Hyveth had seen many things throughout her long life that had encapsulated the rise and fall of empires—but a man chopping off his own leg and giving it to the stubby three-fingered hand of a slime monster was definitely up there as a brow-raising moment.
Especially when the man now had no legs. He was just a torso, lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood, but there was a distinct lack of screaming that Hyveth had associated with weak mortals—just a nervous look as if the man was awaiting a miracle.
And he was not the only one in the room. Other men and women stood around, and Hyveth noticed a common theme. They were all limping, clutching a severed arm, or had something impaled through their chest. The death mana swirling around the room was almost sickening. They were all undead but seemed oddly conscious and acted like ordinary people.
Hyveth was broken from her observations by the sound of the slime burping. “Welcome to Necron! You must be Hyveth Arcspace?” The slime spoke to Hyveth as it finished munching on the human leg in a casual tone.
Hyveth crossed her arms and tapped her fingers in annoyance. She hated being referred to by such a lowly lifeform. Only the other Ancients would dare speak her name so casually, yet this gray jelly dared? “Did Vox inform you of my arrival?” Hyveth snapped back.
The gray slime nodded its weirdly human head. “He did indeed. The name is Andrew, by the way. I am the mayor here.” Andrew then gestured to the people in the room. “And these fine people are citizens of our humble town. Well, some of them, at least, not everyone here in Necron is undead, but these people happen to be.”
Hyveth ignored the slime and narrowed her eyes at the man on the floor. “Human, why did you chop off your legs?” Despite her long life experience, the act of this man chopping off his own limbs still perplexed her in ways she couldn’t describe.
The man on the floor gulped as he looked up at the towering woman with a golden horn jutting out her forehead and inhuman crystal eyes. “I h-had to. My body wouldn’t regenerate correctly otherwise.”
“Yes…I can show you,” the man stuttered as he closed his eyes and seemed to activate a skill. Hyveth stepped back in wonder as his leg stumps began to elongate and heal like a wiggling mass of worms made of muscle tissue and blood vessels.
Hyveth had sworn the man was a mere mortal without any noticeable amount of mana a second ago, but the mana surging into that spell was immense and seemed to be drawn from the ground rather than the ambient air. She chose to remain silent and mulled over her thoughts as she examined the process, and eventually, she came to a conclusion. Vox was involved somehow. There was no other plausible explanation for a mortal to wield such power…unless the System assisted the man?
Once the man’s legs healed, Hyveth asked a question. “So you are an undead? Why couldn’t you heal your leg without chopping it off?” She had seen undead that could regenerate. Although the speed of this regeneration was absurd, it wasn’t an impossibility.
It was a little hard to look at, but the man stood up with two perfectly smooth and spotless legs—starkly contrasting to his callous hands and sun-kissed skin that showed a lifetime of hard labor. Luckily his shredded trousers covered up the important bit. The man jumped up and down and tested his new legs. A wide grin that missed a few teeth formed on his face. “Good as new!”
He seemed like an excited kid on his birthday, and Hyveth simply couldn’t wrap her head around the situation, and she needed to fast. Her time on the lowlands was running out, and the lack of mana was slowly poisoning her.
“Mortal, answer my question.” Hyveth’s cold voice made the man freeze up. “My time is short here, and I need answers; otherwise, I’m destroying everything before I leave. I can’t let a nest of corrupted fester for too long.”
The man waved his hands. “Wait, wait! Miss Arcspace, I am simply doing what everyone else here is doing. When Vox granted those that died in the Empire’s raid immortality, he revived us. But it came with some issues…”
“Revived you? Impossible. That is forbidden magic,” Hyveth said resolutely. “Only necromancy can somewhat imitate such a feat depending on the casters domain over death…” She let her words hang, and she furrowed her brows. Now that she thought about it, from the little she had seen of Necron, Vox was the best darn necromancer she had ever seen.
“No way he discovered that magic,” Hyveth muttered to herself but was interrupted by the man clearing his throat.
“Ahem, I don’t believe Vox used such a spell on us, although I must admit I am no mage—but the System says I am a Preserved Corpse instead of a human now, and I gained a few skills that I can activate, such as Regeneration. Again, I’m no expert, but that sounds like necromancy to me.”
Hyveth looked around the room. “Same for all of you?”
Everyone nodded while shrinking back under the woman’s intense glare.
Hyveth frowned. “That still doesn’t explain why you had to chop your legs off. Also, I have never heard of a Preserved Corpse race of undead before.” It was unbelievable…but had Vox created his own type of undead never before seen in the world? She was starting to worry that Vox might be far more dangerous than he was letting on.
The other Netherborne she had witnessed over the years could use necromancy, but it was very basic, nothing so unique as creating a town or a sentient undead that looked so alive, like the man standing before her.
The man coughed into his hand and replied, “The reason I had to cut my legs off is that the Regeneration skill would only heal new wounds, not the wounds I acquired before I was turned into an undead.” Then, as if to iterate his point, he slashed his hand with a knife, leaving a deep incision.
“I am once again glad I am now numb to pain,” the man muttered as he activated his Regeneration skill, and the deep wound in his hand knitted itself together.
The man turned his hand around and showed another scar right next to the cut he had just healed. “I got this scar from a farming accident when I was young. Unfortunately, as you can see, the Regeneration skill didn’t remove the scar of this injury. B-but if I was to cut my entire hand off…”
Hyveth didn’t flinch as the man raised a machete and chopped his hand off with a grunt. Blood splashed onto the floor, and the hand fell to the marble floor.
The large, undead ogre standing beside Andrew, who had remained deathly still this entire time, bent forward, scooped up the cut hand from the floor, and handed it to the slime, who was happy to eat it like a snack.
The man didn’t seem in pain, but he looked deathly pale and kept his eyes locked onto the ceiling, clearly trying to avoid peeking at his handless arm. Once again, a hand was created from wriggling flesh within seconds.
Flexing his new hand, the man brought it up for Hyveth to see. “L-look here, Miss Hyveth, my hand that has seen a lifetime of labor is now smoother than those noble brats from the Empire.” A frown formed on the man’s face. “Why does my hand look so girly now?”
Hyveth ignored the man’s remarks and tapped her finger on her chin. The man was clearly sentient, capable of complex speech, thoughts, and could take actions based on the situation without direct command from the necromancer. Of course, there was always the chance that Vox was puppeteering this entire thing from the void, but she doubted it.
“So you still have access to the System?”
The man nodded. “Indeed, I even have my old Farmer class, and it seems I can still gain levels…”
Hyveth knew a decent amount about the System, despite having never been a part of it. Knowledge was power, and Hyveth had acquired more knowledge about the workings of this world than anyone else—in an apparently vain attempt to stop it from succumbing to whatever threat had decimated those distant stars.
However, Hyveth now knew the incoming threat; she had even met the person that had caused it. Vox was clearly not only a selfish creature but also a downright stubborn one. But he was also correct. Even though he was the one to start the spiral of destruction, the invasion of this world was only inevitable, something she had come to terms with a long time ago.
But Hyveth had something those dead stars floating in the vast expanse of space likely never had—a pawn of Axon offering assistance to combat the more significant threat. So wouldn’t she be foolish to dismiss the outstretched hand?
Hyveth paused. Who was to say the other worlds hadn’t encountered the same thing? What if she was just playing right into Axon’s hands by thinking one of its pawns was on her side?
Deciding to clear her head, Hyveth stepped forward and teleported above Necron. Despite the ominous red beacon looming in the distance, casting its scarlet light on the town, the people seemed cheerful. Undead walked alongside the living—a mother strolled below with her husband.
They were linking arms and talking about the future, one Hyveth thought sounded rather bright—they spoke of climbing the noble ladder and creating an eternal bloodline in their name. Something about being the immortal heads of a family syndicate seemed to fascinate the man, and the wife just seemed happy to have her husband back from the dead, giggling at his every word and practically having stars in her eyes.
Hyveth could relate to those thoughts as the head of the Arcspace family and a supposed near-immortal dragon herself. But immortality was only so pleasing when you had others to share it with. What use was being the last one alive in a dead world?
That was a future she wished to avoid at all costs. Even if it involved working alongside a creature from the void that might backstab her. Hyveth looked at the skyline with a lonely feeling and an impossible weight on her shoulders. Should she trust in a void creature’s words that had gained more validity with her visit to Necron?
“Maybe I should accept his offer,” she spoke to the setting sun. “So long as the dragons remain alive, we can take back what is ours if it gets too out of hand. Although it would involve waking him up.” She shuddered.
“If only that old dragon wasn’t so fond of sleep, we might have been able to avoid this entire situation.” Hyveth let out a long sigh. She had faced Vox in combat and mostly confirmed his strengths and weaknesses. Vox was definitely strong, a threat to take seriously, but he was not as immortal as he may believe. The Arcwings had been in power for so long for a good reason. Nobody could obliterate void creatures like the Arcwings Ancient, who wielded star mana—the natural counter to the void.
“It’s just waking up a walking calamity like that a century early is an easy way to have your entire bloodline exterminated.” Hyveth chuckled sadly and shook her head. Taking one last look at the setting sun, she made her decision.
It was time to make a deal with the Vox.