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The Devil's Evolution Catalog Chapter 157: Skills Test (draft)
Violet Snow brought away the ratman traitor, accompanying her was Big 5 and his hellhound unit, the medusas and Elena.
Under her command were nearly 2000 harpies. Having gone through a period of training, this air force of mine should mostly be ready: the bone javelins were all stocked up and ready and everything was basically ready for a field test.
In actuality, Elena wasn't the only harpy witch in this air squadron, Numila and Eugenia were as well. Numila's and Eugenia's main job however was to support Habona in her battle against the lizardmen. As for what this entailed, their main goal was actually just to aid Westley in his bid for power. In other words, they were there as deterrents rather than as combatants.
If I wanted to gain some real numbers on my air force, the place to observe was still Elena's. The Abaddon Rodents weren't known for their combat strength and usually relied on vast numbers to overcome this fact. However, the medusas were basically the natural-born nemeses of such tactics with their fearsome long range attacks. With these snake ladies supporting the contingent, I have no doubt that their morale would suffer a huge blow right from the get go.
Manasha and Majosha were both four-stars while Harlow was at least a three-star. In terms of elites, this contingent shouldn't be in any way inferior to the ratmen they were challenging.
While the total contingent size was less than 3000, I wasn't that worried. With that many aerial assets, we simply had to toss our javelins into the enemy throng without ever coming into melee range.
Even so, I made sure to leave Violet Snow a reminder before she left. A reminder to be cautious and to retreat immediately should anything seem amiss. According to reports, those rodents number at least 5000. Given how much time has passed since those reports, I wouldn't be surprised if that number had grown significantly, these rats were a fecund bunch after all. It would be wiser not to underestimate their reproductive rate given that we still didn't know their exact numbers.
Having sent off Violet Snow and the others, I summoned my personal guards and started a new round of research.
While I was in the Western Human Realms, Ferti'nier had transferred an enormous amount of energy into me, allowing me to directly advance into three-stars. Back then, the Grimoire of the Dead had gained a few new skills in response to my growth. However, I didn't have much time to test them out at least, not till now. With nothing much to do now, I guess a round of testing is in order.
Summon Skeletal Horsemen, Summon Skeletal Javelineers and Weakness.
With No.3 and Big 4 in tow, I first began summoning the horsemen in a deserted corner.
As the mana rushed into the spell, the skeletal figure of a horseman armed with a small bone buckler on his left and a bone blade on his right began surfacing from the ground, bones rippling apart as if they were a body of water.
Seems like a human skeleton, that horse seems like an ordinary horse's skeleton too.
With regards to horses, I wasn't too familiar with the subject in general let alone a skeletal one. However, there was no doubt that these horsemen had an impressive charging speed. While they weren't that heavy and belonged to the category of light cavalry, mounted units had a natural advantage in charges so it's fine.
Summoning a horseman took up 80 units of mana, if I were to go all out, I could summon a total of three in one sitting. Having said that, this was merely a test so one was enough.
"Big 4, go fight with that skeleton over there and test out its sturdiness."
I had both of them stand 20 meters apart and after waiting for Big 4 to take up his stance, commanded the skeletal horseman to charge.
"It's fine if you break the skeleton, just use all of your strength."
"Got it, Master."
Big 4 was already a three-star demon child so taking on a two-star horseman should be easy. Giving the horse a nudge, the horseman broke into a blistering charge that seemed that much faster probably because it had lost all of his flesh. In just the blink of an eye, that 20 meter gap was closed and with bone scimitar raised high, the horseman swung down, winds screaming behind it as the force of the its charge propelled the blade towards Big 4's neck.
Big 4 was currently equipped with the usual set of gear I crafted for him a while ago, a bone shield and a bone mace. In the face of this furious charge, his first instinct wasn't to counter attack but rather to raise his shield in defense and take the charge head on...he actually wanted to use his body to take on a charge horseman!
In the very next instant, both sides collided into each other with a thunderous bang. Unlike what its frail appearance suggested, the horseman didn't shatter on impact instead, it was Big 4, the one who tried to stand his ground, who got pushed back a couple of paces instead.
Thankfully, a demon child's strength was a lot stronger than a horseman so even in the face of the horseman's swing, Big 4 still had the ability to block with his mace after which he gave the skeleton a heavy swing of his mace, sending half of the horseman's right shoulder flying away in the process.
With that, their fight was basically over after just one round. Using his superior innate strength, Big 4 blocked the horseman's charge and despite his disadvantaged position, managed to get a serious hit in. However, I could vaguely see his hands trembling from my distant location - looks like they were numb from taking on that charge.
"Halt!" Before Big 4's mace could shatter the horseman's skull, I yelled for the match to stop. Hearing that, Big 4 immediately lowered his arm while the horseman sat there stock still like a statue.
"Big 4, is your left arm alright?"
"It's okay, Master. That skeleton's power was really strong. I should've been stronger than him but I ended up losing that initial clash. My arm's was slightly numb just now but it's mostly alright now." As he said that, he waved his arms around as if to prove to me that it wasn't injured. "If there were more horsemen, I would've been in a lot of trouble."
In that short clash, the difference between a two-star and three-star was prominently brought to bear once more. Simply put, there was almost no way for a lower tiered warrior to win against a higher tiered one without any external aid.
Even so, once you allowed the horseman to break into a charge, they could still give a three-star a run for his money even if it couldn't win. Given sufficient numbers, I could see these horsemen killing off a three-star without much losses...too bad these horsemen cost too much mana and coincidentally, what I lacked was weapons, not soldiers.
Next up was the curse, Weakness. Of all the spells I gained, this was the more troublesome one. Chanting this curse takes at least 10 seconds though that was probably because I still wasn't familiar with it. Once I've completely mastered this curse, the casting time should decrease dramatically.
I cast the curse on No.3 and merely a second later, I began to notice some changes within him. Noting down his oral account, I gained a test sample to work with.
Curses were a branch of undead magic or necromancy, that specifically targeted living creatures. It was able to reduce the physical constitution of its target while simultaneously dampening the person's power and psyche. Perhaps it was my lack of experience at work again but, having gone through the curse himself, No.3 only reported an approximate 15% decrease in attributes.
At that magnitude, it would at most cause the opponent to slip up from time to time. Strictly speaking, this spell was a dud that fell short of my expectations. However, 15% was still a rather useful result especially when fighting against a stronger opponent.
Even so, it was a curse filled with weaknesses. (TL: No pun intended) Not only was it slow but it only targeted living creatures. Without a doubt, these were the two biggest problems it had considering that I was in the Prison of the DEAD and that I was assaulting an exit point full of the DEAD...in other words, this really was a dud.
With nothing noteworthy happening, the time passed by in an instant. Before I knew it, half a moon had passed.
Habona had sent word that Westley had basically taken control of half of the lizardmen clan. With Habona's help, the previous head was killed in front of his subjects leaving only a few pockets of resistance left in the clan. Unfortunately for them, what they were facing was a 4000 strong werewolf and harpy army that had air superiority. With no way of overturning this situation, all that remained was for us to subjugate the other neutral parties. This however, was a matter of time and couldn't be rushed.
With the lizardmen basically in the bag, my air squadron wasn't really needed there anymore. Instead, what was important now was Westley's own efforts. Thus, Numila led her 2000 harpies away, leaving behind Eugenia as support for this puppet ruler of ours.
Coincidentally, barely two days after Numila returned, Violet Snow sent word from her side as well. According to it, the ratmen's population had ballooned from 5000 plus to nearly 9000...those rodents were basically the overlords of a 1000 Li (500km) territory.
With numbers vastly superior than what was reported, Violet Snow quickly realized that confronting them head-on was a mistake after two clashes. Thus, she decided to switch up her strategy.
Before leaving, I emphasized to her the need to be flexible in her strategy, looks like she took it to heart after all. In order to avoid any unnecessary losses, she made use of the harpies' maneuverability and the medusas' ability to fire while slithering about to engage in multiple guerilla attacks against the ratmen horde.
With no way to catch up to them, it was a massacre. In just one day, her army was able to cross from the eastern side to the western side…
Yet, their numbers superiority wasn't something that could be overcome so easily. Having learnt their lesson about Violet Snow's superior mobility, the rats immediately hunkered down together and held their ground no matter how much Violet Snow prodded at them.
My final goal was to capture a large number of rodents to be our fodder, in other words, a meatshield that so happened to be edible. Thus, while she could technically chip away at the rodents till they finally died off, that defeated the purpose of this whole mission. In order to break this stalemate, there was no other choice but to use force to wipe out all the rodents who potentially could lead the pack and enslave the rest.
In that case, the purpose of this missive was clear: she wanted me to make a decision. If I still wanted to enslave these ratmen, I had to take to the frontlines myself. If I ignored this message, she would probably continue chipping away at the rodents till there was basically no one left to resist. By that time however, there would probably be less than 10% of the rodents left to enslave.
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