An hour later, Jack's regiment eliminated all the enemies. The warriors began to clean the battlefield up and bid their perished comrades farewell.
"The losses weren't huge," the captain announced when he looked at the report.
"Captain, these people… no, things… what's up with them?" Jack asked when he saw the pile of corpses.
"I'm not too sure myself--" he shrugged, "We've been hearing the refugees say something about a corpse wave. Perhaps this is what they were referring to."
"They call these couple of corpses a wave? The southerners' guts must be smaller than peas!" Jack's comrade said as he spat on the corpses.
"Then again, something's fishy…" Jack muttered.
"What do you think, Jack?" the captain asked curiously. He understood that fellow after the years he served him. Jack had wanted to become a magus, but his talent was limited and he only trained in impetus and became a decent low-order warrior because he had no other choice. However, his curiosity towards magic hadn't waned the slightest. He would do his own research into magic in his free time and might know more than the unit's magus at times. Not to mention, the magus rested first thing after the battle concluded, so Jack was the best person to consult about this.
"These corpses died too easily. If my guesses aren't wrong, they should be what the magi call undead."
"What about them?"
"Strictly speaking, undead beings aren't lifeforms as they aren't part of the basic life cycle. In other words, they're just like dead moving objects."
"You don't say," a comrade spat as he rolled his eyes.
"What I mean is attacks that would normally be fatal to living beings, like destroying the heart, are useless against undead. They don't need hearts to sustain themselves. Even if they're cut into two from the waist, they will still be active for quite some time. However, the undead here don't look nearly as resilient."
"Guards! Get us some oil! Leave two or three of these and burn the rest!" the captain instructed with a grave look.
Jack nodded in agreement to the order. However, he continued, "Apart from this, undead creatures… No, there's something worth noting about necromancy."
"What is it?"
"Necromancy is always related to disease and plague, and one common factor of those spells is that they're highly contagious. Some necromantic spells start by leaving a small wound of rot on a person that will spread all over in a few days and kill the person. The corpse would be able to spread that rot to other people. We have to take note of that as well."
"In other words…"
The rest felt chills down their spine when they heard it. Before they understood its implications, a shriek rang out in the camp.
Everyone rushed there and saw a few injured soldiers wave their weapons about like madmen. Beside them were the corpses of a few medics who were in charge of healing them.
A few warriors charged in and tried to subdue their frenzied comrades, but they continued to struggle in an attempt to break free.
Carefully, Jack inspected the flailing soldiers and his gaze darkened. "Captain, they're dead."
"How could it be…" The captain found it hard to believe.
Just as he was hesitating, the medics' corpses began to crawl up from the ground. They stretched out their bloody hands and clawed at the soldiers. In the middle of the camp, the corpses about to be burned moved again. One of them without any legs even clawed itself forward using its hands.
The camp fell into chaos once more.
Two hours later, the chaos finally subsided. Unlike the previous battle, the losses were far worse. Quite a number of soldiers died in the hands of their own comrades. They couldn't bear to strike at the corpses of their long-time comrades and were killed as they hesitated, only to be turned into undead creatures that lashed out at the remaining soldiers. The horrid cycle repeated itself to no end.
"Almost half died from battle…" The captain sighed after looking at the casualty count. That was only those who had died. Whether the others who were hurt by the undead would turn was another story altogether.
"Chief…" A few lieutenants huddled near the captain.
"Looks like something odd really is going on in Stok," the captain muttered.
More than a month ago, Leguna had received word of the wave of undead in Stok, but most of the empire's officials were skeptical of the news and didn't spread word of it. This brigade was the one the vanguard forces sent out to verify the claims about Stok's current state. However, their advance was far too trouble-free for the past month. The captain had almost forgotten about his mission. They weren't there to race the other brigades to the wall of the millennium capital, but to check if those odd rumors from Stok were true.
"Report all we have seen today. Also, we'll be decreasing the speed of our advance. Expand the scouting perimeter around camp and notify our brothers to never take it easy on these corpses. Strike their heads. Only after you smash the heads completely will they stop moving," the captain instructed.
"Chief…" a corporal muttered.
"Also, send a few men to transport a few samples of the corpses back to the empire for research--" He paused a moment in consideration. "Are there any devotees of Pyro in our unit? Call them to me if they are. Light is the most effective against undead. Perhaps they have some way. Also, get Jack and the two magi here."
"Chief!" the corporal cried.
"I'm giving orders here!"
"Look there!" The corporal pointed to a cliff not far away.
A few of them turned to look and discovered human figures at the top. There was easily a hundred of them…
In half a minute, countless figures appeared all over the valley. The captain prayed that they were Stokian civilians… Heck, even Stokian soldiers would be preferable to undead creatures. However, his hope was extinguished when a few of those figures dove from the ten-meter-tall cliff, landed, and stood back up.
Their cold sweat formed instantly. There was a persistent sound of shuffling in the quiet valley.
They followed the sound to the south of the valley and saw a corpse dragging a gigantic axe approaching them. Soon, it became apparent that it was only one of many. The shuffling sound got louder and louder. It sounded like tens of thousands of corpses dragging their feet across the ground!
Countless corpses appeared in their vision, their clothes tattered and flesh rotten. Some were clad in Stokian military garb, while others were dressed like commoners. There were even some noble folk among them, as well as corpses wearing long magus robes! But in death, they were all the same, shuffling towards the camp expressionlessly with uniformity.
It was a real corpse wave comprised of countless undead!
"Get ready for battle!" That was the last cry the captain let out in the valley.Previous Chapter Next Chapter