Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
The next day, the sun had yet to rise.
Since our numbers had increased some what, the cavalry kicked up more dew covered blades of grass as we continued northwards.
We numbered a hundred and fifty cavalrymen
The hoof beats of so many horses kicked up quite a ruckus.
There was nary a hint of any travelers or peddlers on the road, so excluding us everything was rather quiet.
Ariane shuffled about behind me for a bit before freeing her ears from her gray cloak. Closing her eyes, she seemed to be focusing on something.
“Do you hear anything, Ariane-dono?”
When I looked over my shoulder and asked her a question, Ariane put a finger to her lips and shushed me.
The highway was surrounded by a wooded area and nothing of mention could be seen.
The moment Ariane opened her mouth, an unidentified creature burst out of the bush near the front of the cavalrymen.
“Wha-What is that thing!!!”
Several cavalrymen shouted as they were knocked off of their horses by the surprise attack, their horses following right behind them.
The enemy had appeared from blind spots in the woods as if they’d been waiting for us.
While they were humanoid in appearance, no one would ever confuse them with humans.
Bodies covered in dull, gray skin and attached to the ends of their arms were three sets of hands.
Their most notable features were the ones from their necks up.
What looked like a giant earthworm curled around their necks seemed to be entrails that had been pulled through their throats, somehow pulsating as if they were still functional.
The creature’s mouth looked like an opened sea anemone was fixed in the center of their face, however, I suddenly heard the sound of bones snapping as the creature’s mouth shot out at one of the pinned down cavalrymen.
The cavalry man was dragged into the thicket in his final moments.
Some of the cavalrymen avoided being knocked over by maneuvering off of the highway, but more of the humanoids monsters were ready and waiting, digging into the horse’s sides the moment they entered the woods.
“Fuck! What’s going on!?”
Zahar unintentionally cursed as he watched the scene unfurl before his eyes.
Since the attackers had struck the cavalrymen vanguard, Lille and her guards avoided any injury, the horses however were frozen in place by sheer terror.
The man I assumed was the leader of the cavalry shouted orders in an attempt to reestablish order, but the worm-men continued to appear one after another.
“Ariane-dono, do you know what those are?”
I asked Ariane what they were, but she calmly shook her head.
“I’ve never seen them before…… but they’re definitely undead.”
“The stench of the dead has swept into this area……”
Ariane raised an eyebrow as she glanced over the zombie-like undead.
While Chiome grimaced after taking in a whiff of the area.
Another new form of undead has appeared.
Assuming that these undead and the spider chimeras shared the same origins, then they’d been placed here to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the capital.
The situation had continued to deteriorate while I’d been contemplating things.
“Everyone, help our allies!! Use your spears to keep your distance!”
Zahar began shouting directions at the guards behind him in the middle o
f this chaos. The guards took out two rods and attached them before connecting a blade to one end.
They seemed to have detachable spears.
Not even a minute had passed since Zahar’s order, yet all of them had managed to assemble their spears.
The guards brandished their spears and charged forward with hearty battle cry.
I tightened my hold on Shiden’s and prepared to act, but Zahar turned around and yelled, “Arc-dono, protect Princess Lille!” before raising his own spear and charging forward.
I brought Shiden parallel to Nana’s horse and saw that the Lille had turned pale at the sight of what was unfolding before us.
It was unavoidable, really.
Her eyes were bearing witness to true horror.
I felt a chill run down my spine as I watched a worm-man’s mouth tear out a chunk of meat from another cavalryman.
As I keep an eye on Lille the two of them leaped off of Shiden and drew their weapons.
“We’ll leave the enemies around the capital for Arc.”
Ariane raised her slender lion-motif sword as she joked around.
『ーInfernal Flame, reduce all that you consume to ashesー』
After calmly funneling her magic into fire spirits a pale flame engulfed the blade of Ariane’s sword.
Ariane simultaneously took a running leap forward.
The hood of her gray cloak fell from her head as she began to engage with the worm-men.
The flames around her blade coiled like a serpent and mercilessly incinerated any worm-man they came in contact with.
『Water Style: Water Shuriken!!』
Spheres of water appeared above Chiome’s head and transformed into shurikens once she finished her hand signs.
Through the air as Chiome launched her water shurikens at the worm-men in-between Ariane’s sword swings.
The shurikens penetrated their targets with the same force of a high-powered water cutter.
Watching the two fight seemed to excite Ponta since she puffed up her tail and started to raise a gust of wind around herself, preparing to fly off──
“It’s too dangerous this time.”
I gently grabbed Ponta by the scruff of her neck and told her to behave.
Since the opponents were surprisingly quick, especially the sections above their necks, Ponta would be devoured in no time.
Ignoring Ponta’s protest and her hind-leg’s sporadic kicking, I invoked 【Sword of Judgement】against an approaching worm-man.
A magic formation appeared at the worm man’s feet before the sword of light penetrated it through the chest.
The worm-man’s body dissolved in a similar manner as the spider chimera, but they also left behind a putrid stench.
While the sea anemone-like organ was capable of moving very quickly, the rest of the body couldn’t keep up.
It wasn’t that much of a threat as long you attacked between movement intervals.
In fact, the guards and cavalrymen managed to turn the formerly hopeless situation around by having the cavalrymen distract the monsters with their swords and letting the guards use their spears to attack the monsters’ bodies.
Of course, it was thanks to Ariane’s and Chiome’s support that they’d been able to regroup so quickly.
While I’d been observed to battle from atop Shiden, a group of worm-men managed to sneak up behind us…… however, their mouths couldn’t get through the reddish scales of the dragon mount, so they were only sucking on thick hide.
Shiden was annoyed by this and knocked the worm-men down with a flick of his tail.
His tail was like a giant whip, crushing the worm-men without mercy.
When he was finished, their bodies had been reduced to lumps of ground meat.
Next to us, Nina and Lille were looking at Shiden with bulging eyes.
Dragon mounts were like living armored vehicles.
I was starting to understand why the people of Tajiento built their wall, fearing the tiger tribe.
While I indulged in such thoughts, the worm-mens’ attack was brought to a swift end.
“There was nothing special about them apart from their ugly appearance……”
Once the flames coiling around her sword died out, Ariane took a look around and shrugged her shoulders.
“Their bodies were as soft as a regular person’s. It would have been rather troublesome had they wore armor like the undead soldiers in Tajiento.”
Chiome voiced her agreement to Ariane’s statement while fixing her hat.
All of the cavalrymen looked at them in utter amazement.
“Well, I suppose I should heal the injured.”
Once I confirmed that Lille was no longer in any danger, I began healing the men who had been injured in battle.
It’s better to sell favors while you could.
Even though my motivation was steeped in self-interest, everyone showed me surprise and gratitude the moment they saw severe wounds vanish without a trace.
I’d taken off my helmet several times throughout this trek, drinking the spring water to restore my dark elf form beforehand, so they were well aware of my status as an elf.
Having their lives saved or the Hiruku doctrine…… what would you choose in this situation?
……Hmhmhm, I quite the schemer.
As I was internally singing praises for myself, my eyes wandered into the undergrowth several cavalrymen had been dragged into.
There were those I could do little for with this level of healing.
If one of the cavalrymen’s arms had been eaten, so I used healing magic to stop the bleeding and restore the flesh around damaged section of the arm.
They lost an arm, but it was still better than dying.
However, there were still people that were impossible to treat.
Even if I used my resurrection magic on them, there was nothing I could do for those who’d had large portions of their bodies devoured by the worm-men.
It was better than I didn’t reveal resurrection magic in a place such as this anyway……
In the aftermath of the attack, the death toll numbered to less than ten and only several men were crippled.
“I’m terribly sorry, Arc-dono. ……Would those monsters have been companions to the undead that besiege the capital?”
Once she regained her composure, Lille showed her gratitude for healing the injured.
However, I also caught her muttering something to herself.
Her anxiety was hitting her hard.
Chiome suddenly came out of the thicket and held something up.
It was a bloodied medieval backpack.
There was a set of branches tied to the top of the pack, and the shoulder straps had been chewed through.
It probably belonged to someone that came here to collect firewood.
“Those who approach the capital were ambushed by those creatures……”
Chiome had found the pack while searching for other cavalrymen.
I looked back to find Lille riding with Nina, whose complexion was quickly deteriorating as she grasped her horse’s reins.
When she silently nodded at me, I turned to Zahar.
Zahar nodded back and started handing out instructions to the scattered people.
“Those who can no longer fight will stay behind! Five or six of the cavalrymen will lead them back to the town from this morning! All others, prepare to set off after checking your equipment!”
Everyone began to fulfill their respective duties, separating the injured from those who would be advancing to the capital.
The smiles were wiped from the cavalrymen’s faces as they scanned the surrounding area.
Those who hurried ahead carried a silent tension as the sound of hoof beats spread through the area.
Eventually, we broke through the woods and our speed declined as the road took on a gentle incline.
They were probably just cautious of another ambush, but the cavalry leader’s horse came to a near standstill when he reached the top of the hill.
The others, not wishing to crush into him, slowed down as well.
Lille realized something was wrong as she watched their strange behavior.
“Nina! We have to hurry! The capital should be just beyond this hill!
The look on the guards’ faces caused the princess to turn around and urge her to guard forward.
In accordance with her plea, Zahar ordered the cavalrymen to part ways, but the members of the princess’s group simultaneously inhaled as they gazed at the scenery below.
Provoked by their strange behavior, I guided Shiden to Lille’s side.
One word leaked from my mouth as I viewed the same scene as they had.