Chapter 260 Survival
A blink brought her close to the two critters, smashing the head of the one closer to her, crouching low to use its small frame as a shield against the second one charging lightning further back. The Reaper tried to get away but wasn’t quick enough to escape her grasp. Several walls of ash formed to intercept the lightning bolt that nonetheless broke through, damaging both the beast Ilea held on to as well as spreading over her Veil, some of the blast burning through her skin and muscles beneath. Another leg broke before she let go of the charged monster, blinking this time to the critter lagging behind. Its second leg broke, Ilea continuously healing herself, this time hanging on to the creature until its carapace cracked. One lightning bolt was evaded by her simply moving with the Reaper held by its broken limb.
The creature screeched as it was smashed into the wall, another two hits finally breaking through and killing it. Ilea had no time to rest, two of the monsters still enough to challenge her defenses and now that it was already severely weakened, her health below half and her healing fighting hard against the continuous assault, she was forced to take a step back again.
Checking quickly, she found no level up from the kill. Her recovery brought back health about as quickly as one of the critters could take with their mind magic alone. Both numbers completely ridiculous to her. How such a powerful critter hadn’t taken over this whole area was a mystery to her. They hadn’t shown a high level of intelligence, likely no desire to colonize the world with their monstrous offensive power. Good for us humans and other species.
Feeling somewhat confident that she’d at least not die, she blinked back and faced the injured monster lagging a little behind. The only reason the speed difference of a broken leg made a difference was the fact that the bends in the tunnels let her avoid the lightning strikes of the ones a little ahead. If they had been intelligent, the beast would’ve stuck together at all times. Perhaps even hugging each other so that their defensive lightning could stack against her. A second leg broke and then a third before the healthy enemy had finally reached her again. Not stopping, Ilea smashed downwards, once, twice and finally cracking the shell.
Ignoring the damage her body had sustained from the continuous lightning, she grit her teeth and blinked to the last bug, grabbing it by one leg and smashing it into the wall. Her fists lashed out and delivered whatever she could into the small monster insect. Ashen limbs moved behind her, all eight bashing into the armored carapace as her health slowly drained, her body burnt up by lightning. Meditation and her healing were the only things keeping her conscious, standing and attacking. At some point Ilea realized she was kneeling on the ground, her arms limp to her side. She felt neither of them, a big part of her brain fried up. Her healing was still active, reporting the disastrous condition her human body was in.
All her senses didn’t report much anymore, her Sphere the only thing that gave her a picture of her surroundings. Ashen limbs still moved out from her back, smashing into the creature that still struggled against her attacks. She knew she could blink away, away to safety, some part of her mind wanted to get away, wanted to get out to find sunlight, to rest. To sleep. Ilea didn’t stop, her attacks not letting up. She couldn’t move her limbs but the ash followed her simple command, to destroy, to maim and to kill. With a final crunch, her ash broke through and the Reaper stopped struggling. Several notifications popped up in her mind but Ilea remained kneeling, ash whirling around her as it formed a protective cocoon.
Her brain wasn’t working properly anymore, the organ too damaged to form complex thoughts. Her healing skill didn’t stop, mending her mind and brain, now unimpeded by enemy magic. Her ash lazily floated around her, Ilea’s last wish fulfilled and now without an enemy to destroy it instead sought to protect. A minute passed and then two, clarity coming back to her as her healing moved on from her mind to her organs and then the rest of her body. Soon her health started to rise, the bleeding and burns not preventing so any further.
A cackling resounded in the dark tunnel, followed by wild coughing and the wet sound of blood hitting the floor. The dull light of Ilea’s Form of Ash and Ember lit up her immediate surroundings, her helmet taken off and cast aside. Perhaps it wasn’t wise to start laughing so close to the Reaper’s nest but Ilea didn’t care. In the situation to either flee and survive or destroy, she had chosen the latter, trusting in her healing to keep her alive and in her ash to kill her enemy. Ilea knew the decision had been unnecessarily risky but she had taken it nonetheless. If she failed against something minor like this, how would she ever face a Praetorian, a kingsguard or even an undead knight. To gain power she had to take risks, had to push herself, more and more. Because she knew her body could take it, knew her mind could take it.
Ilea knew she would prevail. Because she knew she had prevailed against the Drake. Against all odds she had survived, had eaten the Bluemoon Grass and had survived. Had seed the elves and had escaped, had faced the Praetorians and had survived. Maybe she had not fought and won but she had survived. And she would continue to do so. Even if her mind had cracked, her ash had failed. Until her last ounce of mana was depleted and her body shredded to its last cell, she knew she would survive. That was who she was, what she had become. She would seek stronger enemies to fight, seek to advance. For herself. To face and destroy the horrors of this world. To protect those she held dear and to experience true freedom. Neither restricted by the wild and unpredictable nature of Elos, nor by the organizations and machinations of its denizens.
Her laughter ended in a scream, ash spreading out and cutting into the stone walls. Clicking sounds soon could be heard and Ilea grabbed her helmet before getting up. Her black hair flowed over her shoulders, blue eyes staring into the dark as lines of cinder shined on. She put her helmet on and stored the three corpses, blinking away a moment later. Ilea was silent during the short journey back, only allowing herself to breathe when she ascended through the small corridor.
Coming out on top, she was greeted by the dark one who had guarded this entrance the last times she had traveled through. Landing on her feet, she stepped back and slid off the wall. A deep sigh left her as she closed her eyes, legs sprawling before her. The guard didn’t speak, stoically remaining in the middle of his dedicated wall, sword at the ready and head focused on the entrance. Ilea wasn’t quite ready yet to walk through the bar. Instead, she checked if indeed she had reached her short term goal.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Blue Reaper – lvl 321] – For defeating an enemy sixty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Blue Reaper – lvl 392] – For defeating an enemy one hundred and thirty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Blue Reaper – lvl 330] – For defeating an enemy ninety or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 260 – Five stat points awarded. One third tier skill point awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 253 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Ash Creation reaches 3rd lvl 3’
‘ding’ ‘Ash and Ember Manipulation reaches 3rd lvl 3’
‘ding’ ‘Ashen Wings reaches 2nd lvl 19’
Checking out the third tier menu, Ilea didn’t have to think very long to make a decision.
‘3rd tier skill points available [Azarinth First Hunter]: 1’
‘Skills available for third tier advancement in [Azarinth First Hunter]:’
- Hunter Recovery
- Azarinth Hunter Sphere
- Azarinth Fighting
- Azarinth Perception
- Azarinth Reversal
At least a bunch of her skills were now available to be upgraded but one had again just saved her life. More offensive potential was definitely a good thing and she didn’t doubt the third tier of Destruction had played a vital role in both her fights with the knights as well as the Blue Reapers. Still, seeing her body ripped through and burnt, her brain barely functioning, she selected her only recovery spell. The reason she had come so far, the reason she could survive even when she had been beaten to a literal pulp.
‘ding’ ‘Hunter Recovery advances to the 3rd tier’
Active: Hunter Recovery – 3rd lvl 1:
Send a healing pulse of mana into yourself or your ally with a touch. This skill can be channeled. The effects on your own body are vastly improved.
2nd stage: Your control is increased greatly, you can now focus your healing on specific parts of the body. As long as mana and health remain, your Hunter Recovery will restore your body. Lose your head and see for yourself!
3rd stage: You have healed your body time and time again, knowing every cell and where it belongs. Sacrifice a large amount of mana to rush your healing to unprecedented speeds. Lack of knowledge about your body may result in heavy damage.
Reading through the notification, Ilea sighed and closed it again. She’d have to test it later but it sounded good enough. Right what she would have needed against the enemies in her last battle. Her mana had never dipped far, the fights short and nasty. Against the knights it wouldn’t help much but there she had never really taken much damage anyway. Other than the leg against the Kingsguard.
Two sixty reached, Ilea quickly stopped by the Hunter’s Den to sell the eight reaper corpses she had from her hunt. Catelyn mentioned the the price would go down the next time she would try to sell any, saying her needs for the materials were met. The eyes, she said, Ilea could bring whenever she felt like it.
Her journey back to the Tremor dungeon went without any trouble. It was day and Ilea was quite glad to see the sun after a week, maybe two down in the tunnels. The ten stat points she had gained from the recent level ups were spent on Wisdom, the new third tier of her healing spell having brought additional use to a higher mana pool.
Ilea waited out several arcane storms before she rushed up, slipping in through the small entrance between rocks on top of the mountain. Flying down to the cathedral overlooking the big city below, she soon picked up two familiar voices, a grin weaseling its way onto her face as she landed softly in the middle of the hall.
“And I tell you it’s not going to work. The enchantments are directly powered, if you overcharge them they’ll simply snap back into place. We’re not talking about some old shit ruin back in the Navali forest. You lot don’t even explore dungeons, don’t try to teach me about my craft elf.” Terok spoke, obviously irritated as he looked up from the design plans of something that looked like a key.
The elf Ilea had met in the Tremor dungeon was hissing next to the dwarf, one of the chairs cut in two by his barrier magic before he grunted, “Watch your tone dwarf!”
Terok just laughed, patting the elf on his back hard enough to get a yelp out of him, “We’ve been through this. If you kill me you’re stuck with her and she’d not likely to get in there for another hundred years.” He said and smiled at Ilea, winking after he had finished. “Speak of the demon spawn.”
Ilea joined them on the other side of the table and looked at the plan, “The gentlemen have met each other I see? You’re underestimating me if you think I’ll need a hundred years.” Ilea said with a smile, her helmet vanishing.
“Gods what did you do to your face!?” Terok exclaimed, taking a step back.
I forgot to clean myself didn’t I? Ilea thought and shrouded herself in ash before she stored her armor and scratched off all the grime remaining. Mostly her own splattered skin, blood and occasional organs. A fresh set of armor back on, the ash parted and revealed her now clean smile, brushed by ash.
“You have grown in power again. As much as I’d like to agree with the dwarf, you’ll be destroying those barriers in less than a decade.” He snorted, “Or you’ll end up as paste somewhere along the way.”
Ilea took a chair and sat down, “Paste isn’t quite enough to kill me.” She commented offhandedly before summoning three restaurant meals from Ravenhall, two of them moved to the table by ashen limbs.
Terok smiled and took the plate, grabbing a spoon out of his robot suit that stood a couple meters away, “Cheers lassie, you really are a saint.”
Ilea just rolled her eyes, she knew she was too nice to the dwarf but somehow she couldn’t help it. It will be my downfall. The elf looked at the steaming food but didn’t touch it, “Too high and mighty to accept a gift of food? Or do you only eat human flesh?”
“You won’t get information for this.” He simply stated, his gray eyes looking at her, a stark contrast to his flaming red hair. Ilea smiled at the comical look, the elf reminding her of a cosplayer’s rendition of Dracula, especially with his long black coat and the sharp teeth. His height compared to the dwarf happily eating his food on the small stool made her crack a smile. “What’s funny human?” He hissed, claws moving out from his hands a little.
“It’s a gift, you should listen. Not that I think your information is worth a lot at this point. I expected more out of a legendary elf.” She said, her smile not waning as she ate from her plate.
He sat down as well, the plate floating towards him before he sniffed on it. A beautifully crafted silver fork appeared in his hand before he pierced the fish, eating a piece of it. “Nobody said I was a legendary elf.” He stated, Ilea almost disappointed at the lack of bite in his voice, “More of our kind should pick up cooking.”
Still didn’t thank me, Ilea noted. “So you explored the palace?” She asked, looking at the dwarf.
He smiled, “Aye, managed to not alert the Kingsguard. As dangerous as they are, they’re not the brightest. Enchantments on the doors are something else. Barely ever seen anything as intricate.”
“You can’t get in?” Ilea asked but he just waved her off.
Taking another bite, he spoke with a full mouth, “It wouldn’t be an issue. A week, two maybe but they’re directly powered by the same source that controls the knights. At least the ones sane enough to patrol and walk around.”
“Why is that a problem?” She asked, the elf already putting down the plate, a white cloth summoned to clean his mouth. He really IS Dracula.
Terok looked at the elf too, chuckling a little at the sight. Ilea was surprised with how little regard he had talked to the ancient being. Perhaps dwarves had a different opinion on the species than most humans she had met. “That’s what I’ve been trying to explain to him for the past hour. With a direct source as powerful as whatever is hidden within the central door of the palace cellars, we can’t just blow through and overcharge it. I’ll have to actually crack the lock which takes time. Normally I don’t have that but in this scenario I can just go in and work on it for however long I want to. The knights don’t hear me anyway but they don’t react to me putting up noise canceling enchantments either.”
Ilea listened and nodded, “Can’t we blow through by force if you can cancel out the noise?”
“Worth a shot, surely. I’d like to try the conventional and safer way first. With how intricate everything is set up down there I doubt there are no traps and counter measures in place should we go that route. It’s your call of course, you’re the boss.” Terok explained.
Ilea shrugged, “Take your time. I’ve got enough stuff to do. Maybe we don’t want to find out what’s in there either. If it’s some undead necromancer ready to smite us…,”
“Then we run.” Terok said and laughed, “With whatever we can hold under our arms.”
Ilea laughed as well, “True that. Just wait with going in until I’m here. If I return to find empty storerooms I’ll hunt you down and rip your sweet robot to shreds.”
“I’ll wait. But only because your storage item can hold more than my hands.” He grumbled.
Ilea just shook her head and finished her meal. Not sending the dwarf away had been the right decision after all. “He didn’t try to kill you immediately?”
Terok chuckled and looked at the elf, “He certainly made big eyes when I strolled out of there. Got your name out before he could squash me.”
“He didn’t know my name.” Ilea said, the dwarf’s eyebrows rising, an apology already coming up when she stopped him, “It’s fine. Elfie, my name is Ilea.”
“I don’t feel the need to share my name.” He said. Before she could react he summoned a book and held it out towards her, “I will however share this with you. The deciphered and translated recordings of guard captain Reyker, servant of king Invalar of Tremor, capital city of Rhyvor.”