The Devil's Evolution Catalog Chapter 42: Skeletal Mages
The death of that saber wielder had scared the shieldbearer to the side of him greatly. The suddenness of his death had stirred up memories of the skeleton assassin and its unpredictable moves, causing the shieldbearer to jump up in shock. This moment of carelessness was not only a costly mistake, but also his last.
Another bone spear whistled through the heavens and pierced the skull of the shocked devil; the look of shock frozen on his face for all eternity.
With his death, the lonely heavy bone shield was all that was left standing against the relentless charge of the zombies. Without a bearer, all that was propping that section of wall up was the tiny section of the shield stuck into the ground, and this was naturally insufficient. As a zombie crashed into the shield, it toppled instantly like a house of cards. The undead horde now had a path into the heart of the devil army.
The orderly battlefield soon descended into a chaotic melee as the zombies poured in through the hole created, right into the Mo saber wielders. At this range, the length of the sabers were not only a hindrance but also a fatal weakness that left them vulnerable to the clawing and biting of the zombies.
Seeing that the formation was breached, Big 1 immediately ordered the reserve army to fill in the gaps. A large imp rushed to the fallen heavy shield as the saber wielders stood aside to clear a path for him. However, before he could plug the breach, a couple of bone spears descended once more, killing two more shieldbearers!
By now, the shield formation was on the verge of collapse.
“Reserves, plug that gap! Get those undead out of here!”
Thankfully, the recent string of victories had left everyone including the reserves with high morale. Even the recent deaths did nothing to dampen their fearlessness as they charged into battle. Soon that gap was plugged up with the other reserves clearing up the zombies who broke in.
Up until now, the reserves were still equipped with primitive bone clubs, but thanks to their innate strength, even these primitive weapons were effective against the undead. Each hit could stun the zombies momentarily and scatter any skeletons it came into contact with.
The anomalies did not stop with only the shieldbearers. On the sides of the guardsmen, they encountered an old foe, the skeletal horsemen. Two teams of 10 horsemen rode out of the collapsed buildings in a thunderous concert of hooves. Their target, the guardsmen guarding each flank. By breaking through these guardsmen, they could then flank the main army, throwing them into chaos.
Even with their refined equipment, their combat strength was still lacking compared to the two-star horsemen. Thankfully, they still had the advantage of numbers to counter this. However, being cavalry units, the skeletal horsemen possessed an innately high charging ability and an added advantage of having a one-star horse accompanying them.
These two factors added together had a multiplicative effect on their strength that more than made up for any number advantage we had. Furthermore, their sudden appearance had caught us by surprise! The first charge alone knocked away several guardsmen, clearing the path for their continued charge into the reserves.
With regards to this, we had previously encountered such a charge as well. The outcome then was similarly horrific.
The incoming mass of bones struck terror into the hearts of the reserves. Those that could run, ran; while those that couldn’t simply lost their will to fight.
That one moment of cowardice had thrown the entire army into disarray. Some wanted to fight back while the rest wanted to flee. Those that fled ended up wrecking the formation of those who wanted to fight back, and even with Big 1’s shouting, the army was no longer able to mount an effective counter-offensive.
If nothing was done to fix this, things would only get worse over time.
This cavalry charge was definitely not something our broken formation could handle correctly. The familiar flow of mana filled my body once more, as I began casting a pair of bone walls. With the grimoire in my left hand and a wave of my right, two bone walls rose up from the ground directly in the paths of the cavalry charges.
However, these walls weren’t as strong as I would have liked them to be due to the lack of time. Thankfully, the majority of the force behind the charge had already been dispersed. As the leading horsemen rammed into the bone wall, it cracked under the impact but still managed to severely damage the horsemen. The horse and rider were violently separated with the rider nearly being broken apart.
“The Master has stalled them. Everyone, charge!” Upon seeing my bone walls seal off the horsemen’s mobility, the devils under Big 1 regained their courage and began to gather for an offensive.
Whether it was the violent stomp of the horses’ hooves or the piercing power of the the riders’ lances, both were devastating attacks that no mere imp could withstand. This naturally included the guardsmen as well. Even with their refined shields protecting them, the initial charge had inflicted significant damage, more so since they bore the brunt of the charge.
One-eye and Nine-finger immediately called for the reserves to take up the fallen guardsmen equipment before sortieing against their hated enemy, the horsemen. With their mobility sealed, now was the time for revenge.
All in all, our losses were severe. Our formation had been thrown into disarray with the zombies striking at us from the outside and the horsemen running amuck on the inside. Thankfully, both of these were now under control. With their mobility sealed, they were only slightly stronger than the guardsmen. With our massive number advantage, 40 guardsmen and 500 reserves, wiping them out was only a matter of time.
In the previous chaos, the Mo saber wielders had lost their usefulness and had to retreat momentarily. However with the failed charge of the horsemen, they now had a convenient target for their long sabers.
With hundreds of devils tying the horsemen down, they were essentially stationary target dummies for the saber wielders. Using their advantageous long range, they hacked at the horsemen from a distance away.
The battle was slowly swinging in our favor but there was still the matter of those bone spears. Where did they come from? As I traced the path of the bone spears, my eyes locked onto an empty rooftop. Wait...on that roof a hundred meters away...what are those two moving objects?!
It was merely a faint hope that made me scan the surroundings for the source of the bone spears, but surprisingly, it paid off. Atop the roof was a pair of bone staff wielding skeletons.
The soul flames in their eyes blazed with a vigor that I’d never seen in any other undead. Their fleshless jaws chattered up and down as they chanted a string of words inaudible to me from this distance. With a downward wave of their staves, a pair of bone spears appeared on the left and right of them and flew in the direction their staves pointed at.
The spears flew through the air one after the other and pierced the heart and throat of two saber wielders who were currently attacking the horsemen, instantly killing them!
Their casting was not only quick, but also accurate. Each spell flew unerringly into a fatal point of the imps, instantly killing them.
Why are there skeletal mages here? The last time I was here, this village had no undead at all...how did this place change so much in just half a month!?
There’s no time to think about that now though. I need to get rid of those two first.
As I thought this, the mages seemed to have picked up on my presence as well. They turned their sights on me and began chanting once more. Soon, a familiar pair of bone spears were sent hurtling towards me.
“Protect the Master!”
No.3 and Big 4 reacted immediately by stepping in front of me, their rounded shields raised high, ready to intercept the spears. With an earth-shattering crack, the bone spears resoundingly collided with the rounded shields and broke apart. Looks like my rounded shields won out in the end, although the force of the impact had momentarily stunned my bodyguards.
Seeing their attacks fail, the mages jumped off the roof and disappeared from sight.
Damn it, I mustn’t give them a chance to attack again. That long range capability will only cause more casualties on my side. With that in mind, I immediately made the decision to leave the army. “Big 1, you’re in charge of the army. No.3, Big 4 and I have something else to attend to.”
“Master...where are you going?” The commander, Big 1, was slightly taken aback by my words, but quickly responded: “The battlefield is dangerous, please remain in a safe place.”
“There’s no safe place to speak of right now.” I shook my head as I said before leaving under the worried gaze of Big 1. I intended to circle around the fighting and hunt down those mages.
Big 1 wanted to follow me but was afraid that the situation might fall apart once more. However, he still wasn’t confident about letting me leave just like that. He turned to One-eye who was in the midst of smashing a horsemen to pieces with his spiked mace. “One-eye! Take your squad with you and protect the Master.”
“Got it.” One-eye nodded his head before taking off with 20 guardsmen, following behind me closely.
The horsemen were basically wiped out by now. As for the other undead, their numbers were rapidly dwindling as well. Without the mages and horsemen supporting them, the battle was much easier than before.
However, I still needed to find those mages. I mustn’t let them have their way with my army anymore.
Along the way, we encountered several zero-star skeletons, but they were swiftly taken care of by the spiked maces flanking me. By now, One-eye had already caught up to us, with his guardsmen closely behind him. They surrounded me as we continued our hunt as a precautionary measure against assassinations.
“You guys split off and search around. Make sure to check the rooftops, those mages could be hiding there.” While the houses were relatively short, coming in at roughly 5 to 8 meters high, it still wasn’t that easy for the mages to climb up and down.
Magic relied heavily on line of sight. Without sight of the target, you couldn’t launch your spells. This was probably why those mages were standing atop that roof. In that case, as long as we searched the rooftops, we should be able to find them easily.
As expected, we quickly found them atop one of the rooftops. Their bone spears appeared and hurtled towards the backs of my guardsmen. After confirming their successful kills, they hid themselves once more.
The refined bone shields were definitely able to block the spears, but not if it was an attack from the back.
I had considered creating a set of bone armors but there simply wasn’t enough time nor resources. I wasn’t even able to create enough weapons for my army, let alone set aside more mana to create armor.
Having learnt that painful lesson, I immediately ordered the guardsmen to stick closer together. This change showed its effect soon after as the mages attacked us once more. However, they weren’t able to catch us off-guard this time. Thanks to the proximity of each guardsmen, they managed to warn their comrades.
This was the case with one such large imp, who upon discovering a spear immediately rushed in to shield his comrade’s back. The spear was successfully blocked but the sheer impact broke his left arm.
“Over there! In that direction!”
To devils, a bone fracture was nothing to fuss about. The injured imp excitedly shouted as he pointed in the direction of the mages.
Turning in the direction he pointed towards, I spotted those two mages standing atop a roof 50 meters away; preparing their next volley of spells.
He shouted fiercely as he waved his hands, the frustration of losing to these sneak attacks clearly affected him. The 15 remaining guardsmen quickly encircled the mages while I sprinted towards them as well.
After all the trouble you’ve caused me, it’s time for payback.
Judging from their guerilla tactics, these mages probably had a degree of intelligence in them. Those skeletal horsemen were probably controlled by them as well. It’s no wonder that I’ve never met more than these two mages in my numerous encounters with the undead. Their intelligence made them that much rarer.
Special thanks to Steve Granger, Ichitsuzen, and LaRue Martin!!