Synopsis: A fast-paced story about a youngster who loses everything and everyone he holds dear. Through the only family that still remains with him, his uncle, he gets to choose to dedicate his focus and attention to blacksmithing rather than to fall into depression and street life...
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Skeletons began appearing about one hundred meters away on our left flank. In just 10 seconds their numbers swelled to a hundred, and showed no signs of slowing down. We had just swept through this area recently so these must be the stragglers we missed. Their numbers shouldn’t be that much.
“Big 1, bring 200 large imps with you and clear out those skeletons. Harvest all the souls and bring them to me, I need to recover my mana.”
“Yes Master, this one will go forth and collect the souls for you.”
Truth be told, Big 1 was a pretty reliable devil. Whenever I issued an order, he would carry it out without batting an eye. If only he didn’t treat me like a female devil…
He quickly singled out 200 large imps and made his way towards the skeletons. With their bone clubs in hand, they charged into the skeleton army. With every swing, the sound of bones cracking and clattering onto the floor could be heard. This was an easy battle for the large imps. With their superior strength, the skeletons who were around the level of a normal human fighter, were basically fodder to the savage imps.
Even a simple body slam from a large imp was able to take out a bunch of skeletons. Once in awhile, they would encounter a one-star that required several seconds to take care of, but overall it was a very low level fight. After all, these were imps who had undergone the baptism of bloodshed. Each of them were ruthless characters who had made it this far by killing their own kin.
*twang twang twang*
The sound of arrows being fired echoed loudly throughout the battlefield as I saw several dozens arrows fly over the skeletons and into the imp army; injuring them. However, with the large imp’s thick hide, unless it was a fatal wound, they would barely flinch from normal wounds. These arrows were basically useless. Outside of an unlucky imp who got shot thrice in the head, most got off with a light wound.
In the middle of the skeleton army were 35 skeleton archers who were nocking their bows and preparing for a second volley. They seemed to have learnt their lesson as this volley had a more impressive result of three deaths. Judging from their strength, these archers were probably one-star.
This was the first time I had seen skeletons that possess a warrior class. It was a shocking revelation to me; these skeletons clearly possessed a portion of the strength they had in life. Not only did they know how to use melee weapons, they were even able to perform the intricate task of firing an arrow!
“One-eye go and reinforce them with 200 more large imps. You see those archers? Circle around them and take them out in a decisive blow.” As I said so, I made a clenching motion.
“Understood, Master. I’ll do as you say.” One-eye didn’t dally long before dragging the exhausted Nine-finger with him as he roused the other exhausted imps with a kick. It was a simple but effective method, in less than a minute, the reinforcement team had set off.
The skeleton archer team were neither too numerous nor too little. They had just enough members to suppress the charging imps. With their long range capabilities, they formed the core offensive power of the army, and were thus heavily protected by the melee skeletons. Their arrows alone had foiled two attempts by Big 1 to charge into the skeleton army, causing them to not only fail but also suffer losses.
Thankfully, the large imps weren’t too dim and were able to figure out a way to block the arrows. They used their bone clubs as bats to deflect incoming arrows, reducing the effectiveness of these archers.
However, this put them on the defensive as their weapon had to be ready to deflect arrows. This dramatically lowered their offensive capabilities. Just as it looked like they were about to be in trouble, One-eye arrived in the nick of time. He had circled around the army while they were distracted by the large imps, and flanked them.
They were undead after all. They had no intelligence outside of a few notable exceptions. Instinct was what drove their thirst for flesh and blood. It was what made them hunt the living, even to the point of forming teams to do so.
One-eye’s charge had the desired effect; wiping out the archers in one blow. Their bows had no melee capabilities to speak of, and they were swiftly overwhelmed by a few swings of the imps’ bone clubs.
With the loss of their archer corp, the skeleton army was done for. In a mere span of 10 minutes, the battle was over with the skeletons being wiped out.
Big 1 and One-eye had brought back a combined total of 600 soul flames and presented them to me. As I replenished my mana with these soul flames, I formulated a plan. A minute later, No.5 came back to report once more. He reported that the zombie horde was now 20 minutes away from us.
That damned skeleton army had not only cost us time, it had cost me 24 large imps as well. Half of them were done in by the arrows, while the other half were killed by the skeletons taking advantage of the suppressive fire. Damn it, if it wasn’t for those damned long range attacks, we wouldn’t have lost a single imp in such a low level battle!
Fortunately, that corpse mountain was made entirely of devil corpses. If there had been any archer zombies in that horde, the only option left would have been to run.
Large imp corpses were a valuable resource. While they had been my subordinates in life, in death they were merely a corpse. To the me who had stepped over a mountain of corpses in order to leave the blood sea, dead devils were merely food.
Unknowingly, I had turned into a cold and heartless person.
“Let’s go, we don’t have time to dawdle.”
I knew the devils were still exhausted, plus, they were hungry as well. Those 24 corpses were definitely not enough to feed all the large imps in my army. So I decided to distribute the collected soul flames, with the battle’s participants getting an extra share.
They were the ones who had toiled to bring in these soul flames after all. They naturally deserved some form of reward. Especially in these dire times, maintaining morale was crucial in preventing deserters while on the run.
I was now faced with a difficult choice: do I pass through that ancient battlefield or do I circle around it?
We were in the midst of fleeing for our lives so every bit of distance helped. The quickest way to distance ourselves from the zombies was to take a straight line route through the battlefield. If we circled around it, the zombies would require less time to catch up with us.
However, passing through the battlefield meant potentially going against the ancient undead resting in there. Without sufficient information about their strength and numbers, this was an extremely risky choice.
We ended up circling around the battlefield.
In the blink of an eye, two days had passed. During these two days of fleeing, we met with numerous undead ambushes. Thankfully, their levels weren’t too high. Without any extenuating circumstances, our army had the upper hand in numbers and in quality.
The zombie horde was extremely slow compared to us. Even with the frequent waylays and pit stops, we still managed to put significant distance between us and the undead horde. By now, they were a full day’s worth of traveling from us. I just don’t get why they were so insistent on chasing us down. Was this retribution for eating too many corpses?
In front of us was the ruins of a tower. Within this desolate wasteland, the existence of such a man made structure piqued my curiosity. It was my first encounter with any sort of building since reincarnating into purgatory. The cylindrical tower was split in half at the center. Its head section of the top half was buried into the ground as it leaned against the bottom half, forming an inverse V.
If it hadn’t been destroyed, this tower would have been at least a hundred meters tall. Even in its current form, it was still tall.
While there weren’t any weeds growing out of it, the tower had long since lost its original hue. It was colored in a dark green which resembled the soul flame of the undead.
I hesitated as I stood outside the tower. Should I enter it? If there’s a high level undead in there, we’re screwed…But I can’t just leave it, what if there’s treasure in there…
As I stood there weighing the pros and cons, No.5 came back.This lazy fellow had been thoroughly trained by me these past few days. He was now the leader of my scouting team. I assigned 10 large imps to his team. Their mission was to monitor the zombie horde’s movement.
“Master, I’m back.” As he said so, he threw me his usual ingratiating look. He kinda looked like a dog begging for food. The only thing missing was a wagging tongue…
I used my usual cold tone to reply: “What’s the situation?”
“The zombie horde has split up. One group continued the pursuit while the other left in a different direction.”
“Split up?! Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m very sure. Furthermore, I noticed something very strange. Even after splitting up, their numbers didn’t seem to change much.”
Their numbers didn’t change even after splitting up? The only way this was possible was if they had reinforcements!
“Did you notice anything other zombies in that horde? Like skeletons?”
“Oh…hmmm…I think…there weren’t any…”
“Was there or was there not any!”
Without me having to even lift a finger, One-eye and the other named imps had latched onto his limbs and lifted him up.
“There…there were…there definitely were…” As his legs were lifted off the ground, he panicked and flailed his arms around wildly. However, he didn’t manage to break free.
“You are sure?”
“I’m…I’m very sure!”
“If I find out that you have made a false report, I’ll make sure that there’s someone watching over you 24 hours a day to make sure you never get to sleep again!”
A pitiful looking No.5: “…”
Damn potato, even in this situation, you can’t make an accurate report.
Since their numbers didn’t change and there were sightings of skeletons, this meant that the horde had joined up with other undead.
“What’s their numbers?”
As he was put down, he collapsed onto the ground on all fours. Having been questioned by me, he started counting with his fingers: ”Err…Ten? Hundred? A thousand?…it was uncountable…anyway they had more than us.”
I pressed him once more, deeply unsatisfied with his answer: “Give me an estimate.”
“In your words, they were at least five times as large as us…”
Five times? That meant they were at least 3,000 strong. No, this was too important, I need No.5 to go and scout once more. I need more detailed information.
The undead horde was a day away from us. Within this time, I needed to decide whether to enter that tower…or not…
As if he had predicted my hesitation, Nine-finger made the choice for me.
“Ghost…there’s a ghost!”
Having just sent No.5 off to scout, Nine-finger suddenly burst into view in what seemed like a mix of sprinting and crawling. Behind him were two translucent maids floating in the air. Their white translucent bodies were tinged with a hint of green commonly found in the other undead. Judging from their appearances, they were probably vengeful ghosts.
Based on the fact that he came from the direction of the tower, and that the door to said tower was open at the moment….This idiot must’ve taken matters into his own hands and ended up stirring up a hornet’s nest. No wonder it felt like someone was missing when No.5 was making his report.
As I hadn’t decided on whether or not to explore the tower, I ordered everyone to distance themselves from it. Who knew that this idiot would approach the tower of his own accord and cause this much trouble.
“Why the heck are you running!” As his big brother, One-eye was thoroughly incensed by his little brother’s disgraceful display. Before he even got a chance to slap the imp, Nine-finger had already hugged his waist and circled around to his back.
With an eye peeking out from One-eye’s back, Nine-finger pointed a shaking finger at the two floating ghosts and wailed: “Ghost! There are ghosts here, Big Brother!
“Shut up, you retard!”
After hitting him thrice on the head, Nine-finger finally quieted down. However, the fear in his eyes did not subside, as he continued staring at the floating ghosts.
The vengeful ghosts had chased him halfway before noticing us. Noticing that he was now far away and that we outnumbered them greatly, the pair decided to return to the tower.
It was at this moment that No.3 and Big 1 leaped into the air, their bone clubs brandished high. With a forceful swing, their clubs cut through the air and passed harmlessly through the back of the ghosts as if they had swung at smoke.
The two vengeful ghosts laughed as they circled Big 1 and No.3, teasing them. Perhaps it was out of boredom or perhaps it was because of my nearing presence, they tossed me fearful look before flying back to the tower.
Physical attacks were ineffective? I guess they were immune to physical attacks since they had no physical body. In that case, were they able to inflict physical harm?