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Chapter 322 - Eve of the Storm (1)

    Chapter 322 - Eve of the Storm (1)

    After finishing the Synchro with Reynolds Spencer, Theodore was continuously busy. He conducted the migration of the ents with Mitra and taught some human military strategies to the elves. However, the hardest task was probably making artifacts against the undead.

    The elementals, that used purely the power of nature, were natural enemies for the undead, but it was too inefficient to solely rely on that. There was no limit to the stamina of the undead. A more efficient means was needed to combat the undead legions that didn't care about injuries.

    ...And Theodore found the answer to that in an unexpected field.

    "Om." His fingers twisted in a strange form as he sang a strange chant.

    Simultaneously, a brilliant gleam of light struck the pile of arrows in front of Theodore. It was the most famous shaman system in the East Continent, the esoteric Buddhist mantra. As a more powerful type of shamanism than exorcism, the esoteric Buddhist mantra annihilated all evil and blocked the source.

    It didn't have enough power, but it was like gunpowder when used against undead of the lower levels.

    'This isn't enough. Damn, the idea is good, but I can't make enough alone. It would be lucky if I could make half of the 300,000 I originally planned for.'

    Theodore sighed as he looked at the completed arrows. Of course, it wasn't a good idea to give up on the rest of his tasks to concentrate only on making the arrows. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and looked at the stacked up arrows. It was nice to find something that was more efficient than elementals, but it wasn't an amount that he could do alone.

    However, the problem was that this method involved a magic of an unfamiliar system, and the consumption of magic power was faster than normal. Arrows that destroyed evil, talismans that blocked the undead, and wards that weakened poison and curses needed to be made.

    This meant Theodore had a mountain of work to do. So, it was inevitable that his physical and mental state would reach their limits.

    '...Well, that's it for today.'

    It was good to be prepared for the battle, but it wasn't meaningful if he was exhausted in the fight against Jerem. Theodore took care of a few more tasks before leaving the warehouse. The chill air of the deep forest cooled Theodore's sweat and entered his lungs.

    This was a very brief respite that couldn't even be called a break.

    "Ah! Theodore, I was looking for you."

    Theodore had only taken a few deep breaths when an elf approached him. She was an elf with rare black hair and dressed in white bear fur clothing. It was the high elf, Titania. As always, she had a large bow at her waist as she spoke without hesitation, "This is the placement of the archers that you taught me last time... I think this configuration is more efficient."

    "Show me..."

    Titania drew a map on the ground. The workmanship was poor, but it was a strategy chart that anyone with some skill could recognize. Theodore had only taught her for a few days, but it was evident that she had understood Theodore's instructions and improved them.

    She had lived as a hunter for many years, which meant she was more qualified than anyone else to develop strategies regarding this forest. Titania was slightly inferior to Alfred, but she was definitely a genius.

    'Indeed, this is very good.'

    Theodore couldn't find anything to point out and told her, "Um, isn't this very good? Did you put your hands and feet together?" (TL: Working together)

    "I told them your opinions. It isn't that difficult to cooperate with the other tribes who train together."

    "Okay, let's do that. If you see any improvement in the future, please tell me. I don't know about the strengths or weaknesses of the different tribes, so I will only believe in Titania."

    "What? O-Only believe in me..."

    Was it a burden? Theodore was confused by Titania's attitude and soon realized the reason. It might seem like he was dumping responsibilities on her. Titania might be a genius, but she was a beginner who didn't have previous experience in commanding. He blamed himself for being irresponsible and opened his mouth to encourage her, "If you are burdened..."

    "No, no! Believe in me!"

    "Eh?"

    Theodore was stunned by her unexpected reaction, and Titania slightly turned red.

    "E-Ellenoa is waiting for you. The rocks and trees have been moved according to your instructions, and the training of the elementalists has finished."

    "Oh, isn't it faster than I thought?"

    "Then I will go. I'll see you later."

    Theodore didn't have a chance to reply as Titania disappeared into the trees. Perhaps she was going to do some training. At first, he felt a little uneasy because of her stiff attitude. However, after a while, he realized that she was very sincere. Her stiff expression and voice became softer, and the discomfort from their first meeting was no longer present.

    [Oh, my. Oh, my. Oh, my!]

    As Theodore took a few steps, a light and voice came from the silver ring on his right hand. It was the fragment of Lemegeton, the prohibited book-Goetia.

    [You really are the master of this Geotia, sinful man!]

    "What?"

    [Making an elusive high elf blush. I feel like I am seeing my creator again!]

    "You are the one thinking that on your own." Theodore looked down at the ring with a slightly flushed expression.

    He didn't know how to feel about being compared to King Solomon when it came to women, not magic abilities. However, Goetia didn't care about Theodore's feelings.

    [Hey, is this Ellenoa a high elf?]

    "Ugh." Theodore reflexively stopped moving. He had forgotten about the situation due to the crisis of the world tree. However, Goetia's words revived old memories. The words of confession that he had previously received in Mana-vil... As a matter of fact, he had been prepared to give her an answer, but the warlock who couldn't read the mood messed up the schedule.

    Knock, knock. Theodore knocked at a familiar door and spoke in a soft voice, "Ellenoa, it is Theodore."

    "Ah, come in."

    At the reply, Theodore turned the doorknob and saw something white. It was the familiar he had brought to this place.

    Yiiip? The three-tailed fox made a pleased sound from Ellenoa's arms. It was Tres, the three-tailed fox that Theodore had brought back from the East Continent.

    "Tres?"

    Yip!

    Until now, the fox hadn't given his heart to anyone, making it strange to see Tres in Ellenoa's arms. Was it because the high elves were the closest to the origin of nature and were unique among the elves?  Noticing the relationship between Theodore and Tres, Ellenoa spoke with a surprised expression, "Theodore, did you bring this child? It is the first time I've seen a three-tailed fox."

    "I accidentally found him in the East Continent. I brought him because he doesn't have a mother to take care of him. He seems to like the forest and Ellenoa though."

    "Ah... I see. Poor little thing." Ellenoa's eyes shone with compassion as she stroked Tres' belly, causing him to cry out with pleasure.

    Maybe it would be better to leave Tres in Elvenheim after this fight was over. The spirits in the East Continent also wanted an environment where they could live away from humans. It wasn't a problem to worry about now. However, Theodore engraved it deeply in his mind so that he wouldn't forget.

    "Theodore, your hand."

    "Ah, yes."

    Ellenoa grabbed both of Theodore's hands with a warm smile. The high elves had the ability to soothe tired minds and bodies. It wasn't just treatment of wounds, as the consumption of mental power could be restored to some extent as well.  Surrounded by a green light, they stood in silence.

    'Indeed, I feel comfortable with Ellenoa...'

    It wasn't a matter of stamina or magic power. This sense of relief melted the boundaries of the body and the mind. Then at that moment...

    Kiiing! A sharp headache pierced him like an arrow. The light that tied Theodore and Ellenoa together was broken, and Theodore stared out of the cabin with a grim expression. He gained an ominous feeling that was on a different level from before! This was like looking up at the night sky without any starlight or staring into a pit where no sound was returned.

    "It is close. I can detect it...!"

    Theodore struggled with the hostile voice that he heard as he looked toward the south of Elvenheim. A tremendous number of deaths were approaching.

    *     *     *

    The Red Plateau was a landscape full of red sands where weeds didn't grow. The water channels had dried up a long time ago. It was a land of death where rain clouds hadn't appeared for years. There was no concept of people living in this barren land where life couldn't survive.

    ...At least, until today. As the water had dried up a long time ago, there was no flora or fauna to be used as food. The cloudless sky meant only intense sunlight burned down. If there weren't any living creatures here, who were the residents of this dead land?

    Krruk...kuruuk...kuruk...

    Ka...haaa...ku...kuheok...

    Woo...oo...uhhhh....

    Death moved forward. Those with rotting flesh or just bones were the undead, an army of dead people who hadn't been able to find rest after death. Today, the name of this land wasn't the Red Plateau. The procession of the dead meant this neglected land was filled with the stench of dead bodies.

    There was a terrible number of at least 100,000. It was impossible to count them even if they were measured in units of thousands. The undead crossing the Red Plateau was a major threat to the entire continent. The intense sunlight, lack of water, and non-existence wildlife couldn't even grab the ankles of the undead to hold them back. They moved closer to the world tree without taking a break.

    'Damn, he did it properly.'

    In the sky, a crow was watching the undead with sharp eyes. It was Hugin, a pet Theodore had inherited from Satomer. Theodore's development meant his range was now at over 100 kilometers. He used this method to spy on Jerem and the Four Horsemen without them noticing.

    As he looked at the undead army with Hugin's eyes, some questions came into Theodore's mind.

    'There are a lot of them, and the quality is also considerable. How on earth did he make so many undead?'

    It was strange. The entire Lairon Kingdom might've been turned into undead, but they hadn't been created in the proper way and were relatively inferior in quality. The same was true for the quantity. A hand plow made of good steel was still a hand plow, a sword was still a sword. However, the power of the undead was limited if the correct production method wasn't used.

    Yet, what about this huge army of undead? Low-level undead like zombies and ghouls were almost invisible. The army mostly consisted of intermediate-level undead. Lich, doom knights, and senior undead could also be seen. It was a number that would've required the killing of everyone in the Central Continent, not just the Lairon Church. He felt a sense of incongruity. The swords and armor the undead were holding...

    Then at that moment...

    -A rat-like person is spying.

    From the far rear end of the undead legion beyond the horizon, an unexplored shape soared high in the sky. No, it wasn't something that could be recognized from Hugin's perspective. The gap between Hugin and the opponent was so large that Theodore couldn't see it. However, he didn't need to see the shape to realize the identity. He would be a fool if he didn't know.

    It was Nastrond's demon king, Nídhöggur. Within a vortex of darkness, he called out to Theodore in a voice that seemed to tear the sky and earth apart.

    -Hoh, it is you. The thief who devoured the soul that belonged to me, not knowing who you are going against...

    Theodore couldn't say anything. Fear froze his spine, and he had a hunch that speaking would give Nídhöggur a pretext to do something. On the other hand, Nídhöggur didn't restrain himself from talking as a red light gleamed in the darkness.

    -Don't beg for your life. I will surely kill you. Don't beg for mercy. I will chew on your body and soul for hundreds of years. Your future has been decided at this moment.

    Nídhöggur sentenced Theodore to death, and two beams of light shot out from the demon king. The beams of light aimed for Hugin.

    -Get lost.

    Shortly after that, Theodore's conscious was bounced out of Hugin's body.

    "Uwaaah!"

    "Theodore!"

    Blood filled Theodore's throat, pouring out as he fell and barely grabbed the table. It was the price he paid for facing the monster called Nídhöggur through Hugin's eyes.  Disregarding Theodore's blood-stained clothing, Ellenoa hugged him and used her healing power.  Not long afterward, the blood stopped pouring out, and Theodore barely managed to open his mouth to speak. "...I took one blow. That damn lizard."

    This was like a greeting for Nídhöggur. The telepathic attack didn't contain any will to kill. Being able to damage an 8th circle magician with just that... this opponent was a monster that a mortal couldn't go against. However, Theodore and the others had their own means.

    "Ellenoa, how long until the summoning of the divine creature?"

    "Yesterday, I heard that it would take four days."

    "So, it will be in three days. Based on the enemy's marching speed, they will arrive in two days. We have to hold on with our own strengths for one day."

    The normal undead would be greatly weakened in the daytime. However, these undead were probably beyond common sense. It meant the battle needed to be maintained for at least 24 hours. They had to fight the undead, who didn't know fatigue and craved the blood of the living. It was a great battle that anyone would feel afraid of.

    Theodore rose from his spot.

    'He will chew on me?'

    Haha. He laughed wildly at Nídhöggur's declaration.

    'You are the dumb one who doesn't know who you are going against. I will teach you properly.'

    Theodore didn't shrink back from Nídhöggur's declaration of war.
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