Last High Human 3: This Is Me
After walking for ten minutes along the wall, I found a huge tree whose huge branches were not too spaced from one another and had it's highest ones standing above the wall. I used the knife to make small holes for my empty hand to get a firm grip, and used it itself as an anchor for my other hand. But that method proved to be too slow. As much as I disliked to say it, I had to resort to magic once again.
Once I reached the first branch, I returned the knife to it's sheath and focused. Using Physical Strengthening, I jumped from branch to branch, using a regular rythm to time the jump, the landing and the muscle's power gathering. On the branch below the one standing above the wall's top, I gathered a great deal of my remaining Energy into the lower part of my body, enhancing my feet's strength. i took a deep breath, blocked it and then ran along a branch, jumped on the wall and using my momentum, ran a few meters upward on it's surface and leapt off towards the top.
But even with all the energy I used, I nearly failed. Only my right hand managed to reach the edge of the wall. I managed to get on top, but got disapointed in my performance. I miscalculated the amount of Energy I requiered.
I took a small rest. We had protected the Bastion for days without rest. I had survived a fire stranding in this forest and didn't take a proper rest yet. Wheter I liked it or not, I had to recover.
The more someone uses Physical Strengthening, the more that person puts a lot of strain on it's muscles. I lied down for half an hour, listening to the sounds of nature. The screams had stopped while I was climbing the tree.
Once back in shape, the descent went smoothly until the last meters. The knife's blade didn't properly penetrate the friable stone of the wall and that resulted in a sudden loss of all footing and grip. I fell some meters to land on my bottom.
This shit hurts. I hope I can still walk straight...
I stood back up and looked up. Since I didn't fall from as high as i thought and Physical Strengthening was still up, I sustained no damage and were about to resume exploration when I noticed, hovering above the wall's top, the same smoke the forest was filled with when i ran away from the fire. My bet was that another fire had probably started on the forest side of the wall...
On the contrary, the side of the wall I was now was completely on the open. I could see a vast plain of grass, with numerous stumps scattered around, here and there.
From their number, there used to be a forest which was cut down by the hands of man. There were also chopped trees everywhere, piled up one on another. Only their stump had remained at their original place, with some flowers and mushrooms growing on them.
A few kilometers away from here, a second wall was erected and from it's curved form, a strange idea came up to mind: Could the forest be circled by the first wall, which was also surrounded by the second wall and had this empty plain separating them?
I have no proof, but I am sure that the first wall surrounded the whole forest, protecting the rest of the area from its fires.
I crisscrossed between several stumps, small hills and the rest.
The second wall splits somewhere on my left, maybe a passage connecting to the outside. Two concrete towers stood firm on each side of the entrance. I covered the remaining distance with caution until arriving at the base of the first tower.
When I reached the towers, I instantly felt the familiar pressure of blood lust. I unsheathed my sword and tried to ready my shield, before remembering that I had none.
That wasn't like me. Not at all. I had to take a hold of myself.
My right hand held the sword, so I grabbed the knife with my other one. I took another long breath, calmed my mind and slowly leaned forward to peep at the passage.
Both towers were made of some sort of stone but with no visible joints. Could they have been carved from one whole block...?
A good hundred meters separated both towers, marking the start of the passage: A long and straight corridor, delimited by the two walls. Though I had a good eyesight, the luminosity difference between here and there made it difficult for me to see if anything was happening. I could barely notice movements, but nothing else.
I snuk along the first tower’s base until I reached stone stairs leading to the tower's door. I took a quick glance at the passage.
Several soldiers of unknown origin were lying on the ground, Mantissars eating their guts with greed. Nothing lived but Mantissars.
I had acquired my targets nature. Deunan's voice ran her voice in my head. Training routines, screwed deep in my head.
Deunan:" Mantissars are part of the natural wildlife. Due to their ability to meddle with Energy, they also are categorised as monsters. Monsters differ from regular animals by their ability to use Energy in one way or another. But for these ones especially, you only have to worry about their physical combat prowesses, since Mantissars are too stupid to do anything with Energy. There have been testimonies of evolved Mantissars by the seniors, but that is nothing but a scheme to cut out your morale.
Don't listen to these piles of lies. Focus on what's in front of your eyes, analyse it and annihilate all threats. The King is watching you at all times."
I focused on the monsters and eyed at their bodies and behaviour.
They looked like two meters tall black mantises, with mammal jaws and had bone scythes instead of forearms. They were touching the ground around them to move around since their eyesight was really bad.
In total I counted a good dozen of them wandering around, growling and stinking freely: Three were scattered around the soldiers corpses, gnawing at them. Five were agonizing here and there, no longer posing any threat. They were the only casualties those soldiers had imposed on the herd. The other four were attacking the second tower's door, doing their best to break it down by violently hitting it with their scyths.
For now, the iron door wasn’t much damaged but wouldn't last an hour. I instinctively scratched my chin.
If the Mantissars are trying so vehemently to break through it, there must be some survivors in there.
Rhod:" Second rule of the Code: protect the innocent, the powerless, those unable to defend themselves or the others."
"Unwavering, irascible, adamant." yet "Understanding, kind and merciful."
True Knights of the Lodge abided by the Code through their whole life and lived by those Virtues.
I couldn't lose to them. I returned my focus on the monsters on the other side of the passage.
Because of the noise their scyths made against the door, the five trying to break in the tower were unable to hear what happened around them. Unless those eating the corpses were to warn them. As for the agonizing Mantissars, they were too heavily injured to do anything.
I closed on the first Mantissar, which was devouring a spearman. The ground around them was covered with grasses, smothering the sound of my footsteps. I reached the monster unnoticed and with one swift movement, made the sword describe a perfect trajectory and took down the head. A thick green blood spurted out of the monster's neck and splashed quietly on the grass.
I snuck behind the second one and again, cut its head off. The third one stopped feasting on it's prey and turned it's antennas in my direction. I knelt behind my latest victim's corpse, crouching against it's back with sword and knife in hand, waiting for my next target to come.
Seconds later, the Mantissar approached and started inspecting the corpse, circling around it while smelling the headless neck.
I patiently waited, not moving an inch and not looking up. The Mantissar growled and rose it's scyths. It had caught my scent but had yet to see me. Finally, the monster ended up standing right above me. I slowly rose to an half standing posture and took aim and with a powerful estoc, stabbed its heart. But the sensation I was waiting for didn't come.
A chill ran down my spin. I didn’t put enough strength in my attack but managed to greatly weaken my opponent.
The monster covered its face using its scythes while emitting a low growl, attempting to catch the attention of its kin. I quickly stood up, spinned on my feet and used the gathered momentum to deliver a second powerful estoc blow between the scythes with bothe my sword and knife. The head immediately split in half. I accompanied the corpse's fall, avoiding any useless noise.
Hiding behind my new victim, I lowered my stance and looked towards the Mantissars by the tower. Fortunately, they were still hitting the iron door: they didn’t hear the growl.
I gritted my teeth, disappointed by my own mistakes. I could do it. I was in good condition, so why was I making such blunders?
I nearly fell at the wall and almost got myself found out right here. I received multiple trainings and formations for these sorts of situations. I even learned multiple languages to read foreign books, to learn about all known weaponry and magic. I learned and practiced a hell lot of things to be prepared at all time, I had become the strongest Branded. And yet...!
Rhod:" How weak...!"
I gritted my teeth again. This... felt bad. Really bad. I felt worthless. Was that ‘emotion’? It had been too long since I last felt one. In fact... When was the last time? I couldn't remember. I looked up at the sky.
Does the King, does the citizens... Does everyone live their everyday life enduring this?
I suddenly heard a scream coming from the second tower. The door was now partially broken and the head of a spear springing in and out of the breach, repelling the Mantissars.
I walked past the five other monsters. Three had died, one was crawling towards a soldier's corpse while the remaining one was eating the remains of another soldier.
Thirty meters away from the closest Mantissar, I re oxygenated my brain:I expired more than I inspired until I had emptied my lungs, before reversing the process. The effect wasn't strong but it's effects were instant. I felt way more lucid.
The four monsters were at the damaged door. Three right in front of the entrance while the fourth was trying to get a place, moving around his kin. I took a soldier’s corpse, covered it with green blood, placed it on my shoulders and silently approached.
I first beheaded the wandering Mantissar, then threw the corpse on the right side of the monsters. They stopped attacking the door, their attention taken by the corpse. I killed the leftmost one, then hurriedly jumped the breach between the door and the frame.
A spear jabbed at me from behind the door, surprising me. I dodged it's tip with a simple movement of my torso then grabbed it behind the blade. A woman clad in soldier armor looked at me, surprised. Looking up close, she was wearing a really weird armor.
Only her thighs and chest were protected. Beneath, she seemed to be wearing some sort of red dress.
She looked pale, thin, and had bags under her eyes. Probably tired and starved.
How long had she been there?
Rhod: “I am on your side."
She was still pointing her spear at me, her eyes wide open. Anger and fear filled them at first, but were slowly being replaced by disbelief.
Woman: ”W… Who are-”
The Mantissars suddenly resumed attacking the door right next to us. Their scyths sticking out of the breach between the door and the wall.
The woman immediately tried to thrust her spear at those but couldn't raise it. Her left hand had her right arm attached to the spear using torn fabric.
I returned my sword in it's scabbard, looked at her in the eye and in an instant, snatched her spear. I freed her hurt arm from the fabric then turned the spear towards the door's breach. With only exhaustion to bother with, I quickly granted death to the monsters behind the door.
Once done, I leaned against the wall behind me and sighed, keeping the woman in sight.
Woman: “Thanks for the help. But please give back my spear.”
I obeyed and gave her the spear
Rhod:" I am friendly."
She took back her spear and looked at me intently.
after a long silence, she moved a hand towards a table, placed a the center of the tower's room.
The room we are was circular, with three windows protected by iron bars. There was one big wooden table behind the woman, with chairs and dead bodies sitted against the walls.
Rhod: “No one survived outside. Anyone besides you here?”
She looked at me with suspecting eyes before nodding. The next moment, a loud thud came from the upper floor. I grabbed my sword and went upstairs.