Chapter 19: The Last Lightning Banner
The sky gradually darkened.
Generally speaking, nighttime was the most dangerous time in the Frontier Forest, but after the baptism of the worm and Pandorater, Nemo had lost the concept of the word "danger". Whenever he thought the situation was turning from bad to worse, fate always seemed to give him new surprises. It was barely a week since he’d left his original life, yet he had almost forgot the concept of "normal".
Oliver’s erected ice shield was still standing firmly, emitting bursts of cold air. Nemo peered out between the ice crevices seeing that the demons and monsters who were whipped up into a frenzy because of the superior demon’s flesh had not dispersed. They began to collide and tear at each other, trying to get extra flesh by devouring their enemies. The night was getting thicker and the scattered corpses and blood looked like boring shadows, giving the illusion of safety.
Unfortunately battle in reality never picked a suitable time to end. It usually came with misfortune, exhaustion, fear, or pain that didn’t seem to hinder them.
There were still sparse monsters advancing towards the place where Pandorater was, hoping to pick up some leftovers. This time, they weren’t so anxious. From time to time, lanky demons would drill through the thick gaps of ice and bare their fangs and claws showing hostility to them. Nemo wasn’t sure if it was because Oliver was bleeding, but the demons invariably chose him as the primary target.
Oliver once again showed his tarrying perseverance. He broke the horn of a small demon with his bare hands. When the next demon tried to bite off his head, he put his injured left arm around its neck and inserted the broken horn that he previously broke off directly into its throat. The sticky blood sprayed all over the two of them and the fishy smell dispersed instantly.
Nemo had to deal with those sticky tongues and malicious fangs empty handed. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to be interested in him, and it was relatively easy for him to attack from the side. His strengthened physical strength finally came in handy, although breaking off spines made him uncomfortable.
The corpses of the demons were quickly dragged away from the ice crevices by smaller demons, competing for food and the remnants of flesh and blood cause more monsters to stop near the ice shield.
"We can’t keep going on like this," Oliver said breathlessly. The ice shield was starting to shatter, causing him and Nemo to stick back-to-back to guard against any malicious attack that could come from their blind spots. Nemo didn’t dare to use magic anymore and used a broken horn purely as a dagger; only relying on physical strength to stab at the thick skin of the monsters. His physical strength was rapidly depleting.
"You’re right." Nemo gritted his teeth and twisted something in his hand that he didn’t know whether it was tongue or neck. "Sooner or later, they will find that there’s nothing left to eat, so they they’ll turn their attention to ordinary dishes to regain their strength, like us. They can even take some back as they return to their homes."
"Run back?" Oliver jabbed the broken horn into a huge eyeball causing its owner to hissed in pain.
"…Run back." Although Nemo didn’t know if Ann was still there.
Ann didn’t move. The milky white barrier had long since disappeared.
The alternation of hope and despair was very painful. The Seymour Worm that had appeared and died led to a superior demon that came and left. When the gathered group of monsters and demons began to disperse and attack frantically, several people around her completely collapsed, curling into a ball as they held their heads with their hands, while pressing their foreheads against the ground, praying to their respective Gods while tears rolled down their faces.
Ann didn’t care about those ordinary demons. It was better to say that this was the real level of the test. The superior demon left and she was still miraculously somehow alive, but the female warrior did not feel the joy from survival, but some unknown grief gripped her heart.
She cursed numerous times. The worm that ran through her countless nightmares was so easily repelled.
The grief was not out of envy or jealousy. It was more like a tomb dug before the burial of a loved one, filled with remorse, anger, and rejection to one’s own incompetence.
She couldn’t remember when she started to give up and when she decided that "the Seymour Worm was invincible". Her world was full of the smell of corpses and smoke, which had long solidified and formed indestructibly. Those insurmountable things gave her some kind of strength, similar to the darkness, allowing her to calmly ignore the cries and begs for help.
No one could save them. They were destined to die.
There was nothing wrong if she didn’t stretch out her hand again. She had tried and failed too many times. She owed no one kindness and naturally she didn’t have any responsibility. It should’ve been like this. She had thought about it countless times and was clearer about this than anyone else.
But at this time, the pain almost penetrated her heart.
She wanted to scream, hysterically. There were still people around her who were being torn apart and eaten by monsters; people who were praying to god, for a savior, showing their defenseless back to hungry demons, their crying and choking crept into her ears.
‘Why?’ She thought painfully and blankly. ‘Why ask for a miracle?’
‘Why don’t you stand up and resist? Why are you giving up now?’
Like herself all this time, who felt at ease about her own incompetence, who frame countless rigid laws in the world, and never took a step out of the boundary. Ann suddenly had a wonderful feeling. Except for a certain reason, she participated in this test over and over again, perhaps for this moment.
She had been looking forward to death and was waiting for this pain.
The female warrior straightened her back and gradually showed a slightly distorted and ugly smile on her face. She gripped the last page of her spell book with trembling hands and countless names and faces that had long disappeared flashed through her mind. Those who still had hope until the last moment when they were crushed to death by the worm, those who rushed to their death firmly for their loved ones, and the young man who clumsily attacked the worm for atonement.
Ann Savage ignited the last spell.
Dazzling electricity cut through the night glowing a hint of bright red through the purplish white brilliance. Ann thrusted the hunting spear into the soil and held it firmly with both hands so she wouldn’t lose her balance. Ann coughed up a mouthful of blood as a sharp pain pierced into her bones making her unable to tell whether she was still alive or dead. After all, she never had the courage to use this for so many years.
Her soul was burning, and all her magic potential was released, which was an extremely delicious bait for the demons who swarmed her bypassing the lightning cage.
The wisdom of ordinary demons were no different than that of beasts. They rushed straight towards the lightning cage and turned into charred cinders before becoming ashes on the ground, filling the air with a disgusting scorching smell. The lightning cage remained motionless, piercing the night sky sharply. From time to time, electric arcs flashed and disappeared around it.
From a distance, it looked like banner.
Ann knew that if she kept going like this, she wouldn’t make it through the night. She also knew that she could not kill all the demons in the forest and could not save everyone, but at this moment, she just wanted to keep up this stupid and meaningless persistence; perhaps because it was more painful if she did nothing at all.
The subordinate demons kept dying to the lightning, but the ones with a bit of brain dared not approach. People began to shiver and gather towards the electric light, and even people in the distance became attracted to it. Ann couldn’t see them clearly. She couldn’t even keep her eyes open for long. Her blood was burning and the skin on her arms were cracking and her mouth was full of blood.
How long has it been?
The female warrior’s legs began to soften, and her skull seemed to be filled with red hot molten lava. The terrible lightning kept swallowing her magic that she was unable to support it.
Suddenly, something passed through the lightning cage and hit the back of her head, causing her to faint in surprise.
"That… won’t kill her, will it?" Nemo hurriedly supported Ann’s limp body.
Oliver seemed to have the same doubts. He felt Ann’s feeble breath. "…I don’t think so."
The two of them breathed a sigh of relief.
Nemo carefully set the female warrior on the grass. Ann’s was almost enveloped in blood from head to toe. Her skin showed a frighteningly blueish white and her entire body felt cold, like a corpse.
Nemo and Oliver looked at each other helplessly. If it was something that can simply be bandaged, they could make do, but in this state, no matter how they looked at it, they needed a professional to help her. However, as an ex-librarian and ex-innkeeper, they didn’t possess any knowledge related to the medical field. Nemo tentatively sprinkled the wound medicine in his backpack on her, untimely thinking that he was sprinkling seasoning on a BBQ. It didn’t seem to have any effect at all, so he stopped his hands bitterly.
"…Let me do it. I’m a healer," a trembling voice stepped in. Nemo turned his head sideways, and a thin man was tremblingly raising his hands. His face was covered in dirt and snot, seemingly as if he had been crying a lot just now. "Give her some space… This lady’s condition isn’t serious. She just needs proper treatment and rest."
Nemo and Oliver hurriedly retreated.
"Then… if you don’t mind, I can also take a look at that person’s arm…"
"Take a look at Ann first. Thank you very much," Oliver hurriedly thanked him.
The man grinned, showing an ugly smile.
"No, you’re welcome. It was you who saved us… Speaking of which, what the hell was that? I have never seen that kind of spell before."
"We don’t know." Nemo scratched his head. "To be honest, I still don’t know whether she started that thing by herself or was attacked."
"No, not this lady. That gentleman…"
"You mean Oliver?"
Nemo turned his head and looked around. The indifferent expression on his face was a little numb. "I know it’s a bit exaggerated, but we can only think of this stupid way… At least it can block most of the demons. Hey Oliver, do you have a name for this ability?"
"Lack of imagination breaks people’s bones." Oliver squeezed out a grinned as he held his left arm limply on his shoulder. "Just call it this."
Nemo almost laughed out loud. Considering the scene, he tried his best to turn his smile into a cough.
The healer’s lower lip quivered, and he buried his head focusing on treatment without saying a word.
Most of the survivors for the test had gathered here because they were attracted to the lightning. Around them, on the edge of the vast lawn, icicles more than then meters high melted into a solid ice wall, which stood firmly and tightly surrounding the people.
The lightning banner that illuminated the night was extinguished in silence and was replace by a huge ice crown.