Chapter 28 Forest of Rotting Souls (1)
As the horses galloped, we ran through the forest.
As the name of the forest would suggest, the earth and every tree was rotting and the undead and spirits would appear in this forest.
Just running through the rotten land would consume stamina and the miasma released by the rotting trees tried to decrease our sanity. Zombies would aim for living beings like us and try to make us also like them. Ghosts that had mist like bodies would decrease our mental resistance, and show us nightmares when we sleep. Countless corpses can be seen while crossing through this forest and the dark miasma released by the trees would not allow sunlight to enter the forest.
I feel that we should exit this forest as soon as possible but this forest was extremely dense. Even if we use horses to run through the shortest distance, it would still take at least five days.
“Feirona, can you keep on going a bit more?”
“Yeah, no problem. But before that——”
“I’ll take care of Ms Francesca and Mururu. You just focus on breaking through this forest.”
I confirmed his condition by going a bit closer to him on my horse.
The one most affected by crossing this forest is Feirona. Without any protection of the spirits, the effect of the hatred from the dead and spirits on this elf was more than what I expected. Even he himself, who lived in the forest of magical energy, did not expect it to be so. He seems to be trying to hide it but the colour of his face seems really bad. He is it sick yet but one could tell from a single glance that his condition was growing worse.
Even though I was supposed to know how troublesome evil spirits can be, I still didn’t expect the effect to be this big. And it’s not like this is the first time I’m travelling within an elf either. But the last time I did so it was through a forest that had immense protection from the spirits I think. I see, I think I once again understood why elves are called as the watchmen of the forests. His condition is not that bad yet but that doesn’t mean it can’t get worse. I must do something. I thought about it as I ran on my horse. The best thing to do at such times would be to take a rest but even that was difficult in this forest.
There was no paved roads in this forest. Even now, we are moving forward with the help of Feirona’s foreseeing abilities as one of the inhabitants of forests. And it would be really bad if he became unable to move.
“It would be nice if we could at least sleep well during the night.”
[That would be even more difficult in this forest though.]
I guess so. While the sun was up we would move towards the east where the capital is but at night we will get attacked by zombies and ghosts.
It’s amazing that we can still move even after having not rested for three whole days. Since we let the females get sleep in priority, my and Feirona’s fatigue had reached its peak.
I only have to fight with my sword so it’s fine as long as I last while we move but our movement was dependent on Feirona’s experience so at least I wanted him to get some rest.
“If only you could become a silver sword we would have less problems to deal with.”
[Even I would be more relaxed if I could but unfortunately I am neither silver nor Mithril.]
Well, I wasn’t expecting much anyway. Saying that inside my mind, I lined up alongside Ms Francesca’s horse while running.
That Jade Green coloured sword was made of material that could not be found anywhere on this world. To be honest Ermenhilde was a sword made out of only magical energy. It even had the weird property to increase its sharpness, attack power and intensity only by releasing the seven constraints put upon me by the goddess. Just like silver is effective against the undead spirits, Ermenhilde’s blade was one of the rare weapons that can wound a God.
Certainly, that was a very rare effect but it was useless in this current situation. It could work as a normal weapon against zombies but would have no effect on spirits and ghosts. As usual, I felt like crying from the uselessness of my cheat.
“What is it, Renji-sama?”
An energetic voice came to me as reply.
Because we let them rest at night, Ms Francesca and Mururu were still energetic. Currently Aya was resting behind me by closing her eyes. She is not asleep, but I still felt slightly embarrassed by seeing how much trust she put on me. Thinking that for a second, I realised that I was being imprudent and removed those thoughts by shaking my head.
“Mururu as well, tell me if you feel like you can’t go on any longer. We will take a rest then.”
“fufu, thanks for your consideration. But I’m still fine.”
Saying that she gave up a soft smile which made me feel calm as well. But that was also only for a second. Her gaze suddenly became serious. It’s same time Feirona running at the front also stopped his horse, and Aya was resting while leaning on back also stirred and prepared for battle.
When I finally looked towards the front, I saw armoured human zombies standing as if blocking our path. Well that probably is not their intention but they still were in the way. Looking closely I also saw 2 mist like things floating around them; must be ghosts.
They say you cannot see spirits but through their evil intentions and hatred the ghosts in this world held mist like bodies. Well, it made things easier for us though. The first time I saw them, rather than getting scared, I just felt ‘this really is a fantasy world eh?’, that’s all.
Zombies didn’t have clear thoughts or will. They didn’t swarm like goblins and simply attacked the living due to pure instinct.
In contrast, ghosts would control zombies or other undead that had weak wills to attack the living. There were even more troublesome enemies like vampires and Grim Reapers that had the same abilities as well.
If there was a clergy with us we could purify them with the goddess’s miracle but a clergy that could use such a high level miracle would not go on an adventure in the first place. He/She would remain in the church while praying to the goddess. I may be prejudiced on that though.
“Aya, I leave the ghosts to you. Ms Francesca go to Feirona’s side.”
Saying that I climbed down from my horse and at the same time Mururu came beside me. Normally we would ignore such enemies but seeing that Feirona stopped, that must be the path we have to go on. Concluding that, I decided to quickly take care of this.
“I’ll take the right.”
“Then, the left is mine.”
At the same time I kicked the earth and ran. Her cloak flapped open and Mururu’s both hands grew out knife-like claws and were wrapped in white fur. As she ran towards the zombies with physical speed incomparable to mine, she mowed down their rotting flesh with those claws. Unable to withstand the shock, zombies fell to the ground with their limbs blown off. Then she proceeded to kick away their heads as if it was daily work.
Zombies were really weird. They fall into confusion if their heads get blown off. But no matter how many times you pierce their heads with arrows, they were unaffected. Normally, one would focus on blowing away their heads till nothing remained of it. A theory suggests that something—— like an evil spirit or bug has attached itself to the corpse and is controlling it but I’m not interested in checking that. Sounds disgusting. As long as I know how to kill it I don’t care.
I also came close side-by-side to her and attacked the zombie’s neck with my iron knife. The first swing cut through halfway and then completely severed it from the reverse slash. It would have been impossible if it was a living being but since their flesh as rotten and muscles have decayed, this much was enough.
[Or you could use me you know?]
“You want to cut through rotting flesh?”
[…………………. I am a weapon after all.]
You just hesitated, did you not?
Giving a wry smile, I face the remaining one. At that instant the two ghosts also burst up. Aya must have used her magic.
Inside the silent forest, and explosives sound resounded. Three times.
For some reason ghosts were weak to magic. Magical energy—-were they weak to magic as it was turning your mental will to offensive ability or was it due to some other reason? And it was not like anything would work. Only Fire and lightning type magic were effective.
It was pretty common in fantasy games but when you see that occurring in reality as well, you will become curious behind the reason.
Even while I thought of such things, I didn’t stop my hands and severed the head of the final zombie. Since they have rotten flesh, it has very dull movements. Apparently, humans unconsciously restrain their own power to not destroy their own bodies but zombies don’t have that either. But if their flesh has rotten to this extent, even that is useless. Their arms would fall of just if they try to grab me and their legs would get torn off just by running a bit.
Mururu was already heading towards Miss Francesca. As expected, she didn’t want to cut through rotting flesh with her prided claws it seems. I wonder what did it feel to cut with your own claws. When I asked, she said only word–Disgusting. Well, if she says that it means she still isn’t used to using claws on living things.
After confirming that all of them were dead, I returned to my horse on which Aya was already sitting.
Taking her small hand, I once again climbed the horse.
Due to the loud explosion just now, the forest’s silence felt even more eerie now.
“Then, let’s hurry up and move further.”
As if he was waiting for me, Feirona began to move with his horse again. I and Miss Francesca moved our horses to follow him as well.
By my expectations, we’ll still take 2 more days. There’s still a long way to go before we leave this forest. Thinking that, I naturally leaked a sigh.
“Are you alright?”
Aya asked me from behind as she put a bit more strength in her arms around my waist. It’s nice to be this close to a girl but if I am allowed to say something unromantic, this makes riding the horse more difficult so please spare me from this.
She seemed to be saying something but it was drowned by the sound of horses running and the blowing wind. When I was about to ask her again, Feirona came near us on his horse.
“Did something happen?”(renji)
“There’s something there—–”
Saying that, he stopped his horse and climbed down.
Then, he kneeled to the ground and traced through the earth with his finger. On looking closely, I realized that it was actually footsteps. It’s amazing how he had noticed that.
Even I have learned how to walk through a forest somehow but I guess I’m still incomparable to an Elf, I guess. And to have noticed this from atop a horse, it can only be called as amazing.
I also climbed down and confirmed the footsteps. They were not normal footsteps. It was not the sole of shoe, but was slender long finger like. Like a leg’s bone fingers.
“Probably. And a giant one at that.”
Going by the footsteps it must be at least three times bigger than me. It must be an Ogre class skeleton at least or maybe a chimera type skeleton. You can’t guess exactly what type it is just from the footprints but it’s certain that a much higher level of monster is there.
“Did something happen, Feirona-san, Renji-sama?”
“Yeah, a little. Mururu you smell something weird?”
“Nothing different. The whole forest has a rotting smell.”
She grimaced as she answered that.
In such situations, the enhanced smelling ability of beast men come in handy here but this forest was an exception to that.
“Did a troublesome monster appear maybe?”(aya)
“It is a skeleton. Probably an Ogre or chimera type…….”
“To speak in Souichi’s words, a boss character?”
“That’s a nostalgic word. But yeah, something like that.”
Back then we always called monsters so. Remembering that I started feeling nostalgic again. At first we really treated this as a game after all. Different world. Fantasy world. We were excited from a world where swords and magic ruled. So excited that we had forgotten that swords take life and we were always near death’s door.
At the same time, I also felt my nervousness fade a little as well.
After three years I felt that I really have changed. To kill and get killed. Even though I’m on an adventure unbelievable from the point of view of someone living in the modern world, here I am calming down from remembering my previous adventure. I realised that I had gotten too used to this world as well.
“Meaning a strong one, something like the master of this forest. If we defeated our journey might become easier for the remaining time.”
As expected, the others did know what a ‘boss character’ meant so I gave them a short explanation. Well it’s not wrong.
“It will be easy as long as Aya blows it away.”
[Why are you completely depending on others………… I’m here as well, you know?]
“Skeletons would be too tough for me.”
Saying that I shrugged my shoulders on which Ermenhilde gave a sigh. It can’t be helped after all; I gave an excuse. I could destroy it with an axe or hammer created by Ermenhilde but I’m not good in using either of those. Even spears are difficult to swing around.
Also, rather than going into close combat with a weapon you’re not good with, it is much more effective and safe to simply blow the target away with long-range magic attacks.
It doesn’t want to cut zombies and it can’t cut ghosts. And the skeleton will be too much for me. I guess it must be worried that it hasn’t been of much use during this whole journey till now.
Though in my opinion that’s how journeys work, to have the right person at the right job. It’s not necessary for me to be able to do everything. Feirona takes care of moving through the forest, Vanguard is left to Mururu and ghosts are taken care of by Aya and Ms Francesca. Since would have been bad if I did nothing, I’m just moving to make sure everybody else can make the best of their abilities. That’s also an important job in a party.
“fufu, it’s fine. I have also become much stronger than what I was a year ago.”
Aya said that by puffing her chest proudly on top of the horse. How dependable.
Also, if you become too strong I really might start asking you to protect me so try not to become too strong, okay?
Even though she was already much stronger than me a year ago, just how much stronger has she gotten now? I think sooner or later she really might become strong enough to take down the Demon God alone in magic battle.
“That’s good to know.”(renji)
“we also have Renji-sama as well.”(fran)
“Unfortunately, I’ll just be in the way this time.”
Bringing out the medal inside my pocket, I stroked it with my finger.
I have the will to fight but there’s no one here that needs to be protected by me. Aya, Feirona, and Mururu, all three are stronger than me. Even Ms Francesca has become a reliable adventurer now. She might not be stronger than me but she should be able to protect herself at least.
In such a case, only one of my covenants will be cleared. My will to fight. That is not much different from the fight against those goblins. In such a situation, it would be difficult for me to face a skeleton. Especially if it’s against an Ogre or chimera type.
To be unable to fight with a stable level of power is one of the biggest weaknesses of my cheat. There are times when three or four of my covenants are released against mere goblins or orcs yet there are times when only one of them is released against even boss class monsters.
I don’t even know how many times I have sighed at that fact. Today as well, I sighed once again. Aya looked at me probably having understood my thoughts but I decided to ignore it.
“Well, let’s quickly take care of this. After the sun sets, the enemy will have the advantage.”
I agreed with Feirona’s words. It would be troublesome to be ambushed in the darkness of the night.
Due to the different world compensation/cheat, Aya also has a stronger physical body than normal but as a magician she is much weaker than someone like Souichi.
It would be better if we went all out on attack and finish it quickly, just to be safe.
“For the time being, let’s keep heading east. Going by the direction of the footsteps, that skeleton seems to be moving that way as well.”
“Yes. Please tell me when you find it.”
But, well, it would be better if we did not meet it at all, I think.
I want to avoid useless battles. No matter how strong Aya is, it’s never certain how the battle proceed.
You might end up endangering not just yourself but you comrades as well due to some unexpected situation. The safest would be to escape this forest without ever meeting that skeleton.
“I really want to get out of this forest already.”(Renji)
“Why are you sulking?”
[During this journey, I have done absolutely nothing at all……..]
I don’t really mind that though. In fact, this partner of mine should learn how to depend on its comrades more. Well, I feel that it will just get angry that I depend too much on mine.
“I don’t really mind either.”
Aya must have heard it’s voice as well since she was also consoling it. She really is cute in times like these. Maybe because she’s always scolding others most of the time, this has more impact.
“Depend on me a bit more, Eru.”(aya)
“It will make me happy though?”
I listened to their conversation as I controlled my horse so as to not fall back behind the others.
Depend on me, eh?
Well, unlike myself, she actually has the strength to backup those words so there shouldn’t be any problem. Without the strength I tried to be like that which is why I failed so many times. Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I could do everything. But well, because I worked hard like that, I was able to gain the trust of my comrades.
You really don’t know how your actions could lead to any result in this world.
[…….. I know..]
The voice that answered Aya seemed somewhat proud.
[That’s why I want to be depended upon as well, by Renji.]
——- how should I answer to that?
How should I take those words? What is the true meaning behind Ermenhilde’s words? Thinking all that, I shook my head.
“I do depend on you, partner.”
[I want to be depended upon like a weapon, partner.]
That would be impossible.
After all you are my comrade that I trust the most.
Kakaka, when I laughed like that, Ms Francesca and Mururu turned to look towards me. Since they cannot hear Ermenhilde’s voice, they must have been surprised to see me laughing so suddenly.
This is also getting a bit troublesome as well. Maybe after some more time, I should let them hear Ermenhilde’s voice as well. Well, it depends on my own convenience after all. It’s only allowed to my closest comrades. It’s normal to think like that right?