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Chapter 68: Paper Tiger

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

“I don’t like it,” Kagriss said. “I think we should kill it, Mistress. Something about it is just wrong…”

To be honest, Carmen agreed. This monster wasn’t an ordinary undead. She already knew that the fear she felt when she detected it wasn’t because it was powerful, but because of how strange and unknown it was. It repulsed her.

But that was exactly why she was reluctant to kill this monster despite the risks of keeping it alive. She wanted to have the opportunity to study it and find out its secrets—conquer the source of her fear of the unknown…but she didn’t know where to start.

Her job had always been to destroy a target quickly, efficiently, and completely. Research was beyond her.

While Kagriss might be able to glean something from this monster, she was obviously uncomfortable around this monster. Carmen didn’t want to put her into a difficult situation. Besides, even if she was willing to experiment on the monster, it took more time than Carmen was willing to spare since she had to rendezvous with Arvel soon.

While it might be possible to bring it along with them, Carmen didn’t feel safe around the monster, and she didn’t feel safe having the girls around it either. Did they even have the means to keep it down indefinitely?

Despite it being weaker than either her or Kagriss alone, neither of them knew what other tricks it had. All that mana couldn’t be just for show.

Considering the risks and payout, annihilating this thing was probably for the best.

“I’ll finish it off then. Unless you want to do it?” Carmen asked. Kagriss quickly shook her head and took a step back. “Okay, then. I’ll do it.”

Such a dangerous thing couldn’t be left alive.

The mana of the monster was so powerful that as it struggled, the chains began to corrode and break down. Already, there were tiny fractures barely visible in the conjured black metal, although the chains still help. Strength alone probably couldn’t break the chains but it was sufficient in exacerbating the damage done to the immobilization magic by the monster’s mana.

Hopefully they won’t need another casting of the same binding spell.

Carmen raised her sword, gathering undead mana and converting it into blood, and then holy mana. It was tedious work; she should take her mother’s suggestion and work on her control over blood mana soon.

The sword began to become covered with holy mana, but the undead mana in the sword disrupted her spellwork. Still, she persevered and the power of the holy mana grew. Golden light radiated from the blade and Kagriss instinctively took another step back. The monster wrapped in the chains began to struggle even harder, trying to break out at all costs. A chain touched by the light snapped under the monster’s struggling, but there were too many to break all at once. The mana this time was so strong that even Carmen felt that the light warmed her skin where they touched.

She could handle more holy mana now, so naturally, her spells became more powerful.

Bit by bit, she constructed the spell until it was finally completed and she channeled the converted mana into the spell structure at the tip of the sword. The formerly pure golden gold gained other colors and an iridescent light spiraled out from the tip, surging back up the length of the blade, spiraling all the while until the stationary blade looked like a descending comet.

As if it could feel true death approaching but was consumed with fear, the monster’s struggles faded until it moved no more.

Carmen wondered if this monster had been alive when it was turned into what it was now, like Orlog had been. What about others like it, if there were any?

“Rest well,” she said.

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She stabbed her greatsword down, leaning all of her admittedly meager weight into the strike. The tip plunged into the still monster, annihilating the chains that it touched and stabbed into the monster’s bloated flesh.

Holy mana exploded within the monster, twisting around within its body, destroying the vulnerable undead flesh. It affected the whole body equally and its spiraling power leaked out from the monster after wreaking havoc within. The twisting power smashed into the ground, the walls, and the ceiling, breaking apart the stone and kicking up a cloud of dust that hung in this confined space. The dust dampened the glow from Aurora Crusher.

Slowly, the spell began to fade as it ran its course, its light dimming, but Carmen frowned. Why was the undead’s mana still concentrated at her feet? She had targeted the chest of the monster with a spell as powerful as Aurora Crusher, so it should have died and its mana scattered into the air.

So why was the mana still gathered there, as strong as ever…no, it was weaker, having lost a good chunk. But the chunk it lost corresponded to about the same amount of mana it would have lost resisting Kagriss’s spell from earlier.

Resisting?

No, it couldn’t be that it survived—a mere lesser undead surviving a spell that destroyed that axe wielding skeleton warrior in one shot was something so far out of the realm of possibility that Carmen refused to consider it.

But what was this?

Carmen stepped back. That fear came back, stronger than ever. “What the hell is this thing?”

“Mistress?”

“It’s still alive! Why is it still alive?”

As the dust began to settle, a shape stood up, swaying unsteadily. The chains that had previously held it down had been annihilated by the Aurora Crusher, as they should have been, leaving it free.

Carmen’s throat dropped to her stomach as she saw the absolute mess that the undead monster was. It had practically been turned inside out. Clumps of churned flesh dropped to the ground while more intact pieces hung on torn pieces of skin. Bones jutted out at off angles and its head was completely upside down and dangling. Although it couldn’t even move, it remained standing through the power of the undead mana within its flesh.

But it was alive.

Any other undead below lord-class reduced to that state by holy magic would have died, and even a lord-class would have been incapacitated until it managed to recovered.

Yet, this thing stood before them like an affront to even the unnatural order that the undead were. It shrugged off holy magic as it did undead magic instead of being annihilated.

Something should like this should not exist. Carmen didn’t want to acknowledge its existence.

Life feared the undead, so what did undead fear?

Some even more unnatural than itself.

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At that moment, Carmen felt nothing but the need to get away from this abomination as soon as possible, but when that thought entered her mind, something triggered in her and forcibly suppressed that fear down to a manageable level.

That whiplash of emotion jolted her head clear and her surroundings that had been forced out of her mind by her fear came crashing back into her. Carmen realized that Kagriss was shaking her, calling her name.

“Mistress, Mistress, are you okay?”

Carmen blinked, trying to get a hold of her emotions. “Kagriss?”

“You suddenly stopped moving,” the lich said looking worried. “Do you want to try again?”

“Try again…” Carmen grimaced. “Why aren’t you afraid?” Compared to that wretched state she had been in, Kagriss acted way too calm. Was it just her?

Kagriss shook her head. “I am afraid, Mistress, but not as much as you. What’s making you so afraid?”

What was making her feel so afraid?

Carmen didn’t know.

Perhaps it was true that the undead instinctively feared that monster—she and Kagriss both felt uncomfortable around it. But why was she the only one in hysteria?

“If I might hazard a guess, Mistress?” Kagriss said. Carmen motioned for her to go ahead. “I think the answer is simple. Your assumptions worked against you, Mistress.”

“Assumptions?” Carmen felt like she knew what Kagriss was talking about.

“You assumed, without any doubt, that your spell will definitely kill it. But when it didn’t, that conviction came back to bite you…and since that thing is scary,” Kagriss said, shivering, “your doubts were amplified many times over.”

Looking at how the monster weakly swayed, barely able to remain standing, Carmen had to admit her reaction had been overblown. Kagriss was right. Her fear had been manageable—negligible, even—until she found out that the monster survived her Crusher. Since that result went against every single thing she had been taught, so assured that she was in the Crusher’s power, the sudden doubt merged with her fear to become overwhelming.

By contrast, Kagriss had no such assumptions. As far as she was concerned, the Aurora Crusher was just a really effective spell, but if it didn’t work, then no big deal.

Carmen palmed her face, ashamed of herself. So much for her mental fortitude. “I’m sorry for showing you this side of me…” she muttered. “I made a fool out of myself.”

“No, don’t apologize, Mistress. Um…I guess now we’re even?”

Kagriss fingers fidgeted as if she didn’t know what to do with them and after a seemingly long time, they finally reached out and grabbed Carmen’s free hand, squeezing it tightly.

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“Does that make you feel better?” she asked.

Carmen laughed. “Yes.”

“Great. Then we should do our best to get rid of this distraction then. I don’t like it and you don’t like it, so let’s just do our best to kill it. It’s just resistant after all. Not immune.”

“Yeah.” Now that Carmen was more clear headed after talking with Kagriss, she realized once again that this thing was nothing to be afraid of. It was just a tough punching bag once it’s been downed the first time, and that was true for practically all undead if she didn’t use holy mana to finish them quickly.

“Let’s reduce it to bits before it can regenerate.”

Since for some inexplicable reason, holy magic was no more effective than undead magic, Carmen didn’t bother converting her magic any further. Instead, she simply wreathed her sword with an undead mana imbuement and began to chop the body of the undead into smaller and smaller pieces, starting by bisecting it at its waist and then halving the pieces over and over again.

Kagriss, with her magic, began to annihilate those chunks of flesh into bits smaller than Carmen cared to bother with.

By the time they were done, the terrifyingly huge amount of mana had been reduced to around half of Carmen’s, consumed by the undead’s efforts at regeneration.

However, Carmen and Kagriss foiled each attempt until finally, the undead aura disappeared, and all that was left was…nothing. However, as the thing died away, Carmen thought that she felt a hint of holy mana.

Carmen stared at the empty ground as the last of the purple flesh faded away into mana that melted into the world.

It was utterly unlike a normal undead which at least left the original corpse behind—an abomination to the end.



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