand’s work and the other elders. Two of them that are still out there somewhere or dead became more influential as time went on simply because they were the strongest. They love battling and I could imagine they’ve actually been here since the demons and decided to just let us manage the order from now on.”
“Wallace had some shady business going on but he’s dead now. Adam is gone as well, an enemy to both humanity and the Hand. The only thing I could find were records from previous elders talking about us being specifically one of humanity’s greatest weapons. Since their records enough events have proven that the Shadow’s Hand is willing to even work for free when elves are involved or some otherworldly monster or demon destroys whole cities.”
“Humanity’s weapon of mass destruction.” Ilea mused while accelerating into the Haven, Claire following close behind, occasional explosions sending her through the air as her runed armor pushed her onward.
“Without a head it would be hard to mobilize. The retaking of Ravenhall is a rare exception, a personal matter, as would be the massacre of thousands of people by another race or monster.”
Claire’s reasoning wasn’t new to Ilea. Dagon had talked about it enough as had Sulivhaan. “What’s the Haven then?”
“A personal project of the one called Eregar?” Claire asked. “Something commissioned by the empire or kingdom that ruled over this land thousands of years ago?”
“We don’t know.” Ilea said as she landed near some rocky hills.
“We don’t.” Claire said, nearly stumbling when she landed.
“You should train with that. Good speed but your balance could kill you.”
“I know. Don’t worry too much Ilea. Trust me, the Hand has considerably less annoying politics and powerhungry idiots in its ranks than pretty much anything else I’ve seen or heard about. Most of us just want jobs to go out and hunt while being paid according to the danger. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“I think the lack of complicated backstabbing, questionable information and outright lies has brought many to us. We have a reputation and our network of mercenaries is good for humanity as a whole.”
“I agree. Guess I just feel like there’s more to it. Or maybe there was more to it back in the day. Can’t imagine something this big not having a political agenda.” Ilea commented.
“What about the adventurer’s guild? Or the smith’s guild? You’re overthinking it, come now, let’s train.” Claire said and jumped a dozen meters with the help of a small explosion below her feet. “And Ilea. Don’t worry about me. You know Dagon and Sulivhaan. If anything we’re the ones in control now.” She smirked and pointed her hand towards Ilea.
Mana built around her before an explosion sent her tumbling, much of her armor ripped apart, blood flowing down from her chest and belly. That hurts… She thought, enduring the pain as she got up and started healing herself.
“I trust in your ability to survive Ilea. But please, give me some credit as well.”
The next explosion followed quickly, ripping through her leg as if it was paper. Her bone was uninjured, the same as with Viper. Sadly her Light Magic Resistance hadn’t leveled to the second tier but there were some practitioners in her training group from time to time. Ilea felt a little better about Claire being so involved. Maybe it was a good thing after all. She just hoped the order didn’t somehow get involved in a large scale war.
Ilea continued her training for days before the next skill finally leveled to the second stage. It was thanks to William, his magic finally tipping her ice resistance towards the higher level.
‘ding’ ‘Ice Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 1
You have endured the biting cold of ice and lived to tell the tale. One of the deadliest climates and magics will now be less dangerous to you with this skill.’2nd stage: Freezing temperatures no longer affect your body. It is not advised to jump in front of flying ice lances or to anger the spirits.
The newfound stage two in no way negated the magic but the wounds were now similar to what a metal weapon would create. Her flesh wasn’t freezing anymore, the cold not spreading and even magical buildup of ice had a much harder time clinging to her. Even absolute zero wouldn’t affect her body, at least she thought that to be the case.
The next skill to level was Earth Magic Resistance, an overzealous mage having thrown a literal truck load of rock at her, burying the damn near unkillable warriorhealer.
‘ding’ ‘Earth Magic Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 1
The earth trembles as arcane beings bend its nature to their will. You have found stone and earth to be a worthwhile opponent yet stood unmoving in its destructive path. This skill will help you negate more of its damage.
2nd stage: Your skin and bones harden, adapting more and more to the element that threatened your life again and again.’
This skill simply made her tougher, one of the better second stages so far because it didn’t just have an impact on her defense against Earth magic alone.
Lacking Philipp in her training, Ilea thought about possibilities and came to the corrosive arrows she had gotten shot with by the elves near Riverwatch so long ago. Carefully pushing them into her skin, she found them still working and with the help from the occasional acid mage, she brought her corrosion resistance to the second tier. She did however had a queasy feeling in her stomach for a whole day, not even her healing skill could take it away. Feels like I’ve eaten five whole cheesecakes.
‘ding’ ‘Your Corrosion Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 1
Many substances can be corrosive. Even the strongest stone will be cut through by the right combination of chemicals. You have been exposed to more corrosion than many others and with this skill your resistance to many substances will be heightened.
2nd stage: Your insatiable need to melt and dissolve your body has changed its structure significantly. Your very cells have become more resistant to change and imbalance.’
Ilea didn’t quite know yet how this affected her but at least the arrows didn’t damage her nearly as much as before. She kept them in her necklace, just in case. It could’ve also been the case that the arrows simply didn’t work as well anymore, no further acid mages joined her training in the days after to shed any light on the question. William continued to train both Raphia and Cornelius while he focused on his water magic against Ilea. The skill finally leveled a day after corrosion resistance got to the second stage.
‘ding’ Your Water Resistance reaches – 2nd lvl 1
In your days you have learned many things. One of them is that water pressure is not a joke. This Resistance helps a little with reducing the damage.
2nd stage: You’ve taken so much damage from water based attacks it might be good to check if you’re not actually on fire. Getting more used to it your body and armor magically redirects the pressure to lessen the burden on you.’
Ilea felt like an infomercial when the next water attack from William hit her, the flow shooting off to the side as if she was the polar opposite of a magnet. She had questions like what would happen if someone like Aliana used their strongest spell against her but at least against William’s more small scale focused attacks it worked wonders. Swimming in a bubble of his magically collected water and later the demon lake in Eregar’s Haven showed her how it affected swimming too.
Her speed underwater had increased considerably, the somewhat sluggish feeling the resistance of water would normally give a person was near completely absent, allowing her to glide through it as if she was a bird in the sky. Or well, a fish in water. It was not wonder that her Wind Resistance has similar effects.
‘ding’ ‘Wind Resistance reaches – 2nd lvl 1
The ever elusive magic of Wind can cut from any side. You have learned that it might’ve been a good idea to become a Void mage. This skill helps you resist the power of wind a little more.
2nd stage: The mana flow inside of you has acclimated itself to the air around you, making you more aerodynamic.’
Her flight speed but also her running speed increased through this change and while her water resistance actively pushed the magical attacks out of the way, she couldn’t exactly ignore a wind blade to her face. Instead dodging became easier, a glancing blow allowing her to gain momentum and use it to attack. It was a little bizarre. Ilea had gotten so used to her skills, to creating ash that magical surprises like her body changing its reaction to an air attack through some numbers going up came as a difficult thing to accept. She would get used to it.
Ilea’s resistance to crystal magic sadly didn’t manage to get to the second stage in the time she had planned for it. The two mages with related classes had left the city on hunts or expeditions, leaving her skill at level fifteen. On the other hand Ilea manged to convince Elise to use her Arcane magic on her again. It wasn’t a difficult task to get her on Ilea’s side considering the skill would be an asset in her adventuring. Adventuring Elise tried to talk her out of whenever Ilea healed herself from the librarian’s attacks.
‘ding’ ‘Arcane Magic Resistance reaches – 2nd lvl 1
Wielding the true arcane is a rare and powerful talent only accessible to few. The raw energies tear at not just flesh and bone but at the magical structure and minds of whomever faces them. Its red glow turns purple the more refined it is. This skill shall help you counter masters of the arcane.
2nd stage: Your flow of mana has been ruptured many times by the raw form of magic, making it substantially more resistant to both adept mages and natural occurrences of the true arcane.’
A simple upgrade to what the skill already was. The only difference seemed to be the addition of resistance to natural arcane magic. Claire’s training on the other hand looked much more promising with what the second stage to her explosion magic brought.
Blast Resistance – 2nd lvl 1
Explosions can be an unpredictable and chaotic thing. You have survived quite an impressive one to get this skill. It will help you negate the damage ever so slightly for the next time you chose to stand in one.
2nd stage: Despite common sense, you just keep on doing it. Either you should start reading safety manuals or embrace that you are a true explosion elemental. Your organs, bones, muscles and your skin become partially shock absorbent. Please stop.
More important to Ilea was of course the shift in Claire’s priorities, wanting to add bouts to their training and investing more and more time as she got used to the modifications she had added to her armor, trying out new things by the day. Her level of stress was reduced greatly, at least considering her facial expressions.
In the end Ilea had only two resistances remaining that were close to the second tier, both of which achievable in less than a week. Getting the respective person to help would prove to be the most difficult task.
“He’s not been eating for a week.” The young woman said, scratching her neck. “I’m gonna force feed him if he keeps it up for another.”
Ilea frowned and leaned on the close by gray wall “Does he talk to you at least?”
Aurelia nodded weakly. “Though… what he says. It’s not entirely pleasant.”