Chapter 238 Questions
The way back was quiet, Ilea avoiding any knights she saw moving through her sphere, few even noticing her blink by. At least they didn’t pursue far, otherwise she would’ve probably been losing more limbs from the kingsguard she had engaged. Soon she found herself on the rose field again, exiting the dungeon into the cathedral at the very top of it.
The elf was cutting into the corpse, all the armor was lying carefully distributed on the ground. To think this is the safe haven instead of the boss encounter. Ilea thought as she watched the cloaked elven curse mage experiment with a human corpse in a desolated and massive Gothic cathedral. “Hey, I’m back. Found some things that might interest you.” She said, sitting down on one of the benches near him.
The elf held up a finger, continuing to cut before he stuffed his hand into the corpse. Three seconds later he ripped something out and showed her a shriveled heart, smiling with blood on his face.
Ilea smiled back from under her helmet, “Congratulations on dinner.”
The elf threw the heart her way and sneered, “Dinner. Look at it, corrupted. It’s not human anymore.”
“What does that mean?” Ilea asked, looking the heart over in her hand. It looked just like what she imagined a several hundred or thousand year old heart from a resurrected corpse would look like.
He shook his head, “It means that they are corrupted and no longer human. What is there not to understand human?”
Ilea gave up and summoned the two books. “Found these although I can’t read them.” His eyes opened wide, the blade he had used dropped onto the ground without care as he held out his hands, moving closer to her. “Mate, you’ve got blood on your fingers.”
He blinked, as if woken from a trance, “Oh yes. I was just…,” He said, summoning a piece of cloth that he used to clean himself. “How is it in there?”
“Old, most of it is dust, rotting or just missing. I’ve found some skeletons but not the amount a destroyed city should contain. There’s knights in there called Knights of the Rose and the dungeon itself is called Tremor.” Ilea started but he interrupted her, summoning a small book and starting to write into it.
Ilea told him about all she had found so far, which wasn’t a lot but he seemed more than happy about it. His tongue constantly licked over his teeth as he wrote everything down with a creepy smile. “Why are you constantly licking your lips? Your smile looks creepy too, can you not relax a little?”
The elf just looked at her and closed his book, “Human, you are asking a wolf to stop hunting. Was that all you have found so far?”
Ilea nodded, “Pretty much.”
“For the price of a leg I suppose?” He asked, accepting the two books and starting to look them over.
Ilea eyed him but didn’t comment on the leg, “Can you read the language?”
He opened the books and nodded, “This city was a part of the Rhyvor kingdom. There’s plenty of relics and dungeons in the area but I believe this was the capital. I’ve spent years in the past learning this language.”
“Why? I believe it is the capital because well, it’s the most vast of those I’ve found so far. And you speak of a palace like cathedral. As to why I’ve spent years learning this language, well it’s rare to have books survive this long. A good thing humans tend to store things with runes against decay in place. A peculiar notion.” He answered, murmuring the last sentence.
Ilea raised an eyebrows, “How so? Is it not understandable that one stores things in a safe place?”
The elf closed the book before he carefully put both of them on the table, “Peculiar because your very race expires so easily and quickly.” He said with a smile.
“You motherfucker.” She said but couldn’t help appreciate his bluntness.
He didn’t seem to care about the insult, instead sitting down with one of the books. “You have honored the trade.”
“Good, then why do you attack and kill humans. I heard there was a war a decade or two ago and half a year ago you slaughtered thousands by invading cities in the west.” Ilea asked, taking out her notebook and pen, opening it at the page with a big ‘Elves’ written at the top.
He thought about it for a moment before he answered, “I do not know of a war. We tend to send out our young to train, into different terrains and areas but fighting humans is rarely profitable for their strength. Perhaps they had encroached into the forest but I cannot say for sure.”
“What do you mean encroached into the forest? These cities have been standing there for years if not decades or longer. Why now?” Ilea asked, writing down what he said.
“I do not know. It is not for me to decide on matters such as these. As much as I understand you have lost many, why are you concerned about elves? Are you not constantly at war with your own, where many more die and suffer?” The elf asked, moving a little forward on his chair.
Ilea thought about it and couldn’t deny that of course humans were the main danger to themselves, “It’s not about numbers. We know humans, know why and how they fight. Elves? No idea, other than that each of you is as capable as some of the most powerful humans.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Ilea thought but shrugged it off.
“The unknown. I understand.” He wrote something down and looked at her, “I cannot tell you why your cities were eradicated, only that I, perhaps, would have chosen differently. As I said, it is not for me to know nor to decide.”
“For whom is it then? Who do you serve? Another race? Some god or just a more powerful elf? What kind of government do you have?” He looked at her and closed his notebook.
“I might answer more of your questions depending on the contents of those books. For now I consider my duty, fulfilled.” The elf said.
“Are you not afraid this knowledge might help humanity fight you?” Ilea asked as a way of provoking him.
He looked at her and blinked his eyes, “I applaud your power but as you have stated, you are one in many. Should you manage to set your differences aside to face a common enemy, I will be surprised at the very least. Although I reckon the respect I would foster for humanity would quickly shatter upon your slaughter in the forests of old.”
She had gotten more than she expected. So he would respect us for actually trying? If there’s only a couple thousand elves and I think there’s more then I doubt we’d have much success so he’s got me there. He went back to reading and Ilea didn’t further pry. His answer had been final, his views clear. Arrogant he may be but so were humans and Ilea had a feeling his sense of superiority wasn’t exactly an illusion.
In a world where people had a number over their heads it was simple to quantify military power, “What’s the book about?”
“I have merely started with the first paragraph. Would you like a translation to Standard?” The elf asked, not looking up from the book.
Ilea shrugged, “I mean if you’re a historian I would assume you want to share the knowledge. As far as I know you’re the last person alive to read their language so it might be helpful.”
He looked at her then, blinking once before he continued reading. He had some work to do then but Ilea was thinking about how to tackle the dungeon. She could fight a single sword and shield knight but not a kingsguard. Problem was that she couldn’t just fight them where they stood because more would patrol or hear the noise.
Find singles then. Lure them out. She was already walking back towards the entrance. The night had just started but it wasn’t a detriment for her. She knew that the rose field would be safe, at least most of the time and if the knights didn’t change up their patrolling patters. And if whatever that hunched over thing stayed behind the wall.
Before doing anything else, Ilea found a secluded space at the end of the field and used her ash to shovel away a bunch of dirt. Placing the skeletons she had found within, she closed it off carefully. She had not known these people but they deserved better than to rot in a closed off cellar. Quickly moving through the houses, she appeared on the roof overlooking the first big square.
Ilea’s enhanced sight pierced the darkness but found it hard to see the whole square. It was one thing to see when the moons were hidden behind clouds but a completely different one to see in a dark cave. One that seemed to swallow light. Movement caught her eye, a single knight as far as she could tell. Forming an ashen projectile, she aimed and sent it off. Hearing it impact something, she blinked down into the house below. She heard his footsteps a second later, the knight running over the square towards her before he jumped on top of the house.
Casually jumps ten meters high. Checking him, she found it wasn’t the same knight she had fought before. This one held two blades. Still, he was alone. Blinking to the opposite house’s roof, she took a step. The noise immediately made the knight turn towards her, Ilea jumping backwards to the next house and the knight followed. In hot pursuit, the quick warrior made Ilea blink a couple times to get away, ultimately landing in the rose meadow. Her own little dirt patch she had claimed for her murdering.
Is it murder? She asked herself. I see it more as freeing them. They were undead after all. Killing humans was sometimes a necessity but it didn’t make it easier, knowing one had snuffed out an individual’s life. Rarely were they purely evil. She remembered the Birmingales and the family members they had murdered for something they likely didn’t even know about nor could have changed if they did.
Now this here, this was much simpler. At least at first glance. Ilea hoped she wasn’t somehow cursing these knights’ souls to an eternal curse or something. Patrolling an ancient city for hundreds of years without an enemy to fight seems curse enough. His swords rushed at her, this one much more aggressive in his movements and attacks than the shield wielding knights. Dodging and weaving through his blades, her ashen limbs hit into his armor, some cut through by his swords, others dodged by quick sidesteps and twirls but two of her attacks hit.
His abilities and weapons weren’t meant to defend, they were meant to overwhelm and kill. At the end of the day he wasn’t much faster than the other knight had been, the only real difference being the lighter weapons and absence of a shield. A difference Ilea adjusted to in the first couple seconds of the fight. This time she simply was much more defensive, not going for openings and instead letting her ash do the job while she concentrated fully on deflecting and moving away from the dangerous blades.
Two short broad swords. While their speed and maneuverability was higher, they paid in their reach. After a couple minutes of fighting, Ilea even tried exploiting the rare openings he gave her. Dodging to the left, she avoided a slash of his right hand blade. She twirled, his second blade cutting through her Veil and scratching on the back of her armor before her left fist hit with full force and all her offensive potential into his back. He turned, blade slashing at her before his second blade moved in, making her blink back as far as she could.
Meditation and healing flowing through her, she simply stood there, waiting for him to engage again. A battle of attrition but she could recharge her batteries, he couldn’t. How am I ever going to defeat a kingsguard without Meditation. The knight was upon her again, all of her concentration focused on his blades and legs which he sometimes used to attack as well. Wielding two blades was incredibly difficult, as much was clear to her but this knight knew what the hell he was doing.
His flurry of attacks would continue for ten to fifteen slashes without giving her even the slightest potential for an opening. Were it not for her ashen limbs that had more reach than her arms, this fight would take days if not longer. The slashes he wasted on destroying her ash instead of attacking hercertainly helped with dodging.
Ilea’s movements were getting more refined by the hour and while the shield bearer had inflicted several damaging cuts on her, this one was much easier to handle. His blades still cut through her ash and Veil but had a harder time getting into her armor. The main difference was the simple fact that she was fighting defensively, getting more and more damage in with her ashen limbs while he at most managed to dent her armor and bruise her.
The fight ended abruptly after a couple of hours, just as anticlimactically as the first one had. The knight fell, his rusted swords falling to the ground, followed by his body. Ilea fell to her knees, her helmet vanishing before sweat started dripping on the ground. “That wasn’t as hard huh?” She asked into the void with heavy breathing.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Knight of the Rose – lvl 294] – For defeating an enemy sixty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted.
After a couple seconds Ilea frowned. “Where are the levels?” There were none and her questioning didn’t change that. I’d have gotten two back in the Taleen dungeon for killing something sixty levels above my own.
Of course she had made a step towards the next level at least but it was a little frustrating not knowing how far along she was to the next one. Her status didn’t offer the exact numbers needed. He was an even higher level than the last one. Ilea walked to the knight and started removing his armor, his weapons stored in her necklace. Piece by piece she removed it and stored all of it in her necklace. The man himself remained. Scratching her head, she thought about what to do. If she burned him the smoke and smell might alert more of them but she didn’t feel like burying an undead. What if he rose again? He ash alone while enough to burn flesh wouldn’t be enough and she wasn’t about to form a mini furnace to melt the corpse.
Stepping out of the dungeon, she dropped the corpse on the ground in the cathedral. “Hey can they leave the dungeon?”
The elf stood up and appeared close to the corpse, “You have killed another one. Impressive. Monsters can leave their dungeons but I’ve tried luring some out before. These knights here, they refuse to do so.” He explained as he went to touch the body.
“I think you’ve experimented with that one enough. I’d like to burn them.”
He looked at her with questioning eyes, his tongue licking his lips, “A farewell of sorts? A waste but I understand the sentimentality. Why give the courtesy to your enemy? I am curious.”
Ilea looked at the man, half his face rotten off as he lay there unmoving. “They are long dead. Once they were renowned warriors protecting this place. At least I’d like to think so. Maybe they were fascists torturing and murdering the population but they’ve long since served whatever purpose they had. It’s the least to burn them. Maybe that way they can’t get used again.”
“Interesting. You are compassionate. A rare trait for someone at your level of strength, be it human or other.” The elf said. Ilea didn’t think herself very compassionate, having killed people for being part of the wrong family.
The elf looked at her before speaking once more, “Fascist. I have not heard that word before, what does it mean?”
“A form of an authoritarian nationalist government where anybody opposing it is usually tortured and killed. Often very racist as well.” Ilea tried explaining.
He frowned, “I’ve never heard of such a thing. Which nations use such a form of government?”
Ilea hadn’t really mentioned her origins on Earth anymore, having accepted her life here in Elos. “None that I know of.” She answered honestly.
The elf looked at her for a while, “Elaborate if you please.”
Ilea smiled and sat down on a bench, “You help me burn these corpses and then we trade information. How does that sound?”
“Reasonable to my disdain.” The elf answered with a smile of his own.
“Ah don’t be like that. You already said that humans don’t have a chance against whatever forest coven you’re a part of. Not that I think anybody would be willing to wage such a war anyway.”
He nodded at that, “Your nature is very different, I believe you are right.”
“Can you burn them? I don’t really have wood with me but there’s plenty in the city.” Ilea said, looking over her shoulder towards the double doors.
The elf got up and walked to the elevated platform where the first dead knight lay. “That won’t be necessary.” He summoned wooden sticks before the knights were both levitated with barriers, carefully placed on the wood before he summoned a small metal cube. It started glowing before a small stream of fire formed in front of him. The wood was set alight in moments, Ilea stepping closer as smoke started rising, the smell of burnt flesh reaching her nose.
He stepped next to her and remained silent as the fire engulfed the two corpses. “How much wood do you have? I think there’s going to be plenty more.”
“You wish to burn every single undead in there? How many are there?”
“No idea. But yes, I do. Guess I’ll be collecting wood from now on.” Ilea said.
He licked his lips and answered, “I believe that will be necessary.”