|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: Scribble Hub|
Justin received the bottle of ink. The contents within were already glowing gold, but only faintly. However, that glow was proof that Carmen’s side of the holy contract spell was successful.
If Justin was any good at reading and deciphering spell structures as the spell is being cast, he should be able to tell that she didn’t fudge the spell at all, so he should have no complaints.
Indeed, after only a brief shake of the bottle, Justin held his hand over the ink just as Carmen had and began casting his spell. A complex spell structure appeared over and around his hand and the aura of holy mana around him grew stronger as he became unable to suppress his holy mana.
Although Carmen could no longer feel that tingle from Kagriss since she was an undead as well, she had to make sure that she didn’t let Kagriss cast any magic around mana-sensitive people like other templars, more powerful priests, and archpriests.
She’d get exposed in an instant.
If Carmen wanted to stay with Kagriss, she probably couldn’t avoid moving out of human territory. At least the vampires seemed to be more tolerant, at least toward other races. Carmen still didn’t know if the undead were considered a proper race, especially given their instinctual hostility toward the living—although that could be suppressed through evolution.
A powerful glow from Justin’s hand that descended into the ink bottle, infusing it with his mana. Carmen had been keeping tabs on his spell, so she knew that the spell was really the holy contract spell.
With the bottle containing both contractors’ mana, the preparations were complete. Now, all that was left was to write and sign their contracts before the spell expired.
Luckily, the contract this time was simple. It was simply a promise from Justin to not tell anyone about what Carmen was about to tell him. If he did tell anyone, he must immediately give up becoming an archpriest. If he does not, then every time he consciously works toward becoming an archpriest, then the mana used to make the contact—his own mana as well as a portion of her own holy mana—will revolt against him and interfere with his use of magic. The punishment itself expired in eleven years from the signing of the contract, since Justin insisted on it.
They each used the ink to write out a version of the contract on their own parchment, and after making sure that their intent mostly matched up, they burnt the parchments, completing the spell.
As the contract took effect, Carmen felt a change in her mana…that quickly disappeared at the same time as she let go of the last of the holy mana she had converted.
There was no sign of the contract magic anywhere that she could feel.
Could it be that as long as she didn’t use holy magic, she was fine even if she broke the contract?
Not that she had to worry, since the wording and intent of the contract meant that there was no way for Carmen to break it. The onus was entirely on Justin. Her only connection to the contract was the part that she needed in case they both decided to end the contract early.
Still, the hypothesis that she might be partially immune to the effects of the holy contract was worth testing out. It may come in handy in the future.
Now that the contract was signed and Justin’s secrecy was practically guaranteed, they could now talk.
Their eyes met now. Justin had righted his chair and was seated again, leaned forward over the table in anticipation. “So…what do you know about this undead that even my teacher can’t capture?”
Carmen paused as she went over what she knew, and what she was going to tell him. Not everything, that’s for sure. Just what he needed to know.
For now, she’ll start with some basic facts.
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“The reason I’m here is to investigate a new type of undead,” Carmen said. “These undead are something I’ve never seen before prior to this—undeads that felt like lesser undead, but with mana equal or greater than many higher undeads…”
She described their fighting style, their strength. Justin nodded as he compared the information he had received from the advance team and the information that Carmen was supplying, finding that they matched up.
However, once Carmen began to get to data that was more and more recent, Justin’s brows furrowed. “Resistance to holy magic. You’re right, actually. For some reason, when my teacher and the other priests tried to kill it instead of capturing it, it always managed to escape. No matter how bad its wounds were, it’d escape and then after a while it’ll attack when its wounds healed.”
That was true. These undead monsters had an uncomfortably fast regeneration speed already. If they were improved further, and Orlog was one such improved specimen, then its regeneration might be even faster and more efficient too.
“But do you know the reason?” Carmen asked Justin.
Justin shook his head. “It’s strange. It has this strange mix of holy and undead mana. We think that’s what’s causing the resistance to holy magic, or at least resistance to holy destruction.”
“About that,” Carmen motioned to Kagriss, who raised her dress-sack. Justin stared at it, surprised, but neither Carmen nor Kagriss paid him any attention. After looking through the pile of books, Carmen pulled out a few journals and pushed them toward Justin.
He picked them up and scanned the covers. “What’re these? I’ve already…oh…”
As an archpriest, there’s no way that Justin’s never seen them. Individually, they’re nothing special—just basic knowledge. However, together, the journals painted a much grim picture.
Information needed to create a holy undead. Justin wasn’t stupid and he quickly came to that conclusion and his face paled. “Where did you find this?”
“A while back, I raided an underground research facility.” Carmen described the place and gave a brief summary of the events, only twisting it to make it seem like they were templars and priests rather than zombie warriors and liches. “…and that’s where we found these.”
Justin’s face turned ashen as he realized the implications. How many more of these Orlog-like monsters were around? How many did the undead create?
“But there’s more,” Carmen said, not giving him a chance to rest. The more panicked Justin was, the better. He’ll be more receptive to her suggestions right now if he felt lost, and once a decision was made, it was much harder to change it. “We found a copy of this in the same place…”
Carmen picked out the Abersom journal and slapped it onto the table. “Where are the other copies?”
“…I—it could be copied from elsewhere…” Justin stammered.
“All of these are copies. How did this group of liches,” she said, stressing the plural, “find all of these copies in the same place? In the same handwriting? All just happening to contain information on the subject they needed?
“Where did the original holy mana for the creation of these undead come from when as far as we know, undead can’t produce holy mana?
“Do you understand now?”
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Justin nodded numbly as what Carmen suggested really sank in. A traitor in the Church. “I have to report!” he said, but Carmen slammed her palm down on the table, making him jump as she startled him.
Seeing that she had his attention again, she reverted to her calm, gentle self again, as if it wasn’t her that just hit the table. “Did you forget your oath already?”
“N—no.” A bead of sweat dripped down Justin’s head as he realized that he almost just killed his prospect of archpriesthood. “But why did you tell me to swear something like this? I have to report it!”
“Report it and what? What will the Church do?” she asked.
“Of a huge scale, right? And is the culprit, the traitor, really going to just sit there and wait to be captured? Do you understand now?” Carmen asked.
Luckily she had the foresight to have him make a contract so he didn’t let anything slip accidentally. Justin was quite young so it wouldn’t have been surprising. This was why young people were difficult to deal with. They were so hot headed.
Carmen shook her head. “The reason I had you make the contract was to prevent you from messing up my own investigation. If you want to do anything related to the traitor now, interrogate, seek help…you’ll need my permission.”
“Rest assured, I’ll involve you, if you want,” Carmen said. “You’ll help, right?”
“I…” Now that he finally had a chance to speak after Carmen kept speaking over him, Justin didn’t seem to know what exactly to say. However, thanks to the contract he just made, he couldn’t think of anything else he could even do to contribute to rooting out this…traitor, if it wasn’t with this templar.
He could wait a year, but that will probably be too late.
Finally, he nodded. “Yes.”
Carmen knew full well what she had done. She had closed off many of the options available to him, leaving him only two remaining: sit out this whole ordeal, or participate in investigating under her.
Now that she thought about it, what she did just now was quite similar to what her mother Victoria did, substituting the contract with vampirism. After Victoria forced her into something binding—becoming a vampire, there was only the option of death, or ultimately joining her.
Her version was more mild in consequences, of course, but technically the act was the same. It was the principle of the matter. Carmen felt a bit remorseful about what she did, but she didn’t regret it.
Doing this was what she believed to be the best choice…
Before she forgot, there was one more thing she thought that Justin should know since they were aboard the same ship now. She didn’t want to lose him in case he was attacked by one of those monsters while she was gone.
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She beckoned to him. Then Justin leaned over the table and lent her his ear, she whispered the last piece of knowledge she was willing to give up.
“Not only do they possess holy mana in order to gain resistance, these undead can actively use them. They’re capable of using that mana to undo spell structures of restriction magic.”
For the second time in the past hour, Justin stood up, abusing his chair. “Impossible! How can undead use holy magic? They lack the affinity!”
The scale of simply having holy mana, which already sounded impossible enough, and actually being able to use that holy mana was completely different. Many humans had holy mana. Not many could use them and become clerics since they lacked the affinity.
“It’s true. I personally faced one. Why do you think your teacher is having so much trouble capturing Orlog?” she asked. “Is he incompetent, or is something interfering with his usual methods?”
“Urgh…” Justin couldn’t rebuttal. If he did, it meant admitting that his teacher couldn’t even manage to capture a single undead. If anything, the explanation should be welcome.
Normally, being able to shift the blame from his teacher to something else was a welcome prospect, but the situation this time was anything but ordinary.
He slumped in defeat.
Axiom: Contract magic exists in almost every type of mana, but like always, different types of mana have slight differences. Usually, holy contracts punishes by intense burning pain as well as a blinding glare, and if the contract specifies it, immolation. However, they modified it to simply distract Justin if he ever intentionally works toward becoming an archpriest, such as currying favor, studying advanced magic, et cetera. Objectively less of a punishment, but more personally painful for Justin.
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