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Chapter 3: Undead Labour

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

The man calmed down after a round of cheering, even pouring a cup of thick, unfiltered fermented wine for himself.

As shocked as he was after realizing such a truth, Carmen still had the presence of mind to stand up and blend into the zombie crowd. After his drink, the man will probably begin whatever he bought these zombies for.

Although Carmen planned to die as quickly as he could in battle, his plans had changed. He wanted to find out just how much the Church had rotted, and for that he had to stay alive. If the man discovered that he still had his free will, the man will definitely command the zombie masses to tear him apart.

Peeking over the zombies’ head, he saw the wooden rooftops of a few huts, crudely constructed and without a trace of aesthetics. It was a far cry from the grand abbies he stayed in between missions—it looked more like a peasant’s shack.

The shacks were constructed against the rocky face of a cliff. In the rock between the shacks, there was a large hole leading into a tunnel, framed with wooden planks.

It was a mine. The man was going to put the zombies to work in a mine.

If the mere act of raising undead was sacrilege, then sin of raising undead for the sake of profit was even greater.

Carmen did not feel anger, because he couldn’t. However, it didn’t stop him from having the urge to tear out the man’s throat—and sink his teeth into his flesh.

He eyed the man’s neck that was bulging with muscle. His was tinged red from the alcohol, and as pale as the man was from spending so much time in the mines, fresh blood doubtlessly flowed.

Unlike the dead flesh of the zombies around him that he did not see as food, the man looked so appealing…

He licked his lips. Dark energy surged within him, gathering at his mouth and something pushed against his teeth from beneath his gums.

The strange feeling interrupted Carmen’s fantasy.

Wait.

What was he just thinking of? He was dreaming of killing a human and eating his flesh.

His stomach turned and he almost threw up. Even if he did, nothing would come out and he would blow his cover, so Carmen held back the urge.

Even if his soul was human, his current body was still that of a zombie, complete with its complete set of instincts.

When the twisting of his stomach receded, he let out a breath, and a faint moan with it. Immediately, a zombie next to him moaned in response, much louder than his own. Like a falling row of dominos, the zombies crowd exploded into a chorus of guttural moans and groans.

The horrible sound shocked even Carmen—he was so surprised that he momentarily forgot that he was a zombie himself—let alone the foreman, who jumped and spilled his wine all over his tunic and trousers.

With shaking hands, the man slammed the mug onto the table next to him in a display of false bravado. “What the hell?” he yelled. “Shut up!”

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When the zombie masses ignored him, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the ruby pendant. “Shut up!” he repeated. The ruby glowed, shining red. Under the eerie red light, the horrible moaning of the zombies that filled the night stopped, bringing an unearthly silence to the forest as even the crickets stopped chirping.

“Hahaha! You zombies listen to me! Without my say-so, you can’t do anything!” the man shouted, laughing. “From today until the day the Order kills you all, I am your master. Orlog Daversson—remember the name!”

When the man finally stopped laughing, he held up the gem again.

“Alright, you bunch of corpses, it’s time to get to work! Split into four groups!”

The gem glowed red. All around Carmen, the zombies stood up stiffly and began to separate into four groups. Carmen didn’t know how the zombies decided which group to go into, but he randomly picked a zombie to follow: a tall female zombie that wore a ragged peasant dress.

When the groups were formed, Orlog grinned. “Excellent. You are so much more smart and obedient than humans. Humans slaves are untrustworthy, lazy!”

Carmen’s eyes twitched at the mention of slaves. As a holy knight that defended humanity from the incursions of demons, every human life was precious in his eyes. Naturally, he was opposed to human slavery, but as a holy knight, he had no political power.

Perhaps being unable to raise the status of human slaves was one of his regrets.

As Carmen lamented his weakness in silence, Orlog rubbed his chin and he pointed at one of the groups. “Let’s see… You are Group One. Your job is to head down and expand the mines.”

Peeking at the group Orlog pointed at out of the corner of her eyes, Carmen realized that most of the zombies there were men, with powerful builds in life. The distribution hadn’t been random.

Looking around, he realized that he followed the wrong person. Most of the shorter zombies were in another group. It was too late to move, though, as Orlog pointed at his group.

“You lot are Group Two! You’re working the mines, extracting ore!”

Carmen stood still, trying to blend in with the other zombies. He even half hid behind the tall zombie he followed and prayed to the Gods, hoping that Orlog wouldn’t notice him.

In the end, the difference in height was just too large. The man stared straight at him, a perplexed expression on his face. “Hmm. That’s weird. Shouldn’t you be in Group Three?”

It was fortunate that he had the body of a zombie right now, with stiff muscles and a dirt stained face that made it hard to read his expression. Otherwise, the panic he felt might have shown.

Oh no, it’s over. If I ran at him, will I have enough time to reach and kill him?

His cover had been blown. As Carmen debated whether or not to throw caution to the wind, aware that time was running out for him to make a decision, Orlog suddenly smiled.

“Oh, I see. That woman must have been your mother, huh? How touching, clinging to her even after becoming a zombie.”

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What?

The man must be misunderstanding something. But Carmen was fine with the misunderstanding if it meant he could get away with making his mistake.

He continued acting the part of an unfeeling zombie, staring straight at Orlog without blinking, or having any indication of understanding the man’s words.

But the smile on the man’s face was unexpectedly gentle.

“You remind me of my daughter. She’s shy just like you. I see, I see—you’re someone’s daughter as well, huh?” Orlog said. “I don’t even want to imagine my daughter becoming an undead.”

His smile stiffened. “That’s never going to happen. You’re my zombie now, so you’ll have to work. I order you to leave her and join Group Three.”

The gem in his hands glowed. While Carmen didn’t feel any compulsion, the man must have given a direct order with his words. Hoping that what he was doing was correct, he shuffled out from behind his ‘mother’ and lurched over to the group of short zombies. Even among the group of small zombies, mostly consisting of women, she was shorter by a head compared to the average.

Orlog nodded, satisfied and turned to the final group. “Group Four is responsible for rough processing on the surface. Now go.”

At first, Carmen was perplexed by how simple and unspecific the instructions were. If he, who still retained all of his memories as a human, didn’t understand what he was supposed to do, he doubted that the mindless zombies would be much better.

But Orlog didn’t say anything else. Instead, he closed his eyes and held up the red gem. The gem glowed again, four times in total, once for each group. After each glow, the group of zombies sprung into action, heading into the mine. Only the last group remained above ground.

Hurrying to keep pace with her group of zombies, he realized that the red gems could convey even complex orders.

No wonder the zombie hordes he faced were so powerful and cohesive.

Since he didn’t receive the orders, he had to follow the examples of the other zombies.

Each zombie first passed by one of the larger shacks in front of the mine to pick up a bag of tools. His group only had a couple of empty sacks, while the other groups were provided with chisels and pickaxes.

What kind of mining was he supposed to do with a sack?

His confusion disappeared when they delved deep into the mines, climbing down ladders slowly. Some zombies even fell down when they missed a rung, only to stand up again and continued as if nothing had happened.

The tunnels were cramped and most of the zombies couldn’t stand up straight without hitting the ceiling. Hunched over like old men, they stumbled through the dark and twisting passages. Carmen was sure that if he got lost, he’d never find his way out.

Picking another zombie, this time from his own group, he began to follow him.

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After a long time, mostly because of the zombies’ slow pace, most of the zombies stopped. The first group continued into the darkness, their way illuminated only by a couple of dim lamps.

The second and third group split up and scattered into the branching tunnels, leaving Carmen to scurry after one of the group three zombies, which he decided to call sack zombies for short. Group two zombies were mining zombies.

They didn’t go far. The mining zombie stopped randomly and lit his lamp and began to search along the walls of the cave while Carmen and the sack zombie he followed watched on in silence.

A moment later, the zombie seemed to have found something. He took out a pickaxe from his sack and began to strike the rock. Shards of rock sprayed into the air with each strike. The power behind each swing stronger than most untrained humans could produce.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Soon, the sound of metal striking rock began to sound from other branches as well. The deathly silence in the mine became filled with the lively sound of mining.

The sack zombies picked out the ore from the chunks of rock that the mining zombies dug out of the wall. They tossed the ores into their sacks, and when they filled the sack, they started on another bag.

Carmen wordlessly switched out his empty bag with a full bag from one of the other sack zombies, who didn’t seem to realize what he had done.

Each sack zombie was responsible for three or four mining zombies, and their sacks filled quickly, becoming lumpy bags filled with rocks and metal.

When Carmen saw that one of the sack zombies stood up with his sacks looped around his neck and back, making to leave, he quickly followed. Despite the prodigious weight of the lumpy bags on his back, Carmen didn’t really feel the weight, only a vague feeling that he was near his limit.

As he followed the sack zombie through the winding tunnels, he realized why Orlog picked the short zombies to be sack zombies. Larger zombies had a much harder time keeping their balance while hunched in the cramped tunnels. Because sack zombies were smaller, they had an easier time navigating the mines.

Climbing the ladders was the most difficult part of the whole thing, and they soon reached the surface.

Waiting a while to not appear to be following too closely just in case Orlog was watching, Carmen headed in the same direction as the sack zombie, who had disappeared into one of the shacks.

The sack zombie had dumped his bags in front of several processing zombies, who were breaking down the ores with clumsy swings of their hammers, sorting the resulting pieces by metal content.

It was strange watching the zombies work such mundane jobs. Carmen always thought of zombies as bloodthirsty abominations that knew only of killing. His first instinct when he saw one was to kill them, but watching them labor, as docile as lambs, an inexplicable emotion rose up within him.

Perhaps… the zombies weren’t so bad. But as the thought floated up in his mind, he struck it down without a second thought and disgust at himself well up again.

Zombies are an offense against the divine order. They are human souls trapped in dead bodies by profane magic. His own existence and current circumstances was the greatest proof of the evil that necromancy represented.

But as Carmen traveled through the tunnels, taking moments to watch the zombies work, he realized why Orlag wanted undead laborers.

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With the gem of control in hand, zombies were obedient and loyal. Aside from the fees for raising the zombies in the first place, he did not need to pay the zombies any wages.

He didn’t need to feed them, nor did he need to treat their wounds, as the dark energy within the zombies repaired any damage sustained after being raised, reverting them back to the state they were in when they became zombies.

Not only were they cheaper, zombies were stronger than humans and they had tireless stamina. With the complex instructions directly conveyed into their mind, they possessed an adequate amount of skills.

They were even better than golems, which had all of the qualities above, but were expensive and lacked a single crucial aspect: their intelligence.

Although zombies looked slow and stupid, Carmen knew from fighting them just how intelligent they were. Zombies were almost as smart as humans—proved by their speed at processing and digesting the skills that Orlog passed into their minds with the red gem. They were only limited by their lack of emotions, creativity, and flexibility.

For menial labor, zombies had no equal. They could replace slavery, bringing humanity into a new age.

If only they weren’t existences that were fundamentally evil.



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