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Chapter 31: Arvel’s Letter

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

A look of doubt flashed across Barsig’s face, but he nodded anyways. “Well met, Lady Camilla. I’d like to thank you for your help today. If it wasn’t for you, we’d have been in serious trouble. Many of us here owe you our lives.”

“No, I merely did what anyone would have done,” Carmen said with a wave of her hand.

“That may be so, but what was merely convenient for you was very important to us. I’d like you to become a guest at our outpost, if you are willing.”

Carmen blinked. She had just been wondering how she was going to see Fleur in private. If Barsig was willing to grant her passage, then it would save her the trouble of kidnapping Fleur when she went out patrolling.

“Are you sure? I would hate to inconvenience you.”

Barsig shook his head. “It’s no trouble at all. I insist that you at least stay for the night if you do not have urgent matters to attend to.”

“In that case, I’ll graciously accept. Unfortunately, I do have matters to attend to tonight, but I’ll be sure to visit on another day. Will your doors still be open to me?” Carmen asked.

“Of course.”

“Then, if you’ll excuse me.” Carmen handed the greatsword she was holding to Barsig.

He stared at the chunk of metal sitting in his arms. “Wait, you’re leaving now?”

She nodded. “I did say I have urgent business to attend to. Until we meet again.” She curtsied. Then, she jumped, straight from the middle of the Church forces onto a nearby rooftop. She wasn’t afraid of anyone seeing up her skirt. The outfit came with frilly pants underneath.

She ran along the top of the roofs, dragging out the distance between her and Barsig’s team. Only when she was a decent distance away did she stop and slow down to a walk, heading deeper into the fortress city.

She wasn’t completely lying when she said she had urgent business to attend to. She did have something to do; it just wasn’t urgent.

For example, Her mana control needed work. No matter how much of a genius she was, she’s only had this body for less than three weeks.

She also needed to finish figuring out that reinforcement spell. Thanks to that axe skeleton, she never got the chance to perfect her spell. For that, she also needed a sword, which is why she was heading into the fortress to borrow one.

The only reason she wanted to go to the outpost was to gain access to Fleur. If little Fleur went to sleep as soon as she got back, then there was little reason for her to stay. The night was too perfect a time to do whatever she wanted to waste being stuck in that outpost.

However, aside from all those valid reasons and things she had to do, she had a second, more selfish reason to not want to head to the outpost right now.

After so many deaths, tonight and tomorrow will doubtlessly be a time for grieving and blaming. Carmen never did well with those when she was a commander, but she was duty-bound to. Now that she was basically a free soul, she didn’t want to take part of it.

The Cloud Order and its affairs were no longer her business. To put it bluntly, the Cloud Order is no longer the Order she led. She’d rather not entangle with their affairs if she didn’t need to.

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Thinking up to there, Carmen’s steps slowed to a stop. “…Although, I should still at least see them out the gate, shouldn’t I?”

She quickly came to a decision and retraced her steps until she caught up with the Barsig team. She followed at a distance, watching as they fought their way out of the necropolis, step by step.

As she walked she felt something with her senses coming from behind her, the signal of a powerful knight-class undead. But it was only for an instant, so swift that she wasn’t sure if she really felt it.

As Carmen doubted her sanity, the signal came again, much stronger and closer than before, persisting for a second before vanishing.

All of Carmen’s muscles tensed as she prepared for a fight. The undead mana within her turned into blood mana, which turned into holy mana that coated her fists. Even if she was currently unarmed, she had enough confidence in her offensive might to believe that she could fight a warrior-type knight-class on even grounds right now.

But when the signal came again, it didn’t come any closer. Instead, it kept its distance, repeating pulsing its existence.

From where Fleur walked, she easily overheard the words exchanged between the vice captain and the mysterious girl that winked at her.

“…Camilla,” she muttered. She finally had a name, but that name didn’t really reveal anything new to her. Whenever she looked at that girl, she’d always experience a feeling of familiarity, like she’d seen her somewhere before. But she didn’t know any Camillas, much less one who was so powerful.

She repeated the name, hoping that repetition would accomplish what pure thinking couldn’t. “Camilla, Camilla.”

“Did you say something?” Anne asked.

Fleur shook her head. “It’s nothing. I just find Camilla kind of familiar for some reason,” she said. “I can’t figure out why, so I thought saying her name might help.”

Anne tilted her head. “Who’s Camilla?”

“That girl over there, the one in the pretty purple dress. I mean, the one who saved us,” she said.

Anne looked over, and then looked back, continuing to walk without saying anything. Her lips were pressed tightly together and her gaze as she stared ahead was sharp.

Fleur licked her dry lips as tension suddenly sprung up between her and Anne. Even she could tell that Anne didn’t like Camilla, but the dislike was so inexplicable. If anything, Anne should be grateful that Camilla saved her from that axe skeleton, but Fleur never saw anything of the sort. Sighing, she decided to talk to Anne about it in the morning when Anne is in a better mood.

In the meantime, she continued to overhear the vice captain and Camilla’s talk. She didn’t hear anything interesting except for the news that Camilla might be visiting in the near future. When she heard that news, her heart began to beat faster and she almost turned and shared it with Anne before she realized that it would not be a very good idea. The giddiness died in her heart.

Soon after, Camilla left, disappeared over the top of a nearby roof.

Even when she’s gone, though, the vice captain and one of the other Cloud Knights continued to discuss her.

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Didn’t they know that it was rude to talk behind someone’s back?

Despite the indignation she felt, she continued to eavesdrop on their conversation. The vice captain made no attempt to keep quiet.

“Gornum, do you have any idea at all who she is?”

“I don’t know, but the skeleton called her a traitor before she killed it. She’s hiding something, but I don’t know if it’s good or bad.”

Fleur blinked at the Cloud Knight’s words. Camilla, a traitor? It couldn’t be. A girl like her wouldn’t betray anyone…Why did she think that? She barely knew her.

“Traitor, huh. Perhaps she’s a double agent of sorts that got found out. How powerful did you say she was?” Sir Barsig asked.

After a pause, the Cloud Knight answered, his tone rather unsure. “I don’t know. She has an impressive amount of mana, using a few dozen Severs without a break. At the end, when she killed the skeleton, she used an Art she called ‘Aurora Crusher,’ which I’ve never heard of before. It was quite powerful—killed that skeleton in one shot.”

“Wait, did you say Aurora Crusher?” Sir Barsig suddenly stopped. A cleric behind him bumped into him and bounced off, falling over.

“Ah, I’m sorry! Excuse me,” he said, turning and bowing slightly at the cleric on the ground. The cleric waved away the apology. He simply dusted off the robes.

With that little interlude, Sir Barsig asked for confirmation again. “Aurora Crusher? Not something else?”

The Cloud Knight nodded. “Positive. It was rainbow and seemed to be able to pierce through armor without breaking it. Needs to touch the target continuously,” he said, recounting from his memories.

“That’s the one.” Sir Barsig nodded, falling into deep thought.

“Is something wrong?”

“No. It’s just that the Aurora Crusher is an extremely complex Art that you normally won’t have a chance to use, so no one learns it. It’s the definition of high effort, low return,” Sir Barsig said. “To bother learning it, you’d have to be so skilled that you’re learning Arts for fun and not for its value in combat. Our old commander Carmen used to be one of those types, and our current commander is one too. They both know how to use the Aurora Crusher.”

“Does that narrow down our list?”

“It should. I don’t think there’s a hundred people in the whole Territory who bothered learning Aurora Crusher. I can name a few, mostly commanders of various Orders, but the problem is that I don’t have a full list. It’s a dead lead.” The vice captain fell silent.

After a moment, he spoke again. “What we do know is that she’s very skillful, if not powerful. The possibility of her being an exposed double agent from one of the other Orders is high, which would explain why we got ****** over by so many knight-classes tonight,” he grumbled. “Still, it pretty much confirms that she’s not a threat.”

Both Sir Gornum and Fleur breathed a sigh of relief.

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After listening to all that, she had been worried that Camilla might be evil or dangerous. The vice captain’s conclusion in the mysterious girl’s favor was comforting.

They soon reached the gate. Like Anna had described, they first all filed into the barbican, and then the inner gate closed, shutting the zombies in with them.

After they killed the remaining zombies and tossed their bodies back over the walls with a catapult, they opened the front gates and headed back out. The interior of the fortress was mostly sealed off by the walls, so there had been very little wind, but once outside again, the wind against her face felt amazing. It seemed to blow away all of her stress.

Despite the whole expedition taking less than two hours, it felt like an eternity.

So many lives were lost there, and so many bodies of clerics and priests were left to become undead.

Marching back to the outpost with the rest of the hunting team, Fleur stopped and looked back one last time. Although she’d see that set of gates and walls many times after today, both day and night, tonight was special. A horrible kind of special.

As she was turning away one more, she saw movement out of the corner of her eyes. Her head snapped back toward the gates and Fleur saw a girl in a purple dress sitting on the battlements of the gatehouse. Her long golden hair blew in the wind.

She recognized her—it was Camilla. But Fleur also thought she saw someone standing behind the girl, wreathed in shadows.

The next time she blinked and tried to get a closer look, both the girl and the figure she thought she saw were gone, as if they had never been there.

“What’s wrong, Fleur?” Anne jogged back. Fleur realized that she had fallen behind and walked back.

“Nothing. I thought I saw something up there…”

“Hahaha. There’s nothing. You must have seen a ghost!” Anne made a face at her. She took away her buckler and grabbed her hand. “Come on, let’s catch up. I want to get back to bed now.”

Fleur nodded.

Ghosts. The dead. Undead. Her thoughts flew back to the zombie girl she had left behind in the mind, and with a pang, she realized who Camilla reminded her of.

But it couldn’t be. Although Camilla had the same long golden hair and a similar face, she was much taller and looked more mature than the zombie girl.

Besides, the zombie girl had nothing on but a tattered peasant’s dress, while Camilla was dressed like a rich lady, the kind that visited the Church with their noses in the air, only much kinder and not as much arrogance…probably.

Finally, the final argument was that Camilla was a master at holy magic, one of the rare people who could use the Aurora Crusher, or whatever. Who’s ever heard of an undead using holy magic?

Fleur shook her head, trying to toss that unrealistic theory from her mind. For a while, she forgot about it. She forgot about it all the way until she got back to the outpost, cleaned herself and went to sleep. Nonetheless, she dreamed of it.

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“Fleur! You have a letter!”

Fleur looked up from her slate. She held in her left hand a chalk, and she was practicing her letters. Putting aside how clumsy the writing was, all the letters she wrote were backwards. As Anne came running into the room, Fleur cleared the board with a swipe of her hands.

Anne scowled at her. “I wanted to see. Oh wait, I can see it!” she said when she looked down at the slate.

Despite Fleur’s best efforts at hiding her handiwork, there were white mark that did not blur entirely. Sighing, Fleur threw the chalk onto the slate.

“It’s so hard!”

“That’s okay, Fleur. I have confidence in you. Did you think a child learned how to write in a few days?” Anne pulled her into a hug, squishing Fleur’s face into her voluminous chest while she patted her head.

“Mmfh! MMMm!” Unable to breathe, Fleur whacked her friend’s shoulder, trying to get her to let go.

When Anne finally released her, Fleur gasped and doubled over, panting as she tried to regain her breath. Just in case Anne tried to suggest something else strange like mouth to mouth breathing to help her catch her breath, Fleur sat up as soon as she felt ready.

“You said I have a letter?” she said.

“Yup,” Anne said, as if she hadn’t just almost suffocated Fleur.

Fleur stared enviously at her friend’s assets. Even though they were the same age. Tearing her gaze away at the same time as she tore the envelope open with the help of her teeth, Fleur flattened the folded paper onto the table and began to read the letter. It was from Father Arvel.

Dearest Fleur,

I hope this letter finds you healthy. Are you adjusting to life at the outpost? I remember my acolyte days when I spent a summer there as well. While I am saddened that I have not received any letters from you, it is understandable given your current condition.

Fleur paused there and looked up at Anna, who was reading alongside her. “Will you help me write my return letter?” she asked.

Anne eagerly nodded. “I was just about to suggest that! I’m so happy you thought of me first!”

Fleur smiled at her and continued reading the letter.

<em>By the time this letter reaches you, I will no longer be at the Church in Moltrost. Instead, I have been dispatched southward as part of a reconnaissance force that will begin operations at the mine you were assigned to. It is at that mine that I am currently penning this letter.

The following news may come hard to you, but be assured that it is not your fault. The team of clerics that were sent to clear out the remaining zombies lost contact a few days ago. Each of their bodies were found partially eaten. Traces of undead and holy magic indicates a battle that the clerics lost. The culprit traveled southwards, which is the same direction that we will be operating in. Additionally, there is no sign of the zombie girl. No pseudo knight-class zombies were found, and there was no sight of my amulet either. I conclude that the zombie girl has escaped.

Do not worry for me, and concentrate on gathering your own merits. The sooner you finish, the sooner you can return to my side.

Well wishes, your mentor Father Arvel.</em>

The smile on Fleur’s face was all gone now, replaced by a pale face. “Oh no…”

“Fleur, it’s not your fault. Your mentor said as much,” Anne said, patting her. “He’s right, you know. As his acolyte, you shouldn’t worry about him. Believe in your mentor.”

“But it sounds so dangerous! I bet he’s sent there because I caused all that trouble!”

“He’s not going alone, and this time, they’ll know what to expect. It’ll be fine.”

Fleur nodded as Anne circled around her and hugged her from behind, closing her eyes. However, behind her closed eyelids, her mind continued to whirl.

What could have possibly killed all those clerics? Clerics weren’t weak. Most of them were stronger than her.

At first, she thought of the zombie girl. At the time she left, the zombie girl had been the single most powerful existence in the mines. While Fleur now knew just how weak the zombie girl was compared to a real knight-class undead, the zombie girl was still enough to kill her a hundred times over if she didn’t have that gem of control.

But was it the zombie girl? She was alive after all, having broken free from Father Arvel’s amulet. But Fleur denied that possibility from the bottom of her heart, even though she had no proof.

If it wasn’t the zombie girl, then who or what could it have been?

Fleur flinched and her eyes snapped open. The image that appeared in her mind just then was too terrible to imagine. Orlog, that swollen, purple undead monster, crawling after her through the tunnels.

She had never seen anything like what Orlog became before.

With a sinking feeling in her stomach, she realized that the monster that killed the clerics might be Orlog.

“Father Arvel…” She squeezed her eyes shut again, squeezing her hand in prayer.


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