Chapter 227 Hope
Ilea landed near the field William usually used for his training, already seeing from far away that a fifth person had joined the team. A smile blossomed on her face when she saw the new member to be Dany, the healer she had worked with during the winter spirit incident. “Nice getup.” She motioned to the nicely crafted leather armor, bow and short sword the healer was wearing. “Changing classes?”
“I was always a hunter Shadow. Healing was simply more required in the past months.” The woman replied with a smile, the artificial sunlight reflecting off her red hair.
I’d like to hunt You. Ilea thought and smirked at her, the woman staring back at her. A spear of ice smashed into the healer’s shoulder, sending her tumbling through the dirt before she looked up, groaning at the broken bone.
William stepped towards the woman as the mages around her prepared their spells. “Your attention is with the enemy.” Raphia jumped to the healer while Philly created a barrier of ice in front of the two, all three retreating while a mist of cool air slowly threatened to envelop them.
Ilea slowly stepped to his side and watched Cornelius send a mist of dust to intercept his growing blizzard, the gray magic quickly quenched by the ice William commanded. “At least their teamwork has improved. Impressive in just a couple days.”
“It is to be expected. Don’t praise them without reason, it will go to their heads. Until they beat me individually I won’t think of them as more than wild rabble.” The man certainly set his bar of approval high.
Ilea smirked and watched Dany’s shoulder crack back into place before she shot an arrow at William, the projectile harmlessly caught in a slim arm of water before it dropped to the ground, “What am I to you then oh great teacher?”
He grunted in response and send a shower of ice spikes towards his pupils, their efforts joined together to stop his low effort attack that nonetheless proved to be highly dangerous to them. “Why are you here Ilea?”
“To get the last remaining resistances I’ve been looking for. You don’t know a poison master by chance?”
“I do not. I will finish this section of the training, they may attack you afterwards. Perhaps their skills have grown enough to at least shave of a couple points of health from your unnaturally tough skin.” The man suggested. He didn’t know her skin had become even tougher in the meantime.
“It will be good training for them.”
“Hitting an unmoving target with their barely passable aim?”
Ilea smiled and watched his magic obliterate the group as their shields cracked, their magic freezing in the air before they could even launch a counter measure against the Shadow standing against them while he had a casual conversation with a friend. Raphia was holding her leg, blood flowing down from the wound while Philly shielded her, one of her arms broken from a chunk of ice that had impacted her earlier.
Cornelius still tried to stop the oncoming mist of frost but was soon caught as his foot froze to the ground, more and more of his leg cooling down and freezing as he screamed, ordering it to move. Dany crawled towards Raphia, dodging the ice and water attacks as best as she could, their foe separating them with his ranged attacks to stop the healer from reaching the others.
“No, seeing that their attacks are futile even if they aren’t blocked.” Ilea replied, watching him stop his assault.
William nodded. “Good addition. I could do the same except for the ice mage, she is quite capable already and arrows can at least make me bleed without my shielding. May the other two attack you as well?”
Ilea nodded and waited for Dany to heal the others, Philly unfreezing the dust mage’s leg before she and the healer took care of it, not a second wasted. Right as they were done William clapped, all of them running towards him as they built a formation, coming to a stop a couple meters away, sweat and blood on their faces.
“For the next couple of hours you will be attacking her, I think all of you know her. Your goal will be to injure her, make her bleed or even incapacitate her. I will review your efforts. This is not target practice for your magic, I want you to treat her as wild monster that your team was tasked to take out. Work together and stay on the move. I will personally take you out if you stand still.” His explanation ended and a mist of icy air formed around him and Ilea, the team jumping backwards and forming up before the split into teams of two, Raphia with Dany and Philly with Cornelius.
They really treat it seriously… Ilea thought, smiling at the first attacks hitting her. Philly definitely had the ability to make her bleed, even with her second stage of ice resistance. What she didn’t expect was William interfering and blocking her attacks with ice magic of his own. “You have that one in the second stage already?” He asked, the mist around her growing colder, her body thoroughly ignoring it.
“I do.” A wooden spike impacted her belly, nearly leaving a scratch on her skin. Close. Ilea thought but the impact would likely not be enough to grant her the resistance, not if the girl could at least draw blood. A whirl of dust formed around her, slowing down with each second as its particles were frozen but the impact on her body was already visible, small scratches on her skin forming. Deciding not to use her healing was a necessity if this training should do anything for her, even her natural regeneration, enhanced of course, took care of the little damage they dealt to her.
An arrow cut into her flesh but was stopped before drawing blood, the frustration clear on Dany’s face when she surveyed the results but kept moving around her nonetheless.
It took the group three hours of continued fighting to finally injure her. They had to take turns to meditate, Philly usually protecting the meditating party against William’s attacks before they could continue. A combined effort of her ice magic, removing the thin mist around Ilea before the other three sent out their magic did the trick. Cornelius dust formed a drill like mist and cut into her unprotected stomach, followed by roots that slammed into her and ultimately an enhanced arrow carrying a frozen tip that would explode on impact.
They drew blood but it took their whole coordination as a team to achieve it and William quickly increased his involvement, his attacks growing more numerous to make it more and more difficult for the attacking group. They’re going to be quite something if they can keep this kind of training up for a couple months or even years. She smiled as they switched up their tactics, ice arrows exploding around her before wooden spears pushed by swirling dust cut into her, much deeper than the ice arrow had managed before. Perfect.
All of them but Dany had seen her training in the arena before, unmoved by the lack of pain or injury she showed even when their attack proved more and more dangerous. They knew it was nothing to her, Dany looking around a little concerned from time to time, reassured by her teammates that it would take more than this to take her out.
“You are a long way from dealing any real damage to the monster.” William stated from his hovering position above her, standing on floating ice. “It’s been five hours and you’ve kept your assault going.” Clapping again, he pointed towards the distance. “The monster has noticed you and will hunt you up to the two trees on top of the hill. Touch one of them and you’re safe. You have a ten second head start.”
Ilea watched the confusion in their eyes before Philly started into a sprint, the others quickly following. “I’m the monster?” Ilea asked. “Maybe you should run as well?”
The man lifted an eyebrow but remained calm as he looked at the running team before him. “I have faced enough of them. For a while at least.” He whispered, knowing she would hear the man.
Ilea spread her wings and appeared next to the man. “But you must be prepared to face them.” She looked him in the eyes and he stared back. His magic pulsed around him and she knew that he was prepared, should she make a move. “Ten seconds have passed.”
Dany was running as fast as she could, two of her hunter skills luckily increasing her speed, allowing her to stay close behind Philly who somehow managed to be quicker still. A gray mist suddenly flashed by and impacted the ice mage, the woman screaming before she went silent, the mist stopping as Dany veered to avoid it. A tendril of it shot out, making her jump over it before she dodged right upon landing, the ashen limb following her as she continued to avoid it.
She saw a figure in the mist, smashing her fist at a small barrier of ice before she hard it cracking and then the ash vanished. Blue eyes appeared in a mist of gray a couple meters in front of her, stopping her sprint towards the tree as limbs of ash cut off an escape route around her. She didn’t stop, feeling her heart rate accelerate, she turned and rushed back to the two mages following her.
Suddenly she felt someone grab her shoulder, gently but unmoving as her body came to an abrupt stop, her limbs moving forward as her shoulder nearly broke again. A wooden spear surrounded by dust rushed past her and impacted something behind her, the tug on her shoulder lessening enough for her to wiggle free and jump to the side, the two trees becoming the only thing she saw and focused on with all her mind.
Looking back, she saw ash enveloping Cornelius as he tried fighting back against the element with his dust, black wings smashing into his chest before he was flung to the side, unconscious and bleeding. Nearly stumbling at the sight, Dany focused against, her legs impacting the ground as she trusted her skills to take her to the destination.
A scream coming from Raphia resounded behind her before she too went quiet, the now fifty meters distance to the trees feeling like an insurmountable obstacle as her breathing became the only noise she could hear, frantically looking sideways to see the unavoidable gray mist. But instead, there was a blue one, forming before her when William landed, dozens of ice lances forming behind a complicated array of shields, water forced out of the ground.
“Go on Healer, you have almost made it.” His words lifted her up, power surging inside of her as her skills again pushed to the very highest they could manage. She ran past the floating ice, glancing at their teacher for a split second and seeing him grin, the lances starting to move around her as she passed the man, the trees now only forty meters away. Another ten steps later when she heard the lances impacting something before ice broke, again and again she heard the noise, like a hammer shattering against a storefront window.
Twenty meters. Dany thought before a loud noise resounded behind her, followed ten steps later by a single cough. Then silence. She counted down the steps and took a plunge towards the tree in front of her, feeling something brush at the back of her hair right before her chest impacted the wood, all the air in her lungs pushed out as she winced. Her chest was injured, she knew and quickly started her healing spell, her legs touching the tree as she lay on her back, looking up and breathing hard. Quiet steps came from behind her before a woman clad in ash stood above her, grinning down at her. I’m dead. The thought was of course irrational but she felt goose bumps on her whole body before Ilea reached down to her. “Congratulations.”
“You might want to heal the others now.” Ilea said and looked into the shaken woman’s eyes. She nodded and ran off with a big smile. William was already standing again, wiping the blood form his cheek and waving off the girl that tried to heal his injury. She had used just enough force to take him out of the equation for a split second.
The man made his way towards her as he glanced after the running healer, taking care of her teammates. “You let her win.”
Ilea didn’t reply, looking at him and then up into the trees.
“Giving them hope isn’t wise. They should know what’s out there.” The man said, leaning on the other tree.
She looked at him and smiled, “Knowing what’s out there, hope is all we have William.” The wind rustled the leaves above them, sending a couple of them twirling down towards the earth. The two Shadows watched the young mages shout and congratulate the healer for her win before she took care of their light injuries, running towards their coach right after.
“Perhaps I should find someone to spar as well.” The man said as he pushed off the tree, having accepted her healing touch that took care of the broken jaw.
“I’ll go ask Claire, she’ll miss our bouts when I’m gone. Plus you have a healer now.” Ilea smirked at his flustered reaction, clapping as she approached the group. He caught himself quickly and ordered them to continue the previous training with trying to injure Ilea.
‘ding’ ‘You have learned the General skill: Wood Magic Resistance – lvl 1
A connection made from a mage to nature allowed for this talent to take root. Facing the force of nature you grow more accustomed to its effects, your body more resilient to the magic of the forest.
Ilea smiled but continued the training after the message had popped up in her mind. It took hours of them injuring her but William increased the training time for as long as the group could stand, excusing himself to take care of his other duties. Ilea heard the stomach of Raphia rumble before another root smacked against her leg. They were certainly moving less than before, tired and hungry looks on their faces as they struggled on. It wouldn’t take long for one of them to collapse and Ilea knew that would probably be the end of today’s session.
Thinking for a minute and taking a surprisingly weak ice lance to her chest, Ilea clapped once, “Stop it. That’s it for today. I’ll invite you to dinner.” She said, knowing that Keyla was probably still working. It was deep in the night after all. “Good job everyone.”
Cornelius smirked. “Got your resistances?”
“Not yours.” Ilea replied and started walking towards the elevator.
“Not bad Keyla.” Ilea said as she looked at the building, no more shattered windows or missing walls visible on the facade. It still looked closed but that was to be expected. She found the woman alone in the kitchen, looking through notes on what looked like people, “Struggling with the cooks?”
“Oh, Ilea. Nice to see you. Yes. We’re pretty much ready to open but some of the chefs… I’m not sure if they have what it takes. Came to eat?”
“I did, with four starving little beasts.” She added with a smile, relaxing on one of the counters. Keyla threw a pot at her which she caught with one hand.
“You’re beast enough. No lounging in my kitchen, come on. Go sit upstairs, I’ll serve the food in ten minutes.” Keyla said, Ilea putting down the pan on her way out.
“Food will be served in ten, come on everyone.” She said into the stairwell and went up into the newly furnished hall. “Fancy.” She said and sat down on a table big enough to seat them all.
“Are we supposed to be here? I don’t think it’s open yet?” Raphia said and looked around, trying to dust off her cloak before she carefully sat down on the expensive looking chair.
Ilea just waved her off and sat down. “I know the owner.” She said as the group looked at each other a little awkwardly.
“Thanks for training with us today miss Ilea.” Philly said with a smile.
“She was there because of mine and Raphia’s magic, you know that.” Cornelius commented but didn’t look at Ilea.
Raphia slapped his shoulder and shook her head. “There was no reason for her to stay that long, even if she wanted the skills. Don’t complain all the time, people can be nice as well.”
The man didn’t seem convinced but neither commented further on the topic. “Are you going to stay in Ravenhall?” Philly asked and looked at Ilea. “It would be great to have you around for some pointers and bouts if you ever felt like it.”
“No. I will be leaving as soon as I have finished my preparations, one part of that being a Dust magic resistance.” Ilea said, looking at Cornelius. “I’m happy to bout with you guys as soon as I’m back again. Hopefully you’ll prove to be better by then. I at least expect you to beat William as a team.”
“You can’t even beat him.” Cornelius blurted out and laughed. “How are we supposed to.”
Dany smiled and looked at Ilea but didn’t say anything. “The menu isn’t quite ready yet and this shit town’s market isn’t selling the fish that swims in the ocean just hours from here so you’ll have to be happy with this one.” Keyla came into the room, carrying five plates that she smoothly placed before all the guests. “Beef in a spicy sauce with mint and a side of egg noodles. Enjoy.”