“Leader! There’s some good news and some bad news,” a skeleton said as it ran towards the area where it felt Mr. Skelly’s aura and arrived at a clearing in the woods. It was empty. “Leader?”
“Down here,” a voice said. The skeleton lowered its gaze. A hole appeared in the ground as Mr. Skelly’s head broke through the earth. “Alice has been trying to kill me for the longest time now. Have you found any gryphon cubs yet?”
“Yes. That was part of the good news,” the skeleton said and nodded its head.
“And the bad news?” Mr. Skelly asked.
“The bad news is I lied,” the skeleton said. Mr. Skelly stared at the skeleton without a word. “The real good news is we’ve succeeded in kidnapping the emperor and empress and replaced them with our own. The fairies’ illusions are working really well.”
Mr. Skelly nodded. “Then the real bad news?”
“We failed to destroy the road. It was almost as if they were expecting us to attack,” the skeleton said and scratched its head. “There were hundreds of traps laid out, and a whole squad of dwarven riflemen were lying in wait. The twenty men we sent stood no chance. The dwarves’ projectiles could shatter bones and four of the fairies were injured pretty badly. But we managed to get away without any trouble. We might have given away the fact we weren’t human though, considering no one died or bled.”
“Mm. That’s troublesome,” Mr. Skelly said and rubbed his chin, his hand popping out of the earth. “But since we took control of the human leaders, things should get a lot easier now. I didn’t expect the dwarves to wise up so quickly though. Their king truly isn’t incompetent.”
Leader! a voice shouted in Mr. Skelly’s head. Dozens of roads are being built into the territory we just conquered!
Mr. Skelly frowned and pulled out a glowing blue crystal. He held it in front of his mouth and asked, “Who’s building them? You can’t capture them?”
The roads are building themselves! the voice said. The fairies say there are hundreds of people smaller than them working together, but none of us can see them. We tried blocking the paths of the roads, but earth flies into the air and builds over all the obstructions without stopping.
Mr. Skelly fell silent for a moment. He glanced at the skeleton standing over him before speaking into the crystal. “I’ll send reinforcements right away. Looks like there’s no choice but to involve the humans already. Even if you can’t stop the roads from being built, that doesn’t mean you can’t fortify the defenses against people coming along those roads.” He sighed, put away the crystal, and faced the skeleton above him. “Mobilize the human army. I wanted to take it slow and fully draw out all the benefits of the dwarves’ territory for ourselves, but that’s no longer possible. Bring the humans to the area we captured and fully integrate it: build roads connecting the two lands. It should hold out long enough for us to finish sweeping through the elves to attack the dwarves from the south. With Tafel’s and Alice’s firepower, it’ll be much easier to change the outcome of this war.”
“There you are!” a voice said from behind the two skeletons. A woman with a massive shield charged at Mr. Skelly and swung her blunt weapon downwards like an axe. Her hair rippled in the wind like a lion’s mane.
“Alice,” Mr. Skelly said as his skull went flying off into the distance. “Skulls are hard to replace, you know? Can’t you be more gentle when pounding me? It hurts if you do it too roughly.”
“Shut up! Don’t say it like that!” Alice shouted. “Do you know how painful awakening was? I almost died because of you! Don’t think I’m letting you off that easily; I haven’t forgotten how you tricked Tafel and me either.”
“Flirting has really changed since I was last alive, huh?” the skeleton standing to the side asked and scratched its head. A second later, it was sent flying by a swing of Alice’s arm.
“Skeletons really piss me off,” Alice said as she exhaled and lowered her shield. She glared at Mr. Skelly’s headless body which was crawling out of the ground.
“Don’t be like this, Alice,” Mr. Skelly said. “We both know you enjoy our company.”
“Does this look like the face of enjoyment?” Alice asked in a monotonous voice, pointing at cheek. Her countenance was expressionless.
“That’s exactly what an excited zombie looks like,” Mr. Skelly said with a nod. His body crumbled to the ground as Alice planted her heel into his chest. A sigh escaped from his broken bones. “Look, if you really didn’t like it here, you could’ve ran off by yourself. Even if I begged Tafel not to teleport you back, it wouldn’t stop you from leaving without her. What’s keeping you here? Have you thought about that? I could tell you if you can’t figure it out for yourself.”
Alice furrowed her brow as she removed her foot from Mr. Skelly’s body. She muttered, “Why am I sticking around…?”
“The simplest answer is you’re enamored with me,” Mr. Skelly said, his body blushing by turning a faint pink color. His legs disintegrated as Alice pulverized them with her shield. “That was just a joke. You really need to lighten up. Haven’t figured it out yet?”
Alice grumbled to herself as she swept Mr. Skelly up into a neat pile of bones and bone dust. She sat beside the pile and crossed her arms, shrinking her shield down to the size of a watch. She adjusted her glasses and propped her head up onto her knees while hugging her legs. “What I want, huh?” she asked and sighed while staring at the grassy clearing. A few birds chirped while crickets sang. A bitter smile appeared on her lips. “Companions that won’t betray me would be a nice start. I think I can find that in Tafel and Vur.” She glanced at the pile next to her and snorted as she kicked it. “Don’t look so smug, you lying turd. If you keep abusing this truth curse, I’ll really send you to the afterlife.”