Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
Chapter 4 – Cursed Thoughts
Snow was falling, and the ground was covered in a magnificent white.
One, three, and five footprints were being made there at an alarming rate.
The snow, which had been trampled down carelessly, became mud as it was colored by red drops, and the ground began to produce an eerie color. A puddle of red water, hardly describable as muddy water, danced in the air as people fell over with showy movements. It scattered in patches, and the dirt was further spread over the ground by the overlapping weapons of soldiers who had fallen to the ground.
November 7th, 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
The sky was covered with black smoke, and the ground was dominated by a strange smell.
Fires were burning everywhere. The snow melted by the high heat turned into water, which flowed down to the ground through the gaps in the walls, mixed with blood, and the blood from fallen soldiers turned the “Spirit Wall” red. Monsters climbed up from the lower world to overflow onto the “Spirit Wall.” The soldiers tried to push them back, but the desperation they felt from the difference in numbers and the fatigue they had accumulated could not be wiped away, and their grip on their weapons was weak. It was as if they were fighting only with their energy.
A part of the wall that had never allowed anyone to pass through for 500 years was collapsing, and the soldiers and ‘monsters’ below were crushed by the debris and vanished. But no one cared. They continued to fight desperately to survive. Arrows flew around, inflicting extensive damage on both sides, but neither side stopped and continued to fight for their lives.
“…..What a mess.”
Hermes, one of the five great generals entrusted with guarding the “Spirit Wall,” slayed the ‘monster’ with a single swing of his sword and looked around with a wild exhalation of breath. All he could see were the ‘monsters’ and the soldiers lying in a pitiful state at his feet. The initiative was completely with the other side, and it seemed only a matter of time before they would be annihilated.
Most of all, Hermes looked down from the breastworks and saw that the wave of ‘monsters’ was flowing in a certain direction. Then, a panting subordinate came up to Hermes.
“General Hermes! The gate has been destroyed!”
“I knew it…”
Hermes nodded in understanding. The ‘monsters’ were flowing in a certain direction, which means that they were heading for the broken gate.
There was only one passage in the “Spirit Wall” that led to and from the unexplored territory. There were many theories as to why it existed. The 22nd emperor who built the “Spirit Wall” may have used it for his expedition to destroy the marked tribe or may have communicated with the marked tribe in the past. There were various opinions that the marked tribe may have been used to acquire resources.
Of course, there were also countermeasures. The gate was made of iron, sturdy, with three gates and a wide passageway to defend it, and then Hermes remembered.
“You didn’t seal them off?”
In the passageways where the gates were built, there was a device provided in case of emergency. It was a last resort to drop debris and completely destroy the passageway.
“No, we shut the third door just before it was destroyed. But they seem to be removing the debris, and given the tremendous speed at which they’re doing it, it’s only a matter of time before the debris is removed.”
“I see… I guess that didn’t buy us any time.”
Hermes bit his lip in frustration and looked up at the sky. In his hand was a letter.
“If only I could have held out a little longer, I would have seen the light!”
Everything was too late. Nothing he could say would make a difference. Hermes adjusted his breathing, tried to keep a normal mind, and looked around. The soldiers were dying one after another against the inexhaustible ‘monsters’ that were climbing up the mountain. Even so, the soldiers who were trying their best to push back the ‘monsters’ were humbled. Therefore, there was no way he could let them die in vain here. Hermes looked at the soldiers with a regretful expression on his face as their shoulders slumped.
“The evacuation of the people is over, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is finished, but… you don’t mean…?”
“Yes… inform the commanders of the various bases. Execute the plan. It’s time to abandon the Spirit Wall.”
The conclusion was obvious, and his subordinates didn’t seem to have any objections.
“Will this be the last time I see this view…? I cannot begrudge my ancestors over the loss of this view in my generation.”
Hermes looked down at the city where he was born and raised. It was not a land that could be boasted of to the rest of the world. Many people were addicted to alcohol, and the security was not as good as in other places. But it was a safe haven for him, an important part of his hometown.
“If we are going to end up being destroyed by the ‘monsters,’ we should at least be spectacular in our final moments.”
He heard the sound of a town being destroyed. The ‘monsters’ in the vicinity, probably inspired by the anomalies in the “Spirit Wall,” have begun to rampage.
“I’ll get it back… sooner or later, and I’ll make sure you pay for this.”
After removing his gaze from the city, Hermes readied his spirit weapon. A black shadow approached from the front, humanoid – a large tattoo-like pattern spread across part of its body. Needless to guess, it was the marked tribe. The marked tribe leaped forward and swung a strange weapon at Hermes.
“You are the one who will die!”
Hermes grabbed the marked tribe that jumped at him by the neck and slammed him to the ground. He then thrust his sword into his throat, cut off the head, and threw it over the breastworks to the ground below.
“Reincarnate as the marked tribe once again and come back to kill me!”
Hermes kicked up the headless, convulsing corpse of the marked tribe and began to clean up the ‘monsters’ that had attacked the soldiers. The situation was not reversed, but Hermes knew he had to save as many soldiers as possible. He rescued a commander who was surrounded and called him to him.
“Gather the men; we are going to the rendezvous point.”
The commander gave the signal to retreat. The soldiers who had been fighting formed a wall around the breastworks and began to fall back while dealing with the ‘monsters.’ However, they were swallowed up by the onrushing wave of ‘monsters,’ and only a hundred or fewer made it to Hermes’ base.
“If only this many people could gather here… I wonder what is happening in the other strongholds.”
The “Spirit Wall” was a large area, and several strongholds had been built. The passage of the breast wall was blocked by the ‘monsters’, so it was difficult to confirm the safety of the other units, but it was hard to believe that they were all wiped out.
“We’ll find out when we get to the rendezvous point. Are all the men ready?”
“We’re all that’s left.”
Hermes looked at the door connecting the breastworks to the interior of the fortress and saw a small number of soldiers descending to the lower levels.
“Then there is no longer any reason for us to remain here.”
Giving precise instructions to his men, Hermes stayed outside until the end, checking on the approaching ‘monsters.’ and when he was the last one, he jumped in and closed the door. Then, while breathing heavily, he looked around at his surviving subordinates. In the meantime, the door behind him was beginning to warp from the powerful impact of the ‘monsters’.
“Let’s go. This thin door can’t even stop their momentum.”
It was only a matter of time before the door was destroyed and the ‘monsters’ would pour in. It would be suicide to stay. Hermes and the others hurriedly began to descend the stairs but stopped when they reached the bottom floor. The flesh eaters were biting the soldiers, and the ‘monsters’ were taking advantage of the opportunity to pull out their intestines. Such a scene jumped out at them. Blood was spreading all over the floor and running down to Hermes’ feet. It must have already entered from some base. It seemed that the battle had begun inside the “Spirit Wall.”
“Are the flesh-eaters coming here too… and it looks like they are taking over the place?”
“Hermes-sama, please go ahead and leave this place to us!”
The men who had gone downstairs first shouted as they held the ‘monster’ down. Ignoring their wishes, Hermes supported the soldier with his left hand as he collapsed from exhaustion, and as the ‘monster’ tried to bite him, he grabbed the spirit weapon in his right hand and, with a single strike―blood splashing out of his hand, the ‘monster’ sank to the floor.
“It’s a joke that’s not funny. I would never abandon my men who accompanied me to my death.”
The soldier thanked him, but Hermes, clapping him on the shoulder, passed by, cut down the decaying humanoid flesh-eater that loomed before him, and turned back to his men.
“We will die together.”
Hermes took the lead and began his rampage as if to show off his power as one of the five great generals. Although an old general, he had reigned at the top of the military hierarchy in the Great Grantz Empire for more than a dozen years.
His old tiger’s fangs had not waned, and he showed his superior fighting skills with expert techniques.
“I have no intention of dying yet. Follow me, and I will pave the way for you. Help all those who are on the way. Including those who are wounded. I will buy you enough time to escape.”
As he said this, the light returned to his men’s eyes, and they raised their voices to confront the ‘monster,’ banishing the fear that nestled in their hearts. Hermes nodded in satisfaction when he saw that morale had returned.
“I know you only have enough energy to get by for a while, but you will have to persevere until you are outside.”
Just like his men, Hermes was determined to finish off the ‘monsters.’
One step, two steps, three steps, in what felt like an eternity, there was always a way out of the seemingly endless corridor. Once they saw the light, the soldiers’ spirits were revived, and they secured an escape route while overwhelming the ‘monsters’. They rushed outside and closed the door with great force. The double-opening doors, which were taller than a man, would have been troublesome in normal times, but now that they were cornered, they felt dependable. They tried to enjoy their newfound freedom, but what they found was a scene that could be described as a hellscape.
Corpses, corpses, corpses, corpses, corpses, corpses, corpses, so many corpses that they covered their entire field of vision.
Not a single one of the corpses was alive, and there was always some part of the body missing. That’s no wonder because even now, corpses were falling from the sky in great numbers. Some of them were falling while screaming. It was needless to say that it was impossible to predict what was going on up there. The ‘monsters’ who have taken over the breastworks were toying with the soldiers.
As he muttered this, a young soldier hit the ground, his small body bounced off the ground, and his eyeballs bulging out, spurting blood as he died. Hermes approached the dead soldier with an anguished look on his face and covered his eyes with his hands, forcing his eyelids to close, and then he sat up with an angry expression on his face.
“…..Let’s hurry to the rendezvous point. We’ll regroup and try to stall the ‘monsters’.”
Hermes and his men mounted their horses, which had been prepared in advance, and started riding across the snow-covered plains.
Once they reach the rendezvous point, they would be able to launch their offensive. They would be able to take back the city from the hated ‘monster.’ Until then, Hermes bit his lip and smeared blood at his own inadequacy, and ran his horse as fast as he could, trying to shake off the sounds of destruction coming from behind him.
Eventually, Hermes and his men came to a place where the soldiers were gathered – a short distance from the city. Everyone looked exhausted. Hermes dismounted after riding right in front of them. There were about five hundred people gathered, and even if all of Hermes’ men were included, the number would not reach seven hundred.
“Hermes-sama, I don’t think we can fight like this. The ‘monsters’ without power in the vicinity would be no problem, but… not enough to drive out those who occupied the Spirit Wall…”
As his subordinate said, they do not have the strength to challenge a rematch. There were surprisingly few soldiers left who could make it to the rendezvous point. Most of them probably could not even get out of the Spirit Wall.
“I know. They have fought their way to this point, and I can’t say anything more to them.”
They have survived over the corpses of their friends while fighting desperately. How could he order them to die? Hermes made a quick decision on what to do.
“Let’s run away.”
“Shouldn’t we hold them off here? If we let them go, they will burn the surrounding villages and towns to the ground.”
As his men said this, an explosion sounded from the direction of the city, and a large pillar of fire erupted. The flames began to spread with black smoke over the city with great vigor. However, the fire could not have turned so fast. Snow was falling from the sky. Even so, it was not encouraging. The fire would not be extinguished, although it would affect extinguishing the fire in no small way. Clearly, this was no ordinary fire, but none of the soldiers, including Hermes, who were looking at the burning city and their crumbling hometown, had any doubts.
“Is it as planned…?”
The city was planned to be burned beforehand. The plan was to burn the city to ashes along with the ‘monsters’ so that it would not become a stronghold for them. Then, those gathered at the rendezvous point would fight a final battle.
The “Raven Army” that had brought the spirit weapons was scheduled to join them at that time, but judging by the fact that they had not yet joined up, there was no doubt that they would not be able to make it. Hermes took a wrinkled letter from his pocket.
“I was filled with anticipation when it arrived… But even if they had made it, would they have been able to fight with this number?”
Hermes tore up the letter from Munin, the “Black Dragon King’s” subordinate, as if to discard any lingering regrets. He then turned to his subordinate and opened his mouth.
“The plan has failed, but we have issued an evacuation order for the neighboring towns and villages. There will be no delay in escaping. Then all that remains is for us to get out of here.”
“But if we run, we won’t be able to repay those who died.”
Most of the soldiers had scattered to protect the “Spirit Wall.” Some of them may still be fighting with hope. It was impossible for them to leave them behind and escape on their own. It was understandable that they would want to say so.
“But the victory has been decided. There is no need to fight anymore.”
There was no shame in running away. To avoid further casualties, it was necessary to run away, re-arrange their forces, and intercept them. Retreat with a view to the battle to come.
“If we survive, we may be able to save many people. We must bear our shame here.”
Hermes patted the shoulder of his aide, who nodded silently and sent out an instruction.
“Take the wounded to the horses, and send a messenger to the various places to report the current situation.”
“The time has come for us to stop fighting amongst ourselves. If we don’t take action together, the north will become a living hell.”
As Hermes muttered this, a head came flying at his feet.
“What is it…?”
It was the head of an aide. He picked it up without thinking and looked in the direction it flew and saw a man standing there. His upper body was naked, with intricate patterns embossed on his body. His mouth was black, and his white teeth, twice as long as a normal person’s, glistened with drool.
“Do not run away, weakling, inferior species that have stopped evolving, and give your soul to our ‘king’!”
“The pattern that covers the whole body… The higher species of… the marked tribe, huh?”
It was said that the flesh-eaters are a lesser species of the marked tribe. However, there was a hierarchical relationship even within the marked tribe. Among them, those whose entire body was covered with intricate patterns were said to understand human language and possess powerful abilities. Hermes, who had been guarding the “Spirit Wall” for many years, had never encountered a higher species before.
“Furthermore, it was the marked tribe that spoke the fluent language. So far, I’ve only met a few who could speak a few words.”
It seems that they did not want to have a dialogue with each other. The soldiers, exhausted by the newcomer’s appearance, rose to their feet and tried to surround the area. But―a large number of arrows rained down on the land. Hermes held up his shield to block them, but many of the soldiers fell to the ground, screaming. Most of them were unable to avoid the rain of arrows, and many of them were killed instantly by the rain of arrows. Hermes clicked his tongue. He saw a group of ‘monsters’ coming toward them.
“…I’ve lost interest in you. Forgive us; we will do whatever it takes to win.”
The marked tribe man muttered and drew his sword.
“All for the sake of the king’s soul, old general, you may rejoice. You, too, can be a source of sustenance.”
“I see… Did the people who have gone before us feel the same way?”
Hermes smiled and looked around. Although escape routes exist, he wonders if he will be able to escape from this enemy. Then, with his sword at the ready, he made a decision.
“I guess we have no choice.”
The two shadows collide. They clashed violently and then moved away from each other as if they were bouncing off each other.
One clash of blades, and that was all it took to show his strength.
The numbness in his hand and the weight that remained on his hand indicated that he was a strong man, the best among the marked tribe that he had fought so far. With the numbness in his hands crushed, Hermes ran on the ground.
With a heroic shout, he concentrated all of his strength into his spirit weapon.
Though he was repelled, he forcefully adjusted his stance and attacked further. Hermes’ large footprints were created on the ground. The snow turned to mud due to his heat, and the fluttering snow was blown away by the deadly force Hermes released. The momentum of the wave, like the muddy flow of a dammed-up river, unleashes a relentless blow. The marked tribe was astonished by this. He seemed to be unable to hide his surprise that he himself was being pushed. Seeing him, Hermes let out a roar, just as he used to do when he was running across the battlefield. As if pressured, the marked tribe fell back, and Hermes pounced on his prey to finish him off.
“What’s wrong? Was there no one as strong as I am in the unexplored territory?”
Hermes kicked the marked tribe and knocked him off his feet, slashed off his arm, slammed his fist into his cheek, snapped the bone in his neck with just the strength of his arm, and decapitated him.
“This is the power of the five great generals!”
Hermes shouted excitedly, but snowflakes flew up in front of his eyes.
A huge shadow covered him as he looked on with a dazed look on his face.
“…This is also huge.”
He couldn’t help but say it out loud. The marked tribe stood in front of him, a giant three times the size of himself. Hermes was about to ready his spirit weapon, but his body was blown away first.
The surprised soldiers around him called out in rapid succession, but the fallen man did not utter a word. In fact, he did not even move a muscle. Then a huge foot swung down, and blood spurted out like a fountain with an eerie sound of crushed flesh. A red pool was suddenly formed, and the marked tribe giant lifted his foot from the pool, smiling a childishly innocent and sinister smile.
“The human race is as fragile as ever. Zwieben wants a sturdier toy.”
The marked tribe giant, who calls himself “Zwieben,” muttered happily and spat at Hermes, who had turned into a lump of meat lying on the ground. The soldiers were stunned by the unexpected end. However, they soon regained their senses and confronted Zwieben, the marked tribe, to avenge Hermes’ death.
“What an unsightly sight! Be quiet and be served as food!”
Zwieben blasted the three of the soldiers with his palm, then smashed two of the soldiers with his fists, causing them to hit the ground with such force that they all collapsed on the spot. Then, a swarm of ‘monsters’ appeared from behind Zwieben and attacked them.
They were all killed by the overwhelming force. Screams continue to echo across the snowfield for a while, but soon the only sounds are the chewing sounds of the ‘monsters’ and flesh-eaters who are devouring the corpses.
The marked tribe giant caught a glimpse of them and gazed at the horizon with drool dripping from his mouth.
“The deliciousness is far beyond. You should only eat small things to that extent.”
Normally, the ‘monsters’ would not listen to him. But they responded to Zwieben’s words. After spitting out the meat, they immediately began to line up and form a formation. They began to act as if they were a trained “human race” without a stitch of disarray. The marked tribe giant, perhaps satisfied with the sight, pointed his finger at the destination.
“Let’s go. Let’s go to our King!”
The swarm of ‘monsters’ began to move with a will. They were followed by the marked tribe, who were as intelligent as humans.
They do not creep up on anyone unnoticed.
They had begun to extend their evil hand to the central continent with their harsh actions.