Chapter 245 The slowing Grind
Ilea looked for and quickly found a knight to fight. He was patrolling the streets when she sent an ashen projectile towards his head, quickly running away as he followed. It took the two around two minutes to reach the small field where Ilea had killed all the previous dungeon inhabitants. She looked at the knight that arrived without a word, his weapons pointing towards her as he landed and continued in a sprint.
Ash clashed against steel, Ilea avoiding the two blades slashing towards her as she delivered her Wave of Ember with eight simultaneous strikes. Her hands moved as she dodged, deflecting one of the blades before her fist hit his side, the shock wave traveling through the two and into the dirt before she blinked away, meditation flowing through her as she prepared for the next hit, a big grin on her face. She was ready.
The fight took around five hours, the dual wielding knights easier targets thanks to their lack of a shield. Many scratches on her armor showed the more shiny metal below as she dragged the dead woman out towards the cathedral. Opening the door, she carefully removed the armor and dumped it in the corner of the hall. There was plenty of space both here and in her storage item but she wasn’t about to visit the smith again in a couple days simply because she didn’t have anymore capacity in her necklace.
“You can work with the armors if you want to but I need the metal. Let me know if you want any of it permanently.” She said as she walked back to the dungeon entrance, the corpse stored in her necklace as it only needed one unit. Plus she didn’t feel like having a corpse mountain in her base of operations.
Back inside, she summoned the Penumra moss and ate a bit of it. Her healing skill was active and checking for any changes that might happen.
‘ding’ ‘You have been poisoned by Curse of Penumra -40 Health per second -40 Mana per second for one minute.’
Just a poison then. Nothing to worry about either. She thought, waiting out the minute as she meditated and canceled out the health drain. She didn’t know how much her resistance had reduced the effects but checking her health drain with no healing confirmed that the message had already been adjusted to her defenses.
No level in poison resistance but the knight kill hadn’t gotten her any levels or skill levels either. There were plenty more though, both of the moss and off the knights, the latter would be the main focus for now. Ilea went out later that night, when the dungeon was cast in darkness and the mists had settled outside.
Squeezing through the rock, she looked over the terrain, a sea of mist visible near the valley below. Some smaller specks were visible as well but nothing with less than at least a couple of the stalkers inside. At least try…, She thought, flying down as she checked for dangers both in the air as well as on the ground, landing near the smallest pool of mist she had seen as the first stalker noticed her. Her health and mana started draining immediately, her meditation and healing kicking in as well. Her second stage resistance against health drain mentioned it getting harder to drain from her while her mana drain resistance actually damaged the enemy if they used the mana they drained. Both effects would grow with time, meaning she should be able to damage the monsters at some point but she didn’t exactly know how much damage it dealt. Ilea waited for a while until the miststalker was at the border of the thin fog. It twirled a couple times but couldn’t actually exit. Its blade like arms ending in a scythe like bend slashed through the air but couldn’t reach her, barely. The things had a longer range than she had thought.
As soon as the thing realized it couldn’t leave, it started twirling in place, the drain effects increasing drastically. Enough that her health was now gradually declining, even with her healing active. Yea that’s not gonna work. A second and third miststalker started noticing her and soon joined in but Ilea doubted the first one would’ve died faster than herself anyway. Even adding a tendril of ash that loosely grabbed onto it didn’t help. Though she could deliver destructive mana, the thing somehow benefited from the direct connection as well.
A numbing feeling spread inside her before her health dipped under fifty percent, making her blink backwards twice to get out of their range. She meditated and healed herself back up. It might’ve been a waste but if she could at some point kill the miststalkers, it would benefit her greatly. The fight would be a simple thing too, simply sitting there and perhaps sending out her ashen limbs to deal more damage. Although to effectively strike the thing with Wave of Ember, she would have to get close enough for its rather long ranged scythe arms to hit her.
Maybe it was good. To have a change of pace after focusing so much on taking down a knight. Her resistances would grow and in time she might be able to take them down. Getting back up after ten minutes, she walked back to the edge, the beings of mist having lost interest already. “Hey, ghosties!” She shouted to the closest one, the thing turning at the sound, six eyes looking at her before it slowly twirled towards her. It would be a long night but Ilea was smiling, she had Meditation after all.
Twoweeks passed, days spent luring and fighting single knights in the Tremor dungeon and nights spent on resistance training against the miststalkers. Occasionally she had to run and hide, other beasts or birds hunting for her near the small pool of mist she had chosen as her training ground. It was good, to be kept on guard and to not forget where she was. The only reason the mist beings didn’t kill her was the borders of their prison. One of her armors was a little dented by now but still wearable, the silver metal definitely more durable than the Niameer steel had been.
Ilea walked out of the dungeon, dropping the latest set of armor on the pile. Number fifteen…, She thought, checking her messages again.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Knight of the Rose – lvl 310]. For defeating an enemy seventy or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Knight of the Rose – lvl 278]. For defeating an enemy forty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
Checking through all fifteen of them, she found that only two of them had been above level three hundred. Weirdly she hadn’t noticed much of a difference, just realizing after the fact that they had been of a higher level. She assumed class evolutions might happen at that level but monsters were different after all. Perhaps they didn’t evolve at all or it didn’t make a big difference. They were thoughtless undead after all. Looking at the empty armors, she frowned. Maybe they were trapped souls as well, screaming for her not to kill them but their bodies wouldn’t allow it, an old spell keeping them in place, keeping them fighting as she slowly killed them. One after the other.
She stopped that train of thought and shook her head. Simple undead. Defending their old city from any intruder that might attack. Perhaps she was going a little crazy from all the fighting. At least neither her fighting with the knights nor her training with the miststalkers had been fruitless.
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 233 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 234 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 235 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 236 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 227 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 228 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 229 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘State of Azarinth reaches 3rd lvl 5’
‘ding’ ‘Blink reaches 3rd lvl 6’
‘ding’ ‘Hunter’s Sight reaches 2nd lvl 11’
‘ding’ ‘Veil of Ash reaches 3rd lvl 3
‘ding’ ‘Embered Body Heat reaches 2nd lvl 7’
‘ding’ ‘Wave of Ember reaches 2nd lvl 18’
‘ding’ ‘Ash and Ember Manipulation reaches 3rd lvl 2’
‘ding’ ‘Meditation reaches 2nd lvl 18’
‘ding’ ‘Health Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 2’
‘ding’ ‘Health Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 4’
‘ding’ ‘Mana Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 2’
‘ding’ ‘Mana Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 3’
It was getting slow considering she had been fighting for her life for two weeks but she had expected as much. The leveling had slowed down even further as she got along the two hundreds. She remembered the first couple levels being quicker. At least she had somewhat predictable enemies here that could give her good experience. As soon as she was able to face the miststalkers she’d have even more outside. Enough to never run out really. Not that she had found an end to the knights in the dungeon so far. At least the first couple streets and the big square she had initially fought on were empty by now, none of the knights further in taking up the patrolling duties of the fallen.
Ilea had thirty five stat points and invested them just like before into Endurance, Intelligence and Wisdom, putting fifteen into Intelligence. She wanted at least as much Intelligence and Wisdom as she had Vitality. The amount of mana she had was directly correlated to how long and effectively she could fight and survive. Intelligence would add to her destructive potential, something she lacked terribly looking at how long it took to kill a single knight only forty levels above her own.
Of course she knew that if she lacked her ridiculous defense, mobility and self healing, she would need a balanced party to even remotely effectively hunt these kinds of enemies. In turn the experience would be split and she would probably need longer in the end. At least that had been the case early on, when she was still below level one hundred. It would be interesting to know how fast a group of four or five above two hundred people leveled when fighting enemies like the knights or even the Drop Saurians. So much could instantly go wrong though. Even with how predictable the knights here were that was only the case because she was alone. Ilea had no idea how they would act and fight if there were more than a single enemy.
What she knew was that she was improving again. Slow but steady. Sighing, she prepared to go back in when the elf cleared his throat. She had kind of forgotten about him in the past weeks because neither of them had any reason to talk. Ilea hadn’t found anything new in the dungeon, focusing instead on the enemies to fight. To improve her own power. Is he going to leave because I didn’t bring anything?
He beckoned her towards himself and smiled, “I did it.” A booklet was before him, the smaller of the two she had brought him and the elf had written the contents on a fresh notebook to the side.
“Cracked the code?” Ilea asked as she stepped next to him, ignoring the danger it could pose. The second notebook had writing she could at least recognize, it was the same one as in the book on wines.
He nodded and pointed at the first paragraph, “Service record, guard captain Reyker. Sixth day of sol, 358. The king has ordered more festivities to take place next week, despite the rumors and tensions regarding the southern border. Queen Invalar has approved of the suggested scouting troops to be sent out, as well as the reinforcements sent to the border.” He traced the lines until he hit the last bit of what he had deciphered so far. Looking at her, she didn’t really know what to do so just smiled at him.
Realizing she was wearing a helmet, she instead gave him a thumbs up, “Good job. So you know how to decipher it now, just a matter of writing it down now?”
The elf sighed and sat back, “It’s rather difficult. Although yes, I’ve cracked it, it’s a brilliant code… not allowing for quick translation sadly. I needed a full two days and nights for just that part. Though to think it is a service record… already we know the name of the guard captain, political tensions perhaps? As well as the name of the queen.”
We? Well I guess he is doing this not just for himself if he’s a historian. Ilea thought and stepped back, “A good find then, more useful that a book on wines.”
“You should read it, there is plenty of history in that one alone. Some of the brands weren’t made with nature magic, instead simply letting the grapes grow with… well nature alone. They believed the taste would be an improvement.” He explained, not quite managing to convince Ilea to pick up the book.
She stepped back towards the dungeon, another couple hours left until night would fall, “Well enjoy translating the rest then.”
“I did not tell you for the contents. I told you to confirm the worth of what you have brought me.” The elf said, making her stop and turn back towards him.
“Meaning you’re willing to share more information with me?” She asked, sitting down on a chair while looking at him.
The elf nodded, licking over his lips with his tongue, the sharp teeth showing behind. “Alright, let me see…,” She said and opened her notebook. “Any idea on third classes? How many tiers are there for skills? Are there ways to gain levels faster?”
“That is more than one question… You have gained several levels in a single month, that is as fast as possible. You are fighting strong opponents I suppose and do so alone. This is the reason most of my kind hunt alone. It is dangerous, certainly but the rewards are much higher. Perhaps more humans would reach our level of power if they followed this simple advice.”
Our as in me and you or as in elves? Ilea thought but nodded, “Well the risks aren’t worth it for most I suppose.”
He nodded and crossed his arms in front of his robe, some of the symbols reflecting the sunlight when he moved, “Humans prefer to be behind walls, prefer security for both their possessions as well as their lives.” He said but didn’t elaborate. Ilea assumed he meant that elves did not crave security in such a sense or simply that it was one of the reasons he considered humans weak or incapable of reaching certain heights. Ilea had considered similar thoughts previously so couldn’t fault him for that. She however completely understood why someone wouldn’t choose a lifestyle as her own. The differences between Earth and Elos certainly made it exciting to gain Strength here but without a healing ability or pain resistance at a high degree, she didn’t know if she would fight the same way.
Her thoughts were interrupted when he continued talking, “As to third classes, I suppose there might be a way. Neither me nor those openly sharing information with me have anything confirmed. There are… stories, told among the young of our domain. Usually revolving around legendary warriors said to have more skills and classes than normally possible. Elves tend to boast.” He explained and smiled, “I would not give too much credence to such grand tales. The same is true in regards to higher tier skills.”
Ilea sighed, “So you don’t know shit is what you’re telling me?”
The elf hissed, “I’m not a bloody oracle…,” He blurted out, his eyes going wide before he focused again, mumbling incoherent words to himself. “I am old for a humanbut I have not spent my life hunting and fighting as most of our kind do. Neither have I pursued the strength and power you so desperately seek… for what purpose dare I ask?”
Ilea shrugged in her chair, mentally noting down the line in regards to the bloody oracle. Perhaps she had overestimated this particular elf. The ones she had fought so far were in the mid two hundreds, maybe he wasn’t much higher than that after all. Did I get close to hurting him when we had our little bout? Locking eyes with him, she answered, “I seek adventure, fights worthy of songs, views that take away my breath and the freedom to do how I please. To sit and talk with an elf without covering in fear or to feel obligated to destroy him as a service to my empire or species.”
The elf looked at her, as if seeing her for the first time. A gray mist swirled in his eyes, “I will answer one more question human.”
“Hey you didn’t even sneer when you said human this time?” Ilea said and laughed, “Ah there it is again. What else? Well I always wondered about Dragons. They are a mystical being where I’m from, one only existing in legend but usually an insanely powerful being of some kind. Dragonriders being the deciding forces in many fictional world.”
The elf looked at her, his eyes going wide before he started laughing. He nearly choked as he tried to stop himself, “What? People kind of avoid naming the beasts so I thought it’d be a valid question.” She said, sulking a little in her chair.
It took him another minute to calm down, summoning some kind of blue drink and taking a sip before he said anything, “Dragonriders… ridiculous. Ludicrous. Thoroughly laughable. I have not heard of anybody avoiding to say the name but with what I learned about human superstition, I suppose they wish to avoid bringing the terror down on themselves. None of those proudly proclaiming they would hunt the legendary beast have returned. Not even the legends themselves proclaim such an absurd victory. My only advice is to run… run and hide if you should ever come across such a monster. The only records, only tales possibly holding a kernel of truth speak of despair.”