|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: ScribbleHub|
Carmen whirled around and held her sword in front of her. There, at the end of the tunnel and standing against the faint light of the mana that registered on Carmen’s undead senses, was the undead.
However, it was not like any undead that she had ever seen before. If not for the powerful undead aura that emanated from it, she never would have considered it one.
Its flesh was swollen, bloated as if it was filled with air. The bloat made its skin, crisscrossed with red and blue blood vessels, bulge. The swelling swallowed its eyes, ears, and nose. Only its mouth was big enough to show when it opened, stretched wide and full of sharp teeth and saliva.
Despite how it bloated, it didn’t look like the lumps of flesh were empty or filled with fluids—at least not completely. The lumps looked to be almost all muscle, rippling with every movement. The monster trembled as it crouched on all fours.
Sharp claws curved out from its thick fingers and each time it moved, the claws easily scored through the stone floor with the help of the undead mana that empowered its nails.
No, it couldn’t be. Orlog headed south…so was this something else? A chill ran through Carmen. The undead were producing these monsters and judging by Arvel’s letter and how uncertain he sounded, the Church had no idea.
“Kagriss…back up slowly.”
After a brief moment where Kagriss didn’t move and Carmen almost told her again, the lich behind her let go of her hug. The sharp sound of the hard heels against ground rang out through the tunnel, amplified by the closed quarters. They both froze, as did the monster.
It stopped trembling and pointed its head straight at them. Despite it not having any visible eyes, Carmen felt its attention on them for the briefest moment before it leaped forward.
Its claws tore the ground as it scrabbled to gain traction to make itself go faster. Carmen swung her sword, but she didn’t have enough room to really build up momentum and the claws of the monster slammed the edge back as the two sharp instruments of battle clashed.
“Never mind slowly. Hurry!” Carmen shouted behind as she pushed against the monster. It was strong. If she hadn’t reinforced herself beforehand, she might have been forced back because of its momentum combined with its strength. As is, she was slowly losing ground if only because her shoes weren’t as effective as the monster’s toes and claws at gripping the ground.
The amount of undead mana that the monster had within it was no joke. Despite it not being a knight-class, its huge amount of mana nearly made up the difference.
Still, with that clash of theirs, Carmen realized that the fear she had felt was mostly unfounded, since in the end, this monster was still technically a lesser undead, although it was an anomaly.
Perhaps the fear had been only because of how strange the monster was…
She stomped into the ground, shattered the stone and dug the heel of her shoes and her feet into the ground. She stopped being pushed back, but she realized that Kagriss hadn’t moved. “Kagriss!”
“I can’t leave you behind, Mistress!” Kagriss protested.
“I didn’t tell you to! Just stay back so I have room to maneuver.”
Actually, even if Kagriss did back up, she still wouldn’t have any more room than she did now.
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Fighting in these cramped quarters was such a bad idea for her since she wasn’t equipped with a shield. While the greatsword gave her high offensive capabilities, it was also a lot less versatile.
If only she had a shield, she might be able to crush this monster here.
“Help me push it back into the chamber,” Carmen said, correcting herself. “I need more space.”
Pushing off the edges of the hole in the ground, she began to slowly push back. She felt like she was moving a massive stone block with how forcefully the monster was pushing. Finally, she gave up fighting power with power.
This close, swords were useless. She didn’t have a knife, but she did have her bare hands. She took a deep breath and prepared herself, and when she felt ready, Carmen let go of her sword and dodged in a single movement. The monster pitched forward as the force resisting it suddenly disappeared. The sword swung through the space that Carmen had just been in, but by then, she was no longer there.
Crouching low, she darted in past the monster’s arms, pressing up right against its chest. A horrid smell of rot wafted into her nose. It should have been impossible for zombies to smell, since they didn’t decompose, so what was this?
Fortunately, the smell was faint and on top of that, Carmen simply shut down her nose.
Although the monster continued to push forward, its huge muscular body threatening to crush Carmen beneath her the longer she waited, she wasn’t afraid.
A sudden burst of power ran through her body, coming from a source behind her. Kagriss’s spell. Every bit mattered, so she gladly accepted the power and made it her own. Pushing off the ground to make herself rise, she drove her fist into a powerful blow against the monster’s chin from below.
The monster’s head snapped up violently while Carmen felt like she was punching a wall of rubber. Her whole right arm and shoulder throbbed from the force she exerted and she wasn’t sure if she had broken or torn something.
Just in case, she directed more energy toward the places where the shock impacted the most, reinforcing them.
Before the monster could recover and retaliate, Carmen shrank back like a coil winding up before she burst explosively forward again, punching the now exposed chest of the monster. With less room to give, the shock that everything involved experienced was much greater. This time, Carmen was sure that something broke in her hands.
But the monster had it much worse. After eating two solid body blows, its chest caved in. The remaining force that scattered throughout its body forced it to step backwards.
As Carmen was about to hit the monster again, disregarding her wounded hands since it didn’t hurt anyway, the undead magic that had been building up behind her broke like a collapsing dam.
“Dodge, Mistress!” Kagriss shouted, and then added a direction. “Down!”
Without hesitation, Carmen abandoned her attack and dropped to the ground. A few seconds later, just as the monster managed to regain its balance and was about to pounce forward again onto Carmen’s defenseless back, a black wave of energy shot over her. It crashed straight into the monster and surrounded it like mist given form. The mist began to shrink.
The spell carried the monster backwards as it traveled and when the monster finally managed to stop, the mist from the spell exploded outwards with a shockwave that bounced around the tunnel. The stone vibrated from the explosion and Carmen felt her organs tremble.
Such was the might of a powerful caster. Rare and mostly helpless alone, their true worth shone when they had the defense of warriors to stall the enemy enough for them to cast.
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When the black mist dissipated, the monster was crouching on the ground, but despite its menacing look, it was pitiful. Much of its bulging skin had been cut and scored across by the blades of that unknown spell Kagriss had cast. Several bones look misaligned from being in the center of that blast.
Although it will surely recover soon thanks to that unnaturally high amount of mana it had, it wouldn’t have the chance if Carmen had anything to say about it.
Accelerating the regeneration of her hands at the cost of inefficiencies and undoing the summoning of her bloodbonded weapon, Carmen resumed her assault on the monster, punching and kicking.
Although the black mist that cloaked its entire body tried to heal its wounds—and mostly succeeded in doing so on the outside, the shock from Carmen’s attacks disrupted the mist’s efforts to do the same inside.
The monster simply couldn’t retaliate as Carmen treated it as a punching bag, even when Carmen did something as egregiously arrogant as dodging one of its clumsy swipes and circling behind it.
Grabbing the monster’s head before it could turn around, she turned and threw over her, twisting as she went, and with a sharp crack, the neck of the monster snapped.
Naturally, it wasn’t fatal, but perhaps it would disorient it.
By now, they were quite close to the chamber and with a hard kick at the cost of the bones in her foot thanks to how tough the monster was, she punted the monster out of the tunnel and into the cavern from whence the monster came.
The monster soared through the air and slammed into the wall filled with claw marks on the other side of the cavern, tumbling to the ground.
Immediately, dark chains flew out from behind her and circled around the monster, wrapping it so tightly that Carmen could barely see its purple flesh through the cocoon of chains.
Her right foot slowly healed, the fragmented bones moving back into place with the help of her natural blood magic speeding up the recovery. Until she finished recovering, Carmen limited herself to a slow walk as she headed out of the tunnel.
Kagriss caught up to her, the girl’s face red as she blushed. “Um…my apologies, Mistress. I lost my composure in front of you…”
She looked so crushed that Carmen’s heart melted and she hugged the embarrassed girl, reaching up to cup her face. “It’s okay. It turned out to be okay,” she said. However, the height difference made the hug awkward, since it felt more like she was hugging her mother for comfort.
When Kagriss nodded, accepting her forgiveness and reassurance, Carmen gave Kagriss one more smile before she pulled away. Standing on her toes was hard on her healing foot.
Carmen remembered the state of panic that Kagriss had been, and now that the danger was mostly past, she actually thought that it was kind of cute. Perhaps it was the contrast between how collected Kagriss usually was, since she was so tall and mature looking?
But even if she hadn’t found Kagriss’s panic cute, Carmen didn’t blame the lich at all for her fear. Up until the moment she clashed with the monster, Carmen had been afraid as well. The fear was beyond merely the thought of a terrifying opponent. It was the fear of the unknown, the fear of facing something that simply didn’t make sense.
A lesser undead with the strength of a higher undead was simply unheard of.
However, this monster on the floor, bound in chains, before them was an exception, and the undead seemed to be creating more. How easy was it for the undead to make these monsters?
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After so long of staying under the radar and hiding up in their strongholds, were the undead finally going to make a move against humanity?
Carmen had no idea.
But one thing that was for sure was that she had to get to the bottom of it, since it was her mission. According to Victoria, this here was related to the incident at the mine that Arvel was investigating. The mine incident was caused by Fleur when she broke the gem. The gem was created by the Church…or at least provided to Orlog by the Church.
Although her goal was becoming more and more clear, things became harder, not easier.
She stopped in front of the violently shaking bundle of chains. The monster inside fought to escape, and the thinness of the chains and the way it clinked every time the monster struggled made Carmen a bit nervous. The unnaturalness of this undead monster made her uncomfortable.
She summoned her greatsword again and stabbed the tip of it into the ground, drawing comfort from the weapon in her grip.
“Kagriss…what do you think we should do with this…thing?”
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