125. Winners and Losers (12)
Fear suffocated the soldiers. Their hearts pounded so hard that they were nearly bursting from their chests, and terror overwhelmed their minds. They wanted to scream and run, but they couldn’t move, even as the undead approached them.
The undead let out frightening shrieks before rushing forward, their bony feet smashing into the ground with inhuman strength. By the time the knights of the Lome Kingdom noticed, the glowing red eyes of the undead were little more than a nose-breadth away from their frontline.
Before one soldier even had the chance to react, his head was separated from his neck and sent flying in an arc through the air. His eyes rolled around in confusion, not yet registering his demise. He saw that the undead swarm numbered in the hundreds, and before his life flickered out, their screams filled his ears.
The sound of flesh being cut, limbs being severed, and bones being crushed were everywhere, as was the sight and smell of blood. Not one among the newly dead had an intact body. Limbs were torn and turned to minced meat, and fresh corpses were then reborn to hunt their former comrades. It was a scene of hopelessness and despair, a true glimpse of hell. Such a one-sided slaughter on the battlefield, such a thing was only possible with overwhelming power.
Pygni watched dumbly. He knew he should shout ‘What are you all doing?’, but he couldn’t manage to get the words out. He was also frozen from fear at this horrendous situation. No, his mind was completely blank from fear.
He had definitely given the order to retreat. He told everyone to abandon their equipment and run! However, the soldiers were caught in the excitement of Tom and Oscal’s duel, and had failed to follow his command.
‘Run! Run! Shit, I gave the order! But… But… Why…!’
“Why… aren’t… you… running?”
Pygni muttered as his cheeks trembled. The undead approached him in his frozen state. By the time Pygni realized this, the knights before him had all been slaughtered.
Pygni began floundering before the approaching undead. Cold sweat flowed down his forehead and back, and he frantically tried to grab the reins of his horse, but his mount was in a similar state of panic.
The horse rolled his feet and turned around, but the undead had already surrounded him completely.
“Protect His Highness!”
When the soldiers of Lome finally regained their senses, they began to flee en masse. The Royal Knights drew their swords and rushed toward Pygni, but they were cut down like weeds before they could even get close to him.
Undead continuously poured out of the black liquid. At its center, The Devil of Lania, the incarnation of Arrtark, grabbed his flaming spear and pointed it at Pygni.
As the Undead rushed toward Pygni like a wave, but then their bodies suddenly exploded, sending fragments of bone and armor scattering in every direction.
Oskal slammed the short sword in his hand to the ground. The area where the blade was swung split the air and sent what could only be described as a bullet of airflying toward Arrtark. However, Arrtark swung his spear and deflected the attack with ease.
“Is this the time to be spaced out? If you’re going to flee, then flee! Isn’t Your Majesty only good at running away? You’re going to turn into a rotten zombie standing all spaced out and be hated by Prince Grapefruit.”
Oskal joked to loosen Pygni’s anxiety, but his face was frozen stiff and drenched in cold sweat. He watched Arrtark and clenched his mouth.
‘… Strong. And fearsome as well…! Just what is that? How can such a thing exist in this world?’
He had a more oppressive presence than anyone else he had met before. A black lake had spread with Arrtark at its center, and from that viscous liquid an endless horde of Undead streamed out. The sky was thick with storm clouds, and innumerable crows circled the battlefield, as if waiting to feast on the carnage below. The Devil of Lania’s golden eyes were deep and glowed with a mysterious light. Pure Magic Power practically flowed out of his body, an amount that no human could ever hope to obtain. His appearance looked almost like…
“… He’s like a Demon Lord.”
Demon Lord. He alone was like an army of evil from a fairy tale, one that could bring about the end of the world. Oskal had seen the previous Demon Lord in the distant past during his war against the Demons, but compared to this, that Demon Lord was like a newborn babe. It made the Demon Lord he had seen seem like a joke.
‘…I can now see how Holffmann died now.’
“… O-oskal! Let’s just run for now! We have to run and negotiate with the Demons! This isn’t even a fight!”
“If we run now the entire army will be slaughtered.”
Pygni shut his mouth. If he had only heeded the warning for them to admit defeat and leave their territory before Oskal and the Devil of Lania started fighting, this disaster wouldn’t have come to pass. Even if he admitted defeat now, it didn’t look like this massacre would stop. He would be captured, and with him as hostage, the Kingdom of Lome would be put into a disadvantageous position with both the Demons and the other human kingdoms. Not only did Pygni know this, but so did Oskal.
‘If it came to that, His Majesty would probably take responsibility and be dethroned and exiled,” Oskal thought to himself. ‘If that’s the case, Prince Grapefruit would take the reins, but he would obviously be taken advantage of by those garbage nobles. The Kingdom of Lome would either be eaten up by the Holy Empire or destroyed by another rebellion!’
Oskal put more strength into his grip.
“Your majesty, didn’t you say before? I should be able to buy time against the Devil of Lania.”
“Wait, Oskal! The situation is different now! That guy is a monster! He’s more Demon Lord than the Demon Lord herself! He can’t even be compared to the other Demon Lords up until now… He’s almost like the King of Death! Regardless of how strong you are, against him…!”
“If I stake my life… There’s no reason I couldn’t buy some time.”
“Even if I’m not around, I think if it’s Your Majesty… I think you can lead the Kingdom of Lome well.”
“Do you think I will abandon you? Never!”
“If you don’t, it’ll be the end of the Kingdom of Lome. Either by the Holy Empire or the Demons…”
Oskal turned to Pygni and smiled.
“Also, isn’t there Prince Grapefruit? You should leave safely, at the very least, for him. So…let me die by my own will. You’re holding me down with that debt as an excuse…! So…” Oskal turned to Arrtark and drew in his breath. “I’m coming, Devil of Lania!”
Oskal once again dug his heels into the earth and sent himself flying forward.
Arrtark saw his approach and slammed his bone spear into the ground. When he did so, armored Undead rose around, all of them Death Knights. One Death Knight, the greatest among them, wore plated armor and was equipped with a massive steel shield and spear. His weapon became enveloped in flames and his shield encased in ice. Oskal grit his teeth.
‘He can even share his skills with the Undead!?’
“Even still, a mere skeleton…!”
Oskal swung his short sword. The Death Knight blocked his sword with its shield, sending shards of ice flying about as cracks ripped through it. The shield trembled and crumbled…but the Death Knight’s eyes lit up.
It had blocked it, the very same strike that could even blow away a massive gate…?
The dozens of Death Knights simultaneously raised their spears and stabbed. Their spears, sheathed in flame, pierced Oskal’s shoulder, chest, and stomach.
The areas where he was pierced erupted in flame His blood boiled, and a guttural scream clawed from his throat. Even still, Oskal severed heads of dozens of Undead. A fine way to kill the living, not the dead. They retreated and regrouped around him. Oskal, who could barely manage to stand as he looked at the undead with trembling eyes.
“… What are you guys, you bastards…?”
In the few moments he had been distracted, numerous more Undead had appeared around Arrtark. There were more armored Death Knights, undead Liches wearing black robes and carrying scythe-like staff, and a Necron golem standing more than 13 feet tall holding a greatsword taller than the average man. This force of elite Undead numbered in the several hundred. Before Oskal was an army that could sweep away a small kingdom in a matter of days.
“… All this from a single person?” Arrtark stood tall amidst the clattering teeth of the undead. “Hah, how futile. I thought I could buy some time and run…but it looks like I won’t be getting far.”
Oskal drew in his breath and focused all his strength. His muscles ballooned in size, his blood vessels pushing against his skin. He gritted his teeth hard enough to crack them, and glared at the single figure standing tall in the center of the lake of death.
“…I am still a party member of the former Hero. I should at least let you have one good hit!”
Oskal kicked off, the ground splintering beneath him. The Death Knights thrust their spears toward him, but he evaded their blades and approached Arrtark.
‘Just one blow…!’
The liches raised their scythes. Spectres of skulls rushed Oskal. He swung his blade only for it to pass through them. They attached themselves to Oskal, his flesh turning black from the curses they carried. He could smell rotting flesh and feel the sensation in his body begin to slip away.
‘Shit… Let me just get one hit in…! Yes, with all my strength…!’
Past the Undead Liches, the one who stood in Oskal’s way next was the Necron Golem. Oskal evaded the greatsword brought down toward him and passed through the golem’s legs, and just beyond, he discovered his target.
‘With all my strength… I’m going to make him eat one in the face…!’
Oskal gripped his blade. He could hear the sound of the flesh on his hands being torn away. He maneuvered his body toward Arrtark and swung.
“Devil of Lania-!”
His sword collided with Arrtark’s spear. The bone and flame shattered his short sword, and the spear skewered Oskal’s right shoulder, tearing what little was left of his right arm away.
Oskal put all his strength into his left hand. His muscles swelled as he swung it toward Arrtark’s body, but Arrtak’s shield blocked this blow as well. Oskal’s fist was stopped, and as his fist crashed into the shield of ice, the blow caused a massive explosion of force. Even the area where Arrtark stood warped in from the blast…but other than being pushed slightly back, the Devil of Lania remained unfazed. Oskal then found his hand frozen solid. Seeing this, he smiled bitterly.
“Aaah…my… I really wanted to make you eat my fist.”
The hand that held Arrtark’s spear gripped it tightly, and his empty hand struck Oskal’s abdomen. With a blunt sound, his organs were crushed. His steel-like muscle crumbled and Oskal vomited blood from his mouth.
[Admirable, Oskal La Penrose! You don’t know when to give up, and rashly, your conviction to give your life for others… It is the fundamental of a Hero for humanity! Truly like my former companion.]
Arrtark stuck dozens of spears into his back as soon as he finished speaking. Ghosts attached themselves to Oskal’s body, holding him in place. Death Knights stuck their spears into him, Liches launched morre spectres, and the Necron Golem slammed one of its massive hands down onto his battered body.
Oskal lost all sensation and he could feel his eyes slowly closing. His body was quickly sinking into the lake of death. His body, what was left of it, was dyed black and reeked of rot. His cells were dying. His nerves were melting away. His muscles and bones were tougher, but even these eventually broke and shattered.
‘Aah, am I dying?’
His eyes faintly turned to Arrtark’s feet.
“Anyway…just who…are you?”
He wanted to know at least this much. Before he died, he wanted to know who he was. Why his face was like Thoma’s, why he had his voice, why he had his mysterious golden eyes.
‘Could it be…actually Thoma?’
Arrtark did not respond. Oskal, left with lingering questions, gradually closed his eyes.
Pygni saw this from a distance and continued retreating with clenched teeth. Thanks to Oskal, the attention of the Undead was drawn back to the Devil of Lania. If it was now…he might be able to run.
‘Oskal, I won’t forget your sacrifice.’
It was at that moment.
<We got the Demon Lord!>
Pygni, surprised by the familiar voice, placed his hand into his possessions. He could hear the clear voice being emitted from the crystal.
<Your majesty! Your majesty? Are we getting him? Your majesty, Pygni! I’m telling you again! We just now captured the Demon Lord, Lily Golt!>
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