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Chapter 20: The Cloud Knights

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

Fleur marched in rank with half of the clerics and knights in the southern outpost. This outing was a private event, so none of the other outposts joined. Aside from a few people on watch, most of them in the outposts were probably sleeping. She envied them.

It was already fall, so the nights had begun cooling down, but she wasn’t cold. She had on more than three layers of padded clothing, so thick that even if someone took a warhammer to her…it would still hurt, but it probably won’t be fatal. Probably.

Anne stood beside her on her right. If Fleur still had her right hand, she’d be reaching for her friend. Anne had insisted to be positioned on Fleur’s right side in order to cover her blind spot, since Fleur could only hold a buckler in her left hand.

If Fleur was caught out by zombies, the plan was for her to use the buckler to hold them off as long as she could before Anne came to help.

Finally, the march came to a stop.

It wasn’t far from the outpost to the fortress. The grand cardinal gates of Amaranthine Point were truly massive, standing over two dozen meters tall. That only made up part of the fortress’s defense, though.

A wide moat half as wide as the wall was tall surrounded the outer walls, complete with an equally massive drawbridge.

Perhaps in its glory days the drawbridge would not be let down like this, but for ease of access, the Church left the drawbridge permanently open, leaving just the gates shut to keep the undead in. That way, if the undead ever breached the gates, they’d take the path of least resistance and go over the drawbridge instead of swimming over the moat and scattering.

At the edge of the moat where they had stopped, Fleur looked around at nearly a hundred people that joined this excursion. Most of them were war clerics, members of the Church that did not perform religious rights. They merely lent their affinity for holy magic when necessary.

Like Anne, they were dressed in padded robes and were armed with a buckler for defense and a simple mace as their weapon.

The remaining members were the priests and priestesses of the Church, as well as acolytes like Anne.

The odd ones out were the Cloud Knights, the only members of the group dressed in full plate armor that shone in the moonlight. While they wielded different weapons like greatswords, maces, flails, and spears, they stood tall and straight, exuding an aura of responsibility and duty. Altogether, they numbered only nine.

One of the Cloud Knights stepped out from the group and turned around to face them. He lifted his weapon high up into the air. With a shout, his sword and shield began to glow brightly, imbued by a holy aura.

Even spread out over the surface of his equipment, the knight’s holy light was purer and more radiant than what Fleur could produce.

Fleur squeezed the handle of her buckler.

So that’s what a holy knight could do. No wonder they were said to be able to match zombie knights alone. Compared to them, she really was weak.

The knight that stood in front of them was none other than Sir Barsig, the vice captain of the southern outpost. Anne had said that Barsig was one of the holy knights in the southern outpost who could kill a zombie knight by himself.

Now Fleur could see that it hadn’t been an exaggeration.

Although his face was covered by his helmet, Sir Barsig’s voice came out clear. “Good evening, everyone! Haha, sorry to drag you all out here so late. I’m sure we all want to get back to bed, so let’s make this quick!”

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Low laughter sounded from the Cloud Knights’ ranks, apparently used to Sir Barsig’s attitude. Fleur even saw some of the war clerics and priests laughing, though she didn’t see what was so funny.

Then again, she was in a pretty foul mood for having to be out here at this hour. Too bad this was exactly what the bishop intended when he decided to send her out here to Amaranthine Point. In Father Arvel’s words, the bishop said: “Since she likes to fight zombies so much, then let her!”

She narrowed her eyes and clenched her teeth.

Hmph. It’s not like she wanted to stay in Moltrost anyway. Who wants to serve under that stupid bishop anyway?

Sir Barsig finally finished his speech after a while. Just when Fleur thought that they were going to get going, the vice captain put down his shield and held up a compass-like item—a glass hemisphere with a needle suspended within it.

“When is he going to be done?” she muttered under her breath to Anne.

Her friend giggled. “He does this all the time. Don’t worry, it’s almost time to go. You’re so eager! I was terrified for my first battle.”

Fleur rolled her eyes. “I’m quaking in my boots. It’s just that I’m so sleepy that I’ve decided that if something tries to stop me from returning to bed, I’m going to bash their head off.” She shook her buckler.

Its edge was reinforced metal so it wasn’t like it’s impossible.

“Pfft. Oh, hey, he’s finishing up. Get ready to keep that promise!” Anne said. She was practically shivering with excitement.

Fleur looked worriedly at her friend. She hadn’t realized that Anne was such a warmonger when it came to fighting undead. At least she wasn’t sulking anymore.

When she turned back to Sir Barsig, he was putting away the compass. “…and since the higher undead was so close to the gate, it won’t have gone far. The compass will lead us straight to it. We chop it up, we go home. Any questions?”

The Cloud Knights clacked their weapons to their shields, or to their armor or the ground if they had none. The robed members followed shortly. “None!” Even Anne joined in, bashing her buckler and mace together excitedly.

Fleur shifted away from her.

Finally, it was time to move out. Sir Barsig turned toward the cardinal gate and raised his glowing sword. “Advance!” he roared.

“Hurrah!”

Almost a hundred pairs of boots thudded on the drawbridge as the hunting team marched toward the gate. As they approached, the portcullis rose slowly, the ancient enchanted gears turning slowly with metallic clanks. The huge metal gates rumbled inwards.

Fleur’s heartbeat sped up as the gap between the gates grew wider and wider until she realized the other side was empty. “Huh? Where are the zombies?” she whispered.

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“It’s further inside. There’s another gate inside after we cross the barbican,” Anne answered.

Fleur blinked. “The what?”

“The barbican! Think of it like a little gatehouse where if the enemy breaks through the front gate, there’s still a second gate. However, since it’s technically inside the castle, you surround them from on top the walls,” Anne explained, puffing up her chest as she flaunted her knowledge. “At least, that’s what it’s built for. Now we just use it as a buffer.”

“Oh…so when you come out, you enter the barbican, shut the inner gate, kill everything in the barbican, and then come out the outer gate?” Fleur asked.

“You got it!”

The shadow of the huge gate blocked out the moon. The tunnel beneath the gate arch was almost totally dark, but giving way to light once more as the group stepped into the open courtyard-like space at the center of the barbican.

Tall walls rose on all four sides and Fleur could imagine how terrifying it would be if she was an invading enemy and the walls were lined with archers and mages.

The huge gate slammed shut behind them, while the smaller gate in front of them opened slowly. Immediately, a rotten hand shot out through the gap and dreadful howls sounded from behind the gap, making Fleur’s heart skip a beat.

The howls were disturbing from afar and downright terrifying up close. Compared to these wild undead, the undead in the mines were nothing.

However, apart from her, none of the other people around her seemed to be scared. All of them had seen this at least once before. Anne’s mace shook while she had a grin plastered to her face.

“Um…Anne, you realize you might not get to use that thing, right? We’re in the back line.”

Anne was undeterred. “Accidents happen.”

Fleur’s heart skipped another beat. “Can you not say that?”

“Shhh! Focus! It’s about to start!”

Reluctantly, Fleur looked back at the grasping hand and the slowly opening gate. Two Cloud Knights stepped up.

Compared to the other knights, the armors of these two knights were much heavier. They were both armed with maces, but the most striking was their shields: huge works of metal that seemed more like walls than anything mobile.

When they crouched and slammed their shields down on the ground, bracing for impact, they seemed almost immovable.

“Holy Knight Art! Bulwark!”

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A golden light pulsed from their bodies and shields and what’s left was a film of light that shimmered on their bodies. Even when the gates opened wide enough that the zombies behind could easily get through, the zombies could not push past the Cloud Knights. Their claws and nails scraped harmlessly off of their shields.

“Wow. They can’t even do anything,” Fleur breathed. Even lesser zombies were stronger than most men.

“You haven’t seen anything yet. Our Cloud Knight vanguards are really strong! They’re all really strong.”

The gates stopped opening when there was enough room for two people to enter at once. The two Cloud Knights lifted their shields, the film of light fading away. Despite their defensive spell ending, they didn’t flinch under the zombies’ attack.

They stood still, as if waiting for something.

As it turned out, they were waiting for Sir Barsig’s orders. The vice captain of the knights raised his weapon.

“Impact followed by a charge!”

“Yes sir!” the two vanguards shouted. “Impact of Light!”

As one, they slammed their shields forward. But it wasn’t just a physical shove. Instead, a bright pulse of light flew out from their shields. The light exploded against the undead, sending rotten flesh and bones flying into the undead ranks, creating a clearing on the other side of the gate.

The shouts not only conveyed the knights’ intentions to their comrades, they were also a source of morale and confidence. As the Cloud Knights easily scattered the undead before them, their powerful shouts reached Fleur’s heart. Her doubt and fear melted away, replaced by confidence and a feeling of camaraderie.

She gripped her buckler. It was as if as long as she stuck together with the others, there was nothing they couldn’t overcome.

Anna nudged her. “Get ready! It starts now!”

Fleur nodded.

The two vanguards lowered their bodies and raised their shields. As they entered their stance, blinding radiance surged from their body. “Holy Charge!”

The shouts of the vanguard hung in the night air. Golden lightning danced across their armor as they took one step, and then another, pushing their shield before them. The mana of the two vanguards combined and became one, their separate charges uniting into a single streak of gold. A giant golden ram flickered into being, tossing its head ahead of the two vanguards.

From immovable to unstoppable, they crashed into the ranks of the undead, sending countless bodies flying and trampling beneath them the rest.

His eyes glowing, Sir Barsig turned to the remaining knights and clerics. “Advance!”

“Hurrah!” This time, even Fleur joined in with the shout as she raised her buckler in place of her missing mace.

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Before the undead could come back together and surround the two vanguards, a few of the clerics raised their maces which began to glow with magic as they began to cast their spell. “Sanctuary!”

A golden circle appeared around the Cloud Knights as if the ground itself was leaking light. The undead closest to the circle shrank back, but their comrades pushing behind them forced them in. As they touched the wall of light that sprang up from the circle, their flesh smoked.

They hit the ground, inert, an ordinary corpse once more.

Meanwhile, the remaining Cloud Knights flanked the procession of clerics as they broke through the thinned ranks of the undead, led by Sir Barsig, until they reunited with the vanguards.

“Good work!” he shouted over the howls of the zombies.

“Haha! Treat me later tonight!”

Their words full of laughter, they began to bash apart zombies and skeletons as easily as pounding dough. With their enchanted weapons imbued with holy energy, they killed undead with every strike, each hit scattering the undead mana within each undead body.

The hunting team began to push through the crowd of undead, killing the zombies and skeletons as they came. The golden light never stopped shining as countless undead lost their magic and fell to the ground an ordinary corpse, crushed under the feet of their former comrades.

Slowly but surely, Fleur and the rest of the hunting team creeped closer to the promised higher undead.

In a completely opposite direction, a pair of golden eyes watched them from on top of a roof, her legs kicking leisurely.



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