Chapter 281 Helping out Strangers

The machine was completely on the defensive already, the fight only having lasted around a minute so far. Ilea was recovering her lost mana, cracking her neck before she blinked right into the Centurion’s range. The spear lashed out, Ilea moving to deflect. Feint. The thought formed and her body moving in response, her Veil and additional ash intercepting the blow as she turned, mitigating most of the force. The weapon glanced off, Ilea tumbling a little before they were both ready again to attack. Contrary to the Centurion, her ashen limbs had continuously smashed into its body, the thing wholly incapably of dodging all the quickly moving limbs in the small room.

“You’ll be toast soon enough.” She commented, another thrust deflected before her fist smashed into its core. Ilea continued her assault, dodging and deflecting the attacks but never overextending. Her limbs were dishing out damage anyway and she knew the thing could still damage her if it got in a clean hit. It was at a similar level as the knights and they could dent her armor pretty badly if they hit cleanly.

Spear dodged, Ilea stomped down on it, crashing the metal into the floor before the machine tried to punch her. She was a little embarrassed that those attacks had hit her previously. This time she simply sidestepped before delivering a hard punch to its center, another one following right after. Feeling the mana gather, she knew the Centurion was about to detonate, the thing trying to grab her with its arms a moment later. She blinked behind it and continued her assault, spreading and forming ash around the two of them as she built wall upon wall of the black element. Each hit she focused on the center, where white light started to form.

Blinking away at the last second, she closed the dome of ash she had formed and crossed her arms in front of her. The blast ripped through her ash and into her Veil, scorching the floor and ceiling, pieces of rock and metal flying past, some into her Veil before she relaxed her stance again. Not even burnt…, The last time she had been left closer to death than she had likely ever been before. Granted the explosion had happened a lot closer than this time. Moving her Veil, the metal splinters and pieces of stone fell to the ground. Ilea noted the shrapnel that dug into the ceiling and stone benches, one table nearly split by what looked like a part of the Centurion’s arm.

ding’ ‘You have defeated [Taleen Centurion – lvl 310] – For defeating an enemy forty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’

ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 257 – Five stat points awarded’

“Big boom.” Terok commented, appearing next to her in the room as he looked around. “Sounded intense. Taleen Centurion. Heard of them but aren’t they super uncommon?”

Ilea shrugged, “Bad luck maybe.” Her main class hadn’t leveled. Most of the fight was likely decided by her ashen limbs anyway, neither healing nor her sphere used much. Destruction played a part but the amount of hits she got in with her Wave of Ember was substantially higher. It would happen soon enough. Another three and I have my next third tier skill point.

She wondered if new skills would be available and which she’d want to chose. Most of her remaining second tier Azarinth First Hunter skills were Body Enhancement spells and she certainly wanted to focus on those for her future advancements. Same went for her Ashen class. Out of her three third tier skills there, two were ashen magic. Don’t want to end up without reasonable Body Enhancement skills.

It was impossible to actually lose skills one had as far as she knew but they could change to better suit the new class evolution. If her Body Enhancement skills changed to Ashen magic, she’d lose the multiplier from her first class. She was of course partially bound by what skills were available at all but she could chose not to advance one or more skills for the time being. Like the ash creator Maro once knew. Putting her five points into Strength, she checked the remains of the Centurions.

“Bad luck?” Terok asked as he stood next to her, “There’s two of them right here.”

“Yea but why didn’t this one explode?” She moved some of the pieces with her ash but couldn’t find what would have been the core of the machine.

Terok shrugged, “Plenty of magic could prevent such a reaction. I assume it’s tied to the machine’s health. Maybe if one managed to get it down quickly enough, the explosion wouldn’t happen?”

She grunted, standing up and looking around the room. “That one has the least ivy growth.” Terok said and pointed towards one of the three hallways leading away from the room.

“And how do you know that through closed doors?”

“Checked while you were contemplating life. Or basking in your insurmountable power.” He said in a mocking tone.

Ilea chuckled, faking a serious tone, “You’re living dangerously dwarf.”

This time he outright laughed, “Your elven voice needs some work lassie. I’ll shut it when there are more enemies nearby.”

The door was opened, the lock picked by Terok before Ilea walked through without another word. Some banter was welcome but Centurions were dangerous enough. Not that anybody would’ve missed the explosion for at least a couple hundred meters, depending on how many doors and enchantments were in the way. The two moved through the corridor, occasionally stumbling upon a skeleton in rotten gear, the dwarf commenting on how long he thought they had been down there and how little the things on them were worth.

Ilea would’ve likely just taken all of it with her but Terok knew his metals. Not as well as Goliath perhaps but she could save some of her necklace space for actual valuables. Another stash of gold would be nice. Can’t come back to Claire empty handed.

“We’re coming up to the surface…,” Terok commented after walking for a while, a big stairwell leading upwards with a smaller one on each side leading down. No torches, statues or anything else adorned the area, only the green light shining down from above. Ilea felt it too, smelled the fresh air coming in.

Taking a step upwards, Ilea blinked back, spears shooting out from the side walls before they impacted the opposite sides. She just rolled her eyes and continued walking, this time more aware of the mechanical parts beneath the stone. Most of the Taleen dungeon was lined with it, gears, pumps as well as traps. It had been a while since she had walked through one, the traps often disguised between the other machines she knew not the purpose they served. The next trap she saw but not wanting to destroy half the stairwell, Ilea simply activated it again.

The spears smashed together and she kept on walking. “These weren’t made for adventurers exploring a dungeon in the north…,” Terok commented, close behind her.

“You’re not the one activating them.” She said with a smirk.

He shrugged, “Hey, if I don’t have to risk scratches on my gear.”

Rolling her eyes, Ilea emerged at the top of the stairwell, the breath caught in her lungs as she looked at the expanding landscape before her. They were on the other side of the mountain, the dungeon cut off as if a bite had been taken out of the structure. The winds were howling past, Terok shielding himself from the force. A couple hundred meters below Ilea could make out what looked like a crater in the land, in it a serpent like animal with our arms, big enough to walk over the walls of Ravenhall. Salamander. She thought but the head didn’t fit, instead what looked like a chameleon crowned the creature’s neck.

“A Behemoth Kalamon…,” Terok commented, the tone in his voice not indicating any concern.

“That thing isn’t dangerous?” Ilea asked, pointing down at the creature.

Terok shrugged, “Well if it moves close enough to you you’re paste. I don’t think they eat living creatures at least. Live and let live. The fact that they don’t hide like their smaller kin makes me think there are few out there even capable of hunting them.”

It didn’t move, just lying there. Ilea doubted she could even scratch the beast. Somehow she was disappointed that it was apparently a peaceful animal. The imposing form and kind of goofy lock to its head made her feel like a small bug in a world of massive creatures. “How can something like that even sustain itself? If it’s not eating animals I mean.”

“Storms probably.” Terok shrugged, “If anything is abundant in the north, it’s mana.”

“You think I could hunt one?” Ilea couldn’t help but ask.

Terok laughed, “Not sure why you’d want that. It’s got a level and health like anything else. The size would make it awkward to fight and I hear they have illusion magic just like the normal versions. Practically, of course you could. I would suggest getting a couple more levels before you try though, there’s a reason this one doesn’t even try to hide. Once you can eliminate the sea of misstalkers as well as the famine crows you could try I guess. Not that you’ll listen to my advice anyway.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? You’ve been living here for decades, I at least consider your opinion.” Ilea retorted but the dwarf just laughed.

Giving her a short nod, he grunted, “I’d just like to see you try and kill that thing.”

She shook her head and looked out towards the distance, the ever sprawling terrain of rock and stone, mountains growing before they vanished into darkness so high her eyes couldn’t make out the tops even with the moonlight shining down on them. “Beautiful isn’t it.” Terok said as he sat down, his feet dangling from the broken off part of the dungeon.

Ilea didn’t comment, just looking at the endless sea of stars, the unknown spreading before her very eyes, filled with monsters to fight, abilities to learn and secrets to discover. She breathed out and closed her eyes, smiling as she let the wind wash over her. A dull explosion resounded, dulled and coming from inside the dungeon. Her eyes opened again, the moonlight reflecting in a pale blue. “Come, let’s find out who we’re sharing the dungeon with.”

Terok floated up and landed next to her. Blinking back into the stairwell, Ilea quickly moved down and took one of the two ways leading further down. Terok was falling behind when she came out on a balcony overlooking a big hall. Green lights shone on from above as she tried to make out what was going on. There were several Taleen machines, pieces of one burning in one part of the hall. There were massive machines, gears and tubes filling big chunks of the hall, a lot of it dented, destroyed or on fire. Steam was rushing out of several damaged tubes, Ilea spreading her wings before Terok grabbed her.

“What is it?” Ilea asked, watching what looked like three Centurions following three teleporting mages around.

“Those are elves.” Terok said, one of them screaming as a Centurion’s spear punched through his armor. The elf was thrown off, crashing against the nearby wall.

Ilea nodded, “Yea I can see that. Cursed ones or whatever. They’re getting fucked pretty badly.” Another one of them got hit hard but managed to keep upright, skidding back a couple meters.

“Exactly, so let them fight and we clean up the rest. Their gear must be pretty good too.” The dwarf suggested but Ilea just snorted. The third elf holding no weapon, clad in matte golden armor was doing rather well, reappearing around his Centurion time and time again, his claws cutting into the metal with screeching sounds. Problem was, the first machine was just now joining in as well, making it a two versus one. When a glancing blow made him stumble and retreat, Ilea decided.

She removed Terok’s hand from her arm, “Would be a shame for them to be slaughtered by mindless machines.”

“You’re talking about elves woman. They’ll jump you the moment you save them.” Terok argued but Ilea was already floating next to the balcony.

She smirked. Seeing how they were handling the Centurions or rather, being handled by them, she wasn’t worried much. “Let them try. See if they’re irredeemable idiots or just reckless hunters. Run away if you fear them.” Ilea jumped off and blinked towards the group.

Appearing next to the first elf she had seen, she extended an ashen limb to the groaning warrior who was barely conscious. She pushed some healing mana towards the wound. Without it the male would likely bleed out, at least if their biology was anywhere close to a human’s. “Who…,” She heard him whisper, blue eyes looking out from the face distorted by pain. Marred with blood, his armor was in shambles. Leather armor, not a very high quality one Ilea noted.

[Warrior – lvl 220]

She didn’t reply, instead watching the other two continue their fights. The golden one, his long white hair flowing behind him as he appeared and vanished time and time again, slowly pushed back by the Centurions that started working together. The last one was the only elf wearing a helmet, the black metal cracked and showing his red hair below. He was deflecting the spear attacks from the Centurion pushing him back towards the wall. He was either out of mana or gravely injured.

“Don’t move, you’ll bleed out.” She said and blinked, dodging the attack from one of the two Centurions in the center of the hall before she vanished again, hoping to have attracted its attention. The red haired elf failed to completely deflect a blow and was sent sprawling before hitting the wall with his back.

[Warrior – lvl 212]

First time meeting warrior elves. Ilea thought, appearing before him as he struggled to get up and prepare for the Centurion’s next attack. A spear throw, likely enough to cripple him further or even kill him. Ilea moved her hand, deflecting the spear into the wall before she sped up, her ashen limbs smashing into the Taleen machine before her fists followed. Dodging its blows, she continued on the offensive until it summoned back the spear. “Can you move?” Ilea asked, deflecting two thrusts before side stepping a third, ashen limbs continuing to clash into the machine. She smirked at the second machine that was now focusing on her instead of the golden elf. Now we’re talking.

The elf seemed a little surprised but relaxed on the wall behind him before he nodded, wincing at an injury. “Go help your friend, move him slowly or the wound opens again. If you can fly…,” She said and deflected another three quick attacks, the second machine now attacking as well. Ilea was impressed by the immediate teamwork the Taleen Centurions showed, their silent cooperation and deadly attacks paired with lifeless green eyes glowing in their insect shaped metal heads painting exactly the terrifying picture most people were so afraid of. Ilea noted that she wasn’t on the defensive yet, the two working together making it harder to get in attacks with her arms but her ash moved unhindered, the machines dividing their attention between her body and the ashen limbs.

A mistake she found. Perhaps it would’ve been an actual fight if they just focused on her body with abandon. “… to the balcony, otherwise just get as far away as you can.” The elf behind her moved to the other side of the hall, teleporting between blows before helping up his injured teammate. She noted fiery wisps whenever he disappeared. “Goldie! Move the Centurion towards me!” She shouted and deflected another three blows before she was forced to blink a couple meters back. The throws came right after but she was prepared, ducking a little as she let one spear pass her shoulder, the other glancing off her arm and slamming into the wall behind her.

The machines closed the distance, allowing her ash to continue dealing damage. Ilea was getting confident enough in deflecting their blows to keep up thin connections for her reversed Hunter Recovery. It would take a short moment for her to sever it to allow her to blink but she knew she could take a hit or two. Goldie wasn’t doing what she had asked, instead trying to fight the machine alone, continuing his teleporting in its range. They learn to counter that. She thought, glancing at him as she kept her attention mostly focused on the machines in her sphere. The ash she had spread didn’t seem to bother them in the slightest. A moment later the elf was hit by the Centurion’s elbow, the momentum of his movement combined with the attack knocking him to the ground hard.

She was about to blink, severing the connections when a couple hundred kilos of mechanized dwarf rammed into the Centurion with the force of a couple trucks. Not all bad that one. Ilea thought, the impact destabilizing the machine enough for it to miss the attack on the elf, Goldie now back up, obviously injured as blood colored some of his white hair a dark red. Terok got in a couple hard hits before he was thrown off, Ilea kiting the two Centurions towards the third one, intending to finish them together. “Take the elf and get out of here!” She shouted, Terok twirling in the air before he teleported to avoid the thrown spear, appearing near the confused elf.

Come on lassie.” She heard him say, slapping away the clawed hand he held up in confused opposition before Terok grabbed him and flew off, over the machinery nearby. Ilea smirked and spread more ash around her, three sets of green eyes focusing on her, spears at the ready as they circled her.


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