Chapter 118: Strengthening

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: Scribble Hub

After leaving the increasingly bold and noisy villagers behind, Camilla drove the carriage up beside the barn. She turned around and held a hand toward the drape. A pale hand brushed aside the cloth and took her hand.

Pushing down, Kagriss jumped out of the carriage, landing gracefully beside her.

“Well, you heard everything. You won’t consider going back?” Camilla asked as she watched Kagriss brush off the dust that flew up when she landed. When Kagriss straightened, Camilla turned toward the horses and began to fidget with the straps and buckles that connected the two horses to the vehicle.

“It’s ultimately up to you, but I don’t really want to go back.” There was a hint of begging in Kagriss’s voice as she lightly tugged on Camilla’s sleeve.

Camilla paused. What was Kagriss up to this time, doing something so girlish and immature…

The image of Kagriss in her mind—a cold and mature lady by day and devilish seductress by night—shattered in her mind. Kagriss had broken her image before, but that was because Camilla betrayed her trust. This time was different.

She didn’t dislike being begged like this and while Camilla had resigned to staying earlier before Kagriss did anything, Camilla felt the last of her resistance crumble.

But it wasn’t enough. Camilla wasn’t going down without a fight. She unstrapped the first horse from the carriage and sent it off to feed and drink, and then she turned her eye on Kagriss, working hard to put a strict expression on her face. “I’ll consider it. But first you have to tell me why you think I should let us stay? What have you learned from last time?”

After glaring at Kagriss once and finding her smiling charmingly, Camilla shivered. It was so strange seeing that expression on her face. Even after Camilla glared at her, the smile never left Kagriss’s face as if she was sure that Camilla didn’t mean it.

Camilla hurriedly turned back to her work, unable to face Kagriss as the latter mulled about her answer and began to explain her thoughts.

“Well, there’s a good chance that the dangerous thing the humans back there were talking about is a magic beast. I want to fight it, but I know now that we should first scout it out,” she began, and then looked at Kagriss.

“Correct.” Camilla heard the pause and nodded, indicating for Kagriss to continue.

“Since it attacks at night, we should keep watch, and then follow it back from a distance. When it’s settled, we should lure it deeper into the plains so it doesn’t attack the village, and from then on we should begin to test to see what it’s capable of. After we get that information, we can make further plans.”

By the time Kagriss finished, Camilla finished as well. The horse trotted off to join its comrade at the water trough.

Camilla wiped her hands and finally looked again at Kagriss, who wasn’t smiling nearly as brightly as before; there was only a faint smile that exuded elegance, something that Camilla was a lot more used to seeing Kagriss wear.

Camilla sighed in relief, shivering again at the memory of grinning Kagriss.

“Ahem. As long as you remember your words and act as you preach, I’m fine with staying. Of course, plans can and will change, especially this time since there will be ‘reinforcements’ coming from Moltrost.”

“Understood.”

Everything that needed to be done was done, so the two of them pulled open the door of the straw storage barn. The smell of freshly dried straw wafted into their nose. It was mid-autumn and rapidly approaching winter. The grass had long been cut and dried, gathered into these giant piles of straw stacked up like a sea of yellow and gold. A pitchfork or two were haphazardly tossed in.

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There was even straw and dried rushes on the second floor of the barn, reachable by a shallow incline.

Camilla didn’t even look at the incline as she simply jumped up onto the second floor. Kagriss soon reached her side with the help of a bit of magic propelling her upwards.

Laying down side by side, they stared up at the sloped roof of the barn.

“So, how does it feel?”

“It’s actually pretty soft,” Kagriss said. “It’s different from a bed, but it’s still kind of springy…and it smells nice.”

Then they fell silent for a while longer. Camilla had no idea what Kagriss was thinking about, laying there unmoving, but she herself was tracking the movement of two living creatures nearby.

Two creatures, one large and one small, ran above them along the wall. The large creature quickly gained on the smaller one and with a mighty leap, they overlapped. However, as the creature landed after its pounce, it slipped off the walls and landed not too far from them onto the soft straw.

With a shake of its head, the cat extinguished the radiant life force of the large, fat mouse in its mouth.

Not even sparing the two hidden undead a second glance, the cat ran away and hid itself elsewhere in the barn. As Camilla turned her attention away, Kagriss suddenly laughed under her breath.

Camilla stared at her. “…what?”

At her words, Kagriss laughed again, but before Camilla could actually become upset at being ignored, Kagriss managed to stop. She hid her smile behind her hand. “I was just remembering your expression from before.”

“My expression?” Camilla touched her face.

What expression? She didn’t remember making any particularly strange faces recently.

“Well, of course you wouldn’t remember. I’m talking about just a while ago when I smiled at you. You looked so startled and uncomfortable that when I remembered how you looked, it tickled me!” As Kagriss explained, her body trembled again.

Camilla’s face burned.

“Well, since that kind of smile doesn’t look good on me, I won’t do it again, okay?”

“No, it’s fine…umph…”

Kagriss reached over and covered her mouth. “That’s my line. It’s not like I particularly like to laugh or smile, you know? I kind of just did it as an experiment to see if it will make you more likely to agree to things if I smiled at you.”

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“It wasn’t a real smile?” There was a twinge of pain in Camilla’s heart, a tiny feeling of being betrayed. However, she quickly chased it away.

Who cares whether it was a real smile or not?

It was normal to try and stack things in one’s favor when asking for things. A smile or two was no different, since no one likes it when someone requests things from them with a frown on their face.

As Camilla worked hard to convince herself that she didn’t care, she felt her arm become enveloped in something warm and soft and her face became hot again.

Kagriss leaned over and nuzzled her neck. “You taught me so much…”

“Huh? No, it’s nothing.”

“Now, it’s my turn to teach you.”

Camilla’s temperature approached a boiling point as Kagriss, still holding Camilla’s arm and pressing it between her ample breasts, sat up, pulling Camilla along with her.

All sorts of images of rather explicit things raced through Camilla’s mind. She stared into Kagriss’s eyes, trying to find a hint of what Kagriss was going to do next, but when Kagriss next blinked, she let go of Camilla’s arm.

The sudden absence of softness and warmth hit Camilla like a hammer on the head and she started, only to meet Kagriss’s teasing smile.

“Mistress Camilla~, what were you thinking of?”

“M—mistress? No, I wasn’t thinking of anything!” Camilla hurriedly pulled back her neglected arm and hugged it to her own chest. However, she couldn’t avoid Kagriss’s fluttering lashes and her knowing gaze.

Like it was her fault. It was Kagriss that suddenly pulled her arm to Kagriss’s chest, so why was she the one to be embarrassed?

Of course, Camilla kept her mutterings to herself. If Kagriss caught her complaining, who knew what Kagriss would do next.

Resigning herself to defeat, Camilla sighed and looked up. “Well…if it’s not what I’m thinking of—” Camilla blushed, “—then what are you going to teach me?”

Hearing her question, Kagriss clapped her hands together. “Excellent question! It has to do with getting stronger, of course. Don’t forget I’m the older of the two of us, especially when it comes to time spent as an undead!”

“Eh…? Not—I mean, getting strong as an undead?” Camilla asked, catching herself in time before she blurted out her real thoughts.

Well, it was true that lately her strength had stagnated. It was way harder to grow in strength out here in the middle of nowhere without undead mana to absorb.

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All she could do was try and convert some of the local raw mana into undead mana, a slow and inefficient process. This far up north and outside of any formations or desecration zones, it was almost all she could do to make up for the mana she expended each day simply maintaining her existence.

If she spent too long in the red mana-wise, she’ll fall dormant like Kagriss had when she overused her mana in the underground undead base or laboratory.

“I’m interested,” she said honestly. “Tell me, tell me!”

“I will!” Kagriss said, pushing away her face that got closer and closer, a smile on her face. “First, we make an accumulator formation!”

“I’ll help!”

Together, they jumped down from the second floor onto the ground level, and there, they constructed an accumulator formation after checking that no one was nearby.

As they prepared the formation, Kagriss continued to explain. “You see, undeads are a bit different than other races. We are artificial creatures created by spells cast upon the deceased, so obviously there are ways we have that we can use to grow stronger that are different from the other races.” She paused and thought about her words for a moment. “Well, at least I think it’s different for humans and vampires. I don’t know any other race…”

“It’s fine, just continue.” Camilla patted her shoulder reassuringly.

“Well, okay…anyways, since we’re spell creations, we can strengthen ourselves by strengthening our spells.”

“That makes sense.” Camilla did her best to be an attentive audience, as if she was once again a templar trainee listening to a templar teach. “But how?”

“It’s kind of hard to explain, but try to feel within yourself. Try to find the root of your being and you will find the spell that makes up your being.”

Although the instructions were kind of vague and esoteric, Camilla did her best. She turned her thoughts inward, as if she was thinking about her brain, and then entering a metaphysical tunnel she imagined in her mind.

Deeper and deeper she went, until a strange mystical feeling came to her, pulling her somewhere until she was suddenly confronted with a vast array of spell constructions.

Camilla felt from it a strange sense of intimacy.

That was natural. After all, she instinctively knew that these spell constructions were…her. If they changed, so did she, and if they were destroyed, so will she.

She found herself falling into those constructions, deeper and deeper…embodying it and becoming one, until she was pulled out by someone shaking her.

“…Camilla, Milla…!”

The strange nickname that Kagriss snatched her out of her inner world where her spell constructions were. Blinking and gasping for breath, Camilla stared wide-eyed at Kagriss.

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“What was that?”

“It’s you, Mi…Camilla—” she said.

Camilla’s mouth twitched at the correction. The person who gave her that nickname was Kagriss and the person who refused to use it was also Kagriss. How troublesome.

“—so don’t worry about getting lost in it. It’s kind of spooky but it’s supposed to help the…Pure ones regain their bodies’ strength, but it should be a form of meditation for you. Is meditation the right word?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, good! So after you go in there, try to absorb the undead mana around us, then instead of just storing it, try to direct it into that inner world and fuel the spells directly. Funnel it toward the spells and try imbuing it with mana.”

Camilla looked at her doubtfully. “It’s not dangerous, right? We won’t die if we accidentally change anything?”

Kagriss laughed. “Of course not! We can’t change the spells by ourselves. They can only evolve by themselves as we strengthen them, so just relax and don’t worry too much about it.”

“Well, okay…”

The formation was done and Camilla sat down inside it along with Kagriss. After a bit of shifting around, they decided to sit face to face with each other.

With Kagriss’s assurance, Camilla dove back into the ‘inner world’ again. The process was easier the second time. Instead of floundering against it, Camilla let herself sink deeper in. But no matter how deeply she sank, she realized that she was still anchored to the real world; that is, she still knew what was going on around her—the air against her skin, the feeling of the straw beneath her, the presence of Kagriss in front of her, and the movement of mana.

Taking hold of the gathering undead mana, Camilla pulled it toward herself and into her body, making what wasn’t hers into her own mana. She began to direct the mana into her inner world through the connection that bridged the gap.

As she strengthened herself bit by bit, she realized that her inner world actually spanned her entire body, every nook and cranny.

Although the effect of the strengthening wasn’t very noticeable in the short term, Camilla worked diligently at it.

While Camilla strengthened herself for the first time using the new method, still working out the little kinks and problems she ran into, Kagriss began her own strengthening with familiarity.

But instead of spanning her entire body, her inner world was concentrated in a lump of flesh at the center of her chest, protected by a layer of white bone much harder than the surrounding material.

Slowly, the concentration of undead mana rose in the barn. But instead of corrupting and decaying the things within, the mana was drawn into the greedy bodies of the two knight-class undead sitting on the floor in the center of the barn.

All throughout the night, past the second sleep and until the sun began to rise, the undeads sat in silence.

But whereas Kagriss had long reached a point where strengthening did not help her much, Camilla improved by leaps and bounds in a single night.


Axiom’s Note

We cultivators now! Just kidding.

Not many undeads know about this method. Kagriss came up with it herself since she’s a magic fanatic like Arvel. She’s not under any obligation to share either, since all undead are competitors with each other.

This does mean that Kagriss is actually more powerful than Camilla when talking about their undead abilities, especially when not taking into account holy and blood magic.

Be sure to support the author, TypeAxiom, by subscribing to his Patreon!



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