With the battle over, it was now time to split the “spoils”. The dead imps were dismembered and evenly distributed among the survivors, while the majority of the undead soul flames were sent to me. The remaining portion was split between the named imps. Except for No.5, all of them were on the verge of evolving.
With their swords and shields, they would be undefeatable within the two-star level once they evolved.
We camped out at this spot for two days before No.5 finally came back. As always, he had that wronged look on his face whenever he saw me.
“Master, you finally remembered me…”
“Has their numbers changed?”
“…it increased a little, it’s probably at 4,000 now.”
“How long until they get here?”
“4 to 5 days…” he said as he counted his fingers.
Four to five days? That’s not enough, looks like we have to stall for time.
“Continue observing them, we need to find a way to stall for time. Be careful and make sure not to alert them.”
“But Master…I’m tired.”
“So are you saying you wish to stop working?”
“No, no, I was just wondering if I could take a break?” No.5 looked at me with his puppy dog eyes as he asked. If he had stuck out his tongue at this moment, he would’ve looked like a dog.
“Sure you can, you can take a break forever.” I nodded benevolently and pointed at No.3, Big 1, One-eye, Big 4 and Nine-finger. “Whose stomach do you wish to rest in? Take your pick.”
“…” No.5 jumped back in terror at these words. Under the strange gazes of his companions, he threw me a smile that looked more like a sobbing face and said: “Stop joking Master, I still wish to work for you.”
“No way, toiling on the Master’s behalf is this servant’s honor!” Having said that, he immediately ran off, behind him One-eye and the others were chortling at his expense.
We weren’t idling around in the two days when we were waiting for No.5’s intelligence report. I began designing new weaponry for the imps. One such design was the heavy bone shield.
To produce this new bone shield, I needed 7 units of mana and 7 sets of bones. It was made with the intention of fighting off devil zombies, but there were other uses as well. (Each unit of mana was equivalent to one Darkness Arrow’s worth of mana.)
The new shield had the same shape as the previous and was strictly speaking, a larger version of it. This new design was 1.5m long, 1m wide and a staggering 5 cm thick. As for its weight, I have no idea. It probably weighed about 150 kg.
It was designed for personal use but it could also be used by multiple people simultaneously.
The heavy weight meant that only my strongest imps could use this shield without having their mobility severely impaired. If it was a human, they would probably have to be two-star to be able to use this shield.
Unlike the other shield, this was a purely defensive weapon so in order to complement this shield, I designed a bone Mo sabre. (TL: A polearm with a very long blade.)
Mo sabres were weapons popular during the Tang Dynasty, and were deadly weapons against cavalrymen and infantry in general.
While it was called a bone Mo sabre, calling it a Mo sword wasn’t too far fetched either. It was formed of two sections, a sword body and and long hilt. The sword body was similar to a broadsword. However, it had a wider sword tip and tapered on both sides. Essentially, its blade was double edged.
This was specially designed to bring out the offensive characteristics of a Mo sabre. It allowed for hacking, slicing, stabbing and chopping; unlike the long spear which only allowed for stabbing. The sword body was 100 cm long and 1 cm thick.
As for the long hilt, it was a simple hilt design with a length of 150 cm. Combined with the sword body, the entire weapon was an astonishing 250 cm long.
This length made it easier for the wielder to fight off cavalrymen; as you could chop off the horse’s legs to restrict its movement or hack at the rider’s head.
With the new heavy shields in mind, I changed our formation to one where the heavy shieldbearers would stand in front of the army and stab their heavy shields into the ground to form a static defensive line. In order to prevent the enemy from forcefully toppling this shield wall, I stationed some large imps between the shieldbearers and the sabre wielders. Their job was to help brace the heavy shield against any oncoming impact.
At this position, the Mo sabre’s offensive prowess could be unleashed from safety. The sabre wielders merely had to mount their long weapons on the heavy shields and use the double edged blade to chop left and right as if they were harvesting wheat.
Perhaps it was due to the stricter requirements of the sabre’s long hilt, but the bone Mo sabres required an astonishing six units of mana and five sets of bones to craft.
Clearly, time was an issue as these weapons required an enormous amount of mana to craft. I must stall for time so that I can create more of these weapons. The surrounding undead have already been cleaned out during these past two days so I need the imps to venture out further. If I’m lucky, they might encounter more devils to recruit.
As of now, the amount of special infantry in my army was 20 guardsmen wielding swords and shields, 5 shieldbearers wielding the new heavy shields and 5 sabre wielders. (Named devils not included)
With just these numbers alone, fighting off the 4,000 strong zombie horde would be difficult. Winning was a given but at what cost? The losses would be catastrophic, even to the point of losing my entire army.
In order to increase our chances, I decided to lead the zombie horde around in a circle. While we marched, we would hunt the nearby undead and harvest their flames. While at the same time, recruit any devils we encountered on the way using any means necessary. As my army was doing this, I would be crafting more weapons to prepare for the coming battle.
And so, we circled around the edge of the ancient battlefield for two more days. On the second day, I discovered a mountain range in front of us. To be exact, it was bunch of giant black rocks connected to each other in a seemingly endless chain.
As of now, we had killed roughly 2,000 undead, and yet like spring shoots after the rain, they kept popping up no matter how many we killed.
Due to the lack of plant life in this world, objects in the distance were clearly visible. Atop a mountain peak, was an altar-looking structure which piqued my interest. Ever since I’ve acquired the Grimoire of the Dead, I’ve gained a passion for exploring unknown regions in hopes of stumbling upon more treasure.
While the silhouette of the altar was clearly visible, it wasn’t close to us at all. The most I could make out was a tall stone pillar-like structure in the middle of the altar.
“Master, there might be some loot in that place.” No.3 pointed at the altar and said: “Should we head towards it?”
“Yes, I was just thinking about that.”
“Master, this lordship will accompany you as well!” Big 1 firmly expressed his wish to follow, as if to say that he would be extremely unhappy if he was left behind.
“No way, it’s my turn to go this time!” One-eye crossed his arms as he said this, standing in a [I’m such a cool guy] pose. “I was left out of the previous exploration, so please bring me along this time. I promise that I will bring Master victory!”
“Big brother…just forget it…” Nine-finger said, clearly scarred from his previous encounter with the ghosts. With a slightly pale face, he patted One-eye and said: “Big brother…it’s too dangerous, there might be ghosts…”
“You idiot! You’ve just disgraced me! All you can say is ghost this and ghost that! Can’t you show some backbone! Just go and eat s*** in a corner! Useless fellow.”
He felt embarrassed by his little brother’s spineless display and broke into a furious tirade. By the end of it, Nine-finger was hanging his head in shame.
However, after considering for a moment, he seemed to have come to a decision on something. He pounded his right fist onto his left palm as if he had suddenly realized something and said: “If eating s*** is all it takes to skip out on this exploration, I’m willing to eat s***…”
“F*ck you! Can you please grow a spine!”
What ensued was a round of savage beating provided by One-eye, as Nine-finger continued attempting to explain himself.
“But I really haven’t eaten s*** in a long while…I kinda miss it…Big brother stop hitting me…didn’t we agree not to hit the face…”
“Ah, since Nine-finger is so adamant about staying, how about…” Under the hopeful gaze of Nine-finger and the unhappy gaze of One-eye, I lightly smiled and said: “Big 1 you can stay behind. The rest of us will bring a hundred imps with us to explore.”
“Huh…Master, isn’t this lordship accompanying you?”
“Oh come on, you should look after the house once in awhile.”
Nine-finger was quietly crying by the side, thinking about his shattered hopes and dreams…You potato! Did you really want to eat s*** that badly!?
In terms of leadership ability, Big 1 came the closest to One-eye so leaving him behind was a safe choice. Furthermore, because I left One-eye out the previous time, he was slightly resentful of that fact.
Of course, he didn’t dare to voice this out, but from time to time, he would give that resentful look. While I wasn’t afraid of my subordinates talking bad about me, that look he gave me was pretty annoying so I decided to bring him along.
Another option which crossed my mind, was to bring everyone along. However, the mountain path was too treacherous to allow this. Furthermore, there was no telling how long this exploration would take. The undead horde’s movement was unpredictable; if everyone left, they might just occupy this area in our absence. Another matter to consider was if there were any guards on that altar.
If we couldn’t beat them, retreating would be an issue as well. The less we brought, the easier it would be for us to retreat. Plus, the people at the base of the mountain could provide cover for us as we retreated. In short, one shouldn’t put all his eggs in one basket.
Two days later, I managed to craft 5 more sets of heavy bone shields and bone Mo sabres, bringing the respective imp count to 10 each. Of these, I brought along 5 of each type of imp and all 20 of my guardsmen. On top of that, I brought 70 reserve imps along with No.3, Big 4, One-eye and Nine-finger.
The mountain road wasn’t as rough as I had expected. Unlike the human world, there were no plants or rain to speak of. However, the weight of the heavy shields was an issue as they slowly drained the stamina of their bearers. In the end, I had the reserve members help carry the shields as well.
(Note from author: Regarding water…here’s an explanation: Devils are able to extract the water content from the blood and corpses they eat. As for Mo Ke, he is able to fulfill his water requirements by consuming souls so it’s safe to say that he hasn’t eaten/drunk anything since he reincarnated.)
After journeying for two hours, the altar came into sight. It was built on one of the plateaus atop the mountain and had a rounded shape which took up a vast plot of land; larger than a football field.
That “pillar” that I saw from the distance revealed its identity as well. It was the skeleton of a giant dragon; a dragon commonly found in Western mythology. It stood there domineeringly gazing at us with its hollow eye sockets, its giant wings were slightly expanded, as if it was covering the entire world. Thankfully, there was no eerie green flame to be found in its eye sockets. I definitely didn’t want to fight this 20m tall dragon!
This majestic dragon stood atop a rounded platform which was connected to the altar below by a flight of stairs. The steps were around the height an average human could step over, and were built in a fashion similar to the Egyptian pyramids. With its 100 steps tall stairs, it was just as majestic as those pyramids.
At the foot of the dragon was a shrine where one laid their offerings. It was made of bones and looked pretty ordinary. Considering that this was the land of the undead, a shrine made out of bones was indeed, pretty ordinary.
“Master…there’s a situation.”
As I was busy observing the dragon’s majesty, No.3 suddenly interrupted me with his warning. I turned towards the direction he was pointing at and saw the silhouette of a person dressed in a black cloak, standing at the foot of the dragon. My first thought was that the undead were here, but considering that he didn’t attack us on sight and his cloak hid his identity, I put aside that thought for now.
He slowly made his way towards us, his body swaying left and right as he did so as if he had not eaten for days…
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.