The war situation had gotten much worse in Romberg.
One week. That is the time Senri allowed herself to wait for End and gather information.
End seems to hit the limit of his thirst in ten days. Considering the strong will of that young man, he could probably bear with it for a little longer than Senri thinks, but since he has led a comfortable life so far, he has been told beforehand that pushing himself too much might result in his thirst overwhelming his instincts.
Owing to the power of the Night Crystal that was obtained from the Keeper, the negative energy radiating from End is being suppressed. Hence, even as a former second-class Death Knight, it would not be easy for Senri to find his whereabouts.
On the contrary, End should be able to track down Senri. He has in his possession the sense of smell he seized from Albertus.
The reason Senri chose to stay put for a while was in order to wait for End to make his way back. Though the city of Romberg was quite heavily guarded, there are any number of ways through which her whereabouts could be found. If End was anywhere near, there is sure to have been some kind of commotion.
However, there was no indication of End making his return. And the worsening war situation in Romberg put a grim look on Senri’s face.
Demon Kings can be separated into different types. The Demon King Rainel was the type with a popular nonhuman physique. Even his subordinates are made up of several different kinds of magical beasts and demi-humans with enhanced physical abilities.
Such a type of Demon King is simply put, strong. Sharp claws that can easily pierce through armor made of steel and a tackle from that gigantic body could crumble any city wall. Thick skin capable of repelling even cannons, and humans cannot even compare to their stamina.
Romberg that was long known for its impregnable defense was in a state of disrepair owing to relentless consecutive attacks. They seem to be holding up for now, the huge walls having become much less sturdy due to frequent assaults. Fatigue coupled with injuries has resulted in a decrease in the number of men available to be dispatched for guard duty. The state of affairs were so dire that no plans were being made to attack the enemy from their side.
It could happen in a matter of months or years, but if the current situation were to persist, it would not be long before the city fell into the hands of the enemy.
All things considered, it was fortunate that they were able to drive away Oliver. If the supply route had been cut off and Romberg had lost its assistance then its longevity would have been cut short even further.
However, it was not a situation where one could easily intervene.
One was because Senri had to lay low as long as she was on the run with End and the other more important one being there existed a code that the Death Knights were expected to uphold.
The Death Knights are forbidden from taking up arms against non-undead demon kings or participate in any civil wars among humans.
Their opponents were solely composed of the undead and necromancers. Their job was simply the eradication of the aforementioned and fighting demon kings would be outside the realm of their duties.
Though unfortunate, it was merely a logical decision.
Setting aside the fact that it would be out of the question to get mixed up in any fight between humans, if the Death Knights were too occupied dealing with demon kings to pay any attention to necromancers, it would result in a sharp increase in undead. Not to mention, there are several types of undead capable of creating more of their kind. Whereas there are only a limited number of Death Knights and moreover, there are only a few people capable of wielding the power of blessing in the first place.
Most important of all, the Death Knights would be at a very unfair disadvantage when against a Demon King that is not an undead.
The Death Knights are capable of overwhelming the undead due to the affinity the two share and their knowledge pertaining to the extermination of the undead. Though the Death Knights possess abundant powers and are capable of commanding said powers to utilize skills far surpassing humans, the power of blessing is finite and it has little to no effect on the living.
That said, they would still fare much better than an average mercenary, but they would not be able to defeat a genuine non-human monster in the blink of an eye. Apart from the abundant knowledge of her master Epée, his mighty and wide-ranged attack called Soul Release, would still not be able to harm a single fly.
In the past, when clashing with demon kings was not prohibited, many Death Knights threw themselves into the war resulting in far too many deaths.
As a result, there was a delay in dealing with several powerful necromancers. There was a time when the Order itself came close to being wiped out of existence.
The first thing Senri and her fellow knights were taught in the Order.
Do not intervene. No matter how dire a situation may be. It was simply too reckless for a few people to try and face off against a huge army of a demon king.
An exception could be made if a powerful undead was affiliated with a demon king’s army.
The undead are foes of the Death Knights. In such situations, a number of units would be mobilized in an effort to exterminate it. This time however, the Demon King Rainel does not fall under that exception.
Senri is not bound by the code as she has half a foot out of the Order right now, but she is well aware of the limit of her capabilities. A second-order knight though she may be, she is still one person. There is no way she could wipe out an entire demon king’s army by herself.
During her stay in the city, Senri gathered information from odd places, and felt she had to do the bare minimum by healing wounded soldiers.
The location of the Demon King’s base had already been established.
They had brazenly set up camp out in the open, in the middle of a mountain in clear view. Demon King Rainel is up that mountain. And it was also highly likely that End who disappeared along with Oliver was also up there.
The undead are evaluated in two ways among demon kings. They are either abhorred or their strength is put to good use. Considering the demon king in question already has a werewolf as his subordinate, it would not be too strange to assume that he would try to recruit End as well.
I intended to wait. However, the fact that there has not been any news so far is likely because something has occurred.
I was worried. This is the longest we have been apart since we began to travel together. I am sure End also feels as uneasy as me. End may be a powerful undead but his heart still remains human.
I have prepared everything necessary for our journey. I have enough power of blessing and none of the fatigue remains.
Senri had made her decision. That she would go to the demon king’s base. Not to defeat the Demon King Rainel but to meet up with End.
It was a plan rift with danger but Senri can fly in the air. There should be any number of ways should it come to her escape.
She resolved herself and set off from the fortified city, Romberg with a suitcase in hand.
☠ ☠ ☠
The spoils of war in Rainel’s army were bountiful in both quality and quantity.
Looks like they ransacked quite a few human towns. Anything valuable had already been split between the soldiers and the only things left behind were sizable items like magical weapons or armor.
I chose a dark indigo cloak for myself. The cloaks sold for travel purposes are usually of plain colors. The one I chose looked ordinary at a glance, but it was waterproof, warm and seemed capable of hiding the wearer’s presence to boot. Bonus points for the cool design too. I need to take care not to rip it when I polymorph into a dog.
Other things in the warehouse included a neat, gold magic knife and belt which came in a set that I saw fit to borrow. It had a spell cast on it wherein if the knife was thrown, it would return back to the belt in a while and the design was also incredibly cool.
The reason nobody had claimed it was probably because the soldiers of Rainel’s army lean more towards bigger, more gaudy and stronger weapons. Their aesthetic sense might be different from humans, but they really do not get it. I should show it off to Senri if we meet up.
The match against the Man-eater was drawing near. I might call it a battle, but I have a certain degree of numbness to pain, and due to the fair share of battles I have had to face, I have accumulated enough combat experience.
Not to mention, I have enough experience getting beaten to a pulp.
Since killing is not allowed, the match would serve as a good opportunity to test my skills.
Even if I were to lose to the Man-eater, it would not be a big deal as I have already proved myself to be quite strong. Although I would need to give up on the Death Knight prisoner, I am sure Senri would forgive me if I lose after giving my best.
As I was in a chipper mood after having gained something new, Monica pleaded anxiously.
“Are you sure you don’t need to satiate your thirst, Lord End?”
“Nothing meets my standards… you see, I’d rather not destroy my palette by drinking insipid blood. Though I wouldn’t say no to yours.”
The living conditions of the prisoners were being made better and I have yet to come across anybody who sparks my thirst.
There were a few girls who could shine provided they were polished, but they looked too weak and even if their living conditions improved, it does not change the fact that they are still prisoners, so they should carry quite a bit of stress. Moreover, I am being looked on as a frightful enemy probably because I am always seen in Monica’s company and they tremble in fear at my sight. That does not bode well for a good feeding session.
That said, I am sure I would have had no qualms feasting on them had I not known the delicacy that is Senri’s blood.
I have been practicing my magic, so I am capable of using a few spells now. I do not have an affinity to any particular element, so all I am able to do now is produce water or fire sparks, make wet things dry, only such simple daily use magic, but the effects were rather good since vampires possess abundant mana.
My opponent is not an undead but one of the living. As long as they are not Epée or Albertus, I should be able to put up a fight for more than five minutes.
I have somehow managed to survive this long. I just need to do things as I always have.
As I stood reassuring myself as such, Oliver popped up in his werewolf form, politely extending a crude longsword.
It was a two-handed sword much bigger than myself and it seems to have originally been made for beastmen who are well-known for their excellent physical abilities. Naturally, it was too heavy for humans to handle, and although I did not weigh it, I imagine it should be at least a hundred kilos.
Having been at the receiving end of multiple spells, it looked no more than a lump of iron at a glance. I gripped it using my right hand and lifted it up slowly. I tried a few short swings.
It was neither light nor heavy. I am rather on the scrawny side, so I might end up getting launched in the air if I were to make any wide swings, but no matter how huge my opponent is, I doubt they would be unscathed after taking a blow from this. It is the best kind of weapon for someone with superhuman strength like me.
“Well then, let’s see the power of the second in command in this army.”
Maybe if I show off my cool side, Monica would let me drink her blood, so I better get fired up.
☠ ☠ ☠
The second in command in Rainel’s army, Man-eater, seems rather unpopular. Maybe even more so than me, an outsider, who suddenly appeared uninvited.
Arrogant, violent and a glutton, they seem to particularly terrorize the lower ranks of the army. If not for their overwhelming strength, they would have been assassinated a long time ago, was what the ogres I beat up had to say about the Man-eater. I wonder if that is the reason no one seems to call the Man-eater by name.
Humans seem to be their favorite, with every single human of top-grade from the raids, all having been interred in their belly and they do not seem to know the concept of sharing.
Demon King Rainel does not seem to partake humans, so it made the impression that all the resentment was directed towards the Man-eater.
Though I am in a similar position, I do not eat humans, so the prison would not be emptied and I have no reason to do something mindless as to pick on the lower ranks.
The match was not to be held at the usual warehouse, but out in the open, in a clearing a short distance away from the base.
There were a lot of members gathered to watch the match between the second in command and the newcomer. Including those who had lost to me. They conversed as if my mere presence had them trembling in fear.
“Look, its appearance… it could pass for a human.”
“Demon. It’s a vampire. A demon born out of forbidden practice… what a repulsive creature that discards its own birth type.”
Sadly, full moon day was far away and thick clouds shrouded the moon.
The ground was made of dirt. There were several small rocks scattered everywhere, making for terrible footing. A necessary amount of trees had been cleared away, but I have a trump card up my sleeve. I need to focus. There were several footprints on the ground and the scent of blood clung to it.
My plan was to knock out my opponent.
Since killing is prohibited, I intend to take care to control my strength, but the opponent this time is unlike any I have faced so far.
The ogres and lizardmen had been blessed with strong physical abilities, but they do not possess any special powers. Even the other challengers only picked different weapons and all chose to fight me head-on.
There were no mages among the challengers. That is most likely due to the fact that their civilization has only allowed the progression of individuals blessed with good physique and strong physical abilities.
It was only natural that I could rise up as the victor given that I have gained different kinds of abilities owing to the power of the curse.
According to the information that I had obtained beforehand, the Man-eater is known to be cunning. If their strength comes second only to the demon king, there is no doubt that they do not have just brute strength to their name.
Does the opponent know anything about me? Are they wary of me?
Looks like they have not had anyone challenge them in a while, so I would like to think that they would be a little careless at the beginning.
I made a few light stretches, waiting for my opponent to arrive.
Just then, I heard a short yell from Monica who was spectating from far away.
A short sound fell onto my ears. However, I could not evade it in time.
I had intended to not let my guard down, but that attack was completely unanticipated.
The attack from above slammed my body against the ground. And, my body went up in flames.