Chapter 270 Two Monsters
The feint coming too quickly, Ilea was blown backwards. The bone had dented her armor but didn’t manage to break through, slowed sufficiently by her Veil and the ash that had fanned out before her. Healing spread through her, the damaged tissue healing quickly as she rolled away from the bone biting down into the stone. A kick sent her flying again, Ilea twirling in the air before she landed on her feet, avoiding the next attack, her fist punching hard into the beast’s abdomen. Her ashen limbs targeted its left shoulder, cutting into it without abandon, delivering Wave of Ember whenever making contact.
Its second arm hacked at her from above, Ilea taking a casual step to the right, the blade scratching on her Veil as she delivered another two punches to its chest. She blinked behind it when the creature tried to knee her. A hard punch to its spine was all she managed before it twirled around, Ilea back flipping to avoid the horizontal attack. It was upon her before she even landed, her wings forming and taking her a couple meters further back to avoid another slash before she moved in again, a smile on her face.
Austin looked on as the woman battled the nightmarish creature, his face blanching while he barely held on to the arrow notched on his bow. She had helped them out, saved them even, without asking for anything in return but them to lead her further down into the Descent. Now he knew she didn’t need anything they could even offer. Scavengers were usually the only ones occupying Hallowfort and the Descent, ready to explore and make money but the fighters were few and far in between.
He had heard of them of course, had even seen some of them spar but he wasn’t exactly incapable either. Fighting against another man or dark one in a mock battle was one thing though, battling the monstrous creatures lurking down below was something else entirely. He hadn’t lied to her, had not dared to. The thing wasn’t above level four hundred as far as he knew but even the Pure Blooded were too dangerous to face in groups. She hadn’t mentioned taking whatever treasure was at the end for herself and the fact that she helped them out made him think she wouldn’t just murder them.
Still, he was afraid. More than he had been in quite a while. Perhaps as much as when the expedition had been slaughtered by Feynor, his ass rescued by a group of dark ones that hunted the dragon worshipers. The north was scary for sure, especially when you knew jack shit about it but with a bit of ingenuity and proper preparation, one could delve to the fourth level of the Descent without much problems. This one had been rushed, he knew as much but there were few options that remained for him after all.
Baron the idiot had of course not been able to resist when he saw the map and Seath was a loyal teammate for a while now. His hand shook a little when Ilea was thrown at the wall, the blow somehow not penetrating her armor. Austin was sure he would be cut through cleanly if a single attack from the beast landed. Baron could withstand for a while but even as a group the thing would most certainly overwhelm them. He breathed out when Ilea disappeared from the cracked wall and punched at the monster’s back. It was learning too, not as stupid as the smaller variants that would walk into the same traps over and over again.
Austin knew a couple of people who got quite a bunch of levels just hunting them down. Some died when encountering the thing he was looking at in this very moment. It was becoming more cautious, respecting Ilea as an enemy to be taken seriously. He couldn’t read her level but she couldn’t be above three hundred. Austin firmly believed that was a threshold humans couldn’t cross. While the beast was becoming more and more defensive, Ilea went on the offensive instead, the black limbs coming out of her back slashing at the thing. He was pretty sure they weren’t penetrating at all or not very deeply but she still continued.
Perhaps it was a spell or just as a distraction to get in her punches more quickly. Baron and Seath looked on from either side of him, neither making a noise, scared they could alert the thing of their presence. Austin wasn’t quite sure if the thing was the Old Blooded or the human warrior appearing and disappearing, matching the monster’s step as if she was one herself. He couldn’t help but smirk a little. Shadow. The single word in his mind. The black armor something that had faded from his memories in his years in the North but he remembered avoiding the mercenaries whenever possible, always fearing they had been hired to apprehend or kill him.
The warriors humanity had to offer, not quite made from the same material as everybody else. Austin had reached the necessary level to join while being in the north but that was not his path. Not when there was so much to be found and gained here. His way of fighting and thinking wasn’t quite fitting either. The pay is shit too. He watched in awe as Ilea avoided the flurry of attacks with sure steps, neither tripping or inconvenienced by the corpses, bones and rubble in the hall nor by the dim light that shined on from above.
He had no idea how long they had been fighting already but it was definitely too long for anyone to reasonably hold concentration. Austin was pretty sure Ilea hadn’t messed up a single time, each hit she took unavoidable and a result of the beast’s sheer prowess and high level. They both learned in the fight, each step and attack calculated and executed with near perfection. The only way he could follow were his perception skills that enhanced his eyesight. His arrow was ready in case she needed it. At this point it wasn’t a question of betraying her or not, more one of not angering her. If she managed to bring them to the treasure mentioned in the map and the records he had stolen from Krentin, she was truly a blessing brought in the most desperate of times.
Ilea finally got through, her ashen limbs cutting enough tissue to damage the integrity of the monster’s right arm. Now it was only a matter of time. The thing had grown more apprehensive, more responsive than initiating as the fight had gone on. Now its right arm was sluggish, Ilea immediately focusing on that side while the monster tried to keep her at its center. It was still moving a little faster than her but avoiding the slowed attacks was much easier for her. With each hit the arm took, the beast would slow down.
It didn’t seem to feel pain or cared much for its own survival. Ilea’s ash cut through and the arm came loose, the joint where the bones had been connected cut through before the thing flew off and joined the graveyard around the two fighters. Ilea breathed out, taking a couple steps back as the beast screeched, anger and irritation showing in some of the eyes on its head, others remained unmoved, some uncaring since the start of their battle.
Blood dripped to the ground, the monster mostly comprised of muscle moved. Bones crushed below its massive deformed feet, now a single bladed arm attacking Ilea. Stepping back and avoiding the slash, Ilea focused her ashen limbs on the open wound on its shoulder, delivering more and more of her mana into the thing. Blinking away from a kick that came just a little too quickly, she breathed out and let meditation flow through her. Cocking her head to the side, she watched the beast slowly turn and fall down. Blood continued to seep onto the floor from the massive wound. She waited for a minute and then two, mana continuously recovering before finally she heard the notification in her mind.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Old Blooded – lvl 362] – For defeating an enemy one hundred or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 262 – Five Stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 255 – Five Stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Veil of Ash reaches 3rd lvl 5’
Ilea put her points into Wisdom again, bringing it to six forty. The group of treasure hunters jumped down then, Ilea walking to the arm she had cut off from the beast. The thing hadn’t managed to get through to her skin even once, mostly just bludgeoning with its massive bone blades.
[Old Blooded Venom – High Danger]
She put it into her necklace and went back to the corpse. Ashen limbs started to cut into it while she checked her armor. There were dents to be sure but she didn’t feel like replacing it already. Ilea was down to four usable sets of rose hunter armor and this one still had a helmet that was fine so she stuck with it for now. “That was very impressive.” Baron said as he stepped up and summoned a bladed extension to one of his arms, adding it to the massive thing, “May I?”
Ilea stepped away from the corpse and nodded, the huge thing coming down and cutting into the arm. She grinned when he didn’t manage to get through with a single hit, not a second and third either. “You were ridiculous, do you need healing?” Seath asked but Ilea waved her off.
“I’m alright. Thanks.” She said, Baron cursing as he continued to smash his bladed arm into the corpse, blood spraying around as Ilea lifted an ashen barrier to stop it. Austin rolled his map and started checking through the hall, looking at the bones and corpses.
“There’s like fifty of them here…,” He commented, kicking one of the Pure Blooded.
Ilea turned to him when Baron finally managed to cut through, “Do they fight each other?”
“Who else would’ve taken all of these out… I always ran when I encountered any of the bigger ones. Some people say they fight each other, others say they don’t. Never seen it myself.” Austin answered her question.
Ilea nodded to Baron and made the arm vanish into her necklace. It had the same ‘High Danger’ warning as the other one and she wasn’t about to test the effects while the group was close by.
“Want the rest of the corpse too?” Baron asked. Ilea thought about it for a moment, maybe for the necromancers or Elfie. Looking at the assortment of eyes, she decided against it.
“I’d rather burn it all. Can you do that Austin?”
The man snorted, “Nah, I can splatter them more if you like.”
Ilea didn’t have Elfie’s fire cube, otherwise she would’ve built a pyre quickly. As it stood, they would leave the hall full of corpses. “Can we move on, the smell is fucking disgusting.” Seath commented.
Austin shrugged and motioned to the exit on the other side of the hall, a metal double door set in stone. Ilea let Baron take care of it, the dwarf smashing the thing open with a punch when he had found it was locked. His floodlight flickered on and illuminated the dark corridor beyond. “Wait.” Austin said and threw in a piece of stone.
The thing rolled before it was set aflame. The group watched the fire die out a moment later, Seath looking sideways at Ilea, “Can we not burn the corpses? The scent is already killing me.”
Ilea looked over and smiled, taking a step into the hallway. “We can deactivate them one after the other.”
Ilea just shrugged, knowing that if anything managed to kill her outright her perception would slow down. Poisons would likely not manage to finish the job either with her healing and high resistance. Checking the mechanisms and plates connected to the walls, Ilea found all of them the same fire breathing ones they had set off with the stone. There were darts and smooth spears set in the last couple meters of the hallway, beyond another set of doors. Stepping in, fire enveloped her, her Heat Resistance, armor, Veil and healing easily powering through the flames that didn’t even come close to the green ones she had encountered in her first Taleen Dungeon.
“Are you alright!?” Baron shouted down the hallway.
Ilea turned slightly and gave a thumbs up. “She’s alright.” Austin said, likely having seen it through the flames.
Why always fire? Ilea wondered as she walked through, her mana rising thanks to meditation, even while walking through the traps. The last set of spears and darts she avoided, smashing the walls with a couple punches and taking out the projectiles before checking them with her Poison Resistance.
[Blood Poison – High Danger]
Blood blood blood blood, what is it with this place. The spears were simple steel without any poison on them. The mechanisms to fire them were somewhat complicated though, likely creating enough force to punch through quite a formidable defense. Ilea didn’t test it out, instead just smashing the walls. Some of the spears fired anyway, the things constructed in a way to loose them in case of damage or tremors. The things rushed past, one down the hallway but the angle would prevent it from hitting anybody. Ilea couldn’t see through the doors at the end with her sphere so instead walked back again, smashing all the fire creating traps in the process. Most of them were just steel tubes set in the walls with small mana crystals at the end, powering the enchantment placed on a metal plate. The lack of a powerful mana source would make these traps work maybe five to ten times, depending on how long they fired. Ilea remembered the Taleen traps never had a source of mana crystals. The crafty fuckers.
Destroying the last trap, she walked out and found the spear that had shot down the hallway stuck on the side of it, just a meter away from the waiting Austin. “Was that on purpose?” He asked, smirking at her.
Ilea rolled her eyes, “Doors have enchantments on them.” She simply said and led the group down the corridor. Seath looked at the destroyed walls, cracks and whole sections broken in. The cat lady gulped as she looked at Ilea’s back who observed it all through her sphere.
Austin checked for a while before sighing, “Seems like a hardening, perception barrier and some triggers for something. No idea what.”
“Can you disable single ones? I can check behind if you disable the perception barrier.” Ilea suggested.
He held up a finger and smiled, “Awesome. Sure I can try. That will take a while though.”
“How long?” Ilea asked and he held up five fingers. “Five hours?”
“Minutes.” He said and smiled.
Ilea looked at Baron who was filling nearly the whole corridor. They were lucky the dwarf hadn’t gotten stuck so far. “And why exactly is this place so unreachable if he can crack an enchantment in five minutes?”
“You did battle that monster right? And walked through the traps as if you didn’t even notice them.” Baron replied, “Not all enchantments are made the same. No idea why he can crack these so easily.”
“Because they’re old as fuck. The ones outside of the inner circle are powered by bigger assortments of mana crystals. Maybe they didn’t expect anybody to reach this far.” Austin commented, cursing right after while fiddling with with the runes scratched into the door.
“There you go.” He said when Ilea felt something in the mana shift. Her sphere suddenly revealed what was in the room behind.
Nice work mate. She thought, seeing the packets below the door, “Something is placed below the door. I’d assume it’s explosive. Or filled with chemicals or something.”
Austin nodded at her suggestion, “Any way we can go around? I don’t think I can disable the triggers without setting them off.”
“The room is pretty wide. I can see cages with skeletons inside, some violently broken open so we might have company inside. We should be able to drill into the wall here.” She said and pointed to the left wall of the hallway. “My punches didn’t set off the triggers so I doubt some drilling will.”
“They’re likely triggered as well if we enter the proximity of the room.” Austin said, “Let’s drill as far as we can then. You tell the big man when to stop.”
Baron was already screwing on the drill bit, “On it, let get that treasure.”
Ilea grinned, “If there is anything else but more monsters trying to kill us.” She waited while Baron prepared. One good necromancer means there’s a bad one in here. Equivalent exchange, yin and yang and all that jazz. She didn’t interfere with the dwarf when he started to drill, the three of them waiting a little to the side. Ilea summoned a meal and made her helmet vanish. They had already seen her use her necklace but also knew what she could do. She doubted the group would try to kill and rob her.
Seath looked at her with big eyes. Ilea sighed and summoned another meal, both of them not prepared by Keyla. “Care to share another one?” Austin asked as he sat down and grinned at her.
Ilea stared at him but didn’t move, the man sighing and getting something out of his small pack. He too started eating. “What’s your story? Joined an expedition as well?” He asked.
She chewed and swallowed, the dish noddles with meatballs and a dark creamy sauce with a note of wine, “I am the expedition.”