|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: ScribbleHub|
“What have you been doing before, Mistress?” Kagriss asked once they had left the girls behind to rest.
Before she met up with Kagriss after being notified of the lich’s presence by her spell, she had been poking around the camp doing what she could to gather information. She was curious about why some undeads decided to set up camp out here in the middle of nowhere. What were they doing?
Although Carmen had called the place a camp, it wasn’t really a campsite camp like the one where the girls spent the previous night, but rather a small cave system with an entrance disguised by magic to resemble a solid rock wall. If not for the tiny amount of undead magic it gave off, she wouldn’t have been able to tell that she was in the right place.
If it wasn’t for her mother telling her just now, she wouldn’t have even thought to come here! How did Victoria even find this place?
While she was grateful to her mother for giving her this information, she wished that her mother at least kept the reason why she was willing to help a secret.
She didn’t need to know that her mother had been watching when she and Kagriss…
Urgh. Carmen decided that she had to make sure she blocked off everyone next time, no matter who it was, even if it was her mother. That was something to worry about later though, since right now she still had to deal with her ill gained reward.
During her reconnaissance, Carmen hadn’t dared get any closer to the barrier than the edges of the bushes around the clearing, but from what she could tell from extending her senses into the ground, there were around or at least a hundred lesser undeads. She couldn’t tell if there were any higher undead, since at that point, undeads were smart enough to hide their aura like she was doing now.
Still, if the undead in that cave hadn’t scattered or wandered off, that was sufficient proof that there was something in there keeping them in line and under control. The question was if it was a lich or skull lich.
A skull lich would be such a pain to fight, although it’ll be better than last time since Kagriss was with her. A second caster, even a weaker one, did much to nullify the advantages that the skull lich had.
Hiding in the bushes right outside the entrance, Carmen told her findings to Kagriss and the lich nodded, showing that she understood.
“So what is our plan of action, Mistress?” Kagriss asked.
“Plan of action…I think there’s only one entrance. Since they’re all undead, poison won’t work. We’re also short on time so more complex plans won’t work. In that case…”
“Do we use brute force, Mistress?”
Carmen looked over at Kagriss who usually never interrupted her. For some reason, Kagriss’s eyes were shining, almost glowing in that beautiful violet color, as she spoke.
“I suppose we do. When we go in, leave the rank and file to me.”
“But Mistress, they’re beneath your attention if they’re merely lesser undead,” Kagriss protested. “Please allow me to lead. It’ll only take a few spells to wipe out every lesser undead in that cave.”
She pleaded with Carmen and for a moment, Carmen saw a younger Fleur in her. Kagriss was picking up some of Fleur’s mannerisms. Although Kagriss was cute when she was acting so excited and eager to show what she could do, Carmen shook her head. “At the cost of how much mana? Besides, we need to hide our strength, and that includes our aura. If you cast magic, won’t that betray us to the enemy?”
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“Besides, my stamina is limitless but your mana is finite, especially since we’re not in Amaranthine Point anymore.”
“Yes, Mistress.” Kagriss looked much more subdued now.
Looking at her, Carmen felt she should at least try to make Kagriss feel better. “You still haven’t recovered from empowering those chimeras, right? Your magic is really important, so we have to treasure every bit of mana. In case there’s a lich in there, I’ll be relying on you to support me.”
Kagriss straightened, her lips moving as she said something to herself that Carmen didn’t hear.
However, what was important was that Kagriss wasn’t feeling down anymore. Carmen stood up. She didn’t have any more specific instructions for Kagriss since she never liked micromanaging her subordinates if they were any good at all. Only novices need such specific orders.
Carmen believed that individualism made peoples’ talents shine more.
“So are you ready? I’ll lead the way, and you should do as you see fit. I’ll leave things up to your own judgement.”
When Kagriss nodded in place of her usual bow or curtsey, Carmen materialized her sword. She had just recently completely bonded the sword to herself. Because of its magical properties, it had been difficult.
Before, all she could do was take it in and out of her blood, but after completely bonding it to her, she could finally slightly alter the size of the weapon like she did her clothes so that they would fit.
Although she had grown to like the weight of the greatsword when she swung it, it was still too awkward to wear when at normal size—the tip always dragged on the ground. The ability to shrink it slightly was a true blessing.
No more words were needed. Pulling the sword from her back and putting the strap back into her blood, she charged toward the entrance of the cave. As a lich without using magic, Kagriss fell far behind.
The moment Carmen reached the entrance, she felt the presence of undead magic woven into a barrier that repelled physical attacks. It had been hidden behind the illusion. She rammed right into it with her shoulder at full speed, but the barrier didn’t even budge while she bounced right back.
“Mistress?” Kagriss sounded worried.
“No, not yet. I can handle this,” Carmen said, holding up her hand to stop Kagriss from casting.
That was embarrassing—what was supposed to be her grand entrance into the camp was stopped so anticlimactically.
Frowning, she carefully imbued her sword with undead mana, deciding to keep her holy magic as an ace in the hole for now. Making sure that nothing leaked from her blade, she backed up a few steps before charging toward the seemingly empty cave entrance. Her sword dragged on the ground behind her, scoring a line through the dirt where nothing grew.
When she was almost upon the barrier, she dragged her sword forward, swinging the huge blade around in a semicircle. As she swung, her concentration slipped and some of the undead magic leaked out, painting a black half moon in the air.
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With a hollow thud followed immediately by a sharp crack, her greatsword broke through the barrier. However, the shock from hitting such a solid barrier traveled up her sword and into her arms and shoulders.
It probably would have been easier to just reinforce her body instead, but what’s done is done.
Nodding to Kagriss, she charged into the cave. There was a sharp bend downwards ahead which had prevented her from seeing inside when she performed reconnaissance, but now that she was upon it, she saw that the slope was much steeper than she had initially thought. Not only that, there were skeletons with their eyes glowing purple charging up at her, armed with swords and mace.
The force might have been effective against humans, but it was utterly inadequate against even a single knight-class warrior whose skin was naturally as tough as steel. Not that it mattered for Carmen.
Without even stopping, Carmen crashed into the crowd of undead shrinking her sword down so that she could wield it properly underground. Her quick sweeping slashes felled multiple skeletons with each slash and scattered their bodies in explosions of flying bone. Weaving around their bodies and weapons, she was a whirlwind of destruction, and by the time she had moved past the crowd of hostile skeletons, not a single intact corpse remained with plenty of cracked and broken bones.
Compared to the wretched state that the skeletons were in, Carmen didn’t even have a single slash mark on her clothes except for a few ragged tears where clutching fingers had caught on the fabric. No swords or mace touched her.
She wasn’t the type to hold back even in a battle against those weaker than her, so she had obliterated the force with all her strength and skill.
Without sparing a glance as the havoc she had wreaked behind her, she continued to charge down the tunnels, leaving Kagriss far behind. As long as Kagriss saw fit to keep herself hidden, the enemy should only detect a single invader—her, while Kagriss remained a hidden trump card.
After that, she saw a few more crowds of skeletons, becoming more and more numerous as she went further down. From a dozen to two dozens, to four…to six, until the latest group numbered more than a hundred.
When she clashed with the hundred-skeleton team, she finally began to take hits from the swords—maces were still too slow. Though she parried or dodged most of the slashes, some managed to slip past her defenses only to stop against the scant amount of armor on her dress. Even fewer managed to break through the exposed fabric—but those merely bounced off her skin.
Was she getting hit because her skills had deteriorated? No—some things were simply physically impossible when the enemy had enough numbers.
But after that battle, Carmen realized that she had underestimated how many skeletons there were—the tunnel went deeper than she had ever expected, and the undead that she had detected while on the surface was but a fraction of the total.
While the number of lesser skeletons didn’t matter since they couldn’t hurt her anyways, she was worried about the higher undead hiding in the curtains behind them. The deeper she went, the more skilled and numerous the skeletons were, which meant she was getting closer to the higher undead—probably some kind of lich—within. The closer she got, the more power the lich could bestow onto their subordinate undead like Kagriss had done for the chimeras.
However, since the undead were human skeletons, the efficiency for a given amount of mana was much greater.
Not only that, when she was charging down the tunnel, spikes of darkness stabbed out from the walls at times when her movements triggered a trap. Unlike the weapons from the undead, these spikes were powerful enough to pierce her defenses, and if she hadn’t reacted fast enough she might have been impaled.
Additionally, she detected a desecration zone that grew stronger the further in she went. Far from hindering her, the zone’s effects strengthened her instead.
“Moonlight Road.” With a body reinforcement spell using undead mana that she had derived from a similarly named holy magic spell, her footsteps became faster. By now, the tunnel had flattened out and began to curve and double back and she lost sight of Kagriss. However, she trusted that Kagriss would be fine. After fighting through a final group of about two hundred skeletons—once more without taking a single hit thanks to her boosted speed and agility—she rounded a corner and came to a large chamber. At the end of the chamber, there stood a large set of iron doors almost three meters tall that emanated a huge undead aura, evidently having been enchanted.
At the same time as physically hiding whatever was beyond, the doors and the surrounding rock completely blocked out Carmen’s senses.
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Leaving behind the scattered pile of bones, Carmen halted before the doors, having to lean back her head in order to see all of the huge doors. Why was there such a big door down here? Carmen didn’t understand what the undead had been thinking. Somehow, whoever made this place had shipped enough metal down that metal tunnel to fashion a big door. Yes, the door had to be metal in order to hold enchantments well, but why?
To keep something in…or out?
She slowly walked up to the door, stopping a good distance away, unwilling to go any closer before she found out what the door was enchanted with. Enchanting was a field of magic that, again, wasn’t her strong suit. Arvel or some other priest wasn’t here to help her, not that they would have been much of a help either thanks to undead enchantments being notoriously difficult to break thanks to the lack of undead mana affinities among her former circle.
But now, she had Kagriss, a skilled mage in her own right, and an undead one at that.
Could it be fate that they met?
In a way, she had fallen in love with Kagriss’s appearance at first sight, even if she didn’t want to admit that she was such a shallow person.
And speaking of Kagriss, the lich came hurrying around the corner, crushing the inert skeleton bones beneath her feet as she ran, the low heels on her shoes not bothering her at all. She slowed to stand next to Carmen.
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