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Chapter 33: Friendly or Hostile

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

“Moo…”

“Sorry, thanks for letting me do this though.”

Carmen leaned against the warm flank of a cow that was laying down on the ground. She held a large wooden bowl that she carved herself. It was filled with a warm, red liquid. A moment ago, that liquid was still coursing through the veins of the cow that was behind her.

The cow mooed again.

“Does it still hurt?” Carmen turned and looked at where she had punctured a vein on the cow’s neck. She made sure to heal it afterwards, but healing magic was much harder to cast now that she was an undead compared to before. It didn’t come as naturally to her as the offensive spells did.

As far as she could tell, there weren’t any visible wounds on the cow’s neck, nor was there any bruising. Unable to find anything, Carmen just patted the cow’s head, scratching behind the little nubby horns. From there, she scratched her way down the side of the cow’s neck, and then moved toward it’s chin. “How is it? Does it feel nice?”

The cow made a happy rumble and leaned its head back, revealing more of its neck for Carmen to scratch. Carmen gladly obliged, putting down the bowl to use both of her hands. The cow writhed in pleasure. Turning its head around, it extended its long tongue to lick Carmen in the face.

“Hahaha, stop that!” Carmen gently pushed the large head away before the tongue could touch her and offered it her hand instead. What felt like soft sandpaper covered with slime pushed against her palm over and over.

Judging by how rough the tongue felt, if she didn’t have such tough skin, the cow might have taken off a layer by now. Thinking that she shouldn’t let the cow make a bad habit since in the end the cow wasn’t hers, she took away the hand and wiped the slime on the cow’s head. “You kind of smell,” she said to it, staring straight into its eyes.

The cow mooed and turned away, dropping its head on the ground, stretching out. For a while, Carmen continued to pet it, but soon, she noticed how the sky was beginning to turn light as the sun came up above the horizon. The farmer will probably be out soon, so Carmen finished her bowl of blood.

She gagged at how the stale blood tasted after growing cold. It didn’t grant her as much pure blood mana as she hoped, although it would be enough to last her for quite a while as long as she didn’t do any intense fighting.

Giving the cow one last scratch to its chin, Carmen stood up and waved goodbye to it as she left. The cow looked sad that she was leaving, lashing its tail to display its displeasure. It got up and chased after her, but Carmen jumped over the fence.

“Sorry. If I have time, I might come back to visit…” she backed away slowly, unwilling to look into the watery eyes of the cow. Unable to stand it anymore, she turned and ran into the nearby forest, only stopping when she could no longer see the cow from between the trees. Slowing to a walk, she began to enjoy the ambience of the forest as she always did. Different from her journey from the mines to the outpost where she had spent almost the entire time in dead silence, there were now birdsong coming from all around her.

With her undead aura suppressed and lacking a smell that was particularly out of place, the animals of the forest weren’t really suspicious of her.

The breaking of dawn meant that the birds that sang at night were falling silent and about to sleep, while the daytime singers were waking up. It was during this time that Carmen heard the most types of birds.

“It wouldn’t be bad to just live here.”

Unfortunately, she had a self-appointed goal to reach. Until then, she’d have to put off any further plans for retirement into a place like this.

Deeper in the forest, there were no signs of humans anywhere, which made sense, since she deliberately didn’t stick to any particular path and chose instead to wander toward her destination.

Still, Carmen looked around one last time to check before she was satisfied that no one would see her. Taking out her moonstone, she dove into its depths again as she activated the spell it was enchanted with. Once again, the expansive but rather impractical wardrobe spread out within her mind, showing off its contents.

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Without hesitation, she eliminated every other outfit except the plain black and white dress she favored. While it had been ripped practically to pieces before, after spending time in the moonstone and being fed her blood every day, the dress repaired itself, restoring its original shape.

By envisioning the outfit on her and mentally accepting how it looked, she activated the equipping spell. Blood poured out of the moonstone, circling her.

At the same time, her purple armored dress liquified and returned to the moonstone. It wasn’t like she didn’t like it. After wearing the purple dress for a while, it had grown on her, but it was still rather gaudy and Carmen felt obliged to act ladylike to fit the image. In the end, Carmen still preferred the plain black and white dress where she could be herself.

The blood soon solidified on her body, gaining color, and her favorite dress was on her body once more. Carmen gave a twirl, watching how the skirt flared out. There wasn’t a single tear left on the dress.

The blood she had given it while it was in the moonstone contained enough blood mana to repair it completely. It wasn’t made of anything particularly valuable, so it didn’t take that much mana—just some time.

No matter her opinion toward the vampire race itself, Carmen conceded that vampires possessed many conveniences that made life easier for her.

“I liked the other dress. It was prettier,” someone suddenly said.

Carmen looked over at the beautiful woman who dropped down beside her. Unlike before, the woman no longer wore just a tattered brown cloak. Instead, she now had on a wine-red cocktail dress as well, given to her by Carmen since she had nothing else to wear.

The ragged cloak over the dress did little to hide the alluring grace with which the woman moved, and the fullness of her body. The state that the cloak was in merely accentuated the woman’s beauty through contrast. In life, the owner of that body was quite the beauty, and judging from the woman’s movements, one with a high social station at that.

“That’s precisely why I like this one better,” Carmen said. “It suits me more.”

The woman who spoke was Kagriss, a knight-class zombie mage—a lich. That night at Amaranthine Point, she had approached Carmen and asked to serve under her.

Understandably, Carmen had been suspicious at first, but Kagriss hadn’t shown any signs of betrayal up until now, even being helpful for various things. For now, Carmen tentatively trusted Kagriss, even if she still wasn’t sure where the lich’s true loyalties lie.

She raised the moonstone in her hands again. Although there were already lots of things stored within the stone, there was plenty of space left.

A stream of blood once again leaked out from the stone, gathering on her back. A moment later, she carried a sword longer than she was tall, secured by a leather strap to her back.

Carmen had fashioned that strap herself in order to carry the sword on her back while it wasn’t stored in the moonstone. However, it was still rather cumbersome to wear, so she usually kept the sword in her storage until she needed it.

Untying the strap from her front, Carmen pulled the sword from her back, taking the strap with it. While it looked a bit silly having the leather straps hanging from the sword, she couldn’t do anything about it.

The appearance of the sword broke the peace in the forest, and the sound once again died away. Undead mana radiated from the sword, striking fear into the forest the same way a true undead did. This sword had soaked so long in the curse of Amaranthine Point that even un-imbued with undead mana, it was stronger and more durable than normal swords, and cuts made with the weapon corroded the flesh.

Again, Carmen swung the sword a few times, getting used to the weight of it. Unlike a normal greatsword used by humans, this greatsword had an extremely wide and thick blade. The spine of the sword was twice as thick as her thumb, tapering sharply down toward the edges.

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It was a distinctively undead weapon, built for beings who were perpetually strong, not only when under the power of reinforcement.

“I still can’t believe that this is the smallest sword they had,” Carmen grumbled. “At least it’s from a zombie warrior instead of a skeleton…”

Since knight-class skeletons were larger than their zombie counterparts, they also used bigger weapons. A knight skeleton would probably use this greatsword she carried as a longsword, or a hand-and-a-half sword.

The zombie warrior she had borrowed this weapon from had been a lot taller than her and the greatsword fit him perfectly. As a result, it was a bit too big for Carmen, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

She hadn’t had enough time to find another knight-class to borrow from because the next one she faced might not be alone. There was a good chance that they’d be part of a team put together to hunt her down from being impure, so she got out as soon as she found something even mildly usable.

The other reason was that although Kagriss had been there to help against the zombie warrior, she couldn’t be sure if Kagriss would betray her at a crucial moment against a larger number of knight-classes.

In any case, the sword was not too unwieldy so the extra time she spent at the necropolis paid off. Although the sword was a bit long, as long as she took care to not throw off her own sense of balance, Carmen could still fight with it, mostly by not fighting against the weight of the blade and instead take advantage of it.

Again and again, she swung the sword, flowing from one form into the other without stopping. She allowed the sword to pull her, but didn’t give it full control. Whenever she felt that she was going too fast and her movements were becoming too chaotic, she reined in the sword.

The air filled with sharp whistles, but there was never the sound of metal striking wood, as even in the middle of the forest she managed to control herself enough that she weaved through the trees without hitting anything. Granted, it wasn’t a particularly thick forest either—if it was, well, some things were physically impossible no matter how skilled one was.

Finally, Carmen stopped her swings, slamming the tip of the sword into the soft forest floor as she stretched.

Like always, Kagriss clapped after her display. “Compared to the other undeads, none handles the blade as deftly as you,” she said.

“Save the compliments,” Carmen said. She wasn’t naive enough to believe everything that Kagriss said. Even Saevar had been a decent swordsman and she doubted that Saevar was unique. “This is a far cry from what I’m really capable of, although I think I’ve managed to get used to something of this size.

“I’ll still need to test it against an actual opponent, but for now I think this is enough practice. This might actually be better than my usual sword and shield.”

The pretty lich nodded, showing that she understood, although Carmen wondered if she really did.

She pulled the sword out of the dirt and buckled it back onto her back with some reluctance. The weight on her back messed up her center of balance and it was uncomfortable. But for the sake of getting used to it when she was once again walking among human civilization, she persisted.

It would be rather awkward if she had to fight and had no weapon on her due to having it stored away in the moonstone. She’d have to expose the fact she was a vampire then.

Satisfied with her preparations, Carmen checked her bag and adjusted her course to head straight toward the southern outpost outside of Amaranthine Point.

It’s been a few days since she last saved them from the knight-class undead, but they should still remember her. However, by now, she doubted that Barsig would be the only one to know about her existence.

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How would the other officers at the outpost, the ones that hadn’t participated in Barsig’s little adventure, react to her? After all, Carmen was a powerful but unknown factor with a lot of secrets. She had left last time without revealing anything of value.

If she went to the outpost this time, what would be the odds that she would be imprisoned?

Seeing her hesitation, Kagriss gave voice to the concerns that Carmen had kept to herself. “You’re worried about betrayal?”

“A little. I can’t discount the possibility.”

“You can just not go,” Kagriss said. “Although, I have confidence that even if they oppose us, we will be able to escape unscathed.”

“Us…huh?” Carmen shrugged. “That’s true. Even if they want to, they can’t do anything to us. If three Barsigs came at me right now…well, I won’t win, but I can definitely escape. Besides…”

She had Kagriss with her. Even if she couldn’t trust Kagriss to fight against the undead of Amaranthine Point, she could at least count on her to fight against templars. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

Actually, why was Kagriss talking like she was coming? Carmen wasn’t going to bring a strange undead into the heart of the outpost. “You’re not coming. For now, just hang around here and stay out of sight,” she said. “Until I call for you, don’t show yourself!”

At her words, Kagriss looked like she was going to object, but the lich soon remembered her promise to serve Carmen faithfully and piped down. “Okay, mistress…”

Seeing how downcast she looked, Carmen thought that she certainly imitated emotions well—so well that she initially suspected Kagriss of being an impure like her. However, the lich’s lack of common sense beyond spellcasting disproved her suspicions. The lich had worn nothing under that cloak of her’s when they first met and thought nothing of the matter.

Since Carmen was leaving Kagriss behind, that meant she was heading into the outpost alone. She wasn’t too worried about her safety though.

She hadn’t spent the last few days idly. With the help of Kagriss, her imbuement spells with undead mana improved by leaps and bounds. She even learned a few curses and other undead spells.

Compared to learning and developing the spells from scratch, training with Kagriss was much more fruitful and effective. Under Kagriss’s tutelage, the full properties of undead imbuement became clear.

A weapon imbued with undead mana corroded flesh and life, and the wound it left would feel freezing cold for as long as the target doesn’t purify the undead mana the imbuement left behind, or until time itself wiped away the traces.

Even if she couldn’t penetrate the armor of an enemy, the undeath imbuement left traces of mana that bypassed defenses much like the Aurora Crusher did, but to a much lesser extent. The mana would chill the opponent, making them sluggish and easier targets.

Compared to the straightforward and direct holy mana she was used to, undead mana was so much more devious and underhanded. Insidious, even.

For someone like her that was currently working alone with next to no backing, such properties were perfect, even if she did not like it.



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