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Chapter 18: The Difference Between Us

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

Unable to believe her tongue, Carmen touched her teeth with her hand, but there was no mistake. Her canine teeth had grown longer. It was the teeth of a vampire.

“No way. Why did this happen? I—I should’ve been able to keep it under control,” she said. “Why did I completely transform?”

She hadn’t done anything that might have brought out her vampire side. She even used the method that had the zombies offer their mana instead of forcibly stealing so that her vampire side didn’t force its way out.

So why?

Although, a better question was why she was so opposed to becoming a vampire. Was there really a downside when she was already a zombie? Besides, it helped her grow taller, so it’s not like being a vampire didn’t come with its perks.

To think she used to be so short she had to look up at Victoria.

Now, she was already the same height as her Victoria, and around the same height as Ismelda who she had fought once.

“Is every vampire the same height?” she muttered. Granted, her sample size was only two, three now including her. Perhaps they were the same size because they were all related. Victoria seemed to know Ismelda well, so perhaps…

Carmen licked her fangs again. They didn’t feel out of place. It wasn’t uncomfortable, and she didn’t lisp when she spoke, despite suddenly having four new teeth. They weren’t her old one, for sure.

The teeth were sharper, smoother, and seemed to be much harder.

“What about my hair?” Carmen pulled a handful of her hair in front of her, letting out a breath when she saw that it was still blonde. If her hair turned silver as well, then wouldn’t she be just a clone of Victoria?

Besides, her golden hair was the last thing she had left from when she was still human, even if it was a lot longer than before.

As the last physical proof of her past that she had left, her hair was precious. She hugged her hair, pressing it against her cheeks. It was soft and silky. As voluminous as it was, she could even bundle it up and bury her face into her own hair.

Even if her hair had no smell, it was still comforting to feel. She stayed like that for a long time until she reluctantly got up. Even if she didn’t have anything to do that was of immediate concern, she also didn’t want to just sit around.

First up was to confirm her evolution. While she definitely felt stronger, she couldn’t tell if it was because she accidentally awakened her vampire side or if it was because she evolved. Perhaps it was both.

Carmen raised her palm and concentrated. Black mist gathered above her hand at a much faster rate than before. The mist gathered into a ball, then expanded into a long lance, then into a box, flowing from one form into another before melting back into her skin.

“It’s much easier to control undead mana now…”

Her fingers were more nimble now, and there was no longer that stiffness she always felt, even when she had been a pseudo zombie knight. As Carmen investigated her new, modified body, she found that she could even make her heart beat.

When her heart was beating, blood flowed through her veins and when she made a small cut on her finger, a droplet of red formed at the tip of her finger, dripping down onto the dusty ground.

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Even if her blood dried when her heart ceased to beat, it didn’t change the reality that she could bleed again.

Without a doubt, her evolution was complete now. She had become a true zombie knight, and she had gained more than she dared to hope for in terms of her former wish of regaining her humanity.

“A ‘faithful imitation of life,’ huh?” she said, repeating the skeleton’s words.

Certainly, as zombies evolved, they became more and more like the living. Right now, as long as she suppressed her undead aura and avoided powerful holy magic, she could pass as a normal human.

On the other hand, when skeletons evolved, they merely became more monstrous. In return for their utterly inhuman appearance, they gained greater power than zombies. They casted aside life completely and fully embraced their undeath.

Power is the price that zombies pay in return for being able to imitate life.

“I don’t need greater power. Just enough is fine,” Carmen muttered. Enough power to not be so helpless against her enemies—just how much power was that?

Even now, as a zombie knight, she was still weak compared to her past self.

Still, one day, she will be strong enough to fight for what she wants. When that day comes, she’ll be able to proudly ask Victoria to let her see her friends again, knowing that she won’t let such a disaster happen a second time.

That day was still far off, though, as it should be.

Carmen knew better than to let the search for power get to her head. That always ended up a disaster.

“Now then. I’ve reached my goal here, what should I do next? Leave?” Carmen stretched, and then tapped her lips as she considered her options.

She had to return to Moltrost and meet Arvel, but then what?

Ultimately, her goal was to uncover the extent that the Church had been corrupted by…

“…by what? Undead? It’s hypocritical to summon undead when the Church itself had sworn to destroy them, but…”

But as Fleur said, there was a difference between wild undead and the ones the Church summoned.

Wild undead are untamed, bloodthirsty beings that relentlessly hunted the living. Church-raised undead are firmly under the control of the wielder of the gem, docile and industrious—unless a higher undead appeared and broke free from its bonds.

While both were undead, they were two sides of a coin—one of them harmful and the other mostly beneficial to humanity.

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Even her final argument, that undead enslaved the souls of the formerly living, could be wrong.

If she was to believe that skeleton’s words, then existences that dwelled within the bodies of the undead were created from scratch. Their ‘souls’ are newborn, or a product of the same magic that raised the undead.

“But then what am I? I know I exist. I remember that I was human before I was turned into a zombie. Even Victoria confirmed that my memories aren’t fake. I did fight Ismelda. What is the difference between that skeleton and I?”

Carmen pulled her rusty sword from the ground.

“I guess I’ll stay a bit longer. I don’t think I can rest easy until I satisfy my curiosity. I should at least have the right to know what exactly I am.”

The pile of corpses blocked her way out, but she easily cleared the obstacle with a jump. As the streets beyond came into sight, she saw dozens of undead prostrated with their bodies folded over their knees, as if praying. Yet others were kneeling on one knee, supporting their bodies with a single arm while their heads were lowered.

“They are…paying respects? To me? Why are their methods so different?” Carmen wondered as she strode down the streets. When she was further away, she looked back. The zombies and skeletons had stood up and returned to wandering.

“I think…Amaranthine Point was a fortress. I guess why the spell desecrated this place, there were soldiers from both sides of the war?”

It was quite ironic that after thousands of years, these undead had shed their bodies’ former allegiances and united in their hatred of the living, despite being so different. Was their preferred method of paying respects inherited from their body’s essence as well?

The skeleton’s words piqued her interest, but if she wanted to find out more, she had to find more abnormal undead—higher undead, or those in the process of evolving. The zombies and skeletons she had just had left behind lacked the potential to evolve.

That they yielded so easily to her the moment she evolved meant they lacked the will to break past their own limits.

If she wanted to run into a knight-class undead, she had to head deeper into the fortress city where the desecration curse was stronger.

After walking for a while and getting nowhere, Carmen stopped and looked around. “Where am I?”

The streets all looked the same to her. Although the citadel in the center of the city was always visible, the layout of the city didn’t make it easy for her to get there. Instead of having streets leading straight into the heart of the city, the streets were organized in concentric circles.

An invader had to fight through layers and layers of defenses to reach the center even if they managed to breach the outer walls.

Grumbling to herself, Carmen jumped to the roof of a nearby house to get a better view of her surroundings.

The great outer walls loomed behind her, the grand gates of the southern wall a dark, vast presence behind her. It was surprisingly close, considering where she deliberately avoided it on her way in. “That’s what I get for getting lost, I suppose.”

After she ascertained the directions she needed to take, she jumped back down to the streets.

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When she landed, the undead around her didn’t even give her a second look, although they gave her a wide berth.

When she last came here as a holy knight, she and her subordinates had been practically swamped by undead that came pouring in from every side street. Their mere presence drew the attention of every nearby undead.

Compared to back then, the streets even looked lonely now.

“It’s really easy to move around in here when you’re an undead. I just get ignored,” she said.

Right as she was about to turn the first corner she memorized, Carmen felt something click in her mind, like a small ping. A flame sparked to life in an infinite expanse of darkness. The flame of life.

She turned around, facing the southern gate where the spark came from. “This is…the living? Someone is coming in?”

The huge outer wall usually acted as a solid barrier that managed to block the senses of the undead. However, when the gates opened, the seal no longer worked. The presences of the living, combined with their powerful holy mana, acted as a beacon in the dark.

She hadn’t been the only one to notice, either. Every undead she could see raised their head at once like wolves scenting prey in the air. Then, as one, they headed toward the southern entrances, numbering an army of thousands.

“Who would be stupid enough to come in here on a night of the full moon?”

Even she had picked a new moon to come inside back when she was a holy knight.

Shaking her head in disbelief at the audacity of the clergy and knights manning the southern outpost, Carmen jumped onto a nearby roof and followed after the undead horde. She wanted to see for herself who these upstarts were.


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