Chapter 143: Short Letter
“A swordsman of Zhao wears a plain helmet, his curved blade bright as rime.”
Wearing shabby leather armor made of python skin, a swordsman of the Northern Lands wielded a silver longsword and created snow-white afterimages in the air. Wherever the radiant longsword struck, a bone-chilling wind issued, even covering the ground in a layer of thin frost.
“A silver saddle shines on a white horse, galloping swift as a shooting star.”
Pointing the longsword to the heavens, a silver winged horse galloped over. Carrying the knight, the apparitional mount charged forward as if a silver shooting star.
“Robbing a life every ten steps, never turning back in the long journey.”
Wherever the sword passed, the heads of the enemies flew. Just with the sharp sword in his hands and the mount beneath him, the lightly-dressed Knight could tread dominantly across the Northern Lands!
“Flicking his sleeves when all’s done, casting his reputation into the shadows… I seem to have forgotten what comes afterwards. Forget it, I am unable to conceal my reputation anyway. Boys! Pay close attention! I, Roland Mist, have come! I am the Lich King!”
When Pale Justice was abruptly stabbed in the ground, magic gathered and the Black Tortoise Sword Seal, represented by an amalgamation of tortoise and snake, activated. A snowflake formation lighted up on the ground, and as the hidden, frigid current beneath the ground burst outward, Ice Magic froze everything in the surroundings.
My actions were too sudden. Along with the creeping of ice, the feet of the assassin in the shadows were frozen, rooted to the spot before he could even react. If he could react swiftly, he could amputate his leg and escape. If he were slow, he would enjoy the luxury of being encased in ice.
“I am truly impressed with those protagonists of novels. They always manage to look dashing when reciting poems in the midst of battle, but in actuality, it isn’t something plausible for a human to do! How did they manage to chant magic incantations, contemplate fighting strategies, and adjust their rhythm of battle while recalling the poems at the same time? Aren’t they worried about forgetting a phrase and ending up being embarrassed? What if they happened to choke on air and cough uncontrollably? Wouldn’t their deaths end up ridiculous?”
While I was retorting, a snake-shaped dagger with a green gleam on it suddenly appeared in the shadows behind me. That menacing dagger slowly moved towards the nape of my neck without the slightest movement of wind.
Just as the blade was about to come into contact with me, the body of the assassin who wore a cruel smile suddenly jolted.
“An upgraded ability of Shadowstep—Temporary Elemental Concealment? This seems to be a rare ability that only a master assassin with Elemental Bloodline can learn. What a wonderful experimental subject.”
How could it possible for the veteran assassin to slip up at such a crucial moment? However, his hands were already numbed.
Pale Justice was just inserted into the ground, but a rampaging flash of lightning was crackling as though thunder was traversing through the sword. The frenzied flow of lightning caused the unfortunate assassin’s body to convulse ceaselessly.
“Pitiful child. I doubt you can understand why a magic sword which had no contact with its wielder was able to attack you. I should remember this skill and teach those rookies when I get back so that they can use it on others.”
The lightning from the Azure Dragon Sword Seal that I activated wasn’t too strong. The assassin whose body was convulsing was still able to grit his teeth and climb up. He had intended to bring me down along with him, but I simply patted the black cat on my shoulder.
“Gather a blood sample so that we can run an analysis on it. He is a rare specimen, so keep him alive. We’ll extract his soul when we’re back at the experimental lab.”
Upon hearing these words, the elegant cat lowered her head and licked her paws, not moving from her spot whatsoever. I knew that she was just waiting to negotiate the terms with me.
“I will split a third of it with you. If senior doesn’t want it, I will split half of it with you then.”
“You lunatic! To think that our Phantom Serpent Bandits were destroyed by you lunatics, a person who talked to his cat… AHHHHHH!”
Upon seeing that I still facing the other way, the furious assassin dashed forward to assault me. However, in the next instant, an ominous black shadow blanketed his vision.
“Cat… Cat demon!”
A queer smile crept onto the corners of the lips of the cat-shaped figure on top of the assassin’s head, as though it was mocking something or someone.
The assassin could no longer suppress the fear which penetrated straight into his bones. He immediately turned and ran. However, in a flash of light and a piercing scream, the assassin disappeared without a trace. All that was left on the spot was the elegant cat who was still tidying up its face.
With a snap of a finger, the three corpses of the three bandits who had died from excessive bleeding stood up silently. They would bring the other frozen bodies with them.
With Necromancy no longer outlawed, the corpses of experts have become valuable trading commodities for the nobility. Naturally, we can’t waste such precious goods.
While I was still admiring my actions, the battle on the other side had also reached its final moments.
A black, man-eating flower was chewing on something. Taking a closer look, it was the right arm of that Saint-rank assassin nicknamed Hellfire….
After sacrificing his own limbs to feed those frenzied plants, the great assassin Hellfire finally got into proximity to the Mage. However, what met the cruel smile of the assassin wasn’t a panicking rookie Mage, but an insane demoness who grinned even more happily.
“You’re the 76th assassin who thought that I was an idiot at close combat. How do you think your predecessors fared?”
The will of a Saint-rank assassin was unfaltering. Even though he vaguely felt that something was amiss, the words of the other party was unable to affect his mind. He immediately stopped on the spot and executed his movement technique, creating a series of mirror images that surrounded Amelia on all sides.
However, all the female Mage did was take a deep breath and drop her flamboyant sapphire staff. Ignoring all of the mirror images around her, she sent a punch towards her rear.
Amelia wasn’t as weak as she seemed on the surface. Just the wind pressure from the fearsomely forceful punch created a deep gash in the ground. Even though Hellfire reacted in time, he was still hit by it. He instantly kneeled on the ground and threw up blood.
Wearing the ruby bracelet, Amelia flung her hand lightly. Accompanied by a shout of agony, a massive crater formed around him. Hellfire was lodged into granite. At this moment, all of the air within his body was forced out of him.
Perhaps a bystander might think this some kind of gravity magic. However, I knew that this was just a simple swing of her hands, and what had pushed the assassin into the ground was just the wind pressure generated by her palm.
“You really can’t offend a Mage with 42 points in Strength. Even more so, a genetically-modified human whose eyes have the ability of True Sight cannot be offended. After all, she had to possess an incredible amount of strength for her to still be alive after messing around so much.”
At this moment, Amelia stroked her hair and her peculiar silver irises hid their radiance. Her lips were moving, as though she was muttering something.
Long, light-green hair fluttered along with the wind; a young lady recited a poem. Just by her outward appearance, Amelia carried the aura of an academic.
However, I couldn’t be fooled because I could tell what the other party was speaking through lip-reading.
“Darling, it’s time to eat. It’s a feast this time.”
The next moment, the smooth, light-green hair came to life. Her countless strands of hair extended with the tug of the wind before transforming into blood-red thorns. After the tip of those thorns opened a massive dragon-like mouth, when the assassin who was being chewed on was screaming in agony, I knew that the remaining images were rated Mature 18+.
“Temperance, huh? Truly a monster with a lack of any sort of temperance. Perhaps the reason why she named it Temperance was so that this monster wouldn’t eat too much and affect her figure.”
Senior’s research direction was similar to mine. The information and results of our research could be traded, but the method which it showcased itself was completely different.
In a certain sense, I was integrating Biology, Modern Medical Studies, and Necromancy for my Undead Creation. Naturally, what I was creating were other powerful Undead.
On the other hand, as a master of Biology, what Amelia studied was life itself. How could she possibly give up on the physical body that she was the most familiar with and understood the most, her own?
It was likely that she was unable to remember how many times she had modified her body. Even when I first met her, she had already said that she was more like a plant than an animal.
In fact, two of her Seven Benevolent Virtues, “Abstinence” and “Diligence” were part of her body, plants that shared life with her. Their existence and growth made Amelia stronger.
Amelia’s combined total of 42 Strength after enhancement by her equipment was something that had already exceeded the limits of ordinary life-forms. I had never heard of a single race that had Strength exceeding 40. Perhaps even the Titans couldn’t to match up to her. Her bloodline was already something that was unable to be evaluated. From her very core, she was a being that exceeded common sense.
Of course, given how her ability to cause trouble was in no way inferior to mine, it was impossible for her to live until now without capabilities of her own. As far as I knew, her regenerative abilities and unkillable qualities were in no way inferior to mine.
After that group of assassins had been completely cleaned away, I felt a little regretful. I wasn’t in the midst of completing a mission now, and the Saint-rank assassin which senior killed didn’t allocate me any Fate Points at all.
“Why are you looking at me like that? I am lacking high-quality fertilizers at the moment. Even if you begged me, I wouldn’t share any of it with you.”
Her guarded gaze was really depressing. Ever since that unpleasant chat back then, Amelia seemed to be even more on guard against me.
“Later, I will pass you a third of the blood and flesh of an Elemental Descendant possessing the ability of ‘Temporary Elemental Concealment.’ However, I will keep the the soul and skeleton of that fellow, I have some uses for it.”
“...Such rare material. Your luck sure is good for you to always meet these kinds of unique existences. However, you seem to lose out in this deal. Are you scheming something?”
That wary gaze sure did break my heart. I shook my head. I knew that if I didn’t provide some reason, she, who was already agitated, wouldn’t feel at ease.… Speaking of which, making that incredible senior of mine so wary, should I be proud of it?
“Since someone wants our head, we must naturally repay the favor. However, my strength is lacking at the moment, so senior, help me.”
“It’s a small matter. There is always a lack of fertilizer and experimental subjects. Deal!”
By this time, having received news of an assassination attempt on me, Xueti and the others had rushed to the scene. However, upon realizing that there wasn’t anywhere for them to interfere in, they became onlookers.
“Exactly which side is the antagonist? Why do I get a feeling that our side is the evil boss who intends to destroy the world whereas the ones facing us are courageous heroes challenging the evil?”
Alright, upon hearing the discussion of the late rescue army, I was taken aback for a moment before chuckling.
“Looks like the days of living together with old friends like Amelia and Harloys has made me younger and livelier. However, this doesn’t seem to be a bad thing. Of course, to my enemies, it was bad news.”
After enjoying such a long, peaceful life in Liu Huang Mountain City, I had clearly toned down. Perhaps this was something good for those around me.
However, considering the cruel future we were about to face, a scheming Yongye who utilized everything in his grasp to achieve his means was clearly much more effective than a righteous Holy Knight. I had also never intended to sit still as Doomsday befell us.
“Wish to destroy an evil and cunning opponent? Then, you have to become even more unscrupulous and frenzied than him.”
To my opponents, a scheming, lunatic avenger who was willing to cut away his limbs at crucial times posed the greatest threat. Also, I wasn’t a moral ablutomaniac* who was was reluctant to dirty his own hands.
“Senior, Harloys and I… This is perhaps the most interesting (dangerous, frenzied) group of researchers in the entire world. Maybe we can create something interesting together.”
It was the annual Hunting Festival once more. The Beastmen Tribes were gathered around the Orisen Mountainous Range. Upon receiving the support of the Earth Elemental God Emordilorcan, the Blood Axe Tribe had become the most powerful tribe of the lot. Its leader, Eron Bloodaxe, had become the Great Chieftain of the new alliance of the tribes.
Perhaps a familiar title might be much more appropriate for him, Beastman Sovereign. However, for him to don this crown stably upon his head, he had to win the upcoming war first.
At this moment, the Chieftains from the various tribes were discussing their future military plans. Rather, arguing would be a much better phrase.
“I object! The first snowfall is just around the corner, and launching an offensive at this moment is suicidal.”
The Centaurs around the mountainous region were usually slightly slimmer and agiler than their brethren living in the Underground World and the Elven kingdoms.
However, the Chieftain of Kaerci Tribe, Haer, was an exception. With a height of three meters, he wore a massive halberd on his back. He was well-known for his unparalleled brute strength among the Highlands Beastmen.
“I object to it as well. Sleuweir Kingdom and Karsomi Communal Country have fortresses blocking the entrances to the highlands. By attacking them in winter, we would suffer overwhelming and additional losses. I don’t fear sacrifice, and I understand that war demands sacrifice. However, I am unwilling to have my sisters become meaningless pawns of war.”
Kamala was the Chieftain of the Blue-feathered Harpy Shamanic Tribe, as well as the most famous witch in the highlands. She held in high esteem across the entire mountainous range and her opinion was acknowledged by many other Chieftains.
Forcefully invading a well-defended human fortress in winter wasn’t a good idea, no matter how one looked at it. The Blood Axe Tribe’s obstinacy finally resulted in an outburst of resentment by the various Chieftains. If this matter wasn’t settled properly, the alliance would likely fall apart.
The Chieftain of the Blood Axe Tribe, Eron Bloodaxe, was a towering Eagleman. Their tribe was known for their Lightning Eagle Riders but Eron himself wasn’t that well-known. On the contrary, those who knew him thought of his capabilities as merely average. At this moment, challenged by the various other Chieftains, Eron only knew to scratch his head in frustration, unable to find an answer to their questions. It was clear that he was at his wits’ end.
“... I’m returning.”
The Chieftain of the Bearman Tribe, Ronde, was known to be reticent as well as stubborn. He would definitely bring his men back now that he had also spoken of it.
Finally, after making up his mind, Eron decided to speak of his plan. However, before he could start talking, a hoarse voice echoed from beyond the doors.
“Chieftains of the various tribes, allow me to introduce myself. I am Daimon Riley, the representative of your alliance army.”
The one who had entered inconspicuously was a short Ratman. Their kind usually lived in the sewers of the cities. Even though they were known to be cunning and difficult to deal with, they were sidelined by the Beastmen who valued strength.
However, even though the tent was packed with experts, no one dared underestimate this short Ratman. Other than the fact that he was able to silently enter this tent, his scales and the horn on his face reflected his identity.
“A Hellbreed? Are you of the Demons or the Devils?”
There was also an entrance to the Chaos Abyss in the Northern Lands. Beastmen weren’t strangers to the dwellers of the Underworld. However, there wasn’t a single sapient tribe that bore goodwill for these two races.
“My identity matters not. What is important is that I can help you. With the assistance of the Earth Elemental God, the geographic obstruction your army faces isn’t a problem from the very start. There is no need for you to besiege those two fortresses at all.
Daimon walked to the map and casually pointed out a path. It was an inconceivable path crossing over numerous steep mountain ranges and cliffs, straight to the core of the human world.
“As for the gelidity of winter, I bring you all good news. With the assistance of the Will of the Chaos Abyss, the Inferno Marquess has promised to grant you all the Blessings of Flames, allowing you all to remain unhindered by the cold gale of winter.”
The various Chieftains stared at one another, unable to fully grasp the situation.
“Inferno Marquess? The Inferno Dimension is a part of the Chaos Abyss, so that Marquess should be a Demon Lord. I am slightly knowledgeable in Demonology, but I have never heard of the great name of the lord. Could she be a new Demon Lord who has emerged in the past few hundred years?
“Haha!” Daimon laughed gleefully.
“No wonder you haven’t ever heard of the name of that lord. That lord had only returned to the Chaos Abyss last year and she was instantly promoted to the position of Demon Marquess. This bears testimony to her strength. Furthermore, she is granted the noble title of ‘The Devourer,’ and it is precisely due to the fact that she has devoured the God Power of the Fire Elemental God that she is able to grant you all the Blessings of the Flame.”
Upon hearing those words, the crowd was delighted. On the other hand, upon seeing that there was hope in accomplishing his mission, Daimon’s gleeful grin widened.
“Look, this is a keepsake from that lord.”
It was a silver-plated bronze ring, with flames circling the ring slowly like some sort of decorative pattern.
“Lord Elisa! Please grant me your blessings.”
The Hellbreed Ratman Daimon raised the magic ring up high and the strength of the Demon started to creep forth, summoning the will of a superior existence through an artifact.
“Who is the one summoning me! Who dares interrupt my beauty sleep! Hm? So it was an ugly Ratman! Die!”
The consequences of enraging a Demon Lord were severe, and it was even worse when a female Demon Lord was roused by a hideous man. In an instant, the flames of the Demon shrouded the summoner.
“Lord!! Please spare me, I am inno… AHHHH!”
Alright, the words of an unfortunate fellow who had already been reduced to ashes didn’t hold any power. Looking at the magic ring that fell to the ground, everyone was taken aback.
What kind of show was playing? To think that the intermediary would be destroyed by the mastermind all of a sudden? How can the negotiations go on after that?
They had heard that the Demons were irrational and illogical, and they had just had the honor of witnessing it first-hand. However, what were they supposed to do next? Return to their tribes?
“Chieftain Ven, you are well-known for being suave among the Beastmen and your social skills are good. Why don’t you try communicating with that Marquess?”
Instantaneously, the complexion of the Werefox Chieftain whom Eron had pointed out paled. The Ratman intermediary had died right in front of them. How could he possibly dare to step forth at such a point?
However, the Werefox weren’t reputed as the sages of the Beastmen for nothing. He immediately found a solution to the problem.
“You have already heard it as well. This Daimon here was sentenced to death for interrupting the Marquess’s sleep. Thus, we just have to communicate with her after her nap. Yeah, regardless of the time difference between the Chaos Abyss and the Surface, eight hours should be safe.”
Alright, this was clearly an attempt to drag things out, but this conclusion was something everyone could accept. Thus, they heaved a sigh of relief.
On the other hand, I, who was far away in another country, received a message from the silver ring on my hand.
“The Beastmen intend to circumvent the geographic limitations of the Highlands and directly assault Sleuweir in the midst of winter?”
*ED Note: An ablutomaniac (a word that technically doesn’t exist) would describe a person with ablutomania, that is, obsession with bathing and washing.
“A swordsman of Zhao wears a plain helmet, his curved blade bright as rime.”侠客行 (Song of the Cavalier)The poem was by Li Bai, an extremely famous poet in China. It has inspired many works afterwards, a noteworthy one being a novel called Ode to Gallantry by Jin Yong, a famous wuxia writer.The poem is incredible in the sense that you can really picture the sight of an awe-inspiring swordsman slaughtering his enemies before flinging his sleeves and leaving gallantly. (Kind of)However, due to the limitations of my translation, I shall not embarrass myself by translating all of it. [ED: It’s OK, Starve. I helped you!]