46. The Moon Rabbit Siblings (3)
The Orcs looked about, slack-jawed. They trembled, and their foreheads were drenched with sweat.
“Where… is this?”
They had been in the forest just moments ago, but there was no sign of that forest now. Instead, they stood before the ruins of a burned building beside a crumbling castle wall. Human corpses run through with spears dotted the area. A large murder of crows stalked the sky, casting their eerie cries above decaying zombies shambling across the grounds.
Panicked, the Orcs couldn’t comprehend the sight before them and turned to Karakul.
“C-commander? Where is this? Just why are we here?! There are only undead here! Aren’t we in danger?!”
The Orc warriors were wary of their surroundings. Even if they were specialized in close-quarter combat, they couldn’t help but recoil at the sight of creepy undead. Additionally, there seemed to be thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of them wandering around this ‘major city’. It was wiser to flee than fight them and risking death.
Karakul spoke calmly.
“There is no need to fight.”
“B-but these are the undead! Undead that mercilessly attack the living…!”
“They won’t engage us if we leave them be. Ignore them, and they’ll ignore us in kind. If we are hostile, so too will they be hostile.”
‘My goodness…! The Undead won’t cause harm? Does that make any sense!? No, more importantly, how could he be so sure? It’s as though he’s already accustomed to it!’
The Orcs couldn’t speak their minds. They just moaned and recalled what had happened moments before.
Karakul had gathered the most capable Orcs, a force of about 200, and brought them into the forest. They were instructed to leave their equipment behind and instead were tasked with pulling a dozen wooden wagons, in accordance with Karakul’s commands.
“Commander, why did you have us gather?”
The Orcs were well aware of the current situation in the Demon Kingdom. The news that Vampires had usurped the capital and gained the loyalty of the Apostles had already spread throughout the kingdom. The Orcs had to be on their guard. Having experienced the brunt of the fighting first-hand, they knew that the Hero’s allied forces had expended a lot of their manpower. But now, at a crucial moment, Karakul had taken a substantial portion of their remaining manpower on a mysterious expedition.
Karakul turned to Tom, who was drawing runes on the forest floor with a tree branch. The branch gouged the soil and formed a circle, and in that circle, Tom spread the powder of a Magic Stone abandoned by the Hero’s forces. When he confirmed that the powder was evenly spread, he nodded.
“Good. It’s done.”
The Orcs watching Tom looked confused. What did he mean that it was done?
Karakul clarified their purpose.
“From this point on, we’re going to retrieve supplies.”
The Orcs still didn’t understand. Was there somewhere they could receive proper supplies?
“Yes, well, they are used, but they’re in good condition. It’ll be much better than what we’ve got now, in any case. We’re going to leave immediately, so please work hard.”
“We’re leaving now? How…?”
Tom prodded the runes on the ground with his branch.
“…We’ll be using Warp.”
Warp magic. Warping used runes as coordinates, connecting the point of departure with a destination. It was a type of magic that used a great deal of mana and was only used by kings, emperors, and others of similar power and wealth. Warping could require dozens of magicians to move even a single person a territory over. Even though the Kingdom of Aylans, known as the Kingdom of Magic, declared that warp magic originated from ‘degenerate’ mages, many still made use of the spell.
The Orcs, who didn’t have this knowledge, remained confused even with the explanation.
“In any case, stand in this circle. I’ll be sending you all at once!”
And just like that, they had arrived in the city of undead through Warp. The soldiers quickly rushed to Karakul, pulling their carts behind them, to ask more questions.
“My god… for there to be such a place like this! Can we really trust that guy, the Devil of Lania or whatever…?”
Karakul glowered at them. They flinched, for his eyes were very fierce.
“He is trustworthy. He’s an honorable person, someone I trust more than anyone else in the Demon Kingdom.”
‘An honorable person?’
The Orcs took note of the deference with which Karakul referred to the Devil of Lania, but they didn’t press it further.
The sheer magnitude of the city impressed a certain awe upon the soldiers. It was clear that everything had been abandoned for a long time, but the buildings were obviously more advanced than those that they were used to, from the houses and the castle walls to the clean, still-paved roads. Not to mention the massive castle itself off in the distance.
“… It is very big.”
The size left the soldiers dumbfounded. The castle before them was much larger than their own, towering over them with authority and majesty. It resembles a dwelling for gods rather than human kings.
Eventually, they arrived at one of the storage areas connected to the basement of the castle. The Orcs stood before the massive door with torches in hand. They used all of their strength to force the door open. The door was made of steel, which made it heavy on its own, but dust between its cracks and rust from neglect made it even more difficult to move.
With difficulty, the door gave, and a thick cloud of dust poured out from inside. The Orcs looked into the dark room, squinting. There was no light. Within this pitch darkness, they couldn’t see what was inside.
“What is this? This place…?”
Their voices very loudly echoed back to them. Karakul took a torch from an Orc and walked forward into the dark. His surroundings lit up, the light beginning to reflect back at him from every direction making everything very bright. The sudden outpour of golden light forced the Orcs to raise their hands to shield their eyes, allowing them only a small peek through their fingers to see the shiny objects which filled vast space within.
Their eyes grew wide. As they became accustomed to the light, their jaws dropped. A small mountain of gold managed to reflect Karakul’s dim torchlight throughout the entire storage area. The Orcs walked forward, swallowing dryly. One Orc grabbed some gold coins with their hand and raised it up. He marveled as the coins slipped through his grip and showered onto the stone floor. Other than gold coins, gems and countless treasures filled this vault to the brim.
“… Amazing. What is all this?”
“This is the first time I’ve seen so much gold!”
As the Orcs stood around dumbfounded, another soldier approached and shouted for attention. In his hands were a sword and a helmet.
“Ey! Over here! Weapons! Tons of them too!”
Karakul lifted his gaze, turning away from the gold coins. He inspected the sword the soldier had brought.
“It wasn’t here, but over there.”
The company moved locations. Orcs watched Karakul’s calm demeanor in surprise and followed behind him.
“Commander… Just where are we?”
This city was advanced beyond the demon’s wildest dreams, and there was more gold than they’d ever heard of—even in the most exaggerated of legends. It was hard for them to believe they were seeing such a sight in their lifetimes.
When Karakul arrived at the weapons, he smiled with satisfaction. Thousands of swords, spears, axes, maces, bows-and-arrows, and crossbows… Everything that could be considered a weapon was stored here. They also weren’t of ordinary make, either. These were the finest weapons forged by master blacksmiths who slaved over their forges for decades. Further inside there were even prefabricated siege weapons and blueprints for making more
The Orcs that saw these weapons and nearly fell over in shock.
“… This must be one of the human cities, right?”
One Orc grasped a sword in a daze. Though caked with dust, its surface still gleamed, reflecting his face better than any mirror he had used before. Its blade was sharp, and its edge wouldn’t dull from your average blow. These were weapons made with great care by the greatest craftsmen among the humans.
“… My god… are these even weapons!?”
“This edge, it looks like it could even slice through Ogre hide!?”
The Orcs shouted in awe.
“Ey, you guys asked where this was?”
The Orcs all turned to Karakul. They didn’t say a word, still recovering from the shock. Karakul turned to those dazed Orcs and replied simply.
“Lania. This is the former capital of the Holy Empire.”
“Load all of it!”
The Orcs held equipment with both hands and stumbled along to load everything into the carts. The carts creaked as their wheels struggled under the considerable weight.
“Amazing! We managed to get equipment!”
“Hah… Those human bastards are truly frightening. They had these kinds of weapons? It’s obvious now why we couldn’t win!”
The Orcs recalled the Hero dispatched by the kingdoms and shivered. They were on different dimensions: one side was fighting with crude weapons made of wood and bone, while the other had access to steel armor and swords. Wasn’t the result obvious? It was truly an uneven playing field.
“But, what happened? These weapons… they don’t compare to the weapons that the Hero’s forces had!”
“Is it because they’re meant for Holy Knights?”
The Hero’s allied forces were an army formed around the soldiers of the various kingdoms. The Hero was dispatched by the Holy Kingdom, but in reality, there were many times that the Hero had different nationalities.
As the Holy Kingdom often elevated ordinary knights to Holy Knights on a temporary basis, to fill the ranks of the allied army, they were often not properly equipped. When Lania was still the capital of the Holy Kingdom, they had stored the weapons meant solely for the members of the Golden Cross in this place. These weapons were so precious, that after the Golden Cross was disbanded, the weapons were collected again and sealed here for safekeeping.
“Weapons specifically for Holy Knights… It’s a bit creepy.”
“We can just reforge them later.”
“What if we touch ’em wrong and it rubs off on us?”
“Ey! Did you grab the blueprints for the siege weapons as well?”
“Can we even make all this? It’s extremely complicated.”
“It’s also in a strange language. I don’t really know human letters.”
Equipment was loaded into dozens of carts. They finally had proper supplies. Swords and shields, bows and arrows, crossbows and bolts, spears and axes. Not only that, but they also had blueprints and parts to produce siege weapons. The Orcs likely couldn’t handle everything provided right away, but it would be their job to research how. Orcs had the tendency to absorb the strengths of others through their boundless curiosity.
“We’ve got everything so we’re pulling out. We can’t leave the Demon Kingdom for too long.”
The carts began to move on Karakul’s command.
A pair of Ajin raced through the forest. A boy with short white hair, and a girl with white hair that reached her shoulders. They had human appearances save for the rabbit ears on top of their heads, making it obvious they were part of the Moon Rabbit tribe. The Moon Rabbit tribe were a rare species of Ajin, who made use of illusions and other such trickery to survive. The siblings were small-statured. However, their positions were much grander than their size would imply. They were the maid and servant charged with looking after the Demon Lord, Lily Golt.
They were currently fleeing through the woods, their outfits tearing on branches as they continued running with ragged breaths.
“… Brother, I’m tired.”
“Hold on for a bit longer!”
They were normally of a cold and indifferent disposition. However, their expressions were now steeped in despair.
Lulu, the brother, held Luli, the sister, and pulled her along. He peeked back over his shoulder as they ran.
“Huff… Huff… Huff…”
Shadows pursued them, though Lulu had been able to make out a few details of those chasing them. Silver fur and manes, hands with massive claws, and long lower legs which propelled them forward. They were Werewolves. They deftly sprinted through the dense woods in a zig-zag pattern, evading obstacles or climbing on top of branches at a rapid pace. With even breaths, they didn’t tire, despite their bulky bodies. Slowly but surely, they were closing the distance between them and the siblings.
Luli glared at them with her rosy red eyes.
“Please… stop chasing us!”
The surrounding trees began to rustle and move. Their roots pulled erupted from the earth like legs and massive branch-like arms swung toward the Werewolves.
The Werewolves stopped to fight back, slashing at the branches with their claws. However, they simply passed through them.
It was the special ability of the Moon Rabbits: conjuring illusions and mirages. The Werewolves growled as they ignored the trees and began their chase once more, but collided into something as they tried to run through what they believed to be an open path. A tree had appeared in that empty space.
“… It’s annoying. They keep making illusions, so I can’t tell what’s real or not.”
They created enemies through illusions and created paths that didn’t exist with mirages. The distance between them grew once again.
Lulu, who had been using his illusion magic, began to bleed from his nose. Exhaustion made him tremble.
Luli shouted when she noticed her brother’s condition.
“N-not yet. Just… a bit more! We’re almost where Her Highness is…!”
As they struggled, a Werewolf burst forth from a tree before them.
Lulu froze in surprise.
“… Let’s just stop now.”
The Werewolf’s sharp claw flew forward. Lulu pushed Luli with the hand that once held her, and the claw penetrated him. It ran through the stomach of his small body and pushed out through his back. His intestines were torn, causing thick blood to pour out of his stomach.
Lulu quaked. Blood poured from his mouth while other fluids spilled out of his eyes and nose. He couldn’t even scream, trembling in fear like a small rabbit.
Luli collapsed as her legs gave out. The Werewolf looked at Lulu and tilted his head.
“… Warm. And the scent of blood. Could this be real, and not an illusion?”
Lulu used all his strength and held the Werewolf’s arm. The Werewolf merely narrowed his eyes at his response.
“… Sorry. We have to follow orders, and we were ordered to hunt. Your sister is mine.”
Lulu shouted to Luli.
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