6. Looting the Merchants
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Victor watched the undead charge through the barren forest towards the merchant caravan. 'I wonder what wares they have? Perhaps some useful items I can utilise to make my pet's life a little easier.' Victor paused for a moment at that thought. Why did he think of humans as pets? Then, looking down at Alice, he pondered, 'Hard to take them seriously when they are so small, even though I know they are intelligent, I just feel so... superior to them? It's hard to imagine I was that weak. Look at her shivering in the cold and bleeding out from a few rocks and thorns, pathetic. She has lived her sad little life up till this point without knowing of the true horrors lurking beneath the surface. Even these worthless monsters that roam these lands would kill by sneezing in her presence! How deplorable, how pathetic, how...'

Victor stopped. Something about humans instinctually annoyed him, and he didn't like that one bit. Anger, chaos and destruction clouded his mind, and it took this interaction for him to realise the situation. 'I am a creature engineered for slaughter. All my magic involves destruction; my mind urges me to pursue misery. Even my body forces me to act in such a way. Alright, no more. I need a solution. Perhaps Alice will know a way?'

With another reason to keep Alice alive, Victor urged his undead to hurry up through the mental link. 'Wow, the link is so clear now. I can actually order my undead from afar.' The constant static noise that had plagued his mind for the last few months had vanished and replaced with a clear and concise communication structure. He could hear slight whispers and chatter along the network between the undead nearby, and if he focused in a direction, he could feel the presence of the undead further away.

'Perfect, my improvised network is now online.' Victor had spent the last few months walking around in circles inside this endless forest. Without GPS and limited ability to communicate with his undead, he was left blind and had to float in one direction for days at a time. With his new connection, he could spread his undead far and wide and gain command over a large area.

'But why did adding humans affect the link so much? I could talk to goblins just fine once they died.' Victor thought back to his many interactions with goblins. They were his favourite type of undead to raise as they were the only ones capable of speech; although limited and primal, once dead, they could carry out simple orders and report intriguing information back to him, such as the fact humans had entered the forest. Victor looked at his abilities, but apart from the fact his undead skill was supposedly maxed out, nothing else screamed out as being the culprit. 'When the Goddess reincarnated me, she mentioned a language skill. Is that why the goblins can understand and talk with me?'

This was the only logical explanation. Language skill combined with a maxed-out Raise Undead skill gave the goblins the ability to talk to him. However, their INT was still relatively low, meaning their ability to send and receive magical messages over a significant distance was limited.

'It could also be a feature of the System. It recognised me as UNKNOWN in the party feature, so maybe the skill struggled to connect so many UNKNOWN monsters together as none of them is directly linked to the System?'

"Goblin," Victor called out over the hive mind, and a nearby goblin ran over to him.

"Yes, boss?"

"Are you linked into the system?"

"System?" The goblin seemed to struggle with the word as if it was foreign and outside their simple vocabulary. "No, boss, I do not know of a System."

'Oh my god. Does that mean I am the only monster given access to the System? Is this a perk that came with my reincarnation? Or are the goblins too low down the food chain to be given access?' Victor spoke to the undead again, "No blue boxes inside your brain?"

"No, boss. All I can hear is your voice and chatter from undead nearby."

"You can always hear my voice?"

"No. When you direct your thoughts towards me, it booms through the void that connects us."

"Hmmm."

There was still so much to learn about this new world. Usually, in stories, the protagonist would have a mentor or learn about the world through an educational institution like a magic school or public library. However, with the merchants appearing, it has been confirmed that a city or town is nearby. 'Should I sneak in? Would that be possible?'

Victor doubted any city defence could stop him but should he even bother? 'If the girl somehow knows nothing, that could be an option. But I will wait and see for now.'

"This is fun." Victor chuckled lightly as he floated around, 'I haven't had anything to think about for weeks. After mastering my magic to a certain degree and encountering most of the monsters in this forest, the novelty of it all wore off relatively fast. But with the prospects of encountering this world's civilisation and seeing how it differs from Earth... that is the true charm of reincarnation stories. Discovering how humans can adapt to different environments, perhaps they will have invented games I have never heard of before?'

Despite his dull emotions, even Victor felt a little excited. Like that feeling of happiness and anticipation that makes you want to jump around the room or tell anyone who will listen about that awesome thing happening to you. Finally, something was going right in this world, and keeping his pet alive was the first step.

Right on time, a horde of goblins led by one of the humans returned with essentials for Alice. Some high-end dresses, cloaks, socks, shoes, bedding, and even some dried beef jerky.

"Merchant, help the girl into new clothes and then follow me. We will set up camp for a while near my ice sculptures."

"As you wish, boss."

Due to his maxed-out Raise Undead skill, the undead Victor commanded was the best of the best, with intelligence rivalling from when they were alive. The zombie merchant didn't waste a moment. Within moments, Alice had been stripped of her dirty rags, washed down with a cloth and carefully helped into a frilly noble-style dress. Victor doubted he could find humans attractive anymore, and her thin body killed any possible lust. 'I wonder if I will ever find love in this world?' Victor pondered as the zombie merchant also showed no interest in the nude female and instead tunnelled on completing the given task.

After a few minutes, the former slave had transformed into an ill-looking princess, a stunning black dress, white leggings and flat sole shoes. 'Not an ideal getup for a monster-infested forest in the middle of winter, but at least she won't freeze too much.'

Eventually, the rest of the undead arrived, carrying the wooden carriages over their heads like ants. Zombies also pulled along a few terrified horses via their reins. They were far fatter than a horse's back on Earth with tan skin and no hair, 'They could make useful mounts and a food supply for Alice until we work something else out.'

"Alight." Victor deactivated his stealth, and the struggling horse-like animals went dead silent as they gazed upon the towering creature of shadows. Victor swept his gaze across the large procession gathered at his feet, "Follow me. To the ice sculptures. Zombies take special care of the girl."

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