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Chapter 10: Final Stand

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

The ball of mana shone brightly and Fleur lunged forward without fear.

“Wait!”

“No! Purifica—tion!”

Carmen gave up on hiding that she could move ever so slightly to dodge, but the immobilization command was still too powerful. The most she could do was shift her body slightly—nowhere near enough to avoid the Purification spell.

Instead of hitting her squarely on the back, the ball of holy energy slammed into Carmen’s side, exploding in an expanding white glow.

This time, she could no longer hold back her cry. The heat and pain from this Purification was incomparable to anything prior. It felt like someone took a giant heated knife and gouged out a piece of her flesh.

Although she couldn’t see the results of the explosion, from the way a trace of her power was gathering at the spot of impact, performing repairs on her body, Carmen knew that for the first time, the acolyte managed to hurt her.

“I did it!” Fleur cheered. “I did it, I did it! You said I couldn’t even scratch you, and look where that got you! Ha!” She peered at Carmen’s face and bared her teeth. “Prepare yourself!”

Realizing that she was grimacing, Carmen carefully rearranged her expression back to neutral and looked away.

The acolyte might have won this tiny victory, but she’ll be the one to win the war. After all…

Carmen turned her nose up at the acolyte. “Look again, fool. Where do you see a scratch?”

Fleur tilted her head and frowned. “What do you mean? It’s right—huh?”

The acolyte stared at Carmen’s side where the explosion had been centered.

Along with the acolyte’s gaze, Carmen cast her senses toward her side as well. The gathered undead mana that had been healing her was gone, and the skin was no longer broken or smoking. Not even a scorch mark could be found.

Even if ants could take down an elephant by some miracle, it took more than a miracle if the elephant simply regenerated its wounds. Not that she was comparable to an elephant in any way.

“Do you see now? Your magic is simply insufficient against someone like me. My offer for you to just walk away still stands. I promise to you that I will not harm any innocent humans.”

“What do you mean innocent humans?” Fleur scoffed. “All humans are innocent, as far as you undead are concerned.”

Fleur backed away, but didn’t leave the cavern. Instead, she fished the gem of control out of her pouch and clutched it, as if it was a protective charm.

Carmen sighed. It was really difficult speaking with this acolyte. The words of an helpless undead wasn’t enough to convince her to rethink her beliefs. She’ll have to educate her after they both got out on what being a proper member of the Church meant.

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It was better for both of them if Fleur knew about the rot of the Church. With luck, by the end of all this, she’ll have gained an ally within the Church, and Fleur will no longer be blind to the truth.

“So, since you’re not leaving, what are you waiting for? You don’t have enough mana to kill me with your magic,” Carmen said. “Isn’t it awkward standing there watching me?”

Even if Fleur didn’t think so, Carmen did. A girl standing at the entrance of a cavern full of zombies, staring at a girl stuck to the ground.

At least she wasn’t hitting her with that Purification spell anymore.

However, where Fleur would have snapped back at her before, she remained silent. No matter how Carmen interpreted it, the behavior was suspicious. Carmen narrowed her eyes, staring at Fleur, who shifted under her gaze.

“You’re hiding something. A trump card you didn’t reveal?”

Fleur hid her hands behind her back, but Carmen could easily recall what the acolyte had in her hands before she hid it. The gem of control.

It wasn’t much of a trump card, in any case.

The stalemate continued. Fleur kept her mouth shut tightly, which was strange. If Carmen hadn’t been talking with her just a few minutes ago, she might have thought that Fleur was mute from the way Fleur ignored all her questions.

It didn’t stop her from asking though. “You’re really not going to tell me? I might be just a little bit excited about what it is.”

“Can I have a hint?”

“Does that gem hold any secrets I’m not aware of?”

“Say, why don’t you save us both some time and just let me go?” Carmen asked. Already, she could get up on her knees, as long as she supported herself with one hand. The speed at which the immobilization command degraded increased with every second, way faster than Carmen expected.

Having gotten up right in front of Fleur, looking for a reaction—any reaction, all she got with a blank stare. She didn’t even bother refreshing the immobilization command.

But soon, she realized why the command holding her down was fading so quickly. A zombie burst into the room from behind Fleur, pickaxe raised up high.

Instead of jumping in fright, or even surprise, Fleur simply backed up against the cave wall and watched as almost a hundred zombies filed into the cavern one by one, encircling Carmen in rings upon rings of hostile undead.

The expansion zombies already on the floor got up, hoisting their own makeshift weapons. They towered over the others.

Looking around at the horde, Carmen nodded at a puzzle solved.

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No wonder the command weakened so quickly. Fleur had directed some of the gem’s power of control toward ordering every zombie to come. The gem had to split its focus between the immobilization command keeping her down and the assembly command for the other zombies.

From her vantage point on the ground, Carmen couldn’t see Fleur, but she could easily hear the acolyte’s voice.

As the zombies assembled, Fleur seemed to have finally reached her breaking point and she began to run her mouth again. “Hah! This is my trump card! I bet you didn’t expect that, did you? Are you surprised?” she gloated.

“Well, yes. But…” Carmen mumbled, confused, “this is your trump card? In what way is it any better of an idea than any of your previous ones?”

“Hmph. Let’s see if you can still talk like that in a bit. Even if magic won’t work, weapons probably will. Even if you can weather my Purification spell now, can you still do it once you’re in tiny pieces?” The confidence was clear in Fleur’s words.

“I see. Certainly, if you cut me up, I’ll be less able to resist your magic, but did you ever consider that I might be as impervious to weapons as I am to holy magic?”

“…No?” Fleur’s voice was full of doubt.

Not that Carmen could blame her. She poked at her arm, feeling how her finger sank into her arm. Her skin was soft, without the muscle expected from someone as physically strong as she was. She didn’t need the muscles if her undead power enhanced her strength.

In any case, her soft skin didn’t seem like much of a defense, but Carmen knew from experience how tough zombie knights were when their skin were pushed beyond a certain degree. Their skin was soft until right before the breaking point, whereupon they turned as tough as steel.

Regular spearheads broke from solid hits against these knights.

Even if she was currently only a pseudo-zombie knight, her resilience was nothing to laugh at. Leaving aside whether the zombies could even piece her skin—by surrounding Carmen with zombies, Fleur committed the biggest mistake she had made all day.

Carmen licked her lips. “Fleur, was it? When your teacher taught you about higher undead, did he ever tell you how we’re made?”

Fleur’s quiet voice traveled through the crowd of zombies to reach Carmen’s ears. “No? I thought you just appeared randomly…”

Carmen sighed. Fleur made the same mistake as she had back when she was a holy knight commander—not researching the enemy enough. If she had just paid attention to the myths about how strong vampires were, or gathered more intelligence about them, she would have turned back even if it meant she would be stripped of her command in the Order.

“Very well. Let me give you a supplementary lesson. Allow me to demonstrate to you the evolution of a zombie knight!”

Mist poured from her body like a huge net, stretched over the entire room.

At the sudden appearance of the mist, Fleur yelped. A second later, the zombies that surrounded Carmen surged forward in a mass of bodies, limbs, and weapons.

Fingers clawed at her and teeth bit at her, but all of them simply slipped off her skin without finding purchase. A hammer slammed into her face, only to bounce away and cave in the skull of another zombie that tried to hit her. The tip of a pickaxe flew through the air and slammed into her chest, the full weight and momentum of the tool concentrated behind a small point.

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At last, something managed to break through her defenses.

Half of the pickaxe head disappeared into Carmen’s chest, slipping in between her rib cage. Against a human, it would have been fatal, with several organs being crushed or punctured. However, for Carmen, all it meant was that she had an extra hole in her chest until she regenerated.

Unlike with the holy energy, the wound didn’t even hurt.

As she disappeared under the crush of bodies, she turned toward the ceiling, squeezed her eyes shut and shouted with all the energy she had. “Fleur, are you still there? Good news for you—a zombie managed to piece through me with a pickaxe! Bad news—it’s stuck and he can’t get it back out. I’m afraid that even if I didn’t have a plan, your plan would have failed!”

And unfortunately, she did have a plan. It was a really simple one too. Just as the zombies had covered her completely, the mist she unleashed enveloped the zombies, beginning to draw out the undead power that sustained their bodies and making it her own.

However, there was just too much energy this time and Carmen couldn’t process it fast enough. As the undead mana poured into her, she realized that if she didn’t stop, she might lose her sense of self as the amount of outside energy surpassed her own power in her own body.

Carmen cursed under her breath. She shouldn’t have been so greedy and dramatic. If only she just began to absorb the zombies on her one by one, she wouldn’t be having this kind of trouble.

It wasn’t like she was short on time or targets, given how the zombies were piled on top of her.

Cursing her impatience, Carmen drew back her black mist in a hurry, trying to stop her absorption. But how could the undead let her go so easily?

She didn’t expect them to, but it was worth a try.

As her mist lifted from the undead and retreated toward Carmen’s body, the zombies themselves seemed to become a sea of darkness as black mist welled up from in between their writhing bodies.

The bodies of all several dozen zombies had become a weapon of the horde collective, fuel for a powerful mental offensive. The needle and spears returned with a vengeance like a ghost that insisted on haunting Carmen.

“I just got rid of you, and now you’re back again?” Carmen snarled. A broken finger fell into her mouth and she spat it out.

The mental spears this time were powerful—much more powerful compared to the ones the expansion zombies created by themselves. Like battering rams, they pounded on the gates of her mind, trying to force themselves in and take over her entire being.

Her head throbbed, the pain almost as bad as it had been when she was still weak and that team of expansion zombies passed by her on their way up.

It was truly painful, but Carmen didn’t plan on giving up either.

She had had enough of playing defensively. Mustering all of her strength, Carmen formed a powerful mental spear of her own. Destroying the feeble minds of several zombies in one go was child’s play to the current her.

Opening the gates of her mental defenses, she felt her consciousness eroding away, but at the same time, she launched the mental spear, piercing through the minds of a zombie.

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The black mist faltered, growing weaker as the horde lost a member. But instead of falling back, the black mist of the horde redoubled its invasion of Carmen’s mind.

Struggling to maintain a grasp on her mind, Carmen took a deep breath and pierced again at the horde with her spear.



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