Chapter 311 Challenger



“Hmm, Violent yet generous. I knew you were not all bad.” Lucas said, “Did you come here just for that spirit?”

Ilea smiled at him, “He wanted a vacation after being freed from his thousand year sleep. Scouting the kingdoms he would take over once his evil power returned.” She pointed at Maro.

“Yes, a sense of humor as dark as his magic. You two make a good pair. I approve.” Lucas said.

“He’s married.” Ilea replied, “Now I’m sure you know all about the tourist attractions of the famous Vineyard Caves, care to show us around?”

“Ah, surprising. With all the talk about our morals and education you certainly hold conservative views on relationships.” Lucas said and got up, cracking his back in the process, “Ow ow ow. I can show you around, of course. I will need to go back to work in two or three hours, trees don’t plant themselves you know.”

Isn’t that kind of how it works? With fruit and seeds and all? Ilea didn’t want to start into that branch of conversation.

“Hmm, If you have time and if you are staying for a while you could use some death magic on the trees, I would like to make them more resistant to such influences before moving on to the high mana density in this whole region.”

Ilea walked down the stone stairs, “Ever been to the Penumra dungeon? Plants there seem to grow a little too well. Might help you out in your research.”

Lucas waved her off, “That monster eats and grows without giving anything back. I am trying to regulate the ecosystem, not suck it dry. If you want to do something good you could clear that dungeon out.”

“What? Can you not just talk to the plants there? I’m sure once they realized they’re not conductive to a harmonic landscape, they’ll dial down their needs.” Ilea suggested in a serious tone.

“Hmm yes, I tried. It has different views on the problem. It stated that if the whole world were covered nobody would suffer. Ridiculous.”

“I mean it’s probably not wrong. Without any sentient beings, there is no suffering either.” Ilea said as they stepped out into the street.

Maro stretched and smiled, “Ah, I missed this.”

“Stretching?” Ilea asked.

“No.” The man replied, “Listening to bickering idiots.”

Three ashen limbs smashed into his side, the man not moving an inch as a barrier shimmered in her sphere. “Hey not bad. Old man, that arena we saw before, what is it? I have weird pent up frustrations that need to be let out suddenly.” She said.

“Yes, of course you would be interested in that. Well I cannot fault you, it is one of the few buildings added by a dark one that could qualify as an attraction. I have tried to convince them for years to shut it down.” Lucas shook his head and started walking, “I gave up on it two months ago actually.”

“Why?” Maro asked.

“Trees started being set aflame by unknown individuals. It was not worth talking to someone if that is their reply.”

“Should we go find them?” Ilea asked.

He shook his head, “No, no. I confronted two of them in the act. I understand now that the arena is more than just barbarism. It has a long standing tradition and holds cultural value for many. Letting each other live seems like the better option.”

She didn’t comment on it further, suffice to say that she would have handled the situation differently. His choice.

“I would have killed them to send a message.” Maro said.

“What do they do in the arena? Fight each other?” Ilea asked to change the subject.

“Yes, yes. That too, fighting animals, monsters or simply testing each others powers.” The elder said.

“I need to exchange silver somewhere too.” She added.

“You may do that near the arena too. It is the center of the town.” Lucas reassured her.



138 gold and 21 silvers. Ilea added the money into her necklace, thanking what the collection of dark ones having gathered in the building. The amount had created a bit of a disturbance, the sellers contacting other shops to get all the coins together.

Ilea joined the others in the arena with a new total of 725 gold coins to her name. Maybe I really will have that school built. If Claire hasn’t purchased one already. Grabbing a drink from a floating orb near the entrance, she activated her Sentinel Huntress skill to quickly make out Maro and Lucas’ distinct smells. A little creepy that one. She was glad there had been no other option to replace the skill because she would have probably taken most anything. Except the shit that’s still available.

She wasn’t too surprised to find Terok standing next to the others, shouting wildly at the warrior currently battling three burrow Dragoons. “Hey guys.” She said, taking a free seat next to them.

“Welcome back. Got your gold?” Maro asked to which she nodded.

“I would not drink that.” Lucas said. “Brewing is not exactly their strong suit.”

“I’m well aware of that.” Ilea said and took a sip. Better than Hallowfort at least. “What’s his goal? If he should kill them he’s not doing a great job.” The three monsters circled the warrior who was panting and bleeding in several places.

“He needs to survive for another two minutes… clock’s ticking. COME ON YOU CAN DO IT!” Terok explained and shouted, pumping his fist into the air. Ilea couldn’t identify the dark one fighting down there but his movements and the amount of damage he had sustained made her assume he was in the low two hundreds, perhaps even below. If the dragoons were close to the level as the ones she had fought previously.

Two tense minutes passed, the dark one struggling against the three circling creatures, trying to keep them at bay with his spear. One of his legs was nearly severed by a bite he didn’t manage to avoid in the last ten seconds. When a gong resounded, a bunch of people jumped down and slaughtered the creatures, overwhelming them with sheer numbers.

“Disgusting.” Lucas hissed while Terok screamed with joy.

“Oh man that was a close one.” He said and looked to the three, “Did you see that? Fucking brilliant footwork. I knew Raiden had it in him but against three Burrow Dragoons, phew.”

“How much did you bet Terok?” Ilea asked as she stood up, looking around to see if anybody even attempted to take care of the bleeding dark one who had sunken down on the side of the arena, coughing up blood.

“Everything of course. No reason to doubt my man Raiden.” The dwarf replied, giving her a thumbs up with his steel arm.

“You sound like you know the contestants. Is this not your first time here?” Maro asked.

He waved the man off, “Ah, you lack heart Maro. Believing in someone is enough sometimes.”

Ilea understood why he was in debt now, blinking down to the dark one and extending an ashen tendril towards him. He looked at her with delirious blue eyes and thrust his spear at her. Ilea grabbed the weapon mid movement and held it to the side, “I’m a healer. You won. Relax now.” A slight sense of understanding washed over his eyes before he closed them and went unconscious.

She went on to heal his wounds, the leg had nearly been separated and he might have bled out. “You are not allowed to interfere healer.” Someone said behind her, a group of dark ones walking up. “The wounds are his to bear.”

“I do whatever I want.” Ilea said, not turning to the trio. The middle one wanted to say something when another stopped him with a hand to his shoulder.

“She is the ash wielder who healed our wounded.”

He hesitated, “The rules of the arena are their own, regardless of her merits.”

Ilea turned her head a little.

[Warrior – lvl 210]

“Listen. We two in the arena, I stand still and you get to injure me, cut into me and torture me as much as you like for five minutes. If I’m still standing afterwards I get to punch you once. How does that sound?”

He snickered, dark blue full plate armor and twice the size of her with a hammer massive enough to be used as a ram. “You have an impressive level but a healer, even one using ash could not stand against me.”

The two others looked at each other, not quite as sure of him as he was of himself. “Good. Hey let’s change that. I get to hit you with your own hammer if I win.” She smiled, the man in front of her relaxing, now completely topped with health. His armor was ruined but he had surely won something in the challenge he had survived.

“Rohin, do you accept the challenge?” One of the other warriors asked, his voice sounding excited.

“I do.”

Oh you bloody idiot. Ilea though, I love having that healer tag back. The sheer arrogance of people. The leather armor helps I guess.

The warriors jumped to the stands and the details of her challenge quickly spread. Apparently there wasn’t a set schedule or a pause was planned anyway. She left the unconscious warrior behind and walked to the center of the arena. Something I wanted to try anyway. She activated her Armor of Ash but focused on keeping the ash off of herself, instead just forming a tiny sphere behind her back. It would allow for the bonuses to her body without presenting the impressive looking armor itself.

I should also test the range of my limbs. Feel like they were more flexible against the undying lord.

“The challenge is set. The wielder of ash, defeater of the legendary Undying lord stands against the noble Rohin.” The voice was booming and cheers erupted as soon as the words spread through the arena.

Way to spoil it. Ilea thought, watching the warrior in front of her take a step back, looking around confused.

“If he cannot bring the human down, she will be allowed one strike with his own hammer, the sledge of justice.”

“You named your hammer sledge of justice?” Ilea asked, making a bit of a face.

“Do not mock me human… perhaps your abilities allowed for you to slay that spirit of death but I won’t believe it until I see it with my own eyes. A warrior is something quite different than a spirit.” He said and lifted the hammer from his back. A terrifying sight to most.

“Time’s ticking big guy.”

The warrior stepped towards her and stopped a meter away. “Kick her ass!!” Ilea heard Terok scream through the crowd.

What’s that supposed to mean? She turned her head before a fist as big as her head slammed into her stomach. The force lifted her upwards before she landed half a meter further back. Twenty health… aaaand it’s back. The crowd cheered, went silent and then cheered again.

“Kick his ass!!” She heard him again, rolling her eyes. So much for gambling.

The warrior laughed, “Great. You really are durable.” He lifted the hammer next to him and tested its weight, trying to intimidate her. “Are you sure about this? I don’t want to kill you.”

“I’ll warn you if you get close.” Ilea said with a bright smile.

“Kick her ass!!” This time it was Maro who shouted over the crowd.

Maybe this is where we get our bout. I don’t think the arena will stand after that. The hammer swung through the air and impacted her shoulder. It seemed Rohin really was a little worried about killing her. He’s got time. The hammer impacted, the force going through the both of them before it slid to the ground. She noted that there wasn’t even a bruise below her light armor. Sixty health.

The warrior laughed, a blue flame starting to burn around him, “Marvelous.”

Maybe five minutes was too long. Her natural regeneration was taking care of the damage so far. The next hit was aimed at her leg, blue fire raging over the hammer before it impacted. Again, she wasn’t moved even an inch, the force pushing down and sideways. Ninety health, we’re getting there big guy.

As time went on, the warrior started to target her head and back, slamming the hammer down as quickly and powerful as he could, the crowd cheering less loudly with each strike. It was clear by the two minute mark that he wouldn’t be dealing significant damage. Ilea decided against healing, her natural health regeneration and toughness enough to tank the hits, mostly because they came very slowly.

The warrior was getting frantic, panting hard as he continued to use his skills, delivering hit after hit with the blue flame intensifying over time. Right before the five minutes ended, he lifted the hammer high, the fire around him intensifying. Ilea looked up as the hammer slammed straight down on her head, her boots stored safely in her necklace before she was smashed quite literally into the stone floor.

A trickle of blood flowed down her brow, the thin cut quickly healing up as she stepped out from the ground, boots appearing on her feet again. “I did it.” The dark one said, doing down on his knees as he panted. “How much health did that last one take?”

“Three hundred.” Ilea replied honestly, the warrior laughing.

“And what’s your level, warrior of ash?”

“That’s a secret. Now I believe you remember the deal.” She said, stepping over to him as her ashen armor expanded from her back, quickly at its full potential. Didn’t think it would be quite as one sided. She stood before him, wrapping her hand around the hammer before she lifted it up. The thing was heavy but manageable with all her buffs to Strength. The warrior must have had quite the buffs as well and a much higher base Strength with his level in the low two hundreds. Her resilience however wouldn’t be bested by him, not even with half her defensive power.

“Do it quickly. I shall die here for my foolishness. May it be a lesson for those watching.” The warrior said as she played around with the hammer, moving it from side to side as she got used to the balance.

“What? I’m not going to kill you. Relax.” She said and twirled the massive thing, letting the heavy head take over. The warrior didn’t quite grasp what she had said and neither realized she was moving the weapon from the bottom up and not the other way around. A loud boom echoed when the massive steel slammed into his crotch, a crack resounding as the crowd winced.

The warrior was lifted up a whole meter before crashing down, groaning in pain as his hands went to his crotch. “Hey I quite like this hammer.” She said and threw it upwards, catching it again with both hands. A bit unwieldy because it’s so long. Maybe Goliath can make me one. The balance was a little off she realized because she was simply not tall enough. The man groaned again, “Hey, your injuries to bear right?”

Ilea set down the hammer before checking on the warrior with a tendril of ash, just in case she had underestimated her power. Just his crotch. Good. While her Strength was absurdly high, the damage wasn’t buffed massively due to her neither using her offensive skills or her own body to attack. A pure warrior likely had plenty of Vitality too. Walking towards her group, she jumped up and sat back down as the people around them clapped and cheered.

“You just won me sixty silvers Ilea, cheers to that.” Terok exclaimed with a thumbs up.

“Thought you were betting against me.”

“Misdirection, I did as well but that was only five silvers. Many already knew you had defeated that lord, first time I had heard of it. Would have been much more profitable if you had been an unknown.” He complained.

Maro looked her way and shook his head, “Don’t look at me that way. You know we need more space and no living beings nearby. At least if you don’t want collateral damage.”

Sitting down, she noted that the warrior was crawling towards an exit. Nobody’s helping. She glanced at Lucas who had a big frown on his face. “Hey he’s alive.”

“That is not what I’m frowning about. Something’s about to attack the town. Feynor probably.” He got up and dusted off his clothes, “I’ll have to cut your tour short.”

“Feynor? What?” Ilea asked.

The man breathed in before shouting, “Breach!” Ilea watched in fascination as the people around them immediately sprung up and rushed to the exits, many sprouting wings or simply flying up as they readied their weapons. “It’s already the third time this month.” He shook his head and started floating too.

“You’re going to fight? How did you even spot them?” Ilea asked, looking around but neither hearing fighting, feeling or seeing anything indicating battle or intruders.

“I will try to reason with them while those unable to fight will seek shelter. They haven’t broken through so far but this feels different. All my saplings have been destroyed, at once. You have chosen a bad time to visit this town it seems.”

Ilea rolled her eyes, “I have a gift for bad timing.”

“Feynor coming? Fuck that, what are we going to do? Is there another exit?” Terok asked.

“Perhaps. Yet I would like to see how the elder handles this.” Maro said, floating up next to him. “I doubt Feynor have the power to stand against dark ones… interesting for sure.”

Ilea spread her wings and joined them, “Come on Terok. You can run away if they really overwhelm the place.”

“Of course she would fight too.” He grumbled and floated up. “Just once I try to sit back and enjoy myself.”

Didn’t say anything about fighting. It’s not my war but I can still heal people.” She said, quite aware that she would probably not keep it at that. Ilea was surprised to find herself neither annoyed nor angry. It really wasn’t her war but if herself and her friends were attacked for no good reason, she would play her part. What will you do? She asked, looking at Lucas and Maro’s back as they quickly rushed towards the entrance, hordes of dark ones rushing towards the same destination.


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