The courtyard of the Lord’s mansion. The moon shone peacefully in the night sky.
I spin around and use the centrifugal force to swing my machete. The Skeleton Knight who is on alert, poised for defense, uses inhuman strength to ward off the blow, by retreating a few steps back and cleverly maneuvering the sword it held in both hands.
I could sense the weight of training and experience that went behind that single move.
The quality of a Skeleton largely depends on the principal abilities of the skeleton used in its creation. Because one’s experience is ingrained into the body.
If an accomplished soldier’s skeleton is used, then a Skeleton with adequate combat abilities can be created. On the other hand, if a skeleton with no combat experience, in other words, a civilian’s skeleton is used, there will be a huge difference between the two even though they are both the same class of undead. And this may be a cock-and-bull story, but the undead created from the remains of an ancient mythical hero is purported to have slaughtered even a dragon.
Skeleton and fleshman are both one of the lowest classes of the undead.
The undead can be created from four types of sources.
Namely, a Skeleton that is born from the skeleton of a living being. A Fleshman that is born from the corpse. A Wraith that is born from the soul. A Zombie that is born from the decomposed remains, as a result of necromancy.
Each has their own traits, but there are no distinctive differences between them. I, who evolved into a ghoul from a fleshman, am better than the Skeleton (it is clad in armor and using a knight’s sword, but it is a skeleton underneath all that), in terms of ability.
Even so, in this one-on-one fight, the reason all my attacks are parried, can only be explained by a difference in experience.
A Skeleton clad in armor. The gaping, empty, eye sockets glowed red, the mark that showed that it was brought back to life by necromancy.
The opponent is a bag of bones, whilst I have a visceral body. I am stronger and faster. But the opponent is lighter on its feet and neither of us tire.
With every parried attack, I am more and more convinced.
This will not do. At this rate, I will never stand a chance against the Death Knights.
In an actual fight between the two of us, I think I would emerge the victor. If my attacks got through, it would only take a single hit to level the Skeleton, not to mention my strong regeneration powers. However, since that is a feat of strength, it will never work against a stronger opponent.
The Death Knights are not simple mercenaries. They are… heroes. I have no doubt they possess skills and experience far removed from the Lord’s Skeleton Knights.
The Lord, who had granted my request and prepared a skilled henchman for me to train with, yelled out as he observed the situation.
“That’s right, End. Use that head of yours. Your intelligence is your forte. Let all that resentment, emotions and the negative impulses burst forth. The abyss in you is bottomless and is the essence of an undead!”
That is not what I desired.
Indeed, an outburst of negative impulses might help me get stronger, but that is not my objective.
Fighting them must be my last resort. If I lose my calm, and get my priorities mixed up, I may not even be able to escape here.
The Lord seems to have recognized some talent in me, but I do not trust him enough to mindlessly believe him.
However, I do require a certain degree of strength. If I survive this ordeal and manage to escape from the Lord, I am sure there will be countless other battles awaiting me.
The reason I was more eager to cross swords with the Skeleton Knight rather than go out hunting to accumulate negative energy is because I had my future in mind. I needed to learn where I stood and experience the skills of a veteran fighter.
So that in my admiration for power, I do not rush headlong into battle in the future.
Since I had roughly understood the difference in ability, I did not hold back on my strength as I swung machete downward.
I felt a dull pain in my arm, but the force of the attack broke the Skeleton Knight’s sword and sent it flying, armor and all.
Even so the Lord’s Skeleton Knight was formidable. It immediately swung on its heels and took up a defensive stance. However, the victor had already been decided.
I only need to close the distance to destroy it. There was no point in fighting any further.
I lowered the machete. I do not know what kind of metal this black blade was made of, for there was not a single nick in the blade even after it smashed a sword to pieces.
Just like the shadow amulet and the sun-shield cloak I am equipped with when I step out of the mansion, this blade might be imbued with magic as well.
“Did that satisfy you , End?”
“Yeah. Thanks. I got the general picture.”
I gave a brief reply to the Lord’s inquiry.
Yes. I came to a realization. I realized that it was… impossible for me to learn the way of the sword. I do not know if it was because I fought all my battles thus far like a monster, fully relying on my strength or if it was maybe because of my lack of talent.
At the very least, it is not something I can learn in a day. And even if I did manage to learn, I do not have the time to apply those skills in a real battle.
I should… give up for now. It is better to use the other options at my disposal.
“Then, go hunting. Although there isn’t much time, you need all the power you can get. Hunting should help you more than learning to fight. If you become a ‘Dark Stalker’, you’ll be much stronger than you are now. That’s the kind of beings the undead are.”
His words made sense.
The main reason the undead are feared is because they can evolve and rapidly grow stronger through accumulation of death energy .
The Lord looked puzzled for a moment upon seeing me nodding my head meekly, and then yelled out quickly.
He gave short instructions to Roux, who had rushed in flustered.
“Roux! Provide the Skeleton a spare weapon from the armory. I need to make preparations for the upcoming battle… End, finish your hunt and return to the mansion before dawn. Don’t forget that you’re not at your strongest under the sun.”
“Yeah. Got it. I have no intention to court death.”
The Lord snorted in response to my short reply and retreated inside the mansion. Roux scurried over to the Skeleton that had lost its weapon. Her complexion that had temporarily gotten all better due to Senri’s magic, had already reverted to the way it always had been.
It was an opportunity. There would not be another chance when the generally unused courtyard will be free of the Lord’s familiars. Most of them are guarding the perimeter against intruders.
Even so, I kept in mind that we could be watched, and moving as naturally as possible, I approached Roux and spoke in a low tone.
“Roux, I need a favor.”
“I want to make a deal with you. There’s something I want no matter what. It’s nothing big and you won’t need to go against the orders you’ve been given either.”
“… I refuse.”
A hopeless answer. The Skeleton had its eyes on Roux but that class of undead is incapable of speech.
I am already under surveillance with a familiar following my every movement but Roux was never watched.
She is a slave and a true weakling. She simply indifferently carried out just the Lord’s orders. In other words, a living undead.
And, sadly enough, the Lord was right in his estimate of her.
For even when she came face-to-face with the Death Knights, who are the Lord’s enemies, she still did not seek for help. Even if she had been afraid of the bolt of pain that would shoot through her body upon violation of orders, the Death Knights would have been capable of taking care of that somehow.
Roux is weak. As things stand, she may not live for long and I am sure she is aware of that herself.
I stooped over and looked into her tired, jet black eyes and smiled.
“I will repeat my proposition from the other day. If you listen to my favor, I will safely drop you off in town, after the Lord dies. If you want, I could even stick around until you get settled.”
“… Master, will, never, die. That, is a, meaningless supposition.”
She did not seem surprised unlike the other day. Her body, her voice were not shaking. Although, her eyes held the same conviction from before.
I am afraid, even if Roux had not been punished because of me, she would have answered in a similar manner. That is the kind of world she lived in.
Well, let me give modesty a try.
“Then, consider that I’ll owe you one. If anything happens, I’ll help you out… So, please.”
“No. I have, no right to have you, owe me anything. And I bet, you’d never pay back what you owe anyway.”
Said Roux softly and frowned.
Indeed so. If I had to choose between my debt of gratitude and my life, then without doubt I would choose the latter.
Well, even if not for that,… Roux never intended to heed my request from the beginning.
As planned, I changed the course of attack.
“Then, why are you still standing there listening to me?”
Roux’s eyes opened wide and she showed agitation for the first time today.
The terribly human response of hers had me surprised but I continued to fervently persuade her.
“If you really want for nothing, there’s no need for you to listen to me. All you had to do, was close your ears and get out of here.”
“… That’s absurd, drivel. I shan’t, listen to it anymore.”
“Actually, I know why. I am the same as you. A weakling. I know what you want and what you wished for. If you bring me what I want, I can give it to you.”
I had had it when I was alive, but Roux, a pitiful slave of the Lord’s did not possess it.
Roux looked at me puzzled. However, her face looked even paler than usual.
Perhaps, she did not realize her own heart’s desires.
I did not wish to extend such a proposal. But I did not wish to leave my life hanging in the balance.
She had her head inclined and I brought my lips close to her ear and whispered persuasions.
She listened, realized the meaning behind my words, and her expression changed. It was an extreme transformation.
She looked like she could fly into a rage, on the verge of tears, and laugh out loud at the same time. It was a mixture of emotions.
“Wh… why… ahh… why, that’s absurd, why…”
“I will… keep my promise”
Roux gulped and her body trembled. However, any further resistance was pointless.
A trickle of tears fell from her eyes and down her lashes. Roux had finally realized. What she had wished for so desperately that she would shed tears for it.
“How… terrifying… The Master, Horus Carmon, has brought forth, such a horrifying monster!…”
The parched lips of hers cursed me. However, she could not reject me anymore.
Even if she had to go through a little pain, I am sure she would see my request fulfilled.
I looked around to make sure there was no one, feeling a small sense of hatred towards myself, I informed Roux of what I needed.