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Chapter 4: The Acolyte of the Church

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

Carmen growled and kicked aside a zombie arm that was laying on the ground as he hauled his sack of raw ore through the tunnels. Every time he passed by, it always seemed to be in his way.

The night had passed and the sun was already rising. The inky black skies slowly lightened, turning light blue and clear, each cloud clearly visible.

As a sack zombie, he was one of the only zombies fortunate enough to see the sky in those precious seconds he passed from the entrance of the mine to the sorting shack and back. All the other zombies were either permanently stuck in the sort shack hammering at rocks and sorting ores, or deep down in the cramped tunnels chipping away at a wall.

Despite seeing the refreshing sunrise, a suffocating feeling of frustration fouled Carmen’s mood.

All night long as he made his rounds between the miners and the sorters, he kept an eye out for a chance to kill Orlog. However, with the sun up, it was too late.

Any time now, the acolyte that was to be sent here to watch Orlog would come. Even if he could kill Orlog, he would be helpless against the acolyte if push came to shove.

He had planned to the moment he found out that Orlog was a traitor who knew only greed, but the desire only intensified when he found the arm of a zombie in the tunnels.

It was common knowledge that the bodies of undead did not decay unless purified or a long time had passed. Even critters like worms refused to eat such contaminated flesh before the passage of time dissipated the demonic energies that the meat was laced with.

Carmen had found the arm when he tripped over it, spilling his bag of ores. At the time, his annoyance at having to pick up the rocks he dropped was instantly cleared away when he looked back to see what had been in his way.

A human arm, half decayed. He sensed that it was the arm of an undead, but one that had been separated from its body for a long time—at least a few months, judging by how sparse the mana within it was.

No wonder Orlog was so skilled in commanding zombie miners. An ordinary foreman wouldn’t know where to begin. It was his subservient tone and feigned awe that fooled Carmen into believing that it had been Orlog’s first time using zombies, but the arm he found was irrefutable evidence that his group of undead hadn’t been the first generation.

That made sense. The local Church branch clearly had established protocols for creating and dealing with undead—by anonymously reporting the outbreak and calling the Templar Orders.

How many mines like this one existed?

Carmen gritted his teeth. One of his duties as a holy knight had been to deal with demons within human territory. He was often called to deal with undead outbreaks. Then, he had always assumed that the culprit was a demon, but now he had his doubts.

Although he didn’t want to even entertain the notion, he was forced to recognize that perhaps some of those undead outbreaks had been created by the Church itself.

Undead labour was lucrative. After experiencing the sheer efficiency of it, he had no doubt that some of the greedier people participated in it. But the question was how many? He wasn’t naive enough to think that this one was only one.

More than once, Carmen lamented his current body.

If only he had an intact throat and vocal chords, he could try to force Orlog to spill what he knew before he killed him. That wasn’t the only limitation either.

For one, he wasn’t fast enough to catch Orlog if he ran. He couldn’t sneak up on Orlog either, since Orlog took great interest in the ‘little girl zombie that clung to her mother.’

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He even reduced the number of sacks Carmen had to carry at once, as if taking into consideration the small body Carmen occupied.

As if that small act of kindness changed the fact he was a traitor who abused necromancy for the sake of profit. It wasn’t even a kindness toward a human; it was toward an undead at that.

Carmen sighed, a tiny groan coming from his leaky lungs.

He was lost, now that he was a zombie.

No, he had always been lost. But before now, someone had always given him a purpose. A direction.

Life was so simple back when he was a holy knight. All he had to do was train his body and mind in anticipation for his next battle, and when he received orders, he led his troops to battle.

As a zombie, Carmen didn’t know what he was going to do next.

All his life, had he truly thought for himself even once?

He could not, would not allow himself to live on aimlessly like this. He needed a goal, something to reach for. For now, it was killing Orlog.

After that, he will kill the priest sent here to observe Orlog. The entire corrupt branch of the Church will be next. Following the stream of evil, he will exterminate all traces of the influence of demons that he finds, for the sake of humanity.

The evil within the Church…without meaning to the words of Victoria floated to the forefront of his thoughts. “Experience the truth for yourself.”

Perhaps the corruption of the Church was what she was talking about, but if she thinks he will lose his faith from something as reparable as that, she has another thing coming when he leads another army against her in a few years.

Although Carmen smiled at the thought, a rare expression in this kind of situation, it quickly disappeared. He was a zombie right now.

A girl zombie, just over half of his old height by his estimates.

The image in his mind of himself right now leading a crusade was too strange. He had to figure out a way to regain his old body, or at least something like it. But how can he become human again, if that was even possible? If he was, would he be a man again or…

Carmen didn’t want to keep going down that line of thought. His time was better spent figuring out how to kill Orlog. No matter what he was going to do, Orlog had to go first, along with that red gem.

Although Orlog couldn’t control his mind with the gem, there was another form of control available to him that forced his limbs to move directly. Orlog or anyone else with the gem could force him to return to his death if he snuck away.

Although Carmen didn’t know if there was an effective range for the spell’s control over him, his current appearance was too conspicuous compared to the other sack zombies.

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Orlog will notice if he didn’t come out at regular intervals.

Once again, Carmen cursed his current appearance. If only he looked like an everyman, then he wouldn’t stand out so much.

Trying hard to not let the bottom of his ore bag drag on the rough floor of the tunnels for fear that it’ll tear and waste all his hard work so far, he finally broke through from the darkness into the light. The sun shining into his face from right above the trees blinded him for a moment while his half-rotten eyes slowly adjusted.

However, his feet continued to move. Unable to see, he tripped over a rock that jutted out from the ground and fell flat on his face. A zombie’s groan rumbled from his mouth as he pushed himself up, but as he rose to his feet, a shadow fell over him, blocking out the sun’s warmth on his exposed flesh.

Orlog?

Carmen knew he was wrong the next second as his eyes adjusted to the dark again well enough to see what was blocking the light.

He first saw cloth shoes roughly weaved in threads the color of gold.

It was a color he knew all too well—the color of holy magic, bane of all undead. Just the sight of the color made him draw back instinctively. Looking further up, he saw the hems of a robe, sticking out from under a rough, brown cloak.

It was the acolyte! His blood ran cold.

Having been bathed in the holiness of the Church since they were inducted into the organization as a child, even the lowest acolyte exuded an aura toxic to the undead.

Carmen had to clench his teeth, doing all he could to stop himself from lunging at the figure that stood so defenselessly in front of him. All of his current body’s instincts screamed at him to either run or fight—anything but sit here doing nothing.

“Oh heavens. The Father raised a child as a zombie? Poor thing.”

It was a girl’s voice.

“Don’t blame the Father. He wasn’t the one who prepared the corpse. Someone else had this job. The Father only casted the spell,” Orlog replied. His tone was still respectful, but nowhere as subservient as it had been when he spoke with the priest.

“Still, it makes me uncomfortable to have someone like her running around. Can I cleanse her? You’ll be compensated for lost labour,” the acolyte said.

What? No, please no. The words of the acolyte filled Carmen with panic. If his undead heart was still beating, it would be pounding right now. Despite his heightened emotions, it didn’t reach that threshold where it affected his judgement so he was still as calm and collected as usual.

But even if he was calm, he was still helpless. Faced with the difference in power between him and the acolyte, there was nothing he could do. He could try and kill her, but even if he succeeded, the other zombies who all had longer legs would catch up with him when he escaped. Not to mention that stupid gem.

An intense accumulation of holy magic gathered above him. The ripples of mana felt like the scorching rays of a desert sun on his undead body, only a hundred times hotter.

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He tensed, ready to resist the purification, even if it was futile, but the searing heat of the magic never came. Another, larger shadow had joined the first and the holy magic faded.

“With all due respect, Sister, I’ll have to refuse your offer.”

It was Orlog.

Carmen moaned a sigh of relief as the immediate danger passed. With Orlog here and without Orlog’s permission, the acolyte probably won’t do anything.

Trying not to seem suspicious and avoiding sudden movements that might startle the acolyte, Carmen grabbed his ore sack and stood up. He made his movements smooth and nonchalant, like he wasn’t just on the brink of oblivion a second ago.

As he passed by the pair of humans, holding back his undead instincts to tear them apart, filled with undead jealousy at their still-living flesh, he snuck a look at the acolyte.

The acolyte was a pretty girl with chestnut hair, mostly hidden in the dark folds of her hooded cloak. She was around the same height as Orlog, which didn’t make her very tall. As a miner, Orlog was short and stout, resembling the dwarven demons of the west.

One bulged with muscles, the other was brimming with holy energy. Neither were easy targets for a zombie.

For some reason, the girl looked oddly familiar, but he couldn’t quite place her face.

He left the two to their arguments. Keeping his head down, Carmen stumbled into the ore sorting room as he racked his head for a way out of this situation. His time limit was half a year when a Templar Order arrived to exterminate this horde so he had some leeway in time, but he hoped to be gone way before then.



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