19. Fallen Monarch (2)
The Holy Knights could feel a chill in the air. They had devoted their entire lives to strengthening the Holy Energy that God had bestowed upon them, but they had never felt anything like this. They could feel goosebumps rising across their bodies.
“How can… the Undead use Holy Energy?!”
“A-abomination of holiness! They are blaspheming our God!”
“Don’t panic! This can’t be real! It has to be illusory magic!”
Fear of the unknown began to take hold of them. Demonic Energy and Holy Energy were polar opposites. It was supposed to be impossible to possess both at the same time as it went against their fundamental understanding of nature. This was the ‘sovereignty’ of the Gods. Holy Energy wrapped around the undead as they marched forward, facing off against the Holy Knights. It could be said that they possessed a cleaner and more pure energy than the humans themselves. It was an army possessing both properties of shadow and light. That was the ‘Army of Arrtark’.
The outer wall collapsed under the fist of a Bone Golem. The Undead Soldiers climbed up the Bone Golem like a ladder and began to assault the soldiers stationed atop the wall. With its walls breached, the army of the undead trampled over the streets of Lania.
Sounds of pain and despair rang out, and a fire that seemed to devour all of the living burned throughout the city. Cries of the undead and the dying filled the air. The human soldiers struggled to the bitter end to survive, but their efforts were for naught. A thick stench of death lingered in the air. A woman struggled within a burning building, trying to pull out a child caught underneath the fallen debris.
“M…om… It… hurts…”
“J-just wait a moment! I’ll get you out…!”
At that moment, a skeleton appeared behind her and the woman felt utter despair. There was nothing in the streets other than the undead. All the human soldiers had been killed and were now aimlessly wandering around as the living dead. The woman trembled where she stood as she muttered a small prayer.
“D-dear god… Ah, Lord Arrtark… I-I don’t care about myself, so please just save the life of my child…”
The woman wept as she pulled her child close into an embrace.
As the woman trembled, the Skeleton merely tilted its head and tossed the debris away. In that moment, its body turned white as it brushed the child’s head with an extended hand. The illuminating light not only enveloped the child, but the mother as well. Pale string-like light began to stitch their wounds together as their flesh began to reform underneath that light. The pair was also cleansed of any illnesses they may have had.
The woman slowly widened her eyes as her body lightened with renewed vigor. She was experiencing the ‘miracle’ of the Aura of Life.
The woman stared at the pale skeleton in disbelief. She had never seen such a pure form of Holy Power before. It calmed her heart and gave her a feeling of comfort just by being near it. She muttered, as though in a trance.
With its white armor, and the Holy Energy seeping out of its back, it appearance was similar to a winged angel. The woman watched as the skeleton turned and walked away from her, into the streets.
The fleeing residents were left alive, but the soldiers weren’t exempt. They had been killed and their bodies now decorated the city on top of spears. They were pierced through the anus, through their bodies, with the bloodied spear tops sticking out from their mouths. There was no mercy for anyone armed. Only death and massacre awaited them.
The ruler of the Undead walked through Lania, down the royal road, taking in the destruction that his army had unleashed. He stopped when he heard someone call out to him.
“… H-human? No. You’re not a human! Who are you? Just what is that power…?!”
An orc slave that had been left abandoned within its steel cage by a slave merchant looked at Thoma with caution. Skeletons approached the orc and broke the lock with their blades. The undead did not attack the Orc, but simply freed him before heading toward the palace.
[Go if you have somewhere to go.]
The Orc looked into the golden light beneath Thoma’s helmet.
[If you don’t have anywhere to go…]
The divine being commanded him.
Thoma arrived at the palace gates. Arrows were fired at him from all over, but they were deflected by his armor. His tail, the head of a snake, grew in size and tore apart the soldiers on the castle walls.
Blood poured out of a soldier where the snake had bitten. He pressed down on the wound, enduring the pain. However, it only made it worse as his hair fell out and his flesh started deteriorating.
“….U….uwaaaak! Kyaaaaaaak!” He cried out in agony.
“W-why is this guy acting like this?!”
“What’s wrong with him?!”
“He’s changing! Turning into a Ghoul!”
His fingernails elongated and sharpened as he transformed. Without hesitation, he lunged toward his former companions. Thoma ignored the screams that could be heard from on top of the castle walls.
He extended his hand to touch the door of the palace. The wooden planks of the door began to rot and the steel began to rust. They broke away as though thousands of years of time had passed. This was truly an [Aura of Death], the destructive nature held within Demonic Energy.
[Capture the priests! Don’t let a single one escape your sight! Capture them all and drag them before me!]
Upon his command, the Skeleton Assassins swiftly entered the palace. They moved dexterously as they climbed the walls and killed the guards before capturing the fleeing priests. The palace was filled with screams within an instant.
“Hah~! This is it! This flavor!”
“Move your bodies a bit! Huh? It’s no fun just being blitzed out from drugs, right?”
“Why do you think you’re here? Haha! It’s because you haven’t paid your donations and taxes! It’s all because you didn’t pay us money!”
“Be glad! You can be purified by the graces of us priests instead of some slave merchant!”
There was a massive cross adorning the wall with luxurious food spilled onto the floor. A fountain was spewing clean and pure holy water from its spout. However, this holy sanctuary, a place that should have been treated with reverence had instead become sullied with filth. Priests were laying intertwined with women. Their bodies were tangled with each other’s wracked with euphoria. The incense infused with narcotic substances made the air look hazy and the women were blankly obeying every command given to them like broken dolls.
“Who do you think I am? What is the name of this great-?”
Faron burst into laughter while in a naked woman’s embrace.
“I am the Archbishop! One of only seven… no! Eight archbishops on this continent!”
Faron slapped the animal sleeping beside him. It was a six meter tall, bulky, thick-skinned elephant with its long nose and fan-like ears. The elephant decorated with gold adornments only peeked over at him, annoyed, before closing its eyes again.
“This is the proof that I have become Archbishop! This is a monster called an elephant. It was rescued from a neighboring nation of heretics known as Afkhan! This guy is a holy beast that will protect me! The pope personally gifted him to me! All shall praise me! If you do, you will all enjoy these privileges as I do! Money, prestige, and authority! I shall grant you all of it! Hahaha! Fall in line behind me, I say! If you do, I shall grant you anything! Pope Gattshuranche stands behind me!”
Faron was enjoying himself, nude, with a drink in one hand and an inebriated woman in the other. He had been emaciated just a few days ago but had fattened up quite a bit since then, and he had since shaved his head. His eyes were wild with euphoria and his hands were groping the woman next to him like an object. Regardless of who he betrayed or which innocents he falsely tortured, he felt no remorse for any of his actions. He had already abandoned his dignity. Only the hedonistic pleasures before his eyes mattered now. They were the nature and purpose of his new life. This was not only true for Faron, but for all the other priests that had spent their days in the abbey within the forest. They all curried Faron’s favor, and they had all betrayed their former friends that they had once laughed and enjoyed life with. In return, they were able to enjoy all the pleasures they desired.
“Ey, elephant? Do you want to try a drink? Eh? Aren’t you my guard?”
Faron began to repeatedly strike the massive elephant on its head, but it refused to move and chose to continue sleeping instead. Abruptly, the sound of frantic knocking came from outside the door to the banquet hall, but no one heard it. Faron, who didn’t want to be bothered, had ordered the other priests to lock the door and block all sounds with magic. He wasn’t aware that Holy Knights were now screaming at the door from outside.
“Archbishop! You must hurry and escape! Undead…! Undead are swarming in!”
The Holy Knights continued to bang on the door for some time before they finally decided to just break the door down. They swung at the door with their blades.
“Shit! There’s defensive magic on the door…!”
“Do whatever it takes to get through!”
They continued to swing at the door bound with Holy Energy. When a crack began to form, they grinned.
“W-wait… the Undead…!”
The Holy Knights retreated as soon as they noticed the undead assassins walking through the corridor.
They ran toward the other end of the hall, but flying sickles and daggers soon pierced their bodies.
A chain had been attached to each of the sickles. The Skeleton Assassins, from which dreary laughter could be heard, were able to pull the knights back toward them by tugging on these chains, staining the corridor with blood.
Back inside the banquet hall, Faron, who had been entertaining himself with the bodies of the girls that he found himself in the company of, heard some sounds by the door and tilted his head out of curiosity.
‘What is it? Is it the Holy Knights? Che! I was in the middle of enjoying myself. Who is it? I definitely sealed it!’
Even before he could finish his sentence, the door broke apart and flew off its hinges. The priests in the way were either crushed to death or wounded. The ones that managed to evade the doors were surprised as they leapt up from their seats and began to retreat.
Metallic sounds rang out as the figure wearing pitch black armor entered. The skeletons spread out into a formation behind him.
“Why are there undead here…?!”
Thoma, the master of the undead, no, the one who had received the name of ‘Artarrk’, looked at the booze, drugs, and naked women around him. The women looked at Artarrk with dazed looks on their faces and began to laugh hysterically. Tears were flowing from their eyes. It looked as though they still hadn’t regained their senses from the drugs.
[… I see you’re enjoying yourself. You had fallen once, and now have you decided to abandon all of your dignity, Brother Faron?]
Faron looked surprised as he glanced around before pointing a finger to himself.
“W-what?! W-what would a necromancer know?! How dare someone of the necromantic arts that deals with devils―do you know who I am?! I’m an Archbishop! The closest to the Pope!”
Faron looked at the priests around him and shouted.
“What are you all doing?! Kill that madman! Or I’ll kill you all myself!”
The more experienced priests regained their composure and quickly clothed themselves. They raised their staves and began casting their spells. After a short incantation, balls of light flashed out like bolts of lightning toward Artarrk.
Unfortunately, an attack of that level was not enough. An undead lich enveloped with holy energy appeared before Artarrk, grasped one of the fast approaching spells and crushed it.The lich realized that they were weaker than expected, and allowed the rest of them to dissipate harmlessly against it.
When the attacking priests retreated, the Undead Lich slammed the sickle in its hand onto the ground. The ground split open, and skeletons emerged from the cracks. They took the priests by surprise and ambushed them, grabbing onto their bodies and squeezing the life out of them. The sound of their bones being crushed echoed throughout the room. Femur, clavicle, ribs, hands, and scapula. All manner of bones flew out everywhere as they were crushed to death. The remaining priests that had avoided such a fate could do nothing but watch such a horror unfold.
“Hiiik! K-kill it! What are you doing?! Hurry…!”
Faron screamed as he grew more pale, the priests all shook their heads.
The other priests awkwardly retreated. They were the priests from the abbey in the fringes. Their positions were not high and as they hadn’t received proper training, and didn’t know how to properly use Holy Energy. Moreover, they were inexperienced with battle. All of the priests that had stepped up to face the undead had been priests of the palace, who had been much more experienced. Yet they had not been enough to face this threat. The reality of the situation quickly dawned on the remaining priests, and they knew that they had no hope of achieving what their fallen comrades had not.
“Ee-eek! Ey! Monster Elephant! Hurry up and crush them! Hurry…!”
Faron kicked the massive elephant. The elephant stood up in response and knocked Faron aside before rushing over to Artarrk.
“Uwaack! Stupid…! Ugh…”
Faron grabbed his crushed foot as he watched the elephant charging forward.
When the massive bulk of the elephant attempted to stomp Artarrk, the elephant’s head suddenly exploded. Its massive body fell to the side and Artarrk lowered his armored right hand. Faron collapsed upon witnessing the scene. His final trump card had been swatted aside easily, with a single strike. It was an unbelievable level of strength inconceivable by man or demon.
“M-monster! You monstrous bastard…!”
Artarrk approached him. Every time Artarrk took a step forward, the ground beneath his feet grew black as it rotted away. He stood before Faron.
Faron looked at his own legs in surprise. The tips of his feet were turning black as they rotted away.
[Am I really the monster here? Or are you?]
“Hiiiik-! W-what are you talking about?! I hate this! Save me! Ey! I said save me!”
Faron crawled along the floor. He continued to desperately shout toward the other priests as he moved. His feet were rotting away. They had started rotting from his toes, but now it was spreading up to his thigh, his knees, and now the rest of his leg. There was horrendous pain at a level he had never experienced before in his life as his flesh decayed. It was at a level that made the torture he had received earlier feel like the sting of a mosquito.
Faron crawled toward the fountain made of holy water.
He knew that it was his only chance to alleviate some of his pain. Once he covered the distance, he climbed inside the fountain and held his body against the spray of holy water. He was grasping at straws, willing to try absolutely anything to get rid of the pain. Faron began to smile as the water worked its magic. His pain faded, then vanished entirely. His plan worked.
At that moment, however, the fountain started to turn black and tainted water began to spray out. It had a rotten stench to it and as it covered Faron’s entire body, it made his pain even more intense.
Faron raised his head. Artarrk was standing above him with his hand stretched out. He grabbed Faron by the neck and lifted him into the air. Artarrk turned, and swung the Archbishop against the cross hanging on the wall behind them.
Artarrk raised his free hand into the air and conjured a single spearhead which he nailed through both of Faron’s palms.
Faron’s arms and legs began to swell, giving off a pungent smell. Looking at this scene, the other priests gasped in horror and they covered their mouths with their hands.
“Stop! Stop this! What did I do to deserve this?! Just what did I…?!”
[The children and Sister Ellie.]
Faron shut his mouth. His eyes grew wide as he saw the golden light pouring out from the skull of a lion. That light looked familiar to him. It was the light of a monk who could discern truth from lies.
Faron felt chill across his body. He recalled all the evil acts he had committed thus far and his mind shut down at the fear of the consequences. He looked at Artarrk as he pleaded.
“W-wait! B-brother Thoma! Sir Hero! Wait! I am sorry! I am deeply sorry! I-I, myself didn’t want to commit…” His leg was skewered with another spearhead. “Uwaaaack!”
Faron screamed. His nerves must have been intact even though his entire body was in a state of decay.
“Shit! What am I sorry for?! Just what…?! Is it wrong to be in pain?! Is it wrong to have succumbed to the pain?! Was it a sin to have not stood by your side?! I just wanted to survive…!”
Ignoring Faron’s outburst, Artarrk looked into his eyes.
[I don’t care about myself. It didn’t matter what happened to me, but… Sister Ellie and the children were different.]
Faron’s face trembled. He was slowly enveloped in horror as darkness covered his eyes. All manner of fluids flowed out of his nose, eyes, and ears and excrement flowed from his lower half.
[I wasn’t the one that was sacrificed for your ambition. It was the children. Now suffer the consequences for your sins, Faron!]
Faron shook his head with all his might as if to deny that claim. He struggled to escape however he could, but his arms and legs refused to move.
“No! No! Your Holiness! The Pope! Fucking Salem Gattschuranche! Save me, I say!”
The light from Artarrk’s eyes narrowed toward Faron.
[Where is Salem? Where is that man?]
“Uaaaah! Hahahahaha… Hihihihihi…. Eeeeeee..”
Faron looked at Artarrk as though he had lost his grip of his sanity. He spewed out a twisted laughter, not one of any sane person, as he looked back with dull eyes. Artarrk wavered as he looked at those eyes.
[Is he… not in this place? He’s… not here? Gone?] Artarrk turned in a panic as he shouted toward the undead. [Find that bastard! Drag him before me!]
The lights in the eyes of the undead flashed upon his order and they began to move out. Artarrk furrowed his brows as he glared at Faron.
[You… must suffer more.]
Artarrk’s body began to shift from darkness to light. His armor was dyed in white as the Aura of Life began to emanate around him instead of the Aura of Death. A white-colored spear appeared in his hand with which he penetrated Faron’s heart.
Faron’s looked down and watched the spear penetrate his own heart, and he saw his rotting body regenerate. Faron’s gaze turned to his side. The Aura of Death from the spearheads holding his arms and legs continued to eat at his flesh. His entire body was repeatedly dying and rejuvenating.
[I pledge to you an eternal death! When that body crumbles and disappears, I, Artarrk, overrule your rights to a new life: ‘reincarnation’!]
Faron’s eyes grew wide as he gazed upon the amalgamation of power before him. He couldn’t understand what the being was trying to say. The fact that he was speaking of reincarnation, extinguishing the cycle of death and rebirth, and that the God who had created all beings, Artarrk, was being invoked here, none of it made any sense.
“Hah. Hah…haha…hahaha…hahahahahahaaaa! Hihihihiiiihiihihihihihih!”
Faron’s body began to shake amidst the endless pain. He gradually grew insane within the torment, with expressions of despair and joy sporadically appearing on his face.
[With this… I’ll consider your sins redeemed, Faron.]
Artarrk left the room, leaving Faron behind him.
— Ω —