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Chapter 128: Undead Resurgence

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: Scribble Hub

When their bodies finally separated again, their chatting took them back to the original topic. When Kagriss learned that Victoria refused to send help directly, she didn’t look surprised.

“Why? Well, you did tell me that this was your test so I wasn’t expecting much in the first place.”

“Then why did you tell me to ask her?” Camilla grumbled as she adjusted her disheveled clothes. Although she could use magic to heal the little bruises, she left them just barely hidden.

It was a little exciting that way.

There were also markings on Kagriss and although Kagriss wanted to keep them, Camilla didn’t let her. The dress that Kagriss wore was so much more revealing. Even if Kagriss didn’t mind announcing to the world what they did, it was still a bit much for Camilla.

She was also still smarting a little from the lecture she received from her mother last night despite the loving she received from Kagriss as compensation.

It wasn’t her fault, since it was Kagriss’s idea, but Victoria didn’t know that.

“Well, it didn’t hurt to ask—”

“For you.”

“—and you did get something out of it, didn’t you? A tip. You were troubled last night and while you do seem a bit upset, at least it’s not from stress anymore,” she said, putting her hand on Camilla’s cheek and running a thumb across her lips.

Camilla maintained her scowl for a bit longer before she heaved a sigh. She just couldn’t stay angry at Kagriss for long, especially since Kagriss was right. Last night, she had been helpless and rather lost, but after Victoria gave her a suggestion, she had gained new direction on what to do. It was annoying that she hadn’t thought of it herself, though, considering what an obvious solution it was.

Camilla pursed her lips, but before she could remain unhappy for long, Kagriss had circled around her and hugged her from behind, enveloping her in a cool embrace that cleared her mind and chased away her worries.

Shaking her head to start her thoughts over fresh, Camilla stood up straighter. After she peeled Kagriss off of her, she took her hand that had been clasped in front of her in a hug and kissed it before she reluctantly stood up. The talk was only supposed to last a few minutes, but with that little romp and rest, dawn was rapidly approaching.

“Let’s go back to the others.”

“Why the hurry? It’s not like they’ll be missing us,” Kagriss said with her sultry voice, letting disappointment tinge her tone.

Camilla sighed. “I want to tell them the new plan. The sooner we finish this, the sooner we can settle down somewhere.” At her words, Kagriss’s perked up.

“Settle down?”

“Well, not completely since it’ll be boring. But at least we won’t be forced to run around doing things. Instead, we’ll be able to pick and choose. Thanks for staying with me so far.” Camilla hesitated and leaned in close.

Kissing Kagriss’s hand out of nowhere was the limit of her usual daringness but now she gathered her courage and kissed Kagriss on the cheeks.

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“If you do that, then even if I wanted to leave, I can’t…”

“That’s my plan exactly,” Camilla said with a smile. As Kagriss reached for her again, Camilla deftly stepped aside, grabbing Kagriss’s outstretched arms and holding them away from her. A little exasperated, she shook her head. “We just did it! Haven’t you had enough?”

“Okay then…” Although her eyes said that it would never be enough, Kagriss nodded and shook her arms free.

And that was with Camilla finally starting to take the initiative too. Was she just bad or was Kagriss just hard to please… The prospect of the former was a little troubling to Camilla and she quickly pushed the thought away before her mind went down strange paths.

There were things to do, after all.

Leaving the little hollow between two big roots at the foot of the tree that they had stayed, Camilla led Kagriss to find the other two. Heading toward the outskirts of the forest, she found Elyss and Lucienne resting just inside the perimeters of the trees, far enough to hide even Elyss’s form behind the many tree trunks.

The two were, unsurprisingly, asleep. As a vampire herself and considering the odd hours that Victoria was awake at since she was originally an elf, Camilla had almost forgotten that like any other race, vampires needed sleep. Being a former human, Lucienne needed just slightly less sleep than the average person.

As for Elyss, even if she was a mana beast that had long surpassed the limits of her original species, running for what seemed like an entire day from dawn to midnight took a lot out of her.

Seeing them so soundly asleep, Camilla decided to not bother them for now. Motioning for Kagriss to be quiet with her finger to her mouth, she sat down somewhere to keep watch while Kagriss joined her.

Despite their silence, Elyss’s nose, ears, and paws twitched fitfully, almost waking up Lucienne who had been using her as a cushion, but in the end they both settled back. After that moment of tenseness, Camilla sat back with relief.

“For a moment, I thought they were going to wake up,” she whispered.

Kagriss nodded in reply, perhaps not confident in her ability to whisper quietly.

On the outskirts of the forest, the canopy wasn’t particularly dense, and as a result a decent amount of morning light managed to pierce through the leaves to land on the sleeping faces resting underneath.

Squinting and groaning, Lucienne opened her eyes and stretched, her movements waking Elyss up as well. The huge lion rolled from her side onto her belly, almost crushing Lucienne in the process, before digging in her hind legs and stretching out her front.

Her mouth opened wide, showing rows of front teeth, as well as a single golden crystal embedded in the roof of her mouth, right in front of her throat.

If the antlers were that lightning stag’s catalyst for lightning magic and Elyss’s golden coat her catalyst for light magic, then that crystal was her catalyst for holy magic. That much Camilla knew from all the time she had spent with Elyss back when she was the templar-commander.

While Elyss was still stretching out her limbs, Lucienne had already finished. She blinked, looking around, catching sight of Camilla and Kagriss sitting on a thick, low-hanging branch “Oh, you’re back? How long have you been there? Sorry we fell asleep…”

“I’m not sorry.” Elyss’s prideful voice sounded in all of their minds.

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“Elyss!”

“It’s true!”

For some reason, the two of them were bickering. Their relationship wasn’t bad. While it warmed the heart, there were more important things to attend to, at least in Camilla’s attention. Jumping down from the branch with a “hup,” her landing grabbed both Elyss’s and Lucienne’s attention.

They looked at her questioningly.

“Yes?”

Although her goal had been to get their attention, the sudden addition of two gazes directed at her made Camilla feel a little out of place. She coughed. “You already know the situation regarding the undead and the Church, right?”

Lucienne’s mirthful expression turned solemn and she nodded. While Elyss wasn’t nearly as affected, her focus seemed to sharpen.

“Yes,” Lucienne muttered. “Traitors, undead up to something. So what are we going to do? Do we have a plan; a target?”

As a rank-and-file templar, especially a templar with no specialty unlike those shieldbearers, she was used to being pointed at a target and all she had to do was eliminate it. She hated hidden enemies the most.

Elyss, being a hunter, was much the same, although she had a minor experience advantage when it came to skulking around undetected.

Their impatience was palpable, seemingly making the air vibrate with tension.

Camilla hesitated. Although the idea of gathering allies in vampire territory sounded good, she had no idea how it might actually go. After a bit of hesitation, broken only when Kagriss gave her a little poke on the small of her back, Camilla opened her mouth and announced her thoughts.

“While I don’t have a target, I do have a plan. You see, the undeads are quite hidden and although I have eyes in the Church, I doubt it would be that easy to root them out. We’re blind right now.”

Lucienne exchanged glances with Elyss. “So what do we actually do? Have you considered asking the templars for help? Although…”

“Exactly. I can’t ask the templars,” Camilla muttered. “And since the thing we lack most is manpower to use for searching out for related undead, I think we’re better off recruiting people.”

That sounded very reasonable, and neither Elyss or Lucienne disagreed, and Camilla continued on. “In order to compete with an undead force with several jack-class—”

“Oh! I know a few people who might be interested!”

This time, it was Kagriss who smacked Lucienne on the head with a stick of black mana. Holding her head, Lucienne fell silent while Elyss yawned again.

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“—we’re going to need some powerful allies. However, as you know, humanity mostly has holy affinity. Those that have holy mana usually join the Church or Templar or become a war cleric.”

Lucienne nodded, whether to agree or to show that she understood Camilla did not know, but she continued on nonetheless. “Because of that, it will be difficult to find anyone. Most people with the affinity who did not join the Church or Orders will not have the necessary training and that further shrinks the pool. If we’re lucky, we might find one or two a month if we constantly traveled and asked everyone.”

After a moment, Lucienne nodded again, much more subdued.

It seemed that the people she knew weren’t up to scratch yet, although Camilla was a bit curious just who Lucienne might have been trying to recommend. Oh well.

The situation was looking quite grim and Lucienne had sunk into thought. Compared to her, though, Elyss was so much more nonchalant, giving herself a quick bath with her paws. Finally, Lucienne’s shoulders sagged. “I give up. I can’t think of anything,” she admitted.

With Lucienne’s admission of defeat, Camilla finally gave up her last hope of perhaps not having to resort to the vampires. After all, she didn’t really know what she would be getting herself into. Despite having made forays into vampire territory during her campaign and that one-night tour of Victoria’s city, she still didn’t know the culture of the vampires very well.

With no other options left, Camilla’s mouth twitched and she reluctantly stepped up and tapped Lucienne for her attention again.

At the same time, she couldn’t help but feel a little validated. Even Lucienne didn’t think of the vampires despite having just turned. Now she didn’t feel so bad for having not considered recruiting from vampire territory.

Lucienne looked up. “Hm?”

“Well, to tell the truth, I have a last resort. We could go into vampire territory and see if we could recruit some people.”

Lucienne started. “The vampires? Why would they help us when we just invaded them?” she asked. “Although, I’m a vampire too…”

“Well, there aren’t just vampires,” Camilla argued. “There are those from other races as well. In the place I have in mind, there are a lot of elves as well, not to mention beastmen and dwarves…”

At the mention of beastmen, one of Elyss’s ears twitched. There were no other signs of her listening, though.

“…in any case, I don’t think it’s impossible that we might be able to find people willing to help,” Camilla said. “Especially considering that compared to humans, the frequency of children being born with an affinity for magic is more common among the so-called demon races.”

Lucienne looked troubled, but when she looked at her own hands, her slightly pink-tinted nails, her expression softened. “So-called, huh?” Certainly, she didn’t feel very demonic. In the end, she was still herself, and Lucienne was still Lucienne.

It did seem kind of unfair to label the other races of the continent demons, not that she was a member of them. Quite hypocritical.

In the end, Lucienne nodded. “I think that it sounds like a great idea. Right, Elyss?” She turned to look at the lion laying on her side again, her eyes half closed and barely listening.

Back at the stronghold, seeing the guardian beast stretched out in the distance sunbathing had been a common sight, so an unexpected wave of nostalgia washed over Lucienne. Even Camilla couldn’t help but be brought back to those days two years ago.

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After a moment, a low rumble came from deep in Elyss’s chest. It wasn’t really intelligible and Elyss didn’t say anything in their minds, but considering that the tone didn’t seem dissatisfied, Camilla just took it as agreement.

She had secured both Elyss and Lucienne’s agreement, and all that was left was Kagriss. Although Kagriss was the first person she talked to, and alone at that, it didn’t hurt to make sure. She turned, looking at the lich who said and did nothing the entire time except to hit Lucienne on the head.

Their eyes met, and Kagriss nodded once.

And with that, it was a unanimous agreement. Quickly, they set off toward the south. They sold the horses and carriage, since the horses only limited their movement.

Unlike before where they traveled simply to rendezvous, they now had a purpose and they made good progress.

And considering their destination was the land of the vampires, there were of course plenty of questions directed toward the only person with experience: Camilla.

Although she did her best to answer, there were just too many things Camilla simply didn’t know. But thanks to the questions and other chattering, with Lucienne’s chattering breaking through Kagriss’s shell of silence, at least the journey wasn’t boring.

Although they passed by several villages settled deep in the woods, each half a day of walking away from the other along a path, they didn’t stay for very long in any of them, preferring to spend their night out in the trees to keep Elyss company.

Several days of the weeks-long journey to the border passed in peace and quiet, and just as Camilla was thinking that the peace will last, the calm was suddenly shattered when Elyss, who had been chasing after a tiny rabbit and making the earth shake with each other her steps, suddenly skid to a stop and stuck her nose up in the air, sniffing urgently and suspiciously.

Camilla exchanged glances with the other two. Kagriss nodded and they ran to catch up to Elyss.

“What’s wrong?”

“Shh! I’m concentrating!” Elyss growled, bad tempered. Then, she snarled and shook her head, annoyed. Her nose twitched, but no matter how much she concentrated, she couldn’t catch whatever she had sensed just now. Finally, she gave up with a low growl. Seeing her finished with whatever, Elyss took a few hesitant steps forward.

“What happened?” she asked.

Elyss looked at her from the corner of her eyes and after a moment, she bared her teeth. “I thought I smelled undead just now.”

Camilla coughed at that, glaring at Elyss. “What do you mean you smell me?” she demanded. “Do I smell?”

Without even an apology, Elyss shook her head. “It’s not you I smell. Well, it’s not like it’s really a smell, but that’s my most powerful physical sense and that’s what I use as the basis of my mana sense,” she said.

Immediately, Camilla stopped glaring. If it was smell, then it could still be a joke, but if Elyss brought up her mana sense, then she was probably on to something. “Undead mana? Are you sure it’s not mine or Kagriss’s?”

She looked at Kagriss.

Camilla was good at hiding her mana, being able to do it even unconsciously, but Kagriss wasn’t quite as skilled or experienced. As a result, she made both Kagriss and Lucienne practice all day. Elyss alone was exempt from the exercise. Because since she was a mana beast, complete concealment was nigh impossible.

Taking that into consideration, then perhaps Kagriss leaked?

Feeling her stare, Kagriss quickly shook her head. “It’s not me. I checked.”

“Yeah, it’s not Kagriss. I didn’t sense her mana!” Lucienne said, chiming in. But all she got was a reinforced leaf to the head as punishment when she began to leak mana herself.

Even without Lucienne’s interruption, Camilla didn’t really think that it was Kagriss since she had been next to Kagriss the entire time and she didn’t sense anything. So did Elyss really sense something?

“What about now?” she asked.

Elyss shook her head. “I don’t sense anything. It was faint at first, but—” Her words cut off and her head snapped to look at something deep in the forest. “I sense it again!”

There was no hesitation in her voice. Although Camilla couldn’t sense anything herself despite unsealing her own mana to broaden her range, she did not doubt Elyss’s words. As a mana beast, Elyss was much more sensitive to mana than she was, and with a much wider range of detection.

If Elyss said that there was undead mana in that direction, then there definitely was.

Camilla pulled back her mana to find Lucienne and Kagriss staring at her.

“I… think we should check it out,” Lucienne said slowly.

“Even if you didn’t say anything, I’d still have gone.” Camille sighed.

—————————————————————————————

Justin walked through the halls of the housing complex behind the cathedral. The fencing as well as the cathedral itself hid most of the buildings, so most people probably didn’t know just how big the Moltrost Church’s headquarters really were. The complex was home to some thousand priests and acolytes, most of them coming and going as they transferred in and out of the branch churches in the surrounding region.

Today, his steps were just a bit brisker than usual, since he was currently heading toward one of the most healthily guarded places in the entire complex: the research area, situated near the library filled with reference books and ancient valuable scriptures. The priests at the research area mosted wanted the library for its reference books.

He had found his second passion. His first was massive spells, and now, he discovered the wonders of mana inheritance and transformation. The night bell had tolled right as he and Arvel got to an interesting part, so they had to leave and lock down the lab, but now that morning came again, he couldn’t wait to continue. He even skipped breakfast.

Despite the hurry he was in, as he came to a certain part of the complex behind the Church, he slowed down to a measured and dignified pace. Just in time too, as a pair of children no more six or seven dressed in the long robes marking them as novices ran around a corner, one of them holding something half-hidden in their sleeves. They skid to a stop when they saw him, looking up at him with wide eyes before they looked behind them.

That look renewed their dwindling energy and they circled around him, fleeing like a skeleton was chasing them.

Justin looked after them in confusion before he turned, and right as he did, something smashed into him from in front. The thing in question bounced back and fell to the ground, and immediately, a blur of red was hovering over her.

“Fleur, are you okay?”

“Ow…yeah. Damn it, who—Oh, it’s you!” Fleur said as she stood up with Anne’s help. Then her eyes widened when she saw Justin. “What are you doing here?”

Justin chuckled awkwardly. “Oh…just walking around…”

“You do know that this is the school for novices, right?” Fleur asked. As she was about to say something else, Anne stopped her.

The red haired girl stared at Justin out of the corner of her eye, the corner of her mouth pulled up slightly in a hidden smile. “You’re taking a shortcut again, aren’t you? Is it really good for a full priest like you to be walking around here? Do you need…supplementary lessons?”

Justin blanched, remembering his own novice days, quickly shaking his head. “No no, I’m really just…wandering!” he lied. “Rather, you two are acolytes, so what are you doing here?”

Anne almost laughed. “We’re here to help take care of the novices! There were a lot more orphans that showed potential this year and the priests and priestesses are a bit overwhelmed, so they had a few of us come and help out.”

Suddenly, Fleur smacked Anne on the back. “The novices! We need to go catch them!”

Struck with sudden realization, Anne cut her wince short and grabbed Fleur’s hand, running around Justin. “Catch you later, novice!” she called.

Justin palmed his face and shook his head. Since Anne and Fleur are helping out here, then they’ll probably be here every day. Perhaps he should stop taking this shortcut. But since he was already here, it would be a waste to go all the way around again. Last time, then.

He continued to walk and soon he was out of the educational area and the number of novices and acolytes decreased, replaced with priests and priestesses. Despite himself, he found himself staring at some of the priestesses, whose faces more than made up for the fact their robes hide their bodyline. Of course, his feet never stopped moving.

As he neared the research zone, the number of priests and priestesses dropped. Turning one more time, he saw something dark on the floor. He picked it up and looked around. Did someone drop it?

Must have.

The item was a book bound in unmarked dark leather. Justin opened it, trying to see if he could find the author’s name. Maybe it was a diary?

With more than a little anticipation, he flipped through the pages, but instead of the diary he saw, there were diagrams and charts and hastily scribbled notes along with neatly printed text. It was a research journal, which wasn’t surprising considering how close he was to the research area. He closed the book with a loud smack.

There was something familiar about it, but he couldn’t put his finger on what exactly was the familiarity he felt.

The right thing to do would be to turn it in since research was something heavily regulated and private. However, in the end, curiosity got the better of him. Justin opened the book again and as he continued his walking, he began to read. His eyes widened.

The subject of the research journal was none other than the interaction between holy and undead mana!

Was the book Arvel’s then? But it didn’t look like Arvel’s handwriting.

As he approached the sealed and guarded laboratories, he slipped the book into his sleeves. Nodding to the priests armed with heavy maces, he walked past them and pressed his hand on a crystal next to the door. Pushing some of his mana into it, the crystal glowed and the heavy doors swung open slowly.

After he entered, the door closed behind him.

Continuing on, he soon found the lab reserved for him and Arvel. Once again unlocking the door with his mana, he found that Arvel was already in this, having shed his robes to reveal his muscular and toned physique normally hidden underneath.

Arvel looked up from his writing. “Oh, you’re here.”

“Yeah. More importantly, look at this.” After making sure that the door was closed, Justin pulled the notebook from his sleeve and handed it to Arvel.

Arvel took it, his eyes furrowing it. “This looks…no, never mind. What is this?”

“It’s a research journal,” Justin replied.

“It’s not yours. Wait, did you steal a journal?” Arvel demanded, his face darkening into a scowl.

Justin quickly shook his head. “Of course not! More importantly, look inside!”

Arvel glared at him.

“No really! Look inside! I promise it’s nothing bad.”

Arvel’s glare turned sharper and Justin fidgeted under his gaze. But just as quickly, Arvel looked away and opened the book, scanning the first page. Justin smiled wanly. So even Father Arvel was as sinful as the rest…

Suddenly, without even looking up, Arvel said something.

“Huh?” Justin said, not quite hearing what he had said.

“I said, have you eaten yet?”

“No, not yet…”

Arvel waved his hand dismissively. “It’ll take me awhile to get through this, so you might as well go eat. And next time, don’t come here without eating first.”

As Justin was about to protest, his stomach gurgled. Face paling, he opened the door and backed out of the room. Walking briskly out of the laboratories toward the canteen, he soon saw a familiar, respected figure walking toward him.

Father Demuur.

Giving a deep bow to him, Justin continued his way. All the while, Demuur never looked up from the ground.


Axiom’s Note

HMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Wow 4.1k!


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