158. Fallen Monarch (2)
“Ey, who are you?”
“You didn’t run here fleeing some Demons, did ya?”
“Haha! You might not be in your right mind to dare call the Pope’s name.”
The Evilesse Knights approached, but when there was no reaction, their faces twisted into frowns. They soon saw why: there was no light in the Holy Knight before them, no searching gaze calling out to Salem. His wounds had caused him to die standing, his armor propping the body up.
“The bastard’s dead? What happened?”
As the company of Knights spun around at the sudden cry, their attention turned to Salem. A momentary fear of Salem’s power swept over them, but it soon gave way to annoyance, as Salem seemed to be raving about some ghost.
“K-k-kill it! Kill it! I said kill it! That monster! That Devil…! Kill it!!”
The knights clicked their tongues and groaned. “Another one of his crazy ravings,” one muttered under his breath and shook his head.
“He’s already dead,” another answered Salem. “He’s not breathing.”
“Kill it! I said kill it! Get him out of my sight!”
“You want us to kill a dead man?” The knight scratched his head, clearly annoyed.
Should we put him out of his misery? He thought. It was likely only a matter of time before this lunatic gave them another dangerous order. Another Pope had already been chosen anyway. They could sell this reasoning to the other leaders.
Salem was still raving, clearly terrified, at the Evilesse Holy Knights. “You say it’s already dead: then what is that black mass?!”
“Black mass?” The knights frowned. Their gaze turned towards Tom, and a visible confusion registered on their face. “What is that?”
A viscous black liquid poured out from Tom’s body, pooling around him. The Knights took a step back. The liquid kept spreading, pooling throughout the throne room.
The ground paled and rotted as it came in contact with the liquid. A crow hopped out of the liquid, black vaporous smoke wafting off it.
[…I’ve waited a long time for this.]
Tom’s body was soon enveloped by the blackness, the liquid clumping and hardening into armor. A lion’s skull formed over Tom’s face like a helm, and draped over his shoulders was a cowl of scales, dripping dark energy. His tail, long and with the head of a snake, slithered across the floor.
[I’ve endured everything for this moment.]
From the pool of black climbed undead of bone and armor. Dripping, they opened their mandibles and roared, a sinister red light coming to life in their eye sockets.
[… The old order of this world shall be destroyed, and in its place, a new order shall be established.]
Tom reached out and gripped the neck of a bone spear that rose out of the pool of darkness, crossing the barrier between whatever world lay beneath them into their own.
[Salem Gottshuranche, ruler of this world! With your blood, with your soul, the world shall be rebalanced!]
Light, golden like the sun, shone from Tom’s eyes, their gaze beaming toward a cowarding Salem.
Salem couldn’t speak, his jaw slack, unable to look away from the terrifying sight before him. Tom–if this thing was even the same being–had a deep, dark, thick, and suffocating amount of Magic Power. It was suddenly possible to see the comparison to the Devil. He couldn’t withstand the fear and terror sweeping over him, their chill on him as he realized he was before the legendary Thoma.
Thoma? That bastard, alive?
The accursed Hero, Thoma. The embodiment of the very envy and hatred of Salem’s past, the cause of his caustic, unyielding resentment. Salem had tortured and broken the body of that man, and yet here he stood before him. From death. With power.
It can’t be true! There has to be some sort of trick.
Salem looked around his surroundings, denying the truth before him. He had to get away, he had to put distance between himself and this thing! There was no chance that Thoma would be out for anything other than blood and revenge. What Salem had done to him, he would receive in kind, of that there would be no doubt: pitiably, disgustingly, painfully. Regret struck him like icy water across his lap.
The Hero Thoma had stood for justice, but he was relentless in his pursuit of that justice, stopping at nothing to carry it out. How much more so would this be the case as the Devil.
‘I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to live, no matter the cost: the throne, the kingdom, all of it can burn for all I care! I just gotta get away from the one with the Fragment of God–‘
‘Wait, the Fragment?‘ Salem shut his mouth.
‘The Fragment of God. If I could get my hands on that… wouldn’t I become immortal too?‘
Salem’s fear dissipated and, perversely, he began to grow excited. An immortal, undying, eternal existence. God or devil; the Fragment of God that could become anything. It was right before his eyes! The gears in his head began turning, and as he found himself slipping into his thoughts, his lips began to move of their own accord.
“Immortal… Hah, Haha!! Immortality?!”
The Evilesse Holy Knights turned to Salem in surprise. His grin seemed to hang on his ears and tear across his face, it was so wide. He pointed a bony finger to Tom, shaking it hard enough to break.
“Kill him! Kill him! Kill him! Kill that bastard! If we kill him, we will have the eternity that we seek! Yes! Undying immortality! Immortality! I will become an absolute existence! The Fragment of God! Get me that Fragment of God!”
Salem turned to his knights. “Don’t you want it for yourselves? That which the Ancient God of Creation had killed himself to bury is right before our eyes! Don’t you want to become immortal as well?”
The knight’s eyes grew wide. They turned to Artarrk: even they knew what the Fragment of God was. Salem’s obsession was lunacy, all other forms of sustaining himself a poor substitute. They perked up to hear that such a prize, a complete immortal body over an incomplete immortal derivative, could be theirs to obtain as well.
The real Fragment of God? The thing in the middle of the expanding lake, was the fragment left behind by the God of Creation, Artarrk?
“We can be immortal… just by killing that thing?”
They swallowed dryly and raised their weapons, the thought of retreat leaving their mind.
“D-do you think it’ll work? Do you think we can do this?”
“I-I don’t know. I know that he’s strong. I know we can’t fall back here. We’re Hero-grade warriors, after all.”
The Knights braced themselves, their might was sufficient to kill a Demon Lord and more. They had amassed sizeable numbers, they told themselves.
“Let’s try it!”
“If we win, we can get our hands on immortality!”
“No one can look down on us!”
“We can win! We can win!”
“We can get our hands on everything in this world!”
The knights glared at Artarrk’s mad eyes. He seemed to hesitate for a moment before he readied his spear and thrust his spear into the lake.
Lily sprinted through the palace towards the throne room.
“Stop the Demon Lord!”
The Golden Cross Army raised their swords. Lily injected Magic Power into her sword.
She cut through the Golden Cross Army. Soldiers screamed and some fell out the window. Lily’s eyes widened as she saw the scene outside of the window.
Human soldiers that had surrounded the capital of Aylans and were closing in. They were the nations that allied with the Holy Kingdom and their vassals. They toppled the outer gates and walls with massive numbers and were swarming in. The soldiers of Lome and the Hell didn’t dare to try to stop them, retreating to the palace.
“…It’s human soldiers.”
Lily bit her lower lip hearing the words of the Orc who had followed her.
“At this place… why?”
What do I do? Should she aid in Salem’s capture, or change course to the castle walls to aid the other soldiers? Her first priority was taking down Salem: with him caught, they’d be victorious. But that assumed they would have any forces left amongst Hell and Lome. If they were decimated, the humans would swarm them even if Salem was captured. They would have failed anyhow.
“Your majesty, what shall you do?”
Lily bit her lip. Tom was likely already in the throne room: she couldn’t see him below, and he said that the throne was his priority. He also had Ellin with him.
“We’re going down. At the very least, we have to hold–” She stopped again, her gaze still on the battlefield below. The soldiers of the empire and the kingdom moved quickly, pushing into the Aylans capital.
“The humans that are on the side of Demons are Devils! Judge them in accordance with the words of the Emperor!”
Soldiers of both armies pulled out as the enemy soldiers swarmed in and headed toward the capital. The Emperor, on his two-wheeled cart, rode smoothly through the streets without even having to pull up a fight. Soon they would be able to see the palace, and they would know what the strange crow that they had been seeing so far spoke of.
‘Will I be able to get my hands on immortality…?’
This war was the process of obtaining that, and if this was the trial, it was all too easy.
“We shall get what we wanted to get from this war. We shall pave the road to history that will allow the great Empire to last forever!”
The Emperor drew his blade impatiently. He swung it, a roar welling up inside him, but when he was about to release it, he froze. The earth beneath him began to shake, beneath him and in his ears, he could hear it. The ground rippled beneath him, the Emperor barely maintaining his balance in the cart.
“What is it?”
The Emperor slowly raised his head, a cold sweat forming down his back, as unease grew within him. He suddenly felt the urge to flee this place. But he was the great Emperor, and he would not back down so easily. His gaze fell upon the Aylansian palace.
The windows of the palace had been shattered, and its walls were beginning to crumble before him. Something fell, no–oozed and dripped–from the windows and between pieces of the walls. It was a black liquid, and there were undead falling with it! They came out like a waterfall, crashing into the ground. They poured out like a wave into the streets, sweeping everything away.
“A black… wave?”
“Are those corpses?”
The invading soldiers began to retreat, their eyes wide. The black water was already upon them, reaching their ankles and still flowing. They turned to the fallen undead. They began to squirm and rise, their eyes glowing.
“Wait, there’s something about this water! There’s something in the water!”
Something tore through the soldiers even as they stood speaking. A spear, seemingly made of bone. Undead continued to pour out of the water, mocking the dead soldiers with a twisted expression of what could almost be seen as glee. They kept coming, wading out of the water, the littered corpses from the earlier battle rising to their feet to join their ranks. Their numbers swelled into hundreds of thousands. The palace seemed to be a gate to hell, and all manners of ungodly creatures were returning to the land of the living.
The stench of rot and Magic Power began to reverberate and spread out into the surroundings. They all gathered into a single place and opened their mouths, the glow in their eyes immense.
The roar rang out through the land, and humans were filled with terror.
“What, are those things…!?”
Soldiers stabbed their spears and blades at the water, hacking at the undead crawling out, smashing their skulls and crushing their ribs. Still, their forces were undeterred, as they were unable to be killed, their infernal gaze unceasing.
The humans released their arrows and burned the bodies. They stabbed and poured oil on the enemy. The number of Undead only grew, advancing through flames. Their resolve began to falter, and as eerie crows rose to the heavens, the undead began their assault.
Their weapons, swords and spears, tore, pieced, and crushed. They begot death, and death begot more soldiers. The living attempted to resist, but their feeble efforts soon turned to cries of despair.
“Emperor! Your majesty emperor! Your orders…!”
The forces fell into bedlam. The Emperor watched, dumbfounded and frozen. It was simply unreal: Undead bursting from the palace. They weren’t summoned, but born from the black wave. They overwhelmed the living and spread themselves as they multiplied as if they would swallow up the world itself endlessly, endlessly.
Just what could one do against them?
The Emperor, powerless, dropped his blade.
The Death Knights, clad in their armor, stood in formation from left to right. The Evilesse Holy Knights had been skewered by spears, impaled, with their pained expressions frozen in time. Behind the Death Knights were liches, their staves in their hands, and their heads bowed. They opened their mouths and the undead forces spoke in unison.
-Exalt him! Worship him!
-The bearer of the Fragment of God, the inheritor of God’s will, has descended.
-All those living, be in fear!
-Grovel beneath his feet and beg for your lives!
-He shall destroy this world, create, and rebalance..!
An army that was reborn when slain, and grew in bloodshed. An immortal, indestructible army of infinite potential strength. This truly was the army of God. Artarrk’s army. At the helm of command, Artarrk lit up his eyes and lifted his head.
-Bow before the Fallen Monarch!
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