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Chapter 9: The Hypocrite

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

In the dark cavern, the ball of holy magic grew until its brightness rivaled the sun. Carmen squinted against the light, the rays that struck her warm as if she truly was outside on a sunny day.

But that was that—the very same basic purification spell that had so frightened her when she first ran into the acolyte was no more than a little ball of warmth.

The acolyte frowned as she placed the gem of control into her pocket. Raising her now freed hand, she began to pour even more mana into the little ball. It continued to grow and shrink, alternating as the acolyte packed more and more magic into the spell.

Carmen couldn’t help but marvel at the degree of control the acolyte had over her mana. Although Purification was a basic spell, its simplicity allowed many different expressions and variations, and advanced control over the spell was a good test on an acolyte’s magic.

The acolyte was a good caster—if she had become a knight candidate in one of the orders, Carmen wouldn’t have hesitated to take her under his…her own wings, if not as a knight, then as a templar mage.

It was a shame that they now stood on opposite sides. Besides, this acolyte was an actor in this perverse arrangement of undead labour. As a follower of the Gods, she should know better, so Carmen had no scruples about killing her however she could.

Finally, as sweat beaded on her brow, the acolyte reached her limits. Like a dam breaking against a flood, an intense ray of light shot out from the ball, fanning out to completely enclose Carmen within its limits.

“Purifica—tion!” A loud cry rose from the acolyte’s throat as she unleashed the spell, the last syllables stretching out dramatically.

Carmen held back a smile at the acolyte’s antics, even as the scorching bright light washed over her. The light felt like the rays of a noon sun on a particularly hot day, pleasant at first, but rapidly becoming uncomfortable.

For as long as the mana compressed in the ball lasted, the bright rays continued unabated, but the acolyte could only control so much mana at once.

As the well ran dry, the purification spell petered out until it was merely a weak glow, sustained only by the constant trickle of magic that the acolyte could output at once.

Finally, even that stopped as the acolyte bent over, placing her hands on her knees, panting hard.

Carmen opened her eyes. “Was that it?”

The acolyte’s face reddened. “W—what do you mean?”

“If that was the best you can do, you should give up now. Your Purification wasn’t even enough to scratch me,” Carmen answered. Her hand seeked to drift up to her hair again, but the immobilization command stopped her. She sighed—she really needed to get rid of that habit. “You’re a relatively new acolyte, aren’t you?”

The acolyte didn’t answer her question. Instead, she forced back her unsightly panting and stood up straight, throwing out her chest. “I ask the questions here, demon! Are you a zombie knight?”

Her gaze traveled up and down Carmen’s body. Carmen tried to shift her body to bring more of it into the acolyte’s sight. She knew what the acolyte was searching for—signs of rot.

Although Carmen still didn’t know what she looked like exactly, she already knew that there was not a single blemish on her body. Her appearance right now should look indistinguishable from a normal human, the hallmark of a zombie knight.

She licked her lips as the acolyte’s gaze flicked back to her face and swallowed. A shiver, possibly from fear, ran through the girl’s body as realization dawned on her about just what she was facing.

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A true higher undead.

Unfortunately, Carmen wouldn’t be able to meet her expectations. Although the acolyte’s fear was amusing to behold, Carmen couldn’t help but be disappointed with herself—let alone the acolyte’s expectations, she hadn’t even met her own . She shook her head, trying to shake away the feeling.

It was much more fun playing with the acolyte. She had all the time in the world—the acolyte was bound to get tired, while Carmen had the limitless stamina of an undead.

“Answer me! Are you a zombie knight?!” the acolyte asked, her voice shaking.

“No! Did you think I was?” Carmen asked. “I apologize for disappointing you, but I’m not yet a zombie knight. If I was, I wouldn’t be lying here in such an unsightly fashion.”

The acolyte stamped her feet. “I knew it! Wait, huh? You’re not a zombie knight? But my Purification didn’t work at all!”

“You’re mistaken if you think the transition from a normal zombie to a zombie knight is a step rather than a slope. I am only a bit away from my evolution, so naturally…” As she talked to keep the acolyte busy, Carmen began to investigate the strange force that restrained her.

Freezing her movements in all directions would have taken too much mana, so the immobilization command from the gem simply forced her in a single direction with tremendous force. By pressing her whole body against the ground, moving in any direction would be near impossible.

But more than what the spell did, Carmen was more interested in how it was being done. She wasn’t exactly part of the collective, yet somehow the ruby was affecting her. It was strange.

She paused her thoughts long enough to think of something else to say to the acolyte.

“…mana within me renders me near immune to anything you can do. It’s rather preposterous for you to even consider being able to harm an inch of my…”

Carmen toned the acolyte out again, returning to the bothersome command.

While her mind wasn’t under control, the gem of control still forced her body to move directly with those commands.

Focusing on the gem, she found that there was an almost imperceptible connection tying her mana to the gem. Where the tether connected to it, it melted into her very being. There was no one point where she ended and the tether began.

Carmen frowned. The tether was probably a master-slave bond weaved into the raising spell. The gnome demons often created such bonds when they forged their golems—apparently, the Church figured out how to make these bonds as well and worked it into their undead raising spell.

Without destroying the gem, something that the gem will naturally prevent, she wouldn’t be able to break free without becoming strong enough that their relation became equal, or reversed. That could only happen when she became a zombie knight.

In the end, everything hinged on her evolution. Was there no other option?

Finally, Carmen gave up on trying to break free from the gem’s control of her own power.

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“…and so, it would be best if you left me be,” she said, finishing her speech to the fuming1 acolyte. She hid her irritation behind a bright smile.

Not only was the time she bought with her ramblings not enough for her to figure out a solution to the immobilization command, she even managed to make the acolyte go red in the face, somehow.

“How dare you suggest that I run away? It’s either you or me. I swear that I will destroy you!” the acolyte shouted at last.

“Did you not hear me? I said it’s useless. I already promised to let you go.” At this point, it was fine even if she didn’t kill Orlog or this acolyte. She was willing to let them slip by this time and only kill them if they opposed her in the future.

This acolyte didn’t seem to care about her goodwill, though. Instead, after she caught her breath from her previous mana expenditure, she was once again gathering mana between her hands. Through the Purification spell, the gathered mana gained holy properties and began to glow brightly.

Carmen yawned. “Could it be that you are incapable of extrapolation?”

Slowly, the immobilization command was fading. Already, she could lift her hands, if only by a little. If the acolyte didn’t reapply the command, she’ll be able to stand in less than half an hour—not that she’ll show it.

The acolyte didn’t bother to hold the ball of light for as long this time. As soon as the spell completed, she fired the ray of light. Carmen squinted as the light enclosed her once more. Again and again, the acolyte casted Purification on her, each time to no avail.

Although Carmen hadn’t planned on saying anything, the way the acolyte mindlessly tried the exact same thing over and over was irritating. “You might have better luck if you attacked directly with that ball,” she said, as the acolyte began to cast Purification once more.

The acolyte stepped back. “You’re just trying to make me come closer.”

“I can’t move,” Carmen pointed out.

“Hmph.” But despite the noise of annoyance she made, the acolyte ran in, and without warning, slammed the gathered ball of mana into Carmen’s back before jumping away.

“Ah…” Carmen, who had let her guard down when the acolyte first stepped away, clenched her teeth against a yelp of pain. Despite her efforts, a gasp still slipped through.

What felt like the heat from a bonfire lit right on top of her skin flared from the spot where the ball hit.

Although the ball of mana didn’t really harm her, it still hurt.

She didn’t know why she suddenly decided to teach the acolyte a method that could cause her pain, but now she regretted it. When she looked over at the acolyte again, the robed girl’s eyes were shining, reflecting the light of another gathered ball of holy magic.

“…Why are you trying so hard to kill me anyway?” Carmen asked.

The acolyte paused at the question. The slip in concentration caused her spell to falter, though she quickly regained control again.

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“Is it because I’m an undead?”

“Yes. You are an undead, an enemy of humanity. It’s only natural that I eliminate you,” the acolyte said.

“I see.” What a naive reason. Carmen heard herself in the girl’s words. When she had been a holy knight, she only needed that reason to take up her sword. But now, her list of enemies included other humans after learning about this mine.

Did this girl include humans as well?

“So I ask you, what is an enemy of humanity?” Carmen asked.

The acolyte blushed. “Y—you can’t fool me with your words. You’re not my teacher, so why are you asking me questions! Besides, isn’t it obvious? Anything that opposes the wellbeing of humankind is an enemy. ”

“Then, are you an enemy of humanity?”

“Of course not!”

“Why?”

“Why, you ask…? I’m an acolyte of the Church. It’s my job to protect and bless the people…” she said.

Carmen shrugged, as if the explanation didn’t really matter, causing the acolyte to blush again out of anger and embarrassment. “Y—you’re just an undead!”

“That’s right. I’m just an undead. But if I am an enemy of humanity by virtue of being an undead, then doesn’t that make the people who created me an enemy of humanity as well?” Carmen asked.

The acolyte’s face turned red again she realized what Carmen was getting at. “That’s different. You’re created as a workforce. It’s to the benefit of the people!”

“Exactly. So why am I, a mere labourer, an enemy? Because I’m going to evolve into a zombie knight? Do you know what I’ll do after I evolve?”

“Well, it’s definitely not going to be staying in here and mining,” the acolyte retorted. “You’re probably going to kill people.”

You got that right. Carmen smiled grimly. She had enough of beating around the bushes. “In any case, you are just a hypocrite. Without knowing anything about me, you labeled me an enemy. But using the same definitions, you refuse to admit that enemies lie within your Church. Don’t you find that laughable?”

Her words struck like a hammer against the acolyte’s faith and the girl stood there, stunned. Carmen couldn’t fault her, since she felt much the same a week ago.

But as long as she faces the contradictions head on without dodging or looking for easy answers, the girl will certainly become a bright priestess, free of corruption and with a noble goal. Carmen had already decided to spare her as a gamble for the Church’s future. Besides, given the things she still needed to work out for herself, it would be nice to have someone to talk to.

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“Girl, what is your name?” she asked. “Your conviction and bravery is commendable. I believe you have a bright future ahead of you.”

Her question snapped the acolyte out of her trance. “Ah, my name is Fleur…hey, wait, I didn’t ask for your praise! Don’t talk to me like you’re my elder. You’re half my size!” she growled.

Carmen was tempted to change her mind and strangle her when she broke free. “Don’t talk about my height!”

“Shut up! Die!” The holy power between Fleur’s hands grew steadily.

Carmen’s still heart seemed to throb as she realized the girl was gathering mana faster than before, and the energy contained within that ball of holy light was greater than even the first cast of Purification.



References

  1. Carmen just spent the last minute rambling about why she was too strong for Fleur to beat, about how weak Fleur was compared to her, and about how vast the gulf between their strengths were. She’s really annoying.

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