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Chapter 284 Legion of Centurions

 

 

It had been barely an hour when Ilea and Terok came out of the dungeon again. Goldie was awake now, the veins on his head already trying to rip out as he paced, his glare landing on Ilea as soon as she appeared. Of course he even has golden eyes. She smiled. “Sleep well?”

He screamed and rushed at her but a barrier cut him off, the elf sinking to his knees before he started puking, blood seeping out of his nose and mouth. The hate in his eyes was palpable. “Impressive. You didn’t even level up?” Ilea asked Elfie who was looking at the scene with a glint of annoyance.

“I did not expect you so early.” He said, the two other elves standing a little away from him, weapons in hand but relaxed.

Ilea nodded to Terok, “We found something. I assume you’re evaluating them?” She asked, the elf giving her a short nod. “Add him to your training, maybe find some critters to advance their levels. In two weeks they will face a Centurion together, the four of them. We’ll see how it goes and go from there.”

“Oh boy.” Terok commented but surprisingly didn’t complain.

Elfie considered before he shrugged, “What’s in there and why would I care to train the dwarf?”

Rolling her eyes, Ilea put a hand on Terok’s shoulder, “He’ll tell you all about it. If they can’t face at least one or two Centurions on their own, they’re useless in there.”

“Why… did… you… not… kill us?!” She heard the groaning voice coming from the fuming elf, his claws digging into the barrier. She wondered if he couldn’t teleport out or if he wasn’t willing to.

Ilea glanced at him, “Good energy. Maybe focus on being alive for now.”

She blinked into the entrance and this time chose the right side of the hallway, the way leading deeper in according to Terok’s ivy theory. Ten minutes of walking later, Ilea came into a small room with yet another elevator leading down. This one had neither Centurions nor anything else protecting it. Choosing the same way to go down, she let herself fall before spreading her wings to slow down. The elevator shaft was considerably shorter.

Coming out below, Ilea smiled broadly and crossed her arms, “Well. That’s something.” She whispered and sighed. Not a sigh of another long workday in front of her but one full of anticipation. She was standing on a square, a square carved out from within the mountain or perhaps carved from a naturally formed cave. Around her were buildings that would have once been stores, guilds, inns, shops with machinery still inside. If there had been any color at some point, it was long faded, only the dark stone remained, the ivy so prevalent in Taleen dungeons growing through it all. Some of the buildings were covered by it near completely, the green lights coming from not the ceiling but lampposts placed around the square, more of them bathing the connected streets and alleys in a dim green light.

A once scary atmosphere to Ilea, now full of possibilities. She knew there were Praetorians here, perhaps in this city or the factory but she knew they were there. After so many weird and powerful monsters she had met, it was interesting to think of challenging something that had previously filled her with dread. Something she could not overcome. Not a nest of mind magic animals or knights devoid of consciousness but machines hellbent on ripping her apart. If she grew strong enough here, if there were enough Centurions to get her to the levels needed, she knew she could fight them, knew she could win.

A shiver went down her back, the thought somehow freeing. Had the loss back then really been so important? Did they represent something in her subconscious? Ilea didn’t know. What she knew was that she wanted to face that fear, face that monster from her past. She would prepare, would raise her levels and use every advantage she could work out for herself. The ceiling wasn’t visible. It seemed like the whole mountain had been carved out and the city placed within. The streets all ended in more squares or near massive buildings, except one. Ilea couldn’t see the end of it, green lights like fireflies forming a path for her to follow.

You could literally land a plane in here. The thought made her chuckle. Thinking of the flying machines she had seen in the Iz dungeon made her scan the skies. Well not exactly the skies but the darkness hanging over the ancient city. There was nothing there, no blinking lights or any floodlights looking for her. There would be enemies here, machines ready to defend what was long forgotten. Activating Hunter’s Sight, she checked the area. Stepping through the square, she found several signs pointing towards recent movement. Earth was scattered in places, some of the ivy damaged and loose.

Looking up, she saw what looked like a Taleen Guardian walking towards the square, its head moving around as the green eyes scanned the overgrown houses and street. A single one of them only, its bladed six arms at the ready. Ilea wasn’t exactly concerned, continuing to look through the square. Something definitely moved through here and it wasn’t a Taleen machine I’ve seen before. When the Guardian entered the square, it spotted her immediately, fanning out its blades in challenge. “Really now?”

The answer was of course the machine rushing her, ready to strike. Ilea’s ashen limbs fanned out, the six blades stopping mid attack, each crashing into an ashen arm waiting for them. Ilea braced herself against the impact but found herself steady, the force coming from the machine light, trivial to handle even. It tried wrenching its arms free but Ilea’s ash extended, twirling around its metal blades and holding them in place. She stepped towards the helpless machine and looked at it, its glowing green eyes staring at her. Maybe Terok can take a look at one while I hold it like this.

[Taleen Guardian – lvl 205]

To think she could handle a level two hundred creature so easily. With all her buffs deactivated and her ashen Veil down, it was likely still capable of injuring her but against a fully powered Ilea, this one guardian was like a mere ant trying to stand against a human. Her fist lashed out, the sound of the impact reverberating in a dull clang, the machine trying to recoil but held in place by her limbs. Another hit smashed into it, Destruction and Wave of Ember flaring through it before the light in its eyes went out, its legs giving out and the whole thing clattering down as if its strings had been cut.

An idea was growing in her mind as she stepped over the machine, her wings spreading before she ascended. Flying over the nearby streets, she tried to spot the Taleen, finding a bunch of guardians patrolling as well as ranged variants sitting on roofs. Either they weren’t looking up or she was simply not visible enough in the darkness above but the machines didn’t spot her. Coming down behind one of the ranged guardians, she extended her limbs.

[Taleen Guardian – lvl 150]

Her ash closed around it, destructive mana pushed into it as it struggled to move in the hardening black mist. A couple seconds later it was over, the machine falling down and Ilea receiving yet another notification. Both of the kills irrelevant to her current level. Could hunt some of them for Embered Body Heat and Hunter’s Sight…,

Seeing that the surrounding streets and nearby squares only held Guardians, Ilea went back to the elevator. This wasn’t her place to clear out. Flying up through the shaft, she blinked out and crossed the length of the hallway, coming out on the railings overlooking the much busier production facility dug deep into the ground. How many places like this are there, hidden away in the North alone? Ilea wondered. There had to be places where all the machines Elfie talked about were coming from. This was certainly one of them.

Spreading her wings, Ilea jumped down and glided towards the first floor. At least not every one of them here held a different climate and different enemies. Just what seemed like an endless amount of Taleen Centurions as well as possibly more dangerous machines. The floor was metal, just like the support beams and thick cables holding everything together. Ilea wondered if she got credit for the kills were she to simply collapse the whole thing. Quick level three hundred for a metal mage like Terok. The ruckus would certainly gain a lot of attention. A Centurion might also just survive the collapse, stuck between the steel beams for eternity.

Cracking her knuckles, Ilea spread her ash and breathed in. The smell of fire and soot as well as iron filled her nose. Contrary to the city, this place was bathed in red light, not coming form any lamps but molten steel, forges as well as sparks flying off from the various tools in the vicinity. Smashing her ashen limbs into the floor produced little damage, mere scratches from her effort. The same was true for the cables going through to the next floor. Might consult Terok on that. Just have to make sure he doesn’t steal all my experience…,

It was warm, Ilea noted. Warm enough for her to sweat which meant something. Possibly too hot for someone below level two hundred to traverse. Her heat resistance was at level three of the second tier but she’d find a way to bath in some molten steel to raise it in the next weeks. The Queen with her Mist resistance is waiting as well. Now that she had so many enemies to fight and a reasonable way to level three hundred, she was starting to think on Terok’s words, to get as much out of her possible evolutions as possible. Strength and Dexterity as well as third tier points into Body Enhancement and close combat abilities to avoid purely mage evolutions.

Trying to cut into the wires apparently was enough for one of the Centurions to come and check, the machine throwing its spear immediately, uncaring of any possible damage to the environment. Or trusting enough to know it would be irrelevant. Ilea thought, dodging the spear before she blinked into range, ashen limbs immediately crashing into the warrior as she checked her surroundings for additional foes. Spreading ash around, she would make sure there was enough on the ground for a quick distraction in case she needed to escape. All the machines, forges and massive robotic arms as well as tanks and supplies would make hiding rather simple.

She was pretty sure the Centurions weren’t some kind of trackers, just warriors, made to be efficient killers for the materials used. It was a riddle to her how they could be created at a level above three hundred but she was pretty sure they were considered monsters by the system governing life in Elos. Of course with Demons she had already met somewhat of an exception. Maybe the Taleen had just been that amazing at magical robotics. Her blows accelerated, Ilea pushing hard to make sure the fight didn’t last a second longer than needed. The Centurion wasn’t comparable to the Guardian she had fought previously. While easier to manage, both her speed and utility massively outclassing it, she didn’t exactly want to get hit directly. Neither did she want to fight more of them as it would force her to navigate and fight in the unknown steel forest. The big open hall from earlier was a much preferred arena.

Getting in another two hits, she stepped to the left to avoid the spear thrusting at her head, three of her ashen limbs glancing off the steel armor. It managed to block two more attacks with its free hand, Ilea now behind it as she punched once again. The Centurion brought the spear around, Ilea blinking to keep the offense up. At least the packed and loud environment would make it harder for more of them to hear and come help. Right until it explodes. Ilea grinned, perhaps destroying this place wasn’t out of the question. All she had to use was the bombs provided by the Taleen themselves.

Worth testing if the explosions actually damage any of the support structures. A couple minutes later Ilea’s mana was down a thousand points, her offense taxing with all her ashen limbs and excessive blinks as well as health sacrifice. Healing back to full, she finally managed to crack the core, the Centurion throwing its spear before it skidded off, the light shining through the cracks growing brighter while Ilea stood there, ash settling around her as she stared at the running machine with confusion. Ah… makes sense. She thought, seeing it reach the opening leading out into the abyss before it jumped off.

The explosion overshadowed the surrounding noise of steam, metal hitting metal and gears turning but only for a second. Ilea was left standing between the machines, nothing other than ash indicating that anything had happened at all.

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

At least I get the experience. So there is something programmed into them that prevents them from damaging the surroundings. Meaning the explosion could actually damage it. Ilea thought about it when she picked up the noise of metal legs on steel around her. Smiling, she let Meditation flow through her, breathing in deeply and closing her eyes.

When three Centurions entered her Hunter Sphere, her eyes opened, blue eyes in stark contrast to the fiery glow all around her. Ash spread out with as much force as she could manage, the Centurions expertly navigating around and even over some of the machinery as they engaged the threat they had been looking for.

 

 

The ensuing fight was considerably longer than her previous take down of a single Centurion. The machines definitely knew their way around and the crowded environment was more detriment to her than to them. It at least helped to have cover from their ranged attacks whenever needed. They were too quick for her to use her meditation frequently but at least more often than in an open hall.

Blinking past a thrown spear, Ilea landed the last needed fist on the core of a damaged warrior, the light of its soon to explode energy cell or implanted bomb had it turn around and seek the abyss. Two to go. A couple minutes later Ilea’s estimation proved to be false, two more Centurions having joined the fight. Either because she had encroached on their assigned territory during her battle or the one destroyed machine somehow made them come as well. Adding more of them didn’t really change the fight, because of their somewhat predictable attacks as well as the cover around her.

Her already limiting damage was now spread among four of them and it was hard to tell which one she had hit already, the five of them moving around so quickly it was difficult to discern. Ilea once again thanked her sphere, without which she would’ve been pinned down and slaughtered like the invading parasite she was in their sprawling underground facility. A smirk came to her face when another Centurion’s core started glowing. The three remaining one ignored the fact, pinning her down before one of them actually managed to land a hit. Ilea hadn’t blinked, misjudging the feint for what it was. The spear smashed through her Veil and crashed against her chest piece. Neither armor nor her bones gave in, Ilea stumbling back before she blinked away. Three times this time before she healed the bruises. The explosion from the damaged Centurion quickly came to her ears before her pursuers were upon her again. Checking her mana, she found to be below half.

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

They eat it up like sponges…, She wondered if a warrior class would have similar problems. She could of course focus on pure physical damage and whittle them down but it was definitely more efficient to just retreat and recover her mana before going in again. Even if they had some sort of ability to repair themselves. Normally she’d doubt something like that but in a literal Taleen factory, perhaps it was possible. Why then throw yourself down the abyss when you can get repaired? If her experience on Earth was anything to go by then that it was probably easier to build a new Centurion than to repair a damaged one.

Spreading ash, she blinked and continued her work with a smile on her face. Each hit she landed powerful enough to create a tiny shock wave of air and heat upon impact, the force nearly enough to lift the machines off the ground, built for speed and dexterity more than anything else. While the Taleen metal wasn’t anything special according to the smiths she had met, she still didn’t manage to majorly dent it with each punch. Perhaps it was the way they forged it or something related to the machine itself. If her own body and ash was anything to go by then perhaps the metal was considered their body and only once their Vitality reached a certain threshold, it would get majorly damaged.

The specifics didn’t matter much while she dodged their attacks, the three remaining machines more and more working as a team, trying to bait her with their defensive behavior. Ilea welcomed the change, their learning ignoring the fact that their inaction allowed her to recover mana at a quicker rate with Meditation. Still, she had to agree that it was probably their best bet to get actual damage in on her. She too changed to a more defensive way of fighting, every second bringing back a couple points of mana she could use again in a burst of attacks. The movements of yet again more Centurions joining the ongoing battle made her breathe out. Perhaps the defensive approach wouldn’t be feasible after all.

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Rhaegar

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