|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: ScribbleHub|
“Nothing will surprise me,” she muttered. “Nothing will surprise me.”
Chanting the words to stabilize her mind, she swung her sword and chopped one of the monsters in two with an overhead chop as powerful as she could muster.
Part of that strength came from frustration. Frustration that she didn’t have as much control over her mind as she thought she did. Actually, if she thought about it with a clear head—or a head as consumed with emotions as she did right now, she realized that perhaps she had never been truly in control of her own mind.
The most obvious example was with Victoria, her mother, who she had a decent relationship with by now—even though it’s only been around a month since she was forcibly turned to a vampire.
She should hate Victoria. And she did…back before she had been turned. When she thought about how she felt in that dungeon, Carmen could still vividly remember the hate and anger she felt toward Victoria for imprisoning and supposedly killing her brothers and sisters in arms.
However, now, she couldn’t bring herself to hate Victoria anymore. It was like all of her animosity toward her adopted mother simply…evaporated. It wasn’t because of her undead limits on emotions since, if she tried, Carmen could still conjure up some form of hatred or resentment, but it simply felt fake and unsatisfying. Like the hate she had felt toward Victoria back then was all false.
Was she being controlled by Victoria?
Or was it simply because she was a vampire? Carmen remembered what her mother had said back at the Beetle Song: “Unlike humans, we vampires rarely wage war against each other.”
Back then, Victoria had attributed to their hair, but even then Carmen doubted her words. It was far more likely that their race and blood itself exerted a form of control over their minds, dampening every vampire’s hostility toward one another.
It was impossible that someone as intelligent and crafty as Victoria wouldn’t realize this, so had those words been a hint for her to figure this out by herself? To figure out that her mind wasn’t truly her own.
Carmen couldn’t believe that it took her this long to figure out, and she needed the help of another mind-altering effect to do it.
Frustration amplified by the fear-inducing aura well up inside her and before Carmen realized it, she had chopped the body of the monster into small chunks without saying a word. Jelly-like blood stuck to her blade.
When Carmen finally managed to forcibly suppress her heightening frustration with the help of her undead inhibitions, she sighed. Looking up, she saw Kagriss watching her with a complicated expression on her face, and Carmen realized that once again, she had shown Kagriss a side of her that she didn’t want the lich to see.
Is Kagriss disappointed in her?
It’s a bit stressful…even though she hadn’t cared about how others saw her, but now she didn’t want to do anything that might have Kagriss dislike her.
The chunks of monster were scattered on the floor from the force that accompanied her slashes of her greatsword. It was such a mess.
In the state she was in now, the sight of the mess that she wouldn’t be able to clean up easily annoyed her.
“Um, Kagriss…? Can you help me?”
“What is it, Mistress?” Kagriss was holding the last monster still, secured with a double casting of that black chain spell. Since the monster was slowly eating through one spell, then all she had to do was put another layer over it and reapply the destroyed layer when it broke free.
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“You don’t have to keep that thing sealed anymore. Can you destroy it? And then toss the remains into that hole after you’re done.” Carmen pointed at the hole she dug out earlier as she walked toward the first monster.
It was much weaker than before, having expended so much mana trying to regenerate and piece itself together. Even now, the powerful undead mana within the chunks of flesh were forcing the flesh to crawl toward each other.
“The hole? But isn’t that where the accumulator formation is?” Kagriss asked. “Are you sure, Mistress? Won’t that just make them stronger?”
Carmen nodded. “Yes please. And…” she blushed and pointed at the splattered remains of the second monster, “if you could please clean up the mess I made there…”
When Kagriss nodded, Carmen began to move the little pieces of flesh from the first monster into the hole, sweeping them along with her sword.
Meanwhile, Kagriss reapplied another black chain cast. Instead of detaching the ends of the black chains from her hands, however, this time Kagriss grasped them tightly and undead magic welled up and gathered in her hands as she constructed once more a spell that Carmen had never seen before.
When the mana gathered to a breaking point, it flowed out in an instant along the two bundles of chains in the form of shockwaves that made the chains tremble. When the shockwaves struck the monster, it almost seemed to implode.
Rattling, the chains shrank with it, becoming a smaller and smaller cocoon. Controlling her mana deftly, Kagriss moved the chain ball over the pit in the center of the chamber and undid the spell. Its container suddenly gone, the unrecognizable crushed remains of the monster dropped down with a wet splatter.
That kind of destructive power didn’t come free. Kagriss’s mana had dropped to a level well below the threshold that Carmen considered safe, but the lich didn’t seem to mind at all.
Using that little mana she had left, she conjured that tangible wind once more and swept the scattered remains of monster number two into the pit to join its brethren.
Looking much paler than normal, Kagriss fell back as if hit by a sudden wave of exhaustion. Carmen rushed up to catch her and carefully helped her sit on the ground.
Carmen bit her lips in worry. Mana exhaustion wasn’t anything to joke about, yet Kagriss was willing to empty herself for her sake. She hadn’t done anything to deserve this loyalty and devotion. Carmen felt like she was taking advantage of her. “Kagriss…”
“Mistress,” Kagriss said, interrupting Carmen before she could continue, and stretched. “Mistress, I did my best…I’m tired…”
She smiled up at Carmen and the words that were at the tip of Carmen’s tongue disappeared.
“…Yeah, good work, Kagriss,” she said, hugging Kagriss tightly. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
But Kagriss didn’t answer. Her eyes were closed, seemingly asleep.
“…Kagriss?” Carmen shook the girl, but Kagriss didn’t even move. Panic welled up in her.
However, before that panic really set in, Carmen suddenly remembered something about undead and calmed down. Kagriss’s state wasn’t something to be worried about after all. Kagriss had just used too much of her mana, enough that she had fallen dormant. She had essentially reverted to a normal corpse, and until she absorbed enough mana to resume normal activities, she won’t be able to move.
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Carmen stood up after sitting Kagriss against a wall as far away from the pit as she could manage. She walked over to the edge of the pit. Bolstered by their increased vicinity to the accumulator formation, the little chunks of flesh recovered faster, sticking together into ever larger shapes. Their close vicinity helped matters since there was less distance for each separated chunk to cover before rejoining the main body.
Thankfully, due to having to share that increased mana between three undead, the undead monsters’ recovery didn’t speed up that fast overall.
When Carmen felt the amount of mana that these undead still possessed, her instinct was to feel despair, since she didn’t have the mana remaining to kill these monsters enough times for them to stay dead.
However, she didn’t need to go to the trouble, since she had one last trick up her sleeve. It was a trick as dangerous to her as it was to her target, especially if she messed it up, but Carmen thought that it might work even against abominations like those chunks of flesh.
She closed her eyes, feeling the mana within her. Cold, yet soothing. It brought her unlife and vitality, kept her alive, and became her weapon. Carmen became more aware of the tendencies and movements of the mana. Her connection to her mana deepened as she entered a rudimentary form of meditation.
It was a necessary step. Carmen now knew just how reckless she had been in the past, and she won’t make the same again.
Undead to blood. Blood to holy.
Holy was warm and purifying. In some respects, it was the lifegiver, and something she, as an undead, should not have access to. However, she did, and so did these abominations down there in the pit.
When life and unlife came together, two things happened. Either they destroyed each other thanks to how opposite they were, or they became something unspeakable. Hot and cold at the same time, Simultaneously giving true life and being the energy of undeath.
How could something so chaotic exist?
In her mind, Carmen tried to take the essence of that unison and internalized it, trying to understand it so that when the time came, she did not lose control and cause a disaster or kill herself.
Slowly, she opened her eyes, trying to maintain her current state. She was so absorbed in that state of concentration that she managed to ignore almost everything else, and she could no longer even feel the oppressive aura that the undead monsters exuded.
Standing tall at the edge of the pit, she pointed her sword down at the monsters. At the tip of the sword, a sphere of black and a sphere of gold began to grow simultaneously alongside each other.
It was pure mana, not bound to any spell.
The sphere became bigger and bigger until they were the size of Carmen’s fists.
The undead below her continued trying to regenerate, oblivious to what was happening above them, as well as their impending doom. They even tried to reach up, to get closer and take that pure mana for themselves.
Once the spheres were big enough, they scattered into little particles of black and golden. One color seemed to suck the light out of the air while the other glowed like tiny fireflies. They came together into one big ball, brought together close as Carmen could manage, yet separated by the tiniest of spaces.
Carmen’s heart stopped beating. Her breathing ceased. All pretenses of life disappeared as she dedicated her entire being to the use of this mana. Controlling mana in such a complex manner so far away from her was taking its toll.
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Steadying her sword arm with her other, she took a deep breath and executed the final step. All black became gold, and all gold became black. But neither color completed their transformation. There was a dark flash that consumed all color, along with a golden flash that shone like the midday sun.
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