Chapter 318 Engage



Rushing to his side, Ilea grabbed Neiphato, six of her limbs carrying the injured elf as she healed him. Hera and Goldie were injured, barely on their feet as they joined Elfie behind his barriers, both having lost some of the fight in them. Neiphato was simply passed out, out of mana as his body slowly recovered. The scythe Praetorian broke out of the wood and rushed towards them, focusing on her before the blades slammed into a set of barriers brought to life by Elfie. “What are you… doing…,” Heranuur asked, Ilea picking up the two with a couple ashen limbs, making her way to the gates before her remaining limbs slammed into the steel gates. A thrown scythe got through, one of her wings moving up to deflect the weapon before it slammed into the entrance, cutting deep into the steel.

“You are no help here.” She said. The red haired elf looked at her, eyes going wide.

“No… we came this… far.” He was pleading now.

Ilea suddenly stopped her efforts to open the gates, looking at him. Elfie struggled to reform his barriers as the two Praetorians hammered into them. “You will die.” She said, her healing having recovered most of their injuries by now, Neiphato’s side having reformed as he slowly opened his eyes.

Heranuur landed on his feet as she let go, wiping the blood from his face as he ripped off a dented armor piece from his leg. He winced when a wound reopened, quickly closing thanks to her continued healing, “And what is the problem with that? There’s no meaning to my fighting if all I do is getting saved.” He said and stood up. “These machines… they are the reason we’re here, the reason we fight. I understand… that you humans think differently Ilea… but you. You face impossible odds all the time.” He cracked his neck, a grin forming as his sharp and bloodied teeth glinted red from below, “Thanks for the heal.” Seviir looked better, the elf’s eyes focusing as bones started forming some sort of armor around him. Heranuur collected his swords from the floor, “I will fight here, no matter the outcome. It was an honor to have met you.”

Neiphato sat back as he watched the scene unfold. Elfie was stepping back as a scythe moved past his face, only slightly deflected by his defenses, the other Praetorian slamming his mace into the annoying barriers. She watched as both Seviir and Hearnuur walked towards the other elf, their skills activating as they prepared to fight. Ilea’s healing stopped as they neared their full health. “Stubborn, inexperienced… I know what you think.” She heard Neiphato speak up next to her, “But please. Let us help here. Let us show them, what elves and humans can do.” He got up slowly, his face not looking quite as young anymore as he stared at the machines.

“Let us show them, that it is them that should fear us.” Ilea felt goosebumps rush down her arms, the elf touching her shoulder gently as she stared at the green eyes of the Praetorians. She closed her eyes and breathed in when two new figures appeared next to them.

“You are all idiots.” She said, skeletons rising slowly, metal spikes hovering towards the machines.

Terok laughed as he appeared next to the two elfs behind Elfie, “Quite a mess, and here I thought we were done fighting for a while.”

“Humans and Elves.” Maro mused as he slowly walked to her side, Neiphato glancing at the necromancer. “I’m not the only one with a hidden stat it seems.” Purple flames came to life around his heavy robes.

“The hammer one has a spherical corrosive area spell.” Ilea said as the three of them joined the others, Elfie coughing up blood as he kept the barriers up. She extended a limb to heal the elf, finding his whole body in turmoil.

“Don’t. He just needs time to adjust.” Neiphato said next to her. Ilea noticed his condition worsening as she used her healing mana, stopping immediately.

Roots formed around the elf next to her, his whole demeanor changed. Neiphato spoke with confidence, “Necromancer. I assume you are above three hundred?” Maro nodded, “Good. You and Ilea will be the best shot we have at actually defeating these monsters. The shields are hard to penetrate. Focus on damaging their legs as soon as you’re through. Take the one with the hammer.”

The wood creator stepped next to Elfie and touched his back, “The rest will hold back the second one. The disorientation will fade, Cerithil Hunter.” Ilea noted how Elfie gulped at the words, their roles very much reversed, “Move now! May we die in honor or destroy our enemies!” Neiphato shouted, the mana of dozens of skills pulsing in the air around them. The barriers broke and chaos returned, Ilea and Maro teleporting to the right side of the hall as the necromancer sent his undead at their assigned Praetorian. Ilea formed ashen lances while the others rushed to the other side, their two groups separating the enemies successfully.

“You think you can take that one alone?” Maro asked as they stood a couple meters apart, a beam of purple crashing into the shield followed by lances of ash that shattered upon impact. The Praetorian lifted its mace to block the continuous beam before a sphere of corrosion melted away the skeletons and undead Maro had created.

Ilea formed more lances as she started towards the machine, her wings vanishing, “I mean you lot already joined. Still a chance for you to fuck off?” Her sixteen ashen limbs writhed behind her, ready to strike. “I’ll try to weaken its shield with my mana intrusion. Can you tell anything about its strength?” As much as she itched to try herself, the damage to its shield from before had already recovered. Having both of them on her would spell trouble.

She rushed in, jumping over the mace as she twirled, her limbs smashing into the shield. Sixteen uses of Storm of Cinder burned quite a bit of mana. She watched the shield turn red in parts, the cinders sizzling through as she jumped up, her fist delivering Absolute Destruction, the skill at 100 mana per strike still using more than her sixteen limbs combined. Ilea saw the blue mana burn into the shield before she blinked away, the sphere of corrosion spreading.

“I mean you can see it too.” Maro said, floating between the pillars as he sent beam after beam of purple energy right at the spots Ilea had already damaged, “Focus on separate spots, I don’t think the enchantment is encompassing the whole thing.”

Ilea didn’t let up, rushing in again as soon as the wave had vanished, the ground sizzling and a weird scent coming to her nose, “Front two legs first then.” She said, her limbs smashing into the legs as the creature moved quickly to avoid her strikes, its mace rushing at her time and time again as she dodged and weaved through, the fourth hit unavoidable. Her blink was disrupted once again, her arms held up to block the metal coming from above.

The weapon impacted, her arms smashing into her face as she was partially pushed into the stone floor, stone cracking against her armor of ash and the power of the strike. A wave of air rushed out from the impact, Ilea already healing her bruised arms as her limbs once more delivered their payload into the right front leg of the machine, remaining for a moment to add her reversed healing. Maro’s beams didn’t let up either, precise and deadly as they burned through the shield, her own mana coupled with his digging through the defensive layers, stripping away more and more.

Four overhead slams she dodged, the fifth one coming from the side, sending her tumbling once again before she slowed down, skidding on the floor. The Praetorian followed, moving as quickly as she flew, Maro teleporting to be able to target its front legs as Ilea formed a set of ashen walls in front of her. The mace crashed into and through her ash, Ilea ducking under the slowed attack when her Storm of Cinders finally got through the shield. “Now, the front right!” A powerful purple beam cut into it as Ilea blinked closer, her fists crashing against the leg that stood as tall as her, Absolute Destruction and Storm of Cinders coupled with her sixteen limbs sucked her mana dry, some returned thanks to her second tier Reversal but the machine had a high defense against it. She felt the attack coming but didn’t let up, getting in another strike at the same time as a purple beam rushed past her shoulder, the leg ripped off right when the corrosive sphere burned over her.

Ilea blinked back, the ash on her discarded as new one formed, her face, chest and thighs burned through, her skin dissolving as she counter healed. The Praetorian pursued but nearly fell, the damaged leg snapping when it took a step, its integrity not enough anymore for the heavy and fast machine. The time it needed to adjust was enough for Ilea to recover, the corrosion continuing to burn into her skin behind the newly formed armor of ash. Heart of Cinder didn’t seem wort it considering the shields, focused attacks necessary. One leg down, five to go. She smirked, reminded of her first battles against the Taleen Guardians. Her mind focused, jumping back to avoid another strike as Maro started working on its second leg.

A glance towards the other group revealed that they weren’t doing just as well, Elfie having collapsed, defended by Terok while the others teleported and moved quickly to avoid the scythes. Fight or die. She watched the scythes slash through the air, three elves teleporting and moving in between as they tried cutting the shields whenever an opening presented itself. Even with an instant, she knew that both of them would be too much for her still. As expected. She smirked, a little annoyed about it but a test run with a team distracting the enemy wouldn’t hurt.

She noted with the next attacks that the Praetorian learned just as the Centurions did, already more on the defensive now that one of its legs was broken.

The second one snapped half a minute later, Ilea jumping back to join Maro as they recovered some of their mana. Four legs were still enough to move but not quite as fast and efficiently as before, not with the heavy torso on top, let alone the weapon. “You ok?” Maro asked, sweat on his brow as he created a beam of death magic that reflected on the drops, working on the next target already.

“I’m alright.” She replied, checking her resources as her mana recovered quickly but not as fast as she spent it. Even with all her resources recovered, she had fought the death spirit in Lisburg, had fought the Feynor there too as well as in Hallowfort and now she was here, perhaps a couple hours of sleep would have been advisable.

A dozen green mist like spheres suddenly formed above the Praetorian, the machine unmoving as it created the green shimmering projectiles. “I’ll take care of them, just keep focusing on the leg.” She said and started forming ash, sending streams of it at the quickly approaching acid that sizzled through. Ten were already dealt with when they reached the pair of fighters, Ilea’s wings quickly forming before the magic ate through most of them, leaving skeleton like protrusions coming from her back before she discarded them again.

Compared to her created ash, her wings benefited from their own bonuses just like her Armor did. Not nearly as powerful but enough to make them noticeably different than her freely created ash. The machine hadn’t moved while the attack was happening, Ilea advanced again as soon as the spheres were dealt with. The ten seconds of meditation had gotten her enough mana for a couple more doses of Storm of Cinders.

The Praetorian did what it could, going as far as feinting with its massive mace to get Ilea pinned down, the only way it could manage to kill her quickly. It targeted Maro too several times but the man was fast, his teleportation having a longer range than Ilea’s too. He was aware of his surroundings at all times and Ilea noted too that his beams never got in the way, not even with her frantic dodging and quick weaving around the enemy’s attacks. The most impressive part was that his beam rarely stopped burning into the machine’s shields.

“Ilea!” The sudden shout of Terok made her vanish, appearing where she heard the voice. Neiphato lay on the floor as Seviir held back a scythe with his arms, the former damn near cut in two by his waist. She blinked again, slamming away the Scythe to get an opening, the second weapon coming in before Heranuur deflected it with his blades, flying back ten meters from the blow. Her ashen limbs moved the open wound together as she focused on healing it, the Praetorian distracted once again by the two elves, Terok in close combat too after leaving Elfie behind.

By now they should have learned to go for the injured. She noted, watching Maro around fifty meters away as he continued blasting the leg, some skeletons having joined his ranks again to take over her role as a melee distraction. It would be enough for a while, the machine slowed down by the missing legs. Neiphato coughed, groaning in pain as the wound finally closed. “Your bones are fine, it missed most of your organs.”

The elf grit his teeth and slowly got up again, hands lifted as wood started to form again, “I’m fine. I’m sorry…,” He said, eyes looking towards the scythe Praetorian as Ilea blinked back towards Maro.

Only two skeletons remained but she noted the difficulty the machine had at dealing with them, resorting to its corrosion sphere to finally be rid of them. Moving in, her limbs delivered their payload, her fists smashing into the now unshielded leg several timesin the two seconds it took for the Praetorian to use its area attack again. She stepped to the side and punched one last time, its mace smashing the ground next to her as a beam of purple light finally cracked the metal and Ilea blinked away.

They didn’t let up and twenty seconds later the fourth leg was destroyed, Maro immediately summoning a bunch of skeletons from his ring as both of them teleported towards the second undamaged Praetorian, “I’ll keep it occupied.” He said, one out of the six skeletons he animated running at the machine, two legs and arms remaining as it dragged its massive body over the floor towards them, the grinding noise overshadowed by Heranuur’s explosions.

Neiphato screamed, wood forming before him with both scythes stuck within as the others hacked away at the shielded legs. It’s reforming too quickly for them. “Shout before it gets through!” She appeared next to the front left leg of the creature, the purple beam hitting before her ashen limbs crashed into it. The enemy immediately ripped out its scythes from the wood, Neiphato staggering forward as it slashed at Ilea, both weapons coming in horizontally. She jumped, straightening in the air as the blades rushed past her both above and below. Blinking immediately after, she continued her focus on its leg, the others moving in and out as her sphere perceived it all.

Seviir appeared near its head, slamming his bone claws into the shield to distract it. Terok was back with Elfie, metal shields held towards the crawling Praetorian. Maro didn’t let up, hovering close enough to intervene with everything, more skeletons forming and hacking away at the crawling monster. Her resources were getting low already and not even one of them was destroyed, So much for fighting them alone. She smirked.

Neiphato went as far as stopping his attacks as he teleported towards Terok, standing a couple meters away as he recovered some mana. She thought about going for the machine’s arms but they moved too frantically, much harder to target as well as more dangerous, even with the high range of her limbs. Attacking close and personal allowed her to blink if necessary, getting her limbs tangled up ten meters away would be problematic.

“Incoming!” Maro shouted, Ilea seeing the spheres of corrosion before Neiphato teleported again.

He shouted back as he held up his hands, roots forming as the spheres started moving towards him, “I got it!”

Jumping back, Ilea avoided the scythe rushing past, scratching the ground as she felt the air pressure. She was one with her skills and her body, her legs stepping back quickly, her torso turning before she ducked, followed by a somersault backwards. The metal scratched against her ashen armor, the Praetorian building more speed with each swing of its scythes, its torso turning quickly, the weapons scratching deeper and deeper before she was forced to teleport, appearing behind the machine and targeting one of its hind legs.

It stopped. She attacked as the Praetorian slashed at her again, its speed back to normal. It builds up speed with each attack. The two elves each came from another angle, the Praetorian still focused on Ilea when finally, a punch of hers fueled by most of her skills except her third tier Aspect of Ash ripped through the first leg, the metal piece flying off towards one of the walls. We’re running on fumes here. She thought while moving on to the next leg, using the moment of disorientation to land another hit immediately. Despite her mana dipping below a thousand, Ilea was thoroughly enjoying herself. The others were likely worse off except for Maro with his seemingly unlimited supply of beam energy.

They could get injured and required healing, sure but right now Ilea knew her own power wouldn’t quite be enough to face the two of them. Compared to the cluster fuck of an expedition force that was with her the last time she had fought Praetorians, this time she trusted each and every one of them to fight without errors, to ration their resources and keep at it, no matter the danger. It was more akin to her group in the Shadow’s Hand but this time they had an unanimous foe and no reason to bicker. While it was incredibly dangerous for the others to face the machines, she was happy they provided the opportunity to maybe even destroy them.

This wasn’t a job for money, fighting some monsters that were bothering a nearby settlement or taking care of some lunatic blood mage that got drunk on his power. This was a different league, the Praetorians a more personal enemy for both the elves and Ilea, their destruction not a simple mission requirement but a rebellion against an untouchable foe that had terrorized them in different ways. She breathed out, moving her torso back as the massive blade moved past. A blow that would have cut her in half the last time.

Another blade came at her, Ilea lifting her arm to deflect it ever so slightly, her limbs rushing out from her back to slam into the enemy shields. Her eyes shined blue in the dimly lit hall, ash wreathing around her, I’m not running today.


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