Chapter 269 The Inner Circle

Making her way back, Ilea still didn’t know why the creatures had moved where they did. Perhaps they were trying to get away from the Carrier, or they were hunting something. Maybe just patrolling. Who knows what the fuck is behind these creatures. Battle of necromancers… Descent versus Tremor. “Come buy tickets now.” Ilea spoke aloud as she backtracked through the hallways, quickly finding the exit again and looking up.

The three people were still there, hanging a little higher up but apparently still waiting. “It’s safe for now!” Ilea shouted, “None of the fuckers around.” She hadn’t encountered any more noises or movements other than her own and the flickering lights. Austin was the first one to land next to her.

“They didn’t come this way?” He asked, Seath landing next to him before they all moved a couple steps away to allow Baron to jump down.

Ilea looked at his massive form, wondering how he’d take a charge from the Carrier. “Not exactly.” She said but didn’t elaborate. Nobody asked either, the other human back to looking at his map as they walked over the first corpse he had left behind. Ilea had to give him props for telling her about the monsters and their weaknesses even while fleeing. She might have not had the confidence to go after them so quickly otherwise. Any delay could have brought the Carrier upon her during her battle with the Pure Blooded. A good thing that it hadn’t.

Seath gave her a look but didn’t mention anything. They had seen her clean off Baron’s armor with ash before, her now clean get up not an indicator for a lack of battle. “Where are we headed anyway?” Ilea asked, the group walking through the dimly lit corridors, taking a right where Ilea had taken a left earlier. They wouldn’t find what she had left behind. Either way was fine for her.

Austin looked up and pointed forward, “This…this is the inner circle.”

Ilea had no idea what that meant but Baron was apparently taken aback by the mention, “What? Austin are you fucking crazy? We shouldn’t be here, nobody is supposed to be here.” The dwarf kept his voice down, taking a step towards the human.

Austin just put his hands up in a placating gesture, “Look, you really thought this came without risks? I told you it’d be dangerous.”

“This is suicide! There’s not just Pure Blooded here, you know that. If any of them find us we’re history, even with her here.” Baron said, pointing at Ilea.

She raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment on it. Are they talking about the Blood Carrier I literally just killed. “What are you talking about? I’ve never been here.”

Seath informed her while the others tensely stared at each other, “The fourth layer, the Heroes’ Descent is a city… well it was at some point, now creatures like the one Austin killed earlier run around here and make it a nightmare to safely navigate it. Compared to the higher layers, you’ll find a lot of useful things here though. Problem is, there’s a lot of closed off sections, enchantments and traps still in place against anybody that might open it.”

“We know the layout of the city, there were plenty of maps and the previous residents had been somewhat open about their beliefs and what they were doing here.”

Ilea knew some of this already, “They were still alive?”

“No, well if you don’t count whatever these creatures are as alive. Plenty of statues, notice boards and even books all written in standard remained. Still do. The inner circle is where nobody manage to get into yet, even after all this time. It’s the heart of the red church, at least that is believed.”

Ilea nodded, though the impact of the information on her was much more subdued than how Baron had reacted. If the Carrier was one of the most dangerous creatures here, then it wasn’t quite comparable to Tremor, where Kingdguard and Soul Rippers roamed the place. She wasn’t about to share any of that. “Well we’re here now, where’s the treasure. What is it even?” Ilea asked.

Austin continued down one of the corridors, ignoring her question. He doesn’t know, does he. They passed a lot of hallways, Austin occasionally choosing one of them but Ilea was already lost in the maze. The place was pretty big. She’d find her way out eventually but fining this group at least saved her some time.

“That’s not supposed to be here…,” Austin murmured, the group standing before a closed off gate. Ilea could tell there were enchantments in place, feeling the thrum of mana coming from the door. Metal set in stone, the color the same light gray as the rest of the complex.

“Can you crack it?” Baron asked.

“Probably but I need a while.” The ranger replied.

“Why are we walking so far away?” Baron asked. An hour had passed since they had reached the closed off gate.

Ilea saw Seath smirking, Austin taking out an arrow and aiming at the distant door. “Blast radius.” He said and loosed the projectile. Ilea snorted before an explosion racked through the surroundings, screeches of monsters barely audible from farther away. “We’ll wait for an hour or two until they left again.”

Ilea was already walking towards the metal door, now left in shambles. Fires were blazing all around, some of the carpets lit up entirely. She simply walked through the flames, her Heat Resistance and Veil making the exposure trivial. She ignored the confused noises coming from behind her. None of them actually shouted, likely scared of the monsters that might hear them. The hall beyond the door had dozens of benches lined up and a centered altar at the end of it. On it was a grotesque monster that looked a little like a praying dog. The head however was pretty much unrecognizable, a combination of features Ilea couldn’t quite place.

The room was high, at least ten meters, no windows but paintings on the walls depicting different scenes, mostly centered around fighting or killing. The benches were wooden and in a rather good state, likely neither touched or seen in quite a long time if the others was to be believed. No magical lights illuminated the room, fiery bits and pieces on the floor had instead started setting some of the benches aflame as well as some of the paintings on the walls. Ilea made no move to quench the fire.

Hearing noises coming from behind her, her ashen spheres spread out around her and her buffs activated as she cracked her neck. “Welcome.” Ilea simply stated and observed the creatures rushing through the flames, briefly shrieking as the fire flickered over their bleeding bodies. She identified them as Pure Blooded only, engaging the first one as soon as it had entered the hall. Her ash enveloped them, the fire an additional factor to disorient them.

Taking care of them much the same as the last group, she found it even easier because the hall gave her much more room to navigate. For monsters above level two fifty, they were certainly the easiest for her to kill so far. Might want to stay here for a while.

ding’ ‘You have defeated [Pure Blooded – lvl 261]’

‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Pure Blooded – lvl 302] – For defeating an enemy forty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’

There had been seven of them but her ash did the same job as before and the beasts weren’t smart enough to get distance or even flee when gravely injured. Their bladed arms had cut through the ash but not a single one of them had landed a blow on her. Ilea had fought within a sea of Taleen Guardians. While they had been considerably slower and less powerful, she had been as well. Plus they had six blades each and ranged variants as well. Without a trick up their sleeves, the Pure Blooded would not pose a threat to her.

No level up as most of them had been considerably below three hundred. Ilea condensed her ash again, moving it into spheres behind her back, along the eight limbs that were constantly hovering there. One of the limbs lashed out, the dense and sharpened tip cutting repeatedly into one of the corpses before she finally managed to get through the shoulder joint, severing one of the bladed arms. Taking it, she looked at the bone, blood still dripping off of it before she noticed the glistening and sharp end of the weapon.

[Pure Blooded Venom – Danger Medium]

Ilea didn’t know what exactly medium entailed but it couldn’t be too bad and she was pretty sure the group wouldn’t immediately rush towards her, the smoldering flames probably enough to prevent that. Stashing away a part of her armor, Ilea smashed the blade into her thigh. It penetrated easily, her strength combined with the apparent quality of the bone enough to get through her thick skin.

ding’ ‘You have been poisoned by Pure Blooded Venom -50 HP/s for thirty seconds’

Reasonable…, Ilea thought and started healing. The effect would wear off quickly. She made her way around the room, the wound in her leg already healed and covered again by armor. Cutting off a bunch of the creature’s arms, she collected all fourteen and stored them in her necklace. For later poison resistance training. All of them combined only took up two storage units, even though they were separate things. Her necklace must have determined them similar enough to somehow stack them.

Should go back and get the others as well…, Ilea thought, remembering the Pure Blooded she had killed already. Then again the bones could likely be used several times and this group was hardly the last one she would face. Flicking the statue of the dog like creature, she grinned and looked around. There were some doors leading further in and she chose the one that didn’t lead downwards. Austin had the map but she didn’t really care about it. The thing had been somewhat vague, neither mentioning monsters or enchantments like the one this hall had, simply stating which corridors to take.

One of the rooms had stairs leading further down in a spiraling manner, further than Ilea’s sphere reached. The other was just a small room. The door was metal as well and locked. Kicking at the door, the thing was unhinged and smashed into the opposite wall, coming to a stop in a crash. Weak fucking locks. Ilea noted as she walked in, happy to find the door hadn’t damaged anything. Not that there was much other than the altar in the middle of the room, a metal square with cuffs to hold a person or whatever the fuck these people put here.

The floor was clean but worn. Ilea had her theories, the most likely one involving a lot of scrubbing of blood. “Fucking nutters.” She murmured to herself, checking out some of the saws, blades and drill like tools on the opposite wall. Austin entered the room when she was playing with one of them.She looked him in the eyes and turned it, making the drill bit twirl, “This was used on the male genitals.”

The man gulped, looking at her as composed as he could before checking out the room, “I’m joking. No idea what the fuck this is.” Ilea added and threw the thing at him, “There’s stairs leading down.”

He was left standing in what she assumed to be either a torture chamber or an experimentation room. Fun dungeon for the very extreme masochists with healing abilities. She wasn’t one to judge but somehow it felt more likely that the people here weren’t quite that modern and enlightened. Ilea had the necessary abilities but pain didn’t summon a sexual response in her, more a violent one. All the creatures she had ripped apart spoke for themselves.

Baron and Seath looked at her in a new light it seemed, seeing the torn apart Pure Blooded scattered around the room, the fire died down and leaving behind scorched benches and ruined paintings. Ilea had her ideas about them when she saw them running from the roaches but even being level two hundred, they were made from a different material than members of the Hand. She remembered them fighting in the outskirts of Ravenhall, each and everyone of them battling for hours, hardened and unwavering. The group here wasn’t that. While at the level, except for Seath, they were scavengers, treasure hunters and looters. Not primarily fighters.

Austin returned from the room and motioned for them to follow, “It’s the other way then.” The others followed in silence, the mood a little subdued having seen the corpses. The mention of the inner circle must have had more of an impact than Ilea initially thought. Or seeing the number of enemies. At least they knew it would be hard to continue without her there. The stairwell was long, winding down into the depths of the fourth layer. Ilea couldn’t sense any hallways beyond after a while, the group now already walking for twenty minutes.

When they finally came out, it was onto a viewing platform overlooking a pit around forty meters down. In the middle of it, prowling, was a Pure Blooded. Bigger than any Ilea had seen so far. It didn’t seem to spot them up there or there was magic in place that prevented it to see. “Displaying their creation…,” Baron commented, Ilea giving him a side glance. The hall was around twenty meters wide and there was an exit at the other end of it, around a hundred meters back. All of it the same light gray stone as the rest of the hallways. Corpses littered the place, both obviously Pure Blooded as well as skeletons that looked human.

“Here lies the path to salvation. The will necessary to break into the depths beyond.” Baron said, reading from the plaque added to the big balcony. Ilea rolled her eyes.

“So we fight that thing and go on?” She asked, all three of them staring at her.

“No, we turn around and leave. That’s an Old Blooded. It’s not even comparable to the Pure Blooded, not that they don’t pose any danger. Austin’s map might have brought us to an interesting place but it’s simply too dangerous for us to continue.” Baron said, his huge metal arms crossed.

Austin held up his hands, “Hey, let’s wait a minute here. Ilea was it? They shouldn’t be above level four hundred. Maybe if we give you support from up here you can fight it?”

Seath was about to interfere when Ilea shrugged, “I can check it out at least. With her music and your arrows it might be fine, depending on what the thing can do.”

Looking at the beast, it had the same two bladed arms and two legs but stood much higher at around four meters.No joins were discernible from the distance. Its head was just a mass of flesh, eyes looking out from in between. Someone fucked with shit they didn’t understand. Ilea sighed, “Alright. I hope you know that if you try to kill me off here that I will ignore that thing and rip you three apart.” She said seriously, giving each of them a quick glance.

Seath gulped and Austin didn’t have his smirk on either. “We could also try to bypass it. Do you guys have teleportation magic?”

Austin shook his head, both Seath and Baron answered in the negative as well. Ilea blinked her eyes twice. Really? She couldn’t fault them of course, skills showed up pretty much at random after all but perhaps they should leave the exploration business to people that could circumvent obstacles like these. Trian and Eve would be in and out of this place without as much as alerting the thing. Terok and Elfie were likely the same. The dwarf really must have been unlucky if his abilities led him into debt while these guys seem alright.

“Intervene only when I say so. The thing doesn’t seem to see you here. Seath can you heal and buff at that distance?” Ilea asked.

The cat nodded, “I… I can’t… only at twenty meters.”

Ilea thought about asking her to come down with her but if she had to worry about anybody else it could be a problem, “Then just Austin’s arrows. Again, only when I ask for it and don’t try to join in when it looks like the beast is about to die. If it rips me apart completely I’d appreciate you distracting it. Twenty gold for each if you do that instead of running. Again, only if it completely splatters me and I’m not moving anymore.”

Before any questions could arise, Ilea jumped down. Wings spread as she slowly advanced on the creature. As soon as she was around thirty meters away, it jerked up and jumped off the ground. It was faster than the Pure Blooded but not quite as quick as the Carrier. Twirling in the air and flying towards the ground, Ilea avoided its bone blades and landed on the stone floor. A bone cracked under her armored boot as she prepared to engage.

[Old Blooded – lvl ??]

Smiling at the lack of three question marks, Ilea’s ash fanned out right when the creature entered her Sphere again. Her wings taking her silently to the side, she noted the monster kept its focus on her. Ash falling to the ground, Ilea dodged the bladed arm that came at her much faster than Rose knight’s blade. The beast was wild, cutting into the ground when she dodged sideways, the second blade too quick for her to avoid as she blinked away. Meditation spread through her, Ilea anticipating this to be a longer fight.


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