Chapter 228 Farewells
‘ding’ ‘You have learned the General skill: Dust Magic Resistance – lvl 1
Dangerous and elusive magic answering to few who seek its complexity, understand its beauty. You have faced a mage of dust and lived, preparing you for the next confrontation, should it come to pass.’
There you go. She thought and floated up to William. “I have my skills.”
“Good. Then we will resume the training. Form up apprentices!” He shouted and watched them scramble together.
Ilea watched from the sidelines for a while until William let them pause and relax after a couple more hours, most of them injured. “You know what I expect of you.” They turned towards her when she spoke and stood up. “I wish you good luck.”
Cornelius rolled his eyes and murmured to himself but Ilea didn’t care to listen. He still nodded to her a moment later, as if acknowledging that she had gotten him this gig in the first place. Maybe he just didn’t accept that someone would help him out with such a minor motive as gaining a resistance. Ilea wasn’t sure but she didn’t care much.
Raphia ran up and embraced her, thanking her and promising to reach the goal she had set for them. “I don’t doubt you. Remember that there are monsters out there stronger than me, be prepared and be quick.” Ilea said to them when she let go of the girl. Philly bowed and smiled while William nodded to her with a business like look on his face.
That man is not one for emotional goodbyes. She mused and waved at them one last time before she flew towards Trian’s meditation tree. The man was there as if she had left him just a minute ago, looking into the distance as he tapped the pen on his notebook. “Stuck?”
He looked up at her and smiled weakly. “No, I’m just looking for the right words.”
Ilea sat down next to him and leaned her back on the tree. “You’re leaving.” He spoke as he opened his notebook, writing a line into it.
“Will you return?”
“I hope I will.”
“I can’t believe you’re leaving me alone with Claire.”
Ilea laughed, the man joining her a moment later. “I think you’ll be just fine. Try moving around a little before you grow into the tree. William is training a girl that could help you gain a wood magic resistance, might help in the long term.”
“Very funny Ilea. I think I’ll be fine. I have all this time… to figure out how.”
Ilea patted him on his shoulder and stood up, meanwhile summoning the golden lighter she had gotten in Salia. Trian looked up to her, the woman waving the magic lighter in her hand, the small flame moving in the wind. “Something to remind you. I found this right before I joined the Hand. Maybe it’ll help in some way.” She said and let it fall, the mage catching it casually before he flicked it on, staring into the flame.
“Thanks. I expect you back with stories to tell.” He said and looked into her eyes.
Ilea switched into her ashen hunter armor, breathing out as she looked at the sun. “Leave some empty pages for me will you?”
He nodded slightly and smiled at her as she turned, ashen wings sprouting from her back before she took off.
“It’s time then? Took you longer than expected. I though you’d be gone after a couple days.” Claire mused. “I’ll miss the training.”
Ilea grunted as she looked at the metal spheres Claire had placed on the table. Taking one, she felt that the devices were receptive to her mana. It would be unwise to activate one here. “Can I throw them?”
“No. I could but not you. Except if you can throw them as quickly as the explosion expands. I don’t doubt you’ll reach that kind of power at some point though you’ll likely not need them again by then.” Claire joked, a relaxed smile on her face as she got up and walked to the big double window overlooking the central square of the city.
“Train with William, a healer is in their team as well. Trian might join in from time to time as well if you ask nicely, he’s sitting near a tree. Make sure he doesn’t start to grow into it.”
Claire turned and nodded. “I’ll think about it. Thanks.”
The three explosive devices vanished into her necklace. “I’ve prepared some reading for you.” Claire said as she walked back, the empty space on the wooden table filled with a notebook, two hardcover books and a stack of loose papers. “These two are monster encyclopedias, they’re rather questionable, unconfirmed and while Dagon disregards them as fiction I doubt it’s all made up. If you’re going north you might as well check them out just in case.”
She motioned to the notebook and the stack, “I’ve collected all the information on expeditions north in the last ten years, missing people notices, planned routes and team compositions. This is confidential information from both the Hand and the adventurer guild so treat them as such.”
Ilea looked it over before all of it too vanished into her necklace. “Thank you, I’ll look it over. And don’t worry too much.”
Claire laughed and shook her head. “I worry about whatever stands in your way.”
“I wish I could be as confident as you think I am.” Ilea joked.
“You are when life is at stake, I’ve seen it plenty. Now go, I’ll make sure your investment won’t be wasted. And that you won’t be thoroughly disappointed in me when we have a bout again.” Claire said and smirked. She looked better, less overworked, Ilea thought.
“Keep it up then and don’t worry about the old man’s attitude, I’m pretty sure he likes you at least somewhat.” Ilea said and walked to the door, Claire coming in for a hug.
“Don’t you dare dying on us.” She whispered before letting go. Ilea smiled and left, making her way down the stairs and out towards the Golden Drake.
I wouldn’t want to invoke your fury Claire. Not even as a ghost or undead.
“So it’s time. Good, come up. We’ve cooked everything at least fifty times. Good training for the cooks.” Keyla said and led Ilea to the kitchen, the room now occupying a whole floor compared to the single room it had before. A terrace had been added to the front of the building, allowing for more seating and the prices seemed quite a bit more reasonable.
“You’re ready to open then?” Ilea asked. The cook scoffed at her. A knife twirled in her clawed hand.
“We’ve been ready to open for a whole week but you ordered. I kept the less than perfect meals as well, do let me know if I should give them out to the refugees.”
“I ordered… I mean where did you keep it all?”
Keyla didn’t answer but instead opened a compartment in the wall, steam rising as the glowing of blue runes subsided slowly. Dozens of steaming meals in what looked like cardboard boxes. “It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time but the previous owners thought it cheap and lacking… class.” The last word added with a hiss and a showing of sharp teeth.
“It’s a cool idea for adventurers I think.” Ilea said and grabbed one of the boxes, starting to eat with a fork she took from a nearby table.
“The non perfect meals?”
“I’ll take it all, will be a while until I come back to restock I think.” Ilea said. “How much do I owe you?”
“I owe you my life, a restaurant and more than I will ever be able to repay you, you mind fucked idiot.” Keyla said and pointed the knife at her.
Ilea smiled and brushed her hand through the rows of prepared meals. “I like the idea of giving out meals to the poor, maybe stuff you weren’t able to sell.”
“With these enchantments we’ll be able to keep them for weeks before they go bad. I had some other ideas towards that direction. Cheaper meals and maybe trade or jobs getting ingredients instead of money to pay for food.”
Ilea nodded and opened another compartment, looking at Keyla who just gestured to towards the whole kitchen. “It’s all for you, we’ll open tomorrow. Not that anybody knows about that yet.”
“Well I hope you’ll have fun. Talk to the Hand should anybody bother you because of your race.” Ilea said.
“Will do. Thanks again, I won’t disappoint you Ilea.” Keyla said and showed her teeth again.
“I know you wont.” Ilea replied with a smile. “It would be a damn shame for you not to own your own restaurant. Don’t overwork yourself.”
Keyla snorted and then laughed. “While you’re out there killing yourself? I will do what I love my dear. I will cook and people will eat.”
It took Ilea the good part of fifteen minutes to put all the meals into her necklace, Keyla quickly explaining what they contained, how she got the ideas and how it was prepared. There was some cursing involved and partially offensive stories but if anything it made her want to try the meals even more. There were four hundred and sixty eight prepared boxes, enough to last her maybe a couple months if they were all she would eat. Maybe a couple weeks if all she did was eat.
“Thanks, here I don’t want you to go bankrupt before you’ve even opened.” Ilea said and stacked ten gold coins on one of the counters.
“I’ll put that down on the list of what I owe you.” Keyla said. “Enjoy yourself Ilea.”
“I’ll try my best.”
Leaving the place with Keyla, Ilea hugged her before going back to Viscera, quickly saying her goodbyes to Elise and Dagon. The librarians had been pretty helpful in her resistance training endeavors. At least she knew about all the skills she still lacked thanks to them. Dagon grunted while Elise teared up and hugged her. Ilea had to pry open her arms to be able to go.
She was thoroughly spent on her social energy when she finally left the city, her wings carrying her out and over the walls before she made her way towards the ocean and her house. Thinking of Claire, Trian and everybody else she had met in this world and what they’d been through together made it a little difficult to journey out alone again. The further away from civilization she got the more that feeling lessened, Ilea instead thinking about Kyrian who was either dead or fighting somewhere out there and of Eve.
The armored flying warrior cut through the air as she passed over snow covered trees and mountains, glimpses of the ocean visible in the distance as she closed in on the cliffs occupied by wild animals and a lonely house hanging on a plateau, digging deep into the mountain side.
Blinking into her bedroom from above, Ilea stored a chunk of her books in her necklace before looking at the very thing that had made her come here. I hope you’ll survive at least a part of my journey. She thought and put the beautiful big and comfortable bed into the dwarven necklace that had made her life a whole lot easier. “Now you’re ready.” The woman said, stepping out onto her balcony, black armor clinging to her body, blue eyes looking over the endless ocean while ash danced around her.
A woman clad in black appeared close to the running mage, daggers flashing in the dim hallway illuminated by a single torch. The man cried out in pain as he sunk to his knees, his arms lifting to send a spell at the attacker before he was crushed by an invisible force, his nose breaking on the stone floor, blood pooling more quickly than it should.
“Don’t move if you want to live.” Senia said quietly, twirling the daggers in her hands before she appeared next to his face, letting go of one weapon, the blade flashing down and digging into the ground still influenced by Sulivhaan’s gravity magic.
Rock frowned under his helmet, ripping his hammer out of the wall and with it pieces of bloody bone and skin. “This one’s dead, sorry boss.”
Sulivhaan surveyed the hallway, four corpses lying behind them but at least they had a single survivor. The evidence was clear, Navalis didn’t make mistakes. “Here you go.” Senia said, taking out the paper notice addressed to all citizens of the empire of Lys and beyond, a request to hunt and kill guards, soldiers and even members of the Hand.
A mistake that would cost Baralia dearly. Or a calculated move knowing the results. Sulivhaan thought. He didn’t quite know how it benefited the kingdom to help them uncover traitors and easily bought mercenaries and adventurers. The rumors that the Hand had orchestrated the demon summoning and even planned to use the war against the empire had been dashed by the written proof coming from Baralia. Not a single member of the Hand had died so far and Sulivhaan planned to keep it that way.
“Ravenhall should soon be clean. I’ve heard even fresh arrivals talking about the bounty and how everyone who tried something had vanished or been ripped apart by a Shadow or guard.” The officer said, four Shadow squad leaders and ten imperial officers and guard captains of both Ravenhall and the Shadowguards were present at the meeting. Sulivhaan had started organizing the cooperation as soon as the first Baralia hunters had come as far as the mountain city. The notice had showed up quickly after, making it even easier to convince the empire.
“The empire will pay improved rates for any Shadow that finds and destroys paid hunters and notices informing citizens of the enemy’s… intent. In and outside of Ravenhall.”
The squad leaders looked at Sulivhaan who thought about it for a moment. So far they had worked together to find and kill anyone in the city who worked for the enemy to keep Ravenhall stable and its citizens safe but this was an offer to get the Hand involved throughout the empire. Many people would die but knowing that the Shadow’s Hand was hunting for them would dissuade a lot of those thinking about the offer.
“We are not an official party in this war and that will stay this way due to the nature of this very organization. However the fact that the offer proven to be from the Kingdom of Baralia calls for the death of our organization’s members calls for action. I will review this with the deciding parties and come back to you with an answer. Today.” Sulivhaan said, the officer nodding before they left.
One of the squad leaders sat down on the table as soon as the empire representatives had left. “Are we sure this isn’t coming from the empire?”
“As I said, it’s proven. By parties I personally trust.” Sulivhaan replied. “I’m sure you’ve come to similar findings?” He looked at the others, both confirming.
“It’s simply baffling. They knew we would get involved, why not focus on the empire?”
“Perhaps the retaking of Ravenhall and subsequent rebuilding was a thorn in their eyes. Maybe their information is outdated and they think we’re severely weakened.” One of the Shadows offered.
Sulivhaan shook his head. “We are weakened. More members will die. Perhaps they thought the empire would distrust us more, would declare our involvement a machination against them.”
“Maybe they will.”
“Maybe. Fact is that there is an offer out there asking for Shadows to be murdered. No matter who or why it came to be we cannot sit idle. Payment was offered for a mission without complete involvement of our order in a human war.” One of the leaders said and looked at Sulivhaan.
He had his doubts about the involvement but knew that only few Shadows would heed the call, still it would bring substantial resources towards the empire’s war efforts as well as more resources to members of the Hand. As long as the whole order wasn’t involved he had to agree. “I’ll discuss it with other heads and we’ll post the mission later today if all are in agreement?”
They confirmed, each leaving the room quickly thereafter, the mage remaining for a little while longer. First the demons and now this. He sighed when Senia appeared next to him.
“How’d it go boss?” She asked with a grin on her face. She and many others would love the opportunity to hunt easy prey for very good money. As well as whatever else they could acquire in the chaos of war.
This is just as much part of the Hand Sulivhaan. He told himself and slowly floated up from his chair, his magic surging around him. “A mission request from the empire of lys, to hunt and kill those that seek to destroy us.” He could only look at her with disdain as her smile grew. “Out team will remain here in Ravenhall, you are of course free to join the hunt should you wish.”
The woman stopped smiling, instead shaking her head. “I promised you Sulivhaan. Forgive my lack of discipline.” She bowed deeply before vanishing.
How long until you leave? The man asked himself as he stood there, shaking his head and leading his thoughts towards a more optimistic direction. The girl had many opportunities but had remained at his side as she had promised so long ago. Turbulent times would come but which wars had been any different? This time he was in a position of power and he would not let the Hand fall into depravity.