The shieldbearers set up their shield wall once more and huddled behind their massive shields, bracing them for impact. Behind them, the saber wielders stepped up and lowered their Mo sabres onto the shield wall; ready to intercept any charging undead.
The guardsmen split up into two teams, each guarding the left and right flanks of the shieldbearers. Behind them were the reserve team who carried their primitive bone clubs and quietly awaited orders. (One of the guardsmen only had his shield remaining after having his sword stolen by One-eye.)
On the undead side, they had 100 people as well. 50 of them wore a light set of bone armor and carried a buckler on one hand with a short sword on the other. As for the unarmored skeletons, 30 of them carried a giant hammer, 18 of them wielded a bow and the final 2 were mages. Except for the mages, all of the 98 undead were one-star.
My curiosity was piqued by the upcoming battle. After all, this was my first time seeing skeletal mages; I wonder what kind of abilities they had. Judging from their aura, they were at most, at the level of two-star. Either way, nothing is scarier than the unknown, best focus them down first.
Due to the bone wall blocking our escape route and the lack of information on the undead in front of us, we were forced to adopt a defensive stance.
“Don’t worry, I just want to show you why your vaunted weapons are nothing more than toys. These undead are armed with some throwaway creations of mine; they are at most slightly better than the weapons you have…” Without waiting for my response, he waved his skeletal arm: “Let the battle commence.”
The first to advance were the skeletons armored from head to toe in bone armor. With their short swords raised high above their head, they advanced upon the stalwart shield wall in front of them.
Due to the lack of Mo sabers in the past, they mostly took part in the battles as individuals. This was their first battle as a team together. However, I had confidence in their killing power.
As they received the command, the saber wielders took up position behind the heavy shields, their sabers ready and waiting.
However, the first to reach us were the hail of arrows from the archers…
The heavy shields did not provide the promised safety. Instead the arrows bypassed the static shields as they rained from the heavens. Due to their high ground and the parabolic trajectory of the arrows, they landed directly on the saber wielders and the reserves…
“Ahhhh” The pained cries of the imps echoed through the air before I could even react to the arrows. My Mo saber team had lost two members while the remaining were all severely injured!
The hurried shuffle of imp feet mixed in with the groans of the injured imps as they were swiftly replaced. The reserves had undergone some basic training just for such a situation like this. Thanks to this, the handover was quick and the Mo sabers were ready by the time the undead reached the wall.
As expected, the length of the Mo sabres were able to reach just high enough to hack at the heads of the armored skeletons. Unfortunately, their armor not only covered their torso, but also extended all the way to their heads. Despite being light armor, they were enough to block the non-metallic Mo sabres!
While these skeletons were weak and dimwitted, they were perfect for the human wave tactics employed. As the Mo sabres hacked down at them, they fearlessly charged in, soaking the brunt of the attack. Thanks to their armor, the damage was mostly mitigated with only a chip at where they were hit. The skull beneath the armor was completely unharmed.
Furthermore, this initial wave revealed a glaring weakness in my plan. The Mo sabers were very long and thus had a wide area of attack. This was normally an advantage but in this confined space, it became its downfall. The limited width of the heavy shield meant that the Mo sabers had to be stacked closely together causing them to frequently clash with each other as the imps attacked…
“This…” This was the invincible formation I spent days formulating?…It’s so weak!
The clashing Mo sabers created a scene of chaos in front of the wall, which the skeletons swiftly took advantage of and began climbing over the shield wall.
One-eye shouted for the reserves to join in the battle while he himself readied his sword and shield.
“Go join in the fight as well.” I turned to No.3 and Big 4 beside me and continued: “Dispose of them quickly.”
“As you command, Master.”
The bone armor might have been sturdy enough to withstand my slashing weapons, but the bone clubs were a different matter. They were blunt weapons, which meant that even if the armor didn’t break, the impact would still be transferred into the skull beneath. That impact would damage the soul flames within, and even if it didn’t kill the undead, it would at least stun them momentarily.
Plus, these armors had to have seams at certain locations. As long as the imps were able to strike at these points, even the slashing weapons could easily penetrate the armor.
However, just as this problem seemed to have solved itself, the rain of arrows came down once more, piercing the heads and limbs of the imps. Another wave of casualties appeared.
Damn it! Aren’t you afraid of hurting your own guys…oh wait, I’m a retard…why would these skeletons be afraid of arrows.
In the past, I had considered salvaging the bows from the archers we fought but this idea was quickly squashed.
Firstly the bows needed arrows, and unlike the skeletons, the devils weren’t able to turn their own bones into arrows. I could craft some arrows with my dark alchemy but the mana required was simply too much for a consumable item. It made more sense to spend this mana on making melee weapons instead.
Next was the fact that devils didn’t possess the aptitude for archery. Not just these potatoes, even I didn’t know how to use a bow. My accuracy was at the level of a potato! As for drawing the bows…Once, I got an imp to draw a bow, but within seconds the bow began to emit slight cracking sounds. I quickly stopped the imp since the bow itself would’ve probably snapped in half otherwise…
The last and probably the most important reason was…undead didn’t even fear arrows!
The weak point of most undead creatures were their soul flames which was usually hidden in their skulls. As long as this area was well protected, no amount of arrows piercing their bodies would’ve made a difference. They were able to shrug it all off.
Without the aid of magic, melee combat was the best option against the undead.
Thankfully, these skeleton warriors were slow and we still had the advantage of numbers; so we managed to suppress them. The shield wall was still standing strong but the occasional rain of arrows would bypass them, taking the lives of the imps as they did. I considered attacking the archers but this was obviously a bad idea.
Firstly, there was a wave of skeleton warriors in the midst of our army. Secondly, those hammer wielding undead were slowly making their way towards us. While they were unarmored, their zombie flesh was tough enough to function as armor.
As they hobbled towards us, they maintained an orderly formation not seen in the previous zombie hordes we encountered. Upon reaching the wall, they split off a portion to handle the guardsmen while the remainder attacked the shield wall. With their gigantic rounded bone hammers, each strike probably had the weight of several hundred kg behind it. A single strike would’ve probably been able to flatten a cow.
The shield walls wobbled with each massive swing of the hammers. The imps behind them desperately braced the shields but each strike caused them to shake violently from the impact.
As undead, these zombies would never tire out as long as their soul flames did not run out of energy. As such, merely bracing the wall wasn’t a viable option for us. Under their tireless smashes, the shieldbearers began to tire out and were soon on the verge of collapse.
However, what gave out first were not the imps but the seemingly impenetrable heavy shields. A loud cracking sound filled the air as one of the giant hammers impacted a shield, the tireless pounding had finally won out. A few seconds later, the other four shields joined their companion in death as their bodies finally cracked under the pressure…
While all this was going on, the guardsmen were caught in a desperate situation of their own. On one side were the hammer wielding zombies and on the other were the armored skeletons who broke through earlier. The three mixed together in a chaotic dance of death while the shields slowly buckled under the pressure.
I had chosen to watch from the sidelines up until now, as I had thought the Mo sabers and heavy shields were enough. Furthermore, the mages including the robed skeleton had not taken action yet; so I didn’t see the need for me to interfere. However, the results were as seen…
The crisp sound of bones clapping together rang out in the air just as it looked like we would get wiped out. The undead, as if having received a signal, began to retreat leaving behind the battered imps. Under the now broken shields, the shieldbearers cowered like babies with their hands over their heads.
As the undead retreated, the defeated survivors stood in shock as their unexpected survival finally registered. I wonder which was more shocking to them, the fact that they were alive or that the impenetrable shields were reduced to such a state…
A minute later, the entire army had obediently retreated to the side of the robed skeleton.
I stood in abject horror as I surveyed the wreckage of this battle. I had lost 49 large imps while the undead army had only lost 22 melee undead. The archers were completely unharmed, while the mages had not lifted a finger before our defeat was sealed. The only silver lining was that all the named imps were merely injured and not dead. Even that female imp was fine.
This was the first major defeat I had suffered since reincarnating into hell. From the moment I was born in the blood sea, my side had always won; even with smaller numbers. In an even match, we dominated our opponents. However, this time was different. It was a complete loss for us.
“So what’s your thoughts on this?” The robed skeleton asked me as he dispersed his army; an expression of curiosity hung on his face. Expression seemed to be a weird word to describe a fleshless skeleton, but his skeletal face truly gave off that feeling right now.
“My weapons weren’t good enough…”
“They weren’t sturdy enough…”
Truth be told, I had some inkling of what he meant when said toys. The heavy bone shields weren’t sturdy enough; it only took several hits of the giant hammers to break them. The length of the Mo sabers worked against themselves. We not only had no long range capabilities but also had no way to counter them…
If one looked closely at that battle, there were truly a lot of faults to be discovered. Regarding the sturdiness of the my equipment, I had experimented with adding in metallic elements but had ultimately failed.
The dark alchemical process was extremely picky about what kind of materials I could use. Only materials like flesh, bones or souls could be used. Essentially anything that sounded sinister. Materials like metal or rocks were completely out of the question.
“Honestly, your designs weren’t too bad, but they were let down by the sturdiness of the equipment itself.” Seeing my dejected and silent figure, the robed skeleton decided to interrupt my brooding and said: “While I’m unable to teach you anything regarding designs, I can share my experiences regarding strengthening equipment.”
“Really!?” I’m not dreaming am I? A complete stranger was offering to teach me how to strengthen my equipment?
“Yes.” He beckoned me to follow him before turning around to leave. “Follow me, I have something to give you.”
Just as I was about to follow him, One-eye blocked me with his arm and said: “Master, it might be dangerous to follow him…”
“Danger? Do you think that we aren’t in danger already?” I said with a self-deprecating laugh. I pointed at the bone wall behind us with my thumb and said: “Do you think we can leave without his permission?”
“…” One-eye fell silent.
“Clean up the battlefield and harvest all the souls, I have use for them.” I sighed helplessly as I stared the figure disappearing into the body of the skeletal dragon. I picked up the pace as I followed him in, with the Grimoire of the Dead hugged closely to my chest.
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.