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Chapter 2: The Zombie Girl in Denial

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

Victoria!

Screaming the vampire’s name, Carmen’s eyes shot open—or at least that’s what he tried to do.

Instead, he felt his eyeballs roll in his skull, its movements lethargic. As they oriented to face out of his orbits, black became gray, and he was confronted with a clear night sky speckled with stars, barely visible through the blurry cloudiness of his vision.

Stars? Was he outside?

How long had it been since he last saw the exposed heavens?

Even during the months-long campaign, from the Church grounds to the castle where Carmen had been captured, there had been precious little days where there hadn’t been clouds hiding the sun, moon, and stars.

In hindsight, perhaps those clouds had been a sign from the Gods, a metaphor for a cloudy and uncertain future that reeked of doom. If only he had been wise enough to heed it and turned back, all those brave men and women would still be alive.

It was his failure as a commander that led to their deaths, and his weakness as a holy knight that made me unable to protect them.

Blinking to clear his vision, Carmen sighed, but following that simple act was a sound that made his entire body tense.

“Uurrgh.” A deep, guttural moan that every holy knight knew well.

It was a sound that he heard constantly during my campaign, be it during an attack in the middle of the night, or a face-to-face battle. The moan came from nearby, so close that the origin of noise almost seemed on top of him.

A zombie, a common minion of the demon army. Where there was one, there were several.

Why did his senses not warn him of it?

Carmen sprang to his feet, all senses on alert and ready to confront the threat—or at least he tried to.

His body wouldn’t obey his commands at all and all Carmen managed to achieve was an awkward flop of his limbs. The moan sounded again, and that’s when he realized that the sound was coming from none other than himself.

If his blood still ran warm through his veins, it would have frozen at that moment.

No. Impossible. It can’t be. No, no.

But reality did not care about his futile refutations. Carmen raised his arms, shaking in disbelief, to his eyes.

Even with his blurry vision—that he now knew was not from sleep but from his eyeballs being damaged—he could see the pale skin that covered his lifeless hands. He curled his fingers, stiff from death, and was greeted with blue and purple nails.

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The meager blood still contained within his flesh was stagnant. Parts of his skin sloughed off, revealing grotesque, brown-red musculature. He saw bone in some places.

A zombie. He had become a zombie—a slave brought to being by demons against the divine will of the Gods. How could Carmen, who was once a proud holy knight of the Church, fall to such levels?

Yet as he laid there on the ground facing the sky, clenching and unclenching his hands, he knew that he was, without a doubt, a zombie. It was probably that stupid vampire’s fault as well. But why?

Despite the situation Carmen was in, he found himself unnaturally calm. Was it because he was now an undead?

The Church commonly accepted that low tier undead like zombies didn’t feel emotions.

His current state reflected that theory.

His thought process resembled that of when he was still a living holy knight commander, yet devoid of most emotions.

Although he wished to know more about the emotions of undead, now wasn’t the time. Two questions bothered him. Why did he become a zombie, and what was going to happen now?

The first question would be difficult to answer for certain, but Carmen had some ideas. He remembered the scene before his death quite vividly. It was engraved into his mind.

The vampire, Victoria, had bitten his tongue and drained his blood to turn him into a vampire. She had pushed some of her own blood into him to perform the so-called Inheritance by Blood ritual.

While it irked him to consider it, there was a high possibility that Carmen’s human body hadn’t been strong enough to handle Victoria’s vampiric power. His death freed his soul from his body.

His soul had been about to return to the embrace of the Gods when some demon shackled him to this rotting corpse with profane magic, turning him into a zombie.

Despite his lack of emotions, Carmen thought he felt a twinge of satisfaction that Victoria’s plan to turn him into a vampire under her command failed. If he became a vampire, who knows how many innocent people he would kill before someone liberated him?

As for the second question, it was much easier. The answer was simple.

A demon raised zombies to turn them against humans. But although he will soon end up fighting against humans while under the control of a demon, he wasn’t too worried. Zombies were so weak that the likelihood that he will kill someone was low, and the likelihood that he will kill two was even lower.

If he actively resisted the demon’s command, it would be simple for even a footsoldier to behead him.

With creaking bones and stiff flesh, Carmen slowly sat up, looking around. Corpses covered the ground all around him, lined up side by side in neat rows. He was just the first of many.

Soon, movement rippled through the rows and one by one, the limbs of the bodies began to twitch. Zombies after zombies in different stages of decomposition, dressed in the clothes they wore as they were buried, staggered to their feet and swayed as they found their balance. Soon, the zombies took their first steps.

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Watching the zombies learn to control their bodies, Carmen felt a chill in his chest. How many of these zombies contained human souls intercepted from their journey toward eternal rest?

Of all those zombies he had chopped up over the course of my status as a holy knight, how many of them contained souls that were once living and breathing humans? Did they know what they were doing, helplessly watching as a demon’s magic forced their limbs to move to kill their living brethren?

His current body still had intact lips, and they curled with Carmen’s disgust toward the demons. They truly were the lowest of the scum that walked the lands.

Carmen climbed to his feet. His new body was strange and difficult to get used to.

Even putting aside the fact that his flesh was rotten and held together by demonic magic, there was the question of height. His line of sight was lower than his body from when he was a knight. The more Carmen looked around, the more the feeling of strangeness grew. The scale of the world was off.

Even the female zombies were taller than he was.

With a start, Carmen realized that he was in the body of a child raised as a zombie.

Those demons did not even spare the corpses of children in their foul arts.

His heart heavy, Carmen looked down at himself. Fabric so caked in dirt and mud he couldn’t make out the original color covered his rotting body. He wore a…skirt?

His mind went numb.

Why a skirt?

While he adjusted to the fact that his current body was a child’s rather easily, the realization that it was a female child was heavy on his heart. Of course, it wasn’t particularly strange since it didn’t matter what his original body’s sex was when it was his soul that was bound to the body, but it was still a shock.

The shock passed quickly, though, and Carmen began to walk.

Unlike the other zombies around him who merely wandered without direction, he moved with purpose. Before he was sent off to die as a fodder, he wanted to at least catch sight of the one who raised him.

Even though his body was decomposed, all it did was make him uncoordinated. Strength-wise, he was stronger than most untrained adults even in his current tiny form because of the dark energy within him.

For all his strength, his progress was no faster than most zombies. Even if he ran, he’d fall, so all he could do was shamble around trying to keep his balance.

He barely made it out of the crowd of zombies when something pulled on his body. He stiffened, trying to break free, but it was futile. The very energy that sustained him, not entirely under his control, responded to the grasp.

Something split off from the formless force and struck toward his head, driving into his mind like a stake. Pain exploded in Carmen’s mind and his vision filled with stars.

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It pushed into his mind, as if trying to break his mind or kill him. The pain distracted him, stopped him from forming coherent thoughts before finally, he shattered the stake with a burst of concentration.

The sudden emptiness in his mind left Carmen breathless.

Although he didn’t know what that mental attack was, he had some theories. The pull he felt on his body and the attack on his mind were the same thing, designed to bring raised undead under the caster’s control.

If he hadn’t destroyed that stake, it would have buried itself in his mind. There, it would receive and interpret the caster’s will while his body executed it.

But even if his mind remained free, his body remained under the control of the caster, at least for now. Not heeding his commands, his body abandoned its original path, turning around and walking alongside the mass of zombies.

The negative energy in his body seemed to be tethered to something now, the other end in the direction he and the mass of zombies were heading.

The necromancer was calling the zombies toward himself.

Carmen wanted to hit himself. He had been looking in the wrong direction for the spellcaster. The entire zombie crowd was between him and his target now. Short as his body was, the adult zombies blocked his view of the necromancer.

The shambling gait of zombies made for a slow pace, so it was a while before the force controlling his body subsided. The zombies all stopped as one, each of them in perfect sync.

There was no idle movement, no exploration, even after the zombies were released from the force’s control.

With a chill, Carmen realized that except for him, the undead controlling magic had been driven into the minds of every single undead present, except for him. Only he remained free.

Trying to act inconspicuously, he pushed his way through the crowd of zombies. He wanted to see the spellcaster so willing to defy the divine order.

Voices in the human tongue reached his ears. Carmen froze, afraid that his movements, even hidden within the mass of bodies taller than his own, would draw unwanted attention to him. He strained his ears, trying to catch every word.

The speaker sounded old and rough, like a working man. There was a servile tone to his words.

“Ohhh! Are these it? There are so many zombies! Thank you so much, Father!”

Father? If the spellcaster was the speaker’s father, then the tone made sense. But the aloof voice that answered the first speaker threw Carmen into confusion.

“There is no need to thank me.” The Father’s voice sounded youthful, much younger than that of the first speaker. By some coincidence, commoners referred to the priests of the Church as ‘Father’ as well.

Although Carmen cast aside that possibility, his ragged throat moved in the imitation of a swallowing motion.

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He had to see what was going on.

Slowly, he crept forward again, lowering himself and weaving around the legs of the zombies around him.

“Father, would you like to stay for tea? Casting that magic must have been tiring!”

There was a moment of silence. The Father must have shook his head before he spoke. “No need. I have stayed here for long enough.”

“O—of course, of course.”

“Here is the gem of control. I have transferred the control of these zombies over to this gem, and as long as you hold his gem in your possession, the zombies will not attack you no matter what,” the Father said.

Bit by bit, Carmen neared the front rows of the zombies until he stopped. Any further and he risked being seen. Instead, he pressed himself against the ground and peered through the forest of legs.

It was as if someone poured icy water all over his body.

Before him, standing unperturbed before a crowd of over a hundred zombies, were two figures. One of the figures was cloaked in a dark brown undescriptive hood and cape, while the other wore no such disguises.

A human.

Carmen’s vision turned white. The intense fury that welled up within him overtook the undead inhibitions on his emotions in an instant. Blinded with rage, he almost jumped up and exposed himself.

A soft crack sounded in his head and something landed on his hand, snapping him back in reality. He looked down, finding something white on the ground. A piece of a tooth.

He had clenched his jaw so hard it cracked his teeth.

Pushing down the rampaging fury simmering deep in his heart until his undead physiology kicked in and suppressed it completely, he continued to observe silently.

The man was kneeling. He held up both of his hands as if receiving an offering from the priest. The red of a ruby pendant glinted in the starlight.

Carmen memorized the man’s face in an instant before he looked toward the robed figure, the so-called Father.

Impossible. It just couldn’t be.

But from his point of view, he could easily see the ornate shoes that the priests of the Church commonly wore. He struggled to find an explanation for why a priest of the Church would raise undead, but he could find none.

No, there was one. The priest was a traitor as well—acting alone. An exception.

Hope blossomed in Carmen’s chest along with newfound rage that someone would dare commit such atrocities while wearing the sacred emblems of the Church.

Now that the priest had allowed Carmen to catch him in the act, his life was over.

Carmen will ensure that he will be tried for his crimes against humanity and executed! As he bared his teeth again in a snarl of hatred, realization of his own identity dawned upon him.

He was no longer a respected holy knight of the Church. He was just an undead, a soul trapped in the body of a dead little girl.

The kneeling man pulled back his arms. The movement drew Carmen’s attention back to the two traitors.

“Thank you, Father. I will keep it on me at all times.” The man did not dare wear the necklace, but carefully placed it into a pocket. He patted it and smiled at the priest.

As if the conversation was coming to an end, the robed priest straightened.

“In half a year, the control over these zombies will loosen. Turn them loose somewhere and report the outbreak to the Church. Do not forget to return the necklace and the donation.”

The robed priest turned to leave before he stopped. “I’ll send an acolyte here tomorrow to keep an eye out here. Remember, not a word to anyone else!”

For the first time, he raised his voice. The kneeling man quivered and nodded vigorously. “M—my lips are sealed!”

Satisfied, the robed man strode over to where an unmarked horse and carriage waited and disappeared inside. When the carriage disappeared into the distance, the kneeling man stood up and threw his hands into the air in joy.

While the man celebrated, Carmen stared at the ground. His eyes saw nothing. His lips repeated the same two words over and over, even though he lacked the vocal cords to speak.

The Church, the Church, the Church. The Church.

The priest hadn’t been acting alone.

The Church, the organization of benevolence that took him in and raised him to be a warrior for humanity, had begun to rot.



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