Beautiful hair made of fine silver strands. Deep purple eyes like the amethyst.
She was, not yet twenty… but I suppose in her late teens. Her skin was pale, but not sickly like Roux’s. Her refined features gave her an intelligent air. She had the kind of beauty that would have had me bewitched if not for the current circumstances.
She was shorter than me and looked very dainty, but the energy I felt radiating from her was more overwhelming than it felt a short while ago at a distance.
Maybe even Roux who cannot sense positive energy in people found her impressive, for she was rendered speechless.
As for me, who could see her sublime beauty with nary a shred of darkness from up close, wondered if I really had no right to live in this world if such a beauty deemed me worthy of death.
Even so, I shall never consider the option of… resigning myself to my fate.
Luckily enough, my body was able to withstand the energy.
No. Maybe I had deluded myself into thinking that I would be incinerated if I ever got any closer. The energy radiated may not possess any destructive powers at all for all I know. Come to think of it, even in the stories I read before, there was never any depiction of an undead being annihilated through mere proximity.
Nevertheless, I could not stop myself from shaking.
I cannot possibly run away, leaving Roux behind. My physical abilities may have surpassed a human’s, but the opponents are no ordinary humans.
“You’re still shaking, and you don’t look…”
It is all your fault.
“Good grief! You really are a curious one Senri.”
The words seemed considerate, but the tone and his gaze were as cold as ice.
A knight with brown hair carrying a mace approached her from behind sounding exasperated. He frowned as he observed my face.
I am supposed to be perfectly prepared for such an event. According to the Lord, the Death Knights are capable of sensing negative energy and detecting the location of an undead from far away.
As long as I have this amulet, even if they suspect anything, they should not be able to confirm those suspicions.
I steeled my resolve. If fight and flight are both out of the picture, then I have no choice but to deceive them somehow.
Roux was as quiet as a mouse. The man akin to the sun did not come any closer but watched over the girl named Senri from afar, with a gentle expression on his face.
Although the cold gaze is concerning, as long as they do not abruptly attack me, I think it is safe to assume that I have not been found out for now.
Eventually, they directed their attention towards the collar on Roux’s neck. Nevertheless, slaves are not all that uncommon.
“Sorry. It may seem like she’s angry, but our princess is just being her ‘normal self’. Nevertheless, she does have a promising future, you know?”
Normal self? That is?
Her sharp eyes looked as if they completely saw through me. And still you call that her… normal self?
Upon hearing her companion’s words, the girl who looked perfectly capable of destroying someone with her aura alone, closed her eyes as if in disapproval.
“At any rate, Senri’s concerns are not completely unfounded. You know, I hate to say it, I can see the shadow of death on you. You look deathly pale.”
“Lufry! Watch your mouth! You’re being rude!”
The blonde female knight from behind, smacked him on his head and turned her attention toward me. I may have escaped from the worst possible outcome, but the situation is still precarious.
The sunlight felt too strong. As naturally as possible, I sink further into the hood of my robe.
“… I… I’m alright. Thank you, very much. I’m fine. Still recuperating from an illness, that’s all. I was still confined to bed up until a few days ago… and only just barely managed to go out on a walk.”
“Confined… how about now… are you alright?”
The line moved forward, and I moved along with it. However, the grim reapers after my life, also cluelessly follow behind me.
Just what in the world do they want? Have they already realized that I am an undead and are just waiting for the chance to kill me?
I am glad that I am an undead. Had I been alive, I would be sweating bullets right now.
The apostle of the moon said softly.
“I can relate. I… was also very ill once.”
“!… Oh, really…”
I gave a faint smile which she reciprocated with a short awkward smile.
Two things made an impact on me. The first, was the fact that this girl who possessed miraculous power was also once sick.
And, the fact that she tried to understand me when she barely knew me.
I may have thrown something at her if she had said that to me before.
The reason I was able to smile at those words is because I have a sound body now. And my definition of a sound body probably does not match theirs’.
However, strange as it was, her words made me regain my composure a little. I raised my head and took a look at each one of the Death Knights.
It invoked a score of emotions in me. Astonishment, joy, admiration. One another thing that surprised me very much were the Death Knights themselves.
The knights were all radiant. But at the same time, incredibly enough, they were all… simply human.
In the stories I have read before, they were a few knights who filled people with intense dread. But the knights here all looked very much human.
They all looked at me with concern on their faces. Simply because I looked pale, even when no one else around noticed anything.
Although compassion is a quality befitting of the apostles of light, they were different from the image I had had of them.
Had they been as I had imagined… I would be dead by now. Well, if that man like the sun had gotten any closer, he may have seen through my disguise.
I am sure the amulet would not work on him as his presence made me believe so.
Senri’s eyes widened as if she had just realized something.
“Oh right!… If I cast a recovery spell… you should be able regain a bit of your strength.”
“No. It’s alright. I really am fine now… thank you very much. Senri-san, if you don’t mind, please cast it on Roux. Roux is exhausted from looking after me.
I was able to smile from the bottom of my heart at that moment.
Normal recovery magic has no effect on the undead. Recovery magic that heals using the positive energy of the caster can even be toxic to the undead.
Senri, the compassionate girl, nodded her head in assent, walked towards Roux, who had grown stiff from anxiousness, and held out her hand.
The abundant power that enveloped her undulated and was released with a short incantation. The surplus energy that felt like it could reduce me to dust at a mere touch was poured into Roux. Roux’s complexion which was as sickly pale as mine, regained its color in the blink of an eye.
Alas… she is strong. A little too strong. Moreover, even though she had just used magic strong enough to annihilate me, her aura had not weakened in the slightest.
Unlike the undead, there is a limit to the amount of positive energy that the Death Knights can wield. It simply shows the difference in our capabilities.
I remained impassive even though lethal magic was used in close proximity.
She was an archenemy of the darkness, and yet a friend of the weak. Completely in contradiction to her inhumanly strong power, her heart was just so humane. It was a weakness that could be exploited. At the very least, she did not seem as mentally strong as the cunning Lord.
It goes without saying that I cannot fight her head on. That would be sheer foolishness. Senri, the apostle of the sun and the others cannot be matched in strength.
I need… to come up with a plan.
Not a plan to kill them, but a plan for me to survive.
I bowed, keeping my inner turmoil concealed. Several pairs of the heroes’ eyes were directed towards me.
“Thank you, very much. Well then if you’ll excuse me. I’m in a hurry…”
The moment I gave a Roux a push, intending to get a move on, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I felt like my dead, still heart had been stopped. I have no pulse, or heartbeat, nor do I breathe. And as a matter of fact, my body temperature is far lower than humans.
It was just a stroke of luck that my face did not betray my emotions. The one who had stopped me, was the blue-haired man who had quietly stood behind Senri the whole time.
“Ah, sorry for stopping you. Actually, we are trying to find a Necromancer in the vicinity on our master’s orders. A dark mage who trifles with death and souls.”
“Oh my… that sounds rather terrible…”
“Don’t worry about it. Me aside, Senri is considered a never-before-seen talent. A mere necromancer could be killed in an instant upon discovery. But we haven’t really been able to find many clues. The miserable bastard is reputed to be good at hiding his whereabouts.”
It really had me astonished that the mocking tone came from a Death Knight. But, in a sense, he looked a lot more dangerous than Senri.
The man scrutinizes my appearance and says,
“Le me be frank. You look a whole lot like an undead. Although I can’t sense any darkness… vampires are weak to sunlight. Let’s see you take off your hood. Even if you don’t wish to.”
Senri’s tone was reproachful but Neville’s expression did not change.
I see… Senri may be stronger but that does not mean the others are weak. They are almost as strong as her. The master, in all probability, must be the apostle of the sun who was looking at us from afar.
I smiled a little, slowly raised my arm and pulled down my hood without hesitation.
The sunlight fell on my eyes, and it was simply too bright that I had to squint. My skin was exposed to sunlight, the weakness of the undead, and I could feel a slight sting.
“Will this do? Maybe it’s because I was indoors for a long time, the sunlight is a bit too bright…”
Maybe he had not expected this outcome for his eyes opened wide and after surveying me for a few minutes, he frowned and clicked his tongue ostentatiously.
“Tch. So, I was wrong. Yeah, that’ll do. Sorry.”
“Neville!… I’m very sorry.”
“Don’t mention it. He’s only doing his job.”
I smiled as I shook my head and receded further into my hood. But my heart was not as calm as my face.
I have no pulse, or heartbeat nor do I breathe. I have a low body temperature too. There were more factors that could have exposed me other than my tolerance to sunlight.
The reason they picked sunlight, was because it is the ultimate weakness of the undead. The kind of undead that are intelligent, powerful and capable of concealing themselves amongst people, are generally weak to sunlight. Since they are professionals on the topic of undead, they did not think of ascertaining my identity based on the other factors.
… Er, come to think of it, do vampires have a pulse or a heartbeat?
If I remember correctly, vampires can be killed by a wooden stake to the heart. Well, those monsters exist by slurping up blood. It would not be too strange for them to have blood circulate within their bodies.
Once I return, I should go over the reference books again.
I resolved to do so and bid farewell to Senri and the others with a smile.
“Well then, thank you very much. Until we meet again…”
I pray… we never will.
This encounter was a coincidence. That was my impression for some reason.
If we were to meet again, there is no doubt that it would be in battle.
I will survive. Even if that means I have to become a monster.
I do not intend to cross swords with them, but I have to sweep away any sparks that come flying my way.
Even if they are not sparks but the raging fires of hell.
☠ ☠ ☠
“What did you say?! You came across the Death Knights?!
There was a drastic change in the Lord’s expression upon hearing my report of what had passed.
Unlike the Death Knights, you could sense the intense darkness behind the Lord’s warped evil face.
I told him everything that had taken place. After all, Roux would report back to him, so it made no difference if he heard it from me.
Their headcount and the weapons they carried. The energy that they radiated. The only thing I did not tell him was the sense of ‘sweetness’ I felt emanate from them.
And when I spoke about the man enveloped in energy as radiant like the sun, the Lord went ballistic.
With anger and resentment burning in his yes, he banged his fists on the table. His actions matched the image I had of necromancers.
“A knight of the first rank, you say? Well, I never! Right when I’m so close to achieving my lifelong wish, who would’ve thought a first rank knight would come to such a remote place…? Just how much do they need to interfere with my business before they are satisfied?”
“Can we win?”
The Lord screamed out, gasping for air. The words swelled with confidence and exaltation peculiar to those who have faced formidable opponents before.
He was… not lying. At the very least, he is convinced as much. He has the basis to be making such claims.
“However… if I’d had a little more time, I would’ve been able to wipe them out with even more power. So… this is going to be the final ordeal?! No, maybe there’s still time. It is a little frustrating, but there’s not a moment to waste when we are going to be facing a first rank knight’s disciples and the man himself.”
The Lord removed the cloth over the package I had brought back.
It was a smooth, curved pole. Black in color with a glossy texture. It had a wide base that got thinner towards the tip—.
And, that is when it finally dawned on me. I trembled in spite of myself.
The Lord looked at me shaking and grinned wide.
It was… a fang. The tooth of a preposterously enormous creature.
If a single tooth of this creature was the size of my arm, I wonder how much larger its body is. At the very least a whole lot larger than any of the monsters in these woods.
“However, there’s still not enough resentment. We need another fang. I’ve made arrangements with Huck for that, but… End. You, did you just report that you sensed a tremendous amount of power from the Death Knights?”
“Ah, yeah… Enough to blow me to smithereens in an instant. Or turn anything to dust at the slightest touch. It was that kind of power.”
It felt pathetic to admit it, but they are all in a different league. No matter how I imagine, and even if I am not aware of the full extent of their powers, I am certain of it.
Although I am still not clear on how much more power I can obtain through evolution, I doubt I could defeat them after just one or two stages.
Nevertheless, the Lord laughed out loud in response to my statement.
“Kek kek kek. Muahahaha. And that, is exactly what makes you the perfect candidate to become the King of the Undead! Rest assured, End. The power you sensed shows the depth of your abyss!! Undead are nothing but… the deep shadows cast by light. And you sensed all that when you’re merely a ghoul! The perfect vessel indeed! We should still have a little more time left until they get here. End, brace yourself for what’s to come!!”
His eyes shined with madness and ecstasy.
His behavior is all the more terrifying considering the Dead Knights are almost upon us.
I do not need more power. I did not ask to have a deep abyss.
All over again, I realize just how dangerous the Lord is.
I do not know what he’s trying to pull off, but the man before me is a veritable monster. He may have veered in a direction opposite to that of the apostle of the sun, but by no means was he weaker… a true demon.
I cannot help but get caught up in this battle between monsters.
There is not a moment to waste. Ahh, the Lord was right. There really is no time to lose.
“I shall make you the King of the Undead! And I’ll have the heads of the God’s vanguard who don’t know their place.”
So, the Lord screamed. Roux shrank in fear. As if to wait for the impending disaster to pass.
However, the more the Lord screamed the calmer my mind grew.
I felt no fear. The need to survive was more overwhelming than any other emotion.
King of the Undead? Who in hell wants that? I am an undead who knows his boundaries. Just leave me alone with the rest of the undead.
I do have… a plan. I came up with it on the way back. My trump card.
The risk is too high, but I have no other choice. However, I will need help.
I shall make a deal with Roux. I know what to say in order to persuade her. I know how the weak think. I am pretty sure it will turn out well.
Be it the Death Knights or the Necromancer, anyone… who threatens my peace can all drop dead.