Queen of Ashes

by

Desphinx

The Ruins of Arelia pt. 3

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With a pang, Liri drove her sword through another skeleton's body.

Level 4

HP: 0/108

EXP Gained: +14, 28/40

Hearing an enemy behind her, Liri warily managed to back away from a slow moving horizontal slash. She retaliated with a Fireball that knocked the assailant off its balance.

Level 6

HP: 87/107

Sensing an opportunity, she continued with two quick slashes that left the skeleton pretty much dead. One more left it actually dead.

HP: 0/107

EXP Gained: +16, 40/40

Level Up!

She was about to pop the Level Up menu when she heard a small clatter behind her. For what had to have been the seventh time, she gasped. Not because she was afraid of some random skeleton, but in case it was the skeleton. The one she was fighting these monsters to prepare for. The one that had reminded her of what it was to feel fear.

She sighed when she deduced that whatever made that sound wasn't headed for her. In relative safety, she commenced the usual process.

Level 8

VIT: 3

END: 3

INT: 3

STR: 3

DEX: 6

AGL: 0

L: 3

She'd been following the process of investing 2 AP into DEX and 1 into STR to reach the requirements for the Ancient Helian Sword. She was missing just 1 point for STR.

Her head low, Liri's legs dragged as she moved across the ruins, towards what has become her "camp". The library.

She walked through the doorless entrance and slumped on one of the many dust-covered chairs. Letting her head fall back on the seat's frame, she exhaled all the day's fights into the air.

Her stomach rumbled. It had been two days since she ate those wolves. That was her last meal.

As if to illustrate her point, a message appeared.

Effect Gained: Starving

HP will deteriorate gradually. Leads to death

... What am I even doing here? She wondered.

She'd been killing these skeletons with the purpose of using the Ancient Helian Sword, but what would she do after that? She couldn't leave, those barriers saw to that and all this preparation was for nothing if she couldn't find food.

Her heart was slamming against her chest. Still leaning on the same chair, her eyes connected with a series of bookshelves. One particular book came back to her memory.

She opened the soldier's journal that she had recovered a short time ago and left in the library. Her eyes squinted around the same phrases, parts of the text that continued to confuse her.

The Red Star... Never heard of them, but if they sacked a major city like this, I'd imagine I would have been taught something about this event back at the orphanage. Nothing though. Why?

She reached another portion she didn't quite get.

Necromancers. I haven't heard of them before, probably something to do with magic. Liri shrugged.

However, the next part she found made her eyes widen. Because by now, she was damn certain what exactly that was.

The Grand King and the barriers placed to protect him. That monster that nearly split Liri in half, that was him.

Liri gritted her teeth as her eyes became watery. How? She asked. He should be dead! The barriers were also a problem. Surely, they were not active when Liri arrived, so it was her own action in triggering some strange mechanism at the side of the box in the central chamber that activated them. How does that work? And, what does she need to do to erase them?

Of course, all of these facts led to one conclusion, one she desperately wanted to avoid. Since those barriers were erected to protect him, Liri's way out might lie in giving the Grand King a more permanent rest.

As she thought about it now, her right hand instinctively reached up and touched the scar at the center of her chest.

She still remembered it, how cold she felt, how she truly believed that was it until she remembered she had one last red potion left.

She was screwed beyond imagination.

So why then, did she stand up and look for any nearby book that held information that could help? She figured that if not for self-preservation, it must have been for entertainment. Like, "hey, here's something someone better than you could do to survive."

A few light footsteps echoed throughout the library. As she was beginning to approach the books, she heard the tell-tale sign of a skeleton walking aimlessly outside the library. An incessant croaking.

Alright, let's get it over with. She turned from the books and drew the Iron Sword right there.

Level 8

HP: 130/130

Liri had discovered quite a few things about Skeletons since she'd started fighting them, she reflected as she blocked an attack and returned a slash.

They all fought the same way. That is to say, whatever they could do, whatever skill or spell they possessed, not that Liri had seen more than two, they would use at the beginning and the rest of the fight would be them aimlessly swinging their sword hoping to hit something. It was not much unlike Liri's own style of fighting.

Of course, this gave her no reason to be reckless, she'd still approach each fight with caution, but in this fight particularly, for the first time, Liri felt like she was several steps ahead of her opponent.

Before she could return from her train of thought actually, the fight was over.

HP: 0/130

EXP Gained: +20, 20/45

Liri took one step before another message appeared.

[Trait] Unlocked!

Skeleton Hunter:

Fighting the same type of enemy for an extended time has yielded results. Now, all attacks against "Skeletons" deal +20% MD, or AD

Liri paused. Another croaking sound came behind her. She turned towards the new victim.

Level 8

HP: 123/123

Quickly, she blocked an attack and retaliated with her Iron Sword.

Level 8

HP: 87/123

Oh! Liri was astonished. It wasn't too big of a difference, but she quickly understood that while one attack might be comparable, over time, with multiple slashes, this 20% difference was a game-changer.

HP: 0/123

EXP Gained: +20, 40/45

As the skeleton crumbled in front of her, Liri furrowed her brows. This attack damage increase... Does this apply to the Grand King as well?

If so, this battle she was forced to have was looking slightly more winnable.

As she made her way back to the library, another thing popped into her head. Kairo.

She required 12 DEX to use that weapon. She was already at 6! That was just two more levels, and Kairo's AD far surpassed both the Ancient Helian Sword and the Iron Sword.

She paced around the old room. She felt like she was on the cusp, on the precipice of having an idea as to what to do here.

Think Liri, come on!

She sat down, placing her hands on the wooden table in front of her.

... Kairo's enchantment still has one charge left. She thought. One hit, just one, leaves that big bastard at half health. If I can find him with his back turned, wherever he went, I can do this. I think he had like 500 HP or something. One attack leaves him at around 300. Then, with Kairo... She glanced down at the weapon.

Kairo (Unique, Enchanted): 33-49 AD

Requires 12 DEX

(Sneak Attacks leave any enemies damaged at half health. Enchantment still occurs without minimum Dex)

(1/6 Charges)

A maximum of 49 AD. If I get him down to 200 HP that's around four hits! She laughed bitterly. Even I probably can't fuck that up. She sighed. Without this, I wouldn't stand a chance against that thing. All I need, is to catch it off guard.

She was smiling against her own will. Until she remembered something else.

One hit... She thought. One hit from that guy killed me, by all accounts. If it weren't for that potion, I'd be dead right now. I don't have any left of those. All it takes is one slip up, just one, and I'm dead.

Suddenly, the crushing reality of her situation dawned on her again.

But... Another voice in her mind started to say. He's a skeleton. That's all. If he's like the rest... Then, like the rest... He's too slow. She thought. He can't hit me.

Another part of her mind, as if two opposing camps were having a debate, piped up.

A part of that is because you can Block, but what if you can't do that here. Blocking attacks from those skeletons alone makes your arm sting like hell. What would happen if you blocked an attack from that guy?

Liri rested her forehead on the table.

I don't know... But I may not have to block. As I said, these things are slow. Maybe I can dodge him. For the amount of time it would take you to land four hits? Maybe not, but... Those spells earlier, some of them were really useful. Maybe there's another one. Just one that can help with this goal.

She stood abruptly. Taking in the small amount of glowing-white books, she scanned through them.

Spell: Tornado

Send a gust of wind to briefly manipulate an enemy's movement

Costs: 30 Mana (Requires 40 INT)

No.

Spell: Flame Dragon

Spawn a dragon made of flame to-

Nope.

Spell: Quick Release

Arrows-

Come on already! There's got to be something.

She grabbed another book.

Spell: Oakheart

All physical attacks deal 10% less damage for 1 minute

Costs: 20 Mana (Requires 8 INT)

YES! Liri actually squealed. She glanced at another spellbook right next to that one.

Spell: Shadowform

Become intangible for 2 seconds

Costs: 15 Mana (Requires 10 INT)

This. Liri thought. This is all I need. She checked her Attributes.

Level 8

VIT: 3

END: 3

INT: 3

STR: 3

DEX: 6

AGL: 0

L: 3

I get 3 points per level up. I need six points in DEX and seven in INT. It would take me 4 levels if I put 2 points into INT consistently, to get to 10, actually, I'd reach 11. If every time I did that, I put 1 point into DEX I would need just one more level after that to be able to use Kairo. All in all, I need around five more levels.

She continued her train of thought staring at the floor like she could see all of her ideas marinating there.

But... Right now, killing a Level 8 Skeleton gives me around 20 EXP. I need to kill 3 just to raise one level right now. If that increases, that means... She smiled wryly. It means I need to kill a whole lot of skeletons.

She was about to sprint out, eager to get the necessary kills as quickly as possible, before she halted right at the entrance to the library.

... I need to be careful. She realized. I don't know where the Grand King went. He could be right outside for all I know. If I don't watch myself, this whole plan could be over before I even have the chance to finish it.

So, she slowed her step and calmly walked out.

They weren't hard to find, those skeletons. Either they were walking around, so their footsteps, like tapping wood with a spoon, would give away their location, or they'd be standing still, croaking in which case the same would happen.

Right outside the library, was one.

HP: 0/143

EXP Gained: +20, 40/40

Level Up!

There was another by the set of stairs that she used to get into the ruins in the first place. How did that one even get here? Hadn't Liri already cleared this place out?

HP: 0/129

EXP Gained: +17, 17/45

A third skeleton was walking to the right of the library. Liri followed it, revealing a slightly hidden path that led to some ancient garden that was long since dead. There were four skeletons here. Each one just not fast enough to contend with Liri, especially with that new Trait.

As she fought, she started to feel more and more like... She might have a chance. She could do it. Granted, it was mainly just because of Kairo, without that weapon, she could never hope to even get close to her goal. But having that small blade made all the difference.

She made a mental note to kiss the owner of that blade whenever she saw them.

And it was that idea that reminded Liri of precisely what she was fighting for.

The hope that if she found Stin's team, she wouldn't have to fight anymore. That, maybe, as Stin said, they'd help her. Help her find somewhere to live, protect her, whatever it was, but anything would be preferable to this.

Every day Liri spent here, even now, fighting skeleton after skeleton, she couldn't shake the fear. She was a natural coward.

It didn't take too long to reach her goal. A pile of bones fell in front of her, as she stood in what had been some cafeteria long ago.

EXP Gained: +20, 70/70

Level Up!

Liri sighed as she popped up the Attributes menu.

VIT: 3

END: 3

INT: 11

STR: 3

DEX: 12

AGL: 0

L: 3

[Status]

Level 13

HP: 109/109

Mana: 55/55

Stamina: 62/ 62

All her progress had the adverse effect of terrifying her. Because it meant that... There was no stalling anymore. Now that she could use Kairo, and the Oakheart and Shadowform spells, she had to do it.

She had to fight the Grand King. Not because she wanted to, but because with each hour that passed, her hunger only got worse. All she wanted was to break that damned barrier down, to satiate this desperation inside of her. Not to mention to also not die of starvation, of course.

She returned to the library where she'd made somewhat of a home for herself here. She ran her fingers by the surface of the table that had almost acted as her bed.

Knowing full well she could die here, she looked around. Holding onto a random book, feeling its hard surface, gripping the Iron Sword that had been her companion for such a long part of this journey now. She felt it all, because maybe she wouldn't be able to feel it after today.

However, the sooner she got it over with, the sooner that damn hunger would go away one way or another. So, she breathed in, breathed out, and walked out the library for the last time.

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About the author

Desphinx

Bio: Hey there, if you are at all interested in slightly above-average work then, you have come to the right profile!

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