Chapter 251 Compromise?
Her adrenaline shot up again when she finally found a knight. The ash spread, flowing around the two as her limbs smashed into him, his fist sword dodged before her fist smashed his helmet with all the force she could muster. The metal dented a little, the unfeeling knight slashing his second sword at her but Ilea turned her body a little, the blade scratching through her Veil and past her armor before a second hit smashed straight into his chest.
Crouching low to avoid his first blade moving back to slash her, she grabbed his leg and twirled, screaming as she flung him into a nearby wall. The knight got up when she crashed into him, ignoring the swords that left deep cuts in her Veil and armor, breaking through the wall as she pushed them inwards. Her ashen limbs smashed into him, some deflecting the blades enough to prevent high damage on her as her fists smashed into his stomach again and again. They broke through another wall, falling down as he let go of one blade.
The knight’s fist rushed at her only to be stopped by her own hand, destructive mana flowing into him as they struggled. His pure strength against her magically enhanced body, anger fueling her as their hands shook. Finally freeing his left hand, the knight slashed at her with the short sword, cleaving into her helmet. Blood ran down her cheek as she grabbed his arm and pushed it away. Ashen arms went under his helmet and ripped the thing off his head before they cut into his flesh, tearing deeper and deeper before the unfeeling, dead thing was ripped off.
Ilea jumped back and healed herself, ash filling the whole room while the headless knight stood up and rushed at her. Moving with experience and ease, she dodged the blades and kicked at his leg, the knight getting off balance before she grabbed his arm, again turning and sending him flying. This time she had gotten enough momentum to break through the wall. Ilea stepped towards the dust, ripping away her helmet and throwing it to the side, a smile on her face as well as a deep cut that quickly faded. “Stand up you fuck!”
The knight followed her orders wordlessly, no mouth to respond or brain to form the thought yet still, he got up. And he rushed at her. They clashed again and again, more of Ilea’s armor denting as she delivered heavy blows, ignoring safety and conservation of her gear for the sheer thrill. A hissing flash of pain ripped through her shoulder when his blade cut into it, her fists smashing into his side to dent his armor and break the bones underneath. He didn’t care, unwilling to feel or respond in any other way than to fight.
His second blade was stopped by her hand, the weapon struggling to cut into her ash, the Veil and her armored hand before a kick sent the knight stumbling back. Her ashen limbs focused on a single spot and finally, after over a hundred strikes, the shoulder guard was shattered open, his arm ripped off a moment later. One blade remaining, she dodged and weaved around him, her limbs and fists punching into him before finally he went down. Ilea grabbed the corpse and flung him into the nearest wall before she screamed.
Sweat and blood covered her face. Her armor was pretty much done for, deep cuts and dents in many parts. The guard on her left arm was barely hanging on a thread and her helmet lay destroyed in a corner of the room. “Fucking waste.” She said and went to grab the knight, putting him in her necklace as well as the damaged pieces of armor laying around. It was the fastest kill she had managed so far, that was for sure. Ilea didn’t exactly know how long she had fought but it was less than two hours. Perhaps less than one. And for a below 300 creature at that.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Knight of the Rose – lvl 291] – For defeating an enemy thirty levels or more above your own, bonus experience is granted’
Sighing, she walked back to the exit. She needed a shower, a meal and meditation but first she had to talk to a certain dwarf. Terok had nearly killed them. He rushed in to help you. The thought didn’t make it less annoying. He had no idea what he was getting himself into. If she had misjudged the undead they could both still be down there, ripped to pieces by the savage beasts.
Pulling open the double doors, she stepped through and found the dwarf standing near one of the missing windows. His armored rig was still where she had thrown it when he turned to her, one of the bottles she had found in the palace opened and in his hand, “I don’t suppose you have glasses?” He asked with a smirk. She didn’t miss the slight crack in his voice when he had looked at her.
Ilea hadn’t bothered with cleaning up, summoning two glasses as she sat down on a chair, throwing one to the dwarf. His hand shook while he filled it, chugging it down in a single swig before he filled it again. He walked to her and filled hers as well, Ilea taking a sip and breathing out. “You’re aware of how close we just got to death? You specifically.” Ilea spoke, spitting out some blood that remained in her mouth before taking another sip.
It was something like scotch. She didn’t like it. Nor would the alcohol do anything, her poison resistance taking care of that. Downing the rest, she put it back in her necklace as she watched the dwarf. He nodded and finished his drink, pouring another one immediately, “I noticed.” He said and glanced at his rig for a moment. “I’m sorry for coming here. For following you. I thought… maybe I could benefit too, could sell something I found or join your group or something.”
“There is no group.” Ilea said, shrouding herself in ash before she removed her armor, the ash swirling around her to take care of any blood, sweat and grime that still stuck to her. Casual clothes appeared before the ash flowed into limbs, lazily swaying behind her back.
Terok watched it all in fascination, taking a little longer to reply. “I noticed. Didn’t believe you when you talked about your story, the way you fought alone. Having seen it I still don’t. You’re a lunatic. Your side was open, bleeding, you should be dead.”
Ilea smiled at him, “Well I’m not. Now you better fuck off, I’ll get my enchantments somewhere else. This dungeon is mine to clear and I don’t want some greedy idiot sneaking around.”
Terok didn’t step back, he just looked at her before he took a swig from the bottle itself. “My rig is fucked. I’m in debt and I’m sure as hell not making it back to Hallowfort alive.” He set down the glass and sat down on a chair, sighing as he stared at the floor. “You’re tough… I’ve seen that. I don’t think I’ve seen a warrior as fierce as you… but those things were winning. You were hurt and you had to flee.”
Ilea summoned a meal and started eating, energy flowing back into her as she mediated. She didn’t react to his talking. He had fucked up, nearly gotten himself killed and now he was apparently stuck. His machine was definitely unusable. After a single hit…, Ilea knew she would’ve survived. Having taken several direct blows from the undead knights, she knew she had been fine.
He tapped on his knee before he spoke up again, “You didn’t have to save me. No reason to do that, not with that injury. Probably wasn’t as bad as it looked now that I think about it but still.”
Ilea was getting tired of his speech but she had sat down and wouldn’t leave until she was done with her meal.
“Why did you save me?” The dwarf looked at her as she ate.
“It’s common courtesy. You were out of your league in there.”
“You’re a lousy liar. And I won’t believe it for a second if you tell me you were handling those monsters. You came to help us in a convenient time before but this here was different.”
Ilea stopped eating and thought about his words. “Alright, maybe I didn’t want your blood on my hands. Maybe I didn’t want someone else I know dying in a shit hole when I could prevent it.”
She continued eating, the dwarf looking at her as he nodded. “Doesn’t change anything.” She added.
“Of course it does. I’ll work with you to repay this debt. And whatever I owe you for the metal and help you’ve provided so far.” Terok said, Ilea just staring at him with a spoon in her mouth.
Taking it out, she placed it in the box, “Look, I appreciate the offer but you’re a level one eighty mage, your machine is fucked and you’ve proven you’re incapable of fighting anything in there. Plus didn’t you listen? That’s my dungeon.”
The dwarf stood up and walked to his machine, checking the arms and punching the open chest plates, “Aye, I’m proper fucked. But I’m not a fighter Ilea. Never was. I told you I’m a scavenger. An explorer. I don’t waltz intodungeons in the northern wastelands to fight the beasts within. No one bloody does. I go in there to pick ancient locks, to clean out graves of long dead kings, to snatch artifacts worthy of a mansion back in ass creek Eranur.”
“Now I know you just want to go back in there to fight until you either come out stronger than whatever resides in that hell of a city or until you lie dead and cut apart within but tell me that place doesn’t hold any secrets. Anything you can’t crack open with those fists of yours. You’re not one to invest in such skills, to learn about enchantments that could even stop those three monsters we saw in there if enough mana crystals were put in place.”
“I spent sixty years living here. If hunting monsters is all you’re here to do then fine. I’ll try to leave but if there’s anything else you’re after. If any of my skills that I honed for half a century can help you then I’ll make sure to make it worth your while.”
Ilea was impressed by his tenacity, the dwarf certainly knew how to make a convincing speech. “I can also show you around the Descent and a couple other dungeons and places you might be interested in. With your abilities you’ll find easier monsters to kill than undead knights. Coupled with my knowledge and skills we’ll be able to get rich, powerful and whatever else you fucking want.”
Terok was desperate, Ilea knew as much. He knew as much. Still, she had liked him before and just because he had fucked up here didn’t immediately change that. She was mad at him, yes but it was a ballsy move. One she might have done as well if she had been desperate and a powerful possible ally had shown up so suddenly. “I’ll think about it.” She said with a mouth full of food. “How long until you have that thing back up and running?”
Ilea pointed at the damaged metal armor sitting like a dead or dying robot at the wall of the cathedral. Terok’s eyes opened wide, “I don’t have my tools… some of the plating is completely gone…,”
Ilea stopped him and turned towards the rig. Its head was smashed in, only cracked glass remaining of the two yellow eyes. There was no indentation, the thing was pretty much flat. Whatever intricate designs had been hidden within were completely unusable. The torso looked alright, the plating he had colored black and red showed silver on several damaged spots. The metal she had given him. Arms and legs were connected with slightly bent but still intact rods, around five for each limb formed the grid to hold the tools openly visible within as well as the hands and feet at the end of each.
Openings in each limb would allow whatever surprises he had stored inside to be used. “You were hit once. In a dungeon. How can you call yourself an explorer if that is what stops you. You want to prove your worth? Get it running again while I kill another knight.”
Terok scratched his unkempt beard and furrowed his brows. The age didn’t show on his face, his one remaining healthy eye looking at the machine and then her. The mechanical one stayed focused on the rig before his big hands clapped together and a big grin showed from within the beard. Perfectly white teeth, Ilea noted. “Alright.” was all he said as he walked past her, Ilea still finishing the meal.
The dwarf, clad in a dark green one piece suit that reminded Ilea a little of a onesie started inspecting the different parts of the machine. Some of it floated away as it came apart, what she now knew to be metal magic acted on the mech suit. Probably how he powers it too. She couldn’t imagine another power source but his mana and metal magic would allow quite a bit of control. Kyrian had some movable and removable pieces in his armor he would sometimes use but his control was not at the extend of controlling the armor itself.
Perhaps the dwarf hadn’t lied about his experience at least. And if he could actually be of use, she wouldn’t deny him. Locations and specific information about more dungeons as well as a way perhaps into the palace would be welcome. Stepping into the dungeon as she finished her meal, Ilea looked up at the sunlight shining down on the town. A part of her wanted to go straight back to fighting the undead knights, their unpredictable attacks and ferocity something fresh after all the methodical knights she had bested in the past months.
The problem was noise. They screamed, shattered walls and their sheer power forced her to move around a lot. It was only a matter of time until a second or even more of them showed up, as proven by her earlier encounter. Ilea could take one down perhaps, after a long time. Still, she had been hit but with time perhaps she would understand their movements better. The chaos she had gleamed in the way they wielded their blades and bodies.
However she obviously lacked the firepower an offensive mage or warrior would have at her level. While their defensive capabilities would leave them dead and broken after a minute against the knight, the could likely dish out just as much damage in a couple attacks as she managed in an hour. Viper’s white fire beam had proven as much, burning even through her resilient body with ease. At least before I got the second stage of Heat Resistance.
Ilea was pretty sure she could hold her own against people her level when it came to damage simply because their defenses were just fucking lousy. The sound mage working with Arthur had died with a couple hits to his head. Here she was fighting monsters nearly twice her level. It was fun of course but she couldn’t help but wish for a little more punching power. I’d just find even stronger opponents and the fights would drag on again. Ilea smiled at the thought as she walked through the city on the lookout for a knight. Maybe Terok was right, maybe she should find enemies that suited her more. In the end she needed monsters with higher levels than herself to increase her power, their defensive capabilities mattered little. It was so much fun to fight them though and now that she had found the undead, a part of her itched to go back.
The mind flayer was a good example for a more suitable enemy. The thing could likely be squished by her very hand while its magic could probably knock out and kill a whole expedition not prepared for mind attacks. With her resistance to its magic, it was an easy thing for Ilea to kill. First Terok has to prove himself, then I’ll ask him if he knows about better enemies. Rounding a corner, she spotted a knight in the distance. A single one patrolling the streets. Would it be fun though? To be done with them in mere minutes? Her buffs activated as she started sprinting towards her next foe, fresh armor on her body as she slipped into a trance like state. Of course it would be, A part of her thought, ash moving around her, ready to hit into the knight.
Standing over the dead knight, this time Ilea didn’t have a scratch. Her ash moving in to help deflect the blows before her Veil took the brunt of the attacks helped tremendously. Plus the knight had been a shield variant, already lacking in offensive potential compared to the dual wielding sort. Storing the corpse and armor, she rushed back to the cathedral. The fight had taken around two hours, the knight finally falling after she had whittled away at its health with Destruction and Wave of Ember.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Knight of the Rose – lvl 281] – For defeating an enemy twenty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
Another knight down, Ilea wondered how many of them even remained. She could still level for a while but another dungeon would become necessary at some point. While the Undead knights were interesting, she doubted she could fight them efficiently. Not yet. Same with Penumra, the beasts grouping up just like the Miststalkers outside at night. If he managed to get his machine back up and running, I’ll be happy to listen to his suggestions. Perhaps the Descent is the next reasonable goal.