Chapter 220: Chapter 220
A hiss from a snake resounded within the party venue. At the same time, the screeching hosts suddenly stopped moving like a bunch of broken machines.
“What is it this time?!”
The pale-faced survivors looked around them. Their bodies continued to s.h.i.+ver from the fear of not knowing when the hosts would suddenly start moving again.
Only about three-tenths of the party-goers managed to survive.
“All of you must escape from the capital city now.”
Shocked at what Su-hyeun just said, the survivors immediately asked him to explain.
“What do you mean by escape from the capital?! Could it be…?”
“This isn’t happening only in here, but on the outside as well. About half of the capital’s citizens are in this state.”
While he was being guided by Reina to the Rawlsman residence, Su-hyeun was able to discover the parasite-infected hosts among the crowd of people walking on the city’s streets.
About half of the pa.s.sersby had already been turned into hosts. If he had to guess, he’d say that the empire’s capital had already been captured by the enemies.
“Their targets should be Roy over here and myself, so all you have to do is stay under the radar and escape from the capital. I apologize, but I don’t think I can provide you with any further protection beyond the capital’s walls.”
“What do you mean, you two are the targets?! Are you saying that this situation is somehow related to you?”
“Well, I don’t mind telling you in detail, but…” Su-hyeun stared at the hosts and their fingers that were already starting to twitch. “It doesn’t look like you have a lot of time to waste here, so you should just leave immediately,” he continued.
“H—he’s right! Let’s hurry and leave. We need to escape from here at least so that…”
At Su-hyeun’s prodding, the n.o.bles hastily left the party one after another. Knights who weren’t hosts left as well while providing protection to their masters. Thankfully, the hosts didn’t seem to display much interest in the fleeing n.o.bles.
As I thought, their target was Roy.
Su-hyeun became certain after witnessing that.
These bugs’ reaction was contrary to their initial actions of trying to kill everything in front of them in sheer frenzy even though they had no consciousness to speak of.
They all had a clear objective, and it could mean only one thing.
“Well, it seems that even this place has become a Lichs’ den,” Su-hyeun muttered.
“Lichs…you say?” Herrels replied in shock.
“This is the ‘Bug control,’ a type of magic used by dark magicians and the undead Lichs. It is a magic spell that allows you to a.s.sign a specific goal to a human or even a monster that’s been turned into a host.”
“Then, all these people…they have become…”
“I don’t think the insemination happened overnight. You’d also need well more than one or two Lichs if you wanted to turn these many people in the capital into hosts.”
“Is there anything that can be done?”
“Let’s talk while we’re on the move.”
Using his “Predator” skill, Su-hyeun restricted the hosts’ movements, so he moved to leave the party venue with Roy and Herrels in tow.
“These types of bugs all have a commonality, and it has to do with them having a mother-type creature. It should be the same story with these parasites as well,” he continued on with his explanation.
“Are you saying that we need to find their mother?”
Su-hyeun nodded. “The hosts’ goal was Roy and him alone. You’ve probably figured that out from where they were looking at.”
Just like what he said, the hosts’ eyes were constantly fixed on Roy despite their bodies currently being restricted by the Predator skill’s influence.
“The intermediary issuing that command must be the ‘mother’ of the hosts. And as one of the conditions that this magic dictates, commands can only be issued from within a fixed distance. Meaning, the probability of the ‘mother’ being in the center of all the hosts is very high.”
“The center of the hosts, is it—?”
“Where is the center of the capital?
“It’s rather obvious.” Herrels heard Su-hyeun’s question and glanced at Reina for the last time before making his reply. “The center of the capital, as well as the empire, it’s… the imperial palace.”
* * *
As soon as they exited the party venue, Su-hyeun summoned Miru.
Not only there was no more reason to care about drawing the attention of other people, but he also needed Miru’s abilities to protect Roy.
Unsurprisingly, Herrels’ jaw dropped to the floor when he saw Miru. Just like how it was in every other world, a dragon was seen as a n.o.ble divine beast that only appeared in various legendary tales even in this world.
“You even have a dragon accompanying you?!”
“Well, this kid is simply too eye-catching to be seen in the open in the capital, as you can imagine. He’ll protect you two from now on.”
“A dragon…Is it…?”
Mystified, Herrels stared at Miru who was busy “gya-ong”-ing away as if to say, “You can believe in me!”
The red dragon then cast protective magic around the figures of the three people. Then, they headed toward the gate that led outside.
Clang, clang, clang—!
The howls and screeching from the hosts could be heard coming from beyond the party venue’s front gate. Pounding at the gate like zombies or even swinging around weapons such as swords and spears, the hosts looked were rather formidable.
They seemed to easily exceed several hundred at least. Most likely, an even greater number of hosts would be waiting for them the closer they got to the imperial palace.
“From here, we’ll head directly toward the imperial palace. Sir Herrels, you ride on Miru’s back and escape outside the capital, please.”
“Will it be gravely dangerous?”
“Honestly speaking, yes. As Roy is their target, he needs to move with me, but it’ll be easier for us if we go our separate ways from here.”
“Is that so?” Herrels’ expression became actually brighter from what Su-hyeun said. “In that case, I must accompany you no matter what.”
“But, as I said, the imperial palace will be the most dangerous area. We don’t know how many knights have turned into hosts by now, and even the Lichs might be—”
“That is precisely why I must accompany you,” Herrels supplied and then cautiously walked up toward the front gate.
The outside was filled to the brim with the infected hosts. Su-hyeun tried to dissuade Herrels from heading to such a dangerous area all alone.
Pure-white arms covered in soil suddenly broke through the hardened stone floor and began rising up.
Su-hyeun almost reflexively made a move when new types of skeletons suddenly began showing up. However, he stopped himself when Herrels gave a hand signal and stood there to quietly observe these new undead skeletons rising up from the ground by the dozens, even hundreds.
Sure enough, he realized that something was off.
I can’t sense any magical energy.
Su-hyeun had witnessed skeleton summoning techniques being performed plenty of times. It was base-level dark magic that, never mind high-ranking Lichs, even run-of-the-mill dark magicians could use.
However, this magic unfolding before him was slightly different.
In order to summon skeletons, you needed countless souls and enough magical energy to drive those souls. However, not even a single trace of magical energy could be sensed here.
Which meant that this was not magic at all.
A hand consisting of nothing but bones that rose from the ground finally opened the firmly locked front gate, and then…
Hundreds of skeletons that rose up from the ground and the infected hosts got into a messy tangle and started a chaotic melee.
Su-hyeun became sure of it after witnessing this spectacle—these skeletons were not summoned by the Lichs but by none other than Herrels himself.
“This is the ability of our bloodline,” said Herrels as he looked at Roy. “My son is still too young and can’t control them properly yet, but the scions of the Rawlsman bloodline can control the dead.”
While he spoke, his eyes continued to burn with pure rage.
“What I’m saying is, the bunch of trash called Lichs that started this crisis are nothing more than my prey.”
The ability to command the dead—that was the reason why the House of Rawlsman could become the most valuable loyal subject during the founding of the empire.
“…Very well.” Su-hyeun agreed that Herrels may accompany them after confirming his ability. At the very least, the n.o.bleman wouldn’t get in the way. “Let’s go together.”
* * *
The distance between the mansion and the imperial palace wasn’t great.
While flying on Miru’s back, Su-hyeun looked down on the streets below. Countless hosts were crowding the roads between the Rawlsman residence and the palace, and they were still stuck in a chaotic melee with the bony skeletons.
Just how many of them are out there?
He already knew that the number of infected hosts was quite substantial.
However, there was a far greater number of skeletons. Despite their weakness as they were nothing but a moving pile of bones, they were still able to force the enemies back with their sheer number.
There were several thousand—no, tens of thousands of them. Perhaps they were even more than that.
They do not require any magical energy. It’s as if the undead are really helping him out of their own free will.
Lichs or dark magicians that controlled the undead definitely existed out there. However, the number that they could command at once would always be restricted.
No matter how good you were as a dark magician, commanding a couple hundred skeletons would be your natural limit. Your magical energy reserve would, of course, fall as you exponentially increased your consumption the more you summoned.
Unlike them, however, Herrels didn’t require any magical energy.
His physique is only a little better than an average person’s, but his real ability comes from his bloodline, is that it?
What a unique ability it was!
It wasn’t as if he had mastered swordsmans.h.i.+p as the knights did nor did he learn to cast magic spells.
Su-hyeun couldn’t help but be mystified by the fact that an ability handed down through nothing more than one’s bloodline could reach this scale.
I think I know why Lichs didn’t target this man.
He could now see why Reina was turned into a host but not Herrels who lived alongside her under the same roof.
The ability to command the dead—that would be quite fatal to Lichs because Lichs were, fundamentally speaking, dead beings, and the people from the House of Rawlsman possessed the power to command the dead.
In other words, they were the polar opposites of one another. Not only that, but they could also probably be the Lichs’ absolute worst imaginable foe.
When not much distance toward the imperial palace remained, a huge crimson boulder, accompanied by choking heat, came hurtling before them. The boulder flew in from the direction of the palace.
Initially, it was not much bigger than an adult male. However, once flames began surrounding it, the boulder rapidly grew larger and eventually became as big as a house as it flew in toward them.
The crimson boulder brushed past their side. Miru quickly twisted out of the way and managed to avoid the attack.
“This magic…?” Herrels gasped.
“The magician over there, do you know who that is?” Su-hyeun asked while pointing at a figure cloaked in a robe, standing alone atop the imperial palace.
Herrels must have known who that was because his expression became rather stiff. “That’s the vice master of the imperial magic tower, Meko. That person is rated as one of the top five magicians in the continent and is known to be powerful enough to sweep away a large territory.”
“Is that so?”
Herrels stared at Meko who was already creating yet another crimson boulder in mid-air. The magician had summoned not just one but three of them this time, and he was getting ready to fire them while increasing their diameter gradually.
“If that person is also being controlled by the parasite, then it’ll be difficult to enter the palace by air. We should go down to the surface, and—”
“Seeing how someone claiming to be a magician carelessly shows up like this, I’m guessing that this person must’ve lived a pretty lackadaisical life, or he doesn’t have much skills to speak of.”
Su-hyeun, with his spear in his hand, leaped from Miru’s back.
Then, the moment Su-hyeun’s body had arched back in mid-air…
The sound of an explosion ripped through the atmosphere as the spear shot forward from his hand.