Chapter 60: Jonathan’s Choice
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“There’s too many of them!” Peter shouted as the skeletons poured through the broken false wall and down the stairs.

Standing side-by-side with Jonathan, the pair had destroyed four skeletons with relative ease, the magical shielding surrounding them stopping the undead attacks from doing any damage. But the bony nightmares kept coming, dropping down the side of the stairs and into the basement itself, whilst several of them had taken to crawling along the side of the walls, eager to reach the four living creatures.

Fran lashed out with her axe as one of the skeletons landed behind her, only destroying it on the second blow. It scratched her face before it fell, breaking through the blue shielding, causing three hit points of damage. She screamed in anger and lashed out at another skeleton that dropped from the ceiling.

“We have to get out of here,” she shouted.

“Sod this,” Private Milligan said, “Fireball!”

Flames leapt from his fingers up the stairs and into the oncoming horde. Three of the skeletons collapsed, whilst three more were scorched. Instantly, the wooden stairs burst into flames.

“Follow me!” Peter shouted.

Waving the chainsaw in front of him, he took out two of the scorched skeletons and another one blocking their path as he raced up the burning stairs and into the side room. Jonathan was close behind.

“Repel Undead!” he shouted, causing the collected skeletons to back away for a few precious seconds. From there, he, Jonathan, Fran and Milligan barged through the horde and back into the living room.

“Magic shields!” Milligan shouted as the blue glows surrounding the group faded, “That’s it, I’m out of mana!”

He’d grabbed a spiked baseball bat from the basement and started smashing at the skeletons with it.

“Outside!” Jonathan shouted, taking down two more skeletons. The small group raced towards the double doors and out onto the lawn as the flames from the basement started to rise.

 

*

 

Upstairs, ten skeletons were battering against the door of the bedroom that Chantelle had locked herself in. With no alternative, she flung open the window and climbed out, grabbing hold of the windowsill and dangling herself from it before letting go. She rolled awkwardly on the tarmac but was unscathed as the skeletons burst into the bedroom. Half of them clacked towards the window and began crawling through it and scaling the walls down towards her, whilst the other five turned back, sensing the four living now in the living room.

“Screw you!” Chantelle screamed as a skeleton reached her.

She brought the mace down on its skull twice in quick succession, to be rewarded with a hundred experience points and the satisfaction of having destroyed one of the undead.

The remaining four reached the tarmac, and Chantelle knew she was outnumbered. She ran around the side of the farmhouse and heard the sounds of battle on the lawn, and saw Peter, Jonathan, Fran and Milligan surrounded by a dozen skeletons. With four chasing her, she wasted no time smashing at a skeleton that had its back turned to her and joining the other four in the circle they’d formed.

“We’re winning!” Jonathan shouted as two more fell to his sword.

A notification popped up that he had achieved level 3 and should choose his bonuses. His hit points and attacks immediately increased in efficiency as path options were unlocked.

Still swinging, he checked the options that had now become available. There were six paths opened. Warrior, which would improve his personal combat and defence capabilities. Healer which would improve his abilities to heal himself and others, as well as curing diseases, infections and toxins. Slayer which would give him additional combat benefits when fighting the undead. Warden, which would allow him to improve mystical defences against the undead. Spellcaster which would give him access to more spells and finally Leader which would boost the attack capabilities of those around him. The seventh path, Basebuilder, was locked until level 5. He had already been awarded one point on the healer path, with additional benefits given him due to the sword.

There was no time to make a considered choice, but even in the heat of the battle Jonathan realised he would have to choose Leadership to boost the attack abilities of those around him by 10%. His preference would have been to focus on the Warrior path, or perhaps the Warden path, if he’d had more time to look into it, but Leadership was the best option for all of them right now.

He applied the point and felt a warm glow extend outwards to the four people surrounding him. Their efforts redoubled as the skeletons fell beneath their combined attacks. With Jonathan’s Mana partially restored after the levelling up, he was able to repel undead three more times, forcing the horde back and making them easy targets.

“There’s only five left!” Fran shouted, “And I’m four hundred points from Level 2!”

“Good,” Peter shouted, “Everyone support Fran! Ward Undead!”

A circle appeared around the group as Peter cast his first spell, slowing the skeletons down as Fran smashed at them with her axe.

“Peter? Was that you?”

“Yeah. Chose my class.” He pulled his buzzing weapon back as Fran smashed a skeleton with her axe. “I guess I’m a cleric with a chainsaw now.”

“Done!” Fran shouted as she dropped a fourth skeleton, “Oh my god, that is such a rush!”

“What is?” Chantelle asked.

“Levelling up, it’s...you have to try this!”

Chantelle scowled. “I’ve got another six hundred experience points to go yet.”

The group dispatched the final skeleton with ease.

As flames rose through the farmhouse, Jonathan, Peter, Fran, Milligan and Chantelle surveyed the pile of broken bones and smashed skulls.

“We did it! They’re all dead!” Fran shouted.

“Not quite,” Jonathan said. “There’s still one more left.”

He grimaced as Gary appeared.

*

Flames tore through the farmhouse as Jonathan faced Gary.

“YOU!” He shouted, “You did this, didn’t you? You set all these undead on us. This was your fault!”

The problem with being accused of something that you’ve done is that you did it.

Gary was unprepared for Jonathan’s sudden fury, but was happy enough to match it with his own.

“I didn’t have any choice,” he shouted back, “And we came to help.”

“Well, you left it a bit fucking late, didn’t you?” Jonathan spat back.

“I’m… hang on a minute, you nearly got me killed. I did what I had to do to survive. If you hadn’t turned on me, none of this would have happened at all.”

Jonathan wasn’t in the mood to listen to reason.

Neither, for that matter, was Gary now that he was confronted with Jonathan’s anger.

Here we go again, he thought.

He stepped forward to face the school-teacher.

Jonathan readied his sword.

Gary lifted Simon.

“Jonathan,” Gary said in an even tone, “You’re all only alive because of me. Don’t forget that. If I hadn’t stepped in, you’d all be dead.”

“You don’t know that,” Jonathan shouted, spittle flecking his lips. “We might have been fine where we were. See, we sorted this lot out, didn’t we? This lot that you unleashed on us.”

“That’s fair,” Gary nodded, “I see your point. Now listen to me very, very carefully Jonathan, so that you can see mine. I promise you right here, right now, if you come at me, I will kill you. You take a swing with that sword, and I won’t stop until you are dead.”

Jonathan sneered, but hesitated.

There was something about Gary’s tone that made him pause.

He was standing tall, his shovel at the ready, and he was calm.

“You’re just a zombie,” Jonathan said, his voice less certain than before. “You’re just another one of the dead. We should kill you, all of us. None of us are safe with you around.”

The others had formed a circle around Jonathan and Gary as the flames from the farmhouse threw shadows across the garden. Jonathan pointed his sword at Rain.

“You stay out of this,” he demanded.

Rain narrowed her eyes.

“He’s right, Rain,” Gary nodded, “This is between me and Jonathan.”

Jonathan spat on the ground.

“Let’s get to…”

“Oh, ENOUGH!” A voice shouted out.

Chantelle broke from the circle to stand between Jonathan and Gary.

“Chantelle, stay out of this,” Jonathan growled.

“No, I won’t. Mr Mitchell, please just stop this, okay? It’s not right. This is just bloody typical, isn’t it? We’re in the middle of a sodding apocalypse, and what are the two big blokes doing? Working out how to beat each other to death. Just stop it, both of you. Or… or I’ll be really cross.”

Hearing Chantelle use his formal schoolteacher name startled Jonathan.

“Please, Mr Mitchell. Just stop it now, okay?”

Chantelle put a hand on his right arm as he clutched his sword.

“This isn’t you, sir. You’re not going to kill Gary, are you? Not after everything he did.”

Jonathan’s shoulders slumped. He swore quietly.

“Yeah,” he said, “Yeah, okay. You’re right Chantelle.”

He buried his sword in the ground.

Chantelle tuned to Gary.

“Well?”

Gary nodded, “Yeah. Fair enough. I’ve killed more than enough people in the last couple of days. I’m done.”

No-one said anything for a few seconds as the farmhouse continued to blaze.

Then Jonathan chuckled.

“What’s so funny?” Gary asked.

Jonathan sat on the grass and continued to laugh, unable to speak for a few seconds.

“I just realised something,” he said. “It’s still… oh my god, it’s still only bloody Monday…

Gary was disconcerted, and then he also saw the funny side.

“I was supposed to be doing some work on a garden today,” he chuckled, “and then having a quiet pint at the local.”

“I was supposed to be teaching four classes and then catching up on Bake Off,” Jonathan laughed, wiping a tear from his eyes, “Less than forty-eight hours and this is what it’s come to. Christ on a bike, what a mess.”

Jonathan stood up. “Is anyone injured?”

“I’ve covered them all,” Peter said. “No more mana for a few hours though.”

“Fine,” Jonathan nodded.

Jonathan opened his screen where the taunting message about the epic quest he’d taken on kept blinking at him.

Epic Quest: Kill the Immortal Overlord! Give up, yes/no?

“Yes,” Jonathan nodded.

There was no point taking on a quest that he had no hope of completing. There were easier options that would help him level up.

He turned his attention to the trauma that the system had handed him. Rage against the undead. It gave him some attack bonuses, but it also meant he lost all reason when confronted by the undead, forcing him to make repeat willpower checks. The only way to overcome it was to spend mana daily for a week.

He chose the option to overcome the trauma using mana points.

“I’m going to be de-powered for a day,” Jonathan said, “So we’re going to be relying on everyone else that’s levelled up in the meantime to keep us safe. And Gary, of course.”

“Do you think we should get out of here?” Milligan asked, thumbing at the blazing farmhouse.

“Yeah. We better get gone before the fire reaches the vehicles.”

“Good,” Fran nodded, “I wouldn’t want to stay here anyway, not after knowing what it was used for. Is everyone in your family that messed up, Gary?”

Gary shrugged, “Not as far as I know…”

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