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Chapter 126: Turning

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: Scribble Hub

Despite the difficulty involved in making armor, it only took a little more than a week to complete the full set of plate armor that Camilla commissioned from the largest and most skilled armorer in the region, based in Moltrost.

Normally, such a process would have taken at least a month, but thanks to the large sum that Camilla paid as well as the quality of the material involved, the master of the armorers who possessed a rare metal affinity that allowed him to attain his current lofty position, deigned to personally direct the creating of Camilla’s armor.

On the promised day, the day that the master armorer quoted as the latest possible date that the armor set will be completed, Camilla returned to the city riding on Elyss, taking advantage of Elyss’s remarkable speed to complete the trip in just a few hours.

For the first time in months, she went separate ways with Kagriss, since Kagriss had to bring up the horses behind them. Instead of following Camilla toward the city, they arranged to meet up at another city further south, and Kagriss drove the carriage in that direction.

On the trip to Moltrost, it was just Camilla and Lucienne atop Elyss’s back.

For most of the journey, they were silent, but as the city finally appeared as a small speck in the distance, reachable in under an hour, Camilla turned to stare at Lucienne behind her.

Lucienne stiffened, and then sat up straight, raising her chin to look tall and professional. Camilla had to hide a smile at that, but she asked what she wanted to ask anyway.

“Do you know why I had you come instead of Kagriss?”

“I don’t know, com—Camilla,” Lucienne said honestly. After a moment, she ventured forth with a question of her own. “Why?”

Camilla hesitated. She didn’t want to bring up the question about Lucienne’s loyalty again, especially when they got along decently well together. Over the past week on the prairie, Lucienne truly did integrate into their group as naturally as if she had been born to be there.

In that week, Lucienne began to shed the militaristic habits she accumulated over the course of her templar training, becoming more of a free spirit that suited Lucienne much more compared to the stifling decorum expected of templars.

To ask Lucienne to return now was akin to shutting a bird back into a cage after letting her fly around, but with the final chance to back out looming, Camilla had to be sure so that Lucienne had no regrets.

She licked her lips, truly nervous for the first time in a while. By then, her silence had already set Lucienne on edge.

“What is it?” Lucienne asked, her eyebrows drawing together in worry.

Her voice was full of worry, so unsure, that Camilla almost stopped, but she forged onwards against her own reluctance. “Lucienne. I know it’s a bit late to say this, but after we leave Moltrost, we might not return for a long time. Right now, you can still go back to the Order and pretend nothing has happened, but once you leave with me this time…you can never go back.”

“…yes?”

“There is no return. Are you sure that you can turn your back on the Order?” Camilla asked, dropping her voice.

Lucienne looked like she had just been slapped in the face, reeling back. As she opened her mouth to say something, no words came out and she fell into thought. But just as quickly as her hesitation came, it disappeared and Lucienne nodded, her head bobbing once hard.

“I’m sure,” she said. “And… thank you.” She bowed deeply, or as low as she could while sitting behind Camilla on the back of a giant lion. The awkwardness of the movement and how Lucienne wasn’t offended in the end brought a smile to Camilla’s face again before it disappeared and Camilla turned serious again.

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“Don’t thank me yet. Leaving the Order isn’t as easy as you think it is,” Camilla warned. “Rarely do templars ever leave their Order and it’s not because they don’t want to.

“Do you remember what you did when you were inducted and when you were ordained?” she asked, prompting Lucienne’s eyes to unfocus as she searched her memories. When Lucienne came back to the present, she nodded.

“Oh… I see what you mean. You’re talking about the oathstone ritual, right?” she asked. “It’s not a ceremony that’s just for show where we cut our hand and drip blood to prove our courage?”

Camilla rolled her eyes. “Of course not—do you think this is a game? We’d never do something so troublesome if it was pointless. That kind of oathstone is rare and binding an actual oath to it is even harder,” Camilla said, and cleared her throat. “Ahem…from my tenure as commander, I learned a lot about the stone. That thing binds each Order to the Church, and each templar to their Order. As long as you have that bond with that stone, you can’t ever intentionally act against the Church.”

Lucienne’s face paled. “Huh? Does that mean I can’t leave? But wait, I’ve been sending false reports all this time, so why…”

“Why haven’t you received punishment? Simple. It’s because you acted orthogonal to the Order’s interests, not against. Keeping secrets from the Order doesn’t count as acting against it unless you are intentionally doing it harm them. Supporting me doesn’t count either because as far as you know, I do not intend to act against the Order.”

“That makes sense…but the Order is on the lookout for you,” Lucienne said. “So they consider you an enemy. I don’t understand.”

Camilla shrugged. “Directly attacking me is tantamount to suicide, so even if the Order considers me an enemy, the oath won’t punish you for leaving me alone. Besides, your current target is Elyss here, and from a certain point of view, you’re merely exploiting a tactic to help you capture her.” She patted Elyss’s soft fur.

Elyss growled in protest at that thought.

The worry faded from the templar’s face bit by bit as Camilla listed out the reasons why she didn’t need to worry.

“As you can see, because the oath must be general enough to give templars leeway in their actions, there are plenty of loopholes to exploit. I would have stopped you if you had gone awry,” she said.

By now, Lucienne had calmed down completely, although she still seemed confused about something. When Camilla nodded at her, she blurted her question.

“So if there’s so many loopholes and even things as egregious as talking about betraying the Order doesn’t count, what does?!”

Camilla thought for a moment. “Not much, really. Directly attacking another templar without a proper reason is really the only one you need to care about. Remember, if the oath is too broad, then the templar’s ability will be hobbled, not to mention that unlike holy contracts, this oath ritual is one-sided and is thus not as powerful.”

“Oh… but why are you telling me this now?” Lucienne asked. “I don’t foresee fighting templars in the near future—.”

Camilla interrupted her. “Things change. Remember where we’re heading, as well as my status.”

“So then, what should I do? I’ll just be a burden to you…”

“Not necessarily. You asked yourself why I was telling you, right? The truth is, for as long as you live, the only way to be free of that oath is to have the current templar-commander remove it from you before the oathstone.”

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She forestalled Lucienne by holding up a finger. “But from my experience, as well as a discussion with a certain someone, I found that there’s a way for me to free you of the oath.”

The pools of gold in her eyes darkened with blood, becoming red. “I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but once more…are you sure?”

The change in Camilla’s eyes made the meaning of her words so obvious that Lucienne would have to be stupid to not understand.

Although her answer didn’t change, Lucienne was still grateful that Camilla gave her so many chances to turn back, so that she wouldn’t regret anything.

“Yes! I’m sure. However, I won’t betray humanity.”

As soon as those words came out of her mouth, the smell of blood filled the air and Camilla’s hair seemed to sway. When Lucienne blinked again, half of Camilla’s hair seemed to have turned white, or more accurately silver.

“I don’t mind, as long as you don’t oppose us either.”

When Lucienne nodded in agreement, Camilla stood up. “Elyss, wait for a bit.”

The huge lion stopped her ambling run. Carrying the girl who was much taller than her in a bridal carry, Camilla jumped down. Scarcely giving Lucienne time to breathe, Camilla was already facing Lucienne again.

Camilla opened her mouth and long fangs extended past all her other teeth.

“Don’t resist. Accept it.”

As Camilla leaned closer, Lucienne closed her eyes. Her heart was pounding, but she wasn’t afraid. It was excitement that she felt, partly from that rather abrupt carry and jump, and partly in anticipation for what was to come.

Compared to the person getting bitten, the person doing the biting was a lot more nervous despite her beguiling facade.

It would be Camilla’s first time…turning someone into a vampire. It was difficult because while she was a vampire noble, she was a lot weaker than she should be thanks to her resistance and late awakening. While time would fix that issue, she was still immature in a sense and her ability to create vampires weren’t up to scratch.

If she tried to create her own vampire noble, she’d probably die in the process and fail to boot.

Creating thralls was easy even for the current her, but she’d never do that to Lucienne and turn her into a mindless, bloodthirsty monster when that naive templar has shown nothing but sincerity.

She was going to have to take a risk and turn Lucienne into a lower vampire.

Camilla’s heartbeat accelerated, letting the blood course through her body faster than ever, allowing her to bring the full force of her blood magic to bear. At the same time, she locked away her lifeblood, the blood that was actually hers and not made of magic. Even vampires did not have an unlimited amount of it and when vampires fed on each other, it was lifeblood that they drank.

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Lucienne didn’t have her helmet on, but her gorget still hid her neck. Camilla strengthened herself with mana and physically tore that bothersome piece of armor apart, baring Lucienne’s tanned neck.

Despite herself, Camilla swallowed when she saw that smooth, unsullied skin and her body heated up. No no no. This is just turning, nothing more!

Mentally slapping herself, Camilla squeezed her eyes shut and tried to concentrate as she leaned forward and tilted her head, positioning her mouth next to Lucienne’s throat.

The villagers provided Lucienne with the best soap they had, and now the flowery scent emanating from the neck tickled Camilla’s nostrils, making her body heat up further. She had to swallow her gathered saliva.

At the same time, something familiar pressed against her mind and she heard her mother’s voice. Like she promised, Victoria was here to guide her through the process and make sure this important ritual didn’t fail.

“Yes, like that. Now bite down.”

Following Victoria’s instructions, Camilla gave herself over to her vampiric instincts. Her body naturally adjusted its position, and then bit down while she hugged Lucienne tightly.

Lucienne sucked in a breath, wincing with pain, and Camilla felt gauntleted arms hug her back.

Blood filled Camilla’s mouth as the warm liquid spurted out from the puncture wounds. At first, Camilla’s mouth couldn’t contain all of it and some of it leaked, but Camilla quickly began to drink, sucking and swallowing each mouthful of blood.

“Wait. Extend your mana through that wound and cut her open all over from the inside. Remember, you want to create the illusion that she was killed in battle so you need some of her original blood to spill.”

Victoria’s unexpected advice drew Camilla out of her trance.

With a start, she realized that her mother was right and she acted accordingly. Blades of blood slashed out from within Lucienne’s defensive body, instantly dying her red.

However, Lucienne already felt no pain. The very mana that manipulated Lucienne’s blood to attack herself had put her under a spell that suspended her life, changing her body.

As her blood emptied, the blood formed of Camilla’s blood mana took root in Lucienne’s body, becoming a new source of life.

Victoria guided Camilla through each manipulation, sometimes stepping in and aiding Camilla when she was unsure or about to mess up.

Perhaps this process was easy for a mature vampire noble, but Camilla had just become a noble for less than two months and this was her first time doing something like this. After several grueling minutes that stretched Camilla to the limits of her concentration and exhausting most of her blood mana, the turning was complete.

Now, Lucienne was no longer a templar. The oath in her body had been wiped away along with her humanity.

Although she was exhausted, Camilla began to tear apart the rest of Lucienne’s armor as well as her clothes with her claws. The bloodstained pieces of armor were scattered all over the place to be found by search parties from the Cloud Order.

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As for the person who had been clad in that armor mere moments before, she lay naked on the ground, a lower vampire, having taken in Camilla’s blood mana rather than her lifeblood.

She was changed, both inside and outside, including her appearance.

Her ears had gotten slightly longer and pointier, but the change was so slight that it should only be noticeable by someone extremely observant. It was still well within human limits as well.

But while Lucienne retained most of her original appearance, the air about her was completely different. There were subtle changes to her facial structure to be changed just enough that someone familiar with her might feel uneasy looking at her, but the overall effect made her look more bewitching.

The biggest, most visible changes were more superficial.

Her hair, once short, had grown longer, and her skin tanned from training in the sun outside of her armor was gone, turned pale. Beyond that, there were no other changes.

The color of her eyes were no different, and neither was the color of her hair. Victoria hadn’t lied. Only vampire nobles underwent such drastic changes.

As the sleeping girl stirred, her closed eyes twitching slightly, Camilla felt a heavy weight on her shoulders fall away. The turning was a success. “Thank you, mother…”

“Aww, okay. I was going to say that you owe me one, but I suppose a simple thank you will suffice…this time.” Leaving those unexpectedly kind yet rather ominous words behind, Victoria retreated from Camilla’s mind, leaving her alone to watch Lucienne wake up.

While being undead removed physical exhaustion from the equation, Camilla was still mentally exhausted. However, despite that, she was still able to conjure up a dress she had stored, her simple black and white dress.

Manipulating it so that it fit Lucienne’s body, Camilla managed to complete the outfit just before Lucienne opened her eyes and looked around at the bloodstained grass.

“This… I don’t remember… what’s happened?” Lucienne muttered.

Camilla felt an icy cold hand grab her heart, but before she could think too far, the fog in Lucienne’s eyes cleared. “Oh, I remember…vampire…”

The new vampire looked at her pale hands as if she couldn’t believe it. “I’m a vampire now? There’s so much blood around here, but I don’t feel hurt at all.”

“Of course you don’t!” Camilla whacked Lucienne on the head. Considering the effort that she put into that turning ritual, it would be weird if Lucienne felt anything past that initial bite.

As Lucienne’s kind-of mother now, she had the right to punish such boneheaded remarks. Although the blood bond between them wasn’t as strong as one between two vampire nobles, Lucienne was now technically part of her bloodline, if just barely.

Camilla stood up, swaying a bit before she regained her balance. She swept her hand around them at the armor plates. “This is all your blood.” Ignoring Lucienne’s surprised expression, she continued on. “The old Lucienne died here, and you are now a new Lucienne. If you do whatever you do to cast spells, you should be able to feel a second mana affinity, that of blood.”

Lucienne opened the palm of her hand and a tiny needle of blood materialized. She stared at it with wonder. “It’s true!”

“Of course it’s true! But don’t worry about it for now. Explore it in your own time. For now, go back to your holy mana and start to saturate this place with it. Make it look like there was a battle.”

“Why?” Lucienne looked blankly at her. Despite her question, she nonetheless pulled back the needle of blood into her own body and replaced it with a ball of light that she fired at the ground.

Ignoring the obvious question that she had no patience for, Camilla gathered undead mana from the air and began to do the same. Soon, the location was filled with craters, charred grass, and ground corrupted by undead mana.

A veritable battlefield.

Looking around in satisfaction, Camilla nodded. “I trust I don’t have to answer that question?”

“N-no…”

“Good.” Her head spun again and when she tried to jump back onto Elyss’s back, she ran face first into a wall of muscle that wasn’t there before and fell back onto the ground. This time, she couldn’t get up.

“Pfft…Ahem…”

“Yeah yeah, whatever, keep laughing,” Camilla muttered, putting her hand over her eyes to block out the sun shining high up in the sky.

She wanted to throw up.

If creating a lesser vampire was this tiring for her, then how did Victoria feel when she created her, a vampire noble? Camilla suddenly felt a whole lot more appreciative than before.

As she contemplated on how to get up, her eyes spinning so much that she couldn’t see and only feel with her lifesense, she felt Lucienne turning this way and that, probably looking at her dress.

How nice, to be able to move freely like that.

Well, she certainly wasn’t going to ask anyone for help, even if she had to lay here for the rest of the day all the way until sunset.

Just as she resigned to actually just resting here, Lucienne came over and pulled Camilla onto her shoulder. On top of that, even Elyss lowered her body to give Lucienne an easier time climbing on her back, making Camilla feel a little warm inside.

As she struggled to keep her eyes open against the mana exhaustion, she heard Elyss’s voice in her mind.

“Sorry for standing up right earlier…um…you can rest. I’ll make sure we get to Moltrost…”

While Camilla still wanted to hit the stupid lion for that little prank earlier, she couldn’t muster up the strength as she finally fell unconscious. Unlike sleep, this time, nothing could wake her up.

It was only when night almost fell that she recovered enough mana. By then, they were already just outside the walls of Moltrost, hidden under Elyss’s light attributed spell that cloaked them from watchful eyes.

Using those very same spells to hide their physical activity, Camilla and Lucienne climbed the walls and headed toward the armorer with all the guards atop the walls none the wiser.

Only when they were inside the armorer did they undo the Elyss’s concealment spell. At the armorer, Camilla picked up the armor that she commissioned. She also bought Lucienne a ready-made set of plate, a sword, and a shield to replace the pieces that were rusting out in the plains.

The whole errand took less than half an hour and they were back out and riding away atop Elyss before the sun disappeared below the horizon line.

——————————————————

Arvel sat in his room, totally unbothered by the information he had just learned straight from Demuur’s smug mouth. Of course, he acted as worried as anyone else, but it was just that, an act.

According to Demuur, a templar was dead. A tracking spell found her armor out in the plains between the town where she had been deployed and the city. Her armor had been torn to pieces and scattered everywhere along with her blood. At the site, there were signs of undead activity and holy mana matching the templar’s signature. Evidently, she had been attacked by one or more undead and lost.

Her death was confirmed when her link to the oathstone was found to be broken.

Further investigation revealed that when Camilla and Kagriss left the city, they traveled in the direction of the town. That was enough evidence to brand them the killers, hence why Demuur was so smug.

“See? She was a threat! She couldn’t be trusted!”

But Arvel knew better. Lucienne seemed to have a decent relationship with Camilla and with all that blood at the site of battle yet not a trace of flesh or gore, it was pretty obvious that Camilla did something involving her new vampire powers.

Thus, he wasn’t worried at all about Camilla. But he did have worries, namely the investigation regarding the traitor within the Church that Camilla entrusted him with.

He now had a suspect. Just the other day, a certain apprentice of Pavlor asked him if he could help him with his research into Orlog’s body. Considering Justin’s talents and the fact that Arvel and Pavlor never saw eye to eye, the boy’s behavior was rather suspicious.

What more could be uncovered has yet to be seen…

Justin recently came in contact with a rumor from his master Pavlor.

“That undead we met during the hunt?” Pavlor had said, his face red with alcohol. “She’s finally shown her true colors! She killed a templar with that damn lich friend of hers!”

But Justin wasn’t convinced about the rumors. His contract with Camilla remained active, meaning Camilla had not acted directly against the Church yet. Even if she had killed a templar, it would have been in valid self defense. If Camilla had provoked the templar beforehand, the contract would have activated.

It was more likely that Camilla was framed.

But enough about the dead templar; he had other things on his plate. Although he hadn’t made any progress in his hunt for traitors, it wouldn’t hurt to brush up his knowledge so that if he did come across evidence, he won’t miss it.

As such, he applied to temporarily become Father Arvel’s assistant in his research.


Axiom’s Note

As I wrote this chapter, a reader brought to my attention how she could’ve avoided this delay entirely by just looting and blood binding a skeleton’s armor like she did with the sword thanks to the automatic (to an extent) resizing ability it has. I could’ve had heavy armor on her a hundred chapters ago!!!

Literally ded.


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