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Chapter 21: The Rings of Amaranthine Point

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

Nostalgia filled Carmen’s heart as she beheld the group of warriors and clerics fighting in between the buildings far away. Their golden aura and glows lit up the streets.

Once, she would be at the forefront of that procession, shining the brightest of them all. Now, if she dared draw near, they’d probably turn on her instantly and purify her before she could even blink.

The current situation wasn’t like when she fought Fleur, who was alone. There were almost a hundred war clerics present, with nine Cloud Knights that she counted making up the numbers. The undead horde melted before their might, although their progress was slowing as they pushed further into the heart of Amaranthine Point, where even the rank and file of undead were stronger.

“Still, what are they doing?” Carmen wondered out loud. As far as she knew, there shouldn’t have been any activities scheduled around the start of fall that involved entering this fortress.

Perhaps the current order commander decided to change the ways they operated. It had been years since she last returned to headquarters, after all.

“I do hope they do know what to do with what they’re biting off,” she muttered. “Just nine knights won’t be enough if you go much further inside.”

Even if they’re finding it easy now, it will soon change. Within Amaranthine Point, the undead on the outer edges of the fortress were usually weaker than even wild undead outside of the site of desecration.

Most of the undead mana was drawn and concentrated toward the center of the fortress, resulting in significantly more powerful zombies and skeletons. Even Carmen had never reached the citadel itself, despite having been accompanied by nearly a hundred Cloud Knights.

Halfway into the city, she had deemed it too dangerous to continue and called for a retreat before any casualties appeared.

What are these knights going to do with a tenth of the force she had?

They didn’t seem to be turning back any time soon.

As the group finally rounded a corner in the labyrinth layout of the city, Carmen stood up and dusted off her dress before chasing after them to keep them in sight.

Hopefully their current leader was competent enough to know when they reached their limits. The nature of expeditions into these sites of desecration meant that if even one person died, the loss of that person’s strength will break the balance of power, accelerating the group’s collapse.

Although she was willing to lend a hand to them, she had to take into account her current identity as an undead, even if it wasn’t immediately apparent at first glance due to her status as a knight-class zombie.

It wouldn’t do if she got accidentally stabbed in the back.

As Carmen entered the new circle, she felt her strength grow. It wasn’t a permanent growth, but rather a temporary boost that will remain with her as long as she stood within its range. It was much like the consecration formation the Cloud Knights had in their stronghold, only much larger—spanning an entire city.

Even as desecration raised the strength of the undead, it weakened the holy.

As the group of warriors and clerics entered the streets that made up the next ring, their progress stalled for a moment as the strength of undead rose sharply. Their holy magic dimmed, smothered by the heavy aura of undeath that covered the streets like a thick blanket.

“If I remember correctly, undead used to inner rings don’t like the sparse mana of the outer rings. Now that I’ve experienced for myself, I understand how they feel.”

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As she waited for the group to progress further, she explored and practiced her new capabilities. Knowing herself was a crucial element to winning a battle.

To start, Carmen imbued her sword with undead energy, trying to achieve the same effect that the skeleton had.

With her improved affinity for undead mana and greater strength, her rudimentary imbuement was already greater than the skeleton’s in raw power. However, it was still a far cry from the skeleton’s masterful application, which used much less mana to achieve the same effect.

Although the theory behind it was simple, application and fine details mattered. Rather than just covering her sword with mana and calling it a day, she had to weave the mana into a spell with the effects of sharpening and reinforcement.

While Carmen could easily achieve the effects with holy mana, the difference between undead mana and holy mana made it impossible to replicate the effects by doing the exact same thing. When Carmen tried, the spell simply fell apart.

“This is really strange. It should be easy for me. Even if the spell wasn’t exactly the same, the theory should be related!” Carmen growled as the black mist she had gathered along the length of the blade broke apart. Instead of staying together until she dismissed the it, the imbuement spell simply dispersed the moment she released control of it.

“Maybe I’m doing something wrong.” Now that she thought about it, she couldn’t remember the exact process of casting the spell she used to reinforce her sword. When she needed it, she simply cast it.

The control of the holy mana came naturally to her, and when she began casting the spell, her body automatically executed the next steps until the spell was complete. The spell was too basic and she used it too much.

Now that she couldn’t actually cast the spell as an example, she had no idea where to begin past the first step of gathering the mana and covering the sword.

“Urgh, oh heavens. Tell me what to do!”

But as an undead, the Gods she used to pray to would not answer her. Not that they did before.

“Is this it? I’m going to have to create a spell from scratch without any reference? At this point it would be easier to just go hunt down that skeleton and have it teach me,” she muttered. “But I don’t know where it went.”

Carmen looked over at the team fighting through the undead to take her mind off the matter for now, but she couldn’t focus. Her thoughts kept slipping back to the issue with her sword.

Troubled, she began to twirl a few strands of her hair around her fingers, and then uncoiling, over and over again.

Without being able to imbue her sword, she couldn’t face the knight-class undead that appeared further in the fortress. Even if she had enough strength, her rusty weapon wouldn’t be able to take the stress of hitting something so hard or tough repeatedly.

“Mmm…how troubling,” she whispered to herself. “What should I do?”

The group of knights and clerics finally reached the part of the street right below the house she was on. Because the house, which looked more like an inn, was more than four stories tall, the people passing below wouldn’t be able to spot her easily from this distance.

Besides, a downside to using holy magic at night was that it was blinding. Once their eyes got used to the brightness of their magic, then anything too far away was nearly impossible to see.

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As the team passed below, Carmen began to search the members of people she knew. Although she intended to start with the Cloud Knights, she had to give up for the simple reason that every one of them had their helmets on.

Despite that, she still recognized the weapon and fighting style of one of them—the one in the lead.

“Oh, Barsig is leading this? No way. He’s strong, but way too impulsive.”

Despite being one of the strongest knights in the Cloud Order, Barsig was never promoted into a commanding role. Every time a new spot for promotion opened up, Barsig was passed up because he was so abysmal at leading even a small platoon.

Of course, as far as Carmen knew, Barsig hadn’t ever resented the Order since he knew of his shortcomings.

Even though Barsig wasn’t officially a member of the officers, the rest of the upper brass never left him out of important functions and decisions, and he was a core member of the Order through and through. In fact, Barsig holds the honor of being the only non-commander knight to wield a custom-made weapon, which was how Carmen recognized him.

Continuing to watch the movements of the team passing below her, Carmen was surprised to see that their formation wasn’t a mess. Barsig directed the team quite competently, which for the Barsig that Carmen knew was nothing short of a miracle.

She smiled wryly. “I suppose I’m to blame for this. They say that the hardest of gemstones form under the greatest pressure, and is there any pressure greater than shouldering the weight of a collapsing Order?”

When Carmen embarked on the campaign, she had taken many of the competent commanders and leaders that were pillars held up the Order.

The vampire stronghold they attacked should’ve fell easily, but as she later learned, Victoria happened to be visiting, which significantly increased the defenses around that stronghold.

What should have been an easy campaign ended with total annihilation, decapitating every Templar Order that invested a major portion of their strength into the coalition, including the Cloud Order.

In the years that they had been absent, the Cloud Order had been left without sufficient leadership. The remaining leaders must have promoted Barsig out of desperation when news of the coalition’s defeat reached them.

Through grueling trials, Barsig grew into his role and became the man he was today.

“So in the end, he had the potential, but we never gave him the chance. I’ll have to apologize to him, although…” Carmen looked down at her body.

She hadn’t just grown taller. Before, she had looked so young that if she cut her hair, she’d have been able to pass as a boy without any trouble. Now, her body was a bit more curvy, appearing much more like an adolescent girl.

Luckily, the bloodbonded dress that her mother gave her changed to fit her current body so she didn’t need to change her wardrobe.

“Barsig will definitely laugh if he sees me like this, even if he doesn’t kill me. I guess that apology can wait. Still, it’s nice to see that the Order is still going strong.” A smile floated onto her face.

By now, the force of knights and clerics finally broke past the second ring and was heading into the third, showing no signs of stopping even as they clashed with the powerful undead in the third ring.

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“I still don’t know what they’re looking for. Whatever their objective is, I hope they complete it quickly, or they’re going to run out of mana.”

The difficulty will only increase from here, because the third ring was where the higher undead from deeper inside the fortress could finally sense them, not to mention that the third ring’s concentration of the desecration curse was stronger too.

The third ring was where the true terror of Amaranthine Point truly began.

As Barsig pushed into the third ring, a ripple pulsed through the air. It was as if the desecration curse of Amaranthine Point itself resented Barsig’s intrusion. The undead worked themselves up into a frenzy, their attacks becoming fiercer with no regards to their own continued existence.

If Carmen felt it, then the other higher undead in the fortress should have felt it too. Shortly after, three blips appeared at the very edges of her perception—powerful undead who didn’t even bother hiding their undead auras. Instead, they let it spread out, broadcasting their presence.

“And there’s three coming right away,” she said. “As I guessed. Wait, they’re coming from the wrong direction?”

Instead of coming from further in the fortress, the three knight-class undeads came from the first ring. Worse, she was right between the incoming higher undeads and knights.

As the undead drew closer, Barsig finally detected them. The forces quickly retreated back to the second ring while they adjusted their formation to one specialized in facing knight-class undead.

Still puzzled about why those three undeads were coming from such an outer ring, Carmen ran to get out of their way. Her heart froze when the three undeads changed their course, continuing to head straight for her.

“Their target is…me? Why?” Still running away, she held up her rusty sword and covered it with her rudimentary imbuement as she prepared to face the incoming threats. Except for the meager amount she let out and wrapped tightly around her sword, she didn’t let any more mana leak out.

The undead were already after her, she didn’t need the holy knights to find her too. “How do I get out of this?”


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