Chapter 290 Routine
“Found it just yesterday. The Saurians avoid the place.” Terok explained, the two of them standing in front of a massive bridge leading to a gate at least as big as one of Virilya’s. Below was an abyss the dwarves apparently liked to dig for some reason. It did give an imposing vibe but Ilea doubted the work was worth it. Especially because nobody would exactly come down here to see it.
Maybe they did back then…, It was possible the cities had been open to other races. Then it made more sense to have something like this. The bridge itself was made of white stone, compared to the gray one used in the parts of the city she had seen otherwise. “Probably the great hall. I’d assume there are more dangerous machines in there. Is it open?”
Terok shook his steel head, “No. The enchantments still hold as well. I miss the days when every door I found was just rotten away.”
“Like the whole literal city behind us?” She said dryly.
“Exactly.” He replied, pointing at her, “I’ll try to crack it but it’s a complex one Ilea. Might be better if we get Maro out first, he can probably help.”
“I’ll visit them soon. I’m not sure Elana can do much herself… and I’m not ready for the Kingsguard.”
“Let me get to two hundred and then we’ll see. I’ll start working on it when I find time in between fighting and mapping everything out.”
Ilea nodded, “We’ll see how much of a change level three hundred brings for me.Just keep on it. What are the dark ones doing in the city by the way? Could they be of any help?”
“I doubt it. They don’t even have maps. Few of them can even talk and they are more interested in the ivy as well as more space to nest than anything else. Don’t have anything worth trading either. Unlike their more aggressive brethren in the Penumra dungeon, these lack the level and numbers to be of much help.” The dwarf explained, Ilea nodding.
“Well then keep at it. I usually come and go a couple times every day. If you find anything worthwhile or if you crack the great hall door, let me know.” She cracked her neck and prepared to leave.
Terok gave her a thumbs up, “Will do Ilea. No more evaluations?”
“I think Elfie has it under control. When he tells me you’re ready for the Centurion part of the dungeon, he’ll let me know.”
The dwarf sighed and shook his head, “Probably easier to convince you.” He murmured which made her chuckle.
“Terok if there’s treasure anywhere in this place then it’s in there.” She said, pointing at the massive gate. “I doubt you see the act of fighting machines as treasure.”
“If the parts are worth selling.” He grumbled, “Not like the taleen built their bloody machines with gold.”
I’m pretty sure there’s some gold in there. Ilea mused, her wings spreading, “You’re ok here alone?” She asked and he waved her off.
“Things here are weaker than most dungeons in the area.” He said, “Good luck Ilea.”
I wonder why. “Same to you Terok.”
Ilea didn’t meet the elves on her way back to the manufacturing part of the dungeon. She made sure to use Hunter’s Sight and Embered Body Heat with the goal to get them to the maximum second tier level. Neither skill was far off and she assumed both would reach it by the end of the month. Back to work. A smile spread as she let the power of her auras rush through her, blinking past the elevator and down into the vast layers of protected heavy machinery.
Two weeks later Ilea had finally cleared out the top floor. No more Centurions appeared. At this point she could start to safely farm single ones she could pull from the lower floor. Many stairwells led down and though they must have heard her fighting or at the very least the explosions from the destroyed ones, none of them ever came up without actually seeing her. She was glad for the fact, allowing her more breathing room down in the facility and some new possibilities.
In the coming week Ilea formed more of a routine. Previously her training hours had been somewhat dictated by how many Centurions would engage her and if another hunting group came upon their fight, sometimes forcing her out or simply having her fight for hours at a time. The first thing every morning was a relaxing bath in some molten steel. While her perception of pain wasn’t present, she certainly had to get used to the feeling of being engulfed in the heat. Contrary to simple fire, the heat produced by the forges was much higher, the liquid metal allowing her to target a bigger area of her body.
Ilea’s healing was struggling against the damage done to her, the third tier allowing the hunter to stay a couple seconds in longer before her mana inevitably ran out and she had to blink away. Teleportation wasn’t restricted because the molten steel didn’t count as an enemy touching her, which too solved the issue of getting the liquid off her. It was an effective training for her healing, her Heat Resistance as well as some of her defensive skills. Ilea’s Veil multiplied the time she could stay in the liquid, allowing her to work on that skill as well.
With her incredibly quick mana recovery, she was pretty sure to be pushing the limits of Resistance and recovery training. She didn’t fail to keep up her Embered Body Heat and Hunter’s Sight either. Of course while doing all this, she wasn’t engaging an enemy, likely reducing the skill leveling speed by quite a bit but the consistency and constant availability wasn’t even matched by the miststalkers and her training with them.
The bath was usually followed by a big chunk of the day fighting against Centurions. Each and every one of them destroyed gave her a little bit of experience. While they were still a higher level, she noticed the closer she got to them that her leveling speed decreased. It was then that she tried something new. Terok had spotted them before and now she used her Hunter’s Sight to find and engage one of the special variants the dwarf had pointed out to her.
The one she found had four arms compared to the normal two and wasn’t carrying a spear. The only other difference she could spot was the color. It was black. Sending an ashen projectile its way, the thing whirled around and caught it, looking at her with green shining eyes.
[Centurion Juggernaut – lvl ??]
Not over five hundred then. She thought, the machine advancing on her quickly as she navigated through the forest of forges, supplies and machinery. One Centurion she rushed by nearly dropped the green steel ingots it was carrying. She noted the speed and awareness of the black centurion to be at a higher level already, losing the normal one that had noticed her pretty quickly but not able to shake the new one.
She found a spot on the second layer to test herself against it, not willing to bring it up to the cleaned out floor yet just in case it was too much for her. If it would stay up there, her whole new routine would be fucked.
Even when it finally engaged her, the thing didn’t use any weapons. Instead its form arms formed fists and punched her way. Testing the strength, Ilea held up her hands and took the attack straight on, a sudden explosion sending her back a couple meters as her Veil reformed, some smoke rising from the heat that had washed over her armor and body. The armor on her wrists was a tiny bit dented but nothing to be concerned about yet. With four arms the machine had more going for it than the normal variants.
Ilea learned quickly that what it lacked in range, it more than made up with speed and simple aggression. Using similar tactics as she did against her early Centurions, Ilea kept defensive, using her ashen limbs to get in damage as the two danced around the second layer. Feeling confident enough, she soon led the machine to the first layer to avoid a group of other machines interfering in their fight.
The constant aggression made her glad Form of Ash and Ember didn’t use any resources anymore, otherwise the fight would’ve taken much much longer. Most of her mana usage she concentrated on Wave of Ember, delivered through her ashen limbs. Dodging and avoiding the machine was somewhat simple with her Sphere, matching speed and blink ability. It couldn’t just get through all the forges and tools, not for a lack of trying.
Finally, its core got exposed. Surprisingly the thing continued to attack and didn’t just run off towards the central opening that would allow it to blow. Smiling at the fact, Ilea continued her defensive dance, the machine already having reached its maximum aggression. She noted that its whole body started to show veins of light, the fists landing on the steel machinery around her creating bigger explosions and getting damaged more heavily. Using the energy for offense. Still, the fact that it was too slow and lacked mobility in the steel jungle would ultimately lead to its demise. More powerful punches didn’t help there.
She was glad it hadn’t suddenly learned about teleportation of some other kind of magic that would make it more of a challenge again. Ten minutes later, the machine collapsed. Unceremoniously. The lack of explosion made Ilea wary to get too close but using her ashen limbs, she moved around the corpse and lifted it up. The light in the veins had died out and she could tell its interior was burnt out entirely.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Centurion Juggernaut – lvl 350] – For defeating an enemy seventy levels or more above your own, bonus experience is awarded’
Ilea started laughing, “Really? Three fifty?” The fight had been simple. Even a knight at level three hundred had put up a better fight than this one. The punch she had initially taken had dented her armor a little and burnt her skin but compared to the level she was definitely disappointed in its performance. Speaks for the undead knights I guess. She noted, recovering her mana and continuing with her day.
A big part of the nights were spent with the Miststalkers. Contrary to the molten steel baths, this activity trained her mana, health drain as well as mist magic resistances. Healing too of course. The constant relocation because of too many of them showing up as well as often quick drains made it a little less effective were it not for the fact that she was actually fighting enemies. Ilea didn’t know how much of a difference it made exactly but the levels after three weeks certainly spoke for the method.
Feeling bad for the king and queen of Rhyvor, Ilea decided to visit them a week later. It wasn’t just the fact that she was now on her last armor and needed to restock in Tremor. Terok hadn’t shown up to tell her about a new discovery or anything else in that month, meaning he was still busy trying to crack the gate and train with the elves. Elfie wasn’t around either most of the time, off on his own adventures, whatever they consisted of. Ilea assumed plenty of hunting.
At this point she was already at level 279, closing in on the next third tier point for her Azarinth class. She would think about the choice as soon as the actual options were visible to her. Flying back to Tremor was uneventful, the dangers of the northern night getting more and more mundane to her. Ilea would still avoid the arcane storms during the day and still hid as soon as famine crows showed up but they weren’t stealthy or fast enough to pose much trouble. Of course the whole picture would be different if they actually pursued into the cracks and crevices of the land.
The dark wolf she had seen showed her how to get rid of the crows in case she needed it. At this point her resistances and recovery were high enough to at least traverse the lakes of mist safely for a couple minutes. Until too many of the miststalkers had gathered.
Bypassing the cathedral entirely, Ilea made her way to the house she had chosen as her residence in the forgotten city. She dumped the damaged and broken armor and put the remaining sets into her necklace, probably enough for the time being.
“Oh look! We thought you guys were dead.” Maro exclaimed, Ilea smiling at the ridiculous suggestion. “Do we have to whisper?”
She shook her head, “Terok left the enchantments, I just activated them again.”
“Are you kidding me?” He asked and looked towards the room in which Elana was writing something, “She told me I had to be quiet because he didn’t…,”
“Well let us talk about something else than the state of my marriage. I’m bored Ilea. So bored. I have no idea what Elana is doing but knowing her, she’s probably planning to rebuild our kingdom somehow.” He shook his head, “She can find a new king for that. I’m done with that.”
Ilea laughed at that and sat down on the chair, “I’ve been fighting Taleen machines for the past month. What are your plans for when you get out?”
He looked at her, green eyes sparkling, “Didn’t I tell you? Undead necromancer king Maro… the one to destroy the world.”
“I doubt you have that power.”
“Well with you at my side my dear. You’ve grown again. I like your reckless approach. Then again if you had similar abilities to that assassin, I can see the possibilities. Especially coupled with your personality.” He surmised. “I have no idea what I’d do when I get out. Remember it’s only been a couple months for me. Find out what happened to my old friends. I survived… maybe some of the mad fuckers did too.”
Ilea smiled, wondering if it was true. Maro and Elana had basically been in a protected time capsule. Their entourage might not have had that luxury. “We’ll see. Otherwise I’m sure you’ll do fine. Not many level three hundred people around as far as I can tell. You could join the Shadow’s Hand, become a mercenary and explore the world. They don’t have many rules as far as I can tell.”
He chuckled, “Yes… after two hundred it’s hard to enforce anything anyway. Caused my dearest wife plenty of headaches. I’ll think about it. First I’d like to know how the world has changed, especially this area. If it really is as dangerous as you say then perhaps exploring the dungeons again might be fun. And to explore my newfound power.” He looked at her confused expression and continued, “I hadn’t been at three hundred for long before entering this machine.” Maro gestured widely around himself. “Didn’t have much time to see the evolutions’ effects.”
“Big changes?” Ilea asked.
“Definitely. Main reason I cooked up this whole thing. How it was even a possibility. Well hey, while you’re here. I was wondering if you had some more books, maybe a map from the area. Things like that. I’d appreciate as much. Not that I could offer anything in return.”
“Lonely and desperate.” Came the comment from Elana, the woman joining them with a stack of papers in her hands. “Ilea dear, how have you been?”
“Do you really care? Or do you want to add something for me to bring?”
Elana smirked at her, “The dwarf would be nice. To continue his work. I tried to make the list as comprehensive as possible.” She said and handed Ilea some documents.
Looking through them, she raised her eyebrows, “These are names and places.”
“As well as some descriptions, classes and magic they use. The teams Maro and I have been a part of, government officials, powerful adventurers. Friends and well… family, as close as it gets at least.” She paused and added, “I agree with him. We need maps and we need to learn about the world in its current stage. Getting out is a priority but we can work from here as well.”
Elana left again to continue her work, leaving Ilea confused with the list in her hand, “And what am I supposed to do with this?”
“Can you show it to me?” Maro asked.
“Sure.” She replied, holding out the paper, “Why doesn’t she talk to you more often anyway? I didn’t get the impression that you hate each other.”
“Brilliant… she added places and classes as well.” He said and smiled, “Don’t interpret too much into it. We’ve never spent too much of our time together. In the last years especially… she was engrossed in her work.”
Ilea was sure there was more but she just shot him a glance. “If you get me the map of this area I might be able to add in the places from that list. If you’re interested in finding more ruins you may explore them. Or I will as soon as you’re done with the Kingsguard. It’s possible some of these people could and would help with that but I doubt you would agree to that.”
“I’d like to fight them myself if possible.” Ilea said, the king nodding in understanding. “I’ll go to Hallowfort and see what I can get for the two of you.”
When she left again, Ilea saw a bunch of crumpled up papers littering the floor in what had become essentially Elana’s study. She wondered what the queen was mulling over. How to use the necromancer king to take over an empire.