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Chapter 59: Grotesque Raid

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

If they weren’t on horses, perhaps they would have hugged, but as it was all they could do was move their horses together until their legs almost touched and hold each other’s hands.

It’s not like they’ve never held hands before—far from it, but the meaning this time was not merely a gesture of support, but one that showed their love for each other. Luckily, their horses were steady runners and even at the brisk trot that they traveled at, their horses kept pace with each other. Holding hands was uncomfortable nonetheless, but neither of them wanted to be the first to let go.

However, their peaceful noon was soon interrupted when Fleur shivered and suddenly her cough began to act up again. Anne immediately gathered holy mana in her hands, preparing for a cast of Cleansing Light. By then, this process had become routine for them.

As she unleashed the spell, bathing Fleur in a ray of warm holy light, the air turned cooler as if clouds had covered the sun, blocking the sunlight that warmed their bodies.

However, when Anne looked up, the day was as bright as ever and although there were many clouds in the sky, none were anywhere close to the sun.

The wind had died back down again so it wasn’t the wind either.

And most strangely of all, the birds had quieted down as well, throwing their surrounds into silence.

“That’s strange. Isn’t it getting kind of chilly?” Anne asked. She tensed, looking around for the reason. “Something feels weird.”

Fleur nodded hesitantly, as on guard as Anne was. Then, she stiffened. “Undead! It’s undead mana! There’s undead nearby!”

As Anne heard Fleur’s cry, she suddenly understood why the day had grown cooler. It was the instinctive reaction that the living had to the undead, the same thing that animals used to avoid nearby undead. Although Anne and Fleur had both felt it, they had grown accustomed to ignoring it, since most of the time the undead they felt nearby was Lady Camilla.

Although Lady Camilla sometimes leaked such an aura, it was almost always dampened by a shell of holy magic.

But this time, things were different. The undead they felt was clearly coming from behind them while Lady Camilla had ridden ahead. Lady Camilla wouldn’t leak out so much undead mana either.

And that amount…whatever was behind was clearly extremely powerful—perhaps even on par with Lady Camilla herself. Although the speed at which the undead drew near wasn’t very fast compared to what Lady Camilla was capable of, it was still faster than that of a trotting horse.

In just a few short seconds, they had come close enough that Anne could feel that the undead she sensed were four distinct entities, each far faster than any lesser zombie had any right to be.

Their horses felt the undead too, but being templar-trained steeds, they did not bolt as a lesser horse would have. Instead, they bravely maintained their speed despite their nervousness.

Now would be a great time to bolt, though.

“Fleur, let’s go faster! We have to get to Lady Camilla!”

“Yes!”

Together, they urged their horses to go faster, and their horses needed no further encouragement as all three of them broke into a gallop. But despite their quickened pace, the things behind were still faster, gaining on them.

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“Aren’t normal undead supposed to be clumsy and slow? Why are they so fast?” Fleur cried. “This doesn’t make sense!”

“Normal undead…what if they’re not lesser? What if they’re all knight-class?” Anne said. The thought was too frightful to consider, but considering the sheer concentration of undead mana in those four entities behind them, it could be true. In that case, they were pretty much doomed, because no matter how powerful Lady Camilla was, she was just one person. Even she couldn’t defeat four knight-classes alone.

“How far ahead did Lady Camilla say she was going?”

“Um…I think it was two or three kilometers? And she’s only been gone for a little while, so she won’t be coming back soon…” Fleur’s voice trailed off. The meaning behind those words were quite clear.

There was no way they’d be able to reach Lady Camilla on time, and even Lady Camilla couldn’t detect mana from so far away, especially from spells as weak as theirs. They were on their own, about to fight an unwinnable battle. Fear sat in her belly like a block of ice weighing her down.

It couldn’t be…even though Fleur had only just told her that she loved her, was things going to end so quickly? Anne didn’t want to accept that. But she was weak, so she didn’t really have a choice.

If only she was stronger, as strong as Lady Camilla was, then she’d be able to protect Fleur, or at least stall long enough for Fleur to reach where Lady Camilla was. Was she really worthy of Fleur’s love if she couldn’t even protect the person she loved?

“Anne, I don’t think we’re going to get away,” Fleur said. Her hand was clutching the reins so tightly that her knuckles turned white. A mace and buckler hung from the saddles, Fleur did not reach for them. If she dared let go of the reins and lean down, she might get thrown off from the horse.

But Anne was under no such restraint as she retrieved her mace.

Although she couldn’t see the four undeads yet, they were close, weaving through the trees with startling agility. If they were on the path instead, Anne would have been able to see them already. That was how close they were.

Anne refused to be caught with her back against the enemy.

Throwing away her hesitation and fears, she slowed her horse. Fleur quickly noticed. “Anne, what are you doing? Hurry up!”

“We can’t escape, Fleur. I’m going to fight here, so you hurry up and go get Lady Camilla while I hold them off.”

“Eh? You can’t! There’s too many, and they’re too strong,” Fleur protested. “Hurry up, let’s just run as much as we can. If they come too close, just use Purification on them…things will work out somehow.” She sounded like she was on the verge of tears.

The mace in Anne’s hand trembled at the pain in Fleur’s voice, and after a moment more of hesitation, she urged her horse into a gallop again. By now, faintly over the sound of their horses’ hooves drumming against the ground, Anne could hear the sound of the undead crashing through the undergrowth. Dark forms raced through the shadows beneath the tree.

From the vague glimpses Anne caught, she could tell that they were unlike anything that Anne had ever seen before. True monsters.

The monsters separated. There were two on each side of the path. For each pair, one stayed behind while the other continued further. It didn’t take a genius to understand that they were creating an encirclement. When the two ahead of them stopped drawing ahead, Anne knew that the moment was here.

“Fleur, Purification!”

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“Y—yes!”

Fleur actually let go of the reins of the horse, entrusting the horse to do the right thing while a powerful golden sphere floated above her palm. Anne did the same thing.

Soon, they both had golden spheres floating in their palms, shedding holy light all around them. The undeads seemed to falter, but continued to chase them.

For now, they stuck to regular Purification spells. Purifying Impacts could only be used in close range, a method of last resort.

Both Fleur and Anne knew what to do—ignore the undead behind them and break through the ones in the front. Send the undeads reeling and buy some more time!

The undead began to close in, coordinating to a frightening degree. Soon, they burst out of the border of trees, running on the dirt path. Even as Fleur and Anne both unleashed their Purification spells, they gasped at the appearances of the undead. Even Anne who already knew that the undead would be monstrosities could scarcely believe her eyes.

The undead were grotesque chimeras, mashed together from the bodies of different animals. There was one with the head of a boar, yet with the antlers of a deer. Its body, at least the front of it, was a deer as well, but the rear was much slimmer with longer fur and canine legs.

The same went with the other three monstrosities. There was a stag with several sets of boar tusks jutting from its mouth and forehead, and the stocky body and mass of a boar. Huge wings that stretched from from its shoulders almost spanned the entire path, granting it preternatural speed as they flapped.

The last two both had the heads of wolves with slim deer bodies, but with the powerful legs and wolves. Their claws were reinforced with the claws of eagles.

None of these monsters should even be able to walk. Yet somehow, the foul magic that created the monster and raised it perfectly merged the different parts of the animals so that there weren’t any imperfections in the way that the animal moved. Despite the different body parts that should have been incompatible together, the undead monsters moved with deadly grace.

The boarhead and the deerhead jumped out in front of them, carving deep furrows into the ground with their weight as they slid to a stop, crouching as they lowered their heads to present their fearsome horns.

“Release!” Anne shouted.

With two flashes of gold, both Anne and Fleur released their Purification spells. Twin rays of light covered the monsters as they unleashed all of the spells power accurately into their targets.

For a moment, the monsters stiffened and took a step back, but that was it. When the light faded, all that changed from the zombies’ appearances was that they were smoking, with a slightly burnt appearance where the light touched.

It was with those Purification spells that Anne realized what they were facing. Far scarier than the grotesque appearance of the monsters were the sheer amount of undead mana within their bodies.

Now that they were so close, Anne could estimate the power of each zombie individually. Although they weren’t anywhere as strong as a knight-class undead by themselves, collectively, they had almost enough mana to be mistaken for a knight-class.

How were they ever going to beat them?

Anne gripped her mace, her mind spinning as hopelessness started to creep into her mind. She saw Fleur begin to slow down.

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This time, it was her that shouted to Fleur. “What are you doing?” If they charged full speed, they might be able to dodge around the monsters blocking the way, as slim as the chances were. But she was unwilling to leave Fleur behind, so she slowed down to keep pace with Fleur.

Had Fleur given up? But to her surprise, she saw that Fleur’s eyes were full of determination. As their horses stopped, the two undeads chasing them slowed as well, appearing to become more cautious.

With blazing eyes, Fleur dismounted and grabbed her buckler, shooting a brave smile at Anne. “Don’t worry. They’re not very strong!”

As she dismounted and armed herself, Anne thought she heard wrong. “Not very strong?”

“Yeah! Feel their mana! Father Arvel liked to study undead, so I know a bit about them. He always said that ******* undead were weaker than human undead.”

“But most human undead don’t have that much mana,” Anne pointed out.

“True, but these don’t as well. Because they’re chimeras, the undead mana in their body is unstable; in other words, they’re wasting so much mana just to move normally,” Fleur said. “Anne, we can win!”

When Anne took another look at the monsters, she realized that Fleur was right. For something with so much undead mana, these monsters were far less impressive than they should be. It’s just that their appearance and imposing mana hid their shortcomings.

If it wasn’t for Fleur, Anne would have totally missed that fact since she was so used to fighting human undeads.

The trembling in her hands were gone and she held up her mace and shield, pressing her back against Fleur even as they sent the horses off to hide in the trees, leaving just herself and Fleur back to back in the middle of the road against four powerful zombie monstrosities.



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