Stepping back through the hole, into the hallway, Mike tried to remain detached as he once again surveyed the damage.
Seeing Amy was treating the lone gunman as the other survivors gathered around them in a protective circle he called out.
“The troll’s dead.”
“Are you sure? It has some sort of regeneration skill,” Jessica hollered back at him.
“Pretty sure. I got an achievement for killing it.”
“How nice for you.”
Mike heard the bite in Jessica’s voice and tried to convince himself it was due to the situation not anything he’d done. But looking over at Dan’s body, where it lay crumpled on the ground, he found it hard.
He could have taken command. He could have led everyone in, or even demanded they not go at all. But he hadn’t, he’d gone with the flow. That was fine in the old world. Obviously it wasn’t in this new one.
The guilt hit him like a physical thing for a moment and he found it hard to breath. It quickly passed and he knelt next to Dan to close his eyes.
Closer to the ground, partially covered by the remains of Dan’s broken spear, he noticed a small rectangular silver plate. He would have ignored it, respect for the dead and all, but it was pulsing with a faint blue light. His curiousity got the better of him.
He picked it up.
Immediately he felt a surge of coolness from the card.
The card along with its glow, disappeared.
Curious he checked his status to see if anything had changed. It took him several seconds to realize what had happened. The card had transferred him the credits Dan had, had in his possession when he died. It was only about forty total so he hadn’t noticed it right away.
Looking up he saw Amy was kneeling down next to Yuki’s corpse and he hesitated to say what he’d been about to say. Then the thought that his hesitations and reluctance had already led them into disaster once, struck him, and he cleared his throat.
This was a new world, a harsher world, and they all had to get used to that sooner rather than later.
“Make sure you take any useful items from the dead. Their weapons, and anything they got from the「System」especially. Also if you see a silver card on them, pick it up too, it’s contains what’s left of their purse.”
Nobody argued with him. Though he noticed Jessica throwing him a glare. Vanessa put a hand on her shoulder and said something he was too far away to hear. Jessica nodded at whatever she’d said, and the fight left her.
Grunting, Mike reflected that being the leader was probably going to cut into his popularity. Then caught himself, did he want to step up and be the leader?
The answer was still a resounding no. He didn’t want to lead anyone. The problem was he was hands down the best choice to take the job.
So no he didn’t want to be the leader. He needed to be the leader. So he would be, at least for now.
Standing up he saw Troy still had his staff and his robe, meaning no one had looted him yet. Sighing he made his way over to the black mage’s body and kneeling down he turned him over so that he faced the ceiling.
He didn’t see a silver card on him anywhere, just a jagged chunk of metal sticking in his chest to the left of his sternum. Mike hesitated then remembering the little first aide he knew he checked Troy for a pulse.
There was none.
A little confused Mike searched the ground around him. He couldn’t find the card anywhere
“Did he not have any credits left or something?” Mike muttered to himself as he stared at the hunk of metal that had kill his friend.
A strange compulsion took over him, and he reached out. Grabbing the metal he wrenched it back and forth, tearing it loose. From behind him, someone gasped.
Mike looked at the piece of metal in his hand, then back at Troy’s body. He swore. He had no idea why he’d suddenly wanted to pull it out, he just had. Now that he was holding it, he felt conflicted. What kind of person plays with a dead man’s wounds? It’s not like he knew Troy well enough to want a memento of his passing.
He’d called him a friend in his thoughts because it felt like the least he could do now that the man was dead. They hadn’t been that close in reality, more acquaintances than anything. There had been potential there for a friendship, if they survived long enough, but it hadn’t ripened.
Sitting on his heels, lost in his own head, Mike didn’t notice Troy’s corpse’s metamorphosis. It wasn’t until the skin began to be sucked into the bone with a disgusting slurping noise that he looked up to find the source of the noise and noticed what was happening.
He watched, fascinated as Troy’s body slowly but surely dissolved in on itself, leaving only a stark white skeleton behind. Still there was no sign of a silver plate.
Not sure what was happening, Mike decided caution was the better part of valor, and lifting his ax he stepped backwards. A quick check let him know he was the closest one to Troy. That was good, then if Troy was becoming a 「System」monster, he’d be the first target.
“Are you planning to kill me Mike,” a familiar sounding voice asked, and Mike smiled.
“So you’re not dead then?”
“I don’t know, how do you count a skeleton? Am I the living dead? Or am I just animated?”
“I think you’re putting too much thought into it. Let’s just say you’re undead.”
The skeleton, a revived Troy, mulled that over before lifting his head. He paused again after the motion and remaining still for a few second he raised his right hand, giving a thumbs up.
“Undead. I like that. Sorry things got weird. I tried to smile but… well I don’t think I can “emote” anymore without facial muscles. It’s going to have to be all hand signals and conversation cues i guess.”
Mike didn’t know what to say so he sidestepped the issue by holding out his hand, his ax, slung over his other shoulder once again.
“Can you stand up? Take my hand.”
Troy got to his feet, and dusted himself off. His robe, which should have been quite loose on him, had readjusted to his new size. Even the hole in the chest had been repaired. Noticing Mike looking at it Troy said, “「System」clothes. Must be magic or something.”
Mike nodded and together they headed down the hall to where the rest of the group had gathered.
Jessica’s first question was so obvious Mike almost slapped himself for forgetting.
“How did you revive?” She asked, sounding pleased but still a little hesitant.
It was an understandable standpoint. He was a skeleton. They’d all been fighting zombies for most of the day. The difference between the two wasn’t all that big. Except Troy was clearly still Troy, the zombies were just monsters.
“It was my ring,” Troy answered her after a pause. Rubbing the finger bone he’d worn it on, he explained further.
“I probably should have told everyone what it was when I got my [Analyze] skill. But I knew people would get jealous, it might even cause a fight. Honestly I was worried someone would take it and then I’d need it.”
Jessica cleared her throat, indicating she wanted him to speed it up. Mike smiled at that but he didn’t say anything.
“Alright I get it,” Troy said, “the ring was magic. You all knew that. What you didn’t know is that the magic it contained was a curse. If the wearer died while wearing it, they would be revived as a skeleton. But where that could be looked at as a terrible thing, I chose to see it as a second chance. I was worried others might see it that way too. So I didn’t let anyone know what I’d discovered. Obviously it worked out for me in the end, or I wouldn’t be talking to you guys.”
Jessica started to say something about his lack of trust but Mike cut her off.
“Don’t worry about it,” looking over at Jessica he added as a way of reminder, “we’re still all getting to know each other. You couldn’t know how we would react to your ring. I for one am glad it brought you back to us.”
“Thanks Mike,” Troy said, with a sigh.
Hearing the noise Mike considered making a comment about how skeletons didn’t have lungs. But then they didn’t have vocal chords either, and Troy had already been talking. He decided against the bad joke. It was probably a good thing, the atmosphere was too dark for stupid humor.
Seeing that all the survivors were gathered in one huddle, Mike took a good look down the hall. He couldn’t think of anything else they needed to do on the floor so he asked.
“Did we get everything useful?”
Amy grabbed the hilt of Yuki’s knife, now strapped to her belt.
She didn’t say anything.
Jessica looked a bit sick to the stomach as she answered.for everyone.
“Yes we grabbed everything. Even the silver cards.”
Mike grunted, then giving one last look to make sure nothing occurred to him, he said, “Let’s head back upstairs. I think everyone’s earned a nice long rest.”
Nobody argued with him as they filed into the stairwell.
Author : The Steve