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Chapter 75: Winding Down

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

With new books in hand and having recovered their mana thanks to the accumulator formations, Kagriss easily dismantled the defensive formation that had been tailored to keep the undead monsters in.

The formation was incredibly resistant to physical damage, so much that Carmen couldn’t break it without reinforcing herself or using an art. In return, it was weak against magical interference and so Kagriss had no trouble at all destroying it by simply taking it apart.

On their way out, they also began collapsing the tunnels. Carmen reinforced herself and sent crushing impacts through the stone with her fists, softening the walls and ceiling for further destruction, and then Kagriss planted magical force explosives that further corroded the stone with undead magic even as they shattered and collapsed the tunnels.

As a finishing touch, they caved in the entire entrance to the tunnel on the surface. A sizable plume of dust rose into the air, far above the trees. But this far from even the closest road, no one should be able to see it. Dusting off her hands and missing the destructive power of her sword already, Carmen unfurled and unveiled her wings, rising up into the air.

Kagriss soon joined her holding her strange looking sack that contained her loot. They flew for a while before Carmen realized that she still had a horse she left behind and went to get it.

Since Kagriss liked reading, Carmen had instructed her to note down anything that might be relevant to the research and to report to her after she was done. Additionally, starting today, Kagriss didn’t need to hide from the girls anymore. Instead, she’ll fly alongside them above—while reading. Or, if keeping pace was too inefficient, she’ll go ahead and wait for them—while reading.

Kagriss looked so excited to have the books that Carmen had no complaints about her reading them whatsoever. Kagriss even rejected her offer to carry some of them for her and to put the rest on the cargo horse.

Flying swiftly, they returned to the camp where they had left Fleur and Anne. Luckily, they were both fine, with Anne keeping watch while Fleur took a nap on Anne’s lap.

Carmen and Kagriss had been gone for way longer than planned, so it wasn’t surprising that Fleur would get sleepy out of boredom. It was already almost sunset, and the shadows were already getting longer. At least several hours had passed.

However, Carmen didn’t know if she liked that Fleur left Anne awake and keeping watch alone. She hoped that they at least took turns.

“Did anything happen?” she asked, landing in front of Anne. Kagriss landed beside her.

Anne shook her head, but not before she held up a finger to her lips, gesturing at the sleeping Fleur who didn’t even stirr when they exchanged words.

Carmen sighed. Anne was going to spoil Fleur rotten.

“It’s getting pretty late, so do you want to keep going or should we just set up camp here until morning?” she asked. She was fine with either option. If it was up to her, she’d keep going since as an undead she didn’t need rest and neither did Kagriss, but the trouble was with Anne and Fleur—two humans.

One of them was taking a nap so without traveling and tiring her out a bit, it might be hard for Fleur to fall asleep at night. However, if they broke camp, it wouldn’t be long before it became too dark to go any further, especially as the days shorten as they went deeper into the season of autumn.

Speaking of autumn, Carmen wondered how the Harvest Festival preparations were going. Will they be able to make it back in time?

By now, she already knew that the true traitor was at the Church, so to be honest she didn’t really care about Orlog anymore since she had already been exposed to around four of his kind. The only personal interest she had in him now was to compare his aura to the other four, and see if there were any differences.

Since Orlog was no longer a priority of her’s, her goal this time was to just help Arvel get back as soon as possible, introduce Kagriss to him, and have them work together to find out more about the monsters they had found.

If possible, they’ll capture Orlog alive as a research subject.

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Ever since Carmen became an undead herself and recently found Kagriss in her life, she found herself increasingly sympathetic toward the undead. But although Carmen felt sorry for Orlog, she could do nothing to change his fate, nor was she willing to.

The only paths available to him now were either to be killed after being engaged by Church forces and proving too dangerous to be captured alive, or restrained and kept locked in a lab much like Abersom’s.

Perhaps an argument could have been made that he should be treated well, as he was turned into a monster directly and thus may have a chance to be saved, but since he had killed the priests at the mines, Carmen doubted that anyone still saw him in a sympathetic light.

Even if it had been in self defense, no one would care because he looked like a monster. Neither would he be able to defend himself!

But all that only mattered after they met with Arvel. Until now, they should just focus on their journey.

In the end, Anne voted to stay where they were for the night. Since Fleur was asleep and Carmen and Kagriss both abstained, the vote to stay won and they pitched their tents before the sun even set completely. After carefully moving Fleur into her tent, the three remaining people did through the usual process of fetching water, lighting the fire, hunting, cooking…and with Kagriss helping, everything went by faster even though they were missing Fleur.

Halfway through the preparations, Fleur woke up and began to help Anne, acting as an assistant for minor things like stirring the pot and adding ingredients at Anne’s instruction.

And just like that, the rest of the day flew by with everyone doing whatever needed to be done, or whatever they wanted to do.

Kagriss read her books while sitting in a tree, her feet swinging in a carefree manner. Carmen practiced blood magic, hiding her activities beneath a layer of undead or holy mana, thus making the activity serve two purposes.

Meanwhile, Fleur and Anne ate their dinner of meat stew with outpost brick, packed up the remainder, and then washed the bowls and dining utensils.

By the time the sun had set below the treeline, suddenly casting most of the forest into shadow.

As Fleur and Anne were putting the stuff away into the packs on the cargo horse, Fleur suddenly let out a cry of surprise. The cry startled Carmen so much that she almost exposed her blood magic.

“What is it?” she asked, a bit miffed that she was actually surprised by something so minor.

Meanwhile, Fleur was waving a pouch that she pulled out from the saddlebags. “Anne, Camilla, look! It’s a backstabbing game!”

“Backstabbing?”

Carmen walked over. Kagriss jumped out of the tree, pulling away her book as well after carefully putting a leaf into it as a bookmark. What Fleur had in her hands that she was opening was certainly a game of backstabbing.

A dyed thin leather hide that was durable holding a few dozen game pieces of four different colors. It was a game that Carmen has not seen for a long time. The last time she played was in the first half of the campaign.

“So you want to play?” she asked.

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Fleur nodded. Carmen looked at Anne and Kagriss, and both of them looked rather neutral. Since she kind of wanted to play again after such a long time, she nodded. “Okay then.”

“Yay!”

They quickly found a relatively flat surface and sat around it after putting the expanded leather game board onto the surface. Then, for lighting since it was dark and the fire was a bit far away, everyone capable of casting holy magic made a floating ball of light. SInce they were going that far already, Carmen decided to make the two girls provide the bulk of the lighting.

“And make sure you change the brightness constantly to work on your mana control,” she added.

Allowing no complaints, she went on. As members of the Church and the Templar Orders, Carmen, Anne, and Fleur all knew how to play. Of the players present, Carmen was probably the strongest one. The weakest was Kagriss who didn’t even know the rules.

Thus, they set about explaining how the game works to Kagriss.

The goal of the game was to hold the sole surviving king, and since there were four players, the reason for the game’s name became obvious, with alliances created and destroyed within the span of a single round as power shifted from player to player.

There were six types of pieces total. A king, two guards, two assassins, two mages, two knights, and nine foot soldiers for each player, making a total of eighteen pieces at a player’s disposal.

Each piece had their own gimmicks.

First was the king and his guards. The king must remain in his palace. The guards must remain in the palace as well, but they did not have a set movement pattern. In the event that all pieces except for guards and kings were destroyed, the game ended in a draw.

Next was the special pieces, the assassins and the mages. The assassin could move two spaces in any direction in a straight, could not be taken unless they have moved the round before. The mages could take pieces from a distance without physically moving.

Then came the main forces of each player, the knights and the foot soldiers. The knights could move four spaces total, even changing directions if they wished, taking all pieces they moved over, although they acted like foot soldiers while in a palace. Finally, the foot soldiers were the most basic piece, moving a single space in each direction. However, two could be moved in a single turn.

Kagriss was smart and it didn’t take long for her to understand the rules of the game. However, knowing the rules didn’t mean she understood the intricacies of the game.

The first game ended relatively quickly and relatively predictably, with Anne and Fleur teaming up against Kagriss and destroying her before Carmen could invest all of her forces into Kagriss’s defense. And then, when they turned their eyes on Carmen, Anne attempted to betray Fleur and was swiftly crushed under Carmen’s and Fleur’s assault.

Then, Carmen turned her depleted army around and defeated Fleur’s forces, snatching victory that had almost been assured for Fleur out of her hands.

Fleur’s face when she realized that she lost was priceless while Anne struggled to not laugh.

Thankfully, neither Anne nor Fleur seemed to be the type that became upset over betrayals in the game.

Over the course of the next two games, Kagriss improved with blazing speeds. In the second game, Anne and Fleur repeated their original tactics of taking out Kagriss first. This time, Kagriss put up a better fight, and they lost a bigger portion of their forces.

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Neither betrayed the other this time and they succeeded in taking down Carmen together, with Fleur coming out on top in the last battle.

Finally, in the last game of the night, Kagriss managed to stall until Carmen arrived in force, splitting Anne and Fleur and destroying both, with Carmen betraying Kagriss halfway through the battle and securing victory for herself.

By then, the moon was clearly visible in the sky, and the girls went to bed in the same tent—not even bothering setting up a second one, talking to each other about the board game.

Carmen and Kagriss were no different, especially Kagriss.

“What did you think about the game?” Carmen asked.

“I really liked it, Mistress. It’s my first time playing something like this…”

Well, Carmen had already assumed that the undead didn’t play board games judging by Kagriss’s story about a dozen higher undeads just sitting around, and she couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.

If only they did.

With nothing to do besides playing games all day for decades, wouldn’t every one of them become hideously strong players? It might even distract some of them from their hatred or envy of the living.

That was irrelevant though. What mattered was that Kagriss liked the game.

Carmen leaned on Kagriss. “Since you like it, I’ll play with you any time you want. I’ll introduce a bunch of other fun things to you too, since this isn’t the only game around.” She began to list some other games, already planning to buy some when they returned to society.

Slowly, Carmen will introduce to Kagriss to how the living experienced their lives. It was so much more than just constant fighting, despite how it seemed right now.

It was only recently that Carmen had learned to see the world through new eyes and she wanted to share that new world with Kagriss, living her life with the girl through both good and bad.



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