|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: Scribble Hub|
“Camilla, are you just doing to let that pest live after he almost killed you?” Kagriss hissed as Arvel left to tend to the floored archpriest.
Carmen grabbed her hand and squeezed it, trying to get Kagriss to calm down. She attempted to send her calmness and desire to forgive over their bond together, but considering that she wasn’t actually willing to forgive Pavlor just like that, she might just be adding fuel to Kagriss’s fire.
Even if she did sympathize with his reasoning that undead couldn’t be trusted, it was still her life at stake after all. She wasn’t generous enough to let bygones be bygones. However, if Pavlor was willing to treat Fleur, then Carmen’s willing to let that be his redemption.
In any case, they still needed him, so she couldn’t let Kagriss do anything to him yet. Kagriss reluctantly accepted her reasoning, although she looked unhappy about it.
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“Good. You can leave the talking to me for now, but pay attention, since negotiations are an important part of thriving in a society of the living. There’s negotiating as equals, negotiating as superiors, and negotiating as inferiors. There’s ones where you don’t mind burning bridges, and ones where you try to improve relationships. It’s important to know your circumstances.”
“Are you a good negotiator?” Kagriss asked.
“…well, no. Not particularly. Passable, I suppose?” Carmen looked away. Exposed right after saying something like that…but even a passable performance should be better than nothing as a reference for Kagriss. “Anyways! Keep in mind that we’re negotiating from a position from strength, and we’re not burning bridges, okay?”
“Very well. I understood.”
Pavlor did himself no favors by targeting her. Carmen sighed. Kagriss was being surprisingly vindictive of him. Was she Kagriss’s bottom line? If someone threatened anyone that Carmen cared about, she’d hunt them down as well so that wasn’t a very big surprise, she supposed.
While she went over the basics of negotiation with Kagriss, Arvel had helped Pavlor up and delivered Carmen’s message.
Now he was organizing the team of clerics to set up camp temporarily, his orders efficient and to the point. He didn’t neglect the matter of the captured Orlog monster either.
A group of clerics continuously rotated and refreshed the bindings on Orlog, making sure that the monster never escaped even if he was capable of destroying bindings.
Kagriss helped as well, putting a complex seal on Orlog that sap Orlog’s own strength in order to fuel the seal. Combined with the chains that the clerics created, it would be a while before Orlog could even consider escaping.
Under present circumstances where Carmen still wasn’t sure if Orlog merely had honed instincts or if he was actually intelligent and could understand and speak human language, Carmen decided to keep Orlog where he was: away from the negotiations.
After everything was accounted for, Arvel finally came up to her with Pavlor following close behind. Whereas Arvel’s face was carefully neutral such that even Carmen couldn’t glean anything from him despite knowing him well, Pavlor looked like he had just bit into something bitter.
Like from Justin, Carmen could feel the holy power tingling on Pavlor, and from the way Pavlor looked especially wary in Kagriss’s presence, Pavlor could no doubt sense the same effect from Kagriss. Carmen had told Kagriss to not bother hiding her aura for maximum effect.
Seeing how defiant Pavlor looked, Carmen couldn’t help but wonder if the archpriest thought he could defeat a zombie warrior and a zombie lich working in tandem?
If push came to shove, she’ll have to disappoint him though.
They walked into the forest, away from prying eyes and ears. Pavlor fidgeted impatiently. “What’s this about? What do you want to talk about?”
Carmen held out her hands to stop Kagriss from saying anything. Rather than being rebuked, the most annoying thing to someone like Pavlor was being ignored. Nothing bothering to grace Pavlor with a reply, they went for a while before they stopped. No matter how annoyed Pavlor got, no one replied to him except Arvel, and even then Arvel didn’t really bother wasting breath on small talk.
From the looks of it, Arvel’s relationship with Pavlor wasn’t very good. Something that was to be expected.
Thanks to neither Carmen nor Kagriss bothering to hide their undead aura, the forest around them was devoid of living beings. Everything had fled already, and those that didn’t for one reason or another hid in their burrows and kept as still and quiet as possible. Even insects stopped their chirping and buzzing, leaving the surroundings covered in a deathly silence.
Once they reached a suitable location in the middle of nowhere a good distance walk away from the cleric camp, far enough that no one could “accidentally” eavesdrop, Carmen turned around and faced the two men. Of them, Arvel was the taller one, but Pavlor was the bigger threat.
However, in the face of Carmen and Kagriss’s might, that threat didn’t mean much.
Still pretending to not know Arvel, Carmen decided to go through introductions again now that two more had joined the meeting. Both her and Arvel’s abbreviated introductions went without any problems, although Pavlor scoffed at her “interest.”
Even when Kagriss let out a low growl, the archpriest didn’t back down. Instead, he met her eyes evenly, still confident in his power now that he wasn’t off guard.
Carmen had to clear her throat to grab his attention again. “Now you.”
“Why me? Her first,” Pavlor said.
How immature. Carmen nodded toward Kagriss, who went along without any complaints. What a grown up compared to Pavlor.
“My name is Kagriss, a lich following my mistress.” And that was it.
Truthfully, there really wasn’t much else that Kagriss could say. The rest of the information about Kagriss was fairly private or irrelevant.
And lastly, it was Pavlor’s turn. His expression turned sour when no one complained about Kagriss’s short introduction that said practically nothing, but what did he expect? Carmen certainly wasn’t to complain, and Arvel wasn’t as petty as he was. With three pairs of eyes staring at him, he finally succumbed to the pressure.
“…Pavlor Bucanor. Archpriest from the Church.”
“What are you doing here?” Carmen asked, more to mess with him than anything else.
His face turned purple. “That’s classified information, undead.”
“Well, it’s not like I don’t know,” Carmen said. “No need to blame Arvel either, since he didn’t tell me anything. But anyone with a brain could tell after what’s happened here. It’s about Orlog, and others like him, right?”
“Hang on, others like it?” Arvel interrupted. “Where? What others?”
Something sparked to life in Arvel’s eyes then, a fire that Carmen was familiar with. It was the flames of passion. Although there was surprise in his voice, it couldn’t cover up his excitement. Arvel really hadn’t changed.
Compared to Arvel, Pavlor’s reaction was rather lackluster. His eyes merely narrowed, taking on a more dangerous glare before he molded his face back into a look of disgust as he spat on the ground.
It was impressive how little he thought of undead.
The archpriest stuck up his nose. “It doesn’t matter. The problem this time was that there wasn’t anyone to back me up. If I have a templar with me, then it doesn’t matter how many of those monsters there are. I can wipe out them all,” he boasted.
“Yes, yes.” Carmen waved her hand. “Anyways, back on topic. The reason for this talk is because I want to do a little exchange, you see. I helped you capture Orlog, and I want something in return.”
“In return? What?” Arvel asked before Pavlor could say anything else. His hand blurred and landed squarely on Pavlor’s face. Turning to stare at the man with his open mouth covered by Arvel’s hand, Arvel glared at him and bared his teeth. “I’m in charge here. Don’t mess things up!” he growled.
“You’re siding with undead?” Pavlor hissed. “Traitor!”
“Shut up. I’m siding with whatever choice is best for this moment,” Arvel shot back before he gave Pavlor the back of his head.
The archpriest said nothing. Though he opened his mouth, nothing came out when he realized he was faced with someone who looked determined to ignore him.
Carmen hid a smile, and she even felt pleasure from her bond with Kagriss. Just like that, Arvel seemed to have gotten into Kagriss’s good graces. The man himself didn’t seem to know it though.
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Arvel turned back to Carmen.
“My apologies, Camilla. What do you need? You have to realize that our current resources are limited, and even after we return…if we return,” he corrected himself, a wary look creeping into his eyes, “due to our…differences, we still might not be able to provide you with what you want.”
“It’s nothing too complex, really. Just three things.”
“Yes. First, I would like your trust. Unlike many undead, we have no desire to cause hostilities with the living. In fact, haven’t we already provided you with adequate aid?”
Hopefully Arvel knew as well as she did that he would have died if not for Carmen. Given Arvel’s silence and the way he rubbed something in his pocket through the fabric, something he did often when he was thinking about something related to his safety, he probably did know.
Finally, he shook his head. “Sorry. Trust isn’t something to be traded. However…at least I can speak for myself when I say that I believe you’re not hostile.”
Pavlor scoffed at that, earning him a glare from Arvel and Kagriss.
“And, I can’t speak for others,” Arvel finished. “In the end, you’re an undead, and we’re living humans, and clerics of the Church at that.”
Carmen shrugged. She had expected that reply anyways. “I get it. It can’t be helped. Then the second thing: I would like the Church to allow us to live in peace in human territories for as long as we do not act against the good of humanity.”
Arvel took a deep breath as he considered the request, before he shook his head once again. “I can’t grant that request either. I’m just a priest, after all. Unfortunately, I do not have that much power within the Church. Any decisions regarding that will have to wait until we get back.”
Pavlor cut in then. “Of course it won’t be granted! Have you forgotten what we stand for, Arvel? They’re undead!”
Carmen’s eyes flashed. “You think we don’t know about the mines?” she demanded. “We came from there!”
“Justin!” Pavlor suddenly shouted.
“He’s fine. We wouldn’t do anything to harm him since I already said we’re not hostile. Please use your brain. You do have one, right?” Carmen tapped her head.
There was another burst of pleasure from Kagriss, and Carmen smiled, not bothering to hide it this time. Her smile made Pavlor’s expression turn even uglier when he was already angered by her insult to his intelligence. “Now, if I remember correctly, although you’re higher ranked within the Church compared to Arvel here, you’re not in charge either. Children should sit by quietly when adults talk.”
Well, both Kagriss and Pavlor are older than her and Arvel though. Not that it mattered since it was all figurative. Actually, now that she thought about it, perhaps offending Pavlor might not be the best idea since she still needed him to treat Fleur.
But she was still kind of angry at him!
Despite her personal feelings toward Pavlor, she decided to dial everything back a bit. She covered her mouth. “Ah, my apologies. I was the one who invited you over to talk after all…”
“That’s right, you brat,” Pavlor muttered.
Brat…! Carmen’s dislike toward him that she had just suppressed flared up in an instant. She hated people calling her a brat! Perhaps the thing she most dissatisfied about right now was her stature! She couldn’t help it! How was it her fault that all vampires nobles were so tiny?
All desire to maintain a semblance of civility left her. Letting the anger smolder inside, Carmen put on a thin smile.
“Now, for the third option. Rest assured, this is something completely in your power, and no, I will not take no for an answer.” She looked directly at Pavlor, stressing the last sentence. She walked up to him until they were no more than a foot apart.
Her smile widened as she looked up at him.
“Perhaps this was negotiable before, but no more. I have a girl with me who is afflicted with a certain ailment, you see. I need you to treat her and purge traces of the same mana that Orlog possesses from her body.”
From the corner of her eyes, she saw Arvel stand up straighter. Yes, you’re right. It’s Fleur, Arvel. But of course she said nothing for now.
“…and if I refuse?” Pavlor asked, his voice uncharastically weak and hesitant.
Something in her gaze must have frightened Pavlor, because he actually stepped back. But how could she let up on the pressure so easily? Carmen merely took another step forward after him before reaching up and snagging his collar. She pulled him down so that they were face to face.
“Didn’t you hear me? It’s nonnegotiable. You wouldn’t negotiate with your life, would you?” Carmen asked, keeping her voice pleasant. “You should be happy. You can use your life in exchange for two! Mine, and that girl’s. Don’t think I’ve forgotten how you attacked me when I was clearly helping. Am I making myself clear?”
She tightened her grip on Pavlor’s collar, shoving her fist up under his chin. For good measure, Kagriss picked that moment to amplify her undead aura, letting a breeze of frigid air wash over the man.
The archpriest’s eyes bulged out as he began to turn purple. He quickly nodded, and Carmen “dropped” him like a sack of garbage.
Afraid that he might remain standing, she made sure to put a little extra downward force into the “drop” as she tossed him down. By now, most of the negotiations were complete. Things didn’t go exactly to plan, but in her opinion, it worked out decently. Leaving the man coughing on the floor, she turned back to Arvel.
Carmen curtsied as if she hadn’t just threatened his colleague with death. Surprisingly, Arvel didn’t look particularly bothered.
“Apologies for the interruption. One that’s pretty much all I want from you, really. I’ll now bring the girls in question here along with the corpse of a mana beast. I’m sure you know which I’m talking about. Perhaps I should get started on earning that trust by filling some bellies, right?”
Finally, she managed to get a reaction from Arvel as his mouth fell open.
Nodding in satisfaction, she turned away and began heading toward where Fleur and Anne were waiting after checking the direction. Kagriss followed closely after, leaving Arvel and Pavlor alone.
Given the impression she made just now, she couldn’t wait to reveal her identity to Arvel. On the face he’ll have on then will be glorious.