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Chapter 7: Father Arvel

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

Fleur sighed as she tried her best to move in time with the horse’s hooves.

With every passing minute, she was getting close to the mine she was stationed at. Her heart quickened. If Father Arvel’s guess was right, then she was heading straight into the mouth of danger.

Fingering the amulet in her pouch, she went over the instructions that Father Arvel had given her when she returned to the Church after Orlog alerted her to the zombie girl’s abnormalities.

He was both her mentor in matters pertaining to her religious duties as well as her confidante, so she trusted him with her life and valued each of his words like gold.

His reaction when she reported what she saw was a loss of composure that she had never seen from him…

“What? Say that again!”

Father Arvel looked up from his book. His fingers that held an inky quill shook, striking a thick black line across the page.

Fleur flinched at his sickened and worried expression. It was such a far cry from the calmness and benevolence he exuded. Fidgeting with her fingers, Fleur looked at the ground and repeated her words.

“I said that…that one of the zombies in the mines seems to be growing stronger.”

Father Arvel’s face darkened even further. “Do you know what you are suggesting?”

Fleur looked at her lap, shifting in her seat. Her scalp tingled as she began to sweat. Shame washed over her.

Was she supposed to know? Did she forget something from her lessons? It couldn’t be; she had paid attention to everything he ever taught him.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know. I must have forgotten…” she said.

She didn’t want to disappoint him. He was like a father to her, picking her out from all the orphans that the Church took in, allowing her to live a new and respectable life. Even if he didn’t demand perfection from her, she demanded it from herself.

“Please tell me. I promise I won’t forget this time.”

“No, you’re fine,” Father Arvel said, groaning. “Urgh. I knew that this would happen someday. I kept telling him to stop raising zombies, but did he listen? ****.”

Fleur gasped as she heard the Father swear. She stared at him with wide eyes.

The Father stared back at her without blinking. Then, as if nothing had happened, he looked at his ruined page that had been streaked with ink and sighed. “Don’t worry, you were never taught. Normally, this is taught later in your studies, but now seems like a good time to tell you as any.”

“About what, Father?”

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“About higher undead. Until now, you were only taught the existence of and how to purify lesser undead. However, undead wouldn’t be such a problem if lesser undead were the extent of the threat.” Father Arvel rubbed the bridge of his nose before he set aside the book and stood up, stepping out from behind his desk.

They were currently in Father Arvel’s personal study, the place where he used to tutor her. The room was filled with books, the bookshelves cramping the already small room.

As Father Arvel searched the shelves, he continued to lecture.

“Higher undead has a certain chance of appearing with large amounts of undead. This includes our blasted fundraisers. ****. Damn it!”

Fleur covered her mouth.

Continuing to ignore her, Father Arvel finally found what he was looking for and took out a book from the shelves.

It was small and crudely bound with leather and twine, looking less like a record book and more like someone’s personal journal.

While Father Arvel made his way back, Fleur voiced her suspicion.

“So does that mean that the zombie I saw is becoming a higher undead…as you call them?”

Her mentor nodded as he flipped through the yellowing pages. “That’s a pretty good possibility, yes. It’s a worrying one, too.”

“Why?”

“Because higher undead are much stronger than lesser undead. Lesser undead should be ashamed to call themselves undead when these things exist,” Father Arvel said. “While undead hordes are dangerous, higher undead can rival dozens or hundreds of normal undead by themselves!”

Fleur gasped. As an acolyte, she could purify one or two undead. If pushed, she could turn a few more. Anything above that meager amount was well out of the realm of possibility for her.

Only ordained priests like Father Arvel, or a knight from the Templar Orders, could take on so many undead at once. Does Father Arvel mean to suggest that mere undead could become so strong?

To think that something so dangerous was growing right under her nose. She pictured the zombie girl—a little zombie girl so small it was hard to imagine her as anything dangerous. Fleur shivered as she realized the close brush she had with death.

“Ah ha, I found it. Here it is. Zombie knight, the most common higher zombie type,” Father Arvel said with a small clap of satisfaction. He flipped the book upside down and pointed at a picture. Fleur craned her neck to look.

Father Arvel was pointing at a hand-drawn picture of a handsome man in tattered clothes, holding an axe in his hands. Beneath the man was a mountain of corpses. The artist had taken some liberties, twisting the expressions of the corpses into harrowing screams.

“That’s a zombie knight?” she asked. “It looks like a human.” At least, it wasn’t rotting. She stared at the well-defined abs of the man.

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“Zombie knights regain their original appearance. Aside from not needing to eat, breathe, not needing a beating heart…such differences, they are practically indistinguishable from humans,” Father Arvel said. “Even then, it can be faked. A person with a beating heart and warm blood is not necessarily living. Even I could be a zombie knight, though I dare not call myself one.”

He took back the book.

Fleur blinked in surprise as the image she was staring at suddenly disappeared while her face burned in a blush. She looked at the table to hide the redness of her face.

Fortunately, Father Arvel didn’t seem to notice as he continued. “Zombie knights are powerful. At least, I can’t beat one alone,” he said.

Fleur froze at Father Arvel’s admission and blood drained out of her face. Something Father Arvel couldn’t beat alone?

She had trouble imagining something like that, having personally witnessed her mentor purify a dozen zombies and skeletons in one go during one outbreak at a cemetery. The sheer radiance she saw at that time made it seem like any undead that fell within its light will instantly turn to ashes.

An undead that could resist it was…well, scary would be an understatement.

Hoping that she heard wrong, she put on her best expression of doubt. “Y—you’re joking right?”

Ah. She still stuttered even though she tried so hard to hide her fear.

“Unfortunately, no. For zombie knights, we call in the Templar Orders. Usually Carmen answers our call, but unfortunately—ah, Carmen, he’d be so disappointed if he knew what we were doing…” His voice trailed off.

Fleur looked down at the table, trying to steady her breathing. When she raised her head again, Father Arvel was still staring listlessly at his book.

She resisted the urge to reach over the table and pat her mentor on the shoulders to comfort him. Her mentor used to be close friends with Sir Carmen. Fleur looked up to him as well.

When he wasn’t busy, Sir Carmen used to visit often to chat with Father Arvel. When she was younger, Sir Carmen often gave her rides on his shoulder. He was also the first one to teach her a spell, the very basic Light.

Since Fleur was training to be a priestess, she knew to keep boundaries between her and Sir Carmen, but in private, she admired him more than anyone else realized.

However, two years ago, Sir Carmen was called away on a campaign involving several Orders against the vampires. Their entire army had been wiped out. Sir Carmen himself was never heard from again, no matter how long she and Father Arvel waited.

She’d never forget the moment she and Father Arvel received notice that the local Order officially promoted Sir Carmen’s replacement to Knight Commander. The position that had remained vacant for half a year was finally filled.

“Maybe the Order won’t be necessary,” she growled. “When I saw the zombie girl, she was still rotten—clearly a regular zombie.”

“That’s because she had not completed her evolution yet. Once a zombie begins growing, their evolution into a zombie knight is inevitable unless they are destroyed before then. It might take a week, it might take a year, but the fact remains that it will happen without fail.”

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“Oh.” Fleur frowned. Zombie knights were more trouble than she thought. If it was inevitable, then the Order needed to be called, unless… She licked her lips. “Then, what should we do? It hasn’t been three days yet since the change, so should we go purify it now?”

Father Arvel stiffened, as if the question caught him off guard. “About that. I can’t go right now. In fact, none of the priests here can spare the time right now, since we’re all preparing for the Fall Blessing.”

“What?! But what about the zombie knight? Shouldn’t we nip the trouble in the bud?” Fleur asked. Zombie knights were so scary—they were even stronger than Father Arvel. Who knows how many people will die if they let it complete its evolution.

She was sure that the argument would convince the Father, but instead, he shook his head.

“The Fall Blessing pertains to the wellbeing of all the commoners under the protection of our order—several hundred thousand people. Compared to the threat of a zombie knight who, while powerful, will threaten no more than a few hundred at best, it is clear what we should prioritize.”

“But—!”

“Besides, it’s policy that we cannot call the Order unless the zombie knight had been formally sighted. Suspicions are not enough. Don’t forget, not everyone knows you as well as I,” Father Arvel said, scratching his head.

“Then what should we do…?” Fleur asked.

“Nothing. We will do nothing. I’ll relieve you from your assignment and send another acolyte to take your place. Instead, you will join me in preparing for the Fall Blessing,” Father Arvel said.

“But what about the zombie?! Ow!” Fleur fell back as Father Arvel flicked her forehead. “What was that for, Father!”

“It is no longer your problem. Some other acolyte can stick their neck out for the knight to chop.” The Father snorted. “Maybe one of the bishop’s, since it was his blasted fundraising plan that caused this in the first place.”

Fleur’s jaws fell open as she realized what her mentor was suggesting. She should be happy that she was not going back into danger, but instead, a feeling of loss fell over her. Was she actually disappointed? About what?

But it was Father Arvel who taught her that as a priestess, listening to her heart was important. Her heart, for some reason, was telling her that she shouldn’t run away.

Those hundred of lives that Father Arvel so easily discounted in favor of the majority were at stake. She wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if she just let it be.

She wetted her lips. The first time she went against Father Arvel’s orders was going to be her running headlong into death. Laughable, really.

Staring at the table, she stood up. “Um!”

She couldn’t see the Father’s face, but she could imagine him scowling. His tone before clearly stated that it was the end of discussion. Ignoring the panic in her heart, Fleur took a deep breath to steel her nerves. “Um!”

“‘Um’ what?”

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“Um…! I don’t want to be transferred?”

“No.”

Fleur flinched at the flat refusal. “Why?”

“Because I’m not going to send you to your death. Zombie knights have a tendency to destroy sources of holy power, and aren’t you the perfect beacon?” Father Arvel was really scowling now. He was once again holding his inky quill. A blot of ink was on the new page of the book.

Perhaps normally, Fleur would back down, but she had already come so far. “I won’t let it become a knight!”

Father Arvel raised his eyebrows, motioning for her to go on.

“I was the one who found it, so I will destroy it! Please, Father! It’s my calling. Didn’t you always tell me to follow my heart?”

“That doesn’t mean I will allow you to suicide. Context matters,” Father Arvel growled.

“Please…I don’t want to let those innocent lives die. They’re all human lives. Since I won’t be much help in the Fall Blessing, can’t you let me do what I can do? Isn’t our mission to protect humanity and bestow the blessing of the Gods upon the land?”

At this point, Fleur was just rambling, bringing out everything she’d learned about holy missions, duty, and destiny. As her teacher, Father Arvel would be able to easily trample her messy arguments, or even throw out his authority to end the debate once and for all.

She even expected him to. But contrary to her expectations, the Father remained silent as he stared at her, searching her face.

Fleur met his gaze head on. Biting her lips, she put up as brave an expression as she could. Finally, Father Arvel nodded. “Very well.”

As Fleur let out a sigh of relief, Father Arvel pulled out one of the drawings under his desk and tossed her something. Fleur just barely managed to catch the object. Cradling it in her hands, she stared at it.

It was a yellow gem inlaid in some kind of metal attached to a small chain. She could feel a vast amount of holy power stored within it, more than she could muster over several days.

“This is…?”

“An amulet. If you wear it and feed it your mana, it will take that mana and form a shield around you. If that shield is ever broken by an undead, that amulet will temporarily stop its movements. You can then seal it by putting the necklace onto it; the seal will last for as long as its mana allows, so you can escape. However, you can’t attack it either, or the seal will lose its effect…”

“No, there’s no way I could accept this! It’s too valuable,” Fleur said. From the description alone, she knew the value of it must be incredible. At the very least, it would be worth more than all of the food she had eaten her entire life. She tried to hand the amulet back to her mentor, but her mentor merely waved his hand.

“Valuable, yes, but not as valuable as my disciple’s life. You can’t mean that all my hard work teaching you is worth less than an amulet?”

Fleur’s face reddened again. “No…that’s not what I mean.”

Further argument was pointless. Her mentor already compromised by allowing her to keep her assignment. Still, she was a bit happy that her mentor cared so much about her.

“If you use this amulet, I will know and I will call upon the Order, so make sure you last until they arrive,” Father Arvel said. “And this time, don’t take the carriage. Bring a horse so you can make a quick getaway. You do know how to ride, right?”

“Yes, Father!”

Clutching the amulet close to her heart, she bowed deeply to her mentor and backed out of the room.

Soon, the entrance of the mine came in sight. The sight of a destroyed camp and an infestation of undead that she half-worried that she’d see didn’t appear.

Instead, it was as calm as always. There was not a single soul to be seen, except Orlog kicking back on a hammock. Rolling her eyes, she halted her horse next to the hammock and slapped the cap off of Orlog’s face.

“Mister! Give me the gem of control. I need it…”



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