Chapter 283 Factory
Ilea cupped her face in both hands, Terok appearing next to her. “You really didn’t want to kill them?” He asked as she groaned again, “Well I won’t blame you, their gear sucks. Well I’ll go collect whatever is left of the Centurions.” He patted her shoulder with a metal arm and walking off, leaving her with the decision on what to do with this group of teenage elves.
Fifty two year old teenage elves. Do they develop slower? The one called Heranuur was watching her intently, his black plate armor basically falling apart. His red wavy hair flowed out from the cracks in his helmet, black eyes looking at her. Maybe he’s from the same domain as Elfie, with his red hair.
“What should we do? The dungeon is yours now human.” He spoke, waking Ilea from her daydreaming.
“Yes yes. You can call me Ilea.” She said, ignoring the fact that human was likely a derogatory term anyway, “I’ll think about it. Maybe Elfie can help me out here. I don’t want to murder you idiots. Why did you even go after the Centurions? Neither of you seem capable of fighting one yourself.”
The elf looked a little confused, “To destroy the Taleen of course. Finding more than a single Centurion is great luck. Perhaps we would have won.”
“You were losing, that one was dying already.” Ilea said, pointing to the brown haired one who seemed to try and make himself smaller as he treated Goldie.
Heranuur huffed, “Perhaps. Though you showed up and we won.”
That was it, as if it perfectly explained their reasoning. “But that doesn’t explain why you…,” Ilea started but gave up on it. She looked at the two meter tall fierce warrior, the two jagged daggers back in their sheaths on his belt. Maybe all the muscle is using his brain power.
“You over there, brown haired. What’s your name?” Ilea demanded, pointing at the other elf. He had been the one to try and solve their issues diplomatically, immediately accepting when she had punched some of her frustration into the golden idiot.
The elf scrambled up and stuttered, “My name is Neiphato. What is it you want?”
Ilea mused, looking at the elf. She shook her head and focused, “Why fight the Centurions? You were losing.”
“A Cerithil hunter does not stop. Our cause is to destroy the Taleen.” He answered. At least he wasn’t as dense as the other one.
“But if you flee and come back stronger, you’ll succeed then. If you die… well, you die.” Ilea said, trying to make sense of their reasoning.
This time he seemed to understand, his blue eyes lighting up a little, “You must not know many elves then human. To flee would be... shameful. Of course by becoming cursed hunters we are tainted already. It is… complicated.”
Ilea sighed, “Of course it is. Well I’m going to bring you to an elven friend, decide what to do with you three. I’ll continue to explore the dungeon with Terok here.” She pointed at the dwarf who grunted and waved, still collecting shrapnel, “Taleen will be destroyed one way or the other. Sound alright?” She asked, trying to imagine them as children.
The elf nodded, Heranuur shrugging as he went to pick up Goldie who was still unconscious.
Ilea led the group back out, finding Elfie sitting on a rock reading. He looked up, his eyes growing wide when he spotted the three elves coming out of the dungeon next to her. “A little early.” He commented, putting away his book.
“Need some advice Elfie. So there’s a lot of Centurions in there and guess what we found?”
The elf got up and took a couple casual steps towards them, looking at each of the three, frowning at the one unconscious. Ilea noted that only Heranuur was meeting his eyes. Of course Goldie couldn’t meet anybody’s eyes at the moment. “I believe you have found three terribly inexperienced elven hunters. Would that be a correct assumption?”
Ilea raised her eyebrows, smiling under her helmet. She noted his lack of mockery nor his mention of cursed ones. “That would be close, certainly. Now I’m not too knowledgeable on elven customs but a human I had saved I might send off to the next town, if they’re being particularly nice I might bring them myself.”
Elfie nodded but stayed quiet for a while, closing his eyes before he sighed, “You won’t persuade them to stand down human.”
Ilea nodded towards Goldie, “Managed to convince that one.” She said, getting a laugh from both Terok and Heranuur. “Well I won the bout and can now decide who goes into the dungeon and who doesn’t, when and for how long.” Ilea explained, “Do you think they will honor the deal?”
She didn’t trust any of the people present, the only thing she knew was that each would follow their personal interests. If she could gauge Elfie at all, then she was somewhat sure he had a soft spot. Otherwise their first meeting would’ve gone differently. The way he had talked about the machines and their eternal war, she was pretty sure he cared about these younglings more than she did. “I don’t know them.” He simply said.
No honor bound agreement or sacred ritual binding them to their word? Ilea shrugged, “Then make sure they do. Don’t let them in, all would have died if it hadn’t been for me.”
“Hey I helped too.” Terok said, waving at the elf.
Elfie looked at her with confusion now, Ilea already turning to go back inside, “What am I supposed to do with them? Trap them until you’re done?”
“Whatever. Trap them, kill them, bring them away or teach them. Might be the most beneficial for your war efforts. As it stands they’re just a hindrance in there.” Ilea said and started making her way back to the entrance, Terok following a moment later. She had done them a favor, had saved them from near certain death. The bout had ended not in death but a new chance. Perhaps too trusting, too nice but she could mop the floor with the lot and Elfie combined, not that he would enter the dungeon anyway.
The responsibility was with Elfie now and their new chance was their own to waste. “You care too much Ilea.” Terok said a while later, the two of them returning to the hall now half destroyed by their battle. “You know… the packs they didn’t have with them? I saw them badly hidden a couple dozen meters from Elfie. Might be he doesn’t want us to see what’s inside.”
Ilea grinned, “Waste of capable warriors. You came to their rescue too didn’t you? And you mention their packs now? Quite unlike what I thought of the greedy dwarf at my side.”
“I owe you Ilea, big time. Just the sensible decision.” He said, his voice neutral.
Keep telling yourself that Terok. She thought, checking the hall but finding no new enemies to fight. If he really hid their packs then perhaps I was right about the old fucker.
“Want me to scout ahead?” Terok asked.
If it had been Eve then maybe but his two meter quite visible form wasn’t exactly stealthy. “We move together. Stay back if more machines show up. When I tell you to run, you go and don’t stop until you’re out of the bloody dungeon.” She could think of more than one thing that would cause such a reaction. “Now shut it.”
Terok shrugged, giving her a thumbs up, “I’ll be the map guy.”
Several hallways later, the dwarf stopped her and pointed at the walls. “Trap.” His description was rather broad but Ilea found it to be similar to those found in Iztacalum, the dungeon under Dawntree. Fire and spikes, the dwarves were traditional at least, or perhaps it was a budget question. Letting the flames wash over her, Ilea simply walked through the thinning hallway, the spikes bursting out of the walls, the mechanisms holding them weaker than her Veil and armor. Only a few even managed to break through the ash.
“You can move.” She said to the dwarf, walking into the next hall. Smoke was still rising from her form when he joined her side.
“Oh, more of the fuckers.” He commented, the words meant for the two Centurions standing motionless at the end of the long room, what looked like an elevator opening up behind them. “Teleport and activate the lift?”
The dwarf looked at her but probably knew the answer already, “I’ll fight them. Wait in the hallway farther back. Try not to intervene. We’ll go with your plan if I can’t beat them.”
Terok joined her again ten minutes later, two detonations having marked the demise of the Centurions. The smaller hall led to Ilea’s armor taking more than just a beating from the explosions. She switched it out with a fresh set of Rose Hunter armor, only three remaining in her necklace. There still were five sets back in Tremor but the flight would take a couple hours out of her fighting time again. “Do you even try to stop the explosions?”
“No idea how to.” Ilea said, cracking her neck as she read through the notifications.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Taleen Centurion – lvl 305] – For defeating an enemy forty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Taleen Centurion – lvl 307] – For defeating an enemy forty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
No level ups but at least she had the satisfaction of destroying Centurions like they were mere foot soldiers for the mechanized dwarven army. “Maybe could’ve asked the elves, they probably destroyed the first one we found.”
“I assume it’s just gonna be hit it enough before it detonates.” She suggested, the dwarf waving a hand. His lack of comment let her assume she was right in the assumption. He probably had a better understanding of what was actually happening due to his mana sight. “Thinking of… anything you can tell me about them? Are they connected to something like the knights in Tremor?”
Terok grabbed a metal piece and threw it behind himself, “Trash. No, they’re independent as far as I can tell. At least magically speaking. I do believe they somehow gather ambient mana at least. Why these two didn’t react immediately when we entered.” He gestured at the general vicinity, shrapnel and parts littering the whole broad hallway.
Ilea nodded. Like solar energy? The detonations definitely spoke more for a mini nuclear reactor but mana was mana and she was definitely no scientist of magic. At least she knew the technology was somewhat of a big deal. Otherwise all the runes used in inns or even in her house would be powered by ambient mana, not someone pumping the stuff into it. “The lamps work like that too?” She asked, pointing up at the dim green lights.
“Nope, mana crystals those.”
Ilea frowned, “And they held for a thousand years?”
Terok shrugged, “Maybe they change them. Perhaps you’ll catch one doing it.”
Ilea rolled her eyes. Then again, maintenance robots weren’t that far fetched, with combat ones existing. The latter was probably much harder to produce, program and maintain anyway. She simply hadn’t seen any of them yet. Or all of them are just maintenance robots. The real enemy is going to be the planet itself, powered by Nihilism itself. She groaned and walked towards the elevator. Terok appeared next to her and started checking out the small plate on the wall.
“Just one destination. I guess they at least liked their architecture simple.”
“Rooms and hallways yes, all the traps and machinery hidden behind it all? Fucking ridiculous. I don’t want to make a ruckus.” Ilea said and blinked under the elevator and into the shaft leading down. Terok appeared in the air next to her, hovering perfectly still as he looked around, his headlights shining down into the darkness.
“Long way down.” He commented.
She grunted, “Risky teleport there, or did you not tell me about some of your skills?”
Terok chuckled, “Part of the gig lassie. Not everyone has it as easy as miss healer, sphere perception.”
Ignoring the jabs, Ilea spread her wings and let herself fall, her speed accelerating before she reached the highest velocity gravity could provide, her wings trying to make herself somewhat immune to the air pressure. When the ground appeared in her sphere, she spread them and blinked upwards once before quietly gliding to the stone floor. There was a little space dug out below where the elevator would stop, likely to prevent problems with anything that could get stuck between.
She didn’t wait for Terok, instead stepping out of the opening and relaxing on the rusty metal railing that followed along the stone balcony overlooking the busy scenes below. Found where all those Centurions are coming from. Ilea thought, an abyss several hundred meters deep opening up before her, the whole thing shaped in a triangle with two sides coming together opposite her, at least two hundred meters away. Every twenty or thirty meters down another floor could be seen, the angles making it unclear how far each reached into the stone but each was open, either to easier deliver things or for ventilation purposes. She could see glowing light that reminded her of forges, steam rising in places as well as pieces of metal being assembled.
“Piss off.” Terok commented, finally appearing next to her as he too looked into the production hell the Taleen had left behind.
Ilea looked over and smiled, “A lot of work to do.”
“You’re not joking. This is huge… bigger than anything I’ve seen. How the fuck did they even do that?” He leaned over the railing, “Machines assembling more machines…,”
Ilea nodded, “That’s exactly how they did it. How it’s still running. Can’t see any dwarves around but my eyes aren’t exactly good enough to make out any specifics.”
Terok grunted, “You think they continued… after the Taleen stopped or were wiped out… ah and don’t worry about the eyes, I can see it all. At least what’s exposed.”
“What variants do you see? Of the machines I mean.” Ilea asked, squinting but only making out Centurions on the first couple floors. They didn’t seem to take any notice of the two watchers.
Terok scanned over the busy scene, “Centurions right? Six legs and a spear… yea most of them look like that… there’s hundreds of them Ilea. I don’t know if you can handle that. Oh wait, here’s another one. Eight layer… four arms that one. No weapon I can see but it looks black rather than green? Might be the lighting but I’m pretty sure… no wait, another one just walked by, definitely black metal. Tenth floor… six arms, each holding a weapon. Otherwise more Centurions… wait… yea the pieces look the part. I think they’re making them here.”
“Figured as much.” Ilea commented, “I would assume Guardians are the usual Taleen dungeon residents. Centurions aren’t exactly normal machines.”
He grunted his affirmation, “Level three hundred from a machine made by metal? Makes sense. Lucky for you then to stumble upon strong enemies to take out right?” He laughed, Ilea looking at him sharply because of the loud noise. “Don’t shit your pants girl.” He said, pointing to a rune he had placed on the railing. “If they have ears, they’re not hearing it.”
Sneaky, didn’t even notice it. She nodded, “Seems like a waste to destroy it all…,”
Terok looked at her and snorted, “Depends how you look at it.” The two remained quiet for a minute or two, the sounds of massive gears and machines the only thing audible. A massive factory making machines of war, if Elfie was to be believed to hunt down his race and possibly others.
Ilea sighed, “What do you think is their goal? Why continue if the Taleen are gone?”
“Maybe they’re not. Might be hiding somewhere, who knows? The machines here alone are probably enough to swamp most of the dwarven cities. If anything I’d sleep much sounder with all of it gone.”
What if I find the control system. Stop it all or make the machines clear out monsters, protect cities or just help me fight. A bunch of Centurions to fight alongside me would be cool as fuck at least. Ilea considered.
“You’re thinking to take over?” Terok asked with a smile. “I’m thinking the same. We could clear out whole dungeons with those things.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Ilea asked a moment later, a grin on her face. “Let’s think about it when and more importantly if we find a way. Feel confident about scouting a little? Just make sure not to send them all after me if you find a way to hack into whatever magical system they’re using.”
Terok shook his head, “You still don’t trust me. Well at least you’re not as stupid as I initially though. No, don’t prove me wrong by throwing me off. You know me, I can’t resist the urge.”
Ilea grinned, “Plenty stupid as well my dwarf. Many would’ve killed you for that comment.”
“Worth it.” He said, snorting before they both laughed.
“I would feel more confident with class evolutions.” His voice was serious now, the dwarf looking towards her.
Ilea smiled, tapping her armor with one finger as she thought on a solution that didn’t involve her time and energy. Terok apparently didn’t like the look in her eyes as he took a couple steps back. “Let’s go back and talk to Elfie again. Might be we can smash four birds with one stone.”