|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: ScribbleHub|
For the next night, and the night after that, and the one after that as well, all the way until they reached the mines, Carmen and Kagriss sat together to watch the stars.
They did so in silence, just sitting in each other’s presence. The vague bond that they felt between them from Kagriss failed evolution never faded, and that was enough to convey their feelings to each other. Words were unnecessary.
Besides stargazing, Carmen and Kagriss also looked through the books they found. Most of the books are observational journals, detailing the results of various experiments, all of them having to do with the undead or holy magic in some way.
Some of them were used as references, as they were publications from scholars that even Carmen knew of, mostly from Arvel. Others were messier and talked about oddly specific things related to the undead monsters. Those observation journals were probably written by the traitors and the higher undead that used to staff that underground facility.
The remaining books were also reference books. Some were basic instructional manuals freely available in the Church that included the lessons that the Church taught about holy magic. The rest were research about undead mana and undead magic, as well as lists of spells that undeads were known to use.
From these books, Carmen and Kagriss gained a wealth of knowledge and a deeper insight on the thought processes and goals of the minds behind this whole incident.
From what they could tell, these people were trying to create a new form of undead that mixed the mana of the holy and the undead. The reason for this goal was two-fold: to create an army usable against the Church and Templars, as well as something referred to in the journals only as “The Greater Goal.”
When Carmen asked Kagriss if she knew anything about the Greater Goal, she could only shrug and shake her head, disappointing them both.
Whatever the Goal was, it couldn’t be good for humanity, and since by now Kagriss was effectively on the humans’ side after having defected, it wasn’t good for her either.
Unfortunately, it seemed that the undead had partially succeeded in their plans, since Carmen and Kagriss had clearly witnessed the fruits of their labor—undead monsters resistant to holy magic as well as being able to use holy mana to some extent. The latter ability turned out to be an unexpected side effect and bonus, but one that the writer of the observational journals seemed very interested in reproducing and enhancing.
At least the news wasn’t all bad.
The biggest problem that the undead’s research program ran into was that it was difficult to create these monsters. It took at least one gem of control to create one monster, and even then it was iffy and prone to failures, resulting in substandard monsters that must be disposed of. Additionally, these monsters were uncontrollable, liable to attack both the living and the undead, so they had been sealed away behind powerful defensive formations, only to be let out to perform tests and modifications under the watchful eyes of several liches.
Carmen and Kagriss both felt a chill on their back when they realized that had they come at the wrong time, they would have had to face multiple liches simultaneously, something neither of them wanted to do. Carmen couldn’t even count on Victoria helping out directly in the battle since Victoria had said that this was her personal test.
Then again, perhaps the reason Victoria had pointed her toward the undead research facility was because she already knew that there weren’t any liches there?
What happened to all the liches anyway?
Why did they all suddenly just leave? Something must have changed for them to all abandon the facility like that without even leaving any guards behind except for the mindless lesser undead and the monsters. Unless she was overthinking it.
Carmen didn’t want to make any concrete guesses with any significant degree of certainty with the information she had now, but she feared that it was because they had achieved their goal.
Maybe Arvel will have discovered something else.
At least now she knew why the strange mana inside of Fleur’s body refused to go away. It had been a strange mixture of holy and undead mana resistant to purification.
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After about a week of traveling, they reached the mines. It had taken them around the same amount of time that Carmen took to get from the mines to the outpost traveling day and night and through a more direct path through the wilderness.
Horses trained by templars could maintain a higher pace for longer than the average horse, a fact proven by how fast they reached the mines.
What greeted the group of four at the mines were a skeleton crew of Church personnel.
After making sure that the two girls knew to keep their mouths sealed, Carmen and Kagriss hid their undead aura, appearing like regular humans to any person who judged by sight.
Even a priest performing a test with holy magic might not be able to tell, since powerful undead could simply shrug off weaker holy magic without any outward discomfort if it doesn’t catch them off guard.
After sticking both Anne and Fleur on a single horse—reinforcing the horse with magic so it doesn’t become overburdened—and giving the newly vacant one to Kagriss, Carmen showed themselves. Riding out of the forest, Carmen led the group toward a war cleric that was standing guard outside of the foreman’s house where Orlog used to live when he was alive.
It’s been over two weeks, but Carmen still remembers how she had looted Orlog’s money and map. At the time, she had still thought he was alive, but now she knew better.
She couldn’t help but think about how he still had family and wonder how they were doing now. How were they doing now that Orlog hasn’t been home for months, or was that normal? Did he at least write?
She’ll have to ask Arvel to pull some strings and have the Church take care of them, since they were innocent of whatever Orlog did. Knowing what the bishop was like, Carmen doubted that he would care otherwise.
Seeing people approaching, the young war cleric came to attention. He looked no more than twenty, still young and inexperienced. However, the sight of the emblems of the Cloud Order proudly displayed on the horses’ breastplates made his back even straighter. Despite his inexperience, the Cloud Order was famous around these parts so it wasn’t strange that he recognized it.
Just as well, since that meant Carmen didn’t have to tell any lies if the cleric made up a bunch of assumptions without her needing to say a word.
Carmen liked observative people; it saved time. Even better for her in this case if that person had an imaginative mind.
“Hello,” she said, riding the horse up next to the cleric.
The cleric looked up at her, freezing briefly before he put down his buckler, and reached up toward her as if to help her down.
Carmen looked at the hand before she shook her head and swung off the horse by herself, giving the horse a good rub on its neck. One by one, Anne, Kagriss, and Fleur dismounted, with Anne helping Fleur.
There, Carmen executed a general templar’s greetings. “We’re from the southern Amaranthine Point outpost. We heard there was a problem with undead, so we came with our acolytes to let them gain some experience.”
The cleric looked at his empty hands before he awkwardly retracted it. When he scanned the group again, his gaze lingered on Kagriss’s face and chest. Desire, embarrassment…such emotions flashed through his eyes.
Carmen felt a low smoldering anger rise in her chest as the cleric continued to ravish Kagriss with his eyes. And the worst part of it was that Kagriss seemed to be completely fine with it, staring right back at him with an intense gaze that caused the cleric to blush like a young boy in love.
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Finally, after a few moments, the jealousy in Carmen grew until Kagriss couldn’t ignore it through their bond. She looked over at Carmen.
The cleric followed Kagriss’s gaze and froze again as he met Carmen’s eyes that were so cold a shiver ran down his back. A jolt struck through his heart and he took a step back despite himself before he managed to catch himself and take a deep breath before he held out a shaking hand.
He must have finally noticed that he still had a job to do.
“A—Amaranthine Point outpost, was it…? Do you have a missive or orders bearing the commander or sub commander’s signature?”
Still glaring daggers at the cleric as if daring him to take another look at Kagriss, Carmen took out the written orders from Barsig, complete with his signature and stamp.
The cleric stared blankly at the document before he handed the paper back and stood aside, carefully avoiding Kagriss and Carmen with his eyes, as well as Fleur and Anne to some extent.
Carmen guessed that he probably didn’t even recognize the stamped mark. Still, it was fine. At least he knew to escalate when he couldn’t handle something instead of pretending he did and making trouble.
Walking through the door, Carmen once again found herself back two weeks ago. Despite the Church’s presence, there had been very little change inside except a little tidying up.
There was still that rough, rustic feel to the building, which was the last impression that Carmen had of the place before she left. Since she had been here before, she quickly made her way to where she thought the person in charge might be—in Orlog’s old office.
The wooden floor creaked with each of her steps, warning the person within of their arrival long before they knocked on the door, and when she did, a completely average male voice with no special quality aside from its youth sounded from within.
Carmen raised her eyebrows. She didn’t expect someone so young to be in charge of such an important location—a place where one of the holy undead monsters had been born. Then again, she had information that the Church might not have, so it made sense that the Church didn’t place the same level of importance on this place as she did.
To them, this place was probably just a convenient information relay station. If this place truly was an information relay station, then they definitely knew where Arvel was.
She pushed open the door and walked in.
Inside a room, a tall young man sat in Orlog’s old chair, looking like he was in his early twenties. Despite sitting down, Carmen had to tilt her head slightly back to see his face.
The amicable smile she had on her face in order to make a good first impression stiffened as she lamented her height. However, with some effort, she managed to push away the brief feeling of inferiority.
“You must be the person in charge here.” Carmen nodded at him, making sure to not look overly pompous nor submissive. She spoke as an equal. “I’m Camilla, here from the Amaranthine Point. I hope you’ll be able to help me.”
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