~ Chapter 104: Fear and Madness (Part 2) ~
I made my way there at a speed that far surpassed that of any horse or vehicle. In just under a minute I was at a kilometre away from the epicentre of the explosion. To make it safe, I made sure to approach it in a stealthy manner by covering myself with a long hooded cloak enchanted with sound-dampening, light-bending, and Magic Energy blending. It sounded cool when thinking about it, but making it was a real nightmare because all of those three spells were actually compound spells which I didn't fully master. Having red, black, gold, and white scales as a dragon helped me control with ease most of the spells belonging to those elements, but anything that had to do with pure Magic Energy manipulation was criminal.
In essence, any magician with access to those elements and an enchanting skills could do it, but even with a high Luck it was quite difficult to do it.
To be honest, I didn't feel as though this cloak was the best thing I could make in regard to this combination. Although I had black scales too, in the stealth department there were a lot of things I had yet to learn, but against most Breakthrough-ers, this cloak was more than enough to fool their senses as long as I didn't cast any spells.
The explosion appeared to have originated from a smoking crater at about 1 kilometre away from where I was hiding. To my far right, I saw an army of around 20000 strong men waving the Akutan Empire's flag.
From what I could see, there were a couple of powerful individuals within that army, men and women who were near a Breakthrough and even some who managed to reach it. To me, this didn't appear to be a group with the purpose of escorting someone or peacefully patrolling the borders. By all accounts this was definitely an invading force and one which Ten Swords Kingdom had little to no chance of repelling.
If they start marching now, they will reach our camp site by sunrise. I thought, however, what was curious about this entire scene was that they were all looking at the smoking crater to my left.
Focusing my eyes on it, I suddenly felt a chill rushing down my back, freezing to the core every vertebra it touched. The smoke wasn't clearing out. It was pitch black in color like the eerie fogs you sometimes saw in your nightmares. It felt alive, aware of its surroundings.
I unconsciously took a step back.
All of a sudden, the smoke was cleared out by a mysterious force, and from within it, a man made his appearance.
No, I only presumed it was a man because what I was seeing was a black figure, a shadow, a monster. I had no idea what it was or who he was, only that it was dangerous.
The moment I laid my eyes on him, I could feel the hair rising on my arms and bells of danger rang in my head like a mad Quasimodo's cathedral. I took a step back and then another while my heart kept picking up the pace.
I'm afraid. I thought as my eyes remained glued to the black ghostly figure.
Never before in my entire life did I feel such sense of dread and fear. It was impossible to describe what I was feeling. It was as if all the fears and traumas I suffered through since I was a baby and maybe even from my own past lives were activated and tuned up to max volume.
I wanted to scream, but I couldn't. If I did that, the monster in the field would have noticed me.
That thing... I can't win against it. I can't! I CAN'T! I shouted in my mind and then by instinct alone, a primordial self-preservation instinct that suddenly kicked it, I began to run away as fast as my legs could carry me.
I was faster than the wind, faster than anything, not caring about the branches I hit, stones I kicked, and critters I stepped on. All I cared about was running as far away from that thing as possible.
If I dared to stop for even a single fraction of a second, I knew that I was going to be dead.
That thing... whatever it was... I felt it breathing on the back of my neck as I ran away from it like a desperate man.
Before I knew it, I was at the camp.
With a fast and unsteady breath, I shouted at them “PACK YOUR THINGS! WE HAVE TO GET OUT HERE! FAST!”
“Huh? What's wrong, Alkelios? You look like you've just seen a ghost.” said Kalderan.
“You're sweating.” pointed out Risha.
I wiped my forehead, and indeed, I was sweating... a lot. It was the cold sweat of fear which drenched all of my clothes.
“Nya... something... something scawy...” Tamara said as she trembled and looked back the way I came.
“I don't have time to explain... There's something dangerous nearby! Something VERY DANGEROUS! We have to leave! NOW!” I shouted at them again, while hoping and praying in my heart that THING didn't notice us.
Luckily for me, my companions didn't make me repeat myself a third time. They quickly pack their bags, while I put out the fire and hid away all traces of our presence here.
“Where to now?” Kalderan asked.
“Hold on to me!” I told them.
Kalderan and Tamara moved behind me and wrapped their arms around my shoulders, while I picked up both Risha and Ildea in a princess-carry. As soon as I felt that they were holding tight, I jumped up from that spot and then moved farther away using Wind Magic.
I didn't even look back, I didn't dare. I couldn't risk checking to see if the thing that made my hair stand on its ends, made my skin crawl, and made my clothes get drenched with cold sweat was still there.
Without stopping for anything, I kept running away like that until I was 100% certain I lost it, which was after about another hour or so. By now, Mathias Town was in sight. If I went at my full speed, we would have reached it faster, but I couldn't guarantee the survival of my companions.
[The Akutan Empire's Unknown General]
I had served my whole life on the battlefield, fighting the battles my masters could not. My sword was held high proudly, and with it, I made it clear that their words were the law for all those beneath them.
I had seen countless terrors and great wonders with these two eyes of mine, and I had even witness the arrival within this world of those who could defy the very laws of logic, the Human Heroes. There were countless souls who dared to bark against my army, but not a single one lived to tell the tale. More than once I had bared witness to the marvellous powers these Heroes could manifest, and I myself had fought against many of them, yet right now, all of that felt nothing more than dust in the wind.
As one of Akutan Empire's trusted generals, I took it upon myself to fulfil my liege's order to the letter and lead this army of 20000 elite soldiers against the unsuspecting forces of the Ten Swords Kingdom. Our emissary there, the loyal Askarius Leden, who held the power to influence those around him, had sent word that this piece of land was ready to be annexed to our great Empire.
True, there were still the countries of Majin Kingdom and Majin Socialist Republic standing in our way, but there was no reason not to claim it as ours.
It was supposed to have been a glorious battle where only the blood of our unsuspecting foes would wash the dirt at our feet, yet before we could even reach the capital, this... this thing stood in our way.
It came in a flash of light that blinded us for a couple of seconds, while the explosion of this unknown attack almost tossed me off of my horse. Others weren't so lucky and they stepped on each other like frightened peasants in front of a monster attack.
Within this army, besides me, there was another Awakened with enough power to challenge even an ancient dragon Breakthrough-er. According to recent discoveries, I was level 1546 and he was level 1850. We were a pair of true monsters when compared to the so-called heroes of our neighbouring kingdoms.
Unlike a regular army, this one was formed out of some of Akutan's most powerful units. Each one of our soldiers was at least level 200 with an average of level 500. My trusted subordinates made sure to carefully handpick all of them with utmost care and consideration for our missions. Failure was not an option, and too many casualties would only bring us shame.
Meanwhile, within the Ten Swords Kingdom, the most powerful individual was a blue-armoured knight with a level over 800. He was someone who couldn't even survive one of my attacks.
In all due honesty, when I left the empire, I didn't believe even for a single fraction of a second that someone would dare to attack us on the way to the capital, yet this individual who stood before us in a crater of black smoke had pushed back most of us just with the aftershock of his attack.
“Who are you! I demand in the name of the Akutan Empire that you name yourself!” I shouted, yet no answer was returned.
When I focused my eyes on the stranger within the black smoke, I suddenly felt groggy and heavy headed as if all the energy had been drain out of my body. My will to fight against this state was gone as well. The world was spinning around me, and a cold sweat drenched the clothes on my back.
The brave steed I was riding on took an unsteady step back and then began to lean sideways. I jumped off his back at the last moment and collapsed on the ground.
It was difficult to breath and stand. My strength was gone, and when I looked back at my horse, I saw that it wasn't moving at all.
He's dead? I thought and then looked at my cavalry.
All of our horses were dead.
What sort of magic is this? I wondered and moved my gaze towards the black smoke that covered the stranger in the middle.
Another wave of fear washed over us and several of my brave soldier began to scream like little girls. Even I could barely withhold a whimper, but I could see it, none of us knew why we were afraid, none of us knew why we reacted like this.
Before long, I heard the clashing of swords as my men began to fight against each other. When I turned my head towards the stranger, I saw him casually walking towards us.
He looked like a skinny old man with the only pair of clothing on him being a ragged pair of gray linen pants tied with a rope at his waist. His white long hair and messy beard were unkempt, but the look in his eyes was that of someone who saw human lives as rotten bugs. There was a darkness in there that felt as though it could swallow my whole soul.
What is he? I thought and before I knew it, he was now standing in front of me.
Rubbing his long beard as my men were driven by madness around me, he asked “Hou~ You are a strong fellow, aren't you?”
“I-I am...” I tried to say.
“Who?” he asked and showed me a smile.
I blinked once and then I forgot.
“Here. This is yours.” This strange old man picked up the dagger of a soldier next him.
I felt like I knew the dead man, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
“Mine?” I asked as I took the dagger.
“Yes. You know what to do with it, right?” he asked with a smile.
“Yes!” I nodded with courage and then plunged the dagger in my own heart once then twice... I continued until light faded from my eyes.
The last thing I heard were the old man's words... “The Mad God thanks you for this lovely sacrifice.”
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
This is the first chapter after my break! 😀
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