Re: Ankoku Kishi Monogatari - Act 2-4
Act 2 – 4 : Night Watchman
Kuroki and the others entered the forest.
The forest in the night was pitch black, completely covered in darkness, it was so dark that save for Kuroki who has night vision, the other members could barely see anything without light magic or a magic lantern.
It was a well known fact that the outside of the rampart was extremely dangerous at night, but circumstances demanded them to venture there at this time. However, it had been decided that if anything strange happened, they would withdraw immediately.
Other than Kuroki, Gallios, and Rember, the investigation team consisted of four other members. Gallios had called on them, requesting them to join the mission right away.
「Yup, it’s scary to venture out at night after all…」
Said Steros, one of the investigation party’s members. He wasn’t a native of Rox Kingdom and was well known as an arrogant fellow. However, despite his attitude, he was still one of the most sought after warriors, courtesy of his immense skill. No one minded his arrogance as he could always back it up with his successful missions.
「Good grief, this lantern’s light is too small, I can barely see anything ahead.」
Said Pox, another one of the investigation party members. Similar to Steros, he wasn’t a native of Rox Kingdom. However, in contrast to Steros, who was still in the latter half of his twenties, Pox was a veteran warrior whose age was even older than Gallios.
「My apologies, this is the limit of what I can do with my magic…」
Nimri apologized to Pox. Nimri was the sorcerer who lived in Rox Kingdom and was also the one who healed Gallios’s wound.
Nimri was abandoned as a child right in front of Rox Kingdom’s rampart gate, his case was widely known as the abandoned elven child.
The elf race was composed of nothing but women and they would only be able to make a child by cross-breeding with another race. If a girl was born, she would be born as an elf and if a boy was born, he’d be born of the same race as his father.
In addition, due to various reasons and circumstances, they were a race that had difficulty in mingling with other races. Thus, the boys born as a different race would be abandoned by them in the nearest settlement of the same race as the father. Naturally, it didn’t mean that their elven parents wanted to abandon them, it was just that circumstances turned this cycle into the status quo.
It was a well known fact that children born from elves had high magical powers, to the point that even races who were normally known to be lacking in magical powers could use high level magic if they had elven blood in them. It was because of this reason that those elven born boys were considered as precious beings to humans. Those children would always be raised carefully for the benefit of the country, and the majority of them always became magicians later on.
That was the reason why the majority of magicians were men.
Nimri, who grew up in this Kingdom, learnt how to use magic from the royal magician of this Kingdom, who had passed away ten years ago.
The current Nimri held a position similar to that royal magician.
「Sorry. I didn’t mean to criticize you when I said those words…」
Pox apologized to Nimri.
Judging from his previous conversations with him, Kuroki had concluded that Pox was a good person who lacked awareness of his surroundings. His insensitivity would always cause him misunderstandings, but once someone got to know him, they would know that he meant to harm with his abrupt statements.
Nimri laughed at him as he said that he didn’t really mind about being criticized.
When Kuroki met Nimri for the first time yesterday, he immediately had a favorable impression of him. The man was kind and friendly, he never acted pompous despite his position in the Kingdom.
「Stor, did you manage to find anything?」
Gallios asked Stor.
「Unfortunately, no, not even I can handle the forest at night. How about you try to ask that lad over there?」
Naturally he was referring to Kuroki.
Kuroki was the only one who could use night vision amongst the team, even Nimri, a powerful magician, couldn’t use it.
With magic, it was all a matter of compatibility rather than the magician’s ability. Even though Nimri was a powerful magician, he couldn’t use night vision since it was not compatible with him. The same could be said about Kuroki. Though he could use night vision, he couldn’t use lighting magic like the one used by Nimri.
Thus, since the beginning of the investigation, Kuroki was placed as the vanguard.
「How’s the situation, Kuro-dono?」
The party was extremely surprised with Kuroki’s unexpected statement.
As if on queue, several shadowy figures suddenly appeared in the midst of the darkness and approached them in a tactical manner to surround them.
「WHAT?! Are they really just goblins and orcs?」
Gallios asked with a flustered voice.
Everyone immediately took a fighting stance and pulled out their weapons.
「Yes they are, but…」
Everyone tilted their head in confusion when they heard Kuroki’s vague reply.
「Are the two demons we heard about among them, and telling them what to do?」
Gallios was intrigued. There was no way that goblins and orcs could move in such a manner on their own. They were not a race who relied on battle stratagems, rather relied on rampaging with brute force. Thus, the only thing that Gallios could think of at the moment was that they were led by demons.
「No, they’re indeed only goblins and orcs, but… they’re zombies.」
Kuroki could distinguish what the others couldn’t with utmost perfection in this dark night, and the reason he termed them as zombies was because he couldn’t feel any vital signs from the orcs and goblins around them.
Moreover, their bodies were riddled with numerous wounds, some even had spears or arrows stuck in their body. Yet, they could all still move. Reminded of Loughas’s teachings, Kuroki surmised that these were indeed zombies, or to be more specific, animated corpses.
Undead corpses were known for their animosity toward living beings, they would charge towards any place that showed signs of life, which was what was happening now in their situation.
The members of the exploration party, save for Kuroki, were flustered when they heard what he said. They started consulting each other on what they should do.
「There’s so many of them. Moreover, I think they’re the ones we encountered this afternoon.」
The reason why Kuroki was sure of his remark was because he saw the orc he slayed this afternoon. He was invited to participate in the demon extermination this afternoon by Gallios and had noticed this particular orc.
The orc in question wore the same tattered armor and sword that it used when it was alive. The armor and sword might have been used by humans before.
A realization struck upon Kuroki today, he realized that these orcs were different from Nargol’s orcs.
Despite their similar appearance, Nargol’s orcs had more splendid weapons, they also gave great importance to unity and were polite on top of that. Compared to that, the orcs he met this afternoon were just like savages. They were violent and rough, definitely not beings you wanted to have a conversation with.
Honestly speaking, Kuroki, who was summoned by the Demon King, should have sided with the demon race this afternoon, with him being the Dark Knight and all but, for once, he wanted to be on the human side due to his appearance and inclination.
Moreover, the orcs he met this afternoon were clearly hostile towards him.
It was unpleasant to be regarded as an ally to beings who only saw him as their delicious food.
Thus, he had judged that killing demons outside of Nargol didn’t count as betraying Modes since they weren’t even under Modes’s government to begin with.
While Kuroki mused about all of these loopholes, the shadows in front of him and the others started approaching at a high speed.
However, what was considered a high speed for those zombies was simply a slow motion for the investigation party. The zombies took a while to reach them. The trees in the forest, which should have been a trifling matter to them, became huge obstacles when they had turned into zombies, so they struggled quite a bit to reach the party’s position.
Finally, one of those shadows somehow managed to reach the party.
Kuroki unsheathed his short sword and cleaved the approached shadow in one slash.
He didn’t use his demon sword since it was too conspicious.
The short sword was something he got from Nargol.
Unlike his demon sword, this sword was a common one that could be found anywhere. He had brought another sword since it was extremely troublesome to deal with every single trifling matter with his demon sword.
The shadow struggled, and then fell backward.
Everyone in the party gathered around the collapsed shadow.
They saw a headless and legless orc. Nevertheless, its limbs kept moving despite losing its head.
「Yup, definitely a zombie…」
Gallios confirmed that fact as he checked their surroundings.
「No way… Why in the world are there zomb—– Don’t tell me, those Striges are…」
Muttered Rember with a dumbfounded face.
「If there are zombies, then there’s definitely a creator around.」
All of them agreed with Nimri.
According to Loughas’s lesson, zombies or animated corpses weren’t things that appeared naturally. It was common knowledge that they were corpses that were reanimated with “Necromancy”. In short, these zombies were created by someone.
「What do you think we should do now? The other zombies are coming closer you know?」
Everyone was exasperated when Kuroki told them so.
Zombies were slow moving creatures. Nevertheless, being surrounded by them was bad news too. They could still escape if they used this chance.
「What shall we do, Rember? 」
Rember was the leader of their investigation party. They were waiting for his order.
「Let’s retreat… Let’s retreat to the rampart and fight them in the morning, that’s our safest option.」
Everyone agreed with Rember.
The zombies walked at an extremely slow pace. Nevertheless, neither sword or spear could affect them since they were already dead. Fighting them with their party’s current equipment was just a waste of their own stamina.
Naturally, Kuroki was more than capable of annihilating them, but he didn’t wish to expose his identity to them by showing his true power.
Moreover, the undead were extremely weak to light, their body should melt under the sunlight. That’s why waiting till morning was faster than fighting against them now.
Some high ranking priests were capable of using sunlight magic, but such esteemed people weren’t in Rox Kingdom.
That’s why Rember judged that holing up behind the rampart’s protection and waiting for the morning was a far better choice than fighting an impossible battle.
Everyone retreated at once with Rember’s order.
「Why in hell did these undead creatures suddenly appear out of nowhere, aren’t they just the same as the ones that appeared when the Hero and his party came here one month ago?!!」
Rember, Nimri, and Stor couldn’t agree more with Gallios. They were citizens of Rox Kingdom and had witnessed the same events unfold during the Hero and his party’s previous visit.
(What happened when they visited this place last time?)
Kuroki was intrigued.
「Yes. Maybe they’re related to Hero-sama and the others’ visit.」
「I see, the surviving Striges, huh.」
「It’s not clear yet whether the culprits are the Striges or not… But it’s a fact that someone created these zombies. Just in case, let’s raise the alert level.」
They chatted amongst themself on the necessary precautions and steps they needed to take on their way back. Kuroki who had only just arrived at Rox Kingdom yesterday knew nothing about the matter. He was completely left out of this topic.
But from the bits and pieces he heard in their conversation, he guessed that it had something to do with the Hero and his companions.
（Reiji and the others are coming at such a bad timing.）
Kuroki had a premonition that something would happen this time.