153. Allies (13)
Pygni became nervous as the Holy Kingdom’s main army entered the Aylans capital. At the moment, he was on his horse, shaking his feet and biting his nails.
“Damn, it ‘ll be the end if King Paulie dies! What in the world is the Demon Kingdom doing?! Why are they late?”
They should’ve arrived by now if they pressed ahead without caring about anything else.
‘But they’re later than I thought. What an error in calculation…!’
They had launched the offensive with the maximum arrival time in mind. However, the Demon Kingdom was later than expected.
‘I acted too impulsively. I never thought that even Oskal would be tied up like this…!’
Oskal was fighting around twenty Evilesse Holy Knights, and he was gradually getting exhausted. Also, they couldn’t even know how many more the Evilesse Holy Knights, who guarded the Pope, were there.
‘…Should we think of the worst case, that they have abandoned us?’
It was a possibility. The Demon Kingdom could abandon its allies and take over the Holy Kingdom’s capital. Pygni considered the worst case and shook his head.
‘No way…! There’s no way they’d do it. They will arrive for sure!’
“We must hold on. By any means…!”
A scout holding a flag came running in a hurry.
“Your Highness, a report!”
Pygni’s face lit up. For him, he thought that there was only one thing for the scout to report.
“Right! Has the Demon Kingdom arrived?!”
“Yes. Looks like they will reach in about two hours! Also, they have sent a letter, saying ‘hang in there as long as you can’…”
“Two hours…? T-that’s a piece of cake. It will be alright! We can hold on for half a day if we defend the castle in the capital…”
“And…” The scout looked worried. He broke out in a cold sweat and said with a trembling voice, “The allies of the Holy Kingdom…are heading to the capital.”
Pygni’s eyes widened.
The Holy Kingdom’s subordinate countries and allies had already assembled their troops, and they were coming to the capital. According to their speed, they would get here in three hours, about five hours if late. On top of that, they numbered at least 200,000.
It was already a mystery as to whether the alliance of the Demon Kingdom, the Aylans Kingdom, and the Lome Kingdom could block the Holy Kingdom’s current troops. Putting in 200,000 more was adding insult to the injury. It did not help either that they were spread in every direction. So, right now, seven countries were coming at them separately.
‘It’s the worst… The worst… The worst!’
This was a disaster. Skilled regular armies of powerful kingdoms and empires had joined hands, closing in on them from each part of Aylans Kingdom.
“It’s a forced march. They were seemingly prepared beforehand. The seven countries gathering around the Aylans capital include Karaita with 30,000 troops, the Venice Kingdom with 15,000 troops, the Rebeto Kingdom with 27,000 troops, the Lanias Empire with 75,000 troops… and also the rest…”
Pygni’s mind went blank the more he listened to it.
‘Where in the world did their confidence come from? Why are all those countries coming in full force? Besides, they’re rushing straight to the capital while neglecting the other areas in the Aylans Kingdom. Is it only for appearances’ sake…? Or are they really following the Pope and showing their obedience to their God…?!’
It was something that couldn’t be understood by common sense. Pygni shook his head.
‘No! There’s no way! There’s no such thing as belief and loyalty for those bastards! They only move for benefits! What is in it for them?’
As his mind overflowed with all kinds of questions, the scout whispered in Pygni’s ear while being conscious of the people’s gazes around them.
“Also, there’s something in common, according to the spy. The kings and imperial families of the seven countries have said, ‘We need to win this war if we want to gain immortality.’“
‘…Ahh…these damn bastards!’
Pygni gritted his teeth in rage. He never imagined the Pope would tell the other countries about ‘immortality’. Usually, royal and imperial families would ignore such absurd things, but the Pope’s existence itself was the ‘proof’ of ‘immortality’. He had been living for a really long time with his youthful looks, and many allies and subordinate countries had witnessed it.
They must’ve been tempted by the word ‘youth’ and ‘immortality’, and someone might have ‘led’ them to invade the Aylans Kingdom.
‘Also, Aylans is advanced in magic. That must’ve incited them.’
The fact that Aylans was the ‘country of magic’ and that their Queen, Akareal, was also young, just like the Pope, could become the bait for ‘immortality’. The Pope could use this to raise his leadership and control of the continent.
There was a big possibility for even the revolting kingdoms to be tempted by immortality and side with the Holy Kingdom.
‘…No, no way! This isn’t the Pope’s idea. The Pope can’t think of something like this. Who in the world is it…? Whose idea is this?! What the hell are they thinking! Who can benefit from this?!’
Pygni ran a hand down his face. This wasn’t the time to agonize, and it was already too late to retreat. Only one way to win remained: catch the Pope and openly execute him. They must sweep away all the Holy Kingdom’s troops in five hours and get rid of the Evilesse Holy Knights, the group of hero-level monsters.
Pygni looked up at the night sky and muttered, “…Ahh, it’s a really… gambling-like game.”
The moonlight permeated the dark clouds. Despite the heavy rain, the burnt ash flying up wasn’t washed away. Instead, the ground was filled with blood that had increased because of the rain, until it was enough to even submerge people’s ankles. The sound of weapons kept echoing, and the violent fight went on.
An Evilesse Holy Knight froze and stepped back. Swallowing dryly, he looked down in terror. Dozens of Evilesse Holy Knights lay dead in the mud bath mixed with blood and rain. He lifted his gaze.
The man renowned as the Lome Kingdom’s guardian sword!
Yes, he was still standing. However, his body wasn’t unscathed either. He had spear cuts all over his body, and one of his eyes was cut. Losing a few fingers did not matter to him, as his grip on the short sword had not loosened. He glared at the last Evilesse Holy Knight.
“…Oy, it’s a joke, right? Man…you knocked down twenty hero-grade Holy Knights by yourself? Us, who have been strengthened beyond human limits…? Ha…haha! What in the world are you, you crazed maniac?!”
“You bastards are the crazy ones. Calling yourselves Holy Knights, don’t you all have honor? I can’t believe you pounced on me all at once, just to kill this lonely old man!”
“It’s weird to argue about such things in a war. Besides, we don’t have things such as honor! It works as long as it’s fun!”
“Truly like Salem’s minion. Are these your last words…?!”
The Evilesse Holy Knight stepped back as if he was terrified. Seeing that, Oskal smiled, but his back broke out in a cold sweat.
‘Right…just back off. Because it’s hard to move even a finger now!’
Standing was the limit for Oskal. He was barely holding himself back from passing out.
“Oy, is it not ov—what the? Are all these dudes dead?”
“You guys can’t even take down one dying old man?”
The muscles in Oskal’s eyes twitched. Seven more Evilesse Holy Knights were coming.
“What…? I can’t believe the war here isn’t over yet. We had to use a lot of slaves as meat shields just to get into the capital. His Holiness is angry now, asking why we can’t capture the place.”
“I can’t believe these bastards are the soldiers of the mighty Holy Kingdom. On top of that, you’re also the problem. An Evilesse Holy Knight can’t even kill a dying old man like me!”
The face of the Evilesse Holy Knight, who was left alone, turned red. He had gained some confidence after seeing his colleagues.
“N-nice! Help me kill that bastard, and we’ll share the credit.”
The talking Evilesse Holy Knight got his head cut off, and it bounced into the air.
“You must be kidding me, you who tried to run away a little while ago.”
Oskal looked at the Evilesse Holy Knights and gritted his teeth. They had even killed their companion.
‘It doesn’t…seem like they’ll retreat.’
“Hngh, I’ll die here. Damn, why isn’t he coming? I’ll curse that Thoma bastard if I die!”
Oskal gripped his short sword.
Pygni looked at his own hands.
“Damn… It’s been a long time since I last held a sword. But it’s time to reveal my skill!”
Pygni, gripping his sword with gloved hands, looked at the royal knights surrounding him. Donned in heavy armor, they covered Pygni with massive shields.
“…Let me fight before you unsheath your sword.”
“If Your Highness fights, it will hamper the battle.”
“You’re being too much! Shall I execute you for insulting the royal family?!”
“Pardon us for protecting Your Highness.”
“…These kids, you guys are just like Oskal. As expected from my subordinates.”
Pygni shook his head.
“It’s the Lome Kingdom’s king!”
“Kill him! Kill him!”
Pygni glanced away. The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers panted, as if they were exhausted, while glaring at Pygni. At the same time, a Lome Kingdom’s knight was stabbed by a sword and fell down.
Not only them, but the surviving slaves and black priests were also glaring at Pygni with reddened eyes.
“I’m popular, huh. I wish I were popular among pretty young girls instead of panting perverts, though.”
“Your Highness, we’re surrounded!”
Pygni struck the back of the head of the royal knight with his feet.
“I know it too. It’s a joke. A joke.”
“It’s not the right time to be joking…”
“Aah, when will it be if not now…? It’s the perfect time.”
“Don’t give up. The other knights will come if we survive just a little bit longer.”
“Give up? What kind of bullshit is that?!” The corner of Pygni’s lips curled up. “I’m a man who doesn’t give up. The reason I’m joking now is”—he looked behind himself—”because I’m relaxed.”
The royal knights also followed his action.
A waving black flag.
A goat skull.
It was a sea of blood-red armor, sparkling enraged eyes, and monstrous roars; Gnoll scouts with their muskets and crossbows; Goblins pushing siege weapons; Treos; armored Ogres and the Minotaur storm troops, both of which had large builds and terrifying charging power; the Orc heavy-armed infantry unit wearing thick metal armor and carrying huge weapons; Centaurs holding lances; and a silver-haired woman in red armor, leading them while holding a long sword above her head.
The Demon Lord Lily Golt.
“Aah, this…you came exactly in two hours. It’s the world’s most powerful monsters!”
Lily Golt, with her 7000 soldiers, had joined the war.
“…This is horrible.”
Lily couldn’t help but frown at the disaster happening before her. The smell of gunpowder was so thick that it could burn noses and throats, even though rough rain and wind were blowing. The blood of hundreds of thousands of dying people soaked the ground and permeated the mud, painting a hellish landscape. The center of Aylans capital, supposed to be beautiful, was burning, and the screams didn’t stop. It was like a sight of hell in the Bible.
A crow flew to the Aylans capital. It observed the current battlefield, the capital’s downtown area, while flying. King Paulie’s palace was surrounded by the Golden Cross Army. They were doing everything they could to breach the citadel.
The person leading the Holy Kingdom’s armies, the Mad Pope, the man laughing on the throne atop the palanquin the slaves carried with great difficulty—Pope Salem Gottshuranche! Tom’s lips curled up upon seeing him.
“We finally meet, Salem!’
When Lily heard a crackling sound, as if somebody broke their teeth, she looked at Tom.
“I’ll leave the military command to you.”
Just as Tom took a step forward, Lily asked with an anxious voice, “What about you…?”
“To end this disgusting war”—Tom pulled out his Holy Sword—”I have to catch a corrupted priest.”
“It’s a monster!”
“It’s the Demon Army!”
The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers retreated. They were already exhausted from the battle against the Lome Kingdom. Just as a ray of hope of ending the battle burned, it was dashed once more. They felt the taste of despair upon seeing the Demon Kingdom’s army.
“Everyone, get ready for the battle!”
Karakul’s shout spurred the Orcs. They fell into ranks without an error, even while moving swiftly. Their sharp eyes gleamed as their shields hit the ground and their swords and spears aimed at the Holy Kingdom.
“Cavalry…! We’re the vanguard! Everybody shout!”
The Centaurs clenched their lances, shouting and walking through the Orcs. They warmed up their bodies while rolling their horse hooves.
“Hihi… We hate head-to-head matches, so we’ll attack you from behind and run!”
The Gnoll scouts stood at the back and played with their muskets and crossbows. The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers immediately stepped back and regrouped.
“Ooh! They’re retreating. They’re retreating. Haha! Did you see that? Did you see?” Pygni said with a strain on his neck, as if he was the one to do it. The royal knights shook their heads.
“Oy…this seems dangerous.”
“Don’t we have to retreat too?”
The Evilesse Holy Knights retreated upon sensing the danger. Oskal sighed in relief.
As the Holy Kingdom’s soldiers gradually withdrew, the Lome Kingdom’s army also started to back off. They gathered around Pygni and regrouped.
“How many of you survived?”
A knight looked around and shook his head.
“Unknown. But more than half are wiped out.”
“Urgh… The damage is too large. And we’re exhausted, on top of that. But that doesn’t mean we can retreat…”
The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers gazed at the Lome Kingdom’s army and the Demon Lord’s army on top of the hill. The ferocious-looking army of monsters in red armors displayed a majesty that could cause goosebumps just by looking at them.
‘…I’ve gone crazy. I can’t believe I’m fighting against those bastards.’
“Get in line!”
“Oy, slaves! Step forward!”
“The bastards are in a charge formation! It’s obvious they’ll clash head-on! Block from the front!”
The black priests sent the slaves to the front while swinging their whips. The slaves did not have any shields. They only had spears made of a wooden rod with a kitchen knife tied to the end. The slaves looked fearfully at the heavy cavalry Centaurs, heavy infantry Orcs, and Gnolls, who had long-range weapons.
“…Are they telling us to be their meat shield?!”
“I’m sure they must be thinking of making the enemy waste their energy and ammunition on us!”
The slaves wanted to deny the order, but they didn’t have the power to.
Another formation was right behind them. The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers were forming a barrier with their shields and aiming their spears, as if they were going to cut the slaves’ backs. The slaves would lose their life the moment they tried to run away.
The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers must be planning to block the charge by slowing the Demon Lord army as they made their way through the slaves.
“There are less than 10,000 Demons at most! Don’t be scared of the demons that worship the devil!”
“We have the God of Creation Artarrk’s grace and Pope Salem Gottshuranche’s blessing!”
As Oskal’s brows turned into a frown, somebody approached him.
“Instead of thinking ‘it seems like he’s still alive…’, I never thought the man who injured me would be here.”
Oskal’s eyes widened while looking at Tom, the person approaching him.
“You’re here? Previous Hero?”
“Yes, I am. Previous Hero’s party member.”
Oskal burst out into laughter. He felt good that Tom didn’t deny it now.
“Haha! It reminds me of the past! I remember fighting to the death to fucking kill the Demon Lord. We fought until we were about to draw our last breath…!”
“Back then, there was only us sneaking in without an army.”
“And you killed the Demon Lord by yourself. You saved the human race. No, was it under the name of saving? And this time around, not a Demon Lord but…”
Tom smiled and took Oskal’s words out of his mouth.
“I have to kill the priest who used to be a member of the Hero’s party. Now, it’s really going to be saving the human race.”
“Can you do it?”
“Do I seem like I’d hesitate?”
Under Tom’s gaze, Oskal shook his head.
“No. Instead, I know that you’d make Salem miserable to the point he would be sorry.”
“So, you’re saying that today is the day for revenge?”
“Revenge?” Tom shook his head. “I wouldn’t have bought time like this if I was thinking of revenge.”
Tom stepped forward. Wherever his foot landed, the dead bodies would gradually get up. There were no exceptions—the dead Lome Kingdom’s army and the Holy Kingdom’s soldiers and slaves. They were all revived and became Undead.
Seeing that, Oskal frowned.
“Oy, don’t turn my subordinates into Undead too!”
“I’ll let them go in peace later. Don’t worry.”
“I mean, don’t turn the knights of honor into Undeads!”
“What if they want to protect their comrades, even if it means turning into Undeads? It’s obvious you Lome Kingdom people would not shirk off. Let’s give them a chance to fight one last time for their honor.”
“I have nothing to say if you put it like that.”
The demonic power spreading out from Tom’s feet gradually made the Undead around him stand up. Hundreds upon thousands of Undead—simple skeletons and zombies with low levels of offensive and defensive power. Tom closed his mouth upon seeing the Undead. His face turned pale, and the corner of his mouth faintly stank of blood.
The quick-witted Oskal saw Tom’s condition and asked, “Are you okay?”
“Aah, of course, I am.”
“You, you also said that in the past. And…”
Oskal couldn’t utter the last word. It seemed it would turn into reality if he said it.
Had he noticed Oskal’s oddness? Tom looked at him and smiled.
“After this war ends… Let’s have a drink. Like we did the last time.”
“I’d like us to do so, please.”
Oskal forced his body, which didn’t listen to him, to move.
“Since the previous hero is stepping forward, of course, the previous Hero’s party can’t stay still. Let’s fight properly! As a Hero’s party… let’s destroy that damned priest and save the world!”
The Undeads opened their mouths and let out a strange sound. The dead bodies formed of demonic power walked with a stagger. On the other side, the slaves’ weapons trembled as the Undeads’ bodies shook. The slaves broke out in a cold sweat. Mustering up their courage in a final spurt of outburst, they screamed and swung their weapons at the incoming Undeads.
And their weapons pierced through the Undeads’ bodies.
The slaves were startled, and they released their grip on their weapons. The Undead didn’t attack the slaves. They ignored them as if they were obstacles on their paths and went through them. They didn’t show any hint of attack or resistance. Seeing that, the slaves threw them puzzled looks and made way for them.
The black priests frowned and shouted.
“What are you guys doing? They’re Undead! They are evil spirits summoned using black magic! Don’t be scared of these evil spirits that don’t even attack—”
The eyes of the shouting black priest widened.
The harmless Undead opened their mouths and attacked black priests.
“Eu, euaaaaaak! W-why… why only me!”
One of them struggled with his eyes rolled back, but dozens of Undead crowded around him and sunk their teeth into him. He died a miserable death, his arms and legs ripped apart and his head torn off. Seeing the dying black priest, the slaves screamed in fear.
“I’ll pardon those who drop their weapons and surrender! But those who resist will die!”
The slaves turned to look at Tom.
“Throw away your weapons and surrender. We’ll protect you.”
The slaves turned to look at the black priests.
“W-what are you guys doing? You’ll die if you throw away your weapons and surrender! You want to die that m—hiiiik?!”
The Undeads crowded around another black priest. The slaves could only stay still.
“Oy! What are you guys not attacking?”
Unable to stand it any longer, a Holy Knight from the Holy Kingdom’s side shouted. However, his voice was drowned out by the Undeads’ shriek.
The slaves swallowed dryly and looked at Tom.
“Throw away your weapons and come forward! We won’t harm you!”
“Kill them! Damn… Are you thinking of disobeying my order?! Spearmen, stab these slaves!”
The Holy Kingdom’s side aimed their spears and pulled their bowstrings, ready to attack the slaves.
The Demon Lord, Lily Golt, muttered, “Block them.”
An explosion happened on the Holy Kingdom side.
The Holy Knights were dumbfounded. They looked at the enormous spear blade stuck next to them.
“…Spear? No, this is…a catapult…?”
Their eyes widened in shock, and they turned to look at the Demon Lord army.
The ground echoed. Dozens of giant Ogres were lifting a siege weapon, ballistas, as if it were a portable crossbow. They aimed them at the Holy Kingdom’s ranks.
“… Oh, my God.”
The Holy Knight still had his mouth wide open when another shot was launched.
A huge bolt cut through the wind and the rain, reached the Holy Kingdom’s side, and exploded. Raindrops mixed with sticky blood and mud water splashed on the nearby soldiers. The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers standing in the bolt’s path had their shields destroyed into pieces and their bodies torn off. Their flesh was spattered on the other soldiers’ faces and bodies.
The Holy Knights turned pale. Getting hit by that bolt would result in instant death, and they’d get fatal wounds even if it just grazed them.
The next things flying in were lumps of rock! The Treos lifted huge stones and threw them in an arc. At the same time, a deafening boom also resounded. The Goblins had fired their magic cannons. The Gnolls were not to be outdone either. They let loose their crossbows and muskets, showering their enemies with a hail of doom.
Seeing their comrades die along with the ear-splitting explosions, the Holy Knights’ spirits plummeted to rock bottom.
“Get into the capital…! Close the gate and block the monsters!”
The Holy Kingdom’s formation crumbled in an instant. They hurriedly ran away for their lives, exposing their backs.
Karakul, the commander of the Orcs, snorted.
— Ω —